Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

The marketer’s guide to personal finance

Even in the web 2.0 world, marketers need money. We need money to create remarkable products and to tell stories that spread. We need it to hire the best people and most of all, to stick it out until our ideas spread.

Which is why all but the largest companies need to learn a key lesson of personal finance.

This chart shows what happens to two people. The smart person, we’ll call him Gallant, manages to save $100 a month for five years.

The other one, we’ll call him Doofus, spends $100 more than he has every month.

After five years, Gallant has almost $7,000 in the bank. Even with only 5% interest, he’s building an asset that keeps him out of trouble with his mother-in-law and gives him the freedom to invest in the next part of his business.

The same period of time, Doofus has used his credit cards to finance his debt of $100 a month. That tiny nut has now added up to about $13,000 in 24% credit card debt. And every single month it gets a lot bigger.

If this isn’t interesting to you, consider the company that spends $10,000 or $100,000 extra every month.

A lot of organizations decide to skip the rice and beans and studio apartment step. They decide to "go big or stay home." More often than not, they end up going home.

I spent many years window shopping restaurant menus and driving all night to get to meetings where the plane cost just a bit too much. I thought at the time that I had no choice, but now I realize that I could have borrowed money on my credit cards and lived a little easier. I’m glad I didn’t.

When I talk to people who want to become marketers, I almost always tell them to go start something and go market something. The same advice for 15 year olds and seniors. Turning off the TV and building a Cafe Press store is not only free, but it starts to build a professional-skills asset for the long haul. Pay as much as you need to for things that matter, and as little as you can for things that don’t. And never borrow money to pay for something that goes down in value.

Informal workshop

Sorry, full!

Friday, May 4, I’ll be trying out some new slides and riffs on the presentation for the Dip. If you’d like to be part of the audience (I need your feedback!), would love to have you stop by the office. Drop me a line, there’s only room for ten or so people (and it’s an off the record, non-public sort of thing). I’ll write back with specifics, timing, etc. Admission is free, no strings, no promises. The focus is going to be on the presentation, so it’s not really a workshop, except in the theatrical sense.

I’ll take this post down once we’re full. Thanks.

iPhone Challenge: Marketing pundits unite

Predicting the future of the iPhone is perfect bait for marketing pundits everywhere. How about a pool and we’ll see who’s as smart as they pretend to be?

Steve Ballmer says, "There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."

Laura Ries writes,

"I don’t disagree with the prediction that initially Apple will sell
quite a few iPhones. Steve Job’s brilliant job with the PR and the
media’s love of convergence will make an iPhone a must have for some
early adopters and elites.

But shortly after the launch the initial hype will wear off and
Steve will move on to the next project at Apple. Then the iPhone will
end up in the convergence scrap heap along with the ROKR, N-Gage, WebTv
and many others."

Easy to be hard, I guess. My take is quite different. I think the iPhone is going to sell 2 million units in 2007 and more in 2008. There, I said it.

So, I invite you to make a prediction, trackback it here and a year from now, we’ll take a look.

The Dip

Big profits from quitting in Australia

Paul points us to this interview: Inside Business – 29/04/2007: ANZ posts impressive first-half profits.

The money quote:

ALAN KOHLER, PRESENTER: […]  Well, John MacFarlane, you’re saying that Asia is hot, which of course it is, and that ANZ is moving early to position yourself there. But you actually moved out early, didn’t you, by selling Grindleys in 2000.  In fact Friday is the seventh anniversary of the sale of Grindleys, so doesn’t what you’re doing now in Asia basically represent an admission that that was a mistake?
JOHN MCFARLANE: Everything in its time. If we had not sold Grindleys when we sold it we would not be as successful in Australia and New Zealand as we are today, I can assure you of that.
ALAN KOHLER: Why is that?
JOHN MCFARLANE: Focus is everything in business and Grindleys was a distraction for us. It occupied more than half our management time, more than half our board time and contributed nine per cent of our profits. And it was the wrong part of the world.

The Dip

Where do you get stuck?

John pitches in on the Dip from about.com: Podcasting: Radio Reinvented.

I’ve already been profoundly affected by it, if the measure of "profound" is that I’ve begun changing my behavior. Many times while reading through this, I resonated with the idea of knowing when to quit as also being the ability to say no. Not just to specific projects or even people, but to behavior that tends to lead me down a rabbit hole where I don’t get anything accomplished. I’m actually really good at time management (I work from home and had to learn to do so effectively out of self-preservation) but having the idea of ‘the dip’ elucidated so well has really helped me.

The power of connection

Pam points us to Family to Family. This extraordinary non-profit connects communities with plenty to communities without enough.

I’m fascinated by the lack of infrastructure necessary to accomplish this. An all-volunteer group is able to become a clearinghouse, connecting people who need and want to be connected.

The Dip


Lookupinthesky My favorite image of the moment.

This still from my favorite TV show growing up (have you figured it out yet?) represents the imperative that we all have in creating the remarkable, the thing that people consider the best in the world.

The person pointing wasn't paid to do so. He did it because he wanted to.

The people looking aren't looking because they care about Superman. They're looking because everyone else is looking.

As our society gets more connected, it is also getting more fragmented. You can find just about anything online, billions of tiny niches. But the niches that turn a profit are the ones that attract a crowd, that establish themselves as the best in the world. Just another word for remarkable.

Even governments market

…sometimes, though, they don’t do it very well.

If you want to travel to India, you need a visa. The Indian government would very much like you to travel to their country, to exchange ideas, do business, see the sights and spend some money. But you need a visa first.

I spent a few hours at the Indian consulate in New York Friday. It was filled with so many possibilities, I had trouble remembering them all.

Many of the chairs are broken, leaving sharp steel platforms on which to crouch. And there aren’t enough chairs, broken or not. The signs are confusing, the two clerks are protected by a sheet of glass a full inch thick (which is twice the thickness of a typical bank’s) and the little machine that dispenses deli-style tickets is broken.

Fixing the consulate would be easy. I’d start by putting in phone lines to a call center in India and making it easy for anyone waiting to get questions answered by a helpful person with plenty of time to invest in the conversation. I’d buy some comfortable chairs. I’d invite airlines and hotels to have brochures or even better, a booking agent right there in the waiting area. I’d hire seven more clerks. And I’d definitely lose the glass.

The more important issue is this: this is a business. They take in more than $20,000 a day in fees, but even more important, the way they market themselves has a direct and important impact on travel decisions. No visa, no trip. Big hassle, no trip. Given that every single person traveling to this vast country must deal with the consulate first, think of the leverage… Just a small influence on the quantity or quality of travel to India would be huge.

My takeaway was this: the people in that building were way too nice and way too smart to not know the many ways they could fix this process. The problem is that this bureaucracy, like most bureaucracies, has an attitude of minimizing, not maximizing. They want to minimize expense, not maximize benefit. There isn’t a single person there who has as part of his job, "change systems to increase the satisfaction of people we deal with." Nobody who is charged with, "increase revenue opportunities for us and for the people we work with." Or even, "employ more people in Delhi."

Same thing happens at my village zoning board, at most schools, at many churches and even, believe it or not, at most businesses. It’s not that difficult, but it requires a very different mindset.

Politics is flat

On Friday May 18 in NY, Micah and Andrew are running a conference that just might be one of those seminal events that everyone remembers attending years later… even if they didn’t. Like the Fast Company Advance in 1997, or the AOL partner event in 1996. Check it out: Personal Democracy Forum – Technology Is Changing Politics.

Some speakers: Tom Friedman, Arianna Huffington, Jay Rosen, Kim Malone, Robert Scoble, Jeff Jarvis,
Cheryl Contee, Eli Pariser, Sara Horowitz, Josh Marshall, Ruby
Sinreich, Craig Newmark, Joe Trippi, Becki Donatelli, Andrew Keen,
Ellen Miller, Chris Rabb, David All, Todd Ziegler, Allison Fine, Clay
Shirky, Liza Sabater, Brian Dear, Ben Rattray, Seth Godin, Steve Urquhart, Mindy
Finn, Mike Turk, Zack Exley, Walter Fields and Robert Greenwald.

Hope to see you there.

Book tour update: When the funnel gets flipped

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a new kind of book tour I am planning for May. Little did I know that it would turn into a fascinating experiment in the power of the network. Find out all the details on the entire tour right here.

As of now, the tour is scheduled for about half a dozen cities, including:

Philadelphia, May 16

Chicago, May 22

 New York, May 29

Santa Clara, May 23

Ann Arbor, May 22

Phoenix/Tempe, May 24

with Salt Lake City coming as soon as we nail down the timing. [Breaking news: Salt Lake City, May 24 in the afternoon is now ready for booking.] The amazing thing is that most of these were created, built and run by people I have never met before. Satisfied readers decided it would be fun to see if they could organize hundreds of people, find a venue, work with a bookstore and pull the entire thing off. And they have. It’s gratifying and humbling, and a testament to what one person with dedication can do now that we all have access to the network. You can find organizer pages for Salt Lake, Phoenix, Ann Arbor and Silicon Valley for more details on how they did it.

This is a much bigger story than one author visiting a few cities. This sort of approach works for just about any marketer. If you don’t have customers who are willing to organize this sort of event, what are you missing? It’s easy to imagine doctors doing it when bringing a brain researcher to town. Or chocolate or wine fanatics welcoming a particularly talented vintner to their neighborhood. And it doesn’t have to be an in person visit. It could work just as well in sending people to a vibrant, important YouTube document on a politician, or a blog post about a new actuarial practice.

It’s taking the world (including me) a long time to get around the top-down, Oprah-driven mindset that comes so naturally.

Almost all authors hate book tours. They hate the idea of going to a city on spec, hoping the bookstore can scare enough people into coming by (usually by posting signs in the lobby) and most of all they hate the idea of a slightly indifferent audience walking by, sniffing at a book and walking away. Ouch. And it’s not just authors that hate it. Willy Loman hated it, too. So does John McCain.

The takeaway for all of us is this:
1. Build a permission asset: a group of people that actually wants to hear what you’re up to.
2. Create something (a product, a service, a story) that those people want to spread (not get paid to spread, but choose to spread) and get out of the way.

Thanks to the organizers around the country, we all just learned something.