23 July 2010 ~ 0 Comments

blind date

blind date

Before you begin any business endeavor, marketing initiative or anything that’s going to involve you and an audience, do not proceed without being able to answer these six questions to yourself:

The Perfect Customer

1. Picture the your best possible customer. The best, most profitable customer who would also refer more business to back to you. Now answer this question: how would I be able to identify your ideal customer?

2. The most important thing about your ideal customer is the common need, frustration or desire that they share, that your business can resolve. Describe this problem as briefly as you can.

Your Incredible Difference

3. You need to uncover and communicate a way in which your business is different from every other business that says they do what you do. What is different, intentional or unintentional, about your business in the minds of the people you work with?

4. What is it about your product or service, the way you do business or the passion you bring to your work that makes your business different?

Your Service Experience

5. When prices are more or less the same and feature/functionality is only marginally different, attention and selection criteria turns to the service experience with a company. What service innovations should your business be bringing to your customers? (when answering, think about all the things your business could do for our customers that would make them naturally come back to you the next time they have a decision to make)

6. Doing what is expected of you is critical to your existence as a company, however what must you do beyond this to surprise and delight your customers?

(credit to John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing for these targeting concepts)

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04 April 2010 ~ 0 Comments



This was meant to be a routine business trip to Toronto. Car, airport routine, hotel, office and back.
But things went wrong. Nothing catastrophic, but certainly far away from the travel routine I’m so well practiced in.
I arrived at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson airport as I always do. Pulling two suitcases behind me I rode up the escalator that takes me to the check-in area.
In front of me was a man. An old man. He turned and started talking to me. Being so deep in routine I had no idea that it was me he was talking to, it was pure noise to me. He was excited. His sister was arriving from Detroit and staying with him for two weeks. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. He wasn’t just telling me he was excited, he visibly was. His expression was lit and, despite is elderly years, he edged forward like he was starting a race. His sister was nearly here!

Someone was excited to be at the airport. I’d forgotten that that was even possible.

Instead of flying directly to Toronto, I took the cheaper route this time. The eight hundred dollar cheaper route via Buffalo, New York. After picking up the rental car I headed north to the Canadian border.
Despite other people’s claims that crossing by car is far easier, I faced a hard time. Heading over at a quiet time clearly caught the border agent mid-boredom, so he picked on me (or, at least, it felt like that). Nearly an hour later I was on my way into Canada.
Almost. A few hundred yards ahead of the border crossing is a toll booth. If you didn’t already know, I work in the credit card industry. I wear the career well and no trait says I’m deeper in the industry than barely ever carrying cash.
As luck would have it, there’s a well placed ATM inside an currency exchange in between the toll booth and the border. In the same way as the rest of my day was going, the ATM wasn’t accepting my cards.
The final resort was to head over to the duty free store right on the border. The lady in the store started guiding me back across the border to local ATMs that may work (she had no idea the border crossing hell I’d just been through), when one of her co-workers asked me how much the toll was. He looked like he was just finishing up his shift. He headed through to the back of the store and came back with $3.75 and gave it to me.
He had no idea who I was, where I’d come from or where I was going (except it was via the tollbooth I had no cash for, of course). He didn’t want to know either. I asked how I can pay him back and he told me to “make sure you help someone else, pass it on”.

Someone helped a total stranger with no expectation of something in return. I didn’t know that still happened in the world.

With the toll crossed, the bulk of the week continued as expected. Met some fascinating business people (who are also exceptionally successful) I’d never met before, hung out with the gang in the Toronto office and connected with customers. Then it was time to head back home.
Despite fearing the 407 toll being applied to my National car rental (with $10 convenience fee – their convenience, not mine), I managed to avoid toll roads and made it across the border and back to Buffalo with no excitement.
There’s so few ways to describe the feeling of heading home. Triumph, relief and comfort all wrapped up together. As I stood at the Delta gate listening to announcements of a flight delay that was promoted to a full cancellation, I knew the promise I’d made to my kids that I would see them that night was about to be broken.
Cancellation turned into a Delta-sponsored stay at a nearby hotel of their choice. With the airline industry having lost its way financially, this manifested itself as a sleepover in the local Days Inn. It was roughly the same time as this happened that I also confirmed a long thought suspicion that I’m a closet snob.
In what felt like an episode of Lost, a collection of people I didn’t know when i woke up that morning who were all traveling on the same flight, and therefore were all stranded, all started to talk.
There was the 17 year old with a guitar who was traveling on his own for the first time. A businessman from Montreal with a very heavy French accent who had been on his way to tee off at 8am on a course in Palm Springs. An Interior Designer who works for IKEA who was heading to Oklahoma City to see and surprise her mom who’d fell ill just days before.
Everyone had a story and a purpose. Everyone wanted to be somewhere else, but instead was involuntarily stuck in Buffalo New York for the night. Had the plane left on time and not been cancelled, all of these people would have simply passed by on the periphery of my mission to reach home.

Every day is a school day. Instead of bitching and complaining about not getting home and having to stay in a Days Inn, which is what I’d usually do, I met some pretty cool people and learned a little more about the world.

So what? For every circumstance you face each day you have the choice of keeping your head down and ignoring it or looking up and making the most of it. Look up.

Bon voyage.

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17 March 2010 ~ 0 Comments

stuff i learned at sxsw 2010

stuff i learned at sxsw 2010

I attended the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin Texas for the first time over the past few days. After attending countless panels, discussions, presentations and workshops I left feeling like I’ve read twenty books in two days.

It incredibly difficult to describe exactly what attending SXSW feels like. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon and then tried to explain the immensity of what you saw to someone who has never been there… same thing but with technology and being surrounded by successful, insightful and determined people.

While I took tens of pages of notes, here’s the headlines of what I learned and picked up from the people I spent time with in Austin.


  • social media is not about you
  • everyone who is doing something progressive and useful is using an Apple iPhone and MacBook Pro (this is not an advert)
  • allow and facilitate visible backchannel chat
  • great, clean-looking speakers speaking clearly telling stories win
  • a sales pitch switches everyone off. the crowd goes cold and walks
  • genuine appreciation is impossible to fake. people are unwittingly sensitive to a bullshitter
  • social media and e-commerce are not connected. they are different answers to different problems
  • if you’re breaking a rule, know why you’re breaking it
  • people and context first, only then do whatever you were going to do first
  • prototype: make a commercial, not a specification (Google doesn’t use specifications anymore)


  • in real life famous people and millionaires are human beings and exactly like you
  • the successful people are not doing anything you can’t already read in a non-fiction book and apply yourself (so why aren’t you?)
  • everyone is reachable and you should reach them
  • if a famous person doesn’t give you much attention it’s because you’re not interesting. expect the same from non-famous people.
  • if you’re not presenting, you’re a critic. you just are
  • online everyone is famous and everyone with a camera phone is in media
  • nobody cares about your products except for you


  • the least important part of a technology is the technology
  • press releases are corporate generated spam and serve no lasting purpose. connect with your customers every day instead
  • internal communication and communities must be stronger than your external communication
  • when handling complaints avoid treating the customer like an ex-girlfriend instead of a future girlfriend
  • hug a customer today
  • people ask the internet first (nobody asks advertisers where the world is going)
  • ship experiences people love
  • take a non-linear experience into a linear experience = use cases/examples
  • if you have to sneak around in your company to help your customers you have a catastrophic problem
  • make it included, never free
  • people who buy from you want you to succeed

I have collected all the people that made these words into a Twitter list: http://twitter.com/bnlv/sxsw-2010

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