Archive for February, 2007

maybe I need a wizard

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As some of you may know I’m in the process of searching for a marketing job. So I’ve been contacting a lot of different companies following up on job leads. This post is about closed organizations. I consider a closed organization one where the barriers to entry for getting basic information are VERY high. I’ve recently dealt with two companies that I consider closed. The first is Scripps Networks, they produce/own the TV shows HGTV, Fine Living, DIY, etc. They have some pretty on demand shows, and they’ve grown a ton. However, they make it hard for people to join their ranks. Like most people I try to do research on a position before I apply for it, I like to find out who I’ll report to, and what they’ve done, and general company info. So I was doing research on the position that was listed on the Scripps website. I couldn’t find the information I was looking for on Google so I figured I’d just call them up directly. I received at the time the curtest treatment I’ve ever received when I was asking about a job – a posted job. Basically, the receptionist told me that the information I was asking about, wasn’t public knowledge and never would be and I couldn’t know it. So you’re thinking it’s some top-secret trade secret right? Nope, just the name of the Director of Innovation. Not their email, or phone number just the name. I find that ridiculous.

The second company is Lynskey Performance Designs. They are based in Chattanooga, TN and they make great custom titanium road and mountain-bike frames. To the tune of a few thousand dollars each for the frame only. So I stopped in at their shop one day to hopefully talk with the Director of Marketing. Well attempted to. The first sign is that you can’t walk in their building. You can see in the door, but you have to get buzzed in from their receptionist. Who WILL give you the third degree before she lets you in. My session with her went like this:

Her: “Name and who are you with”
Me: “Hi I’m Gavin Baker, and I was just hoping to look at your bikes”
Her: “We don’t sell bikes, this is a manufacturing facility”
Me: “I’m sorry, I thought you made custom bike frames? I was just hoping to see one”
Her: “We don’t have any you can look at”
Me: “Oh, well I was just hoping to see a couple. I was just driving past on my way down to Atlanta.”
Her: “From where?”
Me: “Knoxville, TN”
Her: “I’ll see if someone can talk to you”

A couple of notes, I was able to talk to their sales manager, and he showed me a couple of their bikes, and they are beautiful and well crafted for sure. And I appreciate the time he gave me. But I want to break a few things down.

First she can’t see me. So she doesn’t know if I’m Joe Blow, or I am the most important client she’s ever talked to. Secondly, if I owned a company that made CUSTOM frames and someone stopped in to see them, you better believe I’ll show them a few. This isn’t the corner bike shop, we are talking about thousands of dollars per sale. Turning away dollars at the door is not a great strategy. Personally, I think Lynskey should open their shop up, say come on by. Create an owner community. It’s not unheard of for people that custom order cars to fly to the factory to drive it off the lot, or Saturn owners to show up in droves to see where their car was built. The same will hold true of people that are buying a custom frame. Would all that many people stop by, maybe not. The one’s that did, would probably be in the percentage to share with EVERYONE their great experience, and their great bike, and how awesome it is. WOM straight and simple. Maybe it wouldn’t be that many people, but they wouldn’t lose potential customers in the process.

So from my experience with these two companies I’ve become jaded. I sit here and think, these two companies want good people to work with and for them, but they make it incredibly hard for anyone to get to them. Should it be the yellow brick road? Certainly not, but should it be the Great Wall of China?

Have a great day.

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collaborativefailure=genius

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This past weekend I was involved with a photo shoot. I wasn’t the one modeling, but boy I had a lot more fun then I thought I would. I had pretty low expectations, and my brother even said before we left that it wouldn’t be zoolander-like. WOW was he wrong.

We walk in the doors at 10am and the techno music is pumping and it’s in this big industrial warehouse location. Vicki our graphic designer was totally fashion-trendy, our photographer John, was totally emo, and his make-up assistant, Heather, had on pink snow boots, white sweatpants with PINK across the butt, a pink hoody and bleached blond hair up in spikes. So awesome.

What I really found interesting from the experience was being part of the process and watching creative collaboration happen in real-time. We’d normally call this “brainstorming” but that seems to aseptic for what I was part of it was really fun to sit back and watch it play out.

The interactions between the model and the photographer. The interactions between the photographer and the graphic designer. The interactions between the graphic designer and the model. Watching the creative process in real-time. Watching ideas spark ideas. It was almost like watching a stream of consciousness. We started at A expected to end up at B, and instead we ended up at N. But that’s not bad, or wrong, just more then we expected. The idea grew between the interactions. This itself isn’t a new idea, it was just neat to be part of.

The takeaway is this:

It comes down to the willingness to fail. John and Vicki tried some different things. The got creative with it. They followed tangential thoughts. If we were shooting 35mm would they have tried, probably not. But in a digital world there is room to fail. We took 18 GB of pictures in 4 hours. Some of them are going to be horrible, maybe the lighting may be a bit off. Or his face may be contorted. But in a digital world, it doesn’t matter. We scrap those and move on, because in that freedom to fail some of the pictures are going to be amazing for what we wanted. We could have been simple and boring, but we pushed the edge, and got some great shots. Josh over at his blog hyku mentions this idea of risk-less digital as well. He says, “You ask questions, you stir up controversy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The beauty of the medium is that you can fail fast and cheap.”

When the cost of failure is low, we normally experiment a bit more. I am a fan of the mantra “Go big or go home” How can you go big or go home? How can you experiment more? How can you fail (and learn) more?

If you want to check out Vicki’s work/company Bullhorn Creative

If you want to see some of John’s work, go to Vicki’s site, he took the picture on the opening page.

Have a great day everyone.

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Just wanted to share some sites of services that I’ve used recently and find pretty dandy. Check them out.

A pretty cool idea, so far I’ve only used it to get files too large to email to some friends. Although as I get used to it, I think I’ll find other uses for it’s services. You get up to 1GB free.

Mozy is a site similar to Box.net in that you can upload information to the site. But what I use the site’s services for are a backup on Windows PC’s. No support for Macs yet, but the software is very intuitive. Essentially all you do is sign-up for an account, and you get 2GB free, and then you use their software to remotely upload the files/folders you want to to backup to their servers. Not as fool-proof as an external HD or CD/DVD’s or all three, but I just use it as one of my backup solutions. One of the best features about the back up is you can schedule it to back up at a certain time, or you can allow it to choose when to back up when the computer is being unused. Pretty nifty I thought. Additional note, you also get extra storage space when you refer people. So do it in groups.


Sounds pretty novel, I saw it on basically you can take a picture with your camera phone or other digital camera of a white board, document, business card (those are the three they list) and you email to scanr and they will email you back a digitized copy of whatever you sent in. This strikes me as interesting, but maybe a solution to an unknown problem. Note: They do have minimum requires for original picture size. The camera on my Audivox SMT-5600 Smartphone doesn’t take pictures that have high enough resolution to use this service. It shoots at 640×480.

Have a great day.

who doesn’t want to jump on the bandwagon?

I just saw this over at Russel Davies’ blog. It is what it says it is. “Online iTunes backup for music aficionados”

It launches tomorrow, Feb 22. Currently if you post their logo they are giving away a free year of full featured service. Sounds interesting, check it out.

the road traveled

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One of the first sessions at SoCon07 we talked about Web 2.0. Basically the idea that the web becomes dynamic and changes with use. One of the comments was “they get smarter with use” This stirred a thought, I’ve mentioned the TED conference before and one of my favorite TEDTalks is by a word-artist, Rives. Check out the video. He puts an interesting spin on “the internet.” Watch it once, twice, be changed.

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It’s got a few lines that I find funny, but one that I find more interesting is “we can interfere with the interface”

WE CAN INTERFERE WITH THE INTERFACE

do you?
I know I haven’t, but can I, you bet.
Will I? I’ll try.

Going back to the above comment, they get smarter, they get EASIER with use. So Web 2.0 or 3.0 of 4.0 is not that we can do more interactive graphics or total flash takeover, but that the web becomes a connector of, dare I say it, everyone? Moving beyond the screen, what if we can take this connectivity, this interaction, this smarter with use web, and create a smarter with use world. Remember, “we can interfere with the interface. It’s not if you can, but do you?”

SoCon and Soda

puzzle2.jpgFirst some thoughts on SoCon07. SoCon07 was my first unconference, and I had a good time. It wasn’t quite what I expected and at I definitely thought it would have been a bit more laid back then it was. Some points were certainly more conference i.e. lecture then unconference but overall it was worth the visit. I was also able to benefit from the discussion in the two “breakout” sessions I attended. One with Josh Hallett of Hyku, and the second with Robert French of Marcom. Much props out to those who were integral in the development and orchestration of the SoCon, it went well.

Thought of the day.

I recently heard an ad on the radio, you know one of those “dead” mediums. The ad basically said, “if you don’t get a receipt at the pump and to get it you have to come inside, we’ll buy you a free drink of your choice. Because convenience is part of our name.”

Now I think this is a brilliant idea. We’ve all been there, at the gas station we’re in a hurry to get someplace, and after we pay at the pump, we get a message that says “Receipt Inside” Which makes me annoyed because who wants to go inside and get your receipt after you’ve already paid outside. Such great strategy as well. I’ve never heard of an offer like this before, which makes it unique in the gas/convenience market. Not that a free drink defers the inconvenience of having to go inside and get my receipt but at least it let’s me enjoy a crisp Dr.Pepper while I drive away.
Sweet link of the day courtesy of Olivier Blanchard at the brand builder blog. [His blog is one of my daily reads.] He links to IdeaList which I have bookmarked for further viewing. Check it out.  Have a great day.

no free lunch, or is there?

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One of the oddities of where I live is that we have a lot, a lot of American-Mexican places to eat. One of the places I go frequently is Moe’s. One of the features of Moe’s is that when you walk in they yell, “Welcome to Moe’s” and then that call is echoed by other workers around the store and even by some people that are eating. Funny or Freaky depending on your preference. So it’s already a unique experience.

So at my table was a table-topper that says.

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“Nothing says Happy Birthday Like a Free Burrito”

Now that’s awesome. What’s there to it? You register online and get a free burrito. [If interested you can do it here] Who doesn’t love a free burrito? Now the adage “there’s no free lunch” applies here, since when I sign up to get my burrito I’m actually paying with the information I supply.

So it’s a promotion that is simple, quirky, and fun to the customer. It uses the voice that customers expect. It epitomizes the Moe’s. And Moe’s get a veritable wealth of information. They get a name, city/state, and where you live in that city, which from which they can determine relative income, etc. and they get your age. Plus a method to contact you, your email. Even better it’s permission based. It’s not spam, you are choosing to give your information, and agree to be contacted. [Now Moe’s could take this info and miss-use it, but let’s hope for my sake, and theirs it doesn’t happen]

In short, it’s simply a great example of a relatively unobtrusive way to create a connection with a customer (and learn a lot about who is buying/visiting your stores).

It may not be completely free, but it will be a nice birthday burrito.


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