Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mea culpa...and other fancy ways of sying "I blew it"

If you click through and actually read my latest Silicon Veggie column you'll find a lovely comparison of me and a local vegan teenager who eagerly wanted to contribute to my column.

The teen emailed m out of the blue with lots to say about being a vegetarian and animal welfare. I sent back a list of questions and happily agreed to quote liberally from the ensuing response. Which I did. And then sent the link on to VeggieTeen...knowing I would make someone's day.

Except. Well, except I proved in one fell swoop that I may be a columnist, but I'm not a journalist. Here was the reply I received:

"Hey Elisa...actually I am a GIRL. You referred to me as a BOY. Yeah...bye."

And so I did.

Why? I mean I scoured over our email correspondence and at no time was gender mentioned or denoted.

I wondered whether anything about her writing style made me think of one gender or fact my S.O. teased me saying, "But don't you know all young vegetarians are female?" Had I been subtly influenced by the writings of Maureen Dowd and and Gail Collins and Michael Kinsley...talking about how males are always the ones who write and offer ideas and market their writings?

Actually no, something far more innocuous I think: I think my assumption was based solely on her first name, Ranjani. Yes, that name could go either way. But having worked with many Indians at my last couple of companies...I simply thought immediately of Ravi and Srini amongst the men I worked with, and Punitma and Archana amongst the women and assumed away based on that snap recall. So much for trusting our gut reactions, Mr. Gladwell.

Of course, when I really thought about it, I thought of my BlogHer Team mwmber, Purvi, a woman, and got even more annoyed with myself.

Anyway. I'm sorry. And the Santa Cruz edition will have all the correct pronouns.

But is my face red!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This month's Silicon Veggie column

Is online...a week early, actually.

Read about an impassioned teenage reader of Silicon Veggie here.

Welcome MarketingProfs readers

MarketingProfs has a nice weekly series where someone throws out a question, and the collective intelligence of MarketingProfs readers jump in and try to contribute their "know-how."

This week the question was about inexpensive ways to get the word our, especially for non-profits.

And a colleague, Andrea Learned, was kind enough to point to me as someone who blogs, and actually focuses on the non-profit world.

And once again the power and impact of MarketingProfs is clear, as I've received quite a few hits from it...far more than when I was mentioned on CNN in March I must say!

Blogs are a great option for non-profits, as long as they realize these few things:

1. There isn't much cost in technology (yay!) but you don't escape the human capital cost. Whether written by in-house resources or's the time you will pay for.

2. Blogs are not a magic pill that alleviate any need to make decisions about who you want to reach and what you want them to do. In other words: you may build it, but they may not come, or they may come, but not follow through and do what you hoped for. So first step: know what you want.

3. Blogs are not something you try in the short-term and then toss aside if you don't see immediate results (especially if you're really not clear on what results you were expecting!) It is a long-term commitment to your audience to create a blog. And it is still a bit of an experiment to try to get tangible ROI from a blog. Don't worry, you can always be like the many reputable, successful organizations who want blogs for the qualitative (not quantitative) results.

Blogs can be a great tool, but the value of any tool is greatly determined by how you wield it. Blogs are no different.

Ethical question for the day re: Using Google AdWords

Recently a woman on a Yahoo Group list with me posted a question: why did AdWords pop up when she did an ego-surf on her name. Did it mean someone specifically chose her name a an AdWord, or could it be contextual based on the results of such a search?

One person weighed in and said it could be contextual.

But I disagreed. I wrote in and said that this woman was somewhat known in this area for starting a couple of networking sites/lists, including one around using blogs for resumes. The ads that came up when searching her name were about social networking and ResumeBlogs.

It seemed to me that yes, some marketer figured that people searching this woman's name might have some likelihood of being interested in social networking etc. It never hurts to try a keyword and see if you get click-through.

True, if the keyword isn't immediately obviously relevant to your ad copy (And no, they're not using her name anywhere in their ad copy), and if the click-thru rate is also somewhat low, it may be the first keyword Google puts "on hold". But again, it costs you nothing to try.

Now the woman in question has a different take on it. She feels like this company is "eager to capitalize on my ideas, name and reputation. I should be flattered, I suppose. And they should be ashamed."

Strong words. And to be honest I can't find myself getting up in arms with her. I'm pretty easy to rile up, but this isn't doing it for me.

What do all y'all think?

Savvy marketing experiment?

Shameful exploitation?

Ethical question for the day re: Using Google AdWords

Recently a woman on a Yahho Group list with me posted a question: why did AdWords pop up when she did and ego-surf on her name. Did it mean someone specifically chose her name a an AdWord, or could it be contextual based on the results of such a search?

One person weighed in and said it could be contextual.

But I disagreed. I wrote in and said that this woman was somewhat known in this area for starting a couple of networking sites/lists, including one around using blogs for resumes. The ads that came up when searching her name were about social networking and ResumeBlogs.

It seemed to me that yes, some marketer figured that people searching this woman's name might have some likelihood of being interested in social networking etc. It never hurts to try a keyword and see if you get click-through.

True, if the keyword isn't immediately obviously relevant to your ad copy (And no, they're not using her name anywhere in their ad copy), and if the click-thru rate is also somewhat low, it may be the first keyword Google puts "on hold". But again, it costs you nothing to try.

Now the woman in question has a different take on it. She feels like this company is "eager to capitalize on my ideas, name and reputation. I should be flattered, I suppose. And they should be ashamed."

Strong words. And to be honest I can't find myself getting up in arms with her. I'm pretty easy to rile up, but this isn't doing it for me.

What do all y'all think?

Savvy marketing experiment.

Shameful exploitation?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Women don't like to compete?

Yet another NY Times article designed to alleviate any societal guilt about gender gaps. (If you recall the last one was about how women don't make it to executive boardrooms because they get bored and need more mental stimulation! )

This article states that men seem significantly more inclined to put themselves in competitive situations than women. Of course the stakes at risk in the little experiment was $1 vs. $.50, so perhaps not very analogous to the real world of Corporate America.

I actually don't have a problem if studies show that gender generally react differently to different situations. I don't have a problem appreciating that the majority tend to behave in predictable ways. This is true anyway you slice and dice society...that's how statistics work. There is always going to be something that the majority does or does not.

All I'm saying is let's not use statistics to marginalize, minimize or otherwise turn our backs on real-life exceptions to the rule. Let's not decide we don't have to worry about issues faced by the minority, no matter how significant that minority, simply because the behaviors/actions/goals of the majority let us off the hook. If you don't know any stories of real-live, flesh and blood, talented, ambitious, competitive, driven women hitting that glass ceiling, I'd be happy to tell you some.

Even if 99% of women were content to never make it past Manager or Director level...if one woman is swimming with the sharks and gets treated differently than men of equal or less ability/skill/knowledge/talent/name the quality here...that's still wrong. Doesn't matter what the other 99% are doing.

And there's just something self-satisfied about the tone of this article that wants us to pat ourselves on the back, pat the little ladies on the rump...and walk away.

Friday, May 20, 2005

IBM issues Corproate Blogging Guidelines

I guess recent events have motivated companies to go beyond Microsoft's infamous guidelines for company employees who blog: "be smart."

IBM's policies are making their way around and they seem reasonable, and frankly obvious, but always good to detail the obvious for the common-sense-impaired.

Some items of interest:

A big emphasis on:It's public, and it's forever.

A nice hat tip to the hat tip: "Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them."

And a rational approach to altering blog material: "Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so."

All in all not much to complain about, and as stated by Corporate Blogging Info, it's a good baseline for any company trying to construct their own guidelines

Cable losing ground to DSL...well, duh!

I still follow my old world...broadband...and am still waiting for my prediction to come true: that cable will eventually lose to the telcos, despite there being no reason on earth that they should.

No reason except they doggedly refuse to extricate themselves from the "we're such a hot monopoly we could kill your dog, and you would still want cable service" attitude.

And I'm not making that up: I know some folks who have been in cable since the glory days of the 70s, and tell many a chilling tale about the behavior of cable companies and their techs. Including a story about killing a customer's dog because it kept getting in the tech's way. (OK, I'm sure he didn't intend to kill the dog...just stun it a little.) Meanwhile, the cusotmer had been waiting so long for the service to be hooked up they let the guy finish before kicking him out of their house!

Anyway, cable still thinks they not only have the upper hand...they think they have the only hand. And they don't know their customers at all. Customer who are used to getting more and more stuff for less and less. Why cable thinks people will literally pay double for internet service is beyond me.

And despite the numbers telling the story of telcos catching up, cable is still living in a dream world where "advanced services" are in desperate demand.

Add to their arrogance the fact that cable has so overused standards as a blunt instrument to artificially lower their costs, without caring that it also stifles innovation and you've got no new ideas coming out of the cable world.

When I left the industry in early 2003 Comcast was already almost a year late with their "widespread VoIP trials" and they have not delivered yet. And when they do talk about rolling out such services they talk about charging nearly $50 a month for it! Why on earth would anyone buy that? Between Skype, free long distance on my cell, and a cheap local service for that emergency service I think I'm all set, thanks though.

When they lose, cable will have only themselves to blame.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blog Coaches suck! Need a Blog Coach?

Here is my little dry humor for the day.

ProBlogger, Darren points me toward a rant about the horrific proliferation of heinous charlatans known as Blog Coaches, written by JS Logan.

What's so funny? I mean, isn't he besmirching my good name with his blanket, unattributed criticism of those who dare to advise businesses about blogs?

Well, I just think it's kind of funny when the latter half of his post is all about why he would be a better blog consultant than those other guys out there.

He is using the classic straw man. Oooh, those evil blog coaches out there. Well, name one, why don't you?

I'm not saying there are no charlatans out there, there are in every industry, but the reputable marketing consultants I know who include blogging among their portfolio of services...whether it's a major part, or merely one of many, all seem to share Logan's philosophy.

How many times have you heard me repeat my mantra: "Blogs are a tool, a technology, not a revolution."? And if you followed this particular industry you'd hear other consultants say so too...Toby Bloomberg as one example.

Actually, I think some in the citizen's media crowd are definitely all about the hyperbole, but the business and marketing consulting types seem to be a little more conservative.

So, all I'm saying is show us the straw man, or just pitch your business on its strengths. The second half of Logan's post was strong enough, don't you think?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Phew! I am relieved...

The sharp Amy Gahran has an excellent post about how to present about blogs (and bag the stereotypes while you're at it.)

Since I often present to groups and companies about blogging (like this Wednesday for Stanford Publishing Courses) and write articles on the same (my next one being in a journal for insurance agents if you can believe it!) I read her post with trepidation. Would I discover that I was discussing blogs in a way that Amy would heap with scorn?

I am relieved to note that Amy and I are remarkably in synch.

And therefore I highly recommend you read her post.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Separate But Equal

Mary Hodder has written another post that has compelled me to do more than simply comment on her blog.

This time she is exploring the idea of diversity in conference speaker selection, and obviously as I've been working hard on putting BlogHer, this resonates with me. Indeed Mary herself is on the Advisory Board and is moderating a discussion, so it's probably in the back of her mind too.

Her first idea is one that will be met by severe push-back I'm sure: basically that if a conference features 90% white male speakers it should simply be honest and make sure the positioning of the conference's themes and associated messaging states that explicitly. For example: "addressing grand challenges from the perspective of *mostly* white men."

I won't be holding my breath to see that kind of language on any conference collateral any time soon.

But then Mary made reference to a discussion she had with one of the organizers of an event she had criticized in this way and reported this part of their exchange:

"He told me he'd read my post, and didn't understand why women complained about not having women speakers at conferences. He thought that women should just make their own conferences if they wanted to speak. I said in response, you mean, separate but equal? I think he got it, that this was a silly way to see things."

I'm not sure if the guy was implying that a conference would have to be women-focused to invite women speakers...that's a pretty bold, nay offensive, statement. Or perhaps he meant that if women wanted to see their numbers on the dais equal their representation in society, they'd have to do it themselves? Well, of course BlogHer is just the effort of a few women who wanted to put on the kind of conference they wanted to attend.

I've heard the following types of responses from men regarding this hot-button issue of male-dominated conference programs:

1. Women didn't submit (without quantifying how many of the speakers only were there because they submitted vs. being invited.)
2. These are male-dominated industries, so naturally the experts are all men.
3. The conference program is gender-neutral, so it doesn't matter that there's no diversity on the dais.
4. It's insulting to women to invite speakers just because they're women (as though people asking for more diversity were telling organizers to find any old woman to speak on topics they weren't qualified for.)
5. But mostly I hear this: if you're interested in the topic/program/sessions and the networking, you should come and give us your 4-figure conference fee dollars regardless of what our speaker make-up is.

And now's the time for all those who subscribe to the above to really reflect on how true it holds when the shoe is on the other foot. Because:

1. BlogHer is open to all. We've said it again and again.
2. Most of the sessions have absolutely nothing to do specifically with gender, but deal with technology, or professional interests or the very nature of blogging itself.
3. All of the women speakers and discussion leaders are respected leaders in their fields. Some of them may be unheard voices for many people, but many of them are among the most prominent voices today. You've just never seen so many of them in one place at one time before! And I know these women rock because we didn't ask for self-submissions specifically...we asked the community to recommend people, and we went on our own hunts.
3. Our conference fee is very affordable...$99 including service fee!

I have spent my life being the only woman in the room and being told, sometimes explicitly and sometimes tacitly, that I shouldn't have any problem with this. And most of the time I really didn't.

I'm hoping people check out the schedule for BlogHer, and our incredible roster of speakers...and feel exactly the same way!

That's what I'm really, truly hoping for.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

UPDATED: My first Professional Business Women's Conference

UPDATED: Below I mentioned one of the presenting duos talking about blogging for Fast Company, and I said I couldn't find their blog posts. I've got the link now.

I mostly went to the PBWC because I'm co-organizing a women's conference, BlogHer, and I've never actually attended one. I thought I'd get some sense of what works and what doesn't.

I'd say PWBC has a fundamentally different crowd. There were apparently somewhere between 4-5 thousand attendees, with huge contingents from companies like State Farm, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Guidant and more. The tech world didn't seem to be particularly well-represented...which knowing how much (heh!) tech companies seem to care about employee development and diversity doesn't surprise me much.

I found it pretty amusing that of all the booths in the exhibit hall the ones that got the most traffic were the ones selling purses, pajamas, jewelry etc. Oh, and books. Then again, and once again, there was no tech representation. NO one selling gadgets. No one selling software solutions that women could really use...from finances to organizational.

All those observations aside, I did actually take some notes I wanted to share:

Keynoter Safra Catz from Oracle was relatively good. None of the speakers were constrained, it seemed, from plugging their work or their company, so everything was about how much ass Oracle kicks know, if they do say so themselves. And she started out with a little too much emphasis on 2nd person imperative talk. You know, "you have to" do this, and "you need to" do that.

But she did provide insight into resistance to change and how to overcome it. I liked one line particularly:

"People will change technology just enough to do things the way they used to"

I then attended a sessions about the "Transparency Edge" given by the mother/daughter team of Barbara and Elizabeth Pagano. This was a definite "why", not "how" session. Making the case for transparency ...and one might say it made the case for executive blogging. Apparently this mother/daughter team actually blog themselves for Fast Company, but I only found that out when I ran into them later in the day and brought up blogging. (And I didn't find any posts from them on the home page, so they don't seem very active about it.) I wonder if they thought blogging was too "cutting edge" for this particular crowd? Seems to me if you're going to talk about "edge", you should be willing to go out on one! The interesting part of their presentation is how they walk the talk personally by using stories from their various adventuring as illustration for various points. Perhaps before I became blog-steeped I might have thought it seemed oddly self-aggrandizing, but in this blog era it served to make their contentions about transparency have more credibility.

UPDATE: Fast Company blogger Heath Row sent me a link to the archives for the week the Paganos guest-blogged on the Fast Company blog.

Malcolm Gladwell was one of the lunchtime keynoters, and his usual charming, amusing, interesting self.

I was most disappointed later in the day when the one session that seemed technologically-oriented happened...and had a really low attendance. It seems that anyone who was already technically adept figured it would be beneath their education level (which it probably would have been. but it also seems that the rest of the women who weren't exactly techno-geeks simply weren't that interested. Presenter Andrea Peiro (a man actually) may have spent a little too much time on online banking and bill payment, but otherwise he did a credible job of running down some major online initiatives that small businesses should explore, from basic web site advice to search engine marketing to where to find grassroots opportunities to promote yourself. Not a big crowd to take in basic, simple advice.

I'm not sure I need to attend this again, although I did buy a very cool watch in the exhibit hall :)

Women in business: a tougher row to hoe?

I saw Safra Catz, President at Oracle, give a keynote recently at the Professional Business Women's Conference. It wasn't a let-your-hair-down kind of speech, and it sounds like she got a little more relaxed at this smaller gathering reported on by the Merc [reg.req'd.]

The theme of "having to be better and work harder" comes up and according to the article "resonates" with the women in the room. And with me.

But let's be clear...I doubt it's just women who have to be better and work harder. I'm sure every African-American in a white-dominated environment feels the same. And so on and so forth...down the list of minorities in rarified places that have to be "role models" and "represent" their entire race, religion, gender. etc. etc.

The reason I think the gender issue continues to be such a compelling and important one is that women aren't even a minority! The gulf between their representation in the population and their representation in certain roles is wide. (With Carly gone, less than 2% of the Fortune 500 have a female CEO...meanwhile over 30% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are over 6'2", despite being represented in the population in only single digits...according to Malcolm Gladwell anyway.)

Speaking of Carly: I read with interest about her recent commencement speech at a North Carolina college.

I read about her experiences as a female sales person in a male-dominated environment and tried to imagine being introduced as the "token bimbo" or taking clients to lunch (lunch!) at a strip club. Then I tried to imagine taking some of male colleagues to a Chippendales performance to entertain a female customer. Only I couldn't really couldn't quite imagine it. How hostile were both those situations she found herself in? Pretty hostile. Yet she had no choice if she wanted to succeed. She could refuse to go, and be marginalized. She could protest, and be considered a harridan. Or she could do what she did...suck it up and shut up and go along. None of those options sound as good to me as people not putting her in the situations to begin with!

And speaking of Malcolm Gladwell, he spends quite a bit of time talking about "unconscious bias" and ways to overcome it. When it can truly be with the erection of screens to block symphony auditioners from symphony maestros...the gulf between the genders dramatically recedes...and in short order.

But you can't do that in the workplace, now can you? Or in academia, apparently, where a recent government report shows that enforcement of federal rules prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded academic programs is lax.

I don't know what the solution is exactly. I know that I don't understand when women object to well-meaning men deciding they're going to take a look at their behaviors and examine whether perhaps they really are operating with unconscious bias.

I'm all for it.

I wonder if somewhere the guy that called Fiorina their "token bimbo" is still around and reads about her remarks. And more interestingly: would he say to himself, "what a hyper-sensitive whiner" or "what was I thinking?"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Profile on Lip-sticking: Smart Woman Online (that's me!)

Thanks to Yvonne DiVita for featuring me, Worker Bees, BlogHer and HealthyConcerns in her weekly feature: Smart Women Online.

Yvonne asks the questions and you can let 'er rip. She's interested in every little thing you have to say...even what kind of flower you'd like to be. (Since I'm not a green thumb, that was a tough one for me!)


Bebe Neuwirth show extends, along with an extended Worker Bees discount

Well, the Bebe Neuwirth/Kurt Weill vehicle, Here Lies Jenny was due to close in a week, but due to popular demand it's been extended another month. It will play all through June.

The Worker Bees discount of $10 off every ticket for a Tues.-Thurs. performance will also extend.

This show has gotten not only an extension, but is garnering noticeably more coversion on search engine ads than many other shows I run programs for. This, despite the fact that many of those other shows also featured celebrities.

Why would that be?

It's gotta be word of mouth about the show driving people to search in the first place and then to buy.

There's official word of mouth, like the numerous good reviews that the show has earned.

And there's likely layman word of mouth to equal that.

It validates that we are still a society who looks to get referrals and recommendations before committing our hard-earned dollars. At one time I would have thought that it was the expense of the theatre tickets, which are 5 times the price of a movie ticket, that determined how much (or more accurately how little) celebrity alone was able to drive sales. But recent movie openings for star vehicles have proven that even a $10 ticket price is enough to make people be more discerning.

Anyway, I've got to figure out when I'm going to see Bebe.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Man, I'm busy

Can I just ask why this social media/Internet space seems to have so many events? Networking dinners, speakers, mini-conferences, seminars, webinars, presentations, book readings. You could seriously go to an event every night of the Elle's full calendar attests.

Last night it was a pre-pre-SuperNova dinner up in SF, which was packed with just the perfect number of people for the restaurant chosen.

What I love about this industry is that it's actually quite broad...everyone may be playing in the same Internet space, but the directions they're pursuing; the ideas they're fomenting; the applications they're developing; the services they're enabling...those run the gamut.

And it is, compared to every industry I've been in before (and this counts as my 6th as I see it) this is the most open.

We may bitch and whine about the A-List or about the MSM's fixation with a limited view of the blog community, or the lack of need for one more award nomination effort, but the truth is if you go to one of these events you are as likely to speak to a CEO as a VC as a developer as a PR person as a mini-celebrity. I do believe this crowd really believes that any person in the room could have the next fascinating idea.

Many of the BlogHer Team and Advisory Board members were there, and it was great to meet some of them face to face for the first time. Although as Charlene Li said, we felt like we should hug as though we were old friends! Actually Charlene had a good recap of last night's event here.

So why am I being, as Andy Lark might complain, a self-referential jerk talking about who I hung out with last night?

Two reasons:

1. Because there's no reasons other industries couldn't emulate the best parts of this industry. Open yourself up; level the playing field; take the newbie as seriously as the old least for 10 minutes.

2. Because if you're lucky enough to be able to expose yourself to such intellectually stimulating evening...bring someone with you, preferably someone young who needs to see education and learning in action.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Awww...cute little Mother's Day promotion from TiVo

TiVo gives new TiVo to every new mother at nation's busiest maternity ward, all Mother's Day weekend long.

Completely cheesy. Little relevance between product and promotion (I mean, giving them a TiVo just when they're likely to have less time to watch TV? Obvious ploy for PR.

And yet. And yet. Look at this picture. I have that little plush TiVo sitting on my TV myself. Who can resist plush TiVo and newborn baby? You cannot deny the dynamic duo's power!

Email Marketing Gone Bad

The other day I got an email that perfectly illustrates what can go wrong. How many of these mistakes have you made?

1. I received an email with an unknown restaurant name in the Subject line. One to which I had never been, let alone signed up on their mailing list. Once I opened the email it became clear that the same owners owned this unknown San Mateo restaurant and one of my favorite restaurants in San Jose. This still didn't answer the question of why I was getting an email from them. Later it dawned on me that I reserve at the restaurant via, and there is a question on whether you'd like to receive special offers etc. from the restaurant, and I probably checked "Yes." But that was way too much work for me to wrack my brain and figure it out. Are you telling me you couldn't split your list into those who signed up via Restaurant #1 and those who signed up via Restaurant #2 that is over 30 miles away? Lazy!

2. Perhaps the most egregious (and basic) mistake was the recipients of the Newsletter were cc'ed, not bcc'ed. All 842 of us! Yes, 841 people now have my email address. That. Is. Not. Good.

3. There was no opt-out or unsubscribe message at the bottom of the email. No message telling me why I was on their list, but more importantly, no message telling me how to get off the list. Pretty sure that violates the most basic rules of CAN-SPAM right there.

4. The 'Reply-To' email address was not operational. So, not only is there no unsub message at the bottom of the email, you can't reply and get yourself of the list either. You are essentially trapped on their list with no obvious escape route.

Here's the thing: the newsletter itself? Lovely, well-done...nice looking and chock full of truly interesting content. A recipe, some history, advice on choosing a tequila. The content itself was desirable. The execution of the email send wwas deplorable.

When their 'Reply-To' address didn't work, I sent an email to I outlined the mistakes they made, while complimenting the content. That email did not bounce. Nor did they bother to reply.

More bad form.

Yet I still ate there on Wednesday night...and told the Manager on duty my concerns. Who knows what good that did. But I tried.

It's sad to see a good business go down such a wrong path. Hopefully this will give them a fast education.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Is your blog your office? Or a quantifiable marketing tool?

The answer is both. But it's better to decide what your expectations are ahead of time.

I love this quote from Dave Winer that Susan Mernit featured yesterday:

"My weblog is my place of business."

I've heard Dave (and Doc, for that matter) on this topic before: you don't ask how you're getting a return on your office, your cell phone bill, your computer. These are costs of doing business, and you consider them fixed, and necessary. Taking it a step further, it's quite difficult to even quantify your return on tools which are specifically meant to generate leads and ultimately business: advertising, event sponsorship or exhibition, sending your CEO to speak on a panel.

When it comes to the online world there is something attractively quantifiable about it. You can track visitors to your site. You can, if you are so inclined, see where they came from, watch them travel through your site and observe whether they end up buying something or signing up for your newsletter or sending you a request for more information.

If you're running search engine ads, as opposed to newspaper ads, highway billboards or, God forbid, TV commercials, you get very specific data about how those ads are doing. To do the same with most other kinds of marketing you're talking about focus groups, surveys etc to calculate changes in brand awareness et al.

Blogs can have their feet in both buckets: fixed cost of doing business and quantifiable marketing channel.

And you'll be happier if you decide which you want yours to be.

Take Stonyfield Farms. They swear they are not looking for quantifiable marketing results from their blogs. The CEO feared they would lose touch with their core customer base and felt blogs were a way to keep Stonyfield feeling small and folksy, even as they grew. I don't see them offering yogurt offers in the blog. I don't see them running contests to develop a database...nothing like that. (I only personally subscribe to two of their blogs, though.) They are pleased with their blogs, though, and have even added a fifth since they started, but their satisfaction is based on the subjective, perhaps even anecdotal evidence that the blogs are a success.

But, let's look at the cautionary tale of the one blog client I have had that tried a blog for about 3 months and decided they weren't "getting their money's worth" out of it.

See, they wanted to be able to quantify their return on that blog, but they didn't want to offer any promotion to blog readers. So, no matter how many times I pointed out that the impact the blog was having on sales would remain opaque if they provided no trackable offer, they continued to want quantifiable sales results, without implementing anything that would allow it to be so.

Truth be told: I think blogs are excellent marketing tools, but no necessarily great sales tools. How is that different you ask? Well, blogs are conversations. And if I may be so crunchy-granola, blogs are about organically developing a relationship with your potential and existing clients. They're great for creating awareness, for giving people something to talk about, for building a positive image in the minds of your audience. It's about inching your way into someone's brain space, until you occupy a little slot there. GM blogging doesn't make me run out tomorrow and buy a car, but when I shop for a car, GM and Saturn are going to occupy a little space in my brain where they weren't before, because I appreciate their blog.

SO it's contradictory to say, "come in, read our blog, get to know us, spend time, let us invade your brain...BUT GO RIGHT NOW, AND BUY SOMETHING, RIGHT NOW...THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION...GO, GO, GO!!!"

People like to say that having a blog is going to become like having a web site: something you simply must do.

And then there will be the people saying that a web site should never just be a sunk should always be a tool on which you can quantify ROI. But what do you count as quantifiable?

Back to Dave's point. Sure, a computer is a part of doing business, but if you really wanted to, you could justify getting a faster, better computer because it would save time. The quantifier is time, not literally money. And you may not have an e-commerce web site, but you might decide the quantifier for your web site is rankings in the search engine.

Somewhere inside we make a decision about everything we spend money and time on: is it worth it?

And it's a pretty general rule that we always feel better about our investments of time, energy, money when the outcome meets our expectations. And as business people it is incumbent upon us tothink about our expectations before we implement something.

That's what we get paid for. Or in my case, that's what I get paid to make sure my clients do!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This month's Silicon Veggie column

If brevity truly is the soul of wit, then my Silicon Valley edition version of each month's article must be soulful indeed.

Here it is in all its 400-word glory: When Good Veggies Go Bad.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Introducing a new Worker Bees blog:

I am pleased to launch a new blog,, sponsored by is designed to be a public forum to share their stories, both good and bad, about health care, and a place where they can perhaps get accurate information about the often confusing maze that is the health care system.

My exclusive sponsor,, as signed on for more than just sponsoring my blog with a few ads and a banner...they've agreed to try to answer legal, regulatory and process questions submitted by my readers. That's taking their commitment to starting a real conversation about health care a step further in my opinion.

Now you can find a few key pieces of information over at the blog, like:

-What the blog is about
-What it means that it's sponsored
-What kind of questions we'll try to answer

If you've got a story about helth care and coverage...good or bad, remember...then feel free to email me.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Worker Bees blog roll.

The Full BlogHer Conference Agenda Is Published!

Cross-posted at Personal Blog too.

OK, big sigh of relief over here on my part, and I'm sure on partners Lisa and Jory's part too. We committed to post a full session schedule for BlogHer by May 1st, and we made our deadline.

You can see the new, full schedule here.

What you will see:

1. It's a rich full day. Sessions actually run from 8:30AM to 5:45PM.

2. There is a built-in networking segment toward the beginning of the day. I always find it a bit of a waste to simply have a networking function at the end. How much better to connect to people and get comfortable before you have to sit in a room and try to have interesting, interactive discussions! Of course, we're going to plan a no-host dinner for the night before, so we hope to meet a lot of people then too.

3. There are some full-group sessions at the beginning and end of the day, but the big chunk in the middle is split into 4 tracks. The 4th track is the one that's getting a lot of buzz, because it's our "Room of Your Own" track, a room that's been set aside and fully equipped, but will be open to attendees to schedule and use to create the session they really want to attend, but don't see on our schedule. We've already gotten some amazing ideas, as you can see, but I'm sure there are more floating around out there. There is one track that's definitely business-oriented...focusing on how blogging fits into your life as a business person, whether you're running a start-up, working for an enterprise, or in business for yourself. One track is geared toward more interactive discussions about identity and communication. And then there's a track that's got more of a focus on the journalistic side of blogging.

4. There are also some down to brass tacks technical training sessions...from beginning to advance levels. I'm really torn myself. I know I need to get more technically adept, but I hate to miss any of the discussions. Maybe I'll flit about from room to room like a hummingbird. Probably not the best way to learn, huh?

5. We have an awesome mix of well-known and lesser-known voices on the panels and in the sessions. We made a real effort to cull suggestions from our blog commenters and other people who emailed. We made a real effort to find people with diverse voices and experience. And I feel pretty gratified that the vast majority we asked to participate agreed immediately. There are still some open slots to fill, some of which we are in progress with, and are simply waiting for confirmations.

In a way it was tough to open yourself up and say, hey y'all tell us what you want. We got inundated with suggestions....and we got some people jumping to conclusions about what our conference was going to be and pre-flaming us for it. It was a LOT of sensory input, let me just put it that way.

But when all's said and done, this is going to be one day that rocks. I truly believe that just about any blogger is going to find a full day's worth of sessions that interest them...and that goes for men too.

Again, check it out.

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