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2 Posts authored by: Chris Brogan

Well over a 100,000 people descended on Las Vegas in January to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest event of its kind. Almost immediately, trends start to appear. Again, these are consumer electronics, so it’s heavily aimed at products like bigger televisions and smaller earbuds and smart homes and robots. b6efacee-4841-4064-833e-50822452bf65.jpg

 

What makes CES useful to you as a business owner is that it points towards trends and potential paths your customers might adopt and how those could impact your business. You can do a little future-telling, if you think through the implications of what is shown there. To that end, there’s a big trend that keeps growing every year and you’ve probably ignored it up to now.

 

Time to Think Differently About Computers

 

The term computer itself is silly. Very few of us ask our desktops, laptops, mobile devices or tablets  to “compute.” We answer emails, check texts, watch Netflix, and play music. The device we use for all this has changed rapidly, too. It used to be dominated by desktop computers: clunky things with big monitors. One day, as if someone flipped a switch, everyone was issued a laptop instead. Smartphone popularity soared  almost overnight in 2007 with the first iPhone. And then a few years later came the iPad.

 

How do you run your business? If you’re like most everyone, there are a mix of devices. You might have a few “big” computers, a laptop or two, and everyone has a smartphone, at the very least.

 

It hasn’t stopped, though. Amazon launched Alexa in 2014. Google Home came two years later. Both devices let you talk instead of having to type, poke or swipe anything. In fact, every date you see in this article was acquired by me asking: “Hey Google, when was ___ launched,” and a voice telling me the dates I needed. I didn’t even have to stop typing this article to get the information.

 

With Alexa, I can say things like, “Alexa, order me some more Post-It notes,” and she’ll say “The last order was for 3M Classic Yellow Square Post-Its. Would you like me to reorder these?” I say yes and those stickies will arrive in two days without me even thinking about it.

 

The way we think of “computers” as this thing that certain people in your organization use must change. And further, the way you look at how these devices are changing your customer’s lives should adapt as well.

 

What’s Here and What’s Almost Here

 

You might also have heard the term IoT, which stands for the Internet of Things (some say  it should be called “the Intelligence of Things”). Smart speakers and more sensors mean there will be even less need to use what you think of today as a “computer” to interact with the world. I can say “Hey Google, what’s the weather” and “How’s the traffic between here and the Prudential Building?”

 

The people at Intel coined a new term called “the Passenger Economy.” They’re using it to point out that between Uber, Lyft  and the arrival of self-driving cars, fewer people will be required to keep their eyes on the road. This drives an interest in more entertainment (podcasts and YouTube and video streaming).

 

That also means self-driving vehicles will be programmed with a destination and that your location won’t be as important as it once was, unless you make it worth someone’s time to program you into their travel path as well.

 

Think about that. The way most local businesses operate is that someone either has a direct need to visit, or they are swayed to visit when they drive by your location. That second kind of traffic may dry up in the near-term future, where people provide an end point instead of just wandering around.

 

People are paying less and less attention to mainstream entertainment and information sources. Meg Whitman (former CEO of Hewlett Packard) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (SKG) are launching “Quibi,” a content streaming service that focuses on sub-10-minute content. Not only are we paying less attention to the standard mainstream sources for news and information, we’re paying less attention period. At 10 minutes max per episode on Quibi,  that’s lots more time than users typically spend on Instagram posts or Snapchat videos and the like.

 

What Can You Take Away From This?

 

There’s lots to think about, but that usually pushes us into shutting down and ignoring everything equally. Let me give you a few bite-sized nuggets to consider:

 

If you need to reach people, the mainstream isn’t enough. You should consider trying out new platforms like social networks and places like podcasts and YouTube.

Attention spans are smaller and smaller. Package information accordingly. Think in “text message sized” interactions. (Hint: this article is probably too long.)

It’s no longer okay to shrug off “future stuff” because a lot of it is coming true – and faster than before. Get smarter about mobile devices and smart speakers.

If people can just ask Alexa or Google Home to buy something, will your product be the one they ask for? Why not?

What are you doing the old way that might need updating for the 2020s and beyond?

 

It’s scary, but you need to consider all this, if you want to stay competitive rolling forward.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3335-396659/chris-brogan-headshot.jpgsupport modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. chris brogan.pngWe all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Running a small business means you have a thousand roles split between (often) just a few people. Very few small companies have a formal “IT Department” taking care of their technical needs and, as a result, resort to either a third-party support company or occasionally, the boss’s niece, who’s “good with computers.”

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It’s not like you need to follow every gee whiz technology trend that comes along, but there are a few changes you should make over the next twelve months if you haven’t already. None of these are especially expensive, and all of these have a hidden benefit of improving your business all the way around.

 

Switch to Cloud Storage and Backup

 

If you’ve seen commercials or read articles talking about “the cloud” when it comes to business and tech, they basically use the term to mean that some or all of the information you’re accessing doesn’t exist on your laptop or desktop computer. For small businesses, companies like Dropbox and Box are great starting points for doing this upgrade. Look to move any important computer files off the hard drive of your laptop and copy them into a secure service like Dropbox or Box, so you can access them on your computer without worrying about what happens when your cousin comes to visit the office and spills coffee on the company’s most important computer.

 

Once you get the hang of that, look for an automated backup solution that pairs with either of those services to do automatic backups of your most important computers. These are usually sold as a subscription service and are very much worth it. The point here is to eliminate any misery from the accidental destruction of any particular computer or laptop.

 

Switch to an Email Service Provider

 

When you go to send out mail to your entire customer database, if you’re not using a professional email service provider (ESP) like Mailchimp or Constant Contact or Aweber or the other big names in the space, it’s very unlikely that your mail is going through to the people you hope to receive it. The other huge benefit to using an email service provider (and using it better) is that you can learn to segment your big newsletter list.

 

Not every customer wants the news about every product. Not every customer uses your product the same way (or in the same amount). It’s important to segment your email list so that you can write to schools differently than you write to manufacturing plants, so that you can talk to house cleaners in one way and to building contractors another way. Be sure to check out various pricing plans for the different providers. Some are more cost effective depending on what size your customer base is at the moment.

 

Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Compliant

 

According to this study from Perficient, mobile traffic accounted for 58% of website visits in 2018 (it’s up in 2019). 42% of all time spent online is via mobile devices in 2018 (higher now). Your website has to run beautifully on mobile, plus it has to be fast. Google has a free tool that lets you test how fast your site runs on mobile devices. It’s worth seeing how well your site holds up.

 

Look to upgrade your site design to run better and faster by seeking to remove unnecessary code. Your overall design might need to be modified to accommodate mobile devices better. Everything needs to be checked for brevity. The cost of a full website redesign is a lot less than it ever has been, even though the need for a verymobile-friendly site is at its highest. (And if you don’t have a website, get one. It’s silly to let other people control your visibility in the modern workforce.)

 

Update Your Training Methods

 

Attracting and retaining well-trained talent is a priority at most companies right now. Companies all over are starting to report feeling the impact of a massive experience gap due to a significant uptick in retirement from one segment and a huge need to attract new talent on the other. But formal knowledge transfer still lags at most small (and plenty of the large) businesses, with most anonymous surveys rating company training efforts as too brief, too infrequent and relying on poor materials.

 

There are formal learning management systems (LMS) out there ranging in price from a few hundred dollars for a mostly DIY solution to a few hundred thousand for something intricate with a lot of bells and whistles. Consider your current training technology. If it’s a few three-ring binders and a bad DVD copy of a VHS video, plus a little hands-on time at the end, you’ll want to rethink this. Look for mobile-drive training solutions with video-friendly modules, as well as the ability to incorporate new training tools like AR (augmented reality) and the like.

 

Get Visual

 

You already have the basic technology for this. Take more pictures. Shoot more video. For reasons unknown, companies shy away from visual communications, even though most humans favor visual consumption as their means of acquiring information. (Not all. Some prefer test. Others learn from audio. Still others can’t use any of these methods and need hands on training only.)

 

 

Any small business that isn’t managing a growing media library of employee-created assets at this point might be behind. Sure, you can spring for the occasional expensive photo shoot and the like from the PR or corporate communications budget. But everyone has a cell phone that shoots photos and videos. Start encouraging the creation and sharing of this media (with a few simple guidelines for brand safety) and start collecting a company-wide media library so that everyone has access to this material for their own needs. This can vastly change the landscape of your business communications internally as well as externally.

 

 

Start Anywhere

 

You don’t have to do all five of these upgrades at once. You can start with the email work and then tackle the website refresh. Pick whichever you prefer, though I’d make the cloud storage and backup stuff happen earlier than later because it will facilitate some of the other projects. You might not have the immediate know-how within the company to do these tasks, so it’s always okay to find a local consultant. But ask around first. You’d be amazed what kinds of technical geniuses you might have on staff already.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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