Monday

Secrets You Need to Know Before You Write and Sell Your Book

If there's one question that I consistently get from friends and online acquaintances, it is one for advice on writing a book. It seems that everyone wants to write a book. People write books for different reasons. I think I was born wanting to write a book, I majored in English Literature for that reason. For other reasons, I ended up in marketing, but the need to write a book - to help people - never went away. The most common reasons I hear from people are:

  • Establish themselves as an expert in their field (does that really work?)
  • Get more speaking engagements
  • Satisfy a heartfelt need
  • Fulfill their ego to be a "published" author

Writing and selling my books is my main job (along with constantly researching my topics), it comes before everything else, even social media and speaking. I have been writing books since 1998 and sold a million by 2007. I don't count the numbers anymore, what counts to me is hearing from my readers. I am lucky to have been writing long enough to see the impact my books have made on my reader's lives.

Wanting to write a book and actually finishing the project are two vastly different things - just ask anyone who has written one. You also need to know, writing books are not for everyone. "Long form" content takes on a completely new meaning when you're expected to write not just 1,500 words - but over 300 pages on a topic.

Self proclamation doesn't make you an expert on any topic. You need to be researching the topic by studying others and "doing it" religiously. My eBay books, for example? I have been continually selling on eBay since January 1997. I don't have an enterprise level business, but I can testify to the frustrations of the small and middle business who sells online. I've researched every innuendo of an online business and have jumped through all the difficult hoops (including importing merchandise for my store).

Wishing something doesn't make it so. You can only convince so many people that you are expert on a topic; and you certainly won't succeed in your writing endeavors if you can't produce cogent and grammatically correct paragraphs. In the video below, I explain how you can write that book - without being an English major.

Author Bryan Kramer invited me to participate in his popular #H2HChat on Twitter. He came up with a topic that's close to my heart: “The Secrets Behind Writing and Selling Your Book”



Below is the video of the Google Hangout with Bryan and Suzi McCarthy. During the hangout, Bryan asked me some very salient questions that I bet you want the answers to. If after seeing this, you still want to write your book, congratulations!


If you have additional questions, or need some personal coaching on how to get your creative process going, visit my small business consulting link and we can strategically cook up a plan together.

Wednesday

Watson's Cognitive Computing Enables Trendspotting and Foresight

I was lucky enough to be a part of an IBM Signature Moment, the launch of Watson Trend App and web hub; the meeting of the world’s most famous super computer and consumer holiday shopping needs. Watson is the “Jeopardy” winning supercomputer that is capable of understanding natural language to reveal insights from massive amounts of unstructured data. This is artificial intelligence, or more exactly called, cognitive computing. Cognitive computing is self-learning and builds upon itself as it gathers more and more data.

Using Watson Trend as a gift guide this holiday season, shoppers will have a new way to understand the reasoning behind “why” certain items become “must haves” during the gift-giving season.

A retailer will also be able to examine Watson Trends to plan what inventory to ship where, whether to stock up and which products are likely to stand the test of time.

For the launch, on November 19, I interviewed Maria Winans, CMO, IBM Commerce, in a #WatsonTrend Twitter chat. She gave the Twitter participants further insights into how Watson will change the way people will benefit from machine learning.

Maria made it clear that unlike standard analytic analysis, through cognitive computing, Watson understands the human language.
“80 percent of data today is unstructured and is not systematically used to benefit consumers, retailers and marketers. With the cognitive and predictive power of Watson Trend, we can unlock the insights hidden in natural language.”
It draws human language data from 10,000+ sources: reviews, social networks, blogs, forums, and ratings and interpret the tens of millions of conversations across the web to create trend scores from 1 to 100.The gift guides will even take the breaking news into account. Unlike other apps or lists that provide a static ranking of “hot” products, Watson Trend reveals how consumers feel about the products they are considering or have purchased.

Shopping for the holidays no longer means spending hours scouring the web reading reviews. With daily updates, Watson trends give a synopsis, shows the numbers (indicating the strength of the trend) and in depth quotes from reviews that get right to the point. (No more reading hundreds of reviews).

As an example, from raw data gathered on the Star Wars BB-8 Droid from Sphero (a trend this holiday season since the movie comes out December 18),
“BB-8 is just the size of an orange, but it can move on its own, recognize and respond to a human voice, and show & record holographic videos. It’s hi-tech, which makes sense as it was developed by the robotics company Sphero. The $150 price tag may be high for a “toy,” but the BB-8 seems able to charm everyone it meets, from long-time collectors to two-year-olds  Much of the conversation driving the trend revolves around the fact that this toy is ever-evolving because its capabilities will update via the app that controls it. Though it takes some savvy to calibrate, it seems as though it is simple and child-friendly to use after setup.”
Also rising in the Star Wars universe is a similar (yet very different) R2-D2 Astromech Interactive Droid. Why is it trending? Watson feels that it has other (maybe better/) reasons to give as a gift:
"Your chance to own R2-D2 as a pet. The classic Star Wars droid is now possible to own—and control! Reviews say the toy walks, spins, and turns its head realistically, and a major "pro" is its easy-to-use remote controller. Less pricey and more kid-appropriate than the new BB-8, R2-D2 is also often declared the perfect gift for the Star Wars fan.” In the review section there are also mentions that the Droid doesn’t work as well on carpeting - a very good tip!
Watson Trend’s “crowdsourcing” is also a great way to select a specific piece of technology. Again, no long blathering reviews. Just the facts, nice and neat, to help you make an educated decision. Watson makes the “smart choices” for you.

This is how cognitive computing will help us, on a day to day basis, going forward. Here's the "signature" video which tells the story with a smile.

Monday

Sharing Content isn't Enough, Enlist Employee Advocacy


Even in today’s era of social media, the number one marketing channel for new leads and customers is word of mouth.  In essence this means that you need to have people talking about your company.  When the world is talking; people are listening. According to Nielsen and Pew Internet, "Only 15% of people trust messages received directly from businesses compared to the 70% who trust messages received from personal contacts."

If we extend the personal WOM channel to social media, the amplitude of your message in a noisy world is magnified. It’s no longer a one-to-one conversation, but possibly one voice to tens-of-thousands. There’s a good chance your customers are on one of the major networks.  As a matter of fact, the people you want to reach demographically (whether you are B2B or B2C) are participating right now. Businesses and customers are reading messages on social media and you can’t watch a TV show without seeing a brand hashtag to follow.

Know that the days are gone where you as a brand can control your message, but you can intensify it.

Your customers and investors are talking about you online so why not join the conversation. If enough voices are speaking positively about your brand, there’s a strong chance your market share will raise.  No matter the size of your business; you can achieve a successful outreach and employee advocacy can be the key to get you started. 

According to a recent Inc article, employees have the most credible voices in the organization, so why not power them with the right tools? 

At Pitney Bowes for example, their employee advocacy program “The Insiders” has seen great success in only a few months. With over 200 employees already part of the program, this new approach to building more socially savvy employees and bigger WOM is catching up quickly.

The program has already been expanded to the UK, with plans of additional expansions before the end of the year.  Not only were The Insiders a big part of the new Pitney Bowes brand launch back in January, but they have been key to sharing the #NewPitneyBowes story.

“The Insiders initiative is an excellent opportunity to get employees engaged in social media, while spreading the word about the new Pitney Bowes and building our collective thought leadership in the marketplace." - Jason Bartlett, Vice President, Digital Marketing & eCommerce

At Pitney Bowes, the employee ambassador program is more than just a communications tool. It is also helping the company with the bottom line, creating sales opportunities, as they go. From building brand awareness and improving company culture, employee advocacy has also been proved to have a significant impact on revenue.

Bruce Gresham, VP Business Planning & Strategy had an amazing success story, clearly proving the ROI of the program.  

“I shared one of our new product innovations on LinkedIn, and several of my existing connections ‘liked’ the post. One of the ‘likes’ lead to a person outside my network ‘liking’ the information (in the post) as well. This developed into a sales opportunity of significant worth with a client with whom we normally would not have connected.”

Your employees are the face of your company. They can also be valuable promoters for your message, why not try a new way of return on human investment? Need additional WOM? Your employees are first in line to help, just ask them.

FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Pitney Bowes has hired me as a brand ambassador. I am not formally employed by Pitney Bowes. All thoughts and viewpoints are mine. This is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday

TED@IBM: Technology and Humanity Drive the Future Through the Best Talks

Social business strategist, Bryan Kramer, presenting at TED@IBM in 2014

















I have been amused by TED talks over the years, and have learned some interesting points of view within the time I’ve invested in watching them. Some talks are deeply factual (backed with evidence) and others are purely opinion, but all are entertaining. One thing you can definitely count on when seeing these talks is unflagging enthusiasm and a sense of joie de vivre, most importantly, you are left with a feeling of positivity.

Last year I was invited to my very first TED@IBM day. The co-branded event is a partnership between the TED Institute and IBM. It is not a licensed TEDx experience, but a rather an event that is curated, developed, produced, and filmed by the TED Institute. This would be a full on day of fascinating content for sure.

Most TED talks I've seen are from random scientists, artists, inventors and others talking about their work. TED@IBM draws speakers from within IBM’s network of partners, customers, influencers, and thinkers to explore the relationships between technology and humanity.

I was not really sure what to expect, but gratefully accepted the invitation (how I got on the list - I’m still not sure) and made my way to the event. I figured this would be a great opportunity to be exposed to a rich and interactive experience that few are able to attend.

It turned out to be a day of multiple absorbing talks and breaks entwined with very effective, professional presentations. The presentations were all short learning moments wrapped with a clear view to the future. During the breaks, I deliberately set out to meet new people, to chat with them and learn why they were there. It seems the organizers don’t just curate the speakers; the audience is curated as well. The attendees alone are an incredibly diverse group of wicked smart people.

The theme for the 2014 conference was “Re-Imagine Our World.” The list of speakers spanned the gamut from a social business strategist to an Oscar-winning filmmaker to a young woman who at 31 was named an IBM Master Inventor (and holds 70 United States Patents with over 300 pending patent applications).

The brief eight minute talk from Lisa Seacat DeLuca was engaging and more than impressive, she was a genuine person who adapts technology to make real world prototypes of things that will change the future. Although she works for IBM, she suggested that young, independent inventors take their ideas to crowdfunding to bring them to fruition.
“The speed of invention in the future will be as fast as we can dream up ideas. We will be able to use each other’s innovations to test drive ideas.”
It was an inspiring talk and explained the world of cognitive computing through anecdotes and stories. I think you’d enjoy her vision of the future (embedded below).

Positivity was the major influence of the day and I walked away a just little less cynical than before I walked in the door.

When you attend a Ted conference, expect to be exposed to things you may never have thought about like a demonstration of bio-sensing devices that will understand your brain’s plasticity. There will be ideas that will surprise and entertain; but there is very little said that will leave you empty. The TED curators take the form and information behind these talks very seriously.

Now, as an IBM "Futurist" I have once again been invited again to the annual TED@IBM (I must be quite an audience member) and am looking to get a deeper understanding of the subjects at hand. The theme this year is “Necessity and Invention.” I plan to gain a better understanding of evolving and collaborative technology and once again become a even less cynical with a clearer vision of what’s to come in the future.



FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. IBM has hired me as a brand ambassador for this campaign because of my participation in the IBM New Way to Work Futurist Influencer Program. I am not formally employed by IBM. All thoughts and viewpoints are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.