Aug 292005

A Small Rant About Lawyers

A Small Rant About Lawyers

My least favorite thing about lawyers (and I don’t make that statement lightly) is when they spend more of your money arguing why they shouldn’t do something than they’d spend if they just sat down and did the darn thing to begin with. Hmmmph.

Filed under: Business

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Aug 292005

Compression

Compression

I had one of those "aha" moments the other day when I saw these powerful charts for the first time. It’s not that I didn’t realize that we humans have been adopting new technologies faster and faster over the last century (that would be a "duh" moment).  It’s that I didn’t realize just how much faster the adoption had gotten relative to other technologies.

The first chart here, from a report issued by the Dallas branch of the Federal Reserve, shows the U.S. household penetration of new technologies on the vertical axis and years from date of introduction on the horizontal axis.

Technology_adoption_1

And in case that wasn’t a clear enough visual representation, here’s the critical tabular data.

Technology_adoption_2

It just makes me wonder — what’s next on the list, and how vertical will its line be?  Thanks to Carl Turza for pointing me to this interesting data.

Filed under: Email

Aug 222005

For My Email (Bloglet) Subscribers

For My Email (Bloglet) Subscribers

Many of you rely on emails from an outfit called Bloglet to receive notifications that I’ve posted something to my blog.  However, as you no doubt know, Bloglet’s service is incredibly flakey, so many times, the notices don’t go out.

I am trying a new service called Feedblitz, which will serve the same purpose but appears to be MUCH more reliable.  For a couple of days, I will use both Bloglet and Feedblitz in parallel to make sure they both work, but then I’ll turn off Bloglet.  You don’t have to do anything to convert your subscription over — I will do it for you.  Just be aware that the emails will now be coming from a different source.

Thanks, and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Filed under: Weblogs

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Aug 202005

Unfolding the Map

Unfolding the Map

I heard two similar catchphrases last week, both from entrepreneurs I respect, that are diametrically opposed:

1. If you don’t have a map, you can’t get lost

2. If you don’t have a map, you can’t get where you’re going

How to reconcile the two?  I think the answer is stage of company.  In the early days of a business, being too rigid on what you’re building and how you interact with your customer set can doom you.  You have to be nimble!  Spry!  Not care exactly what your endgame is, as long as it’s good.

As your business grows and you have a customer base to support and numbers to hit, having too much product development wanderlust across the organization will kill you.  You have more people at more levels in the organization who need more direction and goal-setting in order to stay effective and productive.

The trick is having enough of a map in the early days to not get completely defocused, and having enough flexibility in the map later on to switch routes if there’s traffic ahead.

Aug 192005

links for 2005-08-19

Filed under: Uncategorized

Aug 182005

Book Short: Not As Deep As You’d Like

Book Short:  Not As Deep As You’d Like

Deep Change, by Robert Quinn, is a reasonably interesting collection of thoughts on management and leadership, but it doesn’t hang together very well as a single work with a unified theme.  The promise is interesting — that we must personally abandon our knowledge, competence, techniques and abilities and “walk naked into the land of uncertainty” to undergo great personal change that can then lead us to organizational change — but the book doesn’t quite deliver on it.

That said, I enjoyed the book as a quick read for a few of its more interesting concepts.  For example, Quinn has a great crystallization of many things I’ve observed over the years called “the tyrrany of competence” where organizations can get paralyzed by people who are technically strong at their jobs but who are either disruptive culturally or who have such a chokehold on their role that they hold back the organization as a whole from growing.  Another good concept is a chart and some related commentary about how a person transforms from an individual contributor, to a manager, to a leader — great for any growing company.  The last interesting one was a grid mapping out four different types of CEOs — Motivator, Vision Setter, Anazlyer, and Taskmaster.  Quinn goes into some detail about the characteristics of each and then circles back to the inevitable conclusion (like most Harvard Business Review articles) that the best CEOs exhibit all four characteristics at different times, in different circumstances.

So not my favorite book overall, but some good tidbits.  Probably worth a quick read if you’re a student of management and leadership.  Thanks to my former colleague Kendall Rawls for this book.

Filed under: Books, Leadership

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Aug 152005

Why Publishing Will Never Be the Same, Part I

Why Publishing Will Never Be the Same, Part I

As you may know, we published a book earlier this year at Return Path called Sign Me Up! Sales are going quite well, in case you’re wondering, and we also launched the book’s official web site, where you can subscribe to our “email best practices” newsletter.

The process of publishing the book was fascinating and convinced me that publishing will never be the same.  Even in two parts, this will be a long post, so apologies in advance. Front to back, the process went something like this:

- We wrote the content and selected and prepared the graphics

- We hired iUniverse to publish the book for a rough total cost of $1,500

- iUniverse provided copy editing, layout, and cover design services

- Within 8 weeks, iUniverse put the book on Amazon.com and BN.com for us (in addition to their site) and properly indexed it for search, and poof — we were in business

- Any time someone places an order on any of those three sites, iUniverse prints a copy on demand, binds it, and ships it off. No fuss, no muss, no inventory, but a slightly higher unit cost than you’d get from a traditional publisher who mass prints. We receive approximately 20% of the revenue from the book sale, and iUniverse receives 80%.  I’m not sure what cut they give Amazon, but it’s hard to imagine it’s more than 10-20% of the gross

Other than the writing part (not to be minimized), how easy is that?  So of course, that made me think about the poor, poor publishing industry. It seems to me that, like many other industries, technology is revolutionizing publishing.  Here’s how:

- Publishers handle printing and inventory.  iUniverse and its competitors can do it for you in a significantly more economic way.  Print on Demand will soon be de rigeur.

- Publishers handle marketing and distribution.  iUniverse gets you on Amazon.com and BN.com for free.  Amazon.com and BN.com now represent something like 12% of all book sales (cobbled together stats from iMedia Connection saying the annual online book sale run rate is now about $3 billion and the Association of American Publishers saying that the total size of the industry is $24 billion).  Google and Overture take credit cards and about 5 minutes to drive people to buy your book online.  Buzz and viral and email marketing techniques are easy and cheap.

- Publishers pay you.  Ok, this is compelling, but they only pay you (especially advances) if you’re really, really good, or a recognized author or expert. iUniverse pays as well, just in a pay-for-performance model.  Bonus points for setting yourself up as an affiliate on Amazon and BN to make even more money on the sale.  iUniverse actually pays a higher royalty (20% vs. 7.5-15% in the traditional model), so you’re probably always a fixed amount “behind” in the self-publish model, but you don’t have an agent to pay.

Unless you are dying to be accepted into literary or academic circles that require Someone & Sons to annoint you…why bother with a traditional publisher? As long as you have the up-front money and the belief that you’ll sell enough books to cover your expenses and then some, do it yourself.

In Part II, I will talk about how iUniverse pitches a “traditional publishing model” and why it only reinforces the point that the traditional model doesn’t make a lot of sense any more in many cases.

Aug 122005

Email and Business Development: Two Great Tastes…

Email and Business Development: Two Great Tastes…

Interestingly, Chris Baggott offers compelling evidence for the opposite view he intended in his recent posting claiming email is not an acquisition tool.  I respect Chris as a thought leader in the email marketing services industry and am a fan of what he and his colleagues have done in building Exact Target, but I think he’s dead wrong on this one.

Email is a phenomenal customer retention tool, no question about it.  I totally agree with the claim that website owners should never let a prospect escape from their website without signing up for an email program.  It’s very true that spending money on website traffic can go to waste if a browser never buys or returns — or worse, if you pay the same search keyword fee time and time again to reach the same browser. 

However, his own post starts to lay out the reasons why email is, in fact, also really good for acquisition marketing:  because we all still love it, we spend a lot of time reading and responding to it, and we value the information it brings to us.  In short , it’s got all the strongest attributes of a great acquisition medium: reach, frequency and, most importantly, trust.  Isn’t that what advertisers look for when they are trying to figure out whether to spend their acquisition dollars in print, radio, TV, outdoor, or direct response vehicles?

In fact, more consumers and B2B professionals spend more time in their inboxes than they do consuming any other form of media — digital or not.  So, if you want to reach your target, you need to be using acquisition email.  And definitely never let a prospect come to your web site without giving you his or her email address for future contact!

Just because email is so extraordinary a retention and customer relationship tool, doesn’t exclude the reality that it also works really well to reach new prospects.  Smart marketers use email for both.

Filed under: Email

Aug 112005

My RSS Feed

My RSS Feed

In an effort to manage my blog and RSS feed a little better, I’d like to request that anyone who gets my RSS feed NOT via Feedburner — that is, via the default Typepad feed — resubscribe to the Feedburner feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/Onlyonce.  Thanks!

Filed under: Email

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Aug 102005

Counter Cliche: It's Fun at the Top

Counter Cliche:  It’s Fun at the Top!

Fred’s VC cliche this week is a good one — that CEOs have the weight of the company on their shoulders, otherwise known as "it’s lonely at the top."  He’s right in a lot of ways, and his two suggestions for dealing with it are good.  To those, I’d add a third suggestion, which is to create a peer group of other CEOs that gets together periodically to talk, share ideas, and blow off steam.  It doesn’t need to be something formal like YPO or YEO — just have a quarterly dinner roundtable with a handful of other local CEOs you know and respect, whether from your industry or not. 

But the counter to Fred’s cliche is that while yes, it can be lonely at the top, it can also be a ton of fun.  Having the weight of the company on one’s shoulders also means having the ability to do some exciting things:

- Being social and interacting with people all across the organization, at all levels, to really understand what’s going on

- Being multi-disciplinary and working on projects with all departments to make sure things are in sync

- Periodically getting out of the organization and understanding what’s happening in the outside world, with customers, suppliers, partners, and investors

I’m sure there are others, and I’m certainly lucky to have an investor who has sympathy for the "weight of the company" problem — but there are many days where the weight is completely overshadowed by the fun!

Filed under: Entrepreneurship

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