35,064 Days…One Day at a Time

I had an inspirational encounter, this morning.

Which is good, considering that last night, I discovered (via Facebook) that yet another high-school classmate has perished (the second in less than three months).

On this soggy, dreary morning, with mortality still on my mind, I met an old gentleman, leaving the bank. Although he was moving rather briskly, I held the inner door open for him and started a conversation that went like this:

“Good Morning, Sir.”

“Mornin’, son. How’re you doing?”

“I’m great sir, and you?”

Me too! Yesterday I was 95 years old. Today I am a year older.”

It took me a second to “get” that, but I did and responded,

“Well, happy 96th birthday, sir!”

“Yep, I was born in Mineral Wells, Texas on this day in 1916. That’s about 35,064 days, including leap years. I’ve served in two wars…”

He paused, as if to test me on history. Now, I am a mathematical moron (I was good in English) and was an average history student. But, was able to calculate some history, according to his age.

“That would be World War Two and Korea, right?”

Either he didn’t quite hear me (I didn’t notice him wearing hearing aids) or he wasn’t particularly impressed by my mathematical/historical prowess.

“I served in World War Two and the Korean War.”

“Well, thank you for your service, sir!”

“You’re welcome, sonny!”,

Yeah, he actually called me “sonny.”

“You know what keeps me going, young man?”

Before I could answer or ask, he said,

“Prayer! I say a prayer to God, every morning and evening. And I keep moving. “Causa’ Him, I ain’t even been visited by that “Ritis boy”, “Art.”

I’ve heard that a million times, but I just had to laugh.

I tarried in the lobby and talked to the spry old guy for a few more minutes. He told me how he was happy living alone, but enjoys getting out and visiting young folks, like those at the bank. It turns out all his family and friends have since passed on. He seemed genuinely thankful, joyful and enthusiastic about the 96 years behind him and however more were ahead (he did tell me his mother made it to 102).

As we talked, I kept glancing through the glass bank doors, looking for the person who would come to pick him up. I guess he noticed my looking out and pointed at a faded, old Chevy van, parked near the entrance. There was a little dog in it, standing on his hind legs, with front paws on the dashboard. He pointed at the van and said,

“See that van? Now, I get a pretty good pension. So, people ask me, ‘Why do you drive that old van?’ I tell them, ‘cause every time that old van hits a bump, it makes a sound like, ‘Paid for! Paid for! Paid for!’”

I couldn’t help but laugh, again.

When our visit ended, I offered to help the old solider to his van. I noticed he was wearing his cloth house slippers and the rain was coming down pretty good. He gave me a firm, 2-hand shake and assured me,

“Oh, I’ll make it.”

As I watched him stroll to his van and pet the dog, I pondered the close-to-home nature of the approximately 51 years my classmates were given and the healthy, war-surviving 96 years with which this man was blessed.

Then, I thought of one of my oft-used comebacks to a common response to something like “How are you doing?” Some folks will answer, “I’m taking it one day at a time.” I usually reply with a snarky, “Good, ‘cause that’s how we’re issued them.”

After doing my banking, I sat in my vehicle and considered my “takeaway” from this enlightening encounter, on such a dreary day. Here it is;

1. Pray.

2. Keep moving.

3. Be thrifty.

4. Appreciate each day.

5. Pray.

Don’t Tell Your Likers, Fans and Followers Anything! (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

“Don’t tell your Social Media “Likers”, fans and followers anything!”

I gave this advice to a client today. Am I crazy? Do I have a business “death wish”? Have I been “bought” by the client’s competition?

Please allow me to explain. The client is a proven, experienced incumbent politician. He’s facing a younger, social-media savvy opponent in an upcoming election. It’s our client’s first foray into Social Media as a campaign tool and he’s eager to tell voters about his significant contributions to his district and years of dedicated service. But part of our job is convincing clients and potential clients that, unlike much of traditional marketing, Social Media is a two-way conversation. It isn’t about “broadcasting” your products or services to a “captive audience” of “likers”, “friends”, fans, followers or subscribers. It’s about engagement and stimulating a conversation that always comes back around to what you’re selling.

As a child, someone (possibly an educator or church mentor) asked me “How many mouths do you have?” Of course the answer was “One.” The next question was “How many ears do you have?” “Two.” I didn’t need to be hit over the head with the moral. I understood that we should spend at least twice as much time listening as talking. This isn’t a bad marketing practice. Speaking of “practice”, I told the councilman that one of our Social Media “Best Practices” is composing Facebook posts and tweets as questions, whenever possible. It tends to produce responses and stimulate interaction.

This works for our restaurant and retail clients:

“Today’s Special is Buffalo Chicken Sliders for $5.99” becomes “What side are you gonna’ have with your tangy, delicious $5.99 Buffalo Chicken Sliders, today?”

“We have a huge selection of Goodyear tires.” becomes “Guess how many sizes and models of Goodyear tires we carry? The closest guesser gets a free rotation, today only!”

“Get 1/2–price appetizers during the big game today.” becomes “Who wins game six, tonight? Let’s discuss it over tasty ½-price appetizers!”

“12.99 full set nail special today.” becomes “Which co-worker is more likely to notice how great your nails look after today’s $12.99 full-set special? Let us know.”

“Our hot wings are the best!” becomes “How do our hot wings rate? We’re up to the challenge.”

Get the idea?

So, we’ll continue to advise Social Media clients to get stingy with the promotional posts. Spark the conversation and you’ll soon get a chance to make your pitch. “Likers”, fans, followers and subscribers will appreciate the effort. Successfully executing this strategy requires a knowledgeable digital agency with an experienced copywriter on board. I can recommend one.

Facebook®. Starbucks®. Same Difference. (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Both Are Free Hangouts, Both Are There to Sell You Something.

The most recent “Facebook to charge users” hoax created even more opportunities to tout my interminable “Content is Key” Social Media strategy. So many of my Facebook “friends” shared that ridiculous post about the gigantic (now over 800,000, mostly active, users) social network becoming a user-pay service (if they didn’t post a paragraph on their newsfeeds before midnight) that I felt the rare need to explain (via a brief newsfeed post on my personal profile) Facebook’s moneymaking strategy.

Here’s what I said: “For those of you seeing that newsfeed about Facebook becoming a “for-pay” service, note that IT IS A HOAX! It is highly unlikely that FB will ever need user funding. What most fail to grasp is that Facebook is about ADVERTISING! Those ads you see on the right of the page more than monetize operations. Notice that the ads seem to be for stuff in which you are interested? They are targeted specifically to you by the info YOU put in your profile. You made it public when you accepted the user agreement (that most of us don’t read). With over 800 million (mostly active) users to have advertising targeting to them, FB will never have to charge for users to “socialize”. While you are, you’re being bombarded…if only subliminally, by paid-for advertising.”

I’ve found that the easiest way to convey Facebook’s money model to many prospective small-to-midsize business clients is to liken FB to the “800-lb. gorilla” of coffee retailing, Starbucks. Both Starbucks and Facebook are FREE HANGOUTS. But make no mistake, the content with which you’re constantly bombarded at both, are craftily designed to separate you from some hard-earned bucks. You can park your tuckus in Starbucks and use the free wireless internet connection and soak up their climate control all day long. I don’t believe the employees are ever going to come over and insist you drop a couple of ducats for a cup of joe.

Well, why are they providing the free, unlimited wi-fi and letting you hang out at their establishment? In a word, CONTENT!

While “socializing”, checking emails or playing Angry Birds at Starbucks, you’re consistently being exposed to visual, aural and even olfactory media. “Media” is the old, “analog” word for the new, digital “CONTENT.” The marketing principle holds that you will eventually be overcome by the enticing aroma of Starbucks’ beverages, the ever-present logo, the consistent green-colored branding graphics and even the sounds of the in-store “radio” ads and those beverage machines. “Just keep sitting there, pal. You’ll soon give in and buy a delectable Pumpkin Spice Latte, scrumptious Panini or mouthwatering butter croissant.”

The same holds true with Facebook marketing. You can post, chat, “like”, “friend” and play CityVille 24 hours a day (and I believe there are people who do). Facebook will never need to charge you a cent. Those ads are reaching someone…maybe not you today, but someone, somewhere, sometimes. What keeps you on Facebook for so long? CONTENT!

Who is creating most of that content? You and your friends are! It’s a brilliant marketing scheme! The shared videos, links and not-as-effective textual newsfeeds keep you engaged with Facebook. The more content that captures your attention, the longer you linger on Facebook pages. The longer you’re there, the more you’re subjected to targeted ads. It’s the proverbial “Win-Win” for advertisers and especially Facebook.

GOOD CONTENT CREATION IS STILL A TOUGH SELL TO SMALL/MIDSIZE BUSINESSES

I marvel at marketing decision-makers’ reluctance or sheer inability to grasp the importance of effective content and the relationship-building nature of Social Media marketing. I know many businesses don’t want to pay someone to handle it for them. I covered that in my Social Media Marketing is Not Free” blog post. In my “A Client Lost…” post, I told how we lost a client who was, unwilling to work at it. Many of our prospective (I keep using “prospective”, because our few current clients are committed to the effective strategy we offer) clients know they need to utilize Social Media Marketing. But, even some who are seasoned traditional marketers, don’t know how or why (except for the staggering numbers, like the aforementioned 800,000,000 Facebook users). I always ask them “Are you considering Social Media Marketing to tell more people what you’re selling?” The answer is invariably “Yes”. My subsequent assertion that they are about to make a common and expensive mistake is met with emotional responses ranging from shock to indignation. I hope I effectively explained it in my “Don’t Tell…Them Anything” blog post.

Constantly telling your Facebook “likers”, Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers what you’re peddling is akin to the Starbucks employee frequently coming to your table to interrupt your socializing with annoying reminders about the stuff they’re selling. Such behavior in a “hangout” tends to run people away. That goes for Social Media, too. Modern interactive marketing requires a new way of thinking. Thought time consuming and sometime labor intensive, it’s relatively easy. Plus good guys like me give away loads of info about it in blog posts like this.

But, when you’re ready for the critical application of these strategies to grow your business, I know a great little interactive marketing agency that will save you some money.

I Am Not An Infidel! (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Thoughts on “Freelancing.

In the past and occasionally here lately, I tend to “hire out” my skills in trade. That trade is advertising copywriting. During those times, I have been called a “freelancer” and I don’t particularly cotton to it! I prefer “independent contractor”, “outside representative”, “consultant”, or even contract laborer”. By it’s very definition, the word freelancer conveys a sense of disloyalty and infidelity. Among a certain crowd, “freelancer” has such a negative connotation. Plus, the reciprocal nature of the inherent freedom in freelancing isn’t often considered.

Please allow me to explain. My research of the word, which admittedly wasn’t exhaustive, reveals that it is derived from the medieval term “free lance”. A free lance was a mercenary knight whose lance or sword was not sworn to a particular king or lord. It’s sort of like “hired gun” in the westerns. I understand the term “free lance” was used way back in Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel, Ivanhoe. The implications is that these roving soldiers of fortune were only in it for the money and their loyalties lay only with the highest current bidder. Sometime “freelance” is even used synonymously with “rogue”. Is that how I’m viewed when I take a temporary/hourly or per-page gig? Well, I beg to differ! Once under contract (whether written or implied) I would like to think I am certainly dedicated to carrying out the terms of the agreement between the client and I. Like nearly any full-time employee (except for those with military commitments and the like). I also have the option of terminating the agreement, walking away and forfeiting contingent compensation. The client has the same option and many are mighty quick on the trigger to exercise it, with little or no advance notice.

Curiously, the freelancer label has been most-often linked to creative professionals; “freelance graphic artist”, “freelance copywriter”, freelance journalist”. Also the noun “free lance” has morphed into common use as an adjective (“a freelance artist”), a verb (“a writer who freelances”) and an adverb (“he worked freelance there”).

The client/freelancer relationship is characterized by the lack of long-term commitment. Sound familiar?

“DJ, we love your writing style and your penchant for alliteration. But, frankly, we want the freedom to see other writers.”

Ever hear that “see others” line in an amorous relationship? It’s usually the relationship’s death knell. It reeks of “Infidelity” and “Playing the Field”. Well, two can play that game!

The key is absence of exclusivity. Which is understood in this type of relationship. A client often doesn’t have as much invested into the freelancer — no benefits, no training costs, no guaranteed seat at the office Christmas party, etc. Thus, there is no real commitment. The advantage afforded both parties is flexibility. A full-time staffer isn’t likely to let the employer push their payday back even 24 hours. Whereas my “freelance” experiences often involved my 30-day-net invoice finally being paid after 45-50 days…often only partially, then. It’s the nature of the business.

Don’t get me wrong…and please take my observations in the tongue-in-cheek spirit intended. Mostly it was an opportunity to share with my peers, the history of the word. Most of my past freelance gigs were profitable, fruitful and even educational. Freelancing help me establish lasting relationships with people who have proven beneficial to our business. But remember, as a local auto dealer says in his radio ads (commenting on his vehicle inventory), “I ain’t married to none of ‘em!”

Hoodies and Handshakes: Money is the Tie That Binds (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

I write this post in the midst of the media maelstrom brought on by the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an apparently unarmed Florida teen who was slain in a confrontation wit a possibly overzealous community crime watch captain. At this point, emotions are running rampant and all the facts of the incidence have not come to light. Reports indicate possible racial overtones, as the shooter (identified as a “white Hispanic male), might have even uttered an ethnic slur during his 9-1-1- call about a “suspicious African-American male”. Notable was Trayvon’s attire that night. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, known in modern vernacular as a “hoodie.” Across the country and all over Social Media, protests are being organized to demand a more-thorough investigation and the arrest/possible prosecution of the shooter. We’ve seen “Million Hoodie Marches” and Facebook profile photos or people in hoodies. The hoodie has become somewhat of a symbol of solidarity in a perceived “cry for justice” in the Trayvon Martin case and beyond. I have but one opinion of express about Trayvon Martin. His death seems to be the catalyst for a discussion about the perception of the value of an African-American teen’s life. Having once been an African-American teen, I believe it’s invaluable. But, I would humbly like to present a personal experience as juxtaposition to the cultural rift highlighted by the Trayvon Tragedy. It involves young African-Americans in hoodies. But instead of Skittles® candy and iced tea, it involved Malt Liquor and money…lots of money.

Here’s the set-up; our company is a member of Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the +/- $30 billion Automotive Aftermarket trade association. SEMA has a massive annual trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

While we were attending the 2006 show, I had an educational view of the power of money to breach social/ethnic bulwarks. It was about 11am on a mild October weekday morning. At the MGM Grand Casino, I boarded the packed Las Vegas Monorail to the Convention Center. Standing and pole hanging, I found myself inches from four very “hip-hop”-looking, young African Americans. All three of the young men (one was a young lady) wore hoodies. They might have had dreadlocks, twists or cornrow hair styles. They wore the saggy trousers and the Timberland® work boots that were popular then. They also had official SEMA “BUYER” badges. The SEMA show is an industry-only affair and you must provide tax records or business-formation documents for credentials to attend. After a few moments observing the young people, I identified the apparent chief executive/spokesperson. He was the one sipping from a forty-ounce can of malt liquor (I was thinking, “That’s quite a potent potable for a weekday morning at a professional trade show.”) Sensing a learning opportunity, out of the blue, I asked “Forty”,

“What size are we up to now, young man?”

He knew of what I spoke and replied “we’re going to look at a ‘32”, today.”

Now, my planned destination for that day wasn’t the enormous “Wheel and Tire” section of the show. I was looking forward to meeting some lead contacts in “Hot Rod Alley”, the Restoration and Electronics areas. But the following verbal exchange necessitated an agenda shift. To keep the conversation rolling, I asked “Forty”,

“How much does something like that cost?”

He said, “The one we’re looking at is two million dollars.”

Stunned, I mumbled (seemingly to myself), “ Two million dollars for a set of wheels?”

Young “Forty” replied, “That’s two million dollars PER WHEEL, dawg.”

Trying to fathom such ridiculousness, I said (again, mistakenly thinking I was muttering under my breath), “Who can afford something like that?” “Forty” (who must have superhuman hearing), said,

“We don’t ask questions, dawg. We just make it happen for our clients.”

“Their clients? They can’t be ‘legit”” I found myself thinking (and not out loud, this time).

As we arrived at the Convention Center and piled off the crowded monorail, I caught a glimpse of the one of their badges. I recalled seeing the word “Dubs” and the state listed as “MD.” I made a mental note to look them up on the Internet, later that night. I believe this is their company.

Entering the Convention Center, I made a beeline to the Wheel and Tire exhibit hall. I saw lots of righteous rubber, some of the most innovative wheels ever manufactured, famous rappers, pro athletes and plenty of curvaceous female spokesmodels (I think I heard someone call it the “Rumps and Rims” area). But, the most interesting thing I saw was “Forty” and his associates and loads of other “hoodies”, shaking hands and closing deals with wing-tipped, buttoned down, mostly Caucasian-male Wheel/Tire-industry representatives.

This day, the “hoodies” were not being treated as “suspicious”, but as “VALUED CLIENTS.” I found myself thinking, “Now this is different. I bet if those reps encountered these young people on a city street corner, there would be wholesale rolling up of windows and car-door locking. They would be judging these kids on the way they are dressed and would be more concerned about being “jacked” for their rims, instead of selling them.” Then, I felt guilty and repentant about such stereotypical thoughts toward both parties. I was guilty of “profiling.” Not justifying those thoughts, but you see, even though I am a pre-hip-hop baby boomer, I experienced the expedited-car-window-rollup/door-locking scenario, myself.

So, what’s my point and what has it to do with the Trayvon Martin tragedy?

Again, I just offer my SEMA-Show experience as a comparison to the division illustrated by the incident in Florida. A young, black American in a hoodie doesn’t have to be “suspicious.” A middle-aged white man in a suit doesn’t have to be the “victim”. We can all do more than just “getting along”. We can work together in business. I would rather tell the many young African –American men I have mentored to keep wearing your hoodie, keep grooming your ‘dreads”, keep your ‘flava”, but be sure to keep your integrity and be the best you can be in your business dealings. (I would also ask them to consider a nice fruit-juice beverage or coffee, instead of a “forty”, before a weekday-morning business meeting. But that’s just “me.”)

In a LinkedIn SEMA group comment thread on my “Down With Diversity” blog post, I reminded automotive “e-tailers” that it doesn’t matter if the guy placing an online/phone order for your product is wearing a hoodie or a Brooks Brothers suit.Who cares if he just left the country club or just left his job at the automobile plant. It doesn’t matter if he’s “black”, “white”, “brown” or otherwise. It’s all “green.” In your marketing, try to include something for everyone and treat them all with as much respect as possible. Can this formula work for social inclusiveness as well a business?

Now, if you or someone you know needs the services of a great Interactive Marketing company, with a seasoned Business Development Executive who knows how to listen to business people in the “’hood” as well as the boardroom, I can recommend one.

If Behavioral Ad Targeting Works, I Must Have a Secret “Other” Life

This digital ad-targeting thing is crazy!

By now, you know that every time you fill out a “profile” to join something on the internet, you divulge lots of information for targeting you with ‘PERSONALIZED” ads.

So, I used Yahoo! to search for a retail company. I clicked on the “CorporationWiki” link to view the company info. The first ad was for SEO services.

“Alright…they know I have a website.”

The second ad featured a row of photos of about five busty white women, with copy that read, “We don’t want younger men, we want you!”

The third time, it was a flashing red banner that said, “Click here to view your arrest record now.”

So, here’s what Yahoo! “knows” about me: I’m an old, single, buxom-white-woman-loving, ex-con, internet geek.