Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gloom and Doom

Buying less this year!

Most who know me, realize that December is not my favorite month. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 12, with 1 being 'best' (April) and 12 being 'why bother', December would probably rank a 12 most years. One of thing things I particularly dislike about December are the endless news stories about the economy and Christmas and black friday and how the holiday shopping season is going to hell in a hand basket. Blahblahblah. It seems like every story is about how this retailers has done this particular markdown or is open these hours and that means this terrible thing. Or someone sneezed just a little funny and it caused them to drop something they were going to buy and now they won't buy it so the entire retail holiday shopping season has blown to hell. Each data point feels over analyzed and blown out of proportion.

Take for example the NPR story I heard this morning. The story was about what current gas prices (I guess they have gone up, I didn't notice) may mean for holiday shoppers. So they talked to some industry expert who was all freaked out. Then they interviewed one (YES, ONLY ONE) holiday shopper. She had just walked out of Costco and had a cart LOADED with toys, food etc. She went on for a while about how gas was $3.20 and how high that way. Then the interviewer asked her if that was going to effect her holiday shopping. She said, no, that she had saved money and that she was buying everything she had planned to buy for her kids. Then she said MAYBE she and her husband would buy less for each other. Maybe, mind you. And she did not sound very convinced. However, the interviewer was. He then concluded that the high gas prices were indeed effecting holiday shoppers. Implying by extension, heaven help the retailers.

Now, I'm not sure a woman who just walked about of Costco with an entire cart full o' crap saying she might buy less for her husband is really a sign that gas prices are hurting the economy. And maybe, just maybe, she (we) should be buying less crap! And maybe, just maybe, high gas prices are okay and they will make us drive less. Which just may be a good thing?

Or maybe I'm completely ignorant and unamerican!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Going Viral

Will this be the death of the insanely cute Otto and Daisy photos?

I have been doing a lot of research lately on Social Networking and its effects on business and marketing. People can and clearly do write about this at length, but the nuts and bolts is that for a business to be competitive in today's market place they need to be active on the internet. And not just actively selling, but they need to find ways to communicate and interact with their customers via the internet. Customers now want to be engaged by businesses. They want a business to be part of their social network.

And beyond that, businesses now need to be more attentive to their customers. In the past, if a customer was upset or received bad service, they might write a letter, make a phone call or tell a friend or two. Now, they can post a comment on facebook that ALL their 'friends' will see. Or they can go to the company's Facebook page and all the business's 'fans' can see the comment (and if you're someone like Starbuck that's over 18 MILLION (yes MILLION) people). Or perhaps the complainee has a blog. They can blog about the bad service. If it's a blog with many followers, it could get passed around. Or maybe it's a tweet, that gets retweeted adnauseum. Stephen Colbert had the most retweeted tweet of 2010 - 44,000 retweets! Something retweeted 44,000 times is probably seen by over 6,000,000 people.

What I have been learning, is that all of this will completely change the way we do business in the future. Businesses will no longer be able to push products or services out to customers. Instead, the customers will speak and businesses will now need to find them and listen and adapt to their desires, if they want to keep their business strong and profitable.

Let's view a micro example. A couple weeks ago, I became completely enamored with a bamboo 'white' board and blogged about it. So that company got free advertising amongst my 100s of (okay 2? 3?) blog readers. And, this is actually better than advertising, because my regular blog readers know me and my opinions and presumably trust them (right? I'm the bomb). So, they are more likely to take my advice than that of a regular ad.

Then, I posted a link of this blog on the bamboo board company's facebook page. Additionally, the company's owner gave a shout out about my blog on the FB page. So now, not only does the company's product get an endorsement that all the company's FB fans will see, but my blog gets a little what what, twice! Then, if anyone who is a fan of that company likes or comments on my link, then all their friends will see my blog and that product. So far, two likes (not including me and Otto) and one comment. The average FB user has 140 friends, the business has 646 fans, so, if you're doing the math that's over 1,000 people (1066 to be exact) potentially exposed to my blog and a positive review of that product. Going viral baby!

Woah Nellie! That's a lot of people exposed to my blog. I'd better work at making it not just something my mother would love. Oh, lord, can I only blog about pithy matters? What about Otto and Daisy? Oh, so much stress!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Deluge!

It has been raining in Seattle for 40 days and 40 nights! Okay, well not even remotely. Actually it was nice last week (nice not meaning it didn't rain, but meaning it didn't rain when I was out on my bike, walking the dog etc). But, it has been raining so hard for the last 18 hours or so, that it feels like it's been raining 40 days and 40 nights. Today I heard my first ever real radio emergency broadcast. You know they always have tests. You hear the loud scary blare blare blare, and then 'this is a test......'. I thought they only had real broadcasts for huge things like nuclear war, locusts or the plague. But it seems our deluge warrants an emergency broadcast. The radio is abuzz with talk of flooding and land slides. Daisy and Otto are getting into the excitement too. I caught them this morning whispering about what they are taking with them on the ark. I tried to explain that they are a. too old and B. STERILE, but they are still waiting by the phone for the call.

So, I have gotten caught up as well. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a strange thump. So I had to lie awake for a while wondering what terrible tragedy had befallen my house and property. This morning, my hypochondriac self rushed outside with the dog and carefully scrutinized all the cracks in my retaining wall. Certainly, they must be bigger. As I'm mulling over this, I head up the street to walk the dog and whoa! The neighbors retaining wall is down.

Bigger? Bigger!!!

Pre blog (was there really life pre blog), I had a little tragedy involving my neighbors yard.
Their retaining wall proved quite ineffective as three of their trees were knocked down in a huge wind storm. The downfall of these three trees left me without electricity for 10 (yes, that's ten) days one very sad, cold winter!!! Since that wind storm I had become obsessed with their fourth tree, its impending fall from grace and my life coming to a cold standstill. In subsequent storms I have spent hours (well long minutes) watching out my window, waiting for their fourth tree to fall. The fourth tree is huge and leaning at angle against a cracked retaining wall, just waiting to take my electric lines down. But, I should use past tense here, a month or so ago THE TREE CAME DOWN. Actually, they had it taken down. After three years of waiting for nature to bring it down, the home owners finally had it removed!

The tree was right here (when this was upright)!

And clearly, just in time. If that tree hadn't come down a mere month ago, life would now be at an end. I would be without electricity. You would be without this blog (no electricity no blog). And my neighbors would be without a truck. So at the risk of this being premature, as some huge rain related tragedy may still occur in the next few hours, I would like to give a huge shout out of thanks to my neighbors, the universe, and anyone else who had anything to do with the tree removal.

Oh, and note to Noah, you can't have Otto and Daisy!