August 27, 2013


You can accelerate the process of becoming visible and then memorable. Networking alone isn’t enough because you won’t be seen by most of your connections --- the ones who weren’t there. When they’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.

Let's follow a "fake it 'til you make it" model.

Fake Familiarity

Home Depot and GE hot water heatersI read story in a book years ago but can’t find references. Let’s assume it’s true.

Home Depot asked customers which brand of hot water heater they preferred. The winner was General Electric. That’s remarkable because GE didn’t make any.

How did GE win? People are familiar with the company, which makes many consumer products including ranges, microwaves and fridges.  Assuming GE made hot water heaters isn’t much of a stretch. Maybe the people surveyed didn’t know which brand they had and didn’t recognize the other choices. Maybe they gave the answer they thought the surveyors wanted.

Home Depot saw an opportunity to turn fake familiarity into real business. They approached GE and got exclusive rights to make hot water heaters under the GE name.

Show Up

To become more visible, start showing up at events. You needn’t announce your intentions. Simply start showing up and network. Consistently. You’ll start to get noticed.

You’ll become more comfortable and familiar. Soon, people will remember you as having been around longer than you were. They will even think you were at places you didn’t go because they’ll start anticipating where they expect to see you. You become like GE.


You gain little by saying you’re attending an event for the first time if people would expect to find you there (e.g., a trade conference). Why weren’t you there before? Maybe you didn’t know or didn’t see the benefits. Is either worth admitting?

Refer to yourself as having shown up.

For instance, if you say "I liked speaker X at this year’s Y Conference", your audience may infer that you attended in the past even if you're a first-timer. If you’re asked about last year, you can say that you couldn’t make it. That implies you normally attend.

Isn't this sneaky? You aren't saying you did something you didn't. You're letting people infer. Marketing is about the stories people tell themselves. Leave gaps and your audience will fill them in.

Spread The Word

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

As you start showing up, you gather valuable information and insights. You then have a universal lasting gift that’s easy to share via a regular newsletter (e.g., Mad Mimi gives low effort results). Thanks to tracking codes, you’ll instantly see what’s working and with whom.

By sharing, you remind your fellow attendees about the event (not everyone takes notes). More important, you inform your larger group of connections who were not there. That’s leverage. As you become their eyes and ears, you become more valuable and visible even if they are out-of-sight.


PS Buying a Home Depot “GE” water heater may not be a good idea …

August 20, 2013


megaphoneIt’s tempting to announce what you’re launching soon, especially if a competitor has shipped something new.

Blackberry and Microsoft tend to pre-announce. Apple and Google tend to ship. Guess which approach works better?


Blackberry tried to buy time with pre-announcements about the BB10 hardware and operating system. Anticipation built and exceeded what Blackberry delivered. For instance, there are still no apps for Netflix or Instagram. The pre-announcement strategy didn’t work. The world won’t wait. Other smartphones kept improving. Blackberry was hitting yesterday's irrelevant target.

Blackberry is losing market share across the world, even in former strongholds (CBC News, Aug 19, 2013). The company is now for sale (Globe and Mail, Aug 12), which could net CEO Thorsten Heins $55.6 million (CTV News, Aug 16, 2013).


Steve Jobs was a master of surprise and kept tight control. He announced what was ready for launch. The speculation by others created interest. Not everything succeeded. Apple TV has yet to change the world. The thermonuclear war against Android failed.

While the post-Jobs Apple doesn’t pre-announce, there seem to be more leaks and less innovation than before.


Microsoft likes making big empty pronouncements. In December 1995, Bill Gates finally figured out that the Internet mattered and would be core to all their products. How has that worked out? Office only became web-based this year, which Steve Ballmer calls a “fundamental shift in our business” (CBC News, Jan 2013).

Strategies to dominate search are below expectations with a 17.9% market share for Bing (Search Engine Watch, Jul 2013). Windows 8 is best avoided and has flopped with only 5.4% market share (The Next Web, Aug 1, 2013). The Windows tablets haven't changed the world and led to a write-down of $900 million of unsold inventory (Computerworld, Jul 2013). The Windows phone is getting a toehold as #3, at the expense of Blackberry (ZD Net, Aug 14, 2013).


Google has made tiny forays with big results. Imagine a search engine offering email. Now imagine a world without Gmail and all the plugins. Imagine a search engine creating a web browser (Chrome) and an free operating system for smartphones (Android). These odd steps started small and paid off big.

We’ve had other surprises like the Chromecast TV stick, Google Glass and the Moto X smartphone with always-on voice recognition. If Google made announcements months or years in advance, we'd be yawning now. And competitors would have had advance warning.

Which Way?

Can you think of any great reasons to pre-announce rather than make a splash when you’re ready to ship?


PS Henry Ford said, “You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do.”

August 13, 2013


Marketing Reflections: click to readMarketing Reflections ran for 42 consecutive months. I stopped because the newsletter was
  • dated in design
  • time-consuming to create
  • cumbersome to maintain
There had to be a solution.

Within six months, I rediscovered the power of newsletters and launched Transparence using Mad Mimi. We’ll look at the well-featured free version which lets you send 12,500 emails a month to 2,500 people.

[Disclaimer: as usual, no affiliate links, no inducements offered or accepted.]

The Look

Fresh-looking email from Mad MimiMany newsletters look like they’re based on stock templates … because they are. How does that set you apart?

I wanted a fresher, cleaner look optimized for smartphones.

At first, Mad Mimi looked too simple. The examples didn’t look like newsletters. Where is the column with links, contact information and a table of contents? At the same time, I liked the freshness and extensive use of visuals.

Was Mad Mimi too basic?

The new MailChimpMonkeying Around

I decided to try MailChimp and quickly got overwhelmed with the options. I could easily create a “normal” newsletter with templates but did not like the results. There’s lots of online help available but I wanted something more intuitive (e.g., like private social network tool Ning 3.0).

In June, MailChimp introduced a new version which is “more efficient, mobile-friendly, and flexible”. Since Mad Mimi already was, I didn’t explore the changes.

Mad Mimi helps create your bannerLook Sharp

There’s no point sending out a newsletter that looks amateurish. If you’re a designer, you can
  • create a banner
  • select suitable fonts for the titles and text
  • choose the optimal size and placement for graphics
The two usual choices are to work from a stock template or hire a designer. Mad Mimi gives a third choice: they’ll do the work for you. For free. Even if you have a free account.

I wanted a banner that looked professional and consistent with the look of We went through several iterations before settling on this.
Transparence_aThey even created a sample newsletter from an example I sent. I cloned the result to create my template. That a time saver.

Simpler Terminology

Newsletters often talk about subscribers. Mad Mimi talks about your audience. This subtle distinction makes a difference. Subscribers feel like an asset you “own”. In contrast, an audience feels like a group you owe.

Amazing Support

Mad Mimi says that as a free user “you don't get our awesome support”. That’s fair but not true. You get great support. I had occasional questions and got quick responses by email. The live chat support is wonderful too. The team helps and welcomes suggestions.

Click to read newsletterFair Pricing

While you can do email marketing for free, you get more features with paid plans — and support the service. Here’s a comparison:
Contacts MailChimp Mad Mimi
1,000 $15 $12
2,500 $30 $16
5,000 $75 $27
If you have an audience of 1,000 and add one person, MailChimp doubles your price. No thanks. Mad Mimi has better prices and is more fair in their tiers.

The Results

I could have imported my old Marketing Reflections mailing list into Mad Mimi but decided to start Transparence fresh by requiring the audience to sign up again (100% opt-in). I invited selected people in early July, which is prime holiday time. Even so, about half agreed without seeing the new newsletter.

I scheduled Transparence to go out at 10 AM. It was mailed at 10:01 AM. That’s fine. All copies got delivered (no bounces due to full inboxes or bad email addresses). No one unsubscribed or reported Transparence as spam.

Here are the statistics:
I’m especially interested in what’s read and who’s reading. Mad Mimi shows that type of information in an easy to understand format. Of the potential audience
  • 62% viewed the newsletter
  • 29% clicked on a link (actually 47% of the 62% who viewed)
The engagement may decrease as the audience grows.


Overall, Mad Mimi is a simple, powerful, inexpensive way to send email newsletters and track the results. Highly recommended — especially since you can start for free. Today I upgraded to a paid account to take advantage of extra features like automated drip campaigns and unlimited image hosting.


PS Why not get Transparence, my newsletter? It’s free.

August 6, 2013


home officeWorking from a home office is not the same as working at home.
If you have an office office, you could easily spend some time working from home too. The photo shows a cramped setup that might be usable for short periods

Working from a home office means working primarily from the office located in your home. I've been working from my home office for over 3 years. We’ll explore three keys for long term success.

1. Equip

The key word in “home office” is office. An office is a place you work. An office is equipped with the right tools for you to get results. These tools might include:
  • an office-grade chair
  • full-spectrum lighting (ideally daylight)
  • a business-grade computer with an external keyboard and external monitor
  • a computer table with a keyboard tray with an adjustable height
  • a business-grade printer/scanner
  • reliable, fast Internet
  • a desk or table
  • filing space
Does your office look like an office? Sitting in the corner of the basement is less than ideal if you have options. A separate room is ideal for privacy and to separate your work and home lives.

Maybe you have no visitors. That doesn't matter. Your physical surroundings affect your  mindset, productivity and results. Even colours make a difference. It’s easy to scrimp on your setup. If you had an outside office, what would you pay in rent? Maybe you can use a portion of that money to equip your home office in stages.

I'm lucky. In the mid 1990s, I had a 20’x20’ office with solid oak furniture and chairs finished in the fabric of my choice. When the company switched to open concept in grey/beige, I bought my furniture.

2. Work

You go to an office to work. You’re in the right frame of mind and dressed appropriately. If you wouldn’t go to an outside office in your pyjamas, why go to your home office that way? At least dress well enough for a video conference call.

You're at your office to work. so work. With no one to monitor you, you might not be accountable. You can bring in discipline by having rules (e.g. no personal tasks except during breaks), a schedule (e.g., slots for checking email) and using time tracking tools.

3. Go Home

When you're done working at an outside office, you go home. The travel creates a buffer. You lose that when when your office is at home. How do you stop working? This may be your biggest challenge — especially if you enjoy what you’re doing.

There’s no place like home if you can’t stop working. You don’t what your home office to become your office with a kitchen, shower and bed.


PS If the patio beckons, maybe you wait until your lunch break?