Thursday, March 30, 2006

Worth 1,000 Words

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mesh for Success

What exactly is “Web 2.0,” and how are Canadians contributing to this brave new Internet culture?

That’s the theme of Mesh, Canada’s first Web 2.0 conference, set for May 15 and 16 in Toronto. You will hear from industry thought leaders, meet entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and get a better understanding of the impact of new developments online. As the website says, “Meet the next generation of Web ideas, leaders and companies at mesh.”

It comes highly recommended for entrepreneurs, investors, and software developers;
marketers, public relations practitioners and the media; and for those in academia, politics, public policy, NGOs and non-profits.

And since it involves Web 2.0. which is all about participation and collaboration, the bumph goes on: “Participate in keynotes, panels and workshops, and create your own conversations to get the knowledge you need.”

The cool thing is that this is not a normal business conference. It’s just been pulled together in two months by five active participants in the city’s tech scene: Mark Evans (senior technology reporter, National Post); Mathew Ingram ( technology and business writer, Globe & Mail); Mike McDerment, CEO of 2ndSite Online Invoicing; Rob Hyndman; business lawyer, Hyndman Law; and Stuart MacDonald, entrepreneurial founder of

(I wonder if Mark Evans remembers coming to see me for career advice when I was managing editor of the Financial Times and he was writing about local sports in Brampton? I certainly hope he’s forgotten about the time I beaned him in the back with a baseball.)

My next column in PROFIT magazine probes some of the roots of Canada’s resurgent Web 2.0 culture; I’ll link to it here when it comes available. Meantime, if you’re keen on the subject (and you should be), you’ll find more information on this conference, a speaker’s list, and registration details at

A Really Bad Ad

Over at "the other blog," Selling to Small Business, I posted last night about a really bad ad. It doesn't just break common-sense rules of good advertising -- it totally misunderstands the needs and personalities of its target market: business owners.

For a fun, fast lesson in how not to advertise, click here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Six Deadly Small Business Marketing Mistakes

My friend Garry McNeilly of Kojac Consulting tipped me this morning to the work of David Frey, a marketing guru at Garry, a computer and networking expert, says he finds a lot of value in Frey’s e-newsletter.

Poking around Frey’s site, I found his free e-book, “Six Deadly Small Business Marketing Mistakes.” The list itself is fairly banal and probably self-serving, but the free e-book contains lots of detailed commentary and ideas you should find valuable. It's way ahead of most of the useless "e-freebies" populating the Web.

What are the 6 Deadly Marketing Mistakes?

1. Not Having a Marketing Plan (Frey includes a pretty good template if you don't know what to put in your plan).
2. Not Differentiating Your Business from the Competition
3. Not Having a Systematic Referral Program (A wealth of detail here, including some good points on the “seven moments of truth” in business that can help you create a customer for life).
4. Neglecting to Communicate and Market to Your Current Customers (Frey says 68% of customers who stop doing business with a firm slip away because of an attitude of indifference toward them by the owner, manager or some employee).
5. Make Money with Other People’s Customers (good info on forming joint-venture networks) (good stuff, even though Frey sloppily drops his “mistakes” theme in this title);
6. Not Realizing that You are in the Business of Marketing your Product or Service. (You're not in business to make stuff, but to sell it!)

While there’s not a lot that’s brand new in this book, it’s got lots of great advice that will remind you of the things you should be doing, but probably aren’t.
You can read or download it here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Where has all the oil gone?

I don't usually use this blog to promote others, but my friend Randy Park has just launched a new weblog called Energy Predicament. In it he tries to make some sense of where society is headed as we race blindly toward a future where the world no longer has enough oil or natural gas to go around.

I included "energy shortage" last year in a story I wrote on the 10 most important business trends to watch out for over the next five years. And that was before one hurricane wiped out a whole chunk of American oil production and sent prices soaring.

Is the answer nuclear? Solar? Wind Power? Darned if I know. But Randy is a physicist and a pretty good thinker, so I will be watching his blog with great interest.

I think you should, too.

Bookmark Randy at

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

How to stay top of mind

How do you make sure clients think of you when they're ready to buy?

Nicholas Boothman, a fashion photographer turned consultant in face-to-face communicaiton, offers 18 tips on his website for staying "top of mind" with clients and prospects.

Here are my favourites from his list.

1. Become a recognized, or published, expert in your field
2. Ask if you can stay in touch
3. Touch base every 90 days or less, for 90 seconds or less, with an email or phone call. Let them know how you are doing, find out how they are doing
4. Challenge the status quo
7. Introduce two clients, with mutual interest, to each other over lunch
12. Connect your client with new resources
18. Ask for advice

For the full list, click here.

But remember who told you about it first.

A Place in the Sun

I’m just back from a 10-day East Coast tour with my kids to Florida. I had hoped to blog while there or even en route, but the beaches and mini-golf proved just too enticing.

I was intrigued to find that after years of stagnation, real estate prices are really booming in my mother’s area on the Gulf Coast.

South and Central Florida are finally running out of good new building sites, so the lovely places on or close to the water that have not risen in price for years (while there was hefty demand, there had been even more new supply) are now starting to see strong appreciation. If you were ever thinking of buying a place in the sun, now may be the time.

(Note: this advice may not apply to condos. Developers have been eagerly evicting apartment tenants and converting the buildings to condominiums – and the result has been a lot of condos sitting empty or being sold at a loss. But if you're interested in land, with a few exceptions, Florida ain’t making any more.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Getting connected, staying connected

Gotta love this item on Networking from sales consultant Jim Meisenheimer.

"Networking is one letter away from not working. "

"Networking is the acquired skill of reaching out to connect with the multitudes. Too many salespeople have too few names on their business Rolodex. Most salespeople don't even now how many names are on their Rolodex. If there is something more important than your business network, I'd love to know what it is.

"Here are three gottas. You gotta know how many contacts are on your Rolodex. You gotta do something to stay connected with the names on your list. You also gotta creatively figure out how to expand your network.

Note from Rick: I love it when experts make complex things simple. No one has time to deal with complicated concepts or tactics any more.
What can you do to simplify things for your customers?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Success is just a tweak away

How fine is the line between success and failure? So small that sometimes it’s measured in seconds.

Here’s how one business found success through a teeny-tiny policy change that made all the difference.

In the 1950s, the National Basketball Association was in trouble. As soon as one team got a healthy lead, players would “freeze” the ball, passing it around aimlessly or dribbling the ball in their own end till they were fouled. The lack of offence was killing the game just when it was struggling to be recognized as a big-league sport.

According to a story, 24-Second Clock Revived the Game, at, the owners realized something had to be done. Looking at baseball, with its three-strikes-you’re-out rule, and football with its "downs", the owners realized that they needed to introduce more time pressure into the game.

Result: the shotclock, which forces a team to advance and shoot within 24 seconds – or takes the ball away from them. In its first year, the 24-second rule boosted each team’s average score by 13 points – and ensured more baskets were scored from offense than the foul line.

Declared Danny Biasone, late owner of the Syracuse Nationals: “Pro basketball would not have survived without a clock.”

I believe business failure is never inevitable – and success comes only from constant tweaks, innovations and adjustments. What changes could you make in your business to restore the original passion and excitement – and help your company reach its full potential?

I bet it’s there. I bet it’s simple. And I bet it’ll work.

Today the 29 NBA teams are worth nearly $10 billion.
What’s preventing your business from becoming a superstar?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Executive Blogging

I just got back from a lunch downtown featuring two icons of contemporary business blogging: California-based blogger/author Shel Israel, and Waterloo, Ont-based Synnex Canada CEO Jim Estill.

Since I was there on assignment for PROFIT-Xtra, you'll have to wait to read my take. But nothing should stop you from clicking on this post from Ottawa PR guy Joe Thornley, a student of the new conversational media.

He'd make a pretty fair journalist (if he could take the pay cut).

Me, I was surprised how few people were there: 25-30 in a room that holds a hundred. While Shel Israel is out there evangelizing about business blogging, the mainstream business community seems to be taking a pass.

Could be they're still looking for the ROI. Which they won't find by sitting on their duffs.

(Do you know a successful -- okay, we'll settle for readable -- business blogger here in Canada? Let us know by leaving a comment. Or send me an email at rick (at)

Friday, March 03, 2006

5 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Advertising Results

"StreetSmart Marketer" Michael Hepworth really is a smart guy.

In his latest newsletter, he kind of blogs about his experience creating his first single-purpose website - and how much more effective it seems to be than the "all things to all people" website he's been using. It's a personal tale with great resonance. Check it out here.

In the same issue, Michael offers "5 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Advertising Results," and they're so useful I thought I would reprint them (with permission) here.

1. Up-front, you need your prospects' undivided attention. The only way you can do this is with a strong headline that speaks to their dreams, desires, frustrations, and fears. Your headline offers the reader a bribe, in the form of a strong benefit, in return for reading your advertisement.

2. Unless you can convince them to read your entire message, you will produce poor results. Encourage readers to devour your whole message by showing them how you will bring value to their lives if they'll just give you a few minutes. You must then deliver that value in your sales message.

3. Offer immediate proof of your claim before you get into your message. Testimonials are one of the most valuable but undervalued ways of convincing prospects that you can meet their needs and, fulfill their dreams and desires or remove their frustrations or fears.

4. Everyone wants a bargain. You have to show them how much value you bring. You must convince your prospects that what they spend with you is minimal compared to the benefits they’ll receive.

5. Make it easy to buy from you. Everyone is secretly asking to be led, so tell your prospects exactly what action to take to buy from you and show them how easy it is to order.

Use these as a checklist for every piece of direct mail and for every advertisement. Do them consistently and above all do them compellingly, and watch your response rates soar!

You can read more about Michael and his business here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


"There is no such thing as a good off-strategy idea."

Randy Pilon, founder and CEO, Virox Technologies Inc.
- as quoted by David Woolford, Virox chair, in a presentation Feb. 7 to the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery 2006 conference.

Success is all about focus, right?

I agree with Randy. But how then do we categorize serendipitous discoveries, such as new markets or Post-It Notes?

In real life, I think the truth is, "There is hardly ever a good off-strategy idea."

But Randy's remark is catchier. And it makes the point: Success is much more likely to come from disciplined focus than from chasing every opportunity that comes along.