Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keeping Your Chin Up

Hard work is "hard" because it takes focus, energy, attention and effort.  Seth Godin's book "Linchpin" does a good job of detailing why and how you can fight the lizard brain that wants you to sit down when you should stand up, wants you to be quiet when you should speak up and wants you to quit when you should keep going.

I work at a startup that is trying revolutionize home video monitoring and volunteer my time with a grassroots non-profit that tries to bridge the digital divide with little or no funding. To say that I spend most of time pushing against a wall is an understatement and I am finding more and more that I need to figure out ways to stay positive and keep my chin up.

Here are a few of my favorites: 

1) Attend an Industry/Networking Event

Last night I went to HubOttawa's second "Hub and Spoke" event that was all about connecting people trying to do social good in the Ottawa area.  Not only was I inspired by others trying to accomplish and generate new ideas for what we are doing at Computers for Communities, I was able to make a few new connections and give our efforts a much needed push.

You never know who you will meet at industry or networking events or what will happen so get out of your own little bubble and interact with the community around you.

2) Go For a Walk or Bike Ride

Like I say above, you sometimes forget about the amazing world around you.  I find that a good bike ride or walk does wonders for helping to re-energize.

3) Find a New Podcast or Book

Imagine if I were to tell you that everything you ever wanted to know was at your fingertips.  Imagine if you could access that knowledge for free.  

I am a huge fan of podcasts and the public library.  Between the two, I am able to access insane amounts of knowledge for free.  I love book recommendation lists, I love using LinkedIn to see what my contacts are reading and I love asking Twitter for new podcasts. 

A good podcast or book can change your whole life and your way of thinking so take the time to get into both of these if you're feeling like you need to re-charge.

4) Go See Some Art

I'm sure that your city has amazing art galleries, theatre or live music and I would highly recommend that you get out and enjoy it whenever you need some inspiration.

Artists are inspiring because they take chances.  Whenever you feel like you can't do the same, go see an artist and find strength in the fact they do it everyday.

5) Unplug

I have a personal rule: I spend 30% of the time that I spend "connected" totally unplugged.  So if I spend 9 hours connected, I will spend 3 hours unplugged.

The fact that I don't get cell or internet coverage at my cottage means that I am able to relax every weekend without any interuptions.  During this time, I am able to reflect on where I have been and where I am going.  I get to connect with the people around me and live in the present.  As much as I love being connected, being unplugged with always have its charms. 

What do you do to keep your chin up?

Image: theogeo
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why doing business online is just like Ribfest

Today is the start of something every office worker in downtown Ottawa dreams about all year - Ribfest

About six or eight different BBQ places set up shop on Sparks Street and hundreds of people line up for the chance to taste smoked ribs, pulled pork and chicken.Oh, and one place had brisket but I'm saving that for tomorrow because I love brisket. 

I couldn't help but think about how a Ribfest is like doing business on the Internet.  

1)  Validation: As you can see the picture, every BBQ place has a huge sign with all sorts of awards, praise and validation that seeks to provide them with some credibility.  Many of the BBQ places had tables and tables of awards.  What kinds of things are you doing to provide validation that you're good at what you do? 

2) What Have You Done Lately?  People don't care that you won something or were popular three years ago.  We want to know what you have done lately.  In the above example, they proudly state that won best chicken last year, not three years ago.  If your site still has awards and praise you won back in the previous decade, maybe you need to seek out something more recent?

3) Loud Branding and Design:  I'm sure the Apple freaks won't agree but Apple probably wouldn't sell a single rack of ribs at a Ribfest.  I love their branding and design but in a crowded street you have only two or three seconds to get somebody's attention and so you better use loud design and branding to do it.  However, I should point out that good designers make good money for a reason and if you don't use a good designer, you'll end up looking like that guy at the cocktail party with an "I'm with stupid" t-shirt. 

4) Service Still Matters: I'm sure that most people who lined up today will do it again tomorrow and Friday.  With every place selling a largely undifferentiated product (sure, they have slightly different product but it is still ribs, pulled pork and chicken) service and the whole customer experience is what will keep them coming back when they could just as easily walk two feet and go somewhere.  Personality can still shine through on the web and so you need to think about what your online personality is like.

Anyways, I have a full belly of ribs and pulled pork... but how do you think Ribfest approximates selling online?

update: wow, just read this over and had to make a few edits.  Never write when drunk on pork. 
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

5 Twitter Tactics That No Longer Work (... if they ever worked at all)

Twitter logo initialImage via Wikipedia
I have always been a keen observer of how other people use Twitter.  Over the years, I've seen a number of tactics come and go in terms of how useful and effective they are in engaging with your audience.

I am not so sure if these tactics ever worked or if people even cared IF they worked but I think it's time we moved on from using these 5 tactics on Twitter.

1) Following a bunch of people to get more followers: This is still all the rage with people who are new to Twitter.  It's like that asshole at a bar that hits on a bunch of women thinking that if he is successful only 1% of the time, he just needs to hit on 100 women to take somebody home.  Truth be told, the number of followers you have means absolutely nothing because "following" means nothing compared to engaging.  I love getting followed by Tampa Bay real estate agents or car detailing companies in San Diego because I love watching them leave Twitter a month later when they get nothing out of it.  When it comes to the number of followers, I like to ask companies or brands that talk about number of followers to count how many of their followers are marketing consultants, SEOs or other people hoping to get on their radar for the purpose of selling THEM something.

2) Tweeting or retweeting articles from popular sources: In the beginning, engaging people on Twitter was done fairly easily by finding great content and sharing it.  The problem today is that most of the people you interact with online probably read the same sources you do because you shared them in the past or somebody else shared them.  Most of our RSS feeds have become littered with the same blogs and websites and I love Seth Godin as much as the next person but please, I'm sure we've all seen that post.  I should say that I learned this lesson the hard way.  I spent hours each day finding awesome stuff and sharing it.  When I looked at the analytics, it was the really juicy celeb gossip I was finding that people were clicking on the most.  Go figure...

3) Retweeting EVERYTHING: Slightly different than #2, this one is for the people that always retweet and never bother @replying.  I get it, you talk to people A LOT but so does anyone who understands how Twitter works.  When you retweet everything and never @reply, you sound like my 3 year old niece when she repeats everything I say in order to annoy me.  Or worse, you sound like that kid in grade school that tells everyone in class that your friend peed their pants at recess.

4) Scheduled tweets: I have no proof of this but I know there are a bunch of people who load up huge numbers of scheduled tweets.  I have seen the feature in Hootsuite that lets you populate a spreadsheet with a bunch of tweets and tweet times.  Upload it, hit a button and you're all set.  When I saw that, I felt a cold wind blow over me because it made me think of spray and pray email marketing.  Scheduling tweets can be useful when done sparingly but I can see lots of people are spending an hour every week loading up their tweets for the coming week and it looks like you are mailing it in.

5) Automated tweets: If I wanted my horoscope, I'd read the paper.  This is fairly close to #4 but I am seeing lots of people who seem to be importing feeds to load up their stream with quotes, news and other assorted tidbits of useless content.  I'd also like to say this also includes those people that post to Twitter automatically from Facebook and say they are "on Twitter".  I see the Facebook URL shortener and the #FB or #IN hashtag is a dead giveaway.

6) BONUS: over-hastagging:  Personally, I believe that using hashtags for anything other than events such as conferences is a total waste of time because everyone, including bots and spammers, are starting to love hashtags.  I used to follow certain hashtags because you'd get good info from them but now following hashtags is completely unmanageable and I have to watch search terms. I also see people that have co-opted hastags as a form of language and use 5 or 6 of them in a single tweet.  I can't read that many hashtags and using #superlonghastagslikethisone in most of your tweets doesn't really provide any value to anyone.

Are there any tactics you think need to be retired because they are no longer effective?

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Video Review of Greg Verdino's Book "MicroMarketing"

In keeping with my 2011 New Year's resolution of doing more video work, I recently filmed a review of Greg Verdino's book MicroMarketing: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small.

This review was the brainchild of Glenn Schmelzle, an Ottawa-based marketing consultant to high-tech firms and principal of Marketing What's New.  I'd also like to thank my friend Robert Decher of RDV Productions, for his video production and editing skills.

microMarketing - A book review from RDVProductions on Vimeo.

Here's a really quick summary of MicroMarketing:  The world is no longer one massive market that you can approach effectively using mass-marketing techniques.  Greg takes three main shifts we are seeing in the world (mass markets to micro markets, mass media to micro media, mass content  to micro content) and expands them into seven shifts your company needs to be aware of in order to market in today's marketing space.

As I point out towards the end of the review, there is a great interview with Greg about this book on the Marketing Over Coffee website.  Marketing Over Coffee is a marketing podcast that both Glenn and I love.  

B2B MicroMarketing

microMARKETING Book CoverImage by gregverdino via Flickr
Glenn looks at the content of MicroMarketing through the eyes of a B2B marketer and  outlines some of the challenges in applying the book's concepts.  Glenn points out that the B2B marketer needs to think about generating unique content on a more frequent basis but that you need to keep an eye on sales cycles and how those will impact your marketing messaging.

B2C MicroMarketing

I take a look at the book's content from the point of view of a B2C marketer.  While there are lots of great insight (like thinking about real-time marketing), I point out that Greg does a great job of expanding on the concept of paid media versus earned media.  We hear about this frequently and Greg takes the concept of earned media one step further and cautions marketers to remember that earned media is not free, there is a cost associated with it and that earned media must really lead to earning attention. 

Glenn and I really enjoyed the book and it contains lots of case studies and examples, including links to lots of enhanced content which you can see on the MicroMarketing website.


This was our first attempt at a video book review.  Both Glenn and I would be delighted to hear any feedback you have in the comments on this post.   

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is Your Marketing Copy Meaningless?

I was walking into my office the other day and I noticed this sign on the restaurant door downstairs.  They have a second level and the first was closed "to serve you better".  I thought to myself "how does this serve me better?"

How often do we see marketing copy, or any copy for that matter, that is riddled with meaningless words?

At a time when attention is extremely hard to come by, why do we insist on wasting our audience's time with fluff?

Additional examples I see often include:

  • "We're sorry but..."   -anything after the "but" is meaningless
  • "To serve you better..." -why not just serve me better in the first place?
  • "______ leading" or "best-in-class" -doesn't mean much when you say this about yourself.
  • "revolutionary"  -please

Anything I'm missing?