Monday, October 31, 2011

Why you need to collect and display customer testimonials

"When you're good, you tell people. When you're great, others say it for you."

Scott Stratten,
UNmarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging
Page 99

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Latest Insights from new Steve Jobs bio

Here's a link to a neat story from Australia's Smart Company ( cobbling together some early leaks from Walter Isaacson's new biography of Steve Jobs. (It's due to be published Monday morning.) Among the revelations:

* Steve intended (and Apple may still intend) to upend the entire TV market;
* Jobs swore to "destroy" the Android platform, which he considered "stolen" from iPhone technology;
* Steve dismissed Bill Gates - whose invetsment in Apple probably saved Jobs' job: "Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything ... He just shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas."
* Jobs hoped Apple wouldn't go the way of Hewlett Packard after he passed away: "Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands," Jobs said. "But now it's being dismembered and destroyed."

You can read the fiull story here. Or buy the book in a few hours.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rebuilding Small Business Week

It’s Small Business Week in Canada.

So why does that mean so little to anybody?

See my column in today’s Post:

“If we're serious about creating a robust economy for the 21st century, we should transform Small Business Week from a calendar date into a crusade…”

RiM shows some class

Great to see that Research In Motion is offering its frustrated clients free premium apps worth more than $100 each as an apology for last week's service outages.

A customer-service problem like that demanded a grand, serious gesture on the company's part (see my National Post blogpost here), and RiM has delivered.

The complete selection of premium apps will become available from BlackBerry App World for four weeks beginning Oct. 19. Enterprise customers will also receive a month of free technical support.

Good to see strong statements like these from RiM's embattled management:
“We’ve worked hard to earn [customers’] trust over the past 12 years and we’re committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect,” says RiM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. “We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again.”

Industry analyst Francisco Jeronimo at IDC said the decision could be good for RIM, if it helps more customers to discover BlackBerry app services. He said RiM has likely struck deals with app developers to keep costs down. Even so, he says, “More important than the offer itself, is that RIM is showing goodwill and being humble. They recognized the problem, apologized and now they are compensating their users.”

In my Oct. 14 NatPost blog, "overcompensate" was the phrase I used to describe how companies can rebuild trust following customer-service breakdowns. You have to prove you learned your lessons, and that you value your customers' time and loyalty.
Here is my list of 7 Steps to take when faced with a company or customer-service breakdown.
• Acknowledge the problem quickly.
• Identify the magnitude of the breakdown as soon as possible.

• Tell customers what outcome you are working toward. (e.g., How soon will power be restored?)

• Don’t just say you’re working on the problem – show it. (Make sure they see you sweat.)

• Take steps to shut-out customers as comfortable as possible.
• Acknowledge customers’ confusion and frustration.

• Overcompensate. Once the emergency is over, find creative, memorable ways to apologize for the inconvenience and thank customers for their tolerance.
You can read that complete column here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How Steve Jobs worked his magic

I've noticed a lot of traffic on this blog lately leading to a post I wrote in January 2010, "How to Speak like Steve Jobs." Given the recent revival of interest in the late Apple co-founder, I have reposted the story below.

Yesterday's release of the iPad reminds me that I forgot to point you to last week's Financial Post column, which looked at Steve Jobs' secrets of public speaking.

The starting point was a book I just read called The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.

The book is a useful review of standard speaking practices, with a dollop of passion and personality from the iconoclastic co-founder of Apple Computer. Author Carmine Gallo isn't a great writer, so the book rarely soars, but the general principles are worthwhile:

* "Answer the one question that matters most." Reduce complex situations to simple solutions.

* "Sell the benefit." Don't just describe your solution, explain why people should care (e.g., "Apple's Genius tool creates playlists from songs in your library that go great together, with just one click").

* "Create Twitter-like headlines." Examples: "Today Apple reinvents the phone!" "Keynote was built for me!"

* "One theme per slide." Focus on single images, not bullet points.

I was particularly pleased to see Gallo identify a story-telling device that I have seen Jobs use, but could never put a name to: “Introduce the Antagonist.” To make you see the world his way, Jobs sets out what’s wrong with the status quo before introducing his solution.

When he launched the new video-equipped Nano, for instance, one of his slides compellingly compared the ultra-thin Nano to today’s suddenly-bulky Flip camcorders (see pic at left).

You can detect the same technique in many Jobs quotes. He forces you to buy his arguments by painting a dismal picture of the alternatives.

We can all learn from this. Consider Job's famous pitch in wooing Pepsi executive John Sculley to join Apple: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Same device exactly.

To learn more about demolishing the status quo, read the full story here:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"A magazine is an iPad that does not work"

As a former magazine publisher, I am very interested in the future of publishing in the digital age. Magazines will never go away - they're too attractive, fun and convenient - but lately I've come to see that the future of magazines is to publish on interactive digital devices that deliver a rich media experience. Basically, the iPad.

Here's the appeal. You want to know more about a story you're reading? Click (oops, I mean, just point with your finger) here. Want to see more photos that go with the story? Tap here. Want more information on an advertised product? Just touch it. You'll get a great reading experience, plus all the depth you like.

So this YouTube video sums it all up. A one-year-old who plays on the iPad encounters a stapled paper magazine - and wants to know what's wrong with it. Why doesn't her finger work any more? (She even taps her leg to make sure her finger's still there.)

This is priceless. And possibly the future.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

At the dawn of the personal-computer revolution, Steve Jobs was there. 30 years later, when the computer finally became an everyday accessory( iPods, iPads), he was still there, only now he was leading the revolution.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when success was about flooding the world with confusing, proprietary systems, Bill Gates was the icon of the computer industry and of entrepreneurship. In the 2000s, this leadership passed to Steve Jobs. His vision of personal computer systems that served people – rather than the other way around – won out. And it created love, joy and unsurpassed loyalty.

Visionary, uncompromising, a born communicator, and a detail-oriented product manager who demanded the very best in his products and systems, Steve Jobs represented entrepreneurship at its best.

Those who would follow in his footsteps must insist on the best user interface, the coolest designs, an obsession with customer needs – and the never-ending need to “Think Different.”

And one more thing - a flair for drama never hurts.

Rest in Peace, Steve. You made a difference.'s home page tonight

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Seven cost-cutting strategies you may not have considered

As the economy continues to stumble, businesses are looking for more ways to cut costs. Sure, they’ve been running lean for years, but as the recovery stalls, the pressure is growing to save even more.

There are many resources out there to help entrepreneurs run more efficient businesses. But here are a few unconventional ideas you may not have considered.

1. Use the Internet to find more motivated suppliers: The Web is perfect for finding alternative sources of supplies and services. is a Groupon-like site aimed at finding standout deals for business owners. Its weekly offers provide hefty discounts on services such as search-engine optimization, public relations, legal work, debt collection and e-commerce. Suppliers are mainly U.S.-based, but are usually happy to work with Canadians. is a Canadian site that offers big savings to companies looking for creative services. Instead of paying one local contractor to create a logo or website, you can hold a design contest through HiretheWorld that could attract hundreds of designers. You select the prize and pick the winner, giving you complete control over the outcome.

2. Solicit employee suggestions: Your employees know many ways to save money on front-line activities such as procurement, production, maintenance and mail-outs but they’ve probably never been asked. Why not establish a cost-saving committee or offer a monthly prize for the best money-saving suggestions? Salute employees who join you in stamping out costs.

3. Help employees who seek flexible work: Some of your staff likely have trouble balancing work and home responsibilities. In a recent survey of U.S. adults aged 33 to 46, the Center for Work-Life Policy found that 59% of men and 65% of women feel guilty about time spent away from their children. Why not find an option that can reduce their guilt and save you money? Ask your employees if any would like to work fewer hours, or fewer hours in the office. Studies show many employees are more productive working at home, and they’ll certainly appreciate your flexibility.

4. Share the risk: Your staff understand that the company is facing tough markets. Now is a good time to ask for their flexibility in ensuring your company succeeds. Where appropriate, challenge your employees to share the risk and rewards that you face as an owner. For instance, employees might accept a pay freeze (or even a pay cut?) for 2012 if they are offered a share of the year-end profits in return. Maybe you can offer “phantom stock” (units that are priced like real shares of company, but convey no ownership rights) in lieu of some salary. Don't play hardball; in return for deferring costs now, offer employees a legitimate chance to make more money if you have a good year.

5. Look for more productive advertising and promotional channels: In tough times, the marketing budget always gets cut. But you can save even more if you divert your resources into new, cheaper marketing channels. Try pay-per-click services such as Google AdWords, which lets you narrowly focus your promotional spend and provides detailed data on your results. Experiment with employee-made videos on YouTube. Or look at sponsoring relevant industry or community events – in today’s economy, many sponsorship opportunities are going begging.

6. You get what you negotiate: Next time you get a quote from a supplier, push back. If they quote $1,000 for a piece of equipment, tell them you've only budgeted $700. Let them know you really want to do the deal, but you need their help. In tough times, many companies would rather save the deal than get list price.

7. Bring on the pros: If you feel you've exhausted all possible home-grown efforts to cut costs, why not call in a professional cost-cutting consultant? They work with many companies and know where to look for waste and duplication. Many also know how to get you better discounts from suppliers of commodities such as freight, communications services and office supplies. Some may also be able to help you cut costs by pitting rival suppliers against each other. Ask your peers if they can recommend any expense-reduction consultants, or contact local bankers or accountants for referrals.

Like sales, marketing and promotion, the business of job-cutting never ends. And the more you share the accountability, the more successful you’ll be.

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