Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Will There Be a Dot Com Bust 2.0?

The question of a potential dot com bust 2.0 has been on my mind for some time. Today you can't throw a stone without hitting some type of new niche social network or start up SaaS.

An example would be Artie Isaac's SpeakerSite. This network recently launched and already almost 700 members who have bought into a platform to connect speakers with audiences at events.

And if you're so inclined, you can do even visit Ning and start your own niche community without too much trouble at all.

Anyone can build groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. We can start blogs on any topic we choose. And what's more? There's enough people on the web today that you can find readers who will be interested in just about any fancy you choose to write on.

All this is too cool. But I wonder - will web 2.0 come crashing down similar to the dot com bust almost a decade ago?

In a conversation this week with @DanHarris, a tenured technology guru, I posed the question: So do you think we'll see a dot com bust 2.0?

Dan didn't think so and commented that a major component in the dot com bust of the 90's was related to a lack of infrastructure to support the boom. There simply was just not enough bandwidth to keep up the exponential growth of start web companies and the high demand drove the cost of starting up through the roof. The risk associated with failure was high and extremely costly.

Today we've become much wiser and have more resources available at a fraction of the cost. Failure happens every day, and then new concepts are born again, and the ball keeps rolling.

But Seth Godin writes an interesting perspective, warning us that the internet is almost full. And by almost full he means that we are so bombarded by so many messages online - from social networks to blogs to email et. al. - that in a sense we, as consumers of the content are full.

This Happend to TV
How many times do you watch a commercial during your favorite tv show, and not two minutes after the spot has aired, you can't seem to remember the brand or product that the ad was pushing?

We've been bombarded by so many messages over the years via traditional media like television, print and radio that, while these outlets can still be effective means of persuasion when integrated as part of a larger strategy, a huge majority of the messages just don't stick. We stare at the box, glazed over as the content bounces off of our face.

But will history repeat itself? Will the social web (and the web in general for that matter) follow the same pattern of over saturation. Maybe we're already there or getting close. It's tough to keep up with all your favorite blogs. Just keeping tabs on your facebook friends can take hours, even if you only have a few hundred connections.

What do you think?

Worst case scenario: If there were to be a dot com bust 2.0, what would it look like? Would it be challenges with the technology or our ability to consume the messages it delivers?


Photo Credit: mathewingram.com/work

How localized content can build a global audience - iMediaConnection.com

Sheila Mooney, Director of Content Development
for Nurun, offers some very though provoking ideas on generating localized content to build a global audience for brands. The article is absolutely worth a read and discusses the strategic approach to content in relation to context, taking in factors such as cultural nuances, as well as technological factors like bandwidth.

What are your thoughts on her approach?

Consumers will seek out brand content, but only if it appeals to them on a local and personal level. That's why your content strategy needs to factor in context as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Social Media Strategy: A Business Development Perspective

Over a cup of Starbucks with @heycrane this morning, we landed on the subject of discussing different methods that sales and business development gurus can employ on various forms of social media to connect with more people and subsequently, more opportunities to someday sell their stuff.

Sure, not everyone sells products or services. But Just about everyone sells something - ideas, their personal brand, their knowledge and experience, etc.

There are so many platforms and tactics and strategies that will help generate more relationships online. But will business transactions actually happen via social media? Probably not. That was never the intention of web 2.0 IMHO.

This confusion regarding the objectives of the social media universe may be one of the reasons that a fair amount of C-level executives have trouble buying into social networking as a viable alternative to the more traditional approach of "smile and dial" cold calling. In reality, closing business happens in face to face or voice to voice interactions, not online.

C-Levels who are weary of social media applications in business should consider the amount of time and resources that can be saved by having their sales force approach prospects on platforms where the prospects have "opted in" and are receptive to the messages coming their way. Older mediums, like phone and email for example, deliver messages to end users without the garnering their permission. It makes sense then that the mediums that are not in a sense permission-based, would yield lower conversion rates.

You might try this
Here is a snapshot of one approach I use that has allowed me to capitalize on the reach and and available data present on social platforms. Is this the only way to do it? Heck no. But does it help open doorways to relationship selling? Absolutely!

Start on Twitter
Micro blogging in itself delivers speed and efficiency to the basic concepts of networking - actually, I believe that is it one of the MOST effective ways to network. I use the cocktail party analogy. Picture the Twitterverse as an online networking event that is open 24/7 and free for all to attend. You can come and leave the room as you wish, and you have the ability to make your party or circle of conversation as large or as small as you like.

I'm becoming a proponent of the balanced follower vs following dynamic, i.e. an equal ratio of followers to people you follow portrays a certain sense of street credibility. Follow too many people, and you appear desperate or not fully engaged. Follow too few, and you may appear lofty or disinterested in what others have to say.

Either way, Micro blogging in general creates visibility and access to other people with lightning speed. For the sales and business development professional, not everyone you follow will be in a buying cycle at the time you connect with them, but the technology will automate the delivery of their information and may someday alert you to potential opportunities as they become relevant to the user on the other end.

Tip: So many people get caught up on the technology itself, that we sometimes forget the basic rules of networking:

  • Don't be pushy. People will ask you for advice when they need it.
  • Offer to give, give, give and someday you might just receive something back. But don't go in expecting to receive anything.
  • Be legit and honest and ask questions. People will tune you out if push your ideas too hard. Rather, blog about your ideas and then invite the Twitterverse to read if their interested.
  • Be a connector - listen to what people REALLY need and try to connect them with someone who can deliver it to them, even if it's not your product or service.
  • Talk about more than just what your selling. Take down your guard. Show people who you really are. This means talking about more than just work and careers and objectives.
Transitioning the relationship to a profile-based platform
What Twitter does not deliver is very in depth information on the individual. That's done on purpose. Yes, there are limited user profiles available, and reading peoples Tweets can help frame up background and situations, but more relevant background data can be found robust profile-based networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and the barrage of niche networks out there.

How many of you ever collected baseball cards when you were a kid? Platforms with robust profile functions are really the same concept. As on baseball cards, these networks provide the stats. The difference is that these stats provide a valuable lens into who the other user is, their background, their personality and interests, how they communicate with contacts and friends, etc. Social media has made it possible to learn more than just a batting average so make use of the data that's there. What's more? The data comes straight from the user themselves and can be regularly updated. Keeping tabs on RSS feeds makes it painless to keep tabs on all of this intelligence as the new information comes in. TweetDeck helps as well.

All that said, social media professionals will need to make a gut feeling call as to when it is appropriate to suggest connecting on other networks.

Tip: Having dialog with a potential prospect on Twitter? Suggest that you connect with them elsewhere so you can learn more about each other. Ask them what networks they prefer and how they use them. It's likely that if they are on Twitter, they started out on social media on another platform.

Now take it offline

I strongly believe that social media will never replace a handshake. The platforms are merely tools that deliver more efficient ways to gather information and connect people to people.

Tip: The savviest of sellers will recognize when it is time to take the conversations offline and create face-to-face or phone dialog. Social media creates the opportunity to open those doors, but cyberspace will never replace having a cup of coffee and bouncing ideas of a real human being.

So there you have it. This is just one approach to playing the social media game that I've been using.

What are you doing to find success on social media? Are you willing to share it on Chasing Change?


Photo Credit:
www.emailbookclub.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nailing the Revenue Model: Jott.com

Last week featured a web start up that failed in figuring out how to make money by offering there service. That's both sad and common. So to be positive this week, lets look at a company that seems to have nailed the money part of the start up game.

Months ago I wrote about Jott, a service that provides a platform which enabled users' to dictate message via there cell phones, have those messages transcribed to text and then delivered to them via email and SMS.

I became a beta tester around February. For me, Jott made good on it's promises and provided a valuable service that saved significant time and helped me prevent things from slipping through the cracks. Over a few weeks, I found I was averaging between five and seven Jotts a day, using it for both personal reminders and work 'to do's'. Essentially, using Jott provided much more than just easy and efficient reminders - it gave me piece of mind that I wouldn't miss anything important.

Make Money: Keep your Customers

Around late August to early September, Jott came out of Beta and continued to offer a free version of the platform supported by an ad network, but expanded to offer two additional tiers of service with full capabilities.

I'll admit, when the switch was made I was not a happy camper. As a beta tester, I had been use to the full platform of services including individual emails, the ability to set text and email reminders days out, and access to bolt on modules to link Jott with other applications. In the switch, I was bumped back to the bare bones and felt that I, as an early adopter, should have been "grandfathered in" on the full platform.

To Jott's defense, I did receive multiple emails informing me of the date of the switch and the options that would be available for me to purchase. Knowing my own personal inbox habits (which I would bet is similar to most of you) I do tend to get trigger happy with the delete button when cruising through email sent from services I subscribe too. I'm human, and very busy. While I'm sure folks at Jott were measuring open and click through rates on these emails, an additional push on social networks might have helped to increase awareness. Just my opinion though.

After receiving yet another email from the Jott team regarding the upgrade, I took a chance and emailed Doug Alley, Jott's VP of Business Development with my questions on why they chose the route they did, an some of my opinions on alternative strategies.

Jott Responds
Doug was quick to respond with a very professional email and a detailed explanation, siting some very important things to remember about monotozation:

  • Start ups need to keep there lights on so there services cant stay free forever.

  • People are willing to pay a reasonable fee for services that provide them with good value and consistent delivery on the promise.

  • Information Privacy is critical to fostering and keeping adoption high. Monotization from data mining can be a slap in the face to the end users.
I appreciated Doug's fast and professional response. I believe that a companies willingness to address feedback from their customers' speaks volume about their culture and brand. Doug didn't once apologize for the decisions he and his associates made - and that was OK. He stuck to his guns and went to great lengths to support his line thinking.

What Doug did do was respond to a customer who felt neglected and left behind. At a recent transportation marketing conference, I heard Ann Minor site that over 68% of customers leave because they feel like they are not receiving the attention they deserve, where as only 14% leave a provider because they are not satisfied with product or service itself.

The result is that because Doug made an effort to pay attention to my concerns, I upgraded my account and am again a happy customer. And additional features like Outlook plugins, an iPhone app, and Twitter links put the icing on the cake.

Moral of This Story
Monotization is not just about developing a pricing structure that works. To be truly successful in growing your revenue and keeping customers, companies need to engage with there customers, really listen, really communicate, and turn them into raving fans of there business.

Then the money will come.

Here's a great article by Read Write Web that Doug turned me on to. What I think is most interesting is the comments from the readers...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some Start-up's Die

It's a shame that it had to end this way, but all start-ups are not created equal. Wil Schroter, in his book, discusses the concept of building backwards and looking at how your business and technology will generate profit in the very early planning stages. I agree with that 100 percent - it costs money to keep the lights on and stay fed.

But so may start up's with great ideas miss this boat. Some developers approach ideas under the guise of "We just want to see if we can develop something really cool. It's not about money." Unfortunately, all too often, that attitude results in those same words being inscribed on those same start up's tombstone months later.

Blog Rush's Obituary
My friend and fellow blogger Mike Figliuolo turned me on to Blogrush during a lunch meeting earlier this year. It was a neat concept that would crawl the classify and content of your blog and deliver your feed on other relevant blogs via a sidebar widget. The benefit to individual bloggers was automated exposure to other potentially interested readers, based on a point system rooted in viral spread of the widgets (thus Mike's introduction of Blogrush to me).



Sadly, I received this email message today:

After careful consideration, we have decided to shutdown the BlogRush service. If you have the widget code on your blog you will need to remove it. When BlogRush launched in late-2007 it spread like wildfire all over the Web. Thousands of bloggers were talking about it and the service exploded to become one of the fastest growing free services in the history of the Web.

During the first year of the service it successfully served 3.4 Billion blog post headlines and the BlogRush widget could be found on blogs all over the world; even up until the moment we closed down the service.
BlogRush didn't grow without its fair share of problems -- from security issues to abusive users trying to 'game' the system to much lower click-rates than expected.

We also had some problems with trying to fairly control the quality of the network, and in the process made many mistakes in deciding what blogs should stay or go. All of these issues, ultimately, limited the service's full potential.
Our team worked very hard to try and build a service that would truly help bloggers of all sizes get free traffic to their blogs. This was our primary focus. Not once did we ever try to monetize the service with ads or anything else.
BlogRush never made a single penny in revenue. We wanted to be able to help our users FIRST and then worry about monetizing the service later. Unfortunately, the service didn't work out like we had hoped. (It happens.)


I want to say "Thank You" to all of the great bloggers that at least gave BlogRush a test to see if it would work for them. We sincerely appreciate you giving the service a try.
We have received several offers & inquiries about acquiring BlogRush, but we are choosing not to go that route. While many might think this is crazy, we truly feel it's the 'right' thing to do for our users. Believe it or not, it's not always about the money. In fact, BlogRush will have lost a small fortune when it's all said and done, and it was by choice. There were many things we could have done to monetize the service but we wanted to make sure it was going to benefit our users first.

Last but not least I want to say that I hope the failure of this service doesn't in any way discourage other entrepreneurs from coming up with crazy ideas at 4AM (like I did with this one) and from "going for it" to just try and see if something will work. Without trying there can be no success. And as we all know, ideas are worthless without action. The Web wouldn't be what it is today without entrepreneurs trying all sorts of crazy ideas.


On behalf of the entire BlogRush team, we wish the best of luck to everyone with their own blogs, ideas, and crazy ventures.


Sincerely,
John Reese http://twitter.com/johnreese


Moral of the Story

Monetizing is not evil and people will pay for a service that provides them value. If the strategy is thought through and executed correctly, you just might get to keep your doors open for a while...

You can also follow Mike Figliuolo on Twitter

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Niche Networks: Long Tail 2.0?

First - a sincere apology to all my readers for the silence in the past month. Some changes in my personal life and really fortunate times for my company have kept me pretty busy and away from delivering new content to ChasingChange. I'll be working to keep updates as regular as possible. Thanks for your patience!

And now for the fun stuff...

How many of you have heard the buzz term "lurker" or "stalker". Social media blogger, Shel Israel, has a very interesting perspective on this topic, offering his concept of "The Amplification Factor". Rather than using the term lurker, Shel calls these users "listeners". I dig that - it's much friendlier. Whatever you choose to call them, these users tend to observe dialog, and rarely make the jump to participate.

But wearing my agency hat, here's my issue with this audience - if my objective as a marketer is to modify the behavior of target audiences, it seems that this lack of engagement from the listeners would result in my messages missing the mark or not resulting in any subsequent action. Right?

But can MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn - all boasting millions of profiles - really provide metrics on user engagement? As a marketer, will reaching an audience of less engaged users on behemoth networks still get me the maximum return on my SMM budget dollars? Hmmm...

Enter the Niche Networks
In the past six months, I've been paying close attention to this evolving trend developing in the web 2.0 arena. While the market place is still heavily dominated by the giants, there has been an influx of smaller, more targeted networks that are gaining significant traction in terms of engagement. These networks deliver value in terms of specific functionality aligned with a robust social platform.

For the purpose of this article, I'm going to call these smaller, more topic focused social platforms, Niche Networks. Not sure if that's officially what they're being called these days, but then again, maybe no one's officially named them yet either!?! Who knows?

I Digress - The Long Tail and SEO

Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, has become fairly well know among business professionals in recent years.

In SEO world, this theory relates to the level of specificity in search phrases and terms, when consumers are searching web to find information on desired products and services.

The more generalized terms (or "head" terms) tend to draw the highest numbers of visitor traffic. For the purpose of this discussion, an example of a Head search term might be "Honda Civic". Firms like mine find that because of the generality of these search terms, a large percentage of the resulting traffic is not ready to convert into customers or leads, or even fully engage the site by going deeper into the pages.

On the flip side, long tail terms and phrases are much more specific. These may include a Internet user's geographic location, specific brands or even specialty services. An example of a long tail term might be "buy 2005 Honda Civic Columbus OH". These Long Tail terms do draw less traffic overall, but have tendency to result in high conversion rates. Why? It's not rocket science. The more specific the search term, the higher the chances are that a user will find exactly what they are looking for, and then be ready to act - or engage.

Long Tail 2.0?
So, going back to application of this concept to social media - these Niche Networks may never boast millions of users, but then again, that's not what their necessarily about. From what I can see, drilling down the focus of the platform seems to help foster real engagement and relationships within the subset of users who are all invested in the topic. It seems that this has potential to provide new opportunities to deliver relevant content, products and services to these audiences.

Finding Your Niche
I'm going to try something new. Over the next few weeks (and maybe ongoing if enough readers are interested), I'm going to examine some of these niche networks and ask for your feedback and opinions as well.

If anything, you may have the chance to be turned onto a new platform that will be targeted to your niche interests.

Stay tuned - more to come soon...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ohio Web Leaders Diggs Into Google, Cuil and How Search is Changing

Mad props to Bill Balderaz and Amy Marshall of Webbed Marketing for their presentation this morning at the OWL breakfast seminar. I've attended two events for this recently formed group and I've left both times with new perspectives, new connections and very applicable information. If you're in the internet technology game, or even a client-side marketer who is trying to leverage online channels for your company, or simply just someone who is interested interested in emerging internet technology - these events are definitely worth your time.

Among topics covered today:

  • Final negotiations for Google's pending acquisition of popular bookmarking site Digg, and how this may effect the Search industry

  • The low down on the new search engine Cuil (pronounced "cool") and where it is heading

  • Yahoo and MSN to potentially join forces (Bill asked, would you call that Mahoo?)

  • A features profile of the newly launched Wikia Search

  • Google Suggest - Google's new intelligent search feature and the potentially associated privacy issues with user profiling
I don't want to steal OWL's content so this is just a tease. If these topics look interesting, think about registering for the next OWL event to join the discussion.

But, I do have some opinions on Google and Digg potentially joining forces:

First off, this merger could be BIG. Obviously, Google's a monster dominating over 70% of daily search queries. So why would this power house have interest in purchasing a social bookmarking service?

The Business Angle
With more than 1 million registered users (and I'm one of them), Digg draws traffic from the influencers. Users take great pride in their ability to find and rate content, and then have that content validated as relevant by other users. These are the mavens and typically the early adopters of new technology as well.

The company currently operates on a skeleton crew of less than 25 employees and partners with Microsoft to generate a majority of it's current revenue. From a funding perspective, Digg has called on VC firms for a meager total of $11 million on startup capital.

Compared to LinkedIn's numbers at 310 employees and four rounds of investment funding valued at over $1 Billion , and you get the picture pretty quick. All around low baggage with a significant adoption equates to a very attractive buy for Google.

Changing the Game
Enter the Semantic Web. Personally, I don't quite think anyone fully has their head around this concept just yet, but Google merging with Digg, in my opinion, brings us one step closer to realizing the end user benefits of web 3.0.

In the past few months, so many "Semantic" Search engines have popped up. Cuil and True Knowledge Beta are just a few I've played with, and thus far have received lack luster search results.

Here's the challenge with startup semantic SE's. First, they havn't nailed the technology yet. Cuil saw a huge spike in initial post launch traffic last month, only to see limited results in return visitors. Users were not impressed enough with the search results to use the service on a regular basis. Second, these concepts represent a new way of thinking about the internet as a platform. Unfortunately, the majority of us humans aren't easily open to change.

So why will the Google / Digg marriage move the semantic web progression forward? I think the answer is fairly simple. The existing critical mass of each of theses services will help to eliminate potential barriers and quickly increase wide spread adoption.
  • Comfort - A significant numbers users are already familiar with Google's interface. The same goes for Digg users.
  • Brand - Large amounts of users already have established trust in both sites
  • Convenience - Google users are accustom to new add-ons for their personal Google homepage. Integrating Digg in the Google interface makes it easy to promote the service and for users to jump on board
Again, Digg has a strong foothold with the mavens. Google has a strong foot hold with - well, just about everyone. Take Diggs ability to deliver relevant peer rated content and combine it with Googles advanced ability to behaviorally targeting users' preferences, and you may have a home run.

What Does this mean for SEO's? You're guess is as good as mine, and I would love to hear your comments on this issue.

One things is for sure - as this merger unfolds, the way we search for content on the web could see some serious changes. SEO's who don't pay close attention will be left in the dust.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Triple O, The Key to Obama's Intgrated Online Success Online

Hats off and thanks to Scott Schweitzer from The Strategy Group for Media for passing along a recent Washington Post article entitled: Obama's Wide Web; From YouTube to Text Messaging, Candidate's Team Connects to Voters.

I'm always very cautious when brining up politics. But regardless of where your political affiliations lie, no one can argue that the Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign has paid significant attention to social media as a cornerstone of their strategy.

More than that, his interactive division, branded as Triple O, has done very innovative work in applying, and integrating a variety of online tactics that are new to the political arena including social networking, SEO/SEM social media marketing, SMS, affiliate groups, banner advertisements, viral video, etc. - all leading back to a well designed lead capture form placed on the hompage of his official campaign website, BarakObama.com.

To me this is a hell of an online presence. Fostering peer-to-peer communication in the political arena simply makes sense - Marshall McLuhan's ideas behind his 1967 book: The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects holds ever more true when you take into consideration how much the present day media landscape has evolved. Triple O has embraced the online medium as both a tool and message.

So whats the message of the medium? Here are some of what I take away from his approach.

  • "Obama is hip and understands my generation."
  • "Obama is a forward thinker and understands emerging technology"
  • "Obama cares about what I have to say, and provides me with ways to voice my opinion"
  • "Obama is on the front lines and recognizes my needs and interests"
  • "Jeez, I feel like I really know this guy"
The last bullet is what I think is most important. Through use of integrated social media, Barack Obama has become more than just another politician on the television. He's made an effort to become one of the crowed. End users begin to feel a subconscious and personal affiliation to the good Senator. In my mind, that's where the true political benefits of social media are found - emotional relationship building.

A common myth is that social media only draws or younger demographics of users, savvy marketers and techno-geeks. But, the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. We know now that all audiences are online to a certain extent. One thing that stands out in the article revolves around the campaign's focus on creating presences on smaller, more targeted ethnic communities such as AsianAve.com, MiGente.com, BlackPlanet.com.

I encourage you to read through this very interesting article on your own and keep an eye on this campaign. The political arena has always had a major hand in driving new uses of media. In my opinion, we're watching a new chapter in the art of influence and communication unfold.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Greeting with a Personal Touch: SendOutCards.com

This one has me very excited! Right out of the gate, I will rate this web service as one of the most innovative SaaS applications I've seen in 2008. Following the Wil Schroder start up model, this service uses the Internet to provide a robust solution that alleviates the friction in a human transaction.

With the rise of email and social networks, the old tradition of sending paper cards has fallen by the wayside. Why? Here are some my thoughts:

  1. The Time Investment - the process of sending traditional greeting cards is a long process of hand writing, addressing, and then making a trip to the post office or mail box to send the message.

  2. Higher Costs - take into account the rate of postage, the price of the gas you will to get to and from the store and post office, and that most decent greeting cards can range from $4 to $5 at the store, and it's reasonable to average more than $10 per card in expenses.

  3. Finding the Right Card - the options are limited at your typical retail locations, so you may not be able to find the right fit for the occasion. Yet design and printing custom cards just adds on to the already lengthy time commitment.
SendOutCards has developed a SaaS solution to address all of these negatives, and in my opinion, has done a hell of a job in designing a turn-key solution.

How It Works
For a reasonable fee, Send Out Cards allows users to upload a database of contacts, and then design, save and send personalized greeting cards for a variety of special occasions. Users also have the ability to purchase and include gifts along with their cards, which include retail and restarnat gift cards, food items and even books. Users also have the ability to create custom cards by uploading images, logos and photos to be included in the layout.

One of the most interesting features is the ability to include your very own handwriting style in the printed copy. Users have the option to submit characters, punctuation and personal signatures via a provided paper form, which is then be mailed back to Send Out Cards. Once received, Send Out Cards scans the document and creates a personal font for the user and implements it on their account.

The company handles all printing, postage and mailing of the cards, which saves end users considerable amounts of time and energy, encouraging them to once again send tangible greetings to contacts.

Who Can Use This?
Send Out Cards is absolutely for everyone - from business professionals conducting client follow up, to busy moms looking for a less time consuming way to send holiday greetings to friends and family. The user interface is friendly and intuitive, and transitions between various screens are quick.

I believe that this unique platform is one for the books, and will have a long life ahead of it. I've already become an avid user of this application, so please feel free to visit my SOC homepage and follow the link at the top if you would like to try sending a free card.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tweet Tweet: Real Time Snap Shots in 140 Charecters or Less

Micro blogging has gained so much traction in 2008 among hipsters, techies and even business professionals. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, Wikipedia defines micro blogging as this:

Micro-blogging is a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually 140 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web.

I've recently become an avid user of the most popular micro blogging site, Twitter. Users of this service create a very brief profile, build a network of their contacts and friends and 'follow' their feeds to receive updates on their contacts updates throughout the day.

A set limit of 140 characters or less for any given message, forces users to keep their messages, or 'Tweets' to a short and manageable length. Users have the ability to target their Tweets towards any of their followers, both on the public forum and via private messages.

So, is micro blogging really viable as a business communication tool? In my opinion, absolutely! Here are a few of the benefits that I have reaped since opening my Twitter account:

Real Time Snap Shots Professionals have busy days. That's a given. Micro blogging allows followers to continuously capture snap shots of your contacts' daily activities .

And because of the manageable nature of of the message length, updates can be sent and read in a matter of seconds. As compared to the amount of time it takes to update a traditional blog post, or even reach out to a contact via email, this concept becomes a very attractive options to the 'movers and shakers'.

Manageable Reading
On the side of the readers, micro blogging allows users to consume small amounts of relevant information, including links to other websites, articles, blogs, et al., without the need for a significant time investment. I've personally found that while I have to consciously block out time every day to read up on my favorite online information sources, I keep my Twitter page open all day long, checking it a few times per hour for updates.

Open Dialog
One thing that has stood out to me occurs every morning when I log on to Twitter for the first time of the day. Users typically announce their log on to the network with a good morning message. Other users typically reply to the greeting welcoming them into the day's discussion.

Open dialog between large networks of people continues throughout the day, and the benefits become evident.

Here's a case example. Yesterday I was scheduled to attend a meeting for a start up technology company I am working on. I was going to be a few minutes late, and no one was answering their cell phones. From my iPhone, I used the Twiterlator Mobile application to access my account, and Tweet my current location and estimated time of arrival. All of my group members all responded immediately, which saved me the embarrassment of an explanation.

All in all, I see a long and vast future for micro-blogging applications. Twitter is one of the first to gain significant adoption, but as always, other similar types of networks will appear in the coming months.

And finally - would you like to follow me on Twitter?

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Short Follow Up on SlideRocket

Recently I posted an article on a new presentation software that I've fallen in love with. I'd like to send a cheers to my friend and entrepreneur, JP Adams, for turning me on to this great FastCompany interview with Mitch Grasso, Founder and CEO of SlideRocket.

This flash application is one of the coolest web services that I've seen developed in the last year. The official launch is slated for this July.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Unplugging Again at Bonaroo 2008

I've been waiting to see one of my all time favorite bands in concert for nearly 10 years now.

Pearl Jam will be headlining at Bonaroo this year. My wife Amy and I, along with four of our best friends, will be leaving early Thursday morning for a long awaited adventure to a 700 acre farm in Manchester, TN.

I really can't think of a better way to get away from the crazy demands of corporate life. There's something about and excuse to be outside and completely unplugged from meetings, email and conference calls. Being outdoors always lifts me up for a recharge.

We'll be joined by more than 75 thousand other music fanatics, all eager to enjoy the hot weather, cold beers, fantastic artists, and the company of complete strangers, who over a weekend, will become familiar friendly faces.

Joining the show this year will be a variety of acts including SuperDrag, Dark Star Orchestra, Willie Nelson, Metallica, Chris Rock, DJ Tiesto, B.B King, Jack Johnson, Talib Kwali, Yonder Mountain String Band, O.A.R. and a play bill full of many others.

Enter The Marketers

It's no wonder that with the popular acts above and a crowd of thousands of voluntary captive men and women, the event attracts a huge number of corporations, looking to tap into the Millennial ad Boomer demographics.

Via the website and mailing list, I've been receiving pre-event promotional offers and alerts, directing I and my friends to take part in just about every creation of an out of home promotion you can conjure up. Sponsor companies including at&t, Xbox360, Sobe, Jansport, Nokia will be out in full force to create brand awareness and capture names for their database.

Bonaroo is truly the place to be in June. I'll have a report with observations of the best marketing ideas at the show when we return...

But for now, here's a 2007 Bonaroo performance by another one of my favorite bands, Tool. See you next week!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The New Generation of Presentations: SlideRocket

Presenting to potential clients is a huge part of my daily activities. The days of delivering the same agency design ed static presentation to everyone are long gone.

Each situation, each client and each opportunity requires elements of customization - especially when you are selling ideas and services.

So what are some of the challenges for business development and sales professionals when crafting that all important sales preso?

  • How do I customize my presentations quickly and easily, while maintaining the integrity of my company's brand?

  • With travel costs skyrocketing (along with the cost of just about everything these days), how do I leverage the web to conduct truly effective "virtual meetings"?
  • When I send a prospect a presentation, or they are viewing from a remote location, how can I tell they are engaged? What metrics can I use?
To date, subscription services such as WebEx have provided desktop sharing solutions which allow parties in various locations to connect via conference call, while the administrator (i.e. the sales person) shares their desktop.

I'm willing to bet that if your a professional, you've sat through these types of meetings. With all due respect to the good people at WebEx and other desktop sharing applications, these solutions are simply...well...clunky.

A New Breed of Presentation Software

Enter SlideRocket! This innovative application has yet to be fully launched, but in my opinion, will change the way that sales presentations are delivered across the globe. From what I can tell, it deliverers on all of the questions listed above, and much more.

In the company's own words:

SlideRocket is a web application that provides everything you need to design professional quality presentations, manage and share libraries of slides and assets, and to deliver presentations in person or remotely over the web.

You can view the product demo here. (Which, might I add, been created by using the SlideRocket software)

Here, SlideRocket CEO Mitch Grasso dives deeper into how this SaaS application can be used.


I can't wait to use this one!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Unplugged

I have an iPhone now. My laptop is usually within reach. Email. Text Messages. Safari. Oh my.

How many of you are also victims of connectivity? The corporate world fosters an addiction to technology. I call it an addiction because for may of us (myself included), if technology and communication tools are accessible, the option to ignore it all but disappears.

For the holiday weekend, my trusty dog Ruger and I will once again journey into the woods. Our scared spot lies halfway between a field and a lake, and is conveniently out of range for any wireless signals.

Surround by a group of old and true friends, we'll cook our own food, cut wood and build fires. We'll play Frisbee and softball and tell stories of years past. We'll laugh out loud at comedy that only we understand. We'll sit in silence, simply being in the present moment. And we'll listen. Listen to the Whipper Wheels as they sing to the passing moon. We'll listen to the wind as it flies past the leaves. We'll listen to the coyotes and cows in the distant night. And we'll listen to each other.

For all of this, I am filled with gratitude...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Put On Tilt

Do you play Poker?

Over the last five years, popularity of the game has spread through American culture like a super virus. That may sound like a negative connotation, but there are good lessons to be learned when stacking your chips.

It wasn't until recently that I was able to figure out my poker strategy. It feels great to win. Losing is terrible. Even when you're clear and focused, the cards can still fall against you. Now you've been forced on tilt.

Tilt is state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player knowingly adopts a sub-optimal, over-aggressive strategy.

Placing an opponent on tilt or dealing with being on tilt oneself is one of the most important aspects of poker. It is a relatively frequent occurrence, due to frustration, animosity against other players, or simple bad luck.

Experienced players recommend learning to recognize that one is experiencing tilt and to avoid allowing it to influence one’s play.

Real Life
Unless your Chris Moneymaker, poker is simply a pass time activity. But the concept of tilt applies to daily survival.

Everyday we deal with outside forces which we cannot control. Plans change, commitments fall through, great ideas crash and burn. We get frustrated - but the game continues and we are dealt our next hand.

So what's your plan for the next time you get put on tilt?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who would you like to Jott?

That's a phrase which I've been hearing frequently, thanks to the vision of four innovative Seattle-based internet entrepreneurs.

Jott.com is a very cool free web-service that provides it's users all the benefits of having a personal assistant, without the financial burden of paying an annual salary. Since it's inception in late 2006, the company has been building a solid foundation in the trade and national press.

Users sign up in a few easy steps, submit a mobile phone number and email address, the system syncs with your phone, and then sends you a call-in number for your speed dial.

When you call, the automated attendant answers with "Who would you like to Jott?" You then speak your message clearly into the phone, select from options on reminders, delivery time and method, Wha-La! Your message is automatically transcribed and sent back to you through the vehicle you've selected.

I was so intrigued, I created an account and have been using it avidly for a about a week. It's particularly handy when a big idea hits while you're driving. My wife is very thankful to the company for improving the safety of our family's road trips.

As of today, I received an email with details on how I can get more use out of the service in terms of list building and mass-Jotting other users. It seems that Jott is doing a remarkable job of marketing this service, as well as providing value to those who sign up.

One question remains. What type of web application is this? Web 2.o? Web 3.0? Something new? Hmmm...

Whatever the case may be, hats off to the creators of this nifty tool!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Golden Rules

Here are two golden rules guaranteed to help you make a good first impression:

  1. After the person you are calling picks up the phone, say hello, identify yourself and ask: "is this a convenient time to talk?" Rocket science? Not really. But you can bet it is a critical step in having your contact pay attention to the next 15 words you say.

  2. When going to a meeting, be there when you say you will be there. If you can, be there early. There's nothing worse than showing up late. We've all been late before. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control. The mobile phone was (and still is) a great invention. Use it.
No one is perfect. I'm sure as hell not. But making your very best effort and being respectful of others' time is a great place to start.

Thanks to Mike Figliuolo of thoughtLEADERS for a great coffee discussion on Friday, which reminded me to write about the golden rules.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

People Fighting for Change: EcoStudio

My thanks to Eric Elizondo of EcoStudio for turning me on to some great sustainability resources. His blog is jam packed with information on products, ideas and so much more.

Green City Blue Lake
is a website created by EcoCity Cleveland, a nonprofit organization that has been at the center of sustainability activities and creative planning efforts in Northeast Ohio since 1992.

Here's an excerpt from their newsletter that Eric forwarded to me:

Warming towards Earth Day
It may have seemed like a long Cleveland winter, but there are signs that our climate is growing warmer. Based on recent temperature data, the national Arbor Day Foundation has published an updated version of the 1990 USDA plant hardiness zone map. The new map shows that much of Ohio has warmed a full zone.

Go here to see an animated display of how the hardiness zones have shifted north.

If you only click on link in this post, click the last one. You'll be directed to an animated map that shows the change in hardiness zones since 1990. It's absolutely staggering.

What are you and I doing to prevent this situation from getting worse?

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Social Networks Accomplish

In a recent email, my uncle stated that he was unsure exactly what social networks accomplished.

While this is a much larger debate, here are a few ideas on why I believe these networks are valuable. Feel free to agree, disagree or share your own ideas:

Data Portability
Have you ever changed mobiles or computers, and lost contact information in the process? A significant advantage of social networks, both personal and business, is data portability. By maintaining your information via the web, you reap the benefit of centralized platform accessible from anywhere.

Reasons to Connect
In both business and personal settings, almost all social networks provide updates on your contacts activities. When someone makes changes to their profile, makes a new connection, even asks or a question, you will be alerted. This automated intelligence can be help provide legitimate reasons to reach out to any given contact.

User Generated Intelligence
In a few simple clicks through a profile in your network, you can learn about your connections work history, who you know in common, where they went to school, what level of degree they have, their accomplishments, and on and on. What's more, this data is updated by them - not a third party.

As adoption of any network becomes more wide-spread, the overall value increases. As your own personal network grows, you'll see an increase in the data and opportunities that are delivered.

On the flip side of that, without some type of control system in place, network value can also be lost. MySpace is a good case study to follow on that. I guess it's just human nature to create pandemonium if we're left with no rules.

For a fairly comprehensive list the social networks, click here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

On Viral Marketing

My Uncle Jurgen, a prominent, super-savvy and retired business executive living in California, just joined my network on LinkeIn.

Here's what's interesting to me. I'd wanted to reach out to him for months now, but was a little apprehensive. We don't see that side of the family all that often. As a matter of fact, the last time we were in the same room was during my great-grandfather's funeral, a few years ago. (Salute, Grossopa!)

Sure - I could have asked others in my immediate family for his email address or phone number. But once I was notified on LinkedIn that he had joined the 20 million other business professionals using the network, I suddenly had a relevant reason to make contact. The awkwardness of the situation disappeared via web 2.0.

In the email thread we traded, Uncle Jurgen ended with this:

I am not really sure what these networks accomplish, so I have been leery of joining, but when relatives and friends ask...

A Powerful Statement


When the message comes from an individual you know and trust, the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding the request, (in this case - the adoption of a new technology) is removed.

This premise is the corner stone of viral marketing. By receiving the message from a family member, my Uncle, after long consideration, changed his behavior and created a LinkedIn profile. The messenger, not the message itself, mattered most.

Why I Heart My iPhone


I bought an iPhone today. And I'm happy.

The experience at the Apple Store at Easton Town Center was awful. As always, a charged and super trendy crowed was lingering, busy gawking at the latest accessories and seeing who could look the coolest.

Enter me with my 19-month old son on my shoulders. We stuck out like a sore thumb. Apparently father-son duos are not trendy. Who knew?

The young dude at the counter was very helpful. His boss, the store manager, was a complete pompass-ass who made me and other customers feel like we were not worthy of such hip pieces of technology. Had it been a Verizon Wireless store and the Envy, I would have stormed out, foregoing the purchase all together.

But it wasn't Verizon Wireless. It was the Apple Store and the iPhone.
A Sucker for Good Branding
On my drive home, I was examining the hip, sophisticated packaging that carried what would in so many ways, make my life easier.

I began to think to myself how straight-forward setup would be. I thought about how nice it would be to have my email, contacts, calender and music at the touch of my finger tips. I even thought how wonderful it was going to be to have immediate access to the internet -- "not a boiled down version of the internet". I thought all the things that Apple had so deliberately persuaded me think about the iPhone.

All of these thoughts made me happy.

And Apple wins...

Why does Apple win?
The strongest brands have the power to evoke real and powerful emotions in the mind of the customer. Through brilliant marketing, advertising and design, it's safe to say that Mr. Jobs and his army have mastered the mode of persuasion known as Pathos.

Aristotle would be proud.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More Beer

Here's a follow up to my previous post Case Study: Consumer Generated Media and Good Beer.

Cheers to The Beer Wench and the good folks at Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails for some innovative and fun marketing!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –

LOCAL RESTAURANT TEAMS UP WITH LOCAL BEER BLOGGER FOR UNIQUE BEER TASTINGS

COLUMBUS, Ohio – COLUMBUS, OH April 4, 2008Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails has joined forces with local beer blogger, The Columbus Beer Wench, to develop an original beer tasting initiative.

With the goal of becoming more educated on the world of beer, The Columbus Beer Wench invites blog readers to join in her venture towards becoming a beer connoisseur. As of this February, The Wench has been hosting informal beer tastings with local citizens at a various local establishments.

The Beer Wench recently reached out to the owners of Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails for potential collaboration. Known for consistently listening and responding to the wants and needs of its community, Tip Top owners Liz and Tim Lessner jumped at the opportunity to support its local beer loving population.

In turn, Tim Lessner reached out to The Beer Wench for local input on Tip Top’s beer menu.

This past Friday, The Beer Wench met with Tim and Steve, Tip Top bar manager, to brainstorm ideas. The three minds collaborated to create the distinctive concept of a “community inspired beer menu”.

The concept is rather simple. Let Columbus citizens choose the beers they want Tip Top to offer on its beer menu. Let them also choose the ones that should be discontinued.

Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails, in conjunction with The Columbus Beer Wench, invites the citizens of Columbus to explore this new concept on Sunday, April 20th. The inaugural Tip Top “Drink With The Wench” will take place from 5pm until 8pm. The event will cost $15 dollars a head and includes the beer, various appetizers and Tip Top’s infamous sweet potato fries.

Tasters will sample six different beers, three from the current Tip Top menu and three new beers. Each person will have the opportunity to provide input to which of the current beers should be discontinued and which of the new beers should be offered on the Tip Top beer menu. Beers chosen by the group will be featured as local selections. All guests are encouraged to stay and socialize further after the tasting. As always, the kitchen and bar will be open till close.

The Columbus Underground has also volunteered to collaborate as a partner in this effort.

About Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails
A tipsy downtown neighborhood bar featuring Ohio Comfort Food, mean whiskey concoctions, draught microbrews, pinball, smiling faces, whiskey, Columbus pride, great local and not-so-local music, Cafe Brioso coffee and delicious pies. Located in the heart of downtown Columbus: The Independent Art Capital of the World!
http://www.tiptopcolumbus.com/

About The Columbus Beer Wench
The Columbus Beer Wench is a local Columbus based beer blog written by Ashley Routson. With the creation of “Drink With The Wench,” Ashley has been successfully closing the gap between the interactive realms of social media with the real world Columbus community.
http://www.thecolumbuswench.wordpress.com

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Changing Hands

The news has hit the stands - officially.

I'm excited to say that the firm I work for, Young Isaac, has recently merged with an SEO company called People To My Site.

You can read more of the details in the Columbus Business First article, posted yesterday. Artie has already posted commentary on his blog as well.

My Perspective


I'm extremely grateful to have been part of this change. Two really innovative companies have come together under the direction of some uber-smart leaders.

The clients will benefit immensely. Traditional marketing and search engine marketing are now under one roof, working hand in hand, sharing principles, people and ideas. Communication channels are open allowing true collaboration.

I'm excited for what's in store. This is going to be big...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Go BIG

Wil Schroter is a savvy entrepreneur with a laundry list of companies to his name. I've been asking myself how someone, who is roughly six years older than me, can already be so successful.

In search of the answer, I'm about halfway through his book, Go BIG or Go Home.

The title says it all. By examining his own companies, and other internet giants like Google and MySpace, Wil outlines the common elements in a proven business model that allow GoBIG companies to "dominate new markets virtually overnight".

  • Vision - Think BIG, the way companies like Google, PayPal and Skype do

  • Growth - Learn how to compress time to grow faster than your competition

  • Marketing - Position your company as Number One right from Day One

  • Capital - Forget raising capital, learn how to create capital and leverage what you have today

  • Management - Leverage your smaller size to run circles around your larger competitors
This book is a fun and easy read, and I recommend it to anyone looking to leverage the speed and scalability of internet businesses.

The interview below will highlight two of Wil's latest projects:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Case Study: Consumer Generated Media & Good Beer

My friend and co-worker, Ashley Routson, has been working on what I believe is a great idea.

She has branded herself and her blog as The Columbus Beer Wench, finding a nice niche in our great city as the local beer expert.

Her mission? Seek out, taste, rate, and enjoy the fine offerings of local brew pubs and high quality distributors.

Here's why I think she's a winner. In less than 2 months, Ms. Routson has taken an idea, developed relevant and interesting content on her subject, and has secured a dedicated following by hosting frequent local beer tasting events, branded as Drink with the Wench.

By converging online social networking with real world events, her readership is beginning to attract the attention of local restaurants and brew pubs. She has successfully changed consumers' behavior by bridging the gap between the internet and the real world, and positioning herself as a true "influencer" of her target audience.

Case in point: Consumer Generated Media is gaining traction faster than anyone can imagine. More and more audiences are turning away from traditional media, to seek out their information from the people on the street. The ripple effect of this trend will be exciting to watch.

Do you read blogs? Are you a blogger? Here's why I blog.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Winning at Breakfast

Going to the early morning business networking event is a good move. First and foremost, the pastries and coffee are usually provided free. What's not to like about that?

To make sure you leave with a few new connections, here are a some strategies that have worked for me:

  1. Scan the crowd. Find someone who looks more uncomfortable in the situation than you are. Approach them first. Ask "Is this your first time here?". They'll be relieved to be in a conversation.

  2. Drink lots of coffee. Wait to get your next cup until you notice a line at the coffee station. Then approach. Conversations happen naturally between the sugar and cream.

  3. Camp out at the plate return tray. They are usually located near the wall. Everyone who attends the event will visit at least once. Sit back, wait, and let people come to you for some one on one.

  4. Have a memorable business card. Not necessarily a flashy card, but one that's different from all the others. At Young Isaac, our business cards are personalized with an ink stamp.
Most of all - relax, have a good time and smile! Everyone likes to meet a person with a smile.

For more cool ideas on networking, click here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chasing Change Welcomes M.J. Clark

I'm delighted to welcome a guest this week on Chasing Change. My friend and coach, M.J. Clark, is a professional speaker, leadership consultant, and executive coach with Integrated Leadership Systems in Columbus, OH. You can read her bio here.


Are You Ready To Change?

I love the name of this blog – Chasing Change – because it identifies change as something good, something we are chasing after. I love change, because to me change means growth, but I often encounter people who greatly fear change. Change is definitely something you must be ready for and something that takes hard work. We spend lifetimes developing bad habits and harmful self-talk that takes time and effort to undo.

Through my work as an executive coach for Integrated Leadership Systems, I have worked with people in all stages of change. Many times people think they want to change but, when faced with a coach who challenges them, they quickly come up with a wide range of reasons why they can’t begin now. Studies have shown that the ability for a person to make a permanent change depends on their readiness to change. People go through five stages of change before a permanent, new habit can be formed:
  • Precontemplation – No intention to change any time soon.
  • Contemplation – Knows a problems exists, but is not committed to taking action to fix it.
  • Preparation – Have not taken action in the last year, but intends to in the next month or two.
  • Action – Taking action to modify behavior (involves expenditure of time and energy).
  • Maintenance – Habit has been changed and person works to prevent relapse.
During this process, some people will slip back into old habits from time to time. This should be expected. They are still moving forward, but they have to keep learning and trying new things to make the new habit permanent. Be patient with yourself or those you know who are trying to change. Change takes time and a great deal of effort. It also takes courage.

We all have baggage we carry with us from childhood. Sometimes dysfunctional behavior that is a byproduct of our personal baggage leaks out like acid into our personal and work relationships and can destroy what we have worked so hard to achieve in our lives. Facing our past and our fears is scary, but it’s the only way to move forward to become a stronger, wiser, more self-aware individual.

Change is a character-building activity I highly recommend. And I welcome any questions you might have or comments you would like to share if you are facing change-related challenges in your life. I do know this: you won’t change if you just sit around reading blog postings about it. So lace up those sneakers, and let the chase begin!


M.J. Clark
Business Consultant
Integrated Leadership Systems
614/214-7062 (cell)
mj@integratedleader.com

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Seth Godin on Being Ordinary

I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog.

He always surprises me with the amount of truth he can capture in a just few short sentences. His most recent post, Ordinary is cheaper than you, is a wake up call for young professionals everywhere.

Seth eloquently points out:

...if all the best you can do is 'good enough', then why on earth should I pay you the benefits and wages that it costs to get you to do that work?

What are you doing (or not doing) to earn the money that an employer intends to spend on you?

Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Interview Tip

A few years ago, while gunning for a position in a technology company, I tried a new tactic for approaching an interview. Long story short, qualifications among all the candidates were equal. I learned after I was awarded the job that my new tactic made me stand out from the pool.

Here it is:

Tip 1: Arrive at said interview an hour early.

Why? What will that do for me?

The obvious first. Being early to an interview shows that you're punctual and can keep an appointment. Arriving even one minute late may cost you the chance at a hire. Being way too early naturally generates an awkward curiosity among your new potential associates.

Early arrival also shows that your thoughtful enough to plan ahead and allow yourself extra time, just in case you something would happen - you might get lost, break down with car trouble, or even find yourself stuck in traffic. You've prepared for the worst, and lucked out.

So now your there - an hour early - and it might be a little uncomfortable. Good!

Here's the real advantage: It affords you the opportunity to sit and observe the company's culture. Remember that interviews are a two way street. They're checking you out - you should be checking them out as well.

While you wait, look for things like this:
  1. Do people make an effort to come talk to you or do they just give you weird looks?
  2. What are people wearing?
  3. How quickly are people moving around the office? Are they intense or relaxed?
  4. What's the background noise? Office chatter? Laughing? Arguments? Silence?
  5. What is the average age of employees? Does it look like a wide range?
Most importantly: If they have a receptionist, strike up a conversation. Find out what he or she likes and dislikes about the job. Ask about how he or she came to the company. Be genuinely interested in a conversation.

What do you have to loose? It may be that after your interviewer sees you out, they may ask the receptionist about their impression of you.

Wouldn't you want the company's gatekeeper in your corner?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Small Fish, Big Pond

The title describes how I felt in 2004 when I left the comfort and familiarity of college to set out into the "real world" and start my career. I will admit - I thought it would be easy to find my dream job, right out of the gate.

The reality for college grads is quite the opposite. Unless you've finished at the top of your class from schools like Yale or Harvard, your degree alone won't take you far.

So what can you do gain experience needed to help you to become a more savvy professional?

Here are a few ideas you might try:

  • Get internships - While most don't offer a pay check, internships provide college students and grads the opportunity to test out a company from the inside. If you work hard and show that you're dependable, the face time with management may translate into a permanent position.

  • Find a mentor: In fact, find two or three of you can. Business owners, CEO's, or other higher-level executives make great mentors and are usually happy to share their experiences. Find someone who is as eager to teach as you are to learn, and meet with them often. Always ask questions. One of my mentors has an interesting method of teaching.

  • Join a trade association - It's a great way to get connected with other like-minded individuals in your industry. Trade associations are typically hubs of information on current best practices and practical applications of your trade. If you think that learning stops after you're finished with college, think again.

  • Network - This is probably one of the most important things you can do as a young professional. Set a goal to meet a certain number of new people per week. Then look at how to immerse yourself in situations that will allow you to do so. Use tools like social networks. Web-based solutions like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Plaxo make it easy to keep track of your contacts.

  • Start a blog - It's great way to practice your writing skills. It also provides you with a channel to let potential employers learn more about you. Don't be afraid to direct them to your blog as follow up to an interview. Here are a few more reasons to start a blog.

  • Keep a journal - If you write it down, it's real. Journaling is a great a way to capture notes and ideas as you move along your career path. Keep your journal with you all the time since you never really know when that big idea might pop in your head.
  • Work harder than your competition - And by competition, I mean all the other intelligent young professionals who are looking to make their way. Success is a numbers game. If the playing field is filled with other smart and driven people, then those who put in the most effort will rise to the top. Be careful not to burn out though. Find your balance between work and play.
  • Not happy with your Job? Quit! - My grandfather once told me: "Love what you do, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." If you are not happy in your position or company, then you're wasting valuable time. Don't be afraid to move on. There's a better job waiting for you. All you have to do is find it.
Have other suggestions that have worked for you? Post your comments here, or email me.