MasterKey Week 2 and the Slide Backward.

Part of the #MKMMA experience is spending about an hour a day on homework. This is broken up into 3 sittings during which there is specific steps that had to be accomplished.

The first week I was forcing a schedule and it actually felt good to be organized. By that I mean I was forced to compress my day so I could fit in about 20 minutes in the morning, 10-15 minutes at lunch and the remaining time at the end of my day.

That organization started to expand out to the remainder of my daily tasks. But when something is forced, it is easily bypassed.

As I have done with most things in the past, not directly attached to a paycheck, over the second week I started to develop excuses.

As I quickly slid back to my old habits I started to envision things going back to what I didn’t want and it started to scare me. So here I am starting over and ensuring the work gets done daily.

Business and the New World (Peer to Peer Economy)

Welcome, my name is Mike Zimmer, I recently disclosed that I have abandoned my 6 figure 30 plus year career in healthcare administration to focus on a different business model and it created a lot of curiosity.

I had numerous requests both publicly and privately asking me to share the details of this new direction.  Some from family members most likely worried that I may have gone crazy and will soon be knocking on their door looking for shelter and food and from people in my network who straight out said they trust my decision and would like the opportunity to take a look and possibly join me in this new venture.

Once I present the facts I will let you decide for yourself and I welcome your feedback.  Let me know your opinion, am I off the reservation or did I make a smart move?  

Full disclosure, the post wasn’t completely accurate.  Oh I definitely left healthcare but for the last 15 years I have actually wore 3 or 4 hats. Because of my strong leadership and technical skills I was recruited by several of the top 7 and 8 figure earners in the direct sales industry developing online training and recruiting systems. Over the last 10 years I also spent a significant amount of time focused on the the birth of social media and mobile communications.  For most people I was a shadow figure in the back of the room at events, people knew I was involved in the game, but not totally sure how or why; well that is about to change today and honestly what I am about to share will make some people overly excited and others will hate my existence.  But change is inevitable and change agents create huge opportunities.

So you may be wondering why come forward now and the honest answer is timing and opportunity.  Oh sure after 15 years I could grab the stage with the best of them and train for an hour and of course I know how to recruit and close.  Clearly I knew how to build huge networks of professionals on social media, I have over 9,000 first level connections on LinkedIn alone.  But there was a huge problem, the systems were highly effective for about 20% of the network. What about the other group of people who joined, were actually working, and seemed to get stuck.  The 50 plus year old home business models were based on antiquated advertising models, in other words they taught us if you sling enough mud you are apt to hit someone who likes mud.  I didn’t give up and I kept searching for a solution I could really get behind and promote and once that happened I would be all in.

During my search, I was watching these low risk financial growth opportunities pop-up with an easy story and they were totally disrupting entire industries.  Messages like “make money driving your car”, “Make money renting out a spare room”, “Make money cooking a meal”, the list goes on and people were jumping on them and people were making money and the companies were getting stronger.   What I saw as an entrepreneur was people that were self-identifying as entrepreneurs or consumers so I didn’t have to guess who wanted to build, who wanted to buy, and who didn’t want either.  

Also the doom and gloom about the economy and jobless ratios stopped making sense.  No one seemed to be reporting on this emerging economy, almost like it didn’t exist.  On one side you had people protesting for more hours and higher wadges, on the other I saw people who abandoned the old employee based business models and were completely independent, calling the shots, and surviving.  The deeper I searched the bigger the opportunities got, too big to call a trend and too big to ignore.

But how were they growing so quickly. I wasn’t seeing advertising, it isn’t like you can just put a free app in a mobile store and get action.  Something was driving these companies massive growth so I set out to uncovered those not so publicly shared steps and created a road-map to success in this new emerging economy.

Please indulge me by allowing me ask you the two thought provoking questions that helped my comfortable level in making my career changing decision:

How many assets do you own that you would like to switch from a monthly expense to a monthly profit center? It could be your car, home, or maybe something else.  If those assets were no longer an expense or just taking up space 90% of the time could that change your monthly financial position dramatically?

Now lets spin that question around; Would it be of value if every time you wanted a product or service you were treated like a celebrity without the hefty price tag? You know it was like you just snapped your fingers and things were delivered directly to you when and where you needed them.  Better, if you didn’t like them you could just cancel no questions asked.

For example: You stepped out to the curb and a car and driver was waiting; You knew you would be 4 place settings short for last minute dinner party guests so you went online and had them delivered to your home today.  You needed new shoes for an event and little free time to shop so you ordered a few pairs online because you knew you could return any unwanted pairs without hassle.

Now what if I shared that all of this is already possible today; affordable for the average person, and everyone of the companies are rock solid and valued in the billions of dollars, yet were started with little or no money in a basement, dorm room, garage, or some other shared space.

Over the next few minutes I am going to share some eye opening information about the emerging economic shift which has many names. Some call it the Sharing Economy, others call it collaborative consumption.  I don’t feel either of those labels really describe the business model accurately which I feel is better described as peer to peer networking or the peer to peer economy.  The business road-map that I will be sharing here is what I uncovered and one that just about anyone with a positive attitude and a solid work ethic can apply to rock the foundations of mega-companies.

While I can’t totally see what was done by these companies, it was disclosed in interviews that what I uncovered helped Tony Hsieh of Zappo’s turn a start-up online shoe business into a billion dollar payday, PayPal grow into a 6.6 billion dollar payment processing service, and Uber into an 18 billion dollar rideshare service.

An example of this road-map in action is a 2 yr old start-up called “Dollar Shave Club” that launched with little more than a dream and an entertaining youtube video which offers members convenience and value by automatically shipping their grooming supplies each month for less.  Their competition, which includes Proctor & Gamble, one of the largest personal care suppliers in the world  didn’t seem phased by the competition until they booked a 2% decrease in sales this year in their Gillette Razor division making that division the worst performing of all of their companies.  P&G took aim at Dollar Shave Club by opening their own membership model which is equivalent to paying full price for their blades but having them shipped direct. Dollar Shave Club had shifted 6.6% of the shaver market to their convenience member model in 2 years.  The small startup is on track to end the year with 60 million dollars in earnings.  

Full disclosure, I am not offering you any form of guarantee of income I am only sharing the research that I uncovered about how these companies were able to totally disrupt rock solid mega-brands within 24 months.  If that makes sense to you then I am going to invite you to a private online meeting where I will breakdown those points in more detail and share exactly what I am doing to capitalize on what I estimate will be the next trillion dollar economic shift over the next 5 years.

Keep in mind that all of these companies launched and grew exponentially selling hard goods and services to consumers during what is termed the worst economic conditions since the great depression.  This one fact alone should spark the question “How is this possible and how do I get in front of this so the next down economy will not impact me?

25 years ago I thought the answer to a safe lifelong career was in healthcare, after all people need doctors regardless of the economy, but when I am seeing doctors are jumping ship then I am yelling “Save a place for me in that lifeboat.”

Let’s get into the meat of my findings before I ramble this into a book.  I went through a two stage research process to develop my road-map.  First I needed to find out how these companies grew so quickly and appeared to be economy independent and next I had to apply this to a business model that didn’t exist in this new economy yet.  

I spend a lot of time on the internet doing research and building systems and it seemed like new companies were magically appearing and no one knew about them until they had already rocked the foundation of their competition.  I kept asking myself “Where are they finding the customers and how come no one I know seems to know anything about them?”  Lets be honest, even with a great idea and lots of venture capital you still need a growing list of consumers and that means lots of exposure. But little did I understand at the time, the information was there, it was easily accessible, I was just functioning with an antiquated  mindset and a different economy.

My initial research uncovered the following consistencies between highly successful companies in this new economy which answered the most common questions I had:

  • Every company was totally focused on providing an exceptional customer experience.  Their business model includes easy ways for customers to share feedback and they are continuously and publicly tweaking their business plan.
  • They offered a value proposition based on time and convenience, some also offered  monetary saving to the value proposition but this was not consistent.  For example Uber and Lyft know exactly where you are based on a mobile app and send the closest car to your location.  Hard good companies offer membership (auto-delivery) models so you can set it up and forget about refills.
  • Doing business with them was different but easy and natural.  AirBNB offers the additional comfort of being in an actual home setting vs. an institutional hotel setting.
  • Most were based on a zero marginal cost initiative. Basically meaning one person could consume a solution and multiple people could benefit from that single consumption.
  • All contained peer-to-peer financial rewards offering both independent contractors and consumers a financial reward for sharing the products with their peers.  This is one way the companies would expand quickly with little or no mass media advertising.
  • They were launched in a highly targeted market, yet based on a highly scale-able business plan allowing rapid and viral growth.  For example PayPal first launched to eBay PowerSellers only, once they had a 20% of that member base they expanded the offering building on that momentum.

Some companies are employee based but a large percentage offer independent professionals the opportunity to generate income through their business model.  

This research answered another nagging question I had which is why do some report unemployment rates in excess of 30% and others state they are only 5%? They can’t both be correct.  The answer is the 30% guesstimate is counting independent contractors who have exited the workforce as unemployed along with those that still receive unemployment benefits and those who no longer receive unemployment benefits. The 5% number only counts those who are still receiving unemployment benefits. So in fact both numbers don’t accurately count people based on their current income status.

I am not trying to promote a political agenda and it doesn’t impact my plan but with the current trend of individuals transitioning away from traditional employer/employer relationships expected to reach 40% by 2020 in the U.S. these numbers can become even more skewed.

It was great to finally figure out how these companies accomplished such amazing growth but then what, write a book? The second piece of the equation and where the real money is requires applying these concepts to a vertical market that is unique from the existing offerings.  The vertical I choose is building a business model that fulfills the demands of the youthification trend in our society.

No I did not make up the term youthification, it is the action or process of making someone appear or feel younger.  I first heard the term used by best selling author Gary Vaynerchuk in reference to the impact mobile technologies like Snapchat and Instagram are having on our society and that fact that we never know when we will be photographed or feel the need to create a selfie to capture a moment.  Gary observed that the average 40 year old women today more closely mirrors the behavior of a 27 year old women only 20 years ago.  40 year old men are just as guilty as the ladies both in appearance and behavior like texting  “OMG” to their peers.  Today the same percentage of men as women  age 20 – 27 are actively using products to improve their appearance and that number is expected to increase as this generation ages.

When I did my research I couldn’t find any companies that were focused on both genders and developing a hard good business model to meet the demands of the youthification trend in the peer to peer economy.  

I offer more details on the actual business model for those who are interested in working with me on that aspect of the plan.  

I just want to quickly recap:  It is an undeniable fact that a growing number of hard good and service based companies that were launched during the 2nd worst economic times in our history grew to become multibillion dollar giants totally disrupting highly recognized brands within 24-36 months.  They did it with little or no mass media advertising and the average person didn’t know who they were until they were so disruptive that the media had no choice but report on the story.

In closing what I have discovered is growth businesses in the peer to peer economy focused on improving customer experience in a vertical that is ripe for change and then offers an unmatched customer experience.  This along with the peer to peer network financial rewards generate a nearly unending supply of customers and independent professionals.

“For two centuries, we have lived in a mass society defined by passive consumption, vast corporate hierarchies and the centralized control of state power. Those organizations didn’t seem artificial to us because we couldn’t imagine alternatives. But now we can. Peer networks are a practical, functioning reality that already underlies the dominant communications platform of our age. They can do things as ambitious as writing a global encyclopedia or as simple as fixing a pothole.” Peter Johnson, Wall Street Journal

Here is the real deal, most people I know don’t want to take the time to read all of this research or search for the next billion dollar peer-to-peer economy mega-shift.  They simply want to grab a small piece of this economy for themselves and their family.  This is evident by the number of Uber, Lyft and AirBNB hosts joining this economy everyday.  So I offer you both opportunities. Below is as much of my research as I tracked and I am offering those who want to join me the opportunity to take a look at what I am doing.

Want to learn more and take a harder look at my business model?  I will be hosting regularly scheduled webinars on this topic which go into much greater detail on each point and how I am applying them to my business.  I will post scheduled webinars on social media and in comments on future posts.

 Resources:

  • Verizon Enters the Sharing Economy with Verizon Auto Share.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gwoLjYIeIw
  • Peer Power, from Potholes to Patents  http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444165804578008511493789642
  • The Collaborative Economy is Replicating Social Business #socbiz.  http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/collaborative-economy/
  • Making room for micro-entrepreneurs in the sharing economy.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4YXbj0tMjs
  • Airbnb: Earning Money in the Sharing Economy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWD-I5qPCfw
  • The Sharing Economy: Kurt Abrahamson at TEDxTimesSquare  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ3m1FS_jjs
  • “Sharing Economy”: Trend Overview (Talkinar promo version)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTwPucuYC08
  • Collaborative Consumption and The Sharing Economy: Featuring April Rinne  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQKBsGRktjY
  • Airbnb And The Unstoppable Rise Of The Share Economy.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2013/01/23/airbnb-and-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-share-economy/
  • TED: Kare Anderson, Be an Opportunity Maker.  http://www.ted.com/talks/kare_anderson_be_an_opportunity_maker
  • 40 Percent Of Americans Will Be Freelancers By 2020. http://www.businessinsider.com/americans-want-to-work-for-themselves-intuit-2013-3#ixzz3Kf2CcguU
  • What’s Next for the Sharing Economy? http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239233
  • Gillette Subscription Service Takes Aim At Dollar Shave Club. http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/04/29/gillette-subscription-service-takes-aim-at-dollar-shave-club/
  • Peter Theil on How to Build the Future. http://demo.ottw.net/fall2014_keynote1?ch_id=298
  • Zero to One, Notes on Startups or how to build the future by Peter Theil. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0804139296/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0804139296&linkCode=as2&tag=zto-20&linkId=K5HJDPUEXGTSURYE
  • Sharing meals in the sharing economy. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eatwith-sharing-meals-in-the-sharing-economy/
  • By shaving margins, Dollar Shave Club set for $60M in revenues. http://upstart.bizjournals.com/companies/rebel-brands/2014/09/24/dollar-shave-club-set-for-60m-in-revenues.html
  • Airbnb’s Brian Chesky | Disrupt SF 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffhEIDXkJDM
  • Michael Arrington in Conversation with Uber’s Travis Kalanick | Disrupt SF 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5zXIjGlzDU
  • Binary Truths with Peter Thiel | Disrupt SF 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl8JvF5id6Q

The parties over broadcast radio, someone turn off the lights.

From my blog posts it may seem like I am spending my nights dreaming of ways for technology to disrupt our current way of life, but the reality is I could have never predicted that technology which started out to help us cut the cord from the utility monopolies would result in a disruptive shift in just about everything I grew up believing would simply be the way of the future, at least in my lifetime.

One of those shifts which I recently started tracking is the day when we only found the AM/FM radio as antiques in museums.  I am not going to waste your time sharing the history of the radio, it is easily Googled.  I do want to lend weight to how quickly this shift is occurring.  In my early 50’s I remember a story from my mid-teens, just about 35 years ago when the car radio was still an option in many cars.  When I was a teenager, if a radio was included by the manufacturer it most likely wasn’t stereo, was installed with a couple of really bad speakers and wouldn’t be considered entertainment by most people today. 

What had me thinking about this was a story from my late teen years when my Great Uncle Sal was facing the tough but inevitable choices which we all must make at the end of life and he had to sell his car which he could no longer safely drive.  When he was told the selling price he balked at it believing it should sell for far more as it was only used for trips to the grocery store and church.  His sister, my Great Aunt, said “Sal, it was a base model car to start with and it doesn’t even have a radio.”  My uncle’s response, in the mid 1980’s was “You can have a radio installed in the car?”  So the reality of the adoption of technology over a generation isn’t a new concept, but it is moving so much faster than ever before.

It is highly likely that my 5 year old Grandson will be saying the same thing in 15 or 20 years when he will be buying his first car.  “Grandpa, you used to have AM/FM radio’s in your car? How did you watch YouTube videos while the car took you home?”

The reality is the entire music industry is undergoing a revolution; it doesn’t have as much to do with the receiver part, as it does with the fact that our children discover music and musicians entirely different than we did.  If you ask children around the age of 12 who their favorite musician is, you may not have ever heard of them even through they have published music, are selling songs and have hundreds of thousands to millions of fans.  The reason is for this generational gap is we continue to rely on mainstream media for most of our information and they consume very little mainstream media.  They discover all of their entertainment online and through mobile apps.  When you consider the technology they have, the concept of a radio broadcast simply makes little or no sense because they can individualize their music selection, which doesn’t follow a set genre, and play it on-demand.

The technology shift that got me thinking about this and in my opinion will ultimately force out broadcast radio is the introduction of the “Connected” car.  Automobiles are shipping with technology that connects to mobile devices, can be enhanced with the same apps we use every day, and in some cases connect directly to communication towers.  This technology is becoming more widely available in mid-range vehicles as an option in 2014 and like other “connected” technologies I predict it will continue to become more pervasive over the next 3-5 years until it is a standard feature in most vehicles.

So what happens to the radio industry?  Well they could morph into a solution that doesn’t exclude generations of consumers, but it may be too late for that.  Honestly, radio has really disconnected with larger segments of our entire population.  I personally would rather listen to road sounds than the same songs played repeatedly between the 5 or so local businesses that still believe commercials are consumed and will grow their business.  Even the car radio has a tool to raze commercials; it is called the preset buttons.

My best guess based on past experience with this type of disruptive change is that broadcast radio industry will continue to compress until there are a couple of large national companies left and then the government will force them morph into another business model, likely internet broadcast, so they can take back the frequencies to use them to expand mobile connect-ability.  There is huge value in radio frequencies, consider the billions generated by re-purposing the analog TV signals just a few years ago. 

What do you believe?

What HTC did not tell us during the launch of the HTC One M8

When you understand where technology is headed you watch the launch of products in an entirely different context.  While the leaders at HTC spoke about high tech metal finishes and how the amazing new features improve the hand held, I was hearing a completely different story.  

What I heard was the kick-off of an entirely new generation of mobile personal assistant.  The One H8 has an enhanced user experience and sleeker style to make it more stylish in hopes that you want to show it off.  There is a bigger reason for this than just pretty.  A mobile that is always exposed has the ability to be more functional than one that is hidden in a pocket or purse.  One of the new ways they promote keeping that phone exposed is the new cover with a dot matrix feature that shares push notifications without having to pick up the phone.

I added a link to the launch below so you can hear the way the product launch featured were positioned, so to keep this short I will just share how I envision their purpose in HTC’s plan to dominating the hand held market:

  • Tighter integration with on board sensors.  This was advertised through features like auto-answering a call when you hold the phone up to your ear but subtly they mentioned that the phone is more aware of the gestures of the user.  May not seem like much until you add in the 2D camera – next bullet.
  • Enhanced 2D rear facing camera.  While this was sold as a way to enhance photos, I don’t think the average user will get overly intimate with the features.  What I saw was the first camera that can respond to the user’s environment, beyond gestures, in real-time.  In cars this is the type of technology that is used in collision avoidance, off road this can be used to respond with information about the product you are about to pick-up, help the seeing and hearing impaired, sensing if you are inside or outside, and countless other applications.  The only faux pas I saw was integrating this feature at the hardware level which may result in 3rd party developers straying away from developing for it.
  • Active integration with 3rd party wearable’s like fitbit.  While this was promoted as an enhanced user interface, in reality this is the next step in locking in a mobile device as a personal assistant.  The seamless integration with the most popular wearable fitness sensor will provide real-time detailed activity feedback to the phone even when you may not have the phone on you like while you sleep or are working out at the fitness center.  A use of this can be a simpler way to make menu selections at a restaurant based on calories expended that day.  Just taking a quick look at your mobile will share your calories expended using the new “6 Sense” software on the M8.  It is clear that this wearable technology will continue to add bio-metric features which will not be available in mobile devices because of their proximity to your skin.  
  • Active integration with 3rd party Apps like 4Square. The tight integration of 4Square will enhance the connection between the user and the device as it starts to provide real time tips and feed back on all of the places you visit.  For example: as you enter a new restaurant your phone can automatically alert you to tips and feedback of other diners or at a local store you can learn about an unadvertised special that another user discovered.

While the tighter sensor and app integration may appear to be “nice to have features”, they are in fact features that will more tightly connect the user to their device and features that will result in more positive experiences and users will soon expect and demand.

In my opinion the immediate launch of the HTC One M8 kicks off the race between mobile manufacturers to become the dominate hand held mobile personal assistant.  I think HTC has taken a huge leap forward in dominating that market on the Android platform.  

What I found interesting is the HTC One M8 opted to develop new apps under the “6 Sense” brand and not promote these features through the Google Now app.  My next question is will other brands do the same and cut Google out of the picture in an effort to differentiate themselves or push forward focusing more on the hardware than the software.

Link to the CNET coverage of the HTC One M8 launch event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofDojqzhvQs

How do you market a product in an age where the person with the best story is no longer relevant?

Recently I posted the message “How do you market a product in an age where the person with the best story is no longer relevant?” which is based on the fact that we are transitioning to the next generation of communication technology.  

Let’s face some facts, social 1.0 was pretty primitive.  While it allowed us to connect and stay connected, it had no way to filter out the noise and a lot of that noise was not based in fact.  It was obvious that anyone could say just about anything and at least for a while those rants could be mistaken as fact.  One of the most famous of those rants was the story about “Pink Slime” which wasn’t based on facts, put a number of people on the unemployment rolls and is still playing out in the courts because it nearly decimated a sector of the food industry. 

Worse was the reality that individuals could easily and deceptively share partial facts or just the most appetizing part of the story which would provide the perception of the entire story being true.  The concept is based on just sharing the positives and ignoring any negatives.  This is nothing new but in the absence of the facts it is hard to distinguish what is reality and what is perception.  Even in the world of social 1.0 this type of story telling would provide an illusion, which was often deceptively backed up by individuals who had a vested interest in not disclosing the rest of the story.  But that is all about to change and both legitimate businesses and consumers will be the winners.

We are shifting into a world where “things” are joining our conversation.  From a wearable sensor to smart gadgets, everything around us is going to be helping us organize and improve our lives.  Along with this we are entering a world of task automation.  With that it is going to get easier for us to determine what is real from what is just a perception of reality.

For example recently I purchased chicken on a (BOGO) buy one get one free deal at a grocery store.  I thought I was getting a great deal in the free product but in reality the price of the first package was more than what I would have paid for the same two packages at another store.  The perception that it was a deal because the sign said get one free was actually no deal at all because the base price was higher than the competition.  Wouldn’t be great if there was an easy way of comparing prices between the stores before I bought into the perception of a deal?

We see this in internet marketing deals constantly.  Recently a negative post was made for an internet marketing deal that was obviously falling apart just months after it started.  Within minutes it was met with a comment from one person that had just gotten a check for 5 figures posting it must obviously be working to squash the negative comments.  I private messaged that person calling them out because they deceptively reported this windfall of money like it was a monthly residual, which was in fact based on prize money for recruiting the most people into a failing deal and that was only awarded to this single person.  Within weeks the deal fell apart and the company was unable to pay their remaining obligations.  Obviously it is buyer beware; but wouldn’t it be great if these people who quietly jump from deal to deal sucking people into losing propositions to profit personally couldn’t do it so easily?

While most people are focused on the sensor craze that is leading the technology news, they may have missed the bigger story on the world circuit from the CEO of Google regarding the automation of most of middle class job functions and the impending impact on world economies.  The automation of accounting, supervision and decision making with a connection to everything will make it significantly harder for a person to only share part of the story without the rest of their past performance to get exposed.  Clearly if you are marketing on the internet you need to expose what you are doing to search engines, digital advertising and social networks.  These all leave digital finger prints.  Today only tech savvy individuals could easily route out these charlatans, but when technology is which is tied to everything becomes our personal assistant it will be pretty hard to market anything and cover it up.

With the automation of accounting models the gapping holes in some of the complicated compensation plans will quickly get picked up and become visible.  This in addition to the fact that products that have an adverse impact or simply don’t function as advertised will quickly get exposed thanks to sensors in everything.

Obviously most companies will either adapt or simply disappear but the real impact will be felt by the individuals who already put their faith and effort into building and supporting companies to then discover that what they bought into was truly just a greed based business model.

Promoting Natural Products on the eve of smart gadgets

Over the weekend I met with a number of leaders in the direct sales industry and we discussed the Q14X initiative and ways it can be applied to natural products marketing in 2014 when the majority of the population has yet to consume the new smart gadgets that were recently announced or launched at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.  

The following talking points emerged:

  • We will want to stay a head of the technology, but not too far ahead.  It appears the first technology to be launched will measure blood pressure, heart rate, and calorie burn and it will be included in smart watches and fitness devices specifically designed for constant monitoring. 
  • Build market position with products that have proven results in lowering the blood pressure, heart rate and weight-loss.  It would be counter productive to build a customer base with products that are known to have a negative impact or no impact on heart rate, blood pressure or weight-loss for a significant cross section of the population.
  • Share the future of technology as talking points for where the industry is headed and how it will have a positive impact on people’s health.

An example of a product line that may be impacted to the point of extinction in the near future is the energy drink market.  There is a lot of research that most energy drinks have exceptionally high levels of caffeine and sugar, they also questionable ingredients known to increase blood pressure and heart rate. 

Today most people have no idea what the impact of these drinks are on their physiology simply because they don’t stop after consuming the drink to measure their blood pressure and heart rate.  It is fairly safe to reach the conclusion that if their smart device is alerting them to a significant shift in your heart rate and blood pressure most people are going to think twice before consuming that product again.

The next generation of these devices are predicted to include non-invasive glucose monitoring, it will be interesting to witness the impact that will have on weight-loss products that don’t live up to their meal replacement claims.

Sorry Network Marketing the parties over someone please shut off the lights

I have some bad news that is about to impact almost every marketing model, including network and affiliate marketing.  The message is: the party is over and you gave your business away for free; big business wins.  You aren’t alone many businesses are going with you, making way for even bigger-box business that knows more today about your customer than you do, even if that customer is your best friend.    

The good news is I envision a prosperous growing economy and huge profits for the winners who are driving the most disruptive technology shift in history.

For the last 50 plus years network marketing and affiliate marketing had 2 distinct advantages over every other business model:  They were trusted relationships and personal stories.  During that same period, corporations had to spend millions in advertising to get just the right message in front of their target audience over and over before the same potential customer would make a buying decision.  People haven’t changed, psychology hasn’t changed but technology has removed borders and obstacles that in the past were considered barriers to developing long distance trusted relationships.

If you think your customers will only believe your story, you are way off base.  Corporations are spending 5 figures a month on social consultants who are teaching them how to make their business scalable by becoming more personal.  They are learning how to turn their advertising message into a personal story that will foster a feeling of belonging for customers;  the same techniques that built the billion dollar Zappos business.

We can’t really blame big business; after all we willingly gave our information and customer list away for free.  Every time we clicked like, thumbs up, gave a star rating or posted personal information we helped some large corporation learn more about us than we share with our best friend.  We even asked for easier ways to give our business away faster.  You didn’t honestly think those technologies were really free, did you?

While the direct sales industry was posting online and scheduling events like a hotel meeting or conference call, social-mobile tools were not only collecting who went to those meetings and what they liked, they were also developing technologies turning our thumb into an on-demand connection to instant information making that direct sales business model obsolete.  Imagine companies inviting someone who already gets information in seconds to a 2 hour long event days off and expecting them to be excited.   

The latest wave of technology is making collection of information even easier. The big news out of the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show was in expensive sensors and wearable technologies. 

Even consumers who believe they have kept their private life off of social sites are consuming mobile apps and mobile sensors that are collecting more accurate information than was ever possible through social alone. 

Last year over 1 billion people consumed this new technology through a purchase of an updated smart phone without questioning what was inside, it is estimated that over 70% of the world population already has a mobile device with technology that is positioned to disrupt a lot more industries.  Network marketing and affiliate marketing, in all forms, is on the verge of extinction. Companies like Amazon, eBay, Uber and others are perfectly positioned to bring exactly what your customer wants, when they want it often within minutes. In fact Amazon has patented technology that knows what your customer wants before they ask for it. Try to compete with that.

At this point you will likely have 1 of 3 positions: 

  1. Denial that anything has changed;
  2. A Willingness to wait and see what happens;
  3. Looking for a plan to capitalize on the impending shift.

The reason I am sharing this information is I am a 3.  In fact I have been preparing for this technology shift for over 5 years.  I anticipate only 1 out of 3 people who read this will be like me, looking to capitalize on the impending shift; the rest will take no action or stay the course until they run out of customers.  I didn’t create this rainy day nor am I happy this shift is occurring as it will take out a lot of great businesses that take action too late to recover.

I want to share that I am not a start-up trying to sell insurance in the middle of a storm.  I have over 30 years of technical experience; I was a management consultant for one of the top accounting and management consulting firms in the world.  Over the last 15 years I have developed online systems for some of the top 7 and 8 figure earners in the direct sales industry.  But honestly nothing I am sharing in this post is new information or flights of fancy.

Here is what I am doing to get in front of this hugely disruptive shift and you are welcome to follow the same path:

  • Leads: I am using pin-point marketing techniques to connect with potential customers the same techniques used by top social sites.
  • Communications:  People are living in an on-demand world and we must deliver information in a way people expect to receive it.  I am replacing subscription services with hash tags to share information and follow feedback across multiple social sites.  Hash tags work on most of the top social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube and they are indexed on Google Search.
  • Presentations:  While scheduled events are great and productive, they need to be expanded so they are available on demand for everyone who could not attend.  Companies that post meetings online have a 3 to 10 time exposure and participation rate.
  • Customer Support: Most direct sales companies have excellent on demand customer support systems in place for incoming product questions but people like to deal with people they know and trust.  I will be the first line of access for my customers and prospects; if I can’t answer their questions then I will follow-up with customer support on their behalf.
  • Product Delivery: within the next 2-3 years independent business owners will be competing against “on demand” delivery from trusted companies.  Customers will not want to hear about 3-7 day shipping and expensive delivery service charge when they can pay eBay $5 and have it in 30 minutes.  Starting in 2014 I will be building out a network of distributors who are positioned so they can compete head to head with these billion dollar giants as they roll out the same services.
  • Technology: An easy to use product app is ready to launch and over the 12 to 24 months I will be perfecting and launching a one touch order app that will allow customers to order/reorder any of our products on demand with the shortest delivery windows possible in their area. 

Although a hand full of companies have a leading position on this technology, most of them answer to investors and a board of directors which slow things dramatically.  Independent entrepreneurs still have the advantage but that window is closing quickly.  For more information on this post follow and post on the #Q14X hash tag.

More to come…

Why the age of autonomics is a boom for marketing, if you can afford to play.

This morning my PUR water pitcher was sending up the red flag that it is time to replace the filter.  When I purchased a new pitcher it came with a button that tracks my water use.  As I was watching this little piece of low-cost tech remind me that my filter is past its useful life I was wondering how long it will be before this technology pushes a message to my mobile phone.  I can picture my Samsung Note alerting me and then it appears: “Your PUR filter needs to be replaced should I order one from Amazon?”

Ah how much simpler life will be when products actually replace themselves at the end of their useful life?  Then it hit me, what about that small new start-up water filter company that is trying to get the message out that their product is better than the filter I am already using?  How do I even find out about that new product when my trusted automated assistant keeps reminding me to consume a replacement filter for the product I already own?  It isn’t like I consume any advertising so how do I even find out about that new product? 

The answer is actually a lot simpler in the age of autonomics.  When the order hits Amazon they could alert me to a special offer for a competing product or a Bluetooth beacon (Apple’s iBeacon) in the store will pick up that I am in front of the water filter shelf  and like magic another push message out to my mobile assistant – “New Super Duper Pure filter is better, last longer, automatically tests the water and if you buy one get a new pitcher at a deep discount.”     

The new built in “connected” technology will open up the ability for companies to offer automatic loyalty incentives and customer retention programs without our having to clip coupons or send in receipts.  If a new filter company is trying to break into the market and my filter needs to be replaced my old company could choose to push a coupon notification making that other new product offer less inviting to a loyal customer but either way I will seamlessly be informed about the competition for a product I already use.

But there will be a downside for small local start-up business that very often can’t afford to compete against expensive technology like bluetooth beams and built in RFID.  As we develop a greater connection with things around us it will become easier for things we already have to push their message of continued consumption and easier for us to block out competing messages. 

Let’s be honest, most of us already have our face buried in our phones blocking out advertising messages.  We can only get more focused on these devices when they are connected to everything we own as well as everyone we trust.

For small business to compete against this hugely disruptive technology it will be critical to find out where the people in their target market hang out and begin to develop personal and trusted relationships with those people.  The edge people have over technology is our ability to connect with their heart first, where technology will always be focused solely on connecting to the wallet.

What is the Q14X project?

#Q14X is an open social cooperative that facilitates input from anyone actively creating content or actively following the content developed in support of the Q14X business plan.

Over the next few minutes I am going to share the forward thinking concepts that are part of the #Q14X cooperative which we believe have the potential to thrust followers 10 or more years ahead of the competition.  If history remains constant about 1/3rd of those that consume to this will shrug this off as science fiction, 1/3rd will vow to continue status quo, and the remaining 1/3rd will grab this information with both hands and potentially change their financial future.

While most of this is a prediction based on current trends and experience, I believe the only question is when this shift will occur.  If you are easily upset by dramatic shifts like the ones that drove mega-successful companies like Borders Books and Block Buster Video out of business within a couple of years you may want to exit this post now…  OK I warned you.

Eric Schmidt the executive chairman of Google recently shared the following statement at the World Economic Forum “The race is on between computers and people and people need to win…”  He was referring to the automation and elimination of higher paying middle class jobs.  At first I thought it was ironic that this was coming from an executive that stands to profit the most by this mega-shift.  Then I realized he wasn’t commenting he was warning everyone that the train is about to leave the station and you will either get on it or you will be run over by it.

Although automation is still about a decade away he left off the impending shift which will impact business over the next 3-5 years and that is the age of autonomics.  This is already changing the way we connect with things around us and although it probably won’t impact the middle earners at Fortune 500 companies it is going to have an impact on unsuspecting small businesses that will be forced to compete against companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, eBay and Walmart that can afford to deliver products to their customers wherever they are within minutes of when they want it and do it cheaper than a small business.  This is the business model behind autonomics, but the bigger story is the consumer consumption rate which is happening faster than most people dreamt possible.

Over the last 5 years we have been slowly introduced to inexpensive sensors that have allowed things around us to interact with us and make our life easier.  For example our smart phone can tell where we are and help us seamlessly get to where we are going via GPS and tell if we are looking at the screen so it doesn’t shutoff and shut off the screen when we have it next to our ear. These same sensors already make it possible for Uber to deliver a car and driver to our location within minutes with a touch of the smart phone screen. 

Now add those same sensors to other things like a rubber wrist band that tells us how much exercise we are getting, our automobile to let us know how we can improve fuel economy, the thermostat so we can conserve energy.  You see these applications seem so logical and natural that we will incorporate them because they have the potential of saving time or making us healthier and even wealthier. 

This new sensor technology layer is being added on top of the social technology layer making it possible for things around us to anticipate our needs and make real-time recommendations based on our social circles and past experience.  Add in a connection to everything being delivered to us wherever we are on-demand.

Here is the good news and bad news.  If you can supply your product on demand within an hour with customer centric service you will have the potential to generate exponential growth far greater than experienced during the social technology revolution.

If you are a small business in one location and you have to rely on traditional delivery services that takes days and can’t compete with a 1 hour $5 delivery option chances are you will have an uphill battle competing in the age of autonomics regardless of your current success in the social technology revolution. 

As a small business person at heart I know most successful small business owners believe that their customers will continue to be loyal because they have developed a bond, but what the top app developers are banking on is that you will relinquish some or all of those connections to make your life far more productive and stress free. 

This isn’t that much of a stretch because current trends demonstrate that even small productivity improvements will shift the habits of millions of people over a short period of time.  A couple of examples are Instagram that make it easier for users to capture and post photographs and video and Waze that is a GPS community based real-time traffic app.  Both of the features were possible with almost all phones manufactured but these apps combined steps into a more intuitive solution and the adoption rate of both apps grew exponentially.

What can you do today to prepare for the next technology revolution? 

  • Join or develop networks of people with similar business vertical markets.  Auto dealers, real estate agents, even florists figured out years ago that they could greatly expand their range and profits by developing networks and cooperatives.
  • Connect with potential customers using pinpoint marketing techniques and establish yourself and your business as the solution to their needs.
  • Look for ways to become more customer focused. Solicit feedback both positive and negative, research what customers respond to in your vertical market are most often and make sure you offer it. 
  • Focus on being where your customer exists instead of waiting on your customer to show up. For a small business it may be through a fold up stand at local events.  Your competition is looking for ways to anticipate your customer’s needs and getting it to them before you.