Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Confessions of a Web 2.0 Addict

I’m trying to remember how it all began. I think it started innocently, as these things usually do. I went to a St. Louis Publishers Association meeting, and Bob Baker, the speaker, was doing a presentation on something called “social networking.” It was intriguing but confusing. Even with the handout, I had no idea what he was talking about. “This is Web 2.0,” he said, if one can actually speak in italics. “If you’re an author, you must have a presence on the Web.”

I got the idea that a website is not enough to create that presence. Apparently, one also needs a blog, podcasts, a newsletter, an identity on Amazon, and memberships in such things as Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Gather. I’m not much of a joiner. I was overwhelmed.

I don’t remember when I attended that presentation, but I know it was pre-twitter. Since then, I’ve come a long way, baby. I have two blogs, a newsletter, and lots of memberships. I started a group on LinkedIn; I have a page on Facebook where my daughter’s friends write on my wall; and Amazon is #1 on next year's marketing plan (podcasting is #2). But what really blows my mind is the amount of time I spend micro-blogging on twitter. You’d be surprised at how much you can say with only 140 characters. Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but I was.

You can probably tell that I’ve jumped feet first into Web 2.0, astonishing young and old alike with my computer prowess — young being my daughters, who think I've lost my mind, and old being my contemporaries, who agree. What nobody told me about blogging and tweeting and joining is that they are seductive and addictive.

They are not just a part of marketing; they are a way of life. All day long and into the night I hear twitter making bird sounds as it informs me there is a new tweet on my TweetDeck. My e-mail is full of the latest blogs on blogging and tweets about twittering. I am constantly updating my e-mail list and planning my next newsletter or blog post. I have printed out so much advice on how to do it all better; I could start my own recycling plant. Only as I write this do I realize how far gone I am.

I am truly addicted, and I have no idea how Web 2.0 addicts recover. Everything I read tells me to blog and twitter more, not less. I guess I’m lucky because I don’t send and receive tweets on my iPhone or Blackberry, only because I don’t own them. But it’s only a matter of time.

It is almost midnight on New Years Eve of 2008. I’d love to say I’m resolving to cut down in 2009, but I'm not sure I can. This is bad, very bad.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Demystifying My Marketing Plan

Every year I make resolutions (who doesn’t?), and every year I break them before the ink is dry (who doesn’t?). This year, I have one super resolution, which I do not intend to break. It is market, market, MARKET. Not that I haven’t been marketing like crazy in 2008, but it has been a somewhat undisciplined activity. Whatever looked like fun, I tried it. So, if you’ve read any of my blog posts in the past, you will know I’ve been all over the place.

Since I met my friend, workout partner, and marketing guru, Bobette Kyle, my fitness and marketing have improved tremendously. My organization skills, unfortunately, have not. So, I’m not only writing a new marketing plan, I’m also creating a marketing calendar. I have the calendar all set up and ready to fill in, but as usual, I want to do everything, right now.

At this point, Bobette reminds me about the differences among goals, strategies, and tactics. (That’s why she’s the marketing guru, after all.)

So, I go back to the drawing board. I start with my big picture goal — the WHAT I want to achieve this year. Then, I figure out strategies — the three or four ways in which I plan to achieve my goal, the HOW. Finally, the tactics are the very detailed (small H) “how and when" I am actually going to take a specific action.

Most people would probably write an outline. They would be more linear than I seem to be. I am creating a mind map — actually several mind maps. The big one shows my goal, strategies, and tactics. Then, there is a separate mind map for each strategy. Believe or not, there was a lot of thinking involved; but the right side of my brain is so happy to be creating mind maps on the computer, that the left side hardly notices how hard it is working.

This isn’t about making my marketing plan beautiful as much as making it doable. I guess I think visually, because the little boxes on the mind maps and the marketing calendar bring order to what was just a chaotic list a few hours ago.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's not fair!

This is a rant. Do not — I repeat — do not ever try to sue a client in small claims court. In my experience, it cannot be done. I have tried three times, and, as I sit here popping Excedrin, I am about to give up. But, before I do, let me keep you from making the same mistakes I’ve made.

Let's say you begin by going to your attorney for help in collecting money you have earned through hard work. After a few false starts, your attorney suggests that you to try small claims court. Of course, the very most you could be awarded is $3,000, no matter how much money your client owes you. But, you decide $3,000 is better than nothing.

Small claims court is supposed to work this way:
•You file a claim.
•The defendant is served.
•You both appear in court at the appointed day and time.
•Your case is heard.
•You win. and collect your money.

Now, here is reality:
•You go to the small claims court office in the county courthouse and file a claim. It takes a long time and requires a lot of information you probably don’t have, since you had no idea what was expected.
•You pay the filing fee. If you want the want the summons served by a human being (the sheriff) instead of the US mail, you pay an additional amount.
•On your court date, you show up as scheduled. Your defendant probably doesn’t.
•When your case is called, you are told the summons has not been served. The case is cancelled.
•You repeat the process, at least once, with the same results.

All the things that can go wrong:
•The sheriff does not find the defendant for any number of reasons. You track down his whereabouts and pay some more money to have him served again. The sheriff still doesn't find him.
•You are told you must go to court, even if the defendant has not been served. You do, wasting many hours.
•You are told you don’t have to show up if he is not served. You stop coming and get in trouble with the judge.
•You go to see the sheriff and are told by a switchboard operator, “Sorry. That’s the way we do things.”
•You ask for a supervisor, explain the whole matter again, and are told, “Sorry. That’s the way we do things.”
•You go back to the small claims administrator, who tells you to call the sheriff and ask about hiring a private process server.
•The sheriff’s office tells you that’s not their responsibility; you should call the small claims administrator.
•You finally hire a private process server. He does not find the defendant, either (often, after several attempts). The next day, the missing defendant is seen drinking in a neighborhood bar. But, by that time, you have fired the process server.

Alternative scenario:
•The defendant is served. He does show up in court. You win the case; and he disappears (there are several ways to do this), never to be seen again.

You have now poured quite a bit of money into a black hole called the legal system. Your client, who has decided not to pay you, is probably laughing his head off. You are tempted to jump up and down with your fists clenched, and yell (as you children did when they were going through the terrible twos), IT’S NOT FAIR!”

Remember what you used to say? "Life is not fair."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knowing When to Say When

I never say no when someone asks me if I can take on a new project. After all, I’m marketing myself half to death so that clients will call or write or e-mail and ask me to ghostwrite, edit, or coach. Why would I say no? Well, one reason is that often, I simply don’t have time to tackle one more thing.

All of the above — ghostwriting, editing, or coaching — are time consuming; and time is finite. There are only so many productive hours in a day and, unfortunately, not all of them are spent doing things for which I will be paid. I can’t count how many times I’ve calculated the number of hours I have left for work after I sleep, eat, put myself together in the morning and take myself apart at night, work out, grocery shop, run errands, run my business, run my life, go to appointments (doctors and others), clean my house and do laundry, and read. Not many. I’ve tried to figure out what I could omit, and all I can think of is reading. But would life be worth living? I don’t think so.

Supposedly, we have 2,000 hours a year considered work time, but that’s a myth. Even people who work for a salary do not work 38 hours a week. They may be at some location for 38 hours, but they sure aren’t working all that time. They’re having coffee breaks and lunch, kibitzing with fellow workers at the proverbial water cooler, talking on the phone (not necessarily on business), reading the paper, staring into space, or just generally goofing off. I know this is true because I used to have such a job.

As I consider my workweek, I notice it includes nights and weekends and, even at that, I never seem caught up. As I flit from task to task, I am convinced I must be A.D.D. or just disorganized, but whichever it is, I frequently feel frenzied.

So, I have begun to rethink the never-say-no philosophy. For one thing, I can’t do everything; for another, I don’t even want to. There are subjects that turn me on and others for which I am totally unsuited. There are assignments that will pay for groceries and utilities for half a year, and some on which I will never come close to breaking even. There are people I fall in love with at hello and those who send up red flags that warn me to run, not walk, to the nearest exit.

The secret is what the secret always has been: when in doubt, tune in to the Jury of the Deep and heed the verdict. If there is really a good reason to accept the job, do it. Otherwise, politely refuse and get back to work. Could it be that simple? Well, yes. It could, and it is.