Beach Reads for a Business Owner

In one week, I’ll be at the beach. My out of the office message will be set on my e-mail, but like many business owners, my mind will be still very much focused on my passion — building my business. So in addition to sunscreen and sandals, I’ll be packing a stack of books that I’m hoping will inspire me. Here’s what I’ve picked, and why. Have tips for others? Leave them in the comments below. Happy reading!

Rework
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

No venture capital. That’s how 37Signals has built their business, and it’s how we plan on building ours. We’re already avid readers of the 37Signals blog, and use this humbled-beginnings software company as a beacon for where we want to go.


Do More Great Work.
by Michael Bungay Stanier

This was a recommendation when I purchased Rework, but the subtitle got me — “Stop the busywork, and start the work that matters.” Having just come back from my corporate-world stint, I haven’t quite shaken the busywork bug. I feel compelled to be doing something all the time, almost like I have  a looming mid-year review over my shoulder. I’m hoping this book will give me ideas of taking control over my own schedule, and to, well, do more great work.


Making Ideas Happen
by Scott Belsky

When I freelanced, it was simple. If something needed to get done, I did it. In corporate, the team was so big that I knew my myopic role and did just that. But now, we have a small team, and a long list of things we want to do. I’ll be looking to this book for ways to get our ideas off of our index cards and into the hands of our customers.


The Official Scrabble® Brand Word-Finder
by Robert Schachner

One of the first things I do every morning is play a game of Scrabble on my iPhone. I find it’s a great way for me to wean in the day (I’m naturally a night-owl). Lately, I can beat the Normal setting without a challenge, but I’m stuck when it comes to Hard. I plan on using this study guide to beef up my Scrabble skills not only for my own enjoyment, but to ensure that I win at family game night (I have a slight competitive side, too.)


Ladies First: History’s Greatest Female Trailblazers, Winners, and Mavericks
by Lynn Santa Lucia

Stories of others who have risen to a challenge are most inspiring. So what better fodder for dreams than a collection of women who have changed the course of history. From Christine de Pisan, Europe’s first professional female writer, to Dorothy Levitt, the first woman to compete in a motor race in 1903, I can’t wait to read the seventeen mini-biographies and maybe find a piece of myself among them.


Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr Lilian Cheung

Mindful living has had a profound impact on my life. It helps me make better decisions in both business and in life. One aspect of mindfulness is around how we consume our food. Too often, I find myself gobbling down a breakfast bar because I’m running to a meeting. This book, written by one of the world’s preeminent Buddhist authors, shows how you can maintain a healthy weight and attitude simply by paying attention to your food.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #6 – Creating Conversation

aussieshampoo.pngThis week’s adventure brings us Down Under with Aussie’s revamped branding. You may recognize their mascot – the iconic kangaroo and their signature purple bottle. But what catches my eye is the overwhelming personality of the product descriptions.

I’ve been an Aussie fan for years and on my list this weekend was to pick up more product for my personal stash. Since the brand rollout, Aussie has introduced new products, which gave me a perfect excuse to take some time to read each description. (Yes, I do enjoy reading the backs of shampoo bottles in my spare time – when they’re well written.) You know the copywriter has done a good job when I’m laughing out loud in the middle of the aisle.

My favorite description comes from their “Clense & Mend” line:

Front:
“Sometimes your roots are greasy, your ends are frazzled and your car won’t start. This helps two of those problems.”

Back:
“Listen…we’ve all got problems. If yours include greasy roots and frazzled ends, Cleanse & Mend shampoo can cease the crease and quench the tips. If your problems include greasy tips and frazzled roots, you’re in deep trouble.”

Directions:
Work through your other problems as you work this through your clean, damp hair. Rinse well and prosper.”

And I’m also a fan of their new “sprunch” spray:

Description:
“Combine a kickin styling spray with a little scrunch and what do you get? That’s right – Sprunch”

Directions:
“Spray into your hair as you style. Pretty clever, huh? Spray it all over to set your style, which is even more clever. Clever-er, if you will.”

Tagline:
Add some Roo to your do.

Why this works:

1. Understand Your Target Market. Aussie understands their target market which, I’m guessing is 16 to 35 year old women who are hip, thrifty and down to earth. This style of copywriting might not resonate with everyone, but that’s okay. The quirky conversation tugs at the heartstrings (and pursestrings) of the people who matter most.

2. Conversational Copy Creates Emotion. The overall goal of any copywriting is to sell. When a product or service uses a conversational and descriptive style, an emotional connection is made with the consumer. This emotional connection leads to increased brand loyalty which adds to a customer’s lifetime value.

3. Stand Out. Let’s face it, facts, figures and features are BORING! As a consumer, I have far to much information to filter out already, so to make me notice you – you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. Conversational copy can help you do just that.

Related Links

Dawud Miracle – “Maybe The Best Copywriting Tip Ever”

Scott H Young – “Ten Skills Everyone Should Have”

Open IT Strategies – “Finding a voice people can understand”

Toby Bloomberg’s Kick-Ass Keynote (as presented at the New Media Nouveaux Conference)

diva_marketing1.jpg

Transparency, passion and lessons learned – all presented in a clear and entertaining fashion. How could you have a better keynote?

Toby Bloomberg is the author of the top-ranked blog Diva Marketing Blog (in the top 2,000 of Technorati), and is a self professed “Atlanta gal who is a Yankee from Boston.” She believes new media, “is a credible marketing strategy – even an industry. It can help you with branding, marketing research and public relations. But the most powerful part is building relationships with customers.” Diva Marketing Blog has literally changed her life.

It all began when she wanted a way to make marketing “not boring” so she began writing in a sassy and pithy style that maintained professional credibility while tossing in fun references to appletinis & pink boas.

To her surprise, days after launching the blog e-mails started coming in from people saying people liked what she had to say. Her website never got comments, but her blog did – this was the first sign that something was different. Weeks after launching the blog, search engines began indexing Diva Marketing Blog where it took seemingly months for Google to find her traditional website – obviously this “blog thing” was a powerful marketing tool.

Toby’s keynote was delightful because she expertly weaved in personal stories and shared her lessons learned. It was simply awe-inspiring to sit back and listen to her experience.

While I was furiously taking notes, typing as fast as my little fingers could, I was unable to capture all of the details of the stories, which are the real juice to her keynote. I was however, able to jot down a few of her lessons learned:

  • Social media can be used as a credible marketing strategy that supports branding, public relations, customer service, research and other marketing and business initiatives.
  • The heart of social media marketing, and the real power is in establishing relationships. Successful blogging does not occur in a vacuum.
  • If the passion about a topic doesn’t exist – the blog will die on the vine.
  • People interact with you. You can carry on a conversation on a blog and then take that conversation off-line if you want to pursue it further.
  • Search engines and blogs go together.
  • Check your blog stats. Create an ego search using key words that include: your blog title, your name, your company name. Consider adding competitors and industry trends.
  • Bloggers care. Bloggers are people.
  • With the ease of using blogs, podcasts, vlogs, you can’t contraol the message, but you can manage the conversation.
  • You can manage user generated media conversations by listening, participating, engaging and caring.
  • Social media is built on culture.
  • The voice of one turns into the voices of many and changes how a company conducts business.
  • Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to ensure your posts are accurate. Credibility builds trust, builds readership which can lead to relationships and community.
  • It wasn’t the voice of one blogger who influenced a major research company to change their business practices – it was the community.
  • Bloggers take blogger relations very seriously and believe they have a role to play in communication and information dissemination
  • Mainstream media is looking at blogs and they may just look at yours.
  • Blogging is not a silver bullet.
  • Social Media is not like any other marketing strategy
  • Do something great and you’ll be cheered.
  • The culture is very demanding. Break the trust by being disingenuous and you might harm you brand…and your reputations.
  • Social Media Mantra: transparency, authenticity, honesty and passion.
  • You have to put something of yourself in this game.
  • The rules are still being defined. No one has all the answers or all the questions.
  • There is no going back – social media is here to stay.

I can’t wait to see her live in action again soon!

Social Media Overload – Is Your Brain Fried Yet?

The New Media Nouveaux Conference has been a magnificent catalyst for conversation.

nmn-toby-bloomberg-and-geoff-livingston.jpgGeoff Livingston gave an insightful introduction to new media – citing case studies from his upcoming book, Now Is Gone.

He started by mentioning the impact that social media has on today’s society. Being in the Northern Virginia area, the audience is intimately aware of the change that viral video had on the fall Senatorial campaign. George Allen was literally the front runner for the US presidential seat – however, after the “mecaca” disaster, his career is over, the Virginia senatorial race was radically changed (I know I changed my vote because of the incident), and ultimately the shift of power in Congress changed from Republican to Democrat. So yes, this stuff matters.

The main focus of Geoff’s talk was how pervasive social media is on our society and how it enforces a culture of transparency and honesty. It is an opportunity to engage your “community” (Geoff doesn’t believe in the word “audience” because it gives the perception of a one sided conversation), get immediate feedback and implement innovative business strategies immediately.

He referenced GM as the first fortune 500 blog and how the CEO responds in video format to comments posted on the blog.

Southwest airlines also demonstrates how the comments of a corporate blog can change the course of a business plan. After Southwest posted a blog about how they were planning on changing their strategy and move to assigned seating, they received over 700 comments against this change. Southwest listened to their consumers, took them seriously and created more brand loyalty because of their response.

Businesses Who Are Using New Media

new-media-nouveaux-jen-sterling.jpgThe first panel, led by Jen Sterling from Hinge (an award winning professional services branding firm) focused on the business impact of using new media.

Jill Stelfox, CEO and Cofounder of Defywire told the story of how her 13 year old son has had an influence on how her company uses new media. Defywire focuses on software and technology to keep children safe in school crises. After producing several videos on how to keep children safe (ex: how to prepare your kindergardener for their first day of school). The initial marketing strategy was to produce these videos to DVDs and distribute via mail. Instead, at the suggestion of Jill’s son, the videos were put on YouTube and as a result, Defywire has built a strong viral message that has spun new product lines and increased business.

Kim Hart from The Washington Post gave insight on how the traditional media relies on new media. Let it be known – this is straight from the horse’s mouth – the press release is dead. It does not work. Journalists are so busy, they do not have time to read a story with spin. Instead, a quick e-mail (literally a sentence or so long) with a link to a new story is the best new-media-nouveaux-business-panel.jpgway to peak this journalist’s interest. She also gave insight as to how the success of a story may not be a “traditional article on page D4 in the business section.” Now that more people are on blogs and the participation level is increasing exponentially, a company may very well have more success with a short blog post that can create viral buzz than they would in print.

Pamela Sorrensen, an active blogger on DC’s social scene showed how you can turn your passion into a profitable platform. Her blog was created after friends requested updates of her intense social life. She constantly attends parties and events, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in the area. Her blog allows her to share her pithy posts without sending individual e-mails. Now her fans come to her and her readership is such that she can earn money from advertisements.

Strategists – How to Use Social Media

new-media-nouveaux-andrea-morris1.jpgOk, so I wasn’t able to live blog this portion because I was the moderator. The panel consisted of Alice Marshall from Presto Vivace, Qui Diaz from Ogilvy PR, and Jennifer Cortner from EFX Media.

This was an interactive discussion of not only the panel, but the audience (wait – I mean community) as well. We discussed strategies for how to blog, whether or not to use Facebook or Myspace, how the government is using wikis, why del.icio.us is a great tool, how you can use videos and podcasts to promote your business, and the all important question – how to avoid burnout.

new-media-nouveaux-specialists-panel.jpgAt the end of the fast paced discussion, Success in the City founder Cynthia De Lorenzi came up with the brilliant idea of creating a regional networking event digging deeper into each social media initiative. Be sure to check the calendar at successinthecity.org to learn when these events are happening.

What’s coming Next?

So this is the big question – what’s going to happen in the future. Although no one has a crystal ball, New Media Nouveaux featured the next best thing – a panel of experts who have their collective fingers on the pulses of the social media industry.

Sean Gorman from FortiusOne is the innovator of GeoCommons, a Web 2.o tool that allows users to create interactive visual maps.

Here are his definitions of the evolution of the Web:

  • Web 1.o – Read – Brochure like websites with a one-sided point of view
  • Web 2.0 – Read & Write – People can respond to information through comments and links.
  • Web 3.0 – Read, Write & Execute – Driven by massive amounts of data. Most of this data is housed in the government level. Governments are notoriously slow in investing in technology – so this is a large roadblock to overcome. One example is how you can househunt. In web 1.0 you would view pictures online and research crime statistics, schools, and community resources on individual websites. Web 2.0 allows you to blog with individuals who live in communities and get feedback on their lifestyle. In web 3.0, Sean predicts applications that will allow you to enter all of your preferences for a community in one location. Then, the program will go out, automatically aggregate your requests and arrange the data in an intuitive manner.

new-media-nouveaux-futurists-panel.jpgHe referenced the movie Minority Report is an example of where we can look to. For example, if you walk in front of a billboard, it will create a customized campaign based on your past purchase history. Technology will be more than mobile, it will be an integral part of every person’s daily life (even more so than today).

Aaron Brazell is the Director of Technology at B5 Media and his professional blog, Technosailor is highly regarded in the industry. Aaron referenced an experience that demonstrates the influence bloggers have.

A friend ordered a laptop and realized that he made a mistake on which shipping option he chose. HP gave him the run-around and pointed him into walls and dead ends. Aaron took matters into his own hands and wrote a blog post called “HP Gives Consumer Middle Finger“. The post ended up on the front page of Digg, the negative comments from the community flooded in and as a result, Aaron’s friends issues were suddenly resolved.

In Aaron’s opinion, Web 3.0 is “becoming untethered from your computer. Right now I’m tied to a 17″ monitor. With the introduction of the iPhone (although I will never own one) it will force competitors to innovate and create new mobile devices.” He also referenced smart homes, where you can walk into a room, say “it’s cold in here” and the smart network automatically interprets and executes the function of turning up the heat.

Place your bets now – Aaron gave predictions of Sink & Swim companies to watch for.

Companies that will sink:

  • Yahoo! – especially because of their recent corporate challenges (losing their CEO)
  • Myspace – the developers are growing up and becoming more mature. The application is also too widespread with little niche value.
  • Mahalo – A search engine that harnesses the power of humans. Aaron believes this technology is “very 1998”.

Companies that will swim:

  • Facebook – especially since they just opened their application to development – new plugins are going to create an ultrarich content.
  • Concept Share – allows you to put graphic images, videos, etc. that allow you make comments and collaborate. Estimates this company will be acquired by Google.
  • Twitter – While I agree that the concept of “micro-blogging” is a new wave, I think Pounce will outpace Twitter – especially since Pounce allows you to upload files, links, images, etc.

Brian Williams is the CEO of Viget Labs, a full-service web consulting, design and consulting firm who touts clients like Brittney Spears and Kenny Chesney.

Brian pointed out how younger audiences are less concerned about privacy issues as older generations. As more data is collected on individual users (ex: Amazon.com and their recommendation system) more customization will occur.

One member of the audience (damnit – I mean community – I’ll get it eventually) posed this question – What advantage does the US have in this industry, are we a leader? Brian’s response: “We are a country built around innovation and entrepreneurship. Look at YouTube – this is a new age of kids in their garages and new applications can be built with the collaborative brainpower of few individuals. You’re not limited by resources – people who we have yet to hear from are going to be the superstars.”

new-media-nouveaux.jpgLessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this conference is how varied social media strategies can be. While a blog may be the best strategy for one company, a viral video initiative may be what works for another. It was also apparent just how new all this new media is. Even the experts are on their toes trying to keep up with the constantly changing technology.

I can’t wait for the next event, which closing keynoter Toby Bloomberg called, “one of the best social media events I’ve attended.”

I’d agree. Cheers to a great event and all the excellent panel experts.

Live Blogging From the New Media Nouveaux Conference

I’m sitting at the New Media Nouveaux conference in Tyson’s Corner, VA – ready to learn more about the crazy world of blogging and new media culture.

nmn-cynthia-de-lorenzi.jpgThe conference is sponsored by Success In the City, founded by Cynthia De Lorenzi – an influential networking organization geared to C-level executive women.

nmn-toby-bloomberg-and-geoff-livingston.jpgUp as our opening and closing keynoters, we have Geoff Livingston, from the Buzz Bin whom The Washington Post called a blogging “guru.” Later this afternoon we’ll hear from blogger extraordinaire Toby Bloomberg from the Diva’s Marketing Blog – ranked in the top 2,000 blogs in the world by Technorati.

nmn-andrea-morris-and-jen-sterling.jpgI’ll be moderating a “Specialists” panel later this afternoon on specific techniques, tips and tools on using blogs, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking, vlogs and podcasts. Jen Sterling will be leading the “Businesses” panel discussing why social media is important. (The picture is of myself and Jen) And Jody Roth will be moderating the “Futurists” panel to explore what’s coming next and how we can keep ahead of the rapidly moving social media curve.

We’ll also be having a working lunch where each table will discuss various topics of new media and participants will share their ideas and lessons learned.

It’s sure to be a fun-filled day. Stay tuned for more.

Professional Millennial: My life in Gen Y

I have a secret…I’m a millennial.

I knew how to operate a computer before I knew how to write. One of my first “real” dates was with someone I met Online. Every research paper I wrote started with an Internet search.

Maybe this explains my ridiculous work ethic, my uncompromising idealism, my unwaivering integrity – it’s a part of my generation.

As Claire Raines explains in her article at generationsatwork.com, Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000) are the

“hottest commodity on the job market since Rosie the Riveter. They’re sociable, optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement-oriented. They’ve always felt sought after, needed, indispensable. They are arriving in the workplace with higher expectations than any generation before them—and they’re so well connected that, if an employer doesn’t match those expectations, they can tell thousands of their cohorts with one click of the mouse.”

And you know what – she’s right. Here’s my story…

In high-school & college I graduated near the top of my class, was in too many extracurriculars to mention, and earned a darned good living working part-time as a telemarketer for an insurance agency.

After college, I entered corporate America and was severely disappointed by the “do-what-I-say-because-I’m-the-boss” attitude that many of my employers exhibited.

Like many Millennials, I job hopped until I found a company that operated with integrity and purpose. Within three months I was the top selling rep in my office. Within eight months I was #3…nationally.

I was wooed away by a company that shall remain nameless and was slotted to earn well over $100,000 a year before I was 26. Because of my ethics and integrity I made a tough choice and walked away because I refused to “sell out.”

Without skipping a beat I started Write Ideas Marketing – which has been profitable from day one. I now get paid to think of ideas that my prior employers not only had at their disposal for free, but actually told me “would never work.” Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Are you managing a millennial?

If so, I can tell you from personal experience that most of what I’ve read about our generation is true. We are driven, confident and won’t settle for anything less than ideal.

The secret? Keep us challenged. Mentor us. Inspire us to dream bigger. And make things fast-paced. We’re used to instant gratification and find it hard to “wait in line” or deal with bureaucracy. If you don’t, you may see your top talent walk right out your door.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

How to define your target market – motivation vs. demographics

I recently worked with a client named Jane who is a healer of sorts. When we sat down to analyze her target market, she was mystified. “I don’t know” she said. “I work with both men and women, their age and income is varied and they are of all sorts of different professions – this is why I can’t figure it out.”

As with many entrepreneurs, Jane was focusing on the demographic profiles of her clients which were at best, varied. We looked instead at the motivation of her clients – that is to say, “why the heck do these people come to you in the first place?”

At this point, we discovered that Jane’s clients were very spiritual. They generally had an emotional block and tried various traditional ways to heal, perhaps by visiting a traditional doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc. Bingo!

Motivation defined Jane’s target market. Once Jane began promoting her services to chiropractors & massage therapists, who had a number of well-motivated clients searching for someone like Jane, her phone began to ring.

Big companies are also looking at motivation as a way to segment a target market. One that is rapidly emerging is that of the “Alpha Moms” a group of socially-savvy, hip and type-A mothers.

A recent article in USA Today touts the equity of this target market in companies such as Nintendo, Proctor & Gamble, and GM. More and more it’s the social characteristics and motivation that defines a target market, not the specific demographics.

Start focusing on the needs and motivations of your target market instead of the age & income – chances are, you’ll be rewarded.

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Andrea Morris is a marketing coach who specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com