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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Nationwide WAS "on my side," till they 180'ed me; now they're on my BAD side

It's impossible to pass this advertisement for Nationwide in the Columbus Airport without stopping; or at least slowing down to take a gander and say, "Cool!" I actually passed it by, backed up and went over to take a closer look.

Upon further inspection, I noticed dozens of picture cubes that revolved on axes when you spun them.

I re-read the headline, "Nationwide is on your side." Each box had a picture of a customer or employee, a testimonial, a statistic or a tagline. And then it all made sense. Of course! On your "side" like the "side" of the cube. Play on words. Got it.

Those clever marketing people...

Here are three reasons this ad is extrememely approachable:

1) It's unique. It stands out. It MAGNETIZES you to it. After all, approachability comes from the Latin verb apropriare, which means "to come nearer to." And no other ad in any airport I've ever seen has been so good that I felt the need to walk up and photograph it.

2) It's three dimensional, which is just cool.

3) People just HAVE to spin these boxes. The inner child can't resist! And when they do so, the boxes will continue to spin for at least 10 seconds, not unlike a good set of rollerblade wheels. So it's fun, but it also makes the advertisement more approachable to the next set of people walking buy because it's already moving. Almost like every passerby who spins the boxes is doing Nationwide's advertising for them.

Subconscious customer evangelism, perhaps?

Subsconscious brand participation, perhaps?

Unfortunately about 25 minutes later, Nationwide's spinning cubes took a "turn" for the worse...

I stopped by the post office on the way home. And waiting in my mailbox were SEVEN, count 'em SEVEN, pieces of junk mail from Nationwide.

And the worst part? None of them were actually addressed to me. They were all fake names. I have no idea who Kim, Paulette, Tessa, Al, Jon, Wendy and Marc are, but apparently they all share Box 410684 with me. Huh. Weird.

So, one minute, I'm ecstatic about an advertisement for a company I've never heard of before. I'm taking pictures, telling strangers and blogging about how cool they are. Exactly what companies want their customers (ahem...fans) to do.

Then, they send me (not just one piece) of junk mail, but seven. And now I'm totally annoyed by a company that, only a few minutes ago, I thought was great.

Way to go Nationwide: you grabbed my attention with spinning cubes; but now the only thing that's spinning is ME...into a complete 180 that now thinks your company sucks.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

Have you ever been 180'ed by a company?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Monday, February 27, 2006

Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers

I finally finished Naked Conversations, the best (and first?) book that truly captures the essence, importance and value of why businesspeople need to blog.

It's written by Robert Scoble and Shel Isreal. Robert Scoble helps run Microsoft’s Channel 9 Web site. He began his blog in 2000 and now has more than 3.5 million readers every year. Scoble’s blog has earned acclaim in Fortune magazine, Fast Company, and The Economist. Shel Israel played a key strategic role in introducing some of technology’s most successful products, including PowerPoint, FileMaker, and Sun Microsystems workstations. He’s been an expert on innovation for more than twenty years.

Now, since I always enjoyed book reports when I was a kid, here are my Top 8 Quotes from the book that are worth repeating:

"While as many as 1/3 of all blogs started may be abandoned within a year, the overall growth of bloggin is among the fastest of any technology in history. According to Pew, 1/4 of all Web users in the US read blogs, and that number is increasing at the rate of 60% annually."

"The most important aspect of the blog is that it is conversational...businesses need to join the conversations because they build trust...blogs also humanize companies, or at least the people who work inside them."

"Blogging turns out to be the best way to secure a high Google ranking...nothing will boost your search engine standing better...neither a press release nor a full page ad in the New York Times will boost your search engine rankings as much as a regularly updated blog."

"While WOM has always been the most credible way to expand awareness and adoption, blogging fits into all this as the most powerful WOM delivery mechanism to date."

"The blogosphere is a better place to market your reputation than sell your goods, and in the end that will prove more valuable."

"Because blogs help organizations get closer to customers and customers closer to brands, blogs are a powerful tool that few can afford to ignore."

"Good word of mouth in the blogosphere leads to coverage in the offline media."

"Authenticity is the core value that makes blogging such a new and different way for businesses to communicate. If authenticity is the defining feature of blogging, then credibility is its benefit."


* * * *

This book is simply brilliant. In fact, it's so brilliant that I'm blogging for the SECOND time today, just to tell you guys about it. And I believe it will soon be looked upon as the bible of blogging. Therefore, if you have a blog and haven't read it yet, go buy it now!

Thanks, Robert and Shel. You guys certainly understand professional approachability. Oh, and nice touch with the naked booksigning.

(By the way Robert/Shel, I chose NOT to correct that typo in the beginning of this post...just for you ;)

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

Why are you reading this? Go buy the damn book!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

After 1944 days, stories like these still make wearing a nametag 24-7 worthwhile

For over five years now, I've kept a rather obsessive compulsive journal of every nametag-related encounter that's happened to me.

From "Hey Scott!" to "Do you have a memory problem?" to "Dude, what's the deal with the nametag?" all stories are accounted for.

Now, while not every anecdote can be hilarious or life-changing (people still think they're the first ones to EVER say "Your name must be Scott") sometimes I get a new one I've never heard before. That's why for today's post, I thought I'd share a handful of my favorite new encounters from the past few months.

January 1st, 2006
After attending a black tie wedding for the first half of New Year's Eve, I spent the rest of the evening (and morning) at a friend's house in Cleveland.

Now, because I'd already rented a tuxedo for the event, (and how often do you get to wear a tuxedo?) I just decided to leave it on all night.

Then I slept in it. Which was REAL comfortable.

I returned to the Cleveland Marriot on New Year's Morning looking like someone who'd just slept in his rented tuxedo on a friend's couch. As I walked through the lobby, I wondered what the other guests thought about me.

A crowd of Browns fans stood by the elevator. They had their coffees, jerseys, coolers and all the other tailgaiting paraphenalia for the big game. I approached the group and pressed the button, just waiting for one of them to say something. Which is weird...I can almost feel when someone is going to make a comment about my nametag. Like a sixth sense.

When we stepped into the elevator the man in the orange and brown t-shirt asked, "Long night, Scott?"

Everyone laughed. I didn't. All I wanted was to go back to my hotel room and pass out.

"You have no idea," I mumbled. "Go Browns."

January 30th, 2006
One of the reasons I was excited to spend some quality vacation time in Puerto Vallarta was because it would be the first experience with my new nametag tattoo at the beach/pool.


For the most part, the reactions weren't that different from the normal nametag. Two brothers I met from Cincinnati (who were also heavily inked) simply asked, "Well, you must be Scott, huh?" Obviously. We talked for a while about Skyline Chili, Miami, the Bearcats and the like. Then for the rest of the week, we always chatted whenever we passed each other. I learned they were fireman. Nice guys.

Later in the week, a group of thirtysomethings sitting next to me by the pool approached me. One of the women, who had the most unbelievable six pack I've ever seen, looked at my tattoo and asked, "Hey Scott, you wanna play volleyball?"

Yes. Yes I do.

We played for two hours! It was a blast. I learned they were Canadian snow mobile salesman. And they turned out to be about the nicest people I've ever met. Man, I love Canadians. Never met one that I didn't like.

February 14th, 2006
During my Valentine's Day/Birthday Dinner at the most romantic restaurant in St. Louis, a group of middle school girls walked past our table.




Once again, I could feel their comment coming from a mile away.

"Hey Scott!" one of them yelled.

"Hello!"

They all giggled.

"That's a great name!" she said.

"Yes it is," I replied as my date and I grinned.

"Dude! My brother's name is Scott. Well, he actually spells it with one T. I think it's because we're German or something. But he's cool. Probably because his name is Scott," she squeaked.

"Awesome! Sounds like he's keepin' it real. Tell Scott I like him already," I said.

"Ok! Peace out, Scott!"

February 15th, 2006
En route to Columbus to speak at the Ohio 411 Workforce Conference. I checked my bags with the Skycap.

Did you know American Airlines now charges a $2 per bag Skycap Fee? Hmmph!

Anyway, the man in the snow hat said, "Mornin' Scott. How you doin sir?"

"Pretty good. How about yourself?"

"I'm all right; the world's all wrong."

Nice.

February 18th, 2006
Just got back from Columbus a day late, thanks to that ridiculous snow storm.

I was riding back to the Parking Spot on a totally packed shuttle.

One seat remained to my left as the last customer hopped onto the bus.

"Scott, can I sit next to you?" the man asked.

"Sure!"

Everyone on the bus laughed, which was a good thing since most of us had experienced delays and layovers and probably hadn't smiled in the last 36 hours. The man next to me looked around at the other passengers and said, "What? Scott's the only person I know on this bus!"

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

What's your most memorable "random encounter" of 2006?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Friday, February 17, 2006

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Website More Approachable

Fantastic post from Google Blogoscoped, covering Google, the search engine world, online research, and other related (and unrelated) topics. It's run by Philipp Lenssen and the basis for many stories are news tips sent via email or posted in the forum.

Phillip finally connected after a few weeks. After reading The Power of Approachability, he posted about adopting the principles from the book to websites. It's pretty cool.

After reading Phillip's thoughts, I was inspired. So I decided to post my own list. David Letterman, eat your heart out...

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Website More Approachable

1) Put every piece of contact info possible: name, addy, cell, IM, everything. Customers need to talk to THE guy. They love a real voice.

2) Accept comments, good and bad on blogs, boards etc. Approachability is about transparency, and you need to show that you are open to critcism, and accept it gracefully. Don't be afraid to post a blog comment that says, "Oh shit, you're right. My bad."

3) THE ONE THING – when people come to your site, they have to think "OK, what's the one thing they want me to do?" Make it clear, big, bold, etc. Too many sites have SO much stuff that people get intimidated and walk away. Not very approachable.

4) Easy, memorable URL. And do a redirect to your blog. Nobody remembers www.hellomynameisscott.blogspot.com, but everyone remembers www.hellomynameisblog.com. Think about it.

5) Have pictures, personal stories, anything that tells the customers who YOU are. Approachability is underscored by self-disclosure, and if you want to "know your customers" you need to be proactive and let them "know about your first," then they'll reciprocate.

6) Speaking of customers, forget about customers. Customers, schmustomers. The most important rule of marketing is TO CREATE FANS. Make sure your site makes people say, "I love your stuff." Then find a way to bring them back and stay in front of them. I have the "number of days worn a nametag" (1934 today) and people come back just to see it. What could you do to make people want to come back and wonder, "Hmmm...let's see what they're up to now..."

7) If you don't have a blog, you're a putz.

8) Make your about page like a "meet Steve" or "who is Steve" and ALWYaS have a pic. People need to connect your website with your face so when they see you walking down the street they can approach you and say, "Steve! Dude, great site!"

9) Don't have one of those stupid forms that says "we'll try to address all entries and get back to you." Forms suck. People hate them. Put your actual email like scotthellomynameisscott.com and tell customers to email YOU if you have a problem. So you get spam, who the heck cares! Like Rick Warren said, "it's not about you."

10) Go to www.websitesthatsuck.com and make sure they look nothing like yours.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

How can businesspeople make their websites more approachable?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Be fearless when asking for help; especially from the Big Shots

Well, since I'm stuck here in Columbus thanks to that no-good ground hog, I just read an article in BusinessWeek this morning called "The Art of Doing It Yourself," which said, "Share your ideas with those who have done it before. You can learn a lot from the experiences of seasoned entrepreneurs, and they are much more approachable than you think."

I couldn't agree more. It reminds me of the first time I emailed Seth Godin out of the blue to commend his brilliant work; then he ended up blogging me. (Eep!)

Anyway, the article also referenced a 2005 piece from BusinessWeek written by Vivek Wadhwa called Ask for Help -- and Offer It. I dug up the archives and found some pretty cool quotes...

"Heads of big outfits are often approachable and willing to assist. Now that I've gained some success, I try to practice the same generosity."

"Some of the most important lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur are things they don't teach you in business school. I've learned to be fearless in approaching a celebrated figure, listen carefully to those who have paved the trails, and mentor others who seek to learn from my experiences."

"In previous columns, I've written about my surprise that movie stars weren't as distant and aloof as they seem. While I knew that successful technology executives were often eager to help and mentor, I never expected that film legends would be approachable or readily share their experiences. Networking, it seems, may be the best way to learn and grow in almost any industry."

This reminds me of a great piece of advice given to me by my friend Todd Brockdorf at my first NSA Convention: "Scott, don't be a Speaker Groupie. Don't be afraid. These Big Shots that get 25,000 per speech are actually pretty cool guys (most of them.) So just go up and say hi."

Thanks T. I never forgot that.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

How do you approach Big Shots?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Thursday, February 16, 2006

First Impressions Get Faster: Scott Ginsberg Featured in Today's Wall Street Journal!

It's 6:00 AM here in Columbus. I'm delivering the closing keynote at the Ohio Workforce 411 Conference in about 6 hours.

Couldn't sleep last night. I was too excited about the article in the the Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Zaslow called "First Impressions Get Faster."



I WAS going to share the link to the article in this blog post, but I couldn't view the online text unless I became a subscriber. Damn it.

So, thanks to the guy in room #1133 (sorry Mr. Shehzad, I'll return your stolen paper as soon as I finish this!) here's a few excerpts from the article which can be found in the Thursday, Feb 16th, 2006 issue; page D4, Personal Journal Section:

"Sure, humans have always made snap judgments. But as our culture swirls faster and faster, first impressions are being indulged at hyper speed..."

"In St. Louis, Scott Ginsberg, 26 years old, is now testing theories about first impressions. For more than 5 years, every day, he has worn a nametag that says, 'HELLO, my name is Scott.' The former marketing student says the nametag allows people to develop a first impression of him in seconds. His goal is to appear friendly and more approachable, and to tap into those instincts of others. Women who mock or ignore him probably aren't right for him, he says. But those who engage in conversation about the nametag learn things about him that lead beyond first impressions."

"'I'll always wear the nametag. It's a lifelong experiment,' vows Mr. Ginsberg, who now gives lectures to corporations on 'approachability.' He's concerned that the first impression window keeps narrowing. 'It's like an asymptotic calculus equation. Will it eventually approach zero?'"


The entire article is great. It's filled with other fascinating, cutting edge research on first impressions. Pick up a copy today and share it with everyone at your office!

Alright, I better get back to room #1133 before Mr. Shazhad wakes up and realizes that some guy wearing a nametag on his pajamas just stole...er, borrowed his copy of the Wall Street Journal. Not a good first impression!

(If you want to see a scanned image of the entire article, click here)

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

Is the first impression window narrowing as our culture accelerates?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The best birthday wish I got yesterday came from...MBNA Elite Rewards?

Just got my new MBNA Elite Rewards Credit Card in the mail. When I called the 800 number to activate my account, I was prompted with the standard recording which requested, "Please enter your account number to expedite your call."

I punched it in and pressed the pound key.

Two seconds later the woman's voice on the recording said, "Thank you...and we would like to wish you a happy birthday! Please hold while we transfer you to the next available representative."

Ha ha! NICE! Very nice! Wow, I've NEVER heard anything like that before!

After I was transfered to the operator and gave him my password, SSN, mother's madien name and the like, he said, "You're all set Mr. Ginsberg. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Actually, yes. I have a question. Does your machine automatically recognize customers' date of birth when they enter in their account number, then play the 'Happy Birthday Greeting' if they happen to call on the right day?"

"Oh, did you get that message?"

"Yeah! It was great!"

"Really? Huh. Well, as a matter of fact, MBNA was supposed to have removed that feature from their phone system last year. They didn't want to risk offending anyone who didn't celebrate a birthday."

"Wait, what? Don't celebrate birthdays?" I wondered. "Is that like a cultural or religious thing?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure which one it is," Michael continued, "but we removed the greeting so we could protect our company AND our customers."

"Right...sure, sure...I respect that," I said. And as we were talking, I ran a quick search on Google and found a interesting article on about.com that gave me the answer I to this intruiging question.

"Check it out," I said. "It looks like Jehova's Witnesses choose not to celebrate birthdays or holidays. Huh. I never knew that."

"Yep. That's the one," he said.

"Cool. Well anyway Michael, I still gotta tell you: that recording MADE MY DAY. Seriously. I'm going to blog about it tomorrow! (I'm such a geek.) And when I give a speech to 600 people in Columbus in two days, I'm going to tell this story to every one of them!"

"Cool! Thanks. It's our pleasure Mr. Ginsberg. And welcome to MBNA."

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

What was the most memorable (phone) experience you ever had with a company?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Leave it to my mother to make Valentine's Day more approachable

God bless my mom. She loves to go all out for Valentine's Day, mainly because it also happens to be my birthday.

(Yeah, I know. Insert corny joke here.)


During our Sunday night hoo-rah, she made it a point to include all invitees in a game called Conversation Cards. According to the rules:

"The object is to give people an opportunity to learn more about their friends, spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends. It's the chance to really stop and focus on the person you're playing with; to learn, listen, talk and explore the unique history of the people you care about."

The questions were great. The first one, "What superpower would you want to have?" was reminiscent of my free ebook Let Me Ask Ya This...55 Great Questions to Ask Someone You Just Met. My mom revealed that her secret super power desire would be X-ray Vision. Personally, I went with "The Ability to Press The Fast Forward Button On Life."

We also came across this question, which I thought was hilarious. I won't say my answer because I don't want to offend anyone reading this blog who happens to be named "Apple."

But anyway, today is Valentine's Day. The "one day of the year" when we're supposed to shower the people we love with love (thanks, JT.) And while I don't want to get started on a big Valentine's Day rant, let me just wrap things up with one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received: no holiday comes once a year.

That's right. Every day should be Valentine's Day.

Because whether or not Hallmark or Olive Garden or Godiva or your spouse says so, you should shower the people you love with love every day. Not just February 14th.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...

How do you feel about Valentine's Day?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

Monday, February 13, 2006

If you're a service provider who's even thinking about writing a book, read this first!

I've been writing a regular column for RainToday.com for several months now. If you haven't heard of these guys already, here's what they're all about. RainToday.com is the premier online source for insight, advice, and tools for service business rainmakers, marketers, and leaders. Based in Framingham, Massachusetts, RainToday.com's core offerings include:

  • Free articles by well-respected marketing, sales, and service business experts on core topics in selling and marketing professional services
  • Case studies on what's worked in marketing and selling professional services
  • Interviews with world renowned services marketers, rainmakers, and firm leaders
  • Premium content, products and tools designed specifically for helping service providers to grow their firms

    The RainToday philosophy is "Service providers have much to learn from each other, no matter your particular area of expertise or professional practice. In key areas that matter to all our clients -- such as demonstrating tangible value from intangible work, establishing and maintaining high levels of trust, or partnering for the long term -- we are more alike than we are different."

    Most importantly, RainToday just released an awesome overflowing-with-content-numbers-graphs-and-quotations book full of cutting edge, mind-blowing-research on the publishing industry. It's called The Business Impact Of Writing A Book: Data, Analysis, And Advice From Professional Service Providers Who Have Done It.

    I read the entire book cover-to-cover as soon as my editor sent it out. (My phone interview took about an hour, from which a handful of quotations are included in the text.) And out of all the 70+ pages, here's what I found to be most fascinating:

    "Survey respondents claim that the average DIRECT revenue (money from book sales) from getting published was $210,728; while the average INDIRECT revenue (money from consulting, speaking and related services) was $1,194,082."

    In which case, let me just say this: if you are a service provider and you are a) thinking about writing a book, b) have always wanted to write a book, or c) are presently working on a book, go to RainToday.com right now and buy this guide. It will simultaneously exhilarate AND scare the hell out of you. Which is exactly what you need. Because writing a book is the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life. But it'll be worth it the next time you're sitting on an airplane beside a potential customer to whom you can say, "Oh, here! Enjoy a copy of my new book!"

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    How has writing a book changed your business?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com
  • Friday, February 10, 2006

    I think People Watching should be an Olympic Event

    Scott Adams says, "People are idiots."

    Scott Ginsberg says, "People are fascinating." (Although some of them are idiots too.)

    But today I observed an intriguing example of human behavior at Starbucks. I sat in a corner chair with my Grande Carmel Apple Cider - the perfect drink on a bitterly cold day in St. Louis - and while I journaled and listened to some tunes on my Ipod, I noticed a table of three sitting directly in front of me.

    The man was 40ish, handsome, and dressed in one helluva suit. His tie was perfectly creased. His shoes glistened in the track lighting. And his watch looked like it was worth more than my car.

    The two women were in their mid to late 30's, casual dressed in jeans and looked much more blue-collar than their corporate counterpart. They looked tired. Frustrated. And not particularly enthusiastic to be there.

    Three Grande drinks sat on the table. No books, no papers. Just the man's Blackberry.

    And here's the interesting part: because I was rockin' out to my favorite journaling album at full blast, I couldn't hear what they were saying. My observations were 100% nonverbal. And I found myself trying to analyze, figure out and imagine who these people were based on their actions.

    What can I say? I'm a people watcher. This is the kind of stuff we do!

    Anyway, here's what I saw. Try to imagine the scene and draw your own conclusions:

  • Friday. Noonish. The Starbucks is located in the middle of a busy, suburban, business-lunch type area.

  • The man did most of the talking. He leaned forward a lot. His hand gestures were excellent, slightly animated, although not overly distracting. Most of his comments were directed at the older of the two women, who sat closest to him.

  • The women sat there like stones. Their arms, legs and postures rarely changed. They listened attentively. Their hands were clasped together and rested on the table. The younger of the two appeared to be less involved based on her distance from Mr. Nice Watch.

  • Then, this amazed me: the man took 5 incoming cell phone calls during a 20 minute period. The calls were short. He looked at the women while he chatted. Almost as if the phone calls had a bearing on their conversation.

  • A few minutes later, the man put his hands on his mouth and touched his nose. Which reminded me of an article I just read called When Negotiating, Look for Nonverbal Cues.

  • At one point during a song change on my Ipod, I heard a few snippets of their conversation. Without starring or prying, I heard the man say, "If you would've called ME, you never would have lost that money!" Then he leaned back in his chair. One woman laughed while the other crossed her arms for the next five minutes.

    Unfortunately at that time, I had to go. My drink was empty. And I almost wanted to stay and listen, but I didn't want to keep my friend waiting. Still, I wondered who these people were...

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    What's your hypothesis? What do such nonverbal cues tell us about people?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com
  • Thursday, February 09, 2006

    5 Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist

    Some people are just GREAT conversationalists. Period. They can talk to anybody, anytime, anywhere about any topic. And maybe it's because they're funny, interesting, outgoing, brilliant, up with the news, ask great questions, listen attentively and the like.



    But effective, engaging conversation also stems from preparation.

    Last week I attended a seminar hosted by my friend Dale Furtwengler. One of his key points was called "Get An Eclectic Education." Good point. I firmly believe in this idea. Because if you read, experience and expose yourself to stuff you wouldn't normally take an interest in, you will more easily be able to take an interest in other people when they talk about that stuff. Especially customers.

    So Dale got me thinking: What prepratory steps can people take to become a more engaging conversationalist? Here are five of them...

    Do the Magazine Dance
    Spend an hour a month at Borders reading different magazines. Check out a few titles you wouldn't normally grab. If you're a man, read Comso. If you're a woman, read Maxim. If you're in your 50's, read Seventeen. If you're 17, read Parenting. Then, when you meet someone with whom you have nothing in common, it'll be far easier to relate to him since you've read his language.

    Go Where You Don't Fit In
    About two months ago I went to a bar called The Creepy Crawl to support a friend of a friend's death metal band. Now, I'm not exactly the death metal type. In fact, when I walked into the bar and saw 40 teenagers wearing nothing but black who had more piercings and tattoos than a federal prison, I wanted to turn around and run back to my car and immediately pop in a David Gray CD.

    But I was glad I stayed. Because during the show I learned a lot about a) the death metal culture, b) teenage behavior in public, and c) My Space. For example, when all three of the bands finished their sets, the lead singer would say, "Thanks a lot...check us out on My Space." Huh. Interesting. Guess My Space isn't just for making friends, I thought. But what's even more interesting is how many times the subject of using My Space for music promotion has come up in my conversations since then.

    Wander This World
    Every time I give a speech in a city outside of St. Louis, I always make it a point to see the area. Whether it's a run in the city park, a walk along the Rio Grande, or an aimless wander around a small town, it's an opportunity to observe a new culture. Sure, I could easily stay in my hotel room and check my email or buy a movie, but I'd rather experience a new city so next time I meet someone from that city, we can have an egaging conversation about it.

    Next time you make your way out of town, spend 20-30 minutes soaking yourself in that city's culture. The experience will be stored in your conversational hard drive and become perfect material for your next encounter with a customer, friend or stranger.

    Read The Best
    Alan Weiss addressed the topic of engaging conversation during a NSA convention a few years back. His advice: "If you read 5 fiction best sellers and 5 non-fiction best sellers a year, you'll be able to have an intelligent conversation with anybody."

    Enough said.

    God Bless The Internet
    Within 10 minutes, anybody can increase their conversational ability by clicking through a few websites. Here's a great tip: create a list of your favorite websites/blogs that are updated frequently. At your lunch break, before you go to work, or even when you have time between meetings, scroll through and see what's going on. That's one of the great advantages of having a blogroll. Here's mine:

  • Brand Autopsy
  • Better Communication
  • Business Growth Blog
  • Chris Ray
  • Church of the Customer
  • Don the IDEA Guy
  • Dutch Driver
  • Lipsticking
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    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    What else can people do to become better conversationalists?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com
  • Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    And now for our word of the day: ubiquitous

    Great word: ubiquitous.

    It means "existing or being everywhere at the same time, constantly encountered or widespread."

    Some synonyms include: everywhere, pervasive, far-reaching, copious, continual, everyday, familiar, persistent and recurring.

    Why do I bring this up? Well, first of all, it's a fun word to say. In fact, try it right now. Really quick - say it out loud: ubiquitous. Just do it. Don't worry about the guy sitting next to you.

    Ubiquitous.

    Ok anyway, back on track. The word ubiquitous first struck me when I lived in Portland, Oregon. Home of the Trailblazers, the best salmon rolls ever, and of course, more Starbucks than any city in the world. Seriously, there was a Starbucks three blocks north of my apartment and two blocks west of my apartment. It was like that classic Onion article, New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks.

    But all kidding aside, the lesson is simple: you've gotta be everywhere. And while I was reading Seth's new ebook this morning, I thought about how valuable the word ubiquitous is to businesspeople, entrepreneurs, marketers, authors, or pretty much anyone who has an idea for which they hope to create and maintain fans. And insofar as you are ubiquitous, you increase your visibility and brand recognition. Not to mention your credibility, since customers only give you credit for that which they see you doing consistently.

    So, ask yourself these questions: are you ubiquitous? is your company ubiquitous? and are you taking advantage of blogs, newsletters, search engines, podcasts, article databases, Squidoo, social networking sites and the like in order to BE ubiquitous?

    I hope so! Because when you ARE ubiquitous, you'll start to hear your customers, fans and friends say those three magical words: "Wow, you're everywhere!"

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    What are the top three things YOU do to be ubiquitous?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Accessible = Approachable = $$$

    “Gee, you guys are tough to get a hold of…”
    “I finally tracked you down!”
    “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for weeks.”

    This is not good.

    When your answer the phone and hear one of these comments, it means that your caller, potential customer, raving fan or transient website visitor who would just LOVE to talk to you, who FINALLY got a hold of you for first time, is already annoyed. He’s already thinking, Damn it...maybe this company isn’t worth it anyway.

    And you haven’t even started the conversation yet.

    Nice.

    Think back. Have you ever sought help from a person or a company, scoured their website for a few minutes, only to frustratingly discover NO contact information other than one of those cryptic, impersonal, we-promise-to-get-back-to-you-soon forms?

    What a pain in the arse.

    But let’s turn the tables for a sec. Have you ever needed to talk to someone - like, NOW - easily found a phone number on their website and instantly heard a REAL PERSON’S VOICE within five seconds?

    Apparently, customers love this. Which sounds kind of obvious, right? Customers love talking to a real person? Duh!

    But here's the thing. Over the past few years I’ve received a lot of random phone calls, either on my cell or on my office line, from people around the country who wanted to buy books, set up speaking programs, or even just shoot the breeze. And often times, this is what the conversation sounded like:

    “HELLO, my name is Scott!”

    “Oh, uh...Scott?”

    “Yeah...?”

    “Wow, I-I didn’t expect you to actually answer the phone.”

    “Really? Why not?”

    “Um, I don’t know...I guess most people are just tough to get a hold of. But this is great! I’m so glad we’re talking! Anyway, my name is Karen. The reason I called is because I’m the Program Coordinator for my company’s annual conference, and we’re looking for a speaker to kick off the...”

    Nice.

    Still, I'm blown back every time I hear a remark like that because it just seems smart to be easy to get a hold of. And I'm surprised more people don't embrace that idea.

    Now, maybe that's just my style. Maybe that's my generation. Or maybe that's because I run a one man operation there's nobody else here to answer the phones!

    But even Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, author of the book Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, posted about this very idea last year:

    “Make it easy to get a hold of you - especially if you ever want something nice to happen to you. I've been trying to get a hold of bloggers lately to do various things with them (and even hire some of them) and often it's hard to find a way to contact the blogger. But you never know who wants to get a hold of you. How they'll change your business. How they'll change your career.”

    Amen to that.

    And I know: putting your anonymity on the line (no pun intended) has its drawbacks. There’s the possibility of stalkers, crank calls, additional cell phone charges for incoming calls (damn you Sprint!) and of course, people trying to sell you stuff you don’t want.

    But the bottom line is: customers love and want to talk to YOU.

    If that's not approachability, I don't know what is.

    Wanna talk about it? Call my cell: (314)374-3397.

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    How do you make yourself (and your company) accessible to customers?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    What's in a name? Sometimes nothing...

    After watching yesterday's Superbowl and its entertaining commercials (way to go Big Ben!) it's fascinating to think about companies who spend millions of dollars creating a catchy, memorable new name for their hot new item...and compare it with businesses whose brand success comes from, ironically, having no name at all.

    I remember studying this topic in one of my marketing classes at Miami of Ohio. Actually, I think Roethlisberger's desk was next to mine, although I don't remember seeing him in class very often. Hey, I wouldn't have gone to class either!

    Still, quite a few examples of this trend pop up:

  • Puerto Vallarta's Nameless Cafe
  • Hardcore punk band No Use for a Name
  • Harvard Square's The Nameless Coffee House
  • Anime favorite The Page with No Name
  • And although it's a stretch, I always chuckled when I passed I-70's The Nameless Creek outside of Indy

    There's a marketing term out there for this trend, but I'm not sure what it's called. Generically eponymous? Anti-genre? Ironic? Inverted?

    Who knows. But in the rare instances that it's used, it seems to work in terms of memorability and humor. Although, you have to wonder how many times names like these can be used before, ironically, the anti-genre become a genre in itself.

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    What's your favorite "no name" product or company?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com
  • Friday, February 03, 2006

    This might be the coolest thing I've ever seen a website do

    Sean Murphy, aka "The T-Shirt Guy" and Customer Relationship Development Director at CustomInk.com GETS it. We became friends a few weeks ago during The Dana Carvey Incident.

    Go to his site. And you, just like me, will be instantly magnetized to this bar on the right side of the page. When I first saw it I thought to myself, that's the most brilliant thing I've ever seen.

    It's honest. Open. Approachable. Transparent. Credible. And the thing is, customers rarely (if ever) see online retailers doing stuff like this.

    Why not?

    Because they're scared? Because they don't care? Who knows. So I asked Sean about his Instantly Updated, Always Uncensored Customer Satisfaction Bar, and here's what he had to say:

    "After our customers receive their order, they are asked to complete a survey which includes a question asking them to give us feedback that they'd like to share with others. I've never seen other websites do it the way we do it. It's continuously updated and completely uncensored -- typos and all!"

    "Our uncensored customer reviews are very much like an introduction to someone by your friend. If there is a person you want to meet at a social gathering, it's more comfortable for most of us to be introduced to them rather than walking up to them cold. Or another way to look at it, is that our uncensored customer reviews are like the conversations you hear when you walk into a neighborhood store."

    "At my neighborhood dry cleaners, for example, as I walk in I hear a customer thanking the owner for their great service and quick turnaround while another may be upset about a stain they weren't able to get out. It's difficult to recreate this very natural, and in my opinion comforting, experience in the online shopping world, but our uncensored customer reviews come close."

    "New visitors to CustomInk.com see the comments, both the good and the bad ones, that were posted moments before they visited the site -- just as if they'd walked into their neighborhood store. Of course, 99% of what our customers say about us is positive but the public nature of this feedback motivates us to aim for 100%."

    "I wouldn't call it a marketing tool, but in my personal life, honesty and transparency are two essential factors in my relationships with both people and companies. I guess it all comes back to the golden rule, treat others as you would want to be treated."


    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    How does your website maintain transparency and honesty?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    How do you say 'approachable' in Spanish?

    She wore a long, black cape and a colorful hat. Stunning. Beautiful. Sexy. And on the back of her garb read the word Viva!

    I smiled and she smiled back. Then she gracefully danced away. Two seconds later, I saw another one. Then another! Then another! And out of nowhere, four identical women banded together in formation and walked down the main street of downtown Puerto Vallarta like a gang of Femme Fatales looking for their next victim.

    Wow. When I die, that's the way I wanna go.

    "So, what do you think Viva is?" my dad asked as we stopped in the middle of the street to gaze.

    "I don't know. But I intend to find out," I said.

    About 15 minutes later, my family and I found ourselves in front of the following store:

    Hmmm...Viva! I wonder if this is where that gang of girls came from. Better go inside and inquire.

    I located a manager in the store and asked about the women. He put his hand on my shoulder, nodded like a proud father and flashed one of those Oh, so you don't know? kind of smiles. And like Antonio Banderas himself, Marco said:

    "They are 'The Viva Divas.' It's like a...how-you-say, 'advertisement'? Si. The women promote the store by walking into restaurants around town. Everyone notices them. They are beautiful. And they pass out little cards with pictures of our items. Kind of like a movie when you see the ah...how-you-say, 'preview'? Ah, yes. It makes the customers want to learn more."

    I thanked Marco for the info as we exited Viva. My parents, brother and I walked down the streets of Puerto Vallarta as our vacation continued. I carefully watched every person pass by, hoping to catch another glimpse of a Viva Diva.

    Pero nada.

    However, on the floor of the restaraunt we ate dinner at, I noticed a small card. When I reached over to pick it up, it read:

    Dear Visitor and Resident:

    We have a small gift for you, no strings attached. (We are not selling time share.) We truly believe well designed jewelry does not have to cost a fortune. Drop into Viva this week and bring this card with you. Our packable hats will protect you from the sun. Our French ballet flat and espadrilles will make you want to skip and dance. And our jewelry will make you swoon.

    Sincerely,

    Viva!


    When I returned to the states I discovered that Viva has won awards for Best of Puerto Vallarta Shopping and Best Local Marketer, among other accolades. In which case, I think the answer to my original question: How do you say 'approachable' in Spanish?

    Viva!

    LET ME ASK YA THIS...

    Which stores do you find approachable?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
    www.hellomynameisscott.com