Thursday, December 30, 2004

Go Daddy Go

Corporate Blogging gets Personal

As many of you know, blogging is becoming more and more prevalent in the world, and more and more spread through the world of business, especially tech businesses. It’s value as a promotional and communication tool is growing.

I just recently discovered a new blog that I recommend that everyone study. It’s called Hot Points, and it can be found at It’s done by Bob Parsons, the founder and CEO of What separates this from other corporate weblogs is that it’s actually written by the big daddy himself. This isn’t a staffer, like many of the election blogs were. This is the man, telling about his perceptions of business, tech, and the world. There’s some really interesting posts about the Marines in Iraq and about the tsunami.

So what?

Well, this is a great way to establish so much for the customer. Confidence: We know that the boss is interested in a corporate culture of customer service. Connection: We read about how he feels about what’s happening in the world around him. Not just as a business person, but as a human. Go Daddy suddenly changes from a faceless corporation to a team of people we can work with.

It also establishes a lot for the company. Promotion: As we read the blog, what are we doing? We’re going back to the site again and again. Can’t beat that, right? Traffic, branding. Loyalty: Since we keep coming back to them to read the blog, they’re building loyalty with us. We’re likely to go back when we buy. Communication: They can tell us things that are changing within the company, and tell us about trends in tech that will impact them and us. Suddenly their moves in the market will seem less arbitrary, more reasoned.

Seems like this case study shows the power that a company blog, done by the company head can bring powerful results.

Any questions?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rush, Coolidge, and Persistence

My wife loves me.

See, this year for Christmas she got me the DVD of "Rush in Rio". It's a concert DVD of the band, Rush, that I grew up with. The first song I ever learned to play on the electric bass was "Bastille Day". I can still remember my friend showing me those riffs on a winter afternoon in my Sophmore year of high school. Boy that dates me.

But I digress.

As I got to thinking about the band and their history, it occurred to me just how hard they've worked over the years, and the position they've earned. They’ve been together as a recording band, now, for over twenty years, with almost as many albums done. But then, it hasn’t always been easy for them, either. It took them half that time to get their first ever radio hit. Their enthusiastic fanbase came from their constant touring.

So, I’m looking at this history of theirs, and I’m realizing that they did it “their way”, so to speak. They were never the darlings of the music press, or the airwaves. They didn’t do fluffy little pop tunes that teen-y boppers would love. They never had an appearance on “The Today Show”, nor have they ever won a Grammy. They’ve never done any of those things that musical stars are supposed to do to get rich and famous. There was also one thing they never did, either, and that was the key to their success.

They never stopped.

Twenty-plus years later, they’re still going strong

OK, now flash back with me years ago, when I was in college, playing in the jazz/pep band. The director was an interesting character, and he taught me something very important. He said, “90% of life is: Showing Up”. And it’s true. Being there when you’re supposed to be every time will get you farther in the long run that talent and skills.

This famous quote is attributed to Calvin Coolidge makes the point: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Because knowledge, skills, and education are intangibles. They’re meaningless until you do something with them. And you need to keep on doing things with them over and over and over again. Because that’s how those things all get better. More knowledge, more skills, more education. Couple those with action and you get experience.

Let’s face it. No one is BORN knowing anything. Sure, we may find we have a knack for certain things, but we all start out with nothing. So the argument that someone else has the jump on you, has more talent, skills, etc... is moot. They started from nothing, too.

And while I’m talking about competition, let me point out something else I learned while being a musician. Most of your competition will go away. They’ll get tired of the fight, they’ll run out of money, they’ll run out of time, they’ll run out of excuses. The best way to defeat your competition is to outlast them. You don’t have to run faster than they do, you just have to keep going. Tortoise v Hare, remember? Who won? Why?

And Rush, now, without the massive radio play or the hype that surrounds stars like Madonna or Michael Jackson, consistently sell out arenas when they tour. 20, 40, even 60,000 seat venues. They have a loyal, active fan base that buys their CD’s in droves.

Simply because they never went away.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Santa and the Power of Branding

There’s an interesting article over at (actually, a lot of them, but this one in particular this time of year) about the history of Santa. It arrives there because people have heard in, urban legend style, that it was the early advertising of Coca-Cola that gave us the image we currently have of the big guy, red hat, red suit, black boots, white beard, etc…

It turns out that Santa Claus has been around, in various forms, for a long, long, time. Mostly in the 1800’s. His name is derived indirectly from “St Nicholas”, from a dutch rhyme about “Sinterklaas”.

It wasn’t until 1823 that Clement Moore’s "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" (more commonly known today by its opening line, "'Twas the night before Christmas . . .") was published. That, more than anything else, cemented in people’s minds what Santa looked like and the way that he did things.

By the 1930’s various illustrators and poets had each added their bits to the overall tradition (he didn’t live at the North Pole until almost 1870).

It was then that, under the direction of Coca Cola, Haddon Sundblom painted a series of magazine and point-of-sale ads that depicted a full-sized, chubby, red and white clad old man with the white beard that we know so well today. Read the snopes article for the full details sometime. Very interesting.

So, while Coke might not have invented it, they had a big role in the image and the way it was cemented into popular culture. They played a big part in branding in our minds what Santa looks like.

So, why am I going on about all that in an article about business? Especially as one who generally decries the rampant commercialism of Christmas? Because it shows very clearly the power of branding advertising. I would be hard-pressed to find a company who has more effectively utilized branding advertising in their overall marketing scheme than Coca-Cola.

What is branding advertising? It’s any advertising that doesn’t expect an immediate response. It’s any advertisement whose primary purpose is to seal in your mind the name and image of a product. That way, when you’re in a store, and you walk past the product on the shelf, your reaction is positive, even possibly eagerness to have it. You think, “Oh, yeah, I heard about that!” and you pick it up and buy it.

Almost all of television advertising is fundamentally branding. They don’t expect you to leap from your seat and rush immediately to the store and buy something. But they do expect that you will later on. That’s the payoff.

Unfortunately, many online advertisers don’t see the power of branding advertising. It’s strong stuff. It’s what makes product names into household words. But all to often online advertisers don’t see past the clickthroughs. They get so fixated on the immediately measurable statistics of the direct results of their ads, that they don’t imagine that there could be more long-term results. These branded results might be less measurable, but they are definitely not less powerful. Quite the opposite.

I mean, Coca-Cola did it with Santa. They do it everytime someone in a movie cracks open a can of Coke. They’ve done it so well that they actually have people paying them for the privilege of being walking branding advertising. Everytime someone buys a Coke T-Shirt or purse, they’re paying money to advertise for Coke. Go figure, eh?

The challenge with branding advertising is that it is more long-term in its results. You have to advertise lots and lots, and with consistency, in front of lots of people. The more you do that, the more it pays off in recognition and branding.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Winning the Game

Over at the Small Business Blog, there was a posting about defining success. It got me thinking. I remembered a story:

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I enjoyed playing strategy games with military miniatures. For those of you who aren’t into various kinds of adventure gaming, that means, “I liked to play with toy soldiers.” My friend and I were working up some rough ideas for a new set of rules for a game. We had talked about a lot of ideas, even written some up and done some playtesting of some systems.

Anyway, one day, I combined a lot of these elements and ideas for the game system into a first draft of the rules, a sort of “version 1.0”. I wanted to test it out, to see just how well it would flow. At the time, I had a couple of teenage foster boys living in my home. “These guys would love to try it out,” I thought to myself. So, I pulled up a bunch of my figures (space goblins or some such, as well as a human army), set up some hills on my dinner table, and called them in. I taught them the rules as they were, and we played a game.

I lost.


I mean, they really kicked my sorry butt. Wiped the table with my face. Messed me up bad. Whatever you want to call it. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the two of them, seeing a chance to get away with attacking an authority figure, teamed up against me. Either that or the dice were against me. It couldn’t have been that I played badly, of course…

But at the end of the game, I was excited, not sad or upset. I was excited because the game system I had written had worked, and worked well. The boys and I had all had a great time playing it. The evening had been a great success.

In looking back at that evening, I’ve realized that a large part of your happiness in life depends on how you define your success. If I had defined that evening’s success or failure by whether or not I’d won the game, I would have put the game away and never played it again. But that wasn’t the point. The point at the time was: Did it work? The answer was: YES! That was success.

So, when I tackle my business, I want to make sure that I define success in terms that will really make me happy. Financial success is a large part of it, partly because it’s so easily measurable. But that’s not all. Personal accomplishment and growth can be a part of my definition as well. How much I can give to others, and what good I can bring into the world can also be a part of the equation.

Steven Covey encourages us, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, to “Begin with end in mind.” Wouldn’t it be much easier to set clear business goals, if we have a clear definition of what success is?

That can take some thought, and some soul-searching, even. Why am I in this business? What am I trying to accomplish? Where will it take me in the long run? Answers to these questions are not always easy.

But they’ll help you win the game!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Gone Phishing

I got an email today that bugged me. It’s not the first time I got one of these, and I suspect it won’t be the last. It’s someone out there on the web goin’ phishin’.

Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t spell that “fishing”. The newer spelling refers to someone out dangling electronic bait in my face, hoping I’ll bite and give them some of my personal information. Here’s what these emails are like:

They usually start out by establishing their credibility. They’ll look like they’re from some institution (often financial, but it could be your ISP, or eBay, or anyone else you deal with). I’ve gotten ones where the phishers even mimicked the company logo and web address.

Then they tell you there’s something wrong with your account. Sometimes, they’re spoofing a general sweep, like the company was trying to update their databases, or even that there’s been an error and they need to reconstruct their information. They tell you that in order for your account to continue, you have to fill in some vital information to “verify”.

That “verification” can happen either via email, by replying to the phishing message, or by going to a website and filling in the information. Both are usually bogus.

Once someone, thinking they are preserving their account, fills in the information, it’s captured and the phisher walks off with your info. Then, they can send out spam from your ISP account, steal money from your PayPal account, post fraudulent auctions from your eBay account, or just have the weekend of their lives with your credit card.

The single biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is not reply. If there’s concern, or if you think it might well be legitimate, call or email the company being represented directly and ask if the concern is valid. Don’t make any contact off the email. Go directly to their .com website, rather than a link in the email. Look up their toll-free number. Get confirmation before you respond.

Many virus protection programs can screen out many of these phishing lines, so running a good filter or firewall is valuable.

For more information on how to protect yourself, look up this article from the FTC’s website. Or for more background, this article about the history of phishing from the Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Several years ago, I had a chance to perform one of my songs at a local songwriter’s open mic night. I remember I went there with my wife, signed up, and sat down to wait my turn. We sat there, listening to the other performers, and enjoying the songs.

Then it was my time. I stood up, picked up my guitar and stepped up to the microphone. I had just recently written a new song, and I was quite proud of it. I had decided to be edgy and pull this one out, even though it was brand new.

As I stepped up, I got nervous. I started the chords, and my guitar was out of tune. I stopped and retuned it, making me more nervous. Finally, I started the song for real. My vocals were stretched and tense, I forgot the words in a place, and the chords in another… It was, overall an awful performance.

All because I was so afraid.

In the years since then, I’ve done a lot more performances. I’ve leaned a thing or two about fear. I thought, I’d share those thoughts with you now, because they make a big difference in how you approach business.

1. Fear never goes away

In spite of the fact that I’ve performed a lot over the many years since that night, the nerves are still there when I step up to the mic. I’ve learned that they always will be. Whether you’re singing, or speaking, or making a sales presentation, or starting a new business, the fear never goes away. It’s true that you feel it less as you get more and more experience, but it never really, fully goes away.

That means that I have to accept that and deal with it. Being afraid isn’t a mistake on my part. It’s not wrong. It just is.

2. Feel the fear, and do it anyway

Once you accept that the fear is going to be there, you don’t have to be afraid of it. That’s right, you can be afraid of fear. That sounds kinda loopy, but it’s true. I’ve been caught in that sort of circular thinking before. I don’t want to go on stage because I’ll get all tense and nervous. Why? Because I’m afraid. So, I’m afraid of being afraid.

Let yourself feel the fear. Embrace it. It’s a part of life.

And then go ahead and do the thing you’re afraid of anyway. Sing the song. Give the presentation. Register your business. Make the commitment. Once you feel it and push through it, it’s amazing how much smaller it feels.

3. The more you are prepared, the less you fear

Even though being afraid that night on stage wasn’t a mistake in and of itself, I made one big mistake. I wasn’t prepared. I performed a song that I had just recently written, and I hadn’t taken enough time to practice it. It wasn’t learned fully yet. So, I fumbled with the lyrics and the chords, and I was more afraid. I was on uncertain ground.

So, before you move ahead through the fear, it’s often a good idea to prepare. Learn what you need to, gather information. Practice your presentation. Anticipate problems. Never try to use any technology in a presentation that you haven’t tested beforehand.

Fear is a part of being human. It’s a part of what keeps us safe. It can also hold us back from our biggest successes. Feel it, enjoy it, even, and then do it anyway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Weeds and Innovation

Many of you (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock) have heard of the challenges the music industry has been facing in recent years. For those that have heard, but might not be up on the scene, here’s a Reader’s Digest:

Several years ago, a new technology emerged that allowed for audio data to be compressed. This reduced the file size for a typical pop song from 75-80 MB to only 3-5 MB. Once it’s 3-5, a person with even a dialup connection and some patience could get full-length, near CD quality digital songs over the ‘net.

Now, that would’ve been all that amazing, except for a few independent musicians putting their songs out on the ‘net, but people started making mp3’s of their CD collections, and posting those songs to their websites.

Then, along came the peer-to-peer networks. Napster was the first and most famous at the time. It allowed for people to search other people’s computers looking for songs and download and share them.

Sounds wonderful, right? Like you could get all the music you wanted, right? Well, that’s true, except it’s illegal. It’s against the law to copy and distribute someone else’s copyrighted material.

So, the music industry started shifting. Changing. More and more people wanted their music downoadable. But the major labels, who owned most of the music available, couldn’t adapt. They started suing the people who were doing the downloading and the sharing. People who, ultimately, they wanted to be their customers. Not a great business model for the long-term, doncha think?

In the last year, however, there have been some changes. The majors, as the labels are called, have started adapting. There are online music shops, now. ITunes, by apple, is by far the most well-known. There are many others, and they’re cropping up all the time. Here, you can buy the songs for download.

The challenge with most of these pay-for-download music shops, is the files they provide are usually proprietary. That means that you can only play them in their players.

There’s one system, relatively new, however that is a unique hybrid between the free-for-all downloading mania and the legal pay-as-you-go model. It’s called weedshare. It allows for downloads, rewards sharing, and yet still makes sure that the artist’s rights are respected and that they get paid for the purchases. The idea is that the music “spreads like a weed”. Click to their site to find out how it works.

Its been getting a lot of press lately, and got written up in wired magazine, the tome of the tech-savvy.

Now, I’m not just here to promote weedshare (my own music site uses the technology). I’m here to use weedshare to show how innovation and forward thinking can be rewarded.

Rather than just fight the power of the record labels and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), or cave in to their threats. Weedshare adapts both models. They took a difficult situation and worked out a win-win. The artists and rightsholders get paid, the people are not only allowed to share the files, but are actively encouraged to, and share in the money when they do.

So, as advice to small business people, part of the key is to find problems, solve them, and market the solutions. Their innovation constantly amazes me. A good example to follow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Barn Raising, 21rst Century Style

Let's say that your daughter has a report due for in history. She's supposed to write 5 pages on Abraham Lincoln. Where do you start?

Well, you can go to the public library, of course, but suppose you just want to get started working from home. I mean, you spent almost a grand for that beige box on your desktop, and you're paying twenty-five bucks a month to plug into the world, right? Why not use it for something other than chat rooms and sports scores?

But where will she go to find historic information, nicely summarized so that she can learn what she needs for a good report?

You can start at It's an online encyclopedia. Type Abraham Lincoln and read the article. Hey, cool! Look! It links to other related articles. And to other websites! It's a wealth of information. And it's free.

But wait. Is it legal for her to use that information? Can she quote it? Of course! Anyone can quote it. In fact, anyone can edit it, too.

This is the world of open source, a movement that has been growing steadily, even rapidly in the last few years. It flies in the face of the current business models of jealously guarding copyrights and patents. It turns the current model of corporate secrets in R&D on its ear. Here's how it works:

An idea or a project is born in someone's mind. Instead of keeping that idea quiet, that person announces the idea to the 'net using any number of media. That could include a collaborative website, like the wikipedia, or something even as simple as a blog or a forum posting. If the idea has merit, it will attract the interest of others, who will begin contributing effort and more ideas. Pretty soon, a product emerges, a result. Here's the interesting part: All the documentation and information that went into making that product is available, free, to all.

And before you think that too many cooks would spoil the broth, and that only the simplest of things could be created that way, ask yourself this. How about a computer operating system? How about an operating system that has the potential to challenge Microsoft's Iron Grip on the market share? What about Linux?

Linux is kind of the poster child for the open source system. It's a robust and stable alternative to MS windows. And it's free. And the code is free. What that means is that if you just want to use it, you can download it and install it. If you know how to program, and you think you can do better, you can. That means that their R&D department is made of hackers and geeks all over the world, and trying in their own way to make it better.

Back to the Wikipedia: This online encyclopedia works the same way. People all over the world, with all sorts of interests and knowledge bases all contribute freely to creating the content. The idea is that if everyone brings a bit of knowledge and effort to the table, before you know it, the whole dinner is that much more delicious.

In an article in Wired Magazine, the author compared it to the community barn raisings of the 1800's. When someone’s barn burned down, or a new family needed to build one, the whole community turned up at their house and built one. The difference? The barn is electronic, and the community is world wide.

More examples? MIT now offers "Open Course Ware". The texts, materials, and information that many of the classes MIT offers are now available online, for free. People individually and in groups all over the world are learning things that are taught at MIT. How can they afford to give it away? Simple. If you want the degree, you have to pay for it and attend the school. If you just want to learn the info, go right ahead.

The PLOS project (Public Library Of Science) is an effort to make scientific research available to all, not just in expensive academic journals. The Gutenberg project is a compilation of over 6000 public domain books now available for free download.

What does this have to do with small business? Use the free resources available to you. Contribute to the betterment and the growth of them, and the community.

It IS an ever changing world. Business models are shifting and adapting all the time. Remember, knowledge is power, and adaptability is the key.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Competition on the Horizon

Now, it's not my intention in this blog to get too tech oriented. It's more about business and marketing.

But-it IS about internet marketing and online business, and it's impossible to succeed without knowing your environment and being aware of what's happening in the tech world around you. So, I might touch on it from time to time.

And the other day, a new program was released, a new web browser, called Firefox. It's an outgrowth of the Mozilla web browser, and quite possibly the only contender showing any promise to compete with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The web gurus are saying that it's full-featured, faster, and more secure.

Now, I'll be loading it myself, especially on my home computer. I've been using Mozilla there for quite some time. Since I'm in a position here at work where I'm teaching people how to use their computers, and since the majority are still using IE, that's what I'll continue using at work.

But let's talk about that majority. When I first heard about Mozilla, I wrote it off as a geek thing that would never take over in the real world. Then, as I've been tracking my traffic to my sites, I've been noticing amazing things. Currently, on my Mo' Boy blog, about 25% of my total traffic is Mozilla. That's enough for me to call it market share! Heck, less than 5% are Macs, and they're still considered contenders...

So, what does that have to do with your small business? Well, you might want to consider using it as your browser. Less susceptible to pop-ups and spyware, not to mention viruses. Keep in mind that a fourth of your customers might be using it, too. So, you'll want to at least install it so that you can check on the look and functionality of your site. You want it to work in both, right? 25% of your customers is nothing to sneeze at!

Plus, the price is right: Free!

More information on Firefox:


Datamation article

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Myths of the Small Business

As I carry on about my life as an Internet Business Mentor, I’ve encountered a lot of misunderstandings about entrepreneurship and being self-employed. I’d like to take a couple of blog posts here to help dispel a few of those.

Myth #1: It’s easy to be self-employed

Make no mistake. Running a business is work. There are a lot of things to be done to get it started. There are lots of things to learn. This is going to require effort.

The upside of all that is that if you’ve picked a business that’s an extension of yourself, your passions, your bliss (as Campbell puts it), that effort feels less like work. It feels more like fun. For that reason, it can often seem like being self-employed is easier, because the work is more enjoyable.

Myth #2: It’s cheap to start up a home-based business

When you compare it to the cost of opening a McDonald’s franchise, or renting space in a mall, then it’s true that a home-based business is cheap-er. But don’t be lulled into the thought that it doesn’t cost money to make money.

Keep also in mind that there are costs other than financial. Time must be invested. And that’s time that’s being taken away from family or other important things.

But if you spend your money and time patiently and judiciously, the rewards are there as well. It can still move forward, even if it might not be as fast as originally thought.

Myth #3: Self-employment = Total freedom

You often see biz-op ads with people lounging by a pool on a bright sunny day. What would I do with all that spare time? With all that freedom?

As your business is building, you’ll find that it can often be more demanding that a regular job. Why? Because everything rests on your shoulders, rather than your boss’. All of your decisions are yours, and you have total freedom to make whatever decision you want, but at the same time, you also get the consequences (good and bad) of those choices. It’s your baby.

The nice thing about self-employment, though, is not so much freedom, as flexibility. You can often adjust your hours and your working time to suit. So if you want some spur-of-the moment family time, that might be possible as a business operator, where you couldn’t just say that to your boss.

Myth #4: You have no boss

The reality is quite the opposite: Every client is your boss. How you please that boss is up to you.

Myth #5: The world will flock to your door

That phrase starts out, “If you build a better mousetrap…” All too often, people rely on the cleverness of their business concept, their product, or their business model. But the reality is that people aren’t going to pound a path to your door, unless they know your door (and your product) exist. So, having a great product, or website, or business is great. But if no one ever sees it, it doesn’t matter.

But these days, it’s growing easier and easier to let the world know that you’re there. Clever and intelligent use of the web, and publicity, can get your site recognized with very little cash expenditure. Learn, learn, learn.
The point of all this? Go into it with your eyes open. Do your research, and explore your options. Those who just jump onto the rollercoaster are in for a bumpy ride.

Friday, November 05, 2004

A Message to the President:

Now that our election season is over, and our sitting president has been re-elected, I’d like to point out something that I’ve felt for years.

If a government was truly committed to reducing unemployment and poverty, it would invest heavily in entrepreneurism and self-employment.

Think of it. When someone is out of work, they have two options. They can go and find a job, or they can create one for themselves. Part of the reason why there is unemployment is that there are too few jobs in the pool in the first place. Why not encourage people to go out and create their own?

And from the worker’s perspective, it’s a benefit as well. The effort shifts from finding a job to finding clients or customers. They are immediately productive and active. Motivation is strong to succeed.

My experience has shown me that what holds a lot of people back is not always capital. There are a lot of ventures that can begin with little or no capital. But what’s worse is the paperwork and the fees and the taxes. Government often squelches small startups by overwhelming them with requirements. The poor entrepreneur, who often starts with just an idea or an interest, doesn’t always know what’s required of them in the long run. And as he/she learns what is requred, finds that those requirements can often be oppressive or even prohibitive.

So, Mr. President, if you really want to lift us out of recession, and if you’re truly committed to helping people help themselves, then make it easier for a person to start a home business.