Saturday, September 29, 2007

Better Tchotchkes For Airport

Columnist L. A. Chung is 100% correct -- San Jose's airport needs better local tchotchkes!

The Mercury News writer filed a wonderful piece alerting us that the airport is asking for "proposals to provide Mineta San Jose International Airport's new North concourse with the best mix of restaurants and retail outlets...."

What do airport visitors want? Really good, really relevant Silicon Valley Tchotchkes!

So here's your chance. Be inspired by Chung's vision and have your say NOW because when the new terminal opens in 2010, it's too late.

Says Chung, "For all of you who are sick of little Victorian-house refrigerator magnets in the airport gift stores, or dopey mugs depicting outmoded desktop computers, either shut up, or speak up. Hold the airport's feet to the fire."

Chung didn't detail how - but here are some ways to let your voice be heard: the Airport Commission is an advisory body to the San Jose City Council, so email your council member. Here is the webpage with airport contacts/information for retail and food vendors. Here's the email for community input about the airport in general.

Culture Hard-Wires Your Brain and A Look at Generational Recruiting

Some notes on interesting blog pick-ups:

Matthew Busse, a PhD researcher turned science writer, has an ecclectic blog titled Musings on Science that has nothing to do with local, but is filled with science-made-understandable entries. A recent post talked about an article in Scientific American Mind, The Hidden Power of Culture, in which "A study done at the University of Illinois suggests that the culture you grow up in affects the way your brain is wired. It’s not just behavior that culture influences, but also the way your brain processes information." Cool stuff.

Another interesting pick up comes from Job Search Marketing the always entertaining blog about recruitment issues by Matt Martone, in his coverage of the recent OnRec (that's Online Recruiting) Conference. He points to a series of reports Deloitte makes available about generational issues in recruiting. He also gives a good overview of the conference and issues surrounding online recruitment.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Being Honored by Association of Fundraising Professionals

Steady readers will know I'm a huge believer in community service - I feel it's crucial for every business and individual to support local non-profits. Earlier posts, including one from earlier in the year, give my perspective.

Anyway, I try to practice what I preach so I volunteer with a few local groups. One of the causes nearest to my heart is a yearly fundraising commitment I make to my local YMCA - each February we raise money to provide scholarships to Y camps and programs for kids who can't afford them. I'll pitch more about that next February.

The punchline is that the Y nominated me this year to receive an award from the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and I was selected as a Distinguished Volunteer Fundraiser. There's a luncheon (where serious philanthropists and other volunteers are honored) and a little blurb in a local magazine.

The recognition is nice, but of course the work is the real honor. I know a lot of local business people are involved in causes, and would always like to hear about space in this blog is available.

Community service is a value I learned while working at the Houston Chronicle. Execs Richard J. V. Johnson, Jack Sweeney, Joycelyn Marek, and Lainie Gordon, among others at the HC, were incredible role models. As a company, the Chronicle is deeply committed to the community and it is a lesson I will always treasure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

DEMOfall07 includes innovation for small business

I'm at DEMOfall 07 - the launchpad for emerging technologies - and much to my delight there are several companies here that have products of interest to small and local businesses.

The first one isn't one of the 70 chosen companies that are here to showcase new technology - it's a reporter covering the event. But I talked with him and I think his content would be of great interest to a local or new business...a lot of it is the high tech start up kind of entrepreneurship, but not everything. His name is Gregory Galant, of Venture Voice, a podcast that features entrepreneurship. Check it out at

CashView ( is a solution that lets you focus on your core business by simplifying the way small businesses manage bills, invoices, payments, contracts and other important financial documents. It's simple, painless, fast, and works with Quick Books 2005 and higher. I love anything financial that doesn't make me wish I had a CPA on speed dial.

Myxer lets anyone create a mobile storefront in minutes (really, it's that simple) AND it works on any mobile phone or device. If you've been thinking about how to use mobile to keep in touch with your customers, this one is a no-brainer.

As a further foray into small business, an enterprising group of PR folks here (led by the entertaining Jo Lee of Green Machine Public Relations), put together a statement on behalf of several companies launching at DEMO that establish the ideal criteria for small business tools: affordable, easy-to-use and customizable. The companies that meet these criteria and co-signed their commitment to the criteria in their small business offerings are: BatchBlue Software's Batch Book, FastCall411, Advanta's IdeaBlob, InstaCall's Live Documents, Vello, PlanHQ, and Tungle Corp.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Amazon Contest for Entrepreneurs and Start Ups

Attention: Start-Ups and Entrepreneurs - here's your chance to win money, services and possibly investment funds.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is searching for the next hot start-up that is leveraging AWS to build its infrastructure and business.

If you have a great idea or an existing application that uses services from AWS check out the AWS Start-Up Challenge to win $100,000 in cash and AWS credits, and receive an investment offer from Amazon.

I know this isn't strictly local, but from the email I receive, I know there are a lot of start-ups in the local space that read Get Real Marketing, so I pass this along for your info. Deadline is October 28, 2007. If you know any developers, entrepreneurs, or start-ups pass the word.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Marchex provides basics of online local advertising

There are lots of optimistic reports about local online advertising, and plenty of opinion pieces about what will work (or should work, or ought to work) but I was taken with a new report from Marchex.

Rather than tackle new information, Marchex fills the need for a compilation of basic information in their primer on local advertising: Unlocking the Potential of the Local Internet.

The primer pulls together available data ("The combination of growing consumer usage and capital investment has led analysts to estimate that annual growth rates for local paid search over the next four years will be as high as 42.8% and 15% for the entire local Internet ad market"), defines the types of destinations available (search engines, IYP/directories, local guide, online newspaper, local niche sites), and examines some of the issues facing online advertising as a media category (overcoming fragmentation, evolving functionality, etc).

The report is a good read for local retailers/businesses that want a quick course on local search advertising. It's also a good read if you want a better picture of challenges facing the online media that compete in this space.

So if you've been dangling your feet in the waters of online advertising - but wishing you had a better overview - Marchex has heard your pain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Want Business? Answer Your Phone.

Duh. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a calling test done by FastCall411 last April showed that 64 percent of businesses called to determine if they were available to help a customer immediately -- weren't!

It's not quite as bad as it's not that all those businesses didn't answer their phones or refused the call or had busy signals (though that was the case for many). The calls were made to businesses in the standard business directory database from which online directories get their listings - and (as anyone who has used online local search knows) - that database gets dated fast.
How fast? "To do a local search is no trivial task, because every day 80,000 companies go into, or out of, business and disappear or appear in the database and have to be adjusted for. "
(Source: Mike McCue's "Vision for the Convergence of the Phone and the Web")

So combine this information with a new survey just released by FastCall411 (full disclosure: I work with this company) that "8 out of 10 Americans have little patience for merchants who don’t answer the phone – especially after repeated attempts to make contact. And when it comes to the key demographic for buying most home and professional services -- adults 35-44 -- that figure rises to nearly 88 percent."

Pretty much, this is a major disconnect between the information available and what the consumer really wants. It's why we settle for large firms that tell us they'll get to our house "next week one day between 9 and 4" - and why we complain bitterly about disintegrating customer service.

FastCall411 is launching at DEMOfall2007, so in the future, I'll be able to write more about how this all fits together, and how the company is designed to connect consumers with local businesses that are ready and available to provide services.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Read/WriteWeb give us "10 Future Web Trends"

So it's not local - my blog, my choice. I just love this post about 10 Future Web Trends, written by Richard MacManus in Read/WriteWeb.

"We're well into the current era of the Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0. Features of this phase of the Web include search, social networks, online media (music, video, etc), content aggregation and syndication (RSS), mashups (APIs), and much more. Currently the Web is still mostly accessed via a PC, but we're starting to see more Web excitement from mobile devices (e.g. iPhone) and television sets (e.g. XBox Live 360).

"What then can we expect from the next 10 or so years on the Web?"

Well, there will be plenty we can't predict, but here are 10 things that look pretty good, and they include the attention economy, artificial intelligence, semantic web and...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

eMarketer: The promise is greater than the reality in local online advertising

There's an old joke about stockbrokers: "in every transaction, the broker makes money, the brokerage firm makes money, and hey, if the customer loses money, well, two out of three still isn't bad."

That's what I thought of when I saw eMarketer has a new report about local online advertising, titled The Local Online Advertising Report.

It projects that "local online advertising spending in the US will reach $2.9 billion in 2007, only 13.4% of the total Internet market. But as portal giants Yahoo! and Google and major newspaper chains make deals to sell advertising and share content, the sector is set to become a significant growth area for the maturing Internet ad space."

The report then says, "The promise of local online advertising, at this stage, is greater than the reality."

As I see it, this is a double-edged statement. While the context refers to how much money is in the local market to be had by local ad is also true that the promise is greater than the results for most local businesses.

Yes, I know all the examples of local businesses with successful online stories. But what makes these stories notable is that they are still the exception rather than the rule. Online advertising is still time-intensive for local merchants. It works spotty: some categories do well with pay-per-call, others don't. Some categories do well with web sites and e-commerce. Others don't. Some have nurtured review sites and reputation management on the web to develop new business. And so on and so forth.

Local online advertising is a big catch phrase for a lot of online opportunities. So far, there are too many online networks designed by folks too far out of the trenches of the small, local business.

eMarketer concludes that, "several factors are set to accelerate growth of the market: the wealth of small and mid-size companies potentially available as online advertisers, the increased use of local Internet sites and services by individuals, such as local search, and the development of local online ad networks connected with local media, such as newspapers. "

This is certainly titillating to the thousands of entrepreneurs who want to start a company that depends on local ad dollars, but for the thinly-stretched small business owner, it's a target painted on their backs.