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November 19, 2009

The Internet Hasn't Killed Middlemen (And It Never Will)

What's a middleman? Someone who takes your profits. Someone who stands between you and your customers. Someone who marks up the product. Yes, a middleman can be all of these things, but, more importantly, a middleman can be useful.

When the internet arrived, there was a lot of talk of no more middlemen. Well, years later, they're still here. It's true, businesses like traditional travel agents and book stores may have taken a blow, but they haven't been replaced by direct sellers. They've been replaced by other middlemen.

Amazon is a middleman.

Kayak is a middleman.

Zappos is a middleman.

Itunes is a middleman.

This new breed of middlemen combines an understanding of culture, technology, and product to bring value to both ends of the supply chain. In fact, that's what middlemen have always done, but as culture and technology change, so must the middleman.

We can bid a fond farewell to the middlemen of old, the middlemen of the old economy and not of the digital, and we can welcome new middlemen with open arms: record labels that focus on live events, e-commerce stores that thrive within e-culture, and many more middlemen who are sprouting up to take the place of their predecessors.

Sure, there are times when middlemen just get in the way, but for the most part they're a valuable part of our economy. The internet has changed a lot of things, but middlemen are here to stay.

November 11, 2009

It's a Freebie: A FedEx module for Prestashop

If you're not a web developer this probably won't interest you (seriously it's a little geeky). But if you're a developer working with the Prestashop ecommerce platform, this little module might just save you a decent bit of development time.

We're giving away a Prestashop FedEx module we created that enables shipping price calculations based on the FedEx API. This FedEx module also has a fall-back mode if the UPS shipping module is also installed. This release is compatible with Prestashop 1.2

Here's the steps you'll need to set it up:

  1. Download zip package.
  2. Upload 'blockfedex' folder to your modules directory.
  3. Upload Carrier.php to classes folder (make a backup of your copy first!)
  4. Upload fedexRate.php to classes folder
  5. Install the module through the Prestashop admin, entering in your account details from FedEx: key, account number, etc.
  6. Set your shipping (under the 'shipping' tab) to be "according to total weight" (the only way that FedEx can calculate shipping prices)

You can download the Prestashop FedEx module here: http://files.neboweb.com/releases/FedExModule.5.zip


November 3, 2009

3 Ways You Can Benefit From Social Media Without Engaging Your Customers

Customers are a great group to build your community with, but they aren't the only community you should be thinking about. In the rush to dive into social media, many businesses don't recognize all of the routes they might take or the opportunities that are actually before them. Here are three ways you can benefit from using social media without ever engaging your customers.

Improve Your Industry

Relationships are the bridges that connect us to new insights and opportunities. While customers can teach you many things about the direction your business should be headed, your competition undoubtedly has valuable insights as well. By breaking down the walls isolating you from them, you'll find that not only can you make friends within your industry, but you can actually do a lot to help each other. When you take the initiative to interact with other members of your industry, the whole industry benefits.

Bring Talent to Your Doorstep

Being known as a great company to work for can go a long ways. Fundamentally, every company relies on the people they hire. When you build a community around your employees and future employees, hiring talented, motivated, and all-around awesome employees becomes substantially easier. Despite the economic challenges lately, great employees have choices about where they want to work. Building a community around employees and recruits makes it more likely they'll choose to work with you.

But, having a reputation for being a great employer  does more than attract talent; it also enhances the image of your brand in the eyes of your customers. Most people don't like work, but when they hear that your employees are actually enjoying it, they recognize something different, valuable, and human about your brand.

Become A Publisher

If you're publishing quality content, the chances are you're building a community around it. These content-driven communities have a very distinct benefit: they bring in revenue. You may choose to sell the community's attention to advertisers, or you may choose to create a side business aimed at the community you've developed (e.g. 37 Signals or Coudal Partners). Either way, you'll often find that the effort it takes to become a publisher is well worth the benefits of the community you build.


Ultimately, the foundation for your community-building efforts should be an authentic and useful message. This way, no matter who you're building your relationships with, you'll find them helping you accomplish your objectives -- no coercion required.

Don't make the mistake of assuming your customers are the only people worth reaching out to. If you take a moment to look around, you'll likely find opportunities to benefit from communities all around you.

October 29, 2009

Everyone's A Publisher: What's A Brand to Do?

School Teacher turns test into ad space

Thanks to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogging platforms like Blogger and Wordpress, publishing content is now easier than ever. This has had larger ramifications than an explosion in the number of personal blogs or a storm of Facebook note-writing and status-updating. More and more people are not only acting as miniature publishers, they are taking on the publisher mindset.

The increase in blogs and other social media has led to an abundance of places for advertisers to infiltrate the everyday experience. But, contrary to the popularly negative view of advertisers cluttering the internet, many bloggers and other online publishers are welcoming advertisers with open arms. The increasingly large number of places to publish content and advertisements means that advertisers now have other options besides the main stream media; however, what's equally powerful is that these new small media publishers are starting to catch on as well.

As more and more individuals begin to view their work, play, and daily activities as content to be published, brands will be faced with an increasingly noisy space in which to make their voice heard. In order for brands to be successful in this environment they will need to either become publishers themselves and create content that rises above the average joe, or become exceptional at building relationships with the growing number of publishers populating today's media environment.

picture via Illya Vedrashko, via USA Today -- depicts a test that a teacher turned into ad space.

October 22, 2009

Behind the Scenes at a Slow Motion Shoot

Recently we just launched a new website for a company called Vocalocity. During the process we pitched them on the idea of communicating their message with a series of slow motion videos that would be featured on their website.

We were lucky enough to have Trey Lyda on site documenting the madness, so if you've ever wondered what a slow motion video shoot looks like. Here ya go:

The website came out awesome as well (so check it out): http://www.vocalocity.com/