Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Easy to Be Hard

Is it easy to do business with you? Is your website clear? Are the contact points obvious?

A posting on Craigslist for a site inviting "creatives" (designers and copywriters) to sign up for freelance assignments and jobs attracted my interest. But when I clicked through, I couldn't find the "register" link. (It's called "apply" here. Oh.) And I was turned off by the terminology, referring to "artists" — and not designers, art directors or (gasp!) copywriters. I poked around for a few minutes more and then split.

Yesterday, I saw a link for a discount coupon for soy milk. Clicked through and was asked to sign up for a coupon. I reluctantly entered my name, gender, date of birth, e-mail address and a password (twice), then clicked OK. The next screen was another form, asking for even more personal info, plus my mailing address.

Fuggeddaboutit! Not worth 55¢ to give up all that.

In this economy — and always — make it easy for your customers to get what they want. That's the goal, isn't it?

If you want me to sign up for something, my e-mail address and maybe a password should suffice. If the relationship continues and you want more info, fine. I'll give you my date of birth and gender, perhaps. But make it worth my while.

Same thing with a recruitment site or any other service or product. Make it simple, speak in the language of your customers and help them.

Ease of use and simplicity rule on the Net. And in stores, offices and everywhere else that commerce and human interactions occur.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Opt out of sneaky marketing

In keeping my wife's Windows machine up and running, I've had to deal with lots of malware and must run a couple of programs to keep it clean, as no single application seems to suffice.

I've discovered that cookies tend to be treated as potential problems so I dump 'em when I can.

Recently, guru Seth Godin linked to a marketing industry site that allows users to opt out of getting their cookies — in aggregate, no less. Seth observed that it's hardly publicized, so please allow me to share the link.

And I agree with Seth; marketing needn't be sneaky. Shouldn't be sneaky, in fact.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

Gloom and doom are good for business books
Depressed and stressed but seeking to survive


As we'd mentioned in an earlier review, one business sector is booming. Books examining the current economy and the causes of its precarious condition are apparently a growth industry — at least on the production end. Previously, we looked at att
empts to identify and explicate the origins of this mess. This time, we'll scrutinize several ''where do we go from here'' efforts, though there's more on the way and we'll inevitably examine another batch before too long.

The 21st Century Economy: A Beginner's Guide. Randy Charles Epping. Vintage. 336 pages.
If you're a bit confused about the contemporary economic landscape, Epping's guide is an excellent primer that explains terms and concepts like crowdsourcing, pollution rights, program trading, cloud computing and the like, as well as evergreen concepts like bankruptcy, privatization and more. It's cleanly written with clear examples so if you're a bit confused and need a refresher course, this is an excellent place to begin.

The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide: Protect Your Savings, Boost Your Income, and Grow Wealthy Even in the Worst of Times. Martin D. Weiss. Wiley. 240 pages.
Weiss is a commentator and purveyor of free and fee-based wisdom, and a renowned bear. So the premise herein is: forget about a recession; we're either in or heading into a depression; take the requisite steps, include getting out of stocks, selling short, buying gold and investing in currency. This is all well and good if you're an investor and clearly, that's the audience this book is aimed at. In fact, anecdotes from the author's father — who, we're told, (along with Bernard Baruch) was one of the few people to make their fortune during The (previous) Great Depression — are larded throughout. But for those of us who aren't quite liquid and are living from paycheck to paycheck — or without one — Weiss' book is just rather (you guessed it) depressing.

Game Over: How You Can Prosper in a Shattered Economy. Stephen Leeb. Business Plus. 256 pages.
Leeb is another cheery fellow, as indicated by the title of his previous book, ''The Coming Economic Collapse.'' But one needn't shoot the messenger. Rather it's worthwhile to hear from someone clever enough to recognize the signs that we were heading in this direction before it became obvious to the rest of the financial press (plus the cheerleading squad on CNBC). It's similar in some ways to Weiss' admonitions, though a little more expansive and thoughtful. He looks a bit more in-depth at world markets, products, capabilities, politics, psychology and the rest of the picture. It's still pretty downbeat, but he searches for a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel — or something positive — with mixed results.

JK Lasser's Guide for Tough Times: Tax and Financial Solutions to See You Through. Barbara Weltman. Wiley. 224 pages.
Weltman is the voice of reason. Her book is a pretty thorough compendium of common sense for consumers, investors, workers, retirees — virtually everyone who's living and breathing, earning and/or spending money. As such, there are few (if any) surprises or revelations to be found within, but for solid, practical and conventional advice, this is an excellent source, especially since common sense isn't nearly as common as we may think.

published 4/13/09 in The Miami Herald

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Inside Out Marketing

Sell the cart before the horse.

Used to be that it took years for movies to come out on video. First came a theatrical release, then premium cable, then either network TV — back when there were three (really!) network) — then maybe video.

The DVD boom accelerated the process. Feature films show up on DVD within months or weeks of their theatrical release (at least officially. Torrent sites and terrestrial pirates offer copies of "screeners" even faster.)

But the new series, Caprica, a spinoff and prequel to Battlestar Galactica, is set to debut on TV in early 2010. However, the DVD of the movie that begins the series came out this week.

It's an interesting twist. It allows the studio to begin recouping their investment almost immediately, sure, but it also serves as a powerful marketing tool for the new series. Even if it leaks out for free downloading — and it has — it's being watched and if it's any good, serves as a device to attract attention and interest for the series.

It's kind of like releasing a single prior to the album, in ancient music biz terms.

Good idea, imho.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brand Yourself

Build your brand and spread the word to succeed.
To get a job and keep it, market yourself effectively


In traditional Japanese culture, conventional wisdom dictates that you shouldn't stand out, invoking the metaphor of the nail that gets beaten down because it's higher than the rest. That may no longer be true, but in the United States, success is often determined by individual achievements. Even in team settings, we invariably gravitate toward individual performers and stars.

To have a successful career, one must cultivate an individual identity a brand, if you will. Yet it's vitally important to build a network of connections to make it happen. Three new
books attempt to explain how it's done.

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. Dan Schawbel. Kaplan Publishing. 256 pages.
Dan Schawbel's title suggests reinvention, but it's really about refining one's identity (and the perception of it) to align with who you are and what you do. He presents a very detailed and comprehensive guide to employing a full arsenal of mostly online tools — including social networking — to develop a public persona that will enable you to be the go-to person for your area of expertise. In addition, he provides a very thoughtful set of self-assessments and bullet points for evaluating and acting upon the appropriate combination of tactics to ensure that top of mind attention is paid.

Much of what he writes may be obvious to regular (and mature) participants of social networking sites, though it's also a brave (and cowardly) new world out there and the risk of tainting one's reputation and poisoning the well in other ways has increased exponentially, at the very least. But Schawbel also throws in a bunch of fundamental tips for career development and life in general that make his book a valuable one-stop source of practical wisdom.

Career Building: Your Total Handbook for Finding a Job and Making It Work. The editors of Collins Business. 288 pages.
With this book, the recruitment website CareerBuilder does a better job than rival did in their effort a few years back in offering an accelerated course in virtual and actual job hunting. The dirty truth is that most online job applications rarely elicit responses. It's a buyers' market right now, so few employers apparently feel the need to respond to or acknowledge receipt of an e-mailed or online application — or are so
swamped that they simply do not have the time to just set up an autoresponder. But rudeness aside, there are right and wrong ways to conduct an employment campaign, and it's worth understanding the process regardless of which side of the desk you sit on.

Though other books like Sweaty Palms and What Color Is Your Parachute provide similar tutelage, this is an excellent and very current primer for those starting out — or starting over.

Who's Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships that Create Success and Won't Let You Fail. Keith Ferrazzi. Broadway Business. 336 pages.
Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi's previous book, is often lauded by networking gurus, though I disagreed with its title, since I prefer solitude for lunch, at least occasionally. In terms of networking, however, this forthcoming book (due next month) takes it to the next step. Instead of going wide, the author narrows his focus and advocates establishing a few super strong ''lifeline relationships.'' This team will guide and support you through the ebb and flow of your career — and life. The idea of mentoring is certainly not a new one, though in this age, when some of our strongest relationships are virtual and not face-to-face, Ferrazzi's update is a valuable and useful contribution.

published in The Miami Herald on 4/20/09

Friday, April 17, 2009

Memory Man

That shaman looks familar. Any major dude?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Somewhere In America There's A Street Named After My Dad

From the brilliant, timeless album, "What Up Dog?" by Was (Not Was).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Still More John Irving

In case you missed it earlier, John Irving prepares to read from the forthcoming novel, "Last Night in Twisted River," partly inspired by Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue."

According to Iowa's Gazette, "'Last Night in Twisted River,' Irving said, is a fugitive story about a cook and his son who are 'running away from someone.' The books appears to span at least two generations, since the son, Danny, grows up to become a famous novelist who, like Irving, attended the UI Writers' Workshop in the late '60s.

The chapter Irving read is set in and around Iowa City during the time Danny attended the workshop. Irving said the chapter doesn't have much to do with the novel's overall narrative, but was necessary because he needed to think up a situation that caused Danny to stop drinking.

In the chapter, titled 'Lady Sky,' 25-year-old Danny, his philandering wife, Katie, and their 2-year-old son, Joe, attend an artists' party at a pig farm in Tiffin. For entertainment, the host hires a woman to parachute on to the farm naked. But all hell breaks loose when the parachutist lands in pig manure.

The chapter ends with Danny and Katie waking up the next day terribly hung over and discovering that their son had wandered out of their Iowa Avenue duplex and almost got hit by a car. The thought of his son almost ending up 'dead in the road,' the chapter's last words, causes Danny to stop drinking."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bad spot!

This has been running on ESPN and my jaw drops every time it comes on. What were they thinking?

I'm sure they'd love this to become viral and maybe a new catch-phrase, but it's still painfully dumb.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Neil Young leaked

Quick review: not bad but not his best. The title track is my favorite. A clunker or two, too.
You can stream it on MySpace here.