Monthly Archives: August 2008

Content Strategy Webinar Tuesday

My good friend Joel Granoff, of BeGreeted is co-hosting a Webinar tomorrow on Web content strategies, along with Brian Massey the “Conversation Scientist”, and Joe Pulizzi, CEO and Chief Content Officer of Junta42 and co-author of the highly-lauded book, “Get Content. Get Customers”. The Webinar will focus on “real-world examples about how to create killer content that drives online traffic, fosters real-time conversations and boosts website conversion.”

Joel is a highly experienced marketing strategist–he held senior strategy positions at NEC and Compaq–and always has great practical insights. Check it out if you can.

The Webinar is at 9am Pacific. Registration is free.

Google’s Dance Party a Miner Miracle

I’ve been doing a lot more work in partnership with Miner Productions over the past year, including our What’s Happening in Marketing Videos and Elite Retreat events. I wasn’t involved in their big rave last week at Google, but their production of one of Google’s biggest events is a great example of what an ace team can accomplish. They turned Google’s campus into a huge dance house, wining and dining more than seven thousand Googlers with a night of music and high tech entertainment. Very cool stuff. I’m proud to partner with Miner–and I’m looking forward to our Elite Retreat in Hawaii in October. Very different event, but you can see the depth of what they can do to turn an event into an event.

Google Dance Party, produced by Miner Productions
Look. It’s a Googly dance floor!

Google Dance Party Lazer Tag
Laser Tagging Graffiti

Google Dance Party
A high-tech version of Caricature drawing.

Google Dance Party
T-shirts that reveal a hidden icon under glow lights.

Congratulations, Miner. On to Hawaii!

WHIM: Interview with Rene Bonvanie

I’m still producing periodic “What’s Happening in Marketing” videos, in partnership with Miner Productions. I was inspired this time by the buzz that Serena Software has been generating with their viral videos and social media programs. When you dig below the surface, the story is even more surprising. Serena isn’t some new startup born on the Web 2.0 front line. In fact, they’ve were around before many of the geeks programming Web 2.0 applications were even born. So how does an old-line software company reinvent itself as a social media innovator, and what do they see in social media that compells such a transformation? I sat down with Rene Bonvanie, the CMO behind Serena’s new marketing efforts to find out.

As always, this video was filmed and produced by the great people at Miner Productions.

Riding the Lithium Trail

I rode Lithium yesterday, a challenging single track just off the Teton Pass in Wyoming. Challenging enough that most mentions of it come with a warning to stay away unless your life insurance is up-to-date. It’s just across the pass from a large ski area, so just imagine a steep ski slope without the groomed runs and without any trees removed. To get there, you have to climb about 1000 feet over 2 or 3 miles, which doesn’t sound like much, except you’re starting at over 7000 feet. By the time you climb the first quarter mile, you’re struggling just to find something to breathe. I’ve been less out-of-breath sprinting up Mt. Tam.

When you reach the summit, there’s a panoramic view over Jackson Hole, and over the steep drop that makes you reconsider whether this is really where you want to be. To create the Lithium trail, someone basically carved the straightest line down the face of the mountain, adding in jumps, boulder drop-offs and pitched turns just to keep it interesting.

Riding, for me, is a metaphor for business. I learn a lot about harnessing my energy, managing risk and taking challenges head on. A trail like Lithium pushes the top of my skill level, and it challenges me in ways that remind me of launching a startup. Lots of people will warn you off, which means you have to embrace things that many people find too risky to consider, and a lot of the time you’re simply on your own. You have to face challenges that you’re not at all sure you can handle, so you have to trust yourself to plow ahead and use what you know to survive. Most of all, you have to know when to back off, when you’re in over your head and need to find another way forward. A twenty-foot drop off a boulder will remind you of that.

And when you do crash and burn, you have to get back on and ride without losing your confidence. There’s still a lot of trail left to ride.

I’m Only Getting Out if it’s a Bear

I’ve been spending the last week on retreat at the home of my business partner, Tracey Miner, in Teton Valley, just west of Jackson Hole. After endless months of endless days working on SocialRep and MotiveLab, not to mention our EliteRetreat in Hawaii in October, this has been a much needed opportunity both on a business and personal level. I had some structured time earlier in the week to step back and reflect on the challenges and opportunities ahead for SocialRep, preparing for a number of VC and Angel pitches in the weeks ahead, and I finished our new web site which will post next week. Now I’ve got some time to hang out with my family and do some exploring.

Yesterday, I hiked deep into Cascade Canyon in the Grand Tetons with my wife and seven-year-old son. We did about 8 or 9 miles, hiking back to near the Cascade Forks. Along the way we saw a lot of wildlife, but the highlight was an encounter with moose, a bull and a cow wallowing in the river.

After our long hike back, the safari continued on the drive home. We came across a number of traffic jams along the road, where people stopped to shoot photos and videos of elk, moose and mysterious animals for which there was no visible evidence but the crowd of cars and people looking around for something to see. It seems all you have to do to cause a traffic jam is stop by the side of the road and point a camera out the window. By the third or fourth set of cars, my wife finally said drily, “I’m only getting out if it’s a bear.”

Tomorrow we’re heading to Yellowstone for a few days. But not before I have a chance to ride the infamous Lithium trail, supposedly one of the most intense single track rides in mountain biking. It starts at the top of Teton Pass and drops through eight miles of twists, loops and jumps in a dense forest before winding up in Wilson.

The Changing Face of Management

As often as possible I try to spend time with smart people who make me think differently and deeply about what I’m doing in business. This week I had the fortune of having dinner in the city with some CEOs who actively challenge the management status quo. Aaron Ross put the dinner together. He heads up CEOFlow and works with CEOs on the intersection of sales, management and productivity. We got together with John Girard, CEO of Clickability, and David Gehring, CEO of Famplosion, to talk about some of the challenges of running a business in an age of huge transformation.

Tempus ex machina, GiselaGiardino We talked a lot about the challenges and imperatives of transparency, communication, business direction, oh, and managing the competing expectations of employees, investors, customers and family. Light stuff.

What struck me about the conversation was the realization that we spend a lot of time talking about the technical aspects of change, largely because the manifestation of those changes is so visceral. Because of technology, you can start a business today for a fraction of what it cost 10 years ago. Because of technology, the ways in which you communicate with a company’s stakeholders has changed dramatically, and it’s hard to keep up with the pace of change. But we talk far less about the ripples these changes have caused in the day to day management of a business.

I think the key change, and one that’s tangible enough to quantify, is the speed of change in markets that we all have to adapt to. When I started my first business, oh geez, 15 years ago, people talked about 5 year business plans without a hint of irony. Today, as I’m closing in on funding for SocialRep, no one takes too seriously anything you project beyond 18 months, if that.

Despite these changes, the typical structures for managing ~management~ haven’t changed all that much, although there’s a growing emphasis on short-term productivity (Getting Things Done, Inbox Zero), which is really just about dealing with the overwhelming flood of stuff that comes with the increasing pace and volume of a fully wired life. When things speed up, we focus more and more on the short term so we can just keep running. But how much sense does that make? As if the faster you run, the more you should look at your feet.

So we got to talking about how we’re adapting the age old wisdom of Values, Mission, Goals, to the realities of today’s business. A general consensus formed around the need for agility and flexibility, informed by long term objectives, and we discovered that we were co-evolving similar methods–methods not all that dissimilar from the strategies engineers evolve to deal with the pace of technology change. The formula that works for me is major six-month objectives broken down into quarterly or monthly initiatives depending on the area and complexity of business. For example, sales and marketing generally have shorter cycles while engineering’s are somewhat longer.

I could go into excrutiating detail on this, but I’ll leave that to the management gurus. I’m still figuring it out for myself. But a couple of aspects that I find particularly interesting. First, while some of the old concepts still apply–it’s important to have values and vision because they set the general direction of travel–the hyper formulation of detailed goal sets aren’t as practical in a world of rapid change. You need skill sets for a strong sense of direction and rapid course correction rather than a detailed chart, because the landscape is always changing.

The other dynamic that fascinates me is how much of our organizational methodologies we draw from engineering and technology. A century ago, our concepts of psychology and organizational management were driven by metaphors of steam engines, and then telephone switchboards. Then we adapted those metaphors to computers and networks. Today our metaphors for management are starting to look like cloud computing and mashups. It’s as if the physical technologies we create push the boundary forward on how we can think in the abstract about how we operate and manage organizations.

Is that a good thing? Or are we simply imagining ourselves in the reflection of our shiny objects?