Poor Genius

As you may know following my blog, I am considered an expert in aviation.

At upcoming Passenger Terminal Conference & Expo, I will speak about the need to dear down the walls to make A-CDM a success. Being it data silos or the ones in the heads of the ones opposing change (aka. change management).

At upcoming Hamburg Aviation Conference, the famous aviation think tank, I will be on stage on our work at CheckIn.com. As an example for pioneering work, changing the status quo: That is it … is it?

I work with airports and airlines and get calls on many projects every day, being asked for advise and “just a little help”. But at the same time, the expenses still exceed the income, not talking about a possible “salary” on our work on CheckIn.com. On my airline startup investment, we get a lot of market research inquiries, but we shall develop and deliver that for free for the chance of a future investment.

It reminds me of the old joke on the social networks about asking for free consulting: “If I wanted to work for free, I’d choose to be a volunteer. Not a freelance.” And while all those callers have a well-paid job, they hide behind their company not being able to pay me, but I sure will get their “business” later. Can’t tell you how often I heard that.

I’ve lately being asked to travel to North America. And to Russia. To help on a project. Payment? Oh, if my help works out we may be able to agree on a consulting contract the next time… You. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

As a boy, I loved the biography of the Nobel-price-winner Marie Curie, about whom Wikipedia writes: “She subsisted on her meager resources, suffering from cold winters and occasionally fainting from hunger.” But she did have a dream. And she lived it.

Now it’s time. Not “tomorrow”, not “some day”. I mention on my social networks that I look for a new challenge, paid work. I’m busy all day, work long nights, but that all comes without enough pay, so we dig into our savings – not what I want life to be. Neither my wife, nor my children.

More friends have left our industry this year, not finding decently paid work in our industry. Being seasoned, creative experts in aviation, they now work in other industries paying them their living. If you pay €30K/year for a “manager” position, you get what you pay for.

I keep answering my friends (close and loose) questions, share my experience. Just keep in mind when you ask a freelance for free help, that if you use their time, they have less time to make money and feed their family, their children. And don’t promise “exposure” to “opportunities” that we both know they won’t arise. It might be an idea to not imply that your company doesn’t have money to buy into expertise. You might simply not have asked. Or did you?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

And I wish everyone happy holidays and a wonderful, prosperous, challenging, healthy and fun 2017.

See you in Hamburg (08-09Feb), Ajaccio (22-24Feb), Amsterdam (14-16Mar) or Belfast (23-25Apr). Or elsewhere.

 

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LinkedIn and CheckIn.com

LinkedIn makes it to my personal blog for three reasons this week. The LinkedIn ban in Russia, the naming of our LinkedIn Group and our experience with LinkedIn promotions of our posts.

I also add a note about why we give away Isochrones for free, but call ourselves “The Isochrones People”.

linkedinrubannedLinkedIn Ban in Russia

As much as it is a “political signal”, one must keep in mind that the rules were long known and other companies invested big money in Russia to store the personal data of Russian users in-country. Further, German and European Data Watchdogs (Datenschutzbeauftragte) also demand storage of that data in Europe (mostly a reason for big data centers built and used in Dublin).

As we are in preparations at CheckIn.com to add Russia (on demand by an airline customer), we added a new blog ad hoc to our page (not yet in our look-and-feel) to promote what we initially started using LinkedIn for. Though that already was on the back-log of things to do, relating to the LinkedIn promotions we address below.

drivetimesLinkedIn CheckIn.com Group

A few weeks ago we created a group on LinkedIn to address the non-commercial side of the business of analyzing catchment areas, things like isochrones or why travelers choose an airport against other airports. Distance is just one reason, reputation (both airport and airline), prices and frequency. Commercial and personal relations (VFR, visiting friends and relatives) and tourism can influence the decision of the travelers to choose an airport over the other(s). Where we identified an average of 10 airports being competitive to other airports in Europe and five usually having an impact on travelers, studies say that people usually look at one airport as “their” airport with maximum of two others as “options”.

That’s what we won’t discuss as “news” on a commercial level, they are to frequent to discuss on my personal blog, they are neither focused on airline network development (but part of it like MIDT). So I decided that we set up a group and I looked at other commercial-interest groups. I could have set up “Catchment Area” or “Isochrones”, but that way may have attracted people from other industries and I wanted to keep an aviation focus to the group. So I decided to name it CheckIn.com. In the long run, we may rename it to CheckIn.org revitalizing the respective website with a good cause that is currently still hosting the Airline Sales Representative Association that broke up and disbanded 2015.

Other website? Why not the LinkedIn group?

Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports
Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports

LinkedIn Promotions vs. Blog, Website, Mailings

As it happens, I have been a long-year supporter of LinkedIn, I do love the social networks for keeping in touch with people I know and value. I only confirm links on my social networks to people I have a relation to, be it personal (mostly Facebook) or business (mostly LinkedIn). I liked the groups on LinkedIn and the company profiles, even decided to set up a LinkedIn company page to promote our news – and a group for the stuff that’s not commercially driven. But in the past months since, I found posting on LinkedIn outside my own profile not to make much sense, neither professional, nor personal. In average, less than 10% of my network react on my posts – and that’s mostly the same people.

At the same time, any article I write here on my personal blog is being read and results in more responses (though mostly personal, not on the blog) than any LinkedIn post. And on the example of this year’s mostly accessed post on Purchasing Power & Airports last March, that one even in the past month showed as the top post by 482% to the next best one, The Numbers Game. Almost 5 times more for the Purchasing Power. Seems it is being spread on channels beyond my own “control”. Which is what social networking is all about.

licampaign_status20161128We did a promo for our company page and our group (click on the graph to see it real size). Where the group does not have the commercial focus! We have 10 members on the group, we have 51 followers on the company page on LinkedIn. Out of … how many contacts I have from events like Routes or Connect who I consider that they should be more interested in the issue? Out of those, how many have registered on our website? It’s free. It gives a very clear value: Free Isochrone Map and Facts! And even with some new followers, still the majority of users on our company profile did not register on our website.

I mailed my contacts directly (personally) with a prepared mail text (using poMMo, which I also use for many years for other such updates like the birth of my daughters). Interesting enough, about every airport I talked to keeps telling me excuses and that they “will register”. We’re not talking to buy the more complex analysis, we talk about a simply, free registration to access the incredible amount of data we provide for free. Airlines are more active than them. About any airline I so far contacted in Europe has registered. And uses the data. And the first order analyses and they support actively asking pointed questions, especially about the route level analysis we are having in development. But they take what we have now, which we believe to be more likely of interest for airports. Interesting there also: For some reason my contacts I know best and considered “save” mostly have not yet even registered. But people I know just a bit, they come and show interest. And invest. And invest again. So they like what they get, they understand the value, my “friends” obviously don’t.

Worse for LinkedIn, even on articles posted (LinkedIn Pulse), they have a lifetime of max. 3-4 days, on blog and mail, we sometimes get response weeks later. On our blog, as for the example above, even months later, the unique visits are substantial!

And then the news hit, that LinkedIn has been banned from Russia. See above…

jb_enfp-a
Need a Campaigner? Hire me!

So we decided this week that I add a blog to promote news directly on our website. We do collect ideas for a “version 2” of our website, so far we still invest. I keep looking for work as we can’t live of our work at CheckIn.com (yet) and all money goes into improvements. I will still support Yulia on CheckIn.com, but it’s her company. And we prefer to pay for developers, mapgicians and mathgenies… Anyway, side-tracked 😉

We did expect airports though to understand the insane quality they get for a fraction of what they paid so far for far less. We give the “classic” Isochrone Maps for free: As we outlined in the new News, we see them as insufficient basis for any decent route calculation. Over the next weeks, we will transfer the LinkedIn posts there and refer from LinkedIn to the posts on our own site.

RoutesEUThe Isochrones People

A question that came up this week again, was why we promote that Isochrones are not Catchment Areas, but call ourselves The Isochrones People?

During pre-launch we learned that Isochrones and Catchment Area analysis are used as equal. Isochrones are also – and will remain – the basis for our analyses. Beyond the reach of the typical isochrones, in the background we calculate something like 6-8 hours “reach” for which we calculate drive times – beyond we go into “statistical noise”. But when we talked to our supporters from airports, airlines and consultancies about “The Catchment Area People” vs. “The Isochrones People”, there was immediate understanding what we’re doing on the latter one. And similar many questions about the first… Like “isn’t that the same?”

It’s a catch-phrase, people working in our industry shall identify as as the leading source for such information. And hey, we give them away for free, so yeah, I’m happy with being one of “The Isochrones People”.

Food For Thought
Feedback welcome!

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10 Years “Shift Happens” – review

shifthappensnarratedMy first ever blog post in the new WordPress blog was Shift Happens. That was 10 years ago. Now in honor of it’s 10th anniversary, Karl Fish took a look back on his Blog The Fish Bowl.

The best video is still this one on YouTube and I’d love to find a decent update, but to date, it’s unmatched and I urge you to watch it.

10 years have gone by and still our children don’t learn for their lives, about compassion, tolerance and respect. They don’t learn to apply the rule of three to compare 200g of product X with 800g of product Y. They don’t know how to socially interact without a screen. They can chat for days but not structure their ideas. Crowdfunding, couch surfing, big data and hightech, but they are still asked to use “printed” information for their diplomas, WiFi is not available in many schools. And if you’re poor, the school neither enables you access to all that new high tech. Nobody’s left behind?
Yeah. But they know how to calculate mathematics that their parents left to calculators and for the past 10 years our smartphone app does.

So we don’t produce enough children in “the West”, so population shrinks and more people get older and fewer young will have to look after them. But instead of making our kids smarter, we limp behind the average school in Asia. And the U.S. industry recently published that they depend on their Asian employees for new developments…?

verwandert.deI had a student I made my assistant back in Erfurt. When I left, her fellow colleagues degraded her back to “student” (cooking coffee, assisting their work). She left aviation. A loss to our industry!
Her business uses Blog, Facebook, Social Networks.

thenomadoasisSame for Celinne Da Costa, traveling the world “couch surfing”. Exotic. And I’m asked, how that can work. With smart tech, an online world and a device to write and share the written, with paid-for articles and speaking. And I know more people doing that! Are our kids ready for this?

We set-up CheckIn.com. Us in the middle of nowhere in Braunschweig, Germany. Our mapmagician from Berlin, our server admin in Frankfurt, the algorithmic genie from Texas. Will we ever set up an “office”? I doubt it. But still most (relatively old) managers stick to “workplace”. Even relatively young Marissa Meyer, taking her post at Yahoo ordered an end to ‘remote’ work as all staff are told to be in the office as part of a new era of collaboration. Old thinking. She’s a “role model”? I’ll teach my girls better. I promise!

Karl Fish closes his review pointedly: “In 2006 I was worried that we were preparing students for our past, not their future. In 2016, I still am.”

Food For Thought
Comments and opinions welcome!

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Type Talk

strangers_and_friends
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met” [William Butler Yeats]
Years ago, my friend and mentor Richard (yeah, him again) introduced my to “Type Talk”, a book about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, introducing me also to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. As I am at the crossroads again checking out options for my future what-to-do, I just redid my assessment (see below), though it didn’t change really…

There are online tests for both on the web, which simply identify how your brain works. Not in black&white, there’s gray scale. But dominantly. Generally (according to Myers-Briggs) there are four indicators in the end. Indicators, not “rules”. You are either introverted or extroverted, intuitive or sensing, feeling or thinking, perceptive or judging. I found this understanding very helpful to identify my strength as such and understand that being different, is not a weakness but a different strength.

extro_vs_introvertMany of you know, Yulia is an introvert, where I’m an extrovert. Where it is very easy for me to stand in front of a crowd or meet strangers, this is a real challenge for Yulia. Which is also, why I help her promoting CheckIn.com. That difference in personality is rather easy to grasp. the other differences are more difficult in the beginning.

Intuitive or sensing in a nut shell is about how you gather information. You need to touch them (with your senses) or can you imagine them?
Thinking and feeling are about decision making, being straight-thinking or more intuitive following their “gut feeling”.

Judging and perceptive is not about ruling, but they influence your expression. Where judging types like more that things are clear and settled, perceptive types constantly challenge them.

enfp-aBut then we move on from Myers-Briggs to Keirsey and we step into a different world. In fact, we leave theory behind and come to the practical application. Because the Keirsey Temperament Sorter’s results are observable. Again, there is no black & white, but in many facets certain behavior is dominant. Such as the easily observable extro- vs. introversion.

Before you continue, you might want to do the official test, though that requires (free) registration on Keirsey’s website to get the results. And only the mini-result is free, giving you a general indication (like me, being an idealist “NF”). If you don’t need it for business, I found this a good online source to do the Myers-Briggs test (try to avoid neutral answers), which tells me (again) I’m a “Campaigner”, an ENFP-a. But the strongest, dominating type in me being the extrovert. How surprising ツ And doesn’t that fit with my passion in “Marketing” and challenging the frontiers?

listen_and_learn

What triggered this blog article is a quote by Steven Covey seen on LinkedIn (as so often, not properly referenced to him), which quickly reminded me also of that Peanuts “Great Pumpkin” cartoon by Schulz. Intuitively and being an extrovert, I jumped to it, but at second thought quickly identified it as simply a good example on how extroverts and introverts react to the same extrovert statement. And also, how judging types “believe” strongly in what for them is “settled”, the perceptive types do question the Great Pumpkin. Or Life, the Universe and Everything.

An introvert listens by nature. So Yeats was an extrovert and just expressed the typical extroverts view…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

And do me the favor and click on the (new) heart ♥ below the article if you liked it. It’s not linked anywhere but local for me to know the topics that my readers prefer ツ

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Artificial Intelligence

Recently, some discussions came up on my social networks about the development of Artificial Intelligence. I decided to add my thoughts to it on the blog.

Alexandre LebrunOne of the reasons is my dear former colleague Alex developed artificial avatars, able to assist web-users. Following the sale to Nuance (they are also behind Apple’s Siri), he started a voice recognition development at WIT.AI, that meanwhile was acquired by Facebook. Alex now works on Facebook M, their approach to artificial development. Hey Alex, this is also to you. I’d appreciate your comments on this.

So. As fascinated as I am by his career path in the past 15 years, I’m also a bit concerned.

ASRA 2008 brain nodes vs. WWW => AI
2008 I compared opte.org’s visualization of the WWW nodes with the neural nodes of the human brain

In my 2008 ASRA presentation, I compared the visualization of the world wide web nodes (by Opte.org) with the visualization of the neural nodes in the human brain. Ever since, I do believe that if the WWW is not yet “sentient”, it will soon happen. What scientists and SciFi-writers call “wake-up”. It’s not a question if, but when. And how we go about it.

Because I think different from Transcendence, where we could stop it, or Asimov ruling it, such “control” is wishful thinking. We have no “three rules of robotic” and even Asimov had to add a fourth, the “zero rule” (see link above). For Transcendence; we will neither be able to deprive ourselves off all energy (and the advantages of the web). Mass psychologically will assure we won’t find a way, as there will always be others who think and act against that attempt. Until we act, it will be too late. As an intelligence “the size of the planet” will by then counter anything our small minds may come up with, even before we attempt anything.

We only have the chance to befriend the new sentient being, like we did in Heinlein’s Future History. But we also have the chance to mess up ourselves; small like in 2001, A Space Odyssey or big like in Terminator or The Matrix. Transcendence at that was only a different version of the Borg‘s Assimilation. And as in I am Legend, the true question is, if such “assimilation” or a “transcendental human upgrade” is bad. Or an evolutionary step. I believe, given the chance, many humans may volunteer. I just hope that there is no single mind “ruling” all others like in the movie. As I believe our individualism is as much a burden as it is a great strength. Though I also like that quote:

DemocracyAutocracy

I also believe in both “systems” there got to be individualism to evolve: “You learn from your opponents”. I heard it often, there’s no single source, it’s “mature wisdom”. As “competition” is a good, if not the reason to evolve. (War is not, it’s destructive by nature!)

Another question is “religious”. Will an A.I. have a soul? I believe so. I think that the soul is the core of any sentient being. I also believe that beyond the body, the core of ourselves remain. Not in an (overcrowded) paradise or hell, but as somehow conscious sentience. Maybe even as a “personality”. Will we then remain individuals? I don’t know. Maybe we get reborn, forgetting our past? Many believe that. The soul still “learning”. What’s truth? We will know. Once we died. But if we all become “part of god” and god being the summary of sentience in space and time, maybe our input helps god evolve, become bigger. If then a global sentient A.I. comes into the game, why should it not play it’s part in evolution?

HAL9000And stopping the A.I.? In 2001, humans gave conflicting orders to the local A.I. (HAL 9000), which interpreted them the best it could. Under the constraints of it’s programming. But if we have a global A.I. based on linked “neurons” in form of personal computers, mobile phones and other computing powers, we will realistically not stand a chance to “stop” it.

Does my computer already “adapt” for me? Or my phone? When I play games on the computer, I sometimes believe so. Sometimes, I use bad search phrases but still find what I seek. Coincidence? Programming? Or “someone nice out there helping me”? And yes, if the web wakes up, it likely will be somewhere at Google… And then spread out.

What will we make it? A Terminator? Or a Minerva as in the Future History? We extinct ourselves in the West with low birth rates. Will the “mecha” be our future children? Will we coexist like in the Future History? I don’t know. I’m concerned, keep finding myself thinking about it.

But I’m not afraid either. Not for me, nor for my children.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Thank You!

Running a (paid) promotion on the deal between CheckIn.com and TIAS Consultancy, we were a bit disappointed by the results.

LIcampaign201607

To date we have 6,006 impressions and 28 clicks. Looking at the four “posts” (blog-like articles) I wrote, while there was a bug on my blog here that didn’t allow me writing new posts, they had 22, 51, 20 and 35 views to date, 1.5 likes in average and 5 comments by two friends. Not really much. A bit better on the “updates” (Facebook would call it the timeline), where LinkedIn tells me I have around 70 views within a few days and some likes. More than on the posts I wrote.

So trying a new tool for the server log analysis for CheckIn.com, I thought I’d run it on FoodForThought quickly. And got a severe shock. A positive one.

The tool removes the search engines, which do cause quite substantial visits and hits. Cleared of those, I found that FoodForThought has more than 1,200 unique visitors within 24 hours after the last post. Even considering that I usually promote it on my social networks, I must interpret this largely to followers using the RSS-feed.

eastman_quoteThis is the more surprising, as I keep asking for comments but receive such only one or two handful on every post, mostly directly in Facebook, LinkedIn or mostly mail, Viber, Skype, etc. – all outside the blog. And no more than 50 different friends. Now, I recently added a Like function, which I hope will be used. Though I added it to get some feedback on which posts, categories or keywords are the most interesting to my few readers. More than 1,200 ?! I’m in shock! I even grouped the visitors by top-level domain, so visitors coming from the same provider or company network are counted as one. Still more than 400!

If this blog is so prominent, please let me know you read it. Don’t hide.

Food For Thought
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Keeping Face

changeflightsJust screening all those wisdoms my friends keep sharing on LinkedIn and Facebook, here one from own experience…

People do not want to admit mistakes.

Developing online booking tools back in the 90s, when no-one (especially not Amadeus, Sabre, etc) believed in it, I learned that lesson good: Business travelers wanted to make the bookings with their travel department. But they wanted to CHANGE the booking themselves (online). Asked, why that is, it was simply that they considered the need to change a booking a “mistake”. No matter if the change was enforced to them. It also showed how important it was to them to keep face with their travel arrangers.

Food for Thought
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Unique Selling Propositions

USPDuring my initial business education, more than 30 years ago, the General Manager of the company hosting me for the practical part told me: “Someone else always can sell cheaper”. At the time, concepts like “USPs” (Unique Selling Propositions) had not been “common”, but it practically was about how to position for success.

You Get What You Pay For
You Get What You Pay For

The mantra in the aviation industry is to be always the cheapest. The mantra in procurement / purchasing is to buy the cheapest. In Germany, we have two different words for “cheap”. Billig and preiswert: Billig is cheap. Preiswert is “worth the price”.

Another old saying is “You get, what you pay for”. And yet another saying I heard in procurement is: “Save money, no matter the cost”.

But my friend Richard told me some 15 years ago that there is a psychological price. He also told me that IT (what we both worked in and now work again in) is the first thing that procurement “saves” upon, as they don’t understand its value.

So if it is not the price, what could it be?

HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing
HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing

A unique identity could be one. For airlines: When I started in the industry, I could distinguish airline crews by their uniform. Today, the differences in the uniforms are so minor that flight attendants of different airlines standing in one group can not be distinguished any more.

For conferences, I keep refering to Hamburg Airport Marketing. From afar they can be identified. And even promoting Hamburg big on the shirts, it doesn’t look “cheap”, but gives identity! It can be even worn at the “business casual evening event”. And believe me, if you look for the Hamburg team, you do find them!

Though for some reason inexplicable to me, many sales managers deny to wear uniform, much less some easily identifiable wardrobe as that. They seemingly prefer to blend in with all the other black ties. Though why you want your company and products and yourself to “blend in” instead of standing out, is simply beyond me 🙂

If you can establish a unique identity, your customers associate intuively with your product, you increase your reseller base, as they will remember you when opportunity arises. If your reputation is bad, all you can do is to undercut your competitors in price. If that is your USP, I’d say you may have the problem with the fact that always, someone else can produce cheaper.

Quality is a good USP. And quality comes in many aspects. Part of quality can be friendliness – in the beginning of my career, at the time with American Airlines, we got “beaten in” that we always have to smile when interacting with other people. Not just customers, but also our own colleagues. As the saying goes “Formal courtesy between husband and wife is even more important than it is between strangers.” [Lazarus Long] – I found this especially true in companies. If you treat your own people bad, you will treat your customers likewise. Unfortunately, service is something that button sorters (accountants) don’t understand. Friendly Service does not have a price tag. Just if you don’t have it, you will pay the price. In lost customers.

BethuneQuote

Service is also how you manage with problems. Can you truly afford your customer(s) to be upset, just to save some money? Even if you do not pay, you got to talk to the customer and explain. Do not write. And don’t “outsource” your customer communication or you will loose them.

Time is also an essential difference maker. Why else would airlines reduce the prices if you connect making a detour through their hub (connecting airport), compared to a nonstop flight? In IT, time to delivery is of essence. Too many companies succeed by selling you dreams, but failing to deliver. Leading to the next Soft USP:

erf_you_dont_have_to_be_the_presidentHonesty. I was tought early in my life to never lie if possible. Bend the truth, better tell some truth that makes the people believe you lie (and proof them better later). When Obama visited Erfurt, press asked. All I communicated was “The Pilots’ Union said that Obama’s 747 cannot land in Erfurt”. What I did not tell them, that the Union’s “experts” had missed the fact that Air Force One is usually not “fully loaded” and has the advantage of some (so public sources say) 20% higher engine power. When it came to Erfurt, I had never lied. And ever since had a good standing with them. Honesty creates trust. If you lie once, you’ll have a hard time to recover.

These are sure just examples. But it strikes me odd, how many companies, especially in aviation, do not have an understanding of their business culture and their USPs. But if you don’t communicate that to your own, how do you think your customers will learn about them?

Samsung-S5-vs.-iPhone6A final example for this article today shall be Apple. I loved Apple. Past tense. They made the first smart phones. All others copied them. Now they struggle and their answer is “me too”-products. What was their USP?

I took the iPhone6 into my hand and decided: Too big. My iPhone 4S does all I need. Intuitively and without some double tab on home to be able to access the upper screen.
If I want to watch video, I use my tablet (did I mention I shunned the iPad and got a Windows-Hybrid?).

So Apple lost a customer. Because they evolved from the pioneers to the ones limping behind. It would be time for them to reassess their USPs, their business propositions and their strategy. Then maybe they might find that they left frustrated customers behind with their “bigger is better” and instead made their phones expensive Samsung-clones, just without a “Mini”.

Sell, sell, sell. But if you do not know what you sell, all you do is lower the price until someone buys. I predict that fate even for Apple. But if you can explain the differences, if you can explain the quality, you hardly need to sell. The people buy. Though that requires management to understand and support that, to drive, not being driven.

Hmm… None of the business plans and their revisions I worked on took less than several weeks to come from an idea or product to a sales strategy for the different “customers”. Capital investors, buyers, suppliers, partners. And to answer the main three questions (beyond the idea) that all business plans contain:

  1. What is the business case?
  2. What is the USP?
  3. What is the risk and opportunity (so-called SWOT-analysis)?

Once you can answer these three questions, you have your sales strategies, your elevator pitches, you understand. Then all you still need to do is: Communicate it to your people! Spread the word.

Food for Thought
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Thoughts about Networking

UpsideDownAcademic – Epidemic

During my vacation, I just had another discussion with a “senior manager”, showing how little many of these highly paid people understand about the value of networking. It often seems to me that this is nothing they ever learned during their university times…?

People buy from people, not technologies.

No matter, how good your product is, no-one will believe it, if they don’t believe they “know” it.

The Wrong Questions

I had some questions and statements (Q) repeadetly the last years and think it might be wise to share my answers (A). If that stuff is voiced that often, you may be faced with the same smart people…

Q: “It’s very much about being at the right point at the right time.”
A: And the right point is the mind of the someone who thinks about buying. If you’re not in the mind, you won’t come to mind and you won’t sell.

conferencenetworkingQ: “Why should I go to this event, I can talk to them on the phone.”
A: Do you know, how many phone calls that someone gets every week, from people trying to enter their mind and memory? At these events, like-minded people meet. With the possibility to speak longer with people and face to face, trust can be established. An important factor for purchasing decisions.

Q: “Why should I be active on LinkedIn?”
A: For one, there are a lot more people on LinkedIn than you likely ever meet on trade shows. If these people are allowed to attend trade shows in the first place…

Q: “Then why should I attend trade shows – the people I seek to meet are not there!”
A: Because even if they themselves are not there. Their colleagues who are allowed to go will tell them. If you leave some impression.

Sales-meets-Marketing
“Wow, I had five real promising meetings today” – “Don’t worry, I didn’t sell anything either”

Q: “Is it better to have a stand or not?”
A: That depends. Can you attract people to your stand (it does require a catchy stand design and/or an established brand awareness). In my experience and for conferences with exhibition: If you are alone, skip the stand. Meet your audience face to face. Conferences are not about sitting around, but to meet and to talk to people! What I recommend though is that you use accessories that show who you are. Be it a cap, a polo-shirt (or light jacket) with logo or a catch phrase that attracts the right people to you, be it a bag – under all those black-ties, you got to stick out showing “Here I am!”
Interesting side note: I know a lot of sales & marketing people being too proud to “show off”. If you don’t want to show off (your product) you maybe got the wrong attitude for the job…

Q: Hey, I got invited for a speaker slot. I can present my product there.
A: If you can have a speaker slot, don’t use it to sell your product, but make sure you provide lasting value for your audience. If they are interested, they’ll be interested in your product. And after you paid for some of such slots, the organizers (if they’re worth their money) find you valuable and maybe even worth-while to invite or even pay you next time…

These opinions of managers do remind me too much of an old quote: “If you don’t try, you cannot win”.
But have they understood that they sell to people having their own priorities, agendas and opinions?

On the other side, I’ve received a nice graphic on LinkedIn lately I’d like to share with you. I like the first point very much, as I believe that you simply got to become a trusted partner to succeed, which is why it’s vital to build up “trusted networks”.

selling

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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My American Airlines Story

As many of you know, I started my career with American Airlines. That I left due to a mobbing supervisor was one of the “mistakes” I do happen to regret in my career. Though looking at American today, I am not so sure if I’d be a happy employee either.

As Air Transport News summarized World Low Cost Airline 2013 congress: “In the current cut-throat market conditions with the so-called legacy carriers cutting jobs, renegotiating staff contracts, the concept of customer loyalty to a brand is becoming obsolete as the lines between full service carriers and low cost ones are getting blurry and price has become the key factor for customers when it comes to choosing a short haul flight.”, they make a common mistake, as I strongly believe that brand is not becoming obsolete, just neglected.

AA-logohistory
AA logos during the times
AA. No question.
AA. No question.

When I started with American, it was the world’s largest airline. We were Proud to be American, we received frequent training to always smile at the customer and “customer first”. We also received monthly video updates from the senior management about strategic plans and news, we were a big family. Reminder: That was the World’s largest airline. In all those years, in fact in the past 80 years, the American aircraft was easily distinguishable by the eAAgle on the tail with it’s double A. In many movies, AA aircraft could be identified simply by the silver body with the blue/white/red stripe, even without the logo or the name on the body not being visible. From far away and even in bad weather, the aircraft was easily distinguishable by its prominent AA on the tail.

blank nose
blank nose

The new aircraft at that is a greyish color, reminded me on my first encounter too much of the U.S. Military Airlift Command, with bright colors being the name on the side of the body and the colors of the American flag on the tail, very similar to U.S. Airways and with very little profile. And the main identifier, the “AA” is gone for good…

American (new) - US Airways - American (traditional)
American (new) – US Airways – American (traditional)

The staff is “just another airline”, I did not receive much of a smile at all, neither on the ground, nor in the air. Having been the pacemaker in aviation technology, inventing SABRE, enabling global bookings long before Internet, Frequent Flyer Program and Yield Management, technical problems found me at a loss. British Airways, partner of AA in the Oneworld Alliance was unable to issue the Boarding Pass for the connecting AA-flight – all being booked under AA flight number. Baggage being checked through to Vancouver, I received one boarding pass for HAJLHR, then in London the next one for LHRDFW and because the onward flight was beyond 24 hours (I made a 23hr-stop to meet friAAnds), I only got my third boarding pass to Vancouver in DFW. My baggage they could handle, but to issue the boarding passes for the entire trip was a technical problem? I’m at a loss, find that even questionable on a legal level…

Robert "Bob" Crandall
Robert “Bob” Crandall

Discussing my experience with friAAnds and stAAf I met during my trip, I found that the AA-spirit is gone. Ever since Bob Crandall left, the button-counters took over, who had no vision, but claimed they’d know how to make money. Trashing the high values I encountered in my time when Bob Crandall was in charge, staff is an expensive and expendable resource, service is a theoretical concept of questionable value, people just fear for their jobs and working for American competes with working for anyone else. And now AA is under Chapter 11, “restructuring”. Well, a good result to turn the world leader in aviation to a patient under Chapter 11, right?

Image by Wirtschaftswoche
Goodbye Lufthansa

What is my personal lesson about this? I believe that brand is underestimated. Be it American to drop a recognized, gradually developed brand of 80+ years, dropping the “AA” which was a core in 40+ years of AAdvertising, or be it Lufthansa, “outsourcing” European flights to “Germanwings”, with no visible relation to its mother. And wondering, why passengers show no longer any brand loyalty flying within Europe.

And it confirms lessons that I learned many years ago. My “boss” during business education in a large whole sale business told me: “There is always someone who can do it cheaper”. So price is not a differentiator for a sustainable business.

Richard Eastman
Richard Eastman

And my friend Richard taught me: “Price is psychological”. It is about what is the buyer willing to pay for what reasons. And “cheap” is mostly not the main value. Brand, service, loyalty, identification are very important drivers. Why would one buy an Apple iPad? There are cheaper tablets out there, some of them possibly even better. Why do I buy a Windows-based Ultrabook convertible replacing my Laptop and my iPad? Why do I choose brand X over brand Y? Believe me, I could buy “the same” for half the price, but my experience with the brand is good, why should I go “cheap” on something as important as my IT?

Airline Managers focused on the Return-of-Investment and the Shareholder Value but without a vision are followers, they do not make good managers.

Any good business started with someone believing in an idea and taking a risk. Once you loose that entrepeneural spirit, you become a follower and start loosing.

Food for Thought
(comments welcome)
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