Tag - marketing

So David Brin personally edited my self-published scifi novel, No Other Gods

About 18 months ago I started my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods. I worked on it about 30 minutes a day, usually at 6AM before phones started ringing and emails started dinging.

A couple of months ago I finished it (edited three times, proofread by 2 pros I know) and self-published it to Amazon. It was doing OK, and got some great reviews, but nothing huge.

So I decided to take a leap of faith and started to @ message people on Twitter about it who were interested in science fiction. One of the ones who came up when I searched Twitter was David Brin, who’s of course a best-selling SF author with something like 20 books to his credit.

Shockingly, he responded.

I asked if he’d like a copy of my book, he gave me his email address, and I sent him a copy. A couple days later he made my day when he read the first chapter and emailed back: “Okay you got decent action chops. Still no promises when I can get beyond the wakeup scene. But you are no amateur.”

Then 7 days later, he blew my mind when he emailed again, having read the entire book. This time he said:

“John, thanks for sharing your novel. You have very solid skills. The work makes no pretense of being deep, but it is completely professional and successful at what it aims to be. I would be happy to provide a comment/blurb for you to use, if you like.

I went ahead and took some notes. Some inconsistencies I noticed and some typos. They are provided below. I hope they are useful.”

Obviously I wanted a comment/blurb from him (!!) but below I carefully read through his notes. There, David Brin had carefully compiled about three pages of detailed notes on my first attempt at a novel, ranging from a couple remaining spelling errors to suggestions on foreshadowing events, deepening emotional connections with characters, and one unbelievably critical suggestion on enhancing and clarifying the goals and motives of the main villain of No Other Gods … one of the “gods.”


Bestselling authors (and working scientists) don’t take time out of their day to edit unknown self-publishing “authors” books. They just don’t. It doesn’t happen.

Except … it did.

I made all the changes he indicated, re-submitted to Amazon as a second edition of the book, and included his promo blurb right on the front cover:

“Non-stop action! An eternal champion battles his way across centuries, gradually learning to ask the question: why?”

Wow, wow, wow.

With the help of that recommendation, No Other Gods is now climbing Amazon’s SF time travel bestseller list, hitting the first page of the list for the first time today at #18.

Thanks David Brin!

Props from a master: sci-fi legend David Brin makes my day

I have been promoting my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods, on Twitter and Facebook and this blog. And the sales have been starting to come.

So have the positive reviews: 4.9 stars so far on Amazon, which is great.

But the best has been the result of taking a if-you-don’t-swing-you-can’t-hit attitude and approaching some big-name authors and personalities about the book. David Brin is a best-selling sci-fi author — and a scientist, by the way — with novels like Postman and Heaven’s Reach that I’ve personally read and loved. He’s such a respected author that he’s the one the Asimov people picked to write the final posthumous novel in the Foundation Series, Foundation’s Triumph.

He responded to a tweet that I directed to his attention, and then we emailed back and forth, after which I sent him a copy of No Other Gods.

This was the response:

david brin response no other gods

Brin’s schedule is crazy, and he must get a million queries from just-starting-out authors like me. But he read the first part of the book, liked it, and said I am “no amateur.”

That made my day.

Hopefully, he’ll also find the time between writing and speaking and working to read the rest, and give me some feedback on the complete novel.

Launching No Other Gods in the next 10 days

I’m super-happy to be able to say that I’m launching my science fiction book, No Other Gods, within the next 10 days.

I think you’re going to love it.

No-other-Gods-coverIf you want to be notified when it launches, please just add your name on this page — I’ll send an email to you when it is live and available. I have learned so much from people who have given me early feedback, and the book is way better for people who have already signed up there and read early “beta” versions.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the book:

Geno exists only to fight and to die. But he doesn’t die, and as he fights, he remembers. And as he remembers, Geno becomes more and more who he really is.

From ancient Sumer to earth’s distant future, Geno battles with sword and laser, arrow and particle beam, seeking only to obey the will of the gods. At least at first.

“Thou shalt have no other God than me,” the ancient commandment says. But slowly Geno learns that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic … and that those who claim to be gods, who require his obedience and worship, may be all too human themselves.

Human enough to desire the only woman in his life, Livia. Human enough to envy, and to kill what they no longer require.

And here’s a few words from people who have already read it:

“John is an amazing new talent to watch out for!”

– Matthew Mather, author of Atopia Chronicles and CyberStorm, just picked up by 20th Century Fox

“Very impressive writing! It pulled me into the story right away. I really like the style of writing; articulate, engaging and constantly makes you want to read more. It was actually hard for me to stop but I have a very early start tomorrow.”

– Andi Gutmans, creator of the PHP programming language

“An Asimov tone with a bit of a Battle Royale feel and a Game of Thrones twist!”

– Simon Dawlat, CEO of AppGratis

“John Koetsier delights with his prose — few writers are as much a joy to read. In all of his octaves, Koetsier haunts you: In his whimsical or light moments, his words levitate off the page. In his dramatic turns, his pace and punctuation push you over. You won’t stop!”

– Matt Marshall, editor of VentureBeat

“Blends myth and technology in the story of a futuristic warrior serving the gods. John Koetsier has created a scifi page-turner with enough historical detail to ground it.”

– Meg Simpson, game designer

“Prepare to be swept away into a fascinating world where all is not what it seems – this is one amazing journey you’ll never forget.”

– Eunice Schaap, editor

“Battle descriptions are awesome and the action was pure adrenaline injected into my brain!”

Alexandre Rocha Lima e Marcondes, Geeks with Blogs


Wonderful Colorful House iPad app: launched!

It’s with a great deal of pride and satisfaction that I’m able to announce that my iPad app, The Wonderful Colorful House, is now live on the Apple app store.

It’s been a long and winding journey.

The trip started about 15 years ago when I made up a bed-time story for my daughter, Gabrielle. It was about a kid in the great white North, Tullik, who hated cold and hated white, and who was looking for a better — more wonderful — home.  She loved the story, and asked me for it repeatedly, and suggested that I write it down.

Which I did.

And then, more than a decade later, I met Bas Waijers, an amazing New York artist who was the creative director for the project and painstakingly illustrated the entire app. And Nick Dalton, an accomplished technologist who has built many apps, and built the actual app. And we brought on Mark Greenberg, a Chicago-based musician and sound engineer, who created an amazing soundscape, along with many special effect sounds.

Together, we created an app more than 15 years in the making. And we offer it up to you, today.


Sneak peek … and free first chapter: No Other Gods

I’ve both longed for and dreaded this day: my baby is being born. She’s coming out in the world and the world may not like her. But she must be born. And maybe the world will love her 🙂

And so you – thank you SO much – are the first audience hearing her little cries as she emerges.

I’ve already released the full version to my VIP list of beta readers. If you hurry, you can still get on that list.

But I wanted to open up the first snippet of the first chapter to a wider audience. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time. Maybe you’re worried that it will suck. Maybe you’ve got a little Missouri in you: you wanna see it before you commit.

So I’m releasing this first chapter on Scribd. You can read it here, you can read it there, or you can download it and read it anywhere. And no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss book 🙂

Read, enjoy, and let me know if you want more!

No Other Gods Chapter 1 by John Koetsier

VIP access to No Other Gods, my first novel

I’m giving a few select people early pre-publishing access to my first book, a science fiction novel title No Other Gods.

A man and a woman exist, knowing nothing but that they are warriors for the gods. They fight, they die, they fight again at different times, in different places. But each time they learn a little more, and eventually they see that not all is as they have been told.

No Other Gods is the story of Geno and Livia, who seek the truth, and find themselves.

And SwitchCube's IndieGoGo campaign is now live!

As you may know, I and two partners are starting a coworking space in BC’s Fraser Valley, SwitchCube.

We’ve identified a space and we’ve put some furniture in it, but we need more. And technology for the boardroom, and paint, and, and, and. So we’ve decided to run a crowdfunding campaign, which will also serve a bit of marketing intelligence: is Abbotsford ready for coworking?

We’re looking to raise $6K, and we’re already at $850:

Join us! If you’re looking for a coworking space in the Fraser Valley, there are great options to lock in months at SwitchCube for a great price. And even if you’re not, we’d appreciate any support you’ve love to throw our way.

We have great perks (check them out) and we’re looking forward to kicking off the space when our campaign is successful.


Funniest press release ever?

As my colleague Jolie O’Dell said, it’s a “vibrating buttplug that makes you poop?”

Vibrant Conducts Pilot Trial with Vibrating Capsule for Chronic Constipated Patients

Petach Tikva, Israel, September 11, 2012. Vibrant Ltd. today announced that it is conducting a pilot trial of the company’s anti-constipation vibrating capsule. The clinical trial is taking place at two Israeli hospitals among patients with chronic idiopathic constipationFirst results of the trial will be reported at the 20th United European Gastroenterology Week, to be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, October 20-24, 2012.

“First indications show signs of positive impact and we are awaiting the trial’s completion,” said Dr. Laurent Choppe, Managing Partner at Cukierman & Co. Life Sciences.

The mechanically operated capsule is a breakthrough treatment for constipated patients. It meets the highest safety standards and uses biocompatible materials.

“By using no chemicals, Vibrant’s treatment concept is a novel approach for people who suffer from constipation. Market need consists of about 8-10% of the world’s population,” said Lior Ben-Tsur, Vibrant Chief Executive Officer.

Vibrant is currently raising funds from private investors to complete a financing round that will enable the company to complete a multi-center clinical study and prepare for market launch.

Vibrant constipation relief technology is based on the effect of the capsule’s vibrations on the wall of the large intestine, consequently inducing peristaltic activity and generating spontaneous additional bowel movement. The easy-to-swallow capsule is controlled through algorithms, predefined by Vibrant R&D and gastroenterology advisers.

The capsule is activated by a base unit that transfers the predefined algorithm’s data into the capsule, before it is swallowed. The capsule operates inside the large intestine and is washed out of the body with the bowel movement, leaving no chemicals in the body.

The company plans to complete the pivotal clinical trial by mid-2013 and obtain CE mark.

How not to pitch a journalist, method #37

I get 50 million pitches. One that starts like this is DOA:

Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, today unveiled the Huawei MU736, the world’s first WWAN module that is fully compliant with the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) standard.

Fortunately I know what WAN is, but the second paragraph gets even worse:

The NGFF standard enables a transition from Mini-PCIe Cards to a smaller form factor module in size, volume, and system design flexibility. The MU736 NGFF module is based on Intel’s industry leading XMM™ 6260 HSPA+ modem solution, supporting penta-band operation (B1/B2/B4/B5/B8) for worldwide network coverage, low power consumption, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and major carrier certifications, enabling easier and more flexible design and integration into end devices. In addition, the MU736 supports all NGFF features to optimize performance, power consumption, and usability.


Best pitch of the day

If there’s a skill journalists get good at, it’s ignoring. We get pitched incessantly, and end up deleting gigabytes of email just because there’s no time to parse it all.

But this one caught my eye:

Unfortunately, it didn’t work … there’s no way we’d cover that at VentureBeat. But it at least caught my eye.

And that’s job #1 for a pitch.

photo credit: Poppy Wright via photo pin cc

SwitchCube: open for bidness (almost)

You’ve heard a lot from me lately about coworking in BC’s Fraser Valley.

My business partner Matt Farley and I have been working to found a space for solopreneurs, startups, telecommuters, freelancers, and other home-based knowledge workers to get together, work in a great space with community, a boardroom for client meetings, WIFI, coffee, and no worries/concerns/distractions from the home.

That place is SwitchCube.

And we’ve now launched the SwitchCube website:

We’re just about to sign a lease, but we need our coworking community to come on board. If you’re in our coworking Meetup group or on our Coworking Abbotsford landing page … now’s the time to hit our SwitchCube membership page and sign up.

Now’s the time when I remind me why I bought this print from Hugh at GapingVoid:

I would really like child’s play right now 🙂

Sony Wonderbook: I'm predicting a flop, based purely on the advertising

If truth in advertising is too much to ask, how about just advertising the product?

I saw on VentureBeat this morning that Sony has signed J.K. Rowling to write the first game/book for PlayStation’s augmented reality peripheral, Wonderbook.

Intrigued (although I am, alas, no Harry Potter fan) I checked out the story, and watched the promotion videos that Sony created to promote the new product launch, eager to see how the Wonderbook works and what it does. Only to be vastly unimpressed … not with the videos themselves, but with the fact that they show virtually nothing of the actual product.

Here’s one:

What does this product actually look like? What does it really do? I mean, there’s wonderful soft mystical music, magical flourishes, and impressive CG effects. But no actual footage of the real product. The funniest part in the narration? About 50 seconds in:

Melodramatic english narrator: ” … must be seen to be believed.”

Caveat immediately follows: “Images simulated. Actual game images appear on your television …”

If they must be seen to be believed, I don’t currently believe … mostly because I haven’t seen. So show me, Sony! Show the actual product in actual use with actual images.

The second promo vid is just as bad, if not worse. There are not going to be cool little cartoon characters popping out of the product, hovering in mid-air, talking to kids.

This is a set-up for disappointment. Sony has learned nothing from Apple, which focuses on making incredible products, and then simply demonstrates them in its ads in a low-key, nonchalant manner. (Which, by the way, makes them much more credible, much more believable.) Sony’s ads are nothing but hype.

Based solely on the ads, I think Wonderbook is going to be a major flop.

SwitchCube Coworking

And it’s out in the wild!

SwitchCube is the name that Matt and I have chosen for our coworking space in Abbotsford BC.

We’re touring a few spaces tomorrow, and look like we’ll be ready to start making some offers on places as soon as next week. At the meetup we held last week, a lot of people were eager to get going soon 🙂

We also settled on our corporate color: purple. (Or some shade thereof …) Thanks to Kuler, we have a palette as well:

New logo, new brand

You may notice something different at the top of this page … an actual logo, rather than just the word “sparkplug 9.”

I’m still experimenting, but I did get a logo done for Sparkplug9 as I continue a bit of a rebrand of this space: from my personal blog and home on the digital range to my consulting business’s corporate site. I’m experimenting in public, which is why you’re seeing intermediate steps along the way.

As I continue this path, which includes the tagline “light up the web,” please let me know if you have any feedback. Love it? Hate it? Don’t care? It’s all appreciated.

There are three versions so far. Only two will survive.

As a logo for the top of this website:

As an icon for apps, Facebook, and so on:

As a vertically stacked logo (this one may not survive):

New Moo Cards!

It’s always exciting to get new Moo cards. New business cards are cool, but new Moo cards are awesome.

Moo cards are personalized business cards. I’ve loaded mine up with my own photography, which is easily imported from Flickr. This time I decided to get full-size cards – here’s a quick peek:

Notice the nicely curved edges? And, of course, the stunning images 🙂

It’s always fun to give out a card with some personality. And to ask someone to choose which one they want … and then tell them the story of the photograph: where it was taken, when, why, what it is. That makes the act of handing over a business card so much more personal, so much more meaningful, so much more fun, and so much more creative.

And here’s the back:

There’s a pic of me on the back, which matches up with my profile pic around the web. So it should be easy to remember who I am. Notice, however that I messed up and instead of intelligently cropping, there’s only a piece of my left eye showing. I should have either cropped it out entirely, or included it entirely.

Ah well, perfection will have to wait.

So Meetup actually does rock

As you (may) know, I and a partner are starting up a coworking space in British Columbia’s Fraser valley. Specifically, in Abbotsford. We started with just a landing page, but last week, added a Meetup group.

I had some issues setting it up, and immediately after I linked directly to our landing page from Meetup, Meetup actually cancelled the account and refunded my payment. But … we worked out our differences over a beer (actually, not) and I set up the page again, sans link.

And Meetup has been awesome. We now have 18 people in our Meetup group, plus the 20 or so who have signed up via the landing page (there is some overlap). We’re pumped!

If you’re interested in cool flexible office space, with a side-dish of community and networking, please let us know! Join the Meetup group, and sign up on our Coworking Abbotsford landing page. At this rate we’re hoping to be able to sign a lease within a few weeks, and open up within a couple of months.

Need a logo for sparkplug 9 …

Sparkplug9 has been happily logo-less for 8 years. 8 years!

However, since I’ve been consulting more intensely in the past 3 months, I’ve decided that Sparkplug9 MUST HAVE A LOGO. I mean, with a logo, even a solopreneur looks pro, right?

So, I’ve been playing with Photoshop (bad idea) and searching the web for inspiration (better idea). All I can say is: creative commons is a great thing.

So, with a little help from Abdullah Najeeb Photography, who are very gracious to post their photos to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, and a little help from Photoshop, I’ve built a logo. Well, actually, I made a few … all based around a flame from Abdullah’s photography.

Unfortunately, they suck

Next step: find an actual designer 🙂

[ update ]

I’ve posted a project on Guru.com. Three designers have already submitted their proposals, so I hope to be happily logo-fied shortly!

Social Media Marketing: Brian Solis on Beating Digital Darwinism

Brian Solis has just released a new book: The End of Business as Usual, and he’s blogging about it, most recently with a post on beating digital Darwinism.

(In other words: avoiding extinction due to ignoring the rise of social … and the consequent change in customer expectations.)

Solis is a big thinker, and releases books with big thoughts. And I’ve had his blog post in a browser tab for almost a week now, wanting to blog about it but not sure how. Now I know how: simplification. Or, if not simplification, at least short-ification. Because if brevity is the soul of wit, Solis may not be the funniest man on the planet.

So, here are Brian’s 10 trends, shortened:

  1. Social networks & key influencers
  2. Geolocation & social
  3. Crowdsourced deals
  4. Social commerce
  5. Referral & recommendation systems
  6. Gamification of everything
  7. Mobile
  8. Multi-platformization
  9. Holistic branding & customer experience across MANY platforms & networks
  10. New expectations of the modern consumer

You really need to go and read the article, which is great. But I wanted to boil down the essence of why business is no longer “business as usual” in fewer words.

If I haven’t succeeded, castigate me ritually.

Top 10 social media tips for businesses just starting with social media

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with businesses and organizations that are recognizing the need to do something – anything – with social media.

The why is simple: they want to be where their customers are. The how: not so simple. Where do you start? What’s important, and what’s nice-to-have? How do you enter a social space appropriately, and how do you connect with people?

Here are 10 tips for businesses getting started with social media:

  1. Claim your space
    Domainer squatters are capturing all available domain names. And social squatters are doing similar things. So protect your future interests by automatically claiming your brand on any social media site. You don’t always know which ones will become significant remember Pinterest’s amazing growth) so cast a wide net.

  2. Start by listening
    Just like you wouldn’t show up at a party in a foreign country talking at full volume acting like you own the place, start slow. Start by understanding a social network before you try to establish your own presence. Reddit is very different than Facebook. Twitter is not YouTube. And different communications tactics and strategies work in different places.

  3. Talk to a pro
    If you’re new to social, buy some time from a long-time pro – a consultant who does social for a living. Even if it’s just an hour a week, get some tips, get some strategies, and most important, get some quick feedback on your ideas. A small investment here will save big dollars down the road: especially if you do something catastrophically wrong and create a PR nightmare.

  4. Start a blog
    Participating in social networks is like renting: it may make a ton of business sense, but it’s not on your own turf, and you don’t make the rules. Tilt the field a little in your direction by starting a blog, where you own the land and you set the rules. Everything you do here is an investment in your own property.

  5. Connect with others in your industry
    See what your competition is doing. See what your colleagues are doing. You can avoid mistakes that others have made, and you can learn from successes they’ve enjoyed. You’ll need to travel your own path, but you don’t have to do it in ignorance.

  6. Know your story
    Just like coming to a business meeting for networking, know a few things before you go. Who you are (your brand, your story), and what you want (your strategy). People who don’t know who they are or what they’re interested in can be boring … and the same is true with companies and brands. So figure it out before you open your mouth.

  7. Be able to act on what you learn
    As you engage with current and future clients, you’re going to hear some things that are going to need to be acted on. So have good communication lines with people in your company who manage marketing, production, customer relations, PR, and so on. Nothing’s worse than hearing about a major problem at your company that you can’t do anything about because you haven’t built your bridges first.

  8. Lighten up and have some fun
    Social media is … wait for it … social. So reading from the corporate strategy manual is a non-starter. Selling like it’s a TV ad is a waste of time. And keeping the stiff, formal tones of the annual report is not going to cut it. Social is about people, so talk like a real person. Just like you’d want companies to talk to you.

  9. Be social, don’t just do social
    Social is not something you do, it’s a way you live. So don’t just do social for the company, participate in social media yourself. Get as many on your team and company to do likewise. This will teach you the culture and communication styles of tomorrow’s clients and partners.

  10. Set some goals
    Nothing in your company gets done just to get done. Everything has, or is supposed to have, some kind of strategy – some link to what makes your organization successful. Social’s no different. Establish goals and track progress toward them. And, obviously, align your goals with company strategy … but make them realistic given the character of social networks that you’re engaging with.

  11. And a bonus point: set up monitoring
    Set up cheap/free monitoring with Google Alerts or Social Mention (here are a few more options for listing to your clients). Nothing is worse than being ignored … unless it’s finding out that you ignored a small issue that is now a major one. So listen to mentions of your brand and products, and be prepared to respond appropriately.

Meetup: this is how NOT to treat paying clients

Earlier this week I set up a Meetup group for coworkers in BC’s Fraser Valley. It contained some information about coworking, some hints on the kinds of people who might enjoy coworking, and a link to our current landing page for coworking in Abbotsford.

Today I was informed that the meetup group had been terminated:

Needless to say, I was totally flabbergasted. Our meetup group was for people who wanted to help start a coworking community in the valley. It wasn’t about porn, and we weren’t selling anything. So why were we being closed? How were we not in compliance?

Well, the answer was simple.

For more information you can review the Terms of Service

This is one of those cases where something that is simple is not easy. Here are the Meetup’s terms of service – to the right. As you can tell … there are a lot of terms. And a lot of words. And a long, long, long web page full of reasons why we were not in compliance.

But which one was applicable?

After a lot of reading, I think it was this one: 5.3(b)(vii). Yeah, that’s number 5, section 3, subsection (b), sub-subsection (vii). Which reads under a heading titled “Grounds for removal, sanction, and/or suspension:”

[Posting any material] that uses the Platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service for another website;

Well. Perhaps the link to our coworking signup page violates that stipulation.

Here’s how you should treat that scenario, Meetup
Here’s a wild, crazy idea. I know it’s out of left field, so brace yourself. Be seated. Hold on to your hat.

How about: you send me an email, explain that stipulation, and ask me to remove it?

I know it’s ground-breaking and earth-shattering … but do you think that might be better than arbitrarily booting a paying customer with no reasonable explanation?

No, I didn’t read your terms of service
I’m sorry, but there are 14 pages of TOS, totalling 8319 words. And I have a life.

So no, I didn’t read your TOS. And I don’t think your TOS is reasonable or customer-friendly.

So please …
So I’m asking … please reinstate the group. I’ll remove the offending link (if indeed that is the problem).

The ONE thing you absolutely MUST have when networking

Most people hate networking.

It’s too hard, it’s too boring, it’s too forward. Or, they’re too shy, they’re too stuck in a comfort zone, or just not very outgoing.

Here’s the good news
There is a secret for good networking. And it has nothing to do with how you shake hands or maintain eye contact. It’s not about psyching yourself up, or ensuring you meet X number of people. It’s not about figuring out your story in advance, or scripting your elevator pitch, although those can be good ideas.

Here’s the bad news
Unfortunately, it’s not something everyone can do, either. Only some of us can do it … not because we’re better than anyone else, or smarter, or more outgoing, or more attractive. But it is something that we possess. And maybe you do too. And if you don’t? There are ways to get it.

Here’s the secret
The secret is passion.

Is there something that you’re doing that you are absolutely passionate about? Excited about? Engaged with? Vitally interested in?

Then you can network well. It’s as simple as that.

It IS about others … but also YOU
To be sure, you can’t network by spouting off at every opportunity. If you only use your mouth, forget it. You’re boring, and rude to boot.

But it is ALSO about you.

If you just listen when networking, you’re going to hear a lot, and you’ll make some connections. But those connections won’t be strong ones, and won’t be beneficial, because the people you’re connecting with have no clue who you are, what you’re doing, and why you get out of bed in the morning.

In other words, you don’t fit into a box in their head. And that means you don’t fit in their heads at all. Not good.

Passion is infectious
When a passionate person who listens and asks questions and gets interested in others starts to speak, people pay attention. And they remember.

Now you’ve got a connection. And now you’re networking.

Building sites that sell

I’ve been thinking lately about marketing sites: sites that sell. I’ve built more than a few of them, and I’ve been musing about the process.

After a bit of doodling, this is what I came up with:

It starts with story, brand, imagination. The components I’ve put here are:

  • Goals
  • Vision/feel/brand/story
  • High-level strategy
  • Name
  • Claim (social space, usernames)

Then you start building something real, actual, tangible.

  • Design: UX & UI (all platforms)
  • Technical: coding
  • Content: content/social/SEO (technical and content), languages
  • Digital collateral: for sharing & partners (content, images, exclusives, links, videos)
  • Marketing tactics: earned/owned/shared/paid
  • Mobile: web, apps, SMS

You don’t build an isolated castle … you connect it to key communities. You build in links for more information. You build in hooks for marketing automation, and to the organization.

  • Social: FB, Twitter, YouTube/Vimeo, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr
  • Info/follow: email, RSS, newsletter, white papers, reports
  • Connect: site & social
  • Integrate: client channels (sales)
  • Lead automation: Hubspot or similar

Carry out
Then, having planned the work, you work the plan. The job is not done when the site/service is created … that’s when it actually starts

  • Implement plan across all properties
  • Integrate marketing automation (Hubspot)
  • Adjust as needed

This, as all things, is draft. I’m sure I’ll want to update it tomorrow … and I’m sure others have more and better ideas to add.

Google+: don't add brand accounts if you want to stay social

As we all know, Google+ is about to add brand accounts. And, following the Myspace get-the-bands-and-the-fans-will-com strategy, they’re working hard to get Hollywood stars on Google+.

I think that’s a bad strategy … if you really want a truly social experience.

For those of us who are on Google+ right now – here I am, let’s circle up – there’s a real excitement, a buzz, an eagerness, and a charge to using Google+.

There’s a lot of reasons for that:

  • it’s new and we like shiny new toys
  • friending is more manageable than Facebook and Twitter
  • sharing media is easier, quicker than Facebook and Twitter
  • Google+ is integrated into much of (not yet all of) the Google world we live in online

But that’s not the most important reason. The key reason a lot of us on G+ are absolutely loving it is the MASSIVE ENGAGEMENT FACTOR.

People see things. People post. They reply. They argue. They circle. They +1.

In other words, this social network is social. Whoda thunk it? In fact, it’s intensely social. So social that people like Digg founder Kevin Rose redirected his personal blog to his Google+ profile.

My worry and my concern is that by bringing brands in, Google+ will turn into a less social experience. And instead of being a valid and differentiated alternative to Facebook … it will just become more similar. Facebook is a huge marketing platform. Google+ is an innocent, young, on-monetized social network.

I know it can’t stay the way it is forever. But is it possible there’s another path?

Social media is word of mouth written in stone

Why does social media matter?

I was recent speaking at a small gathering of sales people. And one of them asked me this question.

They sell marketing services to small businesses – mom and pop shops. Places like your local pizzeria, drycleaners, plumbers, doctors. Why should those busy business owners care about social media?

It’s not like they don’t have enough to worry about. Small business owners, after all, are probably some of the busiest people you’ll meet. Running the business, hiring staff, training, pitching in where and when needed, doing the books, planning marketing, dealing with unhappy clients … the list does not end.

The answer’s really, really simple. Of course, it also happens to be a question. And the question is: does word of mouth matter?

That’s an obvious one to anyone in business or marketing. Or anyone, actually. Word of mouth drive more business (sometimes away) than most major marketing campaigns. Good word of mouth means solid business and increasing client lists. Bad word of mouth means lonely, slow days with dollars flying out but only dribbling in.

Well, social media is word of mouth. But, this word of mouth lasts forever.

Thanks to Google, thanks to rating and review sites, thanks to the internet … everything is saved. Even the idiotic tweets of a horny politician. Certainly the passionate raves and rants of your customers.

And not only is it saved … it’s shared. And spread. WOM 1.0 usually died after a person or two. The words were spoken, they hung in the air, the sound faded. And that was it. WOM 2.0 is much different. They’re saved, they have a life of their own independent from their author, and they can be shared by the author or anyone else to an unlimited audience.

That means everyone in your town, potentially. Everyone who is on your client list, possibly. Maybe even all your friends at the gym.


Word of mouth is a big deal? Social media is a bigger deal. What are you going to do about it?

More on that later …

Seriously? That's your brand? That's your tagline?

Inspiration strikes a the oddest moments – such as a stroll back to your hotel in downtown Toronto.

Where I happened to notice this Grand & Toy truck being unloaded:

“Nobody looks at office supplies the way we do.”

Seriously? That’s your brand? That’s your tagline? Really? What on earth does that mean?

Are you confessing to unnatural urges? Do you have an autistic view of office supplies, like Rain Man, counting sheets of paper in each package and mentally dividing all the pens according to color and size?

A brand is important. A tagline should convey something real as well as expressive about that brand. It shouldn’t be a throw-away that lacks any real meaning.


Twitter: how to fix the Quick Bar

The Twitter Quick Bar, as seen in Marco Arment's post.

Like any other company, Twitter wants to make money. Like most other companies that live off user-generated content, advertising is one of the methods they’re working on.

The Twitter Quick Bar is an attempt to insert an ad stream into users’ tweet streams. Unfortunately, it’s a massive fail – check out Marco Arment’s blog for an excellent overview and explanation.

It’s all about context
The problem is not that users are angry about advertising (or, at least, that isn’t the main problem). The problem is the complete lack of context. And that’s a problem due to the inherent nature of Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate in contextual media. You follow people with interests you care about. When they tweet – presumably about things you care about – you get messages that you want and expect to see.

Disastrously decontextualized
The Quick Bar is decontextualized. It’s about something that someone else cares about … someone who has paid a stack of dollars to Twitter to shove under your nose. As such, it’s the opposite of permission marketing. To use Seth Godin’s language, it’s interruption marketing.

The Twitter Quick Bar is the Charlie Sheen of UI design. A catastrophic meltdown no one saw coming.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

(This is clueless and tone-deaf for Twitter … a company that should get this stuff. One can only assume that co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure from an active, day-to-day role in the company has had a negative effect.)

But easy to fix
The simple solution for Twitter: segment your users by interest and attention. Then, instead of selling advertisers a shotgun of promoted tweets or hashtags, sell a sniper rifle of specific interests.

Now, your promoted tweets and hashtags are more relevant to your users.

And now, your users are less upset.

Simple, no?

(But maybe not quite as easy.)

Credible backstory: a pre-requisite for marketing

Never start marketing without a credible backstory.

By which I mean: you can’t sell your product to me without selling yourself to me … and you can’t sell yourself to anyone if you don’t have your ducks in a row.

Case in point:

I was just followed by “weightcoachlisa” on Twitter.

This is a marketing occasion. By following me, she’s has created an outbound message to me, announcing her existence and the fact that she’s following me. This creates an opportunity (for her) to be considered (by me) as a candidate for mutual friending. In other words, will I follow weightcoachlisa?

To make that call, I first check out her profile.

  • A decent number of tweets … so not a complete newbie
  • Lots of followers … might be worthwhile
  • Lots of following, in fact more than followers … so probably an aggressive follower, a social media climber, and maybe not worthwhile
  • Tweets are all quotes … this is an automated account, possibly
  • Nice profile pic … looks good, but could it be a fake? Is it too good?

Some good, some bad. The backstory’s not good enough yet for me to follow. But there is a link to a website. Checking out the website might give me more information … if it’s a good website with a decent amount of content … fine, I’ll probably follow her.

Unfortunately, this is what you come to:

This is not a good thing …

  • Lots of errors
  • Only 3 pieces of content
  • No real and apparent link to the supposed person behind “weightcoachlisa”

Conclusion: this is a fake spam account, and I’ll ignore the follow.

Note: I might be wrong. It might be a real account, and there might be a real person behind “weightcoachlisa.” And it might be the case that by not following her I’m missing out on some good tips.

But the backstory sucks. And therefore it’s not credible. And therefore the risk is higher than the reward.


. . .
. . .

By the way, this is me on Twitter. Is my backstory credible?