Built In: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything – Part 2

On March 15, 2012 I wrote this article/blog post “Marketing Trend: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything“.   This post is a follow up. You may want to read the original and then this post.  Of all the things I have written about in the past couple years, the decreasing need to have to remember most anything, because of the efficiencies of technology, has been one of those things that I not only think about, but live everyday.

In fact we all do.  When was the last time that you had to memorize a new phone number?  How many email addresses do you know by heart?  In fact do you find that you used to know them all by heart, but as time passes and technology changes we need to know less and less.  How many times have you emailed or Text/SMS somebody asking for their mailing address and then fumbled around in Gmail looking for that email so you can buy them a gift!  This trend and the ensuing impact on our lives is what I had touched on in my first article.  And the reason I was saying that I am living it everyday is my involvement with Connect Address.

Connect Address

Around the time I wrote this first article I had just started to work as a consultant with a small group in Boca Raton, Florida that was trying to find a business model for a start-up.  That start-up had already developed a Facebook store and a bunch of great technology.  Their issue at the time was they did not have a serious direction.  Their Facebook store really did not have a great brand, great products or even a reasonable profit margin.  It was a dead-end.  Over the next few months after meeting the owners, we changed the direction of that business from being an online retailer to being a technology company.  The trend or piece I observed within their technology, or the turning point, was when I recognized something different in their process that would be of great value to other players in the market.  They had put together a process to allow a buyer on Facebook to purchase, but that buyer did not have to know the shipping address of the recipient.  The process would send a message off to the receiver and ask for it, providing a form to enter the address where they would like the product shipped.

Seeds of Not Having To Know Anything

Well, the ability to order without knowing where the order would be shipped intrigued me.  A few months later I began writing my first blog post about what we can call “address-less” shipping.   And when we went to the first fortune 500 company to pitch this concept, their answer was Wow, that is different, and yes we want it.  So, within a few months there was a prototype app and Connect Address has been on their way since.  That app has been improving and changing over the past year, but the concept is pretty much the same.  You are buying a gift for somebody and you don’t know where they live, so you use this third party service to get it.  So where does the not having to know anything come into play. Well, if you are using this new, disruptive service, you will notice that you simply login to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Gmail, Yahoo, etc, and get access to your names and email address.  Most of their technology requires you to click on a picture to choose who you are sending the gift.  End result, address-less shipping, without the pain of having to send an email off to your gift recipient, waiting for the address, keeping two browser windows open and then copy and pasting 7 times…

The History

When I wrote the original blog post, I realized that this is not just a one off event that turned into a product.  Address-less, Phone-less, and not having to know things is a product of the evolution of technology.  I was able to trace this decreasing need to know anything trend back to the original speed dial.  It was innovative at the time.  Store a phone number and then just click a button.  Many old phones used to have that little piece of paper you would stick in the phone that would say the name.  Then it got better and better until virtual phone systems appeared.  The cell phone network introduced both on board address books and voice activated address book look-up and dialing.  Then gmail (that is one I remember) introduced a bit of AI (Artificial Intelligence, which are often now just JQuery lookups), that figures out from the few letters you have typed in what the “email” possibilities are; basically what we are going to think of next…  Gmail figured out who to send email without the email address.  Once I get an email from you and send to you, next time I just type the name, not the email in and it goes to town popping in the email address.  So, cool stuff.  Life is better. Now, people don’t own address books anymore.  Now people don’t need to know your phone number.  Everything is becoming built-in.

Built-Ins

So, just like your cabinets in your living room that are part of the walls, the information that connects us is built-in to the technology.  Soon the next couple generations will not even know what a phone number is.  Maybe they will just bump or square you and it will move from phone to phone, stored somewhere far off in a cloud server.

Google Glass And Beyond

I am not one of the 8,000 chosen to test Google Glass (Irreverently spelled, but obviously about eye glasses), but let’s just say it is the next step in this evolution.  With everything not having to be remembered, improving upon how you can easily access that information is the next step of this evolution.  Google Glass seem to work great and I saw a user who was very happy with them.  As far as Connect Address, they are still just getting started in a brave new world of helping you to not having to know one more thing, the shipping address of who you are buying a gift.  It’s Built In.

On Leadership

Interestingly enough, the one theme I can find that connects almost every aspect of our lives, childhood, school, work, personal, family is leadership.  It may come in many forms with many titles, but it always comes down to responsibility, decision-making and accountability. And trust me, I am not going to give you a diatribe on how great a leader I am, because often I am not.  Though I aspire to be one.

Success and leadership are often intermingled, but they are not the same thing.  One can be the product of the other, but too often success may come at a cost, sometimes that cost can leadership-less.  That is when success comes at the cost of somebody out there.  Greed and avarice is not leadership.  In fact financial success is not always leadership and neither is winning always leadership.  Though financial success and winning require leadership, but its an ingredient not the final product.  I would classify leadership in its own category.  Other words come to mind like ethics and morality.  I would not go that far, but these are the underpinnings of leadership.

So I have thrown a lot of words into that conversation.  One place I can point to is our childhood.  If you are influenced by somebody who embodies leadership it can impact your entire existence.  If you were influenced by the opposite of leadership, you may have tendencies to run from taking a position, taking a role in leading or taking control of anything, including your own life.

Quite frankly my tendency is to run from leadership.  I know deep inside how much a commitment takes.  I finally got married at 42, late in life, because I did not want the commitments involved. But sometimes we are unlikely leaders.  Being a parent puts you in a position where you have no choice.  You can be a leader of  your child and show them the way or you can run.  A few people run, I did not.  I guess this is a big test in life for all of us.

I have been in charge and will be in charge of all kinds of stuff in my life, including business, personal and sometimes community.  And while I don’t want the responsibility, I aspire to be the person in charge.  In several cases in high school and college I was either the president of an organization or ran my own youth group.  I even was in charge of a chunk of a national organization in BBYO.  I have owned my consulting company and software business over the years and have had to take responsibility for these companies, meaning paying the bills and making sure the work gets done.

Accountability

There is one place we can all make an improvement in our day to day lives and that is being accountable.  It is not always fun.  It is not always something we want to do.  It means answering a call and talking to a person we don’t want to.  It may mean for me talking to a client and getting back and having a conversation with someone I quite frankly don’t want to talk with.  It can mean living up to some level of responsibility in life.

I find the insidious lack of accountability has slowly reared its ugly head in almost every aspect of our lives mainly because of technology.  We used to be able to receive a written or printed letter and write a letter back to respond.  Back then we had the time to think and write carefully that letter.  Today I get almost a hundred emails a day, and sometimes I have to log on in the middle of the night to respond to some one, some place who needs an answer to a question.  It may be something minor.  It may be a big issue, but I definitely aspire (once again) to get an answer to that person.  Like everybody in some form of technology overload, we end up missing the responses here and there.  It comes at no surprise to me, because there is no way a rational person can respond to everything going on.  The tweeting and posting on Facebook walls has only increased this to a new level.

The best thing I can do, and you can as well, is to make an effort, figure out what needs to be responded to and what not to respond to.

Real Leaders

I have been around real leaders, and trust me I see things in them I will never have the capability of doing.  That’s ok.  I am more of an observer and supporter than a traditional leader.   My leadership skill is based on how I live and not on exactly what I have accomplished.  I influence others by how I take actions.  We all simply need to look in the mirror and measure ourselves, our capabilities and what we want to get out of life.  If you want to succeed and win, especially in business, then learn from existing leadership (the past) and put yourself in situations where the leaders exist now and can influence you.  This is so critical if you are young and just starting out.  The ones who are able to learn from great leaders will go on to be great leaders themselves.

 

Search, The Internal Frontier

I’ve recently taken on a project which includes a complicated “Internal” site search.  This website not only needs to be found on the web, but members can run specific searches against specific elements on the website, click on subcategories and then create filters.  Sounds a bit like an eCommerce search, right?  Well, it’s not, but eCommerce is a good starting point.  This blog article is going to explore what I know about internal website search and places they have solved it well or not so well.

First off, there are two kinds of searches online as you should know by now.  You got your World Wide Web search now referred to as a Google search, and an internal website search.  It may not be so easy to figure out which kind you are doing these days, because an internal search quite often is using Google and/or the Google Appliance, a box Google sells you that manages a “Google like” private search engine for your website.

I first ran into a hybrid search, what I call “Directed Search” when I was hired for a consulting gig at The Limited, VictoriasSecret.com.  They had no search box at the time.  The year was 2005.  I mention that, because that shows how large, successful brands, can get stuck in the past.  They required the customers to click on the word search, then click on something like a bra. Then you would have to choose your size and finally choose a style and color.  It was like 9 clicks to checkout. Well that was unacceptable.  But it made sense from a technical standpoint.  A lot of things make sense from a technical point of view.  Having a system that holds people’s hands through a step by step search can make sense, but not with bras.  At VictoriasSecret.com, later that year after I had left, the search became a search box, and finally you could put the word “Pink” in that box and get some results and then make adjustments on the left for price, color, size, etc.  Point is, that not all searches are equal.

I have been studying two well used online internal search paradigms to solve my problem, Linkedin.com and Bankrate.com.  Both websites have a complicated, MIT level issue with data, and getting customers to the right answer, without taking up too much time and without losing them in “advanced” areas.  I think both sites live and die by helping the members find their way to a person/company or whatever int he case of Linkedin.com and to a mortgage company in the case of Bankrate.com.

Basic Versus Advanced

I think we can all agree that the best searches have a limited amount of functionality at first.  If you read my article on “2 Online Marketing Segments: Insecure Focused, Secure Unfocused“, you will see that you need to accommodate the less sophisticated, yet ready to go, user like myself first and foremost.  I admit I don’t read everything, and I would guess that 80% of the population is like me.  But for that 20%, there are extreme details they want to know, and they WILL use the advanced search. So, you got to keep everybody happy.  It is not easy for Linkedin.com for instance.  You will notice they have it easy to find people, but if you start peeling back the layers, the advanced search is there.

One Click Versus Many

One UI goal and conversion goal for all searches is to reduce the clicks.  This means if something can be done in one click that’s great and lets say no clicks, that’s even better.  Remember with JQuery you can have a no click solution, where people type things in, look at Answers.com and others, and have it change as you enter your search terms.  The way that Linkedin.com solves this is by having a little drop down for the search, which means you can choose what kind of search you are starting before you enter data, people, company, group, etc.  This is really innovative and useful.

Complications & Third Parties

So sometimes a search can not be as straight forward.  There could be third parties who have ad-space making it advantageous for search to take a little bit longer (a few clicks).  Bankrate.com is a great example of searches where, in order to search customers correctly, they have to know where you are looking to get a mortgage and what type  you are looking for to even start the search.  For instance I would be looking for a 30 Year Fixed in Boca Raton, Florida.  Then they can start the search… So for some searches it is more about getting the basics in place, and then start the filtering.

No matter what kind of search you set up.  Trust me the Google Appliance is not for everybody and there are still about 15 companies out there which provide third party internal Saas search products like Omniture and Autonomy.  If you are an eCommerce company you can’t live without them.

 

 

How To Use Your Schtick To Network & Sell

After many years of attending networking meetings and events, going off to places like CEO SPACE, Internet Retailer, iDate, this-con and that-con and local events, I finally have come up with a networking truism, related to the word Schtick.

This came about because I have recently been personally tasked with finding clients with web development projects that have Social Networking built in, a customized social network.  I mean tasked because essentially I am part of a sales process.  And quite honestly I was a proven loser when it comes to selling (I have tried in several businesses, but being a techie and a non-sales type, I sold nothing!).  But networking to sell is not really selling, its about getting to know people and leading them to where they need to go (whether they know it or not).  Very Zen.

Tell And Then Ask

So, the real question is how do you figure out at a networking meeting who to meet and who not to meet, essentially getting people to open up and tell you what they really want, what are they are looking for and why they are looking.  That is the key to networking.  Because, once you can figure this out, you can find out if your objective is aligned with their quest.  Your quest starts by having an in, or something to chat about which is real, emotionally connectable, meaning they listen up and get it and want to know more about it as an Attention Getter to introduce yourself.  It has to be personalized and it has to be something real about you, though a poor substitute would be the news or the weather…  Once you share, people share themselves.  People do not get excited about building social networking websites.  They do get excited about a lot of cool and unusual things about ourselves.  I call this Attention Getter your Schtick.

Your Schtick

The official the word Schtick in the free dictionary is listed as

1. a show-business routine or piece of business inserted to gain a laugh or draw attention to oneself.

2. one’s special interest, talent, etc.

Ok, let’s clarify how I use my Schtick.  It is used to get attention and tell a story about something people are interested in, generally.  When I do this, well, the heads turn.  If you have people smiling and listening, you are in the zone with your Schtick.  Once they are listening, you can always ask them questions and then introduce yourself overall and that is when people not only have no problem being asked if they need insurance (which I would never sell), more importantly they remember you.

Another interesting aspect of Your Schtick is having key words in there, great words, great names, great brands that people can latch onto.   I once did a small stint at VictoriaSecret.com.  That gets a nod. I have mentioned some of the brands and names I have come up with to people and they, a year later, spit out, how is “X” doing…  Like “Oops I’m Single”. Always surprises me.  The mundane is never remembered, but the specific, unique thing is.

My Example

Here is what I say.  “Hi, I am a partner in the largest speed dating company in the US.”  Ok, right there, most people now say “Oh, I know what speed dating is” and some people say “Huh”.  I explain, “You know 12 men and 12 women meet at a bar for 6 minute dates”, and then I back it up with “It’s in 75 US cities”.    Most important to this, is they chuckle.  But, it gets them in the conversation.  That is a starter.  And then if I am loosing them, I mention the brand name I have been trying to build in the dating business “Oops I’m Single”.  That gets another laugh.  Finally I get to the point.  We are looking for companies and entrepreneurs who want to build a custom social network.  “Do you or somebody you know want to build and own a highly customized social network and build it for a cost effective amount?”

My Disciple

A year ago, a guy who used to work for me way back when, started to go out and network and look for projects for me.  He asked me, “ok, what do I say, how do I network”? I guess working for many years in a big company, we turn off our networking genes and just go to work.  All of us have to learn how to re-purpose our minds in order to change careers, find work and generally get things done with others.  So, I told this guy, hey you need your own Schtick.  He told me he had none…  Well, truthfully I am sure there is somebody out there, especially younger people who have not enough life experience with no Schtick at all.  But trust me, everybody has some Schtick in them somewhere.  I went though this guy’s background and it turns out he attended NYU in the late 1980s, for a special Electronics Media graduate degree program.   This is pre-Internet, but what is interesting about this story, is the people he was in class with were saying that there will be electronic worlds in the future and cities will be connected, they just did not know the Internet was right around the corner.  In fact some of these people ended up designing and guiding the early Internet.  He actually worked for Prodigy right afterwords.  So we all have a story in us, just have it ready when you network.

Bottom Line

There are limitations to this, like my old buddy Scott, who passed away at a young age of 38 a few years ago, would go to a networking meeting or any meeting and blurt out some crazy thing.  He was just crazy and that is not what I am talking about here.  Rude, crude, sometimes is interesting if used in context.  I know a guy who always does this and he is quite successful, so not my Schtick, but maybe yours.  Bottom line, find your Schtick, get the story down and you will notice your networking meetings go a lot better.  Find a way to work in what you really do.  You share, they share.  If they don’t want to, then move them along a bit.  “Have you ever thought about building your own web business?”