Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why wouldn't you?

You run a small business and someone offers you an opportunity to get a little bit of a competitive edge and some extra exposure to the public.  Better yet, it might get a few more customers through the door.  It's free and it takes about ten minutes (especially if you've already got a little bit of copy promoting yourself).  Even if you've "already got a website" (words I've actually heard as a reason to ignore this offer), why wouldn't you take it?

It looks to me like a lot of businesses are missing out on this offer from Google Places.  And yet, many of these same businesses are still paying for Yellow Pages ads.  Ask yourself: when was the last time a customer said, "I found you in the phone book."  That's becoming a rare event these days.  On the other hand, a lot of people look to the Internet as their first resource for finding services. Google Places (and some of the other opportunities out on the Web) would seem to be a no-brainer.

Hey, if you want to know more, I'm available to help. And, if you want to take it even further than just that (important) listing, that's my business.



Monday, May 24, 2010

Visual Metaphor: Group portrait of entrepreneurs



Click on the image to see it in better detail.

Visual Metaphor: Starting a business alone






My thanks to Joseph Kittinger for having made this jump from 102,000 feet in August of 1960.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What a bootstrapper has to think about ...

In starting a business from scratch, there are things you need to remind yourself of every day ... maybe more than once ... from Seth Godin's Bootstrapper's Bible (2004):

Bootstrapper's Manifesto

I am a bootstrapper. I have initiative and insight and guts, but not much money. I will succeed because my efforts and my focus will defeat bigger and better-funded competitors. I am fearless. I keep my focus on growing the business—not on politics, career advancement, or other wasteful distractions.

I will leverage my skills to become the key to every department of my company, yet realize that hiring experts can be the secret to my success. I will be a fervent and intelligent user of technology, to conserve my two most precious assets: time and money.

My secret weapon is knowing how to cut through bureaucracy. My size makes me faster and more nimble than any company could ever be.

I am a laser beam. Opportunities will try to cloud my focus, but I will not waver from my stated goal and plan—until I change it. And I know that plans were made to be changed.

I’m in it for the long haul. Building a business that will last separates me from the opportunist, and is an investment in my brand and my future. Surviving is succeeding, and each day that goes by makes it easier still for me to reach my goals.

I pledge to know more about my field than anyone else. I will read and learn and teach.

My greatest asset is the value I can add to my clients through my efforts.

I realize that treating people well on the way up will make it nicer for me on the way back down. I will be scrupulously honest and overt in my dealings, and won’t use my position as a fearless bootstrapper to gain unfair advantage. My reputation will follow me wherever I go, and I will invest in it daily and protect it fiercely.

I am the underdog. I realize that others are rooting for me to succeed, and I will gratefully accept their help when offered. I also understand the power of favors, and will offer them and grant them whenever I can.

I have less to lose than most -- a fact I can turn into a significant competitive advantage.

I am a salesperson. Sooner or later, my income will depend on sales, and those sales can be made only by me, not by an emissary, not by a rep. I will sell by helping others get what they want, by identifying needs and filling them.

I am a guerrilla. I will be persistent, consistent, and willing to invest in the marketing of myself and my business.

I will measure what I do, and won’t lie about it to myself or my spouse. I will set strict financial goals and honestly evaluate my performance. I’ll set limits on time and money and won’t exceed either.

Most of all, I’ll remember that the journey is the reward. I will learn and grow and enjoy every single day.

Thanks, Seth! Want to read the entire Bootstrapper's Bible? You'll find it on ChangeThis.com right HERE.

Also highly recommended: Jonathan Fields' F2 | Firefly Manifesto: Remixed

"Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." - Goethe

Now, pardon me while I re-read that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Google Places replaces Local Business Center

Google has rebranded its Local Business Center service as Google Places. It's essentially the same service as before, but with a few new features. These include service area mapping, a $25 a month feature to help businesses stand out by adding "tags" to their listings, free business photo shoots, QR codes (see below) and a bit more. Local Business Center users in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will not be able to take advantage of the tagging service or the free photo shoot for the moment, at least.

QR codes are similar to barcodes. Certain models of smartphones have the ability to scan such an image on a business card, for example, in order to go directly to the business's mobile version of their Place Page. The QR code for MobileVisibility.com's Place Page is shown below.  For my Motorola Droid, the application that can scan this is "Barcode Scanner" and probably several other apps.  For the iPhone, one suggested app is "Barcodes."  Google suggests that you can find out what works for your smartphone by searching by your smartphone's model name and "QR reader."

Even without some of the features being available in DFW (yet), this rebranding isn't just a name swap, it's an upgrade.




Official Google Blog: Introducing Google Places

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Waiting for a better way ...

For want of the kind of screen recording software we have on PCs (Jing comes to mind), it's not possible to get high quality video images from a phone. But, static images aren't a problem on the iPhone and only slightly more difficult, and inconvenient, for the Android phones.  It's moving images that are a challenge.

Because I need to tell a story with video from my phone, I spent hours trying different configurations of phone position vs. camera position to record my Motorola Droid's images onto my Kodak Zi8 video camera. The camera's not very high-end, but it does have a limited macro setting and a few other key features. At $180, it fit what I could spend on a camera.

Some configurations involved clamping the phone vertically on its side (to best fit the aspect ratio of the camera) and created the concern that I would damage the phone's case.  Believe me, I was very careful and even added neoprene pads to the clamps.



I finally came up with the simple solution below.


I may have to brace the phone slightly to prevent its moving, but no stress on the case from clamps.  It took longer than it should have, but it came to me that it was easier to adjust focus by changing the height of the camera via the crank.  Too bad I didn't think of it sooner.  Opening the keyboard forces the screen to go horizontal and doesn't require the Droid to be upright on its side.

For all that effort, this is the quality of the image I get ... serviceable, but not the quality I'd like to have. (it was recorded at 720p).  Just a few weeks ago, I had no concerns about recording phone images of any kind.  Now, I'm learning. It makes me wonder if it isn't easier to tell my stories with static images.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Guest post from myself: The Computer in Your Hand

Just a couple weeks ago, when I originally wrote this post, I'd had no particular thoughts about putting up a blog related to WirelessVisibility.com. Since what I wrote pertains precisely to the subject matter of this blog, here is that post in full as my initial post here.

It was less than two weeks ago that I joined the legions of smartphone users. Until then, I'd been quite pleased with my Motorola RAZR V3xx. It was reasonably compact, being a clamshell design. It could look at my gmail, it could text, it could look at Google maps and, within limits, it could even navigate the web. Plus, it was rugged. I know that because I had dropped it many times, usually on hard surfaces. Thank you, Motorola.

But, my RAZR wasn't a "smartphone." That's what I needed. I was even willing to switch from AT&T after 17 years to get what I wanted.

Smartphone design has continued to escalate since the early Blackberrys and Palm phones. The real landmark in smartphone design was the introduction of the first iPhone design in June of 2007. With the iPhone, smartphones became accessible to more than the corporate users and avid texters. And the uses of the smartphone grew exponentially with the availability of apps (software applications), many of them free, particularly those that Apple made available for followers to install on their iPhones.

Three years after the introduction of the iPhone, I've finally caught  up. Last year, there were 47 million smartphones shipped in North America alone. This year, the analysts are expecting the number will rise to 65 million. RIM (Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry) is still the market leader, but the iPhone and the new Google Android-powered phones are slowly eating away at its market share.

My phone of choice is the Motorola Droid. It's a bit newer in design than the iPhone and uses the Android operating system, as do a number of other new smartphones. Even though one of its primary duties is as a phone ("Hello." "Hello! How are you." "I'm fine thank you." Remember that?), I really view it more as a "mobile computing platform."

Nevermind. Its usage as a phone is almost secondary.

Now, "mobile computing platform" is the heart of the smartphone story. These little devices are taking that concept to a higher and higher level.
  • My phone is GPS-equipped, so it can locate me, as precisely as within a couple meters, almost anywhere on Earth. It can act exactly like a dedicated in-car GPS complete with turn-by-turn navigation and voice directions.
  • It connects to the Internet, so it has access to almost boundless information. It displays websites with good fidelity and will soon have a Flash player, unlike the iPhone.
  • It has voice translation, so I can have my spoken English converted to a number of other languages, even that of the Droid itself (or vice-versa).
  • Through many of the available software applications, it can "mash up" data to give me information about the restaurant I'm standing in front of or tell me the names of the constellations I'm looking at in the sky.
  • It can scan the barcodes of food products and tell me their nutritional value or scan the barcodes of electronics products and tell me where I can find the cheapest price.
  • It can take pictures and post the images to the web or shoot video and stream what it sees to another user.
  • And that's just getting around to its use as an entertainment machine. It can play music from MP3 files on the phone or from Internet websites that stream music. It can play video from YouTube and networks like CBS and even play movies from Blockbuster (coming soon).
  • Sorry, I have to add two more: flashlight and compass. Canteen? NO!
I don't think I'm done, but I will stop. You get the idea. The smartphones can do everything but production work, like running Photoshop or Excel or web development or writing (like this) requiring the speed and relative ease of a real keyboard.

I'll be darned. Eric Schmidt was right. Watch the video I posted of his speech, if you haven't already. Computing doesn't mean just desktops and notebooks anymore. More and more, it's mobile computing taking the center stage.

If you run a business, you really have to think about how this affects you. Can you be found? What's your reputation? Millions of buying decisions are going to be made by people with smartphones in their hands.

I think that's a great start for this blog ... prewritten by me.