About Me

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crystal Ball Gazing About Technology and Its Impact in 2010

I had the opportunity to read a column called 5 Technologies that Could Change Your Life in 2010, written by R. Colin Johnson. I couldn't help myself but had to respond and wanted to share with you both a link to the original very thoughtful article and my own prognostications that appear somewhat critique-like. Of course I had to make my own 5 technology forecast.

It's always fascinating to crystal ball about technology and its impact. I would argue that many of the items described in the original article, which you can read by clicking on the link above, will not have a significant impact in 2010 but should become part of our everyday use within 3 to 5 years.

The first one mentioned is the Kindle and its competitors. I call these early stage technologies. In "Second Foundation," Isaac Asimov described a scene with youngsters at the beach reading from an electronic book. I think Asimov probably had the sand, water and electronics mix problem pretty much licked in his mind but I highly doubt that these current technologies have the ability to replace a paper book form factor when on vacation and going to the beach. Ever tried to read an electronic screen outside on a sunny day? Kindle and its ilk have a long way to go to displace paper.

The second innovation Johnson mentions is touch screen. We have had a run of touch screen technology generational PC tools over the years and have yet to see the technology become ubiquitous. Touch screens are a highly desirable concept but it is interesting to watch them in use. The iPhone and its imitators have got a pretty good handle on the use of this type of technology in a small form factor. Where touch can replace a mouse or other pointing device we have yet to see a product become a must have platform. I think we will see touch panels on electronic devices like thermostats, LCD-specialty displays on appliances but in 2010 beyond mobile phones I don't suspect this technology will have a big impact in the short term.

Johnson talks about the growth in LED usage. I am in total agreement. LED should arrive in 2010 in a big way, from TVs to lighting fixtures, driven by demand for lower energy cost and the pollution issues associated with disposal of fluorescent fixtures.

Johnson talks about 3D printing technology entering wide usage. 3D printing needs to get down to a very economical unit cost before it will become ubiquitous. Currently 3D inkjet technologies are not priced for home users (around $5K at my last look). I see this as a 2 to 5 year item.

Finally, Johnson talks about pico-projection, a technology that remains very early stage in commercial application. I don't see it having a huge impact in 2010.

So here are my choices for 2010 in terms of technology that will impact us in business and in our personal use.

1. Ever cheaper notebook technology will make computing more and more affordable for all. We will see notebook computer pricing drop dramatically in 2010 with pricing approaching $150 to $200 on entry level systems (not netbooks but notebooks). By 2012 I expect we will see the $100 to sub-$100 notebook. See the article that recently appeared in Forbes.

2. WiFi / MiFi will be huge in 2010, almost ubiquitous. Not as sexy to talk about as the stuff in Johnson's article but definitely the phenomenon we will all benefit from globally in the coming year.

3. 3D will enter the living and rec rooms of homes through gaming devices and TV in 2010. In addition we will see, as in the popularity of Wii games, significant growth in interactive gaming that includes full body movement integration. See the article in PhysOrg.

4. In-the-cloud computing applications with HTML5 will bring a significant change to the applications we use on computers in 2010. I am convinced that Office 2010 may be Microsoft's last kick at the can in creating a desktop office tool. The Chrome Operating System will have a significant impact on computing platforms as we strive to see the OS on our PCs become as simple to use as dial-tone is on telephones. Apps running in the cloud will run on our desktops whether we are Internet-connected or not.

5. GoogleWave is a big question mark for me in 2010. I want to see this type of tool begin to create a homogeneous communication environment that replaces our present silos of communication like email, video conferencing, chat and instant messaging. Wave has the potential to do this. I'm not sure if the general public is ready however. We do get used to our tools and forget that computers are all about facilitating work and our lives, not about dictating to us the way we have to work.

If you are not familiar with my other blog postings I invite you to visit my WordPress blog focused on the impact of technology in the 21st century. Although my prognostications are far more futuristic than the year 2010 I invite you to visit that site from time to time as I try to describe the overall advances we will make in the 21st century as technology and humanity become forever entwined.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If Governments are Going Web 2.0 Then Why Aren't You?

Yesterday I attended a webinar on how government, banks and health care are moving to Web 2.0 applications to deliver services, retain customers and reach out to new audiences.

U.S. Government Adopts Web 2.0 Tools

The presenters talked about how the Obama White House has from almost the day after the President was elected pushed an agenda to make the U.S. government more open and accessible. Government departments were tasked with looking at how they could publish information that could be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched using common web search applications. In the last week the U.S. government announced its Open Government Initiative, a further expression of the goal of the Obama administration to change the relationship of government and its citizenry.

Similar action is being taken by Australia where the federal government and many state governments have taken on the task of introducing Web 2.0 capability to make government information more accessible and usable. The Australian government has stated as one of its many goals to make public-sector information free, accessible using open standards, easily discoverable, machine-readable and freely reusable. Although the government of Australia intends to maintain copyright of all materials, it intends to license its content freely for reuse with no fees and no need to ask for permission on the part of the users.

In the UK the government has made similar moves implmenting openness through the sharinig of government data freely.

The federal government in Canada back in 2008 made many announcements about open initiatives and the adoption of Web 2.0 applications to make information more accessible. Unfortunately little has been done to turn those announcements into reality. At the provincial level there is a greater degree of accessibility but very little in the way of interactivity with the use of social media. This country lags behind.

For governments who adopt Web 2.0 as a standard it represents a new paradigm, creating a dialog among government and its citizens.

What are the implications for you in your business? If you deal with government you should have greater accessibility. But that is really not the point of this blog. Government communicates with citizens. You communicate with customers and prospects. If you are reading this blog you probably have an email address, likely a website, and maybe are already on Facebook or LinkedIn. So my question to you is are you using Web 2.0 to change the nature of your online communications? Is your current website interactive? Do you create incentives for customers and prospects to interact with your business in new and meaningful ways?

Whether you create events, contests, blogs, invite comments, or devise other virtual and physical activities you owe it to your business to rethink your Web strategy to take advantage of what Web 2.0 has to offer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In 2010 Your Small Business Should Look at SaaS Again

With Microsoft gearing up for another kick at the can in office suites, Office 2010, it is time to take a look at SaaS applications again. Why? Here are five reasons:

1. SaaS office tools stay current all the time. If you, like me, have gone through multiple Microsoft Office iterations then you know what it is like to pay over and over again for what turns out to be the same common functionality. SaaS applications, however, evolve with new functionality appearing from time to time.

2. The development of HTML 5 means that SaaS applications can run on your computer even when you are not connected to the Internet.

3. The new Chrome Operating System that Google recently made available to the software development community and that will become available in 2010 is a browser that is designed to support SaaS applications.

4. SaaS applications are better at securing your computer from malware because the documents, spreadsheets and slide shows you create are built in the cloud and not residing on your desktop.

5. SaaS email systems like Gmail are great spam filters saving you from having to invest in extra hardware to manage and block emails biggest pain.

So think about SaaS as a solution worth exploring and working with in 2010. Just yesterday I used Google Docs with a client to collaborate on a business plan. They were impressed at how easy it was to use, and how we could edit the document on the fly and see the results immediately with a simple screen refresh.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where Companies are Marketing Focused These Days - the Internet

For 2010 it appears that business leaders are focusing on three marketing tactics that are all Internet based. Although traditional advertising is still something business is prepared to invest in, the hottest areas of growth are being devoted to email, social media and search.

Many companies are integrating their email and social media efforts but many others are still trying to figure out just how to make tweets and social network fan pages turn into new customers and more revenue.

In this study done by StrongMail, 42% of business leaders reported a lift in their marketing campaign performances after integrating social networking and email, but almost a quarter admitted that they had no clue as to how to measure the results of their integration efforts.

Only 5% of companies saw no value in integrating email and social networking. This research report supports the growing trend of companies to rethink the way they promote brands, whether through the Internet or through other more traditional advertising and marketing venues. Very few are ignoring social networking and micro-blogging because if they cannot see and measure the results, they certainly sense that there is something to this social media revolution.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Reason to Use Social Media to Create Visibility for Your Business on the Web

In my past blogs I have talked about creating Facebook presence for your business as a way to attract new customers, build a fan base, support causes and create increasing social awareness of your brand. But now there is another compelling reason to include Facebook in your online strategy.

Following on Bing and Yahoo's ability to create Facebook, MySpace and Twitter results, Google has announced a series of new features for its industry leading search engine. These features include the ability to get search results from popular public social networks and micro blogging sites.

Google has also added a really cool capability to its search engine, the ability to make searches sensitive to geography. This means if you are located in a particular city and making search queries, first page results will provide local sources of information. For retailers this has powerful implications.

This geographic search sensitivity reflects the growing use of smart phones for doing Internet search. Google has even created a Google window decal with a unique bar code known as a QR code which can be read by smart phones. The QR code is designed to have the same type of impact as a Michelin or Zagat sticker. When a phone scans the QR code, it displays important information about the retail site in Google search format results. That information could highlight specific merchandise, sales, services, menus, reviews and comments, and social media coverage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BtoB Magazine Says Thought Leadership is the Number One Reason Why Companies Use Social Media

In business-to-business relationship management, or B2B as it is commonly known, U.S. companies are recognizing the power of social media strategies. Of 397 companies surveyed in the study done by BtoB Magazine, 60% indicated they were using social networks and other social media to establish thought leadership in their industry.

Thought leadership is all about establishing an organization's credentials through published articles, news, speeches, Webcasts, podcasts, videos, trade show and conference presence, and involvement in industry oversight or standards committees. The goal in the end is to establish trust and credibility with existing customers and prospects.

The tactics in building thought leadership include creating and maintaining company profiles on social media sites, doing micro-blogging (Twitter) and responding to customer comments on these sites, creating multiple blogs, monitoring when your company and competition are mentioned in social networks, contributing to discussions on non-company sites that have an industry focus, participating in social networking forums, creating company-associated causes and posting these within social networks, and creating company-sponsored social networking events.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Google Gives the Gears to Google Gears

Back in March 2008 I wrote an article about online Office tools. One of them was Google Gears. With the progression of cloud computing, the Google Chrome browser, and the emergence of a new HTML standard, Gears appears to no longer have a shelf life.

HTML5 is the new standard. It has been designed to solve the same problems that Gears was designed to fix. HTML5 has become a Web standard. Even Microsoft with its penchant for proprietary solutions has jumped on this bandwagon.

Linus Upson, Google's engineering director for the Chrome browser and Chrome OS, states, "This isn't an area we've been investing a lot in the last year since we launched Chrome. We're very focused on making HTML5 as successful a standard as possible."

Google intends to continue to support Gears for existing customers. What made Gears so attractive was its ability to allow users to operate Web applications and store the data from them when not connected to the Internet. Gmail and Google Docs were two Google applications that I tested and used this way. But lately Google has been demonstrating offline Gmail using HTML5. And now Google is building this functionality into its Chrome browser. Safari is using HTML5 to create similar functionality. Earlier versions of Internet Explorer, such as IE6 cannot support HTML5 so users of that browser will find themselves out of luck.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Social Media Marketing Central to Fastest Growing Companies - Isn't it About Time Your Small Business Invested in this Medium?

Over 90% of the 100 fastest growing companies in the U.S. are using social media in their marketing strategies according to the Center for Marketing Research, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. More than half of the companies surveyed were tweeting. This is a remarkable uptake and reflects a significant change in behaviour as the companies surveyed recognize the power of social media to reach customers.

The change over the last two years has been remarkable. In 2007, 43% of the 500 companies surveyed were not invested in social media as a marketing strategy. Today only 9% have not at least adopted one social media strategy.

The study which included 148 of Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies was conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, Director of the Center, and researcher Eric Mattson. The chart to the left illustrates the growth in use of social networking, blogging, and Twitter with a decline in podcasting, bulletin boards and online video. When those surveyed were asked to gauge the success rate of their investment in social media, they reported an 82% success rate for Twitter and 87% using other social networking tools.

Nora Barnes states, “While so many things are leveling off, social networking and blogging remain strong, showing businesses are continuing to immerse themselves in social media and blogging even while others are getting cut back.” Barnes believes companies recognize the low to no-cost of using social media to promote products and services, often requiring no more than a small group from various departments within the organization to interact with customers. “Social media is the only thing I know that you can talk to a customer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, a portal created between a consumer and a provider that allows constant and open discussion....If there is a problem, it can be immediately taken care of, making it easier to to address issues. Consumers like it and businesses like it because things don’t fester. Social media allows things to be handled quickly,” Barnes states.

The study reports that 68% of the companies interviewed are listening to hear what people in social networks are saying about their brands and business. That represents a significant increase from 2007 when only 50% were paying attention to what people were saying. Barnes remarks, “you shouldn’t only be talking on social media, you should be listening as well.”

The types of social media activities that these up and coming companies have engaged in over the last two years are listed below in order of use.
  • Wikis - 92%
  • Message & Bulletin Boards - 91%
  • Podcasts - 89%B
  • Blogs - 88%
  • Social Networks - 87%
  • Online Videos - 87%
  • Twitter - 82%