e-commerce Solutions – Jamaican Lifestyle

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It’s till very early to say what shape Jamaican e-commerce will take.

One important service to consider is a one-of-a-kind service offered by JamaicanLifestyle.com.

I used the service recently to send out an email message to its 24,500 odd email address database that a new e-book that I had written was available — for free. The response I received was a decent one, with some 150 or so downloads. By international standards, this was not a bad response — testimony to the kind of members they have on their database.

It’s entirely an opt-in database, which means that their members are a part of the list because they chose freely at some point to receive their emails. Most of the email that gets sent out is static — there are merely e-flyers with no call for action, and no clickable links that do anything other than take a user to a web page with a graphic of the same e-flyer.

Most of their content seems to be party and product advertisements. I believe that I was the first to try what I tried — here was the ad I sent.


Here in Jamaica…

Can professionals obtain

Time Management, Productivity and Stress-Free Results?!!


In the last 7 days…

Has more email come into your already filled Inbox?

Have you missed an appointment?

Were you late for more than 2 meetings?

Did you feel a slight loss of peace of mind?

Was a sense of accomplishment missing?

If so, this free e-book for Jamaican professionals might help.

Available now, and for the next 72 hours ONLY

E-book:
“2Time Capturing — A Time Management Fundamental for Jamaican Managers”

Click on this page to claim your free copy, or follow the link below: http://fwconsulting.com/e-bookja


Clicking took a respondent directly to my landing page, where they could sign up to receive the e-book from my auto-responder. Apparently, I was the first customer to try something like this, testimony to the paucity of e-commerce activity in Jamaica.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the mailing — and I don’t know how many received it. My wife didn’t get it on her Gmail account, and neither did a friend of mine. On the other hand, I got it promptly, as did another friend of mine.

There were actually four emails that my wife didn’t get from the service, that I received, all within a 24 hour period. I’m still waiting to hear back from Jamaican Lifestyle after 3 weeks of emails and calls to account for the “blackout” that apparently happened. It could be due to any number of factors… was there a glitch in the matrix?

So, it’s not a perfect service, but I did get better than average results, which tells me that those who received it found it at least unique.

A recent broadcast I received had someone offering coaching services, along with her phone number and email address. We are truly in the early days of e-commerce in Jamaica!

I expect that there will be increasingly sophisticated offers by companies in the future, including the first webpage that allows for the use of a local credit card for purchases. PayMaster seems to be ahead in the game of accepting online payments — we shall see how things develop.

Doing Business with Internet Strangers

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Here in the Caribbean, there has always been this tendency to want to meet someone before doing business with them. We want to “look dem in dem face” before deciding whether or not we can trust them or not.

We “don’t know them from Adam”, and we can’t imagine putting good money at risk with a stranger. After all, we have no idea what school they went to, who their parents are, or what their friends are like. It all makes sense in a small-town kind of way.

However, this same kind of thinking keeps networks small, and professionals suspicious. It ensures that one’s circle remains tiny, relative to the kind of network that is needed to operate a global business.

For example, in a small business, as soon as too many strangers get involved, an owner is likely to slow things down by insisting that he/she needs to meet the people involved himself.

When it comes to doing business on the internet, such thinking is damaging.

In this new era, business-people MUST become comfortable doing business with people they have never met, will never meet and who may not even speak the same language. For older business owners, this is quite difficult to do, having grown up in a time when everyone knew everyone else, and the fact that they lived on an island kept them away from much of the world.
For anyone starting a new business, however, this skill is critical — knowing how to create partnerships via electronic means.

The sister skill of creating an online presence (by design versus by accident) is just as important., as people need to know whether or not you can be trusted, and are someone to do business with, without ever meeting you.

There is a systematic way of determining who can be trusted, and who can’t. The easiest way is to learn who they are by knowing their friends. Facebook is a must in this regard.

Other ways include getting to know them through their content — what they have written, composed, photographed, listened to, painted, blogged, created, started-up, accomplished, failed at — anything that is a product of their efforts.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about “think-slicing” — a way of understanding complex ideas in a moment. Figuring out whether someone you meet on the internet can be trusted can be built on that same skill.

Building Bridges for Business

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It struck me recently that it is quite difficult for a Jamaican who has never lived abroad to understand the economic potential in Jamaican culture and our island’s beauty.

Also, it is just as hard for a Jamaican living abroad who retains no ties back home whatsoever to take advantage of the benefits they have of being Jamaican.

Enter the Jamaican who chooses to live in both worlds — the larger world outside Jamaica and a life in Jamaica. They are a unique resource, in that they understand two worlds that are quite unique, and an understanding of both worlds makes them quite valuable.

For example, is Trench Town a special resource? Only a few Jamaicans living on the island would agree, but this happens to be the place that I was was asked about the most frequently when I lived in the U.S. Could it be turned into a kind of meccas for lovers of reggae music and Bob Marley?

We are gifted with one of the prettiest countries in the world, yet much of our country remains hidden from tourists the world over who would be stunned at the places that don’t make it to the brochures, some of which don’t even have names. We Jamaicans take the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, fruits, birds, sun — all for granted. And because we can’t see those things with “outsider eyes” we don’t think deeply enough about how to share them with the world.

It’s not an overstatement to state that we Jamaicans who go abroad truly discover the beauty of our country when we get off the plane in Miami, New York or Toronto. All of a sudden a naseberry, a quiet beach and a walk in the mountains in the morning become luxury items.

Enjoying them becomes a matter of working very, very hard, saving a lot of money, and spending it on the little 2 weeks “dem give us” each year that we use to travel home to try to take everything in at once.

Jamaicans who can see both worlds can see opportunities that are invisible to others. This speaks to new ventures that are just waiting to be started, and those of us who are business-minded could do no worse than to take the bull by the horns, and launch them.

Already, always networking

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The finishing touches are being put on Framework’s new ebook on Caribbean networking and it struck me that a professional is always networking, whether they want to or not. This can easily be seen with what is currently happening on Facebook, which is making the activity of networking in the region much, much easier than it has ever been in the past.

When the topic of Facebook comes up, the reaction is usually one of two: either they talk about how addictive it is, or they talk about how little time they have and how they are too busy to be on Facebook.

The difference is interesting — because Facebook does make networking easy. In fact, it makes almost ALL aspects of networking easy, effortless and it saves a great deal of time and effort.

It defies explanation to those who don’t understand it, but I am coming to realize that those who don’t have the time to be on Facebook are probably also the ones who don’t have the time to network. In other words, they are willing to leave their networking to chance. They are willing to squeeze the activity in a little here and there.

What they don’t know is that they would get a much bigger bang for their buck if they were to use a networking tool like Facebook. It is an extremely high-leverage activity.

Also, it is easy to see that on Facebook, the number of people using the free service is indirectly proportional to age. In other words, younger people have networks in the hundreds, while older people can hardly find ten.

The fact of the matter is that younger people are better networked than older people, and are using tools to give themselves a tremendous advantage over their older peers. They understand that they are always networking, whether they are thinking about it or not.

Their profile in Facebook is doing the work for them, and their presence in their friends’ networks speaks for who they are in an efficient and time-effective way.

Those that “don’t have time” to network are stuck with the old practices — attending functions, giving out business cards, etc. — that all take time, money and paper and they just have no idea what they are missing.

Using an Editor

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I am a recent convert to the idea of using an editor, but once I got my ego out of the way, it has turned out to be a wonderful addition to my virtual staff.

My first editor came from elance.com It turns out that she went to the same university with me, but I have not met her, and neither have I spoken to her on the phone. She has worked for me on different projects for almost a year now, and I don’t recall whether she ever told me which city she lives in.

I recently also started working with a local editor, who I also met on the internet, but this time through her blog. She happens to be editing this blog for me, and is doing a great job in fixing the typos that creep in from time to time. We are yet to meet in person.

It’s been great working with them, and they have become indispensable to me, in helping to shape the words that have been coming out faster than I can write.

I recommend them, and their services, and they are becoming typical of the kind of relationships that are needed in this age to get work done. In other words, a professional who is limited to only working with people in flesh and blood is likely to be limiting themselves severely, and not know it.

Networking and the Internet

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Next week I will be speaking at the Jamaica Employers Federation Convention 2007 on the topic of networking in the Caribbean region.

As I prepare, it has struck me that this kind of networking is based on some fundamental differences that all professionals across the region must come to terms with.

The first is that there is absolutely no way to network across the region without using the internet.

The second is that internet-based networking is actually happening whether a given professional is actually actively involved or not.

How so?

Imagine that in five years or so your name will be all over the internet. Today, a Google search done on a professional’s name probably picks up some small scrap of the total content that will be available in 2012. who will be creating this content that will be picked up the search engines?

Good question, but I can’t really know the answer. I can say with full assurance that a working professional who is committed to either growing their business or rising through the ranks in some company is going to find their name mentioned in the press, on their employer’s website, in meeting minutes of conferences, in their friend’s blogs and at their cousin’s myspace.com website.

In other words, if they do nothing, then others will be defining who they are to the world. More specifically, they will be defining them to the rest of the Caribbean region.

What is the professional to do?

One approach is to stick one’s head in the sand and hope that all this internet nonsense will just go away.

A better approach is to start today to create a profile of oneself on the internet, by engaging in the following kinds of activities:

  • set up a myspace.com page
  • start a blog
  • have conversations in chat rooms, message boards and mailing lists
  • speak at conventions and conferences
  • author papers and columns in ezines
  • upload videos to YouTube
  • write letters to the online press
  • post up a bio to the company website

These are just some of the ways in which a professional can create content that demonstrates who they are to a global audience. Sharing interesting ideas is probably the most effective way to become known in this, the information age.

Not so long ago, only 15 years in fact, there was very little understanding about this new thing called “email.” Today, email is a staple of doing business, moving from complete obscurity to the kind of ubiquity that makes not having an email address a kiss of death.

In the future, putting one’s head in the sand about their “internet brand” will be just as deadly. A good time to start to build that brand is right now.

Ideally, a Google search on our own name should yield a combination of items that we want our fellow professionals to see, rather than some random smattering of stuff other people have decided to say. It is critical that our region’s professionals take the task of managing their online brand as an essential one — as essential as deciding what to wear to work each day.

Doing Business with Strangers — Networking 4.0

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A couple of days ago I met a friend, colleague and business partner of mine who lives in Trinidad. We spent all of an hour together. Yet, this was only the second time we have ever met in person.

The Internet has further opened up the possibility of doing business with people that we hardly know, and this is not limited to performing simple transactions. What enables this deeper level of commerce and cooperation is not how well we know other people from first-hand or second-hand sources, but how well we can get to know them from the different sources that exist in cyberspace.

Knowing someone from their Internet “reputation” is very different than knowing that they have certain qualifications or experiences, or hold one position or another.

I am listening to a brilliant, not-so-new
audiobook by Seth Godin called “All Marketers are Liars.” In the book he talks about a company being authentic, and allowing its true character to come across in all communication with the public. An example: some CEO’s have blogs, and these blogs give very powerful insight into the true nature of the company, especially when the blog has an authentic voice. Not surprisingly, those bloggers that insist on trying to “put their best face forward,” are the ones that appear to be the most “faked”. When the blogger is a CEO it puts the entire company at even greater risk.

Successful networking in the Internet age has a great deal to do with having the courage to be authentic in cyberspace, and taking a lead in defining oneself.

The truth is, that if we do not take the lead to do it ourselves, then someone else will do it for us by mentioning that they met or know us, and what their impressions are/were. In other words, we run the risk of being defined by others to our detriment.

Most of the defining will be done by strangers.

Can these strangers be trusted?

Whether or not they can be, they must be interacted with, if we as professionals are at all interested in creating a personal brand that people can trust. If we think about the interactions we are interested in having, we can drive them towards certain outcomes that we have an interest in.

For example, a professional project manager who has an interest in the management of concerts could express it in the formation of a public brand that demonstrates their passion, and expertise. Over time, they could simply corner the market on this brand by generating an Internet and therefore public presence.

What allows this to happen is a skill at interacting with strangers in cyberspace.

This is a skill that I cannot quite name, but it has to do with learning how to make and trust Internet acquaintances, both professional and personal. Kids in their teens get this concept readily — they live in a networked world in which friends are thousands of miles away in other countries, and they communicate with them via IM, email and text messages in real time.

In our day we had something called a Pen Pal — a stranger we got to know by exchanging mail over long distances, and long time periods.

Today, the intervals have been shrunk dramatically.

We have blogs like this one, in which, with the click of a Publish button, anyone in the world can have instant access to any of the thoughts that I wish to share.

The difference is staggering, and the trust required to operate in this new world is quite different from what it ever used to be. Instead of trusting my Pen Pal, I now need to trust millions of people who interact in cyberspace.

The upside of all this instant exposure is that cyberspace can be used to amplify authentic messages — warts and all.

For the professional, deciding to stay away from it all is just not an option. Having no presence on the Internet is a little like not having a telephone — it communicates something about our level of seriousness and professionalism regardless of whether or not that is the message that we wants to send.

The best option, as always, is to be proactive, and to master the medium. There are many ways to get our message and our brand out, but it is up to us to use them to our benefit.

Introducing HRMAJ Networking Weekly

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Starting today, in a short speech that I will be delivering to a monthly HRMAJ meeting, I will kick off an interactive, online series on the topic of networking in a Caribbean context. It will culminate in the final edition of the series on November 16th which is the final day of the 2006 HRMAJ conference.

The arrival of the internet and computing technology has fundamentally changed the way in which networking is done, and the use of this blog as an interactive medium is one way in which I hope to introduce conference participants to my ideas on this topic.

Furthermore, it will present an opportunity to answer questions from those involved in the field on the topic, whether they plan to be at the conference or not.

For more information on the conference: see the HRMAJ website.

Why EVERY Serious Business Should Blog

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Now this is just an excellent article written by Robert Scoble on Tom Peter’s website that I think every business owner should read.

The only objection I can think of that a Caribbean executive might have to blogging is that relatively few people in our region are computer-literate. My response is, “if you build it, one day they will come.” In other words, it is only a matter of time until people become computer-literate, and start reading blogs, and by the time a company decides to jump in, the space will be too crowded to be heard.

Also, it is a good idea to create an online dialogue about your company, before someone who could very well be disgruntled, creates one about you… As the article explains, what blogging is doing is taking underground conversations and making them visible. It is a good idea to assume that whatever people are whispering about you behind closed doors, will one day turn up as part of an online conversation (better give up that mistress now!).

Plus, there is a tremendous learning curve to blogging. Only a year ago, I was still puzzled at what the term really meant. Beating the learning curve is just a good idea!

Let me know if you find the article useful, and if you are thinking of blogging also.

Going Wiki

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Framework is becoming more and more wiki.

And, no, wiki has nothing to do with witchcraft (that’s “Wicca.”)

Instead, wiki refers to online collaboration – a way of creating new knowledge, meaning and information using internet based tools that allow up to millions of people to work together to share information in ways the benefit everyone.

For example, Wikipaedia is probably the best known application. Wikipaedia is an online encyclopaedia that is owned by millions of contributors, and therefore does not rely on the specialized knowledge of a handful of “experts.” This is an eminently good thing, as I can vividly recall going on a boring shopping trip with a friend in the U.S., and finding a very old encyclopaedia from 1907 or so.

It was fascinating.

I was flipping around the pages until I got to the entry for “Negro.” It had a line picture of something that looked like a cross between the ugliest black man I have ever seen and a massive ape. Furthermore, the explanation ran something like this:

“Negro: an inferior human, typically characterized by lazy, shiftless behaviour.”

It went on in this vein for an entire column. So much for the “experts” of that time.

After months of hunting around I finally found a wiki application that we could use on Framework projects. The application is PBwiki (the PB stands for peanut butter… of course.) The link to their tour is here and the home page on the site is www.pbwiki.com.

I recommend the application for its ease of use and everyday pricing (some of the alternatives were ridiculous). It is quite easy to use, in keeping with the democratic of those of us who are “going wiki.”