Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

We found this recently on a newsletter we receive from our local Chamber of Commerce and we liked what it had to say …

—————————–

There are lots of “experts” explaining the rules for marketing on-line and, while there’s value in good advice, when guidelines become rules, they need to be examined.  Here are five ‘truths’ you need to question as you use Internet marketing for your business.

#1-Social Media has changed EVERYTHING.
Hardly!  Yes, consumers now give more public feedback on your products or services, but leads still need to be generated and sales need to be closed. Before there was social networking there was REAL networking; face to face, at an event or meeting.  The only difference now is people talk about events using a different media.  Instead of two people around the water-cooler, now it’s a posting or a wall update or a tweet.  Same concept – just a different medium.

#2-You need to have a LOT of Followers. Not so!  Quality beats quantity any day, and you will always achieve better results by marketing to a small group of serious fans and supporters than trying to sell a one-size-fits-all product.  Sure, the more followers you attract to your blog or the larger your network, the better the chance of reaching a customer when they’re about to make a purchasing decision.  But don’t think that just because you don’t have an on-line fan base in the thousands that on-line marketing isn’t right for you.

#3-You can’t measure Social Media ROI. Of course you can!  There are hard numbers like the traffic social media sends to your website, and the conversion rate for that traffic.  (Your contact form should ask “How did you hear about us” and options should include Twitter, FaceBook, Google etc. to give you accurate counts).  And there are soft numbers like how many people viewed your latest YouTube video, or how many comments you’re getting on your blog.   There are tools you can use to measure the ROI social media generates for you.

#4-You can’t sell on Social Media. Very False! Dell has sold millions of dollars of computers and accessories through Twitter promotions.  Coffee shops use Twitter to take orders that are then ready when you arrive.  Companies promote themselves using location-based applications like ForeSquare or Gowalla.  This doesn’t mean you should just spam everyone you can reach (it’s the quickest way to lose followers or even get banned) but when you put the right message in front of the right person at the right time, sales happen.  And on-line and social marketing outlets reach customers when they are actively searching for you.

#5-You HAVE to be on Facebook (or Twitter, or have a blog…) Wrong!  You need to focus on the sites and applications that are already being used by your target audience.  Best way to determine this?  Ask.  Then be where your customers are.  (you should still reserve your space on as many social media platforms as possible, if only to keep competitors from claiming the space and to be positioned if trends change and a particular platform turns into a popular hang out for your audience)

There is no rule that’s right for every company, but one truth about any marketing initiative you undertake is this; provide value!  Every tweet, ad, posting, Point-of-purchase sign, or status update must provide value to your customer.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Article Link

I know this is a subject that can be rather contentious with alot of people. We’ve encountered all different types of opinions on this subject….

Opinions range from “I just download music and don’t really think about it” all the way to “I know it’s illegal but who cares because the musicians are rich enough and won’t miss it” …

Very quickly the lines can be drawn with with Subjective/Opinion based arguments on one side and Objective/Fact based arguments on the other side …

We find that with this subject it’s no use getting into the debate based on Subjective/Opinion based arguments because they are just that … Opinions … and you’re often spinning your wheels trying to convince people either way.

Here’s the facts that we know for sure …

1) Downloading Music that you have not paid for or that you have not been given express permission to download by the publisher or artist is illegal and is an infringement of copyright law

2) LimeWire and other file sharing services are absolute cesspools for virus and spyware activity. A simple Google search of the term “limewire virus risk” reveals many examples

These two points are not debatable and are fact …

In our company we have had many examples practically of how LimeWire and other file sharing services have propogated virus and Spyware activity to the point where it renders machines useless and they need to scrubbed and reloaded.

This ends up sometimes costing hundreds of dollars in recovery costs which sure makes $0.99 or $1.29 a song on iTunes seem pretty reasonable …

Would love your feedback on this subject … feel perfectly free to disagree and we’d love to hear your opinion!

Read Full Post »

There are many different “pieces of the puzzle” in play when it comes to building an I.T. environment that effectively serves the needs of it’s end users …

If you were to “shadow” a typical end user in an organization, whether large or small, you would get some very interesting insight into just exactly how many separate and distinct tasks a person performs in a typical day:

  • Sending and Receiving E-Mail (both on their PC/Desktops/Laptops and their Mobile Devices)
  • Typing Documents
  • Printing
  • Accessing an accounting and/or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Application
  • Scheduling Appointments and Managing “To Do” lists …

Over time, as more and more is required of the typical end user, and businesses grow, the size and complexity of IT Environments at organizations, both Large and Small, has slowly, and sometimes quickly, increased ….

As users also become much more mobile it also adds another “wrinkle” into what needs to be considered when planning an effective IT environment …

What’s Going On In The Background …

So far we’ve only talked about the actual end user themselves. There is so much more that has to go on in the background from an IT Management standpoint in order to effectively and securely deliver these services to the end user …

It’s one thing to, for instance, offer up email services to a number of end users, but what about properly securing that email from Virus and Spam content? What about securing the content of those emails?

There’s also the issue of Backup of all the data that users will access on a day to day basis …

If there’s a system crash of some sort you have to know for sure that your data is both secure and easily recoverable in a way that minimizes business interruption …

Going Forward …

Organizations are always looking for ways to become more efficient and lean and they are looking for ways, where it makes sense, to reduce the complexity of their IT Environments, make it more secure and increase performance.

If you make cars, candy or furniture that is what you do best … you’ve invested the time, energy and resources to be the best you can at your craft and you take pride in that …

Technology is there ultimately to serve “you” … not the other way around …

There are a number of technology providers that offer services to help you reduce the complexity and increase the security of your IT Environment by hosting certain “pieces of the puzzle” offsite. These services are hosted in secure data centers where huge investments in performance and security have already been made so you don’t have to.

If you take advantage of these services the only thing you need to worry about is just connecting to the service and doing your job. There is no need to invest time and dollars yourself into all the infrastructure and security needed to deliver these services to your end users.

It all comes down to doing what you do best and letting others do what they do best …

SaaS (Software As A Service) offerings are available for E-Mail Operations and Security, Mobile Connections, ERP and Accounting Software, Office Documents and a number of other day to day business functions…

Every company and business environment is different and we recognize that and we also know that there is no cookie-cutter solution that applies to everyone…

However, if you ever find yourself not quite knowing if your data is secure, wishing performance was better or just wishing your entire IT environment was smaller and leaner then perhaps looking at a SaaS offering for certain pieces of your technology environment is a good idea, if only just to discover what options there are …

It would ultimately reduce your stress level and allow you to just concentrate on doing your job and “using” the tools as opposed to worrying about delivering, managing and securing those tools as well …

We’d love to hear your feedback on this subject and as always we’re here to help…

Read Full Post »

“To Cloud or not to Cloud” your data

Ok, we’ll admit that our title is a bit of a cheesy Shakespearian appropriation, but it is a very good question that needs to be examined as part of your data and IT strategies.

Your data is critical for the continuing operation of your business. So considering where and how it is stored and how accessible it is has a real impact on the efficiency and resilience of your business.

The “cloud” refers to the growing number of software and data storage services that are now offered remotely. You can store all your data online and you can run a lot of the applications you need directly from the web rather than by software installed on your personal computers.  Let’s examine the key pros and cons of a cloud IT strategy and we will describe a practical example.  This assumes that you have a high quality “cloud” services provider.

PROS:

  • Storing your data on the cloud improves the resilience of your business as your data is safe from any physical disaster that may affect your firm.
  • Storing your data on the cloud can eliminate the need for local back-up and simplify your daily office operations.
  • Using web delivered applications can cost less when you have a small number of users for a specific application.
  • Using web delivered applications ensures that everyone is on the same and the latest version of the software you use.
  • Using web delivered applications can extend the life of your personal computers as the processing is done on the web.

CONS:

  • There are unresolved privacy issues when you store your data on the “cloud”.  While Canada has made an effort to sort out IT privacy issues, the situation is less clear in the US.  It is likely that a copy of your data will end up on a US server and it could be subpoenaed by their authorities (view a great article on this particular point HERE).  This is a potential problem if your business owns Intellectual Property or sensitive customer data.
  • Web delivered applications will consume more bandwidth and require excellent internet connections to deliver a friendly user experience.
  • A corollary of the point above is that your may suffer business stoppages if your internet service is interrupted.
  • Costs of web delivered applications can be higher if you have a large number of users.

An example:  Hosted Exchange Server

One of the services we like when conditions are right is migrating from your existing email system to a Hosted Exchange Service.  Email is a critical function of your firm and Microsoft’s Exchange Server is the most common business platform for email.

Solving email problems is a common request from our clients.  Usually the problems are caused by an overloaded local server, by different versions of Outlook running on different generations of PCs, or by poor back-up practices of the PST files Outlook uses, and by users Outlook files that exceed the capacity of the local version of the software.  Moving to a Hosted Exchange service solves all these problems and usually for a very reasonable cost.

We hoped these thoughts help and answer some basic questions about “cloud” computing.  Please feel welcome to contact us if you have any additional questions.

Have a successful week …

Read Full Post »

HP buys Palm for $1.2B US

This is quite the development in the Smart Phone industry …

HP’s arch-rival Dell is getting into the Smart Phone market as well which makes this seem like quite a natural acquisition on their part. Now Palm will have a parent company with deep pockets that can dump huge $$$’s into R&D.

Look for some pretty cool innovations with the Palm platform in the future …

More and more of our daily activities will be pushed out to mobile devices … whether that be Banking, Buying Tickets for Events, Making Dinner Reservations, Food Shopping…etc..etc… so whenever a major player like this shows up it makes everyone stand up and take notice.

They say that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and perhaps a purchase like this by HP will only serve to raise the bar for all the players in the market like Apple and RIM and others …

Exciting times!!

Read Full Post »

You may be wondering whether or not you should participate in online networks.  Hopefully we can simplify things for you.  One thing is sure – a business person can’t ignore online networking anymore.  Let us oversimplify/review this by grouping online networking in three categories:

  • tools for friends and family networking like Facebook and MySpace
  • tools for business networking and tools like LinkedIn
  • tools for self expression like blogging and Twitter

Friends and Family

If you have family or friends at a distance or that you can’t see often you will likely find real value in these networks.  You can set up your profile with settings that will protect your privacy and if you are prudent with the information and photos you share you will find here tools that will actually bring your family and friends closer.  This is the paradox of these tools.  They do not reduce interactions they actually increase contact frequency.  That’s the main reason over 300 million people use Facebook (which is our preferred tool in this category is for its reach and simpler interface.)

Let me share an example from one of our clients.  Their families are spread from coast to coast and they have friends on four continents.  As participants post updates and photos other friends and family can see what is happening with the people they care for.  One grandmother in her 80s can stay in touch with the activities of fourteen grand kids dispersed all over North America.  To her this is far more relevant and interesting than the negative news on TV.  The benefit is significant to have this family better aware of each other.  There is an intimacy and a closeness that just does not happen with sporadic phone calls, letters or emails.  So we recommend using this tool wisely.  Keep your settings private and ignore all the “applications” (games, horoscopes etc.) that post how you did for all your friends to see.  These updates are annoying and dilute the value you get otherwise.

Business Networking

Here our recommended tool is LinkedIn.  You can build a profile with the explicit purpose of growing your business and what is referred today as your personal brand.  This is a highly valuable business tool.  First your profile will establish your credibility.  Second your connections (as they are called on LinkedIn) will be expanded exponentially as you can tap in the network of your connections for all kinds of business purposes.  You will also find an immense pool of highly competent talent for free.  You can ask questions of all types to help your business and other members of LinkedIn will provide their best advice.  You thank them by identifying the best responses which helps build the credibility of the responder.  You can tap into some of the best business minds of the world for free.

Here is another example shared by a client of MDB.  They recently were contemplating awarding a contract to a consultant they had never done business with before.  When they looked at the profile of the person, they discovered that they shared several connections.  Our client was able to quickly obtain references that reassured them about the calibre of the person.  In just a few minutes, our client reduced the uncertainty of his decision.  The consultant got a nice pay-off for having made the effort of building his profile.

Self-Expression

Blogging is setting up a public web site where you will share your thoughts.  From a business perspective a blog may be a very powerful way to establish your expertise and attract business.  Search engines will lead readers to your blog if your content is relevant to their search.  With time you may develop a following where people subscribe to be warned each time you write something new.  Blogging is a big commitment.  Blogs get quickly stale if no new material is added.  Our preferred tool is Word Press but there are many others.  Twitter, in our opinion, is a mini blog where each entry is limited to 140 characters.  In business, it is useful if you work in an ultrafast industry where updates regarding need to get out fast.

—–

I am not aware of a client of MDB blogging extensively for business at this time but you will find numerous examples if you search key words related to your industry.  And if you do not find a good blog – maybe it is an opportunity for you to be the first and increase your online visibility that way.  Two Twitter business stories show the value of the tool in the right context.  Dell computer uses Twitter  to announce sales of heavily discounted or refurbished equipment for rapid sales.

They attribute millions of dollars in sales to this marketing tool.  Another well known example is how the CEO of Zappo’s, the online shoe store acquired by Amazon last year for several hundred million dollars, used Twitter to communicate to his staff hundreds of times daily to keep the pace of the business ultra rapid and to make the firm extremely responsive to its clients.  The fast growth, profitability and successful sale to Amazon are testimony to how a tool like Twitter can add significant value to business.

We hope this will help you add value to your business.

Happy online networking!

Read Full Post »

2010 Technology Outlook

First we’d like to wish you all the best for 2010.  One of my goals this year is to be more proactive in informing my clients and business friends about technology changes that may affect businesses.

You may have seen some news about the giant Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas every year in early January.  This is the event when technology firms launch their new products.  I have selected a few technologies to watch and I am sharing a few comments.  I hope this helps and I invite you to contact me if you have any questions.

MOBILE INTERNET:

This is the year when hand held internet devices will really transform how we work.  While we have seen a number of precursor applications in the last few years, we can expect that more firms than ever will transform their workflow to integrate mobile devices.  Google’s new Android phone is challenging the iPhone and the Blackberry with new business tools.  We are seeing the ability of phones to read barcodes to access the internet or a company intranet changing production, inventory and shipping functions.  We also see geo-location (the fact that your phone knows where it is) introducing a whole new set of business tools in the areas of marketing and advertising.

E-READERS:

In December, for the first time, Amazon sold more e-books than paper books.  A number of new e-reader devices were announced this year.  Electronic paper will become common.  This will impact all businesses that have a lot of documentation or who are publishing a high volume of documents.  We also see E-text books being adopted quickly by higher educational institutions, as students rebel against the high monetary and environment price of paper text books.  E-Text books can also be quickly searched compared to shuffling the index pages of a paper book.

MANAGED SERVICES:

The routine functions of servers and workstation software maintenance can be remotely managed and executed.  IT personnel will outsourced mundane tasks like these so that they can spend their time on projects and activities that deliver more value to their employers.  This is a market area that we have entered into at the end of 2009.  Clients pay a small monthly fee per workstation or server to ensure that their equipment performs flawlessly.  The cost of technology per employee has dropped in recent years and now the best productivity value comes from making sure the equipment functions 24×7 and that there is no interruption to the work performed.

CONTINUED TECHNOLOGY PRICES REDUCTION:

The price of personal computers, servers and other IT devices keeps coming down.  This means that it is much easier (and tempting) to add new devices to increase productivity.  However this proliferation of devices is sometimes done without a proper master plan or without a clear strategy as to how it will all integrate together.  These new price points make it easier to implement a strategy that will make your firm more resilient to business interruptions.  We are still surprised at how many firms make assumptions with regards to the reliability of their backup and disaster recovery practices and unfortunately have unpleasant surprises when their servers or PCs crash.

If you see an opportunity for your firm to improve its processes with any of these changes for 2010, we will be happy to help.

Again all the best for the New Year.

Michael D. Berg
Principal – DefactoCIO

Read Full Post »