Gary Vaynerchuk Brings More Than Wine to Boston

Last week I had the sincere pleasure of attending a great social media event in Boston, a live taping of Wine Library TV.  Gary Vaynerchuk is not only perhaps the most passionate wine enthusiast out there, he’s hilarious and has a personality fit for a burgeoning online TV show.  His book tour (for Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World) brought him to Boston, where after filming the show he conducted a live Q&A.  His show and website encompass everything about community, and Gary himself mentioned he spends 18 hours a day working with his community.  (He’s actively responding to folks on Twitter and popping up on many blog posts from the event, among other things).  Bottom line: he has an uncanny knack to bring people together.  I met too many people to mention who I had previously only known on Twitter or through the Social Media Breakfast series in Boston (I’m still searching for a one-word term to describe that).

Gary’s site leverages everything Web 2.0 has to offer and is clear proof that good content is best served online, where a community can gobble it up.  Thanks Gary, for sharing your experiences with the Boston social media crew, and thanks to Dmitri Gunn and the PerkettPR team for organizing.  Thanks also to the many sponsors (Barnes & Noble – Boston University, Mzinga, Matchmine, Pour Favor, Select Wine Imports, and Beautiful Things by Charise) for running a great night. 

Even if you’ve never had wine before I’d recommend watching this and signing up to see future episodes.

Top 5 Ways to Build Team Commitment

"I am only as good as the team I surround myself with."  I've said it many times.  This statement applies to any team environment, but especially in professional services.  It applies to large projects, small projects, quick and easy projects and those complex, painful, challenging projects that everyone claims one day "you'll look back on this as a learning experience." 

Commitment and compliance are two very different states for project teams.  A compliant team is one that shows up because they have to.  They may not actually punch a time clock, but at the end of the day they shuffle their feet to the parking lot – they may even run out the door.  They are working on the project because, well, what else would they do.  A committed team treats the project like their own garden or pet – they obsess over it, they care for it, they own it.  They are thinking ahead of how to do it better, already solving the next three problems that haven't been discovered.  The project just 'clicks.'  It's much easier to go from a committed team to a compliant one.  A couple of poorly managed challenges can easily break the chain, and it's much harder to go from a compliant team to a committed one.

How do you get a team together that 'clicks'?  How do you transform your team into a high performing one?  Here are my top five means I like to employ to help build a solid team that is engaged, exceeding expectations and most importantly, committed.  (Not quite to the level of the Spartans in 300 though – now that's commitment).  I'd love to expand to this list and hear your thoughts – this is certainly not an exhaustive list.

1.  Roles and Responsibilities

It's important to know your team members and their skill sets to make sure each is in the right role, and it's even more important for the team members to know what their responsibilities are.  Often times expectations aren't laid out for teams up front that are in line with a project's expected outcomes or objectives.

2.  Empowerment and Ownership

Once you have roles that are clearly defined for your team members and expectations set, empower them – let them "do their thing" – and hold them accountable for the success and outcomes of their role.  Set expectations that "you own it," with some guidance and parameters on what they need to do.  Support them, back them up.  One example I often use:  "I don't really care which hours of the day you work, so long as you can make sure we meet our commitment on the deadline.  What do you think and what's your plan?"

3.  Trust

Trust needs to be earned, but also requires some faith.  In a leadership position you need to grant some trust in order to start the chain.  With follow-through and execution, trust will build.  It's only a matter of time until you can finish each other's sentences. 

4.  Recognition

When a job is well done, don't skimp on recognizing the team.  Highlight small wins and big wins all along the way.  Look for those folks who aren't inclined to shout about their accomplishments.  Make sure the management team stays in touch with what is happening and shares good news – not just the crises.

5.  A Sense of Humor

Stress affects people differently.  I, for one, need an environment where laughter exists.  If everyone is so heads down focused without time for a good practical joke, to laugh at ourselves or share some good project humor, I'm not interested.  Projects can be tedious, lighten up!

What other means would you recommend for building a solid and committed team?  What things do you remember most about good teams you have been a part of?  What made them "click"?

Study: Only 30% of Top Retailers on Facebook

Opportunity Brulant, my employer, recently completed a study of 100 of the top online retailers to see which ones have a “fan page,” a feature that Facebook launched in November 2007.  Only 30% of the retailers surveyed had a page out there.  Yep, only 30%, despite lots of hype about the platform.  That’s it?  I believe retailers are missing out.  According to the study, some of the leading brands currently leveraging fan pages on Facebook include Bath & Body Works, Linens-N-Things and Victoria’s Secret. Among those that do not have a fan page presence are Bed Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, and J. Crew. 

Let’s take a step back for a minute.  I have been using Facebook for several months.  Like many, I went through the Facebook cycle of addiction:

  1. Shock (from my younger-recent-college-grad-cousins finding me online),
  2. Elation (reconnecting with summer camp, high school and college friends),
  3. Saturation (deluge of work and professional colleagues’ connection requests) and
  4. Annoyance (no, I don’t want to be “bitten,” “poked,” or compared to a celebrity, but thanks for asking repeatedly).

During this time I have learned much about viral marketing, useful and useless applications, and even met with a Facebook rep to learn about the advertising platform (see Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Facebook…For Marketers).  Facebook is a marketer’s dream – the platform has an average of 200 data points on each user.  As more compelling applications are developed, and Facebook explores new ways to achieve better usability, the potential for “stickiness” is improving.  People are spending more time on Facebook (despite recent declines in unique user growth), the company is expanding it’s presence globally, and users have more and more platforms to express what they like and dislike.  Online retailers should be looking at this as unchartered opportunity.  So why are so many retailers holding out? 

A ‘fan page’ is a free profile that a company can set up and maintain, allowing users to declare they like a brand.  If consumers like a brand, they can “fan” the page.  If they don’t like the brand, they simply ignore the page.  Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester wrote a thoughful post about “fansumers” explaining the implications to Facebook, in November 2007.  The Facebook Page is a surefire way to connect with passionate fans of a brand.  There is no requirement to buy advertising on Facebook (although once a company has a page it’s easy to do).  The “Facebook Pages Insider’s Guide,” available to anyone who sets up a fan page, describes the opportunity:

Facebook Pages give business the opportunity to build a consumer base, sell products, run  promotions, schedule appointments or reservations, share information, and interact with customers…Pages enable customers to interact, learn, purchase, and spread the word about your business to their friends. [emphasis added]

Retailers that are not at least considering whether their customers are on Facebook are missing out on an opportunity.  With little to no investment, minimal PR risk, and big upside potential, a page can be set up and become a natural extension of their online presence.  There is no need to “push” your page – if a company already has a loyal consumer base the word of mouth proposition will be a good start.  With some experimentation and a willingness to interact with “fans” retailers can improve their customer engagement, build brand awareness and take advantage of word of mouth marketing.  What is holding these companies back?

Please reach out to me, on Facebook if you like, if you would be interested in a copy of the survey or would like to talk more about Facebook Pages.

UPDATE: Day after this was posted, TechCrunch published metrics on Facebook overtaking MySpace as the #1 social network.  Opportunity knocks…


Photo credit:  Iain Alexander via Flickr

Indiana Jones and the Lost Marketing Plan

Ij "How odd that it should end this way for us after so many stimulating encounters. I almost regret it. Where shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?" – Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

Raiders is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.  I've been less enamored with the rest of the series so far and have not seen the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yet.  I won't dispute that Indiana Jones is a cultural icon.  Lately the promotion for the new film has been all over the place – from selling Indy's Fedora hat as a Facebook "gift" to Major League Baseball trying everything but on the field advertising to the NBA shameless opening segments during the playoffs.  Some of the placements are harmless.  Others are causing a stir – Not-The-Real-Ronald-McDonald is one of many folks blogging about the negative Burger King promotion for the film, targeting kids and fast food.   But what about the whole premise of targeting kids in general?

I have 3 boys (all under 8) and I can't wait to watch Raiders with them one day.  No way I would let them see the series now.  Yet the marketing team is promoting Burger King, a massive Lego genre (no way AFOLs would sustain the product alone), and a ton of other products.  "Indiana Jones Role Play Whip" for ages 6-10?  "Playskool Mr. Potato Head: Taters of the Lost Ark Idaho Jones Spud" for ages 2-7?  The spark for this post was seeing Indiana Jones Madlibs in an airport bookstore.  Even tongue in cheek these types of toys are a bit over the top targeting the wrong age group, for films that are based on the original R-rated film (all the others were PG or PG-13).

Let's review.  In the first film, in the opening scene, a former Indy assistant gets skewered in a jungle cave.  Aside from the obvious snakes scene, a German officer getting run over by a truck and the bald soldier getting chopped up by an airplane propeller, there's always the 2 Germans and 1 French archaeologist melting into a bloody pool at the end of the movie.   In the second flick, a shaman pulls a pumping heart out of a guy before dropping him in magma.  In the third, I think the worst is when a pile of guys' heads get chopped off as they neglect to heed "Only the penitent man shall pass."  

These are not scenes I want my boys re-enacting around the house, sorry.  (I can't wait to watch the movies with them one day though.)  There are so many other ways to market this film, I think the extra targeting of young kids just doesn't sit right.

Photo credit: Despotes via flickr, titled "For your toddler, a Jewish religious artifact and a killer ghost!" (note "Ages 3+" on the package).