Monthly Archives: June 2007

Life Outside the Echo Chamber

It’s 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I’m sneaking back into my blog hoping that it won’t catch me. It’s like I’m 13 again and I can just hear the lecture coming. "Where have you been? Don’t you know I’ve been worried sick about you?" And then the note of accusation. "What have you been doing out there?"  That’s what it’s like when your blog starts to sound like your mother. "You need to practice every day if you want to be the best. And how many times do I have to tell you to clean up your comment spam?"

It’s true. I’ve been out galavanting. It’s hard because reality-world is, like, really addicting, you know? You tell yourself you’ll just spend a few minutes away from the computer, and then before you know it, hours have passed. And that can go on for days before you realize you’re just totally zoned out in this completely different world. It’s really cool while your in it. I mean, it’s totally mesmerizing. But when you get saturated? Man, what a mental hangover. And then you start obsessing about whether or not you have a problem. And the guilt comes on like some annoying song that you can’t get out of your head. ~Hello darkness my old friennndd. I’ve come to talk with you againnnn.~

And then I start worrying about how to get back without getting caught, which is next to impossible because emails and IMs are starting to come in with people worried about whether I’ve died or something. I mean, I haven’t posted in days. Did I get super-resistent tuberculosis or something? But I can’t stay out forever. Eventually, I have to go home to my blog and face the consequences. I’ll have to write some tortured explanation and promise that I’ll never do it again, that I’ve learned my lesson. And I’ll do all that. It’s part of the routine. But secretly, there’s a part of me that thinks sneaking out was the coolest thing ever, and I can’t wait to do it again.

So when I’m gone and the date stamp on my last post is looking and more and more like a scarlet letter, you should know two things.

        1. I will be back. It’s impossible for me not to write, and you’re my favorite

        Oh, and when I’m back, I’ll tell you all the good stuff.

        2. Whatever I’m not writing while I’m away is vastly more interesting than
        what I would be writing if I were here. (I know. It’s deep.)

Okay, three things.

         3. I’m having a blast. You should come some time. Can you get out?

Lenovo’s Marketing Team Gets it

I finally got my new laptop today, and it truly is a thing of beauty. You know how the doors close on a really solid car, with a "whoosh" and a thump that conveys confidence and quality? The Thinkpad has that experience when you open it and put your hands on the keyboard. None of that creaky plastic flex that triggers a subconscious fear of dropping it.

I got the T61 with the new Intel chipset, the Core 2 Duo. 2.2 Ghz, 2 Gigs of RAM. Widescreen with integrated web cam. 4.5 pounds. It took me six weeks of waiting when I could have had a Dell on the spot, but it was well worth the wait. I mean, if you were paying the same price, would you take a Volvo on the spot, or wait six weeks for a Porsche?

So let me say a little bit about my experience with Lenovo, which I plan to write up more fully for my blog at MotiveLab, since it’s a case study in the power of social media.

In the first place, Lenovo has done well in staying true to the ThinkPad brand. Anyone who had one under IBM would not want to return to a lesser machine, and at least Lenovo understand’s the quality imperative. My new ThinkPad has the same solid sense of near-invincibility as my 8-year-old 600x. I can easily imagine having this machine another 8 years.

Unfortunately, Lenovo’s supply chain and order management process sucks. There’s no polite way to say it. You can’t maintain a strong market relationship when there’s a steady stream of missed shipping dates and prevarications about "estimated shipping dates". I would hate to see Lenovo’s order abandonment rate. I’m a very loyal ThinkPad fan, but after being strung along three times with shipping delays, I seriously thought about dumping the order and looking at Toshiba. The only thing that saved my order was the quick response to my blog post

Which brings me to Lenovo’s Web Marketing Group. After I had such a lousy experience with their order management, I was blown away by the speed and efficiency of their response to my blog post. Within 12 hours of my initial post, the VP of Web Marketing commented and publicly supplied his personal contact information. What impressed me most, however, was the straightforward approach and honesty of the customer service group. I don’t know if it’s a different group than the front line that handles incoming phone calls, but they didn’t string me along or spin fantasies about my order–and they didn’t offer me any inducements to say nice things about them on my blog. They told me up front that my order might take an additional three weeks to ship, and they responded to my email inquiries honestly until the laptop shipped last week. And that, in the end, is all I really wanted.

If you tell me my order is going to ship in two weeks, missing that date is a huge dent in your credibility–and is much more likely to get me to abandon my order than if you tell me up front that the item is backordered. Continuing to make empty promises is like poking a bear with a stick–and it’s the kind of thing that sparks lots of angry word-of-mouth on the Web. When Lenovo took an honest tack and kept me in the loop on the status of the order, my frustration dissipated noticeably. I wasn’t happy about waiting longer, but at least I knew what to expect. And with that mindset, finally receiving a product of surpassing quality quickly overcame my negative impressions.   

It’s all about managing expectations. And at the risk of starting a political brush fire at Lenovo, I’d say the company at large could learn a lot from their Web Marketing team. 

What is Dow Jones really worth?

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media recently over Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones. There have been various episodes of hand-wringing–what would the patron of Fox News do to the Wall Street Journal?–and speculation over counter bids. Would the Philadelphia Inquirer’s owner, Brian Tierney, make a bid?

Today it came out that GE and Microsoft, currently married with MSNBC, had reviewed the possibility of making their own bid, to keep News Corp at bay as they mount a business television rival to CNBC. However, the two companies executives ultimately determined that the "economics didn’t make sense". Apparently, they couldn’t see a way to beat Murdoch’s $60 per share offer and make it profitable. But how is Murdoch going to make a $5B bid work? Obviously he has some idea of what he’s going to do with Dow Jones.

Have you guessed yet where I’m leading with this? If not, imagine if the answer to where Murdoch sees dollar signs after a $5B deal came from the marketing department. Victor Cook has the fundamentals that shed light on Dow Jones’ valuation in his latest post on the Enterprise Marketing Framework. Makes you wonder what GE and Microsoft were looking at.