Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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The Future of Android Games, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has come a very long way since the introduction of crude & simple games like Snake and Pong which were available on early Nokia phones. Mobile processors and graphics are now as powerful as desktop computers were just a few years ago. Older generations still remember lugging around a Game Boy or Game gear and begging their parents for another game. New generations literally have access to 100’s of thousands of games on their mobile device.

In short, mobile gaming has exploded in just a few years time. In the month of July 2016 there were 63.1 million arcade games downloaded & games in the “strategy” category generated $195M revenue. In a recent study over 37% of mobile app users with 30 minutes of free time choose to play games over any other activity. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it ourselves, whether its waiting for an appointment or sitting at the airport, we pull out our mobile device and jump into a quick game to kill the time.

So what does all of this mean for the future of android gaming? For starters, the massive amounts of revenue and user interest in android gaming has bolstered continuous innovation and fierce competition in the global marketplace. For example, just 12 months ago, top executives were saying they didn’t see any major benefit to augmented reality. With the release of Pokemon Go and estimates citing as much as $500 million in revenue in just 60 days, I think we can all agree augmented reality is here to stay. Virtual reality is another area that has been picking up steam in recent months. You can now buy virtual reality headsets at local gas stations for a mere $30. Or if you’re on a budget you can purchase Google Cardboard for as little as $7.00. There are still only a limited number of VR enabled games but that number is increasing daily. Not only that, as more and more people experience VR we are sure to see a blockbuster release sooner or later.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples of recent game releases. Dawn of Titans which was recently released on Google Play was in development for over 2 years. This is akin to the development cycle of a mid-level PC game release on Steam. The game features mass controlled troops, world building elements and impressive graphics. A few years ago this would be considered a major release for the Android platform. These days this is just another drop in the massive pond. With over 2.4 million apps and games currently listed on Google Play it’s become harder and harder to stand out. This is actually good news for gamers as developers are working harder and faster to create new innovative titles to attract users.

I firmly believe that both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) titles are going to gain more traction in 2017. Major developers who can pump out triple A content can’t be left in the dust while indie developers pump out AR and VR enabled games. They will be forced to port existing titles and come up exciting new ways to interact with the mobile devices.

There are many gimmicky games available that utilize the phones microphone, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer. However, these sensors combined with AR and VR could bring a whole new experience to gamers. Imagine walking through a recreated 3D world that represents your neighbourhood, immersed in full virtual reality, and using your phone as a targeting device to defend against waves of zombies. This is already possible with the technology that is available, it just needs to be packaged in a user friendly way that people can enjoy. Combining meticulous graphics with well thought out virtual reality experiences would be impressive indeed. If you’re familiar with PC based virtual reality demo’s you already know how immersive the experience can be. It’s only a matter of time before these same experiences make their way to our mobile devices en masse. And to think, only 30 years ago we were playing Mario on our beloved Nintendo consoles. Let’s not even mention the Virtual Boy that burned your eyes after 2 minutes of playing tennis. Android games and mobile games in general have come a long ways since then and they will continue to push barriers even further in the near future.

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3 Content Marketing Trends to Watch

“Content marketing is a success defining element for today’s businesses. Better the content marketing better is the business.”

Content marketing in a right way can give your business a right exposure. In this fast paced world of internet, you cannot neglect it, otherwise your business might extinguish in the end. You have to pay equal attention to content creation and promotion.

With each passing day, we see new trends emerging in almost every aspect of online marketing. Content marketing is no different. From Facebook, Twitter to Snapchat, new platforms are being emerged, promising to deliver better value for content marketing.

To stay competitive, companies have to stay updated with the emerging trends. That’s why today I aim to shed light on major trends that you should watch closely in 2017.

Content Marketing Through Videos

Video is visual description of your story.

Being in trend from quite some time, videos will continue to lead the content marketing in 2017. The effectiveness of videos is obvious as indicated by the following statistics on HubSpot.com.

  • Videos increase click-through rate by 200-300%
  • Videos increase conversion by 80%
  • 64% of customers make buying decisions after watching the video
  • YouTube reports 100% increase in mobile video views every year.

No doubt, marketing through videos is really effective but that does not mean you start doing it haphazardly. You should do strategic video marketing to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Make purposeful videos and align with your long-term strategy. Through videos, you can:

  • Deliver your brand message
  • Communicate your brand story
  • Explain your value proposition
  • Build relations with your customers and prospects.

However, you also need to be careful while creating videos. A boring video or a video that does not have any value for customers will go in vain.

Keep following do’s and don’ts in mind:

Do’s:

  • Videos should be purposeful and carry value for your customers.
  • Videos should be attention grabbing.
  • Videos should be bit emotional or sentimental.

Don’ts:

  • Videos should not be too long or too short
  • Videos should not be boring
  • Videos should not be offensive by any mean.

So heads up for 2017 and aim to interact and convert your customers through strategic video marketing.

Content Marketing Through Snapchat

As reported on Bloomberg, every month Snapchat gets about 10 billion views and 100 million active users. Imagine the wider audience you can reach by using Snapchat.

Snapchat is on scene since 2012. Earlier, it was considered mainly as a sexting app. But with the passage of time, Snapchat added features that make it a really attractive marketing medium for businesses. 2017 is expected to see exponential growth in Snapchat use for content marketing.

Snapchat allows 10 second snapshots. That means nothing useless, only the message that you really want to convey. Not only it is highly engaging, it also allows easy interaction with customers. Through a 10-second snapshot, you can

  • Introduce your business
  • Convey your inspiring story
  • Create a teaser
  • Offer a discount or promotion
  • Find the talent
  • Promote your product

And the options are unlimited.

So keep your fingers crossed in 2017 to explore thousands of ways you can use Snapchat to reach a wider audience.

Use Data-Backed Content

Whatever medium you are using for content marketing, make sure that the content you are marketing is valuable. It should be informative, educative and interesting. Back it with important statistics, facts and figures to build a high level of trust with your audience. Include case studies, expert opinions and empirical evidences to support your information.

So keep these points in mind while you are planning a content marketing strategy for 2017. Focus on these areas and you will have a brilliant year ahead.

Best of Luck!

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Cleveland Has A Better Chance Than Chicago To Return To The World Series

The youth of the Cubs, epitomized by the selection of Kris Bryant as the National League Most Valuable Player, has many people discussing a return to the World Series next year and beyond for the team from Chicago’s North Side. In actuality, it seems that their opponents in this past Fall Classic are more likely than the Cubs to reach it again in 2017.

Several key members of the Cubs are facing free agency, most notably closer Aroldis Chapman and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Postseason pitching hero Jon Lester will return, but veteran battery mate David Ross has retired. The loss of his personal long time catcher, who was brought over from Boston to Chicago primarily at Lester’s request, may cause the left hander to be less effective in 2017.

Cleveland, on the other hand, will be adding a star player to a lineup that managed to somehow win the pennant without him. Outfielder Michael Brantley, the team’s M.V.P. in 2015, will return after missing nearly all of last season due to injury. They will also get back catcher Yan Gomes, who missed much of the season as well. The path to the playoffs promises to be easier for Cleveland next season. Two of the perennial powers that rival the Indians in the American League Central division, Detroit and Chicago, are going to be considerably weaker as they enter rebuilding mode. The Tigers are looking to trade veterans such as Julio Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in hopes of getting top prospects, and the White Sox are marketing ace left hander Chris Sale and center fielder Adam Eaton.

Also weaker are the teams the Indians breezed through in the playoffs, which saw Cleveland win seven of the eight games in the two rounds. Boston, who was swept in three games by Cleveland, will very likely miss the presence of “Big Papi” David Ortiz. The perennial All-star and likely Hall of Fame designated hitter retired after the season.

Toronto, who was dispatched by Cleveland in five games in the Championship Series, will be losing at least one of its key sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Both All-Stars are free agents this winter, and each will command contracts so large that it would be impossible for the Blue Jays to sign the duo.

On the other hand, the Cubs’ most probable playoff opponents are likely going to be stronger. Washington, which finished behind Chicago for most victories last season, is seeking to acquire Sale from the White Sox. That acquisition would strengthen an already formidable starting rotation, anchored by Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Nationals are also on target to sign Fowler away from Chicago. The Dodgers, who came just two games from wresting the pennant from the Cubs, are actively pursuing several power hitters that could push them over Chicago in the playoffs. Milwaukee outfielder and former National League M.V.P Ryan Braun continues to be linked in possible trades with Los Angeles.

While there is no doubt that the Cubs will be the favorites to win the pennant again in 2017, Cleveland might be an even better bet to repeat. After all, they won it last year without two of its best players, both of whom should be healthy in the spring.

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Tips For Buying And Maintaining Shoes

Choosing a good pair of shoes and taking good care of it is an art. This article has some basic tips for you to maintain the quality of your favorite shoes. Hopefully, this will help you make your shoes stand the test of time.

1. When buying shoes

When should you try your shoes before buying them? Well, ideally, you should try them in the evening. This is because your feet are slightly bigger in size in the evening. Go to your desired store in the evening, put on the shoes you want to try and then walk around to see how you feel in them.

If you have to move around a lot during the day, we suggest that you go for instant heels as these shoes distribute your weight evenly and you feel comfortable.
2. Posture and gait

What is the right way to walk? Proper gait can make your body appear slimmer, especially if you are a woman. The idea is to keep your feet straight when walking. For each step, you may want to hold a bit long striding. Keep in mind that improper gait and posture will make you feel less comfortable while walking and it may also make your shoes wear and tear faster. Usually, the biggest reason why people don’t feel comfortable while walking is that the shoes are not the right fit for them.

3. Cleaning the shoes

For wiping stains from your leather shoes, you can use banana peels. Actually, banana peels contain certain ingredients that make it easier for you to remove stains from your shoes. On the other side, you can also go for milk to wipe the surface of the shoes.

Another good cleaning agent is vinegar. It will clean your shoes and make them shine. The great thing about vinegar is that it is better than most of traditional cleaning methods.

4. Leather shoes Upkeep

Shoes made from leather tend to get stiff. In order to soften leather shoes, you can opt for a quality absorbent pad. However, keep in mind that this method should be used occasionally as the regular use may reduce the life of your shoes.

If your leather shoes are stiff, you can cut a potato in half and dip it in the lemon juice and then clean the surface of the shoes with it. Keep in mind that placing the shoes near fire is not recommended after the application of the cleaning method.
5. Drying Wet Shoes

If your shoes get wet, lime powder is a good agent to dry them out. Lime power will also give your shoes a sweet smell. For fur shoes, you can try a dryer, and this is an ideal method for drying shoes in winter.

So, these are a few tips that you can use to buy shoes pair of shoes and then take care of them so that they will stand the test of time. Keep in mind that buying expensive shoes is not a big deal. The big deal is to take care of their maintenance and make them last longer.

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