About Kate

 

I’m a scrappy, southern marketer loving the west coast and all things related to branding, marketing, startups, mobile, and technology. Art, music, and pop culture fuel me. I love Twitter, finding viral videos first, dresses, and design thinking. See what inspires mehere and please reach out and say “hi!”

Anything written in this blog is strictly my opinion and not the opinion of my employer.

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Thursday
Jan202011

"Let's Grab Coffee" & Two Degrees of Separation

I am a Southern girl and always will be at heart. I came to Seattle three and a half years ago because I fell in love with the city and because I knew it was the perfect spot for me. Everything from the water to the lay of the land and architecture turned me on, and there are few places in the country that could match my professional needs as well.

I came here knowing one person and with my three year old startup in tow.  It was a complicated move due to the business and distance, but I knew it was the best decision I could make. And I stand by it today.

at the farmer's marketphoto © 2008 jill, jellidonut... whatever | more info (via: Wylio)

 

The South and the Pacific Northwest could not be more different socially. We pride ourselves on social grace and hospitality in the South. This means big welcomes, large social circles, and merry occasions filled with traditions that go far back in our history. We are raised to trust others until proven otherwise; so, we welcome new neighbors with pies and new guests to our homes with open arms. 

The business world is similar in the South. Most people are anxious to help out a new business and introductions come easy. If an introduction is made, you make arrangements to meet the new person promptly. There is an understanding that the person making the introduction saw a beneficial purpose for the two new parties to meet. Chances are that you have several mutual connections, and it was only a matter of time before you met anyway. And if nothing else, you have strengthened the relationship with the person making the introduction.

While Southerners are not exempt from uncomfortable relationship issues, the element of social grace is so deep in our blood that we generally know how to avoid awkward situations by always being friendly, trusting one another, and delicately changing directions if we need to later.  

I did not expect the same from Seattle, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly culture. In less than six months of networking, I was further surprised to figure out how connected the city is- especially the tech community. There seems to be only two degrees of separation between yourself and any other person. Clearly, Seattle has a people culture too.

But wait. Is it? 

Seattle is remarkably and intoxicatingly ambitious and smart. In a way that I have not found in my time in any other city. While there is plenty of creativity here, it is more technical and applied smarts. And with that is the coming together of personality types that are a very small percentage of the population in other geographic regions.  

What I am getting at is that things work differently here socially. People are friendly, yet will a stranger meet you for coffee if you ask them? Maybe – it depends.  If someone writes an introduction email for you, what are the chances you will meet the other person? I would say 70/30 – depending on several factors.

See, people in Seattle have high expectations of you. The proof is in your actions- not in your words. And I think there is something valuable to this. It keeps us at our best; it pushes us to take risk and to be genuine; and, in a round about way, it creates relationships that are equal in effort. 

What does this mean for companies marketing in Seattle? You better be at the top of your game in terms of understanding how this city works.

Thoughts? Share them with me in the comments section. And get ready. I am preparing for a Seattle launch soon.   

Thank you to my Southern family for understanding my call to live in Seattle and for supporting it. And thank you to my Seattle family for making the city feel more like home.  

Wednesday
Jan122011

Scrabble, Exploitation, and a Thoughtful Venture Capitalist

Two questions have been on my mind since writing about Art, Exploitation, and a Hungry Niche Market:
  1. Is your work original if you learn by watching others but never experience the pitfalls yourself?  
  2. And if you do this, is it obvious that your work has less value? Can you be successful?
I have been asking myself these questions over and over since my holiday break, and I have found myself in heated debates over the subject matter.  

Experiments with ISO 1250photo © 2007 Laura Askelin | more info (via: Wylio)


It started over an innocent game of Scrabble with my smarty pants husband, the MBA venture capitalist.  I include the information about his profession only to illustrate how different we are.  He comes from a world of very calculated risk, case studies, and traditional business practices. His wife (me), the entrepreneur and consultant, has learned things through creativity, courage, and iteration.  

In a Scrabble game, each player has 7 letters that you use to make words.  Each letter is worth a certain number of points, and you build on each other's words.  The goal is to score the most points.  

When I play the game, I work the board similarly to how I do business.  I quickly come up with creative words using as many letters I can to score as many points as possible.  My husband takes his sweet time.  He evaluates every opportunity, the cost/benefit, and where he sees the game going.  And while I typically create new real estate on the board, he often capitalizes on what is already there.

I throw down the word "QUOTA" on a triple word score space.  42 points - not bad.  My husband adds BLE.  57 points.  UGH.  

This happens 6 times in one game.  He wins, and I refuse to play another round - citing infringement.

Later on, I realized that the Scrabble game was an example of favorable exploitation.  My husband produced new work, on top of mine, that scored him more points yet took the same amount of effort- if not more.  And the result was a new product that was HIGHER value than mine. 

NEW SPACE.  In the example above, my husband created something new by being different.  There was an untapped opportunity in the space that I originally created.  I left it open, and he was smart enough to take advantage.  

Girl Talk is another great example of this.  Girl Talk is a musician from Pittsburgh who is well-known for mashups and sampling.  He takes segments of one hit wonders and top 40 music and smashes it up to make a new song.  For example, in his new album All Day, you'll hear a quick sample of Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" mashed with Lil' John & the Eastside Boyz's "Get Low", INXS "Need You Tonight" with a few notes of Grateful Dead's "Casey Jones."

Girl Talk took advantage of several trends.  First, the rise of digital music players and technology in general has decreased music listeners attention span.  Second, there is a trend for high energy music in all venues - clubs, gyms, and on the radio.  And generally, people do not get tired of one hit wonders.  As a result, Girl Talk has created a new market and satisfied a hungry niche market using other's work.

IT WORKS, YOU MAKE SOME MONEY.  Sometimes you will come across someone who is super talented at a specific trade or art OR a business that is truly unique.  The industry around the person/business may be untapped, and the person/business currently in that space is not exploiting the opportunity.  In this case, you can copy the exact business model, and if you market and brand correctly, you will make money.  Your work may be of lesser quality than the work of the original creator, but no one will notice. 

This is how Mr. Brainwash took over the world of street art. 

IT WON'T WORK.  It is true that you often have to fake it till you make it in business.  You do this by emphasizing what you have until you gain what you need to reach actualization.  But you can not sell people on skills, values, or property that you do not have.  If you try it, what you are lacking will eventually show through.  Your words will not match your actions.  As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

So if you learn from someone but do not understand the pitfalls or how the industry works, your work will have less value and the truth will shine through.  

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments.  

Thank you to Dave for letting me pick on him publicly.   

Wednesday
Jan052011

You Have to Call People Out Sometimes

Managing people is tough.  You like the people you work with, or you wouldn't have hired them. And one of the greatest prides is creating a cool work environment- one that is accommodating, understanding, and fun yet produces an excellent work product.  

But balancing these two things is challenging.  And no matter what, uncomfortable situations come up.  The natural inclination is to pass the dirty work to someone else, but that does not answer your problem.

I have seen business owners stick their head in the sand, only to wake up to an even more unpleasant reality that has them at their most vulnerable.  Entrepreneurs have confessed their desire to just walk out the front door, leaving one of their biggest loves and accomplishments, just so they can avoid conflict.

Relationships are key to every business, and as a business owner, it is important that you learn how to handle conflict and manage expectations.  How you communicate dictates the level of respect you receive in return. Therefore, it is important to be clear, direct, and thoughtful when responding to situations. 

  • If you feel like something is off, it probably is.  Energy is often a clue that something is not right.  If you feel something is off but there is no evidence, trust your instinct.  Look around.  There is never any harm in checking in with someone to see if you are on the same page and to see if they have any questions or news regarding their role or project.  You may be surprised to hear what is on their mind.

  • Be accommodating to the truth.  Finding the truth behind a situation is your holy grail.  Sometimes the truth is in you, other times it lives in others.  When things get complicated, you will find the answer by listening to both parties and mitigating the situation from there.

    Either way, it is important to be calm.  Others probably will avoid telling you the truth if they are worried that you will have an angry, critical, or defensive response.  The same is true internally.  It is difficult to come to terms with your honest feelings if you are not calm.  And as leaders, sometimes your honest feelings dictate the final decision.

  • Consider your part in this.  Be thoughtful of your role in the issue.  Where are your responsibilities as a leader?  Did you communicate clearly enough?  Were expectations discussed in enough detail?  Sometimes you communicate a stronger message in what is left out of guidelines or picked up from side conversations.  
    If you find that you have been unclear, it is still important to communicate your need for things to go differently.  Explain how you wish things had worked, mention what you will do differently next time, and ask the other person to understand why you need this.

  • Communicate dissatisfaction.  If you are not happy with someone’s work product or behavior, speak to it immediately.  Give the person a chance to correct it.  Clearly state why you are unhappy or frustrated, what you expect, and why.  

  • Know when to end it.  Sometimes the relationship is just not a match.  If you communicated that you are dissatisfied several times and there is no correction, it is time to evaluate this further.  Does this person understand their role?  Are they providing value?  If not, it is time to move on.

The hard part is knowing what to say and how to say it.  One of my favorite things to do for clients is to be their sounding board and to help them resolve conflict.  This is an important skill to learn as a business owner.  It will make your business more secure and lighten your stress load. 

Each time you successfully deal with conflict, it gets easier. In the beginning, it is natural to want some help.  Email me if you need support.

Photo by DuckLover Bonnie.

Monday
Dec272010

Art, Exploitation, and a Hungry Niche Market

We learn from those who surround us.  They inspire us; they teach us; and eventually, they influence who we become.  And it is natural for us to use what we learn from others in our careers to better ourselves. Take the relationship between Picasso and Matisse as an example. These two artists were completely different in style and personality. And while their relationship was competitive, it enriched their work and expanded the modern art movement. 

banksy painted elephant

But where are the boundaries of learning from one another?  Is your work original if you learn by watching others but never experience the pitfalls yourself?  Is it wrong to exploit the work of others?   And if you do this successfully, is it obvious that your work has less value?  

The documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop explores the world of street art and exploitation. This often happens in the business world.  Is it telling of our culture or of human dynamics and drive?  

Watch this documentary and leave your comments below.  You can view it instantly on Netflix.  

Thank you to Molly for entertaining us with thought-provoking films as we enjoy a winter snow storm in the South.

Wednesday
Dec222010

Get Ready for 2011 with This List

The South is calling me back for the holidays.  But before I go, I want to get you ready for early January.  While our minds are on travel plans and holiday shopping, it is important to be ready to make 2011 a productive year.  So print off this list and dive in on January third.

  1. Order your IRS forms.
  2. Make sure you have a W9 for everyone you have paid over $600 in 2010.
  3. Finish up 2010 expense sheets.
  4. Evaluate your calendar system and order new paper calendars if you use them.
  5. Clean up your inbox.
  6. Clean your desk.
  7. Clean up and organize your paper files – throwing out things you no longer need.
  8. Clean up your computer.
  9. Make sure your backups are working properly.
  10. Create or buy a filing system for 2011 bills/ invoices/receipts.
  11. Check office supplies and organize/ reorder as needed.
  12. Look at your sales and profit for 2010.
  13. Review 2010: Write down lessons learned considering positive and negative experiences.
  14. Plan for 2011: Write down your goals and find a way to track your progress.
  15. Think about your employees and contractors.  Any changes?
  16. Talk to your customers and measure satisfaction.
  17. Think about your target market and reflect on any changes.
  18. Update your marketing plan and map out your marketing calendar.
  19. Take a close look at your website. See what needs to be updated and consider ways to interact with your audience further.
  20. Review and update your contracts and agreements.
  21. Consider and fix inefficiencies in the areas of sales, order processing, customer service, production, delivery, and follow up.
  22. Evaluate your relationships with mentors, advisors, and consultants.
  23. Ask people if they think you still look like your headshot.  If not, get a new one.
  24. Consider ways you can improve how you communicate.  Prepare to ask why.
  25. Find new networking events to attend.