Archive for 'Review'

Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn

By GuyKawasaki

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  • The average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is forty-seven.
  • The average number for Harvard Business School grads is fifty-eight, so you could skip the MBA, work at Google, and probably get most of the connections you need. Later, you can hire Harvard MBAs to prepare your income taxes.
  • People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five.
  • All 500 of the Fortune 500 are represented in LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented by director-level and above employees.
  • According to my inside sources, the person with the most pending LinkedIn invitations is…Guy Kawasaki. (Though I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of this factoid.)


Most people use LinkedIn to “get to someone” in order to make a sale, form a partnership, or get a job. It works well for this because it is an online network of more than 8.5 million experienced professionals from around the world representing 130 industries. However, it is a tool that is under-utilized, so I’ve compiled a top-ten list of ways to increase the value of LinkedIn.

  1. Increase your visibility.

    By adding connections, you increase the likelihood that people will see your profile first when they’re searching for someone to hire or do business with. In addition to appearing at the top of search results (which is a major plus if you’re one of the 52,000 product managers on LinkedIn), people would much rather work with people who their friends know and trust.

  2. Improve your connectability.

    Most new users put only their current company in their profile. By doing so, they severely limit their ability to connect with people. You should fill out your profile like it’s an executive bio, so include past companies, education, affiliations, and activities.

    You can also include a link to your profile as part of an email signature. The added benefit is that the link enables people to see all your credentials, which would be awkward if not downright strange, as an attachment.

  3. Improve your Google PageRank.

    LinkedIn allows you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high PageRank in Google, this is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you.

    To do this, create a public profile and select “Full View.” Also, instead of using the default URL, customize your public profile’s URL to be your actual name. To strengthen the visibility of this page in search engines, use this link in various places on the web> For example, when you comment in a blog, include a link to your profile in your signature.

  4. Enhance your search engine results.

    In addition to your name, you can also promote your blog or website to search engines like Google and Yahoo! Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize websites. There are a few pre-selected categories like “My Website,” “My Company,” etc.

    If you select “Other” you can modify the name of the link. If you’re linking to your personal blog, include your name or descriptive terms in the link, and voila! instant search-engine optimization for your site. To make this work, be sure your public profile setting is set to “Full View.”

  5. Perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.

    LinkedIn’s reference check tool to input a company name and the years the person worked at the company to search for references. Your search will find the people who worked at the company during the same time period. Since references provided by a candidate will generally be glowing, this is a good way to get more balanced data.

    Companies will typically check your references before hiring you, but have you ever thought of checking your prospective manager’s references? Most interviewees don’t have the audacity to ask a potential boss for references, but with LinkedIn you have a way to scope her out.

    You can also check up on the company itself by finding the person who used to have the job that you’re interviewing for. Do this by searching for job title and company, but be sure to uncheck “Current titles only.” By contacting people who used to hold the position, you can get the inside scoop on the job, manager and growth potential.

    By the way, if using LinkedIn in these ways becomes a common practice, we’re apt to see more truthful resumes. There’s nothing more amusing than to find out that the candidate who claims to have caused some huge success was a total bozo who was just along for the ride.

  6. Increase the relevancy of your job search.

    Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find people with educational and work experience like yours to see where they work. For example, a programmer would use search keywords such as “Ruby on Rails,” “C++,” “Python,” “Java,” and “evangelist” to find out where other programmers with these skills work.

  7. Make your interview go smoother.

    You can use LinkedIn to find the people that you’re meeting. Knowing that you went to the same school, plays hockey, or shares acquaintances is a lot better than an awkward silence after, “I’m doing fine, thank you.”

  8. Gauge the health of a company.

    Perform an advanced search for company name and uncheck the “Current Companies Only” box. This will enable you to scrutinize the rate of turnover and whether key people are abandoning ship. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than someone who’s still on board.

  9. Gauge the health of an industry.

    If you’re thinking of investing or working in a sector, use LinkedIn to find people who worked for competitors—or even better, companies who failed. For example, suppose you wanted to build a next generation online pet store, you’d probably learn a lot from speaking with former Pets.com or WebVan employees.

  10. Track startups.

    You can see people in your network who are initiating new startups by doing an advanced search for a range of keywords such as “stealth” or “new startup.” Apply the “Sort By” filter to “Degrees away from you” in order to see the people closest to you first.

  11. Ask for advice.

    LinkedIn’s newest product, LinkedIn Answers, aims to enable this online. The product allows you to broadcast your business-related questions to both your network and the greater LinkedIn network. The premise is that you will get more high-value responses from the people in your network than more open forums.

    For example, here are some questions an entrepreneur might ask when the associates of a venture capital firm come up blank:

    • Who’s a good, fast, and cheap patent lawyer?
    • What should we pay a vp of biz dev?
    • Is going to Demo worth it?
    • How much traffic does a TechCrunch plug generate?

Addendum

These additional ideas came in through comments:

  1. Integrate into a new job.

    When people start a new job, ordinarily their roots aren’t that deep in the new company. However, with Linkedin, n
    ew employees can study fellow employees’ profiles and therefore help them get to know more people faster in a new company. (contributed by Vincent Wright)

  2. Scope out the competition, customers, partners, etc. This seems like it’s a no-brainer, but you can use LinkedIn to scope out the competition’s team as well as the team of customers and partners. For example, your competitor’s vp of marketing came from Oracle…she’ll probably believe that business is war. (Kev)

Book Review: Small is the New Big

This is an intriguing piece that isn’t organized like your typical book. It’s very thought provoking, but it’s not a step-by-step manual or something you can read front to back in a weekend that some may desire. You’re not going to walk away after reading this with a laundry list of things to do that will propel you to another hemisphere professionally. You will likely have a lot of thoughts percolating in your brain that may seem far fetched at the moment but are likely legitimate ideas to expand upon. That’s what this book does—it takes you out of your mental comfort zone and expands your thinking. To me, that’s the mark of a good book so I love it. Others may find it a bit bizarre because it’s not organized in a logical start to end fashion.

I’d suggest keeping notes of your thoughts as you read this collection of blog postings, and please don’t try to read it all at once. Your brain will hurt! That being said, I highly recommend this book if you’re someone who enjoys stretching your mind and considering various perspectives.

Want to get your own copy? Click this link: Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas

Attempting to Buy Word of Mouth? Bad Idea!

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about the Microsoft blogger “scandal.” If not, click here to read an E-Week piece on it if you wish. To summarize, Microsoft and AMD sent some prominent bloggers a honking Vista based laptops for them to test out. Initially they said the folks receiving the machines could keep them, give them away, or send them back upon completion of the “testing.” The next day, after some public outcry, they requested the PCs back. Good marketing idea; bad execution. Or was it really a good marketing idea? I say it’s terrible especially because of the execution–it backfired completely!

What were Microsoft and AMD really attempting? They were hoping to buy a favorable review from a few influential bloggers and gain some word of mouth marketing. This isn’t uncommon, but it’s a delicate tightrope to walk in order to keep things pure. The key to word of mouth marketing is honesty and the natural progression of the message. Once the public gets a sniff of anything that smells remotely of dishonesty, the word of mouth suddenly turns against the offender. Why is that? You’ve made the people who thought they were spreading something natural and believable look foolish. You’ve jeopardized their reputations. Buying word of mouth won’t work–it’s unnatural, and it makes people feel sleazy for engaging in such tactics.

Microsoft has been a pretty good marketer over the years, but this is a misstep for them that is disappointing to say the least. What did they really think would happen? Did they think the people getting the souped up laptops would write completely honest reviews after receiving a “free” machine? Of course not. Receiving anything of value for free is always well received, and it’s a great way to initiate a word of mouth campaign. If the goal was to gain positive word of mouth, the machines should have been given to some random folks in some sort of drawing without any mention of a review or how the machine was to be used. Let people naturally decide what they wish to do with the thing and if they determine they wish to write a good or bad review, let it occur naturally without trying to influence it in any way. Imagine how much someone would talk up such a product if they “won” the thing fair and square in a drawing of some sort. By picking out people with popular review based blogs, the motivation behind such product placement is rather obvious so any reviews would likely be met with a heavy dose of skepticism unless the products were sent without any prompting whatsoever.

Imagine answering your door and seeing UPS there with a set of boxes that you had zero idea about before hand. Your first reaction would probably be “I didn’t order this” then you’d probably open the boxes, look for clues as to what was in the boxes, then you’d try to convince yourself that someone made a big mistake in your favor. Eventually you’d begin to use the goods in time or try to send them back to the sender. Unless of course there was a letter outlining expectations–that’s where Mr. Softy screwed up. They obviously engaged the review bloggers in some sort of sign up process prior to sending these laptops out so there were expectations implied. That ruined the whole thing.

If you’re hoping to initiate a word of mouth campaign, allow it to happen organically and surprise people by doing something out of the ordinary. Then back away and let things progress on their own. That’s the best bet if you want things to spread quickly and keep foul play suspicions out of the equation.

Seth Godin's Louisville Seminar Review

Seth Godin paid Louisville a visit today to speak in the newly opened Waterfront Park Place, a truly beautiful building that serves as a posh residency for some of Louisville’s wealthier people. I had the fortune to attend the seminar, and I figured this is as good a place as any to share a little review along with some thoughts creeping into my dome during and after the seminar.

Brief Background 4-1-1 on Seth Godin
For those of you who don’t know about Seth, he’s an author of seven bestselling books on marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. His published titles include: Unleashing the Idea Virus, Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, Survival is Not Enough, All Marketers are Liars, and The Big Red Fez. Did I get all of them? Oh yeah, he also edited and published a follow up book to Purple Cow titled The Big Moo which is a series of essays and articles centered around the “Be Remarkable” theme much like most of his books.

My Overall Impression (if you care)
For those who know me, they know I’m not a big believer in hyping someone because we’re all merely human, but I truly like Seth’s work and thoroughly enjoyed the seminar. I feel as if we think quite a bit alike–not so sure if that’s good or bad for Seth. Ha! It must be all right if he’s produced seven bestsellers because people “vote” strongest with their wallets. Anyway, maybe I’ll be a best-selling author before long and will get the opportunity to work with Seth on some projects someday.

Seth’s Approach
Seth isn’t controversial or far out in his approach, but he’s thought provoking and interjects humor into his message throughout. That was my number one takeaway. Most people today suggest stirring up big time controversy to gain massive exposure or publicity (see Ann Coulter), but I disagree with that approach. If you can make people really think, you’ve affected them in a positive way even if they don’t necessarily agree with your initial theory. Making someone engage in deep thinking is a smarter way to do things versus making them want to ring your neck, wouldn’t you say?

The Savvy Marketing of Waterfront Park Place
Ok, onto the seminar itself. As mentioned, the setting inside Waterfront Park Place is very nice, but I wanted to attend this seminar to hear Seth as much to see how they were going to link selling the real estate within the building with his speech. I knew it was coming, and they didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t over the top or in your face though. It was not totally subtle, but I’d say it was tastefully done. Wonder what they paid Seth to come down for this? Looking at it from a business perspective, they’d likely dwarf whatever they paid him if they end up selling only one condominium (prices start at $350k) to an attendee today. Not a bad ROI if it works out for them. It’s definitely a different approach, but it was well thought out because they had a lot of wealthy business people in attendance that are their likely target–mid 30s to late 40s of which many own their own company. I have considered checking out owning a condo there so the opportunity was worth the effort in my opinion.

“It’s Not About Improving on Yesterday”
Seth started his speech talking about how growth is not about doing better than yesterday and shared a story about the greatest thing ever–sliced bread. The truth of the matter is sliced bread didn’t make the creator any money. Wonder Bread took the idea once it came off of patent and capitalized the most. That story set the table for the remainder of the conference, and the theme was “ideas which spread are the winners;” not some hair brained marketing campaign. If you’re truly remarkable, simply meaning you do something that is worth making a remark, you’re onto something. For far too long, it’s been more about who has the most money because that person can control the messages you see and hear whether it be television, radio, billboards, or whatever–the person or company with the most dough could afford the most exposure. It’s not about exposure anymore–we’re overexposed!!!! This I agree with wholeheartedly. SIDE NOTE: I’m preparing an article on video ads and how they’re going to be everywhere before long that I should be able to share early next week so please look for that.

Average Stuff for Average People
We’re in a society today where the mass market is summarized by average stuff for average people. Things that standout, one way or another, garner the premium dollar. GM loses money on every mid-consumer product they produce, but they make a ton on Hummers. Why? It’s a polarizing product. You either love it or you hate it. Those that love it will pay a premium for it. Same with the Mini-Cooper–BMW can charge a premium for the product because they’re in demand, and they’re targeting a niche market. GM is competing with Toyota and Honda for the mid-market (or the average market as Seth called it), but Toyota and Honda can make a better product for cheaper so they win. Everything in the middle or which appeals to the masses costs about the same.

Coke Japan produces a new product every 21 days! How mind boggling is that?

For the most part, everything is good enough today.
Think about this–when you go out of town and are forced to rent a car, do you demand a specific brand of car or model? Not likely because whatever they have is good enough. As long as the car will get you from point A to point B without crapping out on you, that’s good enough. Whatever is close and cheap is what appeals to the masses, and there are so many choices which target the masses that everything becomes cluttered.

Nobody cares about you; be remarkable!
So many firms today market for themselves and not FOR the audience. That’s what’s typical so the firm that truly does something FOR the consumer can gain an edge. That’s being remarkable. People will take notice of remarkable and spread the word extremely quickly. I am going to spend some time thinking about this to come up with a way to make this consulting firm remarkable instead of imitating someone else’s formula. Any ideas? Please share them with me.

“Era of Emotional Marketing”
Do you LOVE a product? If so, how many people have you told? Seth didn’t say this directly, but I believe that’s how Starbucks has grown so quickly–people love it so they spread the word to the point Starbucks has been able to create a mystique about it and people go out of their way to pay a premium just to have that cup of whatever from Starbucks. Personally, I haven’t been hooked by Starbucks, but I admire the business they’ve built. McDonald’s does much the same by appealing to little kids–the kids will kick and scream to get McDonald’s, but they won’t think twice about Burger King. Why is that? They identify with the brand and it becomes one of those things where people feel privileged to have purchased something from there, and they brag about it to their friends. I can hear the kid now saying “I had McDonald’s today!” That’s a pretty powerful hook. Same with the girl who walks into work carrying a cup from Starbucks–the others in the office will generally comment about “eww, you got Starbucks? You lucky dog!” That’s emotional marketing at it’s finest.

“We’re All Fashion Designers”
Seth drew a comparison to everyone being a fashion designer because we often take something that is already working and try to make it bette
r. There’s always something coming along, too. I won’t go into great detail or thought sharing on this statement, but let it sink in for awhile, and let me know what you think.

“Businesses are Consumers Spending Other People’s Money”
This made me think because it’s true if you ponder on it. If we’re spending someone else’s money, we don’t tend to think about it as much as we do if we’re spending our own money, but we do like to spend the money on what we like anyway. Marketing to businesses is no different than marketing to consumers.

“Sell to People Who are Listening”
As marketers, and we’re all marketers of something even if it’s ourselves, we spend massive amounts of time and money trying to appeal to the masses when we’d be far better off if we simply focused on those willing to listen to our idea/message which will help spread that idea/message.

“Why Aren’t You Dating Your Prospect?”
An interesting view taken by Seth that suggests we put a lot into dating yet we attempt to enter business relationships without much thought. Get to know one another before deciding a business venture is worth pursuing. If it’s worth pursuing, it may last a lot longer and produce a lot more fruit if there’s proper effort invested at the outset.

“Anticipated, Personal, & Relevant”
This should be your focus on any marketing message you produce. People don’t care about YOU when you’re trying to sell them something–they care about themselves. Make it something they truly desire, and they’ll reward you with their money.

Hunter vs. Farmer
In the old days, man used to hunt for food to survive. Then came the farmer that produced massive amounts of food without requiring a lot of “hunting.” When someone cultivates a farm, they know where to find the food and the product. When someone hunts, they have to go out and find the food, kill it, haul it back, prepare it, and then they can eat. The farmer steadily produces where the hunter produces sporadically and unpredictably. Targeting = hunting (one-on-one approach); Spreading an idea = farming (more matrix like approach). Which mentality do you think will produce better results over time? The same applies to business.

Marketers Sell Stories We Sell Ourselves
Good marketing involves telling a story that differentiates a product or service from its competition that we can in turn sell ourselves as a reason to buy. It gives us something to identify with; something we can share with others; an emotional tie. Get permission to tell your story then encourage others to tell your story for you. That ties into . . .

“Flip Funnel Over to Turn it Into A Megaphone”
This is a very interesting concept that I hadn’t thought too much about before today. It makes perfect sense–let your idea/message spread like mad versus throwing a bunch of prospects into a “hopper” and hoping they come out the other end as customers. Let others do your marketing and create that buzz–that’s the megaphone approach. I never liked the funnel concept in business anyway!

The Final Takeaway
The “1st person to develop an asset wins!” In other words if you develop something that people truly want, and you’re the first to do it, you win! That doesn’t mean the game is over by any stretch, but you’ll have a pretty good sized lead. It’s easier to get a lead than it is to overtake an established leader in today’s business world. Look at Apple with the iPod and Microsoft with the Zune–which product do you identify with and desire to have? The majority would rather have the iPod because it was first and created the iPod “culture.” Microsoft developed the Zune to improve their income statement and balance sheet. The iPod has made that critical emotional tie in–people are fanatical about their iPods! That’s good for Apple, but it’s also good for the consumer because they continue to develop products to go with the iPod and expand its capabilities.

That’s more or less the entire seminar in a large nutshell from my perspective. If you attended the seminar and have a differing point of view or want to expand on anything shared here, please post it. If you didn’t attend but have a thought or comment on any of this posting, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this stimulated some brain activity.

Assessing a Competitive Sales Opportunity

Have you ever found yourself wondering how you shot the last sales opportunity even after everything seemed like a close was eminent? Many times the answer lies within us if we’re willing to dig deep enough. Let’s take a look at five possibilities for why things may have gone awry.

Did you uncover a true pain for the customer? As salespeople, we’re quick to assume we completely understand the customer’s dilemma because we want the sale, but that assumption often leads us down a twisty path all the while instilling a false sense of optimism in the opportunity. A true pain is uncovered only after you’ve validated it with the owners and completely understand the impact it has organization wide. You may talk with a prospect that says “we need your product now because I’m up to my eyeballs in complaints, and it will vastly eliminate the complaints” yet the pain is only seen as affecting that particular person or department. Maybe the organization itself doesn’t understand the domino effect the pain has on the organization so that means someone didn’t do a thorough job of exploring and explaining the pain with others in the organization.

Did you uncover a reasonable budget for your product or service? Prospects sometimes have a decent idea of what your product or service should cost, but many times their only basis for determining such is an online search and a quick review of a few of the results from that search. Don’t leave it to the prospect to price your product or service for you—let them know as early on as possible a ballpark range to expect to pay. If they heavily balk at the number, get out early and move on. It’s much better to qualify a prospect out than to waste a bunch of time on wasteful meetings and proposals when you’re out of the game before it even begins. Hearing things such as “oh don’t worry, I’ll get the funds for this when we need them,” or “this is a future project, but we’re getting a head start” should sound warning bells that you’re up against possible budgetary issues or future price shopping regardless of how you position the deal.

Did you really talk with the proper decision makers? If the sale is potentially complex, meaning it may impact multiple areas of the customer’s business, several people are likely to be involved. If the pain you’ve uncovered is legitimate, it’ll become apparent to the contact person you’re talking with that more people need to be involved before contract time. If the prospect is serious about implementing your product or service, they’ll welcome the interaction with others as a way to gain their approval and solidify the decision. If they prevent others from getting involved, you likely aren’t dealing with the decision maker, or the project isn’t likely to happen.

Was the timeframe realistic? Just because a prospect says they need your solution implemented by the end of the month doesn’t mean it’s feasible. The burden is on you to help your prospect establish a workable implementation schedule. If you can’t come to an agreeable schedule, you’ll both be better to walk away from the deal. Forcing your organization to do something they’re not skilled at doing or requires too many resources is only going to make things worse. Look at it this way, your competition will have to bend over backwards to meet the terms meaning they’ll be allocating extra resources just to make it happen. More often than not, they’ll have problems, too so don’t fret over it.

Did you establish an agreed upon value analysis? All the ROI analyses and charts in the world may make sense to you, but did the customer buy into it? Too many times, a value analysis looks phenomenal on paper and in theory, but it has little chance of being realized because it was designed for a perfect world—one in which we do not live. Make sure you establish realistic metrics with your prospect prior to suggesting any return expectations. Nothing will burn you more than inflating ROI numbers that will never be realized by your customer. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.

While there are far too many factors that can lead to a lost opportunity, you can greatly improve your odds of closing a sale if you consistently address these five areas throughout your sales process.

For more sales and marketing related information, please visit Marketing Consultant.

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