One of our traditional movies to watch around this time of year is the revered "White Christmas" starring Bing Crosby and friends. For those unfamiliar with the story, things begin to go wrong when the nosy housekeeper eavesdrops on a conversation but only hears 1 side of the message. She draws her own conclusions and sets off a string of events which produces the main tension in the storyline. Since it's a movie, it all ends well and they live happily ever after. But the movie has supremely good examples of all kinds of problematic communication:
misunderstanding what the other person said
misunderstanding what the other person didn't say
beating around the bush
talking about two different things and missing one another
and the list goes on …
In October, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Ontario. (FIPP is the Federation of International Periodical Publishers, in case you are not in this space.) This magazine congress is held every two years in a different country, and is attended by hundreds of magazine publishers from around the world.
As one of the sponsors, AdvantageCS had the opportunity to provide a 100-second pitch of our product. This is a brilliant idea on the part of the FIPP team to allow sponsors to explain their product or service but to keep it brief. In fact, these 100-second pitches are placed between major presentations and become a bit of a game, which keeps the audience in their seats.
Most publishers don't like to be "sold to" but the attendees can't resist …
The current panic in the marketing world about ad blocking is being eclipsed by thoughts such as those found in this excellent piece. As marketers, we at AdvantageCS have found native advertising to be a great vehicle for getting the word out about our products and services.
What are your thoughts on this hot topic?
Is it just me, or is everyone experiencing more use of their smartphones? These "mobile moments" are becoming more frequent in my life, at least. A year ago I hadn't installed my bank's app and did all my banking on my laptop. Now I do all my deposits using my smartphone and find myself checking balances there more and more. A couple of years ago I thought I'd never use Facebook on my smartphone...but I almost never use it on my laptop now. Recently my wife was writing a long email on her smartphone and I asked why she doesn't use the desktop so she can edit more efficiently? Her answer was that the desktop was upstairs.
I guess that's what the word "mobile" means, after all: able to move. Our mobile phones can be with us all the time. I see more participants in meetings looking at …
On a recent trip to England, a group of us took a hike up a hill past a flock of sheep. Sheep are so charming: pleasant to see on the side of a hill, not terribly wild or boisterous, and very compliant when it is time to get their wool sheared. At one point, the farmer pulled up to a corner of the very large field the sheep were occupying and they started bleating and running toward the truck. They clearly were trained that this was feeding time, and responded with the enthusiasm of my 19-year-old son under similar circumstances. This was, without meaning to sound too trite...so stick with me here...an example of when it's a good idea to follow the flock. However, we all know that sheep are, in fact, too compliant for their own good, and can walk willingly to be slaughtered. That' …
Americans can be some of the laziest language users on earth, creating nicknames and abbreviations for everything from celebrities to common phrases. Texting can be blamed for some of this, certainly, but it doesn't explain our penchant for cutting syllables out of our speech. Furthermore, there are people texting all over the world who still take the time and effort to use lots of words in their speech to make their thoughts clear. Being married to a native speaker of another language has provided an at-home testing platform for my claim. Many other languages seem to require more words to express something that an American will use fewer words to express. Is it because American English is so rich that we have a word for everything? I don't think so. There are many words in Spanish …
Recently, my wife needed to go back to a doctor's office where she'd had some minor surgery done some months earlier. She was in pain and was concerned about infection. She called the office to find out when they could see her but was met with the proverbial "please leave a message" announcement, rather than being answered by a human. Instead of leaving a message and sitting by the phone for the rest of the morning, she decided to drive to the office and see them face-to-face and ask in person for a last-minute appointment. I decided to join her so we could chat on the way.
When we walked into the office, I knew we were going to have a less-than-pleasant customer service experience. It was written all over the face of the receptionist. She was cool, aloof, and lacking in compassion. …
How many of us have ever dreamed of having a chiropractor in the family? Or a carpenter? Or a mechanic? As it turns out that neither my wife nor I are any of these things, I have often mused at how nice it would be if one of our offspring would fall in love with such a person. I can just imagine inviting the kids over for dinner and just mentioning a drippy faucet we have in a sink upstairs to the now-fed plumber and hearing those magical words, "Why don't I go and have a look?"
Perhaps others of us wish we had a computer expert in the family. Most of my colleagues with aging parents become the de facto helpdesk for their parents' computer issues. When I go visit my father and watch him at his computer, I am sometimes amazed at the habits humans form which cause us to do …
Back in the late 1990s, companies wanted to create their own websites with their own ideas about how the site would be structured, the user experience, and the branding. When we introduced our API to our clients in 1999, we would typically provide some training and documentation to their web team and they would go away happily integrating their website with Advantage using the API. Time marched on and the API became bigger and more comprehensive.
Then in the last couple of years we noticed a trend among our prospects and clients. Companies were no longer content to take on an API with over 5,000 methods, which ours has. They wanted a platform which was already integrated with Advantage through the API. The platform would have built-in eCommerce functions, self-service capabilities, …
In my last post I talked about ways of going beyond or cutting across digital editions and even titles and allowing a user to access content by a certain author, or packaging content with other components such as membership dues, books, e-books, subscriptions, and the like.
The segment of publishing which is waaaaaay ahead of the others are the scholarly publishers, such as the STM and academic publishers. These publishers started digitizing their content back in the late 1990s. Initially, the digital "version" of the journal issue was available to print subscribers as part of a package. Eventually, however, they found that more and more of their readers were only interested in the digital content access and didn't really want print journals cluttering up their offices. Institutional …
by Dan Heffernan
Some time ago, a group of us at AdvantageCS were trying to come up with a short description for Advantage (the application) and were struggling to put it concisely, since Advantage is so many things. It has been described as a CRM, an ERP, a fulfillment system, and an order processing system. We made poor attempts at metaphors to help communicate conceptually what Advantage does – we tried a heart, or the engine of a car. These metaphors broke down quickly. Then we thought of four words that describe the broad areas that Advantage addresses: marketing, sales, distribution, and analysis. We turned this into a marketing campaign: Market, Sell, Deliver, Analyze. Repeat. This is a pretty accurate description of what Advantage does at a high level.
But during this time, …
With apologies for the distasteful cat reference, content creators (authors, publishers, editors, marketers, photographers, teachers, you get the idea) have more ways to represent, package, and sell digital content than they did just a few years ago. In fact, there are so many ways of even talking about digital content that we usually begin meetings with clients and prospects by defining the terms we all use. This exercise alone reveals the myriad ways of attacking this and often results in creative thinking about other ways of monetizing digital "stuff."
Let's start with a straightforward example. A magazine publisher with a number of special interest magazines has three titles on woodworking. Of course, the publisher can digitize each issue of those three titles and sell the digital …
Although the calendar says it's spring, I am looking at snow falling outside my window. Tens of millions of people in the U.S. could probably have written that first sentence, so I apologize for being so obvious. But weather always reminds me of travel (probably because it affects it so much), and travel is something we do more of now than our predecessors did. And travel is a big part of my life.
Usually, I am travelling to visit a prospective client to show them how many business problems our software can solve for them. It is impossible to go through a thorough demonstration of our software in a day, because there are so many business problems that it addresses. It's a bit like exploring a mansion. Just when you thought you'd reached the end of the house, you open a door to …
One of the challenges of a company like ours is organizing ourselves in such a way as to be able to serve our existing clients well, implement Advantage at new clients effectively, and push our product into places where our clients will need it to be when they get there. This was brought home to me this week while visiting an AdvantageCS client who needs the products we are developing ASAP!
This is the story at so many of the publishing companies we visit. They are under tremendous pressure to deliver new products to their audience in order to grow and thrive. They are looking to technology companies like AdvantageCS to provide what they need, and speed to market is of the utmost importance.
We’ve made some changes to meet these increasingly crucial demands. Recently, a team of …
Last Fall, I attended the international conference of the Federation of International Periodical Publishers (FIPP) in Rome. Once again, the refrain "Go Digital!" was sung during two days by a full set of speakers, both from the vendor side and from the publishing world. Actually, it was not so much a "move away from print" speech as a lack of understanding of this traditional business that really struck me in those sessions. Multiple presentations around brand extension, social networking and new revenue streams were largely shown by the gurus of this new world. And when an "old timer" came on the stage to present about traditional print, the audience did not really take him seriously. However, the final conclusion brought everybody back to earth. The three executives that were …
We are always looking for ways to improve our internal processes to provide better services and software. Recently, we've started experimenting with a different software development methodology called Scrum. Traditionally, we have used the Waterfall methodology, which our clients will be familiar with in practice if not by name. Roughly, the process progresses through the following steps: business requirement -> functional design -> development -> QA -> release. Here is a diagram of the classic Waterfall method we've been using for the past 30 years.
Why change if the current process works? Well, we're not throwing out the Waterfall model entirely - it can be effective in some instances. However, in some development projects, particularly larger ones involving several engineers, the …
From our inception, there has been an attitude at ACS which I’ll call “can-solve.” It means we go all-out to come up with innovative solutions to business challenges. Recently, I overheard an experienced business analyst explaining to a newer analyst out in the hallway late one Friday that “we can’t just leave this problem over the weekend for Monday. We need to take care of it. Not solving it is not an option around here.” I was struck by how eloquently the experienced ACS'er encapsulated our culture. We bend over backwards to help our clients. We take problem-solving very seriously, both professionally and personally. In fact, it’s that ACS “ownership” of the problem which our clients say makes them trust us and stay with us. Forgive me for tooting our …
Every 10 years or so we invest deeply in the product to move it forward to a new platform. We are just completing the final touches on Advantage 2012r2 (available 6/30) which brings Advantage fully into the .NET environment. This technology leap is a springboard for further development of Advantage in all kinds of directions. It removes the borders around the software and opens up vast possibilities for integration, globalization, and deployment.
As a non-technical guy, let me explain what this means.
First of all, we are not announcing a new product which our clients will have to re-license. Our clients’ licenses to Advantage are a protected investment. We always provide an upgrade path to the latest release, and this huge leap forward is no exception. Our clients will have a …
During the holidays, we attended the requisite round of get-togethers with family and friends. This year, my family hosted four events, which actually made all the cleaning and decorating worthwhile.
My conversations frequently migrated to publishing and information technology. While sampling the wine and cheese pairings, I noted a number of common topics that were on the minds of my small, statistically-challenged sampling of the general public.
Why are bookstores going out of business?
My sample noted that bookstores are now hosting special events or selling video games, candles, collectibles, board games, jigsaw puzzles, coffee, and sandwiches rather than selling books. New library branches appear to have more computers than books.
All of my classes now use course packs. …