Productivity Booster

The Sauna at Sand Springs

I have a neighbor who is living abroad and I keep him up to date with the restaurants and other businesses in town because that’s what we do. I told him I’ve become a sauna regular and he said “The sauna is like the popular new kid in a John Hughes movie, everyone is talking about it!”

For those who are not my townies, Sand Springs in Williamstown is a warm springs that has been used for hundreds of years. The story from my family is that one of my wife’s aunts sang for Tommy Dorsey when he played there in the 1930’s and asked her to go on tour with them. I have no idea if that’s true.

When I was a kid it was a public swimming pool, apparently there were years where it had owners who considered making it a spa but since we moved back it is again a community pool. I’ve always loved that for less than the price of shocking a pool (if I had one), I’m able to get a summer membership and enjoy evenings poolside from June to September.

Executive Director Henry Smith arrived in 2023 and at the end of the swim season announced that they would try running the sauna through the winter. What started in October as a few nights a week became popular enough to get up to 6 days a week, expanded hours, with days of 30-40 people coming in for the sauna.

And please keep in mind I am a random guy who goes there, there is nothing official about this post.

So, questions I’ve been asked:

What’re the rules? You show up and can buy a day pass or a membership. It’s a single sauna that is co-ed, everyone wears clothes. Showering before entering is appreciated. Some days/times are designated quiet hours where conversation is kept to a minimum. There have also been Women Only days, for a Bro-Free experience.

You should ask the crowd before pouring water on the heater to increase the heat/steam. There are two levels of benches, you can sit on either, the higher one is hotter. There are also wooden stools you can use for your head if there are few enough people inside that you can lie down.

You can buy a stylish Sand Springs Sauna Hat (or at least stylish if you are a garden gnome), which keeps your head cool so you can stay in the heat longer. These are not required.

How long do people stay? Do they go in groups? Or just run into people there? There are two general approaches – there are hippies that go with the flow, and performance athletes that probably have at least one time running, but the approach is similar, 10-15 minutes in the heat, and then take a cold plunge in the pool. Repeat around 3 times. There are many variations and a lot of sauna lore, I’m not going to get into that here.

What’s the capacity? With both levels of the benches being used it starts getting crowded with more than 10 people. It’s really a roll of the dice, I’ve had days where I’ve waited in the lobby for seats to open up, and days where I have it to myself.

Are there snacks? Drinks? Do people bring edibles? There’s always Tea and most of the time clementines. Wild Soul River on Cole Ave. got me into Barley Tea which I didn’t know anything about until they stocked the tea station.

A lot of people bring their own water. I bring my stainless steel teacup because I’m psyched to finally have something to use it for. While sauna season has been “adults only” (high school staff are considered adults here as Sand Springs trusts them with the lives of our children during the summer as lifeguards). I’m pretty sure drug use is not allowed at the facility, this is a family kind of place.

Who goes? Why do you go? As one sauna guest said: “It’s the only activity for adults in Williamstown after 6pm that isn’t drinking.” One of the big surprises to me was that it’s been a hit with Williams College athletes. Up until this point I’ve never seen a Williams kid at Sand Springs because it didn’t open until they had gone home for the summer and closed before they came back in the fall. That has been great for me because I don’t work at the college so it’s been fun meeting the athletes from the tennis, lacrosse, soccer, football and hockey teams.

There are summer members who are regulars and follow updates on Facebook. I’ve been surprised that there are people who have found out about the warm spring and drive an hour or more to visit.

When we were living in Boston I would use the steam room at the gym which helped my rickety bones after a workout, and I was up for trying the sauna just because it’s something to do in the winter months and right around the corner. I normally have a lot of problems with my sinuses and allergies year round. My winter kickoff ritual is getting NyQuil to prep for 2-3 winter colds (and I’m talking buying at the warehouse club, not at the drugstore.) This winter I had no sinus problems for the first time in my entire life. I also didn’t have any of the dry skin that I’m normally stealing my wife’s crazy expensive face lotions for. Not getting sick is a huge game changer for me, the sauna will be part of my winter from now on.

What’s next? Sauna season is closed and there is work being done on the clubhouse so they are ready for the upcoming summer season. Henry has mentioned the possibility of a second wood fired sauna outside. The demand is there for more hours, that’s for sure. Given the success of this year hopefully Sand Springs will be open again for the winter!

Productivity Booster

Holiday Gift Guide 2022

Last year’s post was a big hit. If you are your family’s CTO you know how it goes, this time of year your opinion is valued as everyone is running around trying to figure out what gear to buy. I’ve found that if I take notes on what I’m asked and add it to a post now I can just throw the link around. That way when people ask me questions at Thanksgiving we don’t have to go through the same thing over again two weeks later when they are doing their shopping.

TV and Home Theater

This is the same as last year, the best thing I’ve done on the tech front is switch from a TV to a projector. It was crazy, I’ve been getting Black Friday emails talking about “Saving $1,200 on the latest TVs” which is absurd. For less than $700 you can have a 120 inch screen that is jaw dropping. There hasn’t been any real changes in projectors over the year. The one I have does 1080p and as of today is $229. With an Apple TV and Bose TV speaker that’s around another $400 and it’s bluetooth so you don’t have to run any wires for the speaker. Full story here.

Video Games

I am still a fan of the Nintendo Switch because it’s the only console that also goes portable so your kids will end up logging a million hours a year. Maybe that’s not a positive. On the downside the Joycon controllers are fragile, I just have a drawer filled with replacement parts and screen protectors. It’s worth the $70ish dollars to get the pro controller which is what you’d get from other consoles. Last year’s post has more on the Switch if you are going that route.

GameStop has a Black Friday deal if you buy a Switch get Mario Kart 8 for free

If there’s specific games your recipient is looking for then you may have to get an Xbox or PS5. Both are great, the only new info I learned this year is that if you spend the $20 to join the GameStop thing where you get their magazine you also get emails about members only sales. I was able to score a PS5 for a friend this year, which was pretty cool.

Also, my son and nephews got me into Fortnite this year. We have fun spending time together even though the nephews relocated this year. If you play, ping me at PhilDunphey247


The only news here is that Apple is having some Black Friday deals, get a $250 gift card if you buy a Macbook (I’m a little sore on that having bought last week.)

Otherwise same story here: Macs are great for people that don’t know what they are doing, I’m so excited not to be Anti-Virus police for my family. But if you have any gamers or people who want to venture outside the controlled garden, you may be PC shopping.

Audio Gear

This year’s most astonishing thing is that I got a pair of Beats Fit Pro earbuds and they are amazing. Up until now if you had told me I would spend my own money on Beats I would have said you were a moron. It’s been kind of a joke that while they are good, the premium pricing is out of hand. I’ve said that their headphones are fantastic $50 headphones, the problem was they charge $299.

Having been acquired by Apple it seems like they are using similar noise reduction as AirPods, and using the M1 chip in the iPhone makes it less wonky than other Bluetooth earbuds I’ve had.

I bought them because the Bose Pulse that I’ve used for running finally died this year after 5 years and they are no longer made. I was not expecting them to be so amazing but there’s a reason why The Wirecutter has them as their number one pick.

Some tips on these – the Apple store has them in Black, White, Gray and Purple. Black isn’t the greatest choice because if you drop them at night or they slip out of your pocket they can be the most difficult to find. If you go to the Beats site they are available in skin tone colors which is fantastic if you’re going to use them for work zoom meetings.

Also, I prefer memory foam tips to the silicone ones they come with, Comply makes a great set here (I cut out the foam screen over the opening because I thought they sound better without it.)

Updated: I’ve written a lot about my favorite Over Ear Headphones for work, the Sony 7506. I haven’t talked about my favorite over ears that I wear for fun: the 1More Triple Driver. It just bumps up the music enough to shine on every front. They may be coming to their end of life because they are on sale now, get a pair before they are gone!

Smart Watch

I’ve resisted these for years. I tried fitness trackers many years ago and after a couple of years said “I sleep ok, my phone gives me alerts and measures steps, I don’t need this.”

Forward to this summer when my earbuds died, I started looking at Apple Watch as a heart rate monitor. Bose stopped making the earbuds that were great for heart rate, and I was not going back to a chest strap. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the Apple Watch SE is a lot more useful that I thought it would be. It is great for running, I can see my splits and it measures heart rate. It took some fiddling to find the right app but I like how it’s working. The bonus is having another tool in the Apple stack – I can use my watch as a TV remote for the projector that has Apple TV, great for when the kids left the remote someplace weird yet again.

It’s also very cool when using Apple Maps in the car and the watch vibrates when I should be making a turn. I hate the audio voice queues and end up missing turns now and then. This takes care of that. And for true geeks having altitude and bearing with a sweep second hand is satisfying for the watch aficionados.

Smart Home

Nothing new here, I’m still a fan of Philips Hue bulbs which integrate well with Amazon Alexa. Being able to say “Alexa turn off Christmas tree” from upstairs when you forget is very cool.

It’s getting a little weird with my universal remote, the Logitech Harmony, which also integrates with Alexa – “Alexa tell Harmony to turn on Projector” makes all the remote problems go away. The issue is Logitech has stopped making it so I’m not sure where that will go next if something dies. The crazy part is since we use voice control the remote getting lost or destroyed is not a factor.


Last year was upgrades for everyone so no purchases this year. The big learning though was changing carriers has been life changing. I did not realize how garbage our last carrier was until spending a week with the new one. This is worth checking out if you have a friend on another carrier if you are complaining about dropped calls and poor signal. Another tip – our library lends wifi access points, another way to check another carrier (or for my wife to set up a camera in the barn to keep an eye on horses having babies instead of having to sleep in the barn. This has improved my life considerably.)

Trusted Review Sites

This hasn’t changed from last year. I’m a paying member of Consumer Reports for appliances and cars. The Wirecutter is fantastic for trying hundreds of products and recommending the best (Lauren Dragan on headphones!)

That’s all I’ve got for today, but Thanksgiving isn’t until tomorrow so I’ll have updates over the next week. I hope you enjoy your holiday!

Daily Life Productivity Booster


This is the week where it’s quieter and I look back on what happened this year and start to think about what 2022 might be about. There’s the things I have to work on, the things I want to work on, financial goals, family things, and some recreation so I still feel like I have a life in spite of pandemics, coup attempts, etc.

On the family front it was a good year, managing everyone’s heath issues is not a lot of fun as part of the sandwich generation but we’re doing ok. We did not get to go to Michigan this year thanks to the pandemic so hopefully that will happen in 2022.

Financially it was mostly good, which I rate as absolutely fantastic as everything else was bonkers. Of course the kids’ college fund could always be better funded so that’s a goal not completed. The only big work thing was that I wanted to start writing my next book on a concept I’ve been kicking around but I never made time for that. Like many people my cooking game has leveled up on a number of fronts and I’m not sure if I’d trade that for having a manuscript done. This past year has clearly demonstrated that time around the table with family is never guaranteed so I’m going to think hard over the next few days about what’s next for writing but maybe that could be shelved to post pandemic. On the other hand, the idea of doing some kind of MoC Conference (live unless the pandemic requires virtual, and I’m starting to think it’s going to be virtual) does have me excited so I’ve got to think about that too.

Personally it was a good year for preventative medicine, I caught up on all the doctor appointments that had been override by toddlers, then pandemic. I was about 75% as active as I wanted to be, I did get plenty of excercise but the Falmouth Road Race was not in the cards and I really need to find a Yoga class, I’ve reached the point where I can no longer stand the videos I’ve used for years so that needs to change in 2022 before I’m so stiff and inflexible that I break a hip or something.

Overall this year was a B+ and then factoring in all the turmoil, pandemic, and struggles I’ve seen my neighbors go through, it reminds me how fortunate I am and hopefully we can continue to succeed on our own fronts and help others do the same in the new year.

Geek Stuff Productivity Booster

Answering Nerd Gift Questions

It’s the most wonderful time of year! My friends and relatives ask me questions about HDMI cables and memory cards, stuff they want nothing to do with for the other 11 months of the year.

Here’s the most common questions I’ve been getting so that I can just email this link around.

What video game system do I get?

The PS5 is still in short supply, but for hardcore fans of the platform they may not consider anything else. If your gamer is into playing Halo then Xbox may be an option, I would not assume so unless they say so.

I’m suggesting the Nintendo Switch for most people. It’s not as powerful as the previous two but the killer feature is that it is both a console (looks great hooked up to a TV) and can be used as a handheld game (fully portable for creating silence in the car. You’re welcome.)

There are multiple versions of the Switch so it can be confusing. The newest version has an OLED Screen and it’s the one I recommend. The original version is $50 less most places I’ve seen it and that’s not much of a discount for what’s basically 4 years old. The Switch Lite is smaller and cheaper but does not output to a TV which is a dealbreaker for me.

What Do I Need To Buy With A Nintendo Switch?

Games of course. An important point here is you can now choose between buying games from the store in memory cards or just downloading them.

I prefer download because they never get lost. They cards are only the size of a postage stamp and that’s just asking for disaster in my house. If your gamer is a neat and tidy person there is the upside of being able to resell games on memory cards when they are done with them if they like to trade up. For downloaded games that’s the end of the line, you have no access to the used market.

You can buy Nintendo eStore cards all over the place, good games that are new tend to run around $60. Target is currently running a buy one, get 15% off the second on a bunch of video game platform gift cards.

A tip here – our local library network does lend Nintendo Switch games. It’s always great to try them before buying, some games just suck, others can be completed before it has to go back to the library. This can save a huge pile of cash.

Nintendo Switch also has a gaming network, this allows you to play with other gamers online and gives access to a library of a bunch of games from previous Nintendo systems (current Wii games are not in there though.) This is $20 a year for an individual or $35 for the family. This is a cheap way to have a ton of games right from day 1 without breaking the bank.

Nintendo Switch Controllers

The small controllers are the weak point on the platform. They work but they can’t handle the long term abuse that controllers normally get. If your gamer is tough on controllers (like ragequit throwing) a Pro Controller is a required upgrade. It’s very much in the platform gamer standard, strong enough to easily break a TV when tossed and will survive.

I have tried a few upgraded controllers that attach like the stock ones. This Kinvoca Joypad has worked well and not broken as fast as the original. Updated July 2022: I’ve tried two upgraded controllers, one lasted 6 months, the other 9. Forget these, get the Pro Controller.

If you have the original controllers and they are not working, most commonly by “drifting” where things move without you touching the stick, or if you can’t move in certain directions, they can be repaired if you are a little bit handy and not afraid to void your warranty. I have used more than one of these joystick replacement kits that come with all the tools and parts you need.

Get A Memory Card and Screen Protectors

If you are going the downloaded games route you’ll want to add more storage. This is a good memory card.

My kids manage to crack the screen protector every 3 months or so, making screen protectors the best purchase I’ve made with the system, these come in a three pack so we’re never without one.

Smart Light Bulbs and Smart Home

There are a lot of Smart Home Options, we use Alexa for everything since it works with Smart Outlets (Alexa, turn off Christmas tree is a big win.)

Phillips Hue Light Bulbs are expensive compared to the competition but they have a good app and integrate with Alexa. Note that there are bulbs that do different shades of white and brightness and then more expensive ones that can do the full color spectrum. Phillips has a starter kit on sale for the holidays, and my local warehouse club has them.

I have a Google Nest Smart Thermostat, it is only ok. It’s limited if you want to use sensors to adjust the temp by room (at night I want the heat to go on based on the bedroom temp, not the temp downstairs.) If you have one you like please mention it!

TV and Home Theater

This space is crazy, everything has become so cheap. I like buying TVs from the warehouse club (or Best Buy if you still have one close to you) so you can see them to pick, compare, and make sure it fits in your house (also confirm it will fit in your car/truck to go home before you pay.)

TV’s are cheap but the LED revolution has made projectors affordable too. Adding a projector to our living room has changed the game, I don’t like watching the TV anymore and because of the scale it’s better than going to the movies. I’ve already done a post about that if you want to see how I got it together for a screen over 100 inches for less than the price of a 47 inch TV.


Everyone here is getting upgraded because we are in a rural area and some carriers shutting down 3G is going to be a problem so everybody is getting a 5G upgrade. The real fun here is that I won’t know if this will make life better or worse until we try. It astounds me every day that I live in a town with a top rated liberal arts college and have crappy cell/internet, but here we are.

Headphones, Earphones, Earbuds

There’s a lot going on in this space but the short version is that the Jabra Active Elite 75T are ranked #1 by many review sites and I can agree. Better sound quality than AirPods, great microphones for calls. But, remember there’s no one size fits all, there’s a bunch of reasons why you might want to use something else (number one being not wanting to force something into your ear canal.)

Unfortunately the Active Elite 75T is being phased out and I have not tried any of the new line to know what the best successor is. Right now I would suggest the 85T until the new stuff has been reviewed.

Always happy to talk this topic or…

Trusted Review Sites

I’m a paying member of Consumer Reports for appliances and cars. The Wirecutter is fantastic for trying hundreds of products and recommending the best (Lauren Dragan on headphones!)

Productivity Booster

The Marketing Over Coffee Playbook!

I’m very happy to announce that the Marketing Over Coffee playbook is now available!

For everyone familiar with the show the book will be no surprise – quick and easy to understand segments on everything going on at the intersection of marketing and technology.

It’s available on Amazon here. Or you can get more details on the landing page.

This is my second book and (hopefully) a lot more mainstream business than B2B Marketing Confessions. I have to thank Editor Carol for all her work on this project, it could not have come together without her.

Productivity Booster

Not Being A Trade Show Zombie

This was a post that I had done for another company as part of a campaign. For some reason I can’t remember, we didn’t end up doing business with them. After sitting in my drafts folder for a couple of years I thought I’d throw it out there are this week’s #FriLearning  Enjoy your weekend!
Here’s how to fail at trade shows:
  1. Set up your “Professional” looking booth
  2. Show up at the show and hope to find some leads
  3. Bring home some business cards
  4. Maybe close a deal or two

What about the winners?

They Get Seen. When people are walking the show floor there are two states of mind – The Beta state is the normal zombie state of anybody walking the streets. Not really paying attention to anything, having that normal monologue going on in their head. Alpha state is when you snap somebody out of Beta and they are paying direct attention. They are talking to someone, reading something – they are now fully focused and not paying attention to everything else going on around them. Step one to winning – get them to Alpha. As far as the booth is concerned, looking “Professional” is code for “Unremarkable” and a recipe to fail. Work with your marketing team to create a remarkable booth, shocking, offbeat, casual, whatever as long as it doesn’t look like everyone else on the row. Two easy tricks – hire a chair massage, or just pay the extra $100 for super thick floor padding for those shows where everybody has to walk 5 miles of show floor a day.

Signage is important, do what you can within your budget, but optimum would be huge overhead that can be seen anywhere on the floor. A masthead that can be read on the whole aisle. The key here is to keep getting the text smaller as you go lower to literally pull people into your booth.

They Have A Hook. What makes them remarkable also connects to their story. “Sure, you can have a 5 minute shoulder rub, c’mon over here. We’ve been working with this spa for 3 years handling all their accounting, do you get help with your accounting?” Yes. Even an accountant can have a remarkable booth and story.

They Have Appointments Set. The 3 months before the show is where the winners are determined. Winning organizations already have a list of appointments and even a few deals in the pipe before their plane lands in town. These players know that the show will pay for itself before the booth is set up. Don’t be afraid to outsource appointment setting, use a calling automation tool, or a virtual assistant to both set appointments and monitor social media to filter through attendees who are mentioning the show beforehand to determine who might be a prospect.

They Do Biz Dev. For shows where you don’t get the attendee list, find two or three exhibitors with complimentary products and either trade leads or band together and do a follow up event like a webinar that you can all use as opportunity to contact your leads. I’ve found that these leads from other exhibitors to perform even better than leads that visited the booth at many events.
Their Giveaways Generate Traffic. Don’t make the mistake everyone makes of pens, candy or other “From the Far East to the Landfill” giveaways (stress ball anyone?) Give away something $50+ but only to qualified leads. Somebody who can buy your six-figure business intelligence software? Yeah, that’s worth some Bose Headphones if they’re willing to take 10 minutes to check it out on the floor. Wait and see how many people will line up for a Bluetooth travel speaker. Have some candy around for those who don’t qualify…
They Don’t Take No For An Answer. What if you don’t have the six-figure budget for that huge event? Be a Lobby Rat, invite a prospect for a drink after the sessions at the hotel across the street. Suitcase it – sign up for the free expo badge and meet a prospect after one of the big keynotes. Outboarding is also another effective tactic – instead of a $10,000 4×4 booth you could take 5 prospects for the finest steak in town that night for a legendary event.
Best of luck at your next event!
Productivity Booster

SEO and Trade Show Tips


Just trying something new – this is the roundup of topics from Marketing Over Coffee. If you’d like to get these emailed to you, just subscribe here.

This Week’s Podcast

In which we use insider lingo

Click to listen!

Google Releases Search Quality Rating Guidelines

A 160-page PDF document, aimed at helping Google Search Quality Raters understand how to rate the search results they are testing. Along with this resource we also discussed SEO by the Sea one of the best search blogs out there.

The Unreal Environment of a Trade Show Floor

David Spark talks about his new book Three Feet from Seven Figures! Bad behavior, ludicrous amounts of money and a compressed timeframe are problems for the “Always on” in the “unreal environment of a trade show floor”

Going Beyond Lead Scoring

So you’ve got a lead scoring system set up, what next? Infer lays out where this space is going and what to consider when you want to get beyond just a number.

Your Chance to Show Gratitude for the Holiday

Wondering how you can put a dent in the universe? The answer is so simple, an iTunes review for Marketing Over Coffee.



Productivity Booster

That’s Not Funny

In September it will be two years since the release of B2B Marketing Confessions. I spent the year after it was published on promotion and working on the audio version of the book, and then it was time to start the next big thing.

After writing about one of the most boring business topics of all time I was excited to get working on a concept that came to me before Confessions was done – the intersection of business and humor. The big ideas were clear – the question of why things are funny is a fertile topic, and the mirage of the “viral video” that every marketing department chases at at least once (if not dozens of times) is often ridden towards on the camel of humor.

After over a year of research I bring you… nothing.

Or, maybe this is a true gift, a blog post with a few good points as opposed to a 200 page book with 195 pages of filler. What I have learned that is important, but not enough for a book:

  1. There is no formula for funny.
  2. Like chess, there are some proven openings, but you have to do the hard work of filling in the details and there’s no guarantee you’ll get it right (in fact you won’t most of the time as you start). And get this – comedy case studies are useless, once the joke is out copycats are viewed with disdain.
  3. At the heart of comedy is the irony of us being woefully unable to deal with everyday life. For more on this, Steve Kaplan’s “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” is worth reading.
  4. Brute force does work. As a young person I thought Johnny Carson was just an amazingly funny guy, then I learned there are teams of people that drive the late night shows. I don’t know why this was so surprising to me, I was also amazed to hear about the same thing about This American Life, only about half of the segments that get made make it to the airwaves.
  5. Committees never work, it may be funny, but not funny enough to go viral. This is the bane of corporate humor. Pretty good for 10 people is not even in the same country, never mind neighborhood of awesome to 1. Even great to 4 people will probably be ignored.
  6. Humor never works when there is power disparity – making jokes when you are laying someone off is a bad idea. If you are the big boss you may be in for a rude awakening when you tell the same jokes and stories to people not on your payroll.
  7. Humor runs the risk of being offensive. As mentioned earlier, a lot of humor is about our inability to deal with life. That’s why there are a lot of victims in comedy and that doesn’t always mesh with political correctness or the PR position of your brand.
  8. Much of business is improvisation. I thought there would be a lot of material here. There are a bunch of books on improvisational comedy. 99% of it boils down to working well with your partners and some generally agreed to frameworks (again back to the chess openings). The other theme here that keeps showing up is: do a ton of writing.
  9. “Be funny” is like saying, “be charming, be empathic, be service oriented, be a great product designer”. Good advice at first listen, until you realize that there aren’t any detailed instructions besides “Listen well, and act appropriately”.
  10. To do one great video, create 10 maybe you’ll be lucky and get one hit. Doing projects one at a time guarantees failure.

Although there’s no getting the year back, I did learn a lot and it may have led me to the next idea. I keep coming back to the art and science of marketing. The big idea there highlights the weakness of comedy: comedy is an art and without the science of connecting it in some way to your product, it’s entirely possible to create something successful (even viral baby!) that drives ZERO sales. I get that zero sales feeling from Comedy & Business, so it’s time to apply some science.

Productivity Booster

Recent Marketing Resources

I caught up with a friend for lunch at The Merchant yesterday, which is a hot lunch spot right now. It’s always fun to watch the responses people give when the host informs them that unless they have a reservation they are out of luck.

I’m able to get advice from both a seasoned entrepreneur and parent, and he gets the benefit what’s come out of Marketing Over Coffee, distilled down to what tools or tech might be useful for specifically his business. And, when I start writing long winded emails full of links I figure I might as well take the general stuff and share it with the whole world.

Google Analytics is changing so fast it makes my head hurt. That’s disconcerting considering number of years I’ve worked with web analytics. I feel bad for someone digging in for the first time. The good news is there’s Training and Certification here, and some good ongoing stuff published here.

I haven’t gotten around to posting the transcript of my talk with Simon Sinek on his new book, Leaders Eat Last. That link goes to his book, and here’s one to his first book, Start With Why, which is fantastic. If you want to get an overview on both of them you can listen here on Leaders Eat Last, and here for Start With Why.

We’ve also been using Slack at Qrious and it’s great. Sort of like having your own private Facebook for work. If you know it’s like Chatter.

Anything new and interesting in your toolkit?


Productivity Booster

4 Keys to The Art of Blogging

This is the second of two posts on the Art and Science of Blogging, a series created to run as part of #blogchat You can check out part 1, “4 Keys to The Science of Blogging” here.

We had to cover the Science of blogging first because that’s where all the rules get made. Now we get to talk about Art, where the rules can be broken – for example, this series should be “The Science and Art of Blogging” since that’s the order we are covering it, but “The Art and Science of Blogging” is more pleasant to the ear, so we had to get crazy and take them out of order.

According to Art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance”

So where to focus to make our blogging “of more than ordinary significance”?

The Art of Creating Experience

We touched on this last week when we talked about “Creating a System.” Think about what your readers are going to do, where they are going to go when they visit your site. Create a “Happy Path” for them. What would be best for both you and them to experience? At the heart of this is asking why you are blogging. Is it just to tell your story, or do you want to motivate your audience, enthuse them or teach them?

The two keys here are to wireframe – actually draw a map before you start building, and testing. Having a map and then getting 3rd party verification that everything works are the only ways to prove the park ride is working.

The Art of Web Design

Choosing the proper colors, fonts, and page layouts require an artistic eye. There are many rules of design that can help you make your site more effective but ultimately you are painting a picture. Unfortunately for us it’s going to render differently on all kinds of devices making this infinitely more challenging than a canvas.

Your site is the user interface (UI) to your content. The ultimate goal of UI would be that it is intuitive – when someone sits down at your site for the first time, everything does what the user thinks it should do. Of course our expectations of a UI are always in motion. Until recently I would always expect a keyboard and mouse. My son it tapping and swiping on the TV and getting angry that nothing’s happening. The ultimate artistry here is creating the new standards for interface elements. What will we do to control our iWatches? Motions to control holographic interfaces? Those controlled by eye or voice?

Keys here – use complementary colors, put readability first in font choice, in layout always err on the side of less (simplicity reigns). For UI – steal from the masters.

The Art of Images

Unless you’re running something like a photo or travel blog, images are not required. And yet the right images can clearly make a blog a piece of art, while poor or dated graphics may cause some to look on your content with a doubtful eye. Can I really trust this information that looks like it was written in 1998?

It’s funny how most blog templates try to fool you by going with a “Less is More” layout. That does work really well if you have some National Geographic level photos, suddenly when you start slapping in your own images the template doesn’t seem so cool. The good news is you can release plenty of photography smack down with just an iPhone and a little work.Mona_Lisa

Quick tricks to improve your images: Understand the Rule of Thirds, use black and white for drama and to hide imperfections. Get at least a basic understanding of Photoshop, or GIMP if you don’t want to pay anything. The greatest productivity boost to my blogging (and marketing career overall) was to learn Photoshop. Other photo tricks with high bang for your learning buck: HDR and adding sharpness.

The Art of Writing

We end here with the greatest challenge the blogger and author have always faced: the blank page. Writing compelling copy is the blogger’s core competence. In truth, you could find someone to do every other part of this process but it’s the writing that’s your fingerprint, your stamp on the project that nobody else can replicate.

I do not put myself forth as a writing expert (for the love of god, I was trained as an economist, many consider that being a professional liar), but as a marketer there are some tricks you can use to improve how you write:

Start with your own voice. Write as if you were talking, there’s never been anyone that’s suffered from “Talker’s Block”. If you’re stuck just keep writing, you’ll get something good on the page and even if it’s just one sentence out of two pages, that’s enough to make your next session productive.

Use the proper voice for the situation. The voice you choose will set the scene. I love Lawrence Fishburne’s character in “The Matrix”. Although it’s a Sci-Fi action rollercoaster ride his voice is slow and deliberate, a rich deep tone with perfect elocution. Here is art in action. By breaking the rules with this voice in that scene you can’t help but be enraptured.  So ask “Does the voice I’m using match the scenery in my blog? Should it?”

The masters that I have been fortunate enough to work with in marketing have all had the same technique – use the active voice, and cut out half the words that are not really providing any value. It can never be too succinct or clean. Check out writing from the King of the Mad Men, David Ogilvy for more here.

To read more about practicing your art in today’s society you might want to check out this interview with Seth Godin. If you enjoy listening to audio, the interview is here.

Finally, thanks for taking part in #blogchat with me and I hope you’ve found our discussion useful. The audio edition of my book, Marketing Confessions, was just released this week. I’ve created a pdf of a few sample chapters for everyone from blogchat if you’d like to check it out or pass it along to your favorite marketing person.