Friday, December 17, 2010

My Take on Twitter Followers and Conversation

Free twitter barImage via Wikipedia
The topic of Twitter followers has been a pretty hot one recently.  Not only have I spent lots of time talking about it with people at events but  some awesome posts have been written on the subject.  My buddy Jackson Wightman wrote a post recently on the topic which you can read on his blog.  Joe Thornley also wrote a great post on the subject as well, and the post and comments are worth a read.

As such, I figured it was about time that I put my hat into the ring and let my definitive thoughts be published on the matter.

I don't care about number of followers and I don't care if somebody follows me back or not.

I have heard about and seen a few dramatic flare-ups over people not following people recently and it makes me laugh because somebody doesn't need to follow you in order to see your activity.  Why?

1) You can be on somebody's list even if they don't follow you
I found this out when I tried to unfollow (and therefore not see anymore tweets) somebody I didn't want to see anymore.  You can get visibility by being on a list, and I would almost say that being on a list is more important than following because I don't see many people that use their home feed.

2) More and more, I hear more people using searches and following hashtags
Seems that Twitter2.0 is all about listening.  Power users are listening for topics and following conversations in the form of hastags more than watching home feeds or even lists at times so it comes back to the idea of participating in conversations and sharing information about topics.

Now do you agree that following isn't all that important?  It all comes back to the same thing: conversation and relevancy.   Broadcasting messages with crap that nobody cares about (meaning they don't have a search running for that topic) and you're not going to get seen.  Use hashtags and @replies and you'll also get seen.  Elementary my dear Watson.  But can you measure this?

I run some pretty quick stats and I have to tip my hat to Scott Stratten of "Unmarketing" fame for turning me onto this idea.  You see, I saw a video of Scott doing a keynote and he mentioned that when he starting using Twitter, he sat down and took about three months to interact with people on the platform.  In doing so, somewhere over 75% of what he did was talk to other people and share content.

I then went over TweetStats and TweetReach and ran some numbers.  Unfortunately, I don't have my own personal "before" numbers but here is a quick analysis and comparison.

My numbers: You can see that 35% of my tweets are @replies and about 19% are retweets.  That means I am talking directly to or sharing tweets/information 54% of the time.  So, over half of my activity is conversing with or engaging people.  Personally, I think this isn't that bad but I know I can do better and I am always trying.

Scotts's numbers:  I ran the same analysis on Scott's @unmarketing account and was blown away.  Amazingly, 76.35% of his activity is @replies and 4.81% is retweets.  Rounding it out, a full 81% of his Twitter activity is conversational.  Unbelievable!  Here's the proof, showing only that 76% monster number of @replies.  When people talk about managing social media using metrics, I'd say that metric is pretty darn important.  Wouldn't you?

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do Work

I like to think that we are heading into a Work2.0 era where simply showing up isn't good enough.  I'm not actually sure if it's Work2.0 or Work 3.0 yet but I'm sure that it is NOT Work1.0.

It used to be that having a job was good enough.  It used to be that doing something was good enough but I think that we are now in an era where people will differentiate themselves largely on their ability to do the right things at the right time with the right amount of effort.

This concept really hit home for me in 2010.  Largely because I started to see a shift from thinking about strategy to thinking about doing or to be more specific, a focus on doing.

Julien Smith recently launched a that urges you to get to work.

Seth Godin talks less about marketing these days and more about overcoming dips and being indispensable.  Heck, Godin even starting selling a journal that makes it easier to "ship".

In the past year, bloggers across the world have started blogging continuously in the form of lists posts.

In predicting a big 2011 for the concept of gettin' er done.  I'm sure David Allen would be pleased.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Fascinate by Sally Hogshead

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead is a book I have been waiting close to six months to read.  Took me longer than I had anticipated to get to it, but I'm glad that I finally did because this book is amazing and a must for any communicator or marketer.

There seems to be a trend in marketing thinking these days.  In order to really understand why we do things (like buy or hold onto an idea) we need to look to the "ologies".  Biology (or Buy-ology), sociology and anthropology are all being used to explain why we do seemingly irrational things.  In Linchpin, Seth Godin talks about the lizard brain and its power over our actions.  In Made to Switch, the Heath brothers talk about engaging the rider, directing the elephant and shaping the path... all of these are metaphors for parts of our brain.  In order to write Fascinate, Sally Hogshead must have poured over thousands of pages of research because much of book is based on scientific research about what fascinates us.

At the start of this book, we learn the golden hallmarks of a fascinating message:

  1. Provokes a strong and immediate emotional reaction
  2. Creates advocates
  3. Becomes "cultural shorthand" for a specific set of actions of values
  4. Incites conversation
  5. Forces competitors to realign around it
  6. Triggers social revolutions
 After this, we spend the rest of the book learning about the seven fascination triggers:


However, what I would say makes this book really stand out is the amazing three part ending on how to evaluate how fascinating your company or message is, how to create a fascinating message and then how to execute it.  This is the part of this book that sets it apart because it gives you specific exercises you can do in order to harness the power of fascination for your own endeavors.

Simply put this book is a must-read and one I will be adding to my own personal collection for sure.  If you'd like to get a taste for the material before reading it, you can listen to Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast that has an interview with Sally Hogshead.  

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

As mentioned in my previous post, I have a few books to read in the upcoming months. I just finished reading "The Brand Gap: A Whiteboard Overview" by Marty Neumeier.

Neumeier is a California-based brand collaboration expert. This means that he specializes in making sure marketing teams understand and communicate brand value consistently across all of their activities and customer touch points.

The Brand Gap is a quick read and designed to get you into the heart of branding really quickly.  Absent from this book is the long-winded prose you find in many marketing/branding books where the author goes on and on about one subject until you begin to fall asleep.  Neumeier keeps this book on-point and to the point.

Tip: The book contains a summary and suggested reading list at the end and both are awesome.

He starts by talking about what a brand is (a gut reaction) and what the brand gap is (between strategy and creativity).  Then he goes about explaining the five disciplines of creating a brand that is "charismatic", meaning a brand less prone to commoditization.   They are:

  1. Differentiation
  2. Collaboration
  3. Innovation
  4. Validation
  5. Cultivation
I have to say that after reading this book, I realize that many of these concepts and many of the exercises in the book have been taught to me over the years.  Nevertheless, this book is so good and so easy to get through that I recommend it as essential reading for everyone who is even close to managing a brand.

Next up:  Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.  Been waiting 6 months to read this one! 

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I'm Reading

Every few months I seem to go on a massive reading binge that is often the result of getting a bunch of books I have placed on hold at the library.

I am so blessed to live about two blocks from the Main branch here in Ottawa and I'd just like to take a second to say that the Ottawa Public Library rocks.  You can go online, find the book you want and place a hold on it.  It is then sent to the branch of your choosing.  You get an email when it's ready for pick up and all you have to do is drop in and check it out.  Bonus is that the Main branch has self serve checkout so it takes two second to pick up your book(s).  Libraries are great resources and they are free to use.  I do buy some books but I probably save myself hundreds of dollars each year by using the library.

Anyways, back to my post.

I recently finished reading Mitch Joel's book "Six Pixels of Separation".  It is a must-read for anyone looking to understand how the web has enabled us to be connected and includes lots of great actionable content that you can start applying right away.

One thing that is in the book that blew me away (and still is blowing me away days later) is the fact that bad reviews convert better than good ones.  Everyone I mention this to can't really believe it but when you listen to the reasoning and methodology, you see that it does make sense.  What is almost more interesting to me is the sense that marketers have been conditioned (and I don't know why or how this happened) to feel as though we need to shield our customers from negative reviews.  If you've ever wondered whether or not you should use data to make decisions (and test whenever possible) - there it is.    I'd like to run some test on a product page sometime.

I also have a few books waiting to be read as well.  One of them is Marty Neumeier's "The Brand Gap".   Which is, obviously, all about branding.  I have heard so many good things about this book and I started it just last night.

The other one is Sally Hogshead's "Fascinate" which is a book I have been waiting about six months to get.  I have heard interviews with Sally on podcasts so I have a pretty good idea of what the book is all about but I'm still looking forward to reading it.  Fascinate is all about teaching marketers 7 triggers for creating products and marketing messages that appeal to your audience.

The last one I have to pick up this afternoon, is Greg Verdino's "Micromarketing" which is all about social media marketing but more specifically, using small bits of content spread all over the place, in a unified manner, to get your message across.

I've got my work cut out for me in the next few weeks as these books are all due back by the end of the month.  Better get to it!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Avoid Gobbledygook

The first iteration of Google production serve...Image via Wikipedia
If there is one thing that I despise more than cold soup, it is gobbledygook. (note: I can't believe that spellcheck picked that one up!)

Wikipedia defines gobbledygook as any text containing jargon or especially convoluted English that results in it being excessively hard to understand or even incomprehensible.

I like to call it "vapour text" because appears to look like something when in fact, it's nothing.  There are many reasons for gobbledygook, chief among them is that people, companies and industries love to speak in a language that they only they understand.  They use their own language as means of creating a group that they feel apart of and one that keeps other people out.

I see it everywhere.  Most often in marketing materials, website copy, datasheets, whitepapers.  You also hear it in speeches, conversations, lectures and webinars.  Sometimes they write or speak in a short of short-hand using acronyms that they think everyone understands, other times they speak in such long-winded sentences, you'd think they were going to pass out if they didn't stop for a breath.

My personal belief is that no one ever understands this stuff.  Even the people you think might understand it, don't.  I have often theorized to myself while reading this crap or hearing somebody speak "I bet if I stopped this and asked 10 people what X, Y, Z really mean, they wouldn't be able to tell me".

Whenever I have this conversation with people, there will always be somebody who says "but you have to be professional," or somebody else that says "that's how we do it politics," (some of the worst offenders) or "you have to match your audience,".   My answer for all of these tends to be "unless you're writing for the Journal of XYZ, your audience is going to be real people".

I believe that the need to speak in goobledygook is a complete myth.  I believe that the age of the internet and more specifically, search engines has really helped us change this.  Today, we can use web analytics and keyword research tools to see what people are really responding to instead of simply guessing.  We now have the ability to prove the people who continue to use goobledygook wrong.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for how you can bust the goobledygookers:

1) Use Google Trends to see what terms are more popular in Google searches.   Search data is awesome because it shows intent.  It shows what might be at the top of somebody's mind because I believe that people bring up Google and just type something in.  Next time some wanker is pushing you to use some ridiculous term in your copy, graph what you want to use versus what they want to use in Trends.

2) Ask.  I like to play dumb and ask somebody what something means.  If they stutter or have to think about it, I will suggest something simpler.

3) Run an A/B test.  Use a tool like Google Optimizer or something similar to set up an A/B test of simple copy versus complex copy.  Let the results speak for themselves.

4) Use "free writing" to develop copy.  If you find yourself struggling to get copy down then you're probably spending too much time trying to use terms that aren't natural.  One way to break out of this is to use "free writing" which a technique I have used for years without even knowing what it is.  In fact, it wasn't really until I heard this episode of Mitch Joel's podcast that I figured out what I was doing.

There is a trend, happening right now, towards the re-humanization of interaction.  After years of marketers speaking to themselves, the tide if beginning to turn.  We're beginning to interact like people again.  People who speak a normal language and not some long, drawn-out form of prose that only a true academic could love.

Try it and let me know how it works out for you.

UPDATE: The day after I published this post, I was pointed to this post by Suzanne Lowe about the lack of understanding by clients of firms that sell professional services.  Provides an additional viewpoint on what I am talking about here.  Also provides a handy glossary of terms.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Thanks to Tom Megginson, Creative Director at Ottawa's Acart Communications for pointing me to the fact that today is blog action day 2010.  The purpose is to unite bloggers worldwide for one day on a topic.  I believe this year is the third year of the initiative and this year it is about water.

It is understandable that Canadians don't really think about drinking water that often.  Estimates are that Canada has between 5% and 20% of the world's supply of clean drinking water at our disposal.  We are surrounded by it and we enjoy spending our time swimming in it instead of thinking about it.

The problem is that most of the world isn't as fortunate as us.  Many don't have the luxury to consume or even waste water like we do.  The CBC reported:

Canadians consume 350 litres of water a day per capita, second only to the Americans as the most profligate wasters of water in the world. The average global citizen needs only between 20 and 40 litres of water a day for drinking and sanitation.

Perhaps if Canadians understood the magnitude of the clean drinking water program globally, we'd start to change our habits in some small ways that could make a huge difference.  Here are some startling facts about the clean drinking water issue from charity:water :
  • Over a billion people, or one in eight, don't have access to clean drinking water.
  • In Africa alone, people spend nearly 40 billion hours every year walking for water that is often barely safe to drink.
  • Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than acts of violence, including war.
What can you do to help?

The Ottawa-based non-profit One Change has some great tips for saving water on their site.

Having recently read Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead and been to a Furthur show just this past summer, I'd like to take this opportunity to point to The Unbroken Chain Foundation's Box of Rain project that supports charity : water.

You can view their auction which includes items such as tickets to the Furthur New Year's celebration in San Francisco.

You can also sign's petition.|Start Petition

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's better to be part of the "in" crowd

One of the biggest pieces of advice I always have for students as they enter the workforce is to do their best to spend as much time as they can around senior management.  Ideally, you will get to interact with your CEO or C-level executives and when you do, be very attentive to what they do and how they act because obviously, they are doing something right and there is always something you can learn from them.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting the CEO of a Canadian biotech company at an industry function.  Having not had much prior experience in biotech, it was great getting his perspective on the business.  I was also interested to hear about how he allocates his time and for companies in their earlier stages means lots of time spent searching for financing.  

His biggest piece of advice was that you have to work hard to be part of the "in" crowd.  

This advice is sure to draw many reactions from people and I'm sure some of them will be negative.  What is this, high school?  Who wants to be part of the "in" crowd anymore?  Who wants to be part of a crowd when you can be different?  I'm already part of the "in" crowd!

Personally, I was a little taken aback at this advice but then I started to think about what I have been reading in Seth Godin's book "The Dip".  To sum up what I have read so far: Anything worth doing is worth doing to be the best at because being the best has advantages that are exponentially greater than being second best, or worse.  To be the best at something means that you have to persevere through "The Dip" which is that long trough on the results/effort scale where you start to realize diminishing returns but this Dip is only temporary and happens after your initial success and before the remarkable long term success that comes with being the best at something.

Now that we have that out of the way, here's how I connected the two.  If everybody was part of the "in" crowd then it wouldn't exist because it would just be "the crowd" or more simply, everybody.  One of the most classic rules in business and one that is echoed in "The Dip" is that scarcity breeds value.  Therefore, there are advantages to being part of the "in" crowd and for people trying to come up in the world, whether it be to get a better job or grow their business, being part of the "in" crowd has many of the advantages that come with being the best at something.

For small companies, these advantages might mean an easier access to financing.  For young employees looking to move up in the world, it might mean faster promotions.  I'm sure that we all work with people that we feel spend more time schmoozing than working and while I think that is never a good situation, I think that you need to be actively working to make sure you're part of the "in" crowd at your workplace and your industry.

Let go of any negative associations you might have about the "in" crowd and embrace what membership might be able to do for your or your company.

Great advice indeed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Something I never knew, and I bet you didn't either!

I recently picked up some contract work with BIOTECanada, an association that represents the biotechnology industry here in Canada.  There is lots to be done here and things are even busier now that National Biotechnology Week is starting up on September 17.

One of the most interesting things I have learned so far is that biotechnology is big business in Canada.  I should say that I always knew it wasn't small business... but I really had no clue until I started this position that in Canada, biotechnology is worth over $84 billion annually or 6.5% of our GDP.

However, I will have to say that I often find a number like that really doesn't have any meaning unless you put it in perspective.  So here it is: our bio-based economy is worth more than the automotive industry and is just about equal with oil and gas (according to 2008 numbers).  That's pretty impressive when you think about it.  In fact, I bet if you asked 100 people in the street to name our top industry sectors, biotech wouldn't be in the list and both oil and cars would be.

Perhaps even more impressive are some of Canada's accomplishments in the field of biotechnology.  Some of these I knew but most I have to admit I didn't:

  1. In 1922, Banting and Best discover insulin.
  2. In 1974, Stefansson and Downey developed an early form of canola (the first biotech crop)
  3. In 2003, we were the first to sequence the SARS genome.  

The biotechnology industry industry sure has lots of challenges ahead of it.  For one, many foreign countries are pouring money into biotech as they see it as the way of the future.  The best course I took in my MBA program was on intellectual property and I know from that course that we need to ensure that we have both a well funded and well managed strategy for developing intellectual property.  Plus, there are many image issues that apply when talking about biotech and those will only intensify as more genetically modified products pass regulatory approval.

But the purpose of this post is more to share something I have learned about an industry that I think is really fascinating and dynamic.  It's also an industry that is more important to our daily lives than we care to think about.  I'm looking forward to learning more, that's for sure!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Taylor Swift and Her Team are Brilliant at PR

I read this story on Perez Hilton's site today about Taylor Swift doing a marathon 14 hour meet and greet with her fans.  I really think the video is something to be seen:

I couldn't help but think that this was an absolutely brilliant PR move.  Here's why:

1) I doesn't come off as a PR stunt:  Everyone is there to meet Taylor Swift and she is there to meet her fans but if you really think about it, it is a PR event.

2) It was interactive: More than just a star sitting at a table, she stood and talked to her fans and even more important, they got to talk to her.  They also got to see costumes and sets from her tour.

3) It was personal: she took the time to connect with everyone as best she could on a personal level.  She signed almost everything imaginable and seemed genuinely interested to be there.  It seems like she was supposed to only be there for 13 hours but at the end of the video she says she was actually there 14.5 hours.

4) Earned media: I am sure that fans are going to put pictures on Flickr, upload videos on Youtube, talk about it like crazy and share their experience anyway they can.  I'm sure the dollar value of that media would in the millions of dollars.

I have often said that companies should always keep their eyes and ears open to what they can learn from other people/companies/industries and I think this is an perfect example of something that could be used by even the smallest of companies.

It's about about being a real person, going the extra mile and giving people something that is interactive and unique.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Wonderful World of Microgreens

Having recently re-connected with an old friend from my days at Mount Allison University, I decided to make the trip to see his microgreen farm over in Gatineau.

Here is a detailed description of what microgreens are, but the short version is that they are small plants that are harvested when they are small.  They are edible and are often used as garnishes for dishes in restaurants and decorations at events.

My friend, Dawson Kelln, owns and operates Butterfly Sky Farms.  Originally, he had one farm up in Sarsfield but he recently purchased his biggest competitor over in Gatineau and when I visited him yesterday, he was busy relocating his old operation into the larger one in Gatineau.

Here's a great article that describes Dawson story and his business in more detail.  That's him on the left. If you want to talk to him, his number is 613-797-1377.

I grew in Ottawa, just steps form the Civic Hospital so my knowledge of growing and farming techniques is quite limited.  Regardless, I was rather impressed with the simple technology that is used in this operation.  Everything is grown using a fairly simple hydroponics system, enclosed in rather large greenhouse structure.

Right now, the operation is fairly small and the only employees are Dawson, his partner and a student they have on-board to work on some new systems.  Dawson has plans to kick-start some major marketing activities in the near future and I'm sure we'll see him on the social media platforms soon enough.

Here's a few more pictures:

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Thursday, August 12, 2010


I'm back from vacation and had a great week up the at the cottage despite the fact that there were about four of five semi-disasters but that's a story for another time.

I have lots of great posts swirling around in my head but I'd like to take the time to talk about a few things I have read/listened to/experienced recently.

Seth Godin's book "Linchpin":  Read this book ASAP.  Then, give it to as many people you can and then make anyone who is older than 16 read it.  Why?  Because in the world of today and the the future, the only way you are going to remain happy and employed is if you make art your job.  How?  Art is causing change for the better,  connecting with an audience and giving gifts.  Do this and become indispensable but watch out for the resistance which comes in the form of a lizard brain in  your head that tries to keep you safe and things around you that tell you to stop and fit in.  Much of what is in this book was floating around me for years but reading it written so clearly was like having a grenade go off inside my head.  I am going to do some posts inspired by my experience of reading this book really soon.
iPad with on display keyboardImage via Wikipedia

Apple's iPad: Finally got a chance to spend some time in the Apple store yesterday and played around with an iPad.  My initial thoughts: really interesting device but because I am used to my iPhone, I felt it was a bit difficult to type on and I thought the home button was to far to the middle for me to read when I hold in portrait mode.  However, it will make you the coolest dude in the room if that's what you are after.  Plus, the data plans kinda suck here in Canada and the Telus one is a joke ($25 for 500mb and $0.10/mb over that).

Movies you should watch:  We had some dicey weather a few times over the time I was away so we took some time to dive into some movies.  Here's two I watched that I recommend you see:

  • Wall Street: Gets better the more times I watch it.  Michael Douglas paints a masterpiece as Gordon Gecko. Also interesting to watch to see what technology was all the rage in those days.  Motorola Star-tac mobile phone anyone?
  • The Book of Eli:  The world as we know it has been destroyed in a nuclear war and one man is charged with bringing an important book on an important journey.   Gee, sounds like a tagline for an ad doesn't it?
Glad to be back, have a bunch of interesting things that I am working on.  Finished working at Roam Mobility but am actually busier than ever!  

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation reading list

I'm going to my cottage today for a week with my family and friends.  I haven't really had a true vacation in a while so I'm looking forward to it.

Picked up a few books at the library and I have about a month's worth of The Economist to catch up on.

The first book is Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  I have been looking forward to reading this one for a while.

The second book is Linchpin by Seth Godin.  I am equally excited to read this one.  I have read most of his other books, love his blog and find that he writes really well (because he likes to be short and to the point).

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Telecommunications Industry is Hurting Us

To be clear: I am not a huge fan of the Canadian wireless industry.  Our service providers treat customers poorly, knowing that we aren't going to get better service elsewhere.  When it comes to price, we pay high prices and there isn't much difference between carriers.

Recently, I starting thinking about how our high prices and terrible service was going to affect our ability to compete in the global wireless industry.  Specifically, I was wondering how this would affect our ability to innovate in the space of mobile applications.

Then I read this interesting article from the CBC about a recent wireless industry study.  Some of the highlights are:

-Our earnings percentage at 46.7% was the highest of 21 developed nations studied.  Average was 38.3.

-Our carriers have the highest average revenue per user in the study (ARPU) at $54.73.   Average ARPU for developed nations was $42.90.

-Canada was last among developed nations in wireless penetration.

-Data represented only 23.9% of the monthly bill versus average in developed world of 31.8%.  You might think this means we have lower rates but the study also found that while carriers have lower per minute revenues, they have higher charges for additional features, which includes data, and this is what contributed to our higher ARPU.

-We posted the third highest minutes of use, but that seems to be because we are one of only a few countries that still charges for incoming calls.

Reviewing this information, I can't help but wonder if we could say that cost is a big reason more Canadian's don't have wireless phones.  There doesn't appear to be any data in the study on this but I don't think it would be a stretch.  I also wonder if high prices are keeping our data usage to a minimum.

I worry about what the effect of all of this will be on Canada's wireless industry.  We used to be highly regarded in the wireless infrastructure business but as the gap between us and the rest of the world in terms of usage increases, I would suggest that it will not help us lead the way in innovation.

More importantly, I wonder about how this will affect our ability to innovate on the application level.  If mobile isn't part of our populations DNA, as it might be in places like Japan, then how can we be expected to lead the way in application development going forward?  If our own citizens aren't consuming mobile data as part of their daily routines, then how are we to grow our industries related to data?

I supposed that one could argue that it doesn't matter where an application is developed because as long as it gets onto devices in the language required, it doesn't matter where it was developed.  But I still can't help but feel that we are increasingly being left behind as the rest of the world charges into the wireless future.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Computers for Communities

I would like to tell you a bit about a new non-profit that I am really excited about being involved with.  It is called Computer for Communities.

In order to understand what C4C does, I'm actually going to lift something about the organization from its own website:

We believe that no one should be left on the wrong side of the digital divide. We believe that through volunteering and skills development individuals will learn about computer technology and thus build the potential of their community. We believe that we can help build the bridge across the digital divide in our National Capital Region.
According to Statistics Canada (2006) Approximately 54,000 households in the National Capital region are without access to a computer. Over 67,000 households are not connected to the Internet. We believe that by offering people opportunities to develop skills and earn a themselves a computer we can narrow this gap.
There were a few things that caused me to gravitate towards this organization over others that I had been looking to volunteer my time with:
1) This is a small but growing organization that is in need of assistance
2) This organization supports open-source software and creative commons licensing of intellectual property.
3) Computers for communities gives volunteers (usually youth) a computer for each 24 hours of volunteer work they perform.
4) This organization has lots of room for growth and is at a stage right now that I believe will be critical to its future.
The reason that I am telling you about C4C is that I hope that it inspires you to learn more about the challenges in your community so that you can start focusing on solutions to those problems and being a part of the movement to provide those solutions.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Apple has a problem

Unless you've been living under a rock, you are probably aware of the fact that there is a lot of chatter out there about Apple's iPhone 4 antenna and how touching it will cause changes in reception.   Now it's coming out that Jobs was warned by an engineer early on.  If you're really interested in the issue, there was a great discussion of the topic on a recent This Week in Tech (TWiT).

The first thing I would like to say about this whole mess is that your business has a problem if your customers say that is a problem.  What this means for brands/companies/people is that you don't get to decide if something is a problem or not.  The longer you let the customer define the problems with your business without addressing them, the harder it is going to be to fix the damage to your brand later.  Worse, these problems begin to be noticed by one of the most important groups of people out there: your prospects.

Apple seems to be reluctant to address this "issue" as a problem.  Jobs even said that people are holding the phone wrong.

To be clear on how I feel about Apple: great products, bad attitude.  I love my 3GS and am anxious to get an iPad and upgrade to and iPhone4 but Apple's attitude is ridiculous.

This is for sure to be one of the big crisis/issue management cases of 2010 and I'm having a blast watching it all unfold.

Sure, they are breaking all sorts of sales records with the product but what do you think all of the chatter is doing to the minds of potential iPhone customers?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do what you say

Mitch Joel wrote a great blog post recently about why more brands don't market products that simply do what they are supposed to do.  I liked it because it said so many things that I have been thinking about recently and so I commented on it.

In fact, it was such a good post that I was even thinking about it last night as I was walking down to Ottawa Bluesfest but in a broader context: what if weren't talking about brands, what if we were talking about people.

If we were forced by some magical law of physics to do everything we said we'd do, how much better of a place would the world be?  If this magical law applied to everyone, then wouldn't that mean that every marketer would have to deliver on the promises they make on behalf of the brands they manage?

Personally, I think integrity is one of the most important qualities a person can have and I wonder why more people don't make this a priority for the brands they manage.  I suppose that some of the reasons why people don't are:
  • They don't care because their job is only a paycheck anyways.
  • The company is not configured to provide integrity.
  • Even if they wanted to act with integrity.
This lead me to look up what integrity means and according to Wikipedia (which is a terrible source but I'll use it anyways) is

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.

Interesting.  The entry goes on to say that in western culture, it has come to mean the opposite of hypocrisy and many of the other secondary meanings we have given it but my point here is that I think it is hard for people to act with integrity because we live in a world that changes and because of that, we are constantly changing.  

I might agree to play in a tennis tournament today because I feel like playing tennis but as the weekend draws closer and I see that the weather is going to be really hot, I might change my mind.  I might be nice to my customers today because I'm in a good mood but tomorrow I will be tired and cranky.  I might think that I am marketing the greatest widget in the world but tomorrow I realize that it's no different than anything else out there.

In the end, I think that both people and the brands they manage need to understand that integrity is important.  Much like trust, it takes a long time to build and only a short time to destroy.  I have always said that you need to live your life in the way you want people to remember you when you're gone.  

The real question then becomes, what do want written on your gravestone?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

What you can learn from Tom Cruise about managing your brand

This post is dedicated to my good friend Jackson Wightman, blogger, retail entrepreneur, master of all things PR and known the world over for his lists posts.

It is also dedicated to my love of celebrity gossip, but that's something you can ask me about if we ever meet.

I came across this article about Tom Cruise's "comeback" in The Ottawa Citizen recently and couldn't help but think of a great list post about we could all learn from TC about managing a brand, whether it be your personal brand or your corporate brand.

  1. Avoid Nepotism: Back in 2005, Tom fired his longtime publicist and hired his sister.  His previous PR rep kept a firm grip on his image and wouldn't allow questions about his religious beliefs.  The big lesson here is that you should always hire the right person for the job, because investing in people is the single most important investment you can make.  Your employees are your brand and they represent you every single day.
  2. Hire People Who Challenge You: As a follow-up to the point about nepotism, I also think that Tom Cruise didn't hire people who challenged him.  I bet that he said to himself "I'd like to talk about my beliefs more" and hired somebody who was going to let him do exactly that - and look how it all turned out.  If you're hiring people who simply nod and agree when you propose something then you're not getting any value out of having them around.  Innovation is often the result of conflict and is the result of overcoming conflict.  If you don't have anyone challenging you, then you're never going to innovate and move things forward.  
  3. It Doesn't Take Much: Tom Cruise's image was destroyed by a few key events but the most popular one was the jumping on the couch incident from Oprah.  A lifetime of goodwill can vanish pretty quickly so it is important to remember that it really doesn't take much to ruin your brand.  A few bad days or even one bad moment everything people perceive you to be is forever changed.  If you're company doesn't have a social media policy then maybe it's time to think about drafting one.  I am completely in favour of trusting and freeing employees to be who they are but as you can see from the issues with Tom Cruise...  one jump and you're done.
  4. You Gotta Know When to Shut It: Just like knowing when to fold'em, you have to know when to shut your mouth.  This is an important skill and one that can be very difficult to learn (trust me) but knowing when to shut your mouth will save your behind time and time again.  In Tom's case, he should have backed off getting involved in the private lives of other people (Brooke Shields). 
  5. Go to the Box, Feel Shame:  This is a classic line from the hockey movie Slapshot, and it means that there will be times when you need to give yourself a timeout.  In Tom's case, this was a two year break from the intense glare of the public spotlight.  For corporate brands, this might not be possible and may require a re-branding exercise but I think that more and more, brands should be asking themselves if they need to take a break instead of constantly thinking that everything they do is magic.
Tom Cruise is still a fantastic actor who makes entertaining movies.  I have also heard that he is a genuinely nice guy but I think the the rough path he has taken in the last few years is paved with lessons for all of us.  The question is whether or not we both to listen to them...

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    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Book Review: The Sales Bible by Jeffery Gitomer

    For the past few months, I have been looking for a good book on sales.  After listening to a podcast recently that had Jeffrey Gitomer on it, I realized that he had written what I believed would be the perfect book for me - The Sales Bible.

    Sales is as much about personal motivation as it is about tactical sales knowledge and this book does a great job of helping you understand this and, more importantly, assessing whether or not you should even be in sales in the first place.

    It's obvious from the first page that this book is written by a true salesman.  It reads "I just made a sale!".

    Gitomer writes using highly impactful (sales-y) language and doesn't go on and on about particular ideal.  He tells you why it is important, shares some stories then lists some steps or ideas that you can use.  Topics range from motivation to techniques.  You learn how to meet people and generate leads and then how to turn those leads into sales.  Cold calling is covered in great detail, as is the sales presentation.

    In the end, I think this book really has a broader audience than just salespeople... I think it is a book for EVERYONE.  I believe this because at some point, everyone will have to sell the most important thing in the world.. themselves.  So there are many applications for the material in the book and I highly recommend you pick it up ASAP.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Book Review: Buy-ology

    For months I had been waiting to read "Buy-ology", a book by Martin Lindstrom about the science behind consumer behavior.  I first heard about the book on Duct Tape Marketing's podcast, but had to wait for it to be delivered to my library branch before I could check it out.

    Martin Lindstrom is a well respected branding expert.  The book is an exploration of what Lindstrom and his researchers learn when they use brain scanning technology to test consumers' reactions to marketing messages... so it's not hard to see how this book is interesting...

    What Lindstrom finds is rather shocking.  We learn that most of the traditional anti-smoking ads are ineffective because they actually trigger cigarette cravings in the brains of smokers.  We also learn what I suspect most marketers have always had a hunch about, that consumers buy products for different reasons than they say.  For example, a consumer might say they purchased a product because it had all the features they were looking for when in reality, they bought the product because they thought it would make them cool.  I won't spoil all of the great nuggets in this book for you, but trust me, you'll have a hard time putting it down.

    The book is very well written.  Each chapter flows into the next and the research questions are laid out like a mystery that the reader is working through with Lindstrom as he receives the results for each of the studies that are conducted.  It was for this reason that I found myself reading upwards of 50 to 75 pages each time I would pick it up.

    Worth a read for anyone interested in what REALLY happens when we shop.  You can learn more about the book and Martin Lindstrom on his site.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    What "Made To Stick" taught me about speaking to high school students...

    A few months ago, I volunteered to speak at my former high school, Ashbury College, about e-marketing and e-business.

    It was a career day activity that involved grade 10 students where they signed up for sessions to hear about careers they might be interested in.  I was paired with Omar Sheikh, the CEO of eBargainBuddies.  We were told that we'd have 30 minutes total with three separate groups of students.  Omar and I spoke on the phone in advance and planned out our presentation.  We made a PowerPoint slide deck and decided that he's start the presentation with a top 5 reasons why you should get into e-marketing and e-business, tell them about himself and then he's throw to me and I would introduce myself and give a breakdown of e-marketing.  Omar would then finish up with 5 minutes on social media, eBargainBuddies and some advice and we'd come in at 20 minutes with 10 mins left for questions.

    I have to say that I think Omar and I did a really good job of preparing.  We made an interesting deck, switched up who was talking and did our best to make our presentation as lively and interesting as possible.  We recommended they do something they are passionate about, get started as soon as they want and try to have as much fun as possible doing it.  I used Perez Hilton as an example in some of the things that I was talking about in an attempt to make it more relevant to them.  In the end, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

    A short while after the presentation, I started reading Chip and Dan Heath's "Made To Stick" and I kept thinking back to the presentation and how I could have applied what I was reading to that presentation.

    I won't go into detail, because I think everyone should read the book, but it says that ideas stick when they display any number of the following characteristics:

    • Simplicity
    • Unexpectedness
    • Concreteness
    • Credibility
    • Emotional
    • Stories
    As I read the book I kept thinking back to the presentation and wondering what I might have done differently.

    Here's a few:

    Unexpectedness - Although we did a top 5 reasons to get into emarketing/ebusiness slide at the start, I would have done something much more unexpected and shared a piece of trivia that asked them to answer a question or something fun where the answer was completely unexpected.  I could have been something interesting about Facebook or something else that might have grabbed a bit harder at the start of the presentation.

    Concreteness: Here I should have used the story of Perez Hilton to illustrate what and how somebody could go about getting to emarketing and ebusiness instead of just using it as an example in a few places.  I think that the Perez Hilton story really interesting and I think it shows how an average person can transform a simple blog into a multi-million dollar business.  Actually, emarketing/ebusiness is loaded with stories just like that of Perez and I could have picked any number of stories to use this idea of concreteness.  

    Credibility: I believe that this is an important concept for any idea but when dealing with teenagers, I think credibility is key.  I learned this from many years of coaching tennis/skiing but I also learned it the say of the presentation when I told them I was their gym teacher's brother in law (instant credibility).  In this area, I could have shared some quotes from prominent figures about ebusiness/emarketing that might have helped them understand the ideas and concepts we were talking about (making more concrete) were in fact real and achievable by almost anyone with a little hard work.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    What you can learn from Lisa Lavie...

    Youtube is celebrating its 5 year anniversary this week.  I remember pretty clearly when I first saw Youtube back in early 2006.  Back then it was just a collection of silly videos people were doing for attention and while in some ways, not much has changed, it has been interesting to see it grow into the second most mentioned brand on Twitter and earning upwards of 2 billion views a day.

    Perhaps later this week, I'll post some of my favorite clips but for now, I'd like to share what you can learn from Lisa Lavie, the Youtube singing sensation who's story is featured as part of Youtube's 5th.

    1) Don't wait to start:  Lisa started her career with nothing but her cashier savings.  In today's world, there is no point waiting for somebody to tell you that you can do something.  Get out there and do it.

    2) Connect:  Lisa takes the time to respond to everyone who posts comments.  It's not some automated robot like those people who have auto-replies answering follow messages in Twitter, it's actually Lisa that does that work.  People respond to people, not machines.

    3) Give back:  What did Lisa do with her network of fans and peers?  She organized them to raise money for the earthquake victims in Haiti.  More and more the idea of giving back is starting to be the primary, if not secondary reason why people use social platforms like Youtube.  Use what you have to give back.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    All of a Sudden, It's All About Privacy

    My feelings towards Facebook are fairly well documented and quite widely known.  And as much as I would love to see it go down the drain, I have to admit that I am growing more skeptical that it is ever going to go the way of Myspace.

    One of the reasons I have always felt the way I feel towards Facebook is their handling of privacy.  Which unless you've been living under a rock, has been the big subject this week.  Because I love his blog, I'll point you to George Parker's (warning, language) summary here.  I should also mention that some of my favorite podcasts had AMAZING discussions on the matter that are well worth a listen if you'd like to hear some highly informed and well thought out discussion on the issues.  Here is the best one I listened to this week.  Take the time and listen for SURE.

    Privacy on Facebook tends not to be a huge issue for me personally because I have always been careful with my privacy settings.  I don't share many of my albums, I have my profile fairly well locked down (my gf complains about this often) and I generally review my settings often to make sure they are the way I want them.  I am also fairly vocal to my friends about Facebook privacy and like to remind them to review their settings.

    The summary of my position at this point is this:  I think Facebook's approach to privacy (catering to the lower common denominator) is dangerous and wrong but the average person doesn't know enough or even care enough to leave the platform.  This means that while everyone will grumble, it will in the long run blow over.

    At the same time, I think Facebook has stepped into a hornet's nest  and it better be careful how it walks in the future.   If the management is smart, they will take this as a wake up call.

    The reason I say this is that until very recently, much of the chatter was kept inside "tech" circles and didn't really get heard by the general population that made up the bulk of Facebook users but I think that this is about to change.

    Supposed transcripts of chats make for great stories and it is only a matter of time before the issue of Facebook's maverick approach to privacy is something that everyone knows about.  Even more importantly, it may soon be something the people that are NOT on Facebook hear about and something causes those on Facebook to leave.

    The world we live in is changing.  Our lives are becoming increasingly shared and digital and for the longest amount of time, people's expectations of privacy had not caught up.

    If you ask me, the winds of change are blowing and the only question now is where everyone will end up.

    UPDATE: Here's a story from the BBC about Facebook calling an all-employees meeting on the issue.... so maybe they are listening.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    My Thoughts on Starting Out in Sales...

    I'd like to share some thoughts on sales for those people who are considering or starting to make the jump into sales.  Sales can be extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding.  Here are some of my thoughts.
    You Sell Everyday: Sales is all around us and we do it every day.  We sell ourselves and our ideas on a continual basis and I think that anyone getting into sales should take some time and think about how they sell themselves and/or their ideas and what works for them in a natural setting.  I learned that for me, it is important that I have a thorough understanding of what I'm selling because that breeds confidence in what I am talking about.  I need to feel like I am authority on my product or service category so that I can engage prospects on many different types of conversations and ultimately help take it to my product or service.

    Do Your Homework:  I'll say it again - there has never been so much amazing information available for free.  Do some research and find sites and podcasts about selling.  I mention a few here.  Listen to them and take what you feel will apply to your situation.  You'd be surprised how quickly you can improve using information available for free.

    Get Motivated:  I believe that sales is as much about being motivated as anything else.  There are lots of people out there who go to work everyday and can sit in a cubicle and avoid talking to people all day.  In sales, you're not moving opportunities forward or closing deals in less you are talking to people and every time you do this, you have to bring your A game.  I'd say a good 25% of the sales materials that I read are about attitude and motivation so if you haven't figured out what gets your heart pumping.... you better!

    Develop a System:  While every sales interaction is going to present something different, I think it is important to develop a system to how you sell.  Everything from keeping track of leads to how you follow up should be made in a system that works for you.  I'm sure that it is going to be different for everyone but make sure that your system is manageable and can scale as you get busier.

    Get a Mentor: Personally, I don't have a mentor in sales at this moment, but this is one of the next things on my list.  I have spoken to many a sales professional that tells me getting into a mentor relationship with a seasoned sales veteran will help you set goals and stick to them.  It always helps to have somebody looking over your shoulder and giving you the encouragement you need to be successful.

    What are some of your secrets to sales success?

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Doing The Trade Show

    Sorry that I haven't been posting too much lately, things have been busy at work.  I should mention that I have still been thinking about some blog posts and there should be a few good ones on the way soon.

    I spent a few days in Toronto last week at the LLHA show.  I did some fundraising at an event on Friday and then painted floors at a cottage all weekend.  LLHA stands for Luggage, Leather Goods, Handbags and Accessories.  I was at the show to get a feel for the luggage industry, to meet current retail partners and of course, to meet some new ones. 

    The luggage business has been through a few years of declining sales.  Some reports suggest sales in the luggage and travel accessories business is down between 20 and 30%, depending on the sub-category.   Regardless, things appear to be picking up and by all accounts, this year's show was bigger than last year's show.   There were more suppliers displaying product and more buyers there to make purchases. 

    There was a seminar that presented the current state of the accessories business with some good insight from an industry analyst and I summarized that on my company's blog

    A former colleague of mine has a good post about some things he learned at a recent trade show.  Worth a read for sure but here are some of my thoughts on trade shows. 

    You Gotta Display:  My company didn't have a booth because we didn't meet the criterial (we should for next year) but if you're going to be a trade show, and the people you want to talk to are the ones walking the aisles, then you should display.  If you're there to meet with potential partners, and they are displaying then I think you can get away without having a booth.  The reason I am saying this is that it can be really hard or close to impossible to find people on the floor.  In my case, many of the people I wanted to talk to had appointments at booths for discuss orders so they didn't spend too much time walking the show floor.

    It's All About Lunch:  I ended up doing some good networking in the lunch area.  People are relaxed and everyone is gathered in one area.  Just be sure to be respectful of the fact that people are taking a break so don't take up to much of their time.

    Keep Your Head on a Swivel: Trade shows are a complete attack on your senses and things will be happening all around you at all times.  I recommend that you work hard to keep your head moving at all times because you never know when opportunities will come your way.  I met potential partners in the elevators, lobby and in the shuttle on my way to and from the show each day.  Business doesn't start and end on the show floor!

    I was a great few days in Toronto (I used to live there) but I'm glad to be back in Ottawa.  More posts coming this week so get ready...

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    What Every Marketer Needs To Do: Take Risks

    The concept of risk taking in marketing is something that I believe every marketer must do.  I came to this viewpoint after hearing over and over in various different things I have read/listened to.  In marketing, there really is "death in the middle".

    Most recently, the idea came up in Mitch Joel's podcast, Six Pixels of Separation in a discussion he has with Sally Hogshead around her book Fascinate.  Long story short, the conversation boils down to the fact that in order to influence people and change behaviour, we need to fascinate them.  In order to fascinate, there 7 triggers, which are explained a bit more in this Globe and Mail article

    For example, if you want to fascinate somebody you need to trigger lust.  Not love, not like - lust.  And like all of these triggers, they are not "middle of road" type emotions.  They are extreme and they live on the outer edges of the human experience.  As a marketer, you need to push to the edges in order to realize the gains of that trigger. 

    Seth Godin also talks about this concept often and it is one of the cornerstones of his new book, Linchpin.  If you're going to inspire change in people and organizations, then you need to stick your neck out and take a chance.  You need to push the envelope.

    This is exactly what makes marketing fun.  This is why I believe people get into marketing in the first place.  You can do all the research you want, you can segment the market as carefully as you want but in the end, you need to stick your neck out and push for the edges. 

    The idea also came up again in a Duct Tape Marketing podcast I listened to back in December.   The podcast is a discussion with Martin Lindstrom who wrote "Buy-ology" which looks at why we buy things.  One of his findings:  You need to slap people in the chin.  Doesn't sound too safe to me!  The idea there is that people need to be "slapped" in order to sit up and take notice of what you're offering. 

    It is important to say that I am not advocating for needless risk taking.  And there is a distinction that needs to be made between pushing for the edges and p*ssing people off with your delivery.  For example: Sending a message with strong imagery versus sending that same message over and over until the respondent opens the message and unsubscribes.  There must be a distinction between tactic and delivery. 

    Here are some suggestions for how you can incorporate all of this into your marketing activity/process.

    1. Check your pulse.  Does what you're doing make your heart beat fast?  If not, I suspect you're not pushing it enough.
    2. Ask your co-workers.  If everyone likes it and sees it the same way, then you're probably not going to cause a strong reaction among your audience.  
    3. Brainstorm.  I suggest coming up with ideas and then ranking from 1 (safe) to 10 (risky) so that you can see and understand how you can ratchet things up a little bit.
    4. Start Fresh.  Scrap everything you have done before.  Forget about it and see what new ideas or approaches you can come up with.  If somebody suggests something similar to your old work, toss it out and keep going.