Global

10 tools to make you look bigger and a global brand

Being a small company has its upsides, you're agile and fast, and you don't have endless red tape and bureaucracy. Although, being big has one advantage: increased credibility in the eyes of many consumers. So how can a small company appear bigger than it is, here are 10 great tools which will make you appear much bigger. Part of fake it till you make it: 

  1. Answeramerica.com : Phone answering service based in the US but you can forward calls from all across the world. Only costs $1/call and no monthly fee
  2. Skype.com Number: Get local numbers for most countries. Forward the number to AnswerAmerica.com if you can't answer them. 
  3. Freeconferencecall.com: Free conference call facility with dial in numbers for most destinations. Why pay $15/month on conference call facility if you can get it for free? 
  4. Webpagetest.org: Big companies have faster websites. Website Speed tester allows you to check how quickly your site loads up. 
  5. Cloudflare.com: We expect big companies to have their website online at all times. Now you can do this by using Cloudflare, which keeps (a cached copy of) your website online even it's down. 
  6. Google Pagespeed : Allows you to find ways to optimise your website and loading speed
  7. Canva.com: Design is the first thing your customers see when they visit your website. Canva makes the process of designing web and print effortless.               
  8. Squarespace.com: Developing quality websites, which look fantastic, mobile ready and completely hosted. 
  9. GoPinLeads: To get more sales you need to connect with people in your industry. Effortlessly creates local leads of physical businesses. Full disclosure: We developed this tool. 
  10. Commissioncrowd.com: A global commission only sales force           

eKarma: 6 Forms of Giving to Increase Profits Online

One of the most powerful concepts for me in online business is Karma. Whereby, it works for both businesses and social enterprises. It works on the principle of, the more one gives the more they receive. In this post I will solely focus on Karma to make a profit. The theory and my practical experience is that the more one gives for free the more they generate in actual income.  Although, here are some assumptions I have made about business implementing it:

  1. The business using Karma has a genuine offering i.e. product or service, i.e. they are adding real value for customers
  2. It's not about just giving, but giving with no expectations of return on investment.
  3. Give but don't be unfair to yourself or your business. Know your limits!
  4. Giving is not time bound. You can't expect results to be instantaneous (although, you can guesstimate the return timing, more about it later).

Wikipedia defines Karma as "the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual."

eKarma

I call it eKarma, as it applies to the most online businesses. The main requirements to attain eKarma is to offer:

1, Free Trials: eKarma is today followed by most Software As A Service (SaaS) businesses, where by they offer free trials before purchase. One might think of it as a marketing ploy to mitigate hurdles for the customer, although in fact it's true giving. As the customer gets an opportunity to receive before parting with their money. This symbiotic relationship encourages to increase trust in the company and hence increases business.

The Value: We at Goodman Lantern offer every customer 2 hours free trial. These two hours costs us money, not only for those two hours but also before, working on the scope and getting project managers involved to prepare requirement analysis. We have offered these trials to several people and almost 90% of them became customers. We didn't expect this to happen, but it works!

2. Free Work: It's not always about the money. Many at times our clients do not understand the value of doing a task, which would be beneficial for their business. As a result, they don't want to pay. We would generally (with customer's permission off course) offer to do this task for free for 1 to 3 months. And showcase the genuine positives, which results in more business. That's when we decide to charge them.

The Value: The reason why this works is that, customers generally have a clear idea of what the Return of Investment looks like, although not necessarily how to achieve it. As a result providing them a service, which can add value (for free) is allowing them to look outside the box. If this genuinely works they will pay.

3. Be a Friend: Most SMB owners tend to work in small teams. Generally speaking, it's lonely on the top and most SMBs are looking for people to help them with more than just business. Empathy goes a long way. This includes genuinely adding value and not selling in products or services just for a profit i.e. provide service as a friend would!

The Value: In my experience, business owners are talkative bunch, they consult other founders and share experiences. If you add value, communicate and advice as a friend, they will recommend you to others. And referral business is the best form of sales.

4. Charity Starts at Home: Before you extend eKarma to customers offer it to your staff and consultants who work for you. Whatever you apply to customers should start with your very own suppliers. I would highly recommend making sure that your team is happy. An occasional treat, drinks session, surprise breakfast etc would go a long way.

Example: Recently one of our client's team member found out that it was his birthday. She mentioned that in the Philippines, where she is originally from, they bought ice-cream for friends. Immediately he sent $10 over for ice-cream for her and family and demanded that he wanted to see a picture of them having it. According to him, in terms of his soul, it was the best $10 he had ever spent. He is not sure of the financial value yet but he told me that the team member's performance has certainly improved. Fantastic ROI isn't?

 5. Thank People Regularly: No man is an Island and no one can survive without the goodwill of their team, suppliers, customers, friends, family and surroundings. It would hence make sense to thank the people around for their support and inform them where you are in your business, use email, social media or more to do so.

The Value: I have often do this and the results have been good. Usually with such communication via email 50-60% of people respond back with approximately under 5% have some work for you or knows someone who could collaborate.

6. Regular Communication with Current Customers/Investors: As we have previously established, it's lonely at the top. Hence, whatever  help you can offer your clients/investors to keep them abreast via constant communication would be fruitful. I highly recommend communicating with them at least once a month informing them on how the money/effort they spent with your business is growing.

The Value: In my experience this has lead to customers reacting positively. As opposed to many people thinking of this as a spam, I have seen existing customers see it as a proactive approach, resulting in stronger ties or up-selling services or products.

Return on Investment (RoI) of eKarma

The return on investment of eKarma comes in three forms. Although, no one knows when the eKarma pays back. Although you might have a hunch, I don't think anyone can precisely predict it.

1. Short Term eKarma: This is when you would receive a result between 1 to 90 days. Generally, free trials for small Capex projects generate these results. While it's not guaranteed, eKarma has definitely lowered the barrier to entry for your customers. If you do start receiving Short Term eKarma benefits, I would recommend you start being extravagant in your giving.

2. Mid Term eKarma: This when you generate results within one year. This is probably the most common form or eKarma, as within a year the prospect client starts to trust in you. Your eKarma account starts to look positive and you  receive leads who would convert into customers after a 10 mins phone call.

Some examples of Mid-Term eKarma examples are via Blogging, Podcasting and White Paper.

3. Long Term eKarma: Although, the most influential and powerful form of eKarma is when you are invested in it for a long time. Where one is constantly giving back in the form of sweat, tears and hard-work. Without fully knowing where the return on investment would come from. This in my mind is true form of giving. Many companies have received great success from it, especially Open Source Software. Including Wordpress, Java (programming), Mozilla, Ubuntu, MySQL  and more.

 

 

Why hourly (Agile) consulting projects deliver better results

As a business and digital consultant for more than a decade. I have often had long debates with customers if they should pay by the hour (days) or a fixed price, which is agreed upfront. Having a software background, in our world, we would call it Agile i.e. focus on the end objective but not how we get there. This also comes bundled with adaptive planning and short cycles of planning/implementing. The other method is Waterfall , generally  pre-planned and has series of steps all agreed in advance.

Most customers prefer Waterfall

There is no doubt that customers love 'no' surprises. Its widely believed by customers that a supplier has a magic wand to come up with precise pricing. In reality though, no two projects are the same. Even if two projects have exactly the same specification, the founders are different and hence they have different expectations and experiences. Hence the project will inevitably be different. No company, can precisely predict the time and cost involved, its therefore known as an estimate.

How does a supplier counter the unknown?

The supplier generally knows that its rather tricky to come up with accurate time estimates, hence they add a contingency or buffer. Its not abnormal for this to be 25-50%. In fact , a good supplier should have a large buffer to give the customer what they need. In my previous business, I used to add 40%, making us expensive but water-tight.

Biggest challenge

Almost any good project has a changing finish line or scope. Most supplier deliver projects in stages or by milestones. As the customer sees the progress, new thoughts kindle and Project definition changes. Projects worth $100,000 become $250,000 by the time the idea turns to reality. In fact, organisations like IBM make a significant amount of money on project change management.

How should a client protect their interest?

Keeping all these factors and potential cost of change management, how should the client plan their project? In my opinion, the ideal way to work with consultants is to:

1. Divide all the tasks into large headings, ideally produced by the supplier. Obviously, only after you have given them a proper brief or detailed explanation over the phone.

2. Now let them tell you in a document as to what they have understood. In addition providing milestones and phases for the project.

3. Award them the project and track the hours they are working.

4. Monitor them and their work, daily or every couple of days. Make sure they deliver what you had in your mind.

5. If they get it, results will be fairly evident. For smaller projects the results are out in the open within 7-14 days. If they don't get it, explain, correct and try again. If they still don't get it, fire them and find someone else!

That's how one finds a good supplier and gets work done on tight budgets

125 Top Technology Blogs

If you are launching a new app, website or digital product, it's worth telling the world about it. A good place to get started is to contact technology blogs who care about your innovation and are looking to find the next big thing. If pitched in the right way they can make a difference. Here is a list of Top 125 technology blogs you should certainly get in touch with:

Blog / Website Name URL
TechCrunch http://techcrunch.com/
The Next Web http://thenextweb.com/
The Verge http://www.theverge.com/
CNET http://www.cnet.com/
Bloomberg's Tech column http://www.bloomberg.com/technology/
ZDNet http://www.zdnet.com/
Engadget http://www.engadget.com/
Ars Technica http://arstechnica.com/
New York Times Technology Column http://www.nytimes.com/pages/technology/index.html
Gigaom http://gigaom.com/
9to5Mac http://www.9to5mac.com/
Mashable http://mashable.com/
Wired http://www.wired.com/
AppleInsider http://appleinsider.com/
MacRumors http://www.macrumors.com/
NYT Bits http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/
paidContent http://gigaom.com/?primary_channel=media
Fortune http://fortune.com/
VentureBeat http://venturebeat.com/
Make Use Of http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/author/mark
Digital Inspiration http://www.labnol.org/
Tech Dirt https://www.techdirt.com/
Tom's Hardware http://www.tomshardware.com/
Inside Facebook http://www.insidefacebook.com/
Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/
Slash Dot http://slashdot.org/
Slate's Technology Column http://www.slate.com/articles/technology.html
Life Hacker http://www.lifehacker.co.in/
MIT's Technology Review http://www.technologyreview.com/
Geek Wire http://www.geekwire.com/
BBC Future http://www.bbc.com/future
Techna Bob http://technabob.com/
Quartz.com http://qz.com/
Guardian Technology Column http://www.theguardian.com/technology
Electronic Frontier Foundation http://www.eff.org/
Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com/
BGR http://bgr.com/
Tech Redar http://www.techradar.com/
Beta News http://betanews.com/
The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/
IT World http://www.itworld.com/
PC Mag http://www.pcmag.com/
Addictive Tips http://www.addictivetips.com/
Gear Petrol http://gearpatrol.com/
Ad Age http://adage.com/
How To Geek http://www.howtogeek.com/
9 to 5 Google http://9to5google.com/
9 to Toys http://9to5toys.com/
Fast Company http://www.fastcompany.com/
iFixit http://www.ifixit.com/
Peta Pixel http://petapixel.com/
Droid Life http://www.droid-life.com
Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com
Laptop Mag http://blog.laptopmag.com/
Tech Cocktail http://tech.co/
Android Police http://www.androidpolice.com/
The Flurry Blog http://www.flurry.com/
Times if India's Technology column http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech
Neowin http://www.neowin.net/
Talk Android http://www.talkandroid.com/
Pocket Lint http://www.pocket-lint.com/
Adweek http://www.adweek.com/
Slash Gear http://www.slashgear.com/
Electronista http://www.electronista.com/
Ken Sengall's Blog http://kensegall.com/blog/
Shout Me Loud http://www.shoutmeloud.com/
Just Web World http://www.justwebworld.com/
Blog Godown http://www.bloggodown.com/
Hot Blog Tips http://hotblogtips.com
Blogging Cage http://www.bloggingcage.com/
Bloggers Passion http://bloggerspassion.com/
Pro Blogger http://www.problogger.net
Smart Bloggerz http://www.smartbloggerz.com/
Copy Blogger http://www.copyblogger.com/
Tricks Daddy http://www.tricksdaddy.com/
Techy Passion http://www.techypassion.com/
Computer How To Guide http://www.computerhowtoguide.com
Shout Me Tech http://shoutmetech.com/
Techie Blogger http://www.techieblogger.com/
Smashing Magazine http://www.smashingmagazine.com
Wiki Blinks http://wikiblinks.com/
Biz Journals http://www.bizjournals.com
Groovy Post http://www.groovypost.com
Chris Pirillo's Blog http://chris.pirillo.com/
Let's Talk Tech http://letstalk-tech.com
Tech Shout http://www.techshout.com/
Skatter http://skatter.com/
Techi http://www.techi.com
Geek Insider http://www.geekinsider.com/
Blog Solute http://www.blogsolute.com/
Tech Linko http://www.techlinko.com
Beta Kit http://www.betakit.com
Web Designer Depot http://www.webdesignerdepot.com
G Hacks http://www.ghacks.net/
Evernote Blogcast http://blog.evernote.com
Rogers Redboard http://redboard.rogers.com/
Chip Chicks http://www.chipchick.com/
Android Guys http://www.androidguys.com
Phone News http://www.phonenews.com/
Zatz Not Funny http://www.zatznotfunny.com/
Euro Gamer http://www.eurogamer.net
Fone Arena http://www.fonearena.com/blog
Berry Reviews http://www.berryreview.com
The Tech Blog http://www.thetechblock.com
Yanko Design http://www.yankodesign.com/
Chitika Insights http://chitika.com/insights/
All Facebook http://allfacebook.com/
Mobile Burn http://www.mobileburn.com
Lili Putting http://liliputing.com
Phone Scoop http://www.phonescoop.com
WM Power User http://wmpoweruser.com
Android and Me http://androidandme.com
Into Mobile http://www.intomobile.com
Pocket Now http://pocketnow.com/
Tuaw - Unofficial Apple Blog http://www.tuaw.com
Mobile Syrup http://mobilesyrup.com
PH Android http://phandroid.com/
OS News http://www.osnews.com/
Matthew Woodward http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/
Technorati http://technorati.com/
Marketing Land http://marketingland.com
Chris Brogan http://www.chrisbrogan.com
Social Times http://www.mediabistro.com/aboutus/
Search Engine Journal http://www.searchenginejournal.com/