Let the talent do what they do best

Twice this week I had a conversation with my financial advisor mostly because it is the end of the year and that is what we do in December. He is also breaking out on his own after being with his firm for the past 20+ years, so we talked about websites, business cards and corporate charters.

He first showed me his new business card, which he did himself. He was no graphic designer, so I whipped up a quick design in ten minutes for him. He has made and saved me a small fortune over the past decade and a bit, so it was ok I didn’t charge him. Besides, the “wow, you’re really good at this!” was payment enough.

The second conversation was about building websites. He had contracted with a firm that specializes in building sites for people like him in the investment industry and he wanted to know if he was paying too much. He had heard that most of this should be free, but the firm was offering space and content that was already vetted. With that one sentence, he had made an argument for using the firm. Even though we build and host websites, there was no way I was going to take on any of his liability.

And lastly, we had a phone conversation this morning about his corporation application (well, actually he had called for my charter and the conversation turned to him.) My advice was immediately, “have your attorney do it,” a conclusion he had already come to even though he had been told by some family members that he could easily do it himself.

I was being a bit selfish here, I must admit. I want him to focus on managing my portfolio, not trying to figure out the ins and outs of the Ohio Department of State and why they sent back his application for the third time because he didn’t complete this field or check that box.

Only a fool for a businessman does his own accounting, marketing and legal work. Hire good people to do what they know how to do. In the end, you’ll sleep better, have more free time to grow your business and stay out of tax court.

Practical QR Code use on trucks

Whenever I take the event van out, I get annoyed and frustrated with people tailgating. Everyone should have to drive a cargo van so they understand that when you get right up on the bumper, the driver, really, really can NOT see you behind him. Nor can he see you when you drive behind the right quarter panel.

Apparently large, bright spot lights and air horns are illegal in most states. That is really what I want to shine and blast when I know someone is back there but I can’t see him. Instead, we dipped into our bag of skills and thought we might have a bit of fun with technology.

QR Code on the back of our event van

Who knows, maybe one day QR Codes will replace the “How’s My Driving” on the back of trucks. Shoot the left QR Code for “really crappy driving;” shoot the right one for “outstanding, good job!”

PS Shoot the QR Code in the photo.. I know you are dying to see where it leads….

Originally published at GerardMclean.com

Are you branding your company in social media? Are you sure?

I was discussing the state of social media and how Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter are shaping — actually engineering — us. I said, “For example, take that Ford commercial where the recent college grad makes fun of her parents for only having nineteen friends…”

“Ford?” she said. “You mean Toyota.”

“What? Whatever,” I said. “Ford, Toyota, it is a commercial for Facebook.”

Oh, snap.

This does not matter one little bit. Unless you are the brand manager at Toyota.

Makes you think about who really has the power over your brand, doesn’t it?

Originally published at GerardMclean.com

If you get press, you need twitter

I ran across this great story of someone who was so excited about a company that he showed up to the new hire orientation even though he had not been hired. Read the story, but he turned out to be the best hire the company ever made.

“Wow,” I thought, “this is so cool that lots of other people would like to read this.” So, I looked for the retweet button on the article, found it and clicked. The message included BNet, but not the company’s twitter handle. No problem, I clicked over to their website to include it.

Nothing.

If you are moderately successful, someone will eventually write about you. Even if you don’t buy into all the social media hype and don’t tweet regularly, twitter is a quick way “connect” you out to a larger audience that reads other media.

Originally published at GerardMclean.com

The problem of too much unique

This past week, I was visiting with a friend in New York. There is a shop around the corner from his office. We stopped in on our way back from lunch to grab some coffee.

“I’ll have a small,” he told the guy behind the counter.

“Tall? Look, man, We ain’t Starbucks,” the server shot back.

Even if you overlook the server’s obvious hearing problem and surly attitude, you can’t ignore one of the biggest problems coffee shops have — how to order the size you want.

There used to be three sizes, small, medium and large. Then along came Starbucks who sought to change the coffee culture. Everyone in the “club” would be ordering coffee their way, short, tall, grande, venti.* It was fun; for a while. Now, it’s really a giant pain in the butt as other shops look to reproduce that magic cultship.

The next morning, I went to a Dean & Deluca’s for a coffee. They had three cups on the counter labeled small, medium and large.

“I’ll have a medium,” I ordered confidently knowing exactly what I was going to get. No sass-back, no attitude, no inferiority complex. Just coffee.

Here are the two basic problems all coffee shops have. Fix them tomorrow.

Coffee sizes labeled
It used to be cool for Starbucks to “own” their unique ordering language when they were hip. Now, they are the McDonald’s of coffee. Most people go to a Starbucks because they know what they are going to get. Almost no greater than than.

I can’t memorize your sizes. I don’t want to. Can you just put a display with the cups clearly labeled with how you want me to order? I’ll say “tall” if you prompt me to say the right thing. All I know when I belly up to the barista is that I don’t want the small one and I don’t need the 55 gal drum of coffee. What do you have in the middle? I’ll take that. Call it what you want.

Coffee-only line
I know you are supposed to suggest sell me when I order just coffee, but when I really, really, really only want coffee, selling me your daily baked good for only 1.99 just ticks me off. If you had a coffee-only line, it would move quickly and you would be setting some explicitly clear expectations for us both right from the start.

Set up a “coffee-only” line. You could even make it self-serve and we would not mind one little bit pushing our own button that says “tall” and swiping our own card.

The coffee shop did more damage to their brand in five little words than any twitterstorm or social media intern going wild could have done. They did it in real life, to real people who visited their shop every afternoon. And they exported their brand damage four states over and to several thousand readers, all sipping on their Sunday morning coffee, nodding in unison.

At least we know this ain’t Starbucks.

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*I had to Google for the sizes. Really.

Originally published at GerardMclean.com