Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Your Marketing Mystery Box Didn't Work!

I just watched your ridiculously expensive direct mail marketing piece get opened in the elevator and I hate to tell you - it completely bombed. I didn’t get a chance to see your company name because it happened so fast, but I can tell you this – it was a complete and total waste of your money.

I was coming back from a walk and noticed a gentleman walking into my building with what I thought was a white cake box. After my mind cycled through all of the desserts I was craving at the time, I realized he and I were most likely going to end up in the same elevator. I smiled as I thought of how great it was going to smell in that elevator on the way up, especially if there was something good like donuts or fresh croissants in that cake box!

The gentleman and I made our way into the building through separate doors and he reached the elevator first. As he adjusted his grip on the box to free a hand to push the elevator button, I realized the white box was actually shaped like home plate. For you non-baseball-fans, home plate is the five-sided, square with a triangle on the bottom home base from baseball that you stand over when batting.

Just as the elevator door opened, two other gentlemen reached the elevator from the other side of the building and all four of us got inside. One of the newly arrived guys asked the guy with the home plate-shaped box, “Got something good in there?” As the door closed, the guy who asked the question pushed the “2” button and I pushed “7”. Seemed like they were all getting off at “2” so I made the assumption at that point, it wasn’t the random curiosity of a stranger wondering what was in the box, but that these three fellow elevator riders knew each other.

The guy holding the box said, “I don’t know, let’s take a look.” He flipped open the top flap of the box to reveal a home plate-shaped foam pad, obviously there to protect the contents inside, and a nicely printed letter sitting on top. Just as frivolously as he’d flipped open the box, the guy flipped up the letter as he said, “Obligatory letter,” and then reached for the padding.

I chuckled to myself a little here because as many of you know, I earn my living by writing the words that would go on that letter if this had been one of my marketing projects. I thought of all the hours the writer put into the content of that letter and all the hours it took that writer’s bosses to approve and refine that content. If only that writer and his bosses could have seen firsthand that their prospect spent an entire half-second on their letter!

So, the padding was flipped up to reveal a piece of white cardboard inset in the box with some cut-outs that held what looked like a couple notebooks, a couple brochures, and at the very bottom, a baseball with a lot of black words printed on it.

“Looks like another development kit,” the box’s recipient said as his fingers quickly perused the items in the box until they landed on the baseball. “Well, at least my kids can play with the baseball,” he said as he closed the box. We all chuckled.

Just then, the elevator dinged that we were at floor “2”, the doors opened, and the three gentlemen exited the elevator as the guy who asked what was in the box said in a disappointed tone, “Aww, I was hoping it was something good.”

The elevator door closed and I spent the remaining trip up the next 5 stories in the elevator contemplating what I had just seen. I’d say the box, it’s custom design, all the printing, the baseball and the shipping put the per-piece price of that marketing mailer at $20 if they bought thousands of them, and more like $30 or $40 if it was a shorter run. If you’re a marketer, you know the months and months of work that can go into the creation of a piece like that – all of the hours of salaried and hourly work that triple or even quadruple the actual cost of an item like that.

And in the end, what was the result of all that work and money? The prospect’s kids got a free baseball and maybe – just maybe – the prospect will remember that time he got a home plate-shaped box with a baseball in it, though he probably won’t remember exactly which company sent it to him. “Some development company, I think,” he’ll say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Who Is Driving Earlier Start To Holiday Shopping Season?

It’s July 1st and you’re walking through your favorite local big-box retail store (or the one you tolerate to save all that money every year) and suddenly, despite it being sweltering outside, you find yourself in the middle of an aisle fully stocked with brand new Christmas decorations. You shake your head and snicker as you say under your breath, “Already?!”

You’re not going crazy, my friends. What was once a holiday shopping frenzy that took up the last month of the year has progressed into a full-blown half-year sales and strategy extravaganza for both retailers and consumers. Who is to blame, you ask? Surprisingly, if you do a little digging, you’ll find this is not a one-sided push from retailers, but in fact, the market reacting to the demands of shoppers.  
Trust me when I tell you that retail marketers don’t want to be in holiday shopping season planning meetings in April, but they also recognize that if they wait until September to start thinking about the holiday season, they will have some serious catching up to do!

In fact, a recent report shows that not only have more than 30 million Americans already started their holiday shopping by September, a full 50 million say they will start earlier this year than last year. Over 6 million Americans claim they are DONE with their holiday shopping by the end of September and nearly 64 million expect to be complete by the end of November.

From the Fiscal Times:

“We love to complain about stores putting up holiday displays earlier and earlier each year, but the truth is that millions of Americans start holiday shopping long before the first Christmas tree appears in a store,” industry analyst Matt Schultz said in a statement.

So, gone are the days of black-and-white movies where the family piled into the station wagon and went out on December 24th to buy the tree and all the presents as soon as dad got home from work with his bonus. In today’s consumer-driven, always-open, online retail world, you can expect to see the vibrant colors of a fully stocked aisle of decorations on the first day of Q3. Enjoy your 177-day Christmas shopping season, America!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It's Time To Secure Cyberspace

Whether left or right, liberal or conservative, libertarian or mainstream party hardliner, taxpayer or tax money recipient, I think most of us as Americans can agree the one thing we expect from our government is to shield us from attack.

I am confident when alien invaders strike from above or a foreign army lands on the beach or zombies come streaming across the land, our military will be ready and willing to fight to defend us. But, there is a scary, new frontier that all the aircraft carriers, jet aircraft, smart weapons and the most highly-trained and prepared military force in the world are all powerless to stop without a serious shift in U.S. government policy: cyberspace.

I recently read an article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on a small business that was forced to close its doors by a hacker, or a group of hackers, or maybe even that group of folks in those guy-from-England masks themselves. Sorry for the vague and wordy description, but I’m afraid to type out their name in case they have their Google alerts on!

The business featured in the article developed a site designed to allow people to post their opinions on political issues of the day, essentially providing a forum for people to debate back and forth through pre-recorded video. This was truly a small start-up, founded by college students and funded with a mere $35,000. This site could have been the next great thing, but once users posted videos commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hackers set out to destroy the site.

The attack began by redirecting the site’s main page to another page, which featured a graphic of that famous hacking mask and some green Matrix-style falling letters and numbers. Every time the site’s owners had the page redirect fixed, it was hacked and redirected again. Each time a hack was fixed, it was costing the site’s owners money because paid contractors maintained the site. Though they eventually found some angel coders to fix the hacks for free, the relentlessness of the attacks led the business owners to abandon their site and try to operate their vision through a mobile app. Unfortunately, though, the mobile app never caught on and hackers successfully silenced another site that had great capital potential.

According to a study by the National Cyber Security Alliance, these small business owners are not alone. One in five small businesses becomes the victim of hacking and of those that do, 60 percent go out of business within six months. But, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce article, as cybercrime increases, our country still lacks policies to defend America’s cyber networks and the companies that use them.

The biggest problem for businesses that get hacked is they simply do not have the resources to fight back. They are completely on their own, fighting the attack in a silo. There is no “911” to call, no federal agency to ask for help when an attack occurs. The business can only hunker down and rely on the limited personnel and funds they have to combat the relentless attacks of people with a very unlimited resource – their own free time.

The only way we can fix this problem is to demand that our government step in to defend these small businesses – to defend us as Americans – just as they would if the hackers landed on the beach with a gunboat and an army in tow.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

One of the first steps our country's leaders should take to strengthen our defenses, experts say, is to pass federal cybersecurity information sharing legislation, which would protect firms that share information about data breaches and other cybersecurity-related experiences with public officials and other companies. Without it, business leaders will remain understandably hesitant to share information about attacks for fear of litigation or other consequences.

This sounds like a really great idea to me. Fortunately, legislation that would accomplish this has already passed the House and is being debated in the Senate. Let’s hope the people we put our faith in and send to Washington see fit to make every small business owner just as safe from cyberattacks as they are today from aliens, zombies and foreign armies.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Agile Marketing Method

For the past eight years, I have spent my life marketing software. When you market software, you end up learning more than just a little bit about the software development process, its benefits and its challenges. You also learn, like many others before me, that occasionally, the principles of software development can lend themselves to other areas of business, including marketing.

The term “agile marketing” is starting to get a lot more ink these days so I feel it is time for me to release a little something I originally put notes together on across a few evenings a couple years ago and refined over more than a few evenings over the past couple months – a guide on a little something I call “The Agile Marketing Method.”

In this guide, I give marketers insight into how they can apply one software development method – Agile – to their marketing projects. I explain a little bit about the history of software development methodologies that led to the creation of Agile, the principles of Agile, as well as how marketers can use some of Agile’s principles and processes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their marketing efforts.

Read The Agile Marketing Method.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Combatting Content Lengthiness: Why I Take My 15-Minute Walks

If you work with me, you’ve probably noticed that I disappear for 15 minutes a couple times a day. Sometimes I am just taking a break and stretching my legs, but most of the time, I am out giving one of my content pieces a length test.

We all know that content is king when it comes to marketing these days, but I also feel that much too often, I find myself nodding off due to the length of some of the pieces that find their way to my inbox.

It is my belief that 15 minutes is long enough for us content marketers to clearly and concisely get our point across, no matter what our message might be. If it takes our audience longer than 15 minutes to read and understand a piece of content, it is either too long, covers too many topics, or is just too plain wordy.

Hence, you can find me a couple times a day, out on a 15-minute walk with a piece content in my hand, ensuring that my reading doesn’t outlast my walking.

My goal is to make sure that I can read the piece completely and thoroughly and understand each word in the time it takes to walk my 15-minute-long route. But if by chance, I am back from my walk and find myself still reading, it is a clear signal that I either need to do some serious editing or break the piece down into smaller chunks.

Not that you need instructions on how to walk, but if you’re thinking of following in my footsteps to give your own content pieces a length test, here’s what I did:

First, I timed myself on a walk near the office that not only provides quiet, but is also safe enough to traverse while really only partly paying attention to the actual act of walking.

I found a mostly level route with some cover for those too-sunny or too-rainy days, though I will readily admit you will see me out there with an umbrella on rainy days because as they say in the marketing biz, the content must go on.

I also made sure my route did not cross any stoplights or intersections that cause me to stop and wait because that would throw off my time and impact my results.

Once I had my route planned and timed, confirming it was 15 minutes from start to finish, I printed out my piece of content, grabbed my pen and went on my first length-test walk. I have repeated as necessary for many months now.

If you are thinking of giving my length-test method a try, please do. You can choose to review your piece electronically, pick a route with no cover at all, or modify my guide as you wish, as long as you ensure that your route is exactly 15 minutes and that you are done reading your piece by the time your walk is done.

Just think, if every content creator out there adheres to this inexpensive, easy-to-set-up, easily repeatable length test, all of the content in our inboxes will be so much better! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Translation Of Ben Franklin's The Way To Wealth

From 1732 to 1758, Benjamin Franklin published his Poor Richard’s Almanac that contained weather forecasts, practical household hits, puzzles, and other amusing writings. Franklin often filled the empty spaces in his almanac with wordplay and witty phrases, many of which are used to this day. Many of the most memorable phrases deal with being courteous, thrifty and self-sufficient.

In the 1757 version of the almanac, Franklin compiled his proverbs about industry, frugality and self-sufficiency into a prefix that took the form of a wise elderly man imparting the knowledge he gained from Poor Richard to a host of people waiting for an auction to start. This prefix was later published separately in a wildly popular essay called The Way to Wealth.

To this day, Franklin’s The Way to Wealth remains sage financial advice. The problem is that much like many of the old English texts, the essay is becoming less understandable to all of us slang-slingers with each passing day. Fortunately for you, I have taken some of my spare time over the past couple of months to piece together an updated translation that makes The Way to Wealth a much easier read.

Click here to read the eBook.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Did You Learn More From School Or Your First Job?

I'm celebrating a very important personal anniversary. Twenty-five years ago today, after spending the morning and early afternoon as a sophomore student at Westminster High School in Westminster, California, probably ditching at least one class, coming back late from an off-campus lunch, and more likely than not, spending most of my time writing poetry or a short story instead of paying attention in class, I donned my black Reebok sneakers, black socks, black dress pants, white button-down long sleeve shirt, burgundy and dark blue thick polyester tie (which I still have hanging in my closet as a souvenir) with a thick dark blue apron, and thanks to a car ride furnished by my mom, started the very first shift of my very first job.

Still six months shy of reaching my sixteenth year on this earth, I would spend what at the time seemed like a very long tenure of six months bagging groceries, mopping and sweeping floors, re-stocking go-backs and secretly assisting the cooler stock crew (don’t tell the union) for what started out as a mere 12 hours a week that quickly turned into a full-time 40 hours.

While at the time the day-to-day tasks that even included shoveling broken glass out of the recycling machines into transport bins and hand-trucking pallets of product out into the parking lot and then back into the store on the Fourth of July for the big parking lot sale seemed unbearable at times, there is no single period of time in my early years that had more of an impact on my work ethic, career and life thus far.

By the time I would leave college some four years later to take my first actual full-time office job with actual benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan, I had sold baby clothes and furniture, made and sold cookies and sandwiches at a bakery, sold books and helped manage a bookstore, and amassed an entire portfolio of part-time and full-time-by-hours-but-not-by-benefits jobs that even included three simultaneous 20 hour per week jobs while attending community college full-time for a few months during what I did not realize would be the last semester I attended school.

But when I look back on the 25 years that encompass both being an employee and a small business owner, working 12 hours a week and working 100 hours a week, working for minimum wage and not-so-minimum wage, working out in the sun with a shovel and working inside a posh, high-rise corporate office with the latest and greatest in computer technology while wearing a suit, I credit that very first job with teaching me more than any school ever did.

I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned algebra that gave me so much trouble. Sure, I might use a little of the geometry from time to time when I’m hanging a framed picture on a wall, but that’s just the basic third-grade stuff, not any of the geometry with little “x’s” and “y’s” that I labored year after year during my teens trying to understand. I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned base-six crap, or any of the stuff I learned in all of those College Prep Honors Science classes that I barely passed.

What I have used year in and year out are the interview skills I started perfecting the day my mom drove me to all the Lucky grocery stores in town so that I could ask for job applications. What I have used year in and year out is the skill set of knowing how to work with both fantastic and horrible bosses like good ‘ol Bill, my manager at the grocery store, who managed somehow to be both all at once. What I have used year in and year out is the work ethic that I first forged by completing a bunch of mindless, labor-intensive, repetitive tasks, all the while, steeling myself in the fact that no matter what happened in life, I was going to move upward and onward and never stop building a better life for me and those around me. What I have used year in and year out is the understanding that my work is my own, my work ethic is my own, and above all, my lot in life and the success or failure of everything about it is all up to me and no one else.

Unfortunately, these are all things that I did not learn while attending school for fifteen years. I really wish that in those very, very, very long fifteen years instead of being taught what I needed to know in order to do well on standardized tests, I had been allowed to pursue my own education path, much as I did as soon as I got home from school, and much as I have done each and every day since I walked out of a state-subsidized, taxpayer-funded classroom for the last time.

I cannot imagine how my world might be even better today were I allowed to reach an agreement with schooling to concentrate on the skills I knew I would need as early on as I knew that I was going need them instead of having to still learn skills that would later prove to be as useless as I always knew they were going to be. Schooling should have let me concentrate on the skills that I knew I would be using to make a living one day instead of the skills that simply allowed me to pass a test well enough for the school to get funded for another year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Keys To Social Media Success

Deluxe Corp. recently conducted a survey that found only 21% of small business owners think social media is an important customer engagement tool. But, according to a CNET survey, 72% of U.S. adults use social media, and according to a Static Brain survey, social media usage skyrockets to 98% among 18- to 24-year-olds.

These survey results make it very clear that with each passing day, social media is playing a larger part in the lives of U.S. consumers.

While many small business leaders are reluctant to start the social media journey, countering that 73% of their business comes from word-of-mouth, these entrepreneurs are failing to realize an increasing number of consumers are using social media to facilitate their word-of-mouth recommendations.

In addition, many consumers who hear about a business via word-of-mouth often turn to the social media platforms they use most to learn more about the business. Without an active social media presence, these businesses are missing out on great opportunities to connect with potential customers.

So, how do businesses get started with social media? The very first step should be to create a comprehensive social media strategy. While this may sound like a daunting task, by breaking the work up into smaller, clearly defined tasks, creating a social media strategy can be painless.

In my guide, 7 Keys to Social Media Success, I outline how small businesses can get started with their own social media strategy today.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journalists Finding A New Home

I remember us worrying…worrying that all of those poor journalists would be out of work once those environmentally-unfriendly newspapers started boarding up their windows and chaining their doors like something out of an old black and white movie about The Great Depression (or a Michael Moore movie).

But it turns out, the ones who have not already found a second life writing for websites on the print-newspaper-killing internet, actually have a pretty good chance of being hired by large enterprises to serve as storytellers in their very own corporate newsrooms.

That may sound odd and leave you wondering why in the world America’s enterprises would need their very own journalists, but, as consumers are evolving, so must the marketing department and the ad agency. Consumers fast forward through ads on TV, change the radio station as soon as a commercial comes on, ignore a-hell-of-a-lot-a online display ads, and things are only going to get worse for marketers and advertisers.

While this all seems scary for companies that rely on advertising to help generate revenue, many are finding a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel. While consumers simply don’t care to be bothered with advertising anymore, apparently, they are still interested in a good story, even if it is published by the very same companies whose advertisements they are ignoring throughout the day. In fact, not only did marketing web magazine CMS Wire call 2014 the year of storytelling, but based on what they’re seeing so far, 2015 might turn out to be…you guessed it…the year of storytelling.

And who better to research, develop, and tell the stories these consumers want than the folks that were classically trained in gathering and disseminating stories in a way that makes people want to listen…journalists.

Needless to say, the journalist at a dying newspaper or the barely-hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth news site is going to jump at the chance to translate their skills into some real big, evil corporation money.

So, gone may be the days when our top journalists are working for newspapers, online rags, magazines, and the evening TV news. We just might be witnessing the dawn of the age of advertising and storytelling where our top journalists are reporting on the historic ties between Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, reporting on the philanthropic efforts of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for either Microsoft, Berkshire or the Gates Foundation, or maybe even compiling a seven-part series on the history of Mercedes-Benz Racing for It’s a brave new world out there, people…

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pick Your Moments, Take Stock, Then Take Action

That was an amazing year! There really is no other way to put it. I don’t mean to talk about the hot butter on my breakfast toast by any means, but I am truly hoping that each of you had the same fantastic 2014 that I did and are also looking at an even better 2015.

I know that each of us take moments in time to take stock – for some it is a day like December 31st or January 1st, for some it is a birthday, or an anniversary of some sort. While each new day can always bring new possibilities, we all know that these moments in time – these milestones – somehow make it easier or more poignant to reflect, take stock, and hopefully, prepare an action plan.

I, for one, am very thankful for this particular part of our human nature, though I will be the first to admit that there have been times when at these moments of taking stock I have not been better off, or necessarily happier, or maybe even better off financially than I was at the previous moment of taking stock. But, I will say this – I have definitely not let too many of these moments of taking stock pass me by without at least trying to make some type of change. I encourage each of you to do the same. By regularly reflecting and taking action, you will find that over time, you’re going to be happier and better off in so many ways.

While you can read the titles on my LinkedIn profile and clearly see that I don’t consider myself a life coach or a Tony Robbins of any sort, I do know that some of my greatest successes in life have come from simply observing and learning the course of action that others in a similar situation have taken, or not taken. For that reason alone, coupled with the fact that I know a large number of you are using today and tomorrow to take stock, I thought I’d share my method of reflection with you. There is nothing groundbreaking, nothing that you don’t already know yourself, but sometimes seeing it writing can really help you get started. And, if I can humbly be a part of any positive change in anyone’s life by simply sharing my experiences, then I feel I am using my talents for good.

So, to break it down, there are only three steps: Choose your moments of reflection, take stock, then do something about it.

You can choose moments that occur annually on the calendar, such as your birthday, your wedding anniversary, etc., but I recommend that you conduct this reflection more often than just once a year. Maybe choose the first of every month, or the first Monday of every month, or find some reoccurring event in your life that can act as a great point in time for you to reflect.

Every six weeks, I get my haircut - like clockwork, every six weeks. My appointments are scheduled three deep and no matter what happens in the world and in my life, I know that if I’m still able to get out of bed in the morning and I’m still conscious, I am going to need a haircut. This makes it very easy for me to take a quick moment while I’m driving to my haircut, while I’m sitting in the chair, or at any time that day, really, to take a look at where I am and determine if I am better off that day than I was during my previous haircut. Find your haircut – find your regular rhythm with some regular event in your life and at every interval, you have a perfect opportunity to remember to reflect, take stock and then, take action.

Once you’ve chosen your moment, then every time it rolls around, you can take stock of the relationships in your personal life, the relationships in your professional life (including your job or your business), the relationship you have with your finances, or any other relationship in your life that needs attention. If you’re on the right track, this might not take long. It could be just a few moments of reflection to know that you’re in a better job than you were last year, or that there is more money in the bank this year than last year, or that there is less debt weighing you down than last year, or that you are closer and not more distant from the loved ones in your life. Granted, you may find yourself in a spot where some of these reflections are not going to be just a quick moment, but might take some actual in-depth thought and analysis. Either way, make sure that you take the time that you need to sort through what needs to be sorted out.

Lastly, once you’ve reflected, it is time for you to actually do something about it. Hopefully, you will find yourself in a spot where all you need to do is keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully, you can just stay the course because everything is going great and you find yourself better off than you were at the previous moment of reflection, and hopefully, a number of consecutive previous reflection moments as well. But, if you don’t find yourself better off in any way, it is the perfect time for you to do something about it. It is as simple as creating a plan and then following through with it.

While it may take you a little while to get in the groove of conducting these regular reflections on your relationships, your career and your finances, I can only suggest that you give it a try and see how it works out for you because those haircut moments have worked wonders for me.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrate Orange County’s 125th Birthday (A History Of Orange County's Birth) By County Supervisor Pat Bates

The Orange County Fair will [feature] a special celebration in honor of the County’s Quasiquicentennial, a fitting tribute to be held 125 years to the day that Orange County officially split from Los Angeles County.

Additionally, an exhibit titled “OC Circa 1889” opens Friday, July 18 and runs until Friday, Oct. 10 at the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana. The opening reception Thursday, July 17 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM features a lecture by historian Phil Brigandi, who assembled the photos and information for the exhibit. The reception is FREE and open to the public.

The Orange County Historical Commission will also debut a special OC 125 map later this month, available both on paper and as an app! For more information, please visit the Commission’s website.

Here’s the story of how Orange County was born:

In 1870, Max Strobel, the first mayor of Anaheim, helped push a bill through the State Assembly to form Anaheim County. The new county would have included the area south of the San Gabriel River. The bill failed in the Senate.

In 1872, a second bill was introduced – proposing this time to create an Orange County – but it never made it to a vote. Four years later, Anaheim leaders tried again, this time under the name Santa Ana County, hoping to gain support from that city. But since Anaheim would have been the County seat, the city politely declined support.

In 1881, the undaunted Anaheim supporters were back again, this time creating an Orange County but designating Anaheim as the County seat for only the first two years. A subsequent election would then determine the official County seat. Once again, the bill never came to a vote. Yet another attempt in 1885 also failed, even though that bill creating an Orange County passed through the Assembly.

By 1889, County supporters had regrouped and brought in some political heavy-hitters. Area Assemblyman Col. E.E. Edwards of Santa Ana introduced a new bill to create Orange County, bringing in Santa Ana’s founder, William H. Spurgeon—a prominent Democrat—and local Republican leader James McFadden to lobby the Legislature. Santa Ana business leaders kicked in $30,000 while San Francisco County legislators pledged support as a way to reduce Los Angeles County’s influence.

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Robert Waterman on March 11, 1889. It allowed for local residents – by a 2/3 vote – to decide whether to create the county. The vote was held June 4, 1889 and passed easily – 2,505 to 499.
Once the vote was in, a second balloting was held July 17, 1889, to determine the County seat – a wise decoupling of the issue given the territorial pressures between Anaheim, Santa Ana and even Orange, the third incorporated city. Santa Ana emerged victorious.

With everything in place, Orange County officially came into being Aug. 1, 1889. The Board of Supervisors met for the first time Aug. 5, 1889, triggering yet another celebration when our Board meets this coming Aug. 5

Saturday, July 5, 2014

We Often Forget About The Content We Have By Joe Pulizzi

A few months ago, the CMI team was meeting with the content marketing director of a fairly large brand. She told us a horror story about duplicate content — here's the gist:

One internal group was working on a huge eBook designed for lead generation. It cost the company about $20k to conduct and compile the necessary research and hire multiple experts for the content side.

After the eBook was completed, the organization started to become better integrated around the asset of content, and had hired someone to fill the content marketing director role. Once this new hire completed an internal audit, she realized pretty quickly that the majority of eBook research they had just paid for had already existed in-house — and had the same findings.
The moral of the story is this: We need to start treating content as an asset in the organization. That means starting to properly tag and categorize content, so that it can be easily found and used for multiple purposes. Put simply: Just make sure you talk to the right people internally before you go off and create all the content for your amazing idea.

It happens all the time: We have a content idea, and we immediately go and source the content before finding out if we actually have some of the assets already at our disposal. A simple step like properly classifying your content will save you a lot of money and time.

Yours in content,
Joe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Before Kicking In The Doors And Bursting Into A Meeting...

It’s funny…when I was in my mid-20’s, I was working for a boss that was promoted from being just an engineering manager to actually sitting on the executive board of the company.  My colleagues and I were all gangbusters at the idea because we thought that with him sitting on the board, we could work with him to get all of our initiatives pushed through much more quickly to approval.

Needless to say, my young ambitious ass marched right into his office as soon as I heard the news and quickly laid out all of the fantastic initiatives that my team and I were working on that he could now help ram straight through to approval!

He sat there quietly and kind of smiled and after pausing a second proceeded to tell me that his plan was actually to spend about the first three months or so that he was sitting on the board just observing the meetings and the other executive team members to get a feel for how the meetings went, how topics were brought up for discussion and how things moved through the process from discussion to actual serious discussion and then on to talks about approval.  He said that he was definitely going to take things slow and not make any waves, taking a very strategic approach as not to jeopardize his or the department’s standing in the eyes of the board.

Sitting here today, writing this, now the age that he was at the time, his approach sounds so reasonable.  His approach was very thoughtful, very strategic, and above all, probably very smart.  What I marvel at today is how absolutely insanely ridiculous this approach seemed to me at the time!
Why not bust into that first board meeting, take charge of the room and throw down on the table all of the great initiatives that your team is working on and take advantage of the situation immediately and furiously to get what you want?

Like I said, it’s funny…it’s funny to see now how much of a hurry I was in back then and how little I understood about tact, corporate culture and above all, being reasonable.  Today, I must say, that I have slowed down and calmed down a bit, and while I have maintained my passion for work and for loving what I do, I have recognized the importance of pausing a minute or two to observe, take mental notes, and develop and implement a strategy before bursting into a meeting.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that each of us needs to be bold and take risks to advance our businesses and our careers, but we have to remember that when it comes to risk-taking, we also have to be thoughtful and patient.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Back When You Had To Lick Stamps To Mail Checks

I’m laughing at myself because I just had what I would call a senior moment (can we still say that?) and wanted to share it with all of you.  So, you know how you get solicitations for donations to charities in the mail and they’ll include a nickel or a dime or some other object to try to keep you from just throwing it away?  Well, I got one of those a couple months back – honestly can’t remember which charity it was from – but that particular charity’s object for that particular campaign was a postage stamp.  They say, hey look, we included a postage stamp so that you don’t have to pay the postage to send us money, all the while I am sure thinking that you’re not going to just toss the envelope because you’ll want the stamp, and maybe, just maybe, once you’ve opened the envelope, you’ll actually take a look at their stuff and feel more compelled to make a donation.

Now, needless to say for any of you who know me, I opened that envelope, took out the stamp, shredded the rest of the contents and went about my day because while I do make contributions to charitable causes, it has to be to a place I know inside and out and definitely would never be to one that I have only heard of through a letter they sent to my house.

I know some of you may be thinking hey, wait a minute, is it OK for us to use the stamp, the coins, or the return address labels these charities send to us if we don’t send them any money?  Well, you can all make your own decisions about that, but I have it on good authority from the folks at Money magazine that it is perfectly reasonable financial etiquette to use the items that have been sent to you without providing a donation because the items were sent to you unsolicited without any form of obligation from you to said charity.  So I say, use those coins, use those stamps and use those return address labels to your heart’s content!

So, anyway, now on to my senior moment:

You youngsters out there may not know about two things.  One is that we used to have these things called checks that we used to pay for stuff.  It was a piece of paper not much different in size from a dollar bill that was issued by our bank that had our checking account number – see, that is where the name checking account comes from – printed on it and when we wanted to pay for something, say a bill that came in the mail, or for groceries at the grocery store, or to pay a friend you owed some money, we took out a pen and we wrote a date, the name of the person or company we were paying, the dollar amount in both numbers and in words (yes, we had to actually write out One Hundred Forty-Six Dollars and Seventy-Two Cents), a memo about the check if we wished and our signature all on this piece of paper. We then handed it to the person we were paying and they took it to their bank and then their bank sent it to our bank and our bank sent the money to that person’s bank and then that person’s bank gave them the money.  This all usually took a couple days, sometimes even longer if there was a weekend in there, especially back in the days when banks weren’t open on Saturday mornings like they are today

The other thing you all might not know, or remember, is that postage stamps used to not have that convenient sticky backing that they do today.  Stamps didn’t used to be stickers, they, in fact, used to be stamps.  They had this adhesive film on the back and what we used to do was actually have to lick the back of the stamp in order to activate the adhesive so that our stamp would stick to the envelopes that we were mailing.  We did this stamp licking quite often back in the day, especially when all of our bills would come in the mail and we would write out checks to pay for them and have to lick upwards of 20 stamps a month in some cases.

So, don’t worry, I’m getting to that senior moment, I just felt that I needed to explain all of this to you so it would all make sense, especially if checks and licking stamps pre-dates you.

Fast forward to today and I have one bill – only one bill – that still comes in the mail and that I still, for some Godforsaken reason cannot pay online like every other single bill I have.  It is the association dues to the city of Aliso Viejo and to top it off, it only comes once a quarter, so I am writing literally only 4 checks a year at this point.  I had no idea when I got that book of 50 checks from my online bank for these crazy unforeseen eventualities of having to still write checks that it was going to end up providing me with over 10 years worth of checks!

So, this morning, I tear off the perforated slip at the bottom of the bill, reliving that nostalgia of the days before your ATM card was also a Debit Card, before you received your bills in an email and long before you could just go online and pay for everything and anything under the sun straight from your checking account.  I find a pen, write the amount that I am paying on the slip, find that check book, write out the check to the association, stuff it all into the envelope and put the return address label that I sure as heck didn’t send any money to the charity for on the envelope and then grab that free stamp I got two months ago.

It’s a single stamp, one of the Purple Heart ones that says “Forever”, unlike the days of yore when your stamp only had the value that you paid for it at the time, forcing you to drive to the post office when they raised the rates and buy a slew of 1-cent or 2-cent or 3-cent (depending on how bad the post office was doing at the time) stamps to compliment the stamp you had already paid for before they raised the rates.  Remind me to tell you kids sometime about how I used to mail my tax returns to the state and the fed with a check using well over 30 1-cent stamps on the envelope.

This stand-alone Purple Heart Forever stamp is cut perfectly with the serrated edges, just like the stamps I grew up with – the ones that you had to lick – so, guess what I did?  That’s right, I licked the back and pressed it against the top right corner of my envelope and guess what didn’t happen?  It didn’t stick!  So, I licked it again and I pressed it again.  And guess what?  I didn’t stick!

Had the adhesive somehow become ineffective during the stamp’s travels from the charity to my home in their envelope?  Had it somehow dissipated or become inactive while it was sitting in my drawer for two months?  This didn’t make a lick of sense!  So, naturally, I flip the stamp over to investigate.  It is then that I see the little curved swirl that is cut into – you guessed it – the thin paper backing that covers the sticky sticker backing of the sticker stamp.  So there’s Old Man Savastano, licking the back of a self-adhesive sticker, trying to mail out his check because the damned city is the only entity left on the planet that will not let me pay their bill online.

In my defense, it looked just like a real stamp.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't Grow Up! by Robert Safian, Editor, Fast Company Magazine

The following is an excerpt from Robert Safian's letter from the editor in Fast Company's July/August issue:

My nephew, who is in his early twenties, recently spent a year living with me and my family.  He worked at a bar, busing tables and serving drinks.  His experience reminded me how hard it is to choose a direction for your life, and how exciting an open field of possibilities can be.  It also felt deeply familiar.  Today, we all need to keep evolving in new ways and with new situations.  There is no clear destination.

What do you want to be when you grow up? That's a question we were all asked as kids.  Yet in many ways, it is the wrong question.  Because becoming a "grown-up" is no longer a onetime achievement.  It's like the storybook ending -"living happily ever after."  That has always been a myth.  And who would want a static life anyway?  Particularly in our age of flux, standing still leads to obsolescence.