The Idea Dude


Sunday, September 30, 2007

So what's the point?

Tim Manners has an amazing article on socialized media. He was reporting on a survey of 500 marketers conducted by on the potential of social networks as a marketing medium. What popped for me was the comment. If you sell, you lose. Don't sell. As a marketer: network. Help people. Advise. Create value and add to the conversation. Wise words. We forget the roots of MySpace, Facebook, Classmates etc. They started off by creating specific value points like connecting bands with fans or reuniting old school friends. The selling came later.

We pulled advertising off TheGoodBlogs widget in its early days mainly because we were too small to get any significant revenue from ads, people have banner blindness when it comes to blogs and since we served the long tail, making micro-payments was an overhead we couldn't afford. Our value proposition remains the same today as when we first started. We don't claim to help you make lots of money or even drive lots of traffic to your blog. We simply do the following:

  • Through us and our members, we promote your blog wherever it makes sense, increasing your exposure.
  • We help bloggers and non-bloggers discover new blogs, because there are a great many bloggers in the long tail who are simply terrific and deserve to be heard.
  • We help bloggers connect to other bloggers, because every connection we help make is an opportunity given and taken.

That's all we claim to do and that probably won't change anytime soon. It's easy to stand on the soapbox and make wild promises to both bloggers and investors but that's not in our value system. We learning everyday and helping change the conversation, one blogger at a time. If we're not helping bloggers then we are not helping ourselves. Not adding value means no trust and no long-term loyalty.

Tim thinks, ...the real marketing potential of online social networks is listening, not talking. So we all got in a tizz about the Facebook walled garden. We forgot it is their asset to protect and even with those walls, marketers have a unique opportunity to build a brand and reach thousands if not millions of people within those walls at very little cost.

It's easy to be caught up with the hype of Web 2.0. The equation goes a) there is a $20 billion ad industry out there. b) you're smart and surely can take at least 1% of the market, c) so you'll go out and raise a couple million dollars, d) sell the company for $100 million dollars. The tragedy of it all is that it is a perceived business model, not a proven one and even though the money isn't yours, doesn't mean you should have a licence to burn through it without a conscience.

As Tim says, The medium is no longer the message, it is the promise. The question is can you keep it?

Hitting the 40 mark

Blogging over at Liz's has been such a blast. You can find all my conversations/blog posts using our conversation tracker feature.

Recently, I started to keep track of all the dots I've connected through that series using my communities feature at TheGoodBlogs. If you click on View my Profile you see a list of all the dots I've connected. It's a live view of their latest post, like a blogroll on steroids. It's a terrific way of promoting bloggers I enjoy and providing a service to my readers by letting you see their latest content too.

What's pretty exciting for me is that it's 40 bloggers all over the world that I've found and enjoyed that I would not have done without blogging (and TheGoodBlogs).

40 new dimensions to my life. That's way cool!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lego rebuilt, brick by brick

I'm a huge Lego fan. The reason my son has a massive (no kidding, massive is understatement) collection, is probably my way of fueling my passion without feeling guilty about spending all that money over the years. Alas, he's outgrown it now, so I'll need to find another reason. It would be major travesty if they ever ceased to exist.

Lego has had it's share of problems in the last few years, having to compete with ever increasingly sophisticated toys, the high cost of carrying branded Lego kits like Star Wars and apparently a highly inefficient supply chain. Strategy+Business carries a highly interesting article on how they turned it around from a struggling toy icon to a path of profitability.

Interesting long tail facts include:
  • 200 major stores represented two thirds of their sales and the other third consisted of thousands of smaller stores
  • Just 30 products represented 80% of their revenue
  • 2/3 of the company's 1,500 SKUs were not longer manufactured

    We don't actually see the logistically nightmare that exists in launching major products like the PS/3, Wii, iPhone etc. To coordinate the supply chain, to make sure it hits all the stores on the same date with components from all over the world and assembled and packaged in various locations probably makes a interesting business case study.
  • Monday, September 24, 2007

    Designing for your customer

    Yves Behar is one of hottest designers on this planet. He gets it. In an interview with Fast Company, he says.

    The simplest definition of design is how you treat your customer.

    I found his seven axioms that made me stop and think. Here's a short version.
  • 1. Design is how you treat your customers.
  • 2. Design should be pervasive through your organization.
  • 3. Design is a long-term engagement.
  • 4. Be prepared to fail at the design level.
  • 5. Design must be driven from the top. It isn't simply a marketing exercise.
  • 6. Doing what your competitors are doing is not the answer. The connection to your customer has to be unique.

    The best one of all.. I couldn't say it better so here it is ad verbatim.

  • 7. Never ask the customer about the future. You can ask them what their aspirations are, but you will not get an answer about what you should do. Design will bring those stories to life.
  • Saturday, September 22, 2007

    Enterprise 2.0

    eWeek carried an interesting article this about how Web 2.0 will make its way into business. I'm sure the report supported by the likes of Gartner analysts will spur new investments into all forms of blogs, wikis and social-networking media. However it is unlikely that this is a trend that will be entrenched in the short term i.e. 1-2 years. Rather I see it as a long-term inevitability. While many tech savvy folks of all ages are in tune with blogs, wikis and have profiles on Facebook etc., it is hardly pervasive (although it seems so if you're in the middle of it).

    The generation who will adopt these new collaboration and interaction paradigms without even thinking are really the teenagers of today or the workforce generation of tomorrow. My kids hardly use email anymore, giving way to Facebook messaging and instant messaging as the de facto way to communicate.

    For software enterprise incumbents like Microsoft, the challenge is to evolve their enterprise software solutions to suit the modes of collaboration that are flexible and informal. For companies like Google their 'everything-on-the-net' culture probably makes them the best candidate for being Microsoft's successor. As they say, the imminent death of Microsoft is grossly exaggerated however, if slow painful demise is not out of the question. The problem isn't about resources and money. It is about culture, who has the right mix that is sympathetic to the future generation as opposed to protecting the interests of their current customers.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Don't try to change the compass

    I was sitting in a design meeting yesterday and we were discussing page layouts for a project I was working on. The discussion moved to how to make the page look fresh and where to put the navigation etc. Bert, my long-time friend and mentor said one thing that totally blew me away.

    You can't change the compass

    It reminded me long ago of an AI researcher who set out to reinvent the number system and in the end whether you called the number 'one' an 'apple' didn't change the fundamentals but merely confused the public.

    The wisdom of course is to know which pieces in our lives are compasses and which are the ships. Changing ships and changing courses in the end are much easier than trying to change our compass.

    Thanks Bert!

    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    It's about time...

    You know the saying the shoemaker has no shoes. Finally, found a couple of hours to change the look and feel of the blog. Gone is the authoritative red and the puzzle pieces. The spirit remains the same, just a change of clothing .

    These days it's always about the dots, the most beautiful ones I have ever seen are those in nature, especially on peacock feathers. They are all the same and yet each one different. Pretty much like the blogs methinks. Hence the inspiration of the picture on the left.

    Perhaps I should rebrand my site to The Idea Dot?

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    So you think you know marketing?

    Drew from The Marketing Minute posted twice on Harry Beckwith. It was a great reminder for me. Many years ago, being thrust into the senior management and the business development team, I read as many business and leadership books I could find. Sitting on the plane for many hours made that easy. In particular, I devoured Harry's books with a passion. I was a geek who knew nothing about marketing. (I'm not sure much has changed since then!)

    Drew highlighted Harry's thoughts in two great posts here and here.

    My top 5 favorites:
  • Your biggest competitor is not a competitor; it's your prospect's indifference.
  • Your second-biggest competitor is not a competitor; it's your prospect's distrust
  • Never take seriously what people say they think, because people are never sure. Trust only action.
  • You must improve constantly, because people's expectations rise constantly.
  • People don't care how good you are. They care how good you can make them.

    Oh and my absolute favorite above all.

    Despite all the warnings, all people judge books by their covers.
  • Thursday, September 13, 2007

    3 best ways to ensure business success

    #1, People. #2, People. #3, People.

    Had lunch with a good friend of mine. Less than 3 years I ago I was trying to help him raise money for his startup. Nobody was exactly thrilled with his space but I was attracted to his energy and the chemistry between him and his partner. He's an amazingly confident person with a stellar sales record and his partner was a smart cookie especially when it came to marketing and product management. I remember thinking back then if I had the money I would have made a bet on both of them simply because they were young enough to be hungry but old enough to have a few business scars. My gut was right. Today, they have a multi-million dollar business and growing furiously. I love success stories even if they are not mine and especially if it's from people I care about.

    Fast forward a couple hours later, I get an email from a prospective hire for a client of ours. The message basically was he was too busy to meet but can we do a phone call and please send our technology spec so he can evaluate the company. Strike out. Maybe he didn't mean anything by it. But the impression it left me with was if he wasn't bothered to meet the people he was going to work with at least 8 hours a day, maybe he isn't the kind of person I'd want to work with either.

    Every month, I keep reminding Tony that it didn't matter what business we were in, as long as I was doing it with him. Human chemistry, trust, energy and smarts is probably the order of priority I would place on anyone I would want to work with long term. I'm lucky, I have all of the above with my partner.

    It's always about the people.

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    My oxygen and my sanctuary

    I'm referring to my blog of course and by extension my participation in the whole blogosphere. It's ironic that when I'm extremely busy, the thing that suffers the most is my blogging and yet this is the place that feels like home.

    It is my bridge over troubled water.

  • It is my oxygen because it has become a necessity for me to blog. I can think of no other place where my ideas can freely breathe and take to the air.

  • It is my sanctuary because it is where I can recharge and lay down my thoughts, anxieties and questions without reprisal.

    Through TheWinningAttitude I found the most wonderful quote by Zig Ziglar. I shared it over at Liz's blog today.

    The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal theirs.

    I couldn't find a better way to describe why I started TheGoodBlogs with my good friend Tealeaf aka Tony.

    My greatest joy has always been helping others exceed their own expectations and perceived limitations. I guess this is just another manifestation and fulfillment of that life-long calling.

    Blogging should be joy, when you feel it is a chore, then it is time to look deep within to see if you're still doing it for the right reasons.
  • Saturday, September 08, 2007

    It was right there all the time

    Each week as I prepare the dots for my guest post (every Sunday) at Liz's blog, it gets harder and harder to track what posts I've made and who I've mentioned. This week, I finally did a couple of things that was always available at TheGoodBlogs but I was just too busy to do.

  • Keep track of the conversations using TheGoodBlogs conversation tracker.
    I use the same conversation tag each week and one click gets me all the conversations. See the link on the top right hand corner of my blog.
  • Keep track of the dots using my profile and communities at TheGoodBlogs.
    Clicking on View my profile on the widget allows me to see all my communities I created, especially the one I just did for my dots. So I can see what my dots are saying each day. How cool is that!
  • Add dots each week to my dots community at TheGoodBlogs. We still need to make that simpler. It's in the works.

    Pretty simple stuff and you can argue that sure I could have used an RSS feed reader and keep track of my dots that way. Problem is I'm the only one who would see them and the point is that once it's done, everyone else can view my dots community in spot, right on my blog!

    I realized that to make TheGoodBlogs successful, I need to add features that will help me promote other bloggers and by doing that, other bloggers will find the features helpful too.

    In the software industry, we call it Eating your own dogfood.

    Just lovin' it!
  • Friday, September 07, 2007

    Is your life unravelling?

    Mine was, literally.

    A friend of mine mentioned in passing that his handyman friend told him to check his garage doors annually and tighten the hinges because with all the vibration and repeated use, the screws come loose over time. This morning, I checked mine (I have one of those multi-partition garage doors) and lo and behold, several of the hinges were indeed loose and missing nuts. Wow, an accident waiting to happen! I wondered how many people out there know to do this on a regular basis. Tip: don't overtighten the screws because the wood has aged.

    Seems like that kind of week for my household. My diningroom light stopped working too. Upon investigation, it turns out the wires were pressed against the transformer which melted the connectors and resulted in a fire-hazard. I was lucky the house didn't burn down. Seems like the cheap lights don't bother to shield the transformer from the wires which invariably get pushed against the transformer when you push the light fixture into the ceiling. Bad design. I wonder how many other people have had bad accidents this way.

    It inspired me with my latest 2 word phrase.

    Life entropy

    Our lives have a habit of unraveling if we let them. Unfortunately like winter frost, it creeps in ever so slowly until you wake up one morning and realize you let too many things go.

    Remember to take time to stop and smell the roses... and check your garage doors!

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    Swimming against adversity

    When Chittenden Locks in Seattle was built in 1917, the US Army Corp created the fish ladder, a series of 10 and later expanded to 21 weirs or steps that allow salmon to migrate upstream. Salmon hatch upstream in rivers and swim down to the sea where they spend 1-3 years of their adult life before making a tough journey back to spawn in the rivers that hatched them in the first place. Only the strong survive, nature's way of ensuring that the species remain strong and healthy. The ladder must provide a strong enough current and flow of fresh water to attract the fish and yet not so strong that they cannot jump each step.

    I marveled at the size of the salmon and their tenacity as they fought a pretty strong current, biding their time and eventually gathering enough strength and courage to jump each step.

    I thought that every entrepreneur must be have a heart of salmon. Swimming against a strong current with pretty low odds, we are not deterred in our quest to create the next startup. It's part of our DNA and often it is not a question of money but rather a desire to create and leave something substantial behind, our legacy.

    I wondered if the fish saw the entire arduous journey they would undertake whether they would start in the first place. The beauty is...

    Nature only teaches them to jump one step at a time.