Productivity Booster

Traveling with an iPad

On my last business trip I left my laptop behind to see if it would be possible for me to get by without my laptop. I’ve done it for personal travel and the results were the same – aside from wanting to jump into photoshop a couple of times and having to wait on that, I have been able to get by on the iPad alone.

One test point was international – I was down near Cancun, Mexico so I bought the international data plan for one month. It seemed a bit slower than the 3G connection in urban Boston, but it worked very well.

I did find an issue that travelers should be aware of though: I bring the component cable with me so that I can charge it and plug it into the hotel TV to watch my own movies or TV series. The problem was that I also use the iPad as my travel alarm clock. When the component cable is plugged in, it disables the internal speaker so if the alarm goes off you can’t hear it. The only good news is that the component cable and the charging cable can both use same AC adapter, so you just need another cable, not a second wall wart.

Also on the iPad front, if you are into using a stylus, I got a Stylus Socks Pro to review and have added that to the Best Stylus for the iPad post. Shape Dad also has styluses for those who need a mouth stick, or a T-Stick for more stability.

Great Marketing

The Marketing Over Coffee Awards

Three years ago, around the end of 4th quarter I was talking with Christopher S. Penn about the shortage of interesting things going on in the industry at the end of the year. Everyone is trying to close business for the end of the year, retailers are flat out with the holiday crush, and the back to back dietary threat of Thanksgiving and Christmas eliminate the chance of much excitement in marketing headlines.

We had talked about awards many times on Marketing Over Coffee and Chris joked that we should do our own awards. To get the full impact of the joke you need to know that in Marketing and PR circles awards are often given little respect. There are many that aren’t much more than “pay your application fee and get a trophy” (and half ass agencies hope to dupe green clients into believing that they really are “award winning”) and then there are others that large organizations shoot for, and at these companies there’s often a person that has applying for awards as one of their major job functions.

I do have to say that when recording some audio with David Meerman Scott a few years ago, he did get me to see an angle I had missed. There are certain awards that you should pay attention to because of who the judges are. In many industries there are awards judged by influential people that you might already be trying to reach through your normal marketing channels. Paying a couple hundred bucks to get some guaranteed time with the right people is a no brainer if there’s a fit.

Our joke was, we would give the awards to who we liked. If you were doing something cool, and you were a fan of the show, you could win. No “Yes! You’ve won, please send us $295 for your trophy”, no automatic winners by paying the fee, in fact – no entry fee at all. To demonstrate our uncanny marketing prowess, in 2009 we rolled out  the first “23rd Annual Marketing Over Coffee Awards”

By the second year though, it was less of a joke. By giving the awards to people who were doing exceptional things, it took on a life of its own very quickly. Despite our best efforts to make it a counter-culture joke, people started taking it seriously.

You can check out the list of winners (and the latest show) over at the MoC blog, but I wanted to give my director’s commentary.

So far, every year there are one or two people that I come in contact with that change my outlook completely. Of course when nomination time rolls around, I nominate these, and their odds tend to be pretty good.

In 2010 Simon Sinek’s book had that impact on me. Anyone in Marketing must read this book. As we talked about it, he said that he had noticed at the agency he was at, that one team could do amazing work for a client, and the have mediocre results for another. His quest do figure out why that happens resulted in “Start With Why“.

Simon tweeted about winning and he has a loyal following that re-tweeted his message, and I have to give a hat tip to the group from Gainsville that tweeted about their offer to see Simon, the award winning author at their next event. Awesome job with the magnetic grappling hook!

The other winner from day one was Alure. I was very busy with work when the Inbound Marketing Summit rolled around and couldn’t attend the event, but Foxboro is a short drive from my home and I wanted to meet Ben Strong, one of last year’s winners in person. As we were having drinks I saw this guy come in and I recognized him but couldn’t place him. It was killing me because I knew that I recognized him from TV or the movies, not business networking. After about 5 minutes it finally hit me that it was Sal, who I had seen many times on Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I won’t get into the full story, but besides the fact that I think it’s the best show on TV, it has also been a tremendous motivator for my family. Sal introduced me to some of his guys, including John Doyle, who has been covering a lot of ground, and that’s where the MoC holiday interview came from this year.

This year I realized we should have been doing an Entrepreneur of the Year award, as risk-taking is a critical part of testing new marketing waters (and Chris also mentioned that next year we need a “Boring” award for those who execute perfectly on things like emailing their customer base every month – things that make a huge difference t the bottom line but are pretty light on sex appeal). C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley had been nominated for their book “Content Rules” but I’ve known them both long enough to see the book as only the latest in a long string of “Next Big Things”. Having worked over at ClickZ Ann been part of MarketingProfs rising to the top of the Marketing Publication heap, and I’ve known C.C. since the days when being a podcaster would get you on Network TV and a feature Article in the Globe (unlike now, buried deep in the trough of disillusionment), and he was an easy choice for Entrepreneur of the Year.

On products, the  Toll Free Freedom Virtual Phone System won on votes (so we didn’t have to do our first sell out award since they are a sponsor of the podcast), and deserves it, taking the risk to sponsor a rebel marketing audio program.

I met Saul at Blogger Social 2008, he was one of the followers of the now defunct M Show, and is a contemporary, so we get each other’s absurd 70’s references. He has also done an acceptance speech – where else can you see Erik Estrada covering Kool and the Gang?

Finally, it has taken on a life of its own – every year there are a couple of winners that I meet for the first time through the awards. These people usually take the awards more seriously than the organizers, but I’m thankful to meet new people doing exciting projects:

This year Ryan Holota worked hard to get the votes, and has even done a Press Release on his win.

Ryan and Brian blew away all other vote getters, and their book on Social Media is “Still Awesome, and Still Free”. A sense of humor is greatly appreciated in this space, and I welcome them aboard, Gavin MacLeod style.

Congratulations to this year’s winners, thanks for making 2010 a great year.

Geek Stuff

What is the Best Dog Food?

With the passing of our dog Hannah, an economic turning point was reached. She was allergic to many common dog food ingredients, so we ended up having to buy her very expensive dog food. At first it was a prescription food, until we found out that it was actually a lot of low quality ingredients. We were able to switch to a higher quality of food that was less expensive (around $70 for a 30 lb. bag).

When we adopted Carter from the shelter he had been eating whatever garbage he could find on the streets, so we knew that even the crappiest dog food on the market would still be something he would suck down so fast he wouldn’t taste it anyway. Eating stuff like your own crap must kill the whole gourmet experience…

My first stop was Consumer Reports, an excellent site, but outside of their major categories I often come up short. In this case they have a pet food study going on now, but no results yet. Next stop was the Google, and it did not disappoint. I found Dog Food Advisor, an amazing site. From what it says there, Mike’s dog was a victim of the dog food industry’s lack of quality control. Like any true hero, he has stepped up to right what has been wrong.

It was very easy to check out the 5 star foods and find a number of alternatives. At this point though, my background in Economics kicked in – Yes, there was a ton of data on the quality of the food, but without pricing information there was still work to do.

I fired up Google Docs and started building a table of pricing from Amazon. We are Amazon Prime Members so for many of the dogfoods there is no shipping charge (I know, I couldn’t believe it either when a 30 pound box with a bag of dogfood showed up at my front door, but it did).

By calculating the price per star I was able to compare prices at similar quality levels. At this point I found what I was looking for – I never thought I would make a plug for “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul” but it has 4 stars, and costs significantly less than all of the others I checked out. After buying a first bag, it looks almost exactly the same as the food we were using that costs twice as much. Carter still hoarks it down so fast that I still don’t think he tastes anything, but he seems to be doing well.

Unfortunately at this point the lovely Carin identified a critical flaw in the model – I had considered all dogfoods equal by weight and that is not the case. Generally the better dogfoods are richer in nutrients so you don’t have to feed your dog as much. In some cases I noticed that it can be as much as half the food over lower quality brands (so that heinous cheap stuff is no bargain at half the price if you go through it twice as fast). The proper calculation would be cost per meal – a function of price/weight per meal/weight of bag. I may not even bother as I think I’ve got a pretty good solution, but perhaps there is an outlier out there that’s an even better deal.

Just in case you are really interested, I’ve made the table available here, you can check it out and use it as you will. If you have any additions to the data (such as how much stuff costs at Costco), or have comments on the model, I’d love to hear it.