Just a few comments on what I believe to be a great example, if not one of the top Open & Free Business Model Examples. Skype has been around for some time, and I’m certain most of you use it, but next to Google they have shown us one of the best ways to give something away and generate revenue. Granted, not all of us has the resources or the know how to build a program like Skype or a systems like Google, but we all have an idea, a product or a service.

The Open & Free Business Model provides us a model to give something away and charge for a Freemium Service. Skype gives you the software for free, they even let you make Skype-to-Skype video calls or voice calls for free as well. There are conditions of course but it’s still free. Once you install the software, you can make these calls free to others who have an account with Skype, the account setup is also free.

In order to take advantage of the premium services, you will have to part with a couple of bux, nut only a couple. I subscribed to Skype for a low $2.95 per month, this allows me to call anywhere in North America anytime and for as long as I want. I can dial directly to Cell Phones and Land lines all for $2.95 per month! Your subscription rate will vary based on the package you decide to purchase. Oh, they also let you pay with PayPal too : ) (another FREE Service)

You have three options available to you when you download Skype:

1.) FREE

– Skype-to-Skype calling
– Video calls
– Instant Messaging
– Screen Sharing

2.) Pay as You Go Calling

– This rate starts at 2.3¢ a minute
– Call phones and mobiles
– Skype To Go Number**
– Call Forwarding

3.) Monthly Subscription

– This Rate starts at 1.2¢ a minute
– Lowest calling rates
– Choose unlimited calling***
– Best rates with 3 or 12 month subscription

The above features list were taken from the Skype Website. They also have a product called Skype Manager, it lets you centrally manage Skype in your business. Allowing you to make accounts, allocate Skype Credit, assign features and monitor usage.

There is much more to learn about Skype, so the first thing you should do before you even install the software, read all the about the features, the different ways to purchase based on your needs, just like any other purchase you make right? For example, new in Skype 5.0, you can have up to 9 contacts in a Group Video Call…that may be a very important feature for you.

I asked on Twitter, what is your favorite feature in Skype, other than it’s free. Here’s a couple of responses:

@jameswanless of Vancouver, British Columbia said:

Text, vid and voice at same time, auto-saving of transcripts for reference, ability to phone landlines …

@Billy_Delaney of Akron, Ohio said, and jesting of course:

Typing information to someone on a conf’ call about what is being said, and the said person cannot see it :)))

I am a very happy subscriber, and this tool is one of my top valued items in my tool kit. It should be yours too.

Oh, and don’t SPAM me, but you can hit me up Skype to!

Skype Me™!

This past week I went to a number of networking events with great anticipation, I just knew I was going to meet someone who was going to grab my attention. The reality is, someone did grab my attention, in fact, many people grabbed my attention, for the wrong reason’s. I must state up front, I do not do things right all the time, in fact, I do more wrong than I do right, at least that’s what my wife tells me : )

Have you ever gone to a trade show and chatted with business owners with a booth? Have you attended networking events where you meet someone for the first time and they start to pitch you immediatly. You feel almost violated, they hand you their card, and there it is, staring you right in the face, the one thing that makes that little voice in your head start crying. It’s at that time I start to question business owners strategy of free.

There are many services you can use that are free on the Internet, some are valuable, and some are not, that’s the way of the world. As I told a writer at one of my workshops, they were concerned that anyone could write and become famous. That was bothersome for that person, I showed her how she could write a book, publish it and sell it on Amazon for virtually no cost. At that point she started to scream. I also shared with her, crap doesn’t sell, so who cares if a million people get published this week, if it’s good writing it will sell, if it isn’t…guess what, it won’t.

Let’s get to my point, your strategy of free needs to be well thought out, why? Perception is everything. For example, using free email services like GMail, Yahoo, MSN and so on, are great for learning how to master email, great for learning to see a bigger picture in yur technology strategy, they are not good for PR.

I went to one networking event recently and there were some 40 people in attendence, I got 22 business cards, half of them were using free email services, worse yet, they were using there ISPs domain name. If you are in business, invest in your own domain name, ensure that your email address on your card is using it. There are many businesses that block GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo and the like because of fraudulent uses. Having these email addresses on your business card tells me you aren’t serious about being in business, right or wrong, that’s the perception most will have with you and your business. If you are using @shaw.ca or @telus.net, you might as well be using a Hotmail account or any of the other free services in my humble opinion.

Using free services may not always the best decision for your business, especially free email services. Let me re-phrase that, publishing these free email services on your business card may not be the best decision for your business. Also, putting an email address of info@domainname.com is another item you may want to re-think. The info email address is a haven for SPAMMERS, they love that email address.

I know I may sound critical and coming off hard on this strategy of using free email services, but using these services is one thing, publishing them as your primary email service for your business is not good for your businesses image.

I am not suggesting these companies that provide these free services are bad or good, they help many people who may not be in a position to have their own domain name. I do recommend using these services, primarily for private usage, not as a public tool to reach me.

So I beg of you, think long and hard on the strategy of using free services, and how you will use them. The strategy of free should not be taken lightly. Email is only one of the many free services you can use, I’ll touch on more in future blog posts. Good luck, and feel free to contact me for further insight on the Open & Free Business Model.

I talk alot about future trends and technologies, RFID chips, nanotechnology, and well, even computers as we know them. With all these advances, there is a growing challenge, how to keep your privacy private. The new chip technology is everywhere, we are forced into it, all financial institutions in Canada must have this chip technology embedded into each card by 2011, credit cards and yes even debit cards. The government and corporations are mandating this technology without your knowledge, it’s happening and you have no choice. Oh, and by the way, as of October 2010, if you don’t have this chip on your Visa, you will no longer be covered by the Visa Zero Liability Policy. I’ll be you didn’t know that.

These cards with chips embedded are called “Smart Cards”, in time will permanently have replaced the current magnetic-strip cards we carry around today. These new chip cards mean you can, you will not be able to hide, you will be tracked at all times, if you are a criminal or have bad credit, they turn the card off and you are unable to buy anything. Let alone not be found, hiding is something we did when we were little, covered ours eyes and no one could see us, remember?

This past week, the Google & US Government collaboration was announced, the Internet will be monitored, every Tweet, every FaceBook Update, every Blog Post will be scrutinized. So be careful what you put on the NET, it might get you in serious trouble. Here is an example of how a simple purchase of a Pizza might go for you in the near future.

Business is being reshaped online, it has to, the very way of survival is change, it is however, doing a poor job of translating it to traditional business forms. What I call the OLD Business Model still needs to be looked after, but it also needs to be transformed and reshaped to adopt the online mentality if it’s to survive. No longer can we use the phrase, ” we’ve always done it this way”, if someone says it, they should be fired on the spot. It sounds harsh but, if that person has influence, the future of that business is and will be in jeopardy if they stay with that thinking.

Toll Booths are the mechanism for getting paid, online & off, it’s the way of the business world. These toll booths are being reshaped, they are becoming more & more invisible to the consumer. This seamless trend will continue to the point we may not know when we’ve actually paid for anything! The strategic alliances, the partnerships, and the stand-alones must make paying for goods & services effortless in order to make the experience positive. Not unlike the Apple example, iTunes has made buying music almost painless but not completely. You still have to download an application and you still have to have a valid account with a healthy balance in it before you can feel the benefit. Plus, it’s a closed system, you don’t get to touch it, feel it or make changes to it. Still, this toll booth is better than no start to the future of toll booths, and probably one of the best examples to date.

My son recently purchased eye glasses online, it was a great experience, and he saved money to boot! It was a simple three step process, choose your contacts & or designer frames, enter your prescription & customize your order, and then see the savings delivered to your door. It took him less than a week to get his new glasses, he put them on and they were perfect. The company is called Clearly Contacts, a Canadian company that is making it easy to buy glass & contacts, and they accept PayPal as a means of payment! In the future, we will have our eyes tested online so we don’t have to drive to the optometrist to get the prescription.

Soon there will be a secured cookie mechanism, a cert if you will, it will eliminate the actual payment click of the mouse step, it will be similar to the RFID chip. It will be a Secured Digital RFID Cookie that will handle the payment process for you. Of course, you will have to approve it, but as web browsers die, other technologies of viewing websites will make this process even easier.

The current build of toll booth is still too cumbersome, a link to PayPal or another means of making payment needs to be hidden from plain site, making the experience better. The current method makes you feel like you have been violated, or you’ve left the house unlocked, I need to feel things are well looked after, I don’t need to see it. The experience is everything for the user, much like Attention is to the seller. Attention is the new currency for anyone or any business selling products and services online. The problem is, getting that attention is going to get harder and harder, and it’s also going to be extremely difficult to keep that attention. One way of helping the cause, make paying for your products & services as easy as possible. Don’t ask users to fill out a LONG form, requesting name, address, phone numbers and so on, that will be the death of you. Find ways to make the toll booth invisible, and above all, an experience they can’t stop talking about in a positive way.

Where you put the toll booth matters, the experience users have using your site & toll booth will be the difference maker. The future of toll booths? Simple, hide them, embed them, make them work seamlessly online and you will have a winner. Better yet, you’ll get attention, and that means good things for you and your business.