Examples of simplicity in business

Simplicity is so hard.

I spend hours convincing clients that less is more.

Videos need to be shorter not longer.

Corporate messages need to be one sentence, not one paragraph.

It’s not about how much detail you can add, it’s about how much you can take away.

Thermomostats can be made simpler… who’d have thought it? Proves a point.

Blogs can be simple too – 37 Signals are the masters of clearing away clutter.

Even Sky, the giant corporate, have done a great job of keeping things simple on their ‘kit’ page.

We’ve worked hard at it too – our customer satisfaction survey web application, Customer Thermometer asks just one question.

As opposed to 20.

We’re constantly told, do one thing and do it well … keep things simple … walk before you can run

We so often ignore this advice, because it’s the easy way out to make things more complex.

Life has become very complicated. Too many choices and too much clutter.

How refreshing it is when a business does make things simple, removes that clutter.

As a result, you get drawn in, you become engaged. You’ve less to process.

It takes huge amount of effort to get good at it.

Some businesses manage it.

If you can find a better example of simplicity in business than the video below – let me know.

I bet you can’t.

I have a vague idea of the effort involved in making this. It would have taken a lot longer than you think.

Inspiring. Thank you Apple.

The best sales tool I’ve ever seen

It doesn’t how much you dress up your product literature, your sales patter, your claims of brilliance… actually, there’s only one thing that truly matters to a prospect… and that is whether someone else has bought from you before. Once a prospect has turned into a customer – testimonials pale into insignificance, compared to your ability to deliver.

Getting that customer in the first place is the hardest bit. Delivery is ‘easy’ because it’s within your control.

Social proof through reviews, (think Tripadvisor) recommendations (think Linkedin) or Likes (think Facebook) are becoming an essential part of any business’s sales pitch and toolkit.

If you’re selling your own consulting services, then testimonials, case studies and quotes from happy customers are the most important thing on your website.

The graphic below is quite literally the best piece of social proof I’ve ever seen.

Why would you not use these guys?! I thought it’s something we could all learn from and adapt to your business…

(click the link to see the live map).

the-best-sales-tool-ive-seen

How to set up a toll free number for your website

When it comes to technology – the answer to “Can you do this…?” is always yes – it’s simply a case of how long or how much.

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve had an amazing week when it comes to technology research. I will save some of my research for another day – but today I’ve cracked something I’m extremely proud of – and I appear to have come full circle.

Back in 1996, I worked for the UK’s largest telco – BT. It’s even possible some of you reading this will have worked with me back then! One of my roles was as an International voice networking specialist – working with our global division to provide sales support to the likes of Hertz (memories of Oklahoma City) and advising on the latest and greatest call centre technology to distribute calls around the world to different call centres.

100’s if not 1000’s of engineers were involved in running our global network and switching voice calls around the world back then, according to time of day or menu options was hard and complicated and BT charged a lot of money for it.

Reason #1278 to love the Internet: Yesterday, I set up the equivalent network in about an hour for $20/month.

I have two businesses and until recently, our web application, Customer Thermometer has email support only. We’ve had a number of ‘complaints’ we aren’t easy to get hold of – many of our US customers like to pick up the phone and talk to a real person (even if they’re British!) and one of our US colleagues decided it was time to implement a toll free ‘1800’ type number.

It’s not something I’d ever researched – yet I knew what I wanted – a number in the UK and a number in the US which would arrive at the same place – press ‘1’ for sales and ‘2’ for tech support… depending on which of the team were awake and on duty – the system should then route the call seamlessly… if no one was able to take a call – voicemail kicks in. I of course wanted to control all of that from some kind of web control panel and have complete flexibility.

Too much to ask?

What I wanted is wanted by hundreds of businesses around the world every day I would imagine – and I guess it sounds simple on paper – however when you stop to think about it – have you any idea how complicated that set up is!

It was time to Google: how to set up a toll free number.

Approximately an hour of research later, I hit the jackpot and want to recommend this company to you.

www.Tollfreeforwarding.com provide an online virtual control panel for setting up your toll free numbers.

You select a US toll free number and start your 1 month free trial. Inbound calls are then routed to your cell/mobile or chosen landline depending on how you set them up. You can then add in a UK toll free (or any other number for that matter).

Once set up, there are then multiple options available:

You can switch in a voice menu (which I recorded in my best voiceover voice – available on request) to distribute those calls, depending on the expertise around and available:

toll-free-interactive-voice-menu

Voicemail is amazing – if someone leaves a message – you can hit play in your control panel to hear it … PLUS it emails you the voicemail as a wav file.

Calls are fully itemised:

toll-free-call-itemisation

Calls can be routed, depending on time of day / day of week:

time-of-day-toll-free-routing

Pricing

You pay a line rental every month for the service and each toll free number of $20 (starter) and then pay for routed calls separately. To route a call from a US toll free to a UK mobile is just 10c/minute… very reasonable. All features etc are fully inclusive.

You should know – I’m not on commission – this isn’t an affiliate sale – I just like to promote what works, is great value and could well answer many consultant’s questions…

Main image credit.

Philippe Dubost interview – how to get 1 million web visits in 8 days

Chances are you’ve possibly heard of Philippe Dubost. A couple of weeks ago, he was taking the Internet by storm, pretty much from nowhere.

Philippe was looking for a job, was sick of having to fire off his CV and be another ‘number’ on someone’s desk, and so he decided to go about things differently… got a little creative… thought outside the box.

And boy, has it paid off.

I’m personally fascinated by the concept of things going viral. A colleague of mine, David Meerman Scott, got me hooked on the concept a few years ago, thanks to his (now free) book, World Wide Rave – well worth a read.

When I heard about Philippe’s achievements, I got in touch and asked him for an interview and he was all too happy to give me some time.

I asked Philippe about his situation late last year,  what drove him to coming up with this idea, the sequence of events on how it went viral, about some of the incredible metrics over the course of the mad couple of weeks… and, of course, the question on everyone’s mind – has he got himself a new role yet?

Click here to see his online CV which has turned him into an overnight star. It’s simplicity personified – which for me, is why it has worked so well for him.

Get the full Philippe Dubost interview in the video below. He was a delight to talk to and gives some great insight.

When you’ve seen it – why not take a moment to figure out how you might think a little differently to get noticed by your next client?

One of the best questions to ask your clients

I love working with smart people. It’s inspiring.

I’m working with someone at the moment who gets selling. He gets how to get inside buyers’ heads and he gets the concept of talking a buyer’s language and really – I mean – really figuring out what they are looking for in a service.

Adrian Evans is an author, headhunter and career coach and we’re in the middle of building something rather awesome for one of his clients. I know it’s awesome, because it’s going to be solving their problems and is really giving them something which they don’t have today which will move them forwards as a business.

How do I know all of this? Because he has asked just the right question before we even started.

“How will you judge this?”

So simple, yet genius.

He has got his client to lay out to him their success criteria, how they will feel when it’s right, how their senior management will react to something and what they’re expecting from a deliverable in one simple question.

I love it and I will be using it myself in the days and weeks to come.

The screenshot by the way is taken from the ‘thing’ we’re developing (logo blurred). That studio isn’t real by the way – it’s all done using the magic of greenscreen. You’ll find out more here.

Do one thing, and do it well

Last Wednesday night was pretty special. My wife and I headed up to London, on a school night, children kindly looked after, to attend a rather emotional awards ceremony.

After the ceremony, to say we needed food would be an understatement and we were fortunate enough to stumble across a very nice looking restaurant, just round from Farringdon station in Central London. It’s called Byron Hamburgers.

Until that point, we’d never heard of it, yet it turns out to be a rather successful chain of restaurants, and from what I can see is only available in rather well to do (Kings Road, Oxford, Putney) places. And why not – I think it’s to do with knowing your market.

I absolutely loved this place. It looked stunning, the staff were great and the food was excellent. It also turned out to be their very first night of opening – 2 nights before their official opening night on the Friday. We lucked out in a big way – we were presented the bill and the food was free. That was a surprise – and I’d hereby love to thank the Byron team for that unexpected and rather wonderful surprise, but that’s not the reason I’m writing this post.

photo(1)

The reason I’m writing it is because of the final reason I loved the place.

The marketing.

Like all the best things in life – it was simple and straightforward:

“Do one thing and do it well.”

Possibly my single biggest challenge in life.

If they had said, “Put your eggs in multiple baskets and spread yourself so thin it hurts”, I wouldn’t have written this post, instead I would have smiled and barely noticed it – because it would have been a little too close to the truth for comfort.

Instead, it resonated somewhat.

Byron Hamburgers have grown from zero to 29 restaurants in 5 years.

How have they done it? By focusing on one thing, and doing it well.

I’m going to start taking a leaf out of their book. It won’t be easy – but I have a plan.

Do you?

PS Their video is rather awesome too – check it out below.

Byron_film from Byron Hamburgers on Vimeo.

How to create product screenshots without Photoshop

The product screenshot you see in this post has been generated without Photoshop or any other form of image manipulation software. It was also produced in approximately 15 seconds!

In the video below, I show you how to do it, including how to take a screenshot from your iPhone or iPad, if you’ve always wondered how.

I honestly believe it’s one of the coolest shortcut techniques I’ve ever discovered.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

How to ask good questions…

My dad has taught me from an early age that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Asking a client for the deal, asking a partner for a better deal or asking brave questions to a prospect normally yield interesting and unexpected results. 

Sadly most people start with the premise that someone’s going to say no. If you do, you’ll ask in the wrong way. 

Be confident. If your question is a good one offering a potential win-win for both sides, then there’s every chance you’ll be surprised with the answer

Here’s some great examples of people asking bold questions and getting great and unsurprising answers.

1) The case of the lost Lego

lego-letter

2) Giraffe Bread at Sainsburys Supermarket

One simple letter from a 3 year old…
SONY DSC
Gave rise to 140,000 Likes in a Facebook campaign and this response from Sainsburys…
giraffe-bread-letter-2

3) A man who likes his steak

Peter Shankman had had a long day travelling, realised he wouldn’t have time to make or buy dinner as his flight was getting in late. He was a regular with a steakhouse, which turns out to be 23.5 miles away from New York’s Newark airport, where he was heading.
Before he got on his flight – he sent this Tweet:
porterhouse-tweet
He was joking of course… and Morton’s restaurant knew he was joking – however to return to the title of this post – you know what happens next don’t you?
They met him at the airport, much to his total surprise.
mortons-new-york
An amazing example of customer service – yes – but let’s not forget what’s actually happened here – Peter dared to ask… and he got a great and unexpected result.
Learn how to ask good questions, dare to ask a question you wouldn’t normally ask – and see what happens.
Love to hear your examples below.

10 tips for awesome screen capture videos

A great way to get your message (and personality) across

Screen cams / screencaptures / screenflows are all around us. People are all too keen on YouTube to show us the latest and greatest software, however in far too many cases, where people just aren’t familiar with producing videos, they’re more likely to default to text or badly labelled PowerPoint slides, which is a pity. So often a quickly put together screencam could speed up your communications to many or in a 1:1 situation.

Having been a runner up in the 2011 TechSmith Screenchamp awards, I thought I’d offer some thoughts…

1.) Get it right on paper!

It’s so obvious, but I’m compelled to start with it – GET IT RIGHT ON PAPER. Work out what on earth you want to say first of all. Don’t just start waffling – have yourself a mindmap / cigarette packet / napkin / piece of beautifully labelled A3 – whatever your choice. If you plan it out in advance, it will take you minutes to produce a work of art as opposed to an hour to produce a mess. I have to say – one of my favourite tools is a piece of A3 paper.

2.) Keep it short

Make it as short as it can be. People hate waffle. Which brings me back to #1. Reduce the umms and arrrs by being clear in your thought process. Rehearse your ‘voiceover’ if you have to and don’t be afraid to re-record it if it just doesn’t flow. You’ll often find, recording it second time round it sounds and flows better.

3.) It’s all about the sound

Ensure you have a great microphone. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. People can handle average video – poor quality sound is a massive turn off. Whether you’re PC or Mac – I use this USB mic attached to this boom which works a treat. Crystal clear sound, plus I get to relive the olden days and feel like I’m a radio presenter all over again 😉

4.) Maybe there’s a better way?

Think about the format you’re going to create a screencapture in. Recently, I’ve come up with an interesting method for describing concepts, which involves turning a webcam upside down, a decent light, a piece of A3 paper and a big marker pen. With 6,000 views in a month – it seems to be resonating. Maybe, recording a screen isn’t the right answer? Maybe recording you standing in front of a whiteboard, talking is a better idea. Consider the best way to get your message across.

5.) Idea first, software second

If you are going to do a screen capture – you need the right software. Screenflow on a Mac is great. Camtasia (cheaper on Amazon than going direct!) on a PC is pretty good too. You can also check out the free services Jing and Screenr. Accept that if you’ve not used a piece of software before, there’s going to be a learning curve. Don’t shout at it – it may not be the software’s fault – it could be ‘user error’. Like everything in life, the more you do, the easier it becomes.

6.) Tell a story

If you’re going to show how a piece of software works, put things into context – show a workflow… tell a story… paint a picture. Telling your audience that SHIFT-CONTROL-F10 enables the syntax error debugging code window in full screen mode helps no one – especially if they’re a novice, which leads me on to

7.) Consider your audience

Is your audience my dad? Or is your audience an 18 year old college kid who spends 21 hours a day in front of a screen? There’s a big difference in how you tell your story – make sure you speak to your audience

8.) Prepare your assets

When you’re putting your story together – you’ll almost certainly need external files – to upload an image / create a document etc – have them to hand so you don’t spend half of your screencam searching directories. While I’m on it – for goodness sake don’t show the world all your private, personal stuff – hide your browser bookmarks, ensure you don’t navigate personal folders… it will save you having to mask it all out further down the production

9.) File formats

Ensure you export your video file in a decent format. WMVs and FLVs are so 1980’s – the file type of choice for best streaming would be a .MP4 / .M4V – these are universally accessible, are converted by YouTube nicely and are the best quality vs filesize balance of all the file types.

10.) Showcase and promote your work

There’s not much point in producing beautiful work if no one sees it. Enter it into competitions, embed it on your blog – get people to talk about what you’re doing and if you get really good at it – why not build a few, and turn them into a course. Don’t forget to give a couple of modules away for free though…

If you’ve found any great screencammers out there – add them into the comments below.

 

Alternatives to PowerPoint

Before I start, I’ve nothing against the software, nor the producer of it. The issue I have is how it’s used, and how it’s taken over our lives.

I’ve spent the last 10 years helping people deliver their messages to internal and external audiences – so I guess you could say I’ve seen and experienced a lot of seminars and presentations. I’ve helped CEO’s of FTSE 100 companies deliver their messages and I’ve worked with dozens of salesforces, consultants and marketing departments create and deliver messages to persuade, ‘cajole’ (good word) and win business.

Ban PowerPoint for a day

In short, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to presenting.

Despite the length of time I’ve been doing this. I’m now more fascinated in the subject than ever. Why?

I’m surrounded by friends and colleagues in the corporate space and I’m hearing more than ever the phrases:

“I need to work late to finish my slides”
“They need the slides 24 hours before the meeting”
“Can you help me with my slides”
“I need to get my slides out”

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH

Everywhere I look there are slides being produced and emailed to hundreds of people. Slides which have hours put into them. Slides which have to win over an argument, persuade, educate and rarely do.

Why?

Because 90% of the time, sending a set of slides is not the answer.

  • Slides are something to hide behind when presenting an argument
  • Slides are typically part of a ‘read along with me’ session
  • Slides should more often than not be a report or document
  • Slides do not contain your personality
  • Slides alone do not persuade, sell or cajole
  • Slides don’t get read or understood, they get flicked through
  • Slides rarely add to your argument
  • Slides make you work late and rarely give you a return on your time
  • Slides come second. You story comes first. Most people work the other way round.

Believe it or not, last year in Switzerland, Mattias Poehm founded a political party dedicated to the eradication of Powerpoint. Awesome. I might just join.

You probably don’t need to be quite so radical, but what’s my answer?

Here are 10 alternatives for getting your message across.

  1. Still need to get visual? Master Prezi. It will make your audiences sit up and listen
  2. Read Pitch Anything! By Oren Claff to understand how to construct your story.
  3. Use Camtasia (great price here) / Screenflow for MAC to produce a narrated demo to bring your story alive
  4. Read Resonate to understand how to construct the visuals for your story. (I’m reading it now and it’s brilliant)
  5. Refuse a projector. Be brave, stand up and just talk. Use notes and make sure you’ve prepared your story.
  6. Don’t use a single bullet point. Use images only. Images are memorable. Spend a few dollars on some images – what return might you get?
  7. Do something different. If you’re given an hour, figure out how to take 10 mins to deliver the same message. Give you audience the gift of time. Hook them in enough to want more and create conversations afterwards.
  8. Use a whiteboard or a flipchar, learn to draw, develop a story. Make it personal.
  9. When someone asks for ‘slides’ ask why. Ask them whether a narrated screencam might be better. Narrate 10 mins over some slides and send them the video. This way you don’t need to have the presentation after all. I do this a LOT and have had tremendous results. Then, when you then actually get to meet someone, they know what the message is you’re looking to deliver, because they’ve heard and seen it in advance. You can then use the time together constructively.
  10. If there’s nothing on screen, you are the focus. Your words get listened to. Choose your technique based on your message and your audience.

Try something. If you work as part of a large team, join me in banning PowerPoint in your business for a day and see what happens.