Thursday, October 27, 2011

Literally reach inbox zero (0)

What’s "Inbox Zero"? "Inbox Zero" is a system created by a guy with an awesome name (Merlin Mann) to help you "reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life."

The "Zero" actually doesn't refer to how many mes­sages are in your email inbox -- though it's basically the goal of the system -- "Inbox Zero" is more about how much time, effort, and brainpower you put into your inbox. It's a better way to manage your time and get shit done.

I'm a big believer in the need for this -- though even if you agree with the need, desire to do so, and know how to do it, it's more difficult to accomplish than you think.

And "Inbox Zero" is even more complicated in today's multitasking world.

Today, you not only have email, but you are also connected to the world and receiving requests for your time through Twitter, Facebook, SMS, Messengers, Foursquare, LinkedIn and more. And don't forget about all those ole-fashioned phone calls and voicemails.

We have become so wired, so connected, and such multitaskers, that there are at times hundreds of those little red dots on your screen, and by turning those notifications off, you'd actually get less shit done.

In today's world, we need to be connected. You just need to learn how to deal with all the red dots that come with that connection, and train your brain to work through them like a to-do list. If you are distracted by the pop-ups, notifications, and dings, you are just distracted by the un-done. And that's a good thing -- because now you have motivation to finally get shit done and literally reach inbox zero (0).

If you want to learn more about "Inbox Zero," you should definitely:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friend Me, Like Me, and Subscribe to Me

Facebook has rolled out yet another update, and this time it is directly taking on Twitter in an even more obvious and confrontational way. You can now "follow" on Facebook.

One of the best things about Twitter was that you could "follow" people without having to "friend" them. It was a simple yet fantastic feature that Facebook couldn't offer. In order to "follow" someones status updates, likes, and shares on Facebook you had let them follow yours. And typically, this wasn't an equally interesting two-way street. Typically, one person is a better "Facebooker" than the other. And typically, one person ends up regretting the "friendship."

But now, you can "subscribe" to people on Facebook.

With Facebook subscriptions you can quickly and easily follow someone's Facebook updates with the click of a button. There's no accepting, no de-friending, and no two-way connections. It even allows celebrities to open up their personal Facebook profiles to the public.

But Facebook didn't stop there, they also quite quickly and reactively stomped out the one flame Google+ had to offer -- circles. Google+'s circles allowed you to create lists of people to share specific content with, thereby sparing your other connections from being "spammed" with content they didn't care about. With the new Facebook subscriptions and revamped lists feature, you can now not only post to your "friends," you can also post to public, family, close friends, or any self-defined list of people you'd like.

Facebook's latest update has changed everything, and firmly protected itself against its competitors. It was a brilliant move to secure its foothold as the present and future king of the social networks. It has improved every person's experience on Facebook -- from power user to stalking Grandma. Because now, you can not only friend me and like me, you can now also subscribe to me.

Content is Queen, Conversation is King

Content has stepped down from the marketing throne and handed the new sales crown to it's rightful owner -- conversation.

For years, content was king. Content was the key to any successful website, service, product, or offer. Without content, you were just a salesman with a sales pitch. And that sales pitch was all-too-obvious to customers. An easy way around the cold calls and sell sheets was to create content that drove people into the funnel on their own. This funnel then filled with self-selecting interested customers -- if they liked your content they more than likely would like your offer -- who quickly moved through the funnel from lead to opportunity to sale.

Creating interesting and relevant content WAS the easiest way to generate leads and drive sales.

But now, conversation is king. Though content is still just as important as ever -- conversation is even more importanter than ever.

Conversation is simple by definition. It's the act of having meaningful conversations with customers and prospects. And not just over the phone or in person at conferences, conversation now occurs online -- on social networks.

The same social networks that once depended on interesting content for sharing and liking -- now need that content to generate interesting conversations. Without interesting conversations, your content and offer get lost amongst the clutter.

Most social networks and search engines today depend on algorithms that are smart enough to not only find what's relevant, they also know what's interesting. Interesting content leads to interesting conversations. And without interesting conversations, you'll just roll down the feed and disappear like crap in a toilet. Don't create crap!

Today, everyone is online. And everyone is creating content. Not everyone is generating interesting content that leads to interesting conversations. And therefor, you're not reaching everyone.

The surest way to reach the masses today IS to create interesting content that leads to ongoing conversations which stays relevant longer.

Today, conversation is king!

Hi, I am Ryan Pratt, and I am a frontrunner

I have to admit. I like winning and I like winners. And I especially like winning winners that know that they're winners. I am a big fan of the big W.

I do not understand how "fandom" and "loyalty" got all mixed up together? Why do people insist on being "loyal" and rooting for losing teams? They're losers! You don't watch bad TV shows or pay for a movie ticket to see a rotten film. So why do you keep paying to sit in left field in your smal midwest town?  You don't go out to eat,  have terrible service and crummy food, and make reservations to go back again next week. So why do you go out of your way to wear your brown and orange in Northeast Ohio every Sunday afternoon?

Fandom is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the state or attitude of being an enthusiastic devotee of a sport as a spectator." So I guess enthusiasm is to blame. But it's still no excuse.

In fact, there are no excuses, just results! Results are all that matter. Winning is all that matters. And for that reason, and that reason alone, I am frontrunner. 

Meet the Newest Angry Bird

Say "Hello" to the newest member of the Angry Birds family: Balloon Bird

Balloon bird is little orange canary that blows up like a balloon when tapped. It will be introduced in the new Halloween update to Angry Birds: Seasons, a spinoff of the wildly popular original.

And when I say wildly popular I am not exaggerating (which I tend to do). Angry birds has been downloaded more than 400 million times and has 30 million users playing it every single day. And only half of those Angry Bids fans are in America!

Angry Birds is a perfect example of success through simplicity. Today, things are often over-complicated.  Even things that are start off as a simple concept all-too-often become over-complicated with success. The people at Rovio have resisted this urge. Even while spreading their reach across multiple channels -- multiple spin-off games, plush toys, a movie, and even cookbook -- they've managed to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Software companies can learn from this. Take Facebook for example; started as a simple concept where classmates could see each other's headshot, connect, and share notes. It soon became a way to "take the entire college experience online," and with every update, it became more and more complicated (and not without angering users). Today, Facebook is not just a place for classmates to connect, it's a place that 800 million people connect, post pictures, share what they're doing, who they're doing, what they're reading, eating, watching, listening to, and more. And with the upcoming Timeline update, it has officially become over-complicated.

But it's not only software companies that could value simplicity, all products and services should simplify their offer. Expansion and multiplicity only lead to confusion and devaluing your product. Soon-thereafter you'll have a complicated product surrounding what was once a valuable core concept. It can only go downhill from there. And the last thing you want is for it all to blow up in your face like when a green pig meets little yellow bird.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

14 things I hate about Facebook

I hate when my Facebook "friends"...
  1. Express their undying love for their best significant other in the whole world (when in reality, he or she most likely is not)
  2. Tell the world how awesome their life is (not b/c it really is, but b/c they are trying to convince not only the world, but more-so themselves of it)
  3. Post pictures of everything they eat (unless it's green eggs and ham we don't care)
  4. Tell the world their monotonous everyday goings-on (we do not need to know your bedtime)
  5. Search for sympathy comments b/c they are ill or sad (it's obvious and pitiful)
  6. Post pictures of themselves taken by themselves with their shirts off (you're not that hot)
  7. Have RIP status updates in grieving for someone who recently passed away (this is a personal experience that shouldn't be shared with the world)
  8. Acting like they are smarter than they actually are (using a thesaurus doesn't make you any cooler)
  9. Entire albums dedicated to babies and dogs (after 4 or 5 pics of a dog or baby laying there doing nothing we get the point... you think its adorable - even though the rest of the world probably does not)
  10. Profile pics with other people in frame that are better looking than the actual person (you can't trick random people into thinking you are the other person very long - if anything you should post pics of you standing next to the fattest ugliest friend you have)
  11. Profile pics of them with their significant other (thank god for the upcoming "Cover" feature)
  12. Profile pics of celebs and athletes (YOUR profile pic is supposed to be a picture of YOU)
  13. Profile pics that don't actually look like them (i.e. the best picture they ever had - could be from ten years ago)
  14. Random people that act like they are your best friends (thank god for the new "Subscribe" feature)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The personification of the marketer

It has become glaringly obvious over the past few months that people do NOT want to be marketed to. They hate it. They call it SPAM.

SPAM is defined by Wikipedia as "the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately." And those who create this electronic spam is defined as a spammer.

But today, consumers define any advertisement that doesn't openly declare itself as such as spam. And the same goes for marketers and advertisers. Just think of all the examples of people angered and upset over marketing, advertising, and hidden promotions lately:
So what CAN marketers do to promote their products and services? The answer lies in interesting and relevant content.

Marketers must now be thought leaders, advocates, and gurus in their industry. They must have interesting insights. They must be informative and enlightening. If marketers want to be persuasive, they must be people -- not products.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Romcoms, mysteramas, dramcoms, and horredies

So you've heard of romcoms, right? Romantic comedies. A funny movie about love and relationships. Well a "romcom" is a portmanteau - or a blend of two or more words into one new word (i.e. smoke + fog = smog). And it's really the only movie genre portmanteau in existence. Until now...

Now, there are 3 more genre-crossing movie categories: mysteramas, dramcoms, and horredies. And here are some examples of each:

  • Mysteramas: Ides of March, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Dramcoms: Sunshine Cleaning, Patch Adams, Raising Arizona
  • Horredies: Zombieland, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, Shaun of the Dead

Can you think of any others?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 things I hate about Twitter

I hate when someone I follow on Twitter...
  1. Still uses the now-ancient "RT @twitterhandle" to retweet someone instead of just hitting the Retweet button.
  2. Puts a period before an @mention because they want the whole world to see what they're talking about (not just those people who follow both of you).
  3. Makes me click on the link to find out I'm completely uninterested.
  4. Automatically posts every check-in on Foursquare and GetGlue.
  5. Has an entire conversation with a friend on Twitter instead of just texting or calling them.
  6. #humblebrags -- though they are funny when they're unknowingly retweeted by @humblebrag
  7. Has a profile picture of anything other than their own headshot.
  8. Just tweets a link with no supporting text
  9. #pitytweets
  10. Tweet thieves who repost original, funny, or interesting content without mentioning the source.

Public service announcement: Unsubscribe links on the bottom of every marketing email

So it appears that most people don't realize there is an "Unsubscribe" link/button on the bottom of every marketing email you receive. In fact, it's a law. So if there isn't one, report it as a violation of the CAN-SPAM act to the FTC here.

You'll get much more accomplished by doing this versus replying to the do-not-reply@ or generic@email.address with swear words or threats (trust me, this does happen, and it is a much less "effective" way to expedite the unsubscribe process -- which by law can take up to 30 days).

If you aren't interested in the message or offer, it benefits everyone involved for you to unsubscribe. Obviously, you will stop filling up your inbox with crap. But what you might not realize is that the marketers sending you the message aren't interested in "spamming" you either.

Average unsubscribe rates can run from 0.1% to 0.5% of all emails sent (depending on the message and industry). And though most marketers aim for low unsubscribe rates, this KPI can be misleading. The main purpose of email marketing, and marketing in general, is to build brand awareness and drive sales. If the cash register doesn't ring it's all for not.

The most effective email marketing campaigns are targeted campaigns to extremely focused and interested lists of "prospects." These prospects are the only people who might convert to "clicks" and then convert to "customers." By removing yourself from email lists for uninteresting offers -- and increasing the unsubscribe rates -- the real KPIs only improve, and with it the chance of a "sale."

So go ahead, unsubscribe. Please. I'm actually begging you.

This has been a public service announcement from the multitasking millennial, Ryan Pratt.

Please stop requesting read receipts

Why do people still request "read receipts" when sending emails? Does anyone actually say "yes" to these irritating pop up's when they ask you to send someone a notice that their email has been read? I receive over 100 non-spam emails every day and probably get 5 read-receipt requests per week on average. I have NEVER ONCE said yes to a read-receipt request. Not even on accident.

You will get your "read receipt" when I am ready to reply to your email. 

There is absolutely no reason you need to know on an individual email-by-email basis when someone has read an email. If you're an email marketer, try Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or ExactTarget. It's not the 90s. If you're just sending personal emails to people, don't worry. Your email will be sent successfully (unless you're a spammer -- and if that's the case you've got other things to worry about). And I will read it within hours of you sending it.

In fact, most people with smartphones (and over 300 million smartphones shipped last year) read emails within minutes of receiving it. And those who don't have push email notification systems (either on their computers, smartphones, or tablets) still check their email every 30-60 minutes. According to one poll, about 67% of people surveyed said they checked their email more than 6 times per day, and nearly 10% of those check email more than 40 times per day.

So I am begging you people, please stop requesting read receipts!

Start-Up Idea:

Alright, I have another brilliant start-up internet business idea:

There are some basic versions of this idea already: Fanhattan, Flixster, and even IMDB and RottenTomatoes sort of do this, but nobody does it simply and intuitively. The idea is this:

You want to watch a movie (i.e. Fight Club) but you don't own it and don't know the best/cheapest/easiest/fastest way to do so. So you simply search the title of the film (i.e. "Fight Club") click on the correct title (in case there is another movie called "Fighters Club" or "Clubbing All Fight Long") and the system tells you all the possible options you have for watching, i.e.:
  • Netflix - Free (stream - if already a member) - $9.99 per month (stream - if not a member)
  • Hulu - (not available)
  • YouTube - (not available)
  • Movie Tavern - Retro Cinema - $7.50 per person
  • HBO - Free (on demand - if already subscribed) - $14.99 per month (to add to current TV subscription)
  • TBS - Free (DVR - Friday, November 11 at 9:00pm)
  • iTunes - $4.99 (rent) - $12.99 (own)
  • Amazon on Demand - $4.99 (rent) - $12.99 (own)
  • Blockbuster - $1.99 (rent) - $10.99 (own)
  • Best Buy - $12.99 (own)
  • Wal-Mart - $9.99 (own)
  • Redbox - (not available)
And then you cant sort and filter by best/cheapest/easiest/fastest as well.

So again, I ask, who wants to back me?

Start-Up Idea:

I have a brilliant start-up internet business idea:

Imagine a place where you could go and get stats on anything and everything. It would be like the tools that ESPN analysts have behind the scenes to pull incredible stats about any sporting event, but open to the public and at your disposal! And it wouldn't just be sports. It would cover all the major "categories" and "genres" including: sports, movies, music, TV, health, books, business, web, tech, celebrities and more!

You would just need the data (fed from industry leaders and databases around the world) and an above average algorithm powering the search engine, and you could ask it anything, like:
  • Who is the oldest person to dunk a basketball in an NBA game?
  • How many double cheeseburgers does McDonald's sell each day?
  • How many baked potatoes does Wendy's sell each day?
  • Who has the most country music awards in the past 3 years?
  • What TV show has the most commercial time?
  • What is America's favorite pizza topping?
  • Does Dominos or Papa Johns sell more pizza?
  • How many flashlight apps are there in the AppStore?
  • What's the highest possible scoring Scrabble score?
  • Which car maker sells the most convertibles?
  • What time do most people eat dinner?
Etc., etc., etc.

So, who wants back me?

Ohistorical Marriage Proposal

Hey dudes, I got a fantastic idea for a marriage proposal that I can't use -- because I have an even better one for myself -- but I wanted to share because it shouldn't go to waste.

It came to me in a dream -- a dream where I actually proposed and it was wildly successful. So use this yourself, or make a movie out of it, because it's perfect. Here is what you need to do:
  1. Create a fake Ohio Historical Marker sign for "Where [insert name] Proposed to [insert name]"
  2. Post the sign in a park (or along a walking path).
  3. Take your girlfriend (soon-to-be fiance) out for some fresh air.
  4. Walk by it (if she doesn't notice -- stop and say, "Woah! Did you know this?".
  5. Get down on one knee.
  6. Start your proposal once she realizes what its says (the bottom half of the sign can be your verbatim proposal, but make sure to read it out loud yourself -- don't just have her read it -- she will never get through it without crying and screaming).
If anyone does this, please let me know how it goes!

Thanks, and good luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Poor Sports Have More Sex Than You

Poor sports don't just hate losing more than you -- they'll also live longer and have more sex than you.

If Charlie Sheen isn't enough anecdotal evidence for you -- he's all about #winning and is currently 2nd on the all-time list of biggest man-whores -- maybe scientific evidence is.

Seriously, scientists at Yale just discovered that the human brain is all about winning. Yes, #winning. It was proven with simple gaming experiments that show the brain becomes most active when winning or losing is at stake. And since the brain's overall purpose is to maximize our chances of survival and reproduction -- winning is everything -- aka winners live longer and "prosper" more than losers.

So the next time you laugh at that grown man pouting because he's losing; become annoyed with the whole Barry Bonds on steroids issue; catch your friend Googling words in Scrabble; or question the phrase "whatever it takes to win" -- think about this simple, undeniable, scientific fact -- all those poor sports have more sex than you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Younglings, Yuengling, gather 'round

Today is the day you can finally go to your corner store and buy a 6-pack of Yuengling beer in Ohio.

No more special trips to that gas station just across the River. No more "fair" trade proposals for visiting friends from Pittsburgh. No more extra-large coolers for the sole purpose of stocking up on your annual vacations to the Finger Lakes. Just hop in your car and drive five miles down the road. Whenever you want. Wherever you want. You can get it on draft at the bar for dinner or buy a case for the party this weekend. Which also means...

Today is also the day Yuengling isn't cool.

Not cool like you need a koozie or frosted mug. Cool like "where did you get that?!" cool.

Don't get me wrong, I'll probably drive through Geno's on the way home tonight. My fridge will be fully stocked for poker night. And I'm sure I'll have one in hand Saturday for the game. But come December, my extended-family Christmas list will not include a 6-pack of Yuengling Black & Tan. And I won't be saving that final bottle for a special occasion. But I will be on the hunt for elusive, seasonal, Great Lakes Christmas Ale.

Which brings me to my point: Exclusivity is a rare offer today. It is something to be coveted and nurtured. Don't throw it away for expansion. Expansion that will devalue your product in the long run and leave you with nothing that distinguishes you from your competition. Embrace exclusivity. Cherish it. Promote it. Because come tomorrow, beer is beer, and you'll have nothing "special" left to offer.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Extreme sales are born from extreme Missoni

The Missoni at Target craze is just another example of why exclusivity is rare and valuable offer in the over-indulgent, instantly-gratified consumer world we live in today.

Retail sales were actually way down in Q3 2011, but not at Target thanks to a high-end Italian designer named Missoni who created a special limited-edition of the zig-zagged line of items specifically for Target stores. Dresses that were typically $1,500 in New York were now on sale for $39.99 at Target stores across the country. But not for long.

Stores sold out of many of the items in less than an hour as people, who had been waiting in line over night, ran through the stores grabbing anything and everything they could. The extreme high-levels of demand even crashed the online store, which was down for hours as their servers overloaded with web traffic from those "smart" enough to avoid the lines. It was big hit to say the least: Missoni Stampede at Target. And Target's 6-week supply disappeared in 1 day.

"As a point of comparison, what we are really seeing today would compare to a Black Friday morning. So, the largest shopping day of the year," according to Dustee Jenkins, Target Vice President of Communications.

The limited-edition Missoni line at Target not only drove interest, but also drove sales to unprecedented levels for a retail store. Just proof once again that something exclusive is something of value. Don't take it for granted. And promote the hell out of it. And Target successfully did just that.