3 Things to know about creating Frictionless Transactions

I can't tell you how many articles I've read about how the world of business is changing; or why your "old school" ways of selling are just not working anymore; or if you're not working the social channels into your marketing, success will be elusive at best.
All of those articles are right, the world is changing (I prefer to say evolving), your customers and clients are changing, there is absolutely no way to deny any the facts. BUT, the basic concepts don't change - and they haven't changed for centuries ...
  • Business is based upon transactions
  • Those transactions happen between the provider and consumer
  • Both sides of the transaction will attempt to maximize "value"
  • That "value" is realized through transactions
At it's core, your business, my business, the guy's business across the world is based upon the simple concept of exchanging value between the provider and the consumer. Even in the case of a consumer receiving something "free" there is an exchange of value. Google is a perfect example, they provide a "free" service or set of services in exchange to (1) collect data and (2) show you advertising. And to the paid advertiser, they provide a service that (1) delivers a huge worldwide audience and (2) that audience can be targeted based upon "what they do".

So if business is based upon transactions, what is a frictionless transaction?

A business transaction can be thought of as having motion - so if you look at Newton's Laws of Motion he states three principles about the forces involved...
1. An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force
2. the net force on an object is equal to the rate of change of its linear momentum
3. All forces exist in pairs and the two forces are equal and opposite
So what does this really mean in the world of business? The following three things have to take into consideration to create a Frictionless Transaction...

1. A business transaction does not happen without applying a little force

I tend to think of most consumers to the be in the state of "rest" except for the most basic of needs (think Maslow's Hierarchy). So, Newton's first law states that "an object will remain at rest until acted upon by an external force", and that external force is you.
In our increasingly digital world, that external force can come from any direction - it could be a tweet, a web search, an online ad, a recommendation from a friend or someone with influence - but those are just the online versions. There are physical world versions, instore displays, printed coupons in a direct mail piece, a discussion over coffee with a friend, a tradeshow, a billboard, a TV or radio ad or even a "cold call" from a salesperson.
Is it the full responsibility of the provider to create the force necessary to get the consumer moving.

2. Once moving, transactions have their own speed,

Once we get consumer moving, there are two things we need to ensure (1) they continue to move in "our" direction and (2) we don't do anything on our part to slow it down.
Have you heard the expression "it's like herding kittens"? Well, the consumers in your pipeline are exactly like that - they don't want to be "sold" but they do have to be convinced. In the process of being convinced to purchase from you, they will begin to move away from "you" as the provider and start looking at the "category" as the solution. This is where lead nurturing comes in - you can either help or hinder the purchasing process.
This is where having a deep understanding the purchasing journey comes into play. But with all things "experience" you have to be willing to fail to ultimately have success. Regardless of the what you call this process, it comes down to three factors (1) try something (2) measure success/failure and (3) adjust, revise and repeat. This means you will spend money and money resources trying new and different things, measuring them against expectations and trying again. I'm not going to go into all the ways that experimentation can happen - there are a hundreds of articles about that - the key is continually learning and improving. And once you have done it enough times, you will being to see what works and what doesn't for your product or service - at the point you have success, and you understand the purchasing journey - you can start to replicate it.
Is it the full responsibility of the provider to understand the customer's purchasing journey, and make it as easy as possible.

3. All transactions have resistance points, it's up to you understand them

Expanding upon the previous point of understanding the purchasing journey, you will uncover several points of resistance. I would like to say they are "constant", but they aren't. The third law of motion states that all force exists in pairs, and they are of equal. In the world of sales, these resistance points were called "objections" and to master sales, you had to overcome these objections. As we move more to consumer-directed or consumer-supported sales process (happening outside any human interaction), overcoming the resistance of the consumer can be much harder - mostly because no one is there is actually "ask" for the sale, then hear the objection to purchasing "right now".
So along with the purchasing journey, you have to understand these resistance point - and many times, you need to understand (and group) purchasers so you can virtually ask for the sale, get feedback and then adjust to their needs. All while attempting to speed the transaction, rather than slow it down.
A perfect example of this point is Progressive Insurance and the quoting process for car insurance. Car insurance is price sensitive service, it's complicated, has lots of variables and every car insurance company has their pricing scheme. And everyone wants to "feel" like they are getting a good price, even for something they "required by law" to purchase. Progressive new this was a resistance point and slowed down the purchasing decision - they realized two things (1) price shopping was going to happen and (2) if someone purchased from them, and later found out they could have gotten a better price, they would ultimately lose that customer. Why not circumvent that process and show my price and the estimated price of my competitors? It's a brilliant move, they understood the transaction resistance point, and then mitigated it.
It's up to you to understand the transaction resistance points, then find ways to eliminate them

Is it possible to have a true Frictionless Transaction?

I believe the only way to eliminate ALL friction within business transactions would be to eliminate people from the process. I do believe it is possible to understand the consumers of our products and service - and that means understand who they are, how to help them along the purchasing path, how to keep them focused on purchasing from us (or eliminate them), and ultimately, how to evolve them from a "transaction" into a long term customer.
What are you thoughts? Do you have any good or bad examples? How do you do it for your company? I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. And if you liked this article, do not hesitate to Like It and Share It.

I love new ideas for businesses, products or services. Email me at amckinnis@gmail.com and let's talk about making yours a reality.

PICK ME! Turning challenges into triumphs

Pick Me!

"My back is pressed against the cold block wall and I’m dying from a quiet desperation building inside me, as boy after boy is selected for one of four teams. I grew up with these boys, they’ve known me since kindergarten, there is no hiding from the truth – I’m small, slow and weak – and in gym class, those do not equate to success. I plead with my eyes, imploring one of my four classmates to PICK ME! as their eyes move past me, with no compassion. I don’t want to be one of the last ones picked, it’s humiliating, but as the numbers dwindle, it becomes an inevitable possibility.”

We learn at an early age that no matter how many times our parents (teachers or other persons of authority) step in, we can not be protected from bad things happening. And for the majority of us, those bad things are not of a physical variety, but of the psychological.
Growing up, there was no denying I was small, but without the accompanying and balancing effect of being “quick and fast” – I couldn't win a foot race to save my life. And in the example above, even those people we know are more driven to win, than they are to be compassionate – so, I got used to being one of the last people picked for teams. It hurt, but I also understood – if given the chance to pick the team (which everyone did get the opportunity) – I did the same thing, you pick the fastest, the strongest, the biggest – you picked to win.
That was sports for me until my junior year in high school, when I finally grew, got more coordinated, go stronger, go faster. All those years of busting my ass and failing, now paid dividends. I was used to working harder than more “natural athletes”, I was used to hard times, I was used to losing – so when I got the chance to win, my experience had given me an edge they didn't have.
Disappointment & Triumphs Observation #1 : Experience Teaches
In many cases, having things given to you is a curse, not a blessing. Knowing what you want and struggling to get it, pays the biggest dividends.

Date Me!

"My gut was so wrenched, I thought I was going to throw-up. How could such a simple thing as making a phone call, cause so many conflicting emotions. All I had to do was dial the number, ask for her (what if her Dad answered), and then ask her for a date – simple really. It’s not like she was a stranger. We went to school together, we had known each other for years, we had talked on several occasions, so why was this phone call so hard?As I dialed the number, everything slowed down, everything seemed in slow motion. As the ringing was came through, I wondered how many rings, how long should I let this go on – and then, without warning, she answered – and I was completely speechless. As I stumbled and mumbled, trying to get to the all important question “would you like to go to homecoming with me?” ... she said “did Steve tell you, I’m going to go to homecoming with him …”. I still don’t know exactly what was said after that, because it didn’t matter anymore.”

Dating may be the worst (and best) experience in your life. No matter how prepared you are to enter the dating world (although most of us aren’t) with information provided by your parents, your friends, any and all confidants you have – no one can truly prepare you for your own personal journey into dating and falling in love. No one can prepare you in the emotional assault you will undergo; the hours of preparation; the days of despair; the exhilarating moments where time is suspended. We all travel our own road – others are better equipped to help than I am – I’m still navigating through the highs and lows.
Disappointment & Triumphs Observation #2 : Challenges Strengthen
As my girlfriend quoted to me the other day “so far, my record for making it through bad days is 100%”. Life is a series of ups and down (sometimes very extreme), once you recognize that, you are then free to choose which events define you, and which don’t.

Hire Me!

"Arnie, can you come to my office”. Depending on the situation, that is not exactly a phrase most of us want to hear. Once seated, my boss said, “I’ve got to let you go.” And my heart sank, my stomach churned and I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. More was said, but the punchline had already been delivered. I left her office, packed my desk up, and drove home.”

It was my first job out of college. I got hired to do something I hated, but spent the first few months worming my way into what I really wanted to do. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to do “marketing” instead of some quasi-marketing role that really was selling – just not called selling. And I busted my ass; I did what I was told, while also making suggestions; I attacked deadlines; I took initiative; we did new things, in new ways, producing results … literally, I loved that job and the people I worked with. I was young, and having fun. Until that day when I was called into my boss’s office and told I didn’t work there anymore.
It wasn’t performance related (two weeks prior, I was given high praise on my performance evaluation, a raise and a bonus); it wasn’t my attitude or personality (my boss said she enjoyed working with me); it wasn’t the business (the business was growing and expanding); it wasn’t my job (we had already mapped out the next phase of “what we are going to do”).
So why did I get fired? It was in-fighting between executives within the company – as simple as that. Someone had to prove they held the biggest hammer in the game, and I was the nail that got hit.
Disappointment & Triumphs Observation #3 : Perseverance Wins
You can do everything right in your job (life) and still get fired (have bad things happen). Sometimes, things just happen and it has nothing to do with you. Your only choice is to pick yourself up and get moving to the next thing – whatever that is in your life.

Whatever happens, you matter

There is never a good time to be forced to “put yourself out there” – it sucks to not be picked in gym class, not get the date with that special someone or to be told you “don’t work here anymore”. Life is full of disappointments, but it is also full of triumphs. They are the inevitable cycles, creating who we are and providing us with our own personal color, depth and stories.
I wrote this article for three reasons: (1) Because no matter how much I know, I can always learn more; (2) Because your story is just as personal as mine, filled with many of the same highs and lows; and (3) Because with every disappointment, I know there is a triumph.

Vinyl making a comeback ... maybe there's a business opportunity in there

This is glimpse into my mind, so I'm just warning you - it can get messy.

I got an email from Statistica about how the vinyl record is making a comeback, showing significant growth after a radical decline that bottomed out in 2006.  The chart below is shows the total market revenue from 1997 to 2013, and by all indications, 2014 should follow the growth chart and top out between $250M to $300M.  But actually, that's just an assumption on my part.

Infographic: Vinyl Comes Back From Near-Extinction | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

OK, so I see this chart and I start thinking about market opportunties and here you go ...

  • I begin thinking of my 19 year old son, and how he loves vinyl, but he's into music - both playing and listening to - maybe he's not the only one
  • I start thinking about selling vinyl - there's a record store in the "hip" part of town.  Looks very run down, but the last time I was in there, they had several people there.
  • Then I start thinking about how it must be expensive to bear the cost of inventory (because you have to thousands of vinyl albums for the varied music tastes that come in there)
  • And this place sells "used" turn-tables
  • And there is a bar a few doors down from them
OK, now we are really cooking with the internal brainstorming session within my head - no one else is involved - just me ...
  • I just read that book about Collaborative Commons, and how our society is actually moving more collaboration rather than competition
  • And how do Farmer's Markets work anyway - how could you apply that business model to a record store
  • and wouldn't it be interesting if you could share expense (and potentially some revenue) that way also sharing the risk - also it would be a great way to get people involved ... go beyond the traditional Buyer/Seller relationship
  • So what would that look like ...
Now we get to the meat of the situation ...
  • What if you had a physical location
  • With multiple "businesses" inside
  • That supported the whole "ecosystem" of the vinyl buying experience 
  • That would include not only the vinyl, but also the equipment to enjoy it at home
  • Some would have money to blow (upscale audiophile) and some wouldn't (used and trade market)
  • And lots of the new bands are putting together vinyl, how about having live music - think more like the MTV Unplugged rather than full blown concert 
  • And what if you did that in conjunction with a local bar or radio show - maybe someone that blogs or podcasts
  • In addition, how about they do their "set" (you record it) as a preview of a live show later in the day ... or what if you sold coffee, wine or beer in the store
  • Oh and when I lived in Boulder, KBCO used to produce their own acoustic music in their "Studio B" and once a year, they would put out a limited edition album supporting some non profit
  • The market would be broad, but really, those like my son (Millennials) would be the primary target
  • What if you could extent the personal feel of the physical store online and create a community, not just locally, but also anywhere in the world
  • Sell online, but also create a community of all those people out there that just love music and the reproduction of music
  • Create both an online and offline experience ... bringing together social, videos, selling stuff, sampling music, sharing ideas, and generally discussing the topic
So, that's how my mind works.  And how I have ideas that I will never pursue, but think they are pretty interesting.  So, in this case, I'm throwing it out there - if you actually end up doing this - email me and let me know.  And all that happened in about 15/20 minutes.  

Think what I could do with your idea - why not email me and let's chat about it.

Above the cloud ... from compute to function

In the last decade, nothing has changed the face of IT as much as cloud computing. I remember in 2006 writing an internal research paper on the subject, not really knowing where it was headed, other than it was going to be "big" and change how we viewed the world of "computing and infrastructure" and specifically, IT services.
Fast forward 8 years, we still talk about "cloud" and it's still a buzzword used to describe the computing model, but it has moved from being a means to utilize a raw material (compute and storage), to become a behemoth that actually does something valuable for both individuals and companies (big and small).

The problem with cloud as a compute platform...

Simply put, cloud compute takes a fairly technical product (or service) and scales it. That's not the classic definition, but I like simple. Cloud Computing took what most organizations could only dream of (i.e. large scale infrastructure and application deployments), and democratized it. Now even the smallest application developer could scale their application to support millions of users, or small companies could scale their own computing way beyond their "capital" budget with a press of a button.
That one thing - scaling - has broken down barriers of entry for millions of companies (and people) around the world. Add to that, the ability to overlay Open Source software (often at not cost) - and that boom you hear are all the people that just accelerated their business past the sound barrier - literally soaring above the clouds. Taking a capital (or high variable) cost with all its associated operational costs, to mere pennies.
BUT...compute is a raw material and even with all the various management tools available, it was still in the hands of smart technical professionals. They could do magic with it, they could optimize it, they were faster at scaling up and down - but it still required specialized knowledge. And, most people don’t have the inclination or the motivation to learn how to manage a cloud compute environment, they just want to do something with it.

Enter the functional cloud...

The key thing to remember about Cloud Computing, as with all raw materials, there will be really smart people taking them and creating something not seen before. Cloud Compute and Storage is no different - even in the first phases of the cloud phenomenon, some people saw possibilities, where others just saw something that was interesting. Those early visionaries were actually just being pragmatic - if they could utilize Amazon Web Services (AWS) instead of privately owned (or even virtually owned) servers/storage to deploy their really cool web (or mobile) app at a fraction of the cost - well, why not - it would save a ton of money that didn't really add a ton of value, and that money could be deployed someplace else (think enhancements, marketing, sales, partnership, etc.). Initially, it was all about dollars and cents.
Not anymore. Very few start-ups would even consider launching on anything other than a cloud platform. The barrier has been broken down so completely, the mere suggestion of an (old school) alternative would get you kicked of the room and immediately humiliated via every social media platform known to man.
But what Cloud Compute is to technology, functional applications are becoming to functional areas within a business. You don't have to look very far to see every size of company moving beyond the raw cloud and into the next level. Once again, it's a matter of economics (at least to begin with) ... why "manage and operate" a bunch of applications or code, with its associated update and release cycles, when you could just "access" a pre-built and ready-to-use world of business function specific applications.
One of the easiest ones to comprehend is Sales Force Automation and the 300-pound-gorilla that is Salesforce.com. They have taken what was a complex, multi-tiered management problem and provided a true functional solution. Even in the beginning - just taking away the expense of servers, storage and licensing was almost enough for most large companies to consider it - because none of those things added value - what you really want is the outcome (automating my sales force) – so why not just spend money getting what you want, instead of money on the things you don’t.
But the true value of Salesforce.com came as an after-effect of their decision to support a wider developer network. Taking cues from both commercial and open source communities, Salesforce.com created an ecosystem that turned the mere platform into fertile ground for thousands of "tools" and "integration" partnerships. They used the power of the platform, to scale exponentially - once again, without the associated "capital" costs. Not a new concept in the world of applications, what has changed is the ability to scale quickly (seemingly overnight), and topple giants that only a few years previously had seemed invincible.

Why build a spaceship, when you can just rent one

Every business function is ripe for a Salesforce.com revolution - there isn't one area of your business that doesn't have some Cloud-based, As A Service alternative (HR, Marketing, Logistics, Payroll, Accounting, Market Research, Product Development). Oh, there are lots of reasons why some have taken off and others are just idling at the starting gate, but I hazard a guess, most start-ups are utilizing as much of these functional components as possible - moving money from the non-value-added column to the value-added column in the process.
It used to be that "scale" was only available to those lucky enough with access to deep pockets. No more. Scale is available to anyone - regardless of your education, nationality, language, background, and almost any other "criteria" used in the past. Literally, anyone can scale to reach and support a global audience. We have taken what once was only available to a single digit percentage of the population, and thrown it out there for almost anyone. At the point where any business can purchase world-class technology to support a business function, it no longer is about "access", it become about "use".

Build vs Buy

We are quickly approaching a time when that question won't even be asked for most consumers of "cloud based computing" services. I don't have a clue how the electrical grid works - but I do know how to turn on a light switch. The same will be true within the majority of businesses across the world - they may not know how the underlying technology (or even the application) works - but they will know how to turn it on and make it work for them.

Creating a mosaic instead of a pile of bricks

When we use more and more functional (technology) tools, the key will be integration. The worst thing you can do is to isolate that function from every other function in your business. Sales force automation has much more value when its integrated within the full fabric of your company - there is value in just having it automated - but it is so much more valuable when integrated into your marketing, product sales, distribution, customer service, accounting, logistics, etc. The masters of the Cloud Computing world are those professionals able to navigate between and among the functional areas, multiplying the value across all functions. The value of everything increases as we "connect" and integrate.
As this brave new world of technology surpasses the old, giving rise to a new breed of "global" businesses, we will look to integration "technologists" and experts to architect our unique bundle of services, while supporting and adding value to our businesses and organizations.

Photo Credit: Ewan Roberts / Standing over the clouds / via Flickr

Missing out on life ... the dark side of fear

Not to get too dark, but I've had a hard time getting out of my own way lately.  I'm intelligent, I've had success in business, I have made money that puts me in the top 20% in US and top 2% in the world.  Yet, I still run my life as if there is something to fear.

I've thought about that recently, getting laid off sucks.  Getting laid off when you are over 50 really sucks.  Getting laid off when what you've done most of your life (marketing IT services) is in chaos is just down right scary as hell.

And now, about 4 months distance from my "job" and looking back at it - there is so little to fear when you look back - you wonder why you spent time doing.  But then again, when you look forward ... well, that's a completely different perspective and one that all of sudden, creates anxiety and the fears pop up all over the place ... all the ones that you try to keep buried under a veneer of smiles when asked "how's it going?  how you doing?".

I do a great job of managing fear in the past - but fail miserably with the future aspect.

My goal going forward is to start looking at the future, with the same eyes as the past.  Looking fondly at the experiences yet experienced; the places yet visited; the people yet to meet; and that all things will work out, usually to my benefit.

How about you?  

IT Service Integration ... the mortar between the bricks

Published on LinkedIn and featured on the Pulse Technology Channel 9/4/2012

By 2020, it won't be about managing technology, it will about managing services
Within the world of IT - whether you are a provider or a consumer - by 2020 it will be about managing and integrating IT services. I always like to walk through a very simplistic example when talking about Service Integration - and something we all know and understand as a vital business service, managed by IT - Email.
Today, we take Email for granted - for most users, it just works - we get email on our computers, on our phones, on our tablets - we get notified in the office, or out on the road (and yes, even on vacation). In many cases, we are savvy users and have both our personal and professional email coming into various platforms, we filter, sort and file. In business, it has become the primary communications tool.
Here's the deal - from a user perspective, email is easy. Once setup, it works and is just there. For IT, email can be a complicated network of hardware, software, network, addresses, routing, security, filtering, storage, archiving. And if you are multi-region or multi-national, there are issues with compliance and regulations. For IT, the simple is hard.
Enter the external service provider (hosted, managed, cloud - based email services) - once again, from a user perspective, I just purchase the service, do my bit of setup, manage my reports and administration screens, and here we go, communicating with the world. Service Providers have the all the primary tools an IT group has, and more. I say that from a perspective that these service providers are for-profit businesses and need to manage quality of contracts, service, service level agreements, financial arrangements, customer services, along with the underlying technology.
To make the hard look easy, for the Service Provider (whether internal IT or external) requires integrating, not only technology, but services from multiple "sub-providers". The IT Services called Email is actually built upon dozens of services - it's like building a brick wall - each brink represents a technology, process, or service needing to be stacked in the proper place to ensure the wall has the strength required.
And we (IT professionals) move away from consuming technology (equipment and software) and begin consuming services - it is imperative to integrate those services, ensuring (1) the work together and (2) they can be managed. Service Integration is about bringing these functional IT services together and solving the business problem, not adding to it.
In the case of email, instead of placing our own servers and software in an owned data center, we now look at a third party to provide it as a service. But email only works if you have network access, now we include network access providers to the mix. And of course we all know the security risks associated with email, we add spam and filtering; Oh, and don't forget about regulatory and legal issues regarding record retention, backup and archive is critical. The list of "services" grows, including management of the end user community, and the associated access to a growing number of devices, many of which are not even owned by the company. Email has grown from a simple communication tool to an IT integration problem with dozens of services, service providers and processes - to deliver a "simple" IT service called Email.
Service Integration doesn't happen, it's planned.
Moving from owned technology, to services provided by third parties, is happening today at an ever increasing pace - in organizations of all sizes. And for some, the purchasing (or budget to purchase) has moved from the IT organization to the functional business - so who owns the integration of services? Who ultimately is responsible to ensure these services work within the larger picture of "technology" for the organization. The CFO wants his accounting systems to work, be able to produce the required analytics and reports; the CMO want so understand the marketing spend, the ROI, to report on the effectiveness of their activities; the VP Sales wants to manage the flow of information, help his sales organization close more deals, pushing the top line as high as possible; the CIO wants to manage IT, to innovate within corporate risk guidelines, pushing the envelope, but not becoming the next headline in the Wall Street Journal; the CEO walks the razor's edge of producing results without overheating the engine.
Each of these leaders has their agenda, each has requirements for technology to support it, but who is looking at how merge these agendas, integrate these services and manage them now and into the future? It won't happen by itself, it has to be planned and all these leaders will be involved, and the CIO needs to lead the charge.
Because, in less than 10 years, it will be about managing and integrating services, not technology.
About the Author:
Arnie McKinnis has built his career as the "go to" guy for new ideas and innovation. He has spent his entire career taking "Playdough" and making real products and services out of it. He loves the process of melding often disparate "trends and ideas" and creating something completely different. He enjoys the chaotic nature of technology - the ever expanding and changing landscape.
If you like this article, please check out these articles featured on the Leadership and Management Pulse channel:
**Author's Note** Any issues with any or all content used in this post, should be directed to the author.

16 must read business classics

I read an article recently about the best business books, and they were all recent publications. Nothing wrong with that, although some of the best books on the subject were written years ago.
The following books, written at least 10 years ago, the oldest written in 1926, have stood the test of time. They have been read my millions of people and are still among some of the current best selling books in the world. They range from academic to practical. They use a variety of styles. But each is worthy of a place within all our bookshelves and should be read by anyone serious about business – regardless of your age. If you've read them in the past, maybe it’s time to blow the dust off and read them again.
George Samuel Clason
Dale Carnegie
Napoleon Hill
Peter F Drucker
Og Mandino
Zig Zigler
John A Tracey
Michael E Porter
Roger Fisher, William Ury
Peter Senge
Jame P Womack, Daniel T Jones
Al Ries, Jack Trout
Richard Koch
Jay Abraham
David Allen
James C Collins
There are hundreds more, many by some of the same business and thoughts leaders above, but many, many more from authors you may not be familiar. We live in a wonderful time, we can learn from so many sources - both past and present - and many of those resources are just a click away.