When “leading” trails

I get cranky when I see lazy marketing writing. Especially when the primary purpose of marketing writing is to motivate readers.Circular Yield Sign

What do I mean by lazy? Words and phrases that sound as though they’re saying something but are content placebos. Technology (and education technology) marketers are notorious for this practice. While many lazy words probably once had specific meaning, they’re now applied so indiscriminately they’ve become like over- and mis- used cooking ingredients: too many empty word calories, filling space instead of stomachs, and similarly providing no sustained energy. Continue reading When “leading” trails

Naming the no-tears way

Beware the familiar-sounding name.

Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of projects to name products, services and companies. And these projects can go pear-shaped in ways almost too numerous to contemplate, from endless free-for-all brainstorming to unilateral executive decisions  — only to discover later the exec subconsciously found a choice comfortingly appropriate because it was the name of a largely forgotten competitive product. Continue reading Naming the no-tears way

My new books I didn’t write

The downside of book contracts comes when you lose control of your self. And that’s the case now that my name is attached to two “new” Dummies books that I had no direct involvement in writing … and didn’t even know existed until I read about them in a blog.digitalmarketingfordummies31

Let me say upfront this doesn’t mean they’re not good books. But my advice and image — state of the art nearly a decade ago — have been repackaged and represented as current. It’s marketing at its most automatic.

Background: In 2000, Bud Smith and I wrote Internet Marketing for Dummies, a successor to 1998’s Marketing Online for Dummies. The contract I signed allowed for non-U.S. editions, a good idea. IMFD was translated into languages and alphabets I don’t read, or in some cases, recognize. All in all, IMFD was in print for seven years, a good run.

But last year,  I noticed blog posts referencing Frank Catalano’s book, Digital Marketing for Dummies. Continue reading My new books I didn’t write

Strategy’s role in a downturn

(The following first appeared in the Just Enough Strategy series of technology marketing essays in 2003. It seems eerily appropriate today.)

The panic doesn’t usually creep into their voices until we’re nearly done with the coffee.

“I know strategy is important,” the colleague will say to me as we wrap up. “But I can’t spend a lot of time or effort on marketing strategy. I need to do stuff that will generate sales today.”

I’ll nod sagely. And hope he doesn’t waste too much money on misdirected marketing tactics, confusing any motion with forward motion. Continue reading Strategy’s role in a downturn

Can’t copy that floppy

In the headlong rush from current to new technologies, it’s amazing what we forget. Sometimes without even realizing it.

I’m in the midst of a year-long effort to declutter my home office of 18 years, which has led to unearthing some historic business cards. Last weekend, I also discovered that I apparently have not thrown out a single 3.5″ floppy disk that I have ever owned.

This was clear as I gazed at the literally hundreds of floppy disks, both Mac and IBM formatted. My first thought was I’d see what was on them, transfer important data to compact disc, use an audio/video bulk eraser to wipe the disks, then donate the floppies to a school or other organization that might use them. I had begun this time-consuming process when I noticed something. Continue reading Can’t copy that floppy

A call for moderation

Being a panel moderator is the hardest easy job in public speaking.

I’ve moderated, conservatively, more than one hundred panels over three decades (I started as a teen at science-fiction conventions). Aside from the aforementioned fan gatherings, there have been professional panels at events ranging from E3 Expo to technology industry conferences to book and education industry trade shows.

In the spirit of earlier tips for types of public speaking not everyone does, here are nine things you should know about being a good moderator, if you’re ever called to serve: Continue reading A call for moderation

Auction mentality

Ever go to a charity auction and think, “Hey, this is a lot like eBay — why don’t they just put it all online?”

Because odds are it wouldn’t work nearly as well or raise as much money for the cause. It’s a matter of individual and group psychology.

This past spring, as a favor to a colleague, I dipped back into the world of charity auction emceeing for a night at Villa Academy in Seattle. In 2003 and 2004 I regularly emceed charity auctions as a feel-good sideline through Stokes Auction Group (which provides auctioneers and auction services exclusively for charities). This gave me insight into auctions for organizations including the American Heart Association, YouthCare, Boys and Girls Clubs, Young Life, Skiforall, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which does the delightfully named “Tennis Ball.” I gave it up when my travel schedule and new position made committing to an auction schedule impossible.

There’s a lot of planning and psychology that goes into a charity auction, from the smallest private school to the largest non-profit. Continue reading Auction mentality

Just my type(writer)

From the delightful anachronism category, I present the gift I received from my wife Denise on the recent occasion of my XLVIIIth birthday. It is a Smith Corona manual portable typewriter, recently reconditioned, with a new ribbon.typewriter-786021

In my teen years, my mother — knowing of my desire to be a writer — gave me a Smith Corona Electra 120. It was a pseudo-electric typewriter. I say “pseudo” because it was electric except for the carriage return, which was still manual. But it served me for many years until I purchased my first computer, an Apple IIe with a daisy-wheel printer and the fabled 80-column card (if I had to explain today what an 80-column card did, you wouldn’t be impressed).

This Smith Corona will occupy a functional place of honor near my 1948 Webster’s New International Dictionary Second Edition, Unabridged.

Some may wonder why I wax ecstatic over these anachronisms. Continue reading Just my type(writer)

Business cards: consulting years

For a dozen years, I was a marketing consultant and tech industry analyst. I worked with a variety of clients. Sometimes, a short-term project would extend into a long-term interim executive assignment … and with that, would come a business card for a year or so. This is the third of three parts (including media and tech) of how business cards and contact info evolved over 30 years, this one covering the consulting years 1992 to 2004. Continue reading Business cards: consulting years

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