Before Google makes an acquisition, the target company must first pass co-founder Larry Page’s toothbrush test:

Is the company’s product or service used regularly to make people’s lives better?

How does your organization live up to that test?  Do your clients or members depend on something you provide to do their jobs? Does that product/service improve their professional or personal lives? Does it help them reach their goals?

If not, it’s way past time to research your market, talk to people and find out how you can meet their needs in a way that no other organization can.

If you do offer a “golden toothbrush,” can your clients or members get that same product elsewhere? If they can, what makes your offering so different or special? Why would they have a relationship with you?

Does your marketing copy brag about this product? Do you show how it can improve their lives? Do you provide proof – a testimonial or case study?

Attention, loyalty and dollars go to those who deserve it and prove it, day after day.

For more on Google’s toothbrush test, read Google has one essential test when it thinks about buying a company by Max Nisen at Quartz. 

membership B2B product service value toothbrush test

Photo by William Warby/Flickr CC license

Google Reader is where I go first thing in the morning for my professional reads about associations, marketing, digital media, technology, etc., and at the end of the day for my personal reads about food, culture, etc. I have hundreds of RSS subscriptions in dozens of Reader folders. Yes, I find a lot to read on Twitter, but its randomness, although appreciated, is no substitute for Reader. I rely on Reader to catch up on anything I missed from my favorite blogs and sites.

When I heard the news yesterday about Reader’s demise – is “murder” too strong a word? – I tweeted this:

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for Google Reader. Dramatic but true. Reading changes lives.”

My fellow Reader addicts, we have a few months to find a replacement. So far, Feedly is in the lead for me. What’s looking good for you? Ernie Smith at Associations Now plans to write about post-Reader life on Tuesday. In the meantime, you can start your hunt for a Reader replacement with these posts:

Wednesday night, I returned from ASAE’s Great Ideas conference and hiking in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. I hope to have time this weekend to review the tweetstream of my favorite hashtag of the week, no surprise, #ideas13.

The SXSW tweetstream is too vast to explore, so here’s an alternative: the official audio recordings.

Katie Bascuas at Associations Now writes about the four friends every content marketer needs. When I first read this, I thought, what about me!? But, no worries. In his comment, my friend Scott Oser suggested adding a fifth type: writer/subject matter expert.

If you don’t have the budget to hire a market research consultant, Katya Andresen provides advice on how to do a little research on your own. Just be sure not to rely solely on anecdotes – data is your friend. Also, although it’s tempting to talk to your board or other volunteer leaders about their needs, remember, they may not represent the views of many of your members or constituents.

Association folks, are you reading Jeffrey Cufaude’s Cultivating Engagement series? Here’s yesterday’s post: Let’s Talk About Connections. I’ve lost track of the number of good ideas he’s suggested in this series. Each post would make an interesting and productive topic for a brown bag lunch.

If your company or organization is just getting started with a blog, or even if you’ve had one for a while, check out this eight-point blog analysis by Daniel Burstein at Marketing Sherpa. You’re bound to find something you can improve.

In his New York Times Bit column, Nick Bilton writes about the development of a new digital etiquette as we adopt new tools and adapt to information overload. He says, “Many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.” Careful, it’s a fine line between trying not to waste someone’s time and appearing rude or ungrateful.

It’s getting harder and harder to turn off the laptop or iPad at night. Google recently announced the launch of Art Talks: “a series of talks, hosted on Google Hangout, with museum directors, curators, historians, and educators. It’s an online series that aims to educate art lovers on famous masterpieces and share the insights of some of the art world’s greatest minds.” Even though I love this news, I’m still mad at Google.

Use your social media powers for good! Find out if a local charity needs social media ambassadors to help share their stories and news. I’ve been helping my local food bank in this way. It’s an easy way to contribute without getting off the couch.  

Happy Friday!

Photo by Striatic (Flickr)

Hmm, is she relaxing or volunteering?
Photo by Striatic (Flickr CC license)

I’m not the only one who likes being a content curator. Elizabeth Engel is always an excellent source for interesting reads. Check out her weekly What I’m Reading series.

If your job involves engaging members, customers, constituents, donors or volunteers, you must read this post by Jeffery Cufaude, Cultivating Engagement: What was the Catalyst? He says, “If we want to cultivate relationships that invest people in our community, cause, or organization, we must remain curious about them: how might what I’m learning about you now alter my next interaction with you?” Grab your team, make them read this, and figure out how you’re going to start doing this next week.

Andy Freed captures why I like reading all kinds of things and making odd connections. He was heading to TEDActive (the live Palm Springs simulcast) where he anticipated learning about association management from a dolphin researcher. And why not?

When’s the last time you picked up a phone and called a member you don’t know? I know. I never did it either, except when we were desperately promoting our trade show in the midst of the housing implosion. Eric Lanke has some ideas about the real reasons we don’t pick up the phone.

Barry Feldman wants you to take a hard look at your website after reading his post, 11 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Convert Into Customers. He gives you the eleven reasons, good advice and a quick checklist at the Convince & Convert blog.

I just LOVE this post about a dying restaurant by Ken Mueller. I can feel for them because for eight years I was the general manager of an independently-owned (and very successful) restaurant, long before the days of social media. But we’ve all seen this story – lots of attention, but a little too late. Let’s all pledge to honor Ken’s words:

“I will continue to support small, independently owned family businesses whenever I can. I will also go out of my way to let them know I appreciate and support them. I will reward them for their humanity by spending my money with them, in hopes that they will be sustainable and profitable.”

Are you texting and using LOL like an old fart? Luckily for me I got tired of LOL long ago. And it’s a good thing because it no longer means what you think it does, if you’re of a certain age. Not my age. And if you’re one to lament the decline of the English language because of texting, fear not. “Anyone who says that text language is chaotic isn’t paying enough attention to the system of rules that users have developed to move real-time conversation into written form,” says Anne Curzan in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

At ProBlogger, Thomas Ford explains what you need to know about using free images from the web. His post will help you understand copyright rules, rights and different types of Creative Commons licenses.

Here’s one to bookmark and hope you never have to use. Tia Fisher at Social Media Today shows you what to do if your Twitter account has been hacked.

Steal this idea from Association Media & Publishing: sponsored small group dinner discussions.

Steal this idea too for your next trade show:

vendor twitter game tweet

The only infographic I looked at this week, thanks to Stowe Boyd.

This is conference week for me. I spent Sunday through Tuesday at the Avectra Users & Developers Conference where I wrote a few blog posts:

I got back Wednesday afternoon and today I’m heading to Colorado Springs for the ASAE Great Ideas Conference. Be sure to check out the hashtag #ideas13 if you want to follow along.

Pretty soon we’ll all be Dr. Doolittles. Vince Cerf “envisions an interspecies Internet” where we’ll communicate with animals and aliens.

Happy Friday!

“…talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals”Photo by Curt Smith (Flickr)

“…talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals”
Photo by Curt Smith (Flickr)

 

Do you have a person in mind when you write marketing or social media copy? Geoff Drake, senior web writer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium (what a cool job!), writes for his imaginary friend Sue. “Get personal with your persona,” he says. “We have a kind of pact, Sue and I. She needs a vicarious experience, and I want to foster a connection with the Aquarium, and our oceans. A day never passes when I don’t try to uphold my end of our little bargain.”

Something else that’s cool about Geoff – he’s a former editor of VeloNews and Bicycling magazines, plus he wrote the book, literally, on Team 7-Eleven, one of our earliest professional cycling teams in the U.S. And that’s my segue into a great post about organizational culture by cycling fan, and my pal, Mary Nations on the Undiscussables blog: Cycles of Silence.

Mary gives her take on Lance Armstrong, the reign of omerta in the professional cycling world and how it all relates to our organizations.

“When a scandal breaks, the news often exposes evidence that undiscussable elephants have been stomping around, leaving squashed, altered bits of reality and stinky piles of consequences that are difficult to clean up. The mess existed all the while, but new publicity puts it on amplified display, under harsh lights, perhaps to a wider audience that is finally drawn to look.”

She asks, “What does this saga mean for you? Are there places where you suspect elephants are creating a mess? If so, are you ready and willing to help generate positive change in the future?” It’s a fascinating read that might make you think differently about cycling and your organization.

For a different perspective on content marketing, check out Giselle Abramovich’s article at Digiday about Patagonia’s Content Machine. “Many brands feel like they are faced with a dilemma: They can either make great content or try to sell products. (Bill) Boland (Patagonia’s digital creative director) doesn’t see it that way. He sees great content and conversations around products as something that naturally occurs, without the need for marketers to be so heavy-handed.”

Well, it happened again, another week, another mention of TMG Media’s Engage blog. I swear there aren’t any kickbacks going on here! We’re obviously sympatico in our interests. This time, Brittany Siminitz shares examples of 20 brands that “don’t typically incite thoughts of colorful, pin-able things,” for example, insurance and financial planning services, and banks. Yet, their creative Pinterest boards prove “that you don’t have to be frilly to make it on Pinterest.”

In The Facebook Flea Market, Tom Webster calls out Facebook ads for what they are: “a junk shop.” He says they’re “a seemingly random miscellany of hastily constructed, poorly targeted and (sometimes) vaguely seedy-looking pitches for things I couldn’t even conceive of clicking on, let alone purchasing.” And he has some advice for the advertisers that should know better and for Facebook – although do they ever listen?

Only Shelly Alcorn would watch Dave Grohl’s new documentary Sound City and come out thinking about membership. Ok, maybe there are other association geeks who might do the same thing. Ok, maybe me. But Shelly is the one who wrote this great post about the beauty and power of the tribe: Membership IS the Value of Membership!

“Yes, associations are changing. Yes, technology is changing. Yes, communications are changing. Yes, we can talk all day long about dues models, governance models, etc., etc., etc. To me, what is not up for debate is the fundamental concept of belonging – the group, the community, the tribe. Maybe it’s free. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s narrowly defined, maybe it’s broadly defined. Maybe we call them associations and maybe we don’t. There is a lot of room in the middle about HOW it manifests, and what role we can or can’t play in facilitating those connections – but the question about WHETHER it manifests or not is just not debatable.”

Sing it, sister!

Do you know Kate? She’s just an ordinary girl with an ordinary family. She might even live in your community. But there’s something you don’t know about her. Share this one with your kids.

Heads up, New Yorkers and others in the tri-state area: The Who and Elvis Costello are playing a benefit concert on February 28 at the Madison Square Garden. It’s your opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime show and support a great (and underfunded) cause: Teen Cancer America, Roger Daltrey’s foundation. I’ve seen The Who more than any other band and absolutely LOVED their Quadrophenia show in November. Number two on my most-seen list is, you guessed it, Elvis, a performer and entertainer like no other.

Long live rock! And Happy Friday, everyone!

Roger Daltrey says teens with cancer need a different kind of hospital environment, one where they're not surrounded by kids or older adults.

Roger Daltrey says teens with cancer need a different kind of hospital environment, one where they’re not surrounded by kids or older adults.

 

Over at CopyBlogger, Georgina El Morshdy shares 30 ways to build the “know, like, and trust” factor that grows an audience. She tells content marketers — meaning any individual or organization that uses content to educate and build relationships: “The reality is, your audience won’t pick up real momentum until you’ve mastered the “know, like, trust” factor. Face to face salespeople have known this for decades, but some content marketers are still struggling to get it right.” Take a look at her list to see how you can improve your marketing.

Why is content marketing so important? Jackie Roy at TMG shares 24 statistics that tell you why. Here’s #1: “80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement.” Consumers have the same preferences. Educate and earn trust and respect – that’s the key.

Sponsored content is becoming more ubiquitous, so thankfully Jeff Sonderman at Poynter provides guidance on how to publish sponsored content without lowering editorial standards. He’s writing this piece for news organizations but his advice works for magazines and other publications as well.

Thanks to Elizabeth Engel for spotting and sharing HubSpot’s bookmarkable list of spam trigger words. Keep this list handy when you’re writing email subject lines.

What’s the best time to send those emails? Who knows! There are as many opinions on that as hours in the day! Scott Stratton gives the best advice: “The only important data out there is what your own list does.” And even better: “The best way to get your email opened is to write content worthy of being opened.” Go see what else he has to say, it’s always spot on.

Here’s another handy resource – five free image editing and photo correction tools from Lauren Barraco at Business 2 Community.

In the fall of 2012, Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, authors of Humanize, surveyed 505 individuals about social media and leadership. Among the findings: “84% agree that leadership involvement in social media gives their company a competitive edge.” That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve learned the same by talking to association CEOs about their use of social media. However, many CEOs still resist social media at their own peril.

Every year I look forward to MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmark Report. Besides being valuable as a benchmark for association membership efforts and trends, it’s full of great tips and ideas. If your association hasn’t yet participated in this year’s research survey, please schedule some time to do so. The entire association community thanks you!

I love this idea from the American Booksellers Association (ABA): be the member. Joe Rominiecki at Associations Now explains:

“Once a year, during the holidays, Oren Teicher follows this advice. The CEO of (ABA), the trade association for independent bookstores, visits a member store to volunteer as an extra hand for three or four days during the holiday sales rush. This season he volunteered at Watermark Books and Cafe in Wichita, Kansas, helping with restocking, organizing, handselling, and any of “the 1,001 tasks that go on in the busy time of the year,” he says.”

Instead of thinking of reasons why you can’t do this, why not think about ways you can do this.

Would you like less stress and irritation in your life? More contentment and less frustration? Patti Digh has some brilliant advice from her yoga teacher, Cindy Dollar: “I used to get caught up in drama, and now when there is drama, I just say ‘wow.’” Life is less stressful when you’re aware of and in control of your reactions – that’s a big yoga thing. We have the power, we just don’t remember to use it.

The LA Weekly found a Banksy-like graffiti of Lance Armstrong – a spray paint image of him doping while riding. Check it out over there — I didn’t want to steal it.

That’s all folks, Happy Friday!

Selexyz bookstore in the Dominican church in Maastricht - photo by Bert Kaufmann (Flickr)

Now this is a bookstore: Selexyz bookstore in the Dominican church in Maastricht – photo by Bert Kaufmann (Flickr)

I’m back, I’m back in the saddle again.

After a relaxing vacation, I’m catching up on reading and work. Here are some of my favorite reads from the past week, or two, or three.

At the Content Marketing Institute, Mark Sherbin provides tips on newsjacking: “the process of injecting your brand into the day’s news, creating a twist that grabs eyes when they’re open widest.” He also provides some examples of brands that have done it well, and a few who laid a big smelly egg. Newsjacking isn’t only for brands, individuals and associations can make newsjacking work for them too.

Jonathan Barrick has something to say to his fellow marketers: “Stop sucking, be awesome, and prove it.” That’s not all he has to say, his post at Crowdshifter lays out five promises every living marketer should make to themselves. Even though they’re all common sense, how many people are really adhering to them?

Steve Drake has been on a roll lately. Well, now that I think about it, he’s always on a roll.  His post, 15 “And/Or” Dilemmas Facing Association Leaders in 2013, provides enough fodder for discussion for more than a year’s worth of board and staff meetings. Want to know what your association should be thinking about? Start here!

Content marketing is the name of the game for events in 2013, says Jenise Fryatt. “Presentations, panels, discussions and workshops, even keynote speeches provide digestible content that is particularly useful to the larger community to which your attendees belong.” She shares ideas on how associations can generate and use this content throughout the year.

Surveys, you either don’t do them frequently enough, or if you do, you don’t ask the right questions or use what you learn. Eric Lanke has a solution: more surveys, but make them really short – just one question. He says, “When the responses come in, do something you’ve probably never done before. Post the results. Share them with the entire membership. And even more importantly, let everyone know what you’re going to do differently based on the feedback you received.” Brilliant!

One of my favorite posts this week is Come Original – Whole Self Membership from Shelly Alcorn. She encourages associations to redirect their focus so they serve and benefit from the whole member, not just the occupational or professional side of a member, but their whole self. In the comments, I (along with a few others) explained why this concept resonates so loudly and harmoniously with me. We do our best work when we bring our complete self to work, to our association or to any endeavor.

Steve Drake (yes, him again!) confessed (I think he should brag) that he’s a switchtasker – “someone who rapidly alternates between tasks.” He learned the term from an article by our pal Elizabeth Engel, who learned it from a post on Lifehacker. It gets better. I just read a post that says switchtasking maximizes creative thinking. It’s the old “sleep on it” principle at work – let your unconscious mind perform its magic. Christian Jarrett at 99U writes, “Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity.” The challenge for me is finding that different kind of mental activity when I’m writing most of the day.

I don’t usually have problems with my writing mojo (knock on wood!) but if I do, I will follow the advice of Sarah O’Leary at Write To Done. Her five tips to keep your mojo going will work for everyone, not just writers. She emphasizes self-care: “Our creative muscles need breaks too. A change in focus replenishes those creative and intellectual synapses, priming you for another session.” Hmm, switchtasking again? Check out the good advice she shares.

content marketing reads

Parts of the Brain by Cachecope Bell (Flickr)

If I had to pick one blog to take with me to a deserted island, it might be Brain Pickings. Maria Popova is a curator like no other, bringing us fascinating posts about creativity, knowledge, science, art, culture, and more. She describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large.” That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Somehow I stumbled upon a post of hers from earlier this year: A 5-Step Technique for Producing Ideas circa 1939. She writes about James Webb Young’s method for “a productive creative process, touching on a number of elements corroborated by modern science and thinking on creativity: its reliance on process over mystical talent, its combinatorial nature, its demand for a pondering period, its dependence on the brain’s unconscious processes, and more.” Popova’s links within this post will take you down an “endless rabbit hole of discovery.”

John Perry would approve of the time I spend procrastinating over at Brain Pickings. He does the same thing all over the web. In his Wall Street Journal article, How to Be a Better Procrastinator, he says, “The truth is that most procrastinators are structured procrastinators. This means that although they may be putting off something deemed important, their way of not doing the important thing is to do something else. Like reading instead of completing their expense report before it’s due.” Exactly!

Steve Buttry may have written this post for journalists, but it shows the potential Twitter has for all kinds of professions and organizations, ahem, associations, I’m talking to you. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find something that resonates with your digital strategy in 10 Ways Twitter is Valuable to Journalists.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk (aka @TheBrainLady) writes about 47 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself. I admit, I’ve only read about ten of these facts. I’m slowly savoring them. They’re part of her series of “100 things you should know if you are going to design an effective and persuasive website, web application or software application.” I don’t do any of those things, and maybe you don’t either, but, like me, you might be in the business of persuading. Soak it up!

I have a love/hate relationship with the word “awesome.” I have no problem using it when I see a sight that inspires awe, like the landscape of southern Utah. But too often we – yes, me, you, and everyone else we know – reach to it because we’re too lazy to find another word. It’s become shorthand. “Awesomesauce” used to be really special, but now it’s slathered indiscriminately.

In The Unfortunate Culture of Awesome, Deanna Zandt laments how “awesome” has taken over our social lives. “We are creating wittier, snappier, sometimes angrier, humblebraggier avatars. Everything is awesome.” (Yeah, I had to look up “humblebraggier” too.) I’m reminded of the Louie Herr post I featured last week: That’s Not the Real Me: How Vanity Sabotages Facebook Advertising.

Zandt misses the ordinary, little bits of life that people used to share more regularly. “Maybe it’s not critical to my existence that I know you like Chobani yogurt, but together with lots of other pieces of information, I can see what kind of person you are. And that’s critical for developing relationships with one another, digitally or otherwise.” Just so you know, I had cheesy grits for breakfast, and will probably make a smoothie after publishing this post.

Happy Friday!

Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT

Now, that’s awesome. A hike through Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT.

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