Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, by Duncan Clark

I am somewhat addicted to AliExpress app on my phone. Just about every week we’ll have a tiny package arrive all the way from China. It feels like receiving a mystery gift every time because it’s been 4 weeks since I ordered the item so I’m not sure what’s inside.

The items are of such high quality, so cheap and the free shipping is irresistible.

I’ve known about Alibaba for a few years but hadn’t made a purchase until AliExpress.

There were 3 big surprises in the book:

  1. Alibaba wasn’t the “overnight success” that I thought it was
    • In fact, it’s 20 years old
  2. China is big. Really big.
    • Yes, we all know that China has more than 1.2 Billion people but I little human brains have trouble processing the shear scale of a number that big
    • Alibaba sends out 30 million packages per day
  3. Jack Ma built one of the first websites for China, and co-founded one of the first China-based companies that built websites for clients in 1995

My notes on “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built” by Duncan Clark.

Chapter One

Jack likes to say that his company’s success was an accident: “Alibaba might as well be known as ‘one thousand and one mistakes.’”

In its early years, he gave three explanations as to why the company survived: “We didn’t have any money, we didn’t have any technology, and we didn’t have a plan.”

But let’s look at the three real factors that underpin Alibaba’s success today: the company’s competitive edge in e-commerce, logistics, and finance, what Jack describes as Alibaba’s “iron triangle”.

The E-commerce Edge

Unlike Amazon, Alibaba’s consumer websites Taobao and Tmall carry no inventory. They serve as platforms for other merchants to sell their wares.

Taobao consists of nine million storefronts run by small traders or individuals.

Attracted by the site’s huge user base, these “micro merchants” choose to set up their stalls on Taobao in part because it costs them nothing to do so.

Alibaba charges them no fees. But Taobao makes money—a lot of it—from selling advertising space, helping promote those merchants who want to stand out from the crowd.

The Logistics Edge

On Singles’ Day 2015, orders placed on Alibaba’s websites generated 467 million packages, requiring more than 1.7 million couriers and four hundred thousand vehicles to deliver the goods.

China today has a veritable army of couriers. On foot, bicycles, electronic bikes, trucks, and trains they are the unsung heroes of the country’s e-commerce revolution.

Chinese consumers spent more than $32 billion on package deliveries in 2014. The number increased by more than 40 percent in a year.

Without the low-cost delivery that the courier services provide, Alibaba would not be the giant it is today. To survive in a cutthroat industry, some of the courier firms have adopted clever methods to keep costs at rock bottom. In Shanghai, for instance, couriers shuttle back and forth on the subway, passing packages over the barriers to one another to avoid buying multiple tickets.

In response to the inefficiency of what was then the United States Post Office. In China, the e-commerce gold rush has stimulated the rise of more than eight thousand private courier firms, of which twenty major companies stand out.

Together they handle more than 30 million packages a day and employ more than 1.5 million people across six hundred cities.

Cainiao is building a propriety information platform that knits together logistics providers, warehouses, and distribution centers across the country. Alibaba owns 48 percent of Cainiao,

Yet with Cainiao Alibaba has shored up the most important asset of all: trust. Customers and merchants know they can count on the products getting where they need to be, on time.

The Finance Edge

In financial services, Alibaba’s most important asset is Alipay, its answer to PayPal.

Alipay handles more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year in online transactions, three times the volume of PayPal and one-third of the $2.5 trillion global online payments market.

As a form of escrow, Alipay diffuses trust throughout Alibaba’s e-commerce empire.

Twenty percent of all Alipay transactions involve paying for utilities, such as water, electricity , and gas bills. Customers can also buy train tickets, pay traffic fines, or purchase insurance using Alipay, making it the de facto currency of an increasingly digital China.

Chapter Two Jack Magic

Jack once explained that he loves the lead character of the movie Forrest Gump because “people think he is dumb, but he knows what he is doing.”

Jack’s speaking style is so effective because his message is so easy to agree with, remember, and digest.

Jack always speaks without notes.

A close inspection of all of his speeches reveals he has essentially been giving the same speech for the last seventeen years. Yet by subtly tweaking his message to match the mood and expectations of the crowd, he somehow manages to make each speech sound fresh.

Jack is a master at appealing to people’s emotions, Humor is a big part of it.

Jack’s set pieces, his one-liners and anecdotes, and the way he combines them are essentially the same as the “bits” that comedians use to make up their routines.

With his tales of overcoming challenges and defying the odds, Jack regularly drives some in his audience to tears, even hardened business executives.

Jack’s Mantra: “Customers first, employees second, and shareholders third.” Jack describes this as Alibaba’s philosophy.

Employees are discouraged from ever complaining—a pet peeve of Jack’s—and encouraged instead to shoulder personal responsibility, carrying out or delegating tasks rather than waiting for orders from on high.

The “Six Veins” of Alibaba’s “Spirit Sword” are “customer first, teamwork, embrace change, integrity, passion, and commitment.”

Chapter Four Hope and Coming to America

These single-product towns can represent 80 percent or more of the production of individual commodities—not just in China but worldwide. Shaoxing is “textile city” and Yongkang is “hardware city,” churning out 30,000 steel doors and 150,000 motor scooters every day.

Taizhou is known as “sewing machine city” and Shenzhou as “necktie city.” Haining calls itself “leather city.” There is even a “toothbrush city”.

Yiwu itself claims to be China’s “sock city,” producing annually more than three billion pairs of socks for companies like Walmart and Disney, although Datang, near Hangzhou, also claims to be “sock city,” producing more than eight billion pairs each year.

Jack recalled his first online session: “My friend Stuart . . . said, ‘Jack, this is Internet. You can find whatever you can find through the Internet.’ I say really? So I searched the word beer. Very simple word. I don’t know why I searched for beer. But I found American beer, Germany [sic] beer and no Chinese beer. . . . I was curious, so I searched ‘China,’ and no ‘China,’ no data.”

Intrigued, Jack asked Stuart for help. “I talked to my friend, ‘Why don’t I make something about China?’ So we made a small, very ugly-looking page . . . [for the] translation agency I listed on there.”

The site for Hope Translation was just text, without any images, plus a telephone number and the price for translation work.

Jack later recalled to the journalist Charlie Rose: “It was so shocking, we launched it nine forty in the morning, twelve thirty I got a phone call from my friend. ‘Jack, you’ve got five emails.’ I said, ‘What is email?’” Three emails came from the United States, one from Japan, and one from Germany.

Jack set about formulating the idea for a new business—helping Chinese companies find export channels online—and pitched the idea of a partnership with VBN.

Chapter Five China Is Coming On

China Pages

As sales pitches go, asking people who had never heard of the Internet to fork over 20,000 renminbi ($2,400) up front to create, design, and host a website they could never see was a challenging one. Jack worried that people thought he was defrauding them. “I was treated like a con man for three years,” he said.

“It took three and a half hours to download the front page. . . . I was so excited.”

“From then on, I have held a firm belief: When I start businesses in future, I will never hold the controlling stake of a company, making those controlled by me suffer. I will give plenty of understanding and support to lower levels. I have never once had a controlling stake at Alibaba. I am proud of this. I am the CEO of the company, because I lead it with [my] wisdom, courage, and resourcefulness, not capital.”

Chapter Six Bubble and Birth

After his struggles with Hope Translation and China Pages and an uncomfortable period working for the government in Beijing, Jack went on to found Alibaba at the beginning of 1999.

Jack decided to call his new venture Alibaba, a curious name for a Chinese company.

Jack has been asked many times why he chose an Arabic name for his company rather than something derived from his passion for Chinese martial arts or folklore. Jack was attracted, he said, by the “open sesame” imagery, since he hoped to achieve an opening for the small and medium-size enterprises he was targeting.

He was also looking for a name that traveled well, and Alibaba is a name that is easy to pronounce in many languages. He liked the name since it came at the beginning of the alphabet: “Whatever you talk about, Alibaba is always on top.”

Jack says the idea came to him for the website on a trip to San Francisco: “I was having lunch, and a waitress came. I asked her: ‘Do you know about Alibaba?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ ‘What is Alibaba?’ And she said, ‘Open Sesame.’ So I went down to the street and asked about ten to twenty people. They all [knew] about Alibaba, Forty Thieves, and Open Sesame.

Chapter Seven Backers: Goldman and SoftBank

Jack has always been dismissive of business schools: “It is not necessary to study an MBA. Most MBA graduates are not useful. . . . Unless they come back from their MBA studies and forget what they’ve learned at school, then they will be useful. Because schools teach knowledge, while starting businesses requires wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Knowledge can be acquired through hard work.”

“Masters of negotiation always listen, don’t talk. Those who talk a lot only have second-rate negotiation skills. A true master listens, and as soon as he moves his sword, you pretty much collapse.”

Chapter Eight Burst and Back to China

“If you can’t tolerate your opponents, you will be definitely beaten by your opponent. . . . If you treat your opponents as enemies, you have already lost at the beginning of the game. If you hang your opponent as a target, and practice throwing darts at him every day, you are only able to fight this one enemy, not others. . . . Competition is the greatest joy. When you compete with others, and find that it brings you more and more agony, there must be something wrong with your competition strategy.”

Chapter Nine Born Again: Taobao and the Humiliation of eBay

“The pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land”

The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus outbreak started in southern China in 2002,

Although it sickened thousands and killed almost eight hundred people, the outbreak had a curiously beneficial impact on the Chinese Internet sector, including Alibaba. SARS validated digital mobile telephony and the Internet, and so came to represent the turning point when the Internet emerged as a truly mass medium in China.

Millions of people, confined to their homes or dormitories for days or weeks on end, looked to the Internet for information or entertainment.

Crucially for Alibaba, SARS convinced millions of people, afraid to go outside, to try shopping online instead.

“One of the greatest investments of our lifetime has been New York City real estate,” she said, “and investors made the highest returns when they bought stuff during the 1970s and 1980s when people were getting mugged. . . . The lesson is that you make the most money when you buy stuff that’s out of consensus.”

By starting with C2C, it made the price factor very appealing. Individuals can be happy to make even five mao (less than 1 U.S. cent) on a sale.”

Taobao’s decision to forgo charging fees was not without risk, since it forced it to look to other ways of generating revenues, especially if the site became popular and drove up operating costs. But making the site free for both shoppers and merchants turned out to be the key factor in ensuring Taobao’s triumph over eBay. A research paper that analyzed more than a decade’s worth of transaction data on Taobao concludes that in the early phase of the company’s history, attracting merchants, who in China are especially allergic to paying fees, was more important than attracting shoppers. Taobao’s popularity was fueled by a “virtuous circle”: More merchants and product listings meant more shoppers were attracted to the site, which meant more merchants and products, etc.

As predicted, as soon as the China site was migrated and integrated into the global site, the impact on EachNet’s traffic was disastrous: It dropped off precipitously. Customers in China started to experience long delays and time-outs on the site. Why would they bother to wait for eBay in China—a site that charged fees—when Taobao was available instantly and for free?

Changing one word on the site would take nine weeks. Changing one feature would take one year.

Although Taobao had its merits, Alibaba could hardly believe its luck as the ineptness of this supposedly world-renowned company became apparent.

“You’ve got to have a set of products uniquely designed for this market by Chinese. It is not a market where you can take a product or a system that works in Europe or the United States and export to China.”

“We made one big mistake. We should have left EachNet on their own platform in China. Instead what we did was put EachNet onto the global eBay platform because it had worked everywhere. It had worked in Western Europe, it had worked all over. . . . We had bought all these baby eBays and basically migrated them to one common platform, which had a lot of advantages. One is cost. Second is speed to market, because when you roll ‘buy it now’ you could roll it to thirty countries as opposed to do it incrementally. But we made a mistake in China.” She gives credit to Alibaba’s achievements in designing Taobao to suit the local market:

“eBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangtze River. If we fight in the ocean, we lose, but if we fight in the river, we win.”

Chapter Ten Yahoo’s Billion-Dollar Bet

On April 12, 1996, Yahoo went public on the Nasdaq,

Only a year after incorporating the company, Jerry Yang and David Filo were each worth more than $165 million on paper. Within three years they were billionaires.

Google announced its withdrawal from China.

eBay, Yahoo, and Google had all recognized that China’s Internet market would become massive. But as the market grew, so did regulatory barriers and the competitive challenge from entrepreneurial and well-financed companies like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

Chapter Eleven Growing Pains

Tencent, with more than 740 million QQ instant messaging users

Although its share price took a beating, Alibaba would survive the global financial crisis. And as with SARS five years earlier, the crisis created some unexpected dividends for the company. First, Jack realized that the downturn gave him a way to increase the loyalty of his paying customers. He initiated a dramatic reduction in the cost of thier subscriptions, tellin David, “Let’s be responsible to our customers. They are paying fifty thousand yuan; we can give them thirty thousand yuan back.”

“The stock market went crazy,” David recalled, as investors called him up to complain, “What? You’re losing sixty percent of your revenue.” But there was a method to Jack’s madness. Jack was serious about putting the customer first. Jack was “always trying to understand how to get the money back later. He’s just not greedy about getting the money first.” Looking back on the price cut, David concluded that the move was well timed. “Revenues didn’t drop at all. Customer volume growth offset the price drop completely. And after the financial crisis was over we didn’t raise the prices. We created an opportunity to sell them more value-added services, more of an Internet-style model. Jack actually told me he wanted to change it anyway. The crisis gave him the opportunity.”

Chapter Twelve Icon or Icarus?

So, Alibaba found itself in New York. Selling 12 percent of the company, it raised $25 billion, the largest IPO in history.

Demand for BABA shares outstripped supply by over fourteen times.

BABA closed the day 25 percent higher than the initial price, valuing the company at over $230 billion, more than Coca-Cola. Among Internet companies, Alibaba was second only to Google, higher even than Amazon and Facebook.

CEO David Wei instructed his team to look at countries with the lowest efficiency in their retail sector.

Without AliExpress even opening offices there, but with Russian and Portuguese language capabilities added to the AliExpress website, Russia and Brazil became early success stories. Demand from Alibaba’s customers in Brazil at one point exceeded over three hundred thousand packages a day, before a slowing economy and the weakening real hit the company’s business there. Demand in Russia, especially for clothing and consumer electronics, was so strong that AliExpress reportedly even broke the Russian postal service, leading to the dismissal of its boss. Today Russia accounts for a fifth of AliExpress’s sales.

Your Thoughts?

Have you read the book? What did you get out of it? Have these notes inspired you to read it?

Have your say in the comments section below.

How Robotics In NZ’s Primary Industries Could Double Productivity By 2025

Last night I attended a University of Waikato lecture entitled “Robotics in primary industries – the revolution begins!” presented by Professor Mike Duke.

Professor Mike Duke

It was fascinating!

Here are my notes on the talk:

The Goal

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has set the goal of doubling primary industry exports by 2025.

7 Key Challenges Slowing Growth In The Primary Industry

  1. Labour shortage
    • Very difficult to find locals interested in low-skill work so having to bring in immigrants
  2. Labour cost
    • Often have to pay agencies to source workers which adds to labour cost
  3. Labour legislation
    • Rules and regulations around working hours, conditions etc
  4. Quality control
    • Work often needs to be checked 2 or 3 times, lots of wastage, lack of care
  5. Labour reliability
    • Workers often don’t turn up
  6. Health and Safety
    • Increasing burden for compliance
  7. Obsolete machinery
    • Produces lower quality results

Can Robotics and Smart Automation Help Solve Some of these Issues?

A major component of primary industries is grading. Grading fruit for blemishes,  grading seedlings for suitability.

“Grading is not good use of human brainpower”.

We’ve been using robots in factories for years (eg the vehicle manufacturing industry)

But how do we move robots from factories to the fields?

Some of the challenges unique to outdoor robots dealing with plants:

  • Zero light control: Night and day, and dappled light in overhead canopies is problematic for light sensors and cameras
  • Rain
  • Huge variation in foliage structure
  • Slopping ground, difficult terrain

4 Examples of Primary Industry Robots

Here are 4 examples of robots built, or in development, by the university and it’s partners.

Robotic Example #1: The robot that punches precision holes for seedlings

The problem:

  • In a nursery, an antiquated machine with a spiked wheel was being used to punch holes in the soil
  • The problem is that the spike makes a ragged hole, and when the seedling starts to grow it adapts to the shape of the whole and often grows crooked

The robotic solution:

  • The team created a robot that rolls along and punches precision holes

The result:

  • The robot (based in Tokoroa), has created 20 million precision holes in the last 4 years

Robotic Example #2: The robot that picks and grades seedlings

The problem:

  • Once the seedlings are ready for picking and sending to the clients, the process is tedious, and time consuming

The robotic solution:

  • The team created a robot that rolls along and picks out the seedlings, knocks off the dirt, trims off some of the longer roots, and passes the roots under a camera to assess it’s quality and suitability for the client, and packs the seedling into a box

The result:

  • The robot can lift 100,000 trees a day

Robotic Example #3: The robot that hunts down Asparagus stalks

The problem:

  • Asparagus is only ready to be picked when it has reached a certain height
  • The fields are large and would require 100’s of kilometres of walking per day for a single person so often need teams of dozens or up to 80 people
  • Picking asparagus is a back-breaking job that harvests one stalk at a time

The robotic solution:

  • The team is working on a robot that uses LIDAR to detect asparagus in the field that has reached the right height, navigate to these stalks, cut them and place them in a tray
  • 10 robots like this could move around night and day

Robotic Example #4: The robot that picks Kiwifruit and pollinates flowers

The problem:

  • Harvesting kiwifruit is time sensitive and labour intensive. It’s hard work reaching up into the canopy
  • Bee’s don’t like kiwifruit flowers much so they often need to be pollinated by hand with a spray bottle of very expensive pollen

The robotic solution:

  • The team has developed a robot car with a platform that can host a wide range of robotic devices on top of it
  • One such robotic device is a system of 4 robot arms that can pick a kiwifruit every second
  • Another such robotic device is a pollination machine that can pollinate 20,000 flowers in a single row of kiwifruit in a few minutes
The robotic, self-driving platform
This RoboticsPlus kiwifruit picking robot can pick a kiwifruit every second

Additional applications include:

  • The identification, and targeted eradication, of individual pest insects
  • The pollination of just the flowers that the harvesting robot can reach easily in a few months (instead of 20% of the crop being out of reach for the harvesting robot)
  • Counting pests or diseases (stink bugs, murtle rust) and tag their location or eradicate them
  • The identification and eradication of individual weeds

A New Export For New Zealand

Exporting our produce is one thing, but exporting robots like these is a whole new service category for New Zealand.

Watch The Presentation Yourself

You can watch the 45 minute presentation yourself on YouTube, which was recorded a few weeks earlier for a different audience but with almost identical content:

Your Thoughts?

Do you think the goal is achievable with the help of robots like these?

Are we doing enough to prepare our children for working in industries like these in the near future?

Have your say in the comments section below.

Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

I’ve been a fan of Tim Ferris since the beginning when his first book 4-Hour Work Week caused me to quit my job. I own every book he’s written.

This book is a collection of his favourite moments from the 100’s of pod-cast interviews he’s done with “Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers”.

It’s also crammed full of recommendations for documentries and books, so after reading this book instead of my reading list being reduced by one, it has increased by 10.

The book is in 3 parts: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

Here are my favourite bits of “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss.

Part 1: HEALTHY

A very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.

Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness.

During working hours or school hours, randomly identify two people who walk past you or who are standing or sitting around you. Secretly wish for them to be happy. Just think to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.

I found myself wondering throughout the day, “Why am I so happy?” Part of the reason I think it’s so effective is that meditation is normally a very “me”-focused activity,

Part 2 WEALTHY

CHRIS SACCA

GO TO AS MANY HIGHER-LEVEL MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE

“Go to all the meetings you can, even if you’re not invited to them, and figure out how to be helpful. If people wonder why you’re there, just start taking notes.”

Chris was well known at Google for showing up to meetings with anyone, including the co-founders. Even if attendees looked at each other puzzled, Chris would sit down and let them know he’d be taking notes for them.

GOOD STORIES ALWAYS BEAT GOOD SPREADSHEETS

“Whether you are raising money, pitching your product to customers, selling the company, or recruiting employees, never forget that underneath all the math and the MBA bullshit talk, we are all still emotionally driven human beings. We want to attach ourselves to narratives. We don’t act because of equations. We follow our beliefs. We get behind leaders who stir our feelings.”

MARC ANDREESSEN

RAISE PRICES

It has become conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley that the way to succeed is to price your product as low as possible, under the theory that if it’s low-priced, everybody can buy it, and that’s how you get to volume,” he said. “And we just see over and over and over again people failing with that, because they get into a problem called ‘too hungry to eat.’ They don’t charge enough for their product to be able to afford the sales and marketing required to actually get anybody to buy it. Is your product any good if people won’t pay more for it?

DEREK SIVERS

HOW TO THRIVE IN AN UNKNOWABLE FUTURE? CHOOSE THE PLAN WITH THE MOST OPTIONS. THE BEST PLAN IS THE ONE THAT LETS YOU CHANGE YOUR PLANS.

THE STANDARD PACE IS FOR CHUMPS

“I think you can graduate Berklee School of Music in two years instead of four. The standard pace is for chumps. The school has to organize its curricula around the lowest common denominator, so that almost no one is left out. They have to slow down, so everybody can catch up. But,’ he said, ‘you’re smarter than that.’ He said, ‘I think you could just buy the books for those, [skip the classes] and then contact the department head to take the final exam to get credit.”

TF: Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m “busy,” it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position, so I’ve forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy.” I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to reexamine my systems and rules.

TAKE 45 MINUTES INSTEAD OF 43—IS YOUR RED FACE WORTH IT?

Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’m gonna go on the same bike ride, and I’m not going to be a complete snail, but I’ll go at half of my normal pace.’ I got on my bike, and it was just pleasant.

I was like, ‘Hey, a pelican!’ and he shit in my mouth.

I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. I thought, ‘How the hell could that have been 45 minutes, as opposed to my usual 43? There’s no way.’ But it was right: 45 minutes. That was a profound lesson that changed the way I’ve approached my life ever since…. “We could do the math, [but] whatever, 93-something-percent of my huffing and puffing, and all that red face and all that stress was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing…. [So,] for life, I think of all of this maximization—getting the maximum dollar out of everything, the maximum out of every second, the maximum out of every minute—you don’t need to stress about any of this stuff.

What’s something you believe that other people think is crazy? “Oh, that’s easy. I’ve got a lot of unpopular opinions. I believe alcohol tastes bad, and so do olives. I’ve never tried coffee, but I don’t like the smell.

Ben Franklin’s excellent advice: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate. And this woman spent all day, every day doing what she loved.

REID HOFFMAN

QuestBridge supplies more exceptional low-in-come talent (i.e., kids) to top universities than all other nonprofits combined. QuestBridge has created a single standardized college application that’s accepted by more than 30 top universities like Stanford, MIT, Amherst, and Yale. This allows them to do some very innovative things, such as give away laptops and have the giveaway forms double as college applications. They then offer scholarships to many kids who could otherwise not even think of college. Did you know that roughly $3 billion available for scholarships goes wasted each year? It’s not a funding problem: It’s a sourcing problem.

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult.

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”—Thomas Edison

PETER THIEL

How important is failure in business? “I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn anything at all because the failure was overdetermined.

“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralizing to people in the long run, and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy.

What I prefer over trends is a sense of mission. That you are working on a unique problem that people are not solving elsewhere. “When Elon Musk started SpaceX, they set out the mission to go to Mars. You may agree or disagree with that as a mission statement, but it was a problem that was not going to be solved outside of SpaceX. All of the people working there knew that, and it motivated them tremendously.

So if I said that nobody should go to college, that might be hypocritical. But what I have said is that not everybody should do the same thing.

SETH GODIN

So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook (except to rebroadcast his daily blog posts, which is automated). In a world of tool obsession and FOMO (fear of missing out) on the next social platform, Seth doesn’t appear to care. He simply focuses on putting out good and short daily posts, he ignores the rest, and he continues to thrive. There are no real rules, so make rules that work for you.

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition.

James recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each morning in a waiter’s pad or tiny notebook. This exercise is for developing your “idea muscle” and confidence for creativity on demand, so regular practice is more important than the topics:

“I [then] divide my paper into two columns. On one column is the list of ideas. On the other column is the list of FIRST STEPS.

  • 10 old ideas I can make new
  • 10 ridiculous things I would invent (e.g., the smart toilet)
  • 10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
  • 10 business ideas for Google/Amazon/Twitter/etc.
  • 10 people I can send ideas to
  • 10 podcast ideas or videos I can shoot (e.g., Lunch with James, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat)
  • 10 industries where I can remove the middleman
  • 10 things I disagree with that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors, etc.)
  • 10 ways to take old posts of mine and make books out of them
  • 10 people I want to be friends with (then figure out the first step to contact them)
  • 10 things I learned yesterday
  • 10 things I can do differently today
  • 10 ways I can save time
  • 10 things I learned from X, where X is someone I’ve recently spoken with or read a book by or about. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
  • 10 things I’m interested in getting better at (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one)
  • 10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas.)
  • 10 ways I might try to solve a problem I have This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my superpowers.

SCOTT ADAMS

Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.

It could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking. develop that too.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any successful person who didn’t have about three skills in the top 25%.

SHAUN WHITE

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, The Law of the Category. When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category.

ALEX BLUMBERG

Prompts to Elicit Stories (Most Interviewers Are Weak at This)

  • “Tell me about a time when …”
  • “Tell me about the day [or moment or time] when …”
  • “Tell me the story of … [how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]”
  • “Tell me about the day you realized ___ …”
  • “What were the steps that got you to ___ ?”
  • “Describe the conversation when …

Follow-Up Questions When Something Interesting Comes Up, Perhaps in Passing

  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • “What do you make of that?

ED CATMULL

IF YOU CAN’T READ IT, TRY LISTENING TO IT

“My brain works differently. It turns out I am unable to read poetry…. Reading poetry, within a few seconds, shuts my brain down.

So this woman at a dinner said: ‘Don’t read it, listen to it.’ I bought the tape and I listened to it, and I found I was completely enthralled.

TRACY DINUNZIO

‘When you complain, nobody wants to help you,’ and it’s the simplest thing and so plainly spoken. Only he could really say that brutal, honest truth, but it’s true, right? If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people. That draws more destructiveness.

Book your A list for after your first 10 pitches.

PHIL LIBIN

And Bezos looks at me and goes, ‘Mars is stupid.’ And I say, ‘What?’ He says, ‘Once we get off of the planet, the last thing we want to do is go to another gravity.’ “Bezos said, ‘The whole point, the reason this is so hard to get off the earth, is to defeat gravity the first time. Once we do that, why would you want to go to Mars? We should just live on space stations and mine asteroids and everything is much better than being on Mars.

“Every single thing in your company breaks every time you roughly triple in size.”

“His hypothesis is that everything breaks at roughly these points of 3 and 10 [multiples of 3 and powers of 10]. And by ‘everything,’ it means everything: how you handle payroll, how you schedule meetings, what kind of communications you use, how you do budgeting, who actually makes decisions. Every implicit and explicit part of the company just changes significantly when it triples.

CHRIS YOUNG

His dad, a very successful entrepreneur, gave Chris advice when he was a freshman or sophomore in high school: “I distinctly remember him saying not to worry about what I was going to do because the job I was going to do hadn’t even been invented yet…. The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up

Don’t worry about what your job is going to be…. Do things that you’re interested in, and if you do them really well, you’re going to find a way to temper them with some good business opportunity.

One of the top 10 venture capitalists I know uses a variant of this litmus test as his measurement of “disruptive”: For each $1 of revenue you generate, can you cost an incumbent $5 to $10? If so, he’ll invest.

one of my favorite business-related PDFs floating around the Internet is “Valve: Handbook for New Employees

DAYMOND JOHN

“If you go out there and start making noise and making sales, people will find you. Sales cure all. You can talk about how great your business plan is and how well you are going to do. You can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts. Sales cure all.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

That last Genghis Khan book has been recommended to me by several billionaires.

NOAH KAGAN

The book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman: “If you ever meet me in person, I have an extra copy because it’s just that amazing.

LUIS VON AHN

‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ and then I would try to find another way of saying it, and a whole hour would pass and I could not get past the first sentence.

This is basically just an act. Essentially, I was being unclear about what I was saying, and I did not fully understand what I was trying to explain to him. He was just drilling deeper and deeper and deeper until I realized, every time, that there was actually something I didn’t have clear in my mind. He really taught me to think deeply about things, and I think that’s something I have not forgotten.

Try experimenting with saying “I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?” more often.

THE CANVAS STRATEGY

“Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.” —Lord Mahon

Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you? The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You’d learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You’d develop a reputation for being indispensable. You’d have countless new relationships. You’d have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road.

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected,” you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you—that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.

  • Maybe it’s coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss.
  • Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks.
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it.
  • Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas.
  • Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

SCOTT BELSKY

What do you believe that others think is insane? “It is essential to get lost and jam up your plans every now and then. It’s a source of creativity and perspective. The danger of maps, capable assistants, and planning is that you may end up living your life as planned. If you do, your potential cannot possibly exceed your expectations.

How has a “failure” set you up for later success? “The hardest decisions to make in business are those that disappoint people you care about.

“From this experience I learned what legendary writers call ‘killing your darlings’—the plot points and characters that detract from a novel. Sometimes you need to stop doing things you love in order to nurture the one thing that matters most.”

“… young creative minds don’t need more ideas, they need to take more responsibility with the ideas they’ve already got.”

PETER DIAMANDIS

“THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE IS TO HELP A BILLION PEOPLE.”

‘When you go after a moonshot—something that’s 10 times bigger, not 10% bigger—a number of things happen….’ “First of all, when you’re going 10% bigger, you’re competing against everybody. Everybody’s trying to go 10% bigger. When you’re trying to go 10 times bigger, you’re there by yourself.

when you are trying to go 10 times bigger, you have to start with a clean sheet of paper, and you approach the problem completely differently. I’ll give you my favorite example: Tesla. How did Elon start Tesla and build from scratch the safest, most extraordinary car, not even in America, but I think in the world? It’s by not having a legacy from the past to drag into the present. That’s important.

“Three to five billion new consumers are coming online in the next 6 years. Holy cow, that’s extraordinary. What do they need? What could you provide for them, because they represent tens of trillions of dollars coming into the global economy, and they also represent an amazing resource of innovation.

PETER’S LAWS

Peter has a set of rules that guide his life.

His 28 Peter’s Laws have been collected over decades.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Law 2: When given a choice … take both.
  • Law 3: Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  • Law 6: When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  • Law 7: If you can’t win, change the rules.
  • Law 8: If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  • Law 11: “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.
  • Law 13: When in doubt: THINK.
  • Law 16: The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  • Law 17: The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. (adopted from Alan Kay)
  • Law 19: You get what you incentivize.
  • Law 22: The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
  • Law 26: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Money can always be regenerated. Time and reputation cannot.

GET THE LONG-TERM GOAL ON THE CALENDAR BEFORE THE SHORT-TERM PAIN HITS

Make commitments in a high-energy state so that you can’t back out when you’re in a low-energy state.

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross because it contains the most brilliant one-liners in history.

Favorite documentaries

  • Catfish—“It’s a cliché, but it’s a brilliant, generation-defining documentary.”
  • To Be and to Have—“This is a beautiful and simple film about a one-room school in France, and what happens over the course of one year.”
  • The Overnighters—“This covers oil exploration in North Dakota, which has become perhaps bigger than the Gold Rush in the 1800s

The Road to No

  • If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no. Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!”—then my answer is no.
  • My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.
  • great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted blocks of time—3 to 5 hours
  • Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.
  • If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting
  • Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolutely all-or-nothing.

Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide

  • If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions: In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract? Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?
  • For me, step one is always the same: Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions. My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper (here), in which I ask and answer, “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped doing what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?

To “fix” someone’s problem, you very often just need to empathically listen to them.

Part 3: WISE

MARIA POPOVA

SOMETIMES, THE BEST “NO” IS NO REPLY

“Why put in the effort to explain why it isn’t a fit, if they haven’t done the homework to determine if it is a fit?” Maria could spend all day replying to bad pitches with polite declines.

‘Those who work much, do not work hard.

“When Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Write to please just one person,’ what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself…. The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it

Book recommendations:

  • “The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long”
  • “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love”
  • “9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings”
  • Anything about Alan Watts: “Alan Watts has changed my life. I’ve written about him quite a bit.

JOCKO WILLINK

Freeform days might seem idyllic, but they are paralyzing due to continual paradox of choice (e.g., “What should I do now?”) and decision fatigue (e.g., “What should I have for breakfast?

“You can’t blame your boss for not giving you the support you need. Plenty of people will say, ‘It’s my boss’s fault.’ No, it’s actually your fault because you haven’t educated him, you haven’t influenced him, you haven’t explained to him in a manner he understands why you need this support that you need. That’s extreme ownership. Own it all.

MARC GOODMAN

Book recommendation: Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

SHAY CARL

HOW SHAY CURRENTLY SHOOTS VIDEO

Canon PowerShot G7 X camera

It’s about the relationship you build, not the production quality. The effects of “acting” more upbeat seemed to last at least 2 to 3 hours.

KEVIN KELLY

Cooking everything using a Kelly Kettle. This is a camping device that can generate heat from nearly anything found in your backyard or on a roadside (e.g., twigs, leaves, paper)

Fasting, consuming nothing but water.

Oddly, you might observe that you are happier after this experiment in bare-bones simplicity. I often find this to be the case. Once you’ve realized—and it requires a monthly or quarterly reminder—how independent your well-being is from having an excess of money, it becomes easier to take “risks” and say “no” to things that seem too lucrative to pass up. There is more freedom to be gained from practicing poverty than chasing wealth. Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer.

WHITNEY CUMMINGS

My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, ‘I love you’ before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.

“Happiness is wanting what you have.”

BRYAN CALLEN

“The difference between the people you admire and everybody else [is that the former are] the people who read.”

Book recommendation: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

ALAIN DE BOTTON

Favorite documentary The Up series.

Planshopping. That is, deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are, and then picking the one that’s most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it—in other words, treating people like menu options or products in a catalog.

When you’re not drinking, you can see drunkenness more clearly than those actually experiencing it.

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love.

CAL FUSSMAN

Book recommendations:

  • Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

PAULO COELHO

What are the most common mistakes or weaknesses of first-time novelists? “Keep it simple. Trust your reader. He or she has a lot of imagination. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint, and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.

  • Write about a time when you realized you were mistaken.
  • Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.
  • Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion.
  • Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back.
  • Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.
  • Write about something you don’t remember.
  • Write about your darkest teacher.
  • Write about a memory of a physical injury.
  • Write about when you knew it was over.
  • Write about being loved.
  • Write about what you were really thinking.
  • Write about how you found your way back.
  • Write about the kindness of strangers.
  • Write about why you could not do it.
  • Write about why you did.

AMANDA PALMER

Book recommendation: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It’s by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

ERIC WEINSTEIN

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”—Mark Twain.

SETH ROGEN & EVAN GOLDBERG

8 TACTICS FOR DEALING WITH HATERS

  1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.
  2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.
  3. When in doubt, starve it of oxygen.
  4. If you respond, don’t over-apologize. Some version of “I see you” will diffuse at least 80% of people who appear to be haters or would-be haters.
  5. You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
  6. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.”—Colin Powell
  7. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”—Epictetus
  8. “Living well is the best revenge.”—George Herbert

NAVAL RAVIKANT

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

“Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

“You get paid for being right first, and to be first, you can’t wait for consensus.

GLENN BECK

People are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are.

TARA BRACH

Radical Acceptance

…actively recognizing anger and other types of what we consider “negative” emotions. Rather than trying to suppress something or swat it away, we say to the emotion/ourselves, “I see you.” This counterintuitively helps to dissolve or resolve the issue.

MIKE BIRBIGLIA

…whenever we meet someone who we know doesn’t care about meeting us, my wife and I always try and come up with a trick question that throws them off. They kind of have to answer, or have to think about it.

THE JAR OF AWESOME

Anytime something really cool happens in a day, something that made me excited or joyful, doctor’s orders are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this mason jar. When something great happens, you think you’ll remember it 3 months later, but you won’t. The Jar of Awesome creates a record of great things that actually happened, all of which are easy to forget if you’re depressed or seeing the world through gray-colored glasses. I tend to celebrate very briefly, if at all, so this pays dividends for weeks, months, or years.

STEPHEN J. DUBNER

What’s the worst advice you hear often? “‘Write what you know.’ Why would I want to write about what little I know? Don’t I want to use writing to learn more?

JOSH WAITZKIN

Josh has no social media, does no interviews (except my podcast, for which he often says to me, “You fuck!”), and avoids nearly all meetings and phone calls. He minimizes input to maximize output, much like Rick Rubin. Josh says: “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.

…when Josh gave me a beginner’s tutorial on chess, he didn’t start with opening moves. Memorizing openings is natural, and nearly everyone does it, but Josh likens it to stealing the test answers from a teacher. You’re not learning principles or strategies—you’re merely learning a few tricks that will help you beat your novice friends. Instead, Josh took me in reverse, just as his first teacher, Bruce Pandolfini, did with him. The board was empty, except for three pieces in an endgame scenario: king and pawn against king. Through the micro, positions of reduced complexity, he was able to focus me on the macro: principles like the power of empty space, opposition, and setting an opponent up for zugzwang (a situation where any move he makes will destroy his position). By limiting me to a few simple pieces, he hoped I would learn something limitless: high-level concepts I could apply anytime against anyone.

Whereas most competitors are secretive about their competition prep, Marcelo routinely records and uploads his sparring sessions, his exact training for major events. Josh explains the rationale: “[Marcelo] was visually showing these competitors what he was about to use against them at 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks [away from competition], and his attitude about this was just completely unique: ‘If you’re studying my game, you’re entering my game, and I’ll be better at it than you.’” TF: I often share exact under-the-hood details of how I’ve built the podcast, put together Kickstarter campaigns, etc. I do this because of two core beliefs.

Belief #1—It’s rarely a zero-sum game (if someone wins, someone else must lose), and the more I help people with details, the more detailed help I receive.

Belief #2—If it is competitive, I’m simply offering people the details of my game. My attention to detail will scare off half of the people who would have tried; 40% will try it and be worse than me; 10% will try it and be better than me, but … see Belief #1. That 10% will often reach out to teach me what they’ve learned, as they’re grateful for my own transparency.

“One of the biggest mistakes that I observed in the first year of Jack’s life was parents who have unproductive language around weather being good or bad. Whenever it was raining, you’d hear moms, babysitters, dads say, ‘It’s bad weather. We can’t go out,’ or if it wasn’t, ‘It’s good weather. We can go out.’ That means that, somehow, we’re externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have a good time. So, Jack and I never missed a single storm, rain or snow, to go outside and romp in it. Maybe we missed one when he was sick. We’ve developed this language around how beautiful it is. Now, whenever it’s a rainy day, Jack says, ‘Look, Dada, it’s such a beautiful rainy day,’ and we go out and we play in it. I wanted him to have this internal locus of control—to not be reliant on external conditions being just so.”

JON FAVREAU

  1. To get huge, good things done, you need to be okay with letting the small, bad things happen.
  2. People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.

Most media rightly don’t give a rat’s ass about book launches. They care about stories, not announcements,

JAMIE FOXX

It’s never been easier to be a “creator,” and it’s never been harder to stand out. Good isn’t good enough.

BRYAN JOHNSON

“What can you do that will be remembered in 200 to 400 years?

BRIAN KOPPELMAN

“Is that a dream or a goal?” If it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Robert takes copious notes. He sets an alarm for midnight every night to input the day’s notes into a Word document. He dates everything and stores them by year, so he can find whatever he might want later:

I would go back and review the journals and realize how many life-changing things happened within a weekend. Things that you thought were spread out over 2 years were actually Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and that Monday. So many occurrences happened in chunks that could blow you away, things that kind of define you…. “For anyone who is a parent, it’s a must. It’s a must because your children—and you—forget everything. Within a few years, they’ll forget things that you think they should remember for the rest of their lives. They’ll only remember it if it’s reinforced.

MY RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

  • When you think of the word “successful,” who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
  • What is something you believe that other people think is insane?
  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift?
  • What is your favorite documentary or movie?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months?
  • What are your morning rituals? What do the first 60 minutes of your day look like?
  • What obsessions do you explore on the evenings or weekends?
  • What topic would you speak about if you were asked to give a TED talk on something outside of your main area of expertise?
  • What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? Could be an investment of money, time, energy, or other resource. How did you decide to make the investment?
  • Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
  • What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in your world?
  • If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?
  • What advice would you give to your 20-, 25-, or 30-year-old self? And please place where you were at the time, and what you were doing.
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Or, do you have a favorite failure of yours?
  • What is something really weird or unsettling that happens to you on a regular basis?
  • What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
  • What do you believe is true, even though you can’t prove it?
  • Any ask or request for my audience? Last parting words?

THE MOST-GIFTED AND RECOMMENDED BOOKS OF ALL GUESTS

  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (5 mentions)
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (4)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (4)
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (4)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (4)
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (4)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (3)
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini (3)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (3)
  • Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom (3)
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman (3)
  • The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss (3)
  • The Bible (3)
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (3)
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (3)
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (3)
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters (3)

Your Thoughts?

Have you read this book? What were your favourite parts? Are you going to read it thanks to this summary? Have your say in the comments below.

3 Businesses Shrunk To The Size Of A Shipping Container

The bigger the footprint of your business, the more you have to pay for rent/lease, right?

What if you could downsize your business to the size of a shipping container?

In the last 3 days I’ve come across 3 businesses that have done just that.

#1: A drum school in the back of a small truck

I had just dropped my boys off at their primary school and came across a small truck in the staff parking lot.

I peeked inside and met Phil Upton.

Phil teaches school kids the drums out of his truck which is set up with 3 electric drum kits.

He can teach up to 3 students at a time.

He serves schools throughout Tauranga for weekly lessons.

He bought the business off the previous owner, rebranded, got the truck signwritten, did some promotion, and tripled his business in a few months.

The kids love it because they get out of class sometimes to practice.

The parents love it because they don’t have to drive their kids anywhere outside of school hours.

And Phil loves it because he’s doing what he does best – teaching kids how to play.

Everybody wins.

#2. A e-bike hire business in a shipping container

I was in Wellington for the weekend and found a notice on the board at the YHA that offered e-bike hire down at Shed One beside the water.

Switched On Bikes was easy to find and the price was excellent, just $20 for an hour.

They told me “Take as long as you like, if you are over an hour we’ll just work something out when you get back”.

I was another hour over time and he said “$10?” and I said “Yes!”.

I zipped up Mount Victoria easily (I left the e-bike power at max).

The photo isn’t very flattering, but what I thought was remarkable is that their whole business packs down into their shipping container.

The bikes hang up on hooks when packed away, and every morning they unpack the container to set up their sales desk, workshop and a rack of supplies, and line up their rental bikes and bikes for sale outside.

They love it because their rent is cheap and their location is great.

Renters like me love it because their location is easy to get to, and their prices are cheap.

Everybody wins.

#3. A restaurant run from a truck

What if you could run a restaurant from a truck?

Of course, you know I’m talking about food trucks.

I love food trucks for 4 reasons:

  1. They are delicious and gourmet
    • You just can’t get their food anywhere else
    • You know their food is amazing and unique because the un-tasty, un-original ones go out of business quick because word gets around
  2. They are great value for money
    • They are not “cheap” but they are certainly cheaper than a restaurant or cafe
    • They do save money not paying for a building, but they only make their money in short bursts a few times a week when they have a crowd of people
  3. They are mobile
    • You might see your favourites at the next event you go to, or a new food truck to try
  4. They are fun! They often have:
    • A really fun attitude
    • Excellent service
    • Bold colours and designs in their signage
    • Creative names of their dishes
    • It’s even fun queuing up for one because they have such a buzz about them

(I love them so much I actually created a website about them and now have 140 NZ food trucks in my list.)

A local example is Tia’s Tacos is run by Erica Morales-Neville here in Tauranga. Her food is delicious, her branding is cool, and her prices are great.

Erica loves it because she has the lifestyle she wants.

We love it because we get to eat her delicious food for cheap.

Everybody wins.

Your Thoughts?

Could you shrink your business to the size of a shipping container?

Could it fit in the back of a truck?

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

Such a great book!

I enjoyed this book for 3 reasons:

  1. Lists are awesome
    • And in this book, Kevin Kelly made a lot. I’ve included my favourites below
  2. Stories about the future are awesome
    • 2 or 3 times in this book, Kevin Kelly would paint this picture of a typical day-in-his-life set in the future. What happened on that day seems amazing, but realistic. They were a bit too long to include in my notes, so you’ll have to read the book yourself
  3. I’m excited about robots taking our jobs!
    • Some people are not. Some people are scared of their jobs being taken by robots. Not just mechanical jobs, but jobs that until only recently, we thought were safe from robots: doctors and lawyers and accountants for example

But you don’t have to be afraid. All you need to do is remember that technology is additive. Email hasn’t replaced the postal service. Internet news hasn’t replaced physical newspapers. Digital hasn’t replaced paper.

Those industries have changed and adapted but they haven’t gone.

It’s the same with robots and artificial intelligence. They can augment and supplement our experience, our work, our contribution, our lives. Not replace.

If you read nothing else from my summary, just read the “Here are the Seven Stages of Robot Replacement“.

Anyway, as always, I urge you to get your own copy because my favourite parts may be different to your own.

In the meantime, here are my notes on “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future” by Kevin Kelly. Continue reading “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly”

9 Ways To Increase Your Volume Of New Business Enquiries

1. Take a fresh look at what you say

  • Review (and improve) what you say about your business and your services
  • On The Phone:
    • Who answers the phone?
    • What do they say?
    • How are calls transferred?
    • How are messages recorded?
    • What’s the hold music?
    • How could the menu options be improved?
  • In Person:
    • How do you record interactions with prospects and clients?
    • What do you and your team wear?
    • How do you follow up?
    • What action do you ask them to take next?
    • How does your team answer the question “what do you do?”
  • On Your Website
  • In Advertising
    • What is the secret sauce of your business?
    • Why does it exist?
    • Why is it important?
    • Do you lead with your logo, or a headline that states the benefits of your service?

Continue reading “9 Ways To Increase Your Volume Of New Business Enquiries”

Ask by Ryan Levesque

Ask-by-Ryan-Levesque
The basic idea of this book is very simple: You are just guessing what your customers actually want, right now and in the future. So perhaps it’s time you asked them what they want.

According to Levesque, the way to check is to put them through a series of surveys.

Their answers to these survey questions will enable you to put your customers into groups.

When you have those groups, you can better tailor your product/service packages to these groups.

Sounds pretty reasonable? Pretty simple?

That’s because it is.

Levesque does describe these surveys in moderate-to-light detail, and does provide a few examples of the emails that you can adapt for your own purpose.

But, I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t provide the formula that I expected from reading the title of the book. And worse, it pushes you to buy Levesque’s survey software. It’s just not easy to set up the system he proposes without it. Continue reading “Ask by Ryan Levesque”

The 6 Steps in The Creative Process: This will be awesome, This is hard, This is shit, I’m shit, This might be ok, This is awesome!

An artist friend of mine Murray Clode told me about the “The Creative Process” this morning at the Breakfast Club that I run.

The 6 Steps in The Creative Process

  1. This will be awesome
  2. This is hard
  3. This is shit
  4. I’m shit
  5. This might be ok!
  6. This is awesome!

This doesn’t just apply to creating art, it’s when we create anything:

  • You might have an idea for a new start-up business
  • You might launch into a d-i-y project at home
  • You might decide to learn a new language
  • You might decide to read a challenging book
  • You might decide to write a blog article like this one

Can you recognise yourself working through this process when you are doing something worthwhile?

For me, one of the most interesting parts of this list is how many opportunities there are to quit before you get something done!

The 4 Main Opportunities To Quit During The Creative Process

  1. Not getting started at all.
    • Having an awesome idea, but not taking the first step, not taking action. Most of us quit before we start
  2. When the initial optimism and excitement wears off and it gets hard, most of us quit
  3. If we work hard and then look with disappointment at what we’ve created, most of us quit
  4. When we see what we’ve created as a reflection of ourselves and blame ourselves for the dismal quality of the project, most of us quit

What Power Do You Have On Others Going Through The Process?

The second most interesting part of this is the power we have over people in the middle of creating something.

If you attack someones ideas you might send them into phase #3 (the “This is shit” phase) too early, so they quit!

If you encourage and uplift someone it might send them into phase #5 (the “This might be ok” phase) just before they quit!

When we are exposed to peoples ideas, we can’t help but have a reaction.

Those ideas might be art, they might be a plan for the future, they might be an idea for an event, an idea for a new product or service or business.

What Do They Need To Hear?

You have 3 choices when someone shares their ideas with you:

  1. Most often they need you to pat them on the back and say “good on you” and for you to keep any reservations you have to yourself so they can learn the lesson that awaits them
  2. Sometimes they might need some constructive criticism to send them in a new direction that will save them a bit of time & effort
  3. And sometimes they need someone brave to say “it looks like you’ve given this your best shot, have you thought about ending this project and taking what you’ve learned, and applying that to a new project? What project might that be?”

Is Ending A Project A Total Loss?

Most of the time we think failed projects are a complete waste of time and money/resources.

It’s this kind of thinking that stops most of us from starting a new project in the first place.

But all projects (whether they were failures or successes) are great learning, aren’t they?

In fact, perhaps up to 80% of your new skills and knowledge could be applied to your next project, couldn’t they?

Where To From Here? My 3 Hopes For You

  1. I hope that the next time you are in the middle of a creative project and feel like quitting, you remember that you’re in the middle of this 6 phase process and to not give up too early!
  2. I hope that the next time someone tells you their idea, that you choose right when you decide if they need a pat on the back, some constructive criticism, or for someone brave to prompt them to end it.
  3. But most of all, I hope you start a new creative project today, because the world always needs cool people working on cool creations.

(P.S. I was able to trace the origins of this list back to a tweet by Marcus Romer in Oct 2013).

Heard About The NZ Cafe Owners Network?

The NZ Cafe Owners network is where cafe owners in a particular city are matched to a cafe owner in a neighbouring city.

They call each other once a fortnight (8pm on a Thursday night) to share marketing ideas to grow their businesses.

  • There is no competition because they are in different cities, so they are free to share any, and all, ideas
  • They are more likely to take action on the new ideas because they hear about how other owners have implemented them and what results the changes generated
  • If the pair run short on ideas to share, they are simply re-matched with a new cafe owner (this is encouraged)
  • They work such long hours, they can never find the time to read marketing books or search Google for marketing ideas
  • They work so hard inside their business they sorely need an outsiders perspective to identify weaknesses and opportunities and ask challenging questions
  • They realise that just providing “great food and great service” isn’t enough these days. That’s just the new baseline minimum that people expect

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Well, it doesn’t exist, sorry.

It’s just an idea I had the other day.

If you’d like to start providing this service, I suggest the following steps:

  1. Pitch the idea to 3 cafe’s near you and 3 more in a neighbouring city
  2. Set appointments for the phonecalls for them and share the phone numbers
  3. Briefly interview them the next day to see how it went (write down their testimonials)
  4. Ask them if they are prepared to pay $10/month for the service. And if so, send them an invoice for the first month immediately

All the best!

coffee-queue-out-the-door
Is it every cafe owners dream to be so popular that there is a queue out the door and down the street, but no-body minds waiting because waiting is part of the experience and it’s just the cost of being a super-fan?

Want To Make More Money? How To Maximise The Worker, The Seller, The Investor, In All Of Us

20-dollar-note-securityMy 5 year old son asked me about money last night before bed.

His basic question was “How do we get more of it?”

Good question!

We spent a few minutes closely examining a 5 dollar note and I pointed out some of the security features like clear windows, watermarks and micro-printing that make it so hard to simply print out more for ourselves.

And then I told him the 3 basic ways to make money:

  1. Work for someone
  2. Sell something
  3. Invest in something

In a moment we’ll take a closer look at each one, and consider the marketing implications of each.

But first, are you more likely to ask the question “how do you earn money” or “how do you make money”?

The most common, is the latter. We use the phrase “make money” as if the stuff comes out of thin air.

Most monetary transactions these days are in fact in the thin air.

They are electronic transactions flying through the internet and phone lines. Rarely are they passed over from one human hand to another.

Anyway, the first way to make money is…

#1 Work For Someone

  • Exchanging an hour of your time for an hours pay. You are selling your time
  • If you live until your 80, that’s 700,800 hours you’ve got to sell
  • But you might keep a third of those for yourself for sleeping, and another third for family time, resting and playing, leaving just 233,600 to sell
  • This method does not scale. If you create enormous value for a business with a 60 minute phonecall with a new customer, you get paid the same as you did for that hour you spent on Facebook

How To Maximise Working For Someone

  • Have you noticed that when you are job hunting, it feels like you are selling yourself to a potential employer? That’s exactly what you are doing
  • Your potential future boss is estimating your capacity to create value for their business
  • They know you’ll take holidays, you’ll get sick sometimes, you’ll lose focus or get distracted, but at the end of the day, they hope that you’ve created products or services that are of value to the customers of their business. They use that value to contribute to overheads, pay for the costs of doing business (including your wages/salary), and to compensate them for taking the risk on you
  • When that value calculation is upsidedown, that’s when redundancies are made. Redundancy really means “for the foreseeable future we can’t sell the value that you create, so the business can’t afford to pay you to stay here”
  • So if you are working for someone and you’re worried about redundancy, ask your boss what the most valuable outputs of your work are, and just focus on those
  • Go beyond KPI’s and keep asking the question “why is that important? But why is that important?” Until you find out what is truely valuable

#2 Sell Something

  • Eg Buy items in bulk and resell them to customers in smaller quantities (eg supermarkets do this all day)
  • Eg Assemble an item that people want from components (eg a mobile phone is made of thousands of components)
  • Eg Provide a service that people pay for (eg the delivery of packages to your home or office)
  • Evening begging is a form of selling. You are selling the good feeling that comes from helping someone less fortunate

How To Maximise Selling Something

  • In this scenario it’s about asking questions that uncover peoples wants and needs (often, they are problems that they want to solve)
  • But better than that, it’s finding out what they are willing to pay to solve that problem
  • But better than that, it’s asking them to pay in advance of you delivering that solution

#3 Invest In Something

  • Eg Give your funds to a bank and earn interest
  • Eg Buy or build a machine that makes widgets
  • Eg Buy or build an asset that generates cashflow (eg a rental property)
  • Eg Hire an employee that creates value for your customers
  • Even playing the lottery or gambling is a form of investment. You are exchanging time and money for the chance to profit

How To Maximise Investing in Something

  • The first 2 questions in this scenario are “What is the return on investment?” and “What is the risk of losing my entire investment?”
  • The next question is “What are my investment alternatives and how do they compare?”
  • Even with just 2 factors: return/reward and risk, evaluating your options can be enormously complicated
  • The marketing questions are “what are you really selling?” and “who will pay for it?”
  • For example, putting your money in a bank account is giving the bank permission to use your money for their own investments (such as issuing mortgages on property). In return you get a small fraction of their profits but with very little risk of losing your investment

In your lifetime you will dip in and out of all 3 categories all the time.

Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on this?

Have I missed a method of making money?

Have your say in the comments section below.

Flash Foresight: See The Invisible To Do The Impossible by Daniel Burrus

Here are my notes on “Flash Foresight: See the Invisible to Do the Impossible” by Daniel Burrus.Flash-Foresight-Book

I learnt a lot from this book. The 2 biggest lessons for me were:

  1. I’ve heard about the aging population a million times, but this book made me think about it in 2 different ways:
    • It will create an enormous part-time, low-cost workforce with huge business experience
    • There is enormous business opportunity as that generation requires more health care, more medical technology (hearing aids for example)
  2. Technology-driven change doesn’t kill off the old ways of getting things done, it adds on
    • Eg e-news hasn’t killed newspapers, email and digital storage hasn’t killed paperwork

Here’s a collection of my other favourite bits from this book. Continue reading “Flash Foresight: See The Invisible To Do The Impossible by Daniel Burrus”

Only Prospects In Pain Will Buy: 6 Questions To Ask To Uncover Your Prospects Pain

Did you know that only a prospect in pain will buy a solution from you?

It’s true.

The more pain they feel, the higher the price they will pay, and the more they crave your solution if you can show them that you understand their pain.

If you have a warehouse full of widgets to sell, or a professional service that is hard to change, then the following advice is not going to work for you.

You need a clean slate for the following to work.

So, have you just been made redundant? Or maybe you’re considering a career change?

Great!

Congratulations!

You have the blank slate you need. The world is full of opportunities and you have everything you need to take advantage.

The following 6 steps will show you how to build a software business for yourself, from scratch.

Don’t worry, you don’t even have to know any code. All you need to know is how to ask questions.

Can you do that? Can you ask questions?

Step #1: Identify An Industry

It doesn’t matter which one! You don’t have to have experience in that industry, or a passion for it. Every industry has unmet needs that you can serve. Eg:

  1. Real estate
  2. Property development
  3. Cafe’s
  4. Lawyers
  5. Accountants
  6. Forestry
  7. Farming
  8. Banking
  9. Logistics
  10. Dentists
  11. Doctors
  12. Tourism
  13. Transportation
  14. Logistics
  15. Entertainment
  16. Vets

Step #2: Interview People In Your Chosen Industry

Interview 3 or 4 or 5 (or 10) managers in businesses in this industry.

For an introduction just say “Hey, I’m just doing some research into your industry, I just want to understand some of your painful problems, and find a way to improve your life”

In your interview include the following questions:

  1. What’s the most important activity in your business? Is there pain associated with that activity?
  2. What problems are costing you the most money in your business right now?
  3. What are the tasks that you do on a day-to-day basis? For each, how do you feel when you do that task? If you could wave a magic wand over that task what would you change?
  4. What are some pieces of software that you use that make you want to punch your computer?
  5. If you need to, focus their attention on different stages in the sales process: Pre-sale, during sale and post-sale. What are all the tasks at each stage?
  6. Keep asking “What else?” and “Tell me more!” until they are exhausted 🙂

Your goal here is to understand the problem better than the customer, better than the competition, better than anyone else.

Once you have narrowed it down to a couple of problems, ask “Have you tried to solve this problem in the past?”. Their response may give you price point ideas.

Step #3: Calculate How Much The Problem Costs

Once your identified the pain/problem, calculate specifically how much the problem costs them every year

For example, if a mundane task takes 15 minutes a day and your time is worth $50/hour then automating or eliminating that task is worth $3,062.50 per annum (0.25 hours x 5 days a week x 49 months a year x 50 an hour)

Another example, if you are a pool cleaner and 5% of customers are disputing their bills then that problem could be costing you $5,000 a year (0.05 of customers x 500 customers a year x $200 disputed).

Step #4: Pitch Your Solution

Once you have defined the problem clearly and accurately, the solution becomes obvious.

“If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions” – Albert Einstein

And, even better, they’ll trust you to solve it: “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, then they will assume you have the solution.” – Dane Maxwell

Your prospective customers might think they need an all-inclusive solution but actually they don’t. Firstly, it’s impossible to build anyway. Secondly, they won’t buy it if you build it because it will cost them too much to implement and create too much change in their organisation. Your solution must not require them to change their behaviour too much.

Just deal with one problem and it’s one solution.

Next you ask them “So if I could create software that could solve problem x for you and it cost you $200/month, would you sign up?”.

Get pre-orders and pre-payment.

If you can’t get money from them in advance, then you haven’t discovered a painful enough problem so you’re going to have to ask more questions or interview someone else.

Step #5: Keep Selling. Don’t Build Yet

Don’t be tempted to start building the software yet.

Keep building up your pre-orders, keep selling. Keep building interest until you are getting emails every day from customers begging you to finish the software.

If you can get 100 customers signed up at $200/month that’s $20,000 per month ($240,000 per annum) you have to pay for sales calls and software development (and your salary).

Step #6: Build

Now it’s time to start building the software.

Build it lean. No bells and whistles. Make it solve a single problem.

To find a developer try elance.com.

3 Things You Can Do Next

  1. Pick an industry and book in your first interview tomorrow
  2. Attend a StartUp Weekend in NZ
  3. Sign up for more articles like this one:

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Worried Someone Will Steal Your Awesome Idea? 7 Possible Reactions When You Share Your Idea

New ideas are exciting!

Sometimes great ideas wake you in the middle of the night (and at the time you are sure you’ll remember them so you don’t bother writing them down… oops).

Sometimes great ideas happen to you when you are alone (like in the shower, or in the car), and it’s so annoying that there isn’t someone right there you can tell it to.

Your new idea might be an invention, a solution to a problem, a decision, or an idea for a new business.

Do you ever find yourself hesitating before you share the idea with someone, because you are worried that they will steal it?

Well, let’s check how often that actually happens.

7 Possible Reactions When You Share Your Awesome Idea

  1. 43% of people you tell will be bored or just don’t care
    • Don’t be offended, they still love you, just not this idea
  2. 24% of people will see something you don’t see in the idea, and provide you with another idea to help you shape your one
    • This is the best possible reaction because now you’ve got something better than your initial idea
  3. 12% of people will point out that your idea is not new and where to find it already in existence
    • This is a great outcome, because you can either decide what your point of difference will be or put it aside and dream up a new idea
  4. 9% of people will spread your idea to more people
    • This is also a great outcome because you’ll benefit from this list of possible responses being repeated
  5. 7% of people will tell you why your idea sucks
    • That’s ok, because it’s good to get a reality check. You can ignore their criticism and plow on, or dump the idea and move on
  6. 5% of people will be inspired and offer their help to get you started
    • That’s a great result because 2 heads are better than 1
  7. 0% of people will steal it and set up in competition to you
    • Yes, that’s right, zero. The worry that someone will steal your idea is an illusion. And even if they do steal it, that’s the biggest compliment in the world

So, what do you think about this?

Have your say in the comments below.

(As always, these statistics are made up for dramatic purposes 🙂

9 Questions To Get You Started When You’ve Got An Idea For A StartUp Business

Heard of “a business plan”?

It’s how you plan your business, right?

Well, the bad news is that “business plans never survive first contact with customers” – Steve Blank.

This means that you can plan all you like, but real customers with real money in their pockets will buy what they want to, not what you’re selling.

So you are going to create a “business model” instead.

A business model has some elements of a “business plan” and some elements of a “marketing plan” but it’s better because it starts with your customers. And their opinion is the only opinion that matters really.

4 Initial Questions You May Be Thinking Right Now:

Q: “What the heck is a ‘business model’?” 

  • A business model is simply an understanding of how a business works. How it adds value, how it makes money
  • You can achieve that level of understanding by answering the 9 questions coming up soon.

Q: “Will doing this business model first help me win?”

  • Yes. Because if you sit down and work on this right now you get the first version of this business model finished in a couple of hours, then you’ll know what to build in Version 1.0 of your product
  • Then you can test Version 1.0 on real customers and use that feedback to build Version 2.0. If you have Version 3.0 and your competitors have Version 1.0, who will win? You will.

Q: “How long should it be?”

  • 3-5 pages is about right

Q: “Do we write it once and forget it? Or, do we rewrite it several times?”

  • It can (and must) change and evolve
  • You might rewrite it once or twice or three times (or 10 times). It will keep improving every time you try and sell to real customers.

Let’s get started!

It’s as easy as answering the following 9 questions.

9 Questions To Get You Started When You’ve Got An Idea For A StartUp Business

1. “Who is our ideal customer?”

We’ve already got our product/service in mind, but we need to forget that for a moment because we need to think about our customers first. So our first question is “who is our ideal customer?”.

 

Describe them here using bullet points or a short paragraphs.

 

“Our ideal customer is…

 

 

2. “What problems do our ideal customers have?”

Customers will buy from us to solve a problem they have. What is that problem (or problems)? What is their pain?

 

List the top 1-3 problems they have.

 

 

2b How do they solve that problem without us at the moment? What are their alternatives until we’re ready to serve them?

 

 

3. “What’s the solution?”

For each problem we listed, we will outline a possible solutions here.

 

 

4. “What’s our sales pitch?”

Now we have a picture of our ideal customer, we have identified their problems, we’ve outlined a solution, now it’s time to craft our sales pitch.

 

Imagine we have just 30 seconds to turn a stranger into someone interested in buying from us. What would we say? What story would we tell? What are we offering? How are we different? What’s in it for them? If we’re offering something brand new we might need to use existing products to help people understand what it is we do. Eg “We are Flickr which is like YouTube for photos”

 

 

4b. “What headlines could use on our landing page?”

Now that you’ve got your sales pitch, write a shorter version of it that could be a headline on the landing page of your website. For example, if you want to capture their email address, what headline and bullet points are going to convince them they want what you’ve got?

Write several alternatives here.

 

 

5. “How do we get our message to our customers?”

What advertising will we do? Will we need to hire salespeople? How would they find customers? How will we build in viral elements to help our service spread to new customers? How will we incentivise our customers to get their friends/family to buy from us in a way that makes our product/service even better and more social?

 

 

6. “How will we make money?”

Will we charge per month? Per year? For life? Per use? Per user? Will we offer a “Freemium” version? A “Premium” version? Sell to corporates? Sell to the end user? Get sponsorship? Sell advertising space? Sell for $1.29 in the App store?

 

 

7. “What are our costs?”

What will it cost to stay in business? What are our “fixed” costs like building, salaries etc? What are our “variable” costs that increase as our sales increase? List them here and make guesses at the amounts. How much cash do we need to start for our start-up? How long will that cash last?

 

 

8. “What ‘key metrics’ will we use to measure success?”

What are the most importants numbers to us? Eg: How many subscribers we have? New users per month? Amount of data being processed per week? Web visitors? Web-visitor-to-Customer conversion rate?

 

 

9. “What’s our advantage?”

What is our “secret sauce”? What do we have that can’t be easily copied or bought? What will stop or slow down new competitors from taking customers from us?

 

 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve gone through these questions for the first time, it’s time to start building version 1.0 of your product so you can get it infront of customers as quick as you can and get that feedback that you need.

 

Constantly revisit your answers to these questions and change your responses according to what real customers are telling you they will pay for.

 

Where did these questions come from?

These questions are based on the work of Ash Maurya who created a business model generator called “The Lean Canvas”. You can work through “The Lean Canvas” for free on his website http://leancanvas.com/. Ash Maurya’s model is actually an adaption of another model called “The Business Model Canvas” first created by Alex Osterwalder.

Testimonials: Tips About How You Can Get Powerful Testimonials For Your Website

Firstly, Sean D’Souza in his book “The Brain Audit”, has this to say about Testimonials:

Why We Are All Sceptical About Testimonials

  • Testimonials are like resumes; they’re not entirely believable.  Which is why most customers tend to view testimonials sceptically. Even if we don’t say it out loud, we view testimonials as one-sided.
  • It’s the seeming lack of reality in a testimonial that makes us doubt its genuineness.  So the way to pump back the reality is to give a testimonial a before/after effect. And voilà, we get the ‘reverse testimonial’.
  • The ‘reverse testimonial’ is nothing but a testimonial that brings to the fore how the customer was feeling before they made the purchase.  The doubts; the slight discomfort; the pain; the frustration. These all run through a customer’s mind right before they buy a product/service. These doubts need to be brought up front, because they bring a massive dose of reality to the testimonial.
  • To get this factor of reality, we need to ‘construct’ our testimonials, instead of just ‘getting’ testimonials.  Construction doesn’t mean you’re faking a testimonial. Construction means you’re using parameters to build a structurally sound testimonial.

The 6 Questions You Need To Ask To Get A Powerful Testimonial

  1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this service?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this service?
  3. What specific part did you like most about this service?
  4. What would be three other benefits about this service?
  5. Would you recommend our service? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Why Are Testimonials So Important? Because They Remove Objections

It’s not just a matter of asking the questions to construct a testimonial.  Testimonials play an important role in removing objections. Therefore the objections must be listed. And it’s important to then get testimonials that defuse the core 98% of objections that stop your customer from buying your product/service.

This of course, doesn’t mean that you don’t accept a testimonial that’s given by a customer. Hey, a testimonial is a gift. And sometimes you get the most incredibly powerful testimonials from customers. Sure they may not have the awesome structure you’re hoping for, but these testimonials still work. So don’t go about being uppity and rejecting testimonials that don’t fit the structure of the ‘reverse testimonial’.

Testimonials tell stories. Stories rich in colour and detail. Stories that you could not have dreamed up in a squillion years. And yet, these stories are totally believable, because they come from the customer. And more importantly, because they have a solid dose of reality at their very core.

3 More Things You Need To Know About Testimonials

In addition to this I have found the following to work very well:

  1. Full name and the city they are from
  2. A small head and shoulders photo (no glamour shots, no model shots, just real NZ people). A good size is 75px x 75px
  3. A huge list. The longer the better. Eg I have over 100 on http://www.management.org.nz/student-testimonials/. When the list of happy customers is that long what else do you need to know before you’ll buy?

Every client I’ve ever worked with knows that they need testimonials on their website, but many of them haven’t gotten round to it yet.

The most common reason is that it seems like it’s a big job (that and maybe they’re a little shy).

They picture asking their customers for an A4 letter printed on letterhead. No, no, no.

3 Different Ways To Ask For A Testimonial

You have 3 options:

  1. Ask customers via a short email like this:
    • Hi first_name, I have a favour to ask. If you found my product/service useful, could you write a short testimonial for my website? Just a few sentences would be fine. I’ll put it here: link_to_your_testimonials_page. Include your full name and city and your website address so I can link back to your website. Thanks first_name, I’d really appreciate it.”
  2. Create a feedback form and send it out via email to customers they day after they have visited you which says “May we have a testimonial from you that we could display on our website and other marketing material? If you get stuck, you could use these 6 questions to help you write it…” and copy in the 6 questions above
  3. Call them up and ask them questions like the 6 above and scribble down notes. At the end of the 5 minute conversation tell them “I’ve been writing notes while we’ve been talking, can I turn them into a short testimonial and email it for you to check and approve before I put it on my website?”

What’s Next?

What do you have to do to get 3 new testimonials on to your website in the next 24 hours?

Well, stop reading and go and do it!

What To Say When You Are Asked “What’s Your Hourly Rate?”

Do you get asked the question “What’s Your Hourly Rate?” by potential clients?

How do you respond?

Do you just throw in one of these number into your response?:

  • $10/hour
  • $20/hour
  • $50/hour
  • $100/hour
  • $200/hour
  • $500/hour

Potential clients often respond in one of these ways:

  1. “That’s too cheap!”
  2. “ooo, that’s too expensive and way out of my budget!”
  3. “ok, sign me up!”

If they say “that’s too cheap!” that’s a disaster because:

  • You’ve set off an alarm in the prospects head. You’ve signalled to them that your quality is low, or you don’t have enough experience, or enough training. If you did have those things you would have said the rate they wanted to hear

If they say “ooo, that’s too expensive and way out of my budget!” that’s a disaster because:

  • You’ve scored a black cross on their list of criteria and if you try and justify it now by jumping in and defending yourself with a list of your previous clients, experience, training you’ve had, years on the job, results you’ve got, whatever, it’s too late, you are on the back foot.

Even if they say “ok, sign me up!” that’s a disaster too because:

  • You could have doubled it and they might have said yes! You’ve just cut yourself off from a huge pay day. Gutted.

So what can you do?

First, watch this 37 second video of how I answer the question “what’s your hourly rate?”, and then keep reading below:

My point is, there is no way to answer the question with the right number.

So don’t do it.

Never say your hourly rate.

Instead, quote for a result or a package.

Here’s how to respond to the question “What’s your hourly rate?” in 4 steps:

  1. Dodge the question completely and say:
    • “I want to check I understand what you need first…”
  2. Then read back to them a summary of their problem/goals and check you’ve got it right:
    • “As I understand it, you want to… [their-problem/goals]”. Is that right?”
  3. Did they say “yes” or “no”?
    • If they say “yes”, move to the step 4
    • If they say “no” then ask them to clarify and read back a new summary
  4. Then you say “I can help you achieve [their-goal]. My price is [your-package-price]”

It’s best to deliver step 4 via email when you’ve had some time to digest the project and crunch some numbers. So you could say:

4. “I can help you achieve [their-goal]. Can I have your email address so I can crunch some numbers and get back to you?”

If they push and push for your hourly rate you can respond with:

  • “I don’t have an hourly rate. I work on a results basis. Tell me what you need to achieve and I’ll tell you what it’ll take”

What do you think?

Agree? Disagree? Say so in the comments below.

Should I Renew My Yellow Pages Listing For My Small Business?

Is that a questions you are struggling with right now?

Have you been advertising in the Yellow Pages hardcopy and/or online for years but now you’re thinking of cancelling?

Do you suspect you are wasting your money, but you are shit-scared that your business will completely dry up if you stop paying them thousands of dollars every year?

Snap out of it sucker.

The free one-liner with your phone number is all you need.

(Except if you’re a plumber. If you’re a plumber then buy a huge expensive ad because when older people have a plumbing emergency they panic, dig out a 3 year old copy of the Yellow Pages out of a drawer, and call number after number to find someone that can come right now.)

How To Find Out For Sure If Your Yellow Pages Advertising Is Not Working

Measure it.

  1. Ask every new customer how they heard about you
  2. Add up all the mentions of “Yellow Pages” in a year (or in a month and then multiply by 12)
  3. Divide that number by 4 (I’m assuming your conversion rate is 25%)
  4. Multiply that number by your average revenue per customer over a year
  5. Divide that number by 4 (I’m assuming your Net Profit is 25%)
  6. That’s how much Yellow Pages is worth to you to break even. Don’t spend a cent more than that. If the customer buys from you again next year, that’s your gravy to keep.

Eg For XYZ & Co:

  • 12 mentions per year
  • 12 / 4 (a conversion rate of 25%) = 3
  • $100 revenue x 3 = $300
  • $300 / 4 = $75 ad to break even in the first year

Eg for ABC & Co:

  • 120 mentions per year
  • 120 / 4 (a conversion rate of 25%) = 30
  • $1,000 revenue x 30 = $30,000
  • $30,000 / 4 = $7,500 ad to break even in the first year

So, if you’re not a plumber:

5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Advertising In The Yellow Pages (hardcopy)

  1. Just because you’ve been doing it for 10 years doesn’t mean that you should keep the momentum up. That momentum is in the wrong direction!
  2. Just because your competitors are doing it is not proof it works, it only means they are suckers too!
  3. Because 12 month contracts suck so bad. They put a huge amount of high pressure sales tactics into getting you to sign up because they know that you won’t bother measuring the effectiveness of the ads over the coming months because you fear that if you did, you will actually find out you wasted your money and you’ll feel like a fool, so you don’t bother, because you want to save yourself the embarrassment. No one likes to realise they made a huge financial mistake. And you can’t cancel anyway because it’s in print. And you don’t have to worry about it until next year anyway, so you forget about it.
  4. Because the amazing discounts that the sales reps offer you at the last minute when you just told them you want to cancel aren’t actually amazing, they are just a clever sales pitch. A 70% discount on advertising that doesn’t work isn’t going to make it work!
  5. Because you shouldn’t support an industry that prints millions of books with thousands of pages and dumps them on the doorsteps of millions of New Zealanders every year that didn’t ask for the books in the first place. It’s junk mail on an enormous ecologically-damaging scale

What about online Yellow Pages?

Why You Should Not Advertise In Online Yellow Pages

Because it’s a rip-off.

And it’s so easy to test and measure for yourself:

  1. Open up your webstats for the month and find any click throughs to your website from Yellow
  2. Divide that number by 10 (I’m assuming your visit to enquiry rate is 10%)
  3. Divide that number by 4 (I’m assuming your enquiry to sale conversion rate is 25%)
  4. Multiply that number by your average revenue per customer over a year
  5. Divide that number by 4 (I’m assuming your Net Profit is 25%)

Eg For XYZ & Co:

  • Cost: $60/month
  • 10 clicks per month
  • 10 / 10 (a visit to enquiry rate of 10%) = 1
  • 1 / 4 (a conversion rate of 25%) = 0.25
  • $100 revenue x 0.25 = $25
  • $25 / 4 = $6.25 is what the advertising is worth to you a month just to break even but you’re spending $60…

Eg for ABC & Co:

  • Cost: $80/month
  • 50 clicks per month
  • 50 / 10 (a visit to enquiry rate of 10%) = 5
  • 5 / 4 (a conversion rate of 25%) = 1.25
  • $1000 revenue x 1.25 = $1250
  • $1250 / 4 = $312.50 is what the ad is worth to you to break even and you’re spending $80… hooray! That is actually worth it in this example

You probably don’t need another reason, but I will share one theory with you.

I think that people are suspicious of ads or “promoted listings” on the Yellow Pages website.

They think to themselves “don’t get up in my face, I will decide who is best to serve me. My list of decision criteria does not include the item ‘whoever pays the most to be up in my face’ “.

There isn’t that level of distrust with a Google search because the ads are actually helpful. They are relevant. They are in context.

And just like Google Adwords, a fairer way for Yellow to offer you online ads would be to offer you the Cost-Per-Click model too. You could set your bid price and an algorithim could calculate who’s ad will show.

But you won’t see such an offer for Yellow because it makes it too easy for you to quit. You could run it for 1 day, or 1 week and spend $20 and you’d have enough information to decide to quit or not.

Yellow doesn’t like that. Yellow likes to lock you in for 12 months and works really hard at making sure you don’t measure effectiveness.

What do you think?

Have you recently quit and now feel good/bad about that decision?

Are you struggling with the decision right now?

Have your say in the comments below.

Is Your Blog Stale? How Not Updating Your Blog Can Damage Your Business

“When I look at your blog I can almost see the tumbleweed rolling through…”

Are visitors to your website thinking that?

If you have a blog section on your website, at some point you thought it was a good idea to get one.

You might call it your “news section” or your “article section”, they are all the same thing.

You were probably told one, or all, of these reasons.

3 Reasons Why Writing New Articles For Your Blog Is Good For Your Business

  1. “Your blog will get you better Google rankings for your website. Better rankings = more traffic = more sales”
  2. “Your blog will establish your credibility, expertise and leadership in your industry”
  3. “Your blog will keep content flowing to your customers and potential customers and remind them to buy from you”

They are all great reasons.

So why don’t you keep it updated?

How long has it been since your last article?

  • A month?
  • 3 months?
  • A year?
  • More than a year?

The longer it’s been, the worse you look.

In fact, a stale blog can actually damage your business.

4 Reasons Why A Stale Blog Can Damage Your Business

  1. Gives a bad impression: It looks like you start things but don’t finish them. Potential customers might assume you’ll treat them like that too
  2. Lowers trust: Customers might assume that if your articles/news/blog is out of date then other info on your website might be out of date too – this lowers trust
  3. Less Google love: Google loves fresh content, without fresh content, Google will visit your site less often
  4. You are easy to forget: Subscribers will forget about you. It might have taken just one more article to tip a potential customer over the edge to make a sale, but you didn’t write one today, so you’ll never know

If I’m considering purchasing a product or service and I see a blog on their website, I’ll click on it to check when the last article was written.

If it was written months ago, or even years ago, that’s a bad sign, and a huge red mark against them.

So why did you stop updating it?

3 Reasons Why You Stopped Updating Your Blog

  1. Because you are too busy fighting fires every day, you have no time to spend 1 hour, or 2 hours or longer, just sitting there and writing
  2. Because you forgot. You didn’t schedule it in your calendar so it doesn’t exist in your list of work to do
  3. Because the longer it’s been since your last article, the harder it is to write a new article today because it feels like you have the burden of writing all the future articles on your shoulders too

How You Can Have Fresh Blog Articles Written In Just 15 minutes

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a new article on your blog every 2 weeks and it only took you 15 minutes?

You can!

It’s a new service I’m offering and here is how it works:

1. Dan Necklen or I will call you and interview you for 15 minutes

2. From this interview we’ll write a 200 – 400 word article that has the following 4 components:

  • A headline that contains phrases that customers may be searching Google for (this is sooooo important)
  • With content that is interesting and puts concepts in layman’s terms (no jargon allowed!)
  • With content that demonstrates your leadership in the industry and quality of your service/products (hooray!)
  • A call to action (we’ll let your customers know what they must do next)

3. We put the article live once it’s written (crediting you as the author because we interviewed you)

And the coolest thing is, you’ll feel like a rock star being interviewed for e-news!

This is your 15 minutes of fame. Take it.

Awesome! How Much Does It Cost?

The price for this service is $240+gst every 2 weeks. Every 2 weeks you get an new article for your blog.

Imagine if each article could contribute even just one sale worth $2000 sometime over the next 12 months. Imagine getting to the end of a 12 month period with 26 articles that can do that… (that’s like $52k)

Call (07) 575 8799 and we can get started with a 4 session trial.

Cheers,

Sheldon Nesdale
Email: sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz

P.S. Here are 3 examples of articles we’re written:

Will You Join the 2013 Marketing Bootcamp in Tauranga?

The 2013 Marketing Bootcamp is a series of 12 workshops (one per month) which will improve both you and your business.

Is the “2013 Marketing Bootcamp” for you?

  • YES! If you own a Tauranga-based Small Business and you are either a solo operator, a husband-and-wife team or have a business partner
  • YES! If last year went by in a blink of an eye and you want to be more proactive and in control of your business this year
  • YES! If you want to set new goals for your business and for yourself personally for 2013, and see them achieved
  • YES! If you are sick to death of wasting time and money on marketing and advertising that doesn’t work
  • YES! If you want to learn new-age sales and marketing techniques, tips and tricks to help your business thrive and can be implemented straight away
  • YES! If you think it would be valuable to work with a small group of marketing pro’s and other small business operators who you can bounce ideas around with and who can keep you accountable to the actions you will take toward your goals

If you answered “YES” to those questions then the 2012 Marketing Bootcamp IS for you. (If it’s not for you, can you think of someone who needs this sort of help? Yes? Well, get this content to them today.)

During this 12-month bootcamp you’ll learn how to:

  1. Define your point of difference and shout it from the rooftops
  2. Create and perfect your own, memorable ‘elevator pitch’
  3. Develop and implement a sales process that’s tailored to your business
  4. Structure your pricing to suit your business (and your goals)
  5. Write proposals that make saying ‘yes’ easy for your prospects
  6. Collect the perfect customer testimonial and put it to best use
  7. Extract the most value from networking events
  8. Write articles and copy that inspire action (perfect for websites or blogs)
  9. Use social media as a marketing tool for your business
  10. Deliver outstanding presentations with confidence

Each month you’ll attend

  • A 1-hour workshop delivered by Dan Necklen and Sheldon Nesdale
  • A coffee catchup in between sessions, to report back on your progress to the group

Our commitment

  • Our sessions will be fast, focused, and tailored to suit your needs and your business
  • You’ll have the opportunity to put forward any topics you’d like us to cover
  • We’re so sure you’ll get value from the bootcamp, we’re offering a 110% money back guarantee (that’s right, there’s no risk)

About Sheldon & Dan

  • “Hi, I’m Sheldon. My mission on this earth is to help turn your business into a goal achieving machine for you as the owner. To find out more about me read through https://www.marketingfirst.co.nz/about-me/
  • “Hi, I’m Dan. My purpose in life is help small businesses realise their potential and become (even more) awesome. To find out more about me read through http://likeable.co.nz/about-me/

Included within the marketing bootcamp:

  • Twelve 1-hour bootcamp workshops (one per month)
  • Twelve 1-page guides (one for each topic) + any other materials or guest speakers we need to pull in
  • Twelve group coffee catchup’s in between sessions (including the coffee itself!)

Cost:

  • This is a 12 month commitment for those who are serious about dedicating sustained effort to their sales and marketing in 2013
  • The cost is 562.50 per quarter (this is a $44 per week investment in yourself and your business)
  • There’s no risk to you thanks to our 110% money back guarantee (yes, we’re serious!)

Bootcamp Schedule

Define your point of difference and shout it from the rooftops
10.30am Tuesday 22nd January

Create and perfect your own, memorable ‘elevator pitch’
10.30am Tuesday 19th February

Develop your own sales process that’s tailored to your business
10.30am Tuesday 19th March

Structure your pricing to suit your business (and your goals)
10.30am Tuesday 23rd April

Write proposals that make saying ‘yes’ easy for your prospects
10.30am Tuesday 21st May

Collect the perfect customer testimony and put it to best use
10.30am Tuesday 18th June

Mid year re-cap and skills review
10.30am Tuesday 23rd July

Extract the most value from networking events
10.30am Tuesday 20th August

Write copy that inspires action (perfect for websites or blogs)
10.30am Tuesday 17th September

Use social media as a marketing tool for your business
10.30am Tuesday 22nd October

Deliver outstanding presentations with confidence
10.30am Tuesday 19th November

End of year re-cap and skills review
10.30am Tuesday 17th December

Will you let this year slip by faster than last year or will you take control of it?

Imagine getting to December 2013 and looking back on your year and thinking “This year was the best year of my life! I set aggressive goals for my business and for myself and I bloody-well achieved them!”

Or will you just think like everyone else “Oh… 2013 is over already. Wow, that sure went quick. I hope next year goes slower.”

You can have the first scenario.

The first step is to secure your place in the 2013 Marketing Bootcamp.

Contact me before 5pm Friday 18th January (either by phone, email, or by filling in the form below). Spaces are limited to 6 business owners so be quick.

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The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

My notes on “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

I’ve only made notes on the sections I found most interesting, so to get the full benefit of this book I urge you to read a copy for yourself Continue reading “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries”

Have A Great Idea For A Start-Up Company But Worried Someone Will Steal It?

On Monday you’ll see my notes on the book by Eric Ries called “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses”.

Amaaaaazing book.

But I couldn’t wait until then to share this with you.

There is one section in there that talks about how many of us have ideas that we think are great and could potentially be turned into Start-Up company’s, but we hesitate getting started or even sharing the idea with people because we are worried the idea will quickly be stolen and we will end up with nothing.

Sound familiar?

I bet it does.

You and I both have this fear I’m sure.

Here’s what Eric Ries has to say on the issue:

The most common objection I have heard over the years to building an Minimal Viable Product is fear of competitors – especially large established companies – stealing a startup’s ideas.

If only it were so easy to have a good idea stolen!

Part of the special challenge of being a startup is the near impossibility of having your idea, company, or product be noticed by anyone, let alone a competitor.

In fact, I have often given entrepreneurs fearful of this issue the following assignment: take one of your ideas (one of your lesser insights, perhaps), find the name of the relevant product manager at an established company who has responsibility for that area, and try to get that company to steal your idea. Call them up, write them a memo, send them a press release—go ahead, try it.

The truth is that most managers in most companies are already overwhelmed with good ideas. Their challenge lies in prioritization and execution, and it is those challenges that give a startup hope of surviving.

If a competitor can out execute a startup once the idea is known, the startup is doomed anyway.

The reason to build a new team to pursue an idea is that you believe you can accelerate through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop faster than anyone else can.

If that’s true, it makes no difference what the competition knows.

If it’s not true, a startup has much bigger problems, and secrecy won’t fix them.

Sooner or later, a successful startup will face competition from fast followers.

A head start is rarely large enough to matter, and time spent in stealth mode – away from customers – is unlikely to provide a head start.

The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.

What do you think about this? Does this allay some of your fears? Useful? Not useful?

Let me know in the comments below.

5 Questions For Small Business Owners to Think About Today

  1. Compete against yourself
    • Pretend there is a brand new competitor opening next door to you, what product and service bundles should he start selling?
    • To who?
    • Don’t wait for this to happen, create those bundles and target those customers yourself today
  2. Why you?
    • What are the top 3 reasons customers should choose you?
    • Put those 3 reasons in all your customer touch points
    • Can’t think of any? Pack it in and go home
  3. Your website:
    • Don’t have a website yet? Build yourself a website today for $141.50
    • Got a website? What 3 improvements should you make today?
    • Every business on the planet should have it’s own website. Even a crap one beats not having one at all
  4. Radio Ads:
  5. Yellow Pages:
    • Do you advertise in the Yellow Pages hardcopy and/or online?
    • Cancel it today.
    • You know you are wasting money so why do you renew every year? Snap out of it sucker
    • The free one-liner with your phone number is all you need

Business Cards: Don’t Waste Money Printing Business Cards

When people first start their own business, the first thing they do is get 1000 business cards printed.

Don’t bother!

Don’t print business cards because only people who want to sell you something (that you don’t need) will take them from you and use them.

Do people that you need something from ever take your business card and use it to contact you?

No. Of course not. Because it’s your job, not theirs.

If you want something from someone you have to take it or ask for it.

So the next time you talk to someone that you might find useful later, instead of giving them one of your business cards, take theirs instead.

And then, when you get home tonight, send them a “hello!” email with your huge-mungus email signature.

A standard, boring email signature looks like this:

John Thomas
Boring Company Name 
Phone number 
Mobile number
Fax number

That is so lame.

This is your chance to make an awesome email signature.

An awesome, huge-mungus email signature has the following 11 extras:

  1. Your tag line:
    • A phrase under your name that summarises how you make the company you work for awesome (that leans towards how your company helps clients)
    • Or, at the very least, a sentence that explains what your company does
  2. Your tertiary qualifications
    • If you are proud of them
  3. Your Skype username
  4. Not your fax number
    • Because fax machines are lame and having the number makes you look like a fossil
  5. Repeat your email address
    • Restate it here so it’s easy for them to share it with other people
    • Don’t rely on people checking up in the email header for it
  6. Your physical address
    • Especially if you run a home based business
    • Stating it makes you credible and real
    • People like to know they can come round to your office and punch you in the face if you annoy them… Or pat you on the back for a job well done too I spose…
  7. Link to your LinkedIn profile
    • Which is a prompt for you to ensure it is up to date because LinkedIn is awesome
  8. Link to your blog
    • So people can read your thoughts and you get the chance to establish your credibility, oh… you don’t have one? Lame.
  9. Link to your business Facebook page
    • So you look 21st century, oh… you don’t have one? Lame.
  10. Link to your Twitter
    • oh… you don’t have one? Fair enough actually, it’s not for everyone
  11. Link to your websites
    • oh… you’ve only got one website? Lame. Add a link to your favourite charity then

My email signature is 21 lines (excluding spacing). I dare you to make yours bigger!

(And before you include the text “think about the environment before you print this email” just stop. It’s not 1999 anymore. Just stop.)

My huge-mungus email signature:

Cheers,
Sheldon Nesdale
www.MarketingFirst.co.nz

Digital Marketing for Small NZ BusinessesMBA.Waikato.(2011). BECom.(Hons.Mktg).Waikato

c/o Marketing First 2009 Ltd
13 The Green, Bayfair, Mount Maunganui 3116, New Zealand
Email: sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz
Phone: (07) 575 8799
Mobile: 021 128 5046
Skype: sheldon.nesdale
Web: www.MarketingFirst.co.nz

* Blog – http://www.MarketingFirst.co.nz/blog/

* Head Organiser of Tauranga.StartUpWeekend.orgFirstbyte Websites | www.FirstByte.co.nz
Search Engine Guide | www.SearchEngineGuide.co.nz

Donate $4-$32/month to a worthy NZ charity with www.4good.org.nz

9 Reasons Why Outsourcing Your Sales Role Would be a Disaster

Can you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions?:

  1. Is your business a one-man-band or husband-and-wife type of business?
  2. Are you a bit shy and find the prospect of networking and meeting people face to face a bit daunting?
  3. Are you thinking about outsourcing the sales role to a sales rep, either hiring him/her as an employee or as a contractor (for a retainer plus commission)?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of those questions, then read the following list before you hire.

9 Reasons Why Outsourcing Your Sales Role Would be a Disaster and Why You Must Be Your Own Salesperson

  1. When that salesperson leaves, you have nothing, and you’ll have to start again
    • A drawer full of business cards of people they met have zero value because they met those people, not you
  2. It is a skill you must develop or you don’t have a business at all, you have a very expensive hobby
  3. If you can’t learn how to sell yourself then you should be an employee in someone elses business, and not have your own
    • Fire yourself today and go and get a “real job”
  4. A hired salesperson will never be as passionate about your business as you are
    • It’s passion and enthusiasm that gets sales
  5. Salespeople don’t stick around. They get bored easily and move on quickly
    • So you’ll be taking the risk on someone new all over again in about 6 months
  6. Realise that you are an interesting person and people are curious about you as soon as you open your mouth
    • Your personality and manner is actually a great advantage and point of difference (compared to a hired salesperson)
    • Your enthusiasm and passion for what you do is contagious and generates sales
  7. Managing employees is a huge undertaking in itself
    • Contracts, PAYE, holiday pay, sick days…
    • And worst of all, they get paid every week and you might not. And they get to switch off at 5pm every day and go home at night, but you stress 24/7 and have sleepless nights
  8. Learning to sell is a skill for life
  9. Talking to customers directly is where you get the most valuable feedback about your business
    • You can’t delegate the collection of feedback to anyone but you
    • This is the fastest way to find out if what your offering is actually of no interest to the marketplace and you need to change what you’re offering (this is called a “pivot”)

So instead of putting your hard earned money into a salespersons pocket in the hope that they’re going to make sales for you one day, invest in yourself and learn how to sell.

3 Ways to Learn How to be a Better Salesperson

  1. You can do it for free by reading every book on sales at your local library
  2. Hire me for coaching sessions in-person if you live in Tauranga, or over the phone if you are elsewhere in NZ (call me on 07 575 8799)
  3. Hire a friend of mine who also does sales coaching (in-person or over the phone): Dan Necklen

Should You Quit Your Job And Start A Home Based Business? 8 Pros and 12 Cons To Help You Decide

Yesterday I was reading through one of my old journals from 3 years ago when I faced exactly this decision.

In the journal I found my list of Pros and Cons that I had written to help me decide.

Maybe they could help you to?

PROS

  1. I’m ready. I’ve had my 3 years of experience. I’m learning more in my own time than at work
    [for a few months I had been getting up at 6am and reading business books at a rate of 1.5 per week]
  2. I’ll learn more, I’ll be more productive, I’ll get things done in shorter time frames because I’ll be working for myself & my clients rather than half heartedly working for someone else for about $20/hour
  3. I’ll accelerate my growth and learning whether I succeed or fail just by trying
  4. This recession could mean that what I’m selling [website design and marketing advice] is more valuable, and businesses may want to outsource more
  5. If I survive the recession, when the boom comes I’ll have it made
  6. With zero income we could still survive for 10 months by drawing on our revolving home loan overdraft
  7. I’ll have the freedom to take time off for myself or for my family any time I choose
  8. I don’t have to spend another cent to get started. I have my computer and my brain.

CONS

  1. It is scarey giving up steady $46k/annum income
    [It turned out I earned that in my first year anyway, and doubled in the year after]
  2. The risk of failure. If it doesn’t work, my self esteem will be crushed
  3. I’ve always thought of working alone at home would be lonely but now I know it won’t be because communication and interaction will be a big part of what I do every day
  4. Risk of less income (or no income) for my little family
    [my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child at the time]
  5. It would scare the hell out of my wife
  6. Spending too much time with my wife might be hard on our marriage
  7. I’ll be putting enormous pressure and stress on myself, marriage and my wife
  8. The recession could mean hard times for me, harder to sell what I’m offering
  9. We are in a recession, I should be greatfull that I have a job at all… Shall I wait 2 or 3 more years and then give it a go? Hell no!
  10. I might have to work longer & harder hours, not less (especially at the start)
    [It turned out that working on my own projects was actually fun and didn’t feel like work]
  11. Very stressful for my Dad because he’ll have to pay the mortgage if I fail
  12. No paid sick days. No paid holidays.

I went for it, and it’s been great!

What’s Your Favourite?

My favourite is Pro #8. 🙂

What’s your favourite?

Are you facing this decision now? Or do you think you might in the future? Tell your story.

How To Handle Negative Reviews About Your Business

Have you ever looked up your own business online and found a negative review somewhere?

Maybe you own a restaurant and you’ve just found a negative review on a restaurant directory written by someone who was grumpy that night and they have lashed out at you?

Maybe you own a motel and you’ve just found a negative review on a motel directory written by someone who expected a 5 star experience when you sign clearly says 3 star and now they a complaining loudly?

You wish they had come to you first so you’d have the chance to put things right before they flamed you in public like that, right?

Well, for whatever reason, they didn’t. And now there is a negative comment out there poisoning your online reputation and scaring away potential customers.

It is a frightening experience for a business owner.

Did you know that there is a way to turn negative reviews left online by disappointed customers, into a positive force that is 10 times more powerful?

All you have to do is follow this guide:

Step #1: Don’t Make Excuses Continue reading “How To Handle Negative Reviews About Your Business”

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

My notes on “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki

Complete This Sentence

  • If your organisation never existed, the world would be worse off because…

Take Notes To Impress

When you are doing a pitch to an investor and they speak, take notes. The visible act of taking notes says:

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

My notes on “Anything You Want” by Derek SiversDerekSivers-AnythingYouWant-318x450

My personal philosophy’s

  1. Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself
  2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself
  3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world
  4. Never do anything just for the money
  5. Don’t purse business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help
  6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working

  1. Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it
  2. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people
  3. You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people
  4. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business
  5. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy Continue reading “Anything You Want by Derek Sivers”

I Earn 540 Dollars Per Month From A Blog About Hot Pools, Could You Do The Same With A Topic You Are Passionate About?

Almost 2 years ago I wrote an article called “Should You Sell Space On Your NZ Website For Banner Advertising?” in which I suggested you shouldn’t.

2 years later I haven’t change my mind. If it’s your core business then your website should focused on attracting new customers, and making sales, not earning a few dollars a month in advertising revenue at the cost of distracting your customers.

Blogs are a different story however.

7 Steps to Earning Income From A Passion

  1. Find a topic you are deeply passionate about (this will give you the energy to keep going)
  2. Be determined to write at least one short blog article per month
  3. Your articles should contain useful information for other people interested in your niche. Eg lists, your findings on micro research projects, reviews and comparisons, interviews etc
  4. Build up your audience by sticking to your niche and becoming a valuable resource
  5. Find similar blogs/articles and write useful comments on them that contain a link back to your blog
  6. Grow your audience to about 300 visits per day
  7. Monetise

I create 2 or 3 new blogs like this every year. I’ve had some real duds (like ChickenCoops.co.nz) but I’ve had some big winners (like www.LoveOneDaySales.co.nz and www.NZHotPools.co.nz).

Today I want to tell you the story about NZHotPools.co.nz (which simply lists all the thermal hot pools around New Zealand) and tell you exactly how much advertising revenue I generate from it every year/month/day, so you can figure out if you could do the same with your idea for a blog.

NZHotPools.co.nz Monthly Webstats:

  • 15,000 Visits per month (12,000 absolute unique visitors)
    • 500 visits per day
  • 48,000 PageViews per month
    • 1600 Visits per day
  • $540 per month revenue
    • $18 per day
    • Which is $36 revenue per 1000 visits
    • Which is 28 visits to earn $1

In this game, it is mainly about PageViews. Visits are important too but “Absolute Unique Visitors” are not.

There is a lot of confusion out there around these terms, so if you need a refresher on the definitions read: Difference Between Unique Visitors, Visitors, Visits, Page Views, Hits. And Why You Should Care

 

The hard part is getting an audience. Once you have an audience, monetising that audience is easy.

The 4 Ways to Sell Advertising Space On Your Website/Blog:

1. Direct Sales

  • Direct Sales to businesses in your niche is the most lucrative but takes the most time
  • It involves writing a list of prospects and making lots of phone calls to find out who the decision maker is to establish a relationship and to get permission to email them with your advertising rates from time to time
  • Be creative with what you are selling: Eg banner ads, access to your email newsletter, sponsored blog articles, special mentions, featured businesses
  • You can charge $5/$10/$20 CPM (Cost-Per-1000-Impressions) so for NZHotPools this is about $300/month
  • If you use WordPress for your blog there are plugins that let you schedule the ads, or you can use http://www.google.com/doubleclick/

2. Google Adsense

  • This is the easiest to manage. Decide where you will setup your advertising panels, and just generate the Adsense code and copy/paste it in. You’re done.
  • Google Adsense calculate the best text-based ads to show your audience depending on the content of the webpage, the advertisers bids, and more recently, the visitors online behaviour and profile. Every bit of data they can use to generate more clicks which earns more revenue for you and for them
  • On average you can expect to earn $1 per 300 visits, so for NZHotPools this is about about $50/month

3. TPN “The Performance Network” www.tpn.co.nz

  • They require you to have 20,000 unique visitors per month though, so they might not want to work with you until you’ve grown your blog to that level (they bent the rules for me a little bit because I already had an account with them)
  • They do display ads for big NZ brands like Kiwibank, NZPost, ASB etc
  • They don’t have sophisticated technology to calculate the optimum ads to show, it’s just mass advertising rather than targeted advertising
  • You can expect $1 per 300 visits so for NZHotPools this is about about $50/month

4. Affiliate Income

  • An affiliate programme is where you earn a commission on every sale you make for the advertiser. Eg you could install an Amazon book widget for your topic and you’ll earn a dollar or two everytime someone purchases that book from Amazon thanks to your link
  • Unfortunately, it is vary rare to find New Zealand businesses with Affiliate Programmes and your New Zealand audience is uncomfortable when they click on a link and find themselves on a USA based website so they are unlikely to whip out their credit card
  • NZHotPools.co.nz doesn’t generate any affiliate income, but www.LoveOneDaySales.co.nz does generate a little

How Much Advertising Should You Switch On As Your Website/Blog Grows?

As your website/blog grows, you gradually switch on more advertising. For example, my rules are:

  • 0 – 300 visits per day:
    • Either no advertising at all or just 1 or 2 Google Adsense panels to break the ice
    • Start collecting email addresses from your audience
    • Monthly Revenue: $0 – $30
  • 300 – 500 visits per day:
    • Looking promising
    • Start Selling ads Directly to businesses in your niche
    • Monthly Revenue: $300 – $500
  • 500 – 1000 visits per day:
    • You’re on to a winner
    • Modify Google Adsense positioning to maximise revenue
    • Get more aggressive with your Direct Sales
    • Monthly Revenue: $500 – $1000
  • 1000+ visits per day:
    • Re-evaluate positioning of everything
    • Turn on TPN & investigate Affiliate opportunities (if any)
    • Monthly Revenue: $1000+

Overdue Invoices: 4 Simple Tips To Ensure Your Clients Pay On Time, Every Time. No More Overdue Invoices

  • Did you know that poor cashflow is the #1 killer of small New Zealand businesses?
  • Do you have clients with overdue invoices right now?
  • Do you grit your teeth when you check your bank account on the 20th of the month and find the deposits you were expecting, missing?
  • Are your customers/clients slow to pay?
  • Are your invoices due on the 20th of the month but sometimes they don’t get paid until much later? Sometimes 60 days or 90 days?

Well you’re in luck, because today I’m going to tell you how I get the following results:

  • 89.6% of my clients pay on time (within 7 days)
  • 9.4% of my clients pay within 7 days past due
  • 1% don’t pay at all, but only because they go bankrupt (no fault of mine, I assure you)
  • I’ve never needed to use a collection agency

Here’s how you can get results like that:

4 Ways to Ensure Your Customers/Clients Pay On Time, Every Time

1. Change your terms to 7 days

Do it.

Right now.

Send out an email to warn everyone that it starts this week.

When your terms are 7 days your clients will file your invoices right under their accounts-payable-clerks nose for immediate attention.

Invoices that are due 20th of the month are so easy to ignore, or postpone, or forget about, or get lost.

“But my client’s accounting system can’t handle paying within 7 days!

Bullshit!

Ask nicely for an exception.

I’ve been paid within 7 days from Government Departments, City Councils and District Health Boards. Their policy is to pay 20th of the following month but they all made an exception for me because I asked for it.

2. Email your invoices instead of posting them

Ask for the accounts-payable-clerks email address and email them directly (and cc your contact at the company too).

No more posting. This slows things down far too much. And with 7 day terms, 3 of those days are used up in printing/delivery.

Don’t know how to convert your invoices to PDF? You don’t need Adobe Acrobat Professional (NZ$600!), just download 1 of hundreds of free/cheap PDF writers (they install as “virtual printers”).

3. Stop sending statements with OVERDUE stamps on them

Receiving a statement with a big red overdue stamps on it is like slapping your client in the face with a wet fish.

Acutally, it’s like slapping the accounts-payable-clerk in the face with a wet fish because your contact at the company will probably not even see this document.

Why would you treat the person who is going to pay you like this?

It is a deep insult. It is shouting out “You are crap at your job! Paying invoices is easy but somehow you screwed it up! Wow, you really suck!”

If you sent me a statement with a big red, angry overdue stamp on it, I would purposely not pay you just to piss you off.

4. Within a few days of the invoice being overdue, email a reminder

Send the following reminder to the accounts-payable-clerk and copy in your contact at the company too.

With these exact words: “Hi Bob, I just noticed invoice #1234 is a few days overdue. Would you like an extension?”.

That’s it.

Short.

To the point.

No waffle.

Notice the first part “I just noticed”? This lets them know that you know it’s overdue. It lets them know you are watching. Now they know that you know.

And notice how it ends with an open ended question?

I could have said “Let me know if you need an extension.” But this isn’t as powerful, because it isn’t a question. It’s weak. Don’t use it.

The magic of asking a yes/no question like “Would you like an extension?” is that people instantly form a response in their heads once they’ve read it.

There are two possible answers. Yes, and No.

Most of the time they are too proud to email you back and say “yes, could we have until the end of the month please?” (although some do, and that’s perfect fine, now you have a new due date to work with).

So they will think “no” in their head. “No, I don’t need an extension, I’m going to pay this today to show them how in control I am of my finances!”. You might not get an email response from these people but the payment will turn up in your bank account the next day.

Why this method works so well

You must stick to this schedule because this is how you train your clients. It lets them know what your expectations of them are, and they quickly learn what to expect from you next time.

If you ease up, that’s when it slips away and you’ll spend more time chasing overdue invoices and less time serving clients.

What if you still don’t get paid?

Wait another 7 days and send this email (and attach the invoice): “Hi Bob, could you check on invoice #1234 for me please? It is now a few weeks overdue.”

What if you still don’t get paid?

Wait another 7 days and send this email (and attach the invoice): “Hi Bob, Invoice #1234 is now 4 weeks overdue. May I have payment today please?”

What if you still don’t get paid?

Wait 30 days and then email them every day with a variation like this:

  • “Hi Bob, just checking on invoice #1234, may I have payment today please?”
  • “Hi Bob, could you have another look at invoice #1234 please. Could you arrange payment today please?”
  • “Hi Bob, I just wanted to check on your payment for invoice #1234. Could you make that payment today please?”
  • “Hi Bob, I was hoping to hear from you by now. May I have payment on invoice #1234 today please?”

The key is to not get angry. Keep your tone respectful and calm. Don’t acknowledge that you are being ignored.

“Why not just pick up the phone and call them?”

Because emailing saves face. It’s embarrassing to make a call to ask someone to pay, and its even more embarrassing to receive one. Email creates a comfort zone.

“What if they do ask for an extension?”

Fantastic! That is a great outcome. It’s not as good as getting paid, but it is pretty close.

Remember, they have chosen the new due date, you didn’t choose it for them. So reset your reminders and as soon as that new due date lapses without payment, repeat the process outlined above.

“This seems like a lot of work, is it really worth it?”

Once you have set expectations using the suggestions above, very few clients will progress to the daily harassment stage.

“How about I just use a collection agency instead?”

No. It’s your problem. It’s your fault for not training your clients properly. You deal with it.

What do you think about this advice?

What tips do you have for dealing with late invoices? Tell your story in the comments below.

Money Back Guarantees: Should You Offer None, 30 Days, or 30 Years?

You may have heard that money-back guarantees are a good idea but you are not sure if they are right for your business?

Perhaps you are holding back because you are worried it’s going to cost you money handing out dozens of refunds, right?

Offering any kind of money back guarantee is better than offering none at all because the main two things that customers care about is:

  1. Price
  2. Risk

And a money back guarantee helps with both.

A money back guarantee reduces risk for the customer because:

  • It signals that you are confident about the quality of your product
  • It reduces their nervousness about making a bad purchasing decision
  • It goes beyond the normal offer of replacing the item if something goes wrong, because they can get their money back

A money back guarantee reduces the price for the customer because:

  • There is a cost for returning something for a refund: time. Knowing that you are able to get cash back for your trouble is better compensation than a replacement
  • Customers perception is: Price + money-back-guarantee = Free Trial. Free is a customers favourite price

These are all “up-front” factors that persuade a customer to buy in the first place. Which is great.

In fact, let’s just slap a number on it and say that offering a money back guarantee will generate 20% more sales for you.

But the real magic happens in the “tail-end”, a long time after the sale.

Let’s say you purchased the Ginsu 2000 never-needs-sharpening-can-cut-through-a-can knife with a 30 year money back guarantee.

And it’s year number 29 and you decide it’s crap. Do you ask for your money back? Hell no. For 4 reasons:

  1. You forgot about the 30 year money back guarantee anyway
  2. You can’t be bothered
  3. You feel you got your moneys worth any way
  4. You don’t want to impose or be a nuisance
  5. You’ve had it so long it feels like yours, you feel like the owner. This reduces the obligation of the people you bought it from

Yes, it’s an extreme example but you get the idea. Let’s look at another:

Let’s say you purchased an ebook about Search Engine Optimisation for $19 with a 3 month money back guarantee.

It’s the 2nd month, and you only just got around to reading it and you decide it’s crap. Do you ask for your money back? Hell no. For 3 reasons:

  1. You forgot about the 3 month money back guarantee anyway
  2. You can’t be bothered
  3. You don’t want to impose or be a nuisance
  4. It’s in your possession and so you feel like the owner. This reduces the obligation of the author

Let’s just slap a number on it and say that you get 5% of customers that actually do go ahead and ask for their money back.

So to summarise, you are getting 20% more sales to get out 5% refunds… Ummm, that’s really good isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it is.

4 Ways to Make A Great Money Back Guarantee:

  1. Make the expiry really really long. The longer it is the more chance of the customer forgetting about it, or feeling like they are imposing by asking for their money back
  2. If a customer asks for their money back, provide it the same day. Don’t drag your feet and make them wait. You will impress them with your customer service, and this experience may trigger Word-of-Mouth so you might get new sales from people they talk too!
  3. Tell them up-front how to get one eg “To get your money back, just call us on 0800 xyz xyz and you’ll have your money back within 24 hours”. You could just provide an email form for them to request their money-back, but in this case, I advise putting up a small barrier for them and getting them to talk directly to you
  4. Arrange their refund over the phone, and when it’s finished and approved, at the last minute ask them why they asked for one. Their feedback might be valuable. Don’t ask this question upfront because it will make them feel more uncomfortable than they already are

What about services?

Money back guarantees can also work for services but you’ll have to go overboard with your offer Eg “If you are not happy with our car washing service we’ll redo it for free + give your money back”

What do you think about money back guarantees now?

What do you have to add to this? Will you give it a try for your business? What’s the most outrageous money-back guarantee you’ve ever seen?

Online Advertising In NZ: A Crash Course On How You Can Get Started Advertising Your Business Online in New Zealand

Have you noticed how much publicity the growth of online advertising has been getting lately?

If you are wondering:

  • “Am I missing out because I haven’t tried online advertising yet?” and
  • “How can I dip my toe in the water to see if online advertising is right for my business?”, then this crash course on online advertising is what you need

“What are the major formats of online advertising?”

There are 2 main formats:

  1. Text based ads
    • Very easy to setup
    • Very easy to change
  2. Display ads
    • Traditionally just “Banner Ads” but now includes rich media/interactive ads and video ads
    • Usually expensive to get graphic design and difficult and expensive to change
    • But, your best performing text-based ads can be converted to display ads very cheaply! (They look absolutely hideous, but they work really well)

“Where can we place our ads?”

In New Zealand there are 4 main places where it would be appropriate to put your ads:

1. Beside Google NZ Search results (“Google Adwords”)

  • Format: Text-based ads
  • In the right hand column, and sometime above search results
  • Very easy to set up
  • $1 per click would be average (highly competitive industry’s like finance or tourism will cost more)
  • Good targeting: You can specify a geographic target and your ads are displayed when people in those cities are searching for something related to your offer
  • Provides excellent data so you can just copy/paste your best performing ads to the next 3 ad networks

2. Websites that use Google Adsense

  • Format: Text-based ads and display ads
  • That have dedicated space on their website to earn revenue (like mine: LoveOneDaySales.co.nz)
  • Very easy to set up
  • Display Ads:
    • Very cheap CPM (Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions) because most people don’t bother creating display ads because it’s too hard = less competition for ad space = cheaper cost of advertising
    • Good reach – your ads would be popping up on random NZ websites all over the place – good for cheap brand recognition

3. Facebook

  • Format: Text-based ads with a single small image
  • Excellent targeting: you can specify exactly who your demographic is Eg Female 25-35 who live in the Tauranga area
  • But Facebook users are not there to click on ads, they are there to have fun and share their lives. Therefore effectiveness can be very poor
  • Cost-Per-Click varies greatly eg $1-$3

4. Huge NZ Websites that have their own advertising systems

  • Format: display ads (interactive costs extra & video is not usually available)
  • Eg TradeMe, NZHerald etc
  • The CPM (Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions) is usually very high and uncompetitive to a discerning advertiser (because they put a very high value on their own audience and there is large overhead to pay for)
  • No targeting at all

“Great! How do we get started?”

  1. Be very clear what your objective is
    • If it’s new customers: What are you offering them? Why should they join? What’s in it for them? What should your landing page say?
  2. Set a value on that new customer
    • Eg if you can expect every new customer to stick with you for 5 years and you will earn $100 from that relationship, then the value of a new customer is $100. If 50% of them will stick with you, the value is $50
    • This is your maximum allowable “Cost of Acquisition”
  3. Set a target
    • Eg “1000 new customers”
    • And decide upfront how you will measure the results (eg install tracking code on the website)
  4. Set a budget
    • Multiple your target by your Cost of Acquisition
    • If the number is unacceptable, re-adjust any of the numbers accordingly
  5. Hand over the project to someone who knows what they are doing

“Great! Sheldon, can you help us with this?”

I’m booked up until March 2011. If you’d like to join the queue, email me your details and I’ll make a note in my diary to contact you then.

Cheers,
– Sheldon

Phone: (07) 575 8799, Email: sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz

P.S. What I’ve left out:

  • Mobile advertising
    • Google Adwords offers you the ability to show your ads on mobile devices. There is huge growth in this area and definitely worth keeping an eye on and considering later
  • Google Search Partners
    • This is a network of search engines that use Google to serve ads, but these alternatives are not popular in New Zealand so ignore them for now
  • Other Search Engines like Bing
    • Perhaps there are bargains to be had with Bing’s text-based ads but their market share is very small in NZ

The Squeaky Window Gets The Lube

For about a week I have noticed an extremely squeaky rear electric window in my car. It is like 5 teenagers scratching on a chalk board – a really horrendous sound.

I hadn’t thought too deeply about what I should do about it when I heard a radio ad this afternoon “Free electric window lube at Anything Auto Electrical, 32 Waihi Road”.

Just what I wanted! To get the squeak fixed and it’s for free!

I pulled over, and whipped out my new iPhone and found their contact details on yellowpages.co.nz. I called the number and Greg the manager answered. I said “I just heard your radio ad for a free lube, I’ll be there in 10 mins, ok?” “Sure!” said Greg.

I love to talk to small business owners about their marketing, and that’s exactly what I did with Greg as he worked on my windows.

What Greg Reminded Me About The Yellow Pages

And even though I don’t think much of the Yellow Pages, Greg made me remember that for some industries it is essential and can be effective.

For his Yellow Pages online listing, the “Bronze” level was enough to get him ahead of all the auto-electricians in the area for an extra $20/month.  (I guess Yellow Pages hope that to get ahead of him, a competitor will go for the Silver level?).

Greg liked the Yellow Pages statistics he is provided with every month of the people who “click-to-reveal” his phone number. He monitors his phone call stats and tells me a very high percentage of those that click, go ahead and make the phone call.

How Greg Can Get Maximum Mileage Out of His Free Lube Offer

Greg tells me that the idea behind the “free lube for electric windows” offer was to get people in so they find out a bit about the kind of services they offer, where they are, and take a business card away with them so the next time they have an auto-electrical problem, they know who to call.

Finally I had a useful piece of advice for Greg (have you noticed that so far in this article, he has been teaching me?)

I suggested that Greg starts taking an email address and that the admin/receptionist sends out a short “thank you” email later today or tomorrow which has the following components:

  • Thanks: eg “Thanks for coming in for a free electric window lube today, we think it is important to help you to prolong the life of your window motor and switches”
  • Provide a list of 5 most common symptoms that would indicate an electrical problem “if you notice any of those changes/noises, bring your car in and we’ll do a no-obligation diagnostic for you”

Greg explained to me that he hasn’t bothered creating an emailing list in the past because auto-electrical work happens when something breaks, and whereas mechanics can send out 6 monthly reminders for oil changes and WOF’s, there is very little you can do in terms of preventative maintenance when it comes to auto-electrics.

I suggested, that now that he has the customers permission to email then, that he schedule an email for 3 or 4 or 6 months from now anyway.  The content of that email could simply repeat the list of “5 most common symptoms” or provide a new list, or helpful article, or free advice.

It’s an opportunity to get his brand name in-front of that customer again, and is sure to increase the chances of that customer choosing Greg if something happens to their car around that time that they receive that email.

How Greg Depends Heavily On Online Directory Websites

Even though I am a Marketing generalist and profess to be a “Marketing Consultant” or “Marketing Advisor” I must confess that I don’t do much of that kind of work for clients. Most of the time a client doesn’t even know they need help with their marketing, they just know they need a website. So that’s what I build for them – a website. Luckily for them all my marketing knowledge goes into that process for free!

Anyway, Greg told me his website lists products but doesn’t have ecommerce.

That is perfectly fine in my opinion.

Sometimes it is right to show samples of your product range, indications of pricing, and then drive people to the phone so you can help them in greater depth, provide them with a more accurate diagnosis of their problem, and propose the appropriate solution.

You don’t get that with an ecommerce website – most ecommerce websites are just about the lowest price. It’s no fun discounting all the time just to give yourself the chance of making a sale.

Since getting back to the office, I have tried to find Greg’s website, but I have failed.

I searched for “Anything Auto Electrical Tauranga” but the search engine results pages are dominated by directory listings of his business (Yellow, iLook, UBD, Finda etc), so there is no problem finding his contact details, location and phone number, but it concerns me that his “official” website is nowhere to be seen.

To me, this is a reminder that every business should have a website even if it is a single page with only your contact details and a summary of how you can help customers.

Did you know it is very very easy to rank at the top of search engine results for your brand name?

Why send everyone who searches for you to those directory websites? Do you see there is more risk of them finding one of your competitors while they are there?

If your official website is the first, that risk is removed and you have control over what they read (whereas online directories control how your info is presented).

Can I Help You?

I’d love to chat with you to find out about your business and I might have an idea or two for you to improve. But to be honest, mostly I’ll be listening to what I can learn from you 🙂

If you’d like some free advice about your marketing and advertising, give me a call (07) 575 8799.

Cheers,

Sheldon Nesdale

Expired Domains: Picking Fruit From A Graveyard Of Failed Ideas?

Occasionally, just for fun, I spend a few minutes browsing www.ExpiredDomains.co.nz.

Expired Domains lists all .nz domain names which have expired and are in the .nz registry’s official 90 day pending release period.

But what I find most interesting about this list is that at first glance, many of them look like really good names!

Every single time I look at this list of Expired Domains, I have these same three reactions:

Reaction #1:

“oooo, I can’t believe that xyz.co.nz is available! And it’s only $24.50! What a freakin bargain, I’ll set up a website and make millions! I simply can’t lose!”

Reaction #2:

I do a double-take.

“wait a second… they are on this list of expired domains because someone, like me, thought they had potential.  But that person failed to make any money from it at all, and let it expire rather than waste another $24.50 on it to renew it… hmmmm”

**Warning Bells!!**

“calm down Sheldon, calm down, I don’t have to whip out my credit card right now and buy it before someone else gets a chance…”

Reaction #3:

“Oh, in all that excitement I forgot that it doesn’t matter what your domain name is. What is most important is your content!”

What do you think?

The next time you are tempted by an expired domain, pause, and remember that you are picking fruit from a graveyard of failed ideas.

Add your comments below:

How To Modify Your Advertising Depending On The Customers Usage Level And Loyalty

The next time you are writing an advertisement, or an article, or updating your website, choose your audience along the following grid of “usage” vs “loyalty”.

Choose just one and ask yourself “how can I modify my message to speak just to them?”.

Usage vs Loyalty: Where Are The Opportunities For Your Business?

Let’s look at each sector in more detail:

1. High/Med/Low User + High Loyalty To You = Your Best Customers

  • This is where you are making all your profit.
  • What else can you do today to keep them fiercely loyal? 2 ideas:
    • Keep adding value, keep improving
    • and keep putting your prices up (the best way to maintain or grow your profitability and signal to them that you are working hard to improve the value of your products and services)
  • Don’t waste your money communicating to this bunch with mass-media. Surely you have their email addresses or phone numbers? But more important than a cheesy Christmas card every year is to keep delivering the top quality products and services they have come to expect. Keep up the good work. Nice job.
  • High Volume:
    • If we all had lots of high volume / high loyalty customers we’d all be rich! But unfortunately they are hard to get, hard to keep and there are few of them.  So don’t retire yet
    • It’s a double edged sword: Does having just a few major contracts make your business secure and stable, or does it make you weak and vulnerable?
  • Med/Low Volume:
    • Don’t neglect the little guy. They might never turn into high volume, but they are your bread and butter today. But you already knew that I’m sure.

2. High User + Low Loyalty To You = Your Competitors Best Customers

  • Do you think you can win the most loyal customers of your competitors? You’re dreaming! They’re out of your reach
  • Can you turn a Holden fan into a Ford fan? No, you can’t. So give up and pick a fight you can win
  • But, be ready – wait for the competition to make a huge screw-up and be there with a smile on your face welcoming them home
  • This group is completely blind to your advertisements. They have made their choice of supplier for this category/industry/niche. Life is easy and peaceful for them. Let them be at peace.

3. High User + No Loyalty = Attractive But Deadly

  • This group is super attractive, because there are so many of them
  • Your boss will put enormous pressure on you to do whatever it takes to make this group buy from you this week. Most of the time the only tactic that will work is a super special price (maybe at break-even point!)
  • Sure, you might make the sale this week, but next week you’re playing the same game again and next time they’ll choose a different supplier
  • These guys suck up your advertising budget and contribute little to your profitability
  • They don’t care about the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. They don’t see distinction or differentiation between your brand and your competitors. “Who is cheaper this week? That’s the one for me!”

4. Non-Users + No Loyalty = Untapped Markets

  • This group has never made a purchase
  • They have the same problems and issues that all the other customers are facing, but not know that a solution exists!
  • For example, one of the most popular websites in NZ is called 1-day.co.nz with half a million visits a day, but it seems that 80% of the people I tell about it, have never heard of it! Could the same be true for your business? What are they reading/watching/listening to that you don’t normally advertise in?
  • The only bummer with speaking to the members of this new market is that you are breaking the ice for your whole industry and they may not choose you!

5. Med/Low Users + Low Loyalty To You = Your Competitors Bread and Butter

  • This is where your growth can come from
  • It’s about maintaining your high quality, providing remarkable service (even if only occasionally) and trying to activate Word-of-Mouth
  • What can you do to turn your customers into ambassadors for your brand?

Need Help?

Need help analysing the opportunities for your business?

I’d loooove to help!  Call (07) 575 8799 or email sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz.

Cheers,
Sheldon.

B2B Marketing Plans: How To Create A One Page Marketing Plan – Just Answer These 7 Questions

Does your marketing plan need to be 10 pages?

20 pages?

200 pages?

No.

1 page is fine.

And all you need is the answers to these 7 questions.

7 Essential Questions For Your Business-to-Business Marketing Plan

1. What is your objective?

  • Do you want to retire young? Do you want a million dollars? Do you want to solve the worlds problems? Do you want to improve peoples lives?
  • It all starts with your answer to this question

2. Who is your target client?

  • Describe your perfect client(s)
  • Is it “every NZ business”? That’s a mistake. Look up the definition of the word “target” if this was your first impulse
  • Start by staking out a geographical territory and communicate the ownership of that territory fiercely (be proud that you live in Tauranga or Rotorua or Hamilton or Invercargil!)
  • What kind of business are they in? What industry? How many employees do they have? What problem are they facing everyday that they are struggling to solve? Who are their customers?
  • If you target your clients correctly, would it be physically possible to write a list of every potential client? I’m sure it would! Can you see, that if you do that, you’ll never consider using mass media such as Radio or TV advertising again?

3. What do they need?

  • Notice that I’m not asking you to list your products/services?
  • First, identify groups of clients
  • Second, identify what they need (don’t think in terms of what you’ve got. Focus on what they need from your industry)
  • Third, decide if you can deliver what they need
    • If so, repackage/rebundle your current products/services to appeal to them
    • If not, either ignore the need or set up someone to refer them to

4. How do your prospective clients make their buying decisions?

  • What is the process they go through?
  • How long does the “information collection” stage take?
  • Where do they look when gathering that information?
  • Do they make decisions by committee? Or alone? (Hint, decisions are never made alone)
  • Who do they ask for advice?

5. Why should they choose you?

  • If you don’t know the answer to this question make something up. Now.
  • Why do they currently choose your competitors?

6. What is the most efficient way to deliver your message to your audience?

  • Please leave the mass media advertising like radio and TV to Harvey Norman. It’s not for you.
  • Please don’t waste air time or paper or the time of people who have no interest in what you’re selling (that’s called SPAM)
  • Will you use face to face visits? Phone calls? Your website? Direct mail? Networking?

7. What headlines would capture their attention?

  • What benefit driven headlines would compel them to read more?
  • This is how to start generating your ideas for your marketing/advertising methods
  • Writing headlines first forces you to focus on the client and what’s in it for them
  • Writing great headlines is a science in itself, and the part of my job I love the most

Need help?

I’d loooooove to work on this stuff with you.

Give me a call (07) 575 8799 or email sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz

Cheers,

Sheldon.

Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self by Alan M. Webber

My notes on “Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self” – by Alan M. Webber.51Ei+GQ7PnL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

What business are you in?

  • If you’re a journalist and you think you’re in the news business, chances are good you’re going to go out of business. News today is a commodity. But there’s a good market for the opinion business or event he funny business (eg Jon Stewart whom recently finished forth in the voting for America’s most trusted source of… news). None of them are in the news business; they’re successful because they are in the ideas-behind-the-news business.
  • Learn to see with fresh eyes so you can differentiate your business from the competition.

  • Change the way your business sees the market and the way your customers see your business.
  • How? Start by asking a different question. Not “what is our product or service?” but “What does our product or service stand for?”
  • Eg a supermarket chain could stand for healthier life for customers who are willing to pay more for organic food.
  • Eg2 a coffee shop could stand for neighbourliness for the people in its surrounding community who use it as an informal gathering place

Continue reading “Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self by Alan M. Webber”

The Knack – How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn To Handle Whatever Comes Up by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

My notes on “The Knack – How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn To Handle Whatever Comes Up” by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham4891811

Why are you better off starting a business from scratch rather than buying one?

  • It’s harder to learn a business if you haven’t been with it from the start
  • You miss out on all the trial-and-error education that happens in the early stages
  • You don’t understand key relationships in the business
  • You don’t know what to do in emergencies
  • You make mistakes that are much costlier than they would have been back when the company was smaller and struggling to get off the ground


Continue reading “The Knack – How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn To Handle Whatever Comes Up by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham”

List of Rental Cars Needing Relocation – How You Can Hire A Rental For Free

Rental Car companies are always needing to move their vehicles between branches around the country.

You can return one of these rental cars for them for free (sometimes the rental is free and you pay petrol, sometimes they give you 50% off the rental, sometimes it’s totally free)

If I’ve missed any on the following list, let me know in the comments below.

List of Rental Cars Needing Relocation

  1. www.Thrifty.co.nz
    Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Picton, Blenheim, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargil, Greymouth
  2. www.QualityRental.co.nz
    Auckland, Wellington, Picton, Christchurch
  3. www.RoadTripRentals.co.nz
    Christchurch, Greymouth
  4. www.NZRentalCar.co.nz
    Christchurch, Greymouth, Wellington, Auckland, Queenstown
  5. www.OmegaRentalCars.co.nz
    Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Picton, Queenstown
  6. www.AceRentals.co.nz
    Auckland, Picton, Christchurch, Queenstown, Greymouth, Dunedin
  7. www.Maui.co.nz [Campervans]
    Join the database and they’ll email you when they need you
  8. www.Avis.co.nz
    Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Picton
  9. www.Budget.co.nz
    Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Picton, Queenstown
  10. www.RentalCar.co.nz
    Christchurch, Greymouth

Websites that list many rental cars from many brands needing relocation

If you are thinking of creating a aggregator website to list all rental cars needing returning from lots of different rental car companies, think again.  You won’t get rich.

There are only 2 in New Zealand, and one has been abandoned.

  1. www.TransferCar.co.nz
    Aggregates lots of rental car companies on one website. According to this 2008 article they had 300 a month, today there are 5, so it looks like business has slowed a bit.
  2. www.RelocationCarHire.co.nz
    Also suppose to aggregate lots of rental car companies but it’s been abandoned. Totally empty.

Need to go one way from the North Island to the South Island in a rental car? Bad luck

Did you know you can’t hire a rental car one-way across the inter island ferries?

For example, if you are traveling from the South Island to the North Island you have to leave your rental car in Picton, jump on the ferry with all your gear and pick up another rental car in Wellington! Stink.

It must be because carrying a car across on the ferry is so expensive, so most people would rather save the $400 and go on the ferry as foot traffic.

64 Ways to Advertise: Advertising You Can Try Next

advertising-to-try-icons
With so many options, where do you start?

Just need a list of advertising to try for your business?

Cinema Advertising

1. Pre-movie Advertisements
2. In-Movie Product Placement

TV Advertising

3. 15/30 second Television Advertisements
4. Infomercials
5. TV Programme Sponsorship
6. Television Interviews

Newspaper Advertising

7. Regional Community Newspaper – freely distributed
8. Regional Daily Newspaper
9. National Daily Newspaper

Radio Advertising

10. 15/30 second Radio Advertisements
11. Radio Interviews

Outdoor Advertising

12. Billboards
13. Video Billboard
14. Bus shelters
15. Bus backs
16. Truck sides
17. Car signage
18. Outdoor signage on your building
19. Miniature Billboards: Core-flute signage stabbed into grass verges
20. Posters around town
21. Free standing displays in shopping malls
22. Hot air balloons / blimps
23. Paint a sports field with your logo
24. Burn your logo onto the side of a mountain (check with the local council for permission first)

Mail

25. Direct Mail / Addressed Mail
26. Un-addressed PO Box Mail Drop – Flyers/Postcards
27. Un-addressed Residential Mail Drop – Flyers/Postcards

One-On-One

28. In-person cold calling (unannounced)
29. Telemarketing
30. Participate in Networking groups (eg Chamber of Commerce, BNI)

Online Advertising

31. Text Ads (eg Google Adwords)
32. Display advertising (banner, skyscraper, video, applications/software eg msn messenger)
33. Organic Search Engine Optimisation
34. Email Marketing / Newsletters
35. SPAM
36. Online Directories (eg YellowPages online and country-wide business directories)
37. White papers / e-books
38. Blogging
39. Social Networking sites (eg Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest)
40. Contribute to Special interest forums (eg Google Groups)

Magazine Advertising

41. Gossip style Magazines (eg Woman’s Day)
42. Industry Specific Magazines (eg Needles and Pins weekly)

Printed Directories

43. YellowPages
44. Local Directory

Website

45. Your website
43. Campaign specific mini-websites

Sponsorship

46. Sponsor a sports teams T-shirts
47. Sponsor a community event or non-profit organisation

Branded Objects

48. Branded Pens, Coffee cups, T-shirts, bags, clocks etc

Public Demonstrations

49. Set up in shopping malls (or in the supermarket)

Guerrilla Advertising / Alternative Advertising / Stealth Marketing

50. PR stunts
51. Word of mouth
52. Viral (video, email, postcards, CD’s)
53. Legal graphitti
54. Chalk on the sidewalk
55. Logos in the snow/sand
56. Flyers under car windscreen wipers
57. Video projection onto side of building
58. Night-time shop window video or laser light show
59. Sponsored humans (to tattoo your brand on their forehead, or, a not quite as exciting, wear a branded t-shirt)

SMS text messaging

60. SMS text messaging

Public Relations

61. Distribute press releases (for print & online publication)
62. Or Contact Journalists/Reporters directly with something newsworthy

Trade shows & Expos

63. Exhibiting at Trade shows and Expos

Seminars

64. Seminars

Have I Missed Any?

Please add them to the comments below.

Q: “Where do I start?”

Don’t know where to start?

I can help.

Find out more about my marketing services and pricing or call me on 021 128 5046.

Cheers,

Sheldon Nesdale
Mobile: 021 128 5046
Phone: (07) 575 8799
Email: sheldon@marketingfirst.co.nz

Marketing First 2009 Ltd
64b Devonport Rd, Tauranga 3110, New Zealand

Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/in/sheldonnesdale

 

Generating Revenue By Subscription – Free To Start With And Then Start Charging? Does It Work?

Are you tempted to start charging for access to your website?

Maybe it’s a blog, maybe it’s news, maybe its whitepapers in your area of expertise.

If the revenue model for your website is by subscription you have 3 primary choices:

  1. Free content
    • You ask for email addresses, but you don’t demand them for access
    • The incentive for providing the email address could be a weekly digest of new content, special offers/promotions etc, and a sense of belonging to a club
    • Advertising would be necessary to cover costs
  2. “Freemium” content
    • Most of the content is free but access to certain articles (perhaps the archive) is accessible only with a Premium subscription
    • Example: NZ’s Consumer Magazine (some articles are free, most reports are behind the PayWall)
  3. The “PayWall”
    • Erect a paywall right from the start. If visitors want to see your content, they have to pay
    • Example: NZ’s National Business Review

The question is: Can you use the “Free” model to generate a huge database of subscribers and transition them to “Freemium” or “PayWall”?

This is of course what many newspapers are trying to do with their news websites, but I don’t care about them, I care about you – could it work for your website?

I don’t envy you if you are facing that decision right now. When deciding when to flip the switch you must to worried that you’ll cut off your growth rate.

Have you been on the receiving end of one of these changes? Your favourite website suddenly flips the switch and demands you pay them for access?  Did you start paying or did you search and find that info from another source?

Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson

My Notes on “Ready, Fire, Aim” by Michael Masterson:41XjfgOsASL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

When Launching A New Business, What Should Consume Your Time?

  • In launching new businesses, many entrepreneurs do the opposite of spending 80% of their time of their time on selling.
  • They spend most of their time, attention, energy and capital on things such as setting up an office, designing logos, printing business cards, filing forms, writing contracts, and refining the product.

  • They have the impression that they are doing things in a logical order – getting everything just right before they open their doors.
  • In fact, they are wasting valuable resources on secondary and tertiary endeavours.
  • It is enough to have the product and customer service just okay at the outset. Perfecting them can be done a little later, after you have gotten feedback from your customers.
  • Sell as soon as you can – if possible before you have spent a lot of time and money making it perfect.

Continue reading “Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson”

Why Is Harvey Norman Stuck In The 1990’s?

Yes, yes, Harvey Norman does sell the latest technology: Plasma TVs, Laptops, Macbooks, Printers, Digital Cameras etc (at awesome prices), but why oh why do they contradict this image with the following:

  1. Dot matrix printers for printing out your receipt
  2. A 1990’s website
    • With a “splash” page (the home page just has a big photo and link to the rest of the website)
    • The navigation is located in 4 different locations (very hard to figure out where you are. Totally unintuitive)
    • No open hours (forces you to pick up the phone and ask – that is so 1990’s!)
    • No E-commerce (unlike ALL of their competitors: Dick Smith Electronics, Noel Leemings, Bond and Bond)
  3. No social networking activity at all
    • No Facebook page
    • No Twitter account
    • No Linked-in profile

Perhaps Harvey Norman has people in the marketing department (either here in New Zealand or in head office in Australia) fighting for these changes, but because it is a private company run by an old fuddy-duddy family, they are probably very happy with the way they doing their mass media advertising (radio, TV, flyers every day).

What have I missed?

Write your comments below.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko

the_millionaire_next_doorWhat can we learn from this book published in 1996? Quite a lot actually.

Can You Answer “Yes” to the Next 7 Questions? If not, you have little chance of becoming a Millionaire:

  1. Do live below your means?
  2. Do you allocate time, energy, and money efficiently in ways conducive to building wealth?
  3. Do you believe financial independence is more important than displaying high social status?
  4. Do you provide economic outpatient care for your adult children?
  5. Are your adult children economically self-sufficient?
  6. Are you proficient in targeting market opportunities?
  7. Have you chosen the right occupation?


Continue reading “The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko”

Toughen Up by Michael Hill – Book Review

I liked it.

The secret to his success is setting goals, and then taking bold steps to achieve them. He’s a very goal oriented man.

  • Goal 1: 7 stores in 7 years. Achieved.
  • Goal 2: 70 stores in the next 7 years. Achieved.
  • Goal 3: 1000 stores by 2024. I think he’ll achieve it.

He’s got balls of solid gold.

He’s loving the recession because it means he can buy up prime US locations for his stores that he never would have been able to afford previously.

Genius. Continue reading “Toughen Up by Michael Hill – Book Review”

The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

My Notes on “The Myths of Innovation” by Scott Berkun:berkun-myths-210x315-200x300

Myth #1: The Myth of the Epiphany

  • An epiphany only comes when you’ve put in all the hard work. It’s just the final piece in a 1000 piece puzzle
  • When inventors are asked how they came up with their idea they say “it just came to me”, and have some interesting story about how the idea formed in their head. They don’t say “after 1000 hours of research the idea became obvious”, because it’s boring. Stories about epiphany’s are interesting and exciting and give us hope that we will have one
  • The most useful way to think of epiphany is an occasional bonus of working on tough problems


Continue reading “The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun”

Making Things Happen – Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun

51inoqTDRML._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_My Notes on “Making Things Happen – Mastering Project Management” by Scott Berkun:

The Five States Of Communication

1. Transmitted

When you send an email or leave a voice mail, you are transmitting a piece of information to someone.  This doesn’t mean she has read or heard it, it just means the message has left your hands with the intent to arrive in hers.  With email and the Web, it’s very easy to transmit information, but there is no guarantee anyone is ever going to read it.

Continue reading “Making Things Happen – Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun”

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organisation by Peter F. Drucker, Jim Collins, Phillip Kotler

My Notes on “The five most important questions you will ever ask about your organisation” by Peter F. Drucker, Jim Collins, Phillip Kotler:227565 cover.indd

Every truly great organisation demonstrates the characteristic of preserving the core but stimulating progress.

Peter Drucker told us over 40 years ago “The purpose of a company is to create a customer… The only profit centre is the customer.”

If he was here today he would amend this observation. He would say “The best companies don’t create customers. They create fans.
Continue reading “The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organisation by Peter F. Drucker, Jim Collins, Phillip Kotler”

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

My Notes on “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W.Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne:51xtlczer7L._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

Creating Blue Oceans

Rather than compete with Ringling Bros, Cirque du Solei created uncontested new market space that made the competition irrelevant.

Imagine a market universe composed of two sorts of oceans: red oceans and blue oceans. Red oceans represent all the industries in existence today.  This is the know market space. Blue oceans denote all the industries not in existence today.  This is the unknown market space.
Continue reading “Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne”

The Secrets of Consulting by Gerald M. Weinberg

My Notes on “The Secrets of Consulting” by Gerald M. Weinberg:The secrets

  • The first law of consulting: In spite of what your client may tell you, theirs is always a problem.
  • The second law of consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem
  • Never promise more than 10% improvement (so the client doesn’t get embarrassed about how crap they were)
  • If you happen to achieve more than 10% improvement, make sure it isn’t noticed
  • Whatever the client is doing, advise something else (because what they have been doing hasn’t worked so far)

  • You’ll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit
  • If they don’t hire you, don’t solve their problem
  • The Law of Raspberry Jam: The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets. Alternative: “Influence or affluence; take your choice”. One on one advice is very powerful for initiating change, an email newsletter or a book is weaker at influencing chance. But with the latter, with leverage, you can make a lot of money
  • Most of the time, for most of the world, no matter how hard people work at it, nothing of any significance happens
  • Once you eliminate your number one problem, number two gets a promotion
  • The Hard Law: If you can’t accept failure, you’ll never succeed as a consultant
  • Inverse of the Hard Law: Some people do succeed as consultants, so it must be possible to deal with failure
  • The Harder Law: Helping myself is even harder than helping others

Continue reading “The Secrets of Consulting by Gerald M. Weinberg”

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

My Notes on “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes:Chet holmes

  • You can profoundly improve your company if you absolutely commit one hour a week in which you do nothing else than work on making the business much more effective.
  • We all get good ideas t seminars and from books and business-building gurus. The problem is that most companies do not know how to identify and adapt the best ideas to their businesses. Implementation, not ideas, is the key to real success.
  • To do’s, tasks, and deadlines must be assigned after every meeting. But the key is not to ask for too much to be completed. Make the gains small but constant. If you are having the meeting every week and you are making small incremental gains each and every week, think of the profound transformation you’re going to have in 52 weeks.


Continue reading “The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes”

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With Less by Richard Koch

My Notes on “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With Less” by Richard Koch:good read

  • Conventional wisdom is not to put all your eggs in one basket.  80/20 wisdom is to choose a basket carefully, load all your eggs into it, and then watch it like a hawk.
  • Celebrate exceptional productivity, rather than raise average efforts
  • Look for the short cut, rather than run the full course
  • Be selective, not exhaustive
  • Strive for excellence in few things, rather than good performance in many
  • Delegate or outsource as much as possible in our daily lives and be encouraged rather than penalised by tax systems to do this (use specialists to the maximum instead of doing the work ourselves)

  • Only do the thing we are best at doing and enjoy most
  • In every important sphere, work out where 20% of effort can lead to 80% of returns
  • Creative systems operate away from equilibrium. Cause and effect, input and output, operate in a non-linear way. You do not usually get back what you put in; you may sometimes get very much less and sometimes get very mush more.
  • If you can identify where your firm is getting back more than it is putting in, you can up the stakes and make a killing. Similarly, if you can work out where your firm is getting back much less than it is investing, you can cut your losses.

Continue reading “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More With Less by Richard Koch”

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

My Notes on “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris:work week

Different is better when it is more effective or more fun.  If everyone is defining a problem or solving it one way and the results are sub-par, this is the time to ask, What if I did the opposite. Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work.

Most cold calls don’t get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. Make all your calls from 8-8.30am and 6-6.30pm for a total of one hour to avoid secretaries and book twice as many meetings as senior sales executives who call from 9-5. Twice the results in 1/8 of the time.
Continue reading “The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris”

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

My Notes on “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber:riiig

In a business that depends on you, on your style, on your personality, on your presence, on your talent and willingness to do the work, if you’re not there customers would go someplace else.

In this case, customers aren’t buying your businesses ability to give them what they want, but your ability to give them what they want.

If your business depends on your, you don’t own a business – you have a job.  And that’s not the purpose of going into business. The purpose of business is to get free of a job so you can create jobs for other people, to expand beyond your existing horizons, to satisfy a need in the marketplace
Continue reading “The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber”

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham

My Notes on “Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got” by Jay Abraham:télécharger (4)

Only 3 Ways to increase income:

  • Increase the number of clients
  • Increase the size of the sale per client
  • Increase the number of times that client buys from you

Difference between a customer and a client

  • A customer is someone who purchases something.  A client is someone under our protection.  So when a client wants to buy a bicycle for his son, what he really wants to spend precious time with his son to teach him to ride a bike, so its in his best interests if I sell him the best bike in the store that won’t crumple if he bumps into a tree.  I am a trusted advisor, so he’ll be back next year to get bikes for the whole family.


Continue reading “Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham”

12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

My Notes on “12: The Elements of Great Managing” by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter:9781595629982_p1_v3_s369x593

1. I know what is expected of me at work

Like a Jazz band or the team on an aircraft carrier, or a NBA basketball team.  More than knowing their tasks, they have been working as a team for so long, they can anticipate moves and have contingency plans.  I know the tasks to complete but more importantly, how my role fits in with everyone else.

2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right

Be open to other peoples suggestions about how they could do a better job. Eg the special gloves at the fibreglass factory.  Small refinements add up over time.  And mean a lot to the employee – they feel listened to and cared about and they reward the company with loyalty and pitching in when needed.  Bad idea: Not allocating people their space, having fluid desk arrangements Continue reading “12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter”

Crucial Conversations, Tools For Talking When The Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

My Notes:51aefLfnGUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

    • Focus on what you really want.
      • What do I want for myself?
      • For others?
      • For the relationship?
      • How would I behave if this were what I really wanted?
    • Contrast to fix misunderstanding:
      • Start with what you don’t intend or mean, then explain what you do intend or mean.
      • Don’t be tempted to water down your content: “you know it’s really not that big a deal”

  • What story am I telling myself?
    • Victim story: It’s not my fault!
    • Villain story: It’s all your fault!
    • Helpless story: There’s nothing else I can do!
    • Re-examine the cold hard facts, question my conclusions look for other possible explanations. What do I really want? What would I do right now if I really want these results?
  • STATE your path
    • Share your facts
    • Tell your story (explain what you’re beginning to conclude)
    • Ask for others’ paths (encourage them to share their facts and stories)
    • Talk tentatively (state your story as a story – don’t disguise it as fact)
    • Encourage testing (make it safe for others to express differing or opposing views)
  • To get people to share
    • Ask (express an interest)
    • Mirror (acknowledge their emotions)
    • Paraphrase (restate what you’ve heard to show you understand, and that its safe for them to share)

Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell

So How Do You Ensure You Have The Advantage When Negotiating? My Notes:51C7i36GXbL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_

    • Prepare thoroughly in advance
    • Locate the decision maker
    • Built rapport
    • Discover the other party’s goals – ask questions, obtain information on interests, issues and perceptions. Test for understanding, summarise, probe first then disclose, signal regarding your leverage
    • If you open then you benefit from setting the anchor point.
    • Look for common ground
    • On what issues might the other side say “no”?
    • Search for low-cost options that solve the other party’s problems while advancing your goals
    • Trade issues

  • Leverage
    • Flows to those with the greatest control and comfort with the present situations.
    • Threats must be credible.
    • For whom is time a factor?
    • Create momentum by giving little things.
    • Create a vision that the other side has something to lose from no deal
    • Positive leverage: Is having something the other guy wants, or better, needs, or best, cannot do without
    • Negative Leverage: Threat based, with hints rather than shouts
    • Normative Leverage: Give and take
    • Leverage changes constantly through the negotiation
    • Leverage depends on the other party’s perceptions of the situation, not the facts
  • Closing Technique: Scarcity Effect
    • Competition (many others are interested)
    • Deadlines (we will withdraw the offer soon)
    • Walkouts (I will get up and leave at any time)
  • Closing Technique: Overcommitment
    • eg standing in line at DisneyLand
    • Leverage loss aversion  (“We’ve come so far, don’t let all this time and effort go to waste!”)
  • Softer Closing Technique: Split the difference
  • Beware Rogue Tactics:
    • Lies about bottom lines and alternatives
    • Low-balling
    • Phoney issues / decoy / red herring
    • Fake authority ploys
    • Overcommitment (drags out the negotiation process and raises or lowers the price or terms at the last minute)
    • Good guy / bad guy
    • Consistency traps (The goal of which is to pre-commit you to a seemingly innocent standard. They get you to agree to a statement before telling you why the statement is important)
    • Reciprocity ploys (“I made a concession, now its your turn”. Beware of reciprocity traps – “Here’s a flower, may I have a donation?”)
    • The nibble (just before closing hoping your exhausted)