Giving It Away (for Fun and Profit)
I'm not sure if the Creative Commons concept will catch fire the way some hope it might, but I do think it represents something very big about our culture: Giving It Away (for Fun and Profit)
Copyright rules were created to protect the artist from having their works stolen. It was primarilly a matter of trust - I don't trust you'll use my work and then pay me for it, so I've protected it with a copyright. However, the early success of this "shared economy" has shown that, at least in the world of the web, there seems to be a re-emergence of trust. Even more important, the trust isn't being betrayed - honest people are downloading music and books, trying them out, and paying for them. It's a win for everyone.
As a sidenote, I used a Creative Commons license on a book I gave away for free on the net. An experiment, more than anything. But a couple of copies were purchased after people had downloaded the entire book. Maybe there is something behind this business model after all.
Who says marketing has to be expensive?
Terrific article from the "Wizard of Ads":
Get Your Message Out - On a Shoestring
Too often we come up with excuses for not marketing regularly. As this article points out, money shouldn't be one of those excuses.
Just received an invitation to sign up for Google's new email service. After being bombarded by spammers over at Yahoo!, I'll be interested to see if Google can solve the bane of the world's online existence.
Standards uber-guru Jeffrey Zeldman writes about his new Mac and the problems inherent in seemingly simple tasks like ejecting a CD. Design is more than meets the eye. Favorite quote:
My point was that a rudimentary computing task should not require arcane knowledge of secret handshakes.
It's as if my Lexus (if I had one) rolled down a hill and crashed into a tree because there was no parking brake. And then people wrote to tell me, "To set the parking brake, slide over to the passenger seat, roll down your window, and feel behind the windshield wiper until you notice a barely detectable, curved bump. Stroke it twice, then tug the wiper blade away from the windshield - but only for a second - and then release it. You should hear a very quiet click. The parking brake is now set."
How to Make a Horrible Website
We've just finished putting together our most recent booklet. How to Make a Horrible Website will give you a quick and easy checklist that will guarantee your organization an ugly, difficult-to-use, unprofitable site. A valuable resource for anyone looking to make as little money as possible.
We hope you enjoy it. And we hope the sarcasm isn't missed - we've tried to lay it on pretty thick.
Seven Principles for Success
Seth Goldman, president of Honest Tea, came and spoke to my buddy's college class. He sent me these seven points that Goldman discussed, and I like them quite a bit. Goldman's right - why waste your time in a job or business that you hate? Do something you will love.
1. Be Passionate About What You Do. "If it's not meaningful, why do it? This is your life."
2. Commit Yourself. (This means you have to make a leap.)
3. Be Relentless. (He describes his efforts to sign up one distributor as "almost stalking.")
4. Create a Strong Team and Empower.
5. Be Realistic About Setting Goals.
6. Be Disciplined About Balancing Life and Work.
7. Sometimes 8 Feet Really is 8 Feet. (Not everything is indeed possible, such as driving a 10-foot-high van through an 8-foot underpass.)
It should be about the work
"According to a recent study by Spherion, a Florida-based recruiting and outsourcing firm, workers are already gathering at the doors of many companies. The study found that 51% of the 3,000 workers interviewed wanted to leave their jobs, and 75% said they were likely to leave within one year. Both percentages are substantially higher than the numbers from Spherion's 1997 study."
Alan Webber, founding editor of Fast Company Magazine, writes about the fallout that will occur in corporations accross the country once the economy has fully bounced back. Firms will pay when workers make escape
What's most interesting to me about the article isn't that people are taking buyouts and early retirement after feeling slighted by their corporate employers. What's interesting to me is that the cycle continues. The lessons of the dot-com bust aren't learned.
When I entered college, my peers were graduating with multiple job offers, choosing between stock option packages and company cars. There was a sense of entitlement among even the freshest faces in corporate America - regardless of how hard I work or what kind of results I produce, I deserve to get paid as much as possible.
Of course, the inevitable downturn occured, as it always does. My fellow graduates were left out in the cold, begging for jobs they didn't want at salaries far below what they could have commanded only a few years earlier. And now we have signs of heading back to where we were before - not at the same level of ridiculousness, but with a similar sense of entitlement.
What's consistently left out is the work itself. We focus on the number of jobs that are available, on the trend towards outsourcing, and we blame the government or some large corporation for our problems. We rarely stop to consider that the product we're selling - ourselves - is mediocre at best. We don't realize that if we spent our time as individuals focusing intensely on results, we'd never have to worry about losing our jobs; we'd either be fielding offers from headhunters or leaving the company to start our own business.
Regardless of the economy, a superstar is always in demand. If we became a country of individuals who got rid of our sense of entitlement and instead based our professional worth on ideas and results produced, we'd finally understand that it doesn't matter what President is in charge or what economic cycle we're in.
Learning a marketing lesson from God
The author got it exactly right - this isn't a case of a guy trying to trick people into buying a book with clever marketing tactics - he wrote an amazing book (most likely with the help of a little divine inspiration) that compels people to learn about Christ. In other words, the product is the marketing.
Consumed: 'The Purpose-Driven Life'
Remarkable or nuts? Perhaps both...
Dean Cycon appears to be a loon. But he's also not afraid to try and make his company remarkable.
His company, Dean's Beans Organic Coffee Company, buy all it's beans (around 250,000 pounds last year) from Third World farmers at the "Fair Trade" price, which is more than double the market price. Compared to Starbucks (1%,) or Seattle's Best (.5%) that's quite a feat for someone who wants to remain in business.
Cycon's marketing strategy appears to consist largely of blasting other companies for not buying 100% free trade coffee (which I guess is one way to try and differentiate yourself, albeit not a course I would pursue.) He's even railed against the likes of renowned do-gooder Paul Newman.
Inc. Magazine makes an interesting observation when it says, "the company is competing for a very specific niche of consumers--and if doing so means alienating mainstream clients, Cycon frankly doesn't care. That's not a mindset that makes sense for a lot of brands, but it can for one that is driven by ideology."
Cycon may indeed be a quack. But he's also a premarketer.
More than a pretty face
It's official - people are going nuts over The Apprentice.
I've caught a couple episodes, and I'll be the first to admit that it's entertaining. But what I'm really looking forward to is the wake that the show will leave on the future businessmen and women.
I remember sitting in my college business classes during group presentation after group presentation. The kids would all show up in their suits, stand very rigid, and give their presentations in their best "business-speak." They'd all use the same vocabulary, the same inflection in their voice, and all would pretend to be as poised and confident as possible.
And the actual work? The work was done to fulfill the syllabus requirements, nothing more. Projects were completed at the last second. Deliverables were watered down so as to please everybody. In short, the work sucked.
There was a notion in the business school that the key to success rested in the presentation. Content was as important as style - results weren't as important as a big smile.
The folks on 'The Apprentice' seem to think the same thing. They seem to think that business is all about negotiation skills, power suits and intimidation tactics. They think it's about never being flustered.
Do I think negotiation skills are important? Absolutely - Zosima is big about selling and presentation, and we always insist on looking good for presentations or client meetings.
But accoutrements don't replace results. We know that if we don't produce, we're dead. That was one of our first and hardest lessons when we first got started.
It'd be really refreshing to see someone on that show who advanced not because of their ability to stare down Trump but because of their ability to do astonishingly great work.
In college, I wrote a paper called "Moral Capitalism." The basic premise was that the world didn't need another company manufacturing junk food or selling addictive stimulants. The decision to go into business should be about whether the company and its services would actually benefit the lives of its customers in a real way.
David Weinberger echoes similar sentiments, and in a more elegant fashion than I possibly could. Check out 'Beyond shareholder value.'
I'm quickly falling in love with this site.
Probably the smartest marketing mind out there
Seth Godin's new book is almost out, and I'm getting excited. He's at his best once again, selling the first edition copies in a cereal box.
If you haven't read it yet, pick up Purple Cow. Actually, Pick up any book this guy writes.
Content is king once again
This RSS thing is going to be big. I don't think it's too bold to suggest that it represents the dawn of a new kind of Internet. The ability to subscribe to a website means a lot.
Just when we thought permission marketing was dead, here comes another opportunity to capitalize. By offering compelling content that makes someone want to subscribe, you enter into their "circle of trust," if you will. They've signed up to hear what you have to say, and the selling process theoretically becomes much easier.
Too bad most companies are too busy selling themselves to offer their customers something truly valuable.
Quick tip - making voice mail pay
Voice mail is consistently neglected as a tool for building business. For many customers, their first contact with your company will be through your company or personal voice mail message. This represents a tremendous opportunity to leave a good first impression and move the potential customer through the sales cycle.
Sadly, this opportunity is rarely taken. Instead of providing a value-added message that helps grow the business, companies continue to use the standard, "You've reached Wilber's Widgets. We're out of the office right now, but if you leave a message we'll get back to you soon."
I haven't done a study to verify this, but my guess is that most people know what they're supposed to do when they reach voice mail. So why do we still give them directions?
Instead, why not direct them to your website, or offer them an incentive for coming in to the store? Tell them about a free report they can pick up online. Apologize for not being available when they needed you, and offer them a discount as an apology.
Whatever you do, don't let this golden opportunity pass up. A gracious, friendly voice mail message that builds interest in your company can be a ridiculously easy way to grow the customer relationship.