My 2016 Personal Exploration Goals

Can you accomplish a personal goal if you commit to working towards it for 10 minutes a day, every day in 2016?

A seemingly simple yet compelling challenge that Eric Zorn wrote about in a recent Chicago Tribune column. (you might have to be a subscriber to access it). He was successful in his goal of playing the fiddle for a minimum 10 minutes every day, and he gave a synopsis of other people who accepted the 10MaD 2015 pledge.

I have thought about this column for the past couple days.  Eric Zorn, I accept 10MaD as my 2016 challenge and resolution. But what goal to reach?? So many options!

Since writing and photography are two hobbies/passions I wish I had more time to spend time with, I decided that 2016 will be a year for “My Personal Exploration of Fine Arts.”   At this point, my “major” will be writing and “minor” will be photography, but that could swap during the year. Who knows?

Since I work as an audience development consultant where I spend hours writing proposals/project updates/marketing efforts, I want to clarify what I consider part of this 10MaD pledge:

  1. Writing for my blog on my business website.
  2. Writing for my personal blog, which has been inactive for a couple years.
  3. Starting work on a novel that has been floating just beyond my consciousness.
  4. Writing short stories or poetry.
  5. Writing freelance articles for magazines or other websites.
  6. Taking photos for a freelance projects.
  7. Editing or printing photos for above projects.
  8. When I go out specifically to shoot pictures.
  9. Maybe finally creating a website to sell some of my photos.

I will have to manage my time, since I know that any of these can entail a creative block or the opposite–that vortex, when time disappears while working on a project. I will occasionally post here about the status of my 10MaD challenge.

I am excited and a little intimidated to accept the 2016 10MaD pledge. One day done with this writing, 365 left since it is a Leap Year.

The journey continues. Happy New Years to all!

C

1/2/16 update–Readers, an fyi that I will post more personal posts and poetry on my other blog, which has been unused in over 3 years. That blog is Have an Opinion’s Opinion.   Feel free to follow either or both sites.

Jesse Eisenberg and the Creative Process

How do you prefer to write? In longhand, on paper? Or on the computer? Me, I prefer the computer. As a Southpaw, I find I type far faster than I can write as my brain spews out ideas. One downside is that I feel sometimes like I might edit too quickly, losing initial thoughts.

In a recent interview and book signing with actor and first time author Jesse Eisenberg, he said he finds writing on the computer more distracting than all the outdoors. I agree that it is so easy to get lost in that internet rabbit hole, jumping from one link to another.

Eisenberg, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Bill Gates in The Social Network, was in person funny, clever, fast, and felt like he was in constant motion, even when sitting. He was engaging during his interview with Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune, and during his post-talk book signings chatted and joked with everyone.

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He did a hilarious, spot-on reading from his new book Bream Gives me The Hiccups.  Once Eisenberg creates a character, he lets him or her take over the writing.  He learned from acting that “there are no paint by numbers in theater”. He also said that all characters are dealing with an internal issue.

Though I often have to write for business—copy, blog posts, presentations, sometimes I find it difficult to find the time or inspiration for my personal creative endeavors. I find it intriguing to hear about others’ writing process: where they get their ideas, how they manage their projects and creativity.

Eisenberg said to write about what you are interested in, even if it might be obscure. And Caro agreed, saying that when you are trying to write for the reader alone, you will feel it in the product.

As for his transformation from actor to author (he has written plays before), Eisenberg said “I found I was fortuitous finding my path, being rejected from following someone else’s path.” A lesson for us all, I think.

A hope that we can all find our creativity in 2016—whether in writing, photography, art, music, business, decorating, or sports.

The journey continues.

C

How far will you stretch?

Why are we so afraid of our career dreams coming true? Looking for a new job? Trying a new business venture? Expanding our hobby into extra income?

At work, we are so swamped with the tasks at hand, the minutia, that it can be hard to think beyond the current project we have in front of us.  But if we don’t take the time to hope ,to plan, to actively think about where we want to be in the future–what and where we consciously want to be–the next time we look up to take a breath….5, 10, 15 years later…..we will still be working on a similar project. Frustrated, bored, tired, limping slowly but busily through the day. Satisfied? I don’t think so.

Last week on the TV cooking contest show Chopped I heard a young chef, right before she knew she won, say something like “your dreams should be so big they scare you, or they aren’t big enough.”  Are you willing to stretch this far? It made me think, that is for sure.

If we risk to take the stretch, we make ourselves vulnerable for criticism, debate, failure, which can be fearful. But, we also open ourselves to expressing ourselves, finding our voice, freedom, happiness, and hopefully yes–financial rewards.

Maybe you can’t plan an entire life or career change now.  So take tiny steps–join a networking group, take a class, find a mentor, research a new career, make a short-term list of goals to accomplish in the next 6 months. Hopefully in that time you can make some smaller tweaks in your job which will give yourself the confidence to keep moving ahead.

The journey continues.

C

Ad Blocking–It’s here. It’s growing. It’s going to impact your business.

THE trending marketing buzzwords for the 4th quarter 2015 right now are “ad blocking”. For the uninitiated, ad blocking programs allow the user to block ads from websites. Especially on mobile devices, this helps to decrease download times and page crashes.

Ad blocking is not a new phenomenon, since Google Chrome and other browsers have offered it for several years on the desktop. But, it has been pushed to the forefront by Apple’s iOS9.0 update. This update gives the tools to allow for creation of apps that can block ads on mobile devices.

Many recent articles—from Smartinsights to Google’s own data in The Verge—report that more people are using their mobile devices than desktops to search the internet/read their emails/spend their free time.

PageFair, with Adobe, estimates that in the US alone, blocked revenue is 2015 is estimated to be $10.7B. Ad blocking is currently more prevalent in Europe, but the global cost of ad blocking in 2016 is estimated at $41.4B.

This will have a huge impact on multi-media publishers. Many have an increasing portion of their revenue coming from on-line advertisements, which many of their targets will now not see.

Talking to clients, many are unaware of ad blocking or its impact on their bottom line. Some naively think this might not impact their revenue—it most certainly will impact all of them.

After sharing some statistics, the panic sets in. What can we do? How can we keep some of this lost revenue?

–For the current time, increasing “sponsored content” in lieu of ads can recuperate some lost revenue. So far, “sponsored content” is not being blocked. I have already seen editors formerly against sponsored content or native advertising quickly realize this is an option they will accept in today’s competitive market.

–Advertisers can also create “non intrusive” ads that will not be blocked. Whether the reader will respond to them as much as current ads has yet to be determined.

–Sales can try to convert some online ad revenue to other product streams—white papers with pay-per-lead, online and in-person events, research, magazine advertising.

–I think we will start to receive more “sponsored” emails with advertising content. This may work in the short-term, but I think it will fatigue already extremely overused email lists. If you do this, be sure to segment your list carefully to avoid overuse.  Here is a screen shot of one such ad I received today from Vanity Fair: Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.39.35 PM
Feel free to share any of your ideas or plans here.I am sure that there will be many other innovative ideas to block ads and to circumvent these ad blocking on mobile devices.

The journey continues.

C

Heath Ceramics Factory to My Table

My sister and I spent a recent Saturday morning visiting Heath Ceramics in Sausalito,CA. Made in the US since Heath Ceramics was founded in 1948, I was fascinated to learn the history of the lovely, timeless ceramics created here.

Heath Ceramics

During a factory tour, I was impressed with the obvious passion our tour guide had for the products. She carefully handled cups and vases mid-production as she explained the next manufacturing step. Some of the builders, creators,and glazers have worked there since the 1970’s, a sure sign of loyalty for Heath Ceramics.

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As a business owner, I appreciate how the vision of the founder Edith Heath lives on in the current business. Even with an ownership change in 2003, Heath Ceramics has products at the Smithsonian and other museums, classic styles. They recently took control of their product distribution, after being sold at a high- end retailers like Gump’s.

What lessons for success can a small consulting firm learn from factory tour of a ceramics firm? Many, it turns out–

  • Enduring aesthetics/ design while remaining contemporary
  • Product line transformation and expansion
  • Attention to detail
  • Loyal client base
  • Listening to the customer
  • Willingness to change
  • Staying true to your products/services
  • Changing distribution methods as needed
  • Ongoing quest for improve knowledge and practices

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I purchased a simple white serving bowl for myself (and a couple gifts for friends).  Timeless, useful, and a reminder to always strive for more in my business.

The journey continues.

C

The Creative Spark

I am sitting in our incredible five-star-award-winning ELA library writing. Looking around, there are 10,000’s of books, 100’s of magazines, DVD’s Blu rays, CD’s, computers, puzzles. No matter what your interests are from knights to nights, stars to traveling afar, football to decorating walls, baking to mentally escaping, you will find something to help you achieve your goals.

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When I am writing, or taking photographs, I often wonder if all the words have been written before, a frame shot just so. Looking at the myriad of items I can borrow from my library, I realize that while all the words may have been used– It has not been in the same order, with the same feeling and goals, as my writing. Or yours.

I write often for work. When I am struggling, sometimes with deadlines I know I have to keep typing until it is complete, other times I can pause (maybe walk the dogs) and this brief respite frees up those creative thoughts buried in my brain.

I keep an online folder of marketing emails I have received that look effective and a folder of direct mail pieces with response-driven copy I like. I skim through magazines—on topics I might only be marginally interested in– to see what other publications are doing to entice new readers and promote brand extensions. I read a variety of type of books, see films old and new.

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So that library time–or book store time for some of you–is not time wasted.   Or procrastination. Not always, anyways. It is “research”, filling that wellspring of imagination of ideas for some future marketing collateral, a report, a novel, a poem, a blog post.

The ELA librarian told me that they have 1,000,000+ annual checkouts.  So others are using the library for their release as well.

The journey continues.

C

Saying Thank You–and Meaning It

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is the time of year when we hear these words at the shops, in email, in person, in cards and gifts from our suppliers, our friends, our family. As a business owner, I think it is important that we remember to thank our customers when they engage with us. Not just once a year.

With the ease of online communications and the ability to set up automated messages, there are a plethora of simple ways and times we can thank our customers. Are you doing this with your customers?  Here are just a couple examples of when we can send thank you messages:

1. When someone signs up for a subscription, an event, makes a purchase, becomes a website member, etc, send them an immediate thank you email or pop up message.

Food52 thank you

The above thank-you for signing up for an e-newsletter discusses topics covered, social media where you can find information, and includes a coupon for additional purchased.  The one below for an online purchase also promotes other products and included a 10% off coupon.

Haymarket thank you email

2. Send a message when an already-placed order ships. The first email below was for placing an order.  The second was a notice that it had shipped.  Several companies I ordered from this holiday season sent multiple status emails, which I think personalizes the online ordering, as well as lets the customer know that the order is moving through the distribution channels.

Zazzle thank you email

Zazzle order shipping

3. A sample from Pure Wow!, and online enewsletter I receive, about changes in their website.

Pure Wow website changes

With overcrowded email in-boxes, think before you create–what is the reason for each message? All emails, including thank-you messages, should have a purpose.

If you choose to send out a last-minute holiday message, what are you promoting? Your company? Upcoming offerings? There is a cost to each email you send–so think before you send it.

And for you readers, thank YOU for reading my blog these past couple of months.  I encourage you to comment, like, share, and send me ideas to write about in 2015.

The journey continues.  C

How–and Why- You can Create Simple Re-engagement Marketing Efforts

How much does it cost to acquire a new customer? While this cost can very depending on the product or service you are selling, some online research includes claims that it can cost 5-7 times the amount to acquire a new customer as to retaining a current customer.  Instead of always reaching OUT to find new customers, there are most likely some unused pockets of customers on your database who you can try to re-engage.

For media companies, there are often current and previous customers that fall into a variety of data silos. Possibly housed on separate databases. This list can include customers from a variety of sources:

  • Current and inactive magazine subscribers
  • Enewsletter subscribers
  • Online and in-person event registrants
  • Research and white paper downloaders
  • Website members
  • App downloaders
  • Social media followers
  • Reprint buyers

Corporate databases are expensive to maintain. And aging. Companies are paying to maintain names they may not be currently using in any efforts. Mine these pockets, find some hidden gold as the cliche goes. These customers were interested in your company in the past. Can you tell what they purchased, when they last engaged? Do you have demographic information you can use as a carrot to send them an offer for a targeted campaign for a magazine, an event?

Here are a couple general ideas other B2B marketers have used to engage older names that you can try.  This first one shows an embedded message in a segment of an enewsletter.

Retail Leader

This was an actual “last issue alert” email for an enewsletter.

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Both of these efforts give the list owner an opportunity to see that there is a real person behind that email address.  Also, the link can be an great place to try and capture optional demographic data about the subscriber.

I think re-engagement going to be one of the hot marketing topics for the next 2-3 years, with overburdened inboxes, smaller workforces, and scattered attention spans. Marketers need to figure how we can keep our current customers active and re-engage with previous customers. I expect to write often about this, I think it is so critical to improving a business’ bottom line.

The journey continues.

C

P.S.  I will be expanding on this topic at  next week’s Midwest Circulation Association meeting, in Schaumburg IL.  Details for signing up found at  http://www.midwestcirc.org/

Reviewing your Online Customer Touch Points, Part 2 of 2

My recent blog post discussed how and why you should occasionally review the string of web pages and messages that your customers see when they take an action on your website such as purchasing, subscribing, registering for membership or an event, downloading a paper.

While you are creating the flowcharts in the previous post for each of the customer interactions, look at the follow up messages (if there are any) for tone/format/look. Are the messages consistent? Current? Are you promoting other products?

So often we work in our silos, this is the perfect time to work with other departments. Work together to define a common message/tone to promote your brand the same way. Lay out for each channel the timing and messages a customer will get going forward. You can see a sample layout in the attached tactics slide .

Going through this exercise may seem basic, but it can create more vibrant and interactive thank you messages and follow ups. Here is a perfect example of a revised thank-you page that promotes other brand-related products.  These messages are focused on someone taking an action on your website, so they are already vested in your brand.

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Here is another up-sell sample of ordering the digital edition with bonus material, once someone subscribes to the print:

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Keep your customers engaged with your products.  As our days become busier and information more fragmented, we rely on our go-to brands and websites for information.   Your customers do the same.

The journey continues.

C

No Tricks, 7 Ideas to Add to your Marketing Bag of Treats

Rather than post Part 2 of my blog about using customer touch points today, Halloween seems the perfect day to post a lucky 7 treats for improving your data quality and hopefully response rates to your marketing efforts. Part 2 of Touch Points will be posted next Tuesday.

While some of these seem logical, I am consistently amazed that clients seem to be more focused on emailing to the same lists over an over, or growing their database size, rather than also mine customers they already have.

  1. Do some targeted email efforts to un-engaged past customers on your database, to see if there is still a person attached to that email addresses. A simple click, a profile update, a contest are all efforts you can try, to see if people will re-engage.
  2. How many data silos do you have? Perhaps you incorporate them into one central database, or at least scrub them electronically to see what information you can add to your more used lists.
  3. Test your message, your format, your subject line, your colors used.
  4. On a upcoming offer, ask an additional non-required demographic question such as areas of interest at work, titles, hobbies. You might be surprised what people will tell you that you can use to develop new products, focus marketing to current ones.
  5. Tag and track the type of information that people are clicking on your website.
  6. Append missing demographics that sale is consistently asking for, from an outside source: Dun & Bradstreet, Fortune information, Hoovers, there are MANY list sources you can use.
  7. Hone your social media skills—which ones work best for your brands?

Stick one of more of these ideas into your bag of marketing tricks, to implement this year. No calories in any of them—and varying costs, which can result in a few new customers or improved sales.

The journey continues.

C