For the first 5 months of 2010 I was working 2 days a week for Sanjay Singhal, the CEO of Fusenet, an innovative tech incubator in Oakville, ON with a staff of 60. I was helping with general business strategy, business process development, online marketing training and leadership development. In May of 2010 Sanjay had a new SaaS business that he wanted to get up and running and he didn’t have anyone internally who was the right fit to lead the project, so he asked me to. The Fusepay business is a new subscription billing software service for small digital businesses.

Over the 7 months from May – Dec 2010:

  • I led a cross-functional team in creating the dynamic business plan. We wrote it on a wiki rather than in Word.
  • I led the competitive research and industry analysis.
  • I led a cross-functional team in scoping the initial releases of the product as well as a 12 month-out feature set.
  • I oversaw our 6 person Development Team which built a from-scratch working beta of the software in 4 months.
  • I managed the overall project through weekly team meetings and made sure we hit our key release dates.
  • In Oct 2010 we went live with our first internal customer, a startup within the Fusenet parent company. We have been processing live transactions for them for 3 months now.
  • I built a very complex financial model that allowed us to fully model the business from an investment and return perspective. We also used it to model the impact of different pricing strategies.
  • I met with several potential investors to discuss a potential Series A round of VC financing.

Despite Sanjay’s offer to have me run the business, I knew that I wanted to keep building some of the other businesses I’m involved with and I also felt that the project needed a leader with more SaaS Product Management experience than I have.  I spent the fall of 2010 interviewing candidates for this plum job – and got to meet some excellent people in the Toronto and GTA tech community. In early January 2011 we hired the former GM of e-commerce for Grand & Toy as our new CEO.  I will be spending the rest of January onboarding him and transitioning out of the project. I’ll miss the team – they were a great team to work with – but I know they will go on to build an amazing business and I’ll enjoy watching from the sidelines while I move on to put my energies into the other businesses I am building.

Many CEOs and small business owners ask me – “how can I use social media to grow my business?” The cheapest and fastest strategy is to maximize your use of Linked In, personally if you are a sole proprietor or thought leader, or corporately if you are the leader of a larger organization.

Here is a simple roadmap to get you off the ground and starting to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand or the brand of your business. If you are a sole proprietor then you will need to do this yourself. If you are the leader of a larger business then your thought leaders, marketers and sales people need to be doing this. And you can’t force them to because their LinkedIn profile is theirs, not a corporate asset, so you’ll have to cast a compelling vision as to why they should do this that connects your company’s interests to their interests.

Get your LinkedIn profile up to date

  • It should not read like a resume. People don’t expect it to be quite so formal.
  • People like short, succinct stories.
  • You can view my profile here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/001jonathanburns I’m not by any means suggesting it’s one of the best but it may give you some ideas.

Do I need my photo on LinkedIn?

  • Yes but make sure you don’t put up a bad photo. No photo is better than a bad photo. But a good photo makes you more approachable and helps you to stand out in lists.
  • A good photo: Consider black and white or sepia – it can look very professional.
  • A bad photo: blurry, cluttered background, too dark, back-lit, too many colors.

Build your network on LinkedIn

  • Define who is a good network prospect for you: a potential customer, someone who could refer people to you, someone influential who could write a recommendation about you.
  • Go though your mental Rolodex (or whatever equivalent you use) and write out a list of your past contacts that you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn and begin inviting them. Write your own invitation note – don’t just use the default.
  • Every time you meet someone who is a good network prospect, invite them on Linked In within hours, definitely within 24 hours. After I go to an event the first thing I do when I get back to the office is sit with a pile of business cards and invite people on Linked In.

How to write a good LinkedIn Status Update

  • Write out what brand you want to personally own in the minds of the members of your network.
    • Pretend that you are a colleague you worked with 10 years ago and haven’t seen since. They reconnect with you on LinkedIn and begin seeing your status updates. Based on those updates they form an impression of who you have become and what you are doing now and what your niche or specialty is. What impression do you want them to have of you?
  • Suggestions:
    • Give mini press releases when you have an announcement you want them to know about.
    • Ask for help or advice. People like giving advice and on LinkedIn it’s quick and easy. This can be for you personally or on behalf of a member of your group who needs help.
    • Setup a twitter account and check the “Publish to twitter” checkbox
    • If you have a website or a blog and you care about its organic search rankings then use carefully chosen keywords that you are trying to rank for in your status update
  • Examples:
  • American overconfidence vanishes once consumers try a new product, and it’s replaced with exaggerated self-doubt. 4 tips for improving new product adoption from Marriott School professor Darron Billeter. http://lnkd.in/Q3mume
  • Excited to announce that FusionCom (one of my businesses) has just hired a new CEO – Mark Taylor from McKinsey.
  • Heading to SXSW Conference this week – anyone else from Toronto going? Ping me!
  • Trying to find an affordable ad agency with specialty in clean tech – any suggestions?
  • Watchouts:
    • Confidentiality is a cornerstone of business. You can’t violate that here – so stay away from including details when you think the people involved would not want you to.
    • However, it’s the details that often make the posts more interesting so ask the relevant people for permission so that you don’t become “the bland update guy” on LinkedIn.

Recommendations on LinkedIn

  • Don’t ask unless you recently got great unsolicited feedback from someone – then it’s OK to ask them.
  • Give to get. Start by writing recommendations for people from whom you’d like to get a recommendation.

Pulling prospect lists using LinkedIn

  • The advanced People search allows you to pull all the people with “the likely title of your ideal prospect ” (or whatever) in their title who are within X km radius of a given postal code/zip code. This is an extremely useful feature.

LinkedIn Groups

  • Consider making a LinkedIn group for a group of your prospects as long as you have a clear vision of:
  • What this group of people have in common in terms of interest and needs
  • A clear vision of how they will be able to and WANT TO help one another
  • A clear vision of a role you can play that adds value and positions you how you want to be seen
  • If you ask your group members whether they want a Linked In group, most will say they don’t know what they would use it for. You’ll have to show them how you intend to use it so that they see the value. Some groups may not engage and then they won’t get value from it.
  • Establish a clear purpose for how the group will be used and how to keep it from become useless in the eyes of your members.
  • Make it invitation only.
  • Commit time to moderating it. Read what’s on it. Use what you read to help the members.
  • Pick up the phone and call a member based on something they wrote in the group’s Discussion section. Show them that you are reading and responding.

Doing research on LinkedIn

  • Once you find a prospect you may want to find a list of their coworkers using the Company tab. The Company tab also gives you some rich detail about the company that might be helpful, especially new hires and recent alumni. People are often much more open to talking to outsiders when they are new in a role.

More LinkedIn training

If you’d like in-depth training on how you can build you personal brand online, consider attending one of these full day courses in Internet Marketing in Toronto or Oakville.

 

Here are some of my favorite Mac applications. If you know of better ones for the task please leave me a comment at the bottom.

1Password

Password Manager

I finally got fed up with using a text file on an encrypted disk image to manage all my passwords. I figured that there must be good Mac software for managing passwords and I figured it might even sync with my iPhone which could come in handy when I’m on the road. Sure enough there are many, but one of them costs a fair bit more than the rest. Being a believer in “you get what you pay for” and figuring that the cost of losing one of my or my clients hosting control panel passwords would be pretty huge, I went for the most expensive one, 1 Password. It also had the best reviews. I did the 15 day free trial and I was not disappointed. This app ROCKS and once you’ve used it you will wonder how you lived without it for so long.

Things

Task Manager

When I was a Windows user I tried using Outlook’s Task feature. It never quite worked for me the way I wanted to so I often went back to managing my to-do lists in a Word doc or an Excel spreadsheet. But then I switched to Mac and saw an ad for Things and decided to try it. I have never looked back. The interface is beautifully designed and the Cultured Code guys really understand how a busy person thinks as they are trying to organize their lives. For example I love that there are Areas of Responsibility that you can create like: Personal, Job 1, Job 2, Sports Association, Father, Husband, Church etc. These are different from Projects which can overlap with Areas of Responsibility. I also love the Today, Scheduled, Next and Someday buckets. A pretty key feature is that it syncs with my iPhone so I can organize my life on the go or make lists on my Mac and then have them with me when I’m out.

Skitch

Screengrab with annotations

I often want to grab a section of a webpage or an image, add a note with say an arrow pointing to something and then email it to someone. I need to do this a lot in developing websites: fix this, move this, make this white, delete this etc. Skitch is the best way to do this that I’ve ever found and the free version is what I use. If you are a Windows user try Jing.

Billings

Time tracking and invoicing

I’m a consultant so I use Billings every day to track all my time, billable and non-billable, and then do all my invoicing to clients. I use a bookeeper so I don’t need my own accounting program, but I do need to track my time and invoice clients and Billings does it perfectly. It has beautiful templates for invoices and reports and it has a nice iPhone version as well. I tried Freshbooks for a while but for a one-time cost of $50 and the ability to use it without a web connection, Billings was better value for me.

Daylite

Sales CRM and Project Management

Daylite is the CRM program I use for managing my sales funnel: prospecting phone calls, meetings, opportunities, revenue forecasting etc. It’s like salesforce.com except much cheaper and with nicer interfaces. It’s a very powerful program and I use only a fraction of what it can do. It fully integrates with all things Mac like iCal and Mail in a very slick way and it has an iPhone version as well. It will also do Project Management.

Transmit

FTP

I used Cyberduck, a free Mac FTP program, for 2 years but I recently switch to Transmit because I use FTP so much and all the Mac web developers I work with use it. The main feature I’ve discovered that I really like is the ability to edit remote files right in Transmit (sweet!). So I can navigate to a .css or .html file, open it in Transmit without downloading it, make a change, hit Save, refresh the browser and voila – done!

Jungle Disk

Remote backup manager

I use Jungle Disk to manage remote backups of my Mac Laptop to a Rackspace cloud account. It costs me about $3.50 a month to backup around $10GB of my most important files. They are fully encrypted and the backup is incremental. I looked at Moxy but liked this because of the pricing and the security of going with Rackspace vs an unknown. You can also back up to Amazon S3.

Disk Inventory X

Disk Space Manager (when you run out of disk space and need to delete files)

Have you ever run out of space on your harddrive and wished there was a way to look into your harddrive, see what’s taking up all the space, and be able to easily delete what you don’t need? This is what you need and it’s free.

The Situation:

The client, Traditional Life Sciences Inc., was looking to start an online business in the health and wellness space, targeted to Boomers. They wanted a starting-point e-commerce, content management and marketing system that could be managed by 2-4 people but that could handle sales of $5-10 million a year before it required a major overhaul. We were asked to recommend an overall technology strategy and then to submit a proposal for executing the work.

Our Strategy:

  1. Use an inexpensive open source CMS. We contemplated WordPress but eventually went with Joomla.
  2. Instead of building out all the desired functionality using custom code, we recommended “renting” the functionality by using SaaS applications (also called hosted or cloud applications).
  3. We used our Canadian designers to design the Joomla site but then we had it built by overseas coders to keep the cost down.

The Execution:

We call it a web ecosystem because calling it a website is a bit misleading (at least we think so). The ecosystem consists of:

  1. A Joomla front-end which manages all the pages, article and the merchandising of the products.  The products are managed through a powerful Joomla component called Virtue Mart which acts as the product database.
  2. Infusionsoft is the real power behind the system. Infusionsoft manages the email marketing and marketing automation, the CRM (user/customer database) and the e-commerce. All the actual transactions are processed through Infusionsoft and then sent electronically for order fulfillment. It also provides all the e-commerce sales and order reporting.
  3. Customer Hub is an Infusionsoft add-on that allows customers to do self service on their account like updating their credit card information and seeing their past orders.
  4. Get Satisfaction is the ultimate in web 2.0 community based support and it powers the support forum.
  5. Google Analytics gathers all the visitor and conversion data and allows the client to do detailed conversion and ROI analysis.

Most people working in e-commerce have figured out that building a nice site is just the beginning and that most of the effort actually needs to go into driving traffic to the site, getting visitors into some kind of marketing automation sequence and then testing different offers until they convert. Then you up-sell and cross-sell them, also using marketing automation sequences. So how do you do this with a staff of 2 or 3? If you try do it using Constant Contact or aWeber or any other stand alone email tool you’ll be importing and exporting data every day and spending your life trying to get it to interact with your shopping cart and your customer database. Infusionsoft is really the only application on the market that allows you to manage this kind of marketing automation engine and it’s built for small companies with limited online marketing resources. It’s CRM + email marketing + marketing automation + an e-commerce cart, all in one, all pre-connected and ready to roll.

Cost Savings:

The client mentioned that they had our functionality quoted by an agency that would have built them a custom solution. The quote was for more than triple what they invested using our approach.

Client Feedback:

Getting to the final product as specified, on time, and on budget should be “price of entry”, but in a fairly sophisticated integration like Zwell, cost overages and time creep is likely more often the rule than the exception. Jonathan and the Strategy Cube team hit the timeline, delivered against the budget (while still indicating where options and upgrades were possible), and delivered a result that exceeds our expectation.  Communication throughout was efficient and solid.  We are delighted with the result, and recommend Strategy Cube without reservation.

Rob Carscadden, President & CEO of Traditional Life Sciences Inc. and zwell.ca. June 29, 2010.

The site went live in June 2010. You can visit the site at www.zwell.ca

Screenshots:

Thank you for visiting www.strategycube.com

7systems is a small firm run by several athletes who manage the business in their personal time – they all have pretty impressive day jobs. They wanted to run a contest to build awareness of their excellent product among non-users and so they designed a contest that would encourage athletes to tell their story online and then have their friends and family come and vote for them. 7systems didn’t have the budget for a full custom voting application so they asked us to build some inexpensive voting functionality. One of the reasons we love WordPress is the availability of free plugins. We researched and found the WP-Post Ratings plugin and then customized the look & feel as well as the functionality to suit their needs. You can visit the 7systems website here but the voting pages have been removed as the voting period ended June 30th.

Screenshots:

Thank you for visiting www.strategycube.com

Online Marketing Course in Oakville in May, June 2011

I am excited to announce that my website for Online Marketing Course in Oakville is now live and taking registrations. People having been telling me for years that I should launch a formal training program to teach small business owners and marketers about internet marketing and there has always been a big project or business in the way. But I’ve finally done it.

We also offer online marketing courses in Toronto in North York

 

Internet Marketing Training in Oakville in May, June 2011

I am excited to announce that my website for Internet Marketing Training in Oakville is now live and taking registrations. People having been telling me for years that I should launch a formal training program to teach small business owners and marketers about internet marketing and there has always been a big project or business in the way. But I’ve finally done it.

We also offer Internet marketing training workshops in Toronto in North York

 

Local Internet Marketing in Oakville in May, June 2011

I am happy to announce that my Local Internet Marketing Oakville website is now live and taking registrations. People having been telling me for years that I should launch a formal training program to teach small business owners and marketers about internet marketing and there has always been a big project or business in the way. But I’ve finally done it.

We also offer Local internet marketing training workshops in North York

“You are going to take over the call centre and make it profitable” the CEO said. I had been the Director of Strategic Services for a $3 million direct marketing startup for only about three months when the CEO handed me the 24 person call centre and made me Director of Operations.

I had never run a call centre before but I had managed many teams. So I spent the first 3 months observing and started building my plan. The plan was going to mean of lot of change for those 24 people. I knew that I would need to fire at least 3 of the current managers. I know I would also be rearranging the work to better align it with the talents of remaining managers. I knew that change was stressful and that, if not managed well, could end up creating an environment of such low morale that we’d be worse off than before I took over. So I needed to help people deal with change.

I reached out to an HR consultant I knew and she recommended Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. I bought a dozen copies of the audiobook version and gave them out to people in the call centre (including the ones I planned to let go).

What a great book! They use the timeless idea of a parable  – a story filled with meaning – to teach. It’s under 1 hour on audiobook and you will probably find you have more than a few laughs.

A number of the staff came back to me later and said that the book had really helped them in both their work and personal lives and that they had taken it home for their significant others to listen to and passed it around to friends.

I highly recommend it for anyone about to go through a big change or anyone struggling with change in their lives.

If you get it please let me know what you thought of it.

Thank you for visiting www.strategycube.com

We recently launched a Facebook application to support Campbell Canada’s Help Hunger Disappear™ campaign. As of July 27th the app has 12,846 users.

Deliverables:

  1. We developed a custom Facebook application to allow users to give their friends virtual cans of Campbell Soup. Campbell Canada will then donate a matching real can for every can given and accepted on Facebook. We focused on making the application simple to use and easy to spread virally.
  2. We built Campbell a professionally designed, custom website through which visitors could explore all the parts of the Help Hunger Disappear™ campaign, and be directed to the Facebook application.

Execution:

Click here to go to the application’s homepage on Facebook. You need to be logged in to Facebook for the link to work.

Visit the www.helphungerdisappear.com website.

The Facebook Application:

facebook-confirm-requests-gif

Campbell Help Hunger Disappear Facebook app - reception screen

Campbell Help Hunger Disappear Facebook app - share screen

Campbell Help Hunger Disappear Facebook app - status-update-edit

Campbell Help Hunger Disappear Facebook app - profile-page-w-context

Campbell Help Hunger Disappear Facebook app - boxes tab

The www.helphungerdisappear website

Help Hunger Disappear website screengrab

Commentary:

Facebook users have not reacted that positively to overtly branded applications. Brian Morrissey mentions a few of the high profile brand failures in this article from ADWEEK. As I wondered as to why this might be (and how to avoid becoming another statistic) I hypothesized the following:

  • Facebook users care most about how their network perceives them. Social status is the currency of Facebook.
  • Most actions on Facebook are done by users to enhance how their network feels about them. i.e. they send their friends a funny video, a photo or a fun game so they can be seen as the source of humour. They post photos of the hot guy kissing the new girl at the party so that they can be seen as the source of news, gossip etc. See the graph from McKinsey & Company below.

mckinsey-graph

  • Activities that allow the user to increase their social status are likely to do well.
  • On judgment, I thought that many Facebook users would think that being seen donating to the foodbank was good for their social status as long as the application did not look like purely a shameless sales pitch.

In 3 weeks the app reached over 8,100 users starting from two people and spreading virally. The app has reach 12,846 users as of July 27th.

We’d appreciate any comments or feedback you may have on the application.

Thank you for visiting www.strategycube.com