The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Business

Sunday, February 09, 2014

What I Learned This Week For February 7 2014

photo of Halls cough drops

Now 2 days late, but hopefully still of some value to some of you, as most were to me. These were scrawled on the back of an envelope for a credit card offer, adding some real value to this junk mail.

  • Boundaries are not always bad, and when people tend to be pushing them, sometimes they are simply asking for them to be defined to them.
  • Halls cough drops have little motivational phrases on the wrappers. Not a bad idea for if you are buying cough drops, you are probably not at the peak place in your life.
  • There is a distinct difference between MOO MiniCards and Mini Moo’s.
  • Perform a Web search on any word or phrase, followed by the word “coloring” and you can find a plethora of coloring sheets for kids to color on.
  • There was little coverage outside of the tech world on the theft and compromise of the Twitter account @N by a social hacker. If you are not familiar with the term social hacker, look up anything on Kevin Mitnick. This article on The Verge about the @N theft and how the owner’s GoDaddy and PayPal accounts were compromised also includes a link to the Twitter account’s owner’s own story.
  • Where that famous groundhog in Pennsylvania saw its shadow and predicted a longer winter, my forecast has always been with Dunkirk Dave who hails from the same Western New York State city that I was born in. And it has nothing to do with him not seeing his shadow, and thus predicting an early spring.
  • I began taking an online course on “unprocrastination” and one of its tasks is to create a habit and commit to it. So I decided to come up with a new blog topic every day (not write it, just the topic) and I am also sharing it with the world. Look on Twitter for the hashtag #28d28bt for my topics. More on the course itself as I get into it.
  • A documentary on learning how to be a pit trader in the famous Chicago markets was just released this week, though it was filmed in 1996. Pit Trading 101 was released only online, and for US$2.99 you can see a training course on how those people who are yelling, screaming and flailing their arms are actually conducting business. It was released by Chicagoan and former trader Jonathan Hoenig who is also in the documentary. I haven’t watched it yet but want to, not only to understand how the heck that process works but also to seeing a piece of this city’s history. Below is an embed of the movie’s trailer or you can watch it on the documentary’s Web site.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 02/09/14 at 06:56 PM
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Thursday, February 06, 2014

3 Things New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Must Do To Win At #Mobile

photo of Nokia Lumia 925 running Windows PhoneEarlier this week global software giant Microsoft named Satya Nadella as it’s 3rd-ever CEO, succeeding Steve Ballmer, who succeeded Bill Gates. Where the position is highly regarded, and the opportunity is immense, Nadella will have the challenge of defining what Microsoft will be going forward and especially what they won’t be. Some say the company is too big, rooted in its traditional PC and server operating system and software business while trying to be a consumer business with video game consoles and mobile devices.

Where there are many opinions on where the company should be overall, one area I will be watching closely is how it moves forward with mobile technology. Its Windows Phone platform is a distant third after industry leading iOS from Apple and Android from Google. Even a close tie with former mobile industry leader Nokia didn’t prove to be a winning combination, which will be taken to the next level with Microsoft buying Nokia’s mobile division outright.

Can Microsoft be successful at mobile? I believe it can, and if it were up to me, I would follow these 3 major activities to not only succeed at mobile but to thrive and be a contender for the industry lead. Seriously! But as I am not in that role, I will share my ideas here, and Mr. Nadella is free to take them if he chooses. If you’re familiar with the novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, these 3 journeys are similar to those of Scrooge, dealing with the past, present and future.

First Reconnect With Your Corporate Roots

Where many know Microsoft as the people who built DOS and Windows for their PCs, the majority of their business is in running corporate computers and servers, and the additional software and consulting services that go with them. Where in 2014 many companies run Linux servers, for many years CIOs shied away from the open-source platform, relying on the operating systems from Microsoft, warts and all.

As Nadella previously led the cloud computing business at Microsoft, he knows how many corporate clients are moving much of their infrastructure to the cloud. He must also know that for as much as companies are looking to save shedding physical servers, they are now spending some of that on mobile devices, providing smart phones to their staff to keep them in contact and productive wherever they may be.

But have these mobile devices been Windows Phone devices? Some may have been, but there are probably still more BlackBerry devices in the hands of corporate users. And that number is probably dwindling, swinging towards iPhones and Android devices, which can integrate well with corporate email and are also popular platforms for the development of corporate apps, not to mention personal apps and Angry Birds.

In reconnecting with the corporate customers, mobile must be leading the conversation. What exactly is said depends on the following 2 activities in my plan.

Next Throw Money At Mobile Today

Yes, I said throw. Microsoft is well-known for its cash reserves in the billions. Where some of it is held for fighting legal challenges, some has been used for acquisitions, including Nokia’s mobile business. Where I don’t know exactly how much they have as of writing this post, I have heard it is anywhere around $50 to $60 Billion dollars.

So when I say throw, Microsoft needs to use its reserves to spend and better position itself right now in the mobile world, and fast. Over the past few years I witnessed Google do this with Android, going from nowhere to it being the second-largest mobile platform. They spent money on advertising, promotion, and on developers to build apps for Android devices. All of this for what is technically an “open-source” platform as well!

Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has a unique interface and personally I feel it is more robust than screens full of icons in iOS. Couple this with solid engineering and technology it acquired from Nokia, including it’s high-quality Zeiss lenses for its cameras, and you have a solid device that can be used by anyone. But do they know about it?

For Windows Phone to be successful it needs both marketing and buzz. There are plenty of agencies out there would love the opportunity to really sell the “experience” of Windows Phone, just as or even better than Apple has with the iPhone. For buzz, people need to hear about the features from their friends and family, and here Microsoft can tap into the agency that did this well for Nokia for years, 1000heads, as they are the leaders of word-of-mouth marketing and would love to bring back the raving fans they cultivated for Nokia in the past for Microsoft.

At the end of the day, it is really about what you can do with the mobile device, and what most people use is apps. Here’s an area where Windows Phone is way behind. Most app development is done either just for iOS or for Android, and in some cases is done just for iOS. Windows Phone is usually a distant third, if at all. This is an area where a large chunk of that Microsoft reserve money can come in handy. Both consumer and corporate apps are needed for the platform to thrive. Here is the tie in with the corporate relationships – give money, tools, support, consultants, devices… whatever is needed for corporate clients to build apps for the platform. Help them leverage technology like PhoneGap where they can build apps “once” and port them to each platform (I am streamlining a lot of technical detail, but that is the 50,000 foot view of it).With corporate apps, plus seamless integration with Microsoft Exchange mail servers, you have an employees empowered with a sleek device and all the tools they need to log their hours or whatever it is they need to do.

I did not gloss over consumer apps, as these are direly needed. When it was announced the social photo app Instagram was coming to Windows Phone, it was over a year and a half after it came out for Android. Looking at some of the top apps I use – Starbucks, Hailo taxi, the Weather Channel and MapMyRide for bike ride tracking, only the Weather Channel app is available for Windows Phone. The fact the Starbucks app is not on it is almost shocking, seeing the headquarters of Starbucks is only about 16 miles from the headquarters of Microsoft! And if the large corporate players are not building apps for Windows Phone, neither are the small start-ups. Here Microsoft needs to do what Google did before them and what I am suggesting they do for corporate clients – throw money at it, pay key app developers to port their apps to Windows Phone, hold developer conferences, buy developers free food and beer, give them free devices… all what they need to help bolster the Windows Phone Store so you won’t have to think about what apps are available for the platform, at all and never again.

Define The Future Of Mobile

What will mobile devices look and feel like a few years from now? 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Whatever the answer to the question is, Microsoft should be looking to be the one to answer it, and set the bar high for the rest of the industry to follow.

Hopefully among all of the chaos with Nokia over the last few years they have some of the brilliant hardware and software designers joining them as part of the acquisition to help define this. Where everything Nokia did was not always a top-selling device, they did create some interesting form factors, from fly-out keyboards to round devices to the small thin candy bar device. Today, with the lead from Apple and the close following from everyone else, including Nokia, everything looks like a black slab, and I know personally myself – and many others in the industry – are tired of black slabs! This is an area where Microsoft is not completely known for – amazing user experiences – but they have a start with Windows Phone, have some advances in their gaming devices and – with the right innovative leaders – create what is next, while not forgetting where it came from, as Nadella said in his first remarks as CEO.

No Time Like The Present

Right now is a good time to make moves in the mobile area for Microsoft. Apple is still feeling the loss of Steve Jobs and trying to define its next versions of devices and operating systems, with the last round not receiving the glowing praise it usually does. Google just unloaded Motorola to Lenovo and may be taking a different direction with hardware. Samsung keeps making bigger and bigger and bigger black slabs. And don’t forget BlackBerry, as they are still hanging on and trying to define what their future is while everyone else is digging their grave.

I wish Satya Nadella much luck and good fortune as he takes the helm at Microsoft. Having Bill Gates step down as Chairman and simply being an advisor was a great first move by Nadella. There is a lot to sort out and a lot to prioritize, but I personally see great opportunity with mobile, and Redmond taking the reins from Cupertino is not completely out of the question.

Go ahead – let me know what you think in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 02/06/14 at 11:24 PM
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Saturday, February 01, 2014

What I Learned This Week For January 31 2014

screenshot of Chicago Grid

Though a day late, hopefully you will find useful at least 1 thing I learned this past week, as collected on the back of a flyer for VHS to DVD media conversion.

  • Though every media outlet and their grandmother in the Windy City reported on the demise of Chicago Grid by Wrapports, the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, nobody has noticed the Grid Web site is still up-and-running, at least in part. I only found this out as I was still subscribed to their RSS feed, and after several days a daily summary was again appearing. Though I shared this several times this past week with media outlets in the city via Twitter, nobody else seems to be talking about the ghost RSS feed or seems to care.
  • If you read any book, especially children’s stories, through the lens of the late Dr. Sigmund Freud, you will never read one the same way again, or may not want to read one at all.
  • When you use a service on a daily basis and never even think twice about its quality or reliability, that is not a good thing, that is a great thing. It also probably explains why I haven’t blogged about my great experience with Phone.com over the almost year I have been with them for my home phone service. I need to do something about that.
  • Beverly Hills, California got its name from Beverly, Massachusetts, namely its Beverly Farms section. Now I have been to both communities, and I couldn’t think of any 2 places that could be further opposites of each other.
  • When I tell people I am from Massachusetts, the next thing they say is that I don’t have a Boston accent. When I go onto explain to them my roots are in the western part of the state, where they use all 26 letters of the alphabet and put them in the right place. For as many times as I state that, it really doesn’t resonate with people, so I thought I’d let the good Dr. Westchesterson explain it better than I possibly could with his video Western Mass. – it is embedded below or watch it on YouTube. I can’t think of a better way to end one month and begin another!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 02/01/14 at 11:11 AM
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finally Ordered Personal MOO MiniCards

So I got me some of those MOO MiniCards.

photo of my MOO MiniCards

When it comes to business cards, some people always carry and offer them, others feel it’s 2014 so we should just digitally connect only, and probably the majority of the people out there are indifferent to them. As someone who is of the first group, I try to always carry cards with me, as you never know who you will connect with and where.

As the name goes, they are business cards, and those cards are all, well, business. It has my business title, phone, email, etc. It doesn’t list my blog, my Twitter account, or have other identifying information about me, personally. So if I meet someone personally and want them to reach me personally – or the converse for business – shouldn’t I have separate cards for that?

That was my thinking when I ordered MOO MiniCards. Now these slim cards – which measure 2.75” x 1.10” (or 70mm x 28mm) – are nothing new, and I began getting them from people as far back as 2008, and maybe even earlier. I felt these cards would be perfect to share the basic info I want to offer to someone, as well as the best identifying information about me, my face. Someone doesn’t need my home address when they first meet me, and if they want to send me a Christmas card, they have my email address to ask me for it. I also thought it would be a good idea to get MOO cards before I turned 50.

In the past I used to carry personal business cards, even before the days of free business cards from the likes of VistaPrint came along. But that was also in the 1990’s, when texting someone your contact information was not an option, for most likely the person you met didn’t have a cellular phone.

For full-color, good stock cards MOO MiniCards are affordable. You can get 200 cards, full-color and double-sided printing, for under US$40. I also chose the optional rounded corners. You design and order the cards through their easy-to-use Web site at moo.com. Of course you can find an online coupon code or get on their email list for specials. They sent me a coupon code with my order – 2RB2CK – for 15% off. I don’t get anything if you order, that is unless you give me one of your cards.

So did I convince you to also get MOO MiniCards? Do you already have them? Do you think they are not worth it, or are you indifferent? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/30/14 at 07:26 PM
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Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Learned This Week For January 24 2014

cover of PhotoMedia magazine from Spring 2006This week a piece of Syracuse University notepad paper hosted the eclectic list of things I learned throughout the last 7 days. Special thanks to my cousin Fedora for the notepad, and away we go.

  • Clearly I am not the only one having problems with the Cardmunch app from LinkedIn. This is evident from blog posts like this one and numerous threads in their support forum.
  • Though Ron May may no longer be of this mortal coil, his eponymous Chicago tech news site The May Report lives on, now under the guidance of his brother Paul. And they have an RSS feed.
  • Last week I mentioned about Jason Jacobsohn’s Chicagoland Entrepreneur Events newsletter, which is a bonus for signing up for his main newsletter. Follow the preceding link and you can subscribe to it directly, though you really will want to read both of them.
  • Living in Chicago made it hard to not hear about the story of Vivian Mayer, whose amazing talent for photography was only found after she defaulted on payments for a storage unit and her subsequent death. That being said, I had never really experienced her work up until that past weekend when I saw an exhibit on her at the Chicago History Museum - simply amazing.
  • There are a number of blogs who could benefit from having a CentUp button on their site. And when I say benefit, I mean earn money from readers.
  • Though past performance may be the best indicator of future performance, there is certainly no guarantee of it. This I learned the hard way when my New England Patriots lost the AFC Championship game and will not be going to the Super Bowl next week. Thanks for an awesome season, though.
  • I was talking with a colleague about hard drive storage and the accompanying picture of a magazine cover from PhotoMedia Magazine from Spring, 2006 came to mind. As she hadn’t heard about it, I searched it down – I did not recall the name of the publication only the photo itself – and found it, and thought someone may have missed it too.
  • Sears is closing its State Street, Chicago store. As someone who lives so close to it, the store was not a regular shopping trip, but we made many household purchases there, had some awesome photos taken of our kids before the portrait studio was shuddered, and bought the outfits my kids wore home from the hospital after they were born. Sears was also upfront on Twitter when I tweeted about the closing, kudos on this.
  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts – my home state – blocked the sale of Apple stock to its residents when they went public. I learned this from Jonathan Hoenig when I included him on a tweet thread about crowdfunding and risk with Len and Griffin.
  • If the windshield of your 2013 Honda Odyssey is covered with snow, make sure to close the driver’s side door before you turn on the wipers.
  • In keeping with a new closing video theme… I learned that as many times as you see the Too Hot To Handel concert it never gets old, and this past weekend was my 7th time. What is it? Watch this video on YouTube or watch it embedded below.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/24/14 at 01:00 AM
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Friday, January 17, 2014

What I Learned This Week For January 17 2014

photo of What I Learned list

So that I wouldn’t forget anything, I decided to carry around a piece of paper with me, or rather a leftover envelope from our over-order of Christmas cards. Looking back on the week, I picked up a few useful pieces of knowledge, as well as some random information. So here goes.

  • You can get Hood Dairy coffee creamers in the Midwest. Hood is a New England brand I grew up with and have never seen them outside of that area.
  • I took my very first-ever yoga class this week, and I don’t know why I never did it before. It was awesome for my mind and my body. The class is an introduction to yoga offered by Tejas Yoga in Chicago’s South Loop, and where I can’t make it next week, this is something I want to make a regular part of my week.
  • If you sign-up for Jason Jacobsohn’s Networking Insight newsletter, a great resource for networking tips, he will also put you on his Chicagoland Entrepreneur Events newsletter, listing the latest events for tech start-ups in the area.
  • The 2014 Liver Life Walk to support the American Liver Foundation’s Great Lakes Chapter will be on SATURDAY, June 14, and The “A” Team is already registered.
  • The days when neighbors who are having a party invite you as a courtesy, whether they want you to really come or you yourself want to go, are apparently over.
  • I found the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my wife, or at least I hope it is. As she reads The Hot Iron I will not mention what it is, but if you ask me, and promise not to tell her, I will share.
  • In a conversation with Nan this week she said something we were talking about was not anything she would “die on the hill” over. I had never heard of that before, but I plan to use it.
  • I had been seeing these winter coats with a small circle emblem and I had no idea what it says or what brand it was. Then one day at Mariano’s someone at the checkout in front of me had one and I was able to read it was Canada Goose. I had never heard of them, and where it may be a nice coat and all, I am sticking with my LL Bean which is about a quarter of the cost.
  • Try calling a health insurance company and tell them they have been sending insurance materials, including insurance cards and statements, to someone at your home address who has never lived there. Not to mention they have been doing this for over a year and you have marked everything “return to sender, no such addressee” and put it back in the mail. You guessed it, they had no idea what to do with my call.
  • There are politics of work, politics of play and even politics of choirs, but I’ll take The Politics of Dancing any day – enjoy this 80’s video below or watch it on YouTube and have a nice weekend!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/17/14 at 08:32 PM
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Friday, January 10, 2014

What I Learned This Week So Far This Year For January 10 2014

photo of a hotel door latch

If a day goes by where you don’t learn something new, what good is it really? Sometimes that new nugget of knowledge is welcomed and cherished, and sometimes it is scary as all hell and you wished you didn’t know it. Nonetheless, learning is what we do on this journey of life, whether we like it or not.

As this is the first “normal” Friday of the 2014, I have decided to start writing what I have learned in the previous week. As it is already 10 days into January, I will also include what I learned since New Year’s, and maybe a thing or 2 from the holidays.

So here goes:

  • You know those latches that you put on your hotel room door at night? Do you think they are completely foolproof and nobody can get by them? I learned the hard way that you can, with a few pieces of paper and this creepy video on YouTube.
  • There is a Village of Lakemoor, Illinois and they have red light cameras.
  • While everybody is talking about how fast food employees don’t make enough money, do you know how much – or little – your child’s daycare teachers make? Or the person flying the airplane you are on now? As I have no links for this, it was based on personal conversations.
  • I was not the only person waiting for the Hug Train when it pulled into Chicago last week. It was great meeting Molly and of course great seeing Arie again.
  • I have always said you shouldn’t get used to a desk (and have thought of writing about that fact here at The Hot Iron) but I got a lot of work done this week back at OfficePort Chicago. Thanks to James, Shaul and Mike for allowing me to come back every so often to be productive and social! And if you are looking for co-working space in Chicago, you must check out OfficePort for yourself.
  • With all of the problems Southwest Airlines had over the last week with snowstorms, delays and baggage handlers, one area where they really shined was with social media. I was able to rebook flights for family via Twitter direct messages. Seriously, and direct messages only! Thanks to Verity at Southwest for your help.
  • Underground nuclear tests were done in Mississippi.
  • There is something called krav maga and it is good for you.
  • Recent start-ups in Chicago can allow me to: get my dry cleaning picked up and delivered within an hour of requesting it with Dryv, donate clothing and other items to Goodwill via UPS with Give Back Box, listen to the local news in a podcast-like format with Rivet News Radio, and if I had a store with ever-changing inventory I could easily maintain a Web site of it with Live Storefronts. I am exploring all of these services more and hope to write up more on them.

Maybe you learned something new yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/10/14 at 03:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

3 New Year’s Resolution for Digital Marketers

photo of CT MooreEditor’s Note – This is a guest post from CT Moore, a recovering agency hack who helps brand leverage search and social media to meet their business goals online. By day, he heads up Search and Social at Publikit, a boutique web dev agency in Montreal, and also runs Socialed, a digital consultancy that provides digital strategy to both start-ups and multinational brands alike. You can find out more about him through his personal blog.

Aha! Another year is about to come to close and a new one will soon begin. And if you’re any kind of marketer (or business person for that matter), you’ve probably started thinking about what you could start doing in 2014, or at least do better in 2014 than you did in 2013.

image text – Thanks for not laughing at my absurdly unattainable New Year’s resolutions

Well, if that’s the mind frame you’ve been in, I’d like to suggest 3 potential New Year’s Resolutions that you should probably apply toward your upcoming marketing efforts. I have to warn you, though: if you’ve already made up your mind on how to tackle things in 2014 and aren’t open to feedback, you should probably read no further — I’ll just end up saying “I told you so” wink

#1 OWN Your Media

image of large and small sumo wrestlers

Paid media is the placement you pay for: ads, commercials, etc. Earned media is the PR and social media wins you get from doing awesome stuff and providing great customer service.

Owned media, however, is the stuff you produce that people actually care about. In fact, what kinda of makes it “media” is that people actually pay attention to it (unlike ads). It can be anything from just really helpful how-to’s to outright entertaining viral stuff, but the point is that it gets you exposure with the right target market, just like PR or advertising would.

The only difference is that you made it. And right now, 78% of CMOs believe that branded content is the future of marketing, with 25% of budgets going to content. So in 2014, start thinking about how to own your media.

In fact, start investing in media worth owning. Because, at the end of the day, content is a lot like tattoos: it can be either cheap or good, but not both.

Good content costs money to make, and you have to keep at it for a while before it pays-off; but when it pays-off, it really pays-off. From branding to public relations to SEO, it’s one of the few channels that also contributes something to all the other channels.

#2 Get Serious About Mobile

image of cat with an iPhone with text – OMG WTFYeah, I know: a lot of you think you’re serious about mobile? But are you really? I mean, are you anywhere near the companies whose marketing you admire/envy, and/or can you actually implement the kind of strategies they have going on??

Now, I could dig up a bunch of stats and quote them to create urgency and make you sympathetic to my point. But, instead, I’ll just guess (i.e. “assume”) that enough of you reading this have smart phones (and are sufficiently attached to them) that I don’t need to do that kinda thing. So let me leave you with a kind of barometer / checklist to figure out just how the eff you’re supposed to tackle mobile in 2014:

  • Mobile Sites: I’m still shocked by just how many top-tier companies/sites/portals fail at this. If you don’t have a mobile site, get one. And if you already have one, make sure that I’m redirect to it if I visit your site from a mobile device.
  • Mobile App: If your business is driven by user-experience (e.g. commerce) or content, release that App already! No repeat customer or returning user wants to deal with your mobile site. And even here I can think of a few content portals who have an otherwise great mobile engagement strategy but no mobile app…
  • Mobile Campaigns: If you’re already investing in display ads, PPC, and/or SEO, start looking at how you can divert some of that toward targeting mobile users; there are enough of them using mobile apps and searching via mobile devices that you can’t afford no to.

Okay, so you get the point? Good! Let’s move on….

#3 Start Listening to Your Customers

image of world’s most interesting man with text – I don’t always ask for user feedback… but when I do, I use it for actionable insightSo maybe you’re already doing the mobile and content thing, or may you’re not but (hopefully) are gonna start. Either way, you’re going to have to measure your progress. And, of course, you’re going to be measuring and monitoring what user actually do once they engage with your brand.

But are you being proactive in that measurement? In other words, are you actually trying to gage how your users specifically and the market at large feel about your industry?

For starters, start looking at what people are already saying about both you and your competitors. Tools like Salesforce Marketing Cloud are great for this kind of thing. They let you monitor not only your brand name but what people are saying about your industry and competitors, in general.

Step it up a notch, though, by finding what your actual user and site visitor think. There are a few service providers that can help you do this, but the (ubiquitous) one that comes to mind is iPerceptions. You’ve probably come across them in the form of their 4Q survey, which is a free tool. But they also offer a bunch of voice of customer measurement tools you can upgrade to to make sense of the data that you collect via the 4Q survey.

The point is (1) stop assuming you think you know better than your (potential) customers, and (2) stop looking at what your users might’ve done and start considering what they’re actually looking for. Because that’s the kind of insight that’s not only gonna help you step up your marketing game, but develop better products and services, the likes of which you might’ve not otherwise considered…

New Year, New Start

If you’ve read this far, I want to make one thing clear: I’m not saying you have to follow my advice. I’m just saying you should.

You’re free, of course, to disregard my advice, but I’m confident enough that you’d be wrong to do so that I wrote this blog post and put my name on it. So give it some thought; sleep on it; and do whatever it is that you have to do to “tear sh*t up” in 2014 that you’ll be too busy either optimizing some version of your site or developing new product/service that you won’t give this post another thought wink


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/31/13 at 05:55 PM
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Monday, December 16, 2013

LinkedIn Shutting Down Network RSS Feed On December 19, 2013 To My Dismay

For as many great major and incremental changes LinkedIn has made the business social networking service, they have eliminated a few services which I found resource rich and grew dependent on. One was LinkedIn Answers, a robust business question and answer section of the service which was shut down and disappeared earlier this year. Add to the list the RSS feed of network updates, which a few days ago I was informed it is going away as of the end of this week on December 19.

The following is an image of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

screenshot of LinkedIn Network RSS feed email

The following is the text of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

Dear Mike,

At LinkedIn, we strive to provide a simple and efficient experience for members so we continually evaluate how our current products and features are being used.

This sometimes means we remove a feature so we can focus our resources on building the best products.

We'll be retiring the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed on Dec. 19th. All of your LinkedIn updates and content can still be viewed on LinkedIn, or through the LinkedIn mobile app.

Please visit the Help Center for more information about the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed retirement.

Thank you,
LinkedIn

For some time now I have been subscribed to the RSS feed of my network updates. If you use LinkedIn, this is the information on its home page, which shows updates to your connection’s profiles as well as articles they have shared, groups they have joined, if they have a new connection, etc. This would allow me to see each and every update in my growing network, which was valuable to see where people were moving and information they were sharing. It was also much easier to read, as I could scan the headlines of these changes and posts, and click on anything I wanted more information on.

In other words, the network RSS feed was simple and efficient. But wait, isn’t that the same reason why LinkedIn gave for killing it?

If you couldn’t guess I love RSS!

It goes without saying that I love RSS as it is the primary way I keep informed. RSS is not just for blogs, as I get it for news, weather, sports, events, and networking information. Of course the networking information will decrease as a result of LinkedIn eliminating the network RSS feed.

Using my RSS reader of choice, Fever, I am able to aggregate all of the above information and then some. In the case of LinkedIn, I feel because of the RSS feed I am visiting their site more often, and in the process viewing the banner ads they are selling, not to mention good old-fashioned networking. Did I mention I am viewing the banner ads more often as a result of RSS?

Business decisions for business networking

My guess is I am one of a small minority of people who actually subscribe to the RSS feed, and as a result they are simply turning off the functionality. LinkedIn promoted the RSS feed, complete with the orange RSS icon, at the top of the network updates list. I can’t remember the last time I have seen this. As I have seen little uproar from others about the cancelling of this service, maybe that minority is, as I’d say in Boston, wicked small?

In addition, by controlling the display of network updates, they have the ability to offer more information and services, such as sponsored updates. I have noticed these on the site but not in my RSS feed. Of course to add these to the feed would cost money and resources, and from their message, this is something the new-publicly traded business does not want to do.

RSS is still not dead, #VIVARSS

In the end, after the dust settles from the nuclear winters, it will be just the cockroaches and RSS. Why? Well, as for RSS, it is open and distributed, does not rely on a continuous network connection to work, and is very simple to read and process. After Google killed its Reader RSS aggregator, many wondered if RSS was dead technology. Where it may not be the shiny new object on the Internet that it was, it is a core service that can easily be adopted and utilized, and that in itself makes it valuable.

Did the LinkedIn Network RSS feed shutdown impact you? Did you even know it existed? Share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/16/13 at 09:56 PM
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Amazon Associates Program Returns To Illinois And Buy This Diamond Sapphire Pendant

There were screams of joy across the Land of Lincoln (or at least in my corner of it) as I received an email inviting me back into the affiliate program for Amazon.com called Amazon Associates. So why not join me in celebrating by clicking the link below to buy this beautiful Platinum Cushion Cut Blue Sapphire And Round Diamond Pendant?

photo of Platinum Cushion Cut Blue Sapphire And Round Diamond Pendant

A Little Background

Residents of the state of Illinois were tossed out of the program back in 2011 upon the state’s passing of the Main Street Fairness Act. The law recognized affiliates of Amazon and other online companies, those who did not have a physical presence in Illinois, as the physical presence of those companies, and thus required purchases made through affiliate links and Web sites to be taxed with Illinois state tax. I wrote about this back then in an eloquent piece called Pat Quinn Screws Entrepreneurship In Illinois By Signing Amazon Tax Bill.

The intent of the law was to “level the playing field” – and I am quoting the politicians who supported it, including Illinois governor Pat Quinn – between brick and mortar stores across the state and online retailers, the latter who have been taking business from the former. Where the intent was good, the law did not do anything to make anything more fair for anyone. As quickly as Amazon dropped its affiliates, it never missed a beat in its own sales. Residents of Illinois were still buying from Amazon, and as a result choosing to not buy from local stores. It actually had a negative effect as people and businesses who were affiliates – from myself to other bloggers to coupon companies like Coupon Cabin – either lost money or were chased from Illinois to neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin. And as these people and companies pay taxes on their affiliate earnings, the state lost out on that tax revenue.

Welcome Back

In October, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the Main Street Fairness law, paving the way for the return of the program. Just hours before I wrote this post, I got an email from Amazon Associates inviting me back into the program, and the text of the short but to the point email is below.

Hello,

We're pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We're now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:

http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/apply/main.html

Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.

What it means to myself and others

The return of the program is definitely good news for those who run affiliate programs or are seeking to monetize their Web sites. The world of affiliate marketing is vast and, in my opinion, fascinating and too much to talk about in this post alone. For myself and this little corner of the Internet called The Hot Iron, I am certainly not looking at the return of the program as a cash cow. In the past links to products – namely books and electronics – were affiliate links to Amazon, and if anyone purchased them, I would get a percentage of the cost.

This is why I am welcoming back the program with what I found as a very beautiful piece of jewelry, let alone pricy. The affiliate earnings for this pendant would pay for a nice vacation, or a couple of months of my daughter’s daycare. I will admit I never got rich off the program in the past, and I don’t see myself doing so in the future, as links on The Hot Iron were never obtrusive and hopefully a compliment to the site.

I also welcome your thoughts and questions on Amazon Associates in the comments to this post. I am curious if the return of affiliate programs like this one will impact you or not, or if you even knew they went away to begin with.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/04/13 at 11:27 PM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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