Oct 312007

New Daily Read

New Daily Read

If you haven’t seen it or heard about it yet, run – don’t walk – to sign up for either the RSS feed or daily email digest from Silicon Alley Insider, a new publication that’s a sort of NYC based version of ValleyWag.  SAI is run by famed analyst Henry Blodget and was started by former DoubleClick CEO and CTO Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman, now serial Silicon Alley entrepreneurs (at an epic pace, no less).

The writing is easy and has a bit of that tabloid feel to it, but that’s a nice change.  The fact that the publication fills a void that’s been open for years since the disappearance of Jason Calacanis’ Silicon Alley Reporter is somewhat unexplainable, but I’m glad to see the void filled.  It’s still early days for the publication (the site says "beta" on it), but it’s a must-read if you’re in the Internet business…even if you’re on the west coast!

Filed under: Email

Oct 282007

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Almost exactly a year ago, we welcomed our daughter Casey into the world, and tonight, we are proud to announce the arrival of her little brother Wilson Sass Blumberg.  Will’s official birth announcement is here.

Everyone is doing fine, and please – no presents! 

Filed under: Current Affairs

Oct 222007

New Media’s Influence on the Traditional

New Media’s Influence on the Traditional

Last week, DMNews unveiled its new look and feel and format (of the print publication) at the DMA’s annual convention in Chicago.  Hats off to Publisher Julia Hood and Editor-in-Chief Elly Trickett for diving in and coming up with some great improvements to the publication so quickly after taking the reigns.

What I find particularly interesting about the new format is that its design and even content structure seem to borrow heavily from the world of online media,  such as:

  • A top-of-page “navigation bar” that tells you at a glance what articles are on the page (email, circulation, multichannel, legislation, lists, etc.) so you can flip pages and figure out quickly where to stop based on your interests
  • MUCH shorter news briefs
  • More “fixed” topic sections that are (I think) meant to be recurring in every issue…”Gloves off,” “Duly noted,” “Nailed it”
  • “Key points” call-outs of an article etc. instead of all the long form of the prior generation of the publication
  • A section called “data bank” that is almost like an analytics widget

I had been ignoring the print edition for several months, assuming I’d catch any critical articles to me via the web site, keyword feeds, and the email newsletter.  But this new format will definitely have me back to at least flipping through the print edition looking for relevant articles.

Filed under: Email


Oct 172007

The Highest Form of Flattery

The Highest Form of Flattery

Competitors copy us all the time.  Sometimes it’s big things like product features or strategy.  Sometimes it’s little things like marketing collateral or a logo or product name.  Those are always a little annoying, but really, there’s nothing one can do about it.  As we say at Return Path, it’s the price we pay for being a market leader.  And to be honest, I’m sure we do the same on occasion, whether inadvertently or on purpose.

But we spotted one today that’s so incredibly egregious and just plain silly, I don’t even know where to start.  A competitor — name will be hidden to protect the guilty — just ripped off our boiler plate language at the top of all of our job descriptions.  I know this because I personally wrote the copy for ours, and I did it before this competitor even existed.  At least I think they did…let’s compare:

Here is ours:

If you’re obsessed with creating a world class organization and looking for a great company to call home, we want you! Return Path is a growing, thriving company full of smart, motivated people. Our 140+ employees are a tightly-knit, super-focused and incredibly dedicated team. We work hard, and we’re passionate about making email work better for both our clients and their customers.

And theirs:

If you are a smart, dedicated top performer, we want you! Company X is a growing, thriving company full of smart, motivated people. Our employees are a tightly-knit, super-focused and incredibly dedicated team. We work hard, and we’re passionate about safeguarding the credibility, rendering, and effectiveness of our clients’ digital communications.

You be the judge!

Filed under: Business

Oct 112007

People are People, Part II

People are People, Part II

In Part I, I talked about the diminishing distinction between B2B marketing and B2C marketing, and how getting the right message to the right person at the right time blurs those traditional boundaries.  I have a different thought on the same theme today, spurred on by Elly Trickett, who is DMNews‘ fantastic new Editor-in-Chief.  Elly wrote a great editorial in the October 1 print edition of the publication that I just caught today entitled “Don’t Forget Your Consumer Side,” in which she recounted a speech she made to an audience of marketers where she asked them to come up with examples of trigger-based digital marketing they had received, and one member of the audience replied with the statement, “We’re not consumers.”


That’s just the kind of comment that gives the marketing and advertising industry a bad name, not to mention leading directly to bad practices. 

When we as a profession treat the recipients of our messaging like numbers, we do bad things.  We get excited about moving a 1% response rate to a 1.5% response rate (a 50% improvement!) without remembering that 98.5% of our messages fell on deaf ears from being the wrong message, to the wrong person, at the wrong time, sent in the wrong way.

When we as a profession figure out how to treat the recipients of our messaging in more of a Cluetrain Manifesto kind of way (that is to say, as humans, not as “targets,” “prospects,” “consumers,” or “users”), we do our best work.  We engage our prospects and customers.  We think of them as our audience, not as dollar signs walking around with bulls-eye targets on their backs.  We push back when our boss asks us to crank out a rushed email message to make this quarter’s numbers look better when it goes against our better judgment.

So people are people.  If you wouldn’t want to receive an advertising message that you are sending out…maybe it’s worth thinking twice about whether or not to actually send it out in the first place.

Filed under: Email

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Oct 082007

Impact of a Leader

Impact of a Leader

I had an interesting moment of clarity the other day around the impact of a leader that’s not from the business world but that does have lessons for the business world.  This may take a couple of minutes to set up, so bear with me.

One of my extracurricular activities is raising money for Princeton from fellow alumni.  For this effort, we use two basic metrics to track success in any given year’s campaign:  participation (what % of alumni give) and dollars (how much $ we raise). While dollars raised are escalating year over year as you’d expect with inflation and with an expanding alumni base due to larger classes in more recent years, participation rates are reasonably consistent for given classes, year in, year out.

But there’s an interesting trend I saw on a graph of the numbers that Princeton posts over time, which is that participation rates vary from class to class, much more than dollars given.  One class may always have 50% of its members donating; another will always have 75% of classmates donating.  You’d expect classes to hover around an average much more closely than the data would indicate.

One of the things that was pointed out to me when I was looking at the graph is that record-breaking participation rates of the younger classes spike up and stay up coincident with the arrival of the University’s current President, Shirley Tilghman, about 5 years ago.  I’m sure there are other explanations for this, but this one keeps resonating with me.  Why?  President Tilghman is an incredibly engaging public figure who really connects with students and alums of all ages.  And many (though not all) of the classes with systematically weak participation rates were on campus during the reign of her predecessor, President Harold Shapiro.  I don’t mean to malign President Shapiro – I’m sure he was an excellent administrator and fundraiser – but a warm figure and dynamic speaker that students looked up to, he was not.  No one I can think of when I was on campus during the Shapiro years felt as connected to the institution of Princeton as I hear current students feeling connected to the institution in the Tilghman years.  Again, there may be other explanations for the coincident timing of the drop in participation, but I’m going to run with this one for thematic convenience if nothing else.  :-)

This lesson must translate to the business world as well, especially for larger companies.  Leaders that can connect with their people receive payback for that connection in the form of retention, productivity, and quality of work.  Leaders that fail to do so – even while competently managing things like finances and Boards – are doomed in the long run to lead companies with less engaged teams, therefore weaker products, therefore less happy customers, therefore lower profits.

Filed under: Leadership