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9 posts from July 2006

July 31, 2006

BlogHer Laptop and Communication Envy

I never experienced anything like it - 700 women with their laptops open in 2 days of blogger's gone wild. They slammed the system at the San Jose Hyatt. I drove away in a daze wishing two things A) that my computer was wifi'd and B) that every woman on the planet needs to know how to blog as well as she knows how to use a phone.

I'll borrow from Saturn which was one of the sponsors - Saturn "gets it" and were doing their best to convert all 700 women into spokespeople for their new line up of cars. How can you go wrong with a little red sports car under $30,000 that makes everything else look boring? Yes, I drove one and yes, it was everything you hope for in two seats, wind and pure joy.

Their new tag line is "Like Always. Like never before." It also describes this event.

Like always... women talk and share and inspire one another.

Like never before... women can do that with hundreds, even thousands rather than a few. And as Gladwell's Tipping Point noted, people are more likely to believe and act on advice given by those they trust.

Blogs enhance what women have always done with each other, connect, learn, grow, change things for the better.

One speaker, Cooper Monroe spoke on how her blog with 200 readers went to 20,000 in 2-3 days when she asked for items to send to the Katrina victims. That's the power ONE women's trusted voice. Truckloads of items were sent because she cared enough to ask for help.

Like always - women turned to women when they needed help. Like never before they are using the power of the blog to expand their influence and change their world forever. Note, I'm not saying that every woman NEEDS to blog anymore than they need to make phone calls, but every woman needs to know HOW a blog works and how to "work" a blog and become part of the greater good conversation.

If you didn't make it to BlogHer 2005 - get active and come to BlogHer 2006.

July 26, 2006

Who's really holding the cards (as in credit cards)

I'm going to BlogHer on Friday - it's formation evolved from the question, "Where are all the women bloggers"? The question emerged as male bloggers kept taking the top ten lists like Marketing Sherpa's top blog sites. In 2005, hundreds of women bloggers met at the first Blogher and compared notes. This year Blogher is a sold out, as thousands (more likely millions) who can't attend, watch and read about it virtually.

Companies are taking notice and aligning themselves with this crowd. Even GM will be there offering test drives of their new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, trying to stir up excitement after losing $3.1 billion this last quarter. For GM's sake, I hope it works.

Here's the irony. If guys hold the top thought leader positions, why would GM bother with this girly group? Why not just go to the guys? Oh, that's right, because guys don't buy 80% of the consumer products, women do. Women hold the (credit) cards when it comes to consumer buying. They also hold each other's advice in high regard since they have "been there, bought that."

Companies will always follow the money - or at least those who make the decision about how and where to spend it. What happens offline will happen online.

Offline/online, women buy more stuff - game over.

Offline/online, men will always try to outdo each other - game never over.

If you're a company selling stuff, you'll want to be with the women bloggers even if there are less of them and they aren't on a top ten list. Their audience is your audience.

Where are the women bloggers? Standing right next to the male bloggers. If you want opinions, go to either. If you want sustainable sales with a high word of mouth advantage, go to the women holding the "cards."

July 20, 2006

Ask Patty... how to talk to a car dealer

My thanks to Jody DeVere, for the nice review of In Women We Trust. Jody is the President of Ask Patty which is a division of CarsMagazine and is also the current President of the Woman's Automotive Association International.

In both roles, Jody hopes to eliminate the frustration women feel while buying or servicing a car. For example on August 15 at 3 p.m. EST "Ask Patty" is hosting a webinar titled, "Learn How to Communicate with Service Advisors." Presenting the information is Sandra Wingate, The President of Concept Schools an automotive dealership service advisor training school.

Sessions like this help women gain confidence by knowing what to ask and to expect before going into the dealer. The more women know about the process, they more they will trust the process (and the dealer).

July 19, 2006

It's not what she said, it's that you cared enough to listen

I was warned last night (by a guy at an AMA meeting) that I must be careful about generalizing when it comes to women. I agree, if you're talking about topographical marketing segmentation issues, but not when it comes to issues of the soul and not when it comes to why women respond to other women. (sales and customer service types, pay attention)

Women give each other the time of day and listen to their stories and that is VERY powerful and very motivating.

Boomer Women speak is a site constructed specifically for that purpose, a place where women can tell their stories and to know what my Mother didn't - that they are not alone. Thousands share their thoughts through forums. Where were these stories before they had a place to be aired? Ignored and lost.

This morning I read of the angst a much younger women felt over work and life, but she ended on a high note by replying the debut moments of her son's first days. It was a another day for her and she wasn't looking for answers as much as just having a sounding board. She was not alone - over 65 women posted a response to her note. Where would her story be told if not on a blog? It wouldn't. Would that make it less real for her? No.

Two things came from this:

1. Stories reflect our lives and by listening to them, we respect the teller's life.

2. If you're a consumer business and you're not sincerely encouraging and listening to female customer's stories, then you're missing out on an opportunity to show your human side.

While I was working in industrial sales, I thought back to how many times I've listened ALL THE WAY THROUGH to stories about hunting trips and work and carpentry and sports and stupid bar tricks and stupider things done while under the influence of alcohol or business. Some of the things I could relate to (like dumb things done while drunk), but most of the items had no relationship to my life. Yet, I listened and asked questions and gave them them the space to tell their tale.

Mundane, isn't mundane when it happened to you. Business, by not listening to the everyday stories of women, is missing out on a valuable way to connect. I say "business" because both men and women have been trained to get to the bottom line, to make the sale, to hit the goal of the month. I'll try to be inclusive, but the fact is, women do listen more to other women than men do. For that reason, women trust women more. It ain't rocket science, it's (un)common courtesy.

July 17, 2006

Power of the Positive - Net2

Feeling depressed about the state of the world after reading about the latest war-du-jour? Click onto Net Squared.org and see if there is a place where you can fit in and put some positive energy back into the world.

Net Squared is made up of tech types who want to use their excess talents for good; to empower non-profits to a higher levels of Internetted communications and affect faster social change.

I went to my first meet up last week of a newly formed LA chapter. Ten people showed up, about half were first timers. No one quite knew what Net Squared was about but thought they give it a shot. The backgrounds were diverse in tech talent as well as market disciplines. The interesting part is that they came wondering if they would fit in, and left looking for ways to contribute even if there wasn't an obvious fit.

That's the power of a well defined mission - it resonates so strongly that people will write their own job description to be part of it's positive direction and in this case, work for free.

Net Squared isn't another women's group. In fact, the guys outnumbered the gals that night which I found refreshing. It is a women's "group", however, in that it supports a cause they women will support. Check it out and tell me what you think.

July 13, 2006

INSIDE: Boomer Women Speak and the NABBW (National Association of Baby Boomer Women)

"There is peace in knowing that others trust me with their stories, and I feel comforted when others listen to mine." Dotsie Bregel, founder of Boomer Women Speak and NABBW

Dotsie_bregelBACKGROUND: I'm talking to Dotsie Bregel today, who founded Boomer Women Speak approximately four years ago and the NABBW last October.  Boomer Women Speak is now the #1 website for Boomer Women. Why do women trust this site? Read on.

MARY: I like your comment featured above which is on your biography page. Is that why you started Boomer Women Speak?

DOTSIE: Sort of. I had been a stay at home mom and took the job seriously and did lots of volunteer work and then learned that my Mom had six months to live. I dropped all volunteer work to help care for Mom. Then after her death I experienced a real valley not only was she gone, but my kids were growing up and I was facing the empty nest. I had always dedicated myself to  my family and I knew I needed to do reinvent myself for the next stage.

MARY: How old were you when you started?

DOTSIE: Oh, I was about 43 when I got the idea and then I worked developing for about a year before I launched the site. It will be four year’s old October 31, 2006. We're really talking about two different sites, the original site was www.boomerwomenspeak.com and that was designed to give women a voice and a place for their collective stories. Due to the success of BWS, I launched the NABBW – the National Association for Baby Boomer Women. Which is membership based and only 7 months old.

MARY: What’s the difference between the two sites?

DOTSIE: Boomer Women Speak is a virtual home for boomer women to share their personal stories both in the forums and/or in the Our Voices section. There are also pages of books, resources and links for midlife women. It's free to anyone who wants to participate. The Association [NABBW] educates and empowers women at midlife. Of course we won’t always be at midlife since we’ll be growing older, but the intention is to always keep our generation informed.

MARY: How’s the NABBW doing?

DOTSIE: It’s doing very well. Last month we processed 60 new members. That’s pretty good considering that it’s only been online for seven months. It takes time for people to recognize your credibility and I hadn’t started publicizing it until it hit the six month mark. 

MARY: What’s the participation level of Boomer Women Speak?

DOTSIE: We’re getting anywhere from 1-1.6 million hits to the site each month depending upon the advertising we do each month.

MARY: Do you keep track of how many women are participating in the forums?

DOTSIE: Currently about 1800 women have registered for the forums.

MARY: You got into this to give midlife women a voice, do you feel you’ve accomplished that or has it changed and gone into a new direction?

DOTSIE: I definitely give a generation of women a voice on Boomer Women Speak. You can read our stories in the Our Voices section that begin with our childhood and take you through our second adulthood. You will also find over 60 forums where women correspond hourly about the same topics we discuss with our sisters and girlfriends. The forum also allows for daily correspondence between the participants.

MARY: What has been your biggest surprise so far?

DOTSIE: I think the biggest surprise is the number of women who want to share information - that there is such a need for women wanting to connect. Our mothers talked over back fences and our generation doesn’t have that opportunity. I think there are a lot of women who just want to run their story by someone else and ask “How does this sound to you”? Do you have any advice for me?” There’s a sounding board inside this virtual community which connects and encourages baby boomer women.

MARY: Why do you think women need to do that?

DOTSIE: I think it’s just another way of getting together. Technology today allows us to communicate differently. This proves that boomers are interested and up to date in terms of technology.

MARY: Do you find you have large concentrations by regions?

DOTSIE: Primarily it’s heavy with the East and West coast but I think we now have someone from every state. We also have women from other countries.  They share similar experiences concerning issues of children, work, and caring for our parents. And that’s nice to see too, that we have more similarities than differences even though we are in different parts of the world. I received stories from women around the world. They are just as heart felt. I could be talking to a next door neighbor about the same issues. One woman learned she was pregnant again later in life. She was struggling with the decision to either stay at home, or take the big promotion she had just received. She was from Australia.

MARY: I’ve been following the blog conversation between the stay at home moms and working moms, are you seeing the two groups forming on your site?

DOTSIE: What I am trying to promote is supporting of one another. When I was a stay at home mom, people often looked down on me because I wasn’t climbing the corporate ladder with the rest of the boomer gals. There were certainly days I would have liked to walk out the dorr to go to work. I also know friends who worked who would have given anything to stay home for a few days. I’d like to see us accept each other where we are, then we’ll all be more peaceful.

MARY: I think that is happening as more women talk to each other and realize that they aren’t alone in their issues. In a way it gives them permission to talk more.

DOTSIE: That’s why I launched the boomer women speak site because I didn’t want women to feel alone. It’s interesting when women finally say what’s really going on in their life and then others in the group tell them “I’m so glad you said that, I feel the same way.” I think there is a solidarity that happens when you share stories.

MARY: Have you had men participate?

DOTSIE: We’ve had a few who come in and post on the site, but we had to tell them, “We’re sorry, but you’re not welcome here.” It’s funny because men could be reading the forum and I’m sure they are, but they don’t actually interact. The women really don’t like men in the forum because it changes the dynamic. A couple men have said that they need to start a boomer  men speak and that’s great, but I don’t know if men would be as open to share as women do.

MARY: I see that you partnered with the National Association of Women Writers is that your only partner site?

DOTSIE: I have tons of other associations on the site, but I know the founder of NAWW personally and I really value the way Sheri' McConnell runs her association. Besides, writing is an extension of hearing what women have to say.  In the future I do plan to partner more with other organizations; it’s definitely something that I’m interested in.

MARY: For other women who might want to form an association, how did you set this one up?

DOTSIE: I used $30,000 of my own money to launch it. Currently my office is in a wing of my home. My husband, who was my high school sweetheart, is very supportive as are my children who are 17, 18 and 21. They are all home this summer, which makes it very busy around here. When they all leave this fall, then that’s when the real empty nest hits, but I now have my heart and passion into this and it has given me new purpose.

MARY: What kinds of businesses have taken an interest in you? What will you accept and what will you steer away from when it comes to advertising or partnering?

DOTSIE: Well, I’m a Christian so I am interested in partnering with other Christian sites but they don't have to be Christian based. If it’s something that doesn’t fit well with my faith, then I might steer away from it. If someone submits information, we take a hard look at their site and make sure it doesn’t represent a topic that we can’t support. For example, we had a site on witchcraft which we turned away, but in general we’re open to anything that is positive and educational for our group. It’s my site and I have to believe in what I’m supporting. In my bio it does state that I’m a Christian, but that’s the only place it’s said. I don’t believe in being so evangelical that you turn people away. I’d rather let my personality and words speak for my faith.

MARY: You can’t fake who you are and it looks like you’ve struck a good balance.

DOTSIE: I’ve had some people tell me that it’s too Christian centered, but I can’t help if that’s who’s attracted to the site. People like to be with those who are more in line with who they are. That’s just the way it is and I can’t change that. I do have a forum that’s for “spirituality” which is designed to be inclusive of all walks of life.

MARY: What else would you like people to know?

DOTSIE: I guess I would like your readers to know about the benefits of joining the NABBW. It’s like a magazine. We offer an ezine that’s just full of information for women at midlife. We support business women as well. We might have a section on how to increase traffic to your website and then the next month have information on male menopause. NABBW is for the "whole women." And just to differentiate the sites again, Boomer Women Speak is all about women personal stories from birth to now. The NABBW is really about educating and empowering women to help them get through midlife and the years beyond.

I also would like them to know that women like to help women and we enjoy encouraging each other and we’re not worried about other women taking our ideas. I know that there are competitive women, but I have to say that overall, we’re in it for the sisterhood. I find the same thing at another local networking group that I belong to. People do what they can to buy each  other’s products or promote each other’s business. Women are just great about spreading the word. I just think that we’re networkers by nature.

MARY: I agree. Thank you Dotsie, for your insights into why both of your groups are growing. Reading between the lines, business can learn a lot about how to increase their female customer base using the same personal attention that you applied. Congratulations on a great #1 site.

WHAT BUSINESS CAN LEARN FROM DOTSIE:                                                                                    - Embrace ideas, not diplomas.
- Women need to connect. Encourage women to talk, but stay out of their way.
- Be willing to be authentic even if it means losing members or customers.
- Dedicate yourself to women and they’ll dedicate themselves to you.

Dotsie is looking for more positive companies and associations to partner with. Contact her if you have an idea.

INSIDE WOMEN'S GROUPS is a series focused on the founders of womens' organizations which were started within the last 10 years. Would you like your organization profiled? Contact me.

July 08, 2006

Rheingold & Whipple E-Communication Rules we can all live by

Here are two postings you'll want to read side-by-side.

There is no gender in the written word, but there is plenty of attitude that gets communicated anyway. These may help you nix the attitude, while keeping the message intact and building trust at the same time.

First, since it's quickly becoming a blogger run world, check out Howard Rheingold's 6 page list of "The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online." Print it out and internalize it. I'm listing Rheingold's first because no one is paid to read your blog or care what you think. They are a totally volunteer audience who can come to your party - or not. (Many of the ideas cross over with what women had on their wish list.)

Second, in case you are inside a corporation and others must read and react to your emails, check out Yvonne DiVita's interview with Bob Whipple on his new book Understanding E-Body Language. In the interview, Bob gives and excellent example of what is "really" being said in an email that sounds pleasant and professional, but is actually loaded with political time bombs ready to go off.

I consider Whipple's book a quick fix for getting along inside the corporate walls and Rheingold's Art of Hosting... the ultimate goal - to become the person that others want to work with, even if they weren't paid to do so. Now that's power.

July 06, 2006

INSIDE: A Spirited Woman Community

I'm talking today with Nancy Mills the energetic creator of www.thespiritedwoman.com. Originally founded in 2002, Spirited Woman is now known for fun, empowering workshops, a popular FREE e-newsletter, special-special events, the highly-spirited Spirited Woman store and the new Spirited Woman Circle.

Background: Prior to starting Spirited Woman, in the mid-90's, Nancy was a leading freelance travel journalist for newspapers and magazines. She also published, the "Travelin' Woman" newsletter as well as led seminars with the theme, "ordinary women who do extraordinary things through travel." “That was back when women were still hiding behind trees when they told people they were traveling alone,” she says. Her Travelin' Woman seminars inspired and renewed women; and she featured such speakers as the first woman to walk across the north pole and a woman sailing solo around the world. Rand McNally eventually became her sponsor, until the day came where she wanted a more balanced life.

Mary: What happened? Giving travel seminars sounds like a great job, why did you leave it and start Spirited Woman?

Nancy: I ended up exhausted; I was burnt out from traveling so much. During an LA seminar, one of the women in the audience worked for a spa and I asked her if I could do a story on it and that lead to a really wonderful experience with a healer at this spa and I changed. I went from travel writing to inspirational writing for women and that’s how Spirited Woman [the book] got started. I started writing a manuscript which I completed right around the time of September 11. That was not the time to get a lot of acceptances from the NY Publishing world; they were not interested in a [woman’s] book on fun and playfulness considering what they had just been through. From that experience, I decided to put the book on hold, turn it into a workshop and see if the women would come.

That was in 2002. I put up one flier up on one bulletin board in Santa Barbara where I was living at the time. It said, “Come to an afternoon of creative playfulness, empowerment and fun.” The first woman called to sign up and I was so surprised! She came and so did a few other women, and during that first year, I did workshops primarily in the area, and then pushed them out to LA and different parts of the country. Now, Spirited Woman has done workshops in 18 cities. If you go to the website (www.thespiritedwoman.com) you can see that there are quite a few workshops coming up in LA, Santa Barbara and Boulder, CO. We've been to so many cities because women across the country are offering to host the workshop.

Mary: It sounds like you’re working just as hard at Spirited Woman as you did as a travel journalist.

Nancy: As fun as that [travel] career was, I wanted a more balanced life for myself. Even though I’m back traveling again, the whole concept of Spirited Woman has brought balance into my life.

Mary: How?

Nancy: By giving lessons and teaching to all sorts of different women and relating to their stories. It’s not just me putting energy out, now I’m getting energy back.

Mary: Can you give me an idea of the number of women that have taken the workshop?

Nancy: Sure. There are over 700 women who have taken the workshops. In terms of our newsletters subscribers there are about 2500 women subscribing and it's consistently growing which I’m very proud of. I have put out no advertising dollars to attract women to my newsletter list. In fact, the whole movement of Spirited Woman is based at this point on Word-of-Mouth, referrals and press.

Mary: Ad agencies don’t want to hear that, but companies sure would like to know how you did it.  What operational model do you follow?

Nancy: The website has only been up since October of last year. Spirited Woman is an online and offline women’s empowerment community. Even though we are a for profit business, I clearly see as we become more successful that a percentage of our profits will go into helping a non-profit group. In the meantime, we offer workshops, newsletters, products and the Spirited Woman Circle, which is a series of "up close & personal" phone conversations with famous women. There are nine women in the series, which began with Janet Fitch the mega-author of "White Oleander" an Oprah Book Club Pick. Between the nine of them they have sold over five million books. It’s wonderful to see women with such recognition affiliating themselves with us.

Mary: If you had to capture the basic message that Spirited Woman conveys, what would it be?

Nancy: That you are enough as you are. In our workshops, we convey through creative playfulness, inspiration, empowerment, and fun that very simple message.  We convey the same message through everything else that we do, too.

Mary: What’s your average attendee demographic?

Nancy: It’s all over the place. Attendees are anywhere from 30-60 years old and from all walks of life.

Mary: With over 700 women attending the workshop, do you have any before and after stories?

Nancy: I have to think about that. I’ve received lots of notes from women who enjoyed the afternoon workshops, which runs for three hours. It’s not a workshop of “how to follow my way and your life will be changed.” It’s an interactive workshop amongst the women that basically is an affirmation that they are ok like they are. It’s not designed nor promoted to be a life changing experience, because it isn’t. I think most of the women go because they are at a place where they want a ‘tune up’ for lack of a better term.

What has come out of the workshop though has been amazing. Women have become each other’s best friends after the workshops. Some have gone on trips together. They end up doing things outside of the workshop that makes it a continued experience.

Mary: A tune-up, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. Why do you think they are getting a tune up here vs. with their family and friends?

Nancy: Well, we all have friends and we all have family, but some times there are days when we want to be in a new environment with new people to discuss things in a new way without on-going voices so you can just talk. You just want to walk away refreshed and happy and feeling good about yourself and then go on.

Mary: Do you see more women joining new groups like yours?

Nancy: I invite your readers to subscribe to the July Spirited Woman Newsletter www.thespiritedwoman.com/newsletter going out this week. It includes an interview  I had with Laurel Touby. Laurel is the founder of www.MediaBistro.com which is a very big media community. She believes as do I, that’s exactly where it’s going; communities are forming based on like minded interests. People are no longer looking to their churches, jobs, families… to give them a sense of community. They are using other reasons to form communities, because they want to be around people who reflect the way they are living their life. It’s absolutely happening and it’s happening in droves. That’s why I always refer to Spirited Woman as an online AND offline community.

Mary: I’ll bet that you’re right. We all crave real experiences and people to share them with.Thank you, Nancy for letting us “experience” the soul of Spirited Woman and showing us how forming a spirited community is good for business.

July 03, 2006

An Inconvienent Truth Meets a Convenient Market

Have you seen Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth yet? If you felt the earthshaking lately is from everyone shaking in their boots after seeing it. It's a must see for those with children and grandchildren. Heck, it's a must see for those who plan on retiring to a place that won't be under water or sand in the next 20 years.

Was there any good news?  Yep, consumers rule.

Al flagged an answer near the end of the movie, in an offhanded comment he mentioned that consumers could change the direction of environmental disaster simply by making the right purchasing decisions.

Did you hear that? CONSUMERS. That's us, ladies. Women make 80% of the buying decisions so if we want to cut down on global warming, we are the ones who need to step forward and do it. If you ever wanted to join a cause to save the world this is it. 

We're already seeing how our buying choices are making a difference. Lots of women (and men) are buying Toyota's and Honda's. I have five friends who own the Prius (all women). I just bought a new Honda Civic which gave me 40 mpg last week and it's not even a hybrid. High mileage vehicles are one of of the answers. The more people buy them, the more the car companies will make them and the cleaner the air will become without waiting for the government to lead the way.

Little ideas can make a world of difference... go see the movie and let me know your little and big ideas. And, if you already have a high mileage car, be sure to brag to others about the money you're saving and watch them buy one as well.