Four Business Megatrends

September 18, 2011 · 0 comments

How ready are you for the future? Because it’s coming quicker than you think…

Matthew Mengerink writes at GigaOm…dreamstime_xxl_19117563

In the next decade, we’ll see more change in the commerce landscape than in the past 100 years combined.The reason? Four mega trends being driven by consumers are dramatically changing buying and selling habits as we know them. Merchants of all types—from brick-and-mortar retail outlets to non-profits, to manufacturers and even those selling online, need to ensure they’re keeping pace or risk going the way of Blockbuster, Borders and the dinosaurs.

He says the four trends are…

Mobile |  Local | Digital | Social

In a world where consumers can compare prices instantly, not competing on price and creating truly unique services are going to be crucial skills.

My upcoming book The Biz on the Run talks about how you can create a business that takes advantage of all four of these trends. Click here to sign up for the mailing list and get free early release chapters!

{ 0 comments }

As I have written frequently, I’m not so big on the concept of “a job” but some people seem to like ‘em. And with all the talk about jobs, jobs, jobs lately it’s evident that some of the long term unemployed just don’t know how to get them. One key I’ve mentioned before is making sure you’re tech savvy or at least computer literate but another is – STAND OUT. Don’t be part of the faceless masses.

Picture yourself as am HR person and you’ve got a stack of resumes in front of you. You flip through them – all boring, soulless and Helvetica. Then you see one of these resumes.

or even this…

Will those catch your interest? Of course they will. Those resume and more are from this inspiring collect at DesignWoop.com – so go check them all out and be inspired, damnit.

Maybe you aren’t a graphic genius – okay, delegate and hire one. Sounds like management level delegation to me. Or make your writing super create – tell your resume as a story. Make it huge (but foldable) or tiny (on a business card) or put it on a USB drive.

You want a job, right? Do something interesting.

{ 0 comments }

Do you want be a media mogul, casting your net over the world with an empire that includes print, e-books the Internet, audio, special effects and filmmaking?

That’s my modest goal and Adobe just made it a lot easier.

Yesterday I started my one year subscription to the Adobe Master Collection which includes more or less all the professional tools they make including Photoshop, After Effects, illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Audition, Flash and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve had access to various configurations of these tools over the years but getting the whole shebang was always elusively out of reach because the price tag was over $2500.Adobe

But last month, Adobe announced a new subscription pricing model and so now I have everything for $135 a month, including tax. I agreed to a one-year plan, but for more money I also could’ve gone month-to-month. That’s also significant because it means that I needed to add an employee or two for project is only going to last a few weeks, I could affordably do so. For anyone doing print, animation, web, new-media, or video work it’s really a huge new leveling of the playing field.

I party been able to do a couple of things that make me very happy. The new CS 5.5 version of After Effects includes an incredible motion stabilizer functions is able to quickly make a video about it .

And I was able to take a document and quickly turn it into an ePub file using InDesign so I could read it on my iPad just like electronic book that I downloaded from the Kindle or iBooks store.

This is just another example of how the cost of starting a business today is as low as it’s ever been. For as much as people complain about the economy, there really are incredible opportunities right now if you’re able to get your head out of the past.

Anyone could spend $1000 and get an amazingly powerful computer, huge monitor and a subscription to one of the Adobe suites and they’d be in business as a design firm, motion graphics company, publisher, photography studio or other creative work. And any company from manufacturing to restaurants could add those creative elements to their mix the same price.

You don’t need a degree or diploma you don’t need a fancy office. You actually don’t need any office – a spare bedroom, Starbucks or a park will work fine. At that point what differentiates you is talent, hard work and the ability to market and sell yourself.

{ 0 comments }

You’re a commodity if you choose to be.

When it comes to your career or business, being a commodity is a choice. It’s an easy path to follow, really – all you have to do is not differentiate yourself.

If there are new techniques or skills in your field, just don’t learn them. If there are ways to make yourself more efficient, be careful not to pursue them. Forget innovation. Forget risk-taking. Forget passion. A commodity doesn’t need any of these things.

IMAG0576As a commodity, the only thing you need to focus on this price and delivery. You’ll do the job. That should be enough for your clients. You’ll knock the price down if you have to because not being undersold is the way you stay in business. You’re trying to work for a razor thin margin of profit, if you need to make cuts or overwork your people or get a little sloppy on delivery, so be it.

Of course, it’s stressful being an undifferentiated commodity because the world is full of other people who are fighting for that same commodity space that you settled for. And those bastards don’t play fair, do they? They pay their people even less than you pay your people. Some of them even find people overseas or on the Internet or they break a few labor laws. Yes, your commodity competitors will make you angry but really you’re probably a bit envious that they either had the foresight or chutzpah to do it before you did.starbcusk _lee

Want the stress to vanish? Stop acting like a commodity.

Coffee is a commodity but Starbucks doesn’t treat coffee like one. It treats coffee like an obsession. It treats it like a lifestyle. It treats your choice in coffee like it’s a profound indicator of your personality. It tells exotic stories about the origins of their coffee. It’s made their coffeehouses places to meet and even work.

Are you treating your own story, business and career like Starbucks treats its coffee? Or are you content with being a nameless, faceless commodity?

{ 0 comments }

Interesting article in the L.A. Times about one of my personal little obsessions…

Hiller is not alone in feeling that what was once an exciting, underground food scene driven by a punk rock aesthetic and an exploratory mentality is swiftly becoming a mainstream, bottom-line-obsessed maze of infighting and politics.

When Kogi started, there were only a few new-wave food trucks on the scene; now that number is hovering near 200, says Hiller. And where experimental entrepreneurs once dominated, corporate players such as Jack in the Box and Sizzler are entering the fray.

There are other issues too, including a wealth of copycat trucks and the sense that many entering the business have no culinary experience but expect to make a fortune.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a silver lining to the movement’s adolescence. Hiller, other truck owners and a ravenous public believe in the food truck’s promise — the realization of a street-food culture that unites a disparate city and encourages a community that lingers outdoors together over a plate of food. It’s a concept long understood by theloncheras, or taco trucks, that have operated for decades without stirring the beehive of debate that these flashy new trucks have generated.

Food trucks have also placed L.A. at the center of a national movement, with city councils, including those of Boston and Chicago, looking to L.A. to guide them through the issues presented by their own nascent food truck cultures, and television shows like “The Great Food Truck Race” capitalizing on the hype.

As other cities join the rolling party, those at the forefront of L.A.’s movement are evolving new business tactics to stay afloat in an increasingly saturated marketplace. Soon after Kogi’s success, co-owner and chef Roy Choi began selling his tacos at Alibi Room, and a year ago Choi’s team opened a small Westside restaurant called Chego. Now trucks including Frysmith, Komodo and Coolhaus are opening brick-and-mortar outlets themselves.

Even Hiller is moving his business in a new direction. He says RoadStoves is launching very few trucks until the scene self-corrects, and he’s creating an online store that will sell popular food truck items nationwide.

{ 0 comments }

Here’s my 15 month old son Van using the iPad. All by himself, he starts it up, closes an app he doesn’t want to use, finds the photo app, opens it, finds a photo of his brother Jack, and then opens up that photo.

This isn’t a ‘look how smart my kid is’ post. This is a triumph of seventy of so years of user interface design. This is ‘so simple a baby can use it.’ Apple won but really, we all do.

How simple is your web site? Your sign up process? Your offer? Your org chart? Your pitch? Your mission statement? Your logline?

Progress is making things simpler.

{ 0 comments }

Creative people, entrepreneurs and especially creative entrepreneurs would do well to pay attention to Steven Pressfield’s new book Do the Work for two reasons.

First, Pressfield has written another modern classic to follow-up The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, his wonderful and inspiring book about overcoming what he calls Resistance (with a capital R) and getting your creative work completed.

Second, the  book’s release is the masterful job that publisher The Domino Project (a brainchild of my marketing hero Seth Godin) has done launching the book.

Both the book itself and the strategies behind its release contain valuable, potentially very profitable lessons. I’m going to break down some of those lessons in a few different posts.

The Book

If you do any kind of creative work at all — from writing to painting and music to designing houses to starting companies — go get this book right now. It will kick your butt and give you some clear practical suggestions for starting and completing projects. Plus you can get it free – FREE, do you hear me?

This FREE part can’t be emphasized enough. You can go and get the book in its electronic Kindle edition at no cost. If you don’t have a physical Kindle, no problem because the Kindle software is also free and works on PCs, Macs, iPads and all manner of mobile devices. Bo-the-work-cover

Cost aside, this is an inspiring and practical little manifesto that is designed to help you beat the demons they keep great work and big changes from coming to life. Pressfield and publisher Godin both feel passionately that you, dear reader, have big important things inside you and that learning how to get those projects started, shepherded through difficult times and finally, gloriously shipped is a teachable skill.

Do The Work! is the kind of book that you can read in an hour or two, assuming you don’t leap up from the couch, grab paper and a pen and start furiously working out the beginning middle and end of a new masterpiece. Pressfield describes his audience as "artist and entrepreneurs in the trenches” and he’s a no-nonsense drill instructor who wants you and your dreams to flourish. He’s written a tough, muscular little book that’s Strunk and White for your aspirations.

I share Pressfield and Godin’s belief in people’s potential, so I say without hesitation – you owe it to yourself to read this book.

The Marketing Lessons – Part 1

Before I start running down marketing lessons, let me tell you how I came to hear about Do The Work!. I was taking a nap two days ago and I heard some commotion downstairs. Our condominium has a bad foundation and so when the front door gets yanked and wrestled open, there’s a huge and ugly sucking/popping sound. The only upside to this is that usually means that we got a delivery from Amazon.

When I came downstairs later and asked my wife about it, I assumed it was an order of cat food or paper towels (yes, Amazon sells cat food and paper towels) but, no – it was a book. I hadn’t ordered a book, however. My eyesight is bad so I do almost all my book reading on Kindle.

I turned the book over in my hands, squinting and try to make some sense of it. I noticed it was written by Steven Pressfield and liked the cover, which I later found out is a drawing from Van Gogh. Then I found the note that came with it from Ishita Gupta and realized that I’d been sent the book as a gift from Seth Godin’s office. I had interviewed Seth a couple years back the part of the launch for his book Linchpin…but wow. Nice.

Lesson One: Give Gifts (Real Gifts)

This brings us to a great marketing lesson that’s really just a lesson in the whole "let’s make being part of humanity enjoyable” thing. Give real gifts and by real I mean, without any expectation of a quid pro quo.

The note I got with the book didn’t tell me to review it, plug it or anything else. They just sent it to me. No expectations.

They sent you a gift, too. As I’ve mentioned, in the rollout of the book the Kindle edition of Do The Work! is free. Like the free beer free. Like Cory Doctorow free.DTW-GIFT Like go get it free.

The smart marketing reason to give gifts like this is covered very well in the classic book Influence but I’m not going to sully the gift that I got by assuming that there was an ulterior motive that somehow the real reason for the gift. I think the gift was a gift. It felt like a gift not an obligation, which is exactly how a gift should feel.

People who have physical Kindles received a free copy, too — which leads to what may have been the one minor misstep I’ve seen in the rollout.

Lesson One And A Half:Don’t Give Them To People Who Don’t Want Them

Hugs are nice. However, going up to strangers and starting to hug them is creepy.

Do The Work! has a small number of one star reviews on Amazon right now from people who are mad they were given the gift of Do The Work! on their Kindle. On one hand, I think the world would be better off if those people would shut up and read the book. On the other hand, I get it. They didn’t know it was coming and so the idea that Amazon is essentially book spamming them is confusing.

The problem is that there is no precedent. On my Nook, Barnes & Noble has been pushing content to me from day one. This creates an expectation. Maybe that’s an expectation that Amazon is trying to set up but either way it’s created some bad reviews so I’ll call it a mistake.

Lesson Two: Create Lots of Buying Options

This is a tremendously important lesson for anyone creating products – give your buyers the option of different tiers of pricing. Todd Sattersten in his excellent book Fixed to Flexible describes this as a "good, better, best" model model of pricing and it’s something that every modern business should be taking advantage of.

Just look at how many options you have for acquiring Do The Work!

DoTheWork_editions

So we’ve got the free Kindle edition. There’s an audio book edition. There’s the physical object of the book itself for around 10 bucks and we can also buy it n packs of five or 48 to give as gifts. Then we’ve also got – drumroll, please — the $65 limited quantity deluxe edition.

This limited quantity, deluxe edition includes a signed copy of Do the Work, and a hand-engraved metal placard, a hefty piece of burnished steel laser engraved with a 16th century image of St. George slaying the dragon with a reminder to BEAT RESISTANCE. Approximate size 3 x 5 – ideal for any desktop.

The Domino Project chose this laser engraved steel plate because it’s hefty, strong, and unbendable, which is exactly what we think Do the Work invokes. Inspired by the important lessons shared in the text, this limited edition collectible is a visual reminder that you must slay the dragon if you wish to succeed. It’s a signpost on the road to finishing the work that reminds you to always "Beat Resistance."

Lots of ways to buy and I guarantee you a bunch of people who have the free edition today are going to buy physical copies to give as gifts in the future.

Lesson Three: Forget Your Own Economic Experience

Let’s talk more about the Deluxe Edition. If you are one of those people who are saying to themselves, "Who the hell would spend $65 on a book they could get for 10 bucks or even for free?”….come closer, because you really need to hear this.

One of the reasons I want to focus on this is because it’s something crucial to understand in today’s economy. No matter how bad you may think the economy is and no matter how difficult your own personal financial experience is, you need to accept the following truth – there are people out there that don’t give any thought to price when it comes to making buying decisions.

DTW_milkIn other words, maybe right now you’re pinching your pennies. No judgment, me too. Maybe when you go to the grocery store and are shopping for milk, you really have to go over all your options and find the gallon of cow juice that’s on sale. You might be in a position where the $.50 you save on milk means you can buy two more packets of Ramen.

But that’s not everybody.

There are people in the world who just go and pick out the milk that they want. If they want Horizon Organic 2% and its eight dollars a gallon they just pluck it from the refrigerated display case and put it in their cart.

If you are in pennypinching mode, this total nonchalance about grocery shopping seems like something of a fever dream. But that’s reality for many many people and if you sell things, you need to be aware of that and create products and price points that suit those people.

(Because I want to give credit where credits due, I think I heard Naomi Dunford talk about this once and she may have used the exact same analogy.)

So, spending $65 on a book is something it’s not that big a deal for millions of people – if they want it. These people may have a good cash flow, but they still operate on the same principles that we all do.

Even people without money will spend $65 on a book, if they really want it… but that’s another lesson.</>

Present photo : AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by code poet
Milk photo : AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Latente 囧 www.latente.it

{ 1 comment }

Content creation is sometimes content sharing. If you want to speed up the process of blogging, using Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon or any of around 200 other methods, then Shareaholic is a great, free tool. Watch this short video i made to show you how it works.

(Note: The video was uploaded in HD, so feel free to switch to 720p and watch it full screen.)

 

{ 0 comments }

There’s an excellent post today on the (also excellent) blog Simple Marriage by Natalie Chandler of Imagine Hope Counseling entitled “What’s Your Baggage?” that deals with issues that everyone comes into romantic relationships with.

Chandler says…

The point is, we all have baggage.

Inevitably, we bring it into our relationships.

For some of us, this can create major challenges in our experiences. We may hear things differently than they are actually said. We may perceive things far from what may have been reality. We may react to things or over-react to things based on these perceptions. Many times in relationships, we may be having conflict over something that has very little to do with that person.

Understanding and dealing with our own baggage can lead to a more successful marriage but entrepreneurs would do well to realize that we also have business baggage; attitudes that we bring into our new enterprise with us. And since business fail every more frequently than marriages, there’s a bottom line value in learning what bags we’re dragging into our work with us.

76566900_c5f5ca6540_m

I think a good place to start is by asking yourself how you feel deep down about some of the fundamentals.

  • Do you have any guilt about the idea of making money?
  • Do you have an attitude about customers…even before you even have any customers?
  • How do you view business owners?

These attitudes can actually spring from our childhood. If your father came home and complained bitterly over dinner every night about the jerks he had to deal with at work, that may have left an impression. If your big sister came back from college talking about the exploitation of the workers, that may have created a subconscious belief in you. Or maybe you have an overly optimistic view of business based on an Uncle’s tall tales. The influences could come from family, friends, teachers, preachers, or your own study.

Everyone has these attitudes that they adopted from earlier in their lives and that doesn’t mean they are all wrong. In fact, in many cases the opinions aren’t either right or wrong; they are just an attitude that people can choose to adopt. In reality, the glass is both half-empty AND half-full. Pull your subconscious views out in the open, turn them over and examine them closely and then make a conscious decision about how the person you are today feels about them.

If you’re willing to change directions, unpacking your bags could become very profitable activity.

photo AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by loungerie

{ 3 comments }