To explore the wide range of experiences and opinions within the digital business world, we’re running a series of regular interviews, ‘A Few Minutes With…’.
Today, we’re speaking with Jordan J. Lloyd.
Jordan J. Lloyd is a strategic designer from Essex. Trained as an architect, he is now using those skills in other areas apart from designing the built environment. His new major project, AleTicker is a beer reference guide of the UK and Ireland. See www.aleticker.com for more information.
Tell us a little about your organisation’s online activity. AleTicker is a free-to-use beer reference guide for the UK and Ireland. We spent two and half years building a a solid database of 9,000 beers and 1,300 breweries and built an app around it for iOS and Android. The intention is to level the playing field for independent breweries by providing (increasingly) detailed information for users to then make an informed choice the next time they’re in a pub and can’t decide which beer they’d like to try.
We’re just getting started, so beyond a small social networking presence, we’re actually spending our time developing a custom Content Management System for brewers to update and manage their own beers as they become available. Whilst AleTicker is a utility rather than a social network, there will be a sharing option for users to generate discussions on their existing networks, with a link back to our website.
What do you see as the most effective outlet for advertising for your organisation/business?
In our experience there is no substitute for actually just going out and seeing people. We’re in the information business and getting good quality information is our primary concern. If that means we have to visit every single brewery in the UK and Ireland in person, then we will if it means we establish a good relationship with breweries; we don’t even feel that it’s ‘going the extra mile’, it’s actually the foundation of the AleTicker.
What great websites have you seen recently?
I’ll recommend just one, Farnam Street. Nothing fancy but the content is some of the best the internet has to offer. It’s curator distills the wisdom of ancient and contemporary literature and authors, ranging from Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway to Seneca. It’s coincidentally one of the only mailing lists I’ve not only signed up for, but actively read every single article.
What great mobile apps have you seen recently?
Two spring to mind. First, Citymapper, which I think will become one of the default location based apps in the next three years. Whilst limited to London and New York at present, I think part of the apps popularity is that it’s been developed very specifically for just two locations so they can concentrate on making the experience as good as possible. The second is Refresh, I actually thought this one would be a great idea for an app and I’m glad someone has managed to get round the technical hurdles to actually do it. Straight out of Dale Carnegie’s playbook, Refresh is essentially an app that records details of people you meet so the next time you meet them, you have a conversation point. As Carnegie says, ‘the sweetest sound in the English language is someone remembering your name’. For anyone whose business requires them to meet many people, remembering details about whoever your meeting goes a long way.
Which companies would you pick out as leading lights for using digital media to promote their business?
TED.com has been astonishing in its exponential popularity.
What do you think has been the most important landmark in the development of digital media?
Hands down, the delivery of open education. Whilst the medium of delivery has changed, there will always be a receptive audience for education. Open education is a truly disruptive concept through both its intent and application, and I think anyone who wishes to learn will benefit from YouTube to the Khan Academy, MOOCS and higher education offering open courses like MIT’s Opencourseware.
What, for you, defines great customer service online?
An honest, quick response from an actual human being. That’s it.
Which websites do you visit to keep up to date with trends and innovations in digital media?
WIRED and TechCrunch are a good indicator for general idea of what’s going on, especially in other parts of the world.
What do you see as the next big thing in digital media and/or web design?
I have no idea. I’d hope it would be making better sense of Big Data.
Can a business survive in 2013 without a social media presence?
Absolutely. Social media in 99% of cases is merely a tool for engagement – good business is based on a quality product or service that makes our lives a little bit easier, and it will pretty much sell itself, and no amount of social media usage can disguise a crap product or service. If you must use social media, do so in a strategic, specific way when other options have been considered.
What pitfalls do you think businesses must avoid when developing a digital media strategy?
Posting too much, unimportant updates. Save it for when you have something genuinely new or good to say. The internet and digital media in particular consumes our attention. Make sure when your consuming others’ attention, you make it count.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Warren Buffet on what kind of businesses to invest in: “Our approach is very much profiting from lack of change rather than from change. With Wrigley chewing gum, it’s the lack of change that appeals to me. I don’t think it is going to be hurt by the Internet. That’s the kind of business I like.” AleTicker is an interesting paradox because whilst our medium is information and mobile devices, we’ve been very clear on what we’re investing in: the oldest beverage in history. The internet merely facilitates something we’ve always had a high demand for; whether or not it’s the physical distribution of beer, or information surrounding it, and that’s where we’re making our mark.
What advice would you give to a business starting up in 2013?
Treat a startup as starting as a business, not a startup. Also, whatever it is you’re doing, treat it as an experiment. Your idea is a hypothesis that needs to be validated. When it is, then proceed with a sound strategy. If not, cut your losses or figure out how you can pivot. I recommend four books for anyone starting a business. Ignore these books at your peril.
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard Rumelt, Profile Books
The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, Penguin Portfolio
ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Vermillin
The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences by Matt Watkinson, FT Publishing
What advice would you give to a young designer or developer starting their career in 2013?
I am a designer, first and foremost, so I have a lot to say on this topic. My advice can be summed up as simply, figure out the difference between cost and value. One of design’s core functions is the generation of value; how that is manifested is entirely up to you. If you have to, problem solve for others, but you also can go to where no one else is. As Dan Hill says, ‘create a market before there is one through project work’. Don’t underestimate the propositional value of design. If you can see where no one else is, form a business around it. Two more books aimed specifically at designers. The first is aimed at designers who need to break the cycle of a destructive client/designer relationship (nb: you’re the expert, that’s why they hired you!), and secondly, understanding design as going beyond problem solving into context setting. The same goes to developers. You have a valuable skillset, design is the way you view the world.
Do you see any downsides to the rise of digital media as a tool for business?
As noted earlier, digital media consumes information. A lot of time is wasted by the people who create sales emails/tweets/blog posts that no one reads. Re-evaluate your business priorities if you fall into this category.
If you could change one thing about the internet, what would it be?
Keep it free and open for the benefit of everyone.
Where do you see the internet and digital media in 10 years’ time?