September 24, 2012

Split of a second (crazy norwegians)

This is Split of a second - a breathtaking and nicely done documentary. It features a crazy Norwegian throwing himself out from a cliff and glides like a squirrel to the ground. Each jump involves a minute of flying time and they can only make seven jumps in seven days.

September 22, 2012

5 must read books about how you can sell and market your company

This is the distribution of your time when you are building a company:
  • 5 percent is the idea behind the company
  • 25 percent is the building of the product or service
  • 70 percent is the selling/marketing of the company
The number one reason to why a new company fails is that the founders of the company can't sell the idea. Some ideas can sell themselves if the ideas are good enough, but most ideas need some help to spread around the world. The best sellers can sell the worst idea, while the worst sellers can fail with the best idea. So, if you are building a company, you need to learn how to sell. Here are five good books about selling:

Crossing the chasm by Geoffrey Moore. This book is considered to be a bible if you would like to market a newly created company. The essence of the book is that when you are marketing a new company, you need to do it in several steps depending on the size of the company. Each step involves a certain type of target audience and you need to market differently to each target audience. Between step 2 and 3, there's a chasm you need to cross to reach step 3, hence the name of the book.  

The thank you economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. This book will tell you how to market your company by using the Internet. The author of the book used Twitter - and Twitter only - to market his wine business. He used to interact with people on Twitter, solving their problems involving wine, and he became some sort of expert on wine, and got more customers.

Influence by Robert Cialdini. The book will tell you how you can use different psychology principles to affect people. This book explains why the book above, "The thank you economy", actually works. One of the psychology principles covered in the book is "authority". The essence of the principle is that we as humans follow authorities. If we see someone in a black suit crossing the street despite a red traffic light, we follow him across the street. If we see someone wearing shorts, we wait until the traffic light turns green. This is what Gary Vaynerchuck did, he became an authority on wine, and his customers followed him. To be able to sell your business, you need to become an authority within your area. This book is similar to the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and if you have the time you should read both. 

101 successful sales strategies by Stephan Schiffman. If you have never sold anything before, this book will give you an introduction to the art of selling. You can use the strategies from the book almost everywhere in every business area - not just online.  

Selling in a new market space by Brian Burns and Tom Snyder. This book will tell you how to sell something new no-one has ever heard about before. One example here is how to sell Trejdify. You can't tell someone that Trejdify is a social news site similar to Reddit where one can share and vote on the best business news. Almost no-one in the target audience will understand that. What you need to do is to change the description of the company to something people can understand. We changed the description to "online business newspaper where the readers are choosing the content". People will understand "online business newspaper" better compared with "social news site". 

Update! Since I made this list, I've discovered another good book on sales. It's called The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

The book's content is similar to other sales books - always prospect, write to-do-lists, etc. (That's is actually a good thing - it means you've learned something.) But it includes a few other pieces as well - including how to recruit sales people. 
Maybe the most important concept in the book is what is called "The Stadium Speech." The idea is that you should know enough to be able to sell your product/service to an entire stadium filled with people. What the author tells you to do is to change what you are selling. Let's say you are selling a kitchen. Tell that to the stadium and 95 percent will leave the stadium because they don't need a new kitchen. What you need to do is to change what you are selling into something else, such as "How to become a better chef." If you tell that to the stadium audience, then far more people will stay and listen to what you have to say. Then you just have to sneak in that kitchen you are selling into the presentation about how to become a better chef.   

September 18, 2012

Never trust a journalist - or why we need services like Trejdify

I've recently found a research paper on the subject on which party Swedish journalists are voting on compared with what the people in Sweden are voting on. This is the result:

Party Journalists People
V 15% 5%
S 14 28
MP 41 12
C 4 5
F 7 7
M 14 34
KD 2 3
SD 1 3
Other 3 1

We can clearly see that there is a big difference between what the people in Sweden are voting on compared with what the journalists in Sweden are voting on. I believe that this is an important fact and that we don't always get the full picture from the newspapers.

The party most favorable by journalists is MP (Miljöpartiet) - or the The Environmental Party the Greens translated to English. If you remember the earthquake in Japan in 2011, and the following Fukushima disaster, you might also remember that the news about the nuclear power plants spread around the world and everyone were terrified about the events. The stock market crashed and some people in Sweden bought those Iodine pills that are supposed to be good if you are exposed to dangerous radiation. Sweden is on the opposite side of the world from Japan, and the dangerous nuclear radiation from Japan could not have spread to Sweden. Many journalists compared the Fukushima disaster with the Chernobyl disaster - but you can't compare a Chernobyl reactor type with a reactor type from a modern nuclear power plant. This is what happened at Chernobyl:
"These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe."
A modern reactor doesn't have a graphite moderator - the graphite has been replaced with water - and water can't ignite. So the spread of the dangerous radiation can't become as great as the spread from the Chernobyl disaster. Why didn't journalists mention this when scientists during the Fukushima disaster mentioned it? You had to dig really deep through the Internet to find out why the spread of dangerous radiation could not have reached Europe. I'm not saying that nuclear power is not dangerous - of all the nuclear power plants in the world, 20 percent have dangerous graphite moderators, and I believe that we should close these power plants. Living close (within 30 km) to a nuclear power plant is also still dangerous.

In the end many countries decided to shut down their nuclear power plants. One other interesting fact is that the MP party in Sweden also want to shut down the nuclear power plants. Is this a conflict of interest? Can we expect that journalists write objectively about nuclear power - or will their writings be influenced by what they themselves believe in?

This is exactly why we need social news services like Trejdify, Digg, Reddit, and Hacker News. These content aggregators publish articles made by journalists and amateur bloggers. The big difference is that it is the people - not the journalists - that determines which of the articles are the best.

September 15, 2012

Random Show Episode 18

A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 18.

Ep18 THRQ7 from Glenn McElhose on Vimeo.

Lessons learned:
  • TF explained how you can find out whether a book is good or not by reading the most shared quotes on the Amazon Kindle site


If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here:
The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

September 11, 2012

What can the airliner SAS teach us about how to focus on our customers?

Source: Wikipedia

The book Moments of truth tells the story of how the Scandinavian airliner SAS went from an aircraft-focused company to a customer-focused company. Yes, you heard right, SAS used to prioritize their planes - not their customers. The book was written by the former SAS CEO Jan Carlzon, who was also responsible for the change of focus in the 1980s. I don't believe that it was the intention of the old SAS to not focus on their customers, no-one at the company did it on purpose. Many organizations today believe that they are focusing on their customers, but in reality they are focusing on their products.

If you are going to focus on your customers, you have to let the employees at the floor make up their own decisions - and it will always involve taking risks of making the wrong decisions. Sure, you may lose money short-term - but your customers will be more satisfied with your company long-term. If 10 million customers are meeting five employees each time they interact with the company, the total amount of meetings will be 50 million. You can't control these 50 million meetings with standardized rules and instructions from the top.

Lose money short-term while making money long-term
An American businessman stayed at a hotel in Stockholm before he went to the Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm. At the airport, he realized that he had forgotten his ticket at the hotel.
The old way: SAS would have probably said something like: "No ticket, no flight!"
The new way: SAS gave him a temporary ticket while sending a car to his hotel to pick up his lost ticket. The ticket from his hotel arrived before the aircraft departed from Arlanda Airport. SAS probably lost money since sending a car to pick up a ticket is not free, but the customer was happy and could tell his friend about the event.

Speak the same language as your customers
Make sure your customers are understanding what you are saying. SAS offered a 50 percent discount to everyone aged below 27.
The old way: The discount was named Y50. No-one understood what it meant and no-customers used the discount.
The new way: The discount was re-named to the Hundred Note. The price of the ticket was 100 SEK, and everyone understood the meaning of the Hundred Note. The Result? 125,000 more customers the first summer.

Provide a service and a product
When you are oriented toward your customers, your are probably in the business of providing your customers with a service in addition to the basic product.
The old way: SAS is in the airline business.
The new way: SAS is in the service business, transporting people in the safest and most efficient way possible.

Adapt the product to the customers - not the other way around
The old way: The planes at the Copenhagen Airport were being positioned at the departure gate that was most convenient for the planes. The customers had to move around the terminal to find the plane.
The new way: The planes had to be moved around the airport to the departure gates most convenient for the customers.

Test if it works
Go on a holiday to see if everyone can take responsibility
The old way: Jan Carlzon took a two weeks long vacation at his country house. But as soon as he arrived, the phone began ringing, and it kept ringing with unimportant question from people at the office. After a couple of days answering the phone, Jan Carlzon had to go back to the office.
The new way: Jan Carlzon took a four weeks long vacation and the phone was silent during the four weeks.