Ain’t No Party Like a PERQ Launch Party

If you’re involved in the Indianapolis tech startup scene, you already know about Verge, the startup community made up of entrepreneurs, programmers, and investors. We come together once a month, hear a few pitches from some exciting new startups, drink beer, eat pizza, and network with new people (and old friends).

Tonight was an especially huge night for Verge, because we were being hosted by PERQ, the new company formerly known as CIK Enterprises. They were hosting us because they were launching their new corporate identity and look. This was a mega launch party, the size of which I have not seen in Indianapolis in my nearly six years of doing social media and tech stuff.

PERQ was created when CIK consolidated several different companies they owned, and created this new enterprise. The previous three companies served clients in the newspaper, automotive, and retail industries. Because of this consolidation, they’re combining all forces to create a new marketing technology solution — FATWIN — to offer “business-branded games, contests, and sweepstakes with direct mail, email and advertising campaigns to attract in-store and online traffic.”

I first became acquainted with CIK and one of their companies, Tri-Auto Enterprises, when I worked at a local direct mail company years ago. In fact, I bumped into my old boss on the shuttle ride over from the parking lot, who was there for the PERQ launch. He hadn’t heard of Verge, so I was able to fill him in on what it was all about.

Employee in PERQ collaboration space

See? At first glance, you probably thought it was a real bookshelf too.

Not only were they launching a new company with new branding, they had a new look to their office. Everyone who attended got the grand tour of the office, including the conference rooms (complete with Legos for brainstorming, or at least looking creative), the open concept desks, the giant warehouse space turned meeting and collaboration space, the gym and weight room, and even the video broadcast booth. The whole building is so big, they even have Razor scooters for people to ride, like some sort of inter-office scooter share program. TKO Graphics created several of the wall decorations, including a gigantic bookshelf wall that I kept mistaking for a real bookshelf when I saw it from the corner of my eye.

All in all, it’s a gorgeous new space, and I kept wishing I worked there just because it looked so awesome. I might even be able to, because according to their press release, the company plans on hiring 30 new employees to deal with all their new growth and to help promote their new FATWIN technology.

FATWIN is an interesting new product that lets people enter promotional contests held by different companies using the service. From what I can tell, I can either join a company’s FATWIN promotion, or I can join FATWIN and join different companies’ promotions from there. My data is used only by the companies whose promotions I join, and they don’t sell it to third parties. From a data privacy standpoint, I appreciate this approach, because I can give my data only to the companies of my choosing, and not have to worry that some fly-by-night company is going to start spamming me two weeks later.

According to the FATWIN website:

FATWIN is a resource for people who love to win. It’s for people who love to play games, love to enter promotions, and hate to sign up for free stuff over and over again. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible — and for you to have a great experience while winning great prizes and discounts from your favorite brands.

For more information on PERQ, you can visit the website at . You can also follow them on Twitter at @perqmarketing.

Photo credit: PERQ

Bring Social Media Tourism 2013 to Indianapolis (#SoMeT13US)

This is a little embarrassing. Indianapolis is currently ranked 8th in the Elite Eight in the Social Media Tourism 2013 conference competition.

SoMeT is a creation of Think! Social Media, a digital agency in the tourism marketing world. This is the fourth year of SoMeT, and they are selecting the host city based on a March Madness style bracket system. And Indianapolis has a real chance of winning this, but not if we keep playing the way we did!

To get into the Elite Eight, we barely squeaked into the competition, finishing in 8th with 657 votes. Seventh place Grand Rapids, MI had 735 votes.

Seriously? Grand Rapids?! I don’t even think there are 735 people in Grand Rapids, are there?

Okay, a quick check on Google shows there are roughly 190,000 people in Grand Rapids. But that’s less than one-fourth the size of Indianapolis, and we got out muscled. That’s like IU getting beat by Davidson College at, well, anything.

Here’s how the final votes went down:
1. Huntsville, AL – 2,361
2. Missoula, MT – 1,606
3. Milwaukee, WI – 1,328
4. Cleveland, OH – 1,231
5. St. Pete/Clearwater, FL – 882
6. Branson, MO – 799
7. Grand Rapids, MI – 735
8. Indianapolis, IN – 657

Social Media Tourism Bracket

Seriously? We got 8th?! I swear, if I had a folding chair, I’d hurl it.

Because of our 8th place finish, we face off against #1 seed, Huntsville, AL (183,00 people?! COME ON!) on Thursday, March 21 from 10 am to 10 pm. Whichever city gets the most votes within that 12 hour period goes on to the Final Four. The winners of that bracket face off against each other, and the final winner will play host to SoMeT13 in November.

As the biggest city in the competition, we should not be in last place with the voting. We should be hammering the competition by sheer size alone. We need our people to carry the city. We need you to step up, make the plays, and get the job done.

On Thursday, March 21, please pay attention to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. And when you get the call to vote, we need you to click the link, click the photo, and help bring this country’s tourism professionals home to Indianapolis.

We’re Indianapolis, dammit! Let’s show them how this game is played.

The Elite Eight Tournament Times are as follows:

  • Monday, March 18 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #3 Milwaukee, WI v #6 Branson, MO
  • Tuesday, March 19 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #4 Cleveland, OH v #5 St. Pete/Clearwater, FL
  • Wednesday, March 20 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #2 Missoula, MT v #7 Grand Rapids, MI
  • Thursday, March 21 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #1 Huntsville, AL #8 Indianapolis, IN

CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR INDIANAPOLIS!

Erik Deckers to Speak at Revenue North Indy on March 21st, Free Passes Available

I’ll be speaking at the Revenue North Indianapolis conference on March 21, 2013 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel. It starts at 8:00 am and runs until 5:00 pm, and they’re expecting close to 1000 people.

Erik Deckers speaking in public

I might even wear this shirt when I speak.

Passes are normally $99 for individuals and $299 for companies sending up to 5 people. But if you use my special promo code, A28LG7, you can get the individual pass for FREE.

You can see the full conference schedule here. Some of the speakers will include Doug Karr speaking about the Dangers of SEO; Kyle Lacy’s dad Dan speaking on Transforming Your Business; networking specialist Jamar Cobb-Denard will tell you to Stop Wasting Time Networking; my mentor Lorraine Ball of Roundpeg will tell you Why People Hate Your Website; and, I’m speaking about your 10 Professional Branding Secrets.

There are nearly 100 breakout sessions throughout the day, so you’re going to get your head crammed with a lot of great information.

5 Types of Presentations You’ll Find at Blog Indiana 2010

I’ve been Blog Indiana 2010and attended several of the presentations here. Our sessions tend to be the same kind of presentation, although they cover a wide variety of topics. Whether it’s at a conference, a seminar, or a corporate presentation, presentations tend to follow the same formula.

Me at my presentation at Blog Indiana

If you’re interested in becoming a public speaker, there are five basic types of presentations you could give.

    1. How to: Basic tips, how-to, suggestions, and strategies. These are great for sharing information, and to establish your expertise. Title your talk something 7 NEW Secrets To Promoting Your Blog Through Social Media. People who are interested in sessions like this are looking for concrete, nuts-and-bolts ideas. This is the kind of talk I gave this year.
    2. Case Study: These historic talks show how you got from point A to point B, and the lessons you learned on the way. They can be inspirational or a cautionary tale, and if they’re done well, people can get both types of information from them. If you’re a great story teller, then I suggest you give this a try. Do a case study of a single client, or tell a part of your story (Note: We didn’t ask for your life story), or even 3 -4 short stories that are all centered around a single point. This is also a good place to ask for discussion from the audience. Paul Poteet gave this as a keynote presentation this year.
    3. Futurecasting: This is where the futurists and 30,000-foot-view thinkers can really shine. You can talk about what you think the future of your industry will be. If you make enough accurate predictions, you’ll be one of the hot properties on your industry’s speaking circuit. This presentation may look back historically to make its point, but a futurecasting talk is going to discuss what they believe will be happening over the next few years.
    4. Educational: Educate your listeners about a topic, idea, or tool. It may not be as in-depth as the how-to, but it’s great for teaching beginners about a particular concept. An informative session will teach people about Twitter — why use it, how it works, who uses it — while a how to session will cover the specifics of using it — signing up, following people, sending tweets. Doug Karr told listeners why their site sucks, with his Why Your Site Sucks educational session.
Jason Falls, Jay Baer, and Chris Baggott participate in a panel discussion at Blog Indiana 2010.

Jason Falls, Jay Baer, Chris Baggott (standing)

  1. Issues: Every industry has its issues and controversies, and these are a great place to address them. This can be a panel discussion, a single person facilitating an audience discussion, or even one person presenting one or both sides of the issue. Fellow ghost blogger Lindsay Manfredi talked about ghost blogging this year, which has been a big hot button issue for our industry for a few years. Chris Baggott, Jason Falls, and Jay Baer participated in a panel discussion to “dispel the myth of the blog reader.”

Newsday Has 35 Paid Subscribers for Online Newspaper

I can’t decide whether to feel schadenfreude or pity for Newsday, the Long Island daily newspaper. They have 35 (yes, thirty-five) paid subscribers for their online newspaper.

The New York Observer reveled in schadenfreudic glee as they reported this news:

As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.

That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn’t know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.

Michael Amon, a social services reporter, asked for clarification.

“I heard you say 35 people,” he said, from Newsday’s auditorium in Melville. “Is that number correct?”

Mr. Jimenez nodded.

Man, I haven’t written with that much malicious glee since Ann Coulter had to have her jaw wired shut.

What’s worse is that Newsday has had their newspaper behind a paywall, newsday.com, since October 2009. (I’m not going to hotlink newsday.com, since you’d have to pay to read any of the stories anyway.)

Apparently, this new website cost Newsday $4 million, and they have grossed $9,000.

That doesn’t mean there are only 35 people reading the website. Anyone who subscribes to the paper or has Optimum Cable gets free access — about 75% of Long Island. I’m not sure how many subscribers there are to the paper, but it’s a nice little out to give free access to cable subscribers as a way to boost subscription numbers.

Still, other dailies considering going to a paid-only option may be feeling a little more panic than they’re already feeling, having laid off most of their local writers and getting local content from non-local providers, and then wondering why people aren’t subscribing anymore.

We can learn or surmise a few things about the newspaper industry from Newsday’s crappy subscribership and the Indianapolis Star’s not-so-slow descent into USA Today: Indianapolis Edition.

  • Readers have gotten spoiled. We’re used to getting our news for free, so we’re a little hesitant to pay for something we can get elsewhere. Since the Star is nothing more than an Associated Press outlet these days, I can hop over to AP.org if I want some national news.
  • People want local content. And not-so-surprisingly, we want it from local sources. The Indy Star is getting local content from Metromix, a company based out of Chicago. Long Island’s Newsday is putting local spins on national stories. “What LIers Want to Hear In Obama’s Address” was one of today’s headlines. Why would people want to pay for something like this? If it was truly local news, I would care. But it isn’t, so I don’t.

If newspapers truly want to make money online, they need to consider going back to truly local news, written by local reporters who have more experience than a journalism internship and six months of covering school board meetings. Let the national news outlets cover the national news. Make your newspaper the best and only source for local news.

This is where the small weeklies and dailies are going to survive, and even succeed by focusing on local content, with only a brief mention of world and national affairs.

Photo: Nitroglicerino

Be an Entre-Commuter With Just a Latte and a Laptop

I’m the mayor of my office and my church.

At least that’s what Foursquare tells me. I’ve checked in enough times at both places that I’ve been declared the mayor.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site that lets you tell people where you are via Twitter and Facebook.

Think: 50% friend-finder, 30% social city guide, 20% nightlife game. We wanted to build something that not only helps you keep up with your friends, but exposes you to new things in and challenges you to explore cities in different ways.

You check in at different places around a city, give tips and recommendations, and in general get to know your city better.

I’ve been using FourSquare a lot lately, especially after I got my new Droid phone a few weeks ago.

I’m starting to earn the reputation for being out and about all the time. I check in everywhere I go: the office, the coffee shop, the library, the grocery store. I’m not out any more than usual. I’m just telling people about it.

But it’s become a whole lot easier now for me to be out and about too, thanks to my laptop and the proliferation of free wifi around the city. I’ve become a real entre-commuter.

(Entre-commuter: entrepreneurial commuter who works out of a coffee shop, cafe, restaurant, library, or any other place with free wifi. Term coined by Erik Deckers and Paul Lorinczi to justify why they don’t sit in the office all day, every day.)

We came up with the term entre-commuter for those people who own their own business and have the ability to do it anywhere. They can do it from home, the local library, or their local coffee shop. We happen to favor Hubbard & Cravens in Broad Ripple, although I’ll travel just about anywhere around Central Indiana for good coffee.

The great thing about being an entre-commuter is that you get to network with other people, and collaborate with them on occasion. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met with, helped, provided connections for, and done business with, just because we both happened to be out at the same time in the same place. And meeting some of the same people in the same place several times has blossomed my network beyond the typical Chamber and other networking events.

Where do entre-commuters gather?

I prefer to patronize local coffee shops and restaurants, although I’ll hit the occasional chain once in a while. We need to support our local establishments more than the chains — the chains don’t support our local economies. The locals do.

Is there entre-commuters etiquette?

There are a few rules for entre-commuters. They’re fairly common sense, but I still see people violate them from time to time.

  • Don’t camp out. They have to turn tables during peak times. If you’re sitting with a computer and a bottled water over lunch, they’re losing money on you.
  • Only occupy tables during low times. Don’t take up a 4-top all by yourself if you can help it, and don’t be afraid to share a table with a stranger either.
  • Buy something. Spend money, and more than just a little. Don’t buy a $2 coffee and then sit for 8 hours.
  • Be respectful. This is someone else’s business, not your office. Don’t treat it like it’s your place. You’re a guest.
  • Keep your voices down. Other people are there too, so don’t have loud conversations. You’re not at the club, you’re at a quiet little shop.

Entre-commuters just need to be somewhere we can find free wifi and good coffee. Somewhere we can connect online and offline. Find your local shops and spend some time there. See if you can create some business, as well as giving the local shops some business as well.

Photo: Nina Turns 40 blog

Entrepreneurs, Support Your Local Coffee Shops So We’ll Support You

I was at a Rainmakers meeting last night, when my friend Lorraine Ball was the guest speaker. She spoke about the local business economy and the importance of supporting local businesses, especially if you’re in a small business yourself.

Karla & Ashley at Hubbard & CravensLorraine talked about when Rainmakers first started, they had their favorite local special coffee shop at the corner of 86th & Keystone. The owner, Malcolm, was even a Rainmaker, so it made sense that they would all meet there. Since they didn’t have offices, that became their de facto office. If you wanted to find Tony Scelzo, Lorraine, or any of the other Rainmakers, you didn’t call them, you drove there. Until one day, Lorraine showed up at the shop, and found that it was closed down.

Although there are a lot of reasons and suppositions about why it happened, the simple fact is that Malcolm just wasn’t getting enough local support from local customers. The Rainmakers made up about 40% of his business, but at the time, they only numbered about 100. You can’t run a successful coffee shop on 250 people.

Now, Rainmakers has reached 1600 members. They’re having one-on-ones and entrepreneur meetings galore, at a variety of coffee shops all over the city. Unfortunately, most of these places tend to be at a nearby Starbucks, and not a local coffee shop like Malcolm’s.

Our local economy is built on local business, not on national business. Local coffee shops, local supermarkets, local hardware stores bring in money to our city and state; Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and Lowe’s don’t.

In fact, out of every dollar you spend at a local business, 40 cents of it stays in the community. When you spend a dollar at the big chain stores, 13 cents stays in the local economy. And that’s usually in the form of salaries, which are then spent on coffee, food, and home items. . . from Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and Lowes.

In other words, if you want to grow your local economy, patronize local restaurants, coffee shops, and stores whenever possible.

As a small business owner and networking fiend, I have had more than my share of one-on-ones in coffee shops. I’ve personally drunk enough copy to float a battleship and put Juan Valdez’s kids through Harvard Business School. And I’ve tried to do it whenever possible at any of my favorite local shops. I avoid Starbucks whenever possible (although there are times it’s just unavoidable).

I have my favorites, and I often tell people about “the two best coffees in the city,” both of which roast their beans locally, rather than buying them from somewhere else. I visit Hubbard & Cravens in Broad Ripple several times a week, and can often count on bumping into people I know, including several Rainmakers, fellow writers, and other social media luminaries. It’s sort of like Cheers for the networking set.

Now, one of my own favorites (and Doug Karr’s home away from home), the Bean Cup, is closing down. It’s the fourth or fifth closing that I can think of since I moved here three-and-a-half years ago. Why? Because more people are concerned about buying coffee with an image, not supporting their local shops.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re a local business owner or entrepreneur, and you expect people to support your business, it’s important that you support your local community. If you’re a local entrepreneur, and hold most of your meetings in a Starbucks, then does that mean I don’t have to support you? It seems rather odd that people who depend on a local customer base do their business in a national chain that only gives $.13 back to our community.

“Until Starbucks starts sending me checks from Seattle,” said Lorraine, “I’m not going to patronize them.”

Here’s my challenge: if you meet with clients, partners, and vendors at coffee shops, forgo Big Corporate Coffee and visit a local shop instead. Be brave, be bold, be daring. Try something new for once, try something that’s not bitter and over-roasted, and see if you can find a new favorite coffee shop. And if you’re in the leadership of a networking organization geared toward local businesses, I think it’s especially important that you be a role model in this. Stop visiting coffee shops that don’t support our mission of “Be more, serve more” and “SHARE” and hold your meetings in the ones that do.

If you’re not sure where to find one, check out the Indy Indie Coffee shop map Doug Karr and I created. It’s an up-to-date Google map of all the local coffee shops in Central Indiana. Visit the map, zoom in to your neighborhood, and pick a shop in your area. Start holding your meetings at these locations and become a regular. Take advantage of their free wifi, better tasting coffee, and strong sense of community.

If we’re going to rebuild our local economy, it’s not going to happen by eating at big chain restaurants, drinking big chain coffee, or buying big chain groceries. It’s going to happen by visiting local coffee shops, buying from a local hardware store, and even going to local supermarkets and farmers markets.

And if you want to know what the two best coffees in Indianapolis are, send me an email and I’ll share my favorites with you. I’ll also tell you where to find the best brownies, best atmosphere, and best owners.

Photo: Me. That’s Karla & Ashley, two of the fine baristas at one of my favorite coffee shops.