Why you need to get disciplined with RSS – a case study

I discovered RSS about 3 years ago. 2 years ago I started to get disciplined with it.

For most people it’s a hidden part of the Internet. Pretty much all of my friends’ eyes glaze over when I mention the word. Maybe there should be a sexier acronym for it, maybe we should collectively think of a new name. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t – because if everyone used it, where would your competitive advantage be? Because that’s exactly what it gives you if you use it correctly.

If you don’t know what it is, my definition is

RSS is where information is pushed to you in a simple, convenient format, rather than you having to go and seek it out.

I now rarely read my RSS feeds during the day – it’s too distracting and time consuming. Instead, I tend to go to bed earlier these days and prop myself up with my iPad to go through the day’s feeds. I then do a couple of things:

  • I read the stuff I’m immediately interested in.
  • I ‘star’ the stuff I’m interested in that’s too indepth to read and that I think might be interesting to others.

The next day, the ‘starred’ stuff, I Tweet over the course of the day and shock, horror I tend to use timed Tweets using Tweetdeck, so that my followers aren’t bombarded all at once – dripfed makes sense in my book.

This disciplined approach means you’re constantly feeding (and hopefully impressing) your audience plus you’re staying uptodate with the things you need to know, whether that be Linkedin connections, Google alerts on key words or news from the sites I follow, including local news.

Which brings me on to my main point.

One of the RSS channels I follow is my local newspaper. 95% of articles are not of interest to me – a cat being stuck on a garage roof doesn’t rock my world so much, however it takes seconds to skim past those. The 5% which are interesting however can lead to great things. A couple of weeks ago (on the same day the article came out – hence the discipline point) I was reading this local newspaper feed, and spotted this headline:

The Waterside Inn celebrates its 25 anniversary with 1985 prices

[quote]The Waterside Inn is one of three 3 star Michelin restaurants in the UK and it’s about 100m from our house. I got on the phone immediately to friends and booked a table around 10pm that night. It was the last table. We eat there today. Can’t wait.[/quote]

Since then, I must have had a dozen friends say to me – “how did you find out? I’d have loved to have gone…”

I then talked to them all about RSS until their eyes glazed over…

If you need more explanation on what RSS is and how to use it, take a look at this great explanation.

Branson’s most important lesson?

Unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last 20 years, you’ll have read a few things about Richard Branson. Some of them you may not have agreed with. Chances are though, you’ll have some respect for what he’s achieved.

I’ve read all of his books and my eyes are always drawn to interviews with him.

I spotted this yesterday and was inspired. Again.

The first company I attempted was a Christmas tree company. My friend and I planted 400 seeds. We planned to sell trees for two pounds a tree and make 800 pounds; unfortunately, rabbits got to the seedlings before they had grown even an inch. We were wiped out!

So surely you thew the towel in then Richard?

After that I tried a budgerigar farm. To be honest, my plan to sell the small Australian parrots didn’t make any money either. But the two failed attempts gave me experience and a hunger to carry on and try to succeed in business. Afterward my friend and I began the student magazine, believing, at 15, that we could change the world!

So let’s get this right, his first two businesses were complete failures.

My first two years online haven’t been a failure – far from it, but I’m not a multi-squillionaire as yet – so as long as I keep doing the right thing, following a process and having a vision, then with a bit of luck things will go well for me. It’s too easy to throw your hands in the air and give up. That’s going to get you precisely nowhere.

Wise words from Richard.

Personalised video for a good cause

We love all things personalised here at Being Smarter – so much of the work we do for clients is about getting personal with their targets and prospects – treating them as individuals and getting cut through.

Personalised video is starting to become more common now.  Simply put, it’s cleverly shot video which takes a feed from an external source (such as XML) and then layers that text or images over the main video track. Where it gets really clever is when the audio track is personalised based on a text input – but that’s a post for another day.

Our team delivered exactly this for a client earlier this year, and has enabled them to deliver highly targeted messages to hundreds of targets using a personalised video containing the target’s company logo using our Targets to Prospects service. Drop me a line if you’re intrigued and I’ll explain more about how it works and what it’s done for them.

I couldn’t help but notice the video I’ve linked to (screenshot above) below which takes a great cause – The Global Poverty Project and uses this same technique to build a viral campaign to drive awareness.

It’s really nicely done and has that essential ingredient we all love – humo(u)r.

You can take a look at the video on their fictitous TV channel WNN.TV here. Make sure you enter you first name and surname first.

Great work folks. (and hat tip to Graeme Codrington)

Is this how you greet your potential customers?

I’ve nothing against this company at all. I came across them the other day when researching. It appears they do good stuff when you really have a look around under the covers. The problem for me is that the headline above greets every one of their visitors. I’ve done a quick analysis on their wording below…

They are a systems innovator? A play on words I guess with system integrator – but really – is that a noun that means anything to its visitors?

They are Agile. They move quickly, bend easily? When you really think hard about that word, it’s superfluous.

are Customer Focused. Well I should hope so, every company worth its salt is – however I wouldn’t personally state that up front, because it should be implied and it’s wasting web real estate.

They Provide end to end next generation IT services. Ah – now we’re getting closer to what they do – iPhone 5s? HTML6 coding skills? Oh, maybe not. What does next generation mean I wonder?

They provide innovative solutions. See http://gobbledygook.grader.com/ and think of a phrase that really talks to your potential buyers. I’m afraid this one doesn’t.

The will Transform business processes, reduce infrastructure costs and enhance performance. With the exception of the last phrase, I’d say we’re starting to get somewhere – benefit statements are always good. That said, wouldn’t it be nicer to say “We’ve reduced over 50 customers IT infrastructre costs by 23%”? Social proof matters.

Take a look at your website/literature/reception area right now. How do you greet your potential customers?

Have you seen Coca-Cola’s new viral video?

I’ve never particularly been a fan of Coke’s advertising over the years – but this one is different. 200k+ views on YouTube within a week says that people are loving it.

It’s a revamped version of the US ad from the beginning of 2010 and it feature’s their ‘Happiness Machine.’

There’s a tiny little bit of me which is sceptical about the audience. I REALLY do hope this is genuine (although if it’s not the people will find out!). I can absolutely see how the happiness factor could have been generated for real – because I’m fairly sure if this happened to me – I’d be smiling…

What do you think?!

63 lessons from 2 years as an entrepreneur

Being Smarter is 2 years old this week. After the success of last year’s summary – this year I’ve decided to mark our birthday with my very first ebook which I hope will save you hours, days or weeks of effort if you’re running your own business or looking to become more intrapreneurial if you’re in a large corporate.

There have been many influences on my business and personal life over the last 24 months – I will be writing to you separately to thank you and to let you know you’re included in this book.

One of those influences is David Meerman Scott and David, in line with your thinking – there’s no email capture on this page!

[box type=”info”]If you’d like to download the 71 page ebook – click the button below – it’s got a ton of links and thoughts in to save you time, energy and mistakes.[/box]

If you’d rather just grab the headlines – they’re below.

With that – it’s onwards and upwards – into year 3. *blows out candles.

The lessons – in no particular order.

  1. Get things right on paper before you go anywhere near a keyboard.
  2. Don’t work when your son’s making a giant snowball outside with another dad. Even if you have a deadline. You’ll regret it.
  3. Data isn’t data unless it’s in two places. Back up. Regularly. Don’t put it off until tomorrow.
  4. The Challenge is an inspiration.
  5. Visions and missions can only be developed when in transit – evolve yours over time by mainly doing as opposed to mainly thinking.
  6. Twitter is a serious business tool.
  7. Seth Godin is a genius. His writing is short and to the point and that suits me (and 000?s of others) down to the ground.
  8. Once you’ve cracked a process or system, record it and don’t fiddle with it.”
  9. Networking is still one of the most important skills ever and should be taught at school. Without it, I wouldn’t have met the wonderful Lesley Everett.
  10. Choose who you work with (if you can). And yes, you really do have a choice.
  11. Learn when to switch the PC off – it will still be there in the morning.
  12. I’ve been inspired working in subject areas I knew nothing about. You could be too. Thanks Graeme.
  13. WordPress is so often the answer, what’s the question.
  14. A green screen studio inc lights, cameras and mics can be bought for £1,500. And carried around the world.
  15. Have a VERY understanding and supportive wife or partner. (Thanks Suz)
  16. I appear to have created 170,659 files in the last 24 months. Develop an electronic filing system that works and use it.
  17. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” (c) My Dad 1945 – current day.
  18. When was the last time you put a real newspaper clipping into a real envelope and sent it to a real person? They’ll remember you.
  19. Google Reader is an essential business tool. Learn how to use it.
  20. Never start a business without an online component. You’d be missing a trick.
  21. As the E-Myth states, focus on making your business scalable from day 1.
  22. Learn how to find out what people are searching for in Google – it’s the single best market research tool on the planet.
  23. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
  24. Don’t say “I can’t believe I can’t work today because it’s a Bank Holiday” out loud. Keep it to yourself – people will think you are nuts and won’t get it.
  25. Only work with exceptional people.
  26. Figure out what buyer personas are.
  27. Go out of your way to THANK people. It seems to be unusual these days.
  28. Seek advice actively from people you trust. Create an advisory board of people around you. You DON’T have all the answers.
  29. Write your eulogy in bulletpoints. Then live your business and personal life like you want to be remembered. This isn’t as weird as it sounds.
  30. Don’t get so caught up in your endeavours you forget birthdays. Use Moonpig.com.
  31. The software you want is already built. You may have to tweak it but for goodness sake don’t reinvent the wheel.
  32. Learn new stuff. All the time. Or what’s the point?
  33. ‘Tell stories and solve people’s problems’ is good advice.
  34. Become a connector – find ways to introduce people.
  35. Personalised web pages (which can be produced in 15 seconds) with a prospect’s name in the URL get 100% clickthrough
  36. Only have 5 email folders. Inbox, Sent mail, Hold, Follow up and Archive. Gina Trapani is a legend.
  37. Tim Ferris has done it and got the t-shirt. I’m a living breathing case study who’s aiming to get there.
  38. It will always take longer than you think.
  39. Today, projects should take weeks and cost 00?s. If yours is going to take months and cost 000?s you may want to think again.
  40. Firefox every time. Bye bye Internet explorer.
  41. 10 minutes a day. After 8 months of testing – it resonates. Find something that resonates.
  42. Drink beer from time to time with people who inspire. Andy Palmer – Thank you.
  43. You’ll never get every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed. Sometimes, you’ll just need to make a decision without all the facts.
  44. SEO is bloody hard unless you follow a process. Position #10 will give you 1/14th of the traffic of position #1. Only the top 4 positions really count.
  45. It is possible to have a $10,000 day on the Internet.
  46. Working in partnership with people you trust and respect is much easier than working on your own.
  47. Some books need to be read twice – they are more relevant second time round.
  48. I may have been the last person to read Purple Cow, but I’m still glad I read it.
  49. Don’t think you know better than people who’ve already done it in a big way. Learn from them, emulate them but be original.
  50. Follow your heart, not your to do list when turning things down.
  51. Know when to turn off Twitter…
  52. You always have a choice.
  53. When middle managers say ‘yes’ in large corporations, they probably don’t mean yes.
  54. Personalised videos get results.
  55. A laser beam focus on a niche is so much more effective than floodlights on a marketplace.
  56. Meetings are toxic and other such phrases. This book is my bible.
  57. Never, ever, EVER ignore a gut feeling.
  58. Either do ‘it’ for free of for full price and accept the consequences either way.
  59. Nobody cares about your products or services, except you.
  60. Channels to market are vital to success.
  61. Learn to recognise time wasters.
  62. Be patient.
  63. Embrace your constraints.

Office 2007 training for teachers – a world first

Being Smarter Ltd is proud to annouce today a brand new online course from its training video production company – The 8.45 Club.

Office 2007 training for teachers is a course which has been written and devised by teacher training experts over the last six months. It’s been presented and produced by The 8.45 Club team, led by Mark Copeman. Never before has an online course for Microsoft’s Office 2007 ever been written by teachers for teachers, using their language and giving examples pertinent to their working day.

It’s been devised in response to a constant need for schools to reduce costs and an ongoing requirement for teaching staff to work smarter by getting the most out of the software they use on a day to day basis.

Mark Copeman, course producer said,

[quote] “In our research, teachers are in two camps – they’re either upgrading from Office 2003 and have to come to terms with a completely different ribbon toolbar layout in Office 2007 or they’re still using Office 2003, and have never been properly trained on how to get the most from the sofware. It amazes me how many people still go about things the long way. We’ve set about trying to change people’s bad habits. ” [/quote]

The course is made up of 40+ bite-sized video modules, totalling five hours of learning. Teachers can dip in and out to suit them – learning when they need to and not being limited to when a trainer is in a classroom after school. It is structured so that staff can learn at the pace they want to, or jump straight to a particular topic.

“We’ve already got our first 500 teachers signed up to use the course – and currently, the most popular module is on shortcuts” said Mark. “The really great thing about the course website, is that users can track the time they spend learning and submit a certificate towards their Continuous Professional Development time for that school year.”

The course has already won a warm response from its users.

[quote]”What I am used to having is someone talking at me for half an hour. By the time you come to actually come to USE  the software, you have forgotten everything and lost any bit of paper you wrote on or were given. This is the right way to learn!” [/quote]

Anna Deacon, Head of Department at a school in Gloucestershire, UK

This online video course  is available through the UK’s Training and Development Agency for Schools CPD database. You can also watch a sample module and apply for volume discounts at the course website – Office 2007 training for teachers.


Words of wisdom from Bill Gates

I got this in an email today and felt compelled to share it. It’s bang on in my book…

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.

He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

  • Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!
  • Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  • Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
  • Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
  • Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
  • Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  • Rule 7:  Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
  • Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
  • Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
  • Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
  • Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

    Know your audience

    So many companies claim to, but so many fail to really know their audience.

    I couldn’t help smiling at this sign. It’s for the cafe at a local gym. A gym you have to pay a fortune to every month to be a member. A gym in the middle of a busy town. A gym full of time-poor, reasonably wealthy, hard working members.

    Hand made baguettes take time to put together.

    Your gym work out will use your complete lunch hour if you do it right – so how much sense does this offer and sign make?

    I’d wager it adds another 10% minimum to daily takings as those time poor people resonate with the offer.

    Have you immersed yourself in your customers’ lives? Have you really sketched out their buyer persona? If not, why not?

    Direct mail can work – if you do it right

    So much of what we get up to here at Being Smarter is about getting personal. The days of broadcast email, send and hope direct mail and one voice for all customers are effectively over.

    2010 and beyond is all about defining your buyer personas and getting personal. Click each of those links for some background and inspiration if you want to get your business noticed.

    Bearing all that in mind – I couldn’t help noticing a piece of direct mail my wife received over the weekend from Boden clothing.

    The front page is a real attention grabber and you can’t help smiling at the fact they’ve recognised she’s not bought from them recently…

    Inside – they carry on with the personalisation… in a really nice way.

    If ever there was a piece of DM to make you take a look at someone’s ‘stuff’. This would be it.

    What are you doing to get personal?!