Posts filed under ‘Events & Networking’

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

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 (www.MediaStyle.ca) – 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 Texts.com.
  • 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 (www.UncleWeed.com) – 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

Clarifying your value proposition… and your elevator pitch

Forty-seven minutes. That is how long it took me to drive home from Downtown Vancouver to back here in Maple Ridge. Through the fog every mile of the journey… that is until I got to my front door.

You see, I live out here on the edge of a Mountain, slightly elevated above a very scenic commuter community. For those who are not local and would not know, there is a low pressure inversion blanketing the Lower Mainland. Our home is above it. When people ask me why I live out here, I often have standard answers: more affordable housing, a small-town feel, wider parking spaces [which is great for small children]. However, I now have another answer to give.

“Living in the suburb provides you with more opportunity to clarify your value proposition, practice your elevator pitch, and come out of the fog.”

You see… I had one of those days of meetings and networking. I met a former colleague for lunch to catch up and talk about the latest business projects, what’s new, what’s different and how we are going to change the world. A quick hop into Starbucks [London Fog Latte… it seemed appropriate] to work on a business plan that I was preparing for the late afternoon’s First Round Capital’s Office Hours. Then a meeting with a business partner to discuss development plans on one of my ventures (TeeTimes.net). Followed by the aforementioned Office Hours [I pitched an angle of Texts.com, not the business plan I was preparing earlier]. Followed by a quick dinner (responding to a day’s worth of emails while eating). Followed by networking at the Vancouver Entrepreneur’s Meetup. Followed by a late night coffee with a few other entrepreneurs and genuinely nice people that I met tonight (here, here, and here). And then the drive home.

All day long, I practiced my elevator pitch (or on a day like today I should say, “pitches”). And all day long I listened to others explain their business models and communicate their value propositions. Some were well done, and others like the presenter from the Investor’s Group who must have misread the 30 second pitch guidelines as 3 minutes… not so much.

But the drive home provided me with 47 minutes to rehearse my pitch and think about what resonated with my day’s companions, and what left people in a fog. Well actually it was only 45 minutes. The first 2 minutes were spent listening to the radio to hear that the Canucks blew another game.

So here is what I learned from tonight:

  1. Texts.com –  One of the things that I like about good quality generic domain names, especially when it is your company’s name, is that it leads your audience into your pitch before you open your mouth. At the Entrepreneur’s Meetup on my name tag, I scribbled “John” and beneath it I wrote “Texts.com“.  From here, depending on the audience, I could adjust my pitch to one of the following:
  • Texts.com provides international text messaging and SMS Marketing services. With our international text messaging service, we save money for those who wish to send an SMS message internationally. Rather than paying your standard carrier a message rate that reaches as high as  $0.50 per message, we can deliver a text message to your overseas friend or family for as low as $0.10 per message. In other words, we simplify international text messaging.” … or…
  • Texts.com provides international text messaging and SMS Marketing services. Our SMS marketing services focus on the smaller local merchant. A typical short code that is required for mobile marketing campaigns costs anywhere from $15k to $30k per year and takes 12 weeks to set up. This is not practical for a small business. Likewise, a merchant could lease a shared short code, and while this is more affordable, if a person unsubscribes from a campaign that happened to be on the same network, you lose that customer. Instead, we are implementing technology to let a person “Call-to-Subscribe” to a mobile marketing campaign at rates that are much more affordable than the cheapest shared short codes. Small businesses now have an affordable option to participate in mobile marketing.”

So in hindsight (and one 45 minute drive later), how did I do? I think it would have been better to simply lead with a single message around local SMS Marketing. Next time I would start off with the key value proposition of our SMS marketing and how we differ from existing systems. Full stop.

  1. TeeTimes.net – A few times tonight I had the opportunity to talk about another one of my ventures, TeeTimes.net. Once again, the domain name says a lot about the business. A person who has any sort of understanding about golf, would know that this business has to do something about TeeTimes and they would probably even conclude that it is a place for online golf reservations. So how did I do?
  • “We operate a web-based golf reservations business that allows golfers to book their tee times online for more than 1,000 golf courses across North America.”

People got this. They understood what we did. It was simple. In some instances, I delved deeper into the business model and our execution strategy that made us unique, but for the most part, I stopped it after the first sentence. In other words, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, “You had me at Hello”.

What other messages did I hear tonight that I liked?

  • Elizabeth Southall of PowerhouseCopy (a direct response copywriter) — “I specialize in direct response copywriting for the web that helps you convert more of your visitors into paying customers.” Cool. Sounds good. I could use that.
  • Tom Gibson of OutsideIncredible (a product marketing consultant) — “I’m a product value specialist. I help companies make their products and services resonate instantly with buyers.” He even had that exact pitch written on his business card. Nice touch.
  • Derek Bell of Tynt“We enable people to Graffitti  up the web, sharing their thoughts via the social web”… At least I think that was it. In any case, I got it right away… but perhaps this is just because I have always been a fan of the website PostIt note model since I came across Third Voice many, many years ago.

For everyone else that I met tonight… I look forward to seeing you again real soon.

John

January 16, 2009 at 2:35 am 1 comment

Update on FRC Office Hours in Vancouver

I wrote below about the First Round Capital’s Office Hours event that is being held later today (Thursday, Jan 15) at the Agro Cafe. It was initially reported that they were encouraging “Come one, come all” to attend and BS/pitch your concept/solicit advice.

They said that there was no need to RSVP. I was a little suspicious at this, not at the cordial invite, but at whether the little cafe could accommodate the hordes that might descend. After all, if 6s Marketing filled the Yaletown Brew Pub with 250 people at the recently reborn Ideas on Tap, then surely this small and “deliciously” scrumptious cafe [pun fully intended] would be bursting at the seams. It also looks like the guys at Bootup Labs were beating the drums to get people out.

I did receive this email from Kent Goldman of FRC this evening:

All-

I wanted to give you all a heads-up that the 4:00-5:00pm hour was very popular for Office Hours sign-ups. If you come during that time slot there will likely be a bit of a wait (and while you do wait, we’re buying the coffee and treats). Nevertheless, there should be more than enough time to meet with folks over the two hours that Chris, Boris and I will be at the Agro Cafe. We’ll have a sign-up sheet with more specific times at the event tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of you then!

-Kent

OK everyone… bring a jacket and be prepared to huddle/cuddle outside while waiting for your audience.


January 15, 2009 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

FRC Office Hours in Vancouver

I see that W Media Ventures is welcoming First Round Capital up to Vancouver for a coffee talk session (also known as FRC Office Hours). It sounds like an intersting concept. Basically it sounds like a entrepreneurial BS session in a somewhat structured format. Cool… count me in. Sounds like fun

I have avoided the venture/fundraising scene this pass through the entrepreneurial scene… mostly because for most ventures, I think bootstrapping to launch is a good way to go. And once you launch, you should be able to run and automate the business on cash flow (or micro capital outlay anyhow). However, there are a couple of ideas that I am brainstorming that would take longer to incubate and a bit more cash up front (less than $100k). First Round has also invested in Ofer Ronen over at Sendori who I spoke with on several occasions back in the domain world, and some of my ideas are quite synergistic… hmmm.

EDIT –  I just checked my calendar for the same day [on my new BlackBerry Bold, I might add] and I see that the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Meetup occurs immediately following the Office Hours event. How appropriate.

January 7, 2009 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

The Golden Ears Gateway, Maple Ridge BC

I attended the Ridge Meadows Chamber of Commerce’s mini-tradeshow and networking event tonight. It was mostly a chance to get ou of the house after being headsdown busy for the past couple of days, but I have been trying to make a point on keeping connected within the business community (though normally I attend events that are in downtown… not out here in Maple Ridge).

Anyhow, one of the things that attracted me to the event tonight was to hear a speech by the President, Dean Barbour, on the Chamber’s current direction and mandate. While I won’t regurgitate, I did like what I heard. One of the key things that resonated with me was Dean’s vision and discussion of “The Golden Ears Gateway”. Basically, anything that is within site of the Golden Ears Mountains, should be within the marketing catchment of the Chamber and local businesses. And a big part of the growth will be in using the new website to promote the region and its businesses.

And then Dean announced, “The Chamber website will be re-branded under www.openforbusinessmrpm.com

I don’t know if Dean or anyone else in the room saw me convulsively twitch when this was announced. Pardon? That was “Open For Business Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows .com” in case you missed it the first time. Part of me almost feels bad for going home and registering GoldenEarsGateway.com. I guess this now complements the other local domain I registered the other day: http://www.MyMapleRidge.com

Me thinks I am going to get involved with the Chamber and help them with their marketing.

October 24, 2008 at 1:59 am 1 comment

TRAFFIC New York 2008 – Domain Auction Results

This past week the TRAFFIC Domain Conference in New York held several auctions. And while I wasn’t in attendance, I do think that some of those who were, grabbed themselves some good domains at very reasonable prices. A few that jumped out to me were:

RentalCondos.com ($11.5k) – Big business and big sales here with a clear consumer intent in an activity that is happening more and more online

Wines.net ($13k) – It is not as good a deal as beef.net, but it is a very big industry with a lot of search traffic. Good opportunity for consumer site, product referrals, community building, simple service brokering the import/export B2B of products. Focus on recommendation engine for wine matching, etc.

CatFood.com ($15k) – Niche category-owning domain. Clear intent of what the browser is looking for. Can be an ecommerce play using outsourced fulfillment. Whoops… this one didn’t sell. The reserve was north of $75k

MufflerRepairs.com ($2.25k) – Yellow Pages category name. Large local play component

Rent.me ($6k) — A different extension, but could be a very brandable classifieds-type site facilitating apartment, equipment, etc rentals. It wouldn’t take many Hawaiian condo rentals to pay for this investment.

Men.org ($12.5k) – Yes it is a .org, but this should still be able to develop a loyal audience with content, heath issues. It kind of defines the audience. I can see a marketing campaign in Cosmo targeted at women who don’t understand Men. A steal at that price.

Decorators.tv ($200) – I’m including this one as this already exists as a category for cable TV, and I know that you could put a pre-existing social media YouTube type package up on it quickly… and I have a client who is considering building out a TV program focused on this niche.

SeafoodRestaurant.com ($3.5k) – One should be able to make your money back on this focused on local search and OpenTable affiliate programs.

Beef.net ($2.75k) – wow… A low price on this one. Beef import/export is big, big business.

A note to any of the successful bidders… if you want assistance in building out any of these projects, let me know.

Edit: DomainNameNews has a good run-down of the complete list that sold here

September 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm 1 comment

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