Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Interesting Blogs

There a few very nice blogs popping up that would be of interest to communications pros. First is Laura Ries’ Origin of Brands blog. I am so happy to see this blog because a) the Ries family understands marketing better than anyone and, b) The scion Laura is about my age, and having met her about a year and a half ago, I think she is Extremely Bright. It’s great to see a peer so destined for success. This blog will be a strong addition to the blogosphere.

The second is Potomac Flacks. Supposed to be of interest to all DC Flacks, this is more of a Capitol Hill, Wonkette-esque insiders blog. One must wonder where the author, Dittus AVP Adam Kovacevich, finds the time to post every hour plus. It’s an amusing read, though I think it could be less gossipy and politics-centric. In Adam’s defense, he accurately observed yesterday that “most of us are trying to influence policy debates or get something done on the Hill or within the Administration.” I’m the abnormal one with my B2B, B2G and consumer work.

Speaking of, got two more very interesting clients yesterday, again both consumer. One is a quick consulting gig on blogging for an acupuncturist. The second is a small holiday ad campaign for a day spa. My wife is very happy and wants me to do in kind services, hmmm. Neither of these is going to make a huge financial hit, but I am going to be able to work with a few 1099ers whom I enjoy greatly.

Making progress on my blog property that’s converting to advertising. Things are going very well on that front. And, yes, we slowly trudge forward to PR retainer land. It always moves slower than I’d like, and in two of my high probability cases I think I’m looking at late October. Just as well that this moves at a more measured pace, as I'm already pretty close to fully loaded and was getting fearful.

Isn’t that crazy? Fear of success. After conversing about that with a couple of advisors, I feel that I worked it through. I never thought that as I looked down the barrel of getting what I wanted, that fear would grip me. But it did, and it was surprising. Still the wheels are moving forward, progress never stops and neither do I. Save This Page

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clear the Decks

The bonus entry for Friday on Pearlstein’s article had a lot of value-added thought, so I’m going to try to keep this entry short. A lot of immediate work won last week plus retainer #2 for 2007, and it was work that I had tagged as low probability. All of my high percentage deals (each is for a retainer) are still on the table, and I think they’re going to hit in the next couple of weeks.

It’s time to clear the decks of any existing work to get ready for the new work, which could begin as soon as Friday. So, pushing hard and getting stuff knocked out today and tomorrow, mostly writing. Working on wrapping up the white paper (edits will start coming in this week), writing marketing collateral for a client, and PR for a third. Plus there’s always ongoing blog work.

It also means it’s time to seriously engage my candidates in next rounds of discussions and if necessary, heavy interviews. I should also get a lawyer going on employment stuff. By the time I meet with the lawyer, I’ll know about the high probability deals and can definitively act (or not, if the deals don’t come in).

Preparation has paid off, so most of this is turn-key for me. Once I get stuff inked, send the offer letter(s), purchase personal health insurance plan for said employee, get the computer, and ask my virtual office vendor to turn my deal up to “live.” The office will be in the north part of Old Town Alexandria.

Based on market feedback & demand (these new clients will be the 13th & 14th), I’ve decided to reposition the company this fall to Marketing strategy, PR, and Word of Mouth /Internet marketing. I only have two clients that involve design work, and I’m not actively selling it. So writing and D&A services can be folded under marketing strategy. What is new is the Word of Mouth category, and I have four different clients there.

In addition, there is that as many of my clients are consumer as they are B2G… that needs to be weighed into the mix, too. Revenue wise, B2G is still the place to be, for now. I will probably roll out the evolved offering when I change my address, and move into the new office.

OK, here are Monday’s quotes:

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. – Jack Welch

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world! - Joel Arthur Baker

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. - Denis Waitley Save This Page

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pearlstein’s Old Idea

OK, I said I’d only blog twice a week, but I couldn’t help myself. Per last entry, I was really pumped to read Steve Pearlstein’s column on the advertising industry, and where it’s going. The thesis was Advertising’s New Idea: Don’t Push the Product, Pull the Customer.

I'm just speaking for me here, but what a let down. This article offered me little value, and I actually found it to be annoying for a few reasons.

First, it was all about NY creative, and NY small agencies leading the way. Unfortunately, it seems to me the Washington Post has a myopic view of DC business news of interest. I like the trend coverage, but it’s insulting that not one local agency was featured. I’m sorry, but this is Washington, DC, and while there is not the same advertising talent here, there are still very sharp and capable MARKETERS, leading the charge into the new generation of marketing. How about Mindshare Interactive, Rosenthal, White & Partners, just to name a few?

Second, to me the trend is old news. I know agencies and individual consultants that were on to “Pulling the customer in” and “individual marketing” five years ago. BTW, these are local consultants. To me the big trend that was touched on, but not handled effectively was the use of new diverse media in singular campaigns, often invoking much more credible forms of marketing. i.e. PR, blogs, customer reviews, online demos, and yes customizing your Nike shoe on your cell phone.

Yes, traditional advertising’s dead, it’s been dead. This is not a revelation. See Al and Laura Ries’ excellent book, “The Fall of Advertising & Rise of PR.” It was written in 2002. Integrated brand marketing has and continues to be the trend with web 2.0 taking strategies and tactics to a new level. That’s where it’s at.

Third, the article really focuses on the death of the big agency, and its inability to function in today’s broad business world. If Mr. Pearlstein’s Washington Post column had researched the DC advertising market, he would have seen the same trend with the rise of smaller shops and the departure of old mainstays Earl Palmer Brown, Stackig, KSK, etc.

The trend stuff doesn’t offer value to me, but I can see where Joe Smith, business owner may be interested. What bugs me most about this article is it really hurts local marketing businesses. By failing to highlight local companies, Pearlstien makes DC look like a backwater. And maybe you could argue that DC marketing agencies miss elements of sophistication that NY firms offer (a reflection of the conservative culture here), but at the same time DC is the real spin city, isn’t it?

Back to work. BTW, won a deal to promote a new book in the blogosphere coming from a major rock band’s lead singer. No joke. How cool is that? Now I've got sports and rock’n’roll. Save This Page

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Great Win, Exposure to New Stuff

Winning feels good. Real good. Looks like we won that big account that I teamed on. Talk about a dream come true. I can’t say what it is, but it involves sports marketing for a very worthy organization.

Another affirmation that starting my own company was the right thing to do. I mean come on, in my old agency the CEO would only let us get into B2G or maybe telecom. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Don’t get me wrong, I love my five B2G clients, but part of being an agency person is the ability to work on very diverse projects. It keeps the creative juices flowing.

Additionally, becoming a simple subject matter expert (only A&D, only B2G, only telecom) puts you in a box. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. You are limited, not exposed to best practices, and overall, start to wallow in mediocrity.

That’s not the way of great marketers. Great marketing minds can market anything, not because of subject matter expertise, but through the mastery of communications disciplines. They simply know how to work media in diverse forms. I want to win, to be a great practitioner and that means I need to expose myself to new communications media at all times. Next project for me is mastering

Great article on the traditional advertising agency model falling apart in today’s Washington Post. Steve Pearlstein writes about how the intergalactic mega-agency model has collapsed. He leads us into part 2, coming Friday on how the Internet is reshaping the creative world. I’m looking forward to this next article as number one was right on the mark.

Part of being a business owner is selecting the business you want to work on. Of course, in some ways the business selects you. For example, a current, hot lead for me is Internet publicity for the front man of a certain nationally known rock band. He’s got a new book coming out, and the blogger community needs to know about it. This came to me, not the other way around. But if I was only doing B2G, I’d turn it away. Uhhh, no.

In general, it’s kind of wild to see where my business is taking me. I have opened a new vertical in general B2B that I had never expected, and it’s an absolute blast. Add in this consumer stuff, hmmm. More shall be revealed, I am sure, just on someone else’s schedule.

Got some good chi going on. Major coverage coming out for a media tour client this week. A little nervous excitement leading up to it as I think that additional business may be pending the results of this project.

This Wednesday morning is catch my breath time, hand written notes, accounting, post office. You know, mundane business owner stuff. Then it’s time to network, and tonight crank into a major writing project. Save This Page

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Five Months, Ten Lessons

Great article in the Washington Post on the power of blogging, and its dramatic affect on the Virginia Senatorial campaign. We may be a small community of folks compared to the general population, but we are definitely a very powerful one. What’s truly fascinating is that the bloggers are paid for, yet people are still reading them and changing their opinions.

This power of blogging has given me a new novel idea (see below after list of lessons learned). And on a side note, given the exposure of his true self, I hope Mr. Macaca takes a big fall this November.

OK back to the blog at hand, starting a company. I figured that since the end of the week will mark my fifth full month trying to get this thing off the ground, it would be kind of cool to document lessons already learned:

1) It’s going to be as hard as everyone says. Starting a company from scratch is no joke, and there are always challenges you could never foresee. For me it was the flood.

2) Help others, don’t sell. If you really feel like you can help people and make their business lives better, they will want to work with you. For me this is a zen thing, it is the right approach to all of life, not just work.

3) Don’t work with unwilling, corrupt or negative people. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. Have a mission and rules to help guide you through these situations.

4) Credibility as a new brand takes a long-time to build. Success is incremental, and there are no quick home runs or sales. You are overcoming individuals’ fears about your company, the start-up.

5) Take projects to counter number 4. This may not be the ideal form of work, but it will help you build credibility faster. YOU MUST DO A GREAT JOB! Otherwise forget it, and go job hunting.

6) Get ready for a 30-60-90 day roller coaster ride. Companies don’t pay you when the work is complete, or when the contract says to. They pay you when the 30-60-90 day cycle tells them to pay vendors. Until you have large deals with the right kind of income, this hurts. A lot.

7) Have money saved to weather number 5 or get funding. The flood really hurt me on this front, turning me into more of a hungry, scrappy start-up. Fortunately, I feel like I’m at the end of the tunnel on this due to some Small Business Administration disaster assistance. Whew.

8) Find great advisors to suggest direction and help you.

9) Find great 1099ers to work with you until you are ready to hire.

10) It’s a marathon, not a race. If you can’t weather the long, grueling road of doing it yourself until you are big enough… If you don’t have stamina, resilience, tenacity and all-out drive, you will fail. You must get up every day, you must work, and you can’t complain about it. This was a choice. Besides you like the boss better, believe me.

Right on! OK, now that I’m only going to blog twice a week, I’m going to start writing once a week again for myself. I have already written two and 1/2 novels (unpublished), and have learned a lot about what it takes to be successful in this very challenging, unconquered media form. My novels tend to be a little too emotionally removed, so for this turn, I figure its time to try first person narrative. Subject matter will be a blogger whose anonymous postings put him in grave danger. Hmmm.

It will be good to get back into writing for myself. A little recovery of my soul, slowly returning to post start-up life.

OK this week’s quotes:

Resilience is woven deeply into the fabric of Oklahoma. Throw us an obstacle, and we grow stronger.”
- Brad Henry

You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.”
- Rosalynn Carter Save This Page

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Good Spiritual Lesson

Chatted with a former boss, mentor and soon-to-be board member today, it was a pretty good experience. We talked about the strange meandering paths our careers had taken since we had last worked together a few years ago. Many humbling lessons and a couple of bad job selections occurred, making us both grateful for where we are.

I should have started this company at least one year earlier, if not three. Instead I didn’t believe in myself, and felt that I needed a more experienced vet to work under so I could garner credibility in the marketplace. That didn’t occur. Instead what I did was bolster theirs, and waste my time. As I look at my marketing and networking strengths, my biggest weakness is my own lack of credibility as a CEO, something only time can provide.

So this is my regret: That I didn’t start one year earlier. But the experience got me to the point where I believed in myself enough to do this. For that much I’m grateful. It was a good spiritual lesson. I won’t be so quick to “need” someone else’s credibility anytime soon. I definitely have enough skills and savoir faire to stand on my own.

Had lunch at Chef Geoff’s today to thank someone for referring me, and some bloke stole my umbrella out of the stand. I mean come on, shell out the seven bucks and buy your own umbrella. How pathetic. At least the salad was good.

Continuing to track for more retainer accounts, some great PR, and waiting on some decisions. Plenty of work in the interim to keep me busy.

My counterpart on the blogging project has absolutely been on fire, scoring five meetings next week. I’ve never seen anyone pick up sales that quickly. It just goes to show you sales people are born, not trained. I use to think they could be trained, but not anymore.

Next week I’m moving from three to two blog entries. Most people check in once or twice a week according to add stats so three installments seems like overkill. Thank you for your loyal readership. If you have any suggestion at all as to what would make a better blog experience, please email me at Save This Page

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Writer's Block

It’s late, up, but not really. Writer’s block is upon me. Working on a white paper that’s a real grinder. To be fair, I am pretty tired so I may just let it go and wake up early to start again. It’s getting down to crunch time though, so tomorrow is a major hard work day on the writing front. Probably spend all a.m. on it. It’s really important to deliver a good product on this so I prefer to write when I’m fresh rather than rewrite. It's easier to stay on message.

First recurring revenue account seems to be here. It’s really a micro account, one of my project based accounts is willing to have a minimal retainer between larger bursts of activity. The first one’s always the hardest. There are four other opps out there that could convert to retainer over the next 45 days. Lots of apples in the air.

Great PR going on with the Post right now. One of my clients will have a huge story in about ten days. It’s good stuff, and we have a couple of “rock star” business spokespeople lining up for quotes. I’m enjoying it. Still we have a lot of work to do over the ensuing days to properly prepare for success.

Really trying to apply the pay it forward principle and provide unconditional value to business people around me. It seems to be working.

Additionally, there’s a new focus on doing footwork and getting out of the results game. There’s enough traction with different activities out there that it’s just a question of time before a break hits. I just need to keep doing the right thing and trust the process. When the break comes I have my people lined up and ready to go... Save This Page

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Forget Football. Networking Season Begins!

It’s going to be a big week, lot’s going on and networking season has officially entered into full swing. It’s amazing to me how intense networking is in this town. People may think that football and the Redskins are the top sport in DC, but I disagree. Really, it’s networking.

I’ve already been to two networking events in three days, including IAC’s black tie last night (which was outstanding). As I look at my calendar, I already have three to four events scheduled for every week for the rest of the month. Now that’s happening.

Part of my strategy is to create frequency at organizations that I’ve identified as my main areas for reaching out to the business community. It’s better to become known within a community by giving, being of service than to appear as a one off and then disappear for 6 months By giving, bringing value and becoming a part of the community, people come to know you and eventually want to work with you.

This is the way of attraction rather than promotion. It’s a Zen thing. Yes, you get leads sometimes, but that is not my daily goal at networking events. You might call it the paradox of networking. Like Gitomer says, I don’t even necessarily want to connect with you at an event. On the contrary, I want you to feel compelled to contact me because of what my personal and company’s relationship powers offer you and your organization.

It’s still early in my career as a CEO, but I’d like to be there in the next few years. At this point, all of my business comes from my network, no cold calls.

OK, enough of that. Let’s build some marketing value for those that peruse the page. Here’s a great blog entry that my client forwarded to me on Web. 2.0 marketing. It’s a great piece authored by Eric Sink called “How to get people talking about your product.” It really kind of puts a kaibash on marketing web 2.0 props for the sake of web 2.0 props. He’s right on.

Here’s my take on it. The truth about products is that buzz truly begins with a great product. If there’s nothing to market, than PR, e-Marketing (versions 1.0 and 2.0) and whatever other traditional direct and adverting tactics deployed will fail. To paraphrase Ogilvy, advertising does two things. It makes great products sell faster, and bad products fail quicker.

My blogging advertising client got some interesting leads. I also picked up a copy of DC Modern Luxury, and ideal source of advertising leads for these guys. We’ll see what develops over the week.

Here are this week’s quotes:

"Companies should identify and work closely with key members of the industry infrastructure. I believe that 10 percent of the people in an industry strongly influence the other 90 percent. If a company can win the hearts and minds of the most important 10 percent its market positioning is assured."
-Regis McKenna

"More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject."
- Peter Drucker Save This Page

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The BeBe Experience

I’m working on something that reminded me of the media tour I did with Benjamin Netanyahu otherwise known as BeBe 6 years ago, almost to the date. What an experience.

We were promoting Israeli technology companies, and I had 23 appointments scheduled for Netanyahu. We had appointments with everyone from trade rags to the president of CNN. In the middle of the tour, Netanyahu gets cleared of embezzlement charges and is now eligible to run for Prime Minister.

He cancels all of his appointments except a few select meetings. In each case the reporter was under strict rules not to interview him about his aspirations for future politics. What was negotiated and what happened were two different things. We ended up having a Mossad officer physically separating a reporter from BeBe (there should be a blog on stupid reporter blunders). Mind you this reporter was working for a national newspaper based in NY. That was crazy.

Just one of many crazy things. Another incident during that tour, guy in a dark suit comes up to the trade show booth and says, “I’m looking for Benjamin Netanyahu.”

“OK. Who are you,” I asked.

“I’m with the FBI.”

“Sure you are, prove it.”

The guy shows me a gun. “My name is xx, I work with the FBI.”

About this time I’m freaking out. “Uhh, I’m sure you do, can I see some ID, just to verify it.”

Though I said that, really I’m just hoping that I don’t get killed or anything like that. Keep in mind I’m 28 years old at the time, and have never been in any kind of situation like this before.

He shows me the ID, and it seems legit (like I know anything). So, of course, we just go and meet Netanyahu at the back of convention center. And there's no security waiting for him (minus one FBI guy with a gun and a bewildered young flack) although he definitely had a couple of Mossad officers with him. Obviously, pre 9-11 era.

There are more stories, many more. I was blown out by that trip, and just ran the events in my mind over and over for days. I didn’t practice PR for a few years after that, focusing on advertising and learning how to sell. Really, what more could I do after that?

Now that I’ve been practicing again, I realize there are new summits to reach, mostly to help people and friends succeed. Interesting that five months into my own company’s existence I find myself in a similar situation again. Didn’t take long. Save This Page

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Too Tight!

I am not sure if you have seen the bad pitch blog yet, but it is hilarious. PR people, this a must read. Watch journalists ridicule the foolish and thoughtless.

Ugggh. The pants are tight, it’s time to cut the fat, the carbs and slim down. I’ve been piling on the pounds ever since I started up, and now my wardrobe is endangered. Yeah, time has become a premium item in my life, and excercise and self care have suffered. Enter current dilemma: Getting fat.

What does that have to do with business you ask? A) You need to feel good about yourself in meetings. If you feel like crap, you will inevitably start performing like well, you get the picture.

Wearing too tight clothes is not a great way to engage in that activity. I won’t buy bigger clothes because B) I feel better slim than heavier, that means I like to be in shape. It makes me feel like I’ve got my top game. And C) it’s expensive replacing ten quality suites. No, I think slimming down is the right idea.

Woohoo South Beach! Of course, just eating less and recommitting to exercise everyday maybe a good idea, too. Doesn't help that they're serving pizza for lunch today. What should I do? I'm thinking single slice. Yeah, so nice to be worried about that.

Huge consumer pitch in an hour +. I am a consultant on the larger deal. Very plussed by this opportunity; it would be one of the most rewarding wins of my career! If we win, I’ll ask my client for permission to mention it online. Save This Page

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Essence of Networking: Giving

No Ernesto flooding down in the Huntington portion of Alexandria. Although watching Cameron Run’s waters fill to the brims and a little beyond made me wonder if Fairfax County plans to resolve this flooding issue anytime soon.

On to the week ahead. I am about to read Jeffrey Gitomer’s new book, Little Black Book of Connections. I loved his Little Red Book of Sales, which single handedly shook me out of a sales slump last winter. This one’s on networking, and I think its opening salvo is worthy of a blog entry and a Monday quote (even though it’s Tuesday due to the holiday):

“Connecting is all about your friendliness and your ability to engage, and your willingness to give value first.”

I think the operative word is giving. By giving to others, people are often attracted to you. Not necessarily because they are takers, but because you are doing the right thing, you are contributing to their well-being, and in the spirit of a community member. Novel concept. People want to get to know folks that make contributions to their lives.

To some this would be the antithesis of business. Yes, Gordon Gecko may say that greed is good, but not all people are attracted to “vampires.” At least that’s how I see it. People that take, take, take have little to offer and often suck the life out of companies. Yeah, some make money, but there is certainly a price to pay.

So, in summary I can’t wait to read this Gitomer book. His opening sentence tells me he understands the essence of networking. I am sure it will reinvigorate my networking approach.

I found peace with the deal I lost (or got postponed on). It bugged me because these folks know what good service I offer and how bad their current service is, but still they are not willing to fire the agency… yet. But maybe that in its own right is a zen thing. While not all people are attracted to vampires, some are. They like bad service, they accept mediocrity, and in some cases expect it.

Well if that’s the case, it only makes sense that they wouldn’t want to work with me. I may not hit a homerun every time, but I am about producing results. That’s the only thing that matters in business.

OK, here are the rest of your quotes:

“If service is the rent you pay for your existence on this earth, are you behind in your rent?”
Robert G. Allen

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily.”
Sally Koche

“The deed is everything, the glory naught.”
Goethe Save This Page