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Archive for July, 2010

Marketing lessons learned from a 104-year-old woman

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The world’s oldest Twitter user, Ivy Bean, passed away this week at the age of 104. According to MSNBC, she got turned onto Twitter when she reached her friend limit on Facebook. She had around 60,000 followers on Twitter.

I mention Mrs. Bean for two reasons. She shows us all that it’s never too late to learn something new. And maybe just as important, Bean shows us that marketing yourself doesn’t always have to take the form of selling yourself. While she probably had no interests in marketing herself, Bean developed a massive following from simple gestures. And perhaps it is the very fact that she did not seek to sell herself that drew people to Mrs. Bean.

For a company, a Twitter account can be a great way to market yourself but, as Bean shows, the best way to market yourself on Twitter is by not marketing yourself. On Twitter and off, by taking a simple interest in people, you can develop relationships. By caring about your followers, your followers will care about you.

Bean made headlines from her nursing home by doing a simple thing, a practice that millions of other people did. She attracted a following because she her true interest was in connecting with people. And even at the age of 104, she wasn’t afraid to try out new technology that could provide an efficient means to the often evasive end of getting people to care.

How To Use Job Sites As A Networking Tool

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Recently I came across an article about how to buy technology for small businesses. The article has a lot of great points, but there is one tip that struck me as entirely innovative.

Article author Gene Marks points out that hardware reviews are readily available in magazines, but when it comes to business software applications and services, it can be hard to find reliable testimonies. What to do? Marks says to log onto job search sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com and search for the software’s name in job postings.

With any luck, you’ll come across a company seeking candidates familiar with your software, which means that the company uses the software. Then, call up the company and ask them what they think: Do they like the software? What has their experience been like? How’s the tech support? Many companies will be glad to help, and best of all, they have nothing to gain by being dishonest.

This is a brilliant and innovative way to use networking to your benefit. Taking advantage of other people’s experience is one of the most tried and true ways to get ahead in any industry. Maybe it’s the colleague who has worked in the business for thirty years that you turn to; but who says you are limited to those people to which you have direct access?

Think outside the box—learn from anyone you can. In my experience, everyone in GAWDA, from green salespeople up to the company presidents, is willing and happy to share their knowledge and experiences. This is the greatest resource the association has, so why not use it? With technology, networking is easier than ever, thanks to sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. Based on Marks’ advice, you could even add job search sites to that list.

Choose Your Side: Welder or Seller?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Welder or Seller?Over the last few days, I’ve been talking to distributors about training their salespeople. Everyone has a lot of great strategies for getting the most out of their young salespeople. One of the things I’ve been discussing is the skills that make a good salesperson. The distributors agree: personality is the ultimate key. But it’s where they don’t agree that I’m most interested in.

I’ve heard some different perspectives, and I want to know what you all think. Here’s the question: Let’s say you are in charge of hiring a new salesperson for your company. Would you prefer someone with 5 years of sales experience or someone with 5 years of technical (welding, cutting, joining, etc.) experience? Let’s assume both candidates have great personalities. There are two basic schools of thought on this.

One side says, “I’ll take the sales experience. You can always teach the technical know-how through manufacturer product training. It’s more important to know sales skills that only come from experience, such as time-management, customer service and self-motivation.”

The other side says, “Give me the welder. You can teach selling, but there’s a risk they won’t like the industry. On top of that, customers respond to a knowledgeable salesperson, so someone with technical experience has a head start.”

What do you think? I want to hear your argument for picking one side over the other.

Airships: More than just hot air?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

U.S. Army AirshipWhen you think of the future of flight, you probably think fast. But lately I’ve been noticing a trend in the opposite direction. It seems aircraft companies are thinking slow. The good news is they are turning to gases such as hydrogen and helium to make this happen.

The U.S. Army and Boeing both recently announced projects for aircrafts capable of hovering at a standstill for use with surveillance and communications. The Army paid half a billion dollars for the development of helium airships to hover unseen, miles above hostile area. From there, the unmanned vehicle can relay information to the military.

It could just be that air travel is cyclical, but airships appear to be making a comeback. However, these airships are definitely not for anyone who is in a hurry. An airship built by E-Green Technologies tops out at 80 mph (Watch the inflation of the airship). Their airship, at least, can support a 2,000 lb payload, but that only adds up to little more than a handful of people with small luggage.

Apart from a military contract here or there, is there really a future in airships? Sight-seeing might be a novel application. I imagine they might find their way into the Super Bowl and other sporting events—the surveillance capabilities can provide some good replay angles. The concept of a virtual floating billboard, at low altitudes, could be attractive to advertisers (Think souped-up Goodyear Blimp that can float for 4 days without landing). Among other “practical applications” listed on the E-Green Technologies website are “forest fire monitoring” and “agriculture assessments.” Is there anything I’m missing?

There are a few applications, but it’s still hard to see this catching on. Transportation is probably not a large market for airships. These days, people want to get around faster, not slower. But then again, half a billion dollars from the military will work wonders for the advancement of technology. It’s kind of like a slower, lower altitude space race. Although it would be fun to ride in an airship, do you think it’s worth the hefty investment?

Should We Raise Helium Prices?

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

HeTube
The world is running out of helium.

At 2008 usage rates, it’s estimated that the world’s helium supply would only last for another 25 years. Take a minute to digest that.

I came across a memorable quote from Robert C. Richardson, 1996 Nobel Prize winner in physics and Cornell physics professor, a credible source who has devoted much of his life’s research to helium. “That which God has taken 4.7 billion years to create will be dissipated in a little more than 100 years,” Richardson stressed.

The question is: what can be done? To address the anticipated shortage, should the price of helium be regulated to control usage? Richardson says a 20-fold increase in the price of helium would be about right. The idea may not be easy to swallow, but in the best case scenario, higher costs would fuel innovation—finding ways to recycle helium and finding alternative gases to replace helium, like using argon in welding. It goes back to the famous quip, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Higher costs for helium may not be an attractive solution, but it is better than the alternative of completely depleting the world’s helium supply. But hey, in another 4.7 billion years, everything will be back to normal.

Do you think it’s a good/bad idea? Is there a better solution than raising the cost? Tell me what you think.

Tutorial: Create Your Own GAWDAwiki Toolbar

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

GAWDAwiki is a great tool. I use it constantly, whether I’m trying to figure out the difference between MIG and TIG welding or I want to know what Nitrogen Trifluoride is used for. The wiki is over 1,600 terms and growing. If there’s an industry term you need to know, there’s a good chance it’s in the wiki.

The best part is that the definitions are submitted by you and other people in the industry. It’s like having your own personal gases and welding expert around 24/7 to answer your questions. In fact, just last week a veteran sales manager at a GAWDA member company told me GAWDAwiki was one of his favorite resources.

To make the wiki even more convenient (as if that were possible!), I want to show you a little tip to search more quickly from anywhere on the Internet. In three simple steps, you can make your own GAWDAwiki search bar. Once you have your shortcut, don’t forget to go to the homepage when you’re done to read up on daily gases and welding headlines.


Step 1. The first thing you need to do is go to any definition at GAWDAwiki.org. For this example, I used the word “cylinder.”

GAWDAwiki

Step 2a – For Internet Explorer 7 or 8 only | (Jump to Firefox Step 2)
In the upper right hand corner of the browser is a search box. While viewing the GAWDAwiki page, hit the drop-down menu and go to Add Search Providers. Select GAWDAwiki (en).
Adding a GAWDAwiki Search Toolbar
Step 3a – For Internet Explorer.
Confirm your choice. Check whether or not you want it to be your default search. Press Add Provider.
Adding a GAWDAwiki Search Toolbar

That’s it! You have your very own wiki search tool. From anywhere on the web, type in a word and hit Enter. The wiki page will instantly show up on your screen.


Firefox

Step 2b – For Firefox only.
In the upper right hand corner of the browser is a search box. While viewing the GAWDAwiki page, hit the drop-down menu and select “Add GAWDAwiki (en).”
Firefox Wiki Toolbar Step 3

Step 3b – For Firefox.
To make GAWDAwiki your default search tool, press “Move Up” until it is first on the list. Press OK.
Firefox Wiki Toolbar Step 3
That’s it! You have your very own wiki search tool. From anywhere on the web, type in a word and hit Enter. The wiki page will instantly show up on your screen.

QR codes in the real world

Friday, July 9th, 2010
QR Code on Coffee Cup
Photo: avlxyz

A few weeks ago I wrote about QR codes in the gases and welding industry, and looked at different directives that a QR code can perform, such as directing a user to a particular website or promotion. Even after you’ve figured out where to direct customers, that’s only half of the picture. The other major consideration is where to place the QR code.

I’ve come across some really innovative approaches to QR code placements. Advertisers rely on the novelty of QR codes to intrigue readers. Some are taking the mystery even further, by dropping all readable text and relying on a printed QR code alone to deliver a message. A freestanding QR code on a building or a bus, for example, has a certain draw—the mystery of where it will take you and who put it there.

QR Cupcakes
Photo: clevercupcakes

A freestanding QR code is only one approach. Recently I stumbled across a flickr group called QR Codes in the Wild. If you’re looking for some inspiration, it’s a great place to see what other companies are doing.

I want to hear your ideas:
Where would you put a QR code for your company that might intrigue customers?

What do you think about the QR codes in Welding & Gases Today?

Can Welding & Gases Solve the BP Oil Spill?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Can Welding & Gases Provide a Solution for BP?We’re now about 79 days into the BP oil spill disaster in the gulf coast, and still no comprehensive solution has been developed to deal with the mess. The cleanup has gases and welding written all over it and many people are drawing on the industry for solutions. Ideas are pouring in, but is BP really listening?

An article in the Seattle Times reports that 120,000 ideas have been submitted to BP. Somewhere around 425 ideas in total have gone to testing. Most ideas, says Michael Cortez, a petroleum engineer at BP, are downright impossible or impractical.

The main task BP faces is cleaning up the oil that has spilled. The other large task is securing the leaking pipelines.

GAWDAwiki recently reported that GAWDA member WESCO is testing the use of carbon dioxide to make the oil easier to pick up. According to WESCO Executive Vice President Paul Dutruch, “Our goal is to make the cleanup easier. The easier it is, the faster things will return to normal.”

Welding & Gases Today reader Ray Stone expressed frustration at being stonewalled by BP and the Coast Guard when trying to put in his two cents. His idea is to “spray liquid nitrogen on the front edge of spill.” He added a request to pass the idea along to “people who care about cleanup, not their bottom lines.”

In a Walton Sun editorial, former physics professor Dr. Ernest Zebrowski suggests using liquid helium to temporarily halt the flow of leaking oil long enough to pump in conventional concrete plug. After waiting several weeks with no response, Zebrowski turned to the Sun in hopes of finding an open ear.

The echoing sentiment seems to be: let’s work together to get this thing cleaned up and not worry about making money. BP is understandably wary about signing any agreements, so maybe it should think about taking advantage of the goodwill out there.

Whether it’s welding booms and stopgap structures or using liquid nitrogen or CO2, there just might be an answer out there to tackle the disaster at hand. But for every innovative thinker, the question remains: who is listening?

A Fourth of July Welding Project

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Weld Your Own Grill
Photo: avlxyz

While you’re grilling this Fourth of July weekend, here’s a little challenge for you to think about.

For the National SillsUSA Welding Fabrication Competition last week, students were presented with the task of welding a barbeque grill in 6.5 hours.

Students were provided with the following materials:

-Four 1/8” x 36” x 24” mild steel plates
-Two 1/8” x 24” x 24” mild steel plates
-Four Steel Hinges: 4.5” X 4.5”
-Two Caster Wheels Stationary 4″ X 4-1/2″
-Two Caster Wheels Swivel 4″ X 4-1/2″
-Three 1/8” x 1” x 1” 10 ft length angle irons
-One 1/4” x 48” x 24” expanded steel mesh

Welding equipment and consumables were also provided.

Students were required to complete 5 each SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, FCAW welds of at least 3” in length. Judging criteria included safety, welding skills, cutting skills, teamwork and fabrication accuracy. And believe it or not, after all that, students had to complete a written test as well.

The payoff was a half tuition scholarship to welding school worth more than $13,500. Not bad a for a few hours’ welding.

So savor those burgers and hot dogs this weekend, and just be glad you didn’t have to build the grill you’re using.