The Heart of Being a Chef…

Did you see the movie, Ratatouille?Chef's Touch

I am a firm believer that the premise — anyone can cook — is true…   Although I must say, three of my closest friends constantly try to prove me wrong.

Cait’s idea of “cooking” is putting Cheez-Wiz on a Ritz cracker with some salami or “whipping up” Suddenly Salad or whatever that godforsaken pasta-in-a-box-WITHOUT-vegetables concoction is called.

Lynn can cook a little but she is also THE reason why frozen meals have VERY detailed, step-by-step instructions — in other words, to prevent her untimely death, she is the kind of person who reads and closely follows “first, take your nasty, little, shrink-wrapped, chemical dinner out of the box.”

Barbara, er, Cristina,  is one of those people who puts a full pot of water on the stove, sets the heat on low (if she remembers to turn it on at all) and then wonders why it has not boiled an hour later. Needless to say, when someone says “she can hardly boil water” it’s not true. “She can’t boil water. Period.”

Could they all be trained to cook? Yes. Most definitely. Everyone can cook.

Can everyone be a chef? Not. So. Much.

The thing about being a chef versus being a cook is that you’ve got to have passion — and you need to put muscle behind it. Not your biceps but that muscle the size of your fist — called the heart.

Everyone is a chef somewhere in their life. (if you’re like most, it will have nothing to do with cooking but something else that you’re ON FIRE about!) You have something. The company you own or work for has something. We all have that greatness inside of us. (Don’t cue the Kumbaya music quite yet, I haven’t finished.)

Take my dear friend, Lois Geller for instance. She’s unbelievably passionate about marketing — she doesn’t really seem to care what kind of marketing it is — catalogs, solo packages, websites, email, blogs, telemarketing, Facebook — Lois loves it all, just as long as it’s GOOD marketing.

Lois is a Twitter Addict (as in she REALLY needs a support group), corrects every Yiddish word I mispronounce (who can say kvetch as one syllable? I mean really.) and overall, drives me batty (in the best of ways.) She also had a tremendous impact on my career. Not because she owned a chi-chi-la-la agency on Madison Avenue or she wrote a lot of influential books on direct marketing but because she is one of the most creative people to walk the planet. Literally. She and her crackerjack team should be tasked with establishing world peace. They’d probably have it done by Christmas. That’s how good they are.

Lois is one of those people who has been there and done that. I swear, she’s worked at every agency, with every client in every area of the world. She has THE best stories of things she’s done for Weight Watchers, Fairmont, American Express, Apthorp Cleaners, and a bunch of others. Some of the tales are inspirational (like why she moved to Florida) and others are just plain funny — like mistakenly sending a bunch of hard-core sex tips to a bunch of diet magazine subscribers. She has a unique ability to make you laugh — cry — or want to smack her (if you follow her on Twitter.)

Then, you look at her blog — joyofdirectmarketing.com. It’s not that it’s bad — it’s just that it’s not very Lois — and truly not at all joyful.

LoisGellerPageIt’s got a lot of white space and it’s quite vanilla — especially for a woman who gives out prizes (usually trolls) in her speeches. (Yes, I said trolls.)

The header looks like something that could be on any social media consultant’s site — which is not good as Lois Geller is way more than one channel. There is no picture of Lois. No red photo of her as seen on Twitter (over and over). Not a lot to see or do in the first view. A search function that doesn’t really work all that well. A calendar that does God only knows what. Limited navigation…

You get the idea. It’s the blog of a regular cook and NOT a chef, which is extremely unfortunate because Lois is indeed a MASTER chef. (And no, she can’t make anything but reservations when it comes to food either.)

It doesn’t really matter that Lynn, Cait or Barbara aren’t chefs in the traditional sense. Lynn eats things from a box, Cait eats things from a can and Barbara eats things that come in take-out containers from the latest in pretty-place-lousy-food restaurants. None of them are particularly passionate about food (although they all would sell their souls to the devil for a lifetime supply of chocolate) and the fact that they’re not up to date on the latest in molecular gastronomy is what it is… completely ok.

What does matter is that they are all passionate about other things in their lives — just like Lois is passionate about marketing and when they’re talking about those things — the things that are most important to them — they speak like chefs. (Chefs that can’t cook but chefs nonetheless.)

The case of Ms. Geller is a little different however. She’s constantly yapping on Twitter that she doesn’t like her blog and she wants ideas on how to fix it. My advice to her: embrace it like you do your speeches — pig hats and all.

A blog and a website (her website falls into a similar category) that is ALL-LOIS-ALL-DAY — complete with wackadoodle pictures, videos with her sing-song voice, successful case studies, favorite tweets, hopping trolls (ok, maybe not) and all the other things that showcase Lois Geller as the master marketer and creative genius she truly is would be so much better — and make her so much happier — than the frozen pizza site she’s got now.

In what areas of your business are you a chef and how are you portraying it to your users? It’s ok to be Lean Cuisine or Stove Top Stuffing about some things but not others — and definitely not on the important stuff.

Remember, your unique ability to highlight your inner chef is why people come to your site in the first place. You may have the biggest breadth of product line, free customization, incredibly unique merchandise or the best technical support. That’s what you need to promote. The chef in you. (Now you can cue the music — I recommend Carmina Burana as opposed to that religious campfire song however.)

P.S. If you have good examples of companies or people who show their inner chef really well, please add them to the comments, ok?

Tip: For those of you who skip to the bottom of my posts for the “meat”, here’s your tip: If you have an ecommerce site that sells promotional products, the promotional products are all about being a cook. Everyone and their brother has them. Everyone “can sell promotional products.” But if you can imprint them overnight like http://www.rushimprint.com/, that’s where you’re the chef. Your site needs to showcase your inner chef. Not your “anyone can cook” abilities.

Comments

  1. Barbara de la Riva says

    Amy –
    Boiling water sounds easy but it’s important to keep in mind other factors… such as altitude. The higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric pressure. The less atmospheric pressure that bears down on the surface of the liquid, the easier it is for water molecules to escape into the air. Thus, the water comes to a boil at a lower temperature in say the top of the Rockies than it can in sea level Houston. So it’s not that I set the temperatute too low, I just need to move to a higher elevation.

    But seriously, great post. And I could not agree more about Lois-she is a Great Marketing Chef!

    • says

      Barbara, you crack me up. The funny thing I forgot to mention about you is that you have EVERY kitchen gadget known to man AND you watch more cooking shows than anyone I know.

      • says

        Well, the only remark you made that may have touched a nerve with me…and not in a good way…is that anything I do is “vanilla”.

        Imagine my saying you were “vanilla”…when you concoct who TV Productions for your speeches like, “Wheel of Fortune” that year, or the great speech you gave in Scottsdale for the Inc. Magazine convention.

        Or the time you cranked out about 1,387 ideas for your website while you were keynoting at the DMA. People were writing so fast, it was hilarious.

        Oh, and by the way…no one would ever call this Qlog here with its varying shades of pink…vanilla ever!

        Love you, Amy Girl!

  2. says

    Amy, my interpretation of your review of Lois Geller’s blog is that the biggest problem is that it does not come close to representing the “real Lois–the creative genius that she is. Since I am just beginning to get to know Lois, I would welcome more insight (from her blog) into her personality, her humor, and her successes for her clients.
    You’re right that there’s a lot of white space on her blog site. White space can be OK if it serves a purpose or fits the design, but in Lois’ blog, it’s serves a storage for other blog-site elements (and of these, there are too many).
    I think Lois would benefit from making some easy changes and once she does, she’ll see she has plenty of room for those cool things you mentioned that can showcase her personality, style and talent.
    Here’s my list: pull all navigation into one area (either the left sidebar or move to a horizontal menu). Lose the calendar. It serves no signficant purpose. Blogroll and Blogs We Like – I can’t tell how these differ – are the blogroll blogs part of Lois’ marketing biz? Blogs We Like – since these are other people’s work, I’d move them to an exit location rather than place them where people are likely to be looking for your (Lois’) site resources.
    Tag cloud – seems too long to me, but she may not have control over that.
    Archives – I would eliminate this all together. Lois has a search box, so why would anyone ever use a month by month archive? The cloud and search are the ways most people are gong to look for past posts.
    Recent posts and LG’s Marketing Life overlap and are too much alike. Eliminate at least one, if not both of them.
    Make better use of categories (tags) to draw attention or direct readers to related content areas. Continue to use key categories and make that a group of blog posts something you want to drive traffic to.
    What’s missing? A subscribe button, an RSS feed button (she definitely needs the first), an invitation to follow her on Twitter, a link to her Facebook page, a head shot or shot her in action as a speaker or presenter.
    Is the layout of her blog terrible? No, it’s average, but even I know “average” is never a word one would use to describe Lois.
    I happen to like her banner. It’s vibrant and probably reflects her personality. That’s what we’d like to see more of. Now that I’ve critiqued Lois’ blog, I have to go do the same to mine.

    Lois: I wrote this in response to your Twitter post. You’ve got some great real estate available to you on your website–more can be done to put it to work for you!
    -Kelly

    • says

      Kelly — Thank you so much for commenting. It means a lot to me and I know it will mean a lot to Lois too. You definitely had some great suggestions — a couple of which I need to implement on my own QLOG. For example, the search by month archives? You’re right. It’s complete crap. I have it as well and am going to get rid of it. I put it there out of curiosity to see if anyone would click on it and nobody does — not even me! Not to mention, that it basically highlights that I am a lame-ass, sporadic blogger, something I don’t really need to draw more attention to, I might add.

  3. says

    Thank you Amy and Kelly for all this hard work you did for me. Only friends go out of their way to help like this.
    The funny part is, I got a slew of emails, thinking I was angry…

    ” noticed the comments Amy Africa did on your Blog format on her Qlog today.
    However, I also know you two seem like soul sisters and BEST buddies.
    I can’t help but believe you had a heads up on that. Also, you mentioned
    somewhere on a posting recently something like “Amy Africa was very good at pointing out
    other people’s deficiencies or problems and that was great but carried a risk of people
    getting mad.”

    Therefore, circumstantial evidence leads me to believe you were aware this was
    coming out. In a way, its like the saying about publicity, “I don’t care what you say
    about me, just spell my name right” because, coincidentally, when I read AA’s little
    hatchet job I went right to your site to check it out and become engrossed in your writings
    and knowledge of Social Media.”

    There were a few that said “they’d slug her for me”, and one that said I should critique her Qlog.

    Well, I think that you are a great friend Amy, to go to all this trouble to help me out of my “vanilla” looking blog, and encourage me to be myself. Pepper isn’t happy about it, because he’ll have to do most of the heavy lifting.

    I also think that I never found my voice there anyway, as I don’t have focus. I talk about a book, a marina dog, humor in marketing…all over the map…like random noise.

    You guys are GREAT!

    Thank you for your help, and Kelly for all the thought you gave your critique. I will rethink why I want or need a blog.

    • says

      Lois, please don’t stop blogging! It’s your voice and a lovely one at that. Blogging is a way of inviting people in and making them welcome (OK, not everyone does that). I can relate to the feeling of not knowing whether to keep blogging though. I started mine as a way to keep writing. I needed that outlet as a freelance writer, but in the course of the past year, I evolved into founder of a startup. And, since that startup launches as a new blog, I crave critique to, hopefully, get it done right. I expect some comments will be harsh, but none of it will be taken personally. A blog, a web site, … it’s just a framework for the good work and good ideas to be shared. You’re smart to use a tool like WordPress that gives you so many easy options. I use TypePad and am thrilled with what I can change and how it easy it is to do so. Keep writing and sharing. It’s how I am getting to know you and that’s worthwhile.

    • says

      Lois — I received more missile e-mails about “trashing” your blog than I received for my Are Crazy Women Better in Bed? and I’ve Never Had To Tell a Black Man He Is Black post COMBINED. People seem to think I’m being mean to you and miss the point that you have asked for SEVERAL MONTHS on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere what you can do to improve your blog and very few people have given you good, concrete suggestions. (None like Kelly’s that I have seen.) Anyway, you’re more than welcome to critique the QLOG and if you really need to, you can have your buddies slug me — however, I still have your indentatations on my right arm from our private helicopter ride so frankly, I think you’ll do just fine on your own if you want to try to beat me up! P.S. As for Pepper, I am trying to find him a box of ALL licorice jelly beans to make him feel better. I want to stay on his good side!

      • says

        I’ve received many more emails too. People feel sorry for poor little ole me, and mean monster girl…you.

        Of course, we know the truth. I know my blog and website are needy. I have been complaining about them on #blog chat for weeks.

        I’m like the shoemaker’s kid…I have no shoes. And, there’s never any time for us to work on our own things (which is actually a good thing).

        Kelly said that WordPress is great. I find it wonky and hard to change. Dwain told me that we should use it for all of our blogs (I have a dormant one (Realestaterelish too) because it is picked up easier on Google Search.

        Thank you, Kelly for your kind words and Amy for being a real friend (even hunting for licorice jelly beans)…I’ll think “on” this, and see where we put it on our list.

  4. Mike McCormick says

    Lois doesn’t know how to do this. The right way is to say “F— you all,” and then, of course, follow your advice without acknowledgement.

    • says

      Mike — She’s said “F—- you all” to me about 111 times already. She just happens to say it in Yiddish so she thinks I don’t understand. As for her not knowing how to do any of this, I’ve told her she can have access to any of my technical guys — for FREE — that offer also includes helping someone put a title on your http://www.gutsofaburglar.com blog which is one of the VERY FEW blogs I actually read. (Yes, I am a BIG fan. I wish I could write like you. Witty and succinct.)

  5. says

    Great post, Amy. I’m going to start with a disclaimer. I’m fortunate to call Lois my friend. So, if anybody wants to call “foul” when they read this comment, they need to know that I believe that good friends help each other. This includes telling the truth when asked.

    Before Lois became a friend, I was a fan. Her book “Response!” was published a year or so after I started my consulting firm. I often referred people to it as a reference tool for growing their business. The information in it was invaluable.

    The biggest challenge for great marketing minds is how to market themselves. The first issue is time. How do you justify spending time on yourself, when your clients need you so much? The second issue is humility. The descriptive words that flow so easily for your clients’ marketing seem over the top when referring to yourself. When I talk with other consultants, I find that they struggle with this as much as I do.

    Lois’ blog appears to be affected by both issues. It lacks focus and purpose. My question for her is “Why do you blog?” If it is because you think you should, you’re right. But that is a reason, not a purpose. We need your marketing insight, vision, and clarity. Use your stories to teach us to be better marketers and inspire us to move in new directions. And, do it with the personality we love!

    In “Response!”, Lois writes, “Just as in any other complex project, it takes organization and planning to achieve consistent success in Direct Marketing.” The same is true with blogging. She needs to plan her posts with specific goals in mind. What does she want the reader to do?

    Read more? Then add some links at the bottom of the post for similar content.

    Visit her website? Add a link and reason to go there.

    Pass the information on? Make it easy for the reader to tweet, Digg, StumbleUpon, or whatever with one click. Include the links on every post.

    Lois’ personality fills a room. I love seeing her red avatar on tweetdeck, especially when it is in my direct message box. She has experiences others can only imagine. I would like to hear more about them. Not in the “look how great I am” sense, but in the “here’s the problem, this is how it was solved” scenario that helps identify problems and offers solutions.

    Many companies aren’t able to identify the problems that are undermining their marketing efforts. They lack the experience and expertise to know why things aren’t working. Presenting problems triggers thoughts that move them down the path to resolutions. It also helps showcase Lois’ talents.

    Suggestions for improvement are:

    • Feature Lois’ picture so visitors can connect her face to the post.

    • Add a “More” link on each post for your homepage, so that your visitors can see excerpts instead of complete posts.

    • Test mixing shorter posts with the longer ones. It may improve readership.

    • Write with a specific person in mind, not a group. It improves your vision and clarity.

    • Move the recent posts up and delete the archives on the sidebar. Dates don’t attract readers. Killer headlines do.

    • Consider dropping the cloud. Most people outside of IT don’t know what it is. If they do, most don’t care how often a word or phrase is included in your site. They want content that helps them move forward.

    • Add a link to your company website. It may be there, but I couldn’t find it. Make your marketing circular so people move from your blog to your website to your social media to your blog to your website… Think “heartbreak hotel”, they check in and never leave (or at least they don’t want to.)

    • Show your categories instead of using a drop down box. You only have a few, so it won’t be overwhelming. “Lead generation” is a great category for attracting readers. It is a shame to hide it behind a click.

    • Delete the search box and calendar. The search is cumbersome to use because it brings up posts instead of headlines. I agree with Kelly on the calendar.

    • Make it easier to subscribe by adding a subscription box for RSS and email.

    • Add links to your social media locations so people can follow you.

    I hope that Lois continues her blogging with the passion and clarity that made me a fan before I became a friend. We need her voice.

    • says

      Debra — you are one of the only people I know who gets how to combine social media and direct marketing so I truly appreciate that you took the time to give Lois a bunch of comments.

      I know you and Lois are friends but several of her “friends” seem to think sending me missile mails about “trashing” Lois is more helpful than giving her solid feedback like you did above. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve gotten more heat — and hate — about this post than many others combined.)

      I like the ideas you’ve listed above. A lot of good examples of them can be seen at your Multichannel Magic blog (http://wilsonellisconsulting.com/wordpress/, for those of you who are living under a rock and haven’t yet subscribed.)

      I especially like adding the RSS and social media locations idea like you do as Lois is all over the place — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

      Thanks again for writing. By the way, I am stealing Heartbreak Hotel from you. They check in and NEVER leave. LOVE it!

      • says

        Amy,

        You’re welcome to use my “heartbreak hotel” comment.

        I have one thing to add for Lois –

        Test, test, test. Everytime I test things on my site, I learn what works and what doesn’t. It is often surprising…

        I’m looking forward to seeing the changes.

  6. Donna Sciarra says

    I first met Lois through Amy at one of the many conferences where Lois is regular speaker. What impresses me about Lois is that she always has something brilliant to say. I just need an easy way to find it fast and all in one place.

    The Lois Gellers Marketing Group website is an introduction, and leaves me wanting more updates and interaction.

    I’m never on twitter long enough to see all her brilliant tweets, and I’ve been too preoccupied to keep up with facebook, though I am on it long enough to know she has been making a dent there, too. And, Lois is a staple on my LinkedIn page.

    You see, Lois is everywhere, freely giving her advice to those smart enough to listen.

    She has become her brand. Her blog should be the one place she can tie everything together.

    Here are some suggestions:

    General Comments:
    Expand the with of the blog to 960 pixels, so the center column can be wider
    Use Graphics/Images with your Navigation
    Not sure I like the red for the links…
    Remove the calendar, Put dates on the articles

    Header:
    - I would simplify it, her picture at the left and the blog title. I like the red background.
    - Add Top Navigation: Home | About | Archives | Ask Lois | Free Newsletter

    Left Navigation:
    - Newsletter Form
    - Search
    - MARKETING: Building Relationships, Business Strategy, Direct Mail, Internet/Email, Lead Generation, Social Media, Testing & Statistics
    - CREATIVE: Advertising, Brand Identity, Design, Copywriting
    - RANDOM ACTS: Ask Lois, My Experiences, From the Experts, Learn The Basics, Reviews, Videos
    - Blogs We Like

    Right Side Bar:
    - Short Bio paragraph with next speaking engagement and links/social icons: email, rss, twitter, facebook, youtube channel, link to LGMG site and Real Estate Relish
    - Ad for Books
    - Newsletter Form
    - Tip of the Week (optional)
    - Survey/Question (optional)
    - Most Popular Articles
    - Recent Articles
    - Twitter Feed

    Center Column
    - Article
    - Add social sharing links with articles (add this button, or another service)
    - Tags for Article
    - Comments

    Bottom Navigation
    - Your Address, Phone Number, Email
    - Home | About | Archives | Ask Lois | Free Newsletter

    —-

    Thank you, Amy. As usual, great post.

    • says

      Donna — You are such a talented artist and as long as I’ve known you, you’ve seen things in pictures, not necessarily text. It was really cool to read your perspective… and the outline for her navigation was very helpful as well. Thank you so much for adding your comments.

  7. Sappho Charney says

    This was a fascinating post because it made me understand at long last why the QLOG and other terrific blogs look the way they do.

    Clutter is good. Clutter with enticing content is even better. You don’t know what to click on first, and so you hope you can get back to this one particular screen where two other interesting things are waiting . . . but then you realize you don’t have to, because of all the repetition (another feature I used to deplore) — you WILL find those links again!

    This is a long way around framing a response to Ms. Geller’s dilemma. Unlike other respondents here, I don’t know her, and I’m not really “in the business” in the same way. I’m the in-house copywriter at a mail-order company. My job doesn’t allow for much travel, so my idea of “networking” has become sticking my head in other people’s offices to say hi as I walk up the hall to get one of those addictive pimiento sandwiches out of the vending machine.

    So I network vicariously through marketing blogs. Actually, I read lots of blogs. When I’m thinking of buying something online and the website has a link to its blog, I’ll visit just as a sort of character and credibility check. Did they bother to find someone who can write decently and has something to say? What is the blog — just another sales tool disguised as chit chat, or something of value? Do I even like these people?

    But when I read marketing blogs, I’m usually just trawling for pithy advice and interesting stories told in a human voice. I want to hear about amazing campaigns, difficult or inspiring clients, agency life — all the things that make me re-read Ogilvy and Sullivan and Gossage and Rothenberg.

    So when I read in the QLOG that Lois Geller herself is quite a personality, that her blog lives at a place called thejoyofdirectmarketing, and that it’s got the phrase “Marketing Life” in its name, I was ecstatic. (There will be stories here, possibly involving trolls!) Then I saw the clean, spare design of the homepage, lots of white space, like a good magazine cover — just my style! I popped right over to the blog to dig in.

    And that’s when I finally understood why so many good blogs look like those tacky blow-ins that drop out of the Sunday paper, studded with dotwhacks and banners and arrows, all in colors so bright they could warm your coffee.

    I couldn’t find anything to DO on this blog. None of the postings listed on the right sounded appealing, especially since they emphasized the bloggers’ names and two of the posts had the same title, which made me feel like I’d just missed a great joke. Calendars I avoid even at work. And navigation that calls itself “Navigation” is just depressing. Turns out that the good stuff is hidden in the drop-down box of something called Post Categories. If I’d seen “Marketing Stories” up front — well, you know how I feel about marketing stories.

    I’m almost embarrassed to confess the worst problem I had with this blog, but here it is: the apostrophe is missing from “Geller’s” in “Lois Geller’s Marketing Life.” I was amazed — an error in the title on the homepage of a marketing blog! That’s the kind of mistake that makes blogs fail the credibility test. If this blog hadn’t been the focus of a QLOG post, I would have clicked away from it and never come back.

    Other respondents have given terrific recommendations for specific improvements to the blog, so let me just say that for me, a first visit to any blog is all about being bowled over by the wealth of new things to read, see, and do. When my initial reaction is, “Wow–where do I even begin?!” I know I’ve found a good new place to do a little long-distance networking!

    So my suggestion for Ms. Geller is to have some serious fun with this blog. Pack it full of anecdotes, lists, niblets of advice, long detailed stories of past and present, wise words, and glorious irrelevancies. Do this, and mine will be the very first click on every new post!

    • says

      Sappho — Amazingly enough, you are almost polar opposite to Donna (her comments are above) as you are a copywriter (correction: a KILLER copywriter*) so you see words, not pictures. (Probably why my Polynesian train wreck art direction never bothers you.)

      You definitely have a fresh perspective — and considering that you are also one of the people who could use Lois Geller’s services (meaning you are on the client end, not the consultant side), your comments added a big dimension.

      You want good, solid, helpful advice and you want it fast and easy. Something we all need to remember.

      Thank you.

      *Folks, Sappho is a killer copywriter – meaning she is fabulous — she knows how to write for the web and that’s not easy. She has not murdered anyone. (That I know of anyway.)

    • Dolly Dickinson says

      Is this Sappho Gerrie’s daughter? I too was a marketing writer when I knew your mother.
      Fun blog, but you’re right about any typos being off-putting.
      You kindly wrote to inform me when Gerrie died in ’99, and I have a question for you. Are you at the same address?

  8. says

    A digest of the comments to this post make for an excellent “how to create a marketing/CEO blog that kicks butt.” I love that Donna Sciarra provided the specifics for how the blog could be laid out. The great thing is that Lois already has all of that content at hand or in her head. The blog is a place where she can pull it all together and, by doing so, pull all of us in. And, we’ll bring our friends, too!

    • says

      Totally agree Kelly! I love this because it’s becoming a step-by-step for new bloggers and old dogs who need a couple new clicks, er, tricks!

  9. says

    Yowza! Ok first, great post Amy and LOVE the comments and suggestions.

    Second, I don’t know Lois that well, but she’s been nice enough to participate in a few of our #blogchats on Twitter.

    So given that, here’s my suggestions for her blog, and I apologize because others have already covered some of this.

    1 – Absolutely agree that any blogger’s personality HAS to come through. Yeah, you want a community and robust conversations in the comments like this one, but at the end of the day if YOU as the blogger aren’t haven’t FUN with the blog, then you won’t stick with it. It seems that Lois might be struggling to find her ‘blogging voice’, and my advice to Lois would be to make the blog more enjoyable to HER first, then the rest will fall into place.

    2 – I need to see Lois picture at the top of the blog, preferrably the right corner. I think Debra mentioned this as well.

    3 – I have something I call the ’3 second rule’ for blogs. Meaning, if someone comes to your blog, you need to be able to make it clear to them in 3 seconds or less, who you are, what you do, and what the blog is about. When I look at Lois’ blog, my immediate impression is ‘This is Lois’ blog where she talks about Marketing’. If that’s it, then fine, but if you are wanting to also use the blog to drive business, then I’d add a page/section telling everyone what you do, and who you’d like to work with.

    4 – Try to post more often. I know, it can be a real chore at times to get regular posts up, but it’s REALLY hard to build and maintain a solid blog readership if you don’t. I’d shoot for one a week. And if you are struggling for ideas, just pick someone and do a ‘Favorite Marketer of the Week’, or a ‘Favorite Blog of the Week’. Then tweet that on Twitter, like if you did one this week on Amy’s QLOG, tweet ‘My Favorite Blog of the Week, @amyafrica’s QLOG!’. That promotes your post PLUS lets Amy know that you just wrote about her QLOG, which means she’s probably going to want to come here and comment AND retweet it to her followers as well.

    But the bottom line in all of this is that YOU, Lois, need to be having fun with your blog. Blogs are VERY time and effort-intensive, so if you don’t enjoy the process, you probably won’t stick with it. Amy is right, you need to find a way to let your personality shine on your blog. I’m going to shut up now and go back to reading the great comments ;)

    • says

      So Mack, I am VERY glad you weighed in as you have such a different perspective as a long-time blogger and social media guru than I do.

      If you hired Lois Geller’s group to do a direct mail package for you, she’d be able to tell you what response you’d get and how much money you’d make — the number would be so-close-to-accurate, you could bet your house on it WITHOUT worry. It’s a science.

      I think what most frustrates those of us from that part of the world (direct marketing) is that when we enter into the social media-sphere, it’s NOTHING close to what we’ve learned.

      I can write the best, most valuable post I have ever written in my life and still get ZERO comments, no traction on Twitter and no business out of it.

      I know most social media folks say — “write great content and they will come” but as you said on your blog, the idea that content is King in blogging is BS. (http://moblogsmoproblems.blogspot.com/2009/06/idea-that-content-is-king-in-blogging.html)

      Bottom line: When you’re used to science, art ain’t easy.

      What I got from you, however, is that Lois needs to enjoy herself and have fun with her blog so maybe all this hard work won’t seem so much like work. (Which, to be honest, might be the only fathomable way for some of us to continue blogging. “Some of us” meaning me.)

      I also got, and for me it’s the most important, that it’s really critical to build momentum. I haven’t read any articles by #yousocialmediapeople that talk about momentum so if you have any let me know. In direct marketing, it’s got to be a hit first time out, or you scrap it. In social media, if it’s the momentum, those of us who have NO PATIENCE WHATSOEVER have got to know about it.

      • says

        Amy that’s a good point about building momentum. I think a good way to do this is to make it ‘easier’ to find topics to blog about. I think the biggest problem is, if you don’t get new posts up regularly, you start ‘pressing’ yourself to get more posts up, and that makes it even harder to figure out what to write about.

        That’s why I like regular ‘series’ of posts. Like I mentioned for Lois, every Thurs do a post on her favorite direct marketing campaign, or blogger, or blog. Or every Friday do a post of her favorite articles/posts for the last week about, whatever. For a couple of years I did a weekly like of the Top 25 Marketing and Social Media blogs. That way I knew that every Weds, I’d have a new post up. It took a lot of the ‘stress’ off me, and then I knew that instead of trying to come up with 2-3 new posts a week, I already had one written, and just needed 1 or 2 more.

        And a few more ideas to see what topics people are interested in; watch Twitter, see what people in your industry are talking about. And check out the popular bookmarks on Delicious. That will tell you which topics are resonating with readers right now. Also, if you use Google Reader, pay close attention to what articles and posts your friends are sharing, that’s often where I find the best stuff!

    • says

      Mack, you are really wonderful to take the time to weigh in here on my blog.

      For over a decade, I wrote the Creative Corner Column in Target Marketing Magazine. Each month 1200 words easily came out, I’d do a few graphics..and boom! It was done.

      Writing is fun for me, like speaking is too. So doing blog posts each week is no biggie. As I was reading your words, I realized that writing on WordPress is not my favorite thing.

      In fact, I write my post and send it to one of my employees to put up there. Yet, I can twitter at every opportunity (as Amy will tell you).

      So, maybe I need a blog plan. Follow it, and try to “make friends” with WordPress.

      Maybe then it will be more fun, like attending your Sunday night #blogchat when it’s open mic, free for all!

      Thanks, Mack again. Stay tuned!

  10. Dave Cleveland says

    What Mack Said. Ditto. Lois is both an expert and a hoot. That’s what I’d read her for. (If you’re just an expert, that’s OK. If you’re just a hoot, I generally don’t have time — and remember, as a blog reader, I have to think you’re a hoot. It’s not enough just for you to think you’re a hoot.) But Lois is amazingly interesting just as she is. She doesn’t have to try to be a hoot, she can just be herself and she can be so worthwhile. Her hootiness is the icing on the cake, but the cake alone is great, provided it’s homemade Geller. So, more cake, please, Lois.

    • says

      Hi Dave,

      I have a confession to make (and only to you). I am a lousy cook, and I don’t know how to bake anything…well maybe brownies, on occasion.

      If I have to cater someone else’s party…I can do it, though. I blog and “ghost tweet” for several clients.

      When it comes to us…my agency, the Lois Geller Marketing Group…I have a hard time with our own website, and well as far as my blog is concerned:

      1) It is schizophrenic in that it has two names: Joy of direct marketing, and Lois Geller’s Marketing Life.

      2) It has no real plan or objective or focus, because one day our neighbor dog comes over, and I write about him (’cause his owner is a wonderful person. Next day I write about Tamar Weinberg’s book, because her aunt and uncle live in my building ya da da da da.

      I guess as the old song goes…
      “someone left the cake out in the rain sometimes…”

  11. says

    I’m not going to go into what I think Lois’s blog itself needs – you’ve gotten a TON of amazing advice from people whose blogs are far more than my sad little LiveJournal “Pick-A-Template-And-Shut-Up(tm)”.

    What I will do is carry on with your amazingly accurate comparison between chefs and cooks. Lois IS a Chef, her passion alone would earn her all the Michelin Stars she could want – but what you have to remember is that no chef does that on their own – they have an entire bridgade who can take the vision the chef has, and transform it into the magic that is the end result, adding their own talent to help bolster the chef’s work.

    Lois is beyond lucky to have you and so many others as part of her brigade, and that comes because of the respect and care she fosters in everyone.

    I’m psyched everyone is helping like this – the end result will be unbeatable, because the main ingredient, Lois’s content, is already amazing.

    • says

      Monique,

      You are soooo right. I don’t even care about my “dog’s breakfast” of a blog, but I am so enjoying all of the kindness here.

      We’re all so busy these days that it is really quite amazing when a group of really smart people
      give their time and “know-how” to help someone like me.

      Don’t raise your expecations and think that the “result will be unbeatable” though.

      It is just too much pressure for me. I’m just enjoying being with you all today. If it turns out okay…fine. If it doesn’t, I’ve made some good friends here, which is the best gift of all.

  12. says

    Monique, you are so right. If Lois embraces just one idea from everyone who submitted suggestions for change, she’ll have truly have a recipe for success.

    Lois, I can relate completely to your frustration with what to do with your own site and blog. My site is a resume and my blog, an example of some things I know about, but there’s a reason for this limited focus — I needed time to figure out what my next career move would be. My blog and people like you, Amy, Debra, and Caroline (@casuldi) have helped me get back to my roots which include marketing, direct marketing, and PR. I’ll be blogging about this new direction later this month. I’m sure none of you had a clue as to how much you were helping me, but gosh it’s true. The new business and its web site, like all sites, will be work in progress and I’ll need your feedback. The first thing an English teacher says in creative writing is to “write what you know.” I think that holds true for blogs and business.

  13. says

    Kelly,

    You said something so interesting just now, that “you needed time to figure our what your next career move would be”.

    Maybe that’s what I’m doing too. We’ve always been so proud of the results we’ve gotten for our clients in direct mail, and direct response television.

    Our clients now want us to do the same in social media and so far it is really hard to track our conversion rates…and prove to the corporate folks that all of this working.

    So, maybe you hit the old nail on the head…here.

    I thank you so much for this, Kelly.

  14. says

    I don’t know Lois, but I have enjoyed this conversation.

    As a designer who started out on the editorial side of magazines before moving into direct marketing via catalogs and the web, I find the rules hold pretty true between media. All media is driven by the need to get the viewer’s attention and keep it.

    I thought about this as I started reading Lois’s blog; the look of the blog isn’t expressing the liveliness of the content. So my crit is basically this: the site needs be more enticing by offering more ways in and it needs to be graphically more busy (i.e. lively).

    SO does this sound like a contradiction? I’d simplify the Masthead. I’d redesign it using the most important of those words currently flying around up there, making sure the blog name takes center stage. Remember that three second rule? Right now, there’s a fight going on between all of those words that takes way more than three seconds to figure out. And, as much as I’m betting all of that red captures Lois’s personality, it might be too much of a good thing up there at the top. It kind of vacuums up all the energy on the page–it’s all up there and no place else. Let’s sprinkle some of that red around the page to send us roving.

    2. I agree with Deborah Ellis, add a photo of Lois above the scroll.

    3. About more ways in: the web, more than any other media offers multiple points of entry. To that end, it would be great to use photo captions (and another image above the scroll with a caption). Captions can make me interested enough to dig into the heavier content. Conversely, a lot of gray text is daunting and makes me think maybe I’ll wait and read it later.

    Other graphic elements that would add more life to the page:

    • Subheadings. These also help us find our way into the text. They need to be in color to fight the gray problem. Another reason for subheading–we are all really busy (reading all kinds of social media) so we need help getting the point fast. Subheads guide us to the big ideas.

    • Bullet lists or number lists. Another great way to help those of us with no time or short attention spans find key points.

    • Make the site busier looking. There is busy and there is messy. Messy is when there are random font changes, too many color fields behind the copy and flash or animation that doesn’t add to the conversation. Busy is when a blog has lots of easy to grab content with graphics that invite us to look around. Busy makes us want to dive in.

    Lois’s blog is full of dive in content, so it should look as smart and lively as it actually is.

    Finally, I’d make the far right column a little wider while leaving the center column alone. There is an epidemic of bad text width online. You may not notice it unless it is extreme, but the ratio between text width and text size will influence whether we continue reading or not. Readability studies show that if rag right text is too wide in relation to type size, it becomes hard for our eyes to find the next line of text.

    The width-to-text-size is okay in Lois’s center column. I’m suggesting a bit more width for column three, allowing for more play in design and content there. Because the top of the right column is prime real estate, it is the perfect place to put more attention grabbing stuff.

    Thank you Lois for allowing us the freedom to have this great conversation.

    • says

      Leslie, I love that you commented here because I know you value your free time in a BIG way and have little (no?) use for all this noise, er, social media stuff. You gave Lois some great suggestions and they are especially helpful because you have such a keen sense of design and how it impacts the buying/sales/action process. Needless to say, I know firsthand what an impact you’ve had on our clients so I really thank you. (I’d say from the bottom of my heart but I’m getting a lot of Tin Man comments as of late.)

  15. says

    Wow…Leslie, you blew me away with your comments. I love the preciseness of your recommendations.

    “If rag right text is too wide in relation to type size, it becomes hard for our eyes to find the next line of text”….now that makes perfect sense! It even runs true for a direct mail piece. Amazing factoid right there.

    Thank you Leslie! I think I remember your name from Vermont Country Store.

    What are you doing now? Do you freelance?

    • says

      I’m glad I could be of help. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with all of these comments.

      Yes, I was at VCS. I left in 2005 to start my own business. I specialize in web design and redesign. Before I met Amy I was skeptical about design for the web (like many designers for print then and now). Everything Amy said made sense and connected to what I already knew about publication and direct marketing. Thus, I’ve embraced designing for the web, basing my work on what works rather than what is pretty.

      This isn’t to say I can’t make a website follow best practices for getting clicks and also be pretty, just that I know how to mix the two based on the brand I’m designing for.

      Now I hang my head and admit that busy designing websites, I haven’t designed my own! However, I’m finally working on it and plan to have my site up and running by the end of the year. I’ll let you and Amy know when it goes live. Until then I can be contacted at LmnCreate at myfairpoint.net.

      If you want to see a couple of sites I’ve designed, visit:
      benningtonpotters.com
      zicandchacha.com
      greatgardenplants.com

      Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to your next post.

  16. says

    I don’t think there should be a headshot at the top, I think there should be a photo slideshow at the top. If Lois’ personality is as hard to capture as described, let 8-10 photos go by of Lois being Lois in different contexts. And especially one of a tiny Troll in her palm.

    Lois, Stick with WordPress. It’s great. You may need “tech support” to edit major layout items, but the available widgets will save lots of programming time in the long run. I’m happy to assist.

    • says

      I LOVE THE SLIDESHOW IDEA RAFFI! That would be such a hoot and SO very Lois Geller. Thank you!

    • says

      Slide Show idea is very funny! I am always buried under some PowerPoint I’m doing, so that would be perfect for me.

      I can’t even get my posts up there…and get rid of the “goofy calendar that does nothing”, and a photo…

      Thank you, Raffi.You’re right I need tech support, more like life support for my ailing blog.

      And I appreciate that you came up with this great idea! Now, how ti implement it?

      What do you do, Raffi? And how do you know Amy?

  17. says

    Amy, my mailbox is not qlogged enough
    when I don’t get YOUR qulot occassionally.

    Whassup? Enlighten us!

    We need your special brand of knowledge,
    attitude, and leadership out here.

    Wirte something, Goddammit!!!

    Rick

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