My high school physics teacher spent a week teaching students how to use a slide rule.  I asked him, "why can't we just use calculators?" At the time a slide rule was about $2, and a calculator was $300.  The minimum wage was $1.14/hour.  He responded that slide rules had been around a long time, and you never knew if you'd have access to a calculator. To the day he retired he insisted on using, and teaching, slide rule use.  Needless to say, by then plenty of folks were ready to see him go.  Too bad for his students he stayed as long as he did, because that was a week they could have spent learning physics, and other important materials. Ignoring the new tool, and its advantages, was a wasteful decision that hurt him and his customers.

Yet, I am amazed at how few people are using today's new tools for business, and marketing.  At a small business Board meeting this week the head of marketing presented his roll-out of the boldest campaign ever in the business's history.  His promotion plan was centered around traditional PR, supplemented with radio and billboard ads.  I asked for his social media campaign, and after he confirmed I was serious he said he had a manager working on that.  I asked if he had a facebook page ready, the videos on YouTube, a linked-in program ready to run against targets and his twitter communications established, including hash tags? He said if those things were important somebody had to be working on them.  Two weeks from roll-out and he wasn't giving them any personal consideration.

I then asked the roughly 20 attendees, all but one of which were over 40, some questions:

  • How many of you use skype at least once/month? Answer – 5%
  • How many of you have a facebook page and check it daily? A – 15%
  • How many of you check twitter daily? A – 5%  Tweet at least 5 times/week? A – none
  • How many own and use a tablet? A – 10%
  • How many of you have a smartphone on which you've downloaded at least 10 apps? A – 10%
  • How many of you carry a laptop? A – 100%
  • Who knows the #1 company for new hires in Chicago in 2010? Answer – 5% (GroupOn)
  • Who has used a Groupon coupon? Answer – 30%

Slide rule users.

New tools are here, and adopters will be the winners. If you still think we're a nation of laptop users, you need to think again.  Laptop usage declined 20% in the last 2 years, to 2006 levels, as people have adopted easier to use technology

Declining PC Usage 2010

Chart Source: Silicon Alley Insider of

If you are trying to pump out ads the new medium is mobile – not television, radio, outdoor or even web sites.  Have you tested the look and feel of your web site on popular mobile devices? Do you know if new users to your business are even able to access your information from a mobile device?

And, it's more likely a customer will hear about you, and obtain a review of your product or service, via Facebook than vai the web!  A article asks the leading question "Will Facebook Replace Company Web Sites?" Want to understand the importance of Facebook, check out these same month comparisons:

  • Starbucks: Facebook likes – 21.1M, site visits – 1.8M
  • Coca-Cola: Facebook likes – 20.5M, site visits – .3M
  • Oreo: Facebook likes – 10.1M, site visits – .3M

Yes, these are consumer products.  But if you don't think the first place a potential customer looks for information on your business is Facebook, whether it's financial services, business insurance, catering or blow-molded plastic housings you need to think again.  The use of facebook is simply exploding. 

According to Business Insider, by the end of December, 2010 Facebook apps were downloaded to iPhones at a rate exceeding 500,000/day as the total shot to nearly 60million! Meanwhile the Facebook app downloads to Android devices grew to over 20million!  Blackberry Facebook users has reached 27million, bringing the total by end of 2010 to well over 100M – just on smartphones!  In September, 2010 Facebook became the #1 most time spent on the internet, passing combined time on all Google and all Yahoo sites!  With over 500million users, Facebook isn't just kids checking on their friends any longer. When somebody wants a first peak at your business, odds are great it will be done over a smartphone and likely via a Facebook referral!

Facebook minutes 9.2010

Chart Source: Silicon Alley Insider at Business Insider

As fast as smartphone usage has grown, tablet usage is on the precipice of explosion.  Tablet sales will be 6 times (or more) notebook sales in just a few years!  The second most popular product will be, of course, continued sales of advanced smartphones as the two new platforms overtake the traditional laptop.  So what's your budgeted spend on mobile devices, mobile apps and mobile marketing?

Tablet Sales Forecast 2.11

Chart Source: Silicon Alley Insider of Business Insider

And in the effort to attract new customers, if you think the route will be newspapers, radio, TV, billboards, or direct mail – think again.  Digital local deal delivery is projected to grow at least 45%/year through 2015 creating a market of over $10billion! If you want somebody to know about your product or service, Groupon and its competitors is already taking the lead over older, traditional techniques.  By the way, when was the last time you bothered to open that latest Vallasis direct mail package – or did you just throw it immediately in the recycling bin without even a look?

Groupon Market forecast 1.11

Chart Source: Silicon Alley Insider of Business Insider

So, what is your business doing to leverage these tools?  Are your marketing, and technology, plans for 2011 and 2012 still mired in old approaches and technologies?  If so, expect to be eclipsed by competitors who more quickly implement these new solutions.

Too often we become comfortable in our old way of doing things.  We keep implementing the same way, like the teacher giving slide rule instructions.  And that simply wastes resources, and leaves you uncompetitive.  The time to use these new solutions was yesterday – and today – and tomorrow – and every day.  If you don't have plans to adopt these new solutions, and use them to grow your business, what's your excuse?  Is it that much fun using the old slide rule?