Why you should *spend money* on marketing…

Marketing spend Ramon ThomasThis came via a newsletter I receive on writing…

Let’s say the majority of your business comes from word-of-mouth. Good for you!

It means that most of your past or current clients like your product or service. So you’re doing something right. But what you’re not doing is any other marketing… So it’s possible that there’s no other way for you to get clients. And that’s not good.

Here’s a brilliant message, by Peter Carruthers, on the subject:

Whenever I talk to some intrepid entrepreneur about finding clients…they assure me they don’t need to do any marketing because all of their clients arrive by word-of-mouth.

This is a prime example of a problem known as confirmation bias.

Of course all of their clients arrive by word-of-mouth. That’s because they’re not doing any other marketing, so there is no other way for clients to arrive.   

Just in case this isn’t obvious, it is very unlikely that a person will call in response to the ad my intrepid friend did not arrange, or the magazine advert he didn’t place, or the flyer at the traffic light he did not hand out, or the website he doesn’t have.

That’s not the way he sees it. Rather, he interprets the results to mean that he is so darn good that his past clients are referring him.

It is easy to make this mistake. After all, 100% of his new clients are indeed the result of word-of-mouth, even if there are not enough of them to cover the watery soup and gruel he has come to enjoy.

Relying on word-of-mouth is, I think, a dreadful way to sell your services and products. Especially at a time when the world economy is tightening, and the competitors are getting a lot hungrier.

I think this is the universe telling us to bring our First Team to the market…

– Peter Carruthers, PetesWeekly.Com

I completely agree with Peter. What’s more, I think that there’s never been a more important time to spend real money on marketing.

[This isn’t, believe it or not, a con job to get you to use me as your copywriter. It’s just a strong encouragement to put some cash aside for marketing – whatever form that might take and whether you use my services or someone else’s.]

We (me included) can’t leave it all to word-of-mouth anymore. The world is changing…


INK Conference 2011, this December in India

Ramon Thomas with TED curator, Chris Anderson in 2007In 2007 I came a TED Fellow after attending TEDGlobal also known as TEDAfrica in Arusha, Tanzania. This has been a wonderful journey and many relationships have blossomed with TEDsters all over the African content. It’s with great pleasure that I share this announcement from Chris Anderson below.

Dear Global TED Community,

By now you may have heard of the annual conference in India that has lots of links to TED.

The INK Conference (which stands for INnovation and Knowledge) is being run by longtime TEDster Lakshmi Pratury, who co-hosted TEDIndia with me in 2009. We’ve signed a content partnership agreement with INK that allowed us to bring the best of their talks to TED.com. Last year’s INK Talks posted on TED.com (including Anil Ananthaswamy, Arvind Gupta, Simon Lewis and Susan Lim) have proved popular online, and we’re excited to continue this collaboration.

TEDIndia in 2009 was a thrilling experience, attracting a sold-out audience of 1,000 attendees from 46 different countries. It was always planned as a one-off to bring TED to South Asia. So we’re delighted that the momentum generated by TEDIndia is continuing with numerous one-day TEDx events around the country — and the longer INK conference hosted in association with TED.? The first INK conference was held in December 2010, and Lakshmi pulled together a fine speaker lineup spanning business, science, technology, nonprofit organizations and the arts.? And she’s done so again with the lineup for the second INK Conference, being held in the colourful Rajasthan city of Jaipur, December 8-11, 2011.

The theme is “Power of the Journey,” and confirmed speakers include the first woman private space traveler, Anousheh Ansari; oceanographer David Gallo; music conductor Itay Talgam; director Julie Taymor; and the chair of UIDAI and co-founder of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani. INK is modeled on TED, and the talks will fit the familiar TED 18-minute format.

As an organization, the INK Conference remains 100% independent of TED. They are fully responsible for the event. But we’re happy to be offering strategic advice and content distribution. ?If you want to attend a live TED-like event in India, do consider registering for INK and joining up with movers and shakers from a wide variety of industries, organizations and countries. There’s more information at www.inktalks.com.

Chris Anderson
TED Curator


Stand up for your freedom to install free software

Dear Supporters of Free Software,

Free SoftwareThe free software movement has come a long way over the past 25+ years. While we still face many challenges ahead for us to create a world in which it is normal and expected for computer users to have freedom, we have made steady progress. Right now, however, there is a potential threat that could put us back years. Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called “Secure Boot.”

When done correctly, “Secure Boot” is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won’t boot unauthorized or modified operating systems. This could be a feature deserving of the name, as long as the user is able to authorize the programs she wants to use, so she can run free software written and modified by herself or people she trusts.

However, we are concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than unmodified Windows. In this case, a better name for the technology would be Restricted Boot, since such a requirement would be a severe restriction on computer users and not a security feature at all.

We’re looking at a world in which it could become impossible for the average user to install GNU/Linux on any new computer, so too much is at stake for us to wait and see if computer manufacturers will do the right thing. “Secure Boot” could all too easily become a euphemism for restriction and control by computer makers and Microsoft — freedom and security necessitate users being in charge of their own computers.

So please, join us in signing this statement against Restricted Boot, and consider encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same.

If you are part of an organization or company that would like to prominently show their support, please contact us at campaigns@fsf.org.

For your convenience, here is a list of additional articles and resources related to this statement:


John Sullivan
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation


The Curse of BBM

CrackBerry - BBM BlackBerry Addiction South AfricaBBM users claims it revolutionised the way they communicate and stay in touch constantly. MXit users have known this for a few years longer. However, BlackBerry started out focusing on business users, corporate customers before becoming a quasi-status symbol for with numerous celebrities seen in public with their BlackBerry phones. This has created a false sense of superiority for them.

BlackBerry uses is a private network separate from the mobile Internet. This has allows them to offer unique services like the push feature for email to the devices and also the always-on BBM instant messaging service globally. The universal Inbox is a dream come true for long-term users of email and messages services. In most other devices you have to check multiply applications on your handset to get your messages. Your email is separate from your chat programs like Whatsapp or MXit.

In scientific studies there is growing consensus that multitasking leads to more errors among middle age people, as well as younger people. They have found it leads to partial continuous attention and this behaviour results in tasks taking longer to complete, more postponement and a misguided sense of efficient. Dr Gary Small is one of the leading neuroscientists actively looking at this radical behaviour shifts taking place due to new technology and always-on Internet.

So the recent problems experienced by Research In Motion globally has shows the strength of this mobile provider is also its Achilles Heel. The fact that your email and browsing goes via their private network, not the Internet itself like most other service providers creates a dependency, which was exposed as a weakness. This is a reminder the Internet was designed to be open not closed. The unlimited free Internet in South Africa is no longer a big deal with the cost of mobile broadband coming down as new players continue to innovate in their offerings. Cell C now offers free data + SMS every time your recharge. Telkom’s 8Ta has an offering of 10GB for only R199 per month, the ideal option for iPads or iPhone type devices.


Life is Beautiful

I know its 7 years after the fact but I finally watched the brilliantly beautiful movie Life is Beautiful starring the indomitable Roberto Benigni. This story is one of many, many Holocast stories but told with so much humour and emotion as only Benigni could pull it off. He is only the 2nd actor to direct himself to a Best Actor Oscar, the first being Sir Laurence Oliver, and also the only person to win Best Actor for a non-English language film.

The storyline is simply how a man with a penchant for comedy and creating memorable experiences, happiness and having fun. He meets a woman who he calls his “Principessa” from their first meeting. They get married and have a son. Soon afterwards the Nazi’s invade Italy and all Jewish people are sent to concentration camps. He’s wife is not Jewish but they share such a close connection she refuses to stay behind and goes with them on the train. To ensure his son doesn’t suspect anything untoward he creates a game. This game manages to keep he’s son distracted the entire time and looking forward to winning the 1st prize, a tank! Please go and rent this movie, find it, watch it, and share it with everyone you can possibly imagine. To my mind this is one of the most beautiful stories ever. I salute Benigni and look forward to watching his version of Pinocchio soon.


Forrest Gump goes to Heaven

The day finally arrived. Forrest Gump dies and goes to Heaven.
He is at the Pearly Gates, met by St. Peter himself. However, the gates are closed, and Forrest approaches the gatekeeper.

St. Peter said, ‘Well, Forrest, it is certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you. I must tell you, though, that the place is filling up fast, and we have been administering an entrance examination for everyone. The test is short, but you have to pass it before you can get into Heaven.’

Forrest responds, ‘It sure is good to be here, St. Peter, sir… But nobody ever told me about any entrance exam. I sure hope that the test ain’t too hard. Life was a big enough test as it was.’

St. Peter continued, ‘Yes, I know, Forrest, but the test is only three questions.

First: What two days of the week begin with the letter T?

Second: How many seconds are there in a year?

Third: What is God’s first name?’

Forrest leaves to think the questions over. He returns the next day and sees St. Peter, who waves him up, and says, ‘Now that you have had a chance to think the questions over, tell me your answers.’

Forrest replied, ‘Well, the first one — which two days in the week begins with the letter ‘T’? Shucks, that one is easy. That would be Today and Tomorrow.’

The Saint’s eyes opened wide and he exclaimed, ‘Forrest, that is not what I was thinking, but you do have a point, and I guess I did not specify, so I will give you credit for that answer. How about the next one?’ asked St. Peter.

‘How many seconds in a year? Now that one is harder,’ replied Forrest, ‘but I thunk and thunk about that, and I guess the only answer can be twelve..’

Astounded, St. Peter said, ‘Twelve? Twelve? Forrest, how in Heaven’s name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?’

Forrest replied, ‘Shucks, there’s got to be twelve: January 2nd,

February 2nd, March 2nd… ‘

‘Hold it,’ interrupts St. Peter. ‘I see where you are going with this, and I see your point, though that was not quite what I had in mind… but I will have to give you credit for that one, too. Let us go on with the third and final question. Can you tell me God’s first name’?

‘Sure,’ Forrest replied, ‘it’s Andy’

‘Andy?’ exclaimed an exasperated and frustrated St Peter. ‘Ok, I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Andy as the first name of God?’

‘Shucks, that was the easiest one of all,’ Forrest replied. ‘I learnt it from the song,


St. Peter opened the Pearly Gates, and said: ‘Run, Forrest, run.’

Lord, Give me a sense of humour,
the ability to understand a clean joke,
To get some humour out of life,
And pass it on to other folk.


Lovemail dating website review

Lovemail online dating South AfricaThe website www.lovemail.co.za has been around since 1999 and started out as the online personals for Junk Mail. Two years later they totally revamped the website and it became a fully functional online dating website with matchmaking technology and SMS capability built in.

Unlike other websites, Love Mail offers the users a choice between chatting via SMS or via the website. The website rated 71% in the Webagility analysis performed in July 2004. It was the highest ranked site, along with LoveFinda, narrowly beating market leader DatingBuzz, however, it still has a lot of room for improvement.

First off, the website doesn’t function properly when using a non-Internet Explorer type web browser e.g. Mozilla Firefox. And with Internet Explorer’s continued security flaws more and more people are starting to use other web browsers. A person can register using a cell phone by sending “chatmeup” to 33244 (cost = R1.50 per SMS).

You can also register on www.lovemail.co.za website which allows for more comprehensive searching and matching, while still giving you the option to search and flirt via SMS. One month will set you back R50 going up to R480 for 12 months (an average of R40 per month) and you get 20 SMS per month. One of the coolest features on Love Mail is ‘how hot?’ and this allows you to rate photos of men or women out of five. It can become addictive, to say the least.

After registration on the website you have to complete your profile. When filling out the profile some people may be annoyed with the request for their cell phone number. The verification code is sent to your cell, therefore this request is valid. It’s also a good way of preventing fraud and pranks. You can also choose whether or not you want your profile to be of an explicit nature. Again this is very different from other websites which are either ‘normal’ dating websites (match making), or a adult oriented websites for swingers and people looking for casual sex.

Love Mail also provides a good selection of free content which can be accessed without registering on the website. Everything from horoscopes, success stories, frequently asked questions, the ‘how hot?’ section, to how to ‘say I love you’ in 22 different languages. Once logged onto the website you can do quick search or a more comprehensive search. Although it’s easy to use, I found a problem with the detailed information in the profiles in the search results. There just wasn’t enough information to make an informed decision on whether this person could be a match.

Junk Mail, the owners of Love Mail, did not promote this service actively for several months during 2003 and 2004 and therefore many of the users are dormant. If they were to adopt a renewed marketing push is bound to bring more activity and more interesting users onto this website. There is room for improving the matchmaking technology and the ease with which users can search for matches. It is nice that you have the option of using SMS technology, but the ultimate goal is to use the website to get much more information that is not currently possible via cell phones. Things could change in the near future as the 3G (the next generation of cell phone technology) enabled handsets become more common, but for now websites and the PC rule supreme.


Cell C’s new broadband prices

Cell C woosh speed stick broadband mobile internetCell C has helped tremendously to reduce the cost of mobile broadband in South Africa. This is about to change because they are increasing their pricing from1 November and ending their promotions which offered bandwidth as low as R0.07 and on prepaid options. Before the speed stick contracts were the norm for3G/mobile broadband.

There is nothing like breaking trust then playing on three pillars of technology terrorism: complexity, confusion and conflict. Let’s see how Cell C does the opposite of all the goodwill they built up during 2010/2011.


The average man on the street does not understand the difference between GPRS or GPS. The Internet industry and now mobile is essentially included, is a complex industry. There is the back end managed by highly skilled technicians and engineers, there is the front end managed by call centres and a vast network of branches across the country. Who do you call when your Internet is not working? It could be your laptop, you ISP, your usb modem or a host of other issues.


What options you chose is determined by the level of complexity you can handle. For years now I have advocated simplicity. One way of doing this is top stop upgrading your phone, your laptop or software whenever a new version comes out. The more options there are, the more confused you are bound to be. To avoid this, stick to what you have because in most cases it’ll suffice. There is no need to get the latest version of the iPhone or Windows7 because WindowsXP still works very well on the PC I am using to write this, and it’s 10 years old 😉


There is bound to be conflict. Ignorant customers or world-be customers, who are now used the special pricing model is bound to be shocked when they discover the new pricing on 1 November. This and dissatisfaction from more technically inclined customers will lead to an increase in customer service issues and probably overload the call centres during November. Cell C staff will hate their management, especially the former CEO, , who left recently and was responsible for introducing many new innovations.

Anyway there’s more to this than meets the eye. And I only wish there was more consistency with pricing and products.

How do you feel about Cell C’s price increases? Will you stay or move to 8ta?




Happy New Year 2005

As I thought about what to write on my BLOG this week I remembered a famous quotation by Winston Churchill, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

2005 Year of the Rooster This is what I took from 2004, one of the best and worst years for me. In business I achieved some measure of success with my Online Dating project getting great media exposure in August 2004. I made the front page of now defunct daily South African newspaper ThisDay, and several stories in Cape Times, Pretoria News and a Durban based weekend paper. Interviews on P4 Durban, and twice on SAFM really allowed me to reach a wide audience but the cherry ontop was my interview for the eTV 7pm news! So I am eternally grateful to my mentor Arthur Goldstuck for his undying support in 2004.

Now on a personal note I broke up with two women and the last one was very traumatic. I never wanted to let go but had to in the end. Breaking my ankle in September 2004 certainly didn’t help the situation as I was left to my own devices hopping around like a mad cow around the house 🙂 But during this time alone I taught myself how to cook, and now I really enjoy that. Finally I can put Jamie Oliver’s cook book to good use! So in 2005 my plans will be to find a new love, having found new happiness inside myself. All the self-help books, tapes and CDs are making a difference in my life. All those people who continue to believe in me, thank you again.

Forward we march to conquer more in 2005. Together we stand, etc etc…