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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Best Question…Ever!

The best way to present new information is a story.

The best way to get a listener to focus on your story is to start with a question.

Did you ever feel your body lurch to answer when someone asked a good question?

In direct mail, a proven start is the “Passover Opening” from “Why is tonight like no other night?” initiating the remembrance of the Passover.

The Passover Opening in direct mail is three short one paragraph questions to focus the reader on the context of the story that follows.

A question is also a great way to start a speech or a presentation.

A document management software company was building a presentation for a “must-have” account. We all agreed the opening question was the most important part to getting the sale.

When the presentation started, the presenter raised is hand, cocked his head, and said,

“How many of this room...have ever lost a your own computer?”

Everyone in the audience raised their hand, and their comments made all the points planned for the presentation.

Sale completed.

Where have you used opening questions successfully?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working The Back Of The Room

In this LinkedIn, Ning, Social Media reality, succeeding at face to face meetings and group meetings are still very important. On Dick’s Sales Model, I put “Events/Design,” which most people think means talking from the front of the room.

Even though Julie once introduced me as a “loud and frequent speaker,” I get most of my value from group meetings from actively working the audience.

Last week Washington DC Connections had a speed networking event which was unique, because there was no front of the room! I had a structured meeting, for a minute or so, one-on-one, with over a hundred people.

Here’s what I learned.

Come prepared - My two best tools were a name tag and a supply of useful handouts. Nametag, because several people thanked me for having a sign they could read. The handouts were links to information I thought the participants might want.

Introduce to be helped - I learned that if I asked for something in my introduction, my partners were pleased to help. Got right to: “Here’s what I need.”

Offer to help - A little better than half the time I had someone or something that would help the other person. Those were the happiest meetings.

Any spot is a good spot - After a half hour in a loud room, I was hoarse, I stepped out of line to get a break. Outside the hall, I was still in constant, productive meetings, they just weren’t quite as fast as we couldn’t hear the airhorn.

I found opportunities for me, for my friends who weren’t attending, for the promoter hosting the event

What I liked best was the successful people discarded their recitation of who they were and got right to what they could use, which led to immediate transactions. That might be a good lesson for a slower moving meetings, too.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Building Better Blog Posts

Just read a great blog post on “It’s A COBOL World” called “A Customer Visit” by an old friend. “It’s a COBOL World” is about COBOL, the workhorse of business computer processing, and the team of writers on the blog are passionate about getting more out of the code.

“A Customer Visit” addressed people’s attitudes going into a project and how good attitudes improve the value of the project. As General Colin Powell said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

So what did I learn about better blog posts?

A better blog post will expand our knowledge either by showing something about the main subject, or more often by bringing a side issue or a part issue into sharper focus, defining the value.

That definition is best presented as a story.

How many examinations of almost-the-same subjects are worth writing about?

All of them. Different readers find different value, see “One Man’s Wingnut Is Another Man’s Guru.”

General Powell said it one way, “A Customer Visit” said it a different way. Maybe the third way will light the spark for someone, maybe it’s a cumulative effort. It doesn’t matter. Figure your readers are interested in your subject. Concentrate on making the story interesting.

And now, the next step…(comments?)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bob and Joan at the White House

Here's a link to the video of Dylan at the White House this week.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An “Aha!” Difference Between Social and Direct Marketing

I grew up practicing direct marketing. It’s a “fire and forget” profession. Send a thousand packages, get a 5 percent to a half percent response. Immediate drop-off.

We obsess about improving the list and the package, straining for quarter percent increases.

Joe Shumard and I launched the Internet Engagement Forum at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce consciously using social marketing practices.

We started with a list of 20, 15 came to the first meeting, including two who were not on the prospect list.

The next week more than half of the people in the meeting were communicating, as well as three further new people.

In a week we are up five new contributing members…while the quality of the posted discussions is much more valuable than what I took notes on in the original meeting.

We believe the group can continue to grow and discover important ways to improve their businesses largely from social interaction.

That same week as that first AlexChamber meeting, I met Ghassan Haddad who leads the Facebook translations project, 380,000 volunteer translators working in over 300 languages, using computing technology to extend and leverage human efforts.

What I saw Dr. Haddad practicing was a different type of management, building a networked environment where people are playing, at the same time doing large volumes of important work.

What is different?

It turns out that planning and control are less important than I was taught. People who communicate their own interests quickly show real value for the whole group.

What seems to be most important is encouraging and facilitating velocity of communication.

Useful is coming from that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Social media = letting others in

"You can't take advantage of the connectivity, reach and viral nature of the beast without also being willing to connect, reach many people and let others share. It's like wanting to enjoy the sensation of flying over the water in a boat at high speed but without the engine noise. It's the "other people" part of social media that provides its power."

From "Drew's Marketing Minute," Drew McLelland, proprietor. Read the full post at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Woman’s Wingnut Is Another Man’s Guru

The Alexandria Chamber’s Internet Engagement Forum is a project Joe Shumard and I are leading to see how far we can get Chamber members to take advantage of the Internet.

At our meeting yesterday, there was a lot of interest in moving forward…by extending current practices.

We had several people who were experienced in email broadcast marketing, looking forward to finding better ways to do broadcast email marketing.

I remembered the first time I read Doc Searle’s, “Marketing is a conversation” in The Cluetrain Manifesto. I didn’t get it.

People I respected told me it was important, but it wasn’t until I tried it that I began to understand the incredible power of this new paradigm.

Let’s say I want to get an audience for a show. I can send a bunch of emails (control the message, control the platform) and get a small response. As an alternative, I can send the same message to people and let them comment. What happens?

Turns out the feedback has been a better title, some ideas of who else to approach, some stories that make my point, and finding out I may have forgotten to include price, location, or time.

My readers are improving and expanding my message. Sending a broadcast instead of a conversation means I would miss these valuable tips.

What happens if someone writes something awkward? Well, first everyone else can see it is awkward. Second, I invoke Sturgeon’s Law, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.

However, I have also seen that people find important revelations in the crud, leading to Dick’s Assertion, “One Woman’s Wingnut is Another Man’s Guru.

But ah, when a new idea gets up and is adopted by hundreds, when that idea changes some part of society, that’s why we are playing. That’s learning how to play this instrument.

The AlexChamber Internet Engagement Forum meets monthly and is open to all members of the AlexChamber. We are encouraging more participants.

Programming Note - Over the weekend I put up a new page showing some of the best “How To” posts on Through The Browser at Please take a look!

What do you think?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Avatars, Agents, Web Automation

Two weeks ago, Motorcycle Dan the blogger explained that he is waiting for an avatar to handle his email, scour the web for things that interest him, figure out who to let through on his phone, handle the administrivia of his life.

As I listened, I realized I had most of those functions in Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and LinkedIn. He said he did too, but he didn’t want to have to manage them. He wanted them to manage themselves. I had a new concept to look for.

In 2006, Ray Kurzweil wrote The Singularity is Near, about leveraging computing to benefit humans, gradually taking over more and more functioning, until consciousness could inhabit and use a machine. He starts with tools that have been in common use for centuries, then adds layer after layer of functionality, until he reaches an unbelievable conclusion, believably.

Last week I got a tour of Intelligent Office in Alexandria. Beth, a distant niece, is the agent, operating their internet and phone convergence station - taking calls, making appointments, and answering questions for fifty organizations. The owner of that two person rug cleaning service who was getting business while he was on vacation, has set up his avatar and I saw it work. Just like the Wizard of Oz (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”)

The immediate barrier is breaking down work into repeatable tasks, knowing the outcomes and then assembling for automation. Beth operating her station extends the existing technology while we are waiting for the next generation, just like Ernestine, who was running the phone board before direct dial.

I read that Clay Shirky says we don’t have information overload, we have a filtering problem. If it’s not actionable, I drop it. However, currently there is a lot more that is actionable than I get to.

What are your best avatars, agents, and web automation?