The “turning point” moment that harkens a new beginning.

The life of an entrepreneur is an emotionally volatile one. The ups and downs are extreme because often so much is at risk.

As a newbie entrepreneur, I was especially battered recently by the wild swings of bad news and good news so as to make me ill with startup sea sickness.  Yet, as I began to get my sea legs; slowly the nausea was replaced with a serene inevitability that this little venture might, against all odds, make it.

It’s not arrogance that colors my thinking. Nor is it an irrational faith in my brilliant thinking.

But it is the realization that if I make it will be because of the community around me. The vision for Eden was to create a way for consumer’s to create a trusted web space starting with Eden Network – a social network of topic based communities that serve high search but badly served topics (e.g. karaoke).

The sheer audacity of my attempting a tech startup, in retrospective, was stunning. As a marketer, the notion of being a tech CEO was about as likely as me going bungee jumping any time soon. Sure – perhaps the opportunity may come up but it’s unlikely I would ACTUALLY do it.

Yet this venture was born of pure passion – actually passionate frustration at how there so much brilliant marketing tech innovation going on and a total lack of operational practicality in being able to use much of it.

But while frustration goes a long way towards driving me forward – it doesn’t make me a seasoned entrepreneur. I’ve made many rookie mistakes but I am encouraged to continue mainly because of the support of the community around me.

And because of the encouragement of my community, despite all the pitfalls and pratfalls, within the last week, I sense a fundamental shift.

I turned a corner.

Different key pieces are coming together in a way I could have never expected; brands are excited to participate in Eden Network; agencies are anxious to offer new social marketing options that’s easy for them to buy and monetize. Key management holes are being filled with ease and partners are approaching me with increasing volume making me dizzy with potential.

My community of friends and colleagues are the foundation upon which this venture rests. It is an honor to have such loyal and supportive friends. It is also humbling and inspiring to be sure I don’t let them down. Just a few weeks ago, I felt like I was in a free fall dive and now I am buoyed by a sense of “knowing” that we have a shot at making it.

The Jewish New Year is about to commence and for thoughtful souls, it is a time of acknowledgement and gratitude to all that we have been given.

In that spirit, it’s up to me to be sure that the community knows the depth of my gratitude.   May we be privileged to share a year of peace and awareness at how precious each one of us is within the community of humanity.

Judy Shapiro

My New Year’s wish to you all.

May 2012 be filled with dreams that let your grasp be further than your reach.

8 principles of spiritual literacy as inspired by the Hasidic masters

I diverge briefly from my normal posts about marketing with this post because I caught wind of a new book by Dani Shapiro called Devotion that seems to touch an important topic for many people. The book outlines a woman’s search for spiritual clarity (author’s note – I have not read the book – but it’s going on the list :)). In an interview on The Today Show the author comments that she was brought up in the Orthodox tradition which she “abandoned” when she reached adulthood and replaced with “nothing”. She explained how in her mind, Jewish religious practice was an all or nothing proposition. Most sensitively she described that her search was motivated by a desire to answer her children’s questions about spirituality with answers that demonstrated depth of thought. This book emerged out of her recognition that she wanted to fill the spiritual gap for herself and for her family.

I feel a kinship with her, similarity in name aside, but because I too was brought up Orthodox. Not just Orthodox mind you, but I was raised in a Hasidic Rabbinic family – the ultra right wing of the Jewish spectrum. Yet, unlike Dani, I did not abandon my upbringing even as I pursued a wonderful career in technology marketing. I was fortunate that my family, the Hasidic Rabbis from Europe, were trained to be spiritual masters so that under their tutelage I was trained to understand the fundamental principles of being spiritual.

They taught me their legacy of “spiritual expectations” (note I don’t say beliefs) that transcended any religion or religious practice so that I could construct a functional model for the spiritual seeking soul. These expectations frame the spiritual seeker’s quest to an actionable set of principles which apply no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you were raised in. While these ideas represent my interpretation of these spiritual concepts – it is inspired by the lessons I was fortunate enough to have been taught by them.  I pay homage to their wisdom as I share this list with you.

1) There has to be a conscious choice to be a spiritually sensitive being. It can not be assumed that this is a goal everyone strives for. It is not. Do not assume that because you are seeking spiritual vigor – everyone shares your enthusiasm.

2) Rituals are the physical training ground for the spirit. There’s a wonderful Hebrew phrase: “Mi-toch lo’ lishma ya’voh lishmah” – translated to mean roughly, “From non devotion comes devotion.” In other words, the rituals won’t always evoke an “ohh” spiritual glow, but over time they do. When I first started to light candles on Friday night nearly 30 years ago to mark the beginning of the Shabbath, (you start lighting candles when you get married), it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Now, though when I light my Sabbath candles, the atmosphere of the room is noticeably changed. Once the ritual becomes part of your being; that frees energy to fully exploit the value of the ritual. There’s no more wasted energy worrying about “when” or “how” to spiritually train – that was all taken care of once you accepted the sanctity of the ritual. Without the impetus of religious sanctity – sticking with any ritual practice that is substantive enough to deliver the spiritual goods is really really really hard.

3) Accept that to be a spiritual being requires an investment of time. There’s no shortcut. The rituals of the ultra religious of all traditions are designed for success because they eliminated the hassle of figuring out the nitty gritty details of how to be spiritual, letting the focus be on the spiritual work. By contrast, how successful would anyone be creating their own rituals and then sticking to it? There are more bad jokes about the futility of keeping New Year’s resolution than I need to make my point.

4) There is no such thing as “sin” with the moral sting we all associate with that word. The Hebrew word “Het” means more like, “Oops, missed that time – try again”. In my world, when you committed a “sin”, you were “reproached” for it much in the same way one might speak to a young child who, when they are first learning to catch a ball, misses. “Oops – not quite – try again.” No guilt. No shame. Just an expectation that you could do better.

5) Spirituality is not something you are but something you do. Spirituality can not be thought of as a cloak we don at certain times and then discard when it is inconvenient. It is reflective in how we act – all the time.  For instance, I must light my candles every Friday at precisely the proper time no matter what. If I miss it – I can not light later in the evening because there’s no “do-over”. Being spiritual means that if I feel that my ability to light the candles on time is in jeopardy, I will re-organize my entire day to ensure I can fulfill this ritual on time.

6) Often, people confuse being a “good or moral person” with being spiritual. They are not the same thing. Morality is often culturally based and evolving – slavery being a good example, whereas spirituality transcends cultural influences.  The work of spiritual masters from 3,000 years is as relevant today as they were in their day.

7) I do not “expect” that there is a God (breathe everyone). Here’s what I know for sure. There is the world of the “known”; the world we can measure, touch and analyze. Then there is the world of “kaddosh”; usually translated to mean sacred or holy, but actually meaning “other” or separate – the world of the “unknown”. This “unknown” state is often referred to as God.

8)  Everything in the universe changes including the world of the “Kaddosh”, the “unknown” and the world of the known. In fact, the world of the unknown is quickly flowing towards the world of the known so that soon these two worlds will emerge into one. That is the spiritual singularity – when there is no more “unknown” a.k.a. God. When might this singularity happen? Who knows, but often people think the time of the Messiah is that singularity moment. I’m not so sure but here’s an interesting little tidbit. According to mystical Jewish philosophy, the world will “evolve” into another form of existence by the year 6000. We are currently in the year 5770 of the Jewish calendar, so that gives us about 200 years until the next cycle. That plunks us right into the time of Star Trek. I like the synchronicity of that because that fictional show gives us a glimpse of how different our understanding of life will be in 200 years. Perhaps in 200 years our spirit, mind and body will be better aligned and free to evolve …

These Hasidic masters understood spiritual power and mastery. It is my legacy from them which I share with you so you can create the spiritual house that best suits you.

Judy Shapiro

My top 10 New Year’s “un-resolutions” for 2010

We all know about our New Year’s resolutions. We make them with all good intentions to keep them. But we also know that what usually happens is that, inevitably, one by one our resolutions go by the way side. So I stopped making those New Year’s resolutions years ago because it seems to be a recipe for failure.

Instead, this year for a change, I have started to make “un-resolutions” – things I am determined NOT to do. Here’s my top 10 un-resolutions. Take care – this may become a new tradition.

1) I will not get seduced by any new digital marketing toy just because some industry pundit thinks it’s the coolest thing to hit the street. Nor will I believe every promise made by every new marketing technology company.

2) I will not abandon common sense in digital marketing and be blinded by digital agencies promises that their “new” campaigns will go viral and get the attention of millions of people. I will continue to listen to my gut and if it sounds to good to be true, I will let skepticism drive my decision.

3) I will not abandon newspaper, magazines, radio and other forms of traditional media if it is the right vehicle. No matter how sexy digital media may seem because of the perceived lower cost, I will continue to create integrated programs that weave together the best of both the traditional and digital worlds.

4) I will not give up my attachment to email marketing. Sorry folks – but email marketing, well done, drives real business results. If your email campaign did not work – either you had a bad list or an inadequate call-to-action or maybe your agency did not know what they were doing.

5)  I will not be fooled into thinking that the ad market is going to rebound in 2010. Nope. The ad market will continue to be buffeted by the tides of an evolving economic landscape and by consumers’ ever fickle attraction to new tech toys like mobile devices.  These trends will continue to dampen ad revenue for publishers for some time to come.

6) I will not get excited about cloud computing – at least not yet. I do see how it is going to dominate in the next 5 years – but there are real security problems to solve before everyone can get into the clouds. Conversely, I do get excited by all types of ASP offers as that is a steady business model that offers real value to consumers.

7) I will not blindly follow Google as they chow down every tech industry from telecom to digital publishing. Ever one loves to love Google. Me too. But that does not mean that I have to support every initiative as Google relentlessly marches toward digital dominance. In the process, they stifle competition and kill real innovation by companies who deserve to succeed. Now here’s my one New Year’s prediction (for 2012) – I predict that Google will have to break themselves up to avoid the growing recognition that Google is really a monopoly, albeit a new kind.

8 ) I will not diminish my slavish devotion to data driven marketing no matter what new platforms come out that can behaviorally target any audience any way I wish. I know I know – the BT folks can slice and dice an audience so many ways that it makes a marketer salivate. But unless I can see, touch and feel the data – I will pass for now.

9)  I will not start following every Tom, Dick and Jane to gain more Twitter followers. OK, so I only have about 175 folks following me but at least I know they read what I tweet. Quality – not quantity is what drives social media.

10) And my final un-resolution. I will not try appear to be “30 something” just because I love digital marketing. I know that the average age of people in digital marketing tends to be 27 – but my depth in this space has yielded real world, hard won recognition. And while I am at it, will not submit to peer pressure to use more “hair product” than one can find in a Duane Reade store so I can appear suitably young as a digital marketer. What you see (grey hair and all) is what you get :)

There you have it. My top 10 un-resolutions for 2010. If you have your list – feel free to share it here.

Judy Shapiro

Five New Year’s resolutions for Marketers for 2008 – on becoming a lean, mean marketing machine

 

It’s true. It seems that many things I know about marketing I think I learned in my health ed class. You should know that I now avoid exercise at all costs, preferring to live  according to Churchill’s axiom, “Why stand when you can sit” (I actually think I am allergic to exercise). But in marketing, staying fit is needed because that’s how to generate results that builds business.

But before we make our new year’s resolutions, it’s useful to have a consistent understanding of what marketing is. Why is this necessary? Because you have to know what it is you’re looking to improve before you can make concrete steps to get into marketing shape. I am also amazed that a lot of the time people only understand marketing in the context of what it is not – it is not operations, or sales or product management – so what is left over must be marketing. Right? Uh – not exactly.

So what exactly is marketing? Well anyone that took Marketing 101 in college will raise their hand eagerly to spew back what surely we all remember – marketing is about the  4 “P”’S – Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place. But that line of thinking is not only dated – it is also largely irrelevant a lot of the time. Today, it is far more useful to think of marketing in terms of the three “M”’s — Magic, Muscle and Method, in equal measure. Magic is the ability to use your intuition, creativity and imagination to understand how your customers will perceive your offering. Muscle is the ability to inspire teams to follow your visions and finally Method is the ability to create the systems and processes to execute.  Don’t expect one person to be brilliant in all three “M”s. I myself might be talented in the first two Ms but the Method part of the equation is not my strength. The trick though is to create an environment where all three M’s can be operative and contribute to the fitness of your marketing machine.

So now that we have a basic understanding of what marketing is, let’s look at the healthiest way to use the three Ms to best advantage. And for that, let’s turn to the lessons we are learned in school during our health education classes.  

Prepare a well balanced marketing diet.

When looking at marketing programs it is tempting to put your energy into grand programs. The ones that are big and important and are expected to serve the business in multi-dimensional ways. Go ahead but remember that there is a need for balance. Be sure your marketing diet is also filled with quick hits that can generate revenue quickly while the more lavish programs are baking. The balanced diet I suggest is 2/3 long term planning to 1/3 quick hits.  

 

Do not overindulge in marketing sweets.

You get an email or a call from a sales person. “We can develop a program that will pay itself back in [fill in the blank] weeks.” You think about it, consider what has worked in the past. But in making a decision I suggest two things. First, don’t deny yourself all opportunities to try new things – that’s how you learn.  But second, don’t be an easy mark for every sales pitch either. Here is a brutal truth. There are no programs that can really deliver guaranteed highly qualified leads — not the best run social media program or telesales program. At best they can generate contact information from people who seem to have some interest in your product or service — maybe. Creating a truly qualified lead requires cultivation that only you can do. Don’t get seduced by a lovely box of marketing bon bons that promise the world – but do allow yourself an occasional treat.  

 

Get you daily dose of marketing veggies.

Not only do you have restrict how many marketing sweets you allow yourself, you also need to add the marketing equivalent of fiber and leafy greens that builds healthy marketing bones. That includes reading and learning about what drives your market, information about your customer segments, industry and technology trends and marco economics that impact your business. For instance, if you work at a bank, by understanding how a tight labor impacts wages and savings rates you can take advantage of opportunities your competitors might miss. You may not have loved your veggies as a kid – but your mother was right. You need your marketing veggies – reading and researching are a necessary part of a balanced marketing diet and you must discipline yourself to get your fill of the healthy stuff.  

 

Watch your marketing caloric intake.

This one is probably the simplest to understand in your head but the hardest to live. If we remember that one of Ms is method, you must develop an understanding of what your organization can execute in terms of capacity. Don’t take on more than you can execute because, well – it’s obvious isn’t it. But this can be really hard to manage if the needs of the business are immense and there are many opportunities. Discipline is needed because the temptations are great to over commit. Resist the urge.   

 

Engage in a daily dose of marketing calisthenics.

How do you exercise your marketing muscles? By actually doing some of the work yourself. It seems the height of irony. The higher you go in your career – the less you actually do. So just when you are at your professional best – you are probably doing less than ever. And worse, if you only have others do the work, then you get out of practice – the marketing equivalent of “If you don’t use it you lose it…”  To keep your marketing muscles strong – use them daily. Do one functional task a day. Write a response to a news item, do a quick article, work on a web site yourself. Don’t overdo it – but it is worth the time to stay current. 

Let me end by wishing you a 2008 filled with buzz and brand fitness. May your new year’s resolutions not evaporate once the buzz of the champagne fizzles out.

Happy New Year.

Judy Shapiro

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