Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Top 5 Features Added in Revit

A building information modeling (BIM) software, Autodesk Revit, has been useful for architects, structural engineers, MEP engineers, designers and contractors, enabling them to design structures and buildings in 2D and 3D, as well as being 4D BIM capable. It’s first version was released more than a decade back and since then it has seen many updates and new version releases, some have been just incremental updates serving for bug corrections and some have been significant technological updates.

Compared to the 2017 update, the previous 2 editions did not provide any significant upgrade until their ‘release 2’ (R2) editions were released. The 2017 update brings about 50 new, refreshing features which will prove to be immensely useful in creating BIM models. All the new features within the update are equally important and will be useful during the life cycle of a project, but out of those let us discuss the 5 most important features from Revit 2017. 1. Text Editing:

The most awaited feature in Revit since the time it was introduced, text editor has been included in the latest edition of Autodesk Revit. This provides a completely redesigned text engine which is compatible with imported files such as AutoCAD DWG files. The text editor in Revit 2017 also brings corrections to the flaws of text editor from earlier editions and lets users seamlessly switch between text editing mode and viewing mode without causing any unexpected disruptions in text.

2. Global Parameters:

Global parameters feature which was introduced in Revit 2016 R2 version, has received a much needed update in the 2017 edition. The latest update brings in the power of parametric families into the project environment. Applying global parameters to multi-segments is possible in this version, also grouping the parameters becomes easier, as does filtering and reordering. Even though the upgrades do seem to bring a lot of additional features, they do come with their limitations, such as the parameters can only be assigned to certain system family categories and only to user defined instance properties.

3. View Template:

View template is a very simple yet powerful feature added in Revit 2017 which enables the user to share data and reuse schedules. This feature automatically updates all the schedule changes whenever they are affected within their respective templates.

4. Calculated Values in Annotations:

An essential and a long overdue feature introduced in Revit 2017 is Calculated Values in Annotations. It is a useful feature that allows the user to document projects with annotations that allow calculated values and which obey pin restrictions maintaining consistency and accuracy of the project. A tag created with calculations in it can be used with any tag type and pinned to an element allowing the user to reposition that element without actually moving the pin position.

5. Railing Host:

Railing Host or Hosted Railings, is another valuable feature introduced in Revit 2017 (SHOULD THIS SAY 2017?) along with Calculated Value in Annotations feature. With this feature it is now possible to host the railings on Walls, Roofs or Slab Edges and the railings will adjust with variations in slopes and surfaces.

There are a host of other additions and updates in Revit 2017 apart from the ones listed above. It remains to be seen what if any flaws exist during real time use or if they truly result in the enhancements promised. Although, considering the supposed flaws that may exist, Revit 2017 is a huge step forward.

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3 Content Marketing Trends to Watch

“Content marketing is a success defining element for today’s businesses. Better the content marketing better is the business.”

Content marketing in a right way can give your business a right exposure. In this fast paced world of internet, you cannot neglect it, otherwise your business might extinguish in the end. You have to pay equal attention to content creation and promotion.

With each passing day, we see new trends emerging in almost every aspect of online marketing. Content marketing is no different. From Facebook, Twitter to Snapchat, new platforms are being emerged, promising to deliver better value for content marketing.

To stay competitive, companies have to stay updated with the emerging trends. That’s why today I aim to shed light on major trends that you should watch closely in 2017.

Content Marketing Through Videos

Video is visual description of your story.

Being in trend from quite some time, videos will continue to lead the content marketing in 2017. The effectiveness of videos is obvious as indicated by the following statistics on HubSpot.com.

  • Videos increase click-through rate by 200-300%
  • Videos increase conversion by 80%
  • 64% of customers make buying decisions after watching the video
  • YouTube reports 100% increase in mobile video views every year.

No doubt, marketing through videos is really effective but that does not mean you start doing it haphazardly. You should do strategic video marketing to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Make purposeful videos and align with your long-term strategy. Through videos, you can:

  • Deliver your brand message
  • Communicate your brand story
  • Explain your value proposition
  • Build relations with your customers and prospects.

However, you also need to be careful while creating videos. A boring video or a video that does not have any value for customers will go in vain.

Keep following do’s and don’ts in mind:

Do’s:

  • Videos should be purposeful and carry value for your customers.
  • Videos should be attention grabbing.
  • Videos should be bit emotional or sentimental.

Don’ts:

  • Videos should not be too long or too short
  • Videos should not be boring
  • Videos should not be offensive by any mean.

So heads up for 2017 and aim to interact and convert your customers through strategic video marketing.

Content Marketing Through Snapchat

As reported on Bloomberg, every month Snapchat gets about 10 billion views and 100 million active users. Imagine the wider audience you can reach by using Snapchat.

Snapchat is on scene since 2012. Earlier, it was considered mainly as a sexting app. But with the passage of time, Snapchat added features that make it a really attractive marketing medium for businesses. 2017 is expected to see exponential growth in Snapchat use for content marketing.

Snapchat allows 10 second snapshots. That means nothing useless, only the message that you really want to convey. Not only it is highly engaging, it also allows easy interaction with customers. Through a 10-second snapshot, you can

  • Introduce your business
  • Convey your inspiring story
  • Create a teaser
  • Offer a discount or promotion
  • Find the talent
  • Promote your product

And the options are unlimited.

So keep your fingers crossed in 2017 to explore thousands of ways you can use Snapchat to reach a wider audience.

Use Data-Backed Content

Whatever medium you are using for content marketing, make sure that the content you are marketing is valuable. It should be informative, educative and interesting. Back it with important statistics, facts and figures to build a high level of trust with your audience. Include case studies, expert opinions and empirical evidences to support your information.

So keep these points in mind while you are planning a content marketing strategy for 2017. Focus on these areas and you will have a brilliant year ahead.

Best of Luck!

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The Last Chance for Gold

Growing up in my corner of Florida, there used to be an old gas station on the edge of the Everglades. The proprietor did a lot of business with his oversized, hand-painted warning sign:

Last Chance for Gas.

Beyond the fuel pumps were a thin two-lane ribbon of asphalt and 90 miles of swampy wilderness. No smartphones. No “emergency call boxes.” And, in most places along the highway, no guardrails either.

You were on your own – much like the economic wilderness we’re all forced to navigate today.

Which is why the sharp decline in gold prices and mining stocks is much like that warning sign… and a monetary gift…

In short, if you were waiting on the sidelines after this year’s monster rally, this is your second chance – and, in my view, your last chance – to buy gold at these prices. And it comes at just the right time. Typical Moves for Gold

Gold’s done a full round trip in buyer sentiment during the past 12 months: from being the world’s “most hated commodity” at its lows near $1,050 an ounce 12 months ago to “gotta buy it” status at $1,350 an ounce this summer.

With gold now fallen from those lofty heights, an investor is more likely to ask: “Gold, what have you done for me lately?”

In all, gold’s given back about 60% of its 2017 rally. Yet such sharp declines followed by a resumption of a broader trend higher is a typical early bull market move for this volatile metal. Most famous of these pullbacks was gold’s run to all-time highs in the 1970s.

Starting out at $35 an ounce in the early ’70s, as gold became legal for Americans to own once again, bullion prices soared to almost $190 an ounce in 1975. That’s quite a run all on its own. During the next 18 months, gold prices dropped back nearly 60%, falling to $100 before running to a then-record $800 an ounce in the next three and a half years.

The Song Remains the Same

Most important, when it comes to the companies that dig this stuff out of the ground… nothing has changed.

As I have pointed out in past months, gold mining firms have done a great job getting their costs down and making money to boot.

We noted as early as February that the elite companies in this group were making an average of $215 for every ounce of gold they were digging out of the ground and said, in no uncertain terms, to anyone who’d listen: “Stop panic selling gold mining stocks. Likewise, after cutting dividends in 2014 and 2015 as gold prices plummeted, many of the same companies have not only reinstituted payouts, they’ve started raising them again. In the meantime, mining firms have cleared away much of their old cost structures. That’s why Newmont Mining, as one example, has been able to drop its “AISC” – all-in sustaining costs – from $1,170 in 2012 to $910 so far in 2016.

The point is that there are many reasons to own gold: for speculative profits, as discussed above; for insurance; and for wealth preservation. But you can’t benefit from any of those strategies without taking advantage of the gift that is low gold prices and low expectations put on our table by Wall Street’s hair-trigger traders.

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Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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