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Shivering your business timbers

Who dressed YOU?
Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin

Today is Talk like a Pirate Day (TLAPD).

In honor of such a fine day, a few thoughts, er I mean… Aye, what would a pirate do t’ strenghen your business today? A pence for an old man o’de sea?

First, how about sliding over to Mashable and look at their tips for celebrating Talk like a Pirate Day… and then come back here for some pirate advice before you get business scurvy, matey.

Great ideas for celebrating the day, but bummer – your business is open on September 19 every year. Now what?

Wasn’t that awesome Mashable post a great example? Mashable is a tech news blog. See how they took TLAPD and turned it into their own – while doing exactly what they do best?

Yes, it’s your turn.

So…what can you do to (here it comes *again*) use the news (calendarrrr, whateverrrr) to make your business stand out on this fine, fun day?

Maybe by the time you see this, it’s too late.

Let me help: Put it in your appointment calendar for August 19. Make it recurring on an annual reminder. Type this: “Plan Sept 19 Talk Like A Pirate Day promotion.

Yarrr, some examples

“But Mark, our business doesn’t have anything to do with pirates…” (Yes, I *can* hear you saying that)

 

OK, some examples are in order to get your creative juices flowing.

Maybe you make custom coffee mugs for the day that you only use on Talk Like a Pirate Day. Or you order a gross of them for cheap and give them away with today’s purchases. Of course, the mugs will have a silly pirate image, your phone number, URL, etc.

If you own a boat store, raise the pirate flag, silly. Dress everyone up like a pirate, or have some temps come in and dress up like pirates. You of all people should be able to hit this one out of the, uh, dungeon.

Own a lingerie store? If you can’t see some great ideas to get publicity using TLAPD and some temp models, you really need a cuppa joe:)  Hint: Imagine it was Talk like a French Maid Day. Now translate that to pirate.

Run a computer store? What a great time to have a “Bring your computer in and scan it for pirates (ie: spyware etc) Day”. Or to have an event that educates your clients about software piracy (find a smart way, please), or similar.

Develop software? What a GREAT day to offer amnesty to anyone who pirated your software and is ready to come clean. They liked it enough to steal it and keep using it, now they’re convinced that they have right product. Help them buy. Don’t embarrass them.

Do you run blood drives? Put your “I donated” stickers on toy eye patches. You can get half a million of them for $3 at Oriental Trading (well, close) or make them yourselves (a fun event for kids). Dress everyone up. Don’t be so boring. It’s just blood.

No matter what you do, make a fuss…matey.

Promote your event far and wide, have some fun with it, dress up your staff or those temps I mentioned and be that purple cow.

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Pardon the effs, but what the eff is social media?

Today’s guest post is a great powerpoint from Marta Kagan describing why you should care about social media.

Don’t get distracted by the eff word (all full of *’s) or the big numbers.

Get the message.

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Being unsociable is a poor choice for the SEC

Night Train
Creative Commons License photo credit: dickuhne

Yesterday’s heads up from Mashable about the Southeast Conference’s (SEC) proposed new media policy had the social media world (among others) buzzing in a hurry.

The bottom line? No social media usage will be allowed at SEC sporting events.

What exactly does this mean?

It means no Tweeting from the stadium to your buddy 1500 miles away just to annoy him (even more) about missing the game due to an out of town meeting.

It means no Posterous live blogging from your phone by email.

It means no bouncing, fuzzy YouTube video of your team’s band playing your favorite song (see below), no LSU dance team shots on Flickr ( not even to your daughter who is trying out next year) and absolutely, certainly no pics or video of the Texas Luvs on your Flickr page or photoblog when UT visits your SEC school.

We just talked about the SEC and their new network on ESPN last week, using them to illustrate a lesson for competitive strategy, so it’s interesting to compare that to this because they’re both about competition.

“Protecting the brand”

The spokesperson will talk about how they’re protecting their brand and that their TV network has exclusivity and so on.

And I can understand that. Really, I can. And I understand what happens if you don’t protect and defend your trademarks.

But it’s still a bad idea because it doesn’t build the brand. It doesn’t build fans. It doesn’t engage your fans.

Instead, it ticks them off.

Some would say that the SEC is protecting their members’ brand, but they are already well in control of that.

Don’t believe me? Just try putting a Gator, “‘Bama”, the LSU Tiger or a Razorback on anything for retail sale without an explicit license to do so.

Some would say that social media will cause TV coverage to “leak” viewers (and thus money due to ad buys, etc). While I disagree, it’s easy to see how the SEC would view that as diluting their brand if they approach this from the wrong angle.

Fact of the matter is, it *strengthens* their brand by being everywhere, increasing the ability of fans to become rabid fans by consuming even more information about their team. For rabid fans, its one more way to attempt to satisfy their need for info.

A reader over at Examiner.com hit the nail on the head, noting “This is another case of big business not “getting it”. This reminds me of when the sports venues freaked out about televising sports events because they thought no one would come to the stadiums any more.” (the rest of the comment can be found at the Examiner.com link).

529,000

If I’m SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, I don’t want to find 529 Google hits on “LSU band neck site:youtube.com“, as I found today.

I want to find 52900 or 529,000.

If I stumble across a YouTube video of rural village kids in Ghana calling the Hogs, I’m not furiously dialing the YouTube CEO to complain, instead I’m thrilled that our fans are so rabid that they are spreading the word – even in Africa. I might even have someone dig around and find similar things to show off to the press and fans.

If I’m the SEC commissioner, I want the entire South er no, I mean Nation planet to eat, drink and sleep my conference’s sports.

I want to walk into a street cafe in Paris and hear someone talking about last weekend’s Georgia-Florida game – with a French accent.

I want people clinging to SEC football and basketball long before they start clinging to guns or religion.

And as a little side benefit, I want the other conferences to go to sleep at night dreaming they could do what my conference does.

Jealousy

When we went over the story about the new SEC/ESPN network last week, it was clear that other conferences are ticked off. Even Notre Dame seems torqued, perhaps because they’ve enjoyed that level of exclusivity for years.

The rest of the gang? They wish they had the same “problem” that the SEC has.

Now imagine that you’re the Big12 or PAC-10 commissioner.

First thing you do the day that the SEC announces that wacked-out social media policy?

Fly in GaryVee, call a press conference and have Gary announce a new Big12 social media contest, website, program and what not. We’re gonna show the best ones at halftime and on tv so you can enjoy them as you munch on a big bag of Doritos. Maybe you even come up with a way to get the crowd fired up during the game with crowd-created videos – even those made earlier in the game.

Use your imagination. Remember our “go after their strength” discussion.

Think long term

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with this is the long-term damage that this could cause to SEC schools.

If I’m the guy looking for endowment money or selling season tickets, the last thing I want to hear about is a stadium cop tossing a fan out of a game because they are filming a jerky, not-exactly-1080p high-def video of the Razorback cheerleaders on their iPhone.

If you do that today, that fan will remember that for the rest of their lives.

It is entirely possible that their memory will likely be strongest when you call to ask for endowment/scholarship money, season ticket renewal or when their kid starts talking about going to your school.

A prime example: Former Arkansas athletic director Broyles made numerous and valuable contributions to the rise of Arkansas sports during his accomplished tenure.

Despite that, you don’t have to look far among Arkansas alumni to find someone who vividly remembers the student body being yanked around by Broyles during the last 30 years. Some still stew about it after 2 decades.

So when you find that SEC school’s potential booster and you ask them to help out your school, what kind of memory do you want them to have?

A Frank Broyles moment? A stadium cop moment? Probably not.

Engage and Enable

The SEC should be encouraging discussion and interaction about SEC sports.

They should be engaging new fans and enabling their fervor to grow, rather than finding a new way to tick off an entire generation of college students – the same folks that your successor will be looking at for high $ donors 20-30 years from now.

UPDATE: Seems the SEC has been a tad surprised by the substantial negative reaction to their proposed social media policy. As a result, they’ve relaxed things a bit (Twitter and the like are OK now), but video is still off the table.

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The power of measurement

Despite Chris’ assertion that information wants to be free, some of it just isn’t. Sorry.

In fact, some information is worth far more than the paper it is printed on (or the pixels it lights up).

For example, imagine that your company publishes technical articles. Short, sweet, fine-tuned to a specific purpose for a very specific audience.

The trick is making money from them, so maybe you’ve found that the best way to do that for your company (vs all other models) is to charge for access to your publication.

The Wall Street Journal does this. So does Investor’s Business Daily, as do a number of publications (online or print) in technical fields like auto mechanics, programming and FOREX trading.

Prove it

One of the biggest challenges these firms have is proving their publication’s worth at renewal time.

When renewal time comes up, or the charge appears on the credit card bill, the customer thought process goes something like this:

Come on, why should I pay $300 a year for a technical investing article resource when I can find everything Google has indexed for free?

The answer these businesses might commonly respond with include some of these:

  • Because it’s well-indexed so you can quickly find the exact trading info you need.
  • Because it has a search engine that understands investing terminology so you can quickly find exactly what you need
  • Because our publication is fine-tuned to the audience’s investing style (or whatever). It’s as if it was written solely for day traders with between $4200 and $6500 to trade per day.
  • Because it includes proven step-by-step guides for trading without losing my shorts (pun intended).

All of that is warm, fuzzy but not so exciting.

#3 and #4 aren’t bad but #1 and #2 are Google’s domain. They get better at it every day and paying you for it is going to get less and less likely unless you are much, much better at it in your specialty area.

I got your proof right here

Bottom line, almost all of that is pretty subjective. Bean counters (and spouses?) want hard numbers: “Why do you need this?”

Why not let them tell you?

If your article instructs them and provides them with a skill or offers a way to discover a new technique, make sure your feedback mechanisms (on the site or whatever) allow a way to say “Dude, this article saved me 2 or 3 days of struggling with this task”.

And yeah, it’s a lot like a Digg or a reTweet, but it’s more accurate than that.

The mechanism that works for you might need to be a number they can type in, or it might be a radio button with selections like “Waste of my time”, “Saved me maybe an hour”, “HUGE, DUDE. This got me back on track after a week”.

Whatever it is, it provides them with a way to tell you how much time, money, etc your information, your service, your product, your help saved them.

Think about where you could go with that info, even if it is largely anecdotal and not scientifically defensible.

If you have 100 clients and they (on average) provide feedback via a mechanism like this that says you save them 112 hours per year, seems to me that your prospects might want to know that information.

It also seems like it would be a great way to totally defuse the “your price is too high” argument (and maybe a number of others).

It might tell you how outrageous you can make your money-back guarantee. If it’s 30 days but it should be a year or 5 years, these numbers will give you some insight into it.

Who knows, you might even find out that your pricing and your value proposition are in vastly different places.

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Don’t miss a chance to connect

Today’s guest post from Jeff over at BrickandClick.com has great timing, as I’ve discussed this very topic with two different clients in the last two days.

I love it when I can find someone else to do the nagging for me (as he laughs maniacally).

Seriously, Jeff’s talking about making sure that there’s an opportunity to tell your clients that they can connect with you via Twitter, Facebook etc by making it obvious to them that you even *exist* there to begin with.

Simple, obvious, yet easy to overlook. I just thought of one prominent place where I’m not doing exactly that.

See, it isn’t just you.

Go see Jeff’s take on the subject.

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Something special in the air

I have to say that I never expected a country-western song to be a guest post, but it is what it is.

For the rest of the story about how United Airlines baggage handlers trashed Dave Carroll’s guitar and more importantly, their customer service and management mistakes afterwards, drop over to FastCompany.com.

4.5 million views later, it’s more than the old saw that customers who have a bad experience tell 10 people. Nowadays, they can tell everyone, everywhere.

If your service isn’t what it should be, don’t be surprised if you end up going viral for all the wrong reasons.

Of course, that assumes that you care in the first place.

PS: Play close attention to the winner in this deal: Taylor Guitars.

Update: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer covers the story.

Update: United Breaks Guitars – Song 2

Update: A video that was supposedly made by the Mrs. Irlweg referred to in both songs. I don’t know if it’s really her or not. If it is, not a wise move IMO.

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Jim Koch’s Teachable Moment

Yesterday, President Obama sat down in the White House Rose Garden to have a beer and a “teachable moment” with a couple of Cambridge residents and the VP.

The only brewery CEO who managed to use the event for PR during that famous Rose Garden beer party – Jim Koch, the CEO of Sam Adams.

Not only did he let the press know that he’d brew a special beer for the occasion, he (one way or another) managed to get his beer served during the event despite Red Stripe having the early nod from Gates.

Of course he knew full well that every story in the news would likely mention what beer was consumed (amid all the handwringing about that, geez). Even if it meant giving Gates free a 6 of Sam Adams every week for life, it would likely be worth it.

But…that’s all there was.

Silence is not golden

I searched for stories and press releases about Blue Moon – from Blue Moon – about the event. Nothing.

I searched for stories and press releases about Bud Light – from InBev – about the event. Nothing.

I searched for stories and press releases about Sam Adams – from Sam Adams brewery – about the event. Nothing other than the previously mentioned special occasion brew Koch was talking about. To his credit, Koch had managed to the special beer idea into stories from NPR and many others in the mainstream press.

I searched for stories and press releases about Buckler – from the Heineken brewery – about the event, though that was expected since the beer is supposedly being taken off the U.S. market.

None of these breweries had anything on their website about the event or the fact that their beers were chosen.

Hungry?

I searched for stories from pizza stores and chip/dip makers about why the POTUS should serve their food/snacks during this get together. Nothing. Not even the articles mentioned what sort of chip and dip was on the agenda.

Maybe I missed one somewhere, though there were a few stories asking the public what they’d serve.

Teachable moment? Use the news in your marketing and public relations efforts.

You might think that this is a negative moment to tout your brand/product. Not even close.

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@GaryVee: Don’t be average, Average Joe

Normally, I hold guest posts till the weekend, but folks, that wouldn’t be fair to you. This video is a gift that keeps on giving and you need to see it now. Enjoy.

Whether you run a specialty retailer in Billings, a publishing company in Winnipeg, an e-commerce store in Colorado Springs, a niche business services operation in San Francisco, or something else entirely, you simply have to absorb this.

(video has been removed from the net – sorry. If I find it, I will repost the link here)

There are numerous instructive moments there for everyone and they should be drop dead obvious. It might take more than one listen, but do it.

Average Joe

If you read the comments, you’ll see someone ask “What’s in this for the average Joe?”

Beyond @gapingvoid’s “Don’t be average” comment, if you can’t easily take away a dozen lessons from this video, you really need to decompress and watch it again and again until they sink in.

Gary’s one suggestion to anyone who would challenge him in the wine market: “Be better”, suggesting that if he saw Gary Vaynerchuk in his market, he’d go after him big time.

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What do a Nebraska farmer and Paypal Australia have in common?

For one, both are using various forms of social media to expand their business, find new customers and communicate with existing ones.

In some cases, they might never have communicated directly with the customer who way down the commerce chain actually consumes their product. Now, they can and do – even while settled into a tractor seat in their Nebraska croplands.

Meanwhile, a programmer acquaintance in Australia recently talked about how social media connected him and a global corporation, making him feel like more than just a number and engaging him to develop software using their payment systems.

What would reaching out would do for your business?

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Is real-time fast enough for you?

I thought I’d provide a few Twitter stories for you today – call it Twitter Thursday if you like.

First, a baker who uses Twitter to notify people what’s baking, what’s ready, etc. Customizable via the BakerTweet website, it takes a twist of a knob and a push of a button and you’re done.

Obviously you could use this to talk about your daily special, what beans you’re roasting and so on. Whatever the fanatic wants – tell them about it.

Only 3 million dollars

Dell has stated publicly that their @DellOutlet Twitter account has earned them about $2 million since they started issuing Twitter-only promo codes and other deals. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price

But then, one of the folks responsible for the tweeting did a little more math, researching where those Twitter followers go after chasing a promo code for a refurb machine.

Some of them go to the regular “Buy a New Dell” part of the store. Another million in sales from “some of them”.

609,000+ people following the @DellOutlet account.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to send a special offer to 609,000+ people who might be in the market for whatever you sell?

That’s what @DellOutlet gets to do all day long.

Another story offers some ideas about using Twitter for business.

On a more serious note

While the mainstream news was largely useless (if not ignoring) the stories breaking during the early hours of the Iran election demonstrations and violence, Twitter was one of the few tools that people in Iran could use to tell their story.

Cell phone networks were being blocked, internet access was cutoff or filtered, all in an attempt to cut off Iranians from the outside world and vice versa.

But the internet finds a way. Soon after, people found a way to access the net, often through hidden proxy servers and dial up connections.

If you were on Twitter a few nights ago, you were able to witness what was going on through the eyes of those experiencing it.

Not a reporter, but students hiding in dorms and others trying to avoid being beaten or killed.

Via Twitter.

Over the next day, the mainstream media struggled to catch up. Photos eventually showed up on the Boston Globe site 24-36 hours later, but those watching for posts containing “iran” in them had been hearing the story in real-time from people experiencing the violence and uproar – for more than a day.

Real life in real time.

Twitter has turned out to be such an important communications tool for Iranians that Twitter moved a major network upgrade from the middle of the night U.S. time (when most upgrades like this are done to avoid impacting U.S. users). They shifted it to 1:30am Iran time, solely to try and mitigate the downtime’s impact on those who are using it to try and survive, much less report what’s going on there.

The same kind of thing happen during the Mumbai bombings.

If you still don’t get it, try this

Think of something that is really, really important to you.

Maybe it’s your market, industry or some such. Maybe you’re into Forex trading, Tiger Woods, the NFL or fantasy baseball. Maybe it’s your faith or your favorite breed of dog or one of a million other things. Might be serious as cancer, might be something silly like Britney.

Google it, but add site:twitter.com to the search. Or just go to twitter.com and do a search.

See anything there that interests you. I’ll warn you, not all of it will be high-quality stuff.

Here’s the secret: See if there are people there who do or know things that provoke you to join their conversation because they know the topic that interests you. You might find experts who you would never be able to reach otherwise.

Think back to my story about swapping messages with Robert Scoble as he toured Ansel Adams’ studio at Yosemite with Ansel’s son, answering my questions in real time.

Real time is prime-time

What’s real-time about your business? What do the fanatics in your market do when they need more info about what you sell – or just more of what you sell – RIGHT NOW?

They might just be on Twitter.