Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Ultimate Product Demo

Q: What's one of the most coveted outcomes for effective marketing?

A: The amount of buzz it generates.

  • Buzz = people talking.

  • Good buzz = people talking favorably and remembering what your product/service is called, generating priceless mindshare and name recognition.

  • Great buzz = increase in sales.

Let's take a quick look at a bold marketing demonstration and analyze what elements can be used in our businesses.

The company is Caballero, named after its founder. They make bullet proof clothing. No, not bulky SWAT flack jackets, but rather stylish bullet proof trench coats that unpopular diplomats can wear out to dinner.

Miguel Caballero does a brief, but dramatic demonstation for the Business 2.0 writer who has traveled to Bogata, Columbia to cover the story. He points to a new store employee and instructs him to don a Caballero suade winter jacket. Then he takes aim with his .38 caliber handgun, smiles, and shoots at his staffer at point blank range. BAM! The staffer relief that the clothing has stopped the bullet.

Now, if you're a potential customer, do you need any further convincing? Didn't think so. They're reaching for their credit cards, not for a brochure.

With a demo like this, do you think Caballero needs to hire a PR firm? Nah, he'll put the money he saved into more bullets for demos.

OK, so you know this would be a good thing to have for your business, but your firm isn't as flashy as bullet proof clothing (with style).

First, let's identify what makes this a killer demo. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

  • It's memorable. Definitely something to talk about at dinner that night.
  • It's got real skin in the game. A life is at risk.
  • It's emotional. You worry that the poor sales clerk will die in a foolish, freak accident, then feel relieved that he lived.

Let's stop there, because if you get these three elements you'll be well on your way to a demo that generates great buzz.

This example bowls over the carefully scripted television infomercials where the audience gasps when the grass/oil/ink stain is removed from the volunteer's white shirt. It's compressed that whole sales cycle into 2 minutes. That's part of what makes it so powerful.

What great product demos have you seen lately? Share links, even if it's to your own site.

When we all learn to do this, we'll be building a stronger business on a whole new level.

Monday, August 21, 2006

New Businesses Face Real Challenges

Although starting a business can involve a steep learning curve, the number of companies that fall over the edge in the first few years has not been adequately quantified.

According to Amy Knaup, a researcher at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66% of 212,182 employer businesses started in the second quarter of 1998 lasted two years while 44% lasted four years.

Brian Headd, Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy economist, used Census data available on 12,185 firms started between 1989 and 1992. Headd discovered that while 66% remained open after two years, 49.6% persisted after four years, and 39.5% were still around after six years. But success is truly in the eye of the beholder. The one third of businesses that shut down or were sold were still considered successes by their owners. That’s because some of the owners chose to shut them down because of retirement or ill health or wanted to turn a profit.

But the Achilles heel of this study is that while it is possible to get solid stats on companies with employees, it is virtually impossible to ascertain the fate of non-employers which account for ¾ of all U.S. businesses; they file little information on their companies.

It helps to know the odds of success however confident you are in your business venture. Whenever businesses do succeed it’s a triumph of a well researched understanding of a sector and your unique response to it. If you keep a steely-eyed composure in the face of overwhelming odds, you will continue to build a stronger business.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Visibility and Profitability

If it wasn’t for the Internet, bands like Scene Aesthetic would barely be more than a local sensation. But social networking websites like MySpace and PureVolume have amplified their sound and carried it to more listeners.

Click on a band’s MySpace page and you’ll hear the band’s music right away. MySpace members are asked by numerous bands to include them in their friends’ list, providing an instant coffee-house sized audience and more chances to be heard by a wider audience.

One social networking website entirely devoted to music is aptly named PureVolume which has a whopping 300,000 bands. But despite having a presence on this website, only a fraction of them get heard thousands of times.

Another band used the Internet to launch an album one song at a time. The Brooklyn-based duo behind the Bishop Allen band released four new songs each month on the band’s website. They have sold 1,500 CDs from their website at $5 each and are on course to earn $35,000 each this year.

Thanks to the Internet, an infinite number of websites are available for one’s use. But conversely, with a multitude of options available, it goes without saying that competition for users’ attention is fierce.

Just as websites enabled local retailers to expose their businesses to a much wider audience, MySpace and PureVolume have upped the ante to facilitate word-of-mouth and allow bands to create a greater impact on listeners. But just because the systems are in place to grow a band’s following beyond their local nightclub, it won’t matter if people don’t like what they hear. Talent is still important. If you figure out the right way to use the Internet to amplify your company, you’ll build a stronger business.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Email Addresses

John Valincius details the pros and cons of various email services in The Trend's article, "Choose an E-mail Address That You Can Live With".

The email address(es) your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides can be quickly and easily accessed, but is not transferable if you switch your ISP. America On-Line (AOL), sells unrestricted access to email inboxes to known spammers and are immune to spam blockers.

While Google, Yahoo and Microsoft provide sizable storage, are free and easily accessible, they are often subjective to abusive advertising and some workplaces are able to block access to them.

The final option is setting up your own email account on the Web, which won't be blocked by an employer and can last a lifetime. There are fees for registering and keeping a domain name, but it becomes less expensive with extended registration.

Personalized e-mail can create a professional online presence, and is a sure way to build a stronger business.

[For $139 Nitrum, LLC (, one of the professional computer consulting agencies, can help you create your own email account, if the process seems too daunting.]

Customization is Pleasing to the Ear

It's exciting to hear of businesses taking mass customization, also known as individuation, seriously.

Contrast mass production with mass customization. The former model produces blue jeans in fixed waist and length styles and allows the consumer to pick from its offerings. The latter takes a detailed profile of measurements and produces a custom-cut pair of jeans, albeit for a higher price and slight delay as the denim is sewn and shipped.

Some businesses have jumped into the gulf and created business models to maximize mass customization using technology.

Let's take a look at one contender in the personal music category called Pandora, accessed at, of course.

Think narrowcasting instead of broadcasting.

The Pandora site really gets what it means to deliver a great user experience. My three favorite aspects of the site:
  1. It doesn't require any special software to download -- I was able to use Firefox to open the home page type the name of a favorite artist, and within 10 seconds, I was listening to music I liked.
  2. No registration required. They want to prove themselves of value before asking for personal contact info or money. After playing half a dozen songs, you're asked to register with the understanding that can opt- out of the ad sponsored messages (audio and web-based, not via e-mail) by paying about a dollar a week.
  3. They enhance the experience on a number of levels: let's start with showing, rating, and buying. They have a clean, informative interface that displays what albumn on which the song played originated. As other songs are played, they are based on what people who liked your initial song liked. You can fine-tune this playlist based on your own preferences, indicating whether you liked a given song, didn't like it, want to take a break from hearing it (a service feature to which popular broadcast radio is oblivous), or understand the rationale behind the recommendation. Lastly, since you're being introduced to new artists and new songs, Pandora makes it easy to purchase music from iTunes or, or just pass along an interesting song to a friend (thus spreading the word about Pandora via viral marketing).
When you're building a stronger business, it pays to study models that work.

Now, go implement.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Remember to Lock the Door and Turn Out the Lights When You Leave

eWeek reports that another laptop has gone missing this week at the Veterans Administration department.

See the story in eWeek.

What an embarrassment!

When the first laptop went missing last May, the VA cried mea culpa and promised stronger security and enforcement of their existing policies in the future.

They're not alone of course -- even big Internet companies make these kinds of mistakes. Look at AOL who also admitted a privacy slip up yesterday.

It's not only a loss of data, but a loss of faith and of integrity when an organization mishandles confidential information.

Build a stronger business by reviewing your security and privacy policies and procedures with staff on a regular basis.