Fixing your customer’s pain with soft innovation

Soft InnovationFor as long as I can remember ATMs in the Czech Republic have been a constant source of annoyance for anyone who uses them (setting aside the fees they charge) because the ATM’s programming was designed to optimise its use of banknotes.

Withdraw 2000 Czech Koruna (Kc), which is approximately $100/£66, and you’ll be furnished with a crisp 2000kc note. Now go and buy something for 150Kc and you’ll get a fairly understandable ‘Don’t you have anything smaller?’ and sometimes a flat refusal to take your money because it will wipe out their change float. You might ask ‘why not just withdraw 2 x 1000Kc?’ but with a fee per withdrawal why should you?

In a perfect example of soft innovation, finally this spring a couple of banks have taken notice and their ATMs have been updated (with software). Now you can choose the denominations of banknotes when you make a withdrawal. With one simple change they’ve removed a common cause of anxiety and annoyance for their customers.

What pain points can you solve for your customers?

Think about how your customers use the products and services you provide. The pain point doesn’t have to be with what you do but maybe it’s what they do with it next. The immediate things banks might look to fix with ATMs would be making sure they’re always stocked with cash, not out of service, in safe locations, not what people do with the cash once they’ve taken it out. At a travel company I work for we’ve been looking at what we can do to make our guests travels even smoother by providing useful items like US to European plug adapters and various other things in their welcome pack. The great thing about soft innovation is that it’s inexpensive to implement but can have a very significant impact on your customers’ experience.

Five Useful Free iPhone apps for Local Business Marketers

iPhone in handThe iPhone is a handy little business too for business local marketing, here are just a few apps, all free, that can help you create content, spy on your competition and keep up with what your customers are saying about you.

Share 360 degree views with Photosynth

Creating 360 degree interactive panoramas used to cost lots of money and take lots of time. The only places you’d see them would be fancy hotel and real estate websites. Armed with just an iPhone 4 and a copy of Microsoft’s (yes, I was surprised too!) free Photosynth app, and a Windows Live account (Hotmail, etc) you can shoot, upload and embed on your own website a very neat 360 panorama. The embedding part requires you to log in to with your Windows Live account to get the embed code. Any business that has a physical location they want to show off has no excuse now!

Keep your finger on the pulse with Twitter

For instantly updating your Twitter stream, posting news and specials, keeping up with what your followers are doing, or checking up on your saved searches. Make sure to turn on notifications for mentions and replies to maintain a decent response time to enquiries too.

Spy on the competition with Foursquare

Foursquare might not have hit the mainstream in terms of user numbers, but those that do use it are very much the vocal minority. As a business owner you should claim your listing, make sure your business is correctly classified and run specials anyway as the app draws attention to anywhere offering a special. So why would you want to use the iPhone app itself, when you really shouldn’t be checking in to your own location? A few reasons:

1. Keeping track of any new comments by Foursquare users (especially complaints!) at your own business but also your competitors.
2. Finding out who your (Foursquare using) regulars are, and maybe following/friending them
3. Keeping tabs on any specials your competitors are offering
4. Seeing where’s hot nearby right now (places with lots of people checking in)
5. Posting photos of your location – you can upload photos directly from the iPhone app, and places with photos get more attention

Update your Facebook page on the go

Whilst the Facebook app doesn’t make it easy to update your Facebook Page status on the go (a menu item for ‘Your Pages’ would be nice!) all you need to do is search for your Page then when you’ve found it, add it to Favorites, then it will appear on the second page of your Facebook app’s menu. Once there, getting into it is simple. Anything you post via the Facebook app will get attributed to the Page, not your personal account.

Create video slideshows with Animoto

With the Animoto app and a free Animoto account you can create 30 second videos by picking photos from your iPhone Photo Library, choosing a soundtrack from Animoto’s categorised collections then share that video on Facebook, Twitter, by email and more. Paid accounts are available that lift the time restriction and for a per video fee you can create higher resolution versions. Creating a video slideshow like this is a fun thing to do when you have a special event. You can get something up on Facebook within minutes.


image credit: John Karakatsanis via Creative Commons on Flickr.

My One New Year’s Resolution: Shower More

Elephant ShoweringNot that I think I need to for personal hygiene reasons (unless all my friends are far too polite) but I get most of my best ideas in the shower, away from a keyboard.

Way back in season 1 of Mad Men, Don Draper tells Peggy

Think about it, deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face

You don’t have to be in the shower for these ideas to come to you. The best part about it is that you can be doing things that are good for you, like working out in the gym, running or cycling. The main point is to do something that allows your mind to wander over things, much in the way you’d look through a box of your old stuff in the attic. Just be sure to have a way to capture that inspiration before it vanishes again by the time you get back to your desk.

image credit: Chester Zoo via Creative Commons on Flickr

Guerilla Marketing in Real-time

I’ve long been a fan of guerilla marketing. Maybe it’s my parsimonious nature. Or maybe it’s just the fun aspect of it.

The original book on Guerilla Marketing is 27 years old but its central concept is more relevant with every passing year. Real-time is this year’s buzzword and makes it into the title of David Meermen Scott’s latest book, Real-Time Marketing & PR.

I’ve not read the book yet but from all the examples Scott has given on his blog and in interviews it’s clear that real time marketing is essentially guerilla marketing at internet speed.

So how do you do it? Seize opportunities the instant they present themselves? How do you even find these opportunities? Simple – either buy a lot of screens and try and spot things like that scene in The Matrix where Neo and Mouse are looking at the glyphs on the screen, or you learn how and where to pay attention.

Right now in Paris conference speakers and attendees are arriving at the Le Web conference. These people are digital media and marketing thought-leaders. And they can’t get online in their hotel rooms. What’s the opportunity here? Anyone with the ability to get them net access, right this moment, (bars or cafés, companies with offices nearby, mobile internet providers) gets themselves a lot of goodwill and favourable coverage.

But how would a business be able to find (let alone react) so fast as to benefit from this opportunity? Setting up a marketing radar is a good start. Keeping tabs on upcoming events in your neighbourhood, find the hashtags for conferences taking place on your doorstep, run searches on twitter for them, follow the people tweeting about it. Dig deeper and read reports, reviews and summaries (and tweets, if twitter would let you go back that far) of previous years’ events to find out how you can be useful to these guests in your city.

Stuff I want: iPhone tripod attachment

I don’t have access to a fabrication plant, or have the skills to prototype this product so I’m just going to describe it in the hope that one of the toy-makers out there in iPod/iPhone accessory land will pick this up and run with it. When it comes out you can all thank me.

I want an iPhone tripod attachment, with remote control, a battery and an optional power source, and a mic socket would be nice too.

Michael Arrington said it best when he wrote that the iPhone 3GS should have been called the iPhone 3G V for video. OK, so the new model is faster – so what, it’s newer than the iPhone 3G – which contained the same processor as the original iPhone – it SHOULD be faster – it’s got 2 years of progress to build-in. The real killer feature will be that video camera.

He  is also right when they say that the Flip is going to come under some serious pressure from the new iPhone. OK, the Flip HD cams do 720p and the iPhone only does 640×480 for now. The iPhone has an always-on connection to the Internet and that makes up for a lot. Right now you can’t stream from your iPhone, but companies like Qik have it working on jailbroken phones, it’s only a matter of time before Apple/AT&T allow it, or Apple make it a ‘wifi only’ feature like VoIP is. Regardless of that, the ease of shooting and editing a video, then posting it to the video sharing platform of your choice is such that you can shoot and upload pretty damn quick, with no computer needed.

So what’s missing from this picture? Something to correct a few in-built failings of the iPhone, and rectify some of the most egregiously bad uses I’ve seen of the Flip. I’ve seen videos shot at conferences on a handheld Flip – it gives me motion sickness.

The device I would like to see would have:

  • cradle to hold the iPhone, using the dock connector – with a tight grip (if you’re using it with a GorillaPod, you’ll be needing that)
  • a battery, to provide additional power to supplement the iPhone’s built-in battery
  • RF remote – RF because you don’t always have line-of-sight, and a remote is necessary so you don’t jolt the iPhone when it is recording – with record, stop and zoom controls
  • a standard tripod screw-in connector on the bottom, so you can use it with any standard tripod or even a GorillaPod.
  • Microphone socket – standard 3.5mm jack – you can adapt pretty much anything to plug into it, and the ability to use a radio mic, or clip mic would be pretty cool and certainly give better sound than the in-built one

Imagine the ability to webcast, with good quality, from anywhere you have an internet connection.

It would also be cool if the device could work with the standard camera app for taking pics – then even owners of the normal iPhone 3G would be potential customers; often the pictures are just a bit blurry because of camera shake. A remote trigger and a tripod would solve that pain too.

Oh yeah – I want to pay no more than $50 for it. So Griffin, Mophie, Xtrememac, Belkin et al – have at!

UPDATE 7/7/09: This is promising from startup OWLE, and the ZGrip from established camera accessory company Zaguto. Now if you wouldn’t mind adding a power source…