I went to Boston to do some things on 15 and 16 March 2004. On Monday, 15 March 2004 I met for dinner with two members of the Boston Company of Friends Group. Their businesses are so different but yet…so similar.
Diane Darling is the founder of Effective Networking ( http://www.effectivenetworking.com ). Her business teaches businesses how to network.
Here’s some insight from Diane.
Diane feels that Ryze is more for socializing, but not business networking. Linked in and Spoke are more for business networking. However, we did talk about the issue of security. She mentioned that someone who worked at Spoke had asked her if she could make a connection for someone they thought she knew. It all boils down to the fact that if you upload your address book to these networking services you have to trust the employees/founders to treat your data privately and trust that the service’s security is not breached. (for more on these online networking services, check out my online networking article).
Diane explains to her clients that the key to networking is HOW to network and WHERE to network. She explained that networking is like dating. You don’t ask for BIG things (like Marriage, or whatever else), unless you have taken time to know the person you are interested in.
As you collect business cards in your networking, put your business cards in three piles. HOT prospects that need action within 24-48 hours. Warm prospects – those who may not be ready to purchase from you for a few weeks or months and C) others
Diane’s business is growing and many businesses are seeing the value of networking. Why? It’s effective. It gets results. Its low cost.
Diane’s book Networking Survival Guide ( http://www.networkingsurvivalguide.com ) is also available. She’s working on her second book, about how high powered CEO’s network.
If your business wants to grow I would highly suggest you invest in some of Diane’s consulting. Let her train your management and anyone who deals with sales. Then let them loose on the networking circuit and watch the results pour in.
I also met with Kaj Kandler of Conficio ( http://wwww.conficio.com ), which offers Plan-B – the smart response to frequently asked questions. Conficio makes short internet videos. The video clips answer questions about how to use business software (like QuickBooks, MYOB, etc.). Each video is a screen recording of the application in action, edited and annotated with callout bubbles for explanation. Conficio sells these video clips to professionals, such as accountants, that (inadvertently) deliver software support. They put them up on their web site to, view for their clients. to answer frequently asked questions.
Kaj is targeting the Quickbooks and Accountant markets initially. Accountants are in the tech support business often times. They really don’t mean to be, but often that is the case. How? Well, they recommend to a client that they purchase Quickbooks, for their financial management. But guess what? When the accountant’s client has problems, who do they call? The accountant.
Plan-B’s goal is to reduce the time that an accountant must spend giving tech support to customers, often answering the same questions over and over again to different customers and to offer the accountant a value added tool they can provide to their clients.
For $75, an accountant (eventually more industries) get a Java application, which they (or Conficio) install on their web site. When a client has a problem, they go to the accountant’s web site, optionally login, and can view a (or more than one) video clip showing them how to resolve a particular issue. These “video clips” are not movies with voice over and models, but a movie showing an end user exactly what buttons to click and mouse movements to make to do a particular task.
In the future, Kaj hopes to develop video clips for ISPs. Instead of spending so much money on support costs (Pssst – not on the 1-800 number but on the STAFF) answering questions like how do I create an attachment and etc. The ISP customer can go online and see a video clip of frequently asked questions.
Kaj tells me that he used Java so that end users wouldn’t have to worry about which media player to use.
In addition, Conficio could make money from installation. Many users will opt to take Plan-B and install it on their own servers, but Kaj wants to offer them two additional options a) have Conficio install it for them b) have Conficio host it for them – via a hosting partner.
While I don’t doubt that Plan-B’s built in shelf life will help, I do think that Kaj should consider a different pricing structure. Possibly a monthly licensing fee, depending on the amount of users the software services for example.
Kaj can go many directions and expand into additional support options, target more markets that need Plan-B and etc.
Is there competition – you bet there is. Kaj explained that Robohelp, Turbodemo, Techtools and other programs, enabled the creation of tools similar to his. He’s not worried but like any good business person should be – cautious.
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