Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Palm and E-Waste

Recently, I ran into an issue with my Palm TX. I'd been having issues syncing it with my Daylite software for weeks, and finally it just stopped. No reason, just stopped. When I tried to reset it, it stopped again. When I did a hard reset, it stopped again. Just froze. With this little bar flashing across the top.

After trying a number of things to get it to work, I called Palm to see about repairing it, and the lovely customer service representative informed me that if I wanted a repair, since I hadn't bought the extended warranty when I purchased the Palm two years ago, would cost me $150.

$150. About $100 less than just buying a new one.

Now here's my issue: what kind of message is this sending? You create a product that's going to fail around two years after you buy it, and then charge almost as much to repair it as it would cost to just buy a new one? In my mind, you're basically telling the consumer "we really don't care about the e-waste that's filling up the landfills; we just want you to keep buying our products." It's creating a situation where the average consumer is just going to say "forget it, I'll just buy a new one." Good for the company's profit margin, maybe - but bad for the environment.

In my mind, we need to find more incentives to repair instead of replace. We need things that last longer, not things that break down and have to be replaced after a couple of years.

For the record, I had to replace my Palm with a Blackberry Pearl - mostly in the interest of combining my phone with my organizer, and also in the interest of moving away from Palm products that weren't working with my computer. But I am using earth911 to find a place to recycle my Palm.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Building your brand: beyond the logo

About a week ago, a friend of mine came to me with a question. She'd been selling a line of hand-crafted clothing and accessories on Etsy for a year and had found pretty good success with it, but when someone asked her at a networking event "Where's your logo?" she got a bit stressed. Did she have a logo? Did she need one?

Here's an interesting secret: you don't always need a logo.

I know, I know, it's what I do and here I am saying that you don't really need it - but hear me out.

When you're building a brand, you're communicating three things:

  • Who you are (or what your business is);
  • Who you're speaking to (or who your audience is);
  • What you need to say to them (or, your marketing message)

  • Anything you use to market your business - logo, business card, website, even your appearance at events - has to be able to answer those three questions. What logos and websites can help you do is create a consistent image in the consumer's mind when you aren't in the room. They can also help you reach a wider audience, and can definitely help you achieve more success/credibility/etc. - and it can give you more confidence that yes, you ARE an actual business.

    But sometimes, especially when you're a solo entrepreneur who deals with primarily local clients, you don't actually need a logo to achieve that. Sometimes success lies in how you present yourself in person; how you deal with clients, how you showcase your product. I've seen folks go for years in business - successfully - without having a logo.

    Then, when you're ready for a logo, you can find the right person to help you bring your company to a wider audience.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Marketing takes time

    One of the more interesting comments I hear from entrepreneurs often involves some marketing effort that they undertook - whether it's a direct mailer, an advertisement in a magazine, or even a networking group that they belong to. Whenever they mention it, it's always in terms of results gained in a short period of time.

    "I sent out a mailer last year and only got three calls from it. I'll never do that again."

    "We placed an ad in this magazine and only got one call from it. We'll never do that again."

    The challenge with any marketing activity - no matter what it is - is that it takes time and repetition to work. If you have a blog, you have to update it (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). If you do a mailing, you have to repeat it. If you run an ad, you have to run it again - and again - and again - to get the results you want. If you join a networking group, you have to go a few times; be noticed, be engaging.

    This is one of the reasons that, as entrepreneurs with (sometimes) limited funds, techniques like blogging, e-mail newsletters and online/in-person networking can be so valuable. Any marketing activity has to be done again and again to work; but these techniques have the advantage of a significantly lower cash outlay - and often, they're significantly more effective.