Why the 97?

hundredth monkey book cover

Ok, do we all remember the heart warming cold-war story of The Hundredth Monkey? For those who are too young or too old, the premise of the story is that once a certain percentage of a population learns a lesson (in this case, one hundred monkeys), the whole of the population spontaneously shares the knowlege. I am the 97th monkey. I am not the first monkey, nor the 10th, but I am in that lead group, albeit at the tail end. Hence, almost cool.

If you read me with any regularity, you’ll know I have a propensity for overusing the word ‘power’. This paragraph will be no exception. I think being the 97th monkey puts me in a pretty powerful position. If I know all the other monkeys are going to start washing their potatoes soon, I can set up a potato washing service before the market gets saturated. See what I mean?

I’ve ignored this gut sense far too many times. This blog is my attempt to stake out a bit of territory, and establish myself as an expert in a narrow field before the field becomes too cluttered. My chosen field is a hybrid of graphic design and marketing, with an emphasis on personal connection between a business and its customers.

So that’s what the 97 is all about. Clear?

The power of recommended links

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know my thinking about blogging and business goes like this:

_Readers form personal relationships with the bloggers they read on an ongoing basis. By leveraging this relationship in a non-evil way, companies can benefit through increased loyalty, more frequent purchases, and a growing legion of customer advocates._

It’s this last segment that has been on my brain lately. Back in marketing school, we learned that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 friends or family members about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 _aquaintances_. I have no proof to back these numbers, but experience tells me they feel about right.

We don’t need to go into how easily negative feedback can spread online; it’s pretty obvious. What is important though is how the difference between the 2-3 and 8-10 gets flattened. If I blog about my great experience at store X, I’m telling as many people as I would if I was complaining. So my good news broadcast, if you will, has expanded dramatically.

More interesting though is the weight that regular readers will give to that recommendation. This hinges on the reader-writer relationship I keep harping on about. In reading your blog, I’ve come to know something about you, and I have subconsciously invited you into my “intimates” group. This group also includes family, friends and almost-friends (those aquaintances I have some connection with).

When you make a recommendation, either explicity or via a link, I give that recommendation more weight than if were from a total stranger or an organization. *Finally then, we get to the point:* links and recommendations are very powerful marketing tools.

I can hear a collective *duh!* But wait a few minutes and let it sink in. If you recognize the power of links, you can take advantage of them (again, in a non-evil way) to your benefit.

So how can a company benefit from this deep wisdom? Ask your customers to link to you. Whoa. Crazy, huh? Seriously, if you’re an accountant, and you run doingyourtaxes.com, be boldly upfront and tell your customers “I really value my customers and am very appreciative of your recommendations. If you find my services valuable, please link back to me.” Don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for honesty.

More soon.

Design 2.5

The _”Don’t like the style, don’t worry it will probably be different in 10 minutes”_ version. I was getting pretty tired of looking at that flat design, and decided to add a bit of dimension.

All the info I’d recently added on the sidebar was making the page really unbalanced. The initial design was really spare (see the “initial comp”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/images/home-page-comp-AC.jpg) with no sidebar at all. My focus has changed a bit since then – it was all of a month ago, after all. I have plans for adding more content to the sidebar, so something needed to be done.

I knew I wanted to use dimension to break the page up a bit. I was going through iphoto just now, and came across a photo I’d taken of a torn page for a long lost project. A ha! Solution in hand, I whipped this up in a couple of minutes. Good god I love css. I changed two urls, changed one margin, and changed one colour. From concept to finished in literally 10 minutes.

I’ll probably continue to tinker with the style sheet for, oh, the next 100 years. Don’t like what you see? Don’t worry, it’ll change in a few minutes…

Why Blog?

I just had an interesting IM conversation with a friend, that I thought I’d share:

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I just sent an email asking what’s up with ****

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I’ll see what I get back…

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I’m anxious to get moving on it

Fred says:

bq. same here

Fred says:

bq. im anxious to see it live

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I almost have enough time to think, and that just won’t do

Fred says:

bq. can’t wait to add my first web job to my portfolio

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I’m going to blog about you

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. “I know this guy, he’s a really good print designer. He’s not satisfied at his current place of employment, and is finding that his lack of web skills are limiting his job potential”…

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. something about how setting up a blog is a terrific way to get into web design

Fred says:

bq. how do people come across your blog?

Fred says:

bq. and how does it transcend into freelance work?

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. since it’s simple to get up and running, but is quite complex

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. traffic comes from 3 sources:

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. 1. google. Google indexes my site, and depending on a variety of factors, my site shows up if you search for something that I write about. For example, I’ve written a couple of articles about OmniOutliner, if you search for that software, my site comes up on the first page (how fucking cool is that?)

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. 2. links from other blogs. Blogs link to blogs. A few people like what I’ve got to say, and they link to me. Not many do, but the number is growing

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. 3. posts I make on other blogs. Everytime you leave a comment on someone’s site, you have the opportunity to leave your url. If you say something smart or funny, people may click on your name and get to your site.

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. I have about 70 people a day coming to the site, and another 70 or so reading the rss feed in their newsreader. The number is growing pretty rapidly as I post more, and become a bit more targeted in what I write about

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. as for your other question: how does it translate into freelance work?

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. The answer is it doesn’t, not yet. That’s not really the point of it at this point, although it is very much in the back of my mind.

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. My purpose with the site is to establish myself as an expert in a particular field, in this case, blog design for busineses.

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. Perhaps at somepoint I’ll earn a high ranking on google for those search words, but that’s a long way off

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. in the meanwhile, I can point to my blog if I’m calling on a potential client and say “look, I have a couple of hundred people a day reading my site to see what I have to say about this stuff. Read my site yourself, and see that I’ve thought about this, analyzed the benefits, and generally know what the fuck I’m talking about.

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. How’s that for an answer?

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. damn good thing I know how to type fast…

Fred says:

bq. good answer

Fred says:

bq. long..but good

Fred says:

bq. brb

Peter Flaschner says:

bq. k

Fred says:

bq. i have to pee from that

Old media talks to my head, new media talks to my heart.

I’ve had a eureka moment. I’ve also only had one cup of coffee so far, so it may come out a bit garbled, but I want to share it with you immediately.

I’ve been going on and on at some length now about the _power of blogs_. I have never done a satisfactory job of explaining _why_ blogs are such a powerful tool. Allow me to do so right now:

*Old media talks to my head, blogs talk to my heart.*

This is a gross simplification, but it perfectly distills my thinking. We’re all media saavy info warriors these days. We’ve been burned by coroporations (Enron et al) and governments lately, and are wary of putting our trust into corporate owned media. The info I get from the tv news stays up high in my cortex. I value the information, but it doesn’t go much beyond that.

Blogs on the other hand talk to my head _and_ my heart. I get involved with the information on a more intimate level. I think about it more, and I trust it more. It affects gut level decisions, and is given higher credibility in day to day decision making.

That’s pretty important stuff. If I were the head of marketing at a large corporation, I’d be either writing a company blog or interviewing bloggers with real urgency. Want to talk to your target market? Want them to build personal relationships with your brand? Start talking to them directly, in your own honest voice, and watch the loyalty numbers soar.

Ok, the coffee is ready. More after a cup or two…

Stats packages

Ok smarty pants bloggers, I have a question for you: I’m using “shortstat”:http://www.shauninman.com/mentary/past/shortstat_poll.php to measure my site stats, but I get the feeling I’m not really seeing how many people read the site.

Shortstat gives me a number of unique visitors per day, say 1000. It also give me a hit number (which I know is different than visitors, so back off!) for each page viewed to date. The third most popular page is my rss feed, with something like 95% of the hits of the index page. Soooo, the question is (or rather are):’

# does shortstat include hits to the rss page as visitors? I don’t think so, but…

# do these numbers mean that there are possibly another 95% of total visitors reading the rss feed?

Thanks. Feel free to use the sorely underused comments, or send me an “email”:mailto:peter@flashlightdesign.com

Tuesday's Brain dump

There’s a great article at “joshuaink”:http://joshuaink.com/blog/248/tackling-payment-for-projects about receiving payment for your work. Good tips, and always a good reminder.

“OH MY GOD GOOGLE HAS ADDED SATELLITE PHOTOS TO THEIR MAPS!”:http://maps.google.com/maps?q=82+kingsmount+park+road+toronto+on&ll=43.674667,-79.314305&spn=0.061541,0.061026&t=k&hl=en Zoom from space to pretty damn close *anywhere in north america* (or almost, anyways.) This is probably the coolest thing I have ever seen. *Ever*

I love the internet

I mean, I get to make self-important artistic statements and people will actually look at it!

These images are taken from a book I made a while back. A friend and I had been drinking a bit, and decided to pull out our sketchbooks. The rules of the game were 1. pick a word 2. draw whatever pops into mind related to that word for 1 minute 3. switch.

The drawings looked pretty cool, so I scanned them into pshop. I used the magic wand to select the pencil lines, then converted the selection to a path. Next, I used pshop cs’s export paths to illustrator function (under file). Once in illustrator, I started deleting paths, adding colour, and generally mucking about.

I quickly wrote some blabber according to the mood each image struck. The point of the words were to give me something to play with typographically, as opposed to having any particular meaning or insight. In retrospect though, they’re kind of cool little things – more like lyrics than poems.

I have more like these. Wanna see them?

Click here (or on the image) to see the stuff. Opens in a new window

Blogshit

Tom Guarriello at “The True Talk Blog”:http://truetalk.typepad.com/truetalk/2005/04/thanks_to_hugh_.html posts an interesting piece about blogshit; those blogs that “seem”:http://www.thecaptainsblog.com/index.php like blogs, but are actually “carefully crafted marketing ventures”:http://lincolnfry.typepad.com/blog/.

I felt compelled to add my two cents, and per my usual “look how smart I am” practice, I’ve pasted it here below.

I’m not even sure where to start… (pause for breath):

Ok, first, as far as I can tell from my deliberatly brief glance, the only place Gourmet Station mentions their blogger is fictional is at the very bottom of the page. So, as a consumer, I would have to read alllll the way through the content (including all the archives, assuming the blog continues to exist) before I found that the “person” I’d been reading was not real. I would not be amused.

Next, I think the folks at Gourmet Station have been poorly advised by their various media and marketing partners. I belive the power of the blog is that it allows consumers to create a meaningful bond with a brand by completely doing an end run

Right now, my relationship with the Gourmet Station brand is shaped by their public face, my (admitedly non-existant) direct experiences with the company, and any positive or negative feedback I’ve encoutered about them. This is all completely impersonal. A blog puts a human connection to the company. Tell me who you are. Tell me about what’s going on behind the scenes. Tell me about what’s going on in your (not your company’s) head, and I will form a relationship with you that is far, far stronger than any I will form with a crafted, shiny brand.

I think it is exactly the ‘warts and all’ aspect of blogs that makes them such a powerful marketing tool. This is of course a frightening thing for any organization raised in a traditional marketing environment, and I’m sure this played a significant role in Gourmet Station’s decision to create an idealized blogger.

Applying traditional marketing thinking to the blogosphere will not work for two reasons: first, it is far too easy to spread neagtive information around (witness this very posting). We don’t like to be fooled, and despite GS’s disclosure at the end of the blog, it is too late in the process. Second, traditional branding rules say “shiny shiny shiny”, while blogs say “honest honest honest”. Use your blog to show your respect for your customers by telling us about the human stories behind the brand, and we’ll be customers for life.

Separated at birth?

While cruising the _Word Its_ over at “SpeakUp”:http://www.underconsideration/speakup just now, I just about fell out of my chair when I came across *a picture of my own dog*!!! (click “here”:http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/word_it/expectations/expectations_04.html and scroll down)

This isn’t really a picture of my dog, but man it sure looks like him. Click “here”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/19942131@N00/7636097/in/set-190664/ to see my guy. Separated at birth?