Daily Life The Marketeer

If you are reading this, then it’s all over

For me, this is a sad post to write, but the good news is that if I ever hit the publish button, then I am probably enjoying an adult beverage and watching the sunset with a smile on my face.

How did I get to this point? Writing a post as digital therapy in July, knowing that it will sit in the draft bin for who knows how long. There have been two things this month that led me to this confession: I had touched base with Greg Verdino about his new book and he said “Man, where have you been?”. The other was Chris Brogan saying he was glad to see some blog posts out of me. Seth Godin said something to the effect that a good measure of your work is if people notice if you are missing. Given the busy schedules of Greg and Chris, that makes me feel pretty good.

So, where the hell have I been? Let’s rewind the clock to October 2009 for half the story – at Newton Wellesley after being awake for more hours in a row than I ever have before, our son arrived. That has been a wonderful adventure, taking up most of our lives but worth every minute. But the other half… that’s why this sits in the draft bin.

In December 2009 I did my annual review of how the year went. The dead week between Christmas and New Year’s is the perfect time to take a look at the bigger picture. The elephant in the back of my mind was that it would be my 5th anniversary at work. In June I vested in the last of my options, and in the startup world this makes you start thinking about the next big thing. If everything goes perfectly (I know maybe 4 people that have scored that lottery ticket), the startup you are at goes public or gets acquired and you tough out the days until you get all your shares. There are many tales of people throwing the vesting day party and then riding off into the sunset for a tour of Europe, writing a book, start a Daddyblog, taking up Yak farming, whatever…

Although we haven’t hit an event, everything is going very well. The company has grown 6x in my time there and it’s been great to watch the business grow and see customers like the Auto company that Monty hangs with arrive, and the first monster deal (and the monsters got bigger every other year or so).

After many discussions, coffees, lunches with friends asking about what I should be looking at next, the nuclear winter of the current economy was confirmed. In April I decided that there was no point in starting search with the summer coming on, and decided to stick with working only one job (a job search is always a full time job), and setting up the summer vacation.

This was the impetus for the end of the M Show, giving it a proper finish, silencing the nagging voice in the background that asked when the next show would go out. This freed time up for Marketing Over Coffee, which has continued it’s run this year and has been a fantastic source of networking for me.

As usual, the universe has no regard for my plans and has its way of telling me so. From the silence of the summer I was contacted by some folks that I used to work with and started talking to them.

And here I sit in a random coffee shop. As I write this draft, I really can’t talk to anybody about anything. I’m not writing anything, not getting myself into situations where I have to talk about anything on the horizon. I’m all set with phone calls at weird hours so that I can respect the day with my co-workers. The only laugh I had was from John T., we were talking about catching up over lunch so I could give him his Marketing Over Coffee Award, and he joked that we could try to eat lunch at the Newton Marriott but that they probably wouldn’t let us in since it wasn’t a job interview (sorry for the local 128 humor).

One day I soon will hit the publish button. I’ll have plenty of stories in the backlog, but I’m  sure that by then I’m going to be spending all my time on the next big thing, and will be more than ready to stop staring at the horizon and itching to get down to work.

So after this gets posted I’ll be pretty busy with other stuff, but at least you’ll know where I’ve been.

Brain Buster Great Marketing

The Paradox of Choice

Yesterday I saw two demonstrations of  Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice in action. This is one of the most useful books about decision making that I have found, and is a must read for anyone in marketing.

Jeff Bussgang asked why everyone still uses 4 year vesting schedules at startups when, in the current economy, exits usually take longer. For those that don’t speak VC – employees at startups get shares of the company, usually granted in 25% chunks at the first four anniversary dates – to encourage them to stay four years and get all their shares. (Shameless plug – if you want to learn more about how to speak VC, check out the Marketing Over Coffee interview with Jeff that will be posted the first week in June)

It’s a good argument, but as you can see from the post it has generated many comments – and this goes right to the Paradox of Choice. The more alternatives someone faces when making a decision, the less likely they will make a decision.

This is most easily demonstrated at a store I go to during the summer in Northern Michigan. They sell different kinds of jam and jellies, and they have about a dozen of them out to taste test, and that’s a problem. If there were two out you would like one better than the other, and maybe buy it. An Economist can mathematically represent this, they use a unit called Utils (rhymes with noodles) to measure the benefit of making a purchase. Bob really likes Jelly A, buying it gives him +5 utils, he does not like Jelly B, buying it would not give him any utils. 5 utils beats the 4 util cost of giving up the $7 to buy it, so he does. His day is now 1 util up with his jelly, the store owner closed a sale, and there is much rejoicing.

Things get more complex when Jelly C is added to the table. Bob likes it, but not as much as Jelly A, he only thinks it’s about +3 utils. Here’s the problem – let’s also say that Bob will only buy one jelly because he knows that even one is really too much and it will sit in his fridge for a year and he will throw half of it out when it’s moldy.

With the third jelly on the table, now if Bob buys Jelly A he’s going to take a hit of -1 util for the regret of passing up Jelly C, which he also liked (but not enough to give up Jelly A). A buyer will be less satisfied with their purchase if they have to rule out alternatives. You can see where this goes, by the time the store owner puts Jelly K (the 11th jar of jelly) on the sample table, the psychological baggage of having to make a decision, including the negative impact of the foregone alternatives actually outweighs the pleasure of making a purchase.

So, changing a 4 year vesting schedule is an interesting idea, but is opens a world filled with alternatives. Unless any of these options are REALLY great (unintended VC pun), the odds are good that no decision will be made. This is the basis for all the stats you hear about having to be 10x better than a competitor to win customers away from them. If you only have one or two features that are better than the competition, odds are that’s not enough to get them to wade through all the work of making a decision (“switching costs” in Economese, which can be real dollars or just psychological labor).

At the other end of the spectrum, @cc_chapman generated some heat admitting that he’s never been to a Trader Joe’s. Many fans of the store cite the quality of the goods, the low cost, the selection. There’s one factor that’s consistently misunderestimated (yes, both): choice is often removed from the equation.  Schwartz gives the example in the book of 85 types of crackers at the local supermarket, again the weight of the decision making baggage. There are some items at Trader Joe’s that have only one option, from there the benefits pile up: smaller footprint for the store, more efficient use of space, more types of products, ability to cut the best deal by limiting suppliers.

And so, as my Friday begins I offer two pieces of unsolicited advice: read Paradox of Choice (and use that link so I get my affiliate kickback), and to C.C. (and everyone else), get the frozen Tuna Steak from Trader Joe’s, thaw it, throw a cast iron pan on to your grill on high to warm for 10 minutes, throw on half a stick of butter and blacken the steaks with a dry rub. Add your favorite beer and enjoy the long weekend.

Daily Life The Marketeer

Do You Know Anyone Serving in Iraq or Afghanistan?

On Sunday I will be running the Run to Home Base, a 9 km road race that will finish at Home Plate in Fenway Park. As part of this race I raised $1,000 for a fund run by the Red Sox Foundation and Mass General Hospital to benefit soliders with traumatic brain injuries and/or post traumatic stress syndrome.

For a huge change of pace I am not hitting you up for money. Thanks to the listeners of Marketing Over Coffee (and my family – thanks John and Helen), I’ve hit the goal so that I don’t have to pay any more than the entry fee out of my own pocket. But as a valued reader of this blog, you can still help out, and help someone you know.

During the race volunteers will be making care packages for service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are saying they will have far more care packages than recipient names. They’ll probably all be sent regardless, but, if you know anyone serving there send me their information and they will be sent one of these care packages. It would be best if I get the info before Tuesday, you can email me at john at them$how dot c0m ($=s), or friend me up on twitter @johnjwall and DM me.

I’ll also have to post some pics of the official Marketing Over Coffee race shirt…

Daily Life The Marketeer

Tough Week

Normally on Sunday night I review my calendar for the week to see what’s coming up. Unfortunately things have been kind of crazy here and so I was not completely prepared on Monday morning for a book signing party that evening (click through for a rare photo of me with my arch enemy Mike taken by the Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner).

I had to wait before entering the driveway at the Microsoft NERD center because a guy in a black cop car was going the wrong way out the entrance. As I pulled in around some other cars I noticed the Governor entering the building. Of course I don’t have my good camera, and am just barely dressed well enough just to show up. The good news is that after I’ve finished the book I’ll be setting up a time to talk with Jeffery Bussgang for a Marketing Over Coffee session.

Aside from that it’s been a challenging week, my sister-in-law’s mother passed away yesterday, and my father-in-law was in the hospital yesterday also so there’s been a lot of running around. Hopefully it will be a restful weekend before The Last M Show on Monday.

Sorry for burdening you with my personal tales, to make it up to you here’s a good interview with author Daniel Pink from crack team at the Spark Podcast. Mr. Pink (so psyched I could squeeze that in) has a new book talking about how motivation works. You can watch the video here: Interview with Daniel Pink, or get the audio by subscribing to the John Wall Gigadial station.

The Marketeer

Google is Still the Best

Mitch Joel asked some good questions about free services from Google causing headaches when people get locked out. A quick summary – both Chris Brogan and C.C. Chapman lost access to gmail, calendar, wave, the whole deal.

The idea of having a Google Premier customer service one is a very good one, the problem is that it is completely contrary to Google culture. Just like their search algorithm, determining when accounts are compromised and locked needs to be a fully automated one for it to scale. The other issue is that just because you have a premier service account representative, that doesn’t change the fact that the problem is probably technical in nature and the rep is only going to be able to say “Yes, we are working on it as fast as we can.” If it’s down, it’s down and no amount of inbound complaints will change that.

If you go with the paid service at leads you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA), but really this is just an insurance policy. If there’s a big problem you will be compensated, but you will still have to go through the pain.

An Attorney I used to work with had a unique job working for an organization that was unlike any other. He used to say “I’m the best there is, and I’m also the worst, because I am the only one.” Having your week messed up is a huge hassle, but I’m sure none of those guys are getting a new Hotmail account set up now.

On the other hand, it’s easy for me to keep a level head not having been locked out. I was wondering you feel the same way about this that I do – when I am locked out of an account or technology doesn’t perform as it normally does it really bothers me. Literally ruining my day and putting me in a bad overall mood. I’ve been robbed a couple of times and I put technology failure right up at the same level. How about you?

Email Marketing Productivity Booster

Effective Segmentation

A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany an managing segmentation. I had been giving a lot of thought to one-to-one marketing vs. things like personas and how to go from the impressive strategy, to actually making it work as far as day to day logistics.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with Manticore as far as email tracks and delivering relevant content, but the revelation I had was that its not as much the content as effective list management. Once you can create and send custom content it’s much more important to be able to map out the sales and customer lifecycles in terms of what list individuals should be on at what time. More importantly – the huge benefit is when you can automate the management of addition and removal from specific lists. I think there’s a bigger picture here that I am starting to see about a second level of marketing automation.

The Marketeer

Why Are You At The Show?

A friend of mine is considering some trade shows and asked:

What would you consider to be a typical setup for a small booth? Signage? Table? etc. Is there anything that is a MUST have for a trade show booth besides marketing materials?

The biggest mistake people make is not having a plan for what they want to accomplish at the show. It should be either to get leads, in which case you want to give something away or hold a contest to get all the names you can, engage leads already in the pipe, where you are really going to party with a short list of people you are trying to close business with, or you are going because you are a big company in your space and it would be noticed if you weren’t there.

Aside from that Trade Shows are basically a big waste of time and money.

Depending on your answer to the above, that will dictate what you need to do. If it’s #1 you’ll want signage pushing your giveaway or contest. #2 just have a banner with your company name and a big comfy couch for when the big wheels come along. For #3 burn thousands of dollars on an custom booth so that your competitors look small and weak.

Pay no attention to the other vendors or show standards – figure out what you want to accomplish and do that, the rest of it is a waste of resources.

Stunts on the show floor is a category all its own…

Sharing booth space is a great way to get into shows without spending much. Partnering can save you tons of money, especially on shows that are new, or you’ve never tried before.

For signage, these guys do a good job at the right price – make sure you get the lamp to attach to the banner. I’m a big fan of avoiding the “show up and throw up” – logo and 5 words beat big paragraphs – it’s just to attract attention, not do the selling.

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!