Motion-Controlled Personal Computing

Microsoft Kinect for Windows will begin a new era of motion-controlled personal computing. It was only a matter of time before the wireless, motion-based controller for the Xbox 360, originally designed for gaming, would be used for other human machine interactions. Some early experiments allowed users to “scroll” film selections in the Netflix user interface using only their hands.

Microsoft Kinect features

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially announced the next step for the Kinect: your PC. A version of the device for Windows is available for $249. The company says that the higher price point is necessary because unlike the Xbox version, Kinect for Windows won’t be subsidized by things like game purchases and Xbox Live memberships.

The availability of this device on the Windows platform will mark the beginning of a new era in motion and gesture-based control of PCs. It’s easy to envision gesture and voice controls being used to navigate through various user interfaces, whether they are folders, websites, photo albums, or other multimedia content.

It may not be very long until the computer mouse is a relic as we start to control our desktops, tablets, televisions, and other connected devices by doing something as natural as waving our hands and speaking, or maybe even using our eyes.

Microsoft Kinect features

Intuit Adds a Fully Integrated Facebook Sales Platform

eCommerce is big—all of us, except for the most paranoid, have bought and most likely sold online. Many businesses are using Facebook to reach new customers and/or engage current customers. When it comes time to make the sale, many businesses send their customers outside of Facebook to their shopping cart or other online sales system.

Intuit has launched a Facebook app that lets you sell 100% on Facebook with no need for a customer to click out of Facebook to purchase your product. Intuit’s Facebook app is called SimpleStore. Once you install this app on your business page, according to Intuit’s blog post, SimpleStore will find your business page and ask your permission to install Intuit’s app to create your store on Facebook. It creates the Store tab and your SimpleStore shows up immediately. From now on, any changes you make to your product catalog are automatically and immediately reflected on both your website and Facebook.

Whether you like it or not, consumers will purchase products and services the way they want. What is your agency doing to capture and engage the online consumer? And, what are your vendors doing to support you in this process?

Will Social Networks Sell Insurance?

The research firm Gartner recently published a business development analysis which looked into social networks’ need for a sound revenue stream, and came to the conclusion that to maintain viability and competitiveness, these platforms will soon enter the financial services industry. One Gartner analyst, Juergen Weiss said, “Offering insurance products to their communities would be a natural extension of social media providers’ financial services strategies and would allow them to capitalize on their extensive set of information they constantly collect about their users.”

face to face relationships
face to face relationships

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Insurance is changing. It was not that long ago that we called travel agents to book flights and business trips. People can get insurance quotes for life, auto, and home through websites. Most young people are not hanging out at the local country club or lunch counters with insurance agents.

Insurance agents need to know how to engage clients and prospective clients online because that’s where they network and transact business. But you should never lose your appreciation for building and nurturing personal face-to-face relationships. Doing so puts you at risk of being disintermediated—whether by another agent or a computer.

Sell More by Not Selling

Your prospects and customers are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of advertising messages every day. It wasn’t that long ago that you had to watch TV commercials because there was no other option. Today, Karen and I complain about having to watch “live” TV because we aren’t able to skip through the commercials.

Doug Kessler on Content Marketing

The connected consumer is able to ignore your marketing messages better than any consumer in the past. Getting attention—whether online, using direct mail, or meeting someone at a networking event—is harder today than it ever has been.

I am convinced that the way to grow your agency and market the products and services you offer in this new environment is to do less selling. People continue to want information. They just will not put up with being “sold.”

In this new environment, it is becoming apparent that people who educate and inform their prospects and clients are more successful. They highlight their expertise with videos, content-rich websites, social streams, blogs, ebooks, special reports, and images. This is called content marketing.

Doug Kessler on Content Marketing

Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.

While copywriting techniques are often applied to content created for marketing purposes, we’re not talking about advertising in the traditional sense. In contrast to “interruption” marketing such as television commercials or direct mail, content marketing involves delivering requested information with independent value that creates trust, credibility, and authority for the business that provides that value.

Insurance agents play a key role in protecting a client’s financial future. Trust is a key factor in their buying decision. You have the power to elevate yourself on the Web to a position of trust and authority. You can interact and participate in conversations that other people begin on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, chat rooms, and forums.

The primary goal is to obtain their permission to deliver content via email or other media over time. Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion, rather than a “one-shot” all-or-nothing sales approach.

The key is to focus on buyers’ needs, not your own ego. Stop trying to sell your products and services. Don’t rely on interruption techniques. Instead, you should seek to deliver the right information to the right buyers at the right time when they are most receptive.

Content drives the Internet, and consumers are looking for information that solves a problem, not for immediate sales pitches. The trust, credibility, and authority that content marketing creates knocks down sales resistance, while providing a baseline introduction to the benefits of a particular product or service. Agencies can gain credibility and loyalty with consumers through content, and smart marketers think and act like publishers in order to create and deliver content targeted directly at their audiences.

Don’t simply push product or low price. Teach people something. Share your expertise. It is counter-intuitive: You sell more when you stop selling.

Google+ Hangouts Improve

Google continues to introduce changes and enhancements to the Google+ social network that might make it a more attractive platform for business use. The Hangouts feature has been updated and expanded, and the Huddles feature of the Google+ mobile app has been improved. With some of these updates, businesses can use the Google+ social network for video conferencing, online presentations, and general collaboration.

Google+ Hangouts

The new Hangouts On Air feature lets you use Google+ to broadcast online webcasts. Here are four ways agencies should be using Hangouts and Messenger:

1. Simple video conferencing—You don’t have to be in the same room, or even in the same city, to work together. If your agency, or at least your team, is all on Google+, you can use a Google+ Hangout for impromptu video conferencing. You can make it even simpler by creating a Circle comprised of the agency team so you can just invite that Circle to the Hangout.

Google+ Hangouts

2. Collaboration on the go—One of the changes that Google has introduced for Hangouts is that you can now participate in Hangouts from your smartphone. The mobile Hangouts feature is available for Android now, with an update coming soon for the iOS Google+ app. Participating in Hangouts requires a smartphone with a front-facing camera, but with this change it is even easier for people to jump onto a quick video conference session no matter where they are.

3. Webcast platform—Hangouts On Air turns the Hangouts feature into a tool for broadcasting online to the general public. The Hangout can still only have a total of 10 engaged participants, but with Hangouts On Air, an unlimited number of users can view the session. You can also record the Hangout so those who can’t attend live might still be able to benefit from it.

Google is also working on Hangouts On Air with Extras, which adds Screensharing, Sketchpad, Google Docs, and more for real-time online collaboration. This feature can be useful for presentations to the whole agency, or for conducting webinars for prospects or customers.

4. Messenger (Huddles) with pics—Google has renamed the Huddles feature of the Google+ mobile app to “Messenger” and added the ability to share photos as well. The group chat capabilities of Huddles (Messenger) are a great tool for businesses to collaborate and work together as a team any time.

Free tools like these make Google+ an attractive platform for agencies.