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Cross Branding by Updating the Website

Cross Branding by Updating the Website

Well, if you are new to my blog, you might not notice the change.  For those of you that have been following me for any length of time probably notice that my site has finally been updated.  It wasn’t until just recently that I realized how old my site was (originally 2012).  So a change was long overdue.

This gave me the opportunity to clean up the look and feel, and more importantly bring more focus to my blog, to my books, and to the JaveLLin products.  Simply using a new theme gave me the opportunity to make everything look new, add new graphics, market the books better and so on.  At the end of the day, the change took about 4 hours, but the end product gives Paper Street a whole new look and feel.

The moral of the story is make sure that the good things you do are visible to the digital world in a good looking format.  Even if you are consultant or an employee, you still need to build the brand of “You”.  I guarantee, it will be valuable at some point, so demonstrate your expertise in every way possible.

Thanks for reading,

Design – How do you exceed your customers expectations without going overboard?

I’m neck deep in my latest design for the call center/customer.  It revolves around the concept of enhancing the service notification to be more function AND easier to use.  So, I was beginning to look at the selection screen.  I could model everything that current SAP transaction does, or I could just do a subset of those that I believe are the most widely used.  So this led me to the dilemma of how much is enough to exceed my future customer’s expectations?

I could spend my time adding in every option available, knowing full well that 90% of everyone out there doesn’t use most of them…  but then they are available, just in case.  Or, I could add in the bare bones, and have to scramble when a customer asks why a particular field isn’t available.  So, where do you draw the line.  I’m still a sales and marketing novice, so I often have to default to my friends for guidance.  First let me tell you what I think…  and then I’d love to hear if you have a different opinion…

I used to go down the path of add EVERYTHING. Afterall, I’m already in there doing it, it’s just a little more time, a little more repetition, and a few more entries in my tables.  However, I’m realizing that the more time I spend on tedious work like that, the more time I’m NOT spending on the really big pieces that I need to design.  For example, this product will have a big enhancement to the way that repair sales orders are generated.  It’ll give a company a lot more functionality and flexibility, and make life a lot EASIER for customer service.  I could spend my time getting that designed and fully tested… or I could add a few more fields for selection that will likely never be used.  So I’m going done path B…  because I can always add more fields later.  It won’t take much effort, and might actually cut down on some of the extra pieces I add that will never be used.

Thanks for reading,

Choosing a Conference

Well, December is the time of year that all the conference begin to start registration, both for attendees and vendors.  The past 2 years we’ve attended the SAP Manufacturing conference out in Vegas.  The results have been less than expected. As expected, the first year was a learning year.  A rather expensive lesson, but important nonetheless.  Year two we were pretty well prepared, we walked away with, what we thought, we some very promising leads.  Now maybe it was bad luck, maybe we misread the prospects, or maybe we are talking to the wrong people.  Wish I knew the answer.

All of this got me to talking with a good friend of mine.  He’s not in SAP, so I was able to get a good answer from him, without an bias.  He started asking me about other conferences that are available, and what kind of people they have attending.  I answered that ASUG/Sapphire goes on every year.  Since it’s Sapphire, it’s likely that a lot of people in control of the checkbooks will be in attendance to see the latest and greatest that SAP wants to sell them.

Well, the light bulb went off in my head, that maybe I need to change venues…  So started doing some research.  There are some definite drawbacks to doing Sapphire vs. MFG.

Cost:  ASUG/Sapphire is 40% more expensive.
Booth:  ASUG/Sapphire you get a “cube” which looks roughly to be a 5×5 closet space.
Focus:  ASUG/Sapphire brings in people from every area, many of which won’t apply to what we do.

My biggest concern is that after spending all of that money, we will be in this tiny cubicle, and might be perceived as too small to talk to, or a gamble to do business with because of our size, or maybe we won’t even be noticed.  On the flip side, we only need to be noticed enough to get one sale and the whole endeavor is paid for.

I’d love to hear your feedback.  I’m sure many of your have attended conferences.  Do you skip the people in a tiny booth?  or is it true what women say, “Size doesn’t matter” 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Linked-in… an update

For my loyal readers out there, you might remember I did post about using Linked-In.  I even contracted a company called SBS, to help increase my presence out on Linked-In.  In general, the experiment has had mixed results.  I got connected to a lot of people…  but not necessarily the right people.  So now I begin the refinement process.  I used SBS again, this time to tag all of my contacts, given my criteria.  What resulted is a manageable list of people that I can work to build relationships with.

Now for the fun part.  How do you go about building that relationship?  Well, I’ve been using my Blog for a couple years now, pumping out tons of SAP and business information that I’ve learned over the years.  I think it’s start…  The next thing I’ve been doing is reaching out to all of my peers.  No good product designer can work in a vacuum.  So I’ve been finding all of the PP and SM people I can to have them look at what I’ve done and suggest how I can improve it.  In a perfect world, they look at it and say “That’s exactly what we need, how can I buy it?”.  I haven’t heard that yet, but I’m still hoping.  🙂

The piece I’m currently working on (and really should have done this long ago) is to connect with all of the contacts I got from the trade shows we’ve attended.  I’ve done targeted users, but now I’m attempting to use Linked-In as my platform to give more information to those connections.  This is another opportunity for me to build credibility.  If people see my blog day after day, they will start to realize I know what I’m talking about, and can provide solutions to help them…  at least that’s the plan.

If anyone out there knows linked-in, I’d love to hear how you use it for business and marketing.  So far, it’s a great way to find headhunters.  I”m hoping the same can be said for customers 🙂

Thanks for reading,

The New E-Book, Step 2

I’m not gonna lie, I’m feeling pretty good.  Over the weekend, I finally wrapped up all the content I plan to use in my E-book.  That being said, I now have to move my effort over to the next phase, getting it published.  While I have no aspirations to go with a formal publisher, I do plan on getting it into the Amazon store and iBooks platforms.  While I know that I’ll lose a big chunk of any revenue by publishing there, this book is more about exposure and being able to say “I wrote the book on SAP Service Management”, and be able to prove it 🙂

Now the first thing I found that I need to focus on is getting a cover made for my book.  I did some homework and found that you have to have a colorful cover (ie no gray scale).  So I’m off on the next step of putting together my cover for the book.  As it turns out, there are some rules about this including size, color and content.  Nothing that should impact me too much, but still, another hurdle.  So off to figure out my cover.

Thanks for reading,

Marketing – How to do a Presentation

Well, I finally got back to reading my marketing book, and I learned a couple more tidbits I wanted to share.  Today I wanted to talk about doing presentations.  This could be big presentation at a conference, a small demo, or maybe even a quick one on conversation.  Like so much of what I’ve learned, it all comes back to making the presentation about your customer.  There a few simple questions you MUST keep in mind.

  1. Who is this person?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What are they searching for?
  4. What is the single most valuable thing I could possibly offer them?

Notice that pattern with every one of these questions, they are revolving around the customer.  None of them are about how I can convince my Widget is awesome, none of them revolve about being funny or dynamic.  While these can be parts of a presentation, you need to gear this around your customer.

Who is this person?  – well you have to look beyond customer, prospect, or dollar signs.  You need to see who this person really is.  What do they do in their free time?  why are they sitting there talking to you?

What do they want?  don’t think products here.  You need to go beyond the typical sales approach.  What is about the product or service that this person believes can make their life better?  is it more time at home with their family?  is it more money so they can retire soon?  what do they REALLY want?

What are they searching for?  this is similar to what they want, but it’s a little more specific to why they are listening to you.  do they need more efficiency at work?  more time at home, and less time in the office?  do they need to avoid being on the road?  or is their business in trouble and they need everything they can get to give them an edge?

What is the single most valuable thing I could offer then?  – is it efficiency?  is it time?  is it ideas?  now again, stop thinking about what your product or service offers.  Step back from that when you determine your approach in the presentation.  Think of what you can offer them…  maybe it’s a recommendation for your competitor because they do the one thing this person needs better than you.  Maybe it’s a simple idea or white paper you just read that could give them the technology they’ve been looking for.  Right now it’s all about value you can provide…  now what you can sell them.

This formula is very simple.  Build trust with this person.  Give them your best, don’t worry about selling your widget here.  Maybe your widget will solve all their issues…  but likely, they need more.  Offer them any information you have, tidbits, or any products out there that can solve their real issues.

Thanks for reading,

Learning to Document

You know, for as long as I’ve been consulting, you’d think that documentation would be an easy task, but for me, it’s always come painfully.  This is mostly likely due to the fact that I hate documenting things.  Well I’m learning that often the things that are least interesting to do, are the most important.  Documentation is one of those things (damn! :> ).

Well, that brings me to some of the things that I’ve learned that can really help your documentation.  I thought I’d share some of things today.

1.  Use a lot of screenshots.  It sounds pretty obvious, but pictures really are a worth a 1000 words.  So get yourself a good screen capture program.  I personally use SnagIt, but anything that takes a screenshot, and allows you to add some arrows, text boxes etc will do the trick.

2.  Take things step by step.  If you really want to make sure someone knows how to do something, start at the beginning, and walk them through each little piece.  As soon as skip steps, you can lose your audience, and then your documentation isn’t worth anything.

3.  Use a real example.  Whenever possible, use something in the system that someone can look at.  For example, if it has to do with data, try to use something that is in the system that someone could look at again.  Often, allowing someone to be able to look at the data on their own terms can help solidify the information.  If you can’t, make sure you show your user how to look up your own data.

4.  Set the stage early on.  Start your documentation with a good overview.  Keep in mind that someone could be reading this document (hopefully) 3, 6 or 12 months down the road.  If you don’t explain what you’re doing well enough…  the documentation can quickly get “foggy”, even to you if you don’t do the steps often enough.

5.  A good title.  This little piece of advice might actually get this read.  It doesn’t matter how good the guts of your document are, if you don’t label it appropriately, no one will ever find it.  This includes being able to find it in a file system, like sharepoint, put it in a location that fits, use good directory names, etc.

Those are a couple tidbits that I’ve picked up that are helping my documentation get better.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from an expert, but I have been finding that my stuff is making more sense to me lately, so that’s a good start.  ha ha

Thanks for reading,

Marketing – What would it take for you to recommend?

I’m on a theme, and since I can usually count on my good friends for some great comments (I never thanked y’all for the comments on focusing your time, so Thanks Jer & Justin, it really helped).  But now my theme is…  what does it take for you to recommend someone or something?  Of course this is a loaded question, but I’m looking for my sales force among my readers and friends.  Why?  well, it’s simple.  I can’t afford a sales team right now, and everything is based on “commission”, so if I have to pay big bucks, I’d rather pay it to my friends…  which is what I consider all of you.

So that being said, what would it take for you to remember a company or a product well enough to recommend it to your boss?  your client?  your previous client? etc…  I always hear that cash is king, and one my good friends Jeff reminded me of that a while ago.  I initially put out a campaign saying that I’d give anyone 5% of the sale if they referred me and someone bought my stuff.  Well, he pointed out that 5% doesn’t mean anything…  if they don’t go to the trouble to see that I sell a product for $50, or $50,000, well %5 is a whole different meaning.  So he encouraged me to pick a dollar amount… a big dollar amount, and I said ok…  $10,000 if you get me a sale (and by that, I’m only looking for a lead that turns into a sale).  Sadly, I only got one response, and I was never able to talk to the lead…  so that got me questioning…  what would it take.  If you’re reading this right now, what would encourage you to recommend or at least give me a name of someone that might be interested?  Is it a paid vacation somewhere?  Is it $10,000?  Is it $20,000?  is it 50% of the sale price?  or is there any amount that could get you to pimp something for me or anyone else for that matter?

Now I know that every person is different.  For me, if I had a friend doing this, I’d do it for nothing more than some reciprocity in the future.  so…  what’s your number?  how well do you need to be connected to the product before you’d be willing to say, “Hey Joe, have you seen this product?  I know you do this stuff, think it might be a fit for you?”.  Would you have to be a user/buyer of the product before you’d ever talk to someone else?  Or is it something you personally would never do unless it was your own business/product?

Again, I’d love to hear from you guys out there.  Don’t even lock yourself into an industry.  Just tell me what it would take for you to direct someone to a product…

Thanks for reading.

Focus your Efforts

Well, with any small business, everyone wears many hats.  Now the problem with that is that it is impossible to do everything.  If you’re read some of my other recent posts, you know that I’m struggling with that fact.  I try to put in 3 hours or more every night after I work a full day at my consulting job, and put my toddler and infant to bed.  I’m finding this isn’t even close to the time I want to be putting into my business.

Now the  real question is priority.  What is the most important?  what is the best use of my time?  Damn, I wish I had a better answer to this question, and I struggle with it daily.  Part of the reason I still blog daily is just force myself to think.  Of course, it’s also to cultivate more potential second customers, but it helps me work out my thoughts as well.

So, my dilemma, I’m a developer, and I’m the only developer in our software company.  At the same time, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning marketing…  but obviously, it’s not my specialty.  Now, the challenge comes in that my partner is not a developer.  He writes great specs, but doesn’t code.  I’m also way ahead of him in my learning of marketing.  All that being said, we are a team…  so what matters most?  the software or the marketing…  I’m leaning toward the marketing, but at the same time, I have major development work to improve Rapier (not to mention the creation of our Field Service Engineer product).

So, I’d love to hear from anyone out there…  is it better to hand off the marketing to my partner, even though I’ve been spending more time learning it and focus on development?  or do I focus on getting the customers/sales, and then develop when it starts coming in?

Thanks for reading,


Marketing – USP Revisited

Well, I’m back into the marketing world with a lot of my time, so bear with me.  I’ll get back to SAP again, but if you’ve been reading my stuff, you know that I wear a lot of hats.  Well, today I want to talk about the USP or Unique Selling Proposition.  Now I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but for everyone else, the USP is what makes you the go to guy or gal.  It’s what sets you apart from your competition.  It’s what makes you special.

Now you may be asking, “Mike, why do I care about that?”.  I know I would’ve been asking the same questions a year ago.  The answer is simple.  If you want to sell anything, and for you consultants out there this includes selling youself, you need to stand out.  Let’s use me as an example.  When interview for consulting positions, why should anyone want to hire me more than the other 10 people that applied for the position?  It’s simple.  I know Variant Configuration, Service Management and ABAP.  (SD too, but that one doesn’t stand out as much).  I’ve also been doing it for over 15 years.  Now, 15 years sounds great, but if you’ve been in the business long enough you’ve met consultants that supposedly have been doing “X” for 20 years, but what they haven’t explained is that they’ve been entering data into the “X” transaction as a user for 18 of those years, and for 2 years they got to play with configuration.  So to me, length of time isn’t my USP.  I focus on the fact that not only am I functional, but I’m very technical.  Again, you ask, “who cares?”  aren’t they looking for a BA or a functional consultant?  Yes…  but in the companies that I’ve worked for, typically the best people can debug ABAP and show the developer exactly what they want fixed.  It also instills a different mindset into the consultant.  If you know how things work behind the scenes, it makes you more efficient and more creative in your problem solving.  hence, why I use the functional and technical aspects of my personality to be my USP.So, ask yourself, what makes you special?

Now, the whole point behind why I’m talking about this is that I just recently read this in my Ultimate Guidebook to Google Adwords.  A completely independent source of where I originally heard this stuff.  So this tells me that it’s important.  When I start seeing the same “big” ideas coming for multiple places, it means that it’s worth looking into.

So if you haven’t already, start spending some time figuring out what makes you stand out from everyone else.  Then start formulate it into your own USP.  You may never use it to outright, but being able to answer that question in your head  gives you a great place to start when someone asks “Why should I hire you?”.

Thanks for reading.