Social Media Madness… Love It. Hate It, Embrace It, Reject It… It’s Mad, Mad World: Survive and Thrive with It…

Social media landscape is crazy… there are; apps, games, analytics, blogs, commerce, ad networks, mobile, photo, video… who knows what else is out there lurking… but despite the insanity, you can’t ignore it…

Has it become a mania, madness, addiction, obsession, dependency… epidemic for social media sites? Does Facebook, Twitter… have us hooked?  That’s what a study conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found. Researchers gathered 205 participants and monitored their ability to resist daily temptations, including; the urge to check social media sites. For one week, subjects that ranged in age from 18 to 85 were asked to let researchers know how strongly they wanted to give into various temptations.

The results suggest that the urge to check social media pages is one of the strongest temptations out there. The temptation to log on to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites is more difficult to resist than temptations to smoke, drink and even sleep. According to a recent study released by non-profit ‘Anxiety UK’ over half of social media users polled said; Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites had changed their lives– and 51% of those said it’s not been for the better. Forty-five percent of responders said they feel worried or uncomfortable when email and Facebook are inaccessible, while 60% of respondents stated they felt need to switch off  their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology.

In other words, it’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It’s being away from them. The findings suggest that some people need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it, says Nicky Lidbetter. Data revealed that two-thirds of respondents had more difficulty sleeping after using social media, and 25% admitted to difficulties in their relationships because of confrontational online behavior…

The survey was conducted by the Salford Business School, University of Salford, where 228 participants were polled… While the study consists of a small sample size, Salford’s data backs up other information on social media addiction. In a recent study ‘Mobile Mindset’, found that 73% of people would panic if they lost their smartphone, while another 54% admit to checking their phone while lying in bed…

But are social media users anxious because of social media, or do more anxious people gravitate toward digital interactions? If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as tipping point, making people feel more insecure, overwhelmed,  says Lidbetter.

A similar study at University of Bergen measured Facebook user addiction; found people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores on those traits, probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face…

In the article Caution: I’ve Been Diagnosed With Social Media Madness by Carolyn Goodman writes: There are so many social media options now available, my head hurts. My palms get sweaty at the mere whisper of a new site. If I get one more invitation to join some random, seemingly important group, I think I’ll weep. As a marketer, I feel a lot of pressure to keep up with it all, primarily, so I can talk to customers about how they leverage these forums as strategic marketing opportunities.

But in reality, it’s not possible to do that… While there are certainly more social media options in the B-to-C world, we B-to-B marketers are under intense scrutiny to understand and learn how to have, at the very least, a point of view on what these options are and how to use them appropriately for business. Its Herculean task and it cannot be accomplished under normal circumstances.

So I’m officially raising my hand and shouting to the world: Stop This Madness. I’m going to spit out the social media Kool-Aid, stand tall, and promise, on my honor, to be only as social as I need to be, while spending my time on more important marketing initiatives. Won’t you join with me to find a cure to social media madness?

Fling open your windows and shout it with me: I’m mad as hell and not going to take it any more… Then go back to learning and creating marketing solutions that drive your business forward. To that end, I’m going to embrace these four directives:

  • I vow to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile– and respond to inquiries to connect when they make sense.
  • I promise I won’t tweet every day just to be able to claim that I don’t tweet regularly.
  • I won’t use my Facebook stamp to let my friends know every time I’m in a new location… unless it’s someplace impressive like one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
  • I’ll stop posting videos of my kitten playing with string on YouTube. Despite the fact that I get millions of hits worldwide. It’s not fair to my kitten, and surely viewers have better things to do.

In the article Social Media Madness by Blogenstein writes: I am not one for collecting friends. I’d rather have 50 friends on Facebook that I know well and care about than 500 or 5000 people who I know/have known/met randomly in a bar one night. It’s almost like the personal has gone out of our online social interactions and we’re just talking with a bunch of random faceless people.

Similarly, with something like Twitter I keep my follow list down, and will occasionally remove one or two to keep things manageable. This is a combination of interest levels– (Do I want to follow you? Does having you in my feed improve things? Do I often see you in twitter conversations, or have twitter conversations with you?)– and feed overload where I need to read all the tweets.

The fact is having too many people in my feed means I have too many tweets to read. For a while I tried catching up on the overnight tweets, but since most of the people I follow are American they have a 5 hour head-start on me in the morning which makes it take ages. I don’t bother any more. I don’t see not following someone, or unfollowing someone as a sign of; I don’t like them. It’s more that I can’t fit them into the budget that is my social media.

Likewise whether they are a friend on Facebook or not, really doesn’t have any impact on actual friendship & real life social interactions. If social media status matters that much to you, maybe you’re not that much of a friend in the first place…

In the article Social Media Madness– Does Everyone Need It? by Melisa Labancz-Bleasdale writes: In our constant quest for faster, better, newer… we have invented, embraced, and quickly discarded social media mechanisms at a blistering rate. Every business looking to capitalize on social media madness should examine what they have to offer, and what they stand to gain before funneling their marketing dollars into social media programs. They should than carefully consider which channel is best for what they are selling and whom they are trying to reach.

Companies should also consider the amount of time and energy they have to maintain their social media outreach. A large part of the business-to-public exchange is in; the volume, frequency and relevancy of the messages. Twitter is likely a bad place to set up shop if you aren’t prepared to engage daily. As it is for all communications channels, it’s important to choose the correct vehicle for distributing your message. Vehicles like; blogs, podcasts, Twitter… have helped many B2B’s increase awareness and market share. 

Communications experts believe that part of the problem organizations have in successfully utilizing social media is that they believe it’s a separate entity, instead of seeing it for the tool that it is– another means of expanding the existing communications and marketing efforts. Few argue that business should avoid social media altogether, but it’s entirely possible to build successful PR campaigns without it.

According to McGrath; social media is just one possible channel; albeit one with great potential… and, whether you’re a B2B organization or not, the degree to which you use it should depend on your audience and what you’re trying to achieve. 

According to Mustafa Dill; I’m a firm believer in ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you always should.’ When prospective clients want a Facebook or Twitter account, I always ask them, ‘why?’ If they can’t articulate it, and they usually can’t beyond– ‘well everyone else is doing it’– then we’ll drill down to identify a specific goal. Social media for me is about user behavior as they seek solutions; if you can offer a content-based solution, then great. If not, wait until you can and, in the meantime, keep analyzing your customers’ behavior until a solution presents itself.

According to Lori Donovan; I think it’s all part of knowing the audience. If you audience isn’t on Facebook, you don’t need to be there

In the article Social Networking Sites Are a ‘Modern Form of Madness’ by telegraph writes: They may be a venue to socialize and keep in touch with people, but social media websites; Facebook, Twitter… are making people less human by isolating them from reality… says Prof. Sherry Turkle, MIT, way in which people frantically communicate online via social networking sites can be seen as a modern form of madness.

In her book, ‘Alone Together’, Prof. Turkle writes; people are become more isolated from reality due to social networking sites because technology is dominating our lives and making us less human, Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, technology is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world... We’ve invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us...

Her warnings, and those from other cyber-skeptics, follow the death of Simone Back; a woman in Brighton who posted a suicide note on Facebook that was seen by more than 1,000 of her ‘friends’. Yet none of them called for help, instead they trading insults with each other on her Facebook wall…

In the article Social Media Madness by Suz Trusty writes: Social media is here to stay; it’s in some very profound ways, revolutionizing how we communicate and also how we and companies are perceived. If you want to bet on a sure thing, bet on use and acceptance of social media as means; 1) connect and communicate with customers and prospects; 2) share valuable information (how-to’s?) and experiences; 3) build brand awareness; and 4) market products and services.

Become familiar with it so you can pick and choose what works best for you and your operation, and what you can reasonably do with it, given the many other tasks you and your employees must perform. Start by determining, if just a website and email are enough to keep you connected. Does communication through social media; Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, YouTube… help your company? Do research and explore the options… But, don’t let social media drive you mad…

Igniting Business Growth– Shift from Fear to Fearless: Sharpen Drivers, Break Barriers, Release Brakes, Overcome Plateau…

Business growth: Impatience is an outcome of restlessness. Restlessness is the outcome of an incubated idea. Once the idea virus gets in, it leads to restlessness and action… The impatience of one person gets enlarged and, next, the entire associated workforce gets reverberating and the work gets rolling faster than it would have otherwise– Infectious impatience. ~Mukesh Ambani

Most often the barriers to business growth are not the fault of; markets, or customers, or technology… but, the business itself: Business growth always comes from within. If the organization is not ready to grow, innovate, increase market share, enter new markets, increase profitability… then, the business is destined to fail.

According to Denise Corcoran, recession breeds fear in the business world. Challenge for all executives and entrepreneurs are to go against ‘herd mentality’ and drive your own growth reality. There are realities, constraints, and uncertainties that we must engage just to stay in the game. However, we have more control over our business future than we realize. You are bigger and better than any problem, no matter how looming it seems.

The key is where you put your focus… and to what extent you are willing to step up your game, i.e., wiser and bolder. Step up your inner game, and cultivating a fearless mindset for growth:

  • Play To Win vs. Play Not To Lose.
  • Cultivate Innovative Strategies and Actions.
  • Enforce Fierce Accountability.
  • Be Like a Rock; Flow Like a River.

In the article Four Growth Drivers You Can’t Afford to Overlook by Bill Thomas writes: It’s estimated that up to 90% of business strategies fail to deliver their intended value. Those failures (whether partial or total shortfalls) are often due to one of two reasons.

First, strategy did not sufficiently focus on customers, markets, and create a unique source of value for those markets.

Second, despite having a compelling customer-centric strategy, the organization was not capable of executing that strategy. The first reason is external and relates to market drivers, while the second is internal and focus on organizational growth drivers.

Companies who consistently design and execute successful growth plans apply the same rigor, discipline, and follow-through for both sets of drivers. The most successful companies go a step further by identifying and leveraging the linkages between the drivers. The current economy presents leaders with an ideal opportunity to reposition not only their business, but their organization for growth.

Specifically, there are four areas of opportunity that are prime candidates for critical review and improvement. Experience and data show that companies that address all four areas will outperform those who don’t. By analyzing the external and internal growth drivers for each area, and identifying key questions or issues for each area, as it relates to growth, then this process will provide a  foundation for optimizing each area in your organization.

While the term ‘company’ is used– these principles apply to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. The four areas are:

  • Strategic Rigor, Alignment and Execution: Rigorous planning process and strategy… an organization that’s aligned and accountable for executing that strategy.
  • Operational Efficiency: Organization that is structured; top-to-bottom and end-to-end for efficiency, agility and creating customer value.
  • Segmentation and Differentiation: Progressive and proven approach to segmenting and leveraging the various sources of customer value and organizational talent.
  • Changing and Leveraging Culture: Management guidance and tools to drive and enable the attraction, development, engagement, and retention of that value and talent.

In the article Can’t Move Forward? Probably Your Parking Brake Is On by Rick Holbrook writes: In the book ‘The Success Principles’ the author, Jack Canfield, provides techniques to help people move forward on their personal development and improvement. Many are proactive techniques, which he likens to pushing down on a car’s gas pedal to go forward. He also points out, however, that it’s possible to move forward easily just by releasing the brake.

His basic message is to let go of the negative thoughts, perceptions… that we have accumulated over a life time; in what may be call legacy issues. According to Canfield, first release the brake; after all it’s difficult to drive forward with the parking brake on… Using this analogy, companies have legacy issues too and just like with people moving forward effectively always means releasing the brake and dealing with the legacy issues, first.

In big companies legacy issues might be; recruiting talent, organization flexibility, management skills… In his study of small companies (less than 500 employees) James Fischer found that there were very subtle but real legacy issues that put the brake on business growth. He labeled them ‘hidden agents’, because they are; bigger than when they first appear, hard to diagnose, partially submerged…

He found ‘hidden agents’ affect; leadership effectiveness and  business  performance. Many business leaders waste energy by first pressing down on the gas pedal (not releasing the brake) with expensive new initiatives, which then struggle because of the effect of ‘hidden agents’ at work. To move forward you must first release the brake by uncovering the hidden agents, then press down on the gas pedal with new growth initiatives….

In a study by ‘Ernst & Young’ they show that high performing businesses take charge of their own destiny. These businesses have a laser-sharp focus on executing against the four drivers of competitive success: Customer reach, Operational agility, Cost competitive, Stakeholder confidence. Then, each business strikes the right balance with each driver in relation to the other, both– strategic and tactical.

The study says that high performing companies are laser-focus on their customers, such that it runs like a thread through the entire organization. They determine the strategy– where to sell, what to sell, and how to sell. Also, these companies are alert to the impact of economic turmoil; local and global, on their markets and customers: They act quick to mitigate customer issues, and re-establish focus and re-engage relationships.

They are highly disciplined to identify, understand, and respond to new patterns of customer demand, and they are driven by superior execution, and support of customer expectations. High performers have a much greater awareness of the importance of access to markets using; multiple distribution channels, partnerships, joint ventures… Risk is an important issue and rarely underestimated … high performers have reduced their appetite for risk, and have adopted a more cautions approach; due primarily to the current economic environment…

This Ernst & Young survey confirmed earlier surveys that found that; speed and flexibility are the most important enablers, for companies, to respond to market opportunities and threats, quickly: Quick response helps companies to react to customer needs faster, hence to gain or hold market share, or  if necessary; to just back off… speed of action is another attribute of high performers…

A combination of; quick response, speed of action, and flexibility are essential for business to cope with positive or negative changes in markets, competition… or federal regulation.  However, the most important attribute of top performing companies is their ability to create a harmonious company culture that strongly connects employees and management.

It nurtures high-quality relationships in the work place, which is a key factor for effective engagement, growth, success… high performance companies invest in people, encourage innovation, and find inventive solutions to attract, retain, support, and motivate smart and highly talented people…

Adversity can be a great motivator. The goal is to ignite a virtuous cycle of value-added growth, productivity, profitability, job creation… If government policy makers remove barriers that act as a disincentive to invest, as well as, create the conditions in which business can thrive, the private sector can provide the skills and capital to deliver the innovation the world needs.

According to an article by ‘Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Charles Roxburgh’; public-private business partnerships can offer significant growth opportunities for both the private and public sectors… they suggest: Bring private capital to public works; Close the skills gap; Build public–private partnerships…

A public–private partnership (PPP) is a public and private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. Public-private partnerships can cover everything from toll roads to sports stadiums… The idea is to combine government money or influence with business know-how to produce better, more cost-effective products, services, and other outcomes.

However some experts say; let’s not get carried away with the prospect of public-private partnerships solving the planet’s problems. Getting commercial leaders and doers and thinkers to help with government mandates is one thing; inviting commercial enterprises to feed at the government trough is another. As a principle, public-private collaboration makes good sense. But the extent of that collaboration needs to be watched closely… 

According to Hillary Rodham Clinton; The problems we face today will not be solved by governments alone. It will be in partnerships– partnerships with philanthropy, with global business, partnerships with civil society…

Governments need their own productivity revolution… For example, McKinsey’s research shows that the public sector has substantial opportunities to increase its efficiency and effectiveness by being more open-minded and leveraging private involvement in delivery of public services. The potential economic gains are compelling. If governments can increase the public sector’s productivity by 1.5% annually (in line with what private industry has achieved over the past three decades), they could generate benefits worth $1 trillion a year.

While need for increased public-sector productivity is urgent at all levels of government, the case for public–private cooperation may be easiest to make at city level, where most future global growth will occur. A majority of successful cities are already notable for a high degree of collaboration between the private and public sectors. But more must be done, especially to tackle the economic problems that blight many large cities, globally.

Some estimates show that public–private partnerships could account for as much as 40% of operations and maintenance budgets in large cities across the world. With a few notable exceptions, business leaders have been slow to raise these issues.

When executives make their voices heard, they too often issue narrow calls for lower taxes rather than advance broader ideas for creating a dynamic pro-growth agenda. It is time for the private sector to take the lead in making the case for driving growth though public-private partnerships for innovation and investment…

Growing healthy, vibrant, and competitive businesses are the key to prosperity for all citizens… engaging in public-private partnership development to create additional jobs, improve public institutions is a sustainable and inclusive growth opportunity, as well…

 

The Ultimate Ubiquitous Internet– Any Place, Any Time, Any App, Any Device… Omnipresent: Web Stats, Facts, Myths…

The ubiquitous Internet will be understood not as a screen of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. It will appear on your computer screen; on your TV set; your car dashboard; your cell phone; hand-held game machines; maybe even your microwave oven. ~Darcy DiNucci

Next Big Thing: Ubiquitous Internet! Ubiquitous access is one of the main characteristics of the new Internet; it’s a key enabling technology for the evolving global information age. Recent data show that in the future years Internet users with mobile/wireless access will easily outnumber fixed-line connections.

Moreover, the proliferation of mobile devices with large processing capacity is vanguard for a new era of ubiquitous communications,  where users will simultaneously engage different electronic platforms, enabling them to  access information from; anyone, anywhere, and anything…

A new generation of smart wireless mobile devices and apps will be the gateways that will facilitate the ubiquitous Internet. These new devices will access most any information (e.g., video, multimedia, appliance…) while communicating globally, without restriction… However, not all experts agree; ‘Teresa Ritter, Alison Powell, and Catherine Middleton’ in a study asked: Should the Internet be everywhere? If the new Internet becomes ubiquitous, what will it look like?

Their research suggests that a new ubiquitous Internet would not be in great demand by many current Internet users… the study explored the experienced Internet users’ opinion and attitude about the value of a ubiquitous Internet. Their findings showed– that despite its widely recognized benefits many people would embrace a new Internet, somewhat reluctantly. Apparently, there are more questions than answers, for example… other pundits say; the ubiquity of the Internet is evolving and will continue to evolve into a worldwide network with unlimited access to information and communication.

But, a more important question: What is the mission of a ubiquitous Internet? Will it connect the world’s populations in ways that advance global prosperity, business productivity, social interaction, education, and good will among all people? Or, will it be something less?

In the article The Growth of the Ubiquitous Internet by irregulartimes writes: Ubiquitous: Something that’s ubiquitous is omnipresent, everywhere at the same time. This is pretty intense stuff… Also, it may even include things that don’t even exist. This is one of those words invented to describe religious concepts that have never been witnessed. The obvious example is God. God is supposed to be ubiquitous: everywhere at once and keeping track of everything. You may have noticed the Internet has begun to reach God-like proportions.

Well, there are some who would have that become literally true. They want to create what they call the ubiquitous Internet. To me, this seems like the ultimate in marketing hype. Here’s what is being planned for the new Internet– it’s just in early stage at this point, but you know how fast the computer industry moves these days. They want to put the Internet into everything: It’ll be in your car, helping you find your way and giving you information about wherever that is, It’ll be in your house, turning lights on and off for you, operating all of your appliances.

There won’t be any separate TV or computer anymore. It’ll be all around you, with displays in every room. It’ll be at your place of work, where you won’t need to sign in anymore, because the building itself will be able to sense when you enter and when you leave. The ubiquitous Internet will even be on or in your body as a medical implant or a badge that communicates with medical sensors that are nearby. Wow! Isn’t technology wonderful? It really is impressive that they’re soon going to be able to do this kind of stuff.

I won’t deny that the ubiquitous Internet could do some really remarkable things. The question that remains unanswered is– why ubiquitous Internet is needed at all? Do we really need a connection to some international communications network; to turn on a lamp in our living room, to heat a cup of coffee in a microwave, or play music on a stereo? What’s the advantage? Maybe we’re developing this ubiquitous Internet simply because it’s possible. We can have it, so we make it…

In the article What is the Future of the Internet? by Jonathan Strickland writes: Nicholas Carr wrote an article titled: Is Google making us stupid? In it Carr said; he noticed that as his reliance on the Internet for research and entertainment increased, other of his faculties seemed to atrophy. One was his concentration or focus. He hypothesized that because of the way we navigate the Internet, in general– and the World Wide Web, in particular– we are always leaping from one piece of information to another. So, does the Internet affect the way humans think? There does seem to be a correlation in the way we record and access information and the way we think.

As we develop systems that allow us to save our knowledge for posterity, we unload that burden onto an inanimate object. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean we become less intelligent. However, not everyone agrees with Carr’s hypothesis. For example, Pew Research Center performs a survey each year about the future of the Internet. The research polls a group of experts and industry analysts on a series of questions. One of the questions they asked the respondents was; if they thought Carr was right about Google, and the Internet in general, making us stupid... Eighty-one percent of experts disagreed. The Internet is a tool that we use to help us learn– it doesn’t replace learning itself. Optimists hope that the new Internet will teach us about ourselves and others. For example, the new Internet will reach into countries, cultures that have been segregated from the rest of the world.

Some hope this new Internet will provide the common ground that allows various people to learn and understand each other, possibly bringing about an era of peace and cooperation. Ultimately, the ubiquitous Internet could begin to erase traditional boundaries between cultures. But that sort of global change isn’t trivial. It will take decades before we see a noticeable difference in the way we think about one another. Some cynics think that even a tool as useful and pervasive as the Internet, it  won’t overcome the hurdles we face in becoming a united world…

In the article Ubiquitous Internet Approaching but Not Here Yet by Larry Magid writes: The era of ubiquitous Internet access is fast approaching and it can’t arrive soon enough. So even though the prospects for ubiquitous Internet are getting better, we still have a long way to go. While current 4G networks are fine for using a smartphone for e-mail, texting and limited Web access, they are not generally adequate for serious use of a computer or iPad-like device.

Not only do we need more access, we need faster and more affordable access, in the form of a ubiquitous Internet. My hope is that as the carriers roll out their next-generation services, they will not only provision enough bandwidth to make them truly useful but also will price them within the budgets of most consumers and business users…

In the article How Many Web  Sites Are There? Julie Bort writes: There are 644 million active websites on the Internet, according to Netcraft. Netcraft’s March 2012 website survey discovered 644,275,754 active websites, to be precise. Half a billion is a lot, and the Internet is still growing by leaps and bounds. The March numbers were up by 31.4 million (5.1%) over the previous month. Other Web stats, facts… 2011:

  • 3.146 billion: Number of email accounts worldwide.
  • 95.5 million: Number of .com domain names.
  • 2.1 billion: Internet users worldwide,
  • 800+ million: Number of users on Facebook.
  • 5.9 billion: The estimated number of mobile subscriptions worldwide.
  • 1 trillion: The number of video playbacks on YouTube.
  • 100 billion: Estimated number of photos on Facebook.

Nielsen periodically releases data from its studies of consumer behavior online. Here are the latest findings regarding social networking, branding and world net usage. The average U.S. user spends more than 60 hours a month online. This is the equivalent of 30 straight days a year.

Social networking accounts for 22% of the time, and 42% is spent viewing content. Other activities, such as; email, commerce and searching, accounts for 36%. Among people who use the Internet, each person visits 2,646 Web pages on 89 domains and logs in 57 times per month.

The percentage of all online users that visit Google is 82%. The other top Internet brands include MSN/Bing (62%), Facebook (54%), Yahoo (53%), Microsoft (48%), YouTube (47%), Wikipedia (35%), AOL (27%), Ebay (26%) and Apple (26%). Among Internet users, 80% in Brazil use social network sites.

Other countries with high percentages include Italy (73%), Spain (75%), Japan (70%), U. S. (67%), UK (69%), France (67%), Australia (59%), Germany (51%) and Switzerland (51%). The percentage of U.S. adults who use the Internet, at all, each day is 55%; 45% email, 40% search engine, 30% news, 18% bank online, 15% watch video, 15% use social networking , 10% read blogs, 5% buy product, and 5% play games online…

Mark Twain once said: It’s not the things you don’t know that will hurt you; it’s the things you think you know that isn’t so. The Internet explosion has spawned quite a few popular myths, for example: Business use is driving the growth of the Internet.

According to Eric Raymond; don’t believe it. Business use of the Internet is important, sure, but the Internet has always been led and is still by social and expressive use. For every two corporate types soberly exchanging business data there are ten (10) swapping personal email and twenty (20) just hanging out in Usenet forums or IRC. The ratio of corporate to personal web pages is similarly lopsided.

According to H. C. Covington; many people don’t realize that the standards that define the Internet, and a lot of the software that embodies those standards, are maintained by a cadre of long-term volunteers. These people, Internet hacker cadre, have engineering-driven ideas  about where they want the Internet to go. While most are not hostile to the commercial use of the Internet per se, but they have no intention of letting corporations control its future.

These realities have implications about the culture of the Internet. It’s not an unformed void waiting to be turned into a cyber-spatial shopping mall by eager entrepreneurs. The Internet already has a large native and transient population with their own agendas, habits, and history. That means– business  will find that it must adapt to a new ubiquitous Internet, and not the other way around…

Traditional Sales Funnel is Flawed, Outdated, Ineffective: Shift to– Buy Funnel, Flipped Funnel… Manage Flow, Stop Waste…

The sales funnel – historically, has been the dominant metaphor used to represent a selling process. Sales funnels come in different shapes and sizes, and are composed of multiple stages. Some are short and fat with big openings on top, and others are long and skinny with very few opportunities getting into the flow. 

Typically, the sales funnel is depicted as an inverted pyramid (i.e., funnel) used to illustrate the steps in a sales process, from lead generation to completed sales. At the top of a sales funnel is a mixture of qualified and unqualified prospective customers. Less-qualified purchasers drop away at each stage of the evaluation and purchasing process.

However, in reality, customers don’t go through a sales process when they buy – they go through a buying process. So, it only makes sense to map the customer’s buying process to your funnel, and to the way you sell: That’s what the buy funnel does. The traditional sales funnel is a flawed design; it’s an artificial creation by sales managements that is outdated and ineffective. It’s flawed because it uses the seller’s activities and not the buyer’s activities to define each funnel stage.

The traditional sales funnel design that is used by many companies and promoted by training organizations, does more harm than good for selling. The buy funnel corrects major flaw of traditional sales funnel, and uses the customer’s buying process to define the funnel stages. With the customer’s buy cycle, salespeople learns to seek and encourage customer commitment at each stage for each sale, which is key for effective selling.

In the article Flip the Funnel by Joseph Jaffe writes: The traditional sales funnel is now seriously out of whack – it doesn’t work effectively any more. The funnel model was an oversimplification which has passed its use-by date. It’s time to get back to basics and take a clean sheet approach for the best way to acquire and retain new customers. Instead of spending the bulk of resources on new customer acquisition, invest in customer retention; in other words– flip the funnel. Flipping the funnel is about using customer relationships to grow your business.

Once you accept the fact, its smart business to treat your customers better, the question becomes how do you make more of the right stuff happen? Grow the customer base from the inside-out; the flipped funnel is inside-out approach for growing the business. This is a 180-degree shift from the normal outside-in approach which focuses on bringing progressively more new customers into your business, all the time.

This is all about growing your business while shrinking your budget; about getting more from less at a time when business needs and even demands it. It’s about eliminating waste and focus dollars on the people who really matter: your customers. It’s about harnessing the hidden potential of two incredibly under-utilized constituencies: customer evangelists and employees.

Begin with the end in mind… During trying times, opportunities do not come from cutting costs, mitigating risk, or trading off quality (experience) for quantity (transactions). It instead comes from ramping up investment and commitment… Flip the funnel isn’t a fleeting experiment or a fad. It’s not the next shiny bright object or must-have of the new marketing season.

Rather, it’s a seismic and irreversible shift in terms of how companies conduct business, relate to customers, and balance the mission-critical objectives of keeping the cash registers ringing and customers singing (the praises). As simple and profound as this may sound, the truth is that the entire marketplace is built around an acquisition-centric methodology…

In the article The Buying Funnel by Bill Fellows writes:  The sales funnel typically starts with initial contact with the prospect, proceeds through qualification, validation of need, possible solutions, proposal and closing the sale. There are many versions of the funnel, but these are the fundamental stages. What I find backwards about most sales funnels is that they do not usually synch with the buying funnel, especially in the early phases of the funnel.

With big-ticket items, buyers typically look at many options in terms of the type of products or services that will meet their needs. Once they determine the best type of product or service, they consider a variety of companies that could provide that product or service. So, in the early phases of the buying funnel, the buyer has a large number of companies under consideration.

This does not synch with the sales funnel approach because the sales person is qualifying the buyer before the buyer even knows what he/she wants, let alone which vendors to consider. Add to this the complexity of team buying, which has become more prevalent in recent years, and you can see how the sales funnel approach can be misaligned. Studies show that the higher the price of the solution and the more critical the impact on the company’s long-term profitability and survival, the more likely the buying decision will be made by a team.

The team buying approach also means more planning and coordinating… With all the emphasis on ‘customer centric’, these days, you would think that more companies would focus on the buying funnel approach. By understanding the customer’s buying funnel, you can determine when and how it’s most appropriate to interact with the customer.

In fact, if the customer has not already thought about their process, you may be able to exercise some influence… If the customer already has a process, you will earn points for being sensitive to their needs. Either way, you will be perceived less as a sales person trying to push your alternative and more as a partner able to support the prospect. It demonstrates the type of partnership you will have after the ink on the contract dries.

Thinking about the buying funnel does not mean you have to abandon the sales funnel. By understanding the buying funnel for the individual prospect, you can overlay a traditional sales funnel and determine the best time to implement a specific sales action. Rather than rushing the process according to your time line (trying to close the deal as quickly as possible), you are customizing the sales process to the prospect.

In the article Why The Sales Funnel Is Bad For Business by Steven Reeves writes:  At the heart of the sales funnel concept is the numbers game– the more people a sales guy talks to the more deals she wins. Every 100 cold calls results in 10 first meetings which in turn results in 1 proposal. 1 in every 3 proposals results in a sale. In this example there’s one successful sale to come out of every 300 cold calls.

The word funnel describes how the number of prospects reduces as; the cold call, first meeting, proposal, sale process is executed. The numbers quoted are simply examples and don’t mean anything. It’s the concept which counts and it operates differently in every business. So how come the sales funnel is so popular if it’s bad for business? Good question.

There are ways it’s good for sales operations, for example; it recognizes that there is a process and the probability a prospect will buy increases as that process is completed. It provides everybody on the team with a common language covering revenue generating activities. But, most important – it gives management simple measures they can use to monitor operations and forecast sales outcomes. 

The sales funnel is part of the folk-lore. That’s a lot of upside, so where’s the downside? The facts are that the sales funnel wastes an awful lot of time and resource. In our example, for every successful sale there’s been cost of sale spent on 299 prospects that were never going to buy. There are two ways of looking at this; neither of them is pretty. If average cost of sale per prospect is $500 the cost for the 300 in the funnel totals $150,000. If business could reduce that cost by half, the result might be much lower prices to better compete in the market, or another $75,000 in pure profit, per deal.

On other hand, there is an opportunity cost; e.g., what could the sales team be doing if they weren’t wasting effort on 299 prospects that aren’t going to buy– this is equally frightening. Simply by reducing the number of cold calls needed to produce a sale by half, the company could increase profit by having fewer sales guys, or increase sales by redeploying them.

The big overhead cost in any sales operation is the prospects who don’t buy, and simplest way to improve sales performance is by spending less time on them, and more on the ones who do. That means; figuring out who will buy, how, and for how much… and, focus marketing, prospecting, and selling on executing more efficiently…

The sales funnel presents a ‘snapshot’ of sales activity at a given point in time. It’s a visual that describes a sales process from initial contact to final sale. The stages of a sales process refer to a potential customer’s degree of readiness to commit to a deal (from the seller’s perspective). Or put in a different way, readiness may be seen as the probability of the sale taking place.

As a sales opportunity moves down the funnel, time to closing decreases and the probability of the sale occurring increases. The sales funnel metaphor enables you to analyze, manage a portfolio of sales opportunities. But, sales funnel is not accurate representation   of the customer engagement reality, it’s only a reflection of salesperson’s activity.

Whereas, a customer’s buying or buy funnel describe the steps that the customer takes when they buy or purchase a product or service, and these are the only activities that really matter…. Other names that might be used to describe this process are; buying or buy cycle, buyer decision cycle, decision-making process… The buy funnel is an important concept because it helps business understand the way customers think…

All of this is fine and good, but times are changing… businesses and customers are moving away and outside the funnel concept, and changing the way they research and buy products. Organizations must change with the times and respond accordingly. Sales has always sought special moments, or touch points, when customers are open to influence.

Sales traditionally, has understood and used touch points through the metaphor of the sales funnel. Today, the funnel concept fails to capture all the special moments, touch points, and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices, digital media…

These new dynamics coupled with emergence of increasingly discerning, well-informed customers… requires a more sophisticated and relevant approach to help sales navigate these hostile environments, which are less linear and more complicated than the funnel concept suggests…

Billion Dollar Shell Game– Offshore Havens: Avoid Taxes, Hide Transparency, Hoard Wealth… and It’s Legal…

If we could figure out how to tax offshore wealth without killing the proverbial golden goose, or at least entice its owners to reinvest it back home… that would certainly make a significant contribution for tax justice, and help pay for many social problems. ~James Henry

The term offshore is ambiguous; it has no precise legal, tax, or general business meaning. The words offshore business, offshore company…  are typically used in connection with matters, such as; structuring of international business, family wealth management or tax planning, and a wide range of strategies that capitalize on advantages offered outside of a home country.

Offshore is often demonized in the media; they often paint a picture of companies, individuals… illegally stashing their money on some obscure Caribbean island where taxes are next to nothing.

While it’s true that there are instances of shady offshore deals, the vast majority of offshore investing is perfectly legal. In fact, depending on the situation, offshore may offer many advantages… In 1997, approximately 60,000 offshore companies were incorporated in various Caribbean centers.

This figure is clouded by the fact that currently over 600,000 international business companies (IBC) are incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) alone. In a recent survey it was estimated that up to 41% of worlds offshore companies are incorporated in the BVI.

The reality is that in one month alone, in 2010, an astounding 4600 offshore firms are registered in Singapore, which adds to the fact that going offshore is not simply a concept, but rather a trend which is growing exponentially…

In the article $600 Billion of U.S. Cash Balances Held Overseas by Large Companies by WSJ writes: In a review of disclosures, the bank’s analysts found that out of the $974 billion in cash on the balance sheets of 602 U.S. multinationals, at least $588 billion, or 60%, is sitting in foreign accounts. According to a study by JP Morgan, at least 60% of the cash balances of the largest U.S. companies are held overseas.

While offshore comes as little shock to anyone following transgressions of U.S. corporations, the degree of this revelation is striking: J.P. Morgan found that Apple had the highest offshore corporate cash balance, with $74 billion held overseas, representing 67% of its total cash holdings. But as a percentage of total cash, J.P. Morgan said the company had a smaller amount sitting offshore than many of its tech rivals, including; Microsoft, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard, which had 89% or more of their cash overseas. Microsoft, General Electric, Cisco Systems, Google, and Oracle had the next largest dollar amounts of cash held overseas, according to the study.

The analysts also found that Johnson & Johnson and Hewlett-Packard appear to have almost all of their cash holdings in overseas accounts. Companies don’t disclose their overseas cash balances in a uniform way, so the bank used estimates based on corporate disclosures, in some cases. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) suggests that heightened pressure is leading to more transparency, though the information remains largely incomplete…

In the article Bailed-Out Firms Have Offshore Tax Havens, GAO Report by Julie Tate writes: Most of America’s largest publicly traded corporations — including several that are receiving billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to finance their recovery — have set-up offshore operations that could help them avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits, a government study found. AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are among the companies that are getting bailed out by U.S. taxpayers while having subsidiaries in locations where they avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  

Of the 100 largest public companies, 83 do business in tax-haven hotspots like; the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where they can move their income into tax-free accounts. The U.S. Treasury estimates that it loses $100 billion a year in tax revenue as a result of companies shipping their income offshore… However, the GAO did not independently review company transactions to see if companies purposely created tax-haven businesses to avoid U.S. taxes.

But it said that historically, offshore subsidiaries are used for reducing tax costs and shielding transactions from public view. Several of the companies are household names, including; Pepsi, Exxon, Dell and Dow Chemical. In the list of 100 companies that GAO studied there were 63 with major federal contracts, including; Caterpillar, Boeing, Merck & Co. and Kraft Foods.  Legislators gave particular attention to the 14 companies on the list that received bailout money… The bailout recipients included; Bank of America, which received $45 billion; Citigroup, $45 billion; American Express, $3.4 billion; and Goldman Sachs, $10 billion.

However, in defense, several companies said they are engaged in legitimate business operations around the world, and rejected the premise that they are avoiding paying their share of U.S. taxes. Representatives from two companies in interviews reported; they couldn’t say whether their foreign operations ultimately reduced their total tax bill, or not. For example, Nick Ashooh, AIG, said: We do business around the globe… and, it’s absurd that we’re being accused of using these as tax havens

According to Jack Blum; this business of letting companies, people… get away with bloody murder by taking their money offshore is inconsistent with trying to fund our government. These practices are going to put terrific pressure on Congress to close down obvious and ridiculous loopholes…

In the article How Offshore Tax Havens Save Companies Billions by John Cogill writes: The top corporate income tax level in the U. S. is 35%. In the UK, it’s 28%. But in Ireland, it’s only 12.5%, and in Bermuda there’s no corporate income tax at all. That means multinational companies that shift their earnings through Ireland or Bermuda can save billions of dollars in taxes each year. According to Jesse Drucker; companies like; Google, Pfizer, Lilly, Oracle, Facebook, and Microsoft have managed to reduce their tax rates by hundreds of millions, in some cases, billions of dollars by taking advantage of offshore tax havens.

Drucker says, Google had saved $3.1 billion in taxes in the past three years by shifting the majority of its foreign profits into accounts in Ireland, the Netherlands and Bermuda using financial techniques called ‘the Dutch Sandwich’ and ‘the Double Irish’ arrangement. Basically, he says, Google credited its Irish office with majority of non-U.S. sales revenue, and then shuttled that money through subsidiaries located in Ireland and other countries to save billions in taxes. For example; You have an Irish company selling ads, and they actually have real employees in Dublin, he explains. They make payments to a Dutch subsidiary with no employees, which in turn makes payments to a Bermuda-headquartered Irish company with no employees.

The result is that it helped to cut about $3 billion in Google’s income taxes, in the last three years. Other companies have also cut thousands off their tax bills by shifting or licensing their earnings overseas. For example, Forest Labs Inc., the manufacturer of the antidepressant ‘Lexapro’, cut its total income tax bill by more than a third last year by allocating income through various subsidiaries. They are a company that does almost 100% of its sales here in U.S., they have almost 100% of their employees in U.S., they’re headquartered in New York City and yet majority of their profits show up overseas, most attributed to mailbox in Bermuda, says Drucker.

Also, an economist at Reed College estimated that the U.S. is losing $60 billion a year in federal tax revenue (from all U.S. companies), but she’s revising that estimate and has arrived at a figure closer to $90 billion. Technically, companies are not avoiding paying U.S. tax when they shift their income abroad, says Drucker. You’re merely deferring it for as long as you keep it outside the U.S., he says. These are indefinitely reinvested earnings in your non-U.S. operations. When you bring (earned income) home you’re supposed to pay U.S. tax minus a credit for the income taxes you’ve already paid overseas. But companies have a number of techniques for bringing back profits without paying tax.

One method, Drucker says, is lobbying the federal government for a tax holiday– a period of time when companies can bring back offshore profits one time at a reduced rate. Advocates of the plan say it would function as a non-government stimulus plan because as much as $1 trillion could flow back into the U.S… Drucker says, that may sounds reasonable, but there’s a fair amount of research on what happened after the last tax holiday, in 2004; then the result was– very little hiring and little investment for the $300 billion (or so) that came back. Most of that money seemed to be used to buy back company stock…

According to Christopher Matthews; a report by the ‘Tax Justice Network’ estimated that somewhere between $21 to $32 trillion in wealth is unreported and shielded from taxation from various governments, globally… The study is one of the most comprehensive to date, using data from World Bank, United Nations, International Monetary Fund and central banks around the world to measure how much wealth is sheltered from tax collectors, globally… However, it’s important to remember; that the movement of assets and opening of bank accounts offshore is legal.

Companies and individuals are free to open an offshore bank account almost anywhere in the world. It’s also completely legal to lodge assets, liabilities, reserves… almost anywhere in the world. But while moving offshore is legal, remember that withholding information about your offshore investments is considered illegal in some countries. Also, some offshore jurisdictions offer benefits beyond tax; for example, confidentiality– meaning they are excellent locations to protect your assets and for holding companies.

Other advantages are unrestricted flow of capital and transfer of assets. However, the dynamics of tax havens and the offshore industry is changing, and there are two key drivers of change. First, financial industry experts agree that Asia’s booming economies, strong banking confidentiality laws and pro-business incentives are driving capital flows eastwards, away from the more traditional banking centers, such as; Switzerland… 

Second, some tax haven jurisdictions, especially in the Caribbean, are reportedly bowing to pressure from the ‘Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’ (OECD) to exchange confidential information about companies and bank accounts housed there. In contrast, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as, Belize, continue to refuse to cooperate with the OECD. As a result, these jurisdictions represent probably the most secure, stable offshore companies available anywhere today.

There are also other macro-economic and geopolitical issues which will influence the evolution of the offshore industry. Security of information has become a highly important, as well as, sensitive, issue, boosting the role and importance of genuinely private, secure jurisdictions. Also, populations are growing, and wealth creation is more important than ever. To provide new infrastructure, governments in most developed, developing and even third-world countries will continue to impose high taxes.

Going forward, industry analysts believe the idea of tax competition between nations will continue. In a report, one analyst said: Countries with a small domestic tax base favor tax competition, while countries with a large tax base prefer tax co-operation…

Riddles, Puzzles… for Creative Minds in Business: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM…

Giving groups or teams a mixed set of riddles, puzzles… gets people working together and using each other’s strengths… riddles, puzzles… are great for competitive team building exercises.

A riddle game is a formalized guessing game, a contest of wit and skill in which players take turns asking riddles. The player that cannot answer loses. A riddle, sometimes called a ‘brainteaser’, is usually a question that requires clever or unexpected thinking for its answer. Riddles, puzzles, and lateral thinking exercises help team building, motivation, and will warm up any gathering.

These are great brain exercises, and are good illustrations of how the mind plays tricks, and they add interest to meetings and training sessions.  These lateral thinking exercises and complex puzzles are great for making people think, opening minds to new possibilities, and illustrating how the mind plays tricks and the importance of using the brain, instead of making assumptions.

The structure of a riddle typically uses one of several techniques to create a twist, which makes it difficult to guess. One common technique involves double meanings. If the double meaning is in the words of the question, then the language creates intentional confusion. The asker intends one meaning and hopes that the guesser will understand the words differently. Here is an example: Railroad crossing, watch out for cars; can you spell that without any ‘r’s?

In riddle, the asker intends for the guesser to understand the word ‘that’ as a demonstrative pronoun and try to spell: Railroad crossing, watch out for cars without any ‘r’s, which is impossible. The goal is really to spell the word ‘that’ without any ‘r’s; the first half of the sentence is used to make the listener confused as he or she hears the second part.  When the double-meaning word or words are not stated by the asker, the riddle may require that the listener understand it as a pun.

An example of this would be: How do we know the cook was a terrible person? The answer is: Because he beats the eggs and whips the cream. Here, the cook’s ‘cruelty’ is understood from the multiple meanings of ‘beats’ and ‘whips’ as both forms of punishment and culinary techniques.  Another method for deception in riddles involves a deliberate attempt to make a listener come to a false conclusion.

Here is an example: A woman has seven children, half of them are boys; how can this be possible? This riddle relies on the idea that the guesser is likely to assume that if half of the children are boys, the other half must be girls; with an odd number, this is impossible. By recognizing this assumption as false, however, one can reach the correct answer: if all the children are boys, then half of them would also be boys, even though three and a half children do not normally make much sense. Some of the most common types of riddles have clues to the solution within them, but have to be thought about very carefully to be fully understood…

In the case of a  puzzle, it’s a problem or enigma that tests the ingenuity of the solver. In a basic puzzle, one is intended to put together pieces in a logical way in order to come up with the desired solution. Puzzles are often contrived as a form of entertainment, but they can also stem from serious mathematical or logistical problems — in such cases, their successful resolution can be significant contribution to research. Solutions to puzzles may require recognizing patterns and creating a particular order.

People with a high inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving these puzzles than others. Puzzles based on the process of inquiry and discovery to complete may be solved faster by those with good deduction skills.  The Rubik’s Cube and other combination puzzles are toys based on puzzles that can be stimulating toys for kids and are a recreational activity for adults. Puzzles can be used to hide or obscure objects…

In the article Great Answers for Bizarre Questions by Matthew McClearn writes: Picture this: you’re at a potential employer’s offices, on your third interview, sporting your sharpest suit. Just when you think you’ve made a good impression, the interviewer throws you a curve: Can you swim faster in water or syrup? You’ve never bathed in syrup. You didn’t think this job would require it. And you have a question of your own: Seriously? These sorts of odd-ball questions—logic puzzles, brainteasers and riddles—have been favored by some employers as a means of testing problem-solving and communications skills for over half a century.

In his recently published book ‘Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?’, author William Poundstone explains the origin of the brainteaser (IBM pioneered this line of questioning in the 1950s), and discusses how by the early 2000s it had become common among technology, finance and consulting firms. Today, Poundstone says; you’re getting these questions from all sorts of companies that didn’t previously ask them. It’s a reflection of the very high unemployment rate. They’re desperate to find some rationale for picking one person over the others. Some experts dispute that the oddball question is on the rise, however.

Technology blogger Gayle Laakmann McDowell served on Google’s hiring committee for three years, and she says that Google now prohibits many of the sorts of questions (gems like; ‘How would you weigh your head?’ or ‘A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?’).

By and large, tech companies have moved away from these crazy brainteasers, she says, because they don’t test anything relevant.  That said, the so-called Fermi questions (named after Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi)– which test a subject’s ability to devise, on the fly, a logical method for estimating an unknown quantity– are still quite common. Things like: How many pizzas are delivered every year in Manhattan? Another one that comes up pretty often is: If you were given a million dollars to redesign Bill Gates’s bathroom, what would you do? It may seem bizarre, but it’s actually about product design.

Google management admits that brainteasers have been used in job interviews throughout the company’s history. But, Shannon Deegan says that Google studied its data and determined they generally don’t elicit useful information. We’re encouraging employees to ask them less and less, he says, because we don’t think it gets to the meat of what we’re trying to find out about the candidate.

In the article Brainteasers for Job Interviews and Brain Challenge by Alvaro Fernandez writes:  A recent CNN arti­cle explains well why a grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies use brain­teasers and logic puz­zles of a type called ‘guessti­ma­tions’ dur­ing job interviews:  Seem­ingly ran­dom ques­tions like these have become com­mon­place in Sil­i­con Val­ley and other tech out­posts, where com­pa­nies aren’t as inter­ested in the cor­rect answer to a tough ques­tion as they are in how a prospec­tive employee might try to solve it.

Since busi­ness today has to be able to react quickly to shift­ing mar­ket dynam­ics, they want more than engi­neers with high IQs and good col­lege tran­scripts. They want peo­ple who can think on their feet… What are tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Ama­zon…) and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies (e.g., McK­in­sey, Boston Con­sult­ing Group, Accen­ture…) look­ing for? They want employ­ees with good so-called ‘exec­u­tive func­tions’; problem-solving, cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity, plan­ning, work­ing mem­ory, decision-making, even emo­tional self-regulation…

Want to try a few? Please try to ‘guess’ the answers to the ques­tions below based on your own log­i­cal approach. The goal is not to find out the right answer, but to 1) iden­tify the logic approach that will help ‘guessti­mate’ an appro­pri­ate range, say + or – 30% of the actual answer, and then 2) com­plete the cal­cu­la­tions (ide­ally men­tally, but you can also take notes) to pro­vide an estimate. OK: Ready, Set, Go!

  • How many times heav­ier than a mouse is an elephant?
  • How many fire­fight­ers are there in San Francisco?
  • How many trees are there in NYC’s Cen­tral Park?
  • How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
  • What is the weight of a large com­mer­cial airplane?

The answers appear below. Again, the key here is to try, plan the steps towards the solu­tion, and do the men­tal cal­cu­la­tions to find a rea­son­able range. That’s the brain chal­lenge. The goal is not to find the pre­cise cor­rect answer. Here are the answers:

  • Around 150,000. An aver­age ele­phant weighs 4,000 kg on aver­age; an aver­age mouse 25 grams.
  • Around 350 fire­fight­ers on duty on any given day, out of a pool of 1700 fire­fight­ing over­all staff.
  • There are over 26,000 trees (of approx­i­mately 175 species) in Central Park.
  • About 500,000, assum­ing the bus is 50 balls high, 50 balls wide, and 200 balls long.
  • For a Boe­ing 747:
    – Empty: 400,000 pounds (lbs), or 181 met­ric tons
    – Max­ Take­off Weight: 825,000 pounds, or 374 met­ric tons
    – For con­text, empty Hum­mer car is 8,600 pounds.

In the article Playing Puzzles Can Help You Earn More: Study by PressTrust writes:  Do you want to earn more than your friends and colleagues? Then, play crosswords! In a new study, people who keep their brains active by playing puzzles, crosswords and brain teasers, not only earn more but hold more senior positions at work.

Puzzle makers ‘Jumbo Games’ surveyed 1,033 British workers aged 18 and over and found that the average income of puzzlers was 32,073 pounds while non-puzzlers took home 7% less with an average salary of 29,923 pounds, ‘Express & Star.Com’ reported. People with annual income of 45,000 pounds typically puzzle 35% more than those on lower salaries (10.6 times a month compared to 7.9 times a month), while 70% of people earning more than 120,000 pounds puzzle three times a week. Some 14% of puzzlers said that completing jigsaws and solving mind games such as crosswords and sudokus boosts concentration at work while a quarter (25%) believes that it gives them an edge over their colleagues.

More than a tenth of managing directors and chief executives questioned (11%) admitted that they have seen a noticeable improvement in their brain power as a result of playing puzzles and brain teasers. The study found that one in 10 Brits that puzzle (10%) have been promoted in last six months and nearly a third (28%) has had pay rise. According to Donna Dawson, behavior psychologist; research shows that completing riddles, puzzles and other mental games sharpens the brain by improving memory, concentration, level of alertness, recall of detail, recognition of patterns and speed of reaction time...

Before you use any team building riddles, puzzles, games… think about whether the activities are appropriate for the team members and the situation… team members should ideally enjoy the activity, learn something and improve results.

 

Pinpoint Best Customers for Your Business: Customer Profile Creates a Portrait or Visual Image of an Ideal Customer…

Understanding who your ideal customers… what’s important to them… how to locate them– is a critical part of any business success.

The first commandment of business: thou shalt know thine customers, well. Customer profiling is the process of using relevant and available information to describe the characteristics of a group of customers, and the drivers they use for making purchasing decisions.

There are really only two questions that every business needs to answer: 1) Who are my ideal customers? 2) What’s important to them? Once you’ve answered the questions, then growing your business becomes much easier…

Building business success is about getting the right message to right person at right time. In other words, it’s all about relevance; and to be relevant you must have a clearly defined customers’ target strategy: Who are the customers? How to engage them? Many companies fall into the assumption trap and take the one-size-fits all approach to their business programs.

But in order to achieve growth it’s crucial for companies to look at individual markets, target groups, and tailor their messaging strategy to be relevant to each group. By comparing the ‘ideal’ customer profile with what is available across the business universe, you can identify the specific customers that will provide highest growth and profit potential for your business.

According Johan Lindqvist; you can profile your best customers in your existing markets and find more of the same in new markets; then, devise business programs that hit the right customers, the first time, and truly deliver results. By comparing current customers, within the context of your target markets, you get a clear view of how you’re positioned and what steps must be taken to engage the customers and take advantage of their business opportunities.

Understanding the customers’ Who, What, How– is the way you deliver real value to your customers, and create a win-win situation for everyone…

In the article Customer Profiling by Sean Crain writes: Customer profiling can mean many things and be associated with several activities. It’s not mentioned often, but all good businesses do it all the time without thinking about it. As with anything, actions without thought and planning; will not yield the desired results.

Customer profiling falls into this category; engaging customers and potential customers requires a planned approach in order to maximize the chances for success. Customers are people with unique needs, personalities, interests… profiling is the art of assessing customers on an individual level and developing an approach that provides them with the appropriate support. Also, it allows corporate strategy to be effective when dealing with multiple customers from different business entities or within the same organization. 

The profile process begins even before meeting customers… each organization has to assess its target markets, and this leads to the first step in a process; while recognizing that not all customers are ideal for a particular organization. Customer profiling provides the methodology for deciding what types of people should be approached and who should be avoided.

For example; corporate resources, financial limitations, enterprise strategy and goals… are all factors in specifying target groups and are used in developing and matching group customer profiles. Once this framework is established, corporations can focus on assessing potential customers that fit into one or more of their categories of interest…

In the article Know Your Customers: Customer Profiles by BBVA writes:  A customer profile is simple a tool that can help you better understand customers, so that you can develop and grow your business.  Let’s start with an overview: A profile is a collection of information that defines your customers and determines; why they buy, or don’t buy your products.

Profiles are fundamental in targeting sales and marketing plans to meet the needs of your intended audience. There are two basic profiles: demographic profiles and behavior profiles. To make it easy, a demographic profile tends to answer the question– Who? A behavior profile answers the questions– How? and What?  A typical developing methodology, for example: Start by evaluating the frequency of purchases by customers.

Rank your customers from highest to lowest in terms of purchase frequency. Then, evaluate total spending (within a specific period of time) by customers. Rank from highest to lowest in terms of dollars spent. Now compare the two lists. In many cases the results will be similar, but not in all cases. Certain customers make infrequent but large purchases; others will make frequent but small purchases. (Both are good customers.) 

Now, look at your demographic profile: Where do the best customers fit in terms of demographics? What characteristics do your best customers share? Then take a look at your current marketing strategies. Do you target your best customers? Are you spending significant resources in sales and marketing programs at the demographics that do not purchase frequently or in high-dollar amounts? If so, you have two basic options:

  • Change your strategy to better attract demographics you currently fail to attract, or
  • Change your strategy to better focus on the demographics you currently attract so you can grow your business, faster.

In reality you have several options; you can modify you sales and marketing programs that doesn’t work, enhance your sales and marketing programs that do work; or use profiles to identify your best customers, identify your worst customers, and know how better to serve them.

In the article Importance of Target Customer Profiling by Cindy Kennaugh writes: A target audience profile or customer profile is a very detailed appraisal of your customers’– characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors. Sharing high-quality customer profiles across your organization pays off in several important ways:

  • Help the company make better, more consistent decisions about how to best market and sell, including; which products and services to offer and how to most effectively communicate their features, benefits, and availability.
  • Reduce confusion among functional areas through a common business foundation for decision-making.
  • Make it possible for your staff to treat customers more consistently because everyone is working from the same comprehensive information.
  • Save time and money by minimizing missteps and rework stemming from inconsistent knowledge about customers.
  • Improve overall business focus and communication effectiveness.

There is no one comprehensive profile that contains all your customer’s information and insights, and you may need to produce multiple versions, as needs arise. For example, profiles can be prepared for an entire company, product line, or a particular product. On the one hand, the greater the breadth of the customers segment (i.e., company-wide…), the more general the information needs to be.

Whereas, profile for a particular product or service needs to be quite specific. Information should come from multiple sources, and the process of building a profile has a lot in common with market research. Typical data sources include; existing profiles, marketing and sales staff customers knowledge, third-party research reports and articles, conversations with customers…

Regardless of how much information you gather, it’s usually not enough, and you almost always have to make some assumptions and estimates based on your experience: It’s just part of the process. Doing so acknowledges uncertainties while giving decision-makers something specific with which to work. Some parting advice:

  • Use, share, and update your profiles often. This should be a living document. As your understanding of your customers changes, you should consider adapting your strategies and policies in response.
  • Don’t rush the process. The information you gather will be the foundation for many significant decisions. It’s worth doing them well the first time.
  • Don’t assume your organization already has a thorough understanding of its customers, thus making target audience profiling unnecessary. Few companies actually know their customers that well.
  • Talk to selected customers. Under the right circumstances, they are often willing to share their perceptions and experiences.

The importance of developing a customer profile cannot be over-emphasized or ignored. Your customers are your most valuable asset. They are costly to acquire, and easy to lose. A profile is a compilation of information about the internal workings of your customers, including; everything from the company’s history and ownership to its day-to-day buying process.

By improving your understanding of their business situation, major motivations, pains keeping them awake at night… it helps you develop a better relationship… that’s the key to becoming their supplier of choice. Although the data itself is useful, the main value of the customer profile is in the process of learning about the customers. In other words, the profile questions are intended to stimulate your thought process.

Remember, the essential value of this exercise is not the answers themselves, but rather clues they provide for developing intimacy. Be creative! A customer profile is about understanding your customers… There’s a lot of hype around its importance. That’s because profiling really is one of the big differences between companies that are successful and the ones that are not. You must know your customers, well,  before you can develop a strategic plan to engage and retain their business. In order to visualize your ideal customers, you must create a profile or detailed description of your target customers as part of your strategic planning process:

Think about the– behaviors, motivations, and potential benefits they seek. In order to create a detailed profile, you need to know your customers’ characteristics. Be interested in their– likes, dislikes, needs, wants,… If you have consumer products, the major types of characteristics are; demographic, geographic, lifestyle, usage…

If you have business-to-business products, the major types of characteristics are; demographic, environmental, operating variables, purchasing approaches, situational factors, personal characteristics…

Create a profile that requires you to visualize your customers with clarity. By understanding trends and preferences– customer profiles brings relevance to business process; relevance of product, relevance of value, relevance of channel, relevance of message…