Archive for June, 2008

Hand Drawn Fail Whale

June 29, 2008

My 4 1/2 year old daughter drew this today. I don’t think I ever showed her the fail whale, despite blogging about its hidden meanings recently.

If it’s showing up in the drawings of children, it’s a true cultural zeitgeist…or icon…or something.


Gravitational Marketing

June 23, 2008

On a recent flight I read through ‘Gravitational Marketing: The Science of Attracting Customers‘ by Jimmy Vee, Travis Miller and Joel Bauer. I have two minds about how to respond.

Mind #1 is the anti-hype anti-marketer in me…the guy that responds viscerally to Joe Jackson’s claim of “I got the trash and you got the cash, so baby we should get along fine.” Claims that any business has “an unlimited number of ready, willing and able buyers” (and that there is “only one catch” that gets in the way) can’t help but set off that alarm, given the informercial-type tone.

Mind #2 is the guy who not only makes his living as a marketer, but considers it an honorable profession. Connecting the right customer with the right value at the right price is practically a public service and is highly differentiated from spam, from flooding the marketplace with irrelevant noise, from…well, everything Joe was singing about there.

Let’s not let these notes on a good marketing book turn into an analysis of my Sybil psyche. ‘Gravitational Marketing’ is definitely worth a read. There are sound marketing principles embedded here. The principles themselves aren’t all new, but the authors have deftly packaged them to be useful to small businesspeople who may not be marketers at their core.

The principles the authors lay out are anti-hype, if anything. Chapter 3, ‘Be Worthy of Attraction’, asks the question marketers often forget. Who is my target customer, and is my product or service differentiated enough to be valuable to them? The advice offered about advertising is particularly useful to the small businessperson: focus on response (not branding) and make sure you can measure your response by promotional codes, separate phone numbers or landing pages, etc. Those technique are often overlooked in the small business space and change advertising from an expense to be managed down into an investment to be optimized.

Maybe the claim of “an unlimited number of ready, willing and able buyers” isn’t that far off the mark. Done wrong, marketing is hard work; we spend huge amounts of energy trying to convince the wrong prospect to buy the wrong product for the wrong price. Done right – right prospect, right product, right price – marketing should be as easy as falling off a log. Or as easy an an apple falling off a tree. Vee, Miller and Bauman are on to something with that metaphor.

They also have a fine blog for staying in touch – linked here or on the blogroll.

Words Matter

June 19, 2008

twitter is over capacity

What do their words say about their worldview? Why say “Too many tweets” instead of “not enough bandwidth?” Are they asking us to tweet less? Would you like us to use/love your service less?

What does the image say about their worldview? Cute, but isn’t it impossible for happy twitterbirds to lift a whale? Is the message here “we’d like to serve you but in our hearts we believe it’s impossible?”

What about the happy smile on the whale’s face? Is the message “he doesn’t care that he’s not adequately supported and neither should you?”

Do I read too much into these things? Probably. And I continue to love Twitter.

Take Up the Sword of Justice

June 17, 2008

I’m taking a moment to publicly offer congratulations to my brother, the Honorable John Stanley Somers. He’s always been honorable but now it’s official. At 5pm on 6/16/2008 he was sworn in as a Superior Court Justice in Kern County, California.

He’s put in almost 25 years as a District Attorney here in Bakersfield, so this represents a huge milestone for him. It’s nice when professional life offers clear-cut markers of achievement (during his speech I halfway expected him to thank the Academy – it was that sort of occasion). His peers on both sides clearly hold him in high esteem. And I’m very proud of him.

Life in the private sector doesn’t always offer obvious milestones. The achievements are there, just not marked by ceremony. It makes me think that we all need to listen closer to notice when we achieve things. Sometimes it’s getting traction for a new approach to Marketing in your company. I’ve done that this year – now it’s time to prove that the approach is valid. Sometimes it’s finding that peers are willing to place faith in you and follow you. I’ve done that this year, too.

Most of the time it’s simply knowing that you’ve done your best work and focused on what really matters despite a myriad of distractions. I’m going to focus on that tomorrow and I hope that you will too.

And this morning I will drive to LAX as fast as I please…knowing that if I get a ticket I can get it handled. (I’m kidding!)

Thanks to for the image!

Disentangling Identities

June 11, 2008

For the past several months I’ve been on Twitter as @Hoovers. That’s been an experiment in representing my company in microblog-land. As of Friday 6/13/2008, I’ll end the experiment and disentangle my identity from the corporate one. My friend Kathleen (Hoover’s Community Manager/Moderator and all-around good person) will take over tweeting as Hoover’s. I’ll resume tweeting as rsomers.

I’ve learned a lot during this experiment:

  • Social media makes it easy to mix the personal and professional. I initially intended just to tweet business-related things (Hoover’s product enhancements, updates to the site, interesting blog posts, etc). I did…but also discussed James Jamerson, Central Texas tornado warnings, Twitter business plans, my family, sushi, Iron Man and other non-business things. I plugged my personal blog (this one). I plugged my local coffee shop (Blue Marble Java in Pflugerville, where I’m writing this). I don’t know where the personal ends and the professional begins. Maybe that’s the point
  • If you tweet as a company you need to add a certain amound of the personal. ‘RichardAtDELL’ may be a more powerful Twitter identity than ‘DELL.’ In a social media sphere people like to know that they’re interacting with another person. I overcame that for my 259 Twitter homies, perhaps because I can’t avoid mixing the personal and the professional in the tone and topic of my tweets
  • Online identity evolves. It’s worth thinking in terms of personal branding as we choose url’s, blog titles, Twitter ID’s, etc. A rational schema (where the url ties to the blog title ties to the Twitter ID) makes the best sense. But it will still change over time as our personal and professional goals change
  • As that identity evolves we have a responsibility to the people we’ve been interacting with. Between now and Friday 6/13 I’ll DM every Twitter user I’ve had significant interaction with and let them know of the change

Thank you @antm and @roblifford for suggesting the Twitter experiment and grabbing the Hoovers ID for us to use. Thank you @jowyang and @chrisbrogan for the warm welcome and offers of help. @TWalk and @zackgonzales, we may need to talk F2F over the cube again. @vpearcy, thanks for helping me experience Return to Forever without having to endure being there. Thank you @tawnypress for the honest product/service feedback and friendship. I appreciate @smallbiztrends, @twittertutors and others participation in the Twitter Business Plan contest as much as I appreciate @cparmele’s helping get it noticed.

And, of course, all praise be to @TweetJeebus.

New Product: The iPhone Shuffle

June 6, 2008

With analysts speculating about the new iPhone Apple will announce at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco next week, let me throw in a prediction. Apple will release the iPhone Shuffle.

It’ll be much smaller than the original iPhone. That small size will be achieved by reducing the touchscreen to one button, eliminating the cumbersome keypad that makes traditional phones too large. Press that button and the iPhone Shuffle will randomly dial one of your friends.

Steve Jobs knows it’s been too long since you called your Mom.*

*Thanks for the line, Jim!

The Trouble with

June 6, 2008

“The trouble with normal is it always gets worse” – Bruce Cockburn

trouble with

This should be obvious, but don’t make your customers care about things they’d rather not care about. I use Word as my email editor in Outlook. If I have Outlook open for an extended period, on shutdown I get a message asking if I want to save the changes I’ve made to

Yes, I know what is – but I made no intentional changes to it. Yes, I know how to change my Outlook settings to avoid using Word as the editor. Yes, I know I could switch to a mac, or OpenOffice, or whatever.

No, I shouldn’t have to care about any of that.

What do your customers care about? What elements of your sales process or user experience force them to care about things they’d rather not?