Pay to Play

We live in an exponentially-accelerating technological world. It’s impossible for the linearly-accelerating (?) human brain to keep up without aid. Are you getting as much support from technology as you should be … and as is required for future success?

Here’s a simple test: How many apps and services are you paying for?

If your answer is fewer than eight, watch out! The world is quickly leaving you behind.

Yes, most apps are free but unless the app/service is advertising-based (like Facebook and Gmail), they’re using a “freemium” model where the most valuable features are behind a pay wall. You’re not using these features because you’re not embracing technology as required to prosper in the technological future. Half your brain is tied behind your back (tip of the hat to ditto heads).

Here’s a list of some of the apps I use and pay for … and why:

Office 365 – this one’s a “gimme”. If you’re still using old, off-line Office, it’s time to pay up. Trust me on this one.

Evernote – my second brain (see last month’s issue of TEQ). It allows me to store virtually anything and find it with incredibly powerful search. Premium features include searching Office and PDF content, scanning and digitizing business cards, integrating Slack and Salesforce, and countless other critical capabilities.

LastPass – my everywhere/everything password manager. Why use valuable brainpower to generate and remember cryptographically secure, unique passwords for every app and website? The software does it for you. As for premium features, imagine you and your employees never wasting time recovering lost passwords. Imagine never having your kids say, “Mom, what’s the Netflix password?” Or Amazon, Apple, etc. Yes, that’s actually possible! – On a 1 to 10 rating scale, this app rates 11. It allows you to set a reminder timer on any email message on any platform. Premium features include automatic deletion of redundant reminders. – allows people to schedule time on your calendar (which saves lots of time going back-and-forth comparing calendars). Premium features include friendly links for different length meetings.

TripIt – allows you to turn any travel confirmation email (airlines, rental cars, hotels, …) into a corresponding calendar entry (or entries) AND automatically share your travel calendar with anyone you like. Premium features include real-time flight alerts and automatic notification of potential fare reductions. At $49/year, this app more than pays for itself.

LinkedIn – the professional’s social network, now owned by Microsoft and increasingly being integrated into Office. The most valuable premium features vary by job function but for sales people (for example), “Sales Navigator” features make it 51% more likely to hit quota (it says so on their website so it must be true). I’m grandfathered in on the “Spotlight” plan which can no longer be purchased. – allows your audience to interact during presentations using their smartphones (no app or download required). The premium plan makes access easier with custom URLs, advanced reporting, and more. – there is no free version other than a short trial. Paying for the subscription gets you one audiobook every month and additional books for $15 each. In the last decade, I’ve listened to literally hundreds of books (while driving, exercising, mowing the lawn) that I never would have had time to read!

Before I mention the next app/service, keep in mind that every day, half of all Internet traffic starts with a search. The other half of Internet traffic (direct navigation to specific websites and addresses/URLs) doesn’t matter as your company has already won (or lost). The war is about the searchers. Therefore, … – again, no free version other than a short trial. A subscription gets you data about inbound organic (free) and paid search traffic for any and every website in the world. It’s amazing in that you can actually see which free and paid keywords are driving traffic (and exactly how much) for all of your competitors. In short, you can see who’s winning, who’s losing, and why … and then adopt the best strategies.

Carbonite – again, no free version. A subscription gets you “set it and forget it” cloud-based back-up of all data on your computers and other devices. Services such as Apple’s iCloud will take care of Apple stuff, and Dropbox will take care of Dropbox stuff, but what about everything else? Get Carbonite (or IDrive, Backblaze, etc.) and when your hard drive crashes (or your computer and co-located backup drive are stolen, burned, damaged by water, …), you’ll thank me.

LifeLock – again, no free version. A subscription is essentially identity theft insurance. You have insurance for everything else that’s valuable, right? Two words: “Equifax hack” (not to mention all the other hacks).

QuickBooks, SurveyMonkey, Mailchimp, Slack, … my list of premium services goes on.

I’m approaching the word count limit for this column and must mention a different category of apps I also pay for; those delivering content. I alluded to Rush Limbaugh earlier (free / ad-supported) but I think we should all listen to both / all sides. So, I listen to NPR (potentially free but I voluntarily contribute at least $1,000 annually) and pay for a subscription to the New York Times. I’m also paying for a subscription to “Medium”, not to mention Amazon Prime (a lot more than just content here), Netflix, HBO, and Showtime. And last but not least, I also voluntarily support Wikipedia with an annual monetary contribution and occasional content contributions.

You’re probably wondering how I have time to engage with so much content and so many apps and services. A deep embrace of technology makes it all possible!

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