Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What I've been reading

Here's a few quick reviews of what I've been reading lately:

Gary Vaynerchuk "Crush It"

Scott Stratten's "UnMarketing"

I had to wait on this book at the library for about six months, so it was certainly a book I was looking forward to reading it once it came in. 

If the title didn't give it away, this book is really all about relationship management.  Like Joe Jaffe,Stratten is a firm believe that "retention is the new acquisition" and that your business needs to find a way to connect with consumers in a human way and then turn them into customers.

What's really great about this book is that Scott shares his own experiences, including the mistakes, and what he's learned.  The book has lots of short chapters and is written a really no-nonsense way that I really enjoyed.

Worth your time, for sure. 

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson's "Rework"

Imagine a workplace where you don't have meetings, you don't waste your time writing documents that nobody ever reads and you are able to leave at 5pm.  Welcome to the world of 37Signals and "Rework", and much of the book can be read at that link. 

Cover of "Rework"Cover of Rework

37Signals is known primarily for its work on Basecamp, a simple and easy to use project management program.  Based on the experience with that product and many others, Jason and David have cataloged everything they have learned into this short, but awesome, book.

I am not entirely sure that everyone is ready for the knowledge that is contained in this book because many of the recommendations are fairly radical but it will certainly get you thinking about how you and your office works and ways you could be more productive. 

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Why everybody needs to see stand up comedy at least once

A few days ago, I finally made it out to a comedy night at Yuk Yuk's in Ottawa. I was with a few other friends to see Brian Alkerton and a bunch of other stand up comedians as part of "locals night".

I have always wanted to see a live stand up comedy show and I was really excited.  Oddly enough, I found that I learned a few things that led me to realize that everyone needs to go to see a comedy night at least once.  Here's why:

1) Everyone needs to laugh
Forget about the health benefits of laughing for a moment and realize that we often take ourselves way to seriously.  Also, it's been a fairly heavy week with the earthquake in Japan and nuclear aftermath.  It really felt good to get out and put everything else aside for a while and be swept up in the contagious laughter of a room full of people that have come together to have a good time.  Laughing makes you feel like you're alive, and during times like theses, that's something to celebrate.

2)  Getting over your fears
I can only imagine the courage it takes a comedian to get up on stage.  In many cases, they are speaking about their own lives and letting us take a peak into their inner thoughts and anxieties.  The act of exposing your inner-most self is never easy to do and I couldn't help but tell myself "If they muster the courage to do that, then you can surely summon the courage to tackle a few things that you are scared of".   Watching comedians helps you realize that in order to push yourself forward, you need to take risks.

3) Always look on the bright side
There were a number of comics that spoke very openly (and often in an extremely humorous way) about their problems and/or shortcomings.  In some cases, the source of their material was extremely heartbreaking.  What was amazing was that these comics were able to see enough humor in the situation that they seemed to be able to turn it into something positive. We could all learn from this and stop letting the bad things in our lives hold us down or hold us back.  Instead why not try to see the bright side and turn something negative into something positive.

4) Do something new
I believe that most people have a very narrow list of things to do in their spare time.  They go to dinner, go for a walk, go to a movie and then go home.  Everyone once and a while, find your local even listings and randomly pick something you wouldn't normally do and see what happens.  You might learn something new, meet some cool people or have your thoughts expanded.  Going to a comedy night certainly did this for me!

Have you ever been surprised by what you've learned from attending a random event?

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Friday, March 11, 2011

I'm bored and I'm getting tired

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
I'm sorry.

This post is going to sound really negative but I'm finding myself really bored and I'm tired of seeing some things over and over.

I'd say that I see them in social media or marketing but the truth is that everything is just one big pile these days and so I'd like to just call it life.

I'm tired of seeing:

People who claim to be "into" social media:  If you have to make this claim, you're probably lying.  I see people all the time who to try to sell themselves to others as bloggers who never blog.   I can tell you never blog because I went to your blog and can see that you blog once in a blue moon.  I ended up on your blog not because I googled you but because you linked to it somewhere next to where you claimed to be a blogger.  Same goes for people who claim to be "into" Twitter who never tweet or who joined in the last six months.  It's like saying I'm an expert sushi chef after I make my first dragon roll.  Just because you say something, doesn't mean it's true.  If you're really into something and really good at it, we can tell and we know it just by looking at you.

Blogging/tweeting recaps of events:  I know that this is a great way to get visibility and that people who aren't at events can still learn but every single time there is an event, I have to see hundreds of tweets about the event and then hundreds of tweets that promote posts summarizing the event.  Why not try to bring something different to the table and talk about something different.  Riff on the topics or speakers.  Tell me something I couldn't have learned from being there or something different from what other people are doing -which to be honest is just reporting.  I know there are people who will argue me on this one but I just see the same "tactics" over and over again and the execution is starting to bore me. 

101 Discussions:  I can't stand going to events, reading content or listening to events that give you 101 level advice about a topic.  Often we see the X things you need to know or the X reasons why you need to do Y type topics and they are driving me up the wall.  It's 2011 and if you aren't doing some things in social media, marketing or communications, then you need to get your head checked, get a new job, retire or step aside because here's a little nugget for you "the pace of change is quickening and if you're still working on a Web2.0 strategy you're going to be miss Web3.0".  I'll send you a postcard from Web 4.0, send me your address.

Anyways, sorry for the rant.  I owe you a beer if we ever meet.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Marketers suck at marketing marketing

Great discussion between Mullen's Edward Boches and Twist Image's Mitch Joel on this week's Six Pixels podcast.  If you aren't following Edward or reading his blog, you really should.

There's a great line where Mitch says "Marketers are really terrible at marketing marketing" and it's totally something that I agree with.  (it's just after the 21 minute mark).

It's such a shame because marketing is such a dynamic field that can be both creative and analytical.  

Here's why I think marketers suck at marketing marketing:

1) Because marketing is everything.
Marketing is such a wide field that it's hard to describe to people.  It's not one specific thing, it's many things and each of those elements are so different that they have little in common.  Looking at just online marketing, you have social, search, email, web, inbound and how many other tactics and each one in itself is meaty enough to sustain a whole ecosystem.  While there are certain things that apply to all of them, each requires a fairly different set of skills and this makes it difficult describe to people.

2) Because it has a bad reputation.
Years of cold calls, link baiting, spam and crappy execution has given the field a bad name.  Who grows up wanting to be a telemarketer anyway?

3) Because most marketers suck at it.
Marketers can't market the field of marketing because they are just shitty marketers, which is often why most marketers can't sell themselves.  It always kills me to see marketing people who can't sell the most important product - themselves.  You often find people in marketing (and this is mentioned in the podcast) who have no background or training in marketing.  Sure it was a course they took in their MBA but then they fall into a marketing role and all of a sudden they are a "marketer".

4) Because it's hard
Marketing is hard stuff to do right.  It's easy to do terribly but really hard to do right.  The world around us moves so fast that if describe marketing as trying to hit a target in the middle of hurricane.  Anyone can buy ad space and put up an ad but very few can make it convert.  You have to be able to formulate a strategy based on research, experience and gut instinct and go for it.  So when it comes to marketing marketing, we don't do a good job as marketers because frankly, it's hard to marketing marketing.

5) Because most people have no idea what it is
This relates to my first point but people can't sell marketing because they have no idea what it is (it's everything).  I'm still convinced that most people confuse advertising and marketing.  I once saw a group of students in an advertising class do a final presentation of a marketing strategy for TSN instead of doing an advertising strategy. They almost failed.  That's a true story and you should ask me about it sometime because it's pretty funny.

Why do you think most marketers suck at marketing marketing?  And how many times do you think you can use marketing is a sentence?
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