Category Archives: writing

Think with a pen? Or pixels? Or a microphone?

Executive summary:  Thinking styles, communication styles, and management styles are too often at loggerheads. Understanding how your people think and communicate is the key to getting the best out of them in the least time.

Example of a storyboard

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/ Creative Commons 2.0 License

 

“Just give me the slides.”
“I don’t want a document, management won’t read it.”
“Don’t send sketches to design, they’ll think they are requirements.”
“Don’t waste your time recording example narration, that’s the animator’s job.”

I have heard variants of these sentences across almost every high tech company I have worked for or with. (No, not just you, G.M.) Which is a shame, because the content, idea, and message brilliance of many folks I have worked with remained hidden. Why? Because the recipient of the drafts could only parse them from one point of view or wouldn’t invest the extra 30 seconds to 1 minute to thinking about the different communication style some of their team may have. Really, it is just persona analysis. But in this case, it’s an analysis of your teams and vendors, not of your customers.

Here are a few examples of how managers need to understand the communication modalities of their teams, and how the teams need to understand the modalities of what they need to deliver. My teams have experienced these things many, many (did I say “many”) times over the years. (Current team, don’t think this is just about you. It’s about me as well.)

1. Providing vendors more than words: Working with an animator, instead of just sending them a draft script, send them (amateurish) storyboards and a draft script recorded in an audio file.  Do this to better communicate our thoughts and ideas. It takes extra time to develop, but reduces the animator’s delivery time and increases the precision of our messages.

Yet, in more than one job, I have been told by managers not to do this, as it wastes time and is the animator’s job.  Actually, it is our job to control the message and express, as best we can, those ideas to the animator (or artist, or agency) and let them reflect their creativity and expertise based on our “best foot forward” starting point. Animators and voice-over people can indeed work solely from printed words.  But if we have team member who can provide them more words, that will help, not hinder, the process.

Lesson: Be sure to understand how the vendor wants input, and to describe how (and why) you provide your input in the way that you do.

2. Some people start with the slides, others start with the document: I’ve pretty much given up trying to get people to use less PowerPoint.  But the process of developing slides is different with different people.  Some people need to write text, sometimes long text, and then convert those ideas into a crisp PowerPoint.  Others need to start with PowerPoint (really, it can act as an outlining tool) and move to longer form writing.  Still others need to draw sketches on a whiteboard or in a notebook before moving into other modalities.

As a communications leaders, we have to understand and accept that different people start in different places.  As team members, sometimes we have to realize that if our management team demands “slides” we have to provide them without the antecedent artifacts we used to create the slides.

Lesson: Be sure to understand the format the recipient wants, and if necessary, don’t share the materials you used to get there with them.

3. Confounding the language of requirement VS language of specification with user experience/user interface (UX/UI) folks  When working with seasoned UX/UI teams, it is essential that we explain the problem to them, not the solution. But how do we present the problem statement?  Some people use just words. And other use sketches.  One challenge with sketches and drawings is that they can often be interpreted as a demand for a “solution” rather than just a tool to more accurately depict one perspective of the problem.

Lesson: Be sure to be explicit, even going as far as to repeat the message on each page or deliverable, that this [document, drawing, recording] is being used to enhance the explanation of the problem, not to enforce a solution.

4. Working with ad agencies (and other creative agencies)

See #3.

Do you have any other examples of situations where you need to overcome communication format mismatches, and how to overcome them?

Best to all,

Gary

 

 

 

 

The R-Word that is perfectly OK to be called – Resilient

Sometimes marketing is hard. You can try dozens of things before something sticks. You can be fired, furloughed, or frowned at.  Or laughed at. You have to be ready to fail, multiple times.

chaplin

 

edisonChaplin and Edison had it right on these points (although clearly not all the right answers in life): It’s OK to make a fool of yourself.  It’s OK to try thousands of things before you find the hit.

Be resilient. It’s really hard, but it’s really worth it.

Best,

Gary

(P.S. I wrote this for myself.  But feel free to feel the same way.)

3 Ways to Write a Blog Post Without Using a Listicle

Amongst the many new rules marketing writers have been forced to digest over the past few years — Write for us for free for exposure! Stuff your good writing full of SEO terms even if the article becomes bloated and less clear! Create new, ambiguous job titles and tell seasoned pros that they don’t have the experience for them! — is the seemingly ubiquitous requirement that one write an article in numbered list form.

The “listicle.”

Here are thee ways that you can write a great blog post without using a listicle.

1. Tell an authentic story
One time*, an editor told me that I should break down my compelling narrative into chunks and number them, because my readers wouldn’t be interested nor have the attention to read a 500 word narrative. Nor have the capability to understand the conclusion unless is was smashed in their face in a clear, didactic conclusion that appeared directly after the numbered list.

I countered by bringing up This American Life and Story Corps and all sorts of magazines where the stories unfolded with a natural rhythm and didn’t need the <ol><li><li><li></ol> HTML tags to help the audience make sense of things.

The editor counter-countered** with the argument that a listicle headline gets more clicks and the listicle format is shorter and creates the possibility for more ads to be presented. And that she was paying me so I should write what she told me to.

Conclusion: If you are getting paid, write what your editor tells you to.  But don’t stop trying to tell authentic stories that aren’t hacked to death with the listicle format.

2. Trust your reader and your writing to be able to break up the chunks without numbered lists
Why must we explicitly break up natural chunks of information with an ordered list?  Why can’t we use the power of language to create natural transitions between our point?  And point backward to what we said earlier and forward to what we’ll talk about next, using words, to create a powerful flow for an essay?

Conclusion: Your 7th grade English teacher taught you the five paragraph essay structure for a reason. Feel free to break the rules, but understand why you were taught them.

3. Use pictures
If you really must break up your points, why not do it with some pithy illustrations?  They are way more interesting than numbered lists.

10117236074_9230e83e7c_z

Vintage postcardd. Photo by Wackystuff on Flickr, Creative Commons Share Alike license.

Conclusion:
As a marketing writer, you have to be aware of the fads and styles that people expect. And if you are being paid, you also have to listen to the desires of the person signing your check. (Though I think you should bite the hand that feeds you sometimes.  Or maybe a gentle nibble if that is closer to your style.)

But every once in a while, trust the power of your writing enough so that you can banish the numbered list convention.

Cheers,

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I made this up.  Sort of.
** This is a synthesis of what a number of editors have told me.

 

Being an author is being a marketer

Hi,

I’ve gotten into tons of discussion with the poetry editor / former professor of mine regarding writing versus marketing.  You know, the one where the “artiste” defines marketing as crass self-promotion where the “working writer” defines it as a necessary part of getting an audience for a work.

Here is an example of an interview with me that is really “marketing and promotion.” But I think this interview’s authenticity really speaks to what good marketing should be.

This is a 30 minute Father’s Day radio interview with Marianne Russo of The Coffee Klatch / Special Needs radio featuring yours truly, originally podcast on Father’s Day 2014. It is really an interesting interview. Thanks Marianne!

Online Parents Radio at Blog Talk Radio with The Coffee Klatch on BlogTalkRadio

 

This post is also a good natured poke at folks who said me taking 18 months to write a book hindered my marketing career or put it on hold.  Au contraire, this interview is one example of exercising my marketing chops in a way that is applicable to almost any vertical. Here is another example, from a business podcast.

 

Gary

(Originally posted June 15, 2014)

Why many folks think marketers are liars (Charter cable, anyone?)

Hi,

I’ve written elsewhere what I think marketing is. Here’s what marketing isn’t, and why some companies give “marketing” a bad name.

Charter Cable (and I guess other cable companies around the US) have been moving to “all digital signals.” The core reason, which makes technical sense, is that every analog cable TV channel uses enough room on the cable for the equivalent of 4 digital channels.

liar-Alexa-LaSpisa-flickr

Liar by Alexa LaSpisa on Flickr

So, moving to “all digital” makes sense. More channels, same space, higher quality. Wins for the company and wins for the customers.

However, that is not all that Charter and others have done. They lobbied the FCC to encrypt (scramble) the digital signals—even the ones for basic local channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX—so that folks who previously had no converter box on their flat screen TV would now have to do one of two things:

  1. Subscribe to an additional level of service that included an advanced set-top box (what most people do anyway, hence their “most people won’t have to do anything” message)
  2. Rent a smaller, “simpler”, “digital converter” box (really an addressable descrambler) and connect it to the flat screen TV, having to tune all stations from the converter box instead of from your TV.

What Charter et al would have you believe is that your TV is not capable of receiving the digital signal straight from the cable. In fact, all TV’s sold in almost the past decade and certainly anyone with a flat screen TV can receive the digital signals off the cable (or over the air for that matter) via the thing built into these sets called the QAM tuner. What they can’t do is descramble the digital signal that Charter et al is now sending over the cable, thanks to the FCC ruling.

Now, there are advantages to Charter et al for this new approach. There are essentially zero advantages to the consumer.

However, Charter’s constant messaging about how it is good for consumers is mailed, emailed, and shown on TV over and over and over. This is where marketing gets a bad rap. Charter is “spinning” their self-serving decision into a message that makes it look good for a customer, rather than updating products in a way that is beneficial to consumers that would make us want to spend more money.

Let’s review what is really happening:

Things that are good for everyone, and one basis for Charter’s messaging:

  1. Removing analog signals on the cable releases room so that there can be more digital HD stations and possibly serve higher Internet speeds on the same cable.
  2. Um, that’s it. And that can be accomplished WITHOUT encrypting (scrambling) basic tiers of TV stations. (I am not suggesting that they don’t scramble premium stations like HBO that you need to pay for).

Good just for Charter et al, but they don’t really want to tell you their change:

  1. Enables Charter to disable customers who haven’t subscribed to certain tiers of basic channels from seeing them on their flat screen TV via the tuner in their TV they already paid for (the QAM tuner). (OK, I understand this one. But Charter could prevent this in a slightly more expensive way by rolling a truck and disabling this at the telephone pole).
  2. Enables Charter to track what you are watching (like they can on an advanced converter box). Now they will have no customers watching their service without them being able to know, on a device-by-device basis, what you are tuned to at any time.
  3. Disables customers from using computer-based TV tuners (QAM tuner cards or devices with built-in QAM tuners) to watch TV. So, if you have a computer or DVR that can currently independently tune in digital TV signals, that now goes away.
  4. Enables Charter to have an additional revenue stream for “converter” device rental on a set-by-set basis. Yes, they offered some converters for free for a while, but that goes away.
  5. Enables Charter to “shut off” service immediately without rolling a truck. (Arguably an OK thing for non-payment, but this sort of encourages them to reduce grace periods for late payments with an immediate shut off.)
  6. Prevents secondary, non-main TV’s in your house (like a kitchen TV or workshop TV) that customers didn’t want a cable box for from being able to receive ANY signal unless they add and pay for an additional cable box.

The reality is that this effort to move to encrypted digital service is really done for the benefit of the cable companies, for the most part. And their brilliant “spin” in their marketing materials (it even sort of snowed the FCC) is exactly why many people think that “marketing” means “how can we spin a position that is really an advantage to us into a message that makes it look good for consumers?”

That’s not what marketing is. That’s what quasi-monopolies and overly-influential lobbying of regulators is.

Gary

Show up. Have energy. And get good real estate.

bartlett2014Hi,

A few months ago I was at a conference hawking my book.  It was kind of risky on my part, as I had never done that before and there was some expense for the booth.

Day 1, Saturday: I was placed on the second floor hallway of the conference and got some good foot traffic.

Result: Had many conversations and sold [X] books in around 8 hours on the floor.

Day 2, Sunday: On day two the vendors in the key spots on the first floor were packing and abandoning ship hours before the conference ended.  I thought it made the conference not look aesthetically pleasing and that it was kind of rude not to stay for the contracted time, not to mention possible loss of leads or sales.

My traffic on the second floor was also drying up. So I asked the organizer and she let me fold my booth up, move it down to the main floor where I set up in the single best spot in the conference center.  (It had already been abandoned by another vendor.) I could have shut down for the day as others had, but I didn’t.

Result: Had many conversations and sold [.5*X] books in around 2 hours on the floor. In other words, I sold 2x as many books per hour and generated 50% of the revenue I did on day 1, in 1/4 of the time.

Lessons abound here, but they are fairly obvious and left to the reader.

Have a great day,

Gary

P.S.  I lied.  Here is a list of lessons:

  1. Pay for a good location.  The ROI is real.
  2. Smile and greet EVERYONE no matter what.
  3. If you need to text or do email at the booth, you shouldn’t be there.  Step away and get someone else to man the booth if you have an emergency email.
  4. Don’t sit (unless it is medically necessary). Standing at the booth gets more traffic.
  5. Start a demo or your patter even if nobody is standing there yet. Almost always, when you start talking, people will congregate.
  6. SHOW UP.  Be there.  Don’t leave.  Your biggest sale may come at the quietest moment.

 

 

12 Lessons about Crowdfunding a Book (also Kickstarter VS Indiegogo)

My Indiegogo project ends at midnight pacific time on October 5th. This blog post is a blatant attempt to get you to visit, support the project, and share it with others. In return, I provide what I hope is some hard-earned, albeit biased wisdom that I have spent months getting alternately stroked and bruised by. Your mileage may vary, caveats abound throughout. Regardless, I think there is some value to my fellow crowd-funders-of-the-creative kind. UPDATE:  The project referred is live and available for purchase at http://blog.dadsofdisability.com/purchase.

1. Setting your financial target

Much has been written about whether Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing method or Indiegogo’s flexible funding method (option to get the funds whether or not you meet your target) makes more sense. I won’t write about that. What I will share is adapted, practical advice I got too late from a person who has years of experience in asking for money (known as ‘development’ in some circles—differentiated from ‘software development’ in others).

Before I launched my first Kickstarter, I did a lot of phone and email work and estimated based on input I received and analyzed I could probably crowdfund around $25,000. So, I set my Kickstarter target at $15,000, thinking I could reach that with some hard work. And who knows, maybe I could blow it out!

Click to see details of Dads of Disability Kicktraq

Click to see details of Dads of Disability Kicktraq Charts

As you can see from the Kicktraq chart above, the project kicked off in its first few days on target to meet the $15K goal as predicted, and even possibly blow out the $25K target. As you’ll also note, things fell off fairly fast, but then had a small blip at the end. (This seems to be a trend in many projects.)

My advice to you, adapted from the advice I got from my ‘development’ friend: Take the verbally and email committed ‘pledges’ you have on hand and divide them in half to make a fundraising target. Not the ‘maybes’ but the firm email and phone commitments. Had I done that, I would have use $20K in firm commitments, assumed that really meant $10K and then set my Kickstarter at $7,500. And, my the Kickstarter project hit $8,810 (but didn’t fund since, well, $8,810 < $15,000)

2. Investing in the project video

As much as crowdsourcing sites say it is OK to just aim the camera at yourself and talk, the reality is that unless your project is so amazingly compelling and can be understood in less than 10 seconds and two sentences your video has to compel viewers. It has to teach. It has to ‘market’ yourself (or team) and the project in the most classic sense of the word.

I spent over two months working on an animated film with a young lady who graduated my high school 30 years after I did. The film took longer than I had hoped, but it ended up being well received, was an angle to attract press, and helped me create rewards/perks for the campaign.

Click to watch the Dads of Disability Project Video on Youtube

Click to watch the Dads of Disability Project Video on Youtube

My advice to you is to make sure you or someone you know is at least a ‘prosumer’ level of videographer and editor. You don’t need to be a DePalma or a Spielberg. But your film needs to sell you.

Which leads me to…

3. Press outreach and its impact

With some work on my part, my project received excellent press coverage on the front page of the living section in a New York area mid-range newspaper in the Gannett chain (and apparently was picked up by some other Gannett papers) and southern New Hampshire coverage in some papers.

Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) coverage

Poughkeepsie Journal (NY) coverage

While the press outreach was very cool and very satisfying, in my case, it didn’t result in measurable impact on the financial aspect of the campaign. This is because, amongst other things:

  • My project was publishing and disability related (a book). It wasn’t electronics, or a movie, or something physical that was cool. (More on the subject matter of the project and ‘measures of success’ below.)
  • As a product manager for some very cool projects over the years, I have learned many times that good press coverage is only a part of the outreach picture. You need to have an integrated marketing campaign to have an impact. Each component builds from and adds to the whole.

None of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to get press. Heck, some teams are lucky in that they get the right press in the right way at the right time and a single article, radio or TV spot, or key blogger can help immensely with specific ROI (in this case, additional crowdsourcing funds). Which leads me to…

4. Guest blogging and paid sponsorship

Do stuff for free: Before you launch your project and every day it is live, reach out to subject area bloggers. Reach out not to ask them to mention you (though that is certainly OK done the right way) but rather to offer to write authentic articles about their blog’s focus. Of course the articles will relate to your project, but do the soft sell. Address a need or controversy. Basically, be a blogger and write, write, write, write, write! And offer your guest pieces for free.

Love That Max guest post

Love That Max guest post

Pay for stuff: I did a back-of-the-napkin calculation of the ROI sponsoring a blog post and an email campaign sent out under a subject-area blog or organization related to my project. And then my first paid sponsorship mentioning my project was under the “all or nothing” Kickstarter model. It was a risk I lost out on. (Well, not completely, as many of the folks I reached actually want my product and will buy it when it ships, but they didn’t want to or couldn’t support it in a crowdfunded model. See below about “understanding crowdsourcing.”) If you pay $250 or $500 to sponsor, you better be pretty sure that the sponsorship will help you meet your goals.

When I re-launched under Indiegogo, I knew what I would raise at the end of every day. It was at this point that I decided to test some Facebook advertising and sponsored posts. This allowed me to both match what I thought I could afford with what I measured for results each day. Again, with my product, I garnered a lot of interest, but not too many more contributors. Which leads me to…

5. Who really understands crowdfunding?

Here are a few anecdotes that underlines this issue. Note that my product is a print and ebook about disabilities issues. It isn’t electronics, a physical doo-dad, or a creative work by an already successful artist with an established and substantial following.

  • “We won’t take a paid sponsorship for ‘fundraising’ “ – In one case, I offered to pay an established organization to access their newsletter of folks who would have benefitted from my product. Initially, I was told that they wouldn’t let ‘fundraisers’ into their sponsored activities. It took a number of emails and phone calls to explain that it wasn’t a “fundraiser” but rather I was crowdsourcing and every person that responded with support had access to the product at a discount. (When I went to Indiegogo and was allowed to use the word “preorder” this became a much simpler communication to those I wanted to sponsor.)
  • In my case, my book is was targeted at folks who weren’t technical or web folks (although some were indeed savvy in these areas.) It was often a hard sell to explain “OK, you give me money now, and if enough people join you, I’ll finish this project and then a few months from now, I’ll ship you the finished product or a bonus related to the project.” This was just too much for some folks to parse, unless I was on the phone with them. And that is time intensive.
  • When my Kickstarter didn’t fund, and I moved to Indiegogo to follow up with another effort, a few of the original KS backers didn’t quite get that they didn’t already pay me. Despite clear communication from KS and from me.
  • Some organizations can’t issue PO’s for a crowdfunded project, even if it is allowed to be called a ‘pre-order.’

6. Success factors: Who are you and what is your project about?

As an artist (writer, illustrator, filmmaker, actor, etc.) I believe you have certain thresholds of possibility for financial success in crowdsourcing. This list is my opinion only based on my impressions for books and art projects, not fully researched and statistically validated. Please comment on this one, these are rough generalizations.

In order of the funds you’ll likely be able to raise from lower to higher:

  1. If you have no existing following, and your topic is arcane or impacts a minority of folks, you have a chance for some contributors, but don’t expect a large amount.
  2. If you have a small core of followers (including friends and family) and your topic is arcane but impacts a larger minority, you have a better chance
  3. If you have a core of followers and your topic is relatively popular, you have even a better chance
  4. If you have a large core of followers, a known name, your topic is popular, and you have success through other means already (for example, you published a successful comic book already but this time you are self publishing), you have a pretty good chance
  5. If you are a huge success already and you decide to use crowdfunding to build awareness of and funding for your next big project and you want to “go independent” you have an even better chance

Of course, there is always the possibility for a “blow out” – there are always outriggers if your idea goes viral and has decent chops. (Will Ellen Degeneres tweet about you? Will your project get on the CBS evening news?) If you are an unknown, I wish this for you and your project!

7. It’s not just about the money!

Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing is not just about the money. The platforms tell you it is about community, and they are right!

My Kickstarter project, although it didn’t fund, was successful anyway. I had three goals: (1) Raise money and (2) Find contributing authors and (3) Generate awareness. I met two of the goals.

Post-its on my project wall of 45+ possible contributing essayists

Panorama of post-its on my project wall of 45+ possible contributing essayists

My Indiegogo re-launch funded at a lesser amount than my original plan. And I then met all three of my goals. Frankly, for the goal “find contributing essayists” I knocked this this one out of the park. My project has succeeded because of this. The money and awareness are icing on the cake. (The money will not fully-fund the project, but it will help!)

8. Kickstarter VS Indiegogo

Both platforms are amazing. Please take these comments about technical and marketing support with the respect of constructive feedback. And Kickstarter and Indiegogo product managers, I hope you find these comments useful, although I am sure you’ve heard them before.

Technical Support
My Kickstarter support emails went unanswered. When I had an issue uploading a video on Kickstarter, I had to tweet my question. (It was actually answered, but not to clearly at that point. Follow-up wasn’t responded to.)

Indiegogo reached out to me after my KS campaign didn’t fund. With a real person. Who I called. Who called me back. Who spent an hour on the phone with me helping me with ideas and taking input. Who actually encouraged me successfully to launch again.

Preorder and Bulk
Kickstarter doesn’t allow the term “preorder.” They don’t allow more than ten of an item to be included in a reward. I have read their justifications for this, but this model didn’t really match my business. For example, I wanted to have larger multi-packs of my print book for organizational bulk availability as a reward. No can do with Kickstarter, but I adjusted to work with their rules. They are #1, so I had to play their game.

Indiegogo didn’t care that I used the term discount pre-order. Or what the quantities were. This allowed me flexibility in the perks I could offer as well as simplifying the outreach to both groups I wanted to pay to sponsor as well as explaining the value proposition to folks I called to ask for support.

Reporting
Kickstarter has better project reporting tools, in my opinion. But you have to host your video on their platform. Which doesn’t allow you to close-caption the video. You have to open caption it if you want captions. Not cool for accessibility!

Indiegogo’s project reporting tools don’t seem to be as detailed as Kickstarter’s. Indiegogo uses Youtube for videos. This gives me all of the YouTube benefits (including close captioning) as well as allows me to have alternative insights into the project video as well as use it in different ways.

Browser support
Many of my customers, by virtue of where they work, had very old browsers. I can see the New York Kickstarter offices saying “well, we don’t care about that, upgrade yourbrowser.” But not everyone is a tech mogul or can upgrade a browser at work. (And my project was backed by many people with work money.) So, for example, I ended up having to handhold a contributor through a $350 contribution on the phone myself, only to discover the Kickstarter page didn’t fully render on their browser. Then, I had to get the trust of the supporter and enter their info on my computer for them. Of course, my contributor had nobody to call at Kickstarter, because you can’t call Kickstarter. And I had no feedback or way to contact Kickstarter to get a timely, reliable response. The person wanted to pay me $350, how many hoops could I put them through?!

And the “we’re a cool web company” excuse for browser support doesn’t fly. I personally use the latest version of FireFox on Win7 and had many times when the project editing tools of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo failed (losing work, losing formatting, etc.)

Kickstarter’s failed more often for me though both platforms need a better way to create projects.

Surprising support for an unfunded project:
Kudos to Kickstarter for allowing me to email supporters even though I didn’t fund. They even let me use keywords and URLs pointing to Indiegogo to send my backers to another platform. Thanks for allowing that, it was gracious of you.

9. Approval, marketing and awareness

This one is for Kickstarter. I couldn’t believe it myself so I showing a screen shot. Basically, in my first submission for my project, I mentioned that a lot of the funds I was hoping to generate would be to create awareness of my project. I had a very specific marketing plan that would encompass sponsorship of organizations, podcasts, blogs, print ads, and other awareness generation techniques to market my book. I didn’t publish my marketing plan on Kickstarter, but I implied that funding would be used to support it and that it was an integral part of my project success.

This is the email I got back from Kickstarter.

E-mail I got from Kickstarter about 'awareness' (Click image to enlarge)

E-mail I got from Kickstarter about ‘awareness’ (Click image to enlarge)

I was dumbfounded! After two months of getting an animation produced, days and days of writing and editing a project, working through the shortcomings of their project editor, stymied by an email I couldn’t fathom. And not a person to call!

So, I gave up, played politics, and took all talk of marketing and awareness out of my project and was approved. As best as I can tell, Kickstarter wants funding to be used to “create” the project, not “kickstart” the business. Yet, one can easily find projects listed that basically say things like ‘our music recording is ready, we just need funds to distribute it’ and many of the big projects clearly will use funding for marketing the business – for making the project successful!

OK, I’ll cut Kickstarter some slack. Perhaps the person that wrote the email was too junior, or made a wrong call, or communicated the wrong policy. However, I was pragmatic, deleted my “awareness generation” statements, and had my project approved figuring I could add it back I later. Excpet I could no longer reply via email to Niina at Kickstarter. I had nobody to talk to about this issue! If I added it back, would my project be cancelled? I was SOL. Oh well.

Indiegogo basically told me, it’s your business. Use the funds and talk about them however you want, as long as it is legal and ethical. (That’s my interpretation, not their words.)

10. Customers Paying

With Kickstarter (at least in the US) your backers have to sign up for a Kickstarter account and use their Amazon account to pay. I know the techies in New York won’t believe this, but THAT IS REALLY CONVOLUTED FOR NON-TECH FOLKS. It caused more than one person that in my target audience that would have been happy to back me to say “no way.” In fact, I had three people send me checks (one a pretty large one) instead of using their system.

With Indiegogo, you can just use a credit card or PayPal in a single step and not even sign up for an Indiegogo account. Not without some confusion, but a workflow much more familiar to the persona’s of my target audience. Also, since Indiegogo allows contributors to “just pay now” (not the all or nothing model), the credit card emailed receipt process again maps to something that the contributor is used to.

11. Getting project ‘push’ from Indiegogo or Kickstarter

I have to say that Kickstarter’s rankings and Indiegogo’s “Gogo” factor confound me. Yes, I know it’s about shares, and social media, and frequent updates, and where you are in the funding cycle. And there are some “editor’s choice” sections.

But I have to say on both platforms, I think the expertise in the “editors choice” areas seems to clearly skew to under age 30 interests in both technology and art and writing. Although that is just my impression. I would suggest that they broaden the experience of folks on their editorial teams.

(Yeah, you probably think I have sour grapes about not getting selected as a featured project. Some truth to that. But examine their choices yourself.)

12. Addressing your relatives, “big” contributors, and everyone with respect

A word of advice. Make sure to treat your backers/contributors like gold. In my case, I thought I would have a high volume of $9 backers and a small volume of higher dollar backers.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. I had an unexpected number of over $200 contributors, and multiple $1000 contributors on Kickstarter. (This decreased on my Indiegogo relaunch, as I think my bigger backers were in some cases less excited about doing it a second time around.)

Some smaller backers turned into larger ones later in the project. And also referred to other backers. Every backer is gold! Treat them that way.

Conclusion

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer and early fall 2013. I’ve learned a lot. I want to get back to writing, curating, and publishing my book! (You have until Oct 5, 2013 at midnight PT to contribute via a pre-order at http://www.dadsofdisability.com/igg )

Although it may seem like I am bashing Kickstarter (OK, I am a little bit, but with love and respect), I chose them first because, well, they have a better name and are the leader at this point. As a former high tech product manager, I hope this post helps their SWOT analysis. And if they disagree with me, well, that’s OK, because then their competition can address the market in ways they choose not to. And, if I am wrong, well then Kickstarter wins J

On the whole, both platforms have their plusses and minuses, and it has been a real experience, even a privilege, to have been able to work with both teams – and most importantly, my supporters.

As I have told everyone, I will deliver a product of value to fathers and families everywhere!

Thanks for reading,

 

Gary Dietz
gdietz@garydietz.com
@garymdietz

Marketing blog: http://www.garydietz.com
Dads of Disability blog: http://www.dadsofdisability.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/garymdietz/

 

Intersection of UX, Marketing, and Disability

Hi,

I went to my local post office this morning and this is what I saw (click image to enlarge):

Mail slot with red tape

It says:

THE TOP MAIL SLOT HAS BEEN ELIMINATED TO MAKE THE BROOKLINE POST OFFICE COMPLIANT WITH THE ADA DISABILITIES ACT THE SLOT HAS BEEN DEEMED TO HIGH PLEASE USE THE SLOT BELOW FOR ALL MAIL.

(All CAPS and the underline are their text, not mine.)

So, some observations from someone who has spent most of his life in a combination of writing, marketing, product management, or disability advocacy roles.

1. (UX / Design) – Why didn’t they just block the top slot? The bottom slot says “ALL MAIL”.  The “ALL MAIL” sign was new. The old signs used to say “Brookline Only” and “Out of Town.”

1a. (UX / Design) – If they were worried that people might have been confused, they could have put a small sign where the old, too-high slot used to be that said “Please put all mail, both local and out-of-town, into the slot below.”

2. (Language and Marketing) “The slot has been deemed to high…”  By whom?  Lovely use of passive voice. By the postmaster? By that “pain in the ass” customer who couldn’t reach that slot from a wheelchair? By that socialist Barack Hussein Obama?

2a. (Language and Marketing) If indeed the local postmaster wanted to make some statement about ADA compliance, perhaps it could have been more customer centric and friendly.  For example, “We have removed the top mail slot for the convenience of some of our customers that use wheelchairs or who had challenges reaching the top slot. Now, you don’t have to sort local versus out-of-town mail and you can place all letters in the slot below.”

3. (Disability) OK, this one is opinion and interpretation and I’ll grant that it may have a little bit of a “chip on the shoulder” sort of attitude.  But doesn’t it seem like the person who put up this monstrous sign and duct tape was kind of angry?  Words like “eliminated” and the redundant use of “ADA” and “Disabilities Act?”  The color of the sign?  (It is basically the most colorful thing in the entire lobby and you can see it right when you open the post office door.)  Doesn’t it seem like a post office worker is pissed that they will now have to sort local and out-of-town letters now instead of having the customer do it? And doesn’t the ALL CAPS message seem a little loud (not that the bright red would tone down the words)?

I for one am glad that our post office overlords have made it possible for elderly, short, and wheelchair using citizens to mail letters. I am sorry that it inconvenienced someone at the post office.

Gary

(See my other blog and book project at http://www.dadsofdisability.com )

hitchart

‘Side Projects’ and the world of work

Hi,

Almost any whole and effective adult professional I know has “side projects” that they do. Almost always, they make their work life better, just as their work life can make their home life better.

hitchartWriting a technical book?  You are brushing up on skills you need on the job.

Taking a pottery class? You are relaxing and recharging.  And I bet when you get into the zone you solve problems you are having at work!

 

From www.esppottery.com

From www.esppottery.com

Volunteer on a board? Yes, you left work early a few times last month, but the policy and politics knowledge you gain is immediately applicable on the job.

Running a boy scout troop? Organizational learning abounds.

Do you paint landscapes?  See pottery class above.

So as not to seem obtuse – I am writing this to say that me writing a book on the side whilst looking for a full-time gig hasn’t detracted from me (nor will it) as an employee.  In the past two quarters I have been an author and looking for a full-time position.  But I have also:

  • Learned about and run a Kickstarter
  • Improved my Google analytic skills
  • Learned more about DNS
  • Started a storefront and learned CreateSpace
  • Learned scads about WordPress and twitter
  • Managed two sponsorships with associated metrics measurements
  • Have formal corporate underwriting meetings booked
  • Met with a number of major non-profit institutions executive directors
  • Worked as an editor and coach for almost a dozen writers
  • Had press placement in a major NYC suburban newspaper
  • Managed a high school student as co-producer and writer of an animation
  • AND built a project plan that will allow me to complete my project nights and weekends on time and under budget even when I land a full time gig.

Isn’t that list better than just saying I drank beer and sent out resumes for 6 months?

Warm regards to all, especially those who would hire me. And for those that say “your side project will get in the way of your job” — I say indeed it won’t. You’ll be getting an even better employee!

Gary