Archive for the 'Online technologies' Category

Obama’s Internet words don’t match his actions

“You will know them by their fruits.” This ancient wisdom is from the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

Sixteen centuries later, in his book “Will and Doom,” the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley, paraphrased Matthew with, “Actions are more significant than words.”

In the 21st century this timeless maxim continues to serve as we hear President Obama say, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet.”

In the past I’ve reported my concerns about the future of the Internet under the Obama administration. If you believe the Internet is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, if you like its current low barrier to entry for personal and professional benefit, if you’re responsible for the future of a business, then you should share my concerns.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

1.  President Obama treats the Internet as a political and diplomatic bargaining tool. After the U.S. government was embarrassed by Edward Snowden’s theft of secrets, the President announced intentions to relinquish U.S. control of Internet governance to a “global, multi-stakeholder community,” even though there was time left on the contract with ICANN (For more on this, see my 3/23/14 column, “If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it”).

It’s no secret the U.N., a global, multi-stakeholder community, covets control of a ubiquitous asset through which it can exert more influence and levy a global use tax. Nothing fits that profile better than the Internet. If Obama’s governance plan for the Internet comes to pass, his words, “protect a free and open Internet … so innovators and entrepreneurs can reshape the world,” won’t match his actions.

2.  The commercial Internet has flourished for more than 20 years thanks to a very lightly regulated environment. By definition such broadband laissez-faire is unacceptable to President Obama, who wants to impose his own version of net neutrality.

Consequently, the President’s FCC chairman and straw man, Tom Wheeler, has announced plans for an “Open Internet Order” to reclassify broadband access as a “telecom service” under Title II of the Communications Act. This means the Internet would become a government regulated – and ultimately taxed – public utility. Turning the Internet into a utility would be like performing a heart transplant on someone who just needs a baby aspirin. (For more, see my 11/16/14 column “Why you should care about Net Neutrality”).

Today the Internet is not without governance and usage issues, but none that can’t be handled by marketplace participants large and small through contract, creativity and competition.

Write this on a rock … If Obama’s plans for the Internet come to pass, his words, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet,” will not match his actions.

RESULTS: Who do you use when you need, or have needed, website development services like building or upgrading a website?

The Question:

Who do you use when you need, or have needed, website development services like building or upgrading a website?
39% — A local, small web development firm
9% — An online web development company that helps us            do it ourselves
44% — Individual consultants
8% — Don’t have a website

Jim’s Comments:

First, I’m happy to report that more than 90% of the small businesses that hang out with us have websites. And for all of the money spent advertising to have your website created - sometimes for free — with the help of a national online developer, less than 10% have availed themselves of this type of resource. Finally, whether a local firm or individual web developer, over 80% have primarily employed one of these small business alternatives.

There could be many reasons for the dominance of these last two, including that most of us already had a website before the large online platforms became so prominent, or we have more customized requirements that don’t fit cookie-cutter resources, or we just want to do business with other small businesses. Either way, I was pleased to see these answers because they lead me to believe that the online presence of small businesses has improved in quantity and quality.

Congratulations to all who participated and keep up the good work. Please be sure to respond to our new poll.

Throwback VIDEO: Is your business ready for mobile primetime?

This week, we’re throwing it back to a video from four months ago. While it may seem like “old news,” I can assure you the information is still relevant. Are you ready for primetime?

<a href=”https://vimeo.com/83062909″>Are you ready for mobile primetime?</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/jimblasingame”>Jim Blasingame</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.

Disregard the “Nu-uh!” Effect at your own peril

Once upon a time, but not that long ago, a brand message could be successful even if it was close to a work of fiction.

Created by Madison Avenue wordsmiths, copy for an ad or brochure was crafted to manipulate and motivate using puffery, a legal term referring to acceptable marketing exaggeration. And most of the time it worked.

In fact, generations of consumers allowed themselves to be manipulated by puffery that became part of the sound track of our lives. For examples:

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.”

“Put a tiger in your tank.”

“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Here’s a local example:

“Largest inventory in the tri-state area.”

In the past, I’ve revealed how the 10,000-year-old Age of the Seller paradigm has shifted in favor of the Age of the Customer. The differentiator is control of the information, and your customer now owns that advantage, including the truth about your products, services, and marketplace behavior. This control is derived in part from something called user generated content, or UGC.

UGC is word-of-mouth on digital steroids; the commercial equivalent of political fact-checking. Today a successful brand message will look less like Madison Avenue manipulation and more like the good, the bad, and the ugly of your business discussed by customers in online communities, like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. You’ll benefit from good UGC one day and try to recover from negative UGC the next.

Negative UGC produces what I call the “Nu-uh!” Effect. It’s what someone posts online when your brand message doesn’t meet their expectations. If you say you have the freshest salad bar in town and one person writes “Nu-uh!” on Facebook or Yelp, that’s your new brand message until you find a way to redeem yourself.

A “Nu-uh!” could refute your claim in any number of ways, from a well-written critique to “Dude! Seriously?!” Either way, if you’re getting responses like this to your brand messaging, anyone who gives you a “Nu-uh!” raspberry is, at that moment, the co-owner of your brand.

Since no business, product, service, or relationship is perfect, the over-arching goal of your brand strategy in the Age of the Customer is to have more positive UGC than negative and, if possible, leave no ”Nu-uh!” unresolved.

UGC represents the two-edged sword by which brands large and small will either flourish or die.

Disregard the power of UGC and the “Nu-uh!” effect at your own peril.

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Small Business power from “the cloud”

One of the greatest products of human society is the marketplace. Webster defines it as a place where goods and services are offered for sale.

Over millennia, innovations took markets from local to global, and now to the 21st century iteration – virtual. Virtual markets are powered by “cloud computing,” aka “the cloud,” and accessed via the Internet.

Historically, as trade expanded markets, products led the way because services were difficult to convey to the last mile of consumption. But technology has helped services catch up, and now digital services are delivered efficiently from the cloud. And more than anything else, this last reality is helping small businesses compete and grow in ways that were formerly the domain of larger companies.

Here are five cloud-based resource categories that help your small business operate more efficiently, competitively, and profitably.

1.  Processing power
Robust software can be purchased incrementally and accessed as needed. Advantages include increased capability, most recent updates and expensing instead of capitalizing.

2.  Information power
Cloud-based communication, customer development, community building and financial applications help small businesses acquire and manage information quickly and strategically.

3.  Sales power
Cloud-based e-commerce has never been easier or more cost-effective for small businesses to offer, sell, and even deliver products and services 24/7/365.

4. Talent power
More and more, 21st century jobs don’t require employees to be under the nose of management. Cloud-based employee search capability improves candidate acquisition, and cloud-based communication and collaboration tools help virtual working relationships succeed.

5.  Asset protection power
Business assets used to be largely tangible, like inventory, equipment, etc. Today all businesses are increasingly creating opportunity from intangible assets. But for small businesses, protecting intangible, digital assets has been problematic. Cloud-based data back-up services work automatically, securely, productively and cost-effectively.

It’s likely that most small businesses use cloud resources more than they realize – which is a good thing. But with all of the cloud power available, every small business should become more aware of how to use cloud-based services and seek these options for their growth and profitability strategies.

Power your marketplace performance with the cloud.

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On The Small Business Advocate Show, I’ve talked with with a lot of experts on how small businesses can take advantage of “the cloud” from becoming finding efficiencies to finances and data backup. Click here to see all of the cloud computing podcasts and download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

There’s an app for high tech, not high touch

“There’s an app for that.”

This marketing slogan refers to a mobile app. A mobile app converts content and resources that otherwise would have been consumed through a browser on a computer desktop, to the much smaller and variably shaped screens on the many different kinds of hand-held devices. Mobile apps are proliferating because they are almost always handier and sexier than their website counterparts.

In 1998, broadband Internet connection was in less than 4% of households and almost no businesses. Reporting on this emerging capability, I made the macro prediction that the world would change when broadband Internet became ubiquitous and broadly adopted. Well, broadband ubiquity, today thy name is mobile. The proliferation of WiFi and mobile networks we know as 3G and 4G, has spawned mobile apps which are at once exciting and disruptive.

In 1998, broadband Internet connection was in less than 4% of households and almost no businesses. Reporting on this emerging capability, I made the macro prediction that the world would change when broadband Internet became ubiquitous and broadly adopted. Well, broadband ubiquity, today thy name is mobile. The proliferation of WiFi and mobile networks we know as 3G and 4G, has spawned mobile apps which are at once exciting and disruptive.

A generation before my broadband prognostication, a real prophet, John Naisbitt, published his landmark book, Megatrends, in which he prophesied, “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.” In the 21st century, Naisbitt’s Law, balance technology and humanity, must be the North Star for any successful small business strategy.

So, how does a small business maintain a competitive advantage in the face of pressure from high tech innovation and the primordial human desire for high touch connection? The answer, as with so many 21st century questions, is not either/or, but both/and.

If you want customers to keep your business at their fingertips wherever they are, there’s an app for that. If a customer relationship would benefit from a welcoming smile, there is no app for that.

If a product tutorial video posted on your YouTube channel would help a customer in the field, there’s an app for that. To be able to interpret the troubled look on the face of a customer as a clue that you haven’t yet healed their pain, there is no app for that.

If customers want to check the status of an order they placed with you, whenever and wherever they are, a mobile app can be built for that. If customers do business with you because you remember their face, name and what they like, there is no app for that.

Remember Naisbitt’s Law: Blend and balance the power of high-tech with the humanity of high-touch.

There’s an app for high tech, but there isn’t one for high touch.

Click here to listen to more about blending high tech and high touch.

Check out other great SBA content HERE!




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