Is Blogging Going the Way of the Buffalo?

I’m going to do something unusual today but it’s something I always wanted to do; talk about my dreams. And not the kind of dreams as in ‘when I grow up I am going to live in a house by the sea and be the vice president of marketing at a successful company’ but the ‘I just woke up and what the hell was that dream all about’ kind.

If you know me in my personal life or have ever worked with me in an office, you know I dream A LOT. I know we all dream, but I remember at least 3 dreams everyday from the night before. And yes I dream about work (although I am told this is not a good thing) and I dream about my pets and my family and out of character who knows how my mind comes up with this stuff things. But last night I had this dream about the end of blogging. Here is how it went (and sorry it’s so short but that’s how dreams are sometimes):

 

In my dream, this gadget (looks like a Bluetooth) came from the sky and landed in my ear. The piece that is touching my ear was pumping content into my head. The ‘voice’ was telling me to let everyone know to stop blogging, that it had run its course, the fun, excitement and popularity of it was over. I was in a crowd, so I got up on a soapbox and started to speak out to people about these ideas. Everyone looked concerned and wary of me and these ideas. <the end>

Over the last few weeks, I have questioned whether or not I could keep up with this blog now that I am working full-time. Starting a blog was something I always wanted to do but how much of the ‘wanting’ was really fueled by passion? Then, Mack Collier asked, ‘what happens when you lose your love of blogging’? Before I even read the post, I was crushed. Mack Collier, founder of #BlogChat, losing his love of blogging? What?!?

Now Mack wasn’t coming out and saying that he didn’t like blogging or believe in it any longer but he felt that he was doing something just to do it. To cross it off the list. Upload new blog post to site. Check. Done. He wants the blog to mean more than that. He wants it to be a communication vehicle when hehas something to say, not a communication vehicle pumped full of content for the sake of an expectant community.

So why blog?

I can tell you why I blog. It’s very simple really. You ready? I LOVE to write! I love it. I have always loved it. In fact, during the summer when I was home from college, I begged my parents to enroll me in writing courses at the local college. I spent my summers in classrooms learning how to write – for fun!

When I discovered blogging, I was ecstatic. I could write for work? This is a job? Seriously? I fell in love and haven’t lost it. It’s tough for me to come up with topics sometimes and it’s especially tough for me to sit down and write when I am sick or in pain (did you hear about the bone extraction in my mouth? Ouch!) but I do it.

Now while I only post 2 times per week so far (on this blog anyways), I have questioned whether to bump that up to 3 or 4 with the intent that I would reach an everyday posting schedule. Now Mack has me questioning that because I never want to commit to something that will ultimately be a letdown. That’s not why I am here and that’s not why I blog. Building a community is one thing, but it’s not the only thing. Like Marcus Sheridan said recently ‘eventually you have to do something’ and I intend to do it.

You know what? Relationships take work. Love takes commitment. And it’s hard to ‘do something’ every day or every other day, especially when you have nothing to say, right? Will blogging go the way of the buffalo? Will we always have something to write about? Something our community wants to read? Something more we could be doing beyond our blog?

The answer is up to you.

Getting a Re-Tweet Is Easy. Getting Permission to Email is Much Harder.

permission-marketingI’ve seen it written a slew of times and heard it even more; everyone is on email but not everyone is on a social network. In fact, Chris Brogan wrote a nice post about the concept of ‘earning your way in’. Now, I can hear people claim that we need to earn a re-tweet or we need to earn a like or a follow, but I would argue that it’s much harder to earn your way into someone’s inbox.

Taking a peak at some of the groups I participate with on LinkedIn, the discussions continue to flow in centered around purchasing email lists. Is this the way marketers are thinking about acquiring leads? Purchasing emails with the intent to email messages that will turn unsuspecting prospects into buyers? Why are we not even considering the fact that we should ‘earn’ the right to email these groups in the first place?

Consider the title of this post because it’s true. Getting a re-tweet is easy, but getting permission – real, genuine permission – to email is much harder.

So is there a difference when it comes to the value of something ‘easy’ vs. something ‘hard’? I would say so.

Take me for example. I don’t often re-tweet items that my followers post. I know I should do it more often, but I just don’t do it. Getting me to re-tweet something is not ‘easy’ so imagine how hard it is to get in my inbox? For a brand to be able to gain my permission and trust, the email has to provide value and it starts with the very first thing I ever get from you.

Ever have a cashier at a store ask for your email so you can get coupons and such? How often do you actually give out your email? You may like the store a lot, you are making a purchase of some kind but does that earned them permission to get inside your email box? Consider what it would take for you not to hesitate when they ask next time.

Here are 3 things your brand can do to increase your ability to get permission:

1. Trade

If you provide your email, we will give you 10% of this purchase. Then just unsubscribe if the email does not provide value to you. Or, if you provide your email, we will give you this super awesome whitepaper or ebook. Or, provide your email for a chance to win this wonderful win-ding.

2. Set Expectations

How about providing a preview of the type of communication they can expect to see? Imagine if you put a sign on your counter with a print-out of your last email campaign with coupons and said ‘our email subscribers got this deal last month. Sign up today so you dont miss the next one.’ How many of us dont want to give out our email because we have no idea what someone is going to do with it? Set expectations.

3. Be trusthworthy

Not as cut and dry as the first two but still simple enough. If word on the street is your brand is spammy, you are not going to be trusted. I dont want your emails, I dont want you knowing mine and I certainly am not going to re-tweet anything you say to my followers. Be trustworthy – all your actions have an impact on the actions you intend to take.

How do you get inside the inbox? Everyone may have email but we are more protective of it than ever. You must provide value and a reason to be there. Even if I dont open your email, just reading the from and subject and considering whether I should open it is costing me time. You need to earn it and earn it again.

Books: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet”

hotel-on-corner-of-bitter-and-sweetI read A LOT. If you know me, you know this. I have always loved to read. In fact, I remember when I was little, my mother would catch me in bed with a flashlight under the covers reading when I was supposed to be sleeping. I would much rather curl up with a good book than curl up to watch a good movie – but that’s just me. I used to read 1 leisure book and 1 marketing/business book at the same time but lately I have just focused on one at a time alternating. I will do my best to give you feedback and suggestions every Friday so stay tuned and keep reading to hear about this book (if you haven’t already read it).

This week I read “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford. This book came out in 2009 and I remember seeing it quite a few times but just never bought it. Well, last week I finally did and I am very happy I did so.

The story takes place during WWII right after Pearl Harbor. I love these historical fiction novels because you get to see and experience a side of history that is not typically taught in the classroom. As the US prepares to fight in the war, we react by assembling persons of Japanese heritage and placing them in concentration camps.

The author takes us on a journey of a Chinese boy who falls in love with a Japanese girl. I found it very interesting to read how the Chinese reacted to the war and the devotion Americans have to their country regardless of national origin.

I haven’t read a book that made me cry in quite a long time and this one made me cry. I won’t give away the ending but you will be racing to the end like I was to see how the story unfolds.

If you haven’t already read it, please go get yourself a copy. And if you have enjoyed this book, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Sometimes The Hardest Thing You Will Ever Have To Do…

earning-respectIs stand up for yourself.

It’s true. And we have all been there.

Perhaps you don’t have the best job in the word or the nicest boss or the cordial co-workers. You take it day in and day out because you say to yourself that you are lucky you have a job.

Why?

Someone shared a story recently with me about her first day in a new job with a new company. She decided to take some clients out to lunch but ran the risk of not making it back to the office in time for a team meeting. As the clock slowly ran out, she couldn’t exactly hurry the client along while out to lunch so she kept pace and ended up getting to the meeting a few minutes late. So what happened?

The head of the division called her out in front of everyone and said ‘I don’t care who the f*ck you are, but you don’t come to my meetings late.’ And you know what she did?

She said, ‘I was taking one of your f*ckin clients out to lunch. Do you have a problem with that?’

You know what happened next?

He respected her.

She stood up to him and on his level to boot.

Not so sure I would take this approach. I’m not even sure I would’ve said anything at all (I might’ve said ‘do you want me to leave?’) and it made me think about all the times we are crushed, that we live with the norm because we don’t see a way out. We are thankful for what we have and too busy doing that than to make time to pursue something better.

3 Challenges Marketers Face When It Comes To Email Marketing

email-challengeI participated in the Friday #profschat Tweetchat on email marketing and was really interested to hear and learn about all the challenges marketers are still facing when it comes to developing and executing truly effective email campaigns. Top of the list was segmentation, personas, time of day and frequency.

First things first. Email marketing is a must in any marketer’s strategy toolbox. It is essentially the best way to get your content and message to your audience to spark an engagement, continue a conversation or reignite a relationship and/or renew interest in your company’s products or services. I have found it to be extremely effective in generating leads using compelling content that relates to an industry problem.

Let’s tackle these challenges one by one.

Segmentation

To me segmentation is breaking your list down. You will not be effective with email marketing if you are just ‘spraying and praying.’ You need to be speaking to the person about things that are important to them. By segmenting your list, you are able to break a large group of emails into individual silos based on interest (what content or information brought them to you in the first place?), by job title (you don’t want to send the same email to a CMO as you would to a Marketing Associate), by location (the US and UK both speak English but the letter ‘z’ is not recognized there so adjust your message accordingly) or even by industry and company size or type.

Take a look at how you capture leads or email subscribers. Does your online form have all the fields required to help you segment faster and easier?

Personas

Every company should conduct an exercise where they define the buyer personas. You need to consider the evaluator, influencer, user, decision maker and buyer in the process. What types of job titles fall under each group?

You need to involve sales in this exercise. Ask the top sales person and/or the manager to join the discussion. Look at things like the blogs, magazines or newsletters that each persona would read and subscribe to. Who do they consider ‘influencers’ within their industry? Do they subscribe to analyst firm? Then which ones?

Time of Day and Frequency

In a former company I worked for, we hired a consultant to come in and help us setup email nurturing programs. His suggestion was to email 5 days in a row to the best leads. I was a little surprised by this approach as it seemed like we would be seen as a spammy approach. Considering these were the leads that sales was going to be calling on and emailing during the same time period, it didn’t make sense.

There is no magic formula for the perfect time of day or just the right number to send in a certain time period. You need to test different scenarios until you ‘crack the code’. Use an automation platform like Silverpop or Eloqua to build email nurturing programs that sync with your CRM system. Build a system that includes all points of contact including sales calls, emails, direct mailers and social media.

I was honestly surprised that content and messaging did not make it to the list. Often, I observe challenges with response rates, opens and click-throughs but I didn’t see that come up during the conversation.

What is your email marketing challenge? What did you overcome to build a system that is generating results?

 

 

My 3 Words for 2013

DSCN0560First I would just like to say one more time that I don’t like the sound of 2013. I think we should skip it like hoteliers skip the 13th floor when they are labeling them. This would make us all 1 year older since the math doesn’t go away but I feel like the ’13′ at the end of this year is just going to sound funny for awhile. Funny, not ominous, because happiness if something I am focusing on this year – with the intent to carry it through to the rest of my life thereafter. So here goes, my 3 words for 2013 (and if you are curious about my outcome from last year, take a look here).

Glee

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what makes me happy, what gives me the most pleasure, and I gotta say that it’s not an easy question to answer. At least not for me. So this year I need to find my glee. I feel this is going to be a combination of things including ‘just being Christina’, relationships, community, and love (giving and receiving).

Comfort

This word summed up a few things I had written on my list when I was collecting my thoughts for this exercise. I want to fall in love with food again. I use to cook all the time and enjoy the ritual of buying items and transforming them into something delicious. I also want to take better care of my health and overall welfare.

Poise

You know what I lack? Tact. I notice this more regularly now than I used to. In the past, it was pointed out to me. Now I hold my hand over my mouth immediately after I blurt something out. I need to work on this. I also would like to be more courteous. I speed up when I know someone is trying to get in my lane when I should just let them in. I get angry at the wrong people for stupid reasons. I need to consider this more because I strongly believe that what you put out is what you get in return.

What are you focusing on in 2013? I would love to hear from you!

Are We Allowed To Be Constructive Even If That Means Being Negative?

negative-reviewsI am a pretty active user on Yelp! I like to rate places, write reviews, add information, check-in – the whole gamut. As a marketing professional I see the value someone like me provides (and Im not just tooting my own horn here). I provide honest opinions and feedback without the business owner soliciting it or giving me something in exchange. Now my reviews are not always the best. In fact, studies show that people are more inclined to talk about a bad experience than a good one. I guess it just makes a better story – right? We’ve all been there!

A Bad Hair Day – Literally

About 6 weeks ago I went to a salon in my town for the first time. I moved recently and am a little tired of driving over an hour to get a cut & color so wanted to see what was around here. The salon came highly recommended and had all 5 stars (3 reviews total but still).

So I did not have a 5 star experience. I wont share all the niddy-griddy details here but I did share them on Yelp which resulted in me getting a call from the owner of the salon. She said it was unfair that I wrote a negative review without talking to her first. She also told me this would destroy her business.

I felt bad. I really did.

Now I had to consider what I could do. I could take down the review altogether and leave this woman and her salon with their 3 ’5 star’ reviews. I could modify it so it wasn’t so harmful (it honestly wasn’t bad anyways). Or I could leave it as is.

Ramifications of Being Honest

While I did decide in this case to take it down, I starting to consider our ability to leave honest reviews and constructive criticism. Is this even allowed anymore? We will not always ask for the manager when we are dissatisfied (I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!) and we wont always take down our reviews. How will business owners react? Could my bad experience actually destroy her business? I really doubt it and if so, then she has way bigger problems than my bad hair color.

You cannot expect perfection. We all want it but it’s highly unachievable. Strive to get better each time instead.

You cannot berate honesty. Instead of crying about a bad review, thank the person for their honesty. You just learned something about your business that you didnt already know (not to mention the reason why someone wont be returning).

You cannot ignore criticism. I love criticism because it helps me get better. That’s all it does. I dont enable it to beat me up or make me feel bad. I simply allow it to make me better. Do the same for your business.

Businesses, restaurants, gas stations, whatever, look more real when they dont have a bunch of gold stars next to their name. We should be allowed and encouraged to be honest. We should be constructive in our response, but honest, open and complete transparent. Same goes for the business owners.

Transparency wins, not perfection.

A Look Back at My 3 Words for 2012

2012-in-reviewI just finished reading C.C. Chapman’s new book Amazing Things Will Happen which jogged my memory that I need to pick my 3 words for 2013 (check back for my next post). For those of your curious about the book, I read it because I find myself constantly wanting to start over as I approach the beginning of another year. My birthday is also in December so not only am I starting a new calendar year, I am starting a new year of my life right around this time too. Starting over – to me – always includes doing something better, being something better and just overall feeling better.

Before I reveal my 3 words for 2013, I want to quickly reflect on 2012. My 3 words were Release, Restore and Commit. I chose these words because of the place I was at 1 year ago. Unfortunately, I am finding myself in quite the same place today – if not the exact, identical place. I did not release, restore or commit. I failed my 3 words.

Release

When I thought about Release, I thought about my sister. I had not communicated with her in over 6 years and thought nothing of it. She was a terrible person to me growing up and even into my twenties. She made me think awful things about myself and literally drove me mad. The best thing to do for me was to just cut her off completely. Going in to 2012 I wanted to see if I could release all that past resentment and build a relationship with her. It’s the end of the year and I’m more convinced now that it never will. Perhaps my release was to release her from my life and not let it bother me any longer.

Restore

I read The Happiness Project a while back and one of the things Gretchen had said in the book was her reminder to herself to ‘just be Gretchen’. My word ‘restore’ was me trying to figure out how to ‘just be Christina’. I’m still tackling this as I perform simply things that I have always done but notice something different in myself. For example, I used to talk everyone’s ear off. Now I find myself bored ad silent in the chair at the hair salon. I just want to sleep and before I couldn’t move fast enough.

Commit

I am committed to being a commitment-phobe for life. That’s my commitment. I wanted to write a book this year. I even paid to be in a class full of other people writing books with a very inspirational teacher that pushed us along the way. I have no book. I got to about 27K words and let it sizzle and die. I started creating tape art and here I sit with a blank canvas on my wall for the last month. Is the problem my inability to commit or that I have not found anything I am passionate about to commit to?

I’m thinking carefully about my 3 words for 2013 because I have a lot of respect and admiration for the exercise. Perhaps I need to keep them near me everyday throughout the year as a reminder to myself. For now, I am going to work on releasing my inability to live up to 2012′s words and commit to making a fresh start, yet again, in 2013.

How NOT To Get a Call-Back From a Demand Gen Marketer

bad-email-marketingI’ve always found it a rewarding challenge to work as a demand gen marketer who is marketing to other marketers. We are our own worst critics. Think of who rolls their eyes at ugly stock imagery. Who is the first to point out the typo? Usually a marketer. So I find it especially yucky when I get an email such as the one I am going to share that is full of so much gobbledygook-zilla that by the time I reached the end, I had no clue what was being said, shared or asked of me.

Hi Christina,

I hope all is well.

My name is XYZ (name has been removed to protect the innocent). I noticed you are in charge of lead and demand generation at XXX and I am looking to discuss ideas on how our companies could work together in similar fashion we’re working with other organizations within your space.

To give you a brief overview, XYZ is an advertising technology and services provider that offers a Centralized Media-Management Platform (CMMP).
• We empower hundreds of media buyers to plan, launch, analyze and optimize their marketing strategies across a regulated ecosystem.
• Unifying performance, digital and traditional media.
• Providing solutions that increase operational efficiency, ad performance and brand display.
• We are VC backed with over $20MM in funding from Comcast, Liberty Global and Foundry Group.

Looking at XXX’s website, I see that you have a library of whitepapers and webinars. We partner with hundreds of brands to power their content syndication and lead generation initiatives, but also leveraging our technology platform to create efficiencies together which streamline internal marketing processes like systems, reporting and analytics. Simultaneously, we can supplement these demand generation initiatives with branding and distribution strategies via our DSP and Live Trading Desk.

Please let me know if we can arrange a call this week or next with one of the senior members of my team to discuss how we can partner with you to help you achieve your marketing goals and drive your planned initiatives.

If you’re not the correct person, my apologies; would you be able to point me in the right direction?

Best,

XYZ

Initial thoughts included the following:

  • What the heck is a “Centralized Media-Management Platform”? Has anyone heard of this?
  • Who cares if you are VC backed and funded? Are you going to help me reach my goals?
  • Are you an agency? Software provider? What the heck is this?
  • via our DSP and Live Trading Desk <- Huh???

How I would make it better

Consider what it is I would care about in my position. “Providing solutions that increase operational efficiency, ad performance and brand display” doesn’t tell me a whole lot and you are not even using language that I care about. If you re-worded this to say “provide solutions to increase lead volumes from online display ads”, I would likely pay attention. Use my language – take some time to see how I write about topics I care about. Im very active on Twitter – one look at my stream can pretty much sum up the things I am interested in and even the ways in which I describe things. Throwing some fancy schmancy techno language babble around does not help you sell to me. I have no appetite whatsoever to even consider being on a phone with someone that may talk the same way.

We know you know you stuff. You dont need to word-stuff the heck out of your intro email to prove it. Assume I know nothing and you will actually look a lot smarter.

3 Email Newsletters I Most Look Forward To

marketing-newslettersI subscribe to a lot of blogs and newsletters. What can I say? I love to learn! My high school teachers often referred to me as a ‘sponge’ because I just wanted to soak up more and more knowledge. I wanted to share 3 of my favorites with you just in case you have you have not stumbled upon them (and you can go subscribe right after reading this!).

1. Christopher S. Penn’s Almost Timely

Aside from the awesome meme’s that open at the top of the newsletter simply daring you to unsubscribe, I love anything and anyone that takes the time to curate cool stuff related to marketing that you may have missed. What I like about Christopher’s newsletter that I feel is a little different is the non-marketing topics he throws in. I’ve learned how to make homemade laundry detergeant and this week’s newsletter included a video of a cheetah in slow-motion. To subscribe, just go to his homepage here and put your email in the box at the top.

2. Chris Brogan’s Sunday letter

This is not the official name (I dont even know if it has one to be honest) but this is something I look forward to every Sunday morning. You can subscribe right on Chris’s homepage - right side where you see the pic of a steaming cup of coffee. What I like about this letter is that Chris is extremely personable in his approach. It reads as though a close friend is giving me some advice and tidbits to consider. Topics range but center around business solutions and how to think about things slightly differently. One of the things I love is that you can apply everything you read. It’s easy to decipher and ‘get’ even when the topic may be a little over your head.

3. Power Writing

Im not sure how I stumbled upon Daphne Gray-Grant but I super enjoy this weekly newsletter. You cansubscribe here on her site (right below her picture). I find it safe to say that writing is a skill that we are all consistently working on being better at. I dont care how good you think you are, there is always something to learn. Daphne provides really great tips on writing, developing content and everything related (her most recent is a reading list from 2012 that you should check out).

What do you subscribe to and look forward to reading each week/day/month?