Monday, July 20, 2009


A Breckenridge, Colorado Company has come up with a kind of co-op, opt-in email service for local markets.

Blirp allows local businesses to register for a free basic package that enables them to send "unadvertised" special offers to their local subscribers. Blirp sends an email message to the subscriber with some random offers from local businesses, along with a link to the complete list of local offers.

Subscribers can choose to receive emails daily or weekly.

How is this different from Twitter? It's zip code targeted and subscribed to by people looking specifically for offers from local businesses.

The model has potential. I could see the host company (in this case Blirp), offering premium services, covering multiple and more targeted lists, as well as things like tracking services and access to data they develop as a consequence of offering the service.

The tricky part is creating demand on the part of the consumer. If someone is going to use something on a regular basis, they have to derive real value from it. A big part of the success of this experiment will be the quality of the offers and the merchants making them.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Could 2d barcodes bring new life to print media?

Quick Response (QR) or 2d barcodes have been big in Japan for years. They look like random ink blots but are actually symbols for encoded text and they just might bring print media into the 21st century.

The code generation software is available free from many sites on the web, as is reader software. When you use your cell phone's camera to "snap" one of these codes it can take you to a website or display text messages. So far this technology has been vastly underused in this country.

What this has the potential to enable is hard copy text with hyperlinks. If you've got a web enabled cell phone, you can be reading a paper, magazine, catalog or any printed material and point and click your way to more information, related sites, updates or even purchase a product. Advertisers could place them within their print ads, postcards, brochures, etc.. You could put one on the back of your business card that could take people directly to your website or blog. You could put one on a concert or event poster to give people access to immediate online ticket purchase. Newspapers could drive traffic to their websites for the latest continuous updates on stories.

Unlike links on a webpage, 2D links are always there, always on. You don't turn off a poster when you leave the room, and you don't have to navigate to it when you come back. They could even be placed on buildings and landmarks to link to information about them and the businesses within them. Imagine a reader embedded in a car windshield that could be used to read a code from a sign on the side of the road and display a roadmap centered on your location. That site could further link to area business directories and other locally relevant information (for the passenger to read of course). The technology is already here and it's inexpensive. We just haven't made widespread use of it to date.

It's not rocket science. It's a fairly simple solution to a nagging inconvenience; having to type in a search term or URL on a tiny little keypad. It doesn't require any transmission other than the light rays that bounce off from everything, all the time. It can be deployed as fast as you can print and post.

Cell phones alone were not enough to make anywhere/anytime internet surfing as effortless as it needs to be for widespread acceptance. These little inkblots combine the permanence and convenience of hard copy with the fluidity and utility of the web. The print industry may well be revived by enhancing the medium many thought would destroy it.

For free qr code generation visit:

For links to free QR code reader software:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Six degrees, It's not just for Kevin Bacon anymore

I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about networking, both in the IT sense and the social/business sense. There have been many studies performed that actually seem to confirm that nearly every person on the planet can be linked to every other person on the planet with six or seven connections between people each know personally (a friend of a friend of a friend....).

The emerging science of networks has also discovered that a similar pattern exists in randomly generated networks like the internet and the power grid. They feature clusters or groups that share information with each other on a regular basis, connected to other clusters through randomly generated, but critical connections. Clusters with unusually large numbers of connections to other clusters serve as hubs. A system with millions of clusters can enable a connection between any two through a small number of hubs. Direct connections between hubs make the trip much shorter.

Another pattern that has emerged is that most people have about 5 or fewer really close relationships (strong connections) with other individuals. Before you start thinking about your 527 "friends" on Facebook, consider only those people with whom you engage in direct two way conversation on a daily basis. Now eliminate those you converse with because it's part of your job. Consider only those you contact daily simply because you want to. I'm guessing the number is quite a bit smaller than 527. If I had to take another guess (and I do), I'd wager that the number is not coincidence, but a natural optimization.

What are the take-aways for business networking. First and foremost, always keep in mind that every person you interact with is likely just 6 handshakes away from the most important person in your universe (besides yourself). You don't know who they talk to or who the people they talk to talk to. Make sure, to the greatest extent possible, that the encounter is something that will be relayed in a good light. In other words, do the right thing, every time. There are no insignificant people.

Another possible take-away is that if my hypothesis is correct, that an element within a network can most efficiently deal with a limited number of strong connections, make the most of them. If your most frequent contacts are all in the same field, your only connecting to one cluster. You may want to consider making time for developing other relationships in more tangential fields. For example, most mortgage brokers like to make connections with realtors. This makes good sense. The fields are very closely related. But what if our mortgage broker somehow established a strong working relationship with a grocer? Grocers come in contact with a wide variety of people every day. What kind of cooperative marketing opportunities might arise? How many more people might be reached? What if you established some sort of working relationship with the manager of the Safeway in the neighborhood in which you'd like do more business. Odds are, the staff at the local Safeway are among the most familiar people to those who reside in the area.

Although the number of strong connections in our business and personal lives may be fairly small, we also have a great deal of lesser connections; acquaintances, business associates, suppliers, clients, customers, neighbors, etc. During the infrequent and possibly very brief periods that you come in contact with any one of these individuals, it would behoove you to really listen to what they are saying. The more you know about someone, the more you know about who they might know. I'm not suggesting invading anyone's privacy, but if information is being offered, be receptive and attentive.

Establishing a good working network is about more than receiving information though. You make good connections, in part, by being a good connection. Be alert for opportunities to put people in touch with others who can help them, or who may be willing and able to work with them for their mutual benefit. Even if you are not directly involved in the ensuing transaction, you have proven yourself a valuable link to both parties and that has value in and of itself. If you establish and maintain yourself as a sought after hub, you don't have to ask for favors, they'll come looking for you. It's how we reinforce connections.

Of course, all these connections aren't worth very much unless you have the ability and confidence to communicate with them effectively and efficiently. Communication with people you don't know very well can be awkward and intimidating. There's no magic bullet for getting over this apprehension. The only thing for it is practice. Engage, evaluate, adjust, repeat. Ultimately, you don't become proficient at networking by attending seminars, reading books, watching videos, or even from great blogs. You learn by doing.

Making time for new connections may mean taking time away from others. But, as the most successful CEO's know, you don't have to know everyone or everything, you just have to know who knows who and develop the ability and the wisdom to recognize, nurture and make the most of your network.