Saturday, April 25, 2015

Safe Words are for Sissies.


"Indigo...Indigo...INDIGO!" - she finally yelled before I remembered what the hell she meant. When I finally did, I stopped what I was doing and checked her.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, but, you made a mess."

"It was my intention."

"Well, now we need a broom."

"I'm sure we can find one." - time hung, upside-down, suspended.

One glance between her knees and it was obvious - we were going to need a bigger tool.

At least 80% of the toner bottle had spurted all over.

Turning to the six or so voyeurs, I said, "I'm glad this happened, now we can show you how easy our toner is to vacuum up..."

So continued the greatest copier training session in history - IKON rep, PBM and a willing audience of nurses and accounting clerks. One for the book...*

Fifty Minutes Before -

This was our first time together in front of others and just before starting, she jokingly mentioned, "We should have a safe word. Something that tells the other person to switch hands or hold off."

"Okay, let's make it 'indigo'." was my glib, off-handed response. I forgot all about it, until her climatic outburst jerked me from my fugue.

Safe Word - "a word serving as a prearranged and unambiguous signal to end an activity..."
The Past 24 Months

The last two years lack in "mps" excitement, passion and risk. No new ideas or technology from our manufacturers - ink in a bag is still ink. Aged programs remain in place - can we make mps even more confusing? Everybody has a cousin in the Mps business - no really. And the idea of paper to digital drips with denial.

No risk, no edges, no transformations, no need for safe words.

Perhaps shifting your business out of copiers and into display panels or integrating medical devices into your value proposition is the way. But how painful is that?

Establishing a safe-word recognizes boundaries. Some say the real way to know you're alive is to feel a bit of pain - get painful. Go there. Rub up against it.

This isn't a 'stretch goal' this is a cliff. Instead of 'adjacent markets', get into hoverboards, for example. That session would be painfully deserved of a safe-word, right?

Forget that terribly written, over popular, shallow, slow-motion-rape tome, "50 Shades of Spray" and consider a managed print services safe word - heck, make it a business safe word - it doesn't need to be mps only. Either way, light the candles, warm up the wax and get a safe-word.

Imagine the most painful change possible. Feel it. Label it. Then get as close as you can to it.

One thing: remain dubious of WHATEVER your OEM brings to the table. They seduce and dominate for more shelf-space - now more than every, devices are shackles.

One More thing: Seek advice from those OUTSIDE THE INDUSTRY. Innovation has run its course in the world of toner, ink and paper. There is nothing left. Industry pundits telling you how to optimize your service department, 'align' your incongruent backroom operations or change your value proposition are part of the problem and the past because,

You already know, what you need to know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Kids in #Oconomowoc: There is no such thing as SEO but Curling is a Sport.


They were celebrating something...it was unclear and it was late.

Young turks all, full of passion, possibilities and a zest for "the new way of everything".  Kids of the internet, comfortable in that soft pool of warm ignorance - seven or eight, twenty-somethings out drinking; nowhere to go but up.

You remember those times, don't you? Think "The Breakfast Club" grows into "St. Elmo's Fire" on the way to "The Big Chill". I was smack-dab in the middle of Elmo's Fire expecting Rob to start blaring away on the Sax.

In some capacity, a few of these folks are builders of websites and experts in the way of SEO. They know all there is to know about, well, everything online - branding, selling, travel, food, publishing, online life, whiskey, tinder and the ways of the world.

Predictably, as I queried deeper,  their conversation rolled defensive.  I admired their passion but they had no idea.


I told them "there are no such things as SEO experts but Curling is a sport..." - 

You would have thought I kicked a beehive and they never heard of curling.

The SEO expert in the crowd took exception, of course.  I mentioned the first four returns on every search are bought and paid for and the algorithmic changes google inflicts benefit only google.

Calmer winds prevailed.  He understood.

I said "eyeballs do not equate sales" -

Shock!

"Attention is the new currency," one yelled.

"That's like paying for your internet by staring at the bill," I replied.  They didn't get it...until they did.

When web/media experts spew this line, it seems more like a rationalization.

I postulated "the passing of brands" -

It's happening.  Labels, brands, silos, demographics and vertical industries are all combining into one, huge horizontal, market.  The Blob.  I was hitting nerves.

We ranted to each other, it was a group rant.  They thought I was unhinged, opinionated, old and out of the know.  Aghast, in unison, they chimed, "What's your BRAND."  One might have asked if I still had my AoL email account, I don't remember.

Then they googled me.

Laughing,

"Death of the Copier?!... a book?! Really?" -  the branding expert quipped.
"...it used to mean something else, now it means the death of those who copy...", my reply.

"Fifty Shades of Managed Print Services! What the heck is managed print services?" - the fresh from South Africa, website builder spouted.
"...nothing.  Its dead...", my eyes are hurting by now, rolling on infinite loop.

"People still print?!"
"No." I said.

And that's when it happened.  The sparks and fury of embroiled discourse cooled. I sat there, sipping on Jack, watching them, digits a blur, reading.

Silent.

To their credit, in less than 7 minutes, they had my LinkedIn, Twitter, Instaglam and blog up and running. The giggles subsided as all they scanned and read - blogs, articles, bio's, on and on...they had it all - my online roots run deep.

In a few moments, they knew more about me than most.  Of course, all was forgotten seconds after leaving the bar - the new currency has a short span.


We are quick to label those who know a bit more than us, on any specific subject, experts.  I know from the inside.  Often, expert recommendations are academic - rarely tested in the field. This is what we've done to an entire generation.

We bestow the mantel of "they know more than we" just because they grew up on their thumbs and we built tree forts.

Somehow, maturing in a world that has never been without an internet makes people 'smarter'.  How can this be true?

"We shouldn't vault them as more enlightened, we should feel sad that we haven't pointed out the constellations ."

The Millennials don't know crap about crap and that's okay - how many of you knew everything when you were in your 20's?  How many of us thought we did?

But for one generation to regard the up and coming more relevant is a disservice to the younger; we are putting more pressure on the them simply by referring to them as Millennials/Unique.

Why?

The lessons here are simple and complex -
  1. The world of the web is driven by attention; nothing more than a popularity contest.
  2. Some marketers mix B2C and B2B concepts.  True, the convergence is occurring, but to blanket an entire ecosystem with one strategy is a fools errand.
  3. The "Hippies", "Gen X, Y", etc.  Are simply MARKETING LABELS.  Segmentation.  That is all.  Unlike generation gaps of the past based on solid walls of years and societal separation,  technology permeates beyond the boundaries of age - the great equalizer.
Like the people from Kalamazoo, who I met in an Irish pub in Oconomowoc, Wi., you and I have journeyed the same path.  Fortunately, we had the stars to guide us - they use Google maps.

We shouldn't vault them as more enlightened, we should feel sad that we haven't shared the constellations with them.

For me, the affirmation was stellar - we are all the same.

Oh to be young again.

I wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then...



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