Daily Life Geek Stuff

Genius is Genius

I had resisted installing the Genius function in iTunes since it had first come out. The idea of sending all my metadata over to Cupertino seemed to be a lot more for their benefit than mine (a mountain of business intelligence – like the fact that I buy most of my mp3s from Amazon now).

Last week a co-worker had it installed and I saw the 9 lists it generates from within iTunes and thought I should test it out. In short – it’s a killer app. More powerful than the lists generated in the client, is the added functionality on the iPod. You pick any song while it’s in the list, hold down the center button and fire up the genius. It then generates a playlist based on that track.

Unlike anything that I’ve seen like this before, it does an excellent job of digging deep in the archives and matching similar stuff. It creates a groove as good as the average DJ can, plus it has the added bonus of total recall – it remembers the details from every track on every album. Many times the Genius pulled tracks from albums that I hadn’t heard – usually ones that had one huge hit, but Genius will find other great tracks you may have overlooked.

Now that you have your mix, go upgrade your headphones.

Email Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Email

Marketing Over Coffee has released a number of eBooks, and the latest covers email. It’s meant to work as a primer, introducing you to key concepts that you need to get started (White Belt tactics), ramping up to things like testing (Black Belt), and then going all the way out to Taguchi Testing and more advanced concepts.

Chris has done the heavy lifting on the previous books, so I’m happy to finally have my contribution complete. It ended up being a lot more writing than I thought it would be, but I’m really excited that it’s getting out and hope that it will be a great resource for you.

Click here to download the Ultimate Guide to Email

Great Marketing

Mr. Rogers and Authenticity

Mr. Penn had a good post last week about refreshing quality content that’s deep in the archives, and I was looking for something that dealt with authenticity.

Authenticity is one of the topics that came up in last week’s Marketing Over Coffee interview with Simon Sinek, which I highly recommend, it is one of my favorite interviews:


A supreme example of authenticity is the speech from Fred Rogers in the link below:

Although Fred Rogers ability to lay the smackdown is seldom discussed, I think this is a quality post that is underrated. It also addresses the important question of Mr. T vs. William Shatner.

Fear naught, more serious marketing copy to follow, but I’ve been searching for levity after a week of getting the water out of my basement after 3 solid days of rain…

Great Marketing

Beer You’ve Never Heard Of

A few years back we went with our neighbors to make some beer at the local self brewery. I made up some custom labels for us and stumbled upon them last week and I still got a laugh out of them so I thought it would be worth posting.

The beer was a light lemon brew, a summer beer. I started with the Sam Adams Label for inspiration:

Our friend does an excellent job landscaping and takes great care with his lawn. The irony is that the guy across the street is the exact opposite, so the joke was that maybe beer would get Bill to take better care of his lawn:

Talking about High Street led to this:

The word “Hootch” is funny enough on it’s own, and that led to “Pimpin’ wit da Hootch”

And finally, the only beer tougher that MF’in Snakes on a Plane…

Here’s to your beer of choice this weekend!

The Marketeer

WebInno 25

After the server disaster last month I’ve been running behind and never had a chance to post my follow up from WebInno 25. The event has grown so fast that I’ve changed my strategy in attending. Instead of checking out the side companies after the main presentation, it’s much easier to do a little research the night before and cut my list down to a few companies so I can have some targeted conversations. It’s a little too busy to just meander around and see everyone, the crowd is huge.

There were two companies I found interesting, and I thought instead of just throwing out links I’d make some comments (i.e. unsolicited advice) to see if that would generate any conversation.  The first was Conversion Associates with their product Lytiks. Some very interesting stuff with provisioning VOIP lines so that you can generate phone numbers for your website and have that information integrated into your web analytics. There were two things that came to mind after talking with them, one was from a branding side, I’m not big on companies less than $20M having to grow both a company name and a product name, but that’s a minor point (which saves a lot of money in the long run).

The other was on the product marketing side – I think integration is critical anyone making this type of software. There are three reasons why this is important:

  1. Having a second dashboard or tool to login to significantly reduces usefulness for the marketing team, and unless it can integrate into a screen for a sales rep it’s either useless or another set of reports for the marketing team to run every week.
  2. The AppExchange gives you access to a global market of people buying this kind of stuff all the time.
  3. If you are successful on the AppExchange it will be obvious and you won’t have to prove your case to suitors. (On that note – has anyone seen any data on acquisitions of partners?)

This is also one of those segments that’s very new and regardless how the product does the members of the team will learn a lot that can be applied in many ways. Congrats to them for cutting a new trail.

The other company was Homefield, that has a really cool product that allows sports teams to review video in a collaborative environment. Instead of getting everyone to the cafeteria one night a week to watch a DVD of last week’s game everyone can go online, watch and comment.

It looks like they are doing well at the collegiate level but one thought that I had was to swing at the fences. Picking off one college at a time via word of mouth is an excellent way to grow organically, but we do have a pro athlete notorious for pouring through video who is also in the startup scene (the case study is pretty fun if you are into baseball). I don’t know any of the details on back end infrastructure but it seems like it might be a lot more profitable to work with 2 or 3 MLB teams than a ton of colleges. That said, it’s a very cool product and (literally) a game changer.

Email Marketing

One to One Email Marketing vs. The Easter Bunny

David Meerman Scott wrote about his experience with an Email from American Airlines. Do check out that post first, but if you are too lazy to, the short version is he’s asking why he was sent an offer to buy 2,000 more miles to maybe use for a family trip when he has a quarter million in the bank and can already take them First Class anywhere in the world. He asked “What can we do about this?” and one of the comments mentioned one-to-one marketing.

I’m reminded of the  4 way street joke in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (offensive and totally not safe for work) when I hear this kind of talk. To spare you the obscenity of the street joke, if you think you can pull one-to-one off, you probably are also waiting for it to get delivered to you by Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny on their day off.

The big buzz word is segmentation. The theory is that if you segment the audience, you’ll eventually deliver a uniquely tailored message to everyone. The simple counter to this is that the more you segment, the smaller the group getting the offer. As a business are you more concerned about a small group that may be offended for whatever reason, or the group that will take you up on the offer? (Hint: One group generates revenue, the other includes some legitimate complainers, people with lots of cats, senior citizens with nothing to do, and people wearing the John Wall Signature tin foil hat to protect them from the Government’s mind control rays).

But that’s just a question of how much risk you want to take. There’s also a mathematical reason why you can’t do it:

  1. Your audience can be segmented infinite ways
  2. Every time you cut a segment you increase the complexity of your system exponentially
  3. As most Marketing departments struggle to get out single messages it becomes impossible to generate enough content to support all the possibilities in 10 segments (even if they are yes/no, 10 segments gives you 100 possible message combinations).
  4. If you really want to get granular – i.e. Not just “Is David in the 100k+ group – Yes/No, but instead “Less than 20k in the past year gets A, 20k-100k gets B, 100k+ gets C” the math starts to get ugly real fast – like one of those tables showing how fast bacteria grows.
  5. If you are a hardcore database marketer you may still be saying – no problem, I’ve got the server space to track 20 variables on all 6 billion earthings, and you’d be right – but here’s the big FU: That only works for one campaign. Let that marinate for a minute. Fast forward six months – campaign 2 kicks off, even in our nursery school scenario of 10 yes/no segments who is going to make sure that nobody gets the same message the second time around? (Now that you have 1,000 possible message combinations). Although only linear, that number will still hit the millions in no time. And the numbers are irrelevant because:
  6. Even with tiny numbers a year’s worth of campaigns are too complex for the human mind to work through, and even if you had a team of “Rainman” people that could, eventually someone will quit and be replaced with someone who doesn’t know the whole history.

So what can be done? Two things – you can use your CRM system to track your customer’s entire history but the important thing is not to chase a marketing fantasy but to use it so that sales can create a one-to-one experience. You can also have a list of customer traits short enough for the human mind to comprehend (are they in the 100k club, have they been pissed off in the past year, are they influential in winning us more customers) and segment on that.

Repeat, similar, and irrelevant offers are impossible to stamp out just because of volume and the infinite variation in our situations and the criteria (which may be rational) that we use to determine what is relevant for us. For everyone with 250k miles in the bank there’s one corner case of the guy about to fly all his buddies to SXSW for free, he’s only 1,200 miles short, and is so psyched he got that email (improbable yes, definitely not impossible).

Don’t waste your time fighting it, reap the reward from the happy customers who take you up on your great offer and apologize with a tip of the tin foil hat to anyone you happen to offend.

Update: Photo from hyperion327, thanks for using the CC license

Daily Life

Help Veterans with Combat Stress Disorders and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries

On May 23rd at 8am I will be running a 9k road race. The last big race I ran was Falmouth back in the summer, and I was looking for an event to begin this year’s warm weather with. My co-worker Adam mentioned that he was in for the Run To Home Base, a race run by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital.

There are two things that are a big deal about this race – the first is selfish, the finish line will be home plate in Fenway Park, and I’ve always wanted to run on the field. The second is more altruistic:

Funds raised for the Home Base Program will provide care and community outreach to the many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat stress disorders and/or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and their families.

If you are a runner, there are still open slots, but the field is limited to 3,500. You are also required to raise $1,000 (runners who can’t or don’t want to pay the balance if they don’t hit the mark).

To learn more about this event (and donate if you are looking for a chance to pitch in), check out John’s Run to Home Base page.

In the event that I hit the $1,000 goal and you’d still like to donate, I’m sure Adam would appreciate your help on his page. As usual, for anyone that donates, the next round of drinks are on me.

Marketing IT Dept. The Marketeer

Lazarus Protocol

Ronin Marketeer lives! After a week of not existing at all, and another 3 days with the equivalent of a circa 1996 “Under Construction” page, most of the blog is back. You can check out the previous post to hear about the crash with the fire supression system kicking off in the server room.

So what happened next? The good news is I did have my backup drive, so I had all the data even though I didn’t have access to the MySQL install anymore. I have an older laptop I use for crazy projects with my Tivo and GPS, and I installed XAMPP and WordPress so I could run the blog from that machine as it’s own web server. From there I was able to dump the database into an export file and then import that up on to the new server. I had to zero out all the tables for the import to work, but that was the only glitch there, it was about as smooth as I hoped it could be.

There are still a few broken things, mainly plugins that may or may not be active, if you see anything odd please give me a yell. Thanks also to the Marketing Over Coffee fans that stepped up to offer help, I really appreciate that.