Today I was right on top of the news. Quite literally. The Cost Engineering offices are in a building in Zwijndrecht which houses more companies. One of these companies is the ABN AMRO bank. This morning it was robbed. It was surreal. Guys smashing the bank window with hammers and shooting at a female police officer. I have to admit that I was on the phone on the other side of the building at the time, but my colleagues were only too happy to bring me up to speed. After that, I followed what happened as it happened. With the help of storytlr.com I turned what I shared into a small story for you to read. And I love the way it has turned out.
This week Vodafone found out that they have customers who care. Not about their brand, not about their services, but about the package. Vodafone was offering the highest speed mobile internet available on the Dutch market and they were offering it at only a tenner. Starting it was easy and so was using it. And then it all went wrong. Vodafone announced that they would be following the market on the speed of mobile internet. And this meant they would reduce the speed to less than a tenth of the current speed, without giving another option or reducing the price. What happened next is something Vodafone could have expected from the beginning. Their customers spoke up. They talked on forums, they talked on blogs, they talked on twitter and everywhere else. The whole deal even hit the Dutch government. And slowly it sank in with Vodafone that this might not be the way to do it. That this might just hurt their client base. And they listened. Yesterday afternoon Vodafone announced that their plans were off the table and that all changed would be reverted. Great. Except that they did go all the way in implementing them. And this will have earned them a lot of sceptisism from the people that would promote them otherwise. And that will consider other providers if they offer the same speed at the same cost. vodafone has just found out that if you have a tribe, and you go against it, it will go against you. And that hurts you even if you revert your decision within four days. It would have been better to consider all the possible options before launching the plan. To talk with their customers about options and to listen to them. It would have made all the difference.
Last Monday I restyled my blog. I felt it was in need of a new look so I went looking for the best way to do it. The trouble is that I wanted it quick and I am not a WordPress wonder. So I grabbed a standard theme and changed the header for a picture I shot a while ago.
Twitter is fantastic. I post when I post a blogpost. In fact, I post lots of other stuff there as well, as my blog is just a very tine piece of what I do on twitter. Today I asked for feedback on my blog and got some very nice pointers. Some I had received earlier through chat or mail and some suggestions were new. In any case, I loved them because they are the equivalent of advice given to a woman trying on something new. You know the question. And that is the question I would love to ask you to give me feedback on. Does my blog look big in this? Or do you have ideas to make it look bigger? Just let me know and I will try to incorporate all your ideas.
P.S. And if your idea would be to restyle it even more with one of your themes, just let me know as I would be interested as well.
Yesterday I talked to a recruitment agency. They approached me a while ago and they wanted to business with me. I set them one condition for an inititating meeting. I asked her to bring a relevant resume. If not, I would not make the appointment. I didn’t think of that anymore, until I received a phone call yesterday morning. She called in saying that she had two resume’s, but that none of them matched my rofile 100 percent, but that she thought that the people could fit the job if we wanted them to. But she also said that she would understand if I wanted to cancel the meeting on those grounds. I did not expect that. But I told her she could come and we would go over the resumes. And that is when she earned the right to be heard. The perfect position to be in, if you want to sell.
When I was in Berlin last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim O’Reilly in our pitchcar. I have to say that I enjoyed that time. After hearing his keynote on how the future will be for startups, it was only natural to see our conversation drift that way. And we agreed that the key element for anyone to become successful in the current market would be passion. A passion to work on something that you would work on anyway regardless of whether you would get funded. Regardless of the interest it gets from the media, regardless of whether it will be a quick way to earn lots of money. It comes down to the passion of the people behind it. Their enthusiasm for the question they want to answer and their joy when users benefit from using the service. This is something we both feel very strongly about.
For me personally passion is important in what I do. I have a passion for people. And my passion for people only naturally became a passion for social media, because that is full of them. And that is why I loved spending time with Tim O’Reilly. Because besides all that he has talked about and all that he has done in the past, in the end he is a man of passion. When talking to him, he will lean forward, he will use his gestures and his eyes will light up. He is passionate about what he does. And even though he has a pretty big organisation behind him, I believe that he would be doing exactly the same thing if he wouldn’t. A great demonstration that passion is the key to succes, if it is genuine and for no other reason than the subject you are working on.
Last week I received an invite to the beta launch of Wayzon.com. Not specifically interesting as I get invites more often, but as it is close to an idea I used to have, I thought it was worth a try. After registration I came into a very pleasant looking visual representation of people that have similar interests to mine and who are on the same network. That is a great idea. One that I was talking about a year ago or so. Anyway, as I went over more of the details, I found a good couple of points which I would consider changing. As I am a demanding customer and one that likes to let people know what he thinks, I replied to the mail with the invite. I received a response within ten minutes thanking me for the suggestions and after a quick exchange of some suggestions by email, I received an extra mail telling me they were going to send me a t-shirt.
To be honest, I am not to be bought with a t-shirt. But what I do fall for is the service that is there. If we pull this thing apart it is a very basic way of dealing with your customers. A customer tries your product, he gets back to you with feedback, you tell the customer how you are going to del with it and then you give him something to show your appreciation. How many companies actually do that? And how many do I write about? There you go. On a very simple, very small scale, this is how it works. So are you rewarding your most valuable customers for their feedback on your business/product/service? Or do you not even give them a chance to make the suggestions. Because they will talk about you anyway, but it is your choice what they are going to be telling.
As you will all have heard, Obama won the elections on the 4th of November. If nothing else, what I liked about his approach was his use of social media. He really was working on gathering people around him to carry his ideas further and communicate them to their friends. By using the established networks such as Facebook (2.5 million followers), LinkedIn (500+ contacts) and twitter (119,486 followers) but also by building the my.barackobama.com site. A great approach. And a great example of leading a tribe to influence the world. However, the question I am left with is this. Will Barack keep it up? Will we hear from him next week, next month or in April when he has been in office for four months. Will we still be able to contact him this way and will he still share with his followers what he is doing. Or will the site be hushed and will we wake up to the fact that it has been a great marketing effort to push the name and push the man. I sincerely hope not, because we have had a great taste of what social media are able to do when they are a part of your complete approach to reaching your potential tribe. Lets keep that up @barackobama and lets keep on talking. It might even be a bit more personal to my taste as you see with @MaximeVerhagen the Dutch minister of foreign affairs. But at least @barackobama, lets stay in touch. Can I hear your “Yes we can!” on that?
Right now, if you are not talking about the US elections, you are talking about the possible recessions which might hit the world. And it probably will. Mainly because the media want it to. But that is another story. For many people, a possible recession generates uncertainty and doubt about the future. It is a hard time. Or is it? Is a recession something to scare us, or is it something we need to face head on. Something we need to think about. Not long and hard, but quick and hard. Because in a time of recession the survivors are the ones that have been able to adapt quickly enough to the new situation. In a time of recession it becomes more and more clear that your relationships matter. Because it will be the customers you have the best relationship with, that will keep coming back. Even when your product or service costs a bit more than your neighbors. In that way, a slowing economy show you what your customers think about you. Even if you are only competing on prices.
A slowing economy is a challenge. A challenge to get out there more and make more of less. Less money coming in, less advertising and less giveaways. Your key to success in this time is to make sure your relationships are solid. Because they will result in more customers, more turnover and more recommendations from your current customers to their friends. Relationships allow you to grow against the flow. Because everyone loves to be loved.
Yes, I am cheap. I got the audiobook from audible.com for free. Seth Godin’s latest book is on tribes. What? Tribes. The second meaning the Oxford dictionary lists for tribes is “a distinctive close-knit social or political group”. And that is what Seth is talking about. A close group of people that are lead by a leader. And that leader isn’t just anybody. That leader is you.
Honestly, I have not finished the book just yet. I have quite some time still to go. But I have to write about it already. Because it is all new to me? Well, not really. I am a very firm believer in all things related to social media, as most of you will know. Only this afternoon I stated that relational marketing is the marketing of the near future. And I stated that to my old marketing teacher. Why I have to write about Seth’s book, is because it has made me think again. I have had a number of things in the back of my head, that I had not taken action on. They have just been lying around there gathering braindust. But if there is something Seth’s book does, it is getting you involved. It gets you thinking about how you can be a leader. About what type of unconventional ideas you are having. And it makes you dream about what it would be like if those ideas could be put into practice.
So the question that remains is what YOU have been dreaming about lately? Or over the past few years even. What is the thing you would most love to do? What is the change you would want to make in the future? Think about that while you read the book, or listen to it. And then get up and do something about it. Not because it is fun to lead, not because it will give you status, not even because of what you will be achieving. But mainly because you love doing it and because you have a passion for the change you would want to make. And that is the best reason if ever there was one.
If you read this blog, it will not have escaped your attention that I was in Berlin last week at the Web 2.0 Expo. It was a fantastic week, not in the least due to the sponsoring I got to do the pitchstops. Through doing those I met lots of new people and exchanged ideas with many of them. A literal vehicle to make this happen was the Ford S-Max. Ford Netherlands jumped in to sponsor our trip to Berlin with a loaded Ford S-Max, which we could use for the interviews we did in Berlin. And I have to say, it was a great car.
It all started off with my question on how to get to Berlin in style for the Web 2.0 Expo. Unfortunately a number of brands rejected the whole idea. Both BMW and Citroën even stated that they were not interested in social media exposure at all. But Ford is working hard on finding the value communities can offer its brand and Scott Monty reacted positively to the idea. As he connected me with Dennis Homburg at Ford Netherlands, the search for a suitable car started and the end result was the S-Max. A spacious car with a sporty outside due to the sports package and the huge 20″ alloy wheels.
To be honest, I was a bit sceptical about the Ford. I have driven Ford’s before and I never really liked the seats. And on a trip to Berlin, you really spend a lot of time in those. However, the S-Max exceeded my expectations. Of course the car dazzled you at first with it good looks and even two-tone leather on the seats. During the pitches in Berlin the car even changed names from the Pitchmobile to the Pimpmobile. But driving it for so many ours revealed that the car was much more than just good looks.
I enjoyed the S-Max thoroughly. So much so, that I never actually let go of the wheel, except when I got Erno Hannink to drive it to the Berlin Conference Center once. But the only reason for that was that I still had to change after running. Sorry about that guys. It was just a good wheel to be holding. Speedwise the 2.5 turbo leaves nothing to be desired, as long as you keep track of the gear you are in. Accelerating from 120 in sixth will not be heartstopping, but go down two gears and you are flying. As long as you make sure the turbo is spinning, performance is great. And one of the nice additions for the autobahn was the adaptive cruise control. It keeps you at a safe distance of the car you are following, regardless of what speed you are doing. Well, I have to correct that. It only works until 180 kilometers an hour as it does not allow you to use cruise control above that speed. And that is not a bad idea. Because you need all your concentration at speeds that exceed that. Nevertheless, even when it topped out at 220, we still had someone asleep in the car. A testimony to the relative ease with which the S-Max seems to be performing. And that was something we all agreed upon. Travelling with five to Berlin and four coming back, we did notice that four adults fitted the car much more comfortably. But five worked great if a bit cosier in the back seat. We never pulled up the two rear seats, because we did not have to, but anyone bigger than a child would have been challenged to sit in there for the whole trip by the looks of it.
As an overall result, I was very pleased with the S-Max. It looked great, had good performance and got us there reasonably rested. A good travelling companion. Thanks Ford. It was a good experience.
Over the last week I have been pretty busy at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin. It all started with an invitation to the bloggers program, but it grew to become something all on its own. This post is a quick overview of all the people that got into the Ford S-Max to do a short interview on their startup or their view of the future.
We started on Monday morning at Upstream in Arnhem. On the way there and in Arnhem we used our qik livestream. You can still find it at http://qik.com/mobilecowboys. However, the quality was not what we had hoped for so we moved everything to youtube. There you can see the video’s of:
This is a complete list of all the interviews that I have done over the Web 2.0 Expo. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed watching them as well as showing you some great new insights and initiatives.
I also want to say thanks. Thanks to Ford for supplying the S-Max 2.5 turbo, which was an absolutely great car. Thanks to Nokia for supplying the N82 for live streaming and the N96 for the recordings we have put on youtube. And of course to Vodafone for supplying us with the roaming to work with live streaming.
A very personal thanks goes out to Erno Hannink for selflessly promoting the pitch stops at every single opportunity he could. And another very big thanks has to go to Janetti Chon. Thanks for arranging all we needed to pull this off. You have made this an awesome Web 2.0 Expo.
We had a great time at the Web 2.0 Expo filming our Pitchstops. And unexpectedly our good friend Marlooz turned up. Marlooz runs Marloozvertizing where you can hire her to do the video coverage at your event. Enthusiastic as ever, she flipped out her camera and did a great behind the scenes of our Pitchstops. Thanks a million Marlooz!