Thursday, December 03, 2009

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Monday, November 02, 2009


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The key to becoming an opportunity manager is to have the discipline to unplug from the present at least once per week and instead plug into the future. Last month, I shared two steps on how to solve tomorrow’s problems before they occur and see the new opportunities change can bring.

This month, I have two additional steps you can take to move the ball forward and watch your success grow.

During your opportunity hour ask yourself, “Based on the direction I see things going, the trends I see happening, and the market cycles I’m aware of, what are the problems I’m about to have? And, equally important, what are my customers’ predictable future problems?” Then determine a strategy to solve those problems before they occur. Keep in mind that a future problem represents a future opportunity.

For example, if you’re implementing a new strategic plan, predict the problems the plan will create and solve them before they start. If you’re launching a new product, figure out the problems associated with that product and solve them before the launch. If you’re implementing a company-wide change, identify those who are likely to fight the change and why, and then develop solutions for their concerns beforehand.

It’s about becoming more anticipatory. If you don’t take an hour a week to look at what’s about to occur, you’re going to keep doing what you’ve always done until you inadvertently go off a cliff. Rather than be a crisis manager and only react to problems as they occur, you want to be anticipatory, identify opportunities, and capitalize on them.

In addition to looking at your industry and organization’s future, whatever profession you’re in or whatever your career happens to be, you also need to look at the future of your employment. Based on all the things you’re seeing with your organization and all the technological changes out there, how are you going to be doing your job or career in the next few years? If you can start to see the future of your career, you can chart your own course, identify problems before they occur, and solve them proactively so you end up ahead rather than behind the curve.

No matter who you are or what you do, an hour a week is doable. Before long, you’ll become addicted to that hour and will expand it. And when that happens, you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities. So don’t wait for your future to unfold randomly, only to end up in a place you don’t want to be. Instead, invest an hour a week into your company and/or yourself and watch your success grow.

Monday, September 21, 2009


What if there were a way to predict the challenges your organization will face and stop them from ever happening? Short of having a reliable crystal ball, most people believe such a concept is impossible. In reality, you can solve tomorrow’s problems today – you simply need to give yourself time to do so.

The fact is that in today’s marketplace, change is coming at us fast…and it’s only getting faster. That means organizations will be facing more problems than ever before. One thing we know for sure is that most problems or changes come from the outside in – external factors impact the organization. This causes people to react, crisis manage, and continually put out fires.

Therefore, the only way to gain control of your future and avoid the increasing number of problems is to ensure that some of the changes come from the inside out – that both you and the organization make a change before the marketplace dictates a major shift or change in direction.

Changes that come from the inside out are far more controllable. Changes that come from the outside in are often out of our control. As such, crisis managers live in an uncontrollable world, while opportunity managers have a handle on their future.

The key to becoming an opportunity manager is to have the discipline to unplug from the present at least once per week and instead plug into the future. It’s about taking an hour and not looking at the economy, the stock market, the balance sheet, the sales numbers, and all the things that are part of today’s world. Rather, it’s a time to plug into the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life…it’s where you’re going to make all your money from this moment forward…and it’s also where you can lose everything in an instant. Since you’ll be living in the future, doesn’t it make sense to give the future some thought every now and then?

If you’re ready to solve tomorrow’s problems before they occur and see the new opportunities change brings, take the following steps.

In order to make sure you take the time to plan, you need to put the time in your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself just as you would for any other important business meeting. If you don’t put it in your calendar, you’ll never take time to plan. You’ll be so busy putting out fires that you’ll never get to it. And if you think you don’t have time to do this, that’s because you’re in a habitual crisis management mode. The only way to get time back is to spend the time to stop those problems from happening.

The good news is that most changes are cyclical rather than permanent. For example, home values will always rise and fall, the stock market will always fluctuate between bull and bear, and a company’s sales will continually ebb and flow with the seasons. Those are all cyclical changes that are a bit easier to deal with – provided you know how long the cycle will last.

Sometimes, though, changes are permanent. For example, someone gets an iPod and starts listening to music on that device rather than buying CDs. That person now has all her music with her at all times. That’s a permanent change, because she’s not going back to music on CDs. Permanent changes, even those that are small, can have devastating effects on a business.

Here’s another example to consider: Today, cable and satellite companies need to take a look at what the young college graduates are doing when they get an apartment. Many of them are opting not to get cable or satellite and instead watch their favorite TV programs on their computer. If you’re a cable or satellite company just dealing with changes as they happen, you’re going to be in big trouble in the future. While it’s a new trend that is primarily in the younger demographic, those “kids” are going to grow up and be the main demographic in the country very soon. Therefore, it’s a potentially permanent change that needs to be on the cable and satellite companies’ radar.

What permanent marketplace changes are on your organization’s radar? Next month, I will share two additional steps that you can use to solve tomorrow’s problems before they occur.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


In the early days of cell phones, they were used merely for talking. Today, cell phones have a myriad of other applications. For many people, their cell phone is their daily organizer, music player, camera, GPS system, and news and weather device. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the very near future, cell phones will also be people’s banks, credit card, keys, remote control, and video conferencing platform, just to name a few. Clearly, today’s cell phones are much more than phones, and tomorrow’s cell phones will revolutionize the business world.

In order to stay competitive and ahead of the curve, businesses need to look beyond what the cell phone is today and anticipate where it will be tomorrow. You have to ask yourself, “How is the cell phone changing my customers?” “What new service could I deliver on a mobile platform?” Or, “How are these beyond voice capabilities changing my customers’ customers?”

The fact is that if you don’t change with your customers, they won’t be your customers for much longer. For most businesses, their customers are changing rapidly. Are you changing and learning as fast as your customers are? Because today’s technology is rapidly evolving, you have to go beyond keeping up. Merely keeping up will cause you to always be behind. Rather, you need to jump ahead based on what you know will happen.

What do you know will happen? We know that there are three driving forces that create exponential technological change: 1) Processing power doubles every 18 months as it drops in price, 2) Storage capacity doubles, and 3) We get faster speeds and higher bandwidth. Because of the processing power being faster, your cell phone can go online and perform searches faster. Phone companies are continually upgrading their network so the 3G network becomes the 4G network. In less than a year processing power, storage capability, and speed have all doubled, and next year they will double again, making the cell phone as powerful as your current desktop computer.

Additionally, businesses need to look at other countries to see what they’re doing. As Americans, we tend to think we’re the first with technology, but that isn’t always the case (and it’s definitely not the case with cell phones). Culture also plays a big role. The Japanese culture, for example, loves their devices and prefers using them over face-to-face conversation. So they have more cultural incentive to unveil the next cell phone use.

The bottom line is that smart businesses will start seeing the certainty of technological change of cell phones and will recognize the opportunities that lie within. Following are some current and coming cell phone uses you need to be aware of and using.

Mobile travel: Currently, some airports allow you to use your cell phone as your boarding pass. You simply download your boarding pass to your phone. When you approach security, you pull up the barcode of your virtual boarding pass and swipe your cell phone under security’s scanner. You can then go through security and board your plane without a paper ticket. Such technology saves your employees’ time when traveling and eliminates the last minute “where did I put my boarding pass” search.

Mobile Media: You probably already have music on your cell phone, and you may even have television programming. But now businesses can disperse training and education to employees as part of that mobile media. So while an employee is waiting in an airport for a flight, she can download the latest training information right from her phone.

Mobile management: Need to know where your salespeople or delivery drivers are at all times? We all have triangulation or GPS as part of our cell phones. There are programs, such as Looped for the iPhone, that allow you, with permission, to bring up a map and see where your employees are located right now. Granted, this program was developed for personal use, so that friends and family could see where each other are, but there’s no reason why a business couldn’t use it to locate employees, drivers, or anyone else who leaves the office for extended periods of time.

Mobile finance: In the near future, you’ll be able to do banking on your cell phone, such as doing money transfers to other people. How do we know this? Because other countries are already doing it. For example, in Kenya, where we assume everything is behind the times, they have a mobile phone system where if someone owes you money, he can use his cell phone to transfer money from his account to yours. As the technology makes its way to the States, cell phones will become a vital part of people’s banking.

Mobile commerce: There are places in the world where you can pay for your restaurant, auto service, groceries, parking meters, or any other item with your cell phone – without using a credit card. You’re simply using your mobile phone to pay for the transaction. To prevent fraud, cell phones will have biometric ID capabilities that can detect everything from the user’s fingerprint to voice pattern and facial recognition. Such measures are actually far more secure than using a credit card.
Mobile customer service: As mega stores dominate the landscape, shoppers need more access to customer service personnel. Imagine a customer being in a huge warehouse type store and being able to use her cell phone to pull up a map of the store and locate the nearest customer service person. Or, even better, imagine that customer being able to touch an icon on her cell phone screen, which automatically lets the customer service rep know where she is and that she needs help. The technology to do this exists today; it’s simply a matter of businesses applying it to this scenario. Imagine the competitive advantage you’d gain if you were the first to roll this concept out.

The possibilities for tomorrow’s cell phones are limitless: Mobile data…mobile media…mobile finance…mobile commerce…mobile health…mobile marketing…mobile security…mobile location services – these are just the beginning. Over the next few years, cell phone apps (applications) will grow exponentially as well. We’ll see apps for specific segments, such as doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, etc. To stay ahead, your company needs to develop internal tools or apps for your employees that can give your organization competitive advantage, such as an app so salespeople can access key data right on their phone. Developing an app is relatively inexpensive and can work on iPhones, Blackberries, and Smartphones.

Ultimately, as we move into the future of cell phone technology, the goal is to get businesspeople to not just crisis manage in the present, but to opportunity manage for the future. When you can start viewing your cell phone in that capacity, you’ll be connected to a whole new world of business that can make a significant impact on your company’s bottom line.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Last month, I shared a few common social media marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. This month, I would like to share some additional common oversights and ways to combat them.

Realize that there’s more to social media marketing and social media networking than Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Many industries are creating their own social media networks that you can utilize. A few examples include for healthcare, for teaching, and for manufacturing.

Your social media marketing efforts are often just a one-way communication, while your social media networking for business can be two-way (see next point). With social media marketing, you can be pumping information out, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time responding. Remember, marketing is about positioning yourself in the eyes of the consumer; it doesn’t have to involve a conversation with people. A lot of people hesitate to get into social media marketing because they believe they’ll be spending all their time online “chatting” and sending messages back and forth. While you would be chatting and emailing if this were for personal use, for business use it’s typically one-way communication and doesn’t need as much maintenance.

While social media marketing is a one-way dialogue, social media networking is often a two-way one. But remember that this isn’t dialogue about personal matters or trivial things. You’re getting a dialogue started with prospects, clients, resources, and vendors, as well as getting answers to your business questions. Even so, this dialogue should not take up a large amount of your time. You still need to produce your products or provide your services. You can’t be online all day just talking about business. You do have to get out there and get down to business.

Traditional marketing efforts, such as TV, radio, and print, are passive. While you are communicating with your audience, you’re not engaged with them or getting direct feedback. With social media marketing, there’s a macro shift taking place. Because of social media marketing, you now have an engaged and active audience versus a passive one. Prospects and customers can easily get more information, explore your offerings, click on links, and take faster action. Business happens quicker, and with greater results.

As technology continually evolves, the world of marketing will rapidly change. In order to get the best results with the least amount of effort, you need to be aware of the various pitfalls and take proactive action to avoid them. By being aware of these top mistakes people make with social media marketing and social media networking, you’ll be ahead of the curve and reaping greater profits from your online efforts more rapidly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


As social media marketing and social media networking become more and more prevalent, the many errors people make with these new mediums often create new and unexpected problems. Why so many mistakes? Because these are new business tools that people often confuse for other things. In fact, many people think social media marketing and social media networking are the same thing. They’re not. And when you know the difference, you can use each more effectively to grow your business.

Marketing and networking are two completely different things. Marketing is about branding and positioning yourself while networking is about making connections. When you’re marketing, you’re putting out messages that define your company; when you’re networking, you’re engaging in a two-way dialogue where both parties gain benefit.

In the business world, networking takes on a different look and feel than when you’re networking for personal reasons. In business networking you’re not talking about your son’s baseball game or your weekend getaway. You’re focusing on answering client questions, passing on information to prospects, and gaining knowledge about your pressing business questions.

Before you embark upon using social media marketing and social media networking for the first time, or continue utilizing your existing accounts, be aware of the following common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Most people don’t see the difference between the various social marketing and networking sites, much less the need to have separate business and personal accounts. In fact, some people even think they are only allowed one account per site. In reality, you can create a personal and corporate account for each site. You would then use your personal account for updating your friends and family on how the kids are doing and what you’re planning for the weekend, while you’d use your business account to connect with clients and brand yourself. The last thing you want to do is use one account for both, essentially mixing messages about the kids with your marketing efforts.

Many people view Facebook, Twitter, their blog, and all the other social media as separate entities. However, it’s the integration of all the social media into your web strategy that matters. If every account is its own separate thing – if your Facebook is not connected to your web site, to your Twitter account, to your blog, etc. – then all of the traffic and everything that’s happening on one site isn’t counting toward your main web site’s ranking. In other words, when they’re all disconnected, your ranking does not reflect your total online activity. But if they’re all connected and tagged together, your ranking will go up and reflect all of your activity.

Just like your traditional marketing has a branded image, you want your business social media marketing efforts to have a consistent look and feel too. That means you should design your Facebook theme to match your brand, and at the same time ensure it looks like it belongs on Facebook. The same would be true for your Twitter theme and your blog theme, etc. For example, the actual look of a McDonald’s restaurant can vary quite a bit, yet the brand image and theme remain the same. When all of your social media sites, as well as your primary web site, have a similar look and feel, you put out a consistent brand that prospects and clients remember.

As technology continually evolves, the world of marketing will rapidly change. In order to get the best results with the least amount of effort, you need to be aware of the various pitfalls and take proactive action to avoid them. Next month, I will share three more common mistakes to be aware of so you can take proactive action and avoid the common mistakes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Social Networks That Boost Your Business (Part II)

The business use of Web 2.0 represents a new trend called “Business 2.0.” Aside from being the name of a defunct magazine, Business 2.0 is about using the new web-based social networking applications (many of which were originally created for personal use) in a way that fosters teamwork, customer touches, and internal and external collaboration in a low-cost seamless way.

Last month I shared a few personal Business 2.0 tools with business applicability. This month I will share two more personal tools along with some purely Business 2.0 tools that will help create collaboration in a low-cost seamless way.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows friends, family and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of short, quick answers using no more that 140 characters per message. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or co-workers. Users can receive updates via the Twitter website or other social networking sites such as Facebook. Young people use Twitter for answering the question: What are you doing? Business 2.0 use: Business users could change that question to: What problem are you trying to solve? Several companies have used this as a fast way to solve problems. Hotels, airlines, and airports are using Twitter to pitch services, travel updates, and respond to travelers needs.

Ask yourself: Could we use Twitter to solve problems faster with our organization or our customers?

Delicious is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing and discovering web bookmarks. It uses a non-hierarchical classification system in which users can tag each of their bookmarks with freely chosen index terms. Business 2.0 use: Business users can share their most useful websites with co-workers or business partners. If a customer purchases a product, sellers could share relevant bookmarks that keep the customer coming back for more information and hopefully more products.

Ask yourself: Could we use Delicious to share important new websites faster within our organization or with our customers?


A Wiki is a collaborative web page or collection of web pages designed to enable anyone to create a quick web page that allows visitors to search the Wiki’s content and edit the content in real time, as well as view updates since their last visit. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. On a moderated Wiki, Wiki owners can review comments before additions to the main body of the topic. Additional features include calendar sharing, live AV conferencing, RSS feeds, and more.

Ask yourself: Could we use Wikis to enhance internal and external collaboration?

LinkedIn is a business-oriented professional networking website for exchanging information, ideas, and opportunities. There are over 35 million registered users spanning 170 industries actively networking with each other. For example, large insurance companies use LinkedIn to foster networking with their independent sales representatives. HR professionals from all over the world could use LinkedIn to share best practices.

Ask yourself: Could we use LinkedIn to expand our organizational network for enhanced knowledge sharing?

In Cloud Computing, some or all of the storage, software, IT Processes, and data center facilities you use can exist on your provider’s server, which is maintained and cared for by your provider, giving you 24/7 access from any device anywhere. The cost of upgrading hardware and software, maintenance, and associated IT labor costs can be dramatically reduced or eliminated. Currently, the ideal organization would be any size company that’s facing big investments in computing and communications infrastructure. For example, can give you an entire e-commerce back end. Software as a Service (SaaS) such as has a CRM package, SciQuest has a spend management package, and Google, Microsoft and others have a suite of offerings.

Ask yourself: Could we use Cloud Computing & Software as a Service to streamline our IT needs?

By reframing the use of social networking technology, companies can increase communication, collaboration, problem solving, and competitive advantage with little cost. Remember, many of these tools are free or nearly free, making them accessible to even the smallest of business. Therefore, the sooner you embrace Business 2.0 and put it to work for you, the faster you can penetrate new markets and win the lion’s share of business.