Thursday, January 29, 2009

A few comments for GoTo Meeting...

I warned 'em. I gave them plenty of time to respond!

What follows are my comments to GoTo Meeting regarding their pathetic customer service and inferior product.

We've been customers for several years and normally I would never think of doing such things but, I get held to a higher standard every day. So shall they:

A couple things:

1) Your customers service is pathetic. If you're going to continue to compete in the highly contested web-conferencing space, you'd better bring it up several notches.

2) The first person I encountered was not able to answer my question. Then, I was sent to a general voicemail queue after being told that I would be transferred to someone who could help me with my question.

3) I've been down this road before, "all representatives are currently busy..." Yeah, I've been there & done that! I have "never" been able to get through.

4) My question; "When are you guys going to offer full motion webcasting?" This, is a NEED! Don't kid yourselves.

5) I like your tool...but not that much. You now have beaucoup competitors, or should I say that "we" have many, many options available to us now.

6) Did I mention that I'm the CEO and we have a corporate account with you?

7) I'm waiting... Let's see how long it takes for you to respond, if at all.

8) Tick tock...

9) Next stop the blogsphere! Then, you can deal with it there.

Twitter Worthy...or is it Tworthy?

Well, I did it. I crossed over. Over 1,000 that is… 1,000 followers on Twitter. I’m not going to go into a lengthy dissertation here about what Twitter is. Simply this, if you’re not twittering (verb), you should be. Do a search on Google for Twitter and I’m sure you will find ample results to help you educate yourself. Furthermore, if you’re reading this blog and you are out in the Social-sphere, or whatever we’re calling this stage of Internet interconnectivity these days, and you haven't heard of Twitter, you must be blind, deaf & dumb (or ignorant :)

When I started twittering a couple months ago as @ChazAtCaz, I was truly curious about just how quickly I could and would amass a following of any significance. I wondered, “was this going to be some hokey MySpace sort of thing or what?” Well, that certainly is not the case. Twitter is proving to be a valuable communications tool for me with people within my inner circle as well as people on the outer fringes.

I have a running dialogue of 140 characters or less per tweet (noun) with my local (upstate NY) colleagues as-well-as people as far away as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, Sweden, Holland, Peru… you get the point.

And a crowning achievement in the determination of my Tworthy-ness, I am now being followed by Robert Scoble - @Scobleizer, author, self proclaimed tech geek, blogger and social media marketing phenom, who has swelled his following to over 50,000. So, that should put into perspective my achievement. By the way 50,000 is way, way up there. I think that’s probably as many as I have ever seen.

It will be interesting to see where Twitter goes. As with all things truly social, Twitter is free. That can’t last though. They have to monetize it somehow. I’ve heard several suggestions and I’d be shocked if there weren’t a contingent of people working on that very thing.

One novel suggestion that I heard was to charge people extra for more than 140 characters. They could use 140 as a multiple. Free account = 140, then there’s the next level at 280 and then 420, etc. My sense is that it won’t work because of its limited revenue potential. More likely will be the ad frenzy that struck the blog-sphere in response to bloggers desire to monetize their blogs. We’ll see.

At any rate, I like Twitter. So much so that I recently set up a stream for Cazbah too, which you can find at @cazbah_net. I’m still curious to see how this new form of communication, known as Micro-blogging, will affect our business. I will definitely keep you posted – no pun intended.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Quick Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and there are some very good reasons for that. We (Cazbah) closed the books on 2008 and we finished out the year quite strong actually. In what I would consider to be a relatively flat year, with all of the things we had going on, we still grew by double digits.

I have completely retooled our sales process which allows me to spend a considerable amount more time marketing the business, one of my goals for 2009. I now conduct 2 webinars daily at 10am and 2pm (EST). My sales team is responsible for generating the leads and developing relationships with prospective customers. We have also instituted a process whereby we provide our potential Cazbah customers with a comprehensive analysis of their business online prior to attending the webinar. This is very helpful in understanding the true potential that any business may have on the web and puts things into very clear perspective.

We promoted 3 people internally to Director level positions and we now have a senior staff. I hired 2 new sales people and trained them both. We completely redesigned the Cazbah website and we launched the company blog. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty active in other areas and haven’t given my blog much attention. So, let’s get back to it.

More to come shortly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A little unabashed promotion

I know you're not supposed to directly promote your business through your blog, or so goes the conventional blog wisdom. But, I've never been much for conventional wisdom so below please find a promo video that I did for Cazbah a couple years ago.

Everything in it is still very (extremely) relevant today so, I thought what-the-heck. I want people to see it so here it is!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting to know Karen G. Mills, Director (to-be) of the Small Business Administration

President elect Obama announced that he has appointed Karen Gordon Mills to take the top spot at the Small Business Administration (SBA) last week. The fact that he did so a month ahead of schedule is being heralded as a ‘good sign’ because it shows that he is serious about solving the economic problems we are currently facing. Well of course he is. That’s what he signed up for. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t lose his resolve as it relates to small businesses.

I had never heard of Karen Mills and I think that I’m going to be hearing quite a bit more about her so, I did some research. I’m genuinely interested in ‘where’ people come from because I believe you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their history. I did a little digging. Here’s what I found.

Karen Dale Gordon was born in 1950 to Ellen R. and Melvin J. Gordon. She is married to Barry Gordon (an attorney), who graduated in ’72 from Bowdoin College in Biochemistry and Government, got his PhD in biology from Syracuse University (“Cuse – Go Orange”), and got his JD from Columbia Law School in ’79. He is currently the president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. They have 3 sons, William, Henry and George. Karen did her undergraduate work at Harvard in Economics in 1975 and got her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1977.

Karen’s father Melvin J. Gordon (88) has been the Chairman of the Board of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. since 1962 and serves as its Chief Executive officer. Mr. Gordon serves as the President of HDI Investment Corp., a (Gordon) family investment company. He has been a Director of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. since 1952. He serves as a Director of HDI Investment Corp.

Karen’s mother Ellen R. Gordon (76) has been President of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. since 1978 and serves as Chief Operating Officer. Her father William Rubin originally bought the company from its founder, Austrian immigrant Leo Hirschfeld, in 1935. Mrs. Gordon is also a Vice President and Director of HDI Investment Corp. Prior to her election as President, Mrs. Gordon served as Senior Vice President of Tootsie Roll. Mrs. Gordon has been a director of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. since 1969 and is a Member of the Executive Committee. Mrs. Gordon has been a Director of Unilever - Bestfoods since 1991.

Tootsie Roll Industries is a top 1000 company and has been very good to the Gordons. Mr. & Mrs., have a reported and combined annual income + options of more than 8.4MM.

So, Karen comes from money (or candy), a lot of it. Is it any surprise then that she went into the Venture Capital industry? She has served as President of MMP Group, a private equity investor and advisor since 1993. From 1999 to 2007 she was a founding partner and a managing director of Solera Capital, a late-stage, 'controlling interest' VC firm with $250MM+ under management. I’m still waiting to see what The Funded has to say about Solera Capital, if anything.

"Our operating philosophy is to invest about $15–20 million in each deal and take a controlling interest," notes Mills." We like to be the capital that comes in to grow the business to the next level — build the next plant, make an acquisition, or expand the brand."

I am not a huge advocate of Venture Capitalist (VC) and believe that there are good reasons why they are oft referred to as ‘Vulture’ Capitalists. Having said that, I realize that they play a role and that not all of them are money grubbing thieves. The fact that some of them are makes what The Funded does such an incredible service to entrepreneurs and business owners! We’ll talk more about this manifestation of the Social-ness of the web another day.

The media is reporting that Karen has taken a leadership role in the growth of more than 20 companies in the consumer products, food, distribution, textile and industrial component sectors since the mid 1980s. That’s less than 1 (one) deal per year. Not exactly aggressive lending by any stretch of the imagination.

I am very hopeful that Karen can step up and reform a government agency that is in desperate need of leadership. That she can see her way clear to developing conscientious funding policy, developing flexible and easy to access funding for the majority of small businesses, not the sweetheart deals that she is used to working with in her current life

At this point, the jury is still out on Karen Mills!

Laws of Good Content Continued...

Law #3 -- Significance:
Understand this… There is a very basic law that governs information on the Internet. This law, as viewed from the recipient’s standpoint, is simply this: Information should be free! Break this law at your own risk.

Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that. You must first establish Trust with your audience before you can start asking them to pay for anything. Trust is a byproduct of Value and value is in the eye of the beholder.

If your audience gives your information a positive valuation, you are well on your way to establishing trust. The common currency used for this exchange on the Internet is obviously information. A key variable in this Value + Trust = Customer Loyalty equation is the significance of the information provided.

By significance I do not mean quantity. What I am talking about is the quality of your information. If you can communicate your special value to your audience in a single page, so much the better.

Perhaps you have a one-page matrix, graph or spreadsheet that would be useful to your audience. Great! Let them have it! Don’t be bashful about letting them know this information is theirs to use for FREE! There is a natural inclination (an innate tendency really) within all of us to “return the favor.” By giving away significant information (content) you are tapping into this most basic of all human instincts. Your audience will reciprocate!

Law #4 -- Frequently Updated:
Your audience wants to know that you’re on-top-of-your-game! After all, they are coming to your web site or opting-in to your ezine to find out more about you, your information or your company, with the eventual and very real possibility of spending some of their hard-earned money on your products and services!

An easy way of demonstrating to your customers that you are indeed on top of your game is by updating your web content frequently. Having done so, you should send an e-message to your opt-in subscribers that “new” information is available on They will do the rest.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited web sites only to bail out immediately and go to the next one in line when I read this telltale sign at the bottom of the page: “Last Updated -- October 2001.” See Ya! If it took me 8 seconds to get to this point, great, if not I go away with the feeling that I’ve wasted my time.

If you are using such an update notice on any one of the pages in your web site, make sure that you keep it current. If you have no intention or plan to keep your web pages current and updated, remove the update notice immediately. This is essentially preventive maintenance, which is better than the damage control of trying to win-back lost visitors to your web site.

Another dead give-away is a web site visitor counter that hasn’t seen much action in a while! Counters do little to gain visitors confidence and trust—especially when they note that, “YOU are visitor # 246 since Oct 2000.”

Final Notes On Good Content
A couple final notes on good Content: First, it is important to strike a reasonable balance between your own company information, news and events and relevant industry related information. So many ezines and web sites on the Net today are nothing more than glorified sales literature. Don’t get caught in this trap. Give your prospects and customers excellent content, always. If you don’t, be assured that your competitors will.

Second, maintaining good content on your Internet Assets (website, ezine, blog, etc.) doesn’t happen by itself. It requires a concerted effort. As I mentioned earlier, you get back what you put out. Fortunately there are numerous resources at your immediate disposal to assist you with this challenge. The rewards for developing and maintaining a good content plan are great and are waiting for you, just around the corner.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good content -- 4 Laws

Over the next couple posts I am going to describe the 4 laws of good content. I originally published this information over 5 years ago. As with many things online it's as relevant today as it ever was.

Your content must first and foremost adhere to The 4 Laws of Good Content. For our purposes in this article, your content is defined as the information that you provide to your community members, prospects and customers. In the final analysis it must be:

Law #1 -- Relevant
If the information that you are providing to someone who has taken the time to seek you out is not meaningful to them, or more importantly does not address their need(s), they will leave. The oft-quoted figure is 8 seconds. You have 8 seconds to capture someone’s attention and interest or they’re gone, never to return! Pretty harsh for sure, but that’s life on the Internet! Frankly, your lucky if you get 8 seconds. People (your potential customers) recognize full well that there is an endless supply of information out there, waiting for them to find it.

This aspect of good content has most to do with effectively targeting your prospects and customers. It’s very important that when you set out to do business on the Internet, you do so with a very clear picture of who your “ideal” customers are. Miss this point, develop a muddled focus on your web site, in your ezine or other e-communications, and your potential for doing business successfully on the Internet is pretty close to “0.”

Worse yet is the situation where web surfers end up at a site that appears to have no bearing whatsoever on what they were searching for originally. This type of online duping goes on all the time and has become a serious annoyance. Don’t even consider doing such a thing in an effort to get more web traffic!

Law #2 – Current
Your information may very well be what your prospects and customers are looking for. However, if it’s outdated it’s as good as yesterday’s news! No one wants to read a newspaper from several days or weeks ago. In their quest for information, your prospects are looking for cutting edge data that will answer their questions and solve their problems. This certainly puts the burden of responsibility squarely on your shoulders.

This point speaks to a basic misconception that exists with many small business people about the Internet. The misconception is that somehow Internet Marketing requires less effort than traditional marketing. To this I respond with what I tell everyone who thinks there is some get-rich-quick formula that they haven't yet discovered online: “You get back what you put out!” This is a simple truth that applies to everything in life including Internet Marketing. Another way to put this is “You get what you pay for.”

Fear not! Information is what the Internet is all about. There is literally an unlimited supply of information available online that you can provide to your interested eyeballs (prospects and customers). This will probably require you to change your view about using OPI -- Other Peoples Information, and generally force you to take a less parochial view of the manner in which you service your customers' need for information.

The upshot of this part of the discussion is that in gaining access to “good” content online, you will be presented with the opportunity to think more broadly about your business model. Actually, forced to think more broadly accurately describes the situation that you face. Again I say, fear not! This is opportunity knocking! Openly sharing information is one of the foundational principles that Social Media is based on.