The Birth of Inbound Marketing

I love a good infographic as much as — OK probably more than — the next guy. Today the folks at HubSpot (my place of employment and the source of much personal and professional joy for me) came out with this beauty:

Birth of the Internet - HubSpot

Pretty sweet, right?

Whenever I see a timeline like this, I can’t resist mentally building a personal timeline alongside it, and seeing how they intersect.

For instance, I started blogging in 2003, just before Google bought Blogger. My first blog was on Blogspot (as it was called then) and after about six months I moved over to WordPress because I liked the user interface and admin tools much better than what I was seeing in Blogspot.

It’s funny, I started blogging before most people heard of the word “blog,” but I never did own an iPod. Sure, I have an iPhone now, but I never cottoned on to that particular technological bandwagon until it was bundled with a whole bunch of other technology that I found useful.

Does that make me less of an “early adopter,” or just, like most people, a somewhat picky consumer?

How does your personal history line up with the timeline above?

  • When did you first start reading blogs?
  • What were your first thoughts when you heard about Facebook?
  • How do you feel about Facebook now?
  • What about Twitter? Do you “get it,” or are you still on the fence about it?
  • How do you think that might change in a few years? In a few months?
  • What do you think a future timeline will say about the success of the iPad?
  • Will it change how YOU live?
  • Did you think an iPod would change your life, or at least your habits, at first?
  • Did it?

I’m not making any value judgments here, you know. Just thinking out loud, about how perspectives can change, and how the alarmingly new and seemingly alien can slowly — or quickly — become as familiar as a salt shaker.

Which wasn’t invented all that long ago, either, in the scheme of things. And probably caused something of a stir, at that.

rain check

For a couple of years now, I have been increasingly fearful of driving my car in what I tend to refer to as “weather.” Meaning, of course, rain or snow of any sort of noticeable intensity.

So much so, in fact, that a few months back I missed a chance to have lunch with a friend in Boston — really just because the forecast was for rain. Heavy, torrential rain.

So I called and canceled, even though I had been looking forward to it for weeks.

Then a few days ago, I replaced the windshield wipers on my car. And today, I drove to Boston in a heavy, torrential downpour. No sweat.

Why? Apparently, the only reason I hated driving in the rain was because of the diminished visibility. I thought that the lousy vision I had through my windshield was what everybody was burdened with — and I couldn’t understand why everybody wasn’t as freaked out as I was in nasty weather.

As I made my way home through the heavy rain, hands pleasantly unclenched, heart beating at a normal rate, I though about how such a simple piece of technology — inexpensive, and something I was able to install myself — made such an enormous difference in my perception and my experience.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that I should have figured out sooner that it was my wiper blades, not my bravery, that was the real issue here.

To me, it’s a reminder that simple, everyday technologies can have a significant impact on our lives for the better. The addition of one simple thing can lead to a disproportionate increase in things that are not so simple, like freedom, confidence, independence.

It’s also reminding me how one minor success can lead to a disproportionate willingness to risk more, and to gain more.

Like, when I first learned how to change a tire, it suddenly made me feel like Hey, I know a thing or two about cars! Even if that wasn’t technically true, it was my attitude that allowed me to feel confidence when dealing with the automotive shop guys, the people I eventually sold my car to, and the people I bought successive cars from.

Because I took that small step years ago to learn one basic thing about my car — how to change my own tire — I benefitted from a serious ripple effect for years after.

I see the same thing with the adoption of online skills, especially in my work with relative novices, mostly artists, teaching them about the online tools that might help them be more successful.

While there might be resistance at first — and in some it is, in fact, never overcome — in some, all it takes is one small success, one tiny experience of well, I can do THAT to open up a world of possibilities, to plant the idea in someone’s head, sure, I know a thing or two about computers/blogging/podcasting/whatever

Rachel Happe was talking about the importance of getting to the AHA Moment not long ago, and I think this might be a variation on that theme.

And, since she was the friend I stood up a few months ago, before I knew a thing or two about wiper blades, I hope I can celebrate this AHA moment with her, by rescheduling our postponed lunch from a few months back.

Have you had an AHA moment — in any area of life? How did it change things for you?

why I am a strategist

I’m brushing up my quantitative skills in preparation for my first semester of MBA classes this fall, and it’s led me to one of the best and most encouraging AHA! moments I’ve had in a very long time.

Despite what my undergraduate degree says (I majored in Geology), I have never been as in love with the quantitative side of things as I have with the qualitative side. I’m really more of a languages-and-writing kind of person — when I fell in love with paleontology in an intro class I took to fulfill a requirement, I had most recently been contemplating majoring in Greek.

So when I went to take the GMATs last year, I had some serious review to do. I did it, and I learned (or remembered) a lot that I didn’t know (or had forgot), and I actually did rather well on the test.

Now I’m getting ready for the first-year “quant” courses by taking an online course in statistics, finance, economics, and accounting, called MBAmath, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

in fact, I’d even say I had a little breakthrough last night.

The first section of the class focuses on using Excel to get things done, and although I consider myself a pretty old hand with the whole spreadsheet-and-formula deal, I decided to take the “beginner” class demo, because you can always learn something new on things like Excel.

Not surprisingly, I learned one or two keystroke shortcuts that instantly made it worth my while, but I found most of demo to be reassuringly familiar.

But then we started using Excel to calculate complex formulas, and AHA! was the result.

Let’s call a spade a spade: I tend to avoid math. Despite my better-than-decent grades and test scores in the subject, I continue to have little confidence in my abilities to add large figures in my head, or figure percentages, or anything else that involves calculation without mechanical backup.

But I am excellent at spatial relations, geometry, algebra, problem solving — especially problem solving: I am fantastic at figuring out what needs to get done to answer a problem.

It’s the execution of the calculation that gives me the sweaty palms.

GUESS WHAT

Excel rewards exactly my type of skill set.

Set up the problem right, design the formulas right, be patient and meticulous and thoughtful and logical and everything that gives me joy, and Excel will do the rest.

It’s one of the things that I truly love about technology — if it’s well designed, it can help you do those things you don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, or aren’t sure how to do, and it lets you concentrate on the things you ARE good at.

Me? I’m a strategist, an analyst, a synthesizer of ideas.

I’m also incredibly detail-obsessed, logical, and consistent.

Some of the best career advice I ever got was to play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Which sounds simplistic, but many, MANY of us make more, THINK more, of our weaknesses than we do our strengths.

How do you play to your strengths? Do you really know what your strengths are?

money for nothing, IT for free

Is this like one of those “prizes” you get when you win a free watch, but you have to fly to Hawaii and sit through a three-day sales pitch to claim your watch?”

That’s something a friend of mine emailed me the other day about a deal she was considering that seemed too good to be true, and I’ve been thinking about it for a few days with respect to some of the free technology that’s out there for nonprofits and other groups with severely limited budgets.

Specifically, I’m thinking about Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems (like Salesforce, Kintera, Convio, to name just a few of the leaders in the field). CRM software is often one of the first big technology purchases that a growing nonprofit will make.

There are some great programs through which you can obtain free (or nearly-free, or free-for-a-while) versions of CRM systems that might otherwise be out of your organization’s budgetary reach. And free software donations are wonderful and highly commendable corporate initiatives.

But nothing is for free, even when it’s free.

It is terribly important to consider carefully the money and staff time that will be necessary, over the long haul, to learn how to use a new CRM, to make it really work for your organization, and to keep on relentlessly training staff, keep on improving and cleaning up your data, keep on spending precious time on the maintenance of that shiny new toy.

Everybody knows that staff time is a fantastically precious commodity in nonprofits, large and small. When your organization is mission-driven, every minute spent can, in some way, be considered an outlay of donor dollars. So nonprofits have to especially careful about the commitments they make to large technology buys — and they have to be very realistic about what they are getting themselves into.

Blogger Judi Sohn weighed in on this topic recently:

Time is money. Whether it’s your time or the time of a consultant you use to help you get the most out of these tools. Far too often I’ve spoken to folks who … can’t put the time or attention into {a new CRM system} that’s needed to really understand how it works and configure it for their organization’s unique needs.

It takes time to learn how to use a CRM designed for multi-million dollar companies. It takes time and patience to optimize your data. If you aren’t willing to spend days or weeks of your time to figure it all out, you should just stand up and slowly back away from the keyboard before you break something.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever bitten off more than you can chew. Now raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand the first time. That’s better.

It’s human nature, let’s face it. But it doesn’t have to happen when choosing a CRM provider. Here are a few starter steps to get you on your way.

First, consider creating a long-term technology plan that:

  • Includes projections of money and staff time to be allocated not just at the outset, but over a multi-year period of time;
  • Sets goals and objectives over weeks, months, and years;
  • Identifies what success will look like at various points along this timeline;
  • Includes an exit plan for when the system no longer fits your needs.

Your technology plan should be a living document –one that is referred to constantly at staff meetings and even board meetings — and one that looks five years ahead. Things will undoubtedly change over those five years, so you will constantly be updating your plan.

Second, find out which software systems are constructed specifically for your type of organization, including the size of your staff, the number of your contacts, and the technological requirements of each system.

There are CRMs for every shape, size, and tech-savvy level of nonprofit organization. You just need to find the right fit for your situation.

Third, talk to other organizations who have gone through the same software selection process. Ask your peers for their experiences and their advice. Don’t go this alone — you can learn much from other people’s successes and mistakes and make far better choices, the more research you do.

And speaking of research, Techsoup is a fantastic resource for advice on choosing a new system, transferring your data, and a host of other considerations. NTEN also has excellent reports and webinars to help you navigate the process.

What’s your experience with Constituent Relationship Management software? What’s the best advice you would give someone else about choosing and implementing a CRM system?

lost in translation – social media and hamlet

“One can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular.”♦

You probably remember reading it in Intro to Anthropology: Shakespeare in the Bush by Laura Bohannon. It’s the story of a young anthropologist’s attempt to prove the universal nature of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, by introducing the story to the elders of the Tiv in West Africa.

(It’s short, funny, and really worth a re-read — or a first read! Go ahead! I’ll wait!)

I’ve been thinking about how the task of introducing (and evangelizing) social media to the non-engaged population is at heart an attempt to translate the values and mores of one culture to another.

Social media practitioners try to explain the value of blogging, or podcasting, or social networking, to traditional media types, and are met with a number of cultural barriers.

I protested that human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over; …although some details of custom might have to be explained and difficulties of translation might produce other slight changes.♦

Then, when traditional media types try to engage in social media, they carry with them the values and mores of their culture.

“But a chief must have many wives! How else can he brew beer and prepare food for all his guests?”♦

Hilarity ensues.

When I went to re-read the essay I remembered from Anthro 101, I also came across this insightful thought-piece on Shakespeare in the Bush by Kerim Friedman on the group anthropology blog Savage Minds.

In it, Kerim wonders if the author’s failure to translate Hamlet to the Tiv was really due to insurmountable cultural differences, or did it have more to do with the specific audience she was addressing: the respected elders of the tribe.

Kerim speculates that Bohannon might have found a more receptive audience had she first addressed the younger members of the tribe, or those of lower status:

In other words, I don’t think it is simply a case of the Tiv failing to understand Hamlet. Rather, I suspect that these elders perceive Bohannon’s narrative as a threat and are eager to “correct” her in order to neutralize that threat, whereas children or other members of the society less threatened by narratives suggesting alternative social structures would have had considerably less trouble understanding Bohannon’s retelling of Hamlet.

…there is nothing specific about Tiv society which prevents them from understanding Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but her storytelling is frustrated by the “will to ignorance” of the elders. Sure, even Tiv children would have been confused by many aspects of the story, just as American children are, but I’m simply suggesting that they might not have rejected the very premise of the story in the way that the elders did.

Are some CEOs and other corporate decision-makers, reluctant to embrace social media, like the Tiv elders? Threatened by an alternative social structure? Too hasty to dismiss or “correct” ambassadors from a foreign nation bearing strange tales of murder and intrigue? Perhaps a little.

“Sometime,” concluded the old man, gathering his ragged toga about him, “you must tell us some more stories of your country. We, who are elders, will instruct you in their true meaning, so that when you return to your own land your elders will see that you have not been sitting in the bush, but among those who know things and who have taught you wisdom.”♦

Are social media enthusiasts, eager to persuade and even evangelize their audience, like the young anthropologist Laura Bohannon? Underestimating or even misidentifying the differences in cultural idiom between her world and theirs? Perhaps a little.

I was quite sure that Hamlet had only one possible interpretation, and that one universally obvious.♦

What’s important, I think, is that we remember that we, as promoters of social media, are essentially anthropologists and translators. Or rather, we should be. We need to be very conscious of what the (vast and growing) cultural differences are between the (open, transparent) blogosphere and social networking world and the traditional (closed, careful) business and nonprofit world.

“You should sit and drink with us more often. Your servants tell me that when you are not with us, you sit inside your hut looking at a paper.”♦

What do you do to try to bridge the cultural gap?

Bohannon, Laura (1971), from Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology, eds. James P. Spradley and David W. McCurdy Boston: Little Brown and Company.