Tag Archives: technology

Sales tips from a guy who hates to sell. You gotta believe.

Believe-logo

I used to see a career coach who told me that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I had to start from the bottom.

While I waited for folks to get on board and agree that I was the greatest thing since sliced bread – and pay me handsomely for my opinions and presence – I had to get a job.

And since I was transitioning from law to tech, I should use my gift of gab in an area that he thought would be a natural fit: sales.

The thing about his advice, while 100% accurate – I can sell – was the fact that I hate selling.

Well hate may be a bit strong.

I dislike it greatly.

And it’s not the act of selling that I dislike. I am a hunter.

It’s the things I have to sell that I generally dislike.

It wasn’t always this way.

When I was in high school I worked at Macy’s in the ladies shoe department as a shoe salesman.

Selling was a cinch.

To be clear, shoes sell themselves to women.

All I did was shuttle different sizes back and forth from the stock room until my client decided which pair (or pairs as was often the case) she wanted.

I’d ring her up, bag her goodies and she was off to shop some more, or to her car with the balance of her shopping spree.

Sure, I was masterful at upselling.

Transitioning a patron from a low priced item, say some 9 West black slingback pumps, to a higher prices one, like an elegant pair of Via Spiga heels that just arrived, was my forte.

But for the most part, I didn’t have to hard sell (or upsell) anyone.

Fast forward to 2008, the heyday of mobile marketing and SMS, when I worked for one of the three largest mobile aggregators selling mobile marketing to brands eager to get into texting.

The services sold themselves, and I simply guided green content creators through the short code acquisition mobile marketing campaign activation wireless carrier gauntlet.

In the process of demonstrating my expertise, I also upsold premium services and our platform, which allowed brands to publish their own compliant mobile ready campaigns.

As a captive audience, who had already taken the plunge to embrace the brave new world of mobile, selling (and upselling) was like shooting fish in a barrel.

But here is where my love affair with selling abruptly turned for the worse.

You see, my third sales or “business development” role was with an app development firm.

It was here that I understood that sales was not for me.

While I fully believed in the future of mobile, and was prepared to assail anyone who would listen with the wonders of developing mobile applications with us, my heart wasn’t in it.

I didn’t believe what I was selling.

Or rather, the thing that I was selling didn’t sell itself.

As a salesman, you can sell anything.

If you’ve got a silver tongue (as I did) a freezing man will buy ice from you.

And if you’ve got something that sells itself (or you believe that you do), the world is your oyster.

You can flit in and out of offices, meetings, conferences and presentations with a self assuredness that allows you to throw caution to the wind.

I’ve got it, you want it. Now, what will you pay me for it?

Selling was simple.

As was prospecting.

Lead generation was never an issue as we were on the leading edge of new technology.

Apps were everything.

Simply say the word “apps” and folks were rapt with attention.

And I sold lots of apps.

But then the company didn’t deliver.

Project after project became trapped in a bottleneck.

Features that were sold as standard became “premium” or required “custom development,” and I started to see the wizard’s cape showing behind the screen.

And that was it. I learned that I wasn’t built to sell just anything.

Actually, what I really learned was that I excelled at selling what I believed in.

Before the veil was pulled back, I would have sold anything to anyone.

After I saw the wizard, I became increasingly selective about what I’d co-sign, pitch or promote.

This isn’t really a “proper” tips post, but to stay true to it’s title, here are a few tips for being better at sales.

  1. If you need a script, don’t sell it. If you need a guide to sell, it’s not for you.
  2. If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it. It’s hard pushing something you wouldn’t take/use yourself.
  3. If you agree with buyers’ objections, don’t sell it. When you find yourself agreeing with all the objections a potential buyer has for not buying in, you shouldn’t be selling it in the first place.

In the final analysis that’s the key: sell only what you believe in.

Because then selling comes naturally.

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Want to increase diversity in tech? Make it cool. TechCool.org

Ethnicity in tech US

There’s been much ado about the diversity gap in tech.

The big dogs, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, EBay and Apple, have all released data, showing how much of their respective work force is made up of minorities and women.

Needless to say, the stats aren’t encouraging.

For the most part, tech is a white male dominated field.

Depending upon where you look, there’s anywhere from a 70/30 to 90/10 male to female ratio in tech.

From an ethnic perspective, the stats are far more sobering.

Generally, tech in the US is 58% white, 34% Asian, 2% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% Black (and 2% “other”).

The diversity gap stems from the fact that hiring in tech companies isn’t proportional to population.

While Blacks make up approximately 13% of the US population, they represent only about 2 to 3% of the technology workforce.

The disparity is palpable, especially when you think about the billion dollar valuations of tech companies like WhatsApp, Instagram and Tumblr, and how few people of color are up in the cut.

As a self-professed Black techie, I see this disparity every day.

In the majority of the tech circles I’m in, there are very few Black/brown faces.

We need more color in tech.

But how do we get there?

It’s one thing to know what the problem is.

It’s quite another to solve it.

Tech firms have begun recruiting at HBCUs and asking colleges and universities to recommend qualified Black students at job fairs.

But in my opinion, we’ve got to start earlier.

Obviously, exposing our youth to technology and fostering a love of math and the sciences is key.

Growing up, my father encouraged me to be an engineer.

I can still hear him in his thick Nigerian accent saying, “Chibuzor, you are going to be a engineer.”

That was his thing.

His first son was going to be an engineer, by hook or by crook.

Despite his aspirations for me, I simply wasn’t interested in joining the geek squad.

I fought him tooth and nail and I got an economics degree instead.

Today, I’m scraping together a meager existence and engineering jobs remain unfilled – or filled by white and asian men.

I could kick myself.

Who knew that Uneze had such foresight?

Why did I resist so vehemently?

Was his delivery so suspect that I gave it little to no weight?

Or was I just not checking for an industry I found to be so square?

Tech simply didn’t do it for me.

Looking back, it makes me wonder how many Black parents wanted their children to go into math and the sciences, but couldn’t instill any excitement in them to take it up?

All the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world, much like Uneze before him, aren’t turning urban kids on to science.

My first proper experience with tech was cool.

I helped launch a Harlem-based start-up called DigiWaxx.

DigiWaxx was an online digital music promotions company that created a digital platform which made sending physical copies of records to DJs obsolete.

While it was primarily music and artist promotion, we pioneered what became the standard in digital distribution of promotional content.

The technology we employed was very rudimentary (at the time), but it was still tech.

And it gave me a glimpse into the myriad of non-traditional opportunities that existed in tech.

It also exposed me to the some really progressive folks on the leading edge of technology – most of whom were Black.

Folks like Russell Simmons and (360hiphop.com and Global Grind), had whole teams of Black techies, who simply did not fit the stereotype of tech.

Today, I’m steeped in technology helping brands to build mobile websites, mobile and tablet applications, and immersive interactive experiences.

I’m also spreading the message about how cool tech can be to Black and brown kids to help overcome the diversity gap.

How?

Well for one, I’ve started TechCool.org.

Well, I haven’t actually started it.

I just copped the URL yesterday when I was thinking about writing this blog.

And roped my man into creating a logo for me (soon come).

But that’s besides the point.

What tech lacks is the cool factor.

When most of us think tech, invariably we think nerd (sorry Neil).

We don’t think rockstar.

But tech is full of rock stars, and I’m focused on bridging the diversity gap by helping to put the cool into tech.

If you’re the parent of a young Black kid, you know they emulate the rock stars.

Well not rock stars literally, but cats in the public eye.

Roll out a phlanx of sports or media superstars, and your kids are wide-eyed, imitating their moves on the court, pantomiming their videos or reciting their lyrics.

We’ve got to elevate tech to rockstar status, to excite kids about the possibilities.

I’m starting an organization whose primary mission is to encourage young Black kids to take up technology by exposing them to the superstars in the space.

My plan is to partner with celebrities as a catalyst to spark interest in tech, and do it in a way that inspires them to explore tech professions in the future.

I did a pilot of this program a few years ago with the Police Athletic League of NYC, called the Digital University, where we gave youth first hand experience with audio and video production, web development and social media management and marketing.

We brought in DJs to teach them how to mix, VJs to show them video mixing, gave them cameras to shoot video, video editing software to create movies, and brought in a celebrity or two to keep them inspired.

The kids loved it and we opened their eyes to the numerous possibilities which existed for them to explore tech-based professions.

Although PAL ultimately opted to teach a cooking class instead of continuing to offer the program – because home ec is more important than tech..duh! – we were able to establish a proof of concept that the right program taught by the right people, with the right level of cool could connect with kids in a meaningful way.

That experience has inspired me to go all-in and form a not-for-profit singularly dedicated to rebranding the tech industry to make it more enticing to our youth.

So stay tuned for more updates as I bring TechCool.org to life.

It will probably start off with a blog, and then some speaking engagements, before I’ve got bonafide programming and a formal offering.

But I’m committed to giving tech a facelift and helping to close this divide.

Feel free to share your thoughts on my plan and hit me up if you’re interested in being a part of the TechCool movement!

 

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Filed under advocacy, digital advocacy, technology

My Top Ten Takeaways from INBOUND14

INBOUND 2014

At this time last week, I was leaving INBOUND14, HubSpot’s annual conference, which brought together some of the biggest and brightest in marketing, technology, e-commerce and business.

Over the course of four days, I sat through numerous keynotes, talks, breakouts and hands-on learning sessions, led by industry titans like Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki and Martha Stewart.

Yes. I said Martha Stewart.

I finally had a chance to go over all my notes in Evernote (I’m kinda digging Evernote, y’all) and I’ve put together a list of my top ten takeaways from Inbound 2014.

1. It’s all about context.

While everyone is talking about mobile, mobile, mobile, we should be talking about mobile in context to the overall user experience. Our focus should be on how optimizing users’ interaction with our brands regardless of entry point (desktop, tablet, mobile or kiosk).

2. Experience over technology.

If you line up two similar products, side-by-side, the one that performs better is the one that’s going to win. When you’re competing for users’ time, attention and money, you’ve got to create an exceptional, seamless, quality user experience, for all touch points.  Brands should focus on ensuring that their website, mobile site, application, or products enhances the user experience.

3. Blend the physical with the digital.

Users are expecting brands to provide them with greater information to enable them to make informed decisions in real time. The best brands are allowing users to seamlessly move from physical (a product with a QR code) to digital (which is scanned and provides product information and “Buy Now”, “Add to Wishlist” or “Email to a Friend” options) are the brands that are going to win.

4.  Think customer first.

Old school marketing put the brand voice first. New school marketing puts the consumer voice first. Today’s engagement focuses on the consumer and is tailored to address their needs. More listening and less talking. When designing online, mobile or interactive experiences, the focus should be on building (or deepening) brand equity rather than selling.

5.  Rethink mobile.

Stop thinking of the mobile device as THE entry point, and start thinking of it as AN entry point. Rethinking mobile means placing the consumer at the center of your strategy (and not the device). It means realizing that sometimes a user is not going to want to interact with you via mobile, and being okay with that. It means to stop comparing mobile to desktop (and expecting engagement, conversions, page views, time on site, etc.) to be the same. It means that if the user is spending any time with your brand over any medium, you’re doing something right.

6.  Stay fluid.

It’s very easy to be set in your ways. But it’s better to be agile and responsive. You should always be listening, be prepared to react and be willing to change. Users respond favorably when they know you’re listening, paying attention to their concerns, and implementing solutions that make interacting with your brand easier or more fulfilling.

7.  Think holistically.

Sometimes, the best way to engage users may, in fact, be offline. Since we always have our mobile devices with us, brands have the ability to seamlessly marry our off and online worlds. By paying attention to more traditional modes of communication (billboards, text) brands can create numerous opportunities for engagement, where the medium is subservient to the message.

8.  Subtract, don’t act.

One theme that was repeated throughout the sessions, was the importance of simplifying your apps to accommodate the user’s primary objectives when interacting with your brand. Brands like Hilton and Torchy Tacos simplified their apps to “bare bones”, which pushed engagement and increased their bottom line.

9.  Think about why we are mobile.

While most of us equate “mobile” with “phone” it really means “the act of moving about freely.” Your mobile strategy should be about enhancing that sense of freedom, and not restricting it. Brands should focus on understanding the behavior of their users, and devising strategies that meet us where we are, rather than forcing us to interact in rigidly defined ways.

10.  Facilitate experiences.

When it comes to mobile, your primary objective is to help people do what their doing better. Moreover, your mantra should be: “Don’t interrupt. Enhance.” Rather than simply push a new app, update or feature, focus on what your customers are doing and seek ways to enhance the user experience.

If you’re interested in checking out some really great recaps of the sessions, visit inbound.org.

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Filed under branding, digital advocacy, mobile, technology

The iPhone 6 got me so excited I peed myself.

To pee or not to pee

It’s true.

I know I usually title my posts with outrageous statements sometimes, in an effort to distinguish myself from the blogging fray.

But a trace amount of urine actually escaped my urethra as I waited excitedly for the start of Apple’s September 8th announcements.

To be precise, I didn’t exactly pee on myself.

I was trying to hold in my pee.

It was a matter of not missing the live stream or relieving myself.

Ultimately, my desire to avoid soiling myself further won out and I was able to dry the small spot of wetness on my trousers with the hand dryer.

I kid. I kid.

But I (like millions of other fanboys and girls) watched as Apple announced the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch.

If you’re an Android user, technologically daft or live under a rock, and Apple products don’t give you a rise in your nether regions, stop reading now.

If however, new Apple products give you wood, cause spontaneous orgasm or premature ejaculation, read on.

I can’t front, I’ve been jealous of all those Android users with their tv phones.

When the GS3, the Note, the S5, and all those large form Android Phablets came out, I was green with envy.

While I can’t stand the “commonness” of Android devices or the randomness of features which are on certain phones and absent from others, I do dig how much content you can consume on their large(r) screens.

Of course, I was happy when the 5 dropped and we gained those 100 or so extra pixels at the bottom of the screen, but the 5/5s was still kinda wack, when compared with the Android tv phones.

And ‘yes’, I mocked Android users as they pulled out their massive screens from their suitcases pockets.

Sure, I maligned them for lugging around phones larger than their heads.

But I was really just masking my pain.

I wanted a massive tv phone to lug around too.

But one made by Apple, with a reliable OS that I trusted.

Not some open source foolishness cobbled together by sweaty geeks huddled together in a cave.

If I was going to lug around a tv phone in my pocket, it was going to be a sleek, elegant, uber thin Apple tv phone.

My every commute was filled with angst, as the Android horde pulled out their tv phones, watching House of Cards, or True Blood, 30 Rock or Amy Schumer on crystal clear HD screens, and I pulled out my monocle to read on my not-a-tv-phone iPhone 5s.

Sure, I had the latest and greatest Apple had to offer, and I was happy with it.

But I often found myself unconsciously peering over the shoulders of Android users, giggling at their screens, before catching (and cursing) myself for the lapse.

As much as I despised Android, the lure of their large screens was hard to resist.

Why didn’t Apple make such a glorious device?

WHY!!!!???

But like Zeus’ mighty lightning bolts forged by the Cyclops, Apple has forged not one, but two mighty iPhones to beat back the savages.

With the arrival of the large form phones, Apple is squarely in competition with Android.

Soon, I will be the one envied by the Android horde, as I unsheath my iPhone 6 Plus (you know I’m going large – and it’s not to mask any inadequacies!)

No longer will I be looking over shoulders, staring at the screens of savages.

They shall spy on me!

I’m sorry, was I frothing at the mouth just now?

Anywho…

Now, I’d love to give you my hands on review of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

But, alas, my invite from Cupertino must have been lost in the mail (umm, Apple, get your mail room in order).

So, rather than regurgitate someone else’s hands on assessment of the wonders of Apple’s latest devices, check Mashable, whose write ups and videos are pretty good.

In fact, they’ve got a really good side-by-side comparison between Apple and the others.

Not to worry.

I’ll have the 6 Plus as soon as it’s released, and you’ll have my hands-on assessment straight from the source.

Until then, I’ll be wearing diapers.

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Be the Brand. Tips from the (pseudo)master.

Note: This post was originally published August 25, 2008. But it’s so good I just had to reblog. Enjoy.

be-the-brand

I’ve written other blogs on other topics before, but never with the sense of purpose I have today.

Not to say that I’ve never had a sense of purpose in the past.

But I feel singularly inspired to write this blog because its all about me.

‘Who am I?’ you ask.

Entrepreneur. Brand strategist. Technology evangelist. Marketing maverick. Biz dev specialist. Trend setter.

I’m the guy who tells you like it is, whether you want to hear it or not.

To put it simply, I’m that dude.

You know who ‘that dude’ is.

He’s the guy that everyone acknowledges (implicitly or explicitly) when he walks into the room.

The one that you’ll remember years after you’ve met him.

The one that everyone aspires to emulate.

The one with the aura, the gift, the presence.

He’s that dude.

We all have ‘that dude’ in us.

It’s that aspect of us that tells really funny jokes.

Or knows how to solve complex equations in our heads.

Or has ability to remain cool in the face of difficulty.

The ‘go-to’ guy when things really need to get done.

Being the brand is the act of cultivating the ‘that dude’ in all of us.

I want to demonstrate the power of my mantra, ‘Be the Brand,” using myself as a living case study.

I’m not particularly famous.

If you Google “Chukumba” you’ll see about 27,000 results.

Add the qualifier “Stephen” and that jumps to about 37,000.

Not bad, but nothing really if you consider the 37 million results generated by searching for the term ‘Oprah’ or the 40+ million generated by searching the term ‘Donald Trump.’

Oprah and Trump are classic examples of iconic figures with huge brand recognition.

When Oprah Winfrey started O Magazine, people said, “She’s so vain. Why does she need to be on the cover of every issue?”

I thought, ‘that’s brilliant!’

What better way to promote your brand than to put your face on everything you put into the stream of commerce?

Oprah didn’t become a billionaire by promoting other people (although she has made quite a few people rich from her promotional prowess).

She promoted herself.

Similarly, when Donald Trump started ‘The Apprentice’ people thought “Who does Donald Trump think he is?”

He’s practically bankrupt!

But Trump is a perfect example of the value of self-promotion.

Love him or hate him, you’ve got to deal with him because his face, his properties, and his brand are everywhere.

Despite his well publicized failures, you’ve got to concede his staying power and presence are indomitable.

There are countless others who fit the Oprah/Donald Trump mold, both famous and unknown.

I include myself in their ranks, and I am going to prove that anyone can be the brand, if they want to be.

Being the brand is a perspective that allows you to define yourself and your world-view in a way that sets you apart from the crowd, but without thrashing others in the process.

So stay tuned to see what I’ve got to say.

I’ve got a lot to say-I’m quite verbose.

Hopefully, you’ll come away with lots of good advice.

And at least it’ll make for some interesting reading!

Now go be the brand!

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Filed under branding, Smack talking

Sue me and I’ll sue you back. The Apple Samsung saga continues.

Surprise, surprise.

Today TechCrunch announced that Samsung filed a patent lawsuit against Apple, alleging among other things, that the iPhone 5 violates several of Samsung’s patents.

I find it quite humorous that Samsung is suing Apple for patent infringement, when by their own assessment, the iPhone 5 is eons behind Samsung’s Galaxy SIII.

Is Apple violating the ‘not-living-up-to-expectations‘ patent?

Perhaps it’s the ‘my-phone-does-way-less-things-than-yours-does‘ patent that Samsung is protecting.

Or it could be the ‘your-phone-is-almost-as-unwieldy-as-mine‘ patent, that Samsung takes issue with.

Whatever the actual basis for the suit, I doubt the case has any real merit.

From what I gather, the suit is a function of principle.

Per the statement issued earlier today,

“We have little choice but to take the steps necessary to protect our innovations and intellectual property rights.”

Little choice huh?

It has absolutely nothing to do with the billion dollar shellacking you took recently?

Yeah, right.

We all know that Samsung has to (try to) save face after having their bums handed to them.

So, they’ve trumped up some claims that Apple violated one of the 30,000 patents that Samsung owns or has acquired.

We’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?

Samsung has sued Apple in nine different countries, and has been successful a grand total of zero times.

When will they learn?

They get an “E” for effort, “T” for nice try.

That’s for all my Tribe Called Quest folks in da house!

If I were Samsung, I’d take my lumps and accept that I’ll never be the leader of the pack…

Except the pack o’ fools telling you to waste your money on these frivolous lawsuits.

Don’t you know your lawyers will follow your silly asses all the way to the bank?

Oh well, it’s your money.

Take solace in the fact that their commercials lambasting Apple are pretty funny – even to Apple fans.

But another lawsuit?

Really?

Give it a rest.

Being number <insert any number but “1”> isn’t all that bad.

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Filed under iPhone, mobile, Smack talking, technology

I’m sorry. I just can’t get excited about the iPad Mini.

Is this the new iPad Mini? Time will tell.

There’s quite a hullabaloo around Apple’s alleged September 12 announcement.

The buzz around the iPhone 5 and the release of iOS 6 have kept tech bloggers busy.

I have to admit, that I too, have been caught in the frenzy.

I was totally bamboozled by a colleague who posted up a link to a leaked ‘first look’ video of the iPhone…only to realize that it was a hoax.

Damn you adamthinks.com!

But as much as I’ve tried, I simply can’t muster the energy to get excited about the iPad Mini.

Yeah. The rumor mills have been throwing around theories about what the iPad Mini will ultimately be.

And there has much speculation about its potential features.

Sure. The Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 have left Apple in the unenviable position of NOT being first to the mini tablet space.

So the likelihood of a smaller, lower priced offering, designed to compete with these devices, is great.

But I’m still not waiting with bated breath for it.

I mean really.

The ‘new‘ iPad dropped a few months ago.

Less than six months later, they’re dropping another iPad.

And I’m supposed to be all gaga over it?

Why?

Because of the smaller form factor?

The lower price?

Will it have all the same bells and whistles of the current iPad?

Or will Apple pull an ‘iPad’ and drop a device without all the attributes you know they have the capacity to bake in – just to set up the crush for the fully loaded iPad Mini 2.

We’ve all been victims of Apple’s frequent bait-and-switch.

As much as we applaud Apple whenever a new innovative product is released.

We resent them.

When they immediately drop the new and improved whatchumacallit rendering your latest acquisition obsolete.

So you’ll pardon me if I’m over the fanfare and leaks around the iPad Mini.

If you’re really interested, I’m sure that TechCrunch, Gizmodo or Engadget are following the iPad drama unfold.

But not the kid!

Not today anyway…

If you’re really interested in the latest-and-greatest iPad Mini news, check the link to the latest iPad mini photographs from the Daily Mail.

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Filed under digital advocacy, iPad, mobile, opinion, technology

Move over QR Codes. Good night SnapTags. Augmented reality is here!

A few months ago, I was looking at the back cover of a box of cereal and noticed something pretty interesting.

There was a complete takeover by the latest Spiderman movie, and (more importantly) there was an app.

If you downloaded the app, you would be able to see an advance clip from the movie.

Intrigued, I downloaded the app, dialed it up on my iPhone, and pointed it at one of the frames on the box…

And suddenly, the scene on the box came to life and I was watching a clip from the movie on the box!

Rather, on the box on my phone.

I had never experienced that before.

There were no weird wiggly lines or ringed logo required to access the video.

No separate browser window.

I just aimed my phone at what looked like a frame from a Spiderman comic strip…and viola!

Mind you, I’m a fan of QR Codes and SnapTags.

I’ve written about them a few times.

I think they’re immensely useful for driving interactions between brands and consumers.

At the time, I had no idea what technology was powering the Spiderman experience on the cereal box.

And while I found it novel, I didn’t explore it any deeper.

But a few days ago, a colleague shared a Ted talks link with me about augmented reality.

The video talked about how brands were exploring ways to integrate augmented reality into their apps.

I realize that my explanation of the Spiderman cereal box leaves much to be desired.

So check out the video from the Ted talk, which explains (and demonstrates) augmented reality with far greater clarity.

The technology Matt was demonstrating was developed by a company called Aurasma, which is one of the pioneers of augmented reality apps.

I definitely see augmented reality as the wave of the future.

The possibilities are literally limitless.

And the opportunities for brands to engage in immersive and increasingly interactive ways are even more limitless.

And I’m not talking about donning a helmet or a pair of glasses – I’m talking about having rich, interactive layered experiences by simply pointing your phone at an object.

But don’t take my word for it.

Keep an eye out for augmented reality coming to an app near you.

If you want to get a jump on the whole augmented reality movement, check out the Aurasma app in the iTunes App store.

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Filed under apps, digital advocacy, mobile, technology

Were Apple’s Genius Spots a stroke of genius?

What this kid part of a stroke of genius?

For about a month now, the blogosphere has been buzzing about Apple’s advertising campaign, which highlighted an extremely accommodating member of their Genius bar.

If you’re not into Apple, then these spots may have been lost on you.

There would have been no immediate recognition of the blue t-shirt clad youth, with the plastic lanyard around his neck.

The fact that he was giving advise to hapless individuals in unusual situations would have been equally mysterious or perplexing.

But if you do Apple, then these ads made sense.

Maybe.

In the advertising world, Apple’s three Genius spots, which aired primarily during the Olympics, drew a fairly negative response across the board.

Folks really took issue with the ads, which were (admittedly) a marked departure from the slick, clean and simple ads characteristic of Apple.

Almost universally, Apple’s ads were drummed.

For one (some complained) they featured no product.

Others were put off by the fact that consumers were portrayed as idiots.

Still others thought that humor (campy humor, at that) was beneath Apple.

Ad Age devoted no less than three articles (The Apple Genius Ads that Everyone Hated Are OverCool or Not, the Thinking Behind Apple’s Genius Spots Was Smart, What if Awful ‘Genius’ Ads Were All Part of Apple’s Stealthy Plan?) to the subject.

But now, folks are starting to consider whether Apple’s heavily drummed ads were…intentional?

Even Ad Age, which maligned the ads the worst that Apple had ever created, seems to have had a change of heart.

“Why?” you ask.

Because the numbers seem to bear out the fact that Apple may have properly targeted the demographic they were trying to reach with those ads.

More importantly, it appears that Apple was aware (even if the rest of us weren’t) that there was a shift in who’s buying Apple products.

I’m not going to act like I’ve been paying attention to Apple’s buying demographic.

But I am glad that cats have gotten off this hyper critical assessment of their ad campaign.

Maybe now we can focus on some real issues…

Like Apple’s soaring stock price…

Or the upcoming release of the iPhone 5…

Or iOS 6…

Maybe even my campaign for world domination! Mwaahhahaha!

Oh wait…ignore that last one.

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The Secret of Success? Planning and Execution.

I frequently consult young entrepreneurs seeking advice on establishing new business ventures.

Typically, they’re a group of close friends, former classmates or loose affiliates, galvanized by a strong central figure or idea that they collectively believe in.

Often this allegiance manifests itself in some form or other, that evidences the sincerity of their commitment and desire to bring their idea to fruition.

Sometimes this manifestation is a one-sheet or prospectus.

Other times, it’s the first draft of a business plan.

And still others, its a landing page or website.

Very rarely, though, I come across a young entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs, who have it all: business plan, marketing materials, financial projections, website and launch strategy.

I’m always excited when I encounter individuals like these, because it’s much easier to refine material that’s been primed, than trying to work the raw material itself.

Recently, I’ve been approached by an organization that seems to have the hallmarks of this rare breed of entrepreneur.

Since I’m bound by an NDA, I can’t talk about them or their project in any real detail.

But I can talk about what makes them exceptional, as a case study for other young entrepreneurs seeking to find success outside of a traditional 9 to 5.

So here are the five signs of a successful entrepreneur.

1. Planning makes perfect. One of the most important traits of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to plan. Success doesn’t ‘just happen’. It comes as the result of careful planning. I frequently refer to Sun Tzu, when I talk of planning, because it’s through planning that one defeats their enemy. Failure is the enemy. And as the saying goes, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I’ll take it one step further and say, “he who plans poorly, fails miserably.” To avoid the pitfalls of no/poor planning, I recommend the use of online project management and collaboration programs, like Basecamp, to take your planning to the next level.

2. Document everything. Having an idea of how you plan to get something done isn’t the same as documenting that plan. It’s important that your plans are memorialized in writing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it puts everyone on the same page (pun intended). If you’re concerned about maintaining documents in a usable and shareable way, Google Docs is an excellent tool for storing, sharing and editing documents online.

3. Scared money don’t make no money. A serious entrepreneur understands the importance of raising and spending money. The best ideas in the world go nowhere because they can’t get investment. I’m not talking IPO money or VC capital to build a prototype, hire staff and file patents. I’m talking basics: get a domain name, hire a web developer, get some business cards made. You’ve got to have a strategy for funding your company or idea, especially at its initial phases. Optimally, you can get your business up and running and generating revenue before you have to ask anyone (beyond friends and family) for money. Once you’ve got it going, you’ve got to have a strategy for sustaining and growing it. The presence/absence of a fundraising strategy is one of the key indicators of the viability of any business. Kickstarter is a great resource for jump starting York fundraising initiatives.

4. Get your tech on. In business nowadays, technology is the great equalizer. One trait that I find particularly intriguing about young entrepreneurs is their propensity to develop new platforms, and the fact that they understand the strategic importance of positioning technology in the marketplace. A good idea can become an overnight success through the effective utilization and implementation of technology. Whether its something as innovative as a new platform or as mundane as having a mobile website, integrating technology into your strategy is a sure means of differentiating you from your (potential) competitors.

5. Get sound advice. Have you ever drafted what you though was the perfect email? You labored over every word and read and re-read until you were certain it was just right. Then, satisfied, you press send. Of course, the minute it leaves your desktop you notice you’ve misspelled something. Or used “your” when you meant to use “you’re”. Or “there” instead of “their”. If only someone else had proofread it before it went out!

Starting a business venture is like preparing that email. Even when you think you’ve thought of everything, a more seasoned eye can spot things that you’ve missed. Having an experienced advisor, advisors or board of directors can be a valuable tool for not only launching your business, but growing and expanding your business as well.

If I had to give a formula for a successful entrepreneur: success = planning + execution.

Lots of people have good ideas.

What separates them from the guy sitting on his couch saying, “Hey! I thought of that years ago!” is that they got off their asses and did something about it.

Now get off your ass!

If you’re interested in getting some advice for your business idea, feel free to drop me a line.

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