It’s Been a While…

So…over the last couple of days I’ve been writing a bit more at work.  I’ve got a few posts coming out in the trades over the next couple of weeks and in starting my writing again I couldn’t help but think how I’ve neglected my own blog for so long.  I mean it has been six months since I last posted about anything here!  I know that when I left off the blog I had been writing a lot about CrossFit and less and less about email and marketing in general.  As I’ve revitalized my efforts to keep this blog up to date…I am also committing to a more balanced publish schedule both in the frequency that I post and the subject that I will post about.  I know that I have followers who are interested in only email and marketing…and others who are only interested in CrossFit and those kinds of articles.

With that in mind…the first post back…after this one of course…will be about CrossFit.  There are some interesting things going on in the CrossFit community right now and I think that I can put together a decent post or two combining both the sport of CrossFit and marketing.  There are some definite areas to identify and troubleshoot for the CrossFit organization and think it would make a great post.

So if you are interested…please feel free to read…and definitely go back and catch up on some previous posts.  And if you are not interested in CrossFit, nutrition, sport, or anything like that…no worries…there are going to be plenty of marketing, email, and maybe even some fatherhood posts upcoming.  There will be something for everyone.

If you’d like to connect…please follow me on twitter!

Why I Crossfit…

I started to draft this post back in August.  I had recently made it out of “On-Ramp” and into the Elements program at Crossfit Performance and was feeling pretty good about the work I had been putting in and the results I was seeing.  I can’t remember the reason why I did not continue the post back then…but after a long absence between crossfit posts I decided that now was the time to get back at the keyboard and get some of my thoughts down.  One thing that is ingrained in each athlete is that you need to write things down so that you can go back and review.  It is all about measurable performance.  Being able to see where you came from in order to establish a plan of attack for where you want to go.  This is what this post is all about…when I come back in a couple of months…I’ll be able to see where I came from…and if I’ve hit my goals…

Why I Crossfit…

  • For my health.  When I started crossfit I was recovering from a herniated disc.  I’m 30 years old and I could not stand up straight for two weeks.  I herniated the disc in the first week of October 2009 and after that basically sat on a couch until I walked into the door of Crossfit Performance.  I was lethargic, overweight, and was still feeling the effects of the disc injury.  Four months later…I am in the best physical condition of my life.  I crossfit to be healthy and to make sure I am going to be around for my wife and son.
  • For my sanity.  I have a two and a half hour commute, 1.25 hours each way, into NYC for work everyday.  Sitting on a train for that long…it gets old.  Not to mention that in between those train rides…a full day of work.  I crossfit to help release the stress of the daily grind.
  • For the people.  Ben Kelly, Andrew Yaun, Tommy Baker, and all of the athletes at CFP are some of the best people I’ve met.  I workout with a crew at 5:30 am that are salt of the earth people.  What keeps me coming back to the box every morning…getting to workout with an awesome group of people who are extremely motivating.  I crossfit because the people who love to crossfit are some of the best on earth.
  • For competition.  At CFP…we get at it in our workouts.  I know people won’t admit it…but everyone in the box has someone they compete against and want to beat.  It is human nature.  You want to be the best.  I crossfit because I want to be the best I can be.
  • For fun.  This one is simple…I crossfit because it is a hell of a workout but more importantly it is awesomely fun.

I could go on and on about the reasons I crossfit and probably have a list of fifty or so before I was done.  The biggest reason I crossfit is because I love doing it.  How many people can say they love something that they do?  To be honest…I hope you…reading this…have something that you love doing.  If you don’t…I don’t know what you are waiting for.  Get up and get out and find something that you love to do.  And I really mean something outside of the basics like hanging out with your significant other, family, etc…Find something that you enjoy doing and make it a priority in your life.  If you can do that I promise that you and everyone around you will be happier.

Are you trying to do too much with your email?

Working in the email channel I see a lot of different email campaigns.  Some good, some bad, and some where I don’t even know what a company was thinking when they said “Hey, this is a good idea”.  The reason I bring this up is that recently I have seen a lot of email campaigns where companies are trying to do way too much with their email.  Video, share to social, push to talk, calls to action, the email creative looks like some type of flea market.  As someone who deals in email every day…even I was confused as to exactly what to do after I opened the email.  Companies are trying to do too much with their email campaigns.  They are trying to do so much that they forget to abide by basic email marketing principles.

The goal of any email is to drive action.  That action could be many things.  The call to action (CTA) could be as simple as just getting a user to open or be more complex and require that a user make a purchase.  Trying to do too much with an email just confuses the email recipient and distracts them from the end goal…conversion!  Here are some things to consider when putting your email campaign together:

  1. Remember you are sending an email.  You are not pushing a web page…you are sending an email creative.  There are things to consider in the user experience when putting together your email creative.  A couple of the most important to keep in mind are to design for the preview pane and to always use ALT tags for your images.
  2. Reinforce your brand.  Email readers will give your email a quick scan in 1 to 2 seconds to determine if they want to open or read further.  If your brand and/or call to action isn’t prominently displayed…you’ve just lost a reader to another email which could be a competitor.  Make sure that your recipients know who is sending the email and what the message is.  Give them the opportunity to engage.
  3. Know your audience.  It has been said time and time again…test, test, test.  I’ll take that a step further into what would be the obvious next step…act on what you have learned in your testing.  If you know your audience converts better on Tuesdays than Wednesdays…send your emails on Tuesday.  That said…don’t get comfortable that your test results are always valid.  Retesting for trends once in a while will help reinforce positioning.
  4. Keep It Simple Silly-head.  Want to keep this blog somewhat PG so I’ve come up with a replacement for the other word more commonly used.  Don’t clutter your creative.  Keep it simple and to the point.  If your message lends itself for sharing…add in some social tags.  If it allows for video to create a more engaging experience…embed some video.  The point is to take everything I’ve mentioned above and put it into practice.  Don’t try to do too much.

I could likely sit here are put together fifty more tips on how to make a great email…and maybe some day I will.  For this post however I will take my own advice and keep it simple.  The tips I offer above are great ways to get your email marketing campaigns rolling.  They all might not apply for your particular campaign but they will allow you to be simple and effective in your programs.  Walk before you run.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone…get your brand and your message across to the recipient.  Engage them in your content and your programs and I bet you will see a return on that investment.

Fight Gone Bad – The Fight Gets Personal

I’ve been talking about the fact that I am going to be participating in a national crossfit fund raiser on the 26th called Fight Gone Bad.  It is a hell of a workout that is jam packed into about 17 minutes of work.  I have been trying to raise $2,500 for my local Box in order to benefit the charities the national event is supporting.  There are three charities…they are The Livestrong Foundation, Wounded Warriors, and The Crossfit Foundation.  Wounded Warriors and Crossfit Foundation are both organizations that support our troops coming home from battle and their families.  Truly…these two organizations help those warriors who come home…as well as the families of those who do not.  Livestrong is an organization that is bent on fighting and finding a cure for cancer.  Not only am I ecstatic about supporting our troops…but the war on cancer really rings home…especially this week.

While my immediate family has not been personally impacted by cancer…as per my previous post we all run a non-profit organization called Al’s Angels.  The organization raises money to support children and their families impacted by cancer and other blood disease. Earlier this week…one of our family friends…one of our angels fighting cancer…went into the hospital with pneumonia. One day we see her pumping iron in the gym…the next morning we get word that she is in the ICU fighting for her life. What an awful disease. Why does it seem to always attack those who are the best of us?

My fight…my participation in Fight Gone Bad has taken a more personal note. I might not be the fittest one doing his workout…or the fastest…but I am determined to fight my hardest. It is the least I can do…and it is nothing compared to those fighting this disease themselves. It is my goal to raise $2,500…and I am almost there…will you help by providing support for me to tackle this workout on behalf of all that are fighting all of the different types of this wretched disease?

Will you help support me in this fight? All it takes is whatever you can afford to donate…do you really need to spend that $10 on a beer? Do you really need that next pair of shoes or to participate in 45 different fantasy football leagues? Why not take a small piece of that money and put it towards a cause you can feel good about?

You can support me here:

Thank you for your support…thank you for reading this…

MM…we love you and thoughts and prayers are with you for a speedy recovery! “No retreat, no surrender”

Two Weeks to Go – Countdown to Fight Gone Bad

If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend of mine on Facebook…you are likely a little bit tired of hearing about Fight Gone Bad.  I can understand your point of view…but I’m going to talk about it anyway.

Over the last ten years or so my family has been involved in raising money for children with rare blood diseases and cancer.  My Father started his own 501 C3 charitable organization called Al’s Angels dedicated to these efforts.  Last year Al’s Angels provided over 1500 families in the New York tri-state area with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  In conjunction with the Christmas meals the organization provided over 4,000 toys to children who without this support would have NO presents to unwrap on Christmas morning.  Supporting organizations that help the fight against cancer is something that is truly important to myself and my family.

When presented with the opportunity to raise money for Livestrong and Wounded Warriors through doing a simple (some may argue that it is simple) workout…I really jumped at the chance.  I reached out to family and friends to help support me in my effort to raise money.  The way I look at raising money is that every dollar counts.  I’ve been asking everyone I know to simply donate $10 to help me in my fight.  To date I’ve raised about $1,700 in funds to help in support of the fund raiser and looking to raise even more…think about it…it is only $10.  Is it really that hard to find $10 to donate to a great cause?  I really don’t think so…here are some things we could go without that would allow us to do this…

  1. Pack your lunch! Especially in NYC…buying lunch would cost you around $10.  Pack your lunch a day or two and make a donation!
  2. Go for a walk.  Taking a cab to somewhere within walking distance?  As long as it isn’t raining…how about walking?  Cab fare will run you around $10…which you could donate to a great cause instead!
  3. Play a board game! Ticket prices for the movies run $11/ticket where I live.  Stay in on a Friday night and play a board game with the family.  Not only will you have a great time talking with your family but you’ll have some extra coin to donate!

The three items mentioned above are just the starting point…there are hundreds of other things that you can do to save $10 to be able to donate to a worthwhile cause.  One thing I’ve learned being involved with Al’s Angels is that EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS.  Walking through cancer patient wards at hospital around the area is a sobering event.  It shows just how far we have to go in our fight against cancer and really motivates a person to do their best in supporting the battle in anyway they can.  For me…it is my work with Al’s Angels and my participation in Fight Gone Bad on the 25th…I do these things for the faces I see and the people that are supported by these charities.

Will you help me in this battle?

If you are in the NYC area and want to help support Al’s Angels in our efforts…there are loads of opportunities…the one coming up is called 24 Hours of Hope.  It is a 24 hour fund raiser at the Fitness Edge in Norwalk CT where anyone can join and workout for an hour or two to raise money to support kids with cancer and rare blood diseases.  Check it out here.

The Internet Is All Around Us

I’ve been traveling a lot recently.  One of the reasons I have not been as religious in updating the blog over the last couple of weeks.  After this trip I would love to say that the travel slows down…but that is not the case.  That is ok.  In my line of work…tis the season.  Clients are preparing for the Q4 push into the holiday season and have budget to burn before they lose whatever is left for 2011.  So at least the travel is for good reasons.

Last week I took an overnight trip out to San Diego.  For those who don’t know I am based out of New York so the concept of a quick overnight trip to the west coast was one met with dread.  Twelve hours of plane travel, if I was lucky, for a four hour meeting…man that is rough.  For our biggest account…it was needed.  It turned out not to be that bad.  One of the major reasons for this was that the Delta flight I was on had Wi-Fi Internet access for the entire duration of the flight.  Once passed 10,000 feet the Wi-Fi signal kicks in and for $12.95 you have Internet access for the duration.  What a deal!  I was able to work and prepare for my meeting the entire way out.  While some might see this as a blessing, being able to do work instead of sleep and relax, I loved it!

As we speak I am currently at 34,000 feet on my way to Atlanta.  Another purchase of Wi-Fi, $4.95 for a shorter flight, and here I am connected once again.  It is clear that the Internet is all around us.  I do question if this is a good thing or not.  My wife certainly questions it and her opinions are clear.  Being connected regardless of where you go means that work can follow you there too.  Work is with me as we travel on family vacations…be it the Blackberry or the laptop…it follows me.  I can understand that it can be annoying and at times being connected all the time definitely turns a good time bad.  It also is a godsend.  Being able to shoot a quick email…check a website…on the go is fantastic.  Can it be abused?  Sure…but so can anything else.

So as we begin our initial descent into Atlanta I’ll leave you with a question…can you truly disconnect?

Battling the “MetManMig” – Rows and Run

I’m overdue for a post.  Being stuck in a plane for about 6 hours on my way to the west coast what a better opportunity to get some good writing in.  It is pretty crazy when I think about the fact that I am tied into the Internet 33,000 feet in the air.  If you allow it…you truly cannot disconnect.  But I digress…back to the topic at hand…the MetManMig.  As you know from reading previous posts BK has an ongoing series that highlights an athlete and asks them a series of questions that allows the other members of CFP to learn more about their fellow athletes.  On Tuesday night the latest installment was posted.  After last week’s A-Bomb workout (too tough to even think about writing about) this week it was 90 seconds with Big Jim.  Jim is a tall dude…taller then I am and I stand around 6 ft.  As I read down the interview I was truly engaged in learning about Jim…his service career…how he came to find crossfit…and other facts and tidbits about his life.  On a side note…seems like a lot of the CFP’ers play golf…definitely need a CFP outing in the future.

Jim’s WOD.  I didn’t want to say it on Tuesday at the box…but it was a killer.  Here is what the workout entailed:

500M Row

400M Run

4 rounds, As Fast As Humanly Possibly

Just one word to say to that…ouch.  To sweeten the pot even further…Jim put up a case of beer for the fastest man…and a bottle of wine for the fastest female to complete the WOD.  I don’t have to say it again…but running is not my strong suit.  Like it or not…last week while I was on vacation…I actually put together two consecutive days of travel WODs where I included a mile run as a part of both.  My first day I was really trying to feel out the run…a mile wasn’t as far as I thought it was.  I ended up coming in at 7:17.  Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t run a mile since middle school.  Day two…was even better.  I broke the 7 minute mark and was able to come in at 6:59…that felt awesome.  So seeing Jim’s WOD on Tuesday…4 times 400M…a mile run.  Ugh.  Not only that…but throw in a 2,000M row and you’ve got a killer workout.  I was apprehensive going into the box this morning…but…I got in their early raring to go.

We’ve been doing a lot of mini WODs to warm-up for the main workout recently at CFP and I absolutely love it.  This morning was three rounds of ten burpees and ten sit-ups.  I ended up with a time of 2:30…which…all told…I thought was pretty decent.  About three minutes after that I was part of the first group to head out on the MetManMig.  As an elements athlete BK modified the workout for us and dropped the row down to 350M.  My ego wanted me to bang out the WOD as prescribed…but I put the pride in the pocket and attacked the elements version.  The first round…felt real good.  Controlled on the row…and powerful on the run.  Round two…more of the same.  Coming in from the run…jumping on the erg for round three…I hit the wall.  My legs were toast.  I powered through but definitely did not have my wind with me today in the workout.  I was able to bring it home on the last run for a time of 15:30.  At this point…I’ll take it.  We’re just about wrapped up on our Olympic lifting phase…and while I’ve enjoyed it…with Fight Gone Bad coming up…looking forward to some more consistent MetCon workouts to start building up the endurance required for that beast of a WOD.

BK shared the blog with the box today.  It was great to hear all of the positive comments from my fellow crossfitters at CFP.  This blog has been a good tool for me to help keep my mind straight.  Keep me focused on why I crossfit.  Do I do it for myself?  Of course…but I workout…I commit myself to be healthy for my family. My wife…my son…they are my inspiration. What drive you? What makes you get up at 5:30 am to workout or head to the gym at 5:30 pm after a full day of work? We all have our reasons. Keep focus…keep that drive…and bring the hurt!

Crossfit Performance – Olympic Lifting Phase

For about the last four weeks BK has brought the athletes on a journey through the Olympic lifts.  There are two exercises that make up the Olympic weightlifting competition, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk (C&J).  Both movements are aggressive overhead lifts that are beasts.  It is also crucial that the athlete’s technique is flawless when performing these lifts as there are a lot of moving pieces.  Add in that the weight is going over your head and it brings in yet another element to the strength exercise.  This experience has been my first with Olympic style lifting and it has been great…but definitely a struggle.

Coming into crossfit I thought I had decent experience as an athlete.  I never played one of the major sports like Football, Basketball or Baseball in high school, though I did play baseball as a kid up to the American Legion level.  I was a swimmer.  I spent my summers and winter in the pool.  After looking to swim in college…and ending up at Villanova…I decided to hang up the Speedo.  This is all a long way of saying…I’ve never done an Olympic lift.  Throwing a barbell over head is something so foreign to me that these past four weeks have been incredibly difficult.  Technique is always something I have struggled with.  Even going back to swimming…I’ve always tried to compensate for an area of a movement where I was weak.  In swimming it was my legs.  I have fairly broad shoulders and as a sprint Freestyler I would muscle my way down the pool.  As anyone who has done any Olympic lifting…muscling a lift is a major no-no.

BK’s approach to teaching the Olympic lifts has been awesome.  In the four week program…the first time I picked up more than a dowel rod for a movement was at the end of week three.  Of course the three week period wasn’t overly exciting but it was critically important.  If you don’t maintain your form and technique with a dowel rod you cannot expect to hold any type of technique when adding the weight. Learning the right stance, starting position, the proper grip are crucial skills to maintain.  Stance. Grip. Position.  That mantra serves as the foundation for every lift we do at CFP.

With the snatch and the C&J my biggest issue is letting the bar travel away from my body during the lift.  I am again trying to muscle the bar overhead using my arms and shoulders.  I have to be patience and really let the shoulders lead and the arms follow.  I really need to keep the bar close and look to drop underneath the weight.  For the C&J it is definitely having fast elbows along with keeping the bar in close.  Being new to Olympic lifts the movements are just awkward to put together.  There are so many things to be conscious of when doing these movements it is really important to have your head about you and really pay attention to what you are doing.  Concentration is key.

We’ve got one more week of the Olympic lifts and then we are on to the next phase.  I’m going to keep fighting to keep that bar close.  Big CFP athlete MetCon tomorrow morning.  Should be nice and steamy in the Box…bring the hurt.

eTail East – Views from a Vendor

Earlier this week I had the great opportunity to attend the eTail East conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  I first have to say that it was a fantastic conference.  The organizers of the event, Worldwide Business Research (WBR), did a fantastic job putting together the conference.  Everyone I spoke to had a great time and the sessions were informative and well attended.  It was not like some other shows out there who have an agenda that consists of a morning with 2 or 3 hour long sessions and then adjourn to go water skiing or play golf somewhere.  Of course I like playing golf as much as the next guy…but if I am going to be spending money for a conference…I want content.  eTail East, from a vendor perspective, provided that content.  With speakers like Andrew Kordek from Groupon, David Siegel from 1-800-Flowers, and Kathy Hecht from American greetings the show brought a wealth of knowledge to the table and allowed the retailers in attendance to gain some great insight from those presenting.

As a vendor at the show I was relegated to the exhibition hall.  One room for two full days.  As a result of the content being so informative during the speaker sessions the hall was dead.  Neighboring booths mentioned that the show was “slow” and that there were not  enough people at the event.  I didn’t see it.  Sure…during the periods of time where the attendees were at session the exhibit hall was empty.  During the breaks…our booth was a buzz of activity.  The retailers we spoke with were incredibly engaged and open to listening to what Zeta Interactive had to offer at the show.  We had our email platform up and running to show our competitive differentiators, we had our digital publishing product Zeta Next Page up on screen showing “What’s Next” in digital publishing.  The folks coming to the booth ate it up.

It was clear from speaking with the attendees that email and social media were very top of mind.  I was amazed in speaking with some of the smaller retailers at the show at the struggles they are having with their email programs.  They all know that email programs are key to both acquisition and retention programs but struggle to get them started.  “Where do I begin?” and “How do I start my program?” were questions I heard numerous times from retailers while on the floor.  It showed me that while we all get starry-eyed when someone mentions social media that we have to remember to handle the basic blocking and tackling as well.  A solid email program helps stabilize and drive programs in other channels.  Email, social, search, they all work together in an integrated manner to help drive acquisition and retention.  They are the tools used to drive conversion.  It is important not to sacrifice one for the other.

Social Media was definitely the new kid on the block in terms of discussion had during the conference and a lot of the questions we were asked while at the booth centered around social initiatives.  A lot of businesses out there are still trying to get a handle on what “social media” means to them and their brand.  They all realize that they need to have more of a presence in the channel but either do not know where to start or are intimidated about the exposure the brand will receive in the channel.  All questions that are good questions to ask…it was just interesting to see that so many…large or small…had the same issues.

Looking back on the experience it was clear that what made this show a good show for us as a vendor was the preparation.  Our Marketing and Strategic Services team did a fantastic job preparing for the event.  The Sales team put in the effort before the show started to make connections with attendees and setup meetings with key prospect targets while at the event.  Nine meetings with potential accounts were setup for the two full days we were at the show before the show even began.  The show was a great show because Zeta Interactive did not just show up.  We showed up with a plan and showed up to work.  Some may have treated the trip as a boondoggle…and believe me…the party crowd was there…but what benefit does that hold for your company?  Anyone can go out for drinks.

A slow show?  Maybe after the Monday night bar crawl…but from where I was standing…eTail East was a great show.

The Travel WOD – My First Experience

Well…it has been a week since my last post…and it has been a long week.  As most of you know I have a toddler at home.  He is getting in a few molars…yes…at once…and has been a chore to get to bed for a nap or even for the night.  I’m not complaining…he sleeps for 11 to 12 hours a night…which is awesome…but it took me an hour and a half on Saturday and Sunday night to get him down.  It is a little draining on the energy level.  Anyway…after the morning CFP WOD on Monday morning I was off on my first work trip since starting crossfit.  Since I started on-ramp in the second week of June I had not missed a session.  I was off for three days in Baltimore.  Before I left I mention to Spider that I was going to be traveling and he gratefully passed along a document of travel WODs that can be done anywhere.  Awesome!

After a four and a half hour train ride from Bridgeport, CT to Baltimore I was pretty crushed.  Sure…it is sitting down the entire time…but any travel is draining on the energy level.  Getting into Baltimore around 4 pm I took a cab straight to the hotel, dropped my stuff, and headed to the eTail East opening reception.  After schmoozing with other marketers and retailers for a couple of hours the Zeta Interactive team decided to take in an Orioles game.  We didn’t even have to buy tickets.  Check out these seats:

Camden Yards

The picture is from my Father’s suite (For those who don’t know, I work for my Father).  It was a gorgeous evening and getting to see a few innings of the game was awesome.   But it was late and I was hungry.  The rest of the group ordered room service.  After a few wings…trying to stay away from the carbs…I decided to call it an evening.  Getting back to the room…I spent a few minutes with the travel WODs and made a selection for the next morning.

Waking up at 5:30 am on Tuesday morning was tough but I wanted to get up and workout at the same time as my regular crew back at the CFP box.  I headed down to the gym at the Hilton Baltimore.  Needless to say that upon getting there…it left a little bit to be desired.  With no barbells or other free weights I decided to head outside.  Luckily I had purchased a jump rope before heading down to Baltimore so I was able to warm-up with some jump rope and time on the treadmill.  The nice thing about the gym was the terrace…where I spent my time working out:

Camden Yards

Not a bad view for the workout.  I decided to do the following for Tuesday’s WOD:

Invisible Fran – 21 – 15 – 9 reps of push-ups and air squats for time.

10 push-ups/10 air squats – 10 rounds – 30 seconds between rounds.

In the heat of the outdoors…even outside…this was a killer…but I felt great.  After a day of standing on my feet at the eTail conference…Wednesday was a different story.  The few drinks at dinner caught up with me.  Wednesday’s WOD was:

10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 Push-ups and Sit-ups UNBROKEN, for time

I made it through in 9:45 but was struggling.  Definitely spent from the travel and the late evenings at the conference.  All in all however I found that travel WODs can be just as taxing as the WODs back in the box.  It is all about staying focus and having the discipline to get things done.  The drive shouldn’t come from the box…it should come from inside yourself.  Just going to the box or gym doesn’t get you into shape.  It is all about the heart…that beating in your chest that drives you to get up and get out the door to get your workout in.  Can’t wait to get back into the box tomorrow.  Bring the hurt.