Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Differentiate your business with free wireless internet

free wifiIf you own a business where people have to wait, don't you think it's worth the $50 to provide free wireless internet?  If you own a restaurant with a bar area or a bar, isn't it worth the $50 to differentiate yourself from the competition?  On the waiting side of things, time goes faster if you can get some work done or browse the internet; on the revenue side of things, people will spend more time in your establishment if they can work while the eat and drink.


Let me focus on the bar/restaurant scenario: unless you are a large chain and have strictly controlled IT policies, chances are good that you have a DSL line or T1 coming into your building.  For about $50, you can add a wireless router into the mix and keep your internal data easily segmented from the open internet access. 


So let's say that I own Joe's bar in the Tech Center -- it's nothing special, but I serve alcohol and typical bar food.  I add in wireless internet access for $50, spend $100 printing a sign to advertise it, put it on my website at no cost, and update my CitySearch profile to include those details at no cost [bonus points if I write a blog and announce it].  Now I attract people to come in a little earlier in the afternoon because they can make it seem like they are still at work.  To be conservative, let's say an extra 5 people come in every Friday for an extra hour; let's say that each person incrementally drinks one more beer at $5 per beer for a total of $25; let's say that I incrementally keep those people most of the year, so about 50 Fridays or a total of $1250 per year -- deduct the initial startup of $150 and I net $1100.  What's great about it is that I rarely, if ever, have to make any sort of investment again -- most people would love to get an $1100 return in year one on an investment of $150.


Now let me focus on the waiting scenario and apply it to a doctor's office: again, unless you're some sort of chain, you likely control your own IT policy, so you make the same investment of $50 and maybe $100 in some sort of advertising.  Most people assume that their doctor will be late and most of the time the doctor will be significantly late, so if they know that they can get work done in the waiting room, they are more likely to use the doctor with the free wireless internet than another doctor.


So let's say that I, Doctor Hollman, invest $150 in wireless and word gets around and I get 15 new patients over the course of the first year.  Now I've seen what a normal visit gets billed at, but let's just estimate a normal check-up at $100 -- I just made $1500 for a $150 investment for a net of $1350.  Again, the investment does not need to be made again, so that's a huge return in year 1 and an even bigger return in year 2.


Believe me, as iPhones and iPod Touches and MacBook Airs and all of the copies of those devices become more prevalent, offering free wireless will become less of a differentiator and more of a strategic imperative, but why not take advantage of it now while it still can differentiate you?


By the way: this is really easy for your competition to copy, but only if they can figure it out.


By the way number 2: if you need someone to help you pull this off in Colorado, shoot me an e-mail. 

Monday, January 28, 2008

So, ad-supported music downloads arrive at midnight EST (if you use Windows)


The proposition with Qtrax is that you download their Mozilla-based music browser application, watch a bunch of ads to generate revenue for artists and record companies, and download from a library of 25 million music tracks.  Interestingly, the President of Qtrax had this to say about iPod compatibility:

"We've had a technical breakthrough, which enables us to put songs on an iPod without and interference from Fairplay . . . and Apple has nothing to do with it."

Let me make a few assumptions/observations:

  1. Qtrax will be using some sort of digital rights management on the music.  I wouldn't have necessarily jumped to this conclusion without the President's comment about Fairplay (Apple's proprietary DRM), but the fact that he mentioned a work-around leads me to believe that a DRM scheme is definitely in use.

  2. Qtrax wants you to use its branded, custom browser all the time.  I would read the privacy policy pretty carefully before actually using the browser -- worry about what kind of data Qtrax collects, if such data is shared with the RIAA, etc.  Further, I wonder if they've built in intelligence to redirect you to their site when searching for music torrent downloads, etc.

  3. The Qtrax browser becomes your music listening application (i.e., tries to take the place of iTunes, etc.).  This is a logical assumption based on the DRM assumption in number 1 above and make sense with the browsing functionality described in number 2 above.

  4. Qtrax is trying to control your connection to an artist.  There's a lot of sites doing this, namely MusicToday, but the fact the Qtrax is displaying artist information, real-time updates, presumably links through to ticket sales, etc., it certainly appears that they're taking a run at being the connector between the fan and the artist.

The Mac version will be released on March 18th, so it's likely I'll probably forget to go into Parallels and download this to try it when it's released, but I'm sure there will be lots of coverage this evening.



So what’s the problem? As the late Doctor Deming told us again and again, screwed-up management.

deming The quote that is the title of this post is from Tom Peters.  I thought about it when I read this excerpt on Bob Sutton's blog:

My own research has found that people with power tend to behave like
patients who have damaged their brain's orbitofrontal lobes (the region
of the frontal lobes right behind the eye sockets), a condition that
seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Thus the
experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your
skull and take out that part of your brain so critical to empathy and
socially-appropriate behavior.

The context of the excerpt is applied to people that are put into powerful positions and is easily applied to those that are placed into management positions with little to no training and/or preparation, no mentoring or leadership, no clear definition of what success actually is.

Is this you?

Link -- Bob Sutton

Monday, January 21, 2008

My complicated calendar sync

In my quest to synchronize all of my calendars, I've finally come up with the perfect solution:

  1. Blackberry -- use the Gcal Sync client.  This allows my to synchronize my Google Calendars and my Blackberry calendar in real time provided I have data coverage.  I can select what calendars I want to show up and the effect on battery life is not noticeable -- this gives me BES-like synchronization.

  2. OSX & Gcal -- use Plaxo.  I use the Plaxo client for iCal to synchronize my calendar data from my Mac to Gcal and back.  Due to the fact that I'm using Gcal Sync on my Blackberry, provided I have data coverage on my computer, I get pretty real-time updates on my Mac and pretty real-time sync from my Mac to Gcal to my Blackberry.

Logo love fest diagram:

blackberry <=> google sync <=> plaxo <=> gcal + ical

Turn your Blogger account into an OpenID even if you don't use Blogspot

Here's how to essentially make Google your OpenID provider if you use Blogger:

blogger draft

*    Go to http://draft.blogger.com (this doesn't work through the regualr Dashboard) 

*    Click "Edit Profile" in the upper right

*    Check the box that says "Enable OpenID for Blogs"

*    Scroll down and click "Save Profile"

That's it.  I tested it using my blog.rosshollman.com to ensure that it worked for custom domains, and it works just fine.  Also, you can use any blog associated with your Blogger account as your OpenID.

Presumably Google will role this out at some point to anyone with a Google account, but if you want it now, this is how you get it. 

Monday, January 14, 2008


LeopardMOD allows you to easily tweak a bunch of hidden settings in OSX Leopard using a GUI and it's free, which makes it even better.


I'm not a big command line guy if I can avoid it, so I'm always into stuff like this.


Permission to text/SMS

textingMy dentist office texted me a few days ago about their ability to send me appointment reminders by text -- I'm sure they thought that was a cool upgrade/feature.  Here's the thing: if you don't have a bucket of text messages or some sort of plan, incoming texts (even those that you don't want) cost you around $0.15 per message; currently there is no mechanism in place to charge the text message sender.

A software provider for our company talked about adding similar functionality in a new software service pack and I asked about permission; he didn't understand right away because he was focused on the fact that it was a new/cool/better feature.  I asked him to consider being an employee for us that had to pay $0.15 per message that started receiving just 10 messages a month from us: it just cost you $1.50 to be an employee for us, which doesn't seem like a lot unless you're a person that counts every dollar.  Once we got through the example, he backpedaled and said that they were just a software maker providing functionality and that it would be up to us to handle permissions, and he suggested that we develop some sort of opt-in form.  Still haven't decided if we're going to make use of this functionality, but I can guarantee that we won't be sending text messages to anyone that doesn't opt-in if we do start using it.

So back to my dentist: if they knew that each message that they sent cost me $0.15, would it be worth it to her if the tables were turned and it cost her $0.15 per text message?  I'm guessing that they will likely see higher return rates on appointments and less time for the front office staff making outbound calls to remind people of and to confirm appointments.  However, I would also guess that she would take pause if she knew that $0.15 went out the door every time the system sent out a text.  Figure it this way: each patient has at least 2 appointments for cleanings a year, so the system punches out 4 text messages per year per patient at a cost of $0.60 per year -- for 1000 patients that's $600, which is real money.

Here's another thing I worry about when someone like a dentist opens up a direct line of communication to me for which I have to pay: what happens if she tries to monetize it?  What if the software manufacturer sells a client list to Sonicare of dentists that use the text messaging function?  Maybe Sonicare reaches out to the dentists and makes a deal whereby the dentist sends out a text about a new Sonicare product and the dentists make a big commission on every Sonicare sale.  It's any easy call for the dentists because it doesn't incrementally cost them any money, but it does cost the receiver that essentially just paid $0.15 to receive targeted advertising.

Text message permission marketing/communication will only become a bigger issue in the next couple of years.

PS -- try to get your wireless carrier to turn off text messaging on your phone; it's near impossible because of the way the revenue model is built. 

Photo from JaseMan  

Permission to call

phoneRequiring me to input a phone number when I book a room at your hotel does not give you permission to market to me on my phone.

Tonight at 8:30PM I got a call from Wyndham Hotels.  The person calling referenced a stay I made a few months ago and proceeded to launch into a promotional rate deal for next month.  As soon as I could get a word in edgewise, I asked the person what time it was where she was calling from -- she responded that she showed me as being in the mountain time zone (I'm assuming the system generates this information from my area code or billing zip or something).  She then informed me that state law allowed her to call up until 9PM at which point I responded with: "I'm going to allow you to stop bugging me now."

Here's the thing: if you require me to input information (i.e., I can't complete a reservation without giving you my phone number) that you are going to to turn around and use to market to me, you have to give me the ability to opt out or, even better, default to assuming that I opt out and allow me to opt in.  We're all used to this with entering our e-mail addresses, but are companies so desperate that they are now mining other required information because interruption e-mails aren't working (or are easy to opt out of by unsubscribing or ignoring)?  That's a pretty scary trend if true.

If you're a company, you can't force your consumers to engage with you by taking advantage of information that you require them to provide to you.  The end result is that you break the consumers' trust: at the least they stop patronizing your business and at most they may try to form class-action lawsuits.

Although I've had a GrandCentral account since they started handing out beta invites and I don't regularly use it.  However, if direct contact via phone by companies becomes the norm, you can bet that I will start using more frequently if for no other reason but to prevent those that I don't want to be able to reach me without a filter from reaching me. 

Picture from Balakov  

CF Frost

You've noticed the name on the AmEx card commercials like have, right?  Ever wondered who CF Frost is?  The answer is not too exciting, but here it is courtesy of The Straight Dope :

Charles Frost--or Chuck, as we like to call him--is
a real person. He was an account executive for
the advertising firm of Ogilvy & Mather, which put together the
original "Do you know me?" ads for American Express.

I wonder if American Express could have capitalized on this somehow; I bet that they could have.  Why is it that the first answer isn't on their site?  They could have built a legend, built a story, built a contest around eagle-eyed people that noticed the name on the card.