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FreshBooks Industry Benchmarks from FreshBooks on Vimeo.

Today Freshbooks announced that they will be publishing aggregate benchmark data on a quarterly basis. They’ve been sending out this data and more to customers for some time now, but now they’re going to publish some of the data to the general public.

Check it out, and if you are a SaaS company, take note and learn from these guys. They get it, and they continue to come up with creative ways to leverage the delivery method.

Great product, great company, great service. I can’t say enough about these guys!

Here are a few additional posts of mine about Freshbooks:

Freshbooks – SaaS Through and Through
Freshbooks = Awesome

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As someone who’s always been fascinated by the human mind and how we think and make decisions, I was very interested in the concept of multiple mental models, outlined by Charles Munger in Poor Charlie’s Almanac. Back in May, I was introduced to ThinkMentalModels.com, and conversed with Dean Isaji, author of the ThinkMentalModels compilation.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Dean and I ask him a few questions about the multiple mental models concept, and his work.

Dean’s Background

A bit of a background on Dean before we jump into the questions. Dean is a graduate from Cambridge, England and first worked in South Africa, for Eskom (the utility company). After completing his MBA at the University of Cape Town and then, after a spell in Hong Kong, he began working in the strategy and planning department at British Airways, in London. Presently Dean is pursuing some entrepreneurial ventures in America, through his own holding company.

Questions

1) How long have you been interested in the concept of multiple mental models?

I have been reading and thinking about the mental model concept for about 9 years. In the main this has consisted of reading – a lot – and making copious notes. The initial idea of trying to think better came from reading Tony Buzan’s Mind Map book.

2) What motivated you to compile the Think Mental Models collection?

At first, I wanted it for my own reference – thinking it would be handy to have it accessible on a PDA via the internet. But after reviewing the initial idea with some friends, I thought there would be real value to others. Hence I have complied an affordable PDF available for purchase.

3) Of the 130+ models contained in the collection, are there 10 or so that you find are used the most?

The most used  is the ‘disconfirming evidence’ model. I have then broken the others up into various categories – more specialized than the broader website categories – and use a memory system in order to apply them to a given issue. I cannot really say that there are therefore 10 most useful models.

4) What is the greatest benefit that you have reaped from using the multiple mental models approach to decision making/problem solving?

I have found that I’m able to think with more speed and rigor when confronting an issue. There is the added advantage of ‘confidence’. This is a little harder to quantify, but – paraphrasing Charlie Munger – the confidence comes from almost always being able to provide useful inputs in a group setting, often with people much smarter than myself.

5) Do you have suggestions for study tactics and ways to retain the mental models outlined in the collection?

I do use an extensive memory system and I practice the models on a daily basis. At this point I don’t really want to get too much into execution as I may develop it into an online course.

6) Any additional suggestions or information you’d like to share.

What I have found surprising is that many people cannot immediately see the benefits of thinking broadly across disciplines. But even considering my own education, at no point was I taught to ‘think about how I think’. This is probably true for others and may be one of the explanations for why people tend to shy away from an active mental model process. The other reason may be much simpler. In ‘Men and Rubber’, by Harvey Firestone, the author recalls a Thomas Edison quote – “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking“.

You can view a number of the mental models on Dean’s website.  However, I HIGHLY recommend the ThinkMentalModels compilation PDF.  At $4.45, it’s easily worth at least 10 times that.

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Dealing With “Out of Market” Leads

Regardless of how well you target your messaging and pre-qualify your leads, you can always do better.  In addition, you will always get some leads that slip through that are “out of market”, or that are clearly not looking for what you have to offer.

What do you do in those cases? I’ve seen a number of approaches. Some just flag the lead as “dead”, or “junk” and never look at them again.  Some send them an automated follow up email that attempts to clarify what their product or service is, and invites them to respond if they are in fact truly interested.  Your approach really depends on your business/market/product.

What if You Could Provide a Bit More Value?

What if when you receive a lead that is clearly out of market, you could clarify your product or service AND point them in the right direction if they are really looking for something else? Then, you could also ask them to refer your product or service to someone they know that may have a need for it.   Maybe even include a special offer, and some kind of incentive to refer someone?

This could be done in a two step approach – clarify first, then upon response send them in the right direction, or all in one step.

For example:

Thanks for your interest in ABC Pizza Management Software.  ABC Pizza Management is the only business management solution developed specifically for Pizza shop owners.

Based on the information you’ve provided, it looks like you are looking for a CRM solution for your Pet Store.  While our software is flexible, ABC Software is built specifically for Pizza shop owners and may not be the best fit for you.   A few possible solutions that you may want to take a look at are:

- Pet Shop Pro (www.petshoppro.com)
- Pet Store Control Suite (www.petstorecontrolsuite.com)

By the way, if you know any Pizza shop owners, please let me know or send them my way.  Here’s a link that you can direct them to, and if they become a customer, I’ll even send you 50% of their first months usage fees!

www.pizzapizzamgr.com/register.aspx?yourname

I hope I’ve been helpful, and all the best.

Again, how well this will work and how easily it will scale depends on your business/market/product.   It also doesn’t need to be an email, as this could potentially work really well over the phone.  Think about the impression you’d leave by going out of your way to meet that person’s need in an unexpected way.

Additional Value To Be Derived

One thing to also keep in mind is that over time, you will probably see some sort of trend with regards to the misunderstandings about your product.  This should:

  1. Tip you off as to how you can improve your messaging
  2. Enable you to scale the above approach, by helping you identify the handful of solutions that you suggest on a regular basis.
  3. Give you insight into potential partnerships (depending on the volume), even if only as a referral agent.

Why not give it a try for a period of time, and compare it against your current approach?

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What do you do, Jesse Kliza?


Posted By on Sep 17, 2008

Chris Brogan posted a question this morning, looking for feedback regarding what people felt new marketers and new media marketing agencies should be doing. As always, Chris’ post and the related comments are well worth the time to read in their entirety.

So what do you do Jesse?

I’ve thought about what I do, and I think it can be boiled down to this:

I help organizations explode the traps of traditional thinking about business, and realize the value of every individual.

Every individual that has any form of relationship with your organization (employee, customer, partner, prospect, etc) has value beyond what’s on the surface. Anyone can be an evangelist for your organization, anyone can bring you the “next big thing”, anyone can help you fix a business problem. It’s your job to let them, engage them and nurture them.

What is “new marketing” specifically?

As someone who’s been in marketing for almost 5 years now, having had no formal training, my thinking about business and marketing is almost exclusively shaped by my experience and personal character. I love people, and am a firm believer in the value of every individual.  From a marketing perspective, this means I believe that organizations need to be as closely connected and engaged with their customers and market as possible. Marketing is a conversation. It’s not just about what YOU do as a company. It’s about what the INDIVIDUALS IN YOUR MARKET tell you you’ve done/do, what they tell OTHERS you’ve done/do, what they tell you they need and how YOU respond.

What about all the cool new tools?

New marketing isn’t just about the new tools, the new mediums, the messaging… it’s about changing an organization’s mindset and approach to how they operate and interact with their market.

Enough about what I think, what do you think?

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Oh wow, you’re the CEO!?  SENIOR Vice President, you must be really important!

…YUCK!

Titles Influence Actions

Think about this. If you automatically attribute certain rights and privileges to a certain “class” of titles, your interactions with those people are artificially influenced right out of the gate. In addition, if you attribute a level of superiority with certain titles and YOU have one of those titles, that can influence the way you interact with other people as well.

I was talking with someone recently about an issue at their company.  They said that they thought that they had a fine solution, but they didn’t feel comfortable sharing it because they’re not “a director”.  Please!!!  That kind of stuff drives me nuts. As I shared with him my feelings about that kind of thinking, it became clear that he had gotten the “who are you to suggest something to me?” treatment from people in his company before, which sadly prevents him now from speaking up.

Knowing that certain kinds of titles influence the way people act, why do we still insist on having those types of titles within our organizations?  Don’t we want every person within our organization to feel like they can disagree with anyone, and that their ideas are as important as anyone else’s? Don’t we want people to gain respect and admiration based solely on their contributions and character, not an artificial label?

So what’s your title? Do you think people would address you differently if your title were something “less important”?

Time For A New Approach

Why not revisit the way you assign titles?  Do you need them at all?  Maybe each person in your company can make up their own title?  Maybe your title is based on the department you work in, and is the same as everyone else in the department?  Maybe a title has clear objective accomplishments that need to be met in order to attain it, yet it’s not tied to any rigid management hierarchy?

In the end, it comes down to the culture and management structure of your organization.  Unfortunately, some companies want titles to keep people in a box.  Other companies have traditional titles, but they have such a strong culture of equality and value for each individual that titles may not have much of an effect on the way people treat one another.  In the end, titles alone will obviously not solve the problem of overly hierarchical and bureaucratic management, but they can play a role in breaking down those barriers.

Only you can judge the effects of titles in your organization.  It’s worth considering.

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Last Thursday I had a meeting with the someone in downtown Troy New York, to talk about the work we’re doing with OurTroy.com. I had just eaten quickly before the meeting and I stopped into the Illium Cafe to pick up a pack of gum, or some mints to help ensure my speaking was well received. :-)

I noticed right away that they had none available at the usual spot. I told the ladies behind the counter that I was running to meet with someone, and I was looking for some gum or mints, but didn’t see any out. They apologized and informed me that they had just run out. HOWEVER, in the exact same response, the manager Beth Duval went to her own purse and then handed me some gum of her own!

Two things companies can takeaway from this:

1) Go above an beyond, and meet a need in an unexpected way. Meeting a need in an unexpected way is a powerful thing. The positive shock/surprise makes the experience with your brand that much more impactful. It’s hard to forget, and it’s a great way to generate positive word of mouth.

Rather than repeat it, here is a great post by Maki over at Dosh Dosh that gives an excellent explanation of the cognitive cause of surprise, and how it effects one’s behavior.

Look for ways that you can do something for your customers that meets a need in a way that they would not expect.

2) Remember to nurture the individuals who are already talking about your company/brand, or that you know are repeat and happy customers. Going above and beyond for these people in particular is important, because you might just do the one thing that makes them “tip”, and do something above and beyond in return. (Like me sharing my great experience at the Illium Cafe in this post)

In trying to build word of mouth, many times people think they need to do something big or crazy to appeal to a mass crowd of people who have never heard their message. This has its place, but don’t forget to focus on the individuals who are already talking about you.

Not everyone will communicate their experience with your brand, but nurturing your repeat and happy customers is never a bad thing.

Bravo Illium Cafe, and keep up the great work on all fronts!

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Bartender - Photo by sheilaz413

I participated in a webinar earlier today focused on building B-to-B communities. There was a question about how to manage a community, and Jeff Sandquist of Microsoft gave an answer that I really liked. He said that managing a community is like bartending. If you’re a good bartender, you should be a good community manager.

Here are some thoughts on why:

  • - Both need to know how to engage people that are lonely
  • - Both need to know when to step back and just listen
  • – Both need to know when to send someone home/away that is disruptive and harmful to the experience of others
  • – Both need to know when and how to restore order and calm disputes
  • - Both need to be approachable and welcoming
  • - Both need to work at making people want to come back again and again
  • - Both need to clean up after others
  • - Both need to know what “the regulars” want/like the most

Can you think of any other competencies that good bartenders share with good community managers?

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When it comes to innovation and the nurturing of new ideas, I’m a firm believer in participation by a very diverse group of people within one’s organization.  You may not think that the lady in HR has anything insightful to add to a conversation about a totally new technology idea - but that is exactly why you should include her.

Something New or Different Introduced

Innovation by definition is “something new or different introduced”.  Why not do exactly that in your process of nurturing new ideas? Introduce someone totally new to the process.   Someone you would never imagine could have anything to add.

I venture to say you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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