John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Attention Span

My attention span is struggling under the pressure. There is a wide gulf between my life, my job and the startup that I’m trying to build.

I’m trying to learn about Quora. I am also trying to balance demands life, my job, my startup with the demands of my Blogs, guest contributions to other blogs,  Twitter, Google Buzz, my LinkedIn contacts,  Twitpic & Yfrog photography, and comments that I make on other blogs.

I want to keep in touch with all of these things because I advise customers who have their own lives, their own businesses and their own interests. To be the expert, I need deep personal understanding – AND the creativity to apply that understanding for my clients.

I think of myself as unique – a passionate, persistent, pragmatic, problem preventer, business and technology enthusiast. Former Marine, Ex Soldier & current geek.  Wrapping that up with my life is challenging because of my attention span.   It has never been such a problem before.   I don’t know if the problem is really MY attention span, or simply that the world is changing so fast. 

I want to improve some things.

I’d love to have a meaningful connection with my son but it takes two people to have a meaningful connection. I’d love to replace my aging Ford Explorer, but it only has 65k miles, and is very useful. I’d love to find a new job but my current job has been dependable since 1999 or so.  I’d love to explode my business because I think it can help hundreds of other businesses instead of dozens.  I’d love to write daily.  I’d love to bicycle about 30 miles a day, 5 days a week… but I can’t find 2 hours to do it.  To fit things in well, my days need another 24 hours each.

My world of information is exploding. Everyone’s world is. Staying on top is like juggling chainsaws and torches while flipping on a trampoline that someone randomly moves beneath my feet.  What sort of attention span can make it all work?  

Ultimately, I will need to set priorities and let things fall to the side. Everyone does. It is a challenge, and I need to find the attention span to make it all work, and make the right selections of what is important, and what isn’t.  

How do people do it? How do you?

January 27th, 2011 Posted by | Life, Other Stuff, People | no comments

The Cost to Convenience ratio

Bradford Cross wrote a great article on Measuring Measures “Why the iPad is Destroying the Future of Journalism.”

He was a bit off the mark in discussing Facebook, and could have provided more useful content by discussing Twitter because Twitter is a competitive microblogging platform that more directly delivers news-ish information.  His point was valuable because he focused on ways that media needs to address how it delivers unique content in a way that allows people to share.

Traditional media needs to ensure their cost to convenience ratio is favorable. 

What is that?  Here’s an example:  Your bank would love it if you, personally, used them for CD, Checking Account, Savings Account, Car loan, mortgage, IRA, online banking, online bill-pay, mobile banking and every other consumer service they offer. They want you to use their atm’s, their branches, and every location they offer.  They want the fees, of course, but they also want to make it more difficult for you to go to another bank and start up all those accounts, at that other bank. If your relationship with your bank is deeper, it is more difficult for you to switch. That convenience has a huge value because of the cost of changing, in terms of time and aggravation.

When your personal cost of switching (in time, and aggravation) exceeds the pain you feel from staying with a bank, they’re a winner.  This applies for ANY business.

If your convenience exceeds the cost you’re charged for that convenience, you, as a customer, might be content to be their loyal customer for EVER. You may slide from being a customer to being an evangelist.  This works for a local newspaper too, which may have a virtual monopoly on newspapers in a regional or local area. In many cases when a local newspaper is the only game in town, it can afford to be sloppy and cheap . The Winston Salem Journal, for instance, recently fired their entire copy desk. For their customers, the cost of finding an alternative far exceeds the cost of staying a customer. In some cases, there IS no alternative.

Look at Hyundai’s new Equus. Car and Driver’s comparison shows that it essentially clones the Lexus LS460L . “When Korean engineers set about copying the modern LS, they swallowed their inventiveness and simply deployed a really good Xerox machine.”  They did it extremely well, and “as-tested LS460L cost 50 percent more than the Equus.”  That is a steep cost for the convenience and pleasures of owning a car with the Lexus name.  Ironically, it is similar to what Toyota did.  ”Note the way the Equus undercuts the six-figure Lexus. Just like Lexus undercut Mercedes 20 years ago.”  Hyundai “xeroxed” the LS460L, and it has also copied Toyota’s Lexus business model to a certain extent. (Using Toyota’s business model against Toyota.)

Every business needs to look at the cost/convenience ratio that they provide. It is a real key to deepening customer relationships. Deeper customer relationships increast the cost of changing to competitors.  Successful businesses (Zappos, Amazon, Lexus, Hyundai, etc) aspire to make their customers happy because happy customers are loyal customers. Those customers are loyal, in part, because of the cost to convenience ratio.

Every Lexus’ LS460L that is sold this year is an example that the value of that loyalty… Every person who buys a Lexus LS460L is a person who is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a Lexus, when there is a much less expensive substitute available. Those purchases show loyalty for Lexus’ past performance.

January 10th, 2011 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Social Media | no comments

Smart Advertising

NPR had a really wonderful Morning Edition about the value New York City’s Times Square billboard Space on December 30th of 2010. Their piece had the inaccurate (but executive pleasing) title:Billboard Advertising In Times Square Pays Off   I was listening while driving to NYC to see the ball drop.   Does that advertising really pay off? Not necessarily.  SMART advertising pays off but there were two pieces of advertising in Times Square that could have been vastly improved.  Looking at the TDK advertising, as I did for about 5 hours on New Years Eve, it was striking how counter-productive it was.  I went back to the podcast and transcript, and confirmed that in the radio piece, Lisa Chow of WNYC interviewed John Connolly, Chief Operating Officer of Duncan Donuts.

Lisa said “Let’s see who’s advertising here. We’ve got Toshiba, Budweiser, Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Lisa did not even mention TDK. Lost in the crowd of a million freezing new year’s eve rockers in Times Square, I saw the enormous TDK billboard too. I researched it, and found that  TDK upgraded their billboard in December of 2010.

Everyone noticed the TDK billboard. How could you NOT notice it? Lisa Chow may have noticed it, but didn’t say a word. The problem is that advertising isn’t always SMART advertising.  In the New Year’s Eve crowd, I heard several people ask aloud if Cassette Tapes were making a come-back.  

I suppose that just KNOWING what a cassette is qualifies me as an old person, but if the old people know what TDK is because of cassettes, and the younger people don’t know what TDK is, what value does TDK get from a multi-million dollar billboard in NYC’s Times Square?   I think their value is less than zero. the billboard does nothing to tell any of their possible customers what TDK does, and because there is no connection to current products, viewers are left with the “are cassettes making a comeback” thought – or for younger viewers, the billboard gives absolutely no idea what TDK is.

What is TDK today, beyond the cassette? It is a huge, successful company that reported during their 1H FY2011 period – coverinf April 1, 2010 to Sep 30, 2010 –  they had $5.2b in net sales and  >84,000 employees.   TDK makes billions by producing and selling huge quantities of unmentionable electronics bits: capacitors, displays, print heads, transformers, etc.  Impressing people in Times Square is likely one of the purposes of their advertising. That billboard isn’t very smart advertising because only an extraordinarily small percentage of people passing One Times Square will ever look at their website, products or financials. The billboard doesn’t mention their website, their products, their global scope If they are spending this much money on advertising, perhaps they should use the display space to let people know that TDK is more than cassettes.  Perhaps a newly inspired “TDK-Inside” logo for this century??

Perhaps smart advertising could tell people what TDK is, what it does, who benefits from its products and why there is some advantage in selecting or using products that have TDK inside… Smart advertising could illustrate features, benefits and competitive advantages for TDK. (just like it does for anyone)

*Thanks to TDK for all those SA-C 90′s, and thanks to Tapedeck.org.

January 4th, 2011 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Marketing | no comments