Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday with Mitch Joel

Andy Sernovitz interviews Mitch Joel
at the Shop.org Strategy and Innovation Forum in Orlando, FL on January 23, 2007. Later in the day Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image, co-presented with Carrie Johnson, VP and Research Director of Forrester Research, about Social Shopping: How to Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Customer Control. The session focused on customer engagement. 'With consumers self-mobilizing for group discounts and adding their own feedback through tools like reviews and comments, online merchants need to do a better job at engagement,' taken from the program guide.

Mitch is such an energized speaker. He is very engaging with his audience. His slides and videos are either thought provoking or simple to understand never dull or confusing. It is so inspiring to see him speak from the passion he feels for social networking, blogging and podcasting. At the end of the day you walk away with a clear picture of his vision of the importance of new media in marketing today. I knew that podcasting and blogging were vital to Pastor Paul's online presence offering great opportunities at the grass roots level that we understand so well.

The first time I heard Mitch speak was at the Shop.org Marketing Workshop on April 19, 2007 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. He was the Keynote Speaker. His address titled, 'Six Pixels of Separation', the name of his weekly podcast, 'discussed the cutting-edge marketing channels like social networking, blogs and search engine marketing and how they result in increased customer loyalty and positive ROI,' taken from the program guide. While I listened, I had no idea what ROI was, but somehow I was convinced that it had to be good and that was how you archieved it. This had to be a faith based initiative for sure!

Later that evening I arrived late to the Dinner and Reception at the Tequila Ranch. Because I registered so late, I stayed at the Holiday Inn instead of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel. You can read more about the confusion about my hotel reservation in 'Retro Blogging March 16th-May 16th'. It is very awkward arriving so late to dinner especially when you do not know anyone and everyone is seated and finished eating. So I scanned the room quickly for an empty seat. I found myself at quite a table next to Dawn Deal, QVC, Brian Platter, Peet's Coffee and Tea, Darrin Keene, Apple, Ken Eisner, Shop.org, Scott Silverman, Shop.org and Mitch Joel, Twist Image.I started my conversation with Dawn Deal who was very gracious and made me feel right at home. I noticed Brian Platter's name tag that said Peet's Coffee and Tea. I was looking forward to meeting him because my family's name is Peet. So we talked about the Peet heritage and their progressive online store. Then Scott Silverman, Shop.org's Executive Director asked me, 'How I was doing at the Workshop?' To my surprise, as I am sure to their surprise, I blurted out, 'I feel like I am drowning.' There I had said it the truth was out, I was truly overwhelmed by all of the complex information that was so unfamiliar to me. I was in over my head. Not to mention that I had been in a very different place with very different people for a very long time.

I needed to change the direction of the conversation at this point and started to talk about my experience registering for the workshop through the hotel inquiry. I learned about the workshop by searching 'online marketing' and found an article promoting the event's Keynote Speaker, Mitch Joel. Later I lost the information, inquired at the hotel, they would not give me the information, finally I got it, and registered late, and was staying at the Holiday Inn. Somehow this translated into the cause for me being late for dinner for dinner, I think. Scott asked Mitch if he had heard my story so I told him and he said we should record it for one of his future podcast episodes. I said sure, and thought to myself, he has no idea. Finally, it is time for the memorable bull rides. The brave Nicole Edmund, Director of Membership, Shop.org volunteered first to ride the electrical bull. I laughed so hard watching so many take such incredible falls. I knew exactly how they felt.

Later that night, I thought about what I had said about drowning. And then for the first time since it happened, I remembered when I almost drowned when I was 10 years old. One summer my Mom and her friend brought her children, my sister and me to the lake. I was always the oldest so I wandered off toward the 'Big Slide'. There were two slides, a small slide in shallow water for children who could not swim and a 'Big Slide' in deep water that was surrounded by people lined up to go down the 'Big Slide'. So I started out to the 'Big Slide'.The closer I got the deeper the water. The line was longer than I thought. Rather than to go back, I started to bob up and down trying to keep my head above water. The technique worked for awhile but not for long because the water took me farther than I could bob to touch the bottom. Now I was under water completely. I could hear people talking and laughing all around me but I was invisible. I was under deep water and I was drowning and I knew it. I do not remember panicking. I think I was praying.

The next thing I knew I was lifted up out of the water like a rocket up into the air and a man's voice said something like, 'She's drowning', and then to me, 'You should not be out here if you don't know how to swim.' I think I coughed up a bunch of water and tried to explain my failed bobbing technique. He wasn't listening to it, and said, 'You should not go swimming alone.' Feeling more embarrassed than scared I left the water in a failed attempt to go down the 'Big Slide.' I told my Mom that I had almost drowned, she yelled and told me it was a really stupid thing to do, no sympathy here.

I remember sitting in the car angry and pouting thinking, they were right, I will learn to swim. I did learn how to swim, but, most importantly before I learned to swim, I learned the 'Dead Man's Float'. This is when you surrender all your fear laying on your back in the water perfectly relaxed with your face up toward the sky and try not to move except ever so slightly to keep yourself floating. It is like meditating in the water.

The next morning I decided to give breakfast a try. I was sitting alone when Mitch Joel asked if I wanted to sit alone, or join him, and he invited me to his table where I sat across from him and next to Anne Marie Cianfichi, President, Butterflyfactory.com whose company offered personal wardrobe shoppers online. I quickly reviewed my attire and became very uncomfortable because I was still a little discombobulated from the night before laughing hysterically at the electronic bull rides and then later evaluating my near death experience.

My clothes clearly reflected my mental state; a brown Bob Dylan t-shirt with orange and gold lettering (I bought the night before in the Hard Rock Hotel's-Hard Rock Store feeling a little homesick), a short cropped jean jacket, and bright tangerine slacks to match the faint orange and gold lettering on the t-shirt. At the time my salsa arrives special order to drown my scrambled eggs, Mitch moves next to me to record for Episode #48 of Six Pixels of Separation, his podcast. He is really nice and shows me the M-Audio recorder, (I never asked him if he sensed fear at this point). I thought it looked quite harmless. I pushed the eggs aside and we began. It went really well. He made it seem so easy. I think we talked about a Pastor Paul's Podcast using Pastor Paul's 1,200 taped messages. He said he would send me some information. I was quite inspired.

Now it was time to move to the Auditorium to hear the Keynote Speaker, Sucharita Mulpuru, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research. I was learning how to swim through 'Improving ROI Of Paid and Organic Search, Introduction To Analytics, Maximizing Performance of Online Affiliate Programs, Best Practices For Portal-Retailer Relationships, Understanding Multi-Channel Metrics, Best Practices in Email Analytics, and many intimate Round Table Discussions'. I was aware that I was not swimming alone but, during lunch I decided to go outside by the pool. Positioned in the
'Dead Man's Float' in the sun by the pool on a comfortable lounge chair, I surrendered my fear once again. Feeling energized, I went for an Earl Grey Tea where I met Andrew Hirsch, Chief Executive of the John Brown Group in the UK, he was ordering coffee.

As we waited in line I talked to Andrew about the conference. I had remembered that he grilled Mitch Joel with some very hard questions after his Keynote Address the day before about 'clearing the clutter' on the web and it's future. As we were talking a Mrs. Shawnee, a Tarot Card Reader (not with the conference), said she liked my shoes and gave me her card. She said she she saw good things in my future and I should call her. I told her I thought the same thing and gave her one of my cards. On the way back to the auditorium, we saw Mitch Joel and I told him he had to interview Andrew for his podcast because he was from England. He also remembered Andrew. He muttered something about me 'pimping his podcast' (I think it is an industry term), and then proceeded to interview Andrew. How exciting! I was the guest on a podcast in the morning and pimped my first podcast by noon. In the next couple of weeks, I listened to both Episodes #48 and #49 of Six Pixels of Separation, his weekly podcast. Andrew and I were quite remarkable, as was Mitch Joel.

As it turned out Scott Silverman had introduced me to Mitch Joel, who lifted me up out of a sea of information to show me just what I was looking for 'cutting-edge marketing channels like social networking, blogs, and podcasts.' Come in the water is fine...

This week to commemorate their 15th Anniversary, I will be blogging about my experiences with Shop.org and about some of the great people I have met at the conferences and workshops. Please join this conversation with some of your comments or experiences with Shop.org. Tomorrow on Wednesday our Focus is The Shop.org Team and the Marketing Conference and Annual Conference.

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