Past Practice

As I’m slowly downsizing 45 years of life, one large task has been sorting and digitizing the large collection of Kinko’s pictures I’ve amassed through moves, turnarounds and store transitions. Thankfully, Kris has been a huge help!

Unfortunately, any pictures I had of the first store I worked at (Urbana IL) have vanished into the ether, but here are some images from the first store I managed, the Burlington VT location. These images are from 1985 – 1988 and show the original 2 story location and the flashy new digs we moved into:

Tools & Tracking

Neat tools and sites I’ve run across this past week:

MagCloud: Create and publish your own magazine. You can pull from public RSS feeds, news items or publish original content. Intriguing way to improve output options for HP’s print division, too!
Newsmap: All the news before it becomes fish-wrap. Interesting, visual way to display news headlines and stories. Great place to study headlines that get clicks if you’re looking to improve post titles or general headlines.
Spezify: Visual search engine that pulls videos, pictures and text to form a visual map of a keyword. Fun to play with, quickly overwhelming.
Trendistic: yes, you guessed it – visualization of hot twitter terms. Good potential to become a viral hit due to the ability to embed queries.
Optimizely: Easier A/B split testing. Currently in private beta, but anything that makes A/B split testing easier online is worth reviewing. Nice overview video.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll cover it in a future post.

Disclaimer: I have no financial or personal engagement with these companies.

How Copiers Work

I wish I’d had this simple explanation back when I was teaching new coworkers at Kinko’s:

Still useful even today. Color copiers use a similar process, but thankfully I won’t have to watch him cut one of those open!

via BoingBoing

Are You Listening?

image of an uprooted tree, mossy trunk and greenery surrounding it.
image of an uprooted tree, mossy trunk and greenery surrounding it.
image by spratmackrel via Flickr

Online, people are likely to talk about you, your business or your brand. If you aren’t listening, how do you know when or if to respond?

One easy way to monitor what people are talking about is to set up a listening station. I prefer to use Google’s Reader application for this (you’ll need to create or sign in using your Google account), but you can also use Outlook or Netvibes if you want a tool more like a dashboard.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a web data format used to publish frequently updated works like headlines, blog posts and images (moving or still). Many websites offer data in this format – we’ll be using these feeds to build our listening tool so that Reader (or other) can track these mentions and bring them to our attention.

To discover your first feed, head over to Twitter search and type your organization’s name into the Search box. To the right of the results that pop up, you’ll see an orange icon with text that says Feed for this Query next to it:

Clicking on that link will bring up the option to add this feed. You can either add it to Reader or add it to your Google home page:

You can also copy this url: and manually add it to Reader using the Add a Subscription button in the upper left corner:

google reader Add a Subscription button feature.Just click the button to expand it and paste the feed URL directly into the box.

You may also want to listen for other terms people are using in their messages – for example, if you are a chef and want to hear about people looking for places to eat, you can go back to Twitter and search for the term restaurants or eat ? to find tweets containing “restaurant” or “eat” that ask a question.

You may get a lot of search results for that specific term, but you could also use advanced search to narrow your results by including near: or within: (or both), for example, restaurants or eat or good place near:”Richmond VA” within:15mi would pull up any recommended restaurants within 15 miles of Richmond VA. Surprisingly, there weren’t any when I looked, but that is the value of using a feed – when someone does ask for a recommendation, I can jump in and suggest something.

If I’m listening, that is 😉

Once you’ve got Twitter configured, it’s off to Google Alerts to configure searches for words or phrases we want to listen for. Google Alerts is a free service that scans blogs, videos, discussions and news items for terms you’re interested in.

screenshot of the google alerts configuration toolHere I have asked for any type of alert (video, news, etc) as it happens if it contains the word Envelopes in it. You can preview the potential results:

screenshot of an Alert previewHere I see that the 4th result, PolyPak buying Trinity polymer envelope division is exactly what I’m looking for. I can then either add further terms to envelopes to narrow down the results, or know I am going to get a little static on my listening station. I prefer human editing, so I am not going to further refine this term.

That will bring me to a page to manage my alerts, where I can either grab the feed or add it to Reader directly:

You can use your name, your company name, terms you’re interested in tracking or even competitor’s names if you’d like. Using the term in quotation marks, such as “polymer envelopes” means any item containing both the words polymer and envelopes together will show up. If I wanted to know whenever was used in a discussion or blog post, I could set up an alert for it so that I’d know to pop over and keep up to date on who was talking about me or linking to a post.

Now that you’ve got these two items configured and the feeds added to Reader, you’re ready to go – just remember to check in at least once a day, or else you won’t really be listening!

Quick Response Codes

an image of a QR code that resolves to
an image of a QR code that resolves to
Quick Response Code

Quick Response codes (also called QR or 2D codes) are available in a variety of flavors but their mechanism and use cases are quite similar.

If you see one and have a web enabled mobile device, a photograph of the QR code with your camera will unlock the information encoded within.

That might include some of the following content types:

  • YouTube videos;
  • Mobile landing pages;
  • vCards;
  • Contact information; and
  • Coupons or special offers.

Increasingly, print creators are weaving QR codes into magazines, newspapers and direct mail pieces to build additional levels of engagement into their marketing materials.

Heidi Tolliver-Nigro at Digital Nirvana just posted that their review of QR case studies showed a 65-70% engagement with QR codes, even when a computer is physically present. That dovetailed nicely with Steve Rubel’s post yesterday on the rise of mobile computing devices, or, in his words, the end of the world as we know it.

One key takeaway from an excellent, must read piece:

Mobile devices, by their nature, force users to become more mission-oriented. As more internet consumption shifts to gadgets, it’s increasingly becoming an app world and we just live in it. Innovation, fun, simplicity and single-purpose utility will rule while grandiose design and complexity will fall by the wayside.

Increasing simplicity and fun in marketing sounds like a great outcome to me. How is it working in the real world? Mashable recently profiled how the Boston Globe is using SCVNGR to fuel themed promotions throughout the city of Boston.

With lots of great prizes to be had, is it selling more print editions of its paper? The jury is still out on that as the contest runs through September 3, but I suspect the outcome will be carefully watched by nervous publishers.

What is important to note, however, is that technology has advanced enough that these contests require significantly less human labor to create and monitor, and that testing new mechanisms of engagement only enhances the Boston Globe brand.

What could your business or organization gain from these new tools and technology? If you’ve got an innovative use, please share it!

The Wheel Turns

Sunday’s thoughts of born vs made reminds me that we are, all of us, a product not just of our DNA but also those who have shared our lives. I am who I am because many talented people invested in me, both personally and professionally.

I thought of this again today when Tammy reminded me I’d forgotten her 20 year service anniversary with Kinko’s.

Tammy & Paul

Twenty years ago, Tammy walked into the Kinko’s I was managing in Harvard Square and immediately became a key team member. She capably wrangled production on machines we’d laugh at today, all the while helping customers accomplish their dreams. New city, new store, new teams have happened in the interim, but she’s still working to delight customers daily. Congratulations!

Tool Time

I run across a lot of interesting/unique/effective web tools in my line of work, and rather than languish in my bookmarks collection, I’ll probably share these weekly. Unless otherwise noted, I have no financial interest in these companies. Without further ado, here are this week’s list of neat tools I think are worth investigating: a drop dead simple paid electronic newsletter service. If you’re still questioning the value of free content, perhaps you should experiment with a paid newsletter? is a self contained system, just add content.
Loopfuse: Customers are the lifeblood of any endeavor. Loopfuse offers simple marketing automation and lead scoring that puts hot leads into the right hands quickly and easily.
Payvment: Want to test social shopping? Payvment offers a simple shopping cart that seamlessly integrates into your Facebook fan page. Now in free beta, this is a great way to test niche storefronts.
Postling: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Yelp – it’s no wonder small businesses get overwhelmed when getting started with social media. Postling allows you to manage all your social activity from one spot, saving you time and missed connections.

Do you have a useful tool for small or start up businesses that I missed? Tell me about it and I’ll cover it in a future round up.

Born or Made?

There are two schools of thought regarding entrepreneurs – either that you’re born with the traits and qualities to be a successful entrepreneur, or that entrepreneurial skills can be learned. Given the crucial role start up businesses play in our economy, it’s clear nurturing has to be considered a viable method of increased start up businesses, especially for non-traditional entrepreneurs (women, minorities, people with disabilities).

A recent Standford panel discussion on this topic:

Thanks to Steve Blank for the heads up on the video, and to Tim Kane for the latest post about this Kauffman study.

Hot Night, Cool Customers

More pictures from Red White & Brew:

Red White & Brew

From left to right, top to bottom: handcrafted jewelry from Midnight Thunder, Andie & Amanda from Halligans, reggae tunes from Unity Sound, handmade cards and crafts from Dinky Crafts, Turkey burgers from Flynn’s Foods, candles & scents from Chocolate Nectar, grilled gyros and chicken kabobs, market entrance, Sam & Kyndra from Sam’s Sausages and Bill & Lucy Hill from Cherry Hill Ice Cream. To see a larger image, click here – to see the full set of images, click here. Many thanks to all the vendors who allowed me to photograph their wares!

At the Market

Richmond recently re-started their Friday night Red White & Brew farmers’ market. Featuring live music, fresh food and a rotating assortment of Virginia wines and beer, the market is quite the hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

Farmers’ markets offer ideal venues to test new products and receive immediate feedback. Night markets also open a whole new range of opportunities to reach a different segment of consumers who may bypass the early morning markets traditionally available.

If you’re considering a market friendly product or service, you’ll find a wide assortment of venues and opportunities at Local Harvest or at the USDA website. Remember, food production may require area specific certification, so begin narrowing your options several months before hoping to commence food sales.