How to do an online features tour

We’ve been doing quite a bit of research of late for our new venture and been looking at a ton of web application sites – because I’m a massive believer in not reinventing the wheel. Why try a new design from scratch when there are thousands of sites and companies who’ve already blazed a trail.

I just came across a great example of how to do a features tour – never seen this technique before, and I like it. Judging by the fact there’s a couple of hundred links back to this page – I’m thinking there’s a few others liking it too.

Huddle have been around for a while. It doesn’t stop them innovating.

Check out this technique for producing a feature tour. You’ll find it will also work on your iPad – because it’s not Flash!

How to get 2.5 million customers in 5 years without advertising

It’s not a secret that I’m a fan of 37 Signals and how they’ve built their business. What I didn’t know until yesterday was the number of customers they have. How many of those are paying it’s hard to know – but a good proportion I bet.

Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of 37 Signals and in his presentation below, taken from a Chicago conference last year, he outlines his company’s ethos for winning new customers.

It’s all about Market Leadership, as Ed Dale would say.

It’s also a brilliant case study for David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of PR and Marketing.

[quote]The video below will make old skool marketeers shake their heads in disbelief. [/quote]

At 12 mins ish Jason talks about a single blog post which explains the way 37 Signals have tested and implemented a flashing yellow bar to alert users to a change on the screen. This post has been read 800,000 times! How many of those hits have resulted in sales? Who knows – but a good few I bet.

The moral to this story is give away your secrets, build trust and people will buy from you.

If you have any interest in winning customers in the 2010’s, do yourself a favour and spend 20 mins watching this.

Execution is much more important than the idea

You may have read our sister blog – Watch us Getting Real, where we write a regular diary of the trials and tribulations of an online startup and building a web application, following the process outlined in the totally awesome Getting Real book from 37 Signals.

We are getting to the stage where the talking’s about to stop, the planning’s done and the focus swings onto execution. Remarkable execution we hope.

I couldn’t help noticing a sidenote in Getting Real, from a chapter you find in its entirety here, but I wanted to emphasise the thinking of the entrepreneur, Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and Hostbaby. He provides the simplest of formulas behind the making of a good idea and it’s based on a multiplier:

Ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.


  • Awful idea = -1
  • Weak idea = 1
  • So-so idea = 5
  • Good idea = 10
  • Great idea = 15
  • Brilliant idea = 20
  • No execution = $1
  • Weak execution = $1000
  • So-so execution = $10,000
  • Good execution = $100,000
  • Great execution = $1,000,000
  • Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.


How well are you executing?

Get noticed with a video prospectus

It’s been a real delight getting involved with my son’s local school recently. We’ve been building their new website which I’ll talk about in another post and which will go live in September. I’m really excited about getting the pupils blogging and the parents more involved in what goes on.

Whilst that’s been going on, we’ve also produced a video prospectus for the school – 4 mins 31 seconds of a day in the life. Not too long, not too short. Narrated mainly by the headmaster – the fabulous Richard Jarrett, and produced quite brilliantly by a colleague of mine.

The beauty of having an asset like this – is that it started life as a DVD rotating on the plasma screen in the school foyer. It’s now going to be available online for anyone who wants it, as well as available on DVD for prospective parents. It will also be the start of a collection of video assets available on the school website, which will tell the story of the school year for parents and extended family, who can’t always get to events and see their children participating.

Customers love surprises (of the right kind)

I’ve always preached the opposite to the title of this post because I’m normally discussing communication with customers and I will never stop believing that surprises are normally bad.

The right kind of surprises are very welcome however and mobile operators are notoriously bad at not giving those. Imagine my surprise then when I got the text below yesterday.

Costwise, bearing in mind Vodafone own networks in most EU countries this will have minimal impact. Revenuewise, people are too scared to use data abroad anyway and so the majority of customers don’t use it. Financially it’s therefore going to have minor impact either way. From a customer loyalty perspective however, this is huge. Customers will renew contracts because of this and customers will leave other operators for this scheme too.

Vodafone I’m personally very grateful for this promotion. However in a corporate sense I also think you are very smart and I bet the others follow.

Is it time to ask yourself Why? once in a while?

I bought an iPad a few weeks ago and I love it.

I decided to get myself an O2 PAYG microsim – because they are the only operator offering pay as you go in the UK – hats off to them for offering something different and not following the others by demanding monthly payments.

So – off I go to the O2 page, order my sim and guess what…

Do you know what, actually it’s not… 14 days! Clearly they are embarrassed about the length of time it’s going to take to arrive – due to the statement above. As it happens I reckon it’s been at least 3 weeks since I ordered it – but that’s another debate.

For me, I’d like to ask


Why on earth can sending a sim card possibly take so long? I could have used it say 5 times in that period of time and generated £10 for them. Multiply that by the 1000’s of people who are also ordering but factor out the 1000’s of others who are probably ordering sims from other operators because they can’t be bothered to wait.

The reason for the 14 days I suspect is simple – the corporate ordering systems JUST TAKE THAT LONG. It takes that long because it does and guess what, no one has thought to ask why?

It would be cheaper, more efficient and speedier to hire a team to receive the orders, stuff envelopes and deliver sims within 48 hours. Customers could start using the sim quickly, which in turn would pay for this extra labour… but no one has thought to have done that, because that’s not the way it’s done. Why?

Don’t accept the norm. Don’t accept the answer “Because it’s always been done that way”. Question… ask why? and then do things differently. It’s the only way to get noticed.

Even the dullest products can get noticed. If you’re smart

Proof below a campaign can go viral for something as dull as a biscuit if you’re smart.

Have to say, I’m not sure whether this is staged or not, however it’s got them 400,000 views on YouTube in the last month – so either way it’s a great brand awareness tool.

What beats me is that you have to assume people will check out the Wheat Thins website and sadly I suspect there’s a different group of people building the site, to the viral campaign.

The site is a shocker, but the video is great…

Hat tip to David Meerman Scott.

The influencer project – boost your profile

There is a fabulous innovation going on right now called The Influencer Project, which is music to my ears. The 8.45 Club and everything we do here at Being Smarter is all about brevity and getting your message across quickly and so when I heard about this project…

Sixty of the Web’s Leading Thinkers Share How You Can Increase Your Digital Influence for Good and Profit in 60 Minutes

It went straight in the calendar.

Sam Rosen, the organiser sent an email out today – which was a stroke of genius in my book, in which he’s invited an unknown up and coming influencer to be the 60th speaker.

I thought I should share this with my network – so you too could play a part in this awesome-looking event.

So here’s the story: go to Twitter, and type in your thoughts on how to best increase influence online.

Use the hashtag #influencer.

Then tomorrow (Friday) at the end of the day, we’ll choose one rising star to be our 60th speaker and share their 60 seconds in front of our entire audience, on July 6th at 6pm ET.

UPDATE – July 5th – the winner was this Tweet.

Running up that hill

Thanks to Kate Bush, August 5, 1985 for the inspiration…

Sometimes the most obvious analogies are the best ones. Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded of where you’re heading. I had a great reminder last night, which I wanted to share.

I run two or three times a week – and one of the routes I take goes over a motorway bridge. It was actually hot last night – summer has finally reached the UK and as it was towards the end of the run, I’ve got to be honest and say I struggled up it.

The noise at the top was deafening as always – as cars raced out of and into London.

It got me thinking.

  • I’ve been in this online game now for nearly two years now in various guises and it’s hard getting up that hill.
  • I’ve got to be honest and say it would have been very easy to start walking up it instead of continuing to run. It’s a mistake many people make in the online game… giving up or slowing down isn’t an option if you want to succeed.
  • I’ve seen from experience plenty of people who have reached the top of this bridge (I haven’t yet), and I can tell you that running down it is pretty easy. The key is to get to the top and that’s where the hard work is.
  • The people who’ve been in the game for years are saying that it’s never been easier to research your market and know where the traffic is heading. Tools like this are the key to that.
  • Capturing this traffic however seems to be harder than ever.
  • Persuading people your ‘stuff’ is valuable and worth pulling by to watch, listen to or read is really hard.
  • If you can set out your stall well, optimise properly and get some traction those cars do start to pull off that motorway and others will follow.
  • Getting noticed in business is therefore more critical than ever, otherwise you are going to constantly be missing the stream of potential traffic which flows past your company every day.

What are you doing to get yourself noticed? Some great case studies coming on this site over the coming weeks to help…

Fans are better than customers

Don’t get me wrong, customers pay the bills and without them you’re dead in the water as a business, however moving a customer along a loyalty curve towards becoming a fan is the ultimate achievement.

If you’re not aiming to do this in your business, I think you’re doing something wrong…


  • Fans don’t abandon you when the slightest thing goes wrong.
  • Fans are advocates for your business, spread your word and protect you in times of need.
  • Fans will buy from you time and time again.

Elevating customers to fans isn’t an exact science, however there’s some pointers below I’ve picked up from working with and noticing people and companies with true fan bases…

  • Set out to make a real difference with your product or service – the more life-changing and inspirational, the faster that customer accelerates up the fan curve.
  • Be generous with your time, but be smart the way you manage your priorities.
  • Be selfless, without being ridiculous about it.
  • Give a lot away for free but don’t be afraid of asking for the sale or you don’t have a business.
  • Add huge amounts of value regularly via different media.
  • Tell stories.
  • Accept mistakes, but fix them fast and make things better than they were before.
  • Study how Apple, First Direct and the Virgin Group market AND service their customers – they are companies with real fan bases. (Link to First Direct for those who don’t know them.)
  • Exude confidence.
  • Surround yourself with only exceptional people.

Getting your business to this phase in its evolution clearly doesn’t happen over night.

To achieve this status, you have to know where you’re heading, follow a process and be disciplined. Without that, you will always struggle.

What are you doing to turn your customers into fans?