Monthly Archive for August, 2003

Campaign Free: Free Email Blast Software from Arial Software

Wow, talk about a great marketing move.:

Arial Software is giving away Campaign FREE permission email marketing software as a marketing tool… I downloaded my free copy today and will be testing it out, as I’m looking for an easy, inexpensive way to publish a quarterly newsletter at the office… I’ll report my findings on the software in a few months.

Close more sales with needs analysis questions

From Iunctura Daily, preserved here, because their archives are protected by a member’s only access prompt, and there’s no obvious way to register:

Even before your sales presentation or first customer interaction, you need to know exactly what prospects expect to receive from your product or service. Ý It is naive to assume your sales people know the specific touch points for each prospect– but asking the right questions will make a huge difference to prequalify prospects.

By knowing each prospects exact requirements you can tailor your presentation and improve your conversion rates.Ý Often you’ll find the problems customer perceive are significantly different than the ones you thought you solved. Ý Use this new understanding to improve marketing literature and sales approach.

The questions you ask depend largely on the product or service provided, but here are some general questions you might consider:

  1. What is the biggest challenge you face in your organization that once removed would free up resources?
  2. How have past experiences influenced your current business practices?Ý Improved or limited?
  3. What kind of solution would best fit your current needs that if were available you would consider?
  4. What do you feel contributes to the challenges you face that if removed would increase your revenue?
  5. Who needs to be involved for optimal results with any given solution considered by your organization?
  6. Why have you purchased similar (or our) products in the past?
  7. Which facts should a solution provider consider before approaching your specific concerns?
  8. Where do you experience this discomfort and when does it occur?
  9. What events seem to trigger this adverse desired result?
  10. Which outside groups contribute to your success and how do their contributions benefit you?
  11. What do you expect the result you receive to look like?

Develop a line of questioning based on the criteria you have already established that describes a buying customer.Ý In addition, ask demographic and buying behavior questions the further segment your prospect base .Ý

The answers to these questions will help focus your sales team to highly likely buyers so that you can convert more sales.

Great points.

IT: Macs versus PCs and virii

John Gruber takes issue with Microsoft, and Outlook, and the virus issues allowed by Microsoft, in his latest article “Good Times“:

We, as a society, have decided that indoor plumbing should be held to high standards of reliability and maintenance. And somehow weíve been convinced that indoor computing should not.

And in the follow up “Dynomite!“:

Complexity is not an excuse for low expectations. Weíve strapped men into giant rockets loaded with jet fuel, propelled them into space, and landed them on the moon. That was complicated. And our expectation was that weíd get them back.

Why we donít expect our email to work is beyond me.

In reading Gruber’s articles, I reflected on the few IT staffs I’ve had experience with in the past:

US Army: At my level (I was a junior officer) we were completely Wintel centric, but relied very, very little on the PC. No one in our 140 man unit had email except the commander (Director level in most large organizations). Everyone else got their orders by memo, face to face meeting, or voice over the radio. Viruses never stopped our organization from running, though they did impede our operations for the first 12 hours or so until someone higher up the chain said “fuck the computers, we’ve got work to do” and we all just got back to work until the one or two IT-trained guys in the 600+ man unit got things working sufficiently again.

MacNN: Small 3-5 man operation. No IT staff (just consultants every now and then). We all used Macs for our desktops and Linux or FreeBSD solutions for our servers. We talked to each other a lot, used email to schedule meetings, and operated pretty virtually (one person in San Fran., one in Iowa or somewhere close to Iowa, one in Texas and one in Washington State, with a few more contractors spread across the internet). We never had virus problems except for when the internet succumbed to a virus epedemic, at which point, we all took the day off anyways (ok, everyone but the owner who never really worked all that much anyways).

Bestfares.com: Small entreprenurial company. Staff: 120 people. IT Staff: 1 Full time guy, sometimes 1.5 guys (depending on the second guys schedule). We survived with an Outlook/Exchange set-up because again, only 30 people or so in the company had email. Everyone else was a real worker. Those of us with email and calendaring got used to not having an internet connection for at least 2 days per quarter because our IT guy was really good at pulling the plug on the company internet connection if he so much as sniffed a virus coming in. That, and the company was too cheap to upgrade to a more full featured version of Exchange than version 4.x or 5.x, so that we really didn’t have all that much whiz-bang features to being with… And when email went down, I usually got to go home early, so I didn’t complain.

Current job: Large media company. We’ve got two IT staffs: one Mac centric and one PC centric. The “CIO” is a Mac guy. Our internal servers are a mish-mash of Sun boxes, Netscape solutions, XServes, and Linux or FreeBSD solutions. Half the staff uses Netscape Mail and Calendaring. Some use Outlook on Wintel-based desktops. Some use Entrouage on Mac OS 9 or X. And a good amount never use computers in their daily work. We have in-house written spam and virus filters, and yet, our total IT staff investment is tiny… maybe 1% of the total staff in the company works in IT. It’s got a decent budget, but it’s all in hardware and software, not staff, and things work well. When Macintosh desktops break down (pretty infrequent) the Mac staff fixes them (if the operator can’t fix it first that is). When the PCs break down (pretty often) the IT staff tells the operator to reboot and see if that fixes the problem, and if that doesn’t work, they pull it off the desk, take it to a room where they ‘operate’ on the machine to diagnose the issues and then fix it, returning it to service after 24 or 48 hours… We don’t have Exchange installed, and instead use IMAP-based Netscape mail for everyone.

That said, I use a PC at work, and hate it most of the time. Especially since I have Outlook, and not Exchange. And since not everyone uses Netscape Mail, we don’t have a common calendaring solution that we can use to invite people to email reliably… But you know what? I also find that I’m not glued to my computer as much as I used to be.

wasting time: Udder Insanity

Udder Insanity [via Crazy Links a new favorite read of mine]

the Sobig worm

Josh’s Hacking Log: Affected not Infected makes a great argument about the Sobig worm and how much further MS has to come in fixing their security issues…

On a personal note, my company’s home-grown spam/virus blocker has done a great job of stopping the worm/virus from infecting my computer at the office, but I can also tell that it’s greatly affecting our network performance, and its also affecting my clients (I got two emails from client’s telling me that my computer was infected because the worm fakes the ‘from’ field using infected computer’s address books). It’s sad really…

My little iBook just keeps humming along though at home.

Recognition of a pitch: Branding

In So much for branding Seth comments on an article about how irrelevant branding can be in today’s over-advertised world in which “17 top CEOs shared their elevator pitches, but few understood them”.

On Pricing a New Product

Inc.com: Pricing New Products

The subhead gives it away on this article: “Companies habitually charge less than they could for new offerings. It’s a terrible habit.”

I did that this week, I’m sure. It’s sad, but it’s easy to do. As a Sales Manager and Product Development guy, I build a product, and then want the sales team to be successful, so I almost always under-price it. This article explains a lot about how prices are set, and how to get around the failing of setting prices the wrong way.

Coming up with a product name

Dave: How to Name a Product. Five steps to naming a product… definitely worth a look if you’re the kind of person that gets dragged into product naming meetings or brain-storming sessions. I’ve failed miserably at naming products in the past…

The truth about Apple’s market-share

Apple is a failure. Or so says Scoble. Chuq’s got a nice anti-Scoble statement:

…if being with the “market share leader” is what’s important, then enjoy McDonalds and Burger King. Me, I had a wonderful piece of salmon last night at this place called Gardinos. It must be an absolute failure, it’s tiny, only about 30 tables, and just like Apple, it’s obviously been right on the edge of failure for the last twelve years because of its tiny market share and higher prices

What’s in a market?

Here is a great article entitled “Markets” by Doc Searls that really ought to be read by advertisers, marketers and the general public:

There also is a problem with conceiving broadcast service–especially the commercial variety–as a “marketplace”. Its customers and consumers are different populations. The customers of commercial broadcasting are advertisers, not viewers and listeners. In fact, commercial broadcasting mostly is an advertising business. The “content” it distributes is merely bait; the goods sold are the ears and eyeballs of “consumers”. That means commercial broadcasting’s real marketplace is Madison Avenue, not radio and TV dials. As a consumer of commercial broadcast programming, your direct influence is zero because that’s exactly what you pay. There also is a problem with conceiving broadcast service–especially the commercial variety–as a “marketplace”. Its customers and consumers are different populations. The customers of commercial broadcasting are advertisers, not viewers and listeners. In fact, commercial broadcasting mostly is an advertising business. The “content” it distributes is merely bait; the goods sold are the ears and eyeballs of “consumers”. That means commercial broadcasting’s real marketplace is Madison Avenue, not radio and TV dials. As a consumer of commercial broadcast programming, your direct influence is zero because that’s exactly what you pay.

Some lessons for the Job Seeker

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been interviewing candidates for an open position in my organization. I’ve learned a lot as this is my first time to really hire someone into an organization. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions for those looking for a job and interviewing right now:

1. Make sure that you ask for an offer.

When you take the time to interview with a company for an open position that you know they are hiring for, ask for an offer. Make sure when you leave the interviewer’s office that that person knows that you want the job. If that person doesn’t know you want the job, then they might offer it to someone else that has stated an interest in receiving an offer.

There should not be a doubt in the interviewers mind about your wanting the job, even if you’re not sure you want the job… if you don’t express an interest in receiving an offer, then you likely won’t get one, and you might decide after the interview that you really do want that job.

Get as many offers as you can, then pick the best offer/job for you, don’t leave an offer on the table because you aren’t sure you want the job during the interview.

Ask for an offer at the end of your interview.

2. Wear a sharp outfit to the interview.

First impressions are a bitch. I don’t care what the corporate attire at the company you’re interviewing at is, wear a sharp outfit to the first interview. It’s always better to be over-dressed and impress the interviewer than to be under-dressed and make the wrong impression on the interviewer.

If you’re a guy, this means wear a suit and tie. The days of wearing shorts and sandals to most offices is over, and if the office you’re interviewing at has a relaxed dress code, it’s better to impress with a sharp suit than to look like a lazy person, or someone who doesn’t think they need to dress nicely.

If you’re a woman, wear sharp business attire. Don’t show up in a skirt that might be perceived as too short, or with your mid-riff showing. It’s just not professional.

If you’re interviewing for a blue collar job, wear the best outfit you have if its not a suit and try to look as impressive as you can. Wear a pair of khakis and a jacket if you think it’s appropriate.

Over-dressed is better than under-dressed. Wear a sharp outfit.

3. Answer questions honestly.

If an interviewer asks a question, take a second to think about your answer, and then answer the question succintly. Don’t blab on and on, and stay on topic. Be honest. If you’re not honest and succint with your answer, you’ll likely not be happy in the job if you’re offered the position. And if you bull-shit an answer and can’t back it up after being on the job, you’ll likely be in the position for a very short amount of time.

4. Take time to write a cover-letter.

And don’t write a bullshit two paragraph form letter. I received over 100 resumes for the position that I’m interviewing for. Know what my first filter was:

No cover letter = trashed resume.

Did I perhaps lose a good candidate? Maybe, but you know what? I still have 10 really good candidates that I’m having to weigh each other against.

update: Read Joel’s thoughts on cover letters for a good example of why it’s important to have a good cover letter

Write a good thoughtful cover-letter.

5. If you want the job, apply for it.

Even if you think you’re not 100% qualified, and you want the job, apply for it. It can’t hurt your chances. I have two main qualifications that I wanted in the candidates I was planning on interviewing. Know how many people had those two qualifications? One. One out of 100. So guess what? I called everyone that had at least one of those two big qualifications and have interviewed in-person 10 of those people I called. (after I trashed the ones without cover letters, of course).

6. Research the company a little.

When you apply for a job, assume that you might get a phone call from the hiring manager, or the HR screener. Have a little folder that you keep with you on all of the jobs you want. In that folder, have a quick summary sheet of the research you’ve done on the company (and make sure you’ve done at least a cursory glance at the organization’s website or some other document so you can ask a few questions about the company or the position).

I called one candidate, and they said “You know, I really don’t even remember sending in my resume for that position. What company are you with again?”

That phone interview lasted less than 5 minutes after that statement… Sorry, I wasn’t interested at that point anymore.

7. The interviewer might not know what they’re doing

Most people interviewing to hire someone aren’t trained at it, so keep that in mind. Make sure that the interviewer knows a) why you want the job, b) what sets you apart from all the other candidates they might be looking at c) that you want to receive an offer and d) what sort of impact you can make in the open position. If they aren’t asking you the ‘buy questions’ like “What would it take to get you on board here?” ask them the buy questions. Once you get to those questions, your likely-hood of getting an offer goes up dramatically.

If you’re looking to get a job, follow these steps:

1. Apply for lots of jobs
2. Ask for an in-person interview if you get a phone interview
3. Ask for an offer at the in-person interview
4. Get as many offers as you can, then pick the job you want.

I learned that and many more tips from reading the Knock ’em Dead series by Martin Yates. I’d recommend that to anyone out there looking for a new job. I’d also recommend 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions as an interview primer, if you need it, but most of what you’ll need is in Knock ’em Dead.

Hopefully, I’ll be making an offer to a future employee next week.

updated April 2004: I just posted More lessons for the Job Seeker as a follow up to this post.

Speed up Mail.app

Speed up OS X’s Mail.app by rebuilding Address Book

A friend of mine from Apple tipped me off to a cheap-and-easy way of improving the performance of Mail.app, the mailer built into OS X. I’ve found that every time I send a message, Mail freezes up and the statusbar says, “Adding recipients to Address Book.” Turns out that you can really cut down on this delay by forcing your Address Book to compress itself … For extra speedy goodness, try deleting the ~/Library/Application Support/Address Book/ABPerson.index” file, then opening Address Book and searching for an entry. This will force a rebuild of the Address Book index. – Cory Doctorow @ Boing Boing

AdWords works, RSS works – Does a demo work?

I saw an ad for Tinderbox on the sidebar of my website as I was re-reading an article I wrote. I clicked the ad and just downloaded the application (again – I played with it once for about 10 minutes before I got tired of it the first time). (So, AdWords has worked so far for Eastgate.)

I’m planning on playing with Tinderbox this weekend as I’ve been thinking I want a good tool to help me organize my thoughts on some long term strategies at the office…

Then, I read that MacWorld just gave Tinderbox 4.5 stars on Mark Bernstein’s weblog, and thought about how coincidental that was… (so RSS worked for Eastgate – I read Mark’s weblog in NetNewsWire)

Google’s AdWords got me to download the app. MacWorld’s rating helps me think about the worth of the product. My playing with it this weekend will help me decide to pay for it. If I do buy it, I’m sure the paltry sum Eastgate paid for the click will more than pay for my buying the application… I’ll follow up with a note on whether or not I pay for the application after I demo it. (Will the demo work?)

Sad thing is that MacWorld doesn’t have an RSS feed (that I know of), and I don’t subscribe… and I’ll likely not read the article about Tinderbox on their site unless Mark links to it from his blog when they post it online… (RSS isn’t working for MacWorld)

Email Publishing is Dead

I just read this article about Email publishing, and have to agree with Chris Pirillo’s thoughts:

If the world was a perfect place, e-mail publishing would still be a viable model for getting the word out. But marketers and morons (two groups that are far from mutually exclusive) have flooded the space with noise. So now, instead of spending our time on crafting quality content, we waste it with endless bickering. We now have to fight with ISPs, begging them to let our messages pass through without being filtered or flagged. We have to go out of our way to educate anti-spam solutions on our product to make sure we don’t get blacklisted. We have to explain to our subscribers how someone between here and there is possibly blocking the transmission, possibly troubleshooting their software, trying to figure out if there’s a utility that’s keeping them from receiving the stuff they asked for. Ugh.

And I have to agree that any publisher worth his salary is starting to try and learn how to earn money using RSS. [via John Robb]

Why MT over other blog tools?

overheard at: via Chuq]

as AOL dies…

AOL Time Warner Moves to Eliminate AOL From Name

In a surprising twist, management of America Online has been lobbying AOL Chairman Richard Parsons to drop AOL from the corporate name, arguing that the online service’s brand name is being hurt by the identification of the corporate woes with the service.

[as spotted in the FastCompany blog]

See also: Internal Memo from Jon Miller at AOL to all AOL employees
and
an in depth AOL Time Warner Weighs Name Change from the WSJ.

Retooling the URL: The Steps

In case you didn’t notice, I finally did a little housekeeping with my URL structure (after writing about it many, many times). Thanks in large part to a bunch of articles I’ve read recently about URLs, and an excellent conversion tutorial from Olivier Travers (which is where almost all of my tricks came from), I’m pleased to announce that my site now has a much better URL structure (in my mind), but it didn’t come without a lot of work.

The premise was to create a cookie-crumb trail URL scheme so that anyone could read a story:

http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/2003/06/14/acuna/

and by deleting the directory (or crawling up the directory structure), they could read all of the stories for that day:

http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/2003/06/14/

or month:

http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/2003/06/

or, that if they wanted to they could browse the category archives more easily:

http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/categories/leadership_management/
http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/categories/marketing_advertising/
though I still need to build the master category page that should reside at http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/categories/

After reading this article against file extensions on the web, I also didn’t want people to have to know that I was using PHP, though I don’t mind them knowing, so I really wanted everything to look like it was sitting in a directory (even if it’s really a file, or it’s really sitting in its own directory). It should be transparent to the user, and still Google friendly, and user friendly… so:

Here are the steps I used to get my URLs straight, and not lose any traffic from old links, or search engines (GoogleJuice) that haven’t updated their links (stolen largely from Olivier and improved in a few places)

1. With the individual entry path still set at <$MTEntryTitle dirify=”1″$>, replaced the individual entry template to:

<?php
$NewUrl = "<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d/"$><$MTEntryTitle dirify="1"$>/";
$NewUrl = "http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/" . $NewUrl;
header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
header("Location: $NewUrl");
exit();
?>

This is so that all of the old inbound links will get redirected to the proper place which will be created in a few steps.

2. Rebuilt individual entries. (This took a bit of time, but not too long. As Olivier’s example states, at this point, old links aren’t working anymore, but we’ll fix that in a few steps)

3. Changed the individual entry path (in MT’s archiving settings) to:
<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d/"$><$MTEntryTitle dirify="1"$>.php

Note: This is different than Olivier’s approach, as I didn’t want to have a whole lot of individual directories to maintain in the filesystem, but rather one directory per day in each month containing however many posts were created that day.

Also changed the daily archive’s entry path:
<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/%d/index.php"$>

the monthly archive’s path:
<$MTArchiveDate format="%Y/%m/index.php"$>

and the category archive’s path:
categories/<$MTCategoryLabel dirify="1"$>.php

4. Replaced the individual entry template with my old template.

5. Rebuilt individual entries. (At this point, old links almost work again because the redirects set up in step 1 now point to directories much like the files created in step 5, but not quite… I’ll fix that in a minute with a mod_rewrite trick I learned… read on.)

6. Added the following lines to my .htaccess file to redirect monthly and category archives pages which were easy to handle through regexp thanks to their previous structure.

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule weblog/archives/200([0-9])_([0-9])([0-9])_(.*)(\.php)$
http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/200$1/$2$3/$4 [R=301]
RewriteRule weblog/archives/200([0-9])_(.*)(\.php)$
http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/200$1/$2/ [R=301]
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_(.*)(\.php)$
http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/archives/categories/$1/ [R=301,L]

(formating note: each line in the .htaccess file starts with “RewriteRule”, ie. there aren’t any breaks in the code when it’s in the real file on the server)

7. Added the following rule (taken from Keith’s “no extensions” entry) so that category pages (which are technically category_name.php) can be delivered as directories (among other page types)

RewriteRule ^([^.]+[^/])$ $1/ [R=permanent,L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}\.php -f
RewriteRule ^(.+[^/]) $1.php

8. Added some code to all of the internal links (depending on which type there were that replaced the ‘.php’ or ‘index.php’ with ‘/’ (as appropriate) so that all links on the site go to the correct place:

<?php echo str_replace("index.php","","<$MTArchiveLink$>"); ?>
<?php echo str_replace(".php","/","<$MTEntryLink$>"); ?>

Oh, and if you’re looking for a decent mod_rewrite primer, here’s one at Kuro5hin.

One last thing, Olivier, since you’re stuck on IIS as your dev platform of choice, you’re probably going to be looking ISAPI_rewrite which I pointed to back in November of ’02.

Seven Deadly Sins of Web Writing

The Seven Deadly Sins of Web Writing. Good Points:

Deadly sin number 1: I think I’m God
Deadly sin number 2: I go on and on and on …
Deadly sin number 3: I canít spell and Iíve awful grammar
Deadly sin number 4: Iím locked in a print view of the world
Deadly sin number 5: Iím not very good at writing headings
Deadly sin number 6: Actually, I donít think content is very important
Deadly sin number 7: Don’t have seven points if there’s only six …

[via John Porcaro]

Fast Company Weblog

from apennyfor.com:

Another Potential Essential

Fast Company has started a blog. I had heard a rumor that they were working on this. It has been online since Monday and I like it so far. A number of different people from the magazine are contributing.

Check it out at http://blog.fastcompany.com/.

Already added to my blogroll and my aggregator (RDF feed is here) and it’s MT powered. Ben and Mena are sure doing a great job getting businesses to use MT.

Notepad pop-up advertising

Did you know that on Windows unscrupulous marketers can make Notepad (the text editor included with Windows) open and display a message using javascript or other forms of auto-execution in IE? Did you know they can make Notepad open specific files on the hard-drive of that unsuspecting PC? They can. While this might not be a horrible security risk, it’s undoubtedly a horrible ‘feature’ and since IE isn’t being developed for Windows anymore, it’ll likely not get fixed any time soon…

Another reason to use a Mac.

Selling Against Objections

Looks like there’s a new read from XPlane today:

Selling to the VP of NO: Secrets of the Selling Stars.

In a highly visual book that can be read under an hour, Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, constructs a simple road map to selling success. Far from rocket science, it contains simple, proven methods to help you move the VP of NO to GO.

Do you know the VP of NO? He’s the one person that stands between you and opportunity and his job is to say, “No.” You – or your sales team – have met him before, and will again.

Read more about this new book at XPlane.

QOTD: Bullshitting your way into a job

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Scary Mac Guy

Petie got a Macintosh.

And he made a movie about it.

Scariest iMovie I’ve ever seen I think. [via them]

Summer Colds – I hate ’em

I just hate getting sick in the middle of summer, but invariably, I seem to always get sick mid-way though each summer. I almost never have a cold in the winter, but for the past three or four years I can could on getting the flu in late July or early August, when the temperature outside is like 100°. It sucks.

I guess what I really hate about getting sick is that it really takes a lot out of you and you can’t be at all productive. I tried to be productive today… I got up at 8 (after waking up coughing twice through the night) and went into the office… only to leave around 9:30 because I was ‘loopy’ feeling. You know, that feeling you get when your head doesn’t feel like it’s on top of your body, or if it is, it’s suspended on some sort of gyro-enhanced suspension? That’s what I feel like.

I also have a terrible stomach issue making it hard to eat. I haven’t eaten in two days other than a sandwich and some soup… ugh… thinking about eating just makes me sick to my stomach…

I’m headed back to bed.

sharing a fuck

And so I share with you a choice phrase from the defense of the work fuck:

“It would be far fetched to argue that the Fuck family has not made its way into mainstream society.” [see page 2]

This argument that the right to use the word “fuck” is a constitutional right is truly hilarious.

Sales QOTD: the pause

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” –Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Good point to remember if you’re in sales or a leadership/management role.

QOTD: Where you are going and why

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Eddie Cantor