Juice Bars for Electric Cars

On a tour of GM’s Rouge Plant in Detroit last October, I asked our host how drivers of electric vehicles will get their charges, when and where they need them. I was really asking whether or not there were plans afoot for the car maker to get into the service side of the business, too… perhaps in league with utility companies. The prospect of driving an electric car intrigues me, but without an idea of how I will reliably get my car juiced, angst would set in as I ventured far afield.

The host answered that business models were in play that would fill the need, for both home and on-the-go recharging systems. This week’s Fast Company has a concise roundup of the state of things.

Commuters who work at companies that outfit their parking garage with charging stations, and who don’t work in the field will have the least to worry about: Google has become a trial site for a wireless EV charging station strategy at its headquarters in Silicon Valley. That development cycle might leapfrog the expected plug-in interface, planned for home garages and public parking lots.

Speaking of Google… there’s an App for that. They’ve mapped publicly-accessible juice bars for electric cars. Learn more here.

Read more in this article by Ariel Schwartz at FastCompany.com

U.S. Census Bureau Delivers the Goods

The U.S. Census Bureau released population totals and demographic statistics for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia … ahead of schedule and well under budget. Under-promise and over-deliver… they think like a sales guy!

Next up, in April, a more thinly sliced data on metropolitan area and regional characteristics, and Native American (Alaskan and Hawaiian, too) areas. Legislative realignment then follows.

The five most populous counties are Los Angeles, Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Maricopa (Phoenix) and San Diego. And the 5 top cities? New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. (Chicago’s population has shrunk by 7% since 2000, Philadelphia’s leveled out, while others have all grown)

Find fast facts here, and plot your business’ US expansion.

Juarez Convention and Visitors Bureau: Marketing Fort Apache

News from one of the world’s most dangerous cities illustrates the winning and optimistic spirit shown by business leaders in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. While economic revitalization hums along across the bridge in El Paso, Texas — upgraded rail transit corridors, expanded military facilities, well-endowed university research centers, livable and affordable neighborhoods — Juarez remains in Fort Apache mode.

Civic boosters break ground this month on a convention center and baseball stadium “macroplaza” in the heart of the city, to forestall the creeping influence of nightlife-oriented businesses. The ballpark will house Los Indios, Juarez’ pro team.

Give high marks to this convis bureau, who’s taking back the vital core of what will again become a livable, safe, and enjoyable destination. They anticipate the return of a wholly productive and progressive bi-national metroplex, benefiting local citizens and myriad international business people who live and trade every day in El Paso-Juarez.

Credit El Paso-Juarez Now March 2011 issue.

Fly on Air Google

In 1992, on a sales visit to Australia, our distributor showed off a brand new mapping software program. It came loaded onto a stack of 5.25 inch floppies with a fat manual, for Windows only. That day, at his office in suburban Sydney, the software flew us over to a bird’s eye view of my house in California. Granted, it was like flying a bi-plane and took several lengthy fuel stops in the form of auto-saves and screen refreshes, but we got there. Mapping software had just made the leap from enterprise and government applications to consumer applications. But it was hard to figure out what to do with it, other than say gee-whiz.

Destination: Anywhere

Google’s mapping and navigation functions lead the way in our “gee-whiz” category of Internet performance. Nowadays, not a day goes by when we don’t rely upon Google Maps to plot out our day’s travels, scope out customer locations, shop for houses, or promote our business. But it’s Google Earth that lets us fly at warp speed. Practical, and fun too!

Here are 5 (very) cool things you can do in Google Earth:

1) View an image of your home, school or any place on Earth – Click Fly To. Enter the location in the input box and click the Search button. In the search results (Places panel), double click the location. Google Earth flies you to this location.
2) Tour the world – In the Places panel, open the Learn and Explore folder and double click Explore.
3) Get driving directions from one place to another and fly (follow) the route – See Getting Directions and Touring the Route. (Google Maps does this, but … it doesn’t fly you to the route!)
4) View other cool locations and features created by other Google Earth users – In the Layers panel, check Community Showcase. Interesting place marks and other features appear in the 3D viewer. Double click these points of interest to view and explore. See Using Points of Interest (POIs) for more information.
5) View 3D terrain of a place – This is more fun with hilly or mountainous terrain, such as the Grand Canyon. Go to a location (see number 1). When the view shows the location, use the zoom slider to tilt the terrain. See Using the Navigational Controls and Tilting and Viewing Hilly Terrain for more information.

Learn more here. Have fun while you’re working!

“Blue Ocean Strategy” Passes Page 69 Test

Next up in my Page 69 test, another valued part of Hanson Marketing’s library: Blue Ocean Strategy.

Our client, a software developer who’s seeking expansion into new markets, can win coveted word-of-mouth success in part by applying its solutions to common pressure points found in emerging sector leaders, in this case CIOs.

Marshall McLuhan said to turn to page 69 of a book and, if you like it, read the rest. Let’s see what Blue Ocean Strategy Page 69 has to say about it:

“What is the context in which your product or service is used? … Can you identify the pain points? How can you eliminate them through a complementary product or service offering?”

“Borders and Barnes & Noble … redefined the scope of the services they offer… transforming the product they sell from the book itself to the pleasure of reading and intellectual exploration…”

So there you have it – responding to pressure points for decision makers and their customers with solutions that appeal not only to functional, but to emotional needs. A company such as our client can convey its expertise to win the word of mouth endorsements it needs to vault into a position of influence to shape policies, define best practices, and write technology standards.

“Crossing the Chasm” Passes Page 69 Test

Today, I put one of the stalwart titles in tech marketing — Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm — to the page 69 test. Said test is based upon Marshall McLuhan’s suggestion for choosing books to read: turn to page 69 of a book and, if you like it, read it.

And I’ll be dipped if I didn’t find, there on page 69, a concise definition of one of Hanson Marketing’s current consulting projects, for a software provider who’s seeking expansion into emerging, influential markets:

…One of the keys in breaking into a new market is to establish a strong word-of-mouth reputation among buyers… in the high-tech buying process, word of mouth is the number one source of information buyers reference, both at the beginning of the sale cycle, to establish their long lists, and at the end, when they are paring down their short ones.”

“…for word of mouth to develop in any particular marketplace, there must be a critical mass of informed viewers who… in exchanging views, reinforce the product’s or the company’s positioning. That’s how word of mouth spreads.”

“Winning over 1 or 2 customers in each of 5 or 10 different segments … will create no word of mouth effect. By contrast, winning 4 or 5 customers in 1 segment will create the desired effect.”

Word of mouth leverage, says Moore, thus arrives earlier for the segment-targeting company than for the sales-driven company.

Our client’s sales and marketing resources, limited though accomplished, will be put to best use by cultivating its reputation as subject matter expert in a short-list of target sectors. Emerging industry sectors are a great place to do this, and even allow experts to help shape best practices.

Remember Our Friends and Colleagues in Japan

As I watch news coverage of the earthquake and tsunami damage in Japan, I recall how many trusted business partners and friends are in need of our help, in any way we can. If you’re trading with companies there, think about extending payment terms or re-scheduling shipments in and out of the country. Let’s try to give them breathing room, while they tend to more urgent matters. It’s gut-wrenching to watch the giant stew of cars, planes, buildings and homes swirling around the shorelines. Business as usual in Japan won’t be, for quite a few days; let’s give our loyal partners a break in any way we can.

US-Mexico Trucking Deal Agreement Nearing

To study up on the latest development in the US-Mexico cross-border trucking negotiations, I went to the BBC. With diplomatic and speculative tones, the Beeb’s coverage tells me that progress has been made, but the hammering and ironing are still left to be done. (see previous coverage on this topic by Hanson Marketing here and here).

I gathered as much by the tentative choice of words in the opening sentence of the BBC dispatch: “The US and Mexico have reached a proposed deal to open US highways to Mexican trucks, raising hopes of an end to a 20-year dispute”.

Progress is progress. If the logistics companies based along both sides of the US-MX border can pencil out a business case for revenue growth in these lean times, we’ll see expansion from both directions in the coming months. Even though the US holds the upper hand due to its sector size and political influence, this is an equal opportunity for growth in both countries.

Challenges to be faced by both US and Mexican truckers include the rising cost of fuel, the crazy-long delays at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing, the world’s busiest land crossing. Trucks idling while delayed on both sides burn that costly fuel and create a haze of exhaust fumes, a health hazard for residents and workers in the vicinity.

World's Busiest Land Border Crossing: Expansion Officially Underway in Tijuana-San Diego

Just in time comes news that ground is broken for the border crossing expansion project; read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

How to Find Small Business Customers in the EU

When I think of the European Commission, the EU’s governing body, I imagine a highly-centralized, presidential-level group of policy makers, along the lines of the US’ Executive Branch Cabinet. Gladly, though, the EC is much more than that, as this program illustrates.

The European Small Business Portal is a terrific way for US exporters to get in contact with prospective SME (small-medium enterprises) throughout the EU. Take a look here (http://ec.europa.eu/small-business/index_en.htm) to see how the EC reaches SME constituents in myriad sectors and see how easily you reach across the pond and meet your newest global customers!

The Americas Business Forum in Los Angeles

I attended the 3rd annual The Americas Business Forum at UCLA on March 2. The LA Chamber organizes this great event, along with the US Foreign Commercial Service and UCLA Anderson School of Management.

As a channel builder for manufacturer-exporters, I seek the fastest, most margin-friendly route to market for my clients. So, for me the most valuable part of the event was to talk with senior foreign commercial service diplomats who are in charge of building US export channels throughout the Americas: from Canada to Chile. In a round-robin of talks, they laid out challenges and opportunities that await US exporters in their respective countries.

As exporters, it’s easy to salivate over the young, growing population and the emerging consumer classes in countries the size of Brazil. The region’s economic growth rate outpaces that of the US right now, too. But, the experts urged listeners to go in with eyes wide open. In fact, the senior commercial officer from Brazil dropped one of the best one-liners of the day: “”Brazil is the country of the future and always will be”.

Collectively, attendees learn all facets of the countries: political trends, challenges in infrastructure, levels of bureaucracy, and which industry sectors are best prospects. Those senior officers stay for a second day of one-on-one counseling sessions, too.

High points:

  • – learning about the Colon Free Trade Zone in Panama, and its ideal role as a sales channel turnkey site. Engaging the services of an all-in-one representative company in Colon, I can launch my clients’ products in any or all countries in Latin America. Granted, margin discounts would reflect such turnkey services, but the efficiency with which a small or midsized US exporter could reach multiple markets probably can’t be beat. I’ve got three clients in mind right now, all makers of consumer goods, and will report back throughout the upcoming selection and retention process.
  • – hearing about Chile’s consistent, pro-business growth and its strategic ties with US partners in higher education, finance and agriculture, among others. Don’t forget that Chileans are recovering from that massive quake in 2010, just over a year ago. Part of the opportunity for US concerns lies within the re-construction efforts there, via government tenders.

UCLA’s student body is truly the Face of the Americas, and meeting on this elegant campus to talk about the future of regional trade only added to the inspiration of the event. Bookmark the event’s website, and plan to attend the 4th annual!

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