Is IBM building a SPAM list using Jigsaw?

I had to share this email that I just received from IBM…


Dear John,

We are pleased to have found your business contact information on Jigsaw (, an online directory of business information. We think that your business is a valuable contributor to the technology industry, and we look forward to sharing valuable insights, information and offers with you that can help drive your business forward. There is nothing you have to do to take advantage of this opportunity. If for any reason you prefer that we not share information we think will be valuable to you and your business, you can also choose to opt out from IBM communications.

The IBM Marketing Team

You may also mail a written request to IBM at:
IBM DMC, 777 E . Wisconsin Ave., 31st Fl., Milwaukee, WI 53202


Now is it just me, or am I reading correctly that good folks at IBM Marketing have decided that a good way to build an email list is to pull it off a public directory and opt me in to more communications. I’ve read Todd Watson’s blog before, and I wonder if he would approve (Todd is the Social Media and Search Marketing Manager, IBM Software Group).

Part of me wants to think that IBM would not do such things, so I did trace the route on the link. It goes to a domain “” which is either IBM or a person involved in copyright infringement. The domain is registered to ClickMail Marketing of Foster City, California.

In any case, I wanted to post and hopefully hear back from either IBM or ClickMail clarifying their business practices.

April 9, 2010 at 9:34 am 1 comment

Brand Loyalty and Domain Names

I just finished reading an interesting post about “building an army of brand loyalists” on the CityMax Blog, posted by  Grasshopper’s Ambassador of Buzz, Jonathan Kay. The post got me to thinking about the power of a domain name in building that buzz that Jonathan (and Grasshopper) is famous for (click here to read their coming out party and one if my favourite examples of buzz building).

For those that don’t know Grasshopper, they are the group that sent 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to key influencers across North America. They are also the ones who still make my hair stand up every time I watch their video about Entrepreneurs Changing the World.

A large part of the value of a generic domain name comes from the emotion or understanding that it conveys to your audience. Over at, people instantly get that which we do: we do golf tee times. But what about Grasshopper? They don’t sell grasshoppers. Yet still, as a generic domain name, it is a very powerful.

I wonder, would Grasshopper have the brand loyalists they do were they still called GotVMail? I mean, they still could listen to their customers, add value, and the rest of the points made by Jonathan, but would they still have as many loyal followers? Personally, I don’t think they would have.

Unfortunately, branding of this sort is one of those things that can’t happen in a vacuum and use normal scientific methodology (two identical companies, each executing the same strategies with the same product lines, and the same principles driving the company). I guess this is one of those philosophical chicken-and-egg type questions. What came first: brand loyalty or the domain recognition?

I think one of the points that Jonathan made is very important and it relates back to what we are doing at Jonathan wrote:

“…The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.”

At, we have been promoting many of our small businesses to media and to other customers (and we will be doing even more so in the coming months). We believe that “every website tells a story” and what makes the story interesting is not the website itself or the website builder technology driving the website, but what the individual entrepreneur was able to accomplish with the tools. One such good example of this was the “Homepreneur of the Year” award that handed out last year to Marco Barberini. Marco’s story is inspiring to other entrepreneurs.

So what do you think? Would Grasshopper have achieved brand loyalty under the name GotVMail?

March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm 1 comment

Happy New Year! Now back to blogging about marketing, entrepreneurship, domains, and life in general

My how time flies when you are having fun! I can’t believe that this small business blog was starting to go the way of so many abandoned blogs, having not written anything in more than 8 months. So this post is a little bit of a catch all catch up.

I stopped writing those 8 months ago after accepting a position within to bring ideas and passion into the 10 year old company and join on for what was promising to be a most “excellent adventure” (to badly paraphrase Keanu Reeves) — another guy from whom you haven’t heard anything intelligible from in awhile.

Officially, the job title on the business card reads “VP Marketing”, but in reality it might read “Entrepreneur-in-residence-and-the-guy-who-helps-coach-the-marketing-and-sales-teams-about-marketing-sales-pr-domaining-ppc-seo-and-other-hats-as-required”… But that might not have fit on the business card.

I am still involved in other startups of course., my golf tee times and reservations company, is still going and growing well. was sold off. Other ventures are percolating slowly. In fact, it is mandated at CityMax that all employees must also be entrepreneurs.

Painted Picture and Vision for Painted Picture ... It is worth a read.

CityMax, after all, is trying to inspire the dreams of more than one million entrepreneurs through its small business website software (read the CityMax Painted Picture here) … And by being entrepreneurs ourselves, we can better understand and help customers (while seeing Blue Ocean opportunities as they arise).

So why am I back blogging again after such a long hiatus? It is a new year that is full of new possibilities… And I thought it would be such a shame to let all of this pass unrecorded.

To everyone in business, cheers to a prosperous and rewarding decade ahead.


January 14, 2010 at 10:27 am 1 comment

The Real Twitter, Courtesy of Guy Kawasaki

I had the good fortune of being invited to attend an EO Vancouver dinner and presentation tonight, featuring Guy Kawasaki (thanks to Dean Gagnon of CityMax for the invite). I had never heard him speak before, but I have been reading his thoughts now for many years and have been reading his latest book, “Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition, off-and-on since Christmas.  I do maintain that he is one of the most influential marketing geniuses of the technology world.

He gave the audience a choice tonight: his standard stump speech, open Q&A, or his rundown on Twitter. The audience voted for doors 2 and 3, and what transpired was a very insightful 2.5 hours of “everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-Twitter-but-were-afraid-to-ask” discourse and conversation (mostly about Twitter).

And as noted from in this post here about my thoughts on the Northern Voice 2009 conference, while I was starting to see the value in Twitter, I didn’t truly see its power as a marketing vehicle until tonight. And while I can see a lot of growing pains erupting over the coming months and years about what the medium can and cannot be used for, its powers are there for all to see. And it is not just because @GuyKawasaki has 97,000 followers [he did self-proclaim himself to be the “Tiger Woods of Twitter” and the fact that he has 21,407 tweets to his credit (approximate 50 per day if you work out the average since he started Twittering)].

Twitter is powerful in that it provides a clear opportunity to spread a marketing message en masse in some instances, while in others, it is one of the purest forms of one-to-one marketing ever to be invented. Person A tweets “I like green apples”. Company A responds “Well what do you know, we sell green apples”.

The marketing message is simple and direct. But then it grows.

Person A replies back to Company A (and to the 1,000 followers of Person A), “I tried your green apples and they were delicious. How about red apples?” Pretty soon, through retweets, engagement, and brand fulfillment, there are a whole lot of apples being promoted [and no… I didn’t intentionally try to create a blog post that would get Guy Kawasaki and Apple mentioned in the same paragraph to boost my SEO].

That may not be the best example, but the possibilities are endless, and whether you are pitching apples or golf courses, the possibilities could be very fruitful.

April 1, 2009 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

The science of marketing

Before I started typing, I checked the Category as “rambling” as I don’t know where this post is going, but I was thinking while driving home this evening (always a dangerous prospect). My conclusion: marketing is no longer an art. Marketing is now a science.

Back when I was at UBC, I obtained a Bachelor’s of Arts (English & Art History). And while marketing was not even on my radar at that point, I never considered myself a man of science. I mean, I always enjoyed Science Fair projects, but I really was not a fan of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. Math was something I dreaded going to. The benefits of Science at UBC, was the 432 and some of the beer gardens.

When I got into marketing, I was focused on the copy writing, communications, branding, programs, and the like. I have been calling it “extroverted marketing” now for several years… though this is mostly to differentiate it from the “introverted marketing” that I was doing over the past 5+ years. Introverted marketing is the product marketing, market requirements, technical specifications, product road maps, and the like.

In conversations with my father-in-law (an Engineer), marketing has always been second fiddle to a man of science. We were the ones that wrote the “spontaneous quotes” to feed the executive team. Science was what made the world go round. But at some point in the past few years, marketing has become a science. I don’t know the exact moment it tipped, but it has.

This really hit home when I was reading a very good post from ClickEquations called “The Economics of Quality Score”. In this article Craig Danuloff wrote:

So What Is Quality Score Worth?
Knowing this is how cost-per-click is calculated, we’re able to determine the specific impact of any quality score on your cost-per-click.

And therefore the exact cost or savings from any single-digit increase or decrease in your quality score.

Yes that’s right – we can tell you the specific change in your CPC that is due to the quality score you’re getting for each of your keywords.

For example, your QS=10 keywords are enjoying a 30% CPC discount as compared to if they were QS=7 and in the same position. And your QS=4 keywords are paying a whopping 75% premium for their position.

This excerpt was followed by a very good analysis of the importance of quality score and how it can dramatically impact your paid search marketing activities. Check our the piece for sure…

But here I was, a self-professed math-o-phobe, reading with interest the statistical analysis of quality score. This is, of course, on top of the bi-weekly Marketing Experiments webinars on landing page optimization. More science.

Every day, I am pondering the stats and metrics of my assorted paid search campaigns. What gives?

You see. Marketing has changed. It is no longer an art. It is a science.

What does that mean to the world at large? Well perhaps the next marketing recruits will no longer be coming out of the art schools. Perhaps agencies should be scouring the Physics and Math departments of university campuses. I don’t know… maybe they already are?

Years ago, I was brought back to UBC by the Arts Undergraduate Society to talk to 1st and 2nd year students in a session called “Beyond the BA”. The focus was on what a person could do with an Arts Degree. Of the other panelists, I was the only one to go out and get a ‘real’ job. The rest had gone on to a technical program (BCIT), onto Education [when in doubt, teach], or onto Law.

The advice I had for the students at the time was that it was OK to go out and learn business on the job. Use your BA as an opportunity to learn how to learn, how to communicate, and how to synthesize. These traits would be useful wherever life takes you, and at the time this took me into the marketing of software.

But in hindsight, seeing at where marketing is at presently, perhaps the advice I should have given was this. If you want to be a good marketer, forget about studying English and Art History as yours truly did. Go out and look at the hard sciences and learn to do research. Think about the math programs so that you could discover the next formula for optimization. Be a scientist. And with it, you will become a better artist.

March 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

What to look for when buying a domain name

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:


{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.

The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “” does not communicate this. does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.

There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture,, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.



Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Vancity Savings – an example of great customer service

I had a great customer service experience at Vancity Savings, the credit union I deal with. And as they say, when you have bad customer service you tell 10 people, and when you have a good experience, you tell 1. Well I think that is wrong, so I am telling the world.

I was doing a wire transfer out today from an account that, in its classification as a “high interest savings account”, required that a $5 fee be imposed should I withdraw funds while interacting with a teller. It sounds like one of those rules that a bureaucrat makes up, though I assume it had some thought put into it.

Anyhow, after I said “that’s fine” and was more than willing to pay the fee, the teller offered this up, “How about I log out of my terminal, log onto our website, and then you could transfer funds from this account, into another one of your accounts. From here, we will do the wire transfer out of your other account, saving you the $5 fee?”

Pardon? What happened to the concept that all banks are evil, money-hungry, and only interested in their bottom line?

Well maybe they are still interested in the latter point, but the empowerment of the frontline staff to suggest things like this would generate way more revenue for them than a measley $5 fee. After all, not only do I do a lot of business them, but with good service, I will tell someone else. And that is exactly what I am doing.

Kudos to Vancity and the staff in Maple Ridge. And thank you.

March 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm 3 comments

Personalization in Email

I just read some interesting observations by Justin Premick over at AWeber with regards to personalization and email. It made me recall a story from several years ago (as in 10+)  when I was working for a banking automation campaign that was focusing on helping banks leverage 1-to-1 marketing and CRM to focus on the most profitable customers in a bank.

This could be an urban legend, but this is how I remember it:

A junior employee at BankBoston was using mail merge software to send messages to their most 1000 most profitable customers… as in people with a very high net worth. As a placeholder on the mail merge instead of “Dear {!firstname}”, he used the placeholder of “Dear {Rich_bastard}.

And yes, he lost his job when the 1000 most valued clients received the communciation with exactly that in the personalization field.

February 27, 2009 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Advertising Golf on FaceBook

Well I finally succumbed to the masses. I joined Facebook. Not as in the sense that everyone could ‘poke’ me or add me as a friend (I am still a holdout on that side of the ledger), but in the sense of that I am now starting to advertise tee times using FaceBook’s contextual ads for my venture.

First impressions (3 days in)? I expected to receive poor results, but I didn’t think it would be that poor. Here are some details:

  • Averaging 3800 impressions per day
  • Affinity targeted to those people who like “Golf”, “Golfing”, “Playing Golf”, “Vacations”, etc.
  • Geo-targeted to people from whom I receive a large percentage of web traffic for golf trips

The results:

  • CTR = 0.00%
  • Clicks = 0

The good news:

  • Ad Spend:  $0.00

I mean, I have heard that Facebook converts poorly and that the latest eye tracking is showing an increasing amount of banner blindness [one would expect that the results are higher for really sticky websites that people interact with on a daily basis like FaceBook], but I would have thought that I might have gotten at least one accidental click or something. But nope. Nada. Thank goodness for PPC.

With regards to Facebook’s business model, I am sure that monetization through advertising is not a sustainable strategy. And with Facebook expected to have a negative cash flow of $150 million for this next year, one has to hope (for all those addicted to their community), that they could figure out how to capitalize on the traffic, and more importantly, the knowledge of the “who”, the “what”, the “when”, and the “why”.

What are your thoughts? Will social network advertising ever work? Or should Facebook and others just hurry it up and get on with other business models?

I heard someone compare Facebook to broadcast television a while back [I don’t remember who] with the arguement that if NBC, ABC, et al could monetize the eyeballs with advertisements, why can’t Facebook. I don’t buy it. My interpretation: NBC and ABC are now fighting to prevent people from skipping over  the ads with Tivo and other PVRs, injecting commercials into programming and finding other ways to monetize.

Anyhow… my thoughts for the day

February 27, 2009 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

5 Things I learned about Blogging, Twitter, Social Media, and Myself at Northern Voice 2009

So here is the real post… the post that shows that I showed up at the event and not just for the keynote. Here are 5 things that I learned or observed at Northern Voice 2009, the social media and blogging event that occurred in Vancouver this past weekend.

  1. If the big one finally hits Vancouver, or more precisely, if the big one hits Vancouver at the precise moment a social media conference was occurring and the entire room was buried in rubble for thousands of years, future generations would conclude that Apple was the dominant computing platform of the generation. I mean, it was almost comical how everyone (except yours truly) was embracing Apple as their sword. Myself, I was toting around my beefy Dell Inspiron1720. Sure it is bright red and proudly sports an “I am a PC” sticker, but I must admit I had a bit of device envy in watching the Apple army wield their weapons. Part of me is left wondering if Stewart Butterfield’s keynote about identity (and by extension individuality) was actually speaking about this group. “My mac is a symbol of my individuality… and I am not like the other 100 people in this room… we just have the same tastes.”  … So what did I learn for point number one? I learned that if the blogger and social media artist is also the maven and predictor of what is to come, then methinks that Apple’s resurgence is only just beginning.
  2. Speaking of Apple and geekiness. I probably saw one of the geekiest displays that I had seen in a long time. Two attendees having a “sword fight” with their tripped out iPhones, complete with the requisite StarWars’ lightsaber sound effects. Me and my Blackberry once again had device envy. I learned that there is a big difference between a social media conference, and any of the enterprise software or traditional marketing conferences that I attended in recent years.
  3. I learned that an “unconference”, though unconventional, can be unnerving for many… or at least that was my impression for the first half of the day. Up until about mid-afternoon on Friday, I thought that the un-conference format in which discussion was encouraged would result in all sorts of insightful back-and-forth discussions, witty comments, etc. I was surprised that many in the room were just sitting silently staring into their screens while a few of us in the room engaged the presenter with questions and rebuttles. It wasn’t until I was shoulder-surfing while waiting for one session to begin that I learned why everyone was so quiet. All the real conversations were occurring on Twitter. And it wasn’t until that very moment that I saw that Twitter actually had some use [see point 4 below].  As a Twitter newbie, I had never heard of TweetDeck nor seen it in use.  But seeing all the comments back and forth as the presenter/facilitator worked the room, made me realize how much things have changed. You see, I am on that cusp of being old and being intertwined with technology. I attended a conference last year when the presenter made the point that today’s teenager and twenty-something was able to multi-task in ways that I will never know. Here was such an example in all its glory. It was almost like the whole room was passing notes back and forth giggling at inside jokes. I guess you can say that “social media” is redefining what it means to be social.
  4. I almost learned that Twitter has some value. I wouldn’t say mass value, but I can see 200+ people Twittering about a single conference and ideas must see the value in there somewhere. One of my reasons for attending Northern Voice 2009 was to get a better handle on Twitter and its applicability into the world of marketing and business. I mean, I am creating Twitter accounts for each of my ventures (though not yet for myself), but I really didn’t have a reason to do this… I just felt that I should. What the room was doing, when the presenter was talking and I was synthesizing, was that the collective was sharing real-time thoughts and observations, learning not just from the presenter, but from each other. I could see utility for Twitter in classrooms where people are debating the arguments of a professor as they are made. It is almost communal note taking if you will. Part of me, however, can’t get over the feeling that twittering your thoughts to the collective while participating in such a forum is kind of like going to a movie and sitting next to that person who voices more to themselves, though within earshot of others, all those obvious points of the movie, “Hey that song is Elvis”, “Oh all that garbage was collected by Wall-E. He must have been there for a long time.” Perhaps I am just being selfish (and somewhat unavoidably competitive), but I have always viewed my personal thoughts as my competitive advantage.
  5. There are a lot of smart people in Vancouver and a lot of people who have a lot of great ideas. People who impressed me and I would like to do coffee with…
  • Ian Capstick ( – Ian led one of the more engaging discussions of the day asking the question (“Did Obama really use social media to win?”). Ian seems to have done a lot already, appears quite plugged into the machinations of the Canadian political/social media scene [if one exists]. My contribution to the discussion was the observation that social media was merely an extension of his brand mantra of “Change”. Everything Obama did was about “change”. Heck, he is representative of the very word himself. And all that is social media (blogs, Flickr, Twitter, groups, SMS), this is just an extension of this “change”. As a somewhat related aside, I still maintain that there is an incredible opportunity for politicians to engage their constituents in “direct democracy” via SMS and Text Messaging. In fact, this is one of the verticals that we will be pursuing with
  • I also ran into Jason Landry with whom I worked briefly back around the year 2000 at Maximizer (I am glad he recognized me… I suck at faces). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to connect with Derek Miller (whom Jason mentioned was also there). I also worked with Derek at Maximizer, and I can most assuredly say that Derek’s blog PenMachine was the first blog I ever read, and that was – I think – before I ever heard the word “blog” ever being said. It would have been good to see Derek, and wish him well. I have been very fortunate to not have many people I know be diagnosed with Cancer. And while I haven’t spoken with him in many, many years, I have been following his battle via his site now for the past 2 years. Keep up the good fight Derek.
  • Dave Olsen ( – I attended this unconference session by accident sort of. I was chatting with some of the attendees after the conclusion of Chris Heuer’s “Death of Advertising” talk [ed. note: meh… ], and then in walked this odd looking chap: floral shirt, a tickle trunk, smokey-grey fedora, and a smile that said that he knew the next 30 minutes was going to be fun. I asked those next to me what this session was about. They said, “wait and see”, and I am glad I did. Dave gave one of the more enjoyable presentations (“Letters from Russia”) that I have seen in a long time. Summarize it? I don’t think I can, and even if I tried, it wouldn’t do it justice.

Well that about sums up the event. There was definitely a lot going on, and I already look forward to next year’s event. Who knows, by that time, maybe I will be fully up to speed on Twitter, its use, and the appropriate vernacular to make myself fit it… as long as I have an Apple by that time.

February 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm 8 comments

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