Oct 312006

The Good, The Board, and The Ugly, Part II

The Good, The Board, and The Ugly, Part II

Much has been written of late on various VC and entrepreneur blogs on effective management of a Board of Directors, Board materials, running good Board meetings, and the like.  A couple years ago, I even wrote out a few tips for those things myself.

But here’s one critical ingredient of a good Board you won’t find in all those posts:  have fun!  This picture was from today’s Halloween Board meeting at Feedburner…as one of Dick’s colleagues labeled it, The Dawn of the Living Costolos.

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Happy Halloween!

Oct 272006

Selecting an ESP

Selecting an ESP

Return Path’s Ken Takahashi (formerly of DARTMail fame) wrote a great post today on the Return Path blog — the first in a series — about selecting an ESP.  If you are an email marketer who is thinking about selecting an ESP, it’s a great read.

Filed under: Email

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Oct 242006

Association Proliferation

Association Proliferation

NOTE:  I was fortunate enough to be asked to write a monthly column for DMNews.  This is the most recent column.  By agreement with DMNews, I am linking to them for the bulk of the content, but you can get an idea of what I’m talking about with the first few sentences below.

You can be forgiven if you can’t precisely remember the difference between the OPA and the IAB. Or the DMA and the DAC. Or EEC and ESPC. Or WOMMA and OMMA. And, while we are at it, what exactly is a MAAWG? And isn’t OLGA the name of someone you’d go out to dinner with?

Gone are the days when a business could belong to one or maybe two trade associations and feel that it was covering…(read the rest at DMNews here).

Filed under: Email

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Oct 172006

Another Entrepreneur Blog

Another Entrepreneur Blog

My friend Jason Devitt, founder and CEO of mobile application company Vindigo, is contemplating his next career move and has started to blog more actively about entrepreneurship (after a 9-month around-the-world honeymoon which made for a great travel blog).

His most recent post is about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, which I thought was great, and he promises more good ones on related topics to come soon.

Oct 172006

Winds of Change at the DMA

Winds of Change at the DMA

I’ve been an active member of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for almost seven years now.  It’s kind of the Mac Daddy of trade associations in and around our business.  The DMA has taken its lumps of late, mostly deservedly so, and I think made some terrible moves, misjudgments, and decisions a few years back.

But I’ve continued to be an active member, mostly convinced by new DMA CEO John Greco and COO Ramesh Ratan that there was a new sheriff in town who was going to restore peace and order to the village.  John and Ramesh have a deep understanding and deeply held convictions about consumer experience and permission — and about the centrality of interactive marketing to direct marketing, and to marketing departments in general.

And they’re starting to make lots of changes at the DMA, from who is on the staff, to the staff’s mindset, to their goals, budgets, and plans — all to the benefit of interactive marketers.

One thing they’ve done is revitalized the Interactive Marketing Advisory Board (IMAB), which we created after AIM was dissolved last year, of which I’m the Chairman.  The IMAB has a star-studded list of member companies and individuals (see coverage in DMNews here) and is working diligently and in great partnership with the senior staff of the DMA to really bring interactive marketing principles to the core of the DMA’s offerings and ethos.  We still have a long way to go, as you probably noticed at this week’s DMA 06 show in San Francisco (great interactive programming, very weak interactive trade show floor and critical mass of key attendees), but I think the IMAB initiative has us off to a great start.

Stay tuned for more developments on this front over the coming weeks.

Oct 152006

Book Short: You’d Never Run Your Business This Way…

Book Short:  You’d Never Run Your Business This Way…

I am an unabashed conservative, so you might wonder what I was doing reading  A Country That Works, by union chief Andy Stern, the President of SEIU (Service Workers International Union) this weekend.  Well, part of it is that my mother-in-law Carmen works for him.  Part was that he was quite inspiring during his recent appearance on the Colbert Report a week or two ago.  And part was that I always like reading about different points of view, especially with the current, somewhat dismal state of the Republican leadership in Washington.

The book was very short and a worthwhile read.  I may not agree with Stern on some of his illustrations of the problems — his statistical presentations were a bit apples-to-oranges at times — and some of his solutions, which were a bit high on the big-government-tax-and-spend side for me, but the book was very plain-speak, apolitical, and solution-oriented, all of which I found refreshing.

He certainly had at least one underlying premise about “labor as electricity ” (compete on something else other than forcing wages to go lower) that is making me think hard about my long-standing philosophical opposition to federally-mandated minimum wages.  His notion of the importance of a global labor movement to act as a check/balance on corporate globalization both make sense.  Actually, now that I think about it, those two things put together start working well as one plank in a solution to global poverty.

But the best part of the book was the fact that Stern is clear that, like his ideas or hate them,  he is at least proposing that we DEAL with them.  America is missing serious debate about some critical issues facing our society.  Anyone who doesn’t think we have serious problems facing our future around retirement savings, education, and health care is not facing reality.  The debate happening in Washington today is weak at best, and over-politicized.

The bottom line is that I think we’re in danger as a country of boiling the frog when it comes to some major structural issues in our society, and, most important to me, You’d Never Run Your Business This Way.  Any good entrepreneur knows that when danger lurks around the corner, you have to reinvent yourself, and we as a country aren’t doing that at this moment when we’d benefit from it greatly for the long term.  Stern displays that mix of optimism for the future and serious reality check today known as the Stockdale Paradox and revered by Jim Collins in his two books on corporate leadership, Good to Great and Built to Last.

My biggest criticism of the book was that it was too short.  It was basically 1/3 Andy’s story, 1/3 SEIU’s story, and 1/3 labor’s story — and it could have been at least twice as long and gone into more detail on Stern’s points, especially in the last chapter where he starts spelling out his plan to get America back on track.  But presumably when Stern runs for national office or gets a cabinet appointment someday (no inside knowledge here, but the book certainly reads that way), he’ll flesh things out a bit!

Oct 132006

Only Once, Part II

Only Once, Part II

As many of you know, this blog is called Only Once because You’re Only a First-Time CEO Once — that’s the general theme of my writings on entrepreneurship and on the email marketing industry (read the initial posting which explains all of that here).

As of today, I am entering into another Only Once because "You’re Only a First-Time Parent Once" as well!  Mariquita and I welcomed Casey Joanna Blumberg into the world at 8:46 this evening.  Everyone is doing well, and you can see our official announcement here

Filed under: Current Affairs

Oct 102006

Email Marketing Good and Bad: Case Study Snippets

Email Marketing Good and Bad:  Case Study Snippets

I had a good meeting this morning with one of our long-time multi-channel retailer clients who is in town for Shop.org’s Annual Summit.  Over the course of our conversation, she relayed two things going on in her world of email marketing at the moment that bear repeating (with her permission, of course).

First, the good.  In a recent study, our retailer hero determined that customers who receive their email newsletters and offers (not even open/click, just receive) spend on average 3x as much on in-store purchases than their non-email counterparts in any given week or for any given campaign.  Talk about deriving non-email or non-click value from your email marketing efforts!

Second, the bad (ok, well, it’s the ugly as well).  Our retailer hero was just nailed by Spamhaus because someone out there complained about a transactional email he or she received from the retailer.  She estimates that the poor Spamhaus listing is costing her millions of dollars a year in lost sales from regular customers.  The email was literally about a refund that the retailer owed the customer (why there was a complaint — who knows?).  What did Spamhaus suggest the retailer do?  Repermission their list around transactional messages — “or else.”  Seems to me that that’s a pretty tough stance to take on rather shaky evidence and with no appropriate dispute resolution mechanism (e.g., one that’s not just tuned to mailers’ interests, but one that’s fair in the broadest sense of the word).  No wonder Spamhaus is being sued, and no wonder the vigilante blacklist providers of the world are losing traction with ISPs and corporate system administrators.  Authentication and real, professionally run reputation systems with ample amounts of representative data, feedback loops, and dispute resolution mechanisms will ultimately win the day over the vigilantes of the world.  Folks like Spamhaus can get things right lots of the time and in fact do provide a valuable cog in the global world of spam fighting, but they’re less great at making amends when they don’t.

So email continues to have its challenges around filtering and deliverability…but how cool is it that marketers are really sinking their teeth into metrics that prove how effective the email channel is for driving sales, both online and offline?

Filed under: Email

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Oct 062006

What Convergence Really Means

What Convergence Really Means

Rebecca Lieb wrote a great column last week in ClickZ about Advertising Week and how disappointed she was in it.  The article is worth a read for many reasons, but there was one quote in particular that stuck out to me as I re-read it tonight.

Some people talk about convergence as the coming together of old media and new media.  Others talk about digial meeting analog.  Still others talk about the melding of cable, telco, Internet, and wireless.  A brave few even talk about direct marketing and brand advertising.

But Rebecca quoted the head of global advertising for American Express, who really nailed what convergence means in the world of media today — the convergence of advertising and publishing:

“No longer can we view our job as filling gaps between other peoples’ content,” said Scotti. “Soon, there won’t be gaps to fill because everything is content.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth?  And it’s not just the much-hyped world of user-generated content, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and blogs.

It’s as much about advertisers getting smarter and becoming content publishers themselves.  Think about any good email you get from a marketer.  What makes it good?  Sure, a nice discount, maybe free shipping, certainly a relevant offer based on your preferences and purchase behavior.  But the other thing that makes it good is the presence of content to surround and drive the marketing messages.  The applesauce around the pill, if you will.

It works.  We see it every day.  And we only see more of it happening in the future as consumers get smarter and more discerning about the brands with which they choose to interact.

Oct 062006

Friday Morning Chuckle

Friday Morning Chuckle

It doesn’t get a lot funnier — or weirder — than this.  Harvard’s annual Ig Nobel awards, given by Annals of Improbable Research magazine for weird, wacky and sometimes worthless scientific research.  Nails on a chalkboard, teenage repellent, and a somewhat unorthodox cure for the hiccups.

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