Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interesting Use of Cell Phones in Developing Nations

Came across an interesting article in Google Reader stating that food coupons are now given out via SMS to 1000 Iraqi refugee families.

I think this is a very good use of existing technology; and the additional fact that African farmers can now use their cell phones to find out where they could sell their crops is another useful application.

One point that struck me in the article was this:

As Foreign Policy remarks, "We've reached a very strange point in human history when it is assumed that people who don't have access to food will have working cell phones."
I wonder if we can classify this as great "market proliferation"? With the want of having a cell phone now becoming a need of having one?

You can read the rest of the article here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Profits Made by Social Networking Companies

I would agree with their headline of: "At Least One Company is Making Money off of Social Networking".

I've seen the ads for this company's games on facebook too and it seems like they do put quite a bit into advertising. A lot of my friends are playing the game and it's showing up on my news feed all the time.

An old friend of mine is also part of a company that produces similar games and is enjoying quite a bit of success as well - being venture-funded and expanding into different geographic regions.

Very cool. Read the rest of the article here on Zynga.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Building a Product so that all Parties Benefit

Saw two similar complaints pop up on my iGoogle feed and makes you think about product design.

When you come up with a business model, you are trying to solve a need; if it's just "really cool" but doesn't solve a need for customers, then you might as well forget it. This product that's being talked about and labeled as "dumb smart meters" by Fast Company are the smart meters that have been installed in millions of homes by PG&E amongst other companies that sell similar products.

What the product has done though, is raise hell for customers that are claiming their fees have gone WAY up for no obvious reason (now we should note that these customers also neglected to realize that there were rate hikes in 2008 and March of 2009). The other twist is that the meter company did screw up and ended up having to pay back $240 million in fees.

Long story short, smart meters didn't achieve the anticipated objective of reducing energy consumption, instead its accuracy increased customer fees, generated a ton of complaints and caused a headache for the party that originally wanted to install it.

In this case the product obviously pissed off its end-customers, but keep in mind that there are other parties that you should aim to please (or at least don't piss them off). Think of your business partners (don't screw up your system integration), think of your internal staff (pissing off your operations or customer service people cannot do any good for your sales figures) and even your competitors (heard of something called retaliation or predatory pricing?)

So in a sense all of these parties matter because they are involved in the success of your business; make sure you keep all of these relationships healthy, and you are always trying to design your product so that there is buy-in at all levels - here's what I mean...build it so that:
  1. Customers will PAY for it
  2. Business partners will endorse it and promote it
  3. Operations won't have a headache trying to manage the day-to-day workflow (does your product make it easy for your ops people to make it work?)
  4. Customer service is actually providing customer service and dealing with hate mail from customers (if you can't make your customers love your product off the bat, at least don't make them hate it - like in the case of these smart meters)
Now to think about my own product strategy so it meets all the above criterion. Easy to say, hard to do! Good luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Customer Sales Process

Right now customers come to our website and book transactions. We process it and within a couple days they see the converted funds in their bank accounts.

Emails are triggered and sent out during the transaction process at the following points:
1) When you book the transaction you receive an email stating that your booking was successful;
2) When we receive the funds for your transaction we tell you that we've received it via email;
3) When we send out the converted funds to your bank account we let you know that it's on its way.

There's a missing piece here that we should have put in - an after sales component.

Why aren't we sending our customers an email say a week or two weeks after their transaction to encourage them to book additional transactions? We have seen customers who have exchanged with us once and left their accounts sitting there for months at a time before they do another transaction. Given that our customers are NOT speculators I wonder if our after sales tactics to drive more volume would even work - BUT, as a customer myself of other online services, I like to see that once in a while those services send me a value-add email.

With all these online services right now - an email with a catchy subject line would be a good reminder to the customer that your company is still up and running.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Security Means for Your Brand

An interesting episode that happened over the weekend.

I checked my blackberry in the morning and over the course of one day I got about 2 dozen emails from Central 1. All of them weren't sent out by Central 1.

Which is weird. Because I thought only Central 1 administrative employees would have access to my direct email. Now everyone else on the Central 1 customer list had my direct email because people started replying to that thread wondering if someone had hacked into Central 1's system.

As a customer, I was wondering why over the course of an entire day that nothing was being done about it. OH. You know why? It's because people were all on HO-LI-DAY. Yup. This is more important than making sure that your customers knew what was up with all this email leakage mess.

I'm surprised that there was nobody monitoring this at all and waited until the long weekend was over to fix the issue. Seriously?

This probably was detrimental to Central 1's brand, and made me learn an important lesson - never let EVERYBODY go on vacation at once - somebody's got to "take one for the team" and monitor the system. Even though they apologized and said this would be a one time issue...it has already happened once and this erodes customer confidence in the brand; so of course the conclusion is to not let this happen to your own brand by implementing preventive measures.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rule of Thumb: You Never Know

I was a speaker over the weekend for a class for Certified Management Accountants and at first I wanted to present there to share my experience with the class and also get their input on how to develop our marketing strategy to achieve our target goals.

Little did I know that I would meet contacts with connections all over the world, to different national banks, ethnic communities and potential advisors. The CMAs were all

So. You never know. These speaker sessions have definitely put me in touch with a lot of people that can open a lot of doors for PeerFX. Oh, the power of people!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Paying Fees Online

Just a sudden thought popped into my head. So...does me paying fees or paying for events/tickets online make it easier...just for me? Because I'm the only one getting charged for it. Ie. I go online to pay for an event I'm attending through Eventbrite, and the fee is $10. Doesn't it make it easier for the organizers to collect my fees as well if I pay online? How come they aren't paying for it?


Somebody enlighten me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Work Life Balance

There is none.

At least for me anyway.

I did a short presentation at the New Venture Design class that PeerFX originally came out of on Tuesday night. I have to admit it feels awesome to know that I'm sharing my little tidbit of lessons with an aspiring group of students in the audience.

One thing though. There were repeat questions related to this "work life balance" thing. The standard answer from a speaker would be it's important, we all take vacation here. What we don't tell you and what I did tell them was "It's tough as heck in the beginning of starting your business, so wave BYE to vacations and put in the required hours to get where you want to be."

In my opinion, you can take as much time off as you wish, it's just a matter of how long it will take for you to get where you want to be. You want to work the 9 to 5 instead of 9 to 9. Great. Go right on ahead. Just expect that it will take you 6 years instead of 3 (I may be exaggerating I may not).

If you want one thing, quite often you give up another because you only have so much time in one day. Do you want your business to grow or more time to veg in front of the tv?