Archive for October, 2004

Small business owner priorities

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

As a small business owner, you’re torn on a daily basis between competing priorities. How do you decide? The more successful your business gets, the harder your choices become.

It isn’t just about managing your time–though that’s certainly a part of it. Here you’ve got to be realistic, not perfectionist, or you’re doomed to fail. We all know we’re supposed to start with our goals–Dr. Stephen Covey (who, by the way has heartily endorsed the book I co-authored with Brian Tracy and others called “Create the Business Breakthrough You Want”) wrote about the four types of priorities: urgent but not important, urgent and important, not-urgent but important, and not-urgent and not important. Sounds simple, right?

Well, let’s face it. We all have unconscious agendas going on when it comes to allocating time. You may have that clear “urgent and important” goal sitting right in front of you, and choose to sharpen your pencils or get another cup of coffee. What’s going on? Procrastination is not a crime–it’s a fact of life for most people. Here’s a nice clean definition: a way of distancing oneself from stressful activities. We all would rather do the easy thing than the hard thing.

So here’s a very useful suggestion from a website designed to help college students prioritize their time better.

If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of work on your to-do list, you might benefit from making a “one-item list”: re-write the top item from your list at the top of a blank page and work the task to completion, then repeat.

I like this one. I’m going to try this today. Let me know if it works for you.

Small business owners easy to get to

Sunday, October 24th, 2004

Love these stats: 23 million small businesses employ half of all private sector employees. Now comes the dawn–this is a helluva market to be courting. If you understand what it’s all about, you’ve got a uniquely powerful opportunity. But here’s the key. While this group is dramatically diverse in terms of size, race, and disciplines, they do have a few things in common (according to this article in BtoB): “the desire to be in charge of their own destiny, their passion for their work and their life, and their continual self-expression.”

Truly, for many small business owners their work is their life, and vice versa…and most of them wouldn’t be the least bit embarrassed to admit that. So here’s the interesting part: when you market to these small business owners you normally don’t have to go through screening mechanisms. When the mail gets opened, it’s usually the owner him or herself who opens it. Think about that when you plan your direct marketing campaigns–and direct your copywriting to the strong, self-confident decision maker who can say “yes” immediately to your offer.

And remember: consumers normally respond to different motivations than business owners. A consumer might want, for example, excitement or glamour from your product or service. Yet for the same product, a b-to-b customer may want to hear about ROI. Target your audience, write your messages to their true desires, and you’re much more likely to make the sale.

RANKING 97 – Yes, you small to midsize business owners are a marketer’s dream–passionate, hard-working, mail-opening, fast-decision-making people with final say. But remember you can market your stuff to other SMBs with the same likelihood of success!

Anytime you need just a little help writing that perfect marketing message to those SMBs, visit us at WriteBytes4You and get your solution (or give us a call at 440.646.0041). email.

Google is improving your ability to find what you need

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

About all I can say is “hallelujah!” I don’t know about you, but ever since the introduction of Windows and Outlook which gave us the ability to find things by searching for keywords, I’ve been a lot better at finding things I need. Now here comes Google, the #1 search engine in the world, saying they’re going to make this capability even better. Google’s president says they’re bringing us, in beta form right now, “the power of Google to your personal information on your own computer. As easily as searching Google, you can instantly search your files, local e-mail, the Web pages you have seen and more.”

The thing about Googling (I hear people using it as a verb all the time) is that you don’t have to know exactly the right words! This is a huge breakthrough for searching through all your “stuff” on your machine. So instead of having to know precisely the words to find, the search will be intelligent and find things that are similar, rather than nothing at all. Because after all, folks, if we knew the name of the darn thing, we’d be able to find it that way, right?

Thank you Google. I hope you can make this work quickly.

What's your plan for VoIP?

Monday, October 18th, 2004

Local serial entrepreneur Dr. Steve Belovich has been burning up the telephone wires between here and Thailand lately. Seems the government there is interested in having his company Smart Data (which, by the way, is on the verge of announcing some pretty exciting news–stay tuned) to start intercepting the little voice packets that VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) uses to send messages between computers through the web.

Remember that obnoxious commercial where the teenager is banned from using the telephone and she continues her hours-long conversations with her girlfriends via the computer? That’s VoIP, and it seems this technology is extremely vulnerable to attack. Anyone savvy enough to collect the little packets who also has evil intent can easily alter the content of a message without changing the sound of your voice–a frighteningly real way to cause the worst kind of insidious damage, whether to government secrets or to teenage (or other) interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Belovich says you just plain shouldn’t be using VoIP–it leaves you too vulnerable. Even if you think no one cares about your proprietary technology or other secrets, you never know when (like an identity theft with credit cards) somebody might pick you to use as a vehicle for some other nefarious purpose.

And can you imagine this for a marketing coup? Smart Data has now had the United States Post Office issue them their own private stamp! Here’s how their logo will look on the corner of their letters:

Quantum physics at work in the nanotech computer world

Saturday, October 16th, 2004

Having a special attraction to the fascinating stuff of quantum physics, I couldn’t help picking up on this discovery. Physicists have now found a way to measure the separate spin of the two parts (electrons) in a “‘quantum bit,’ or qubit, that can actually be ‘on’ and ‘off’ simultaneously, or function as both a one and a zero during digital calculations [which], multiplied many times over within a computer chip…, could be a powerful tool for sifting through information.”

Okay, let’s see. The qubit serves as two things at once and thus cuts searching time in half. Well, just in the nick of time, I’d say. As the storehouse of information we humans are collecting grows ever-more immense, we’re going to need faster processing just to find even simple answers.

But what amazes me most is the fact that physicists have also found that the holes–the spaces between the qubits–have spin and direction as well and can actually be “herded,” or manipulated, to yield more information. It is no less than astounding to discover that empty space contains valuable information–and even more exciting that we are learning to extract that information and use it. This doesn’t totally surprise me, though, when I think about the extraordinary power of the rests in music–sometimes those little quiet spots in a song can absolutely take your breath away in anticipation of what’s next. And think of the power of white space in a page of text–the rest for the eye (and concomitantly the mind) is a valuable aid to digesting information.

What’s next then? These nanotechnology accomplishments sound suspiciously like old-fashioned miracles, don’t they? ” )

It's coming – Internet access through the electrical sockets

Friday, October 15th, 2004

The FCC has changed its mind and decided it can, after all, put up with a little potential interference to radio signals from letting utility companies offer Internet service via electrical lines. There’s so much information about the competition in this NYTimes article that it’s hard to follow. Seems the gist is the FCC has told the Bell companies they don’t have to give anyone else acces to their existing fiber optic lines into consumers’ homes. This is supposed to serve “as a further spur to the rollout of broadband Internet services,” so other phone companies (SBC, BellSouth) are starting to build their own.

Well, I had to stop there because I wasn’t sure how fiber optic cable relates to the electrical wires we all know and love. Looked it up on the Internet (on a good old-fashioned DSL connection) and found this: “Fiber optic cable is lighter and smaller than traditional copper cable, is immune to electrical interference, and has better signal-transmitting qualities. However, it is more expensive than traditional cables and more difficult to repair.” Ah! Comes the light. So fiber optic cable is merely a higher-tech extension of electrical wires. Cleared that one up.

The only commercial version of the new technology, called “broadband over power lines” (BPL), is available near Cincinnatti, OH. It looks like the utility companies are really excited about this new revenue opportunity. YOu and I can be excited because now we’ll be able to create networks in our homes and offices using a modem we plug into an electrical outlet.

But AT&T and a consumer group claim the decision not to make Bell share its lines will only “tighten the already powerful grip that the telephone and cable companies have on broadband.” Meanwshile, one of the FCC commissioners dissented on the approval to go with BPL, citing a number of serious issues that had been left unaddressed (“questions of whether utility companies would have to contribute to the telephone industry’s universal service fund and provide access to people with disabilities, and whether measures would be put in place to ensure market competition”).

So I guess the question here is how does a governing agency decide what’s fair? Certainly with the many powerful players in this arena, how the FCC answers those questions will have powerful repercussions for lots of people’s pocketbooks. But I kind of like the philosophy of the Bahai religion–they believe that the right answer is always reached when it is reached by consensus. In this case, the consensus decision almost certainly favors giving easier access to the exciting, informational, educational phenomenon that’s the Internet.

RANKING 98 – Be happy, small and midsize business owners. You will all soon have affordable Internet access and networked computers at a price you can live with. All the better access for you and your employees to blog!

IBM into RFID — a common language between computers at last?

Monday, October 11th, 2004

Everything you touch, own, eat or wear has probably been on a truck at some point in its life–so logistics is a huge business in America.

Okay, what does logistics really mean? Originally from the French and Greek words meaning “calculating,” it has come to mean something much more specific–the dictionary says “1) the aspect of military science dealing with the procurement, maintenance, and transportation of military matériel, facilities, and personnel, or 2) the handling of the details of an operation.” Today the word is used most often in connection with trucking and other shipping industries.

IBM will invest $250 million and dedicate 1,000 staff members to supporting radio frequency identification (RFID) , according to a recent issue of Logistics Today. They also sound a cautionary note. They note that Exel, the world’s largest third-party logistics company (which means they run the shipping operations of other companies) just joined EPCglobal, the group that works on creating and maintaining RFID standards. If everyone is going to start using RFID, naturally standards will be critical.

While I worked in the software industry serving the vertical market of trucking, I observed firsthand the problems that EDS caused–EDS is an electronic data exchange that was supposed to make it possible for any computer to read anybody else’s order information. In reality, it caused massive confusion, was very hard to program properly, and ended up costing many companies money and tremendous amounts of lost time. Then the development of XML promised easy exchange of information, but so far we aren’t hearing too much about how successfully that’s going.

Let’s hope RFID will become our common language of the future–without encroaching too far on our civil rights (how do you make sure the RFID tracking capability is turned OFF after the product is sold?).

High-risk enterprises lead to spiraling costs

Friday, October 8th, 2004

When you make a mistake in your business, the cost you end up paying can vary greatly. From issuing a public apology, for example–difficult enough especially if your audience is huge and powerful–to fighting a lawsuit. But when your mistake involves people dying–especially in large numbers as in the biomed and pharmaceutical industries–you can end up paying even unto the demise of your company.

A recent clinical trial in Britain has proven that a very commonly accepted approach to treating serious head injuries actually kills more people than doing nothing. They’re estimating perhaps 10,000 people have died after receiving this treatment.

That’s really dragging out a big mistake. But because our society totally depends on doctors and drugs, the punishment will probably not be overwhelming. However, some of the individual people who lost loved ones may join the long list of litigants seeking redress for medical ignorance and calling it malpractice.

And the painful spiral to higher malpractice insurance costs–and doctors who give up because they just can’t stand to see so much of their income tossed away–spins faster.

Science pulls in beside business on the networking trail

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

A local entrepreneur in Northeast Ohio is determined to help create a stronger business environment for his industry–medical devices. As CEO of Cleveland Medical Devices and cofounder of a networking group called NEOBio Bob Schmidt found the time to invite high-ranking speakers from a relevant agency of the government (Medicare has a powerful influence on whether a medical device gets approved–and therefore prescribed–for enough patients to make it a commercial success) and put together a program for interested participants.

And not only that, he’s committed to enlivening a part of the city of Cleveland called Midtown that has long lain in disuse. He’s renting space for his several companies in a rehabbed building there and offering space to relevant non-profit organizations. And he held this significant event in a beautiful old house that had for many years served as a center for high-priced blue-suit luncheons and other functions. Abandoned for a number of years (and looking strangely empty except for the rooms we occupied) a local business college recently purchased the place and is trying to reawaken it.

Yesterday’s event, at $95 each, was high-priced indeed, but the purpose of the event–to bring together the members of the bioscience industry in Cleveland for a truly informative gathering that would also serve to help members get to know each other–seemed like a high one. I suspect that, though the business community has been doing this sort of thing for years, it’s kind of new to the scientific community. As discoveries abound and business blossoms, members of the scientific community are having to learn more of the lessons of business–and it seems to come hard for some of them. Many scientists, like many entrepreneurs, are used to working in isolation. This networking stuff seems a little strange–and to some like a waste of time.

But a few guys in Cleveland are going to change that. Keep your eyes on this trend.

Measure ROI on customer equity to drive strategy

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004

Been reading that darn Harvard Business Review again. Can’t just relax and eat my lunch peacefully–NO. Got to kick the brain into high gear reading some of that brilliant thinking–with heavy-duty real-life examples to back it all up.

Was reading yesterday (and unsuccessfully trying to publish the info here–see entry below) about a new formula that’s been invented (with software to back it up) on how to calculate ROI on investments in customer equity–which means the lifetime value of your customers to you. Fascinating look at brand equity (which means how much your customers value your brand and how that affects the bottom-line for your company) as it relates to customer equity. They actually found a way to calculate the relationship between the amount you invest, the change it makes in the brand equity, and the resulting change in customer equity–and whether the cost is worth it. Whew. This is a big assignment.

The software is the brainchild of 3 different people, one each from Univ. of NC and Univ. of Maryland and Boston College. In case anybody has time and would like to let us know how it works, here’s the URL to download a free trial of this brand equity ROI software. Oh, yeah, and you can buy the book there, too.