On Being a Company, as well as a Business

Last week I eventually found myself in Charleston, SC. (I must have really, really aggravated a Travel God in a prior lifetime, because I could have driven from Massachusetts faster than the airlines got me there!). Charleston is where FeedBlitz’s customer service organization is centered. We were giving back to the local tech community by sponsoring the city’s first WordCamp.

Now, FeedBlitz is a purely virtual organization. I like it that way; it makes sense in the modern economy, where physical overhead really isn’t needed 99% of the time, especially for a business like FeedBlitz. Yet, while we’re a growing business and we Skype, message and call all the time, there’s really no substitute for meeting in person now and again.

And so it was in Charleston. Our first official corporate off-site, we finally got the whole team together for the first time, ever.

While planned for some time, though, getting everyone together ended up being more important than expected. What it served to remind me of, given that two weeks earlier one of the team received a stage 3 cancer diagnosis, is not only how important people are to building a successful business, but also how important these people are to me, personally; and, I firmly believe, we all are to each other.  More to the point, I’d failed them with a good business (but poor people) decision made a year ago; a decision that was easy to change in principle, but agonizingly difficult to achieve in practice. I’d forgotten that this business is run by, and serves, people, first and foremost. The bits and bytes, emails and feeds? They are the means, not the end.

To provide greater context, it’s been a difficult twelve months for this small business, to say the least, and there are challenges ahead. Our teeny team has gone through bereavements, are going through divorces, will endure cancer. In Charleston we laughed and, yes, we cried, too.

But as we stood, smiling (maybe a little hung over, too — you might like to think so, I couldn’t possibly comment), grabbing the photos for Facebook and our memories, I realized that, through it all, we (not me, we) had managed to, accidentally, build something much more important than the business.

We’d built a company, together.

I couldn’t be more proud of the people who work here, and what they achieve on a daily basis for our clients, for themselves, despite everything. Ultimately, as a result, making FeedBlitz a better business and building greater value for our investors. Being this company means we will succeed, and that the leaders I see emerging in the team will take this company forward to exciting and interesting new places in the coming years. It won’t be easy – nothing worth doing is – but if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. You’ve no idea how much I trust them (Edit: I don’t think they do, either. They’ll figure it out, sooner or later).

Better yet, though, Charleston was notable for one other reason.

Ashley started to reverse the curse by getting married to Josh that Sunday. We couldn’t be happier for them.

And so for many, many reasons, this was the week it all changed.

Building a growing, profitable business? That’s good.

Building a company?

Priceless.

New RSS-Only Plans Are Here!

If you want to switch your RSS service to FeedBlitz, but want to keep your existing email service, now you can.

Announcing our RSS-only plans, designed to scale from the casual blogger (starting at only $15 per year) through to those needing unlimited RSS resources. There’s no limit to the number of RSS subscribers on your feed, just the number of feeds in your account at each tier.

A May Day Milestone

It’s May 1st, May Day, and in many countries a day off to celebrate hard work and to welcome spring. (Not here in the States, of course, because we like to be special here, and Spring is veeery late showing up in many places). Also, if you’re in Oxford, England, the pubs open really early today, pretty much requiring a day off once you hit the booze at 6am. You might like to think I did that when I was a student there; I couldn’t possibly comment.

We’ve been working hard here at FeedBlitz, and today we too are celebrating. Last October, we noted our first ever day where we sent more than five million emails.

We were excited! [Read more...]

I Should be Flattered, Right? or, Some FeedBlitz Policy Changes

OK, I’ll take it as a kind of compliment.

Over the last few days we’ve been dealing with an attempt by a very, very persistent scammer to use FeedBlitz.  I’m sure the individual concerned would prefer the term “internet marketer” or “affiliate marketer” – I strongly disagree given what I’ve seen.  It’s crud.

Clearly, they want to take advantage of our delivery excellence and the degree of trust we place in our publishers. When we yanked their list and the account, back they came within minutes to rinse and repeat under a different identity.  And so it went.

CLARIFICATION: In case I was unclear: FeedBlitz was not hacked. We allowed a list on that our  policies, at the time, allowed. The list quality was very poor, the content yucky, and so our policies and software have now changed to prevent this kind of list from getting into FeedBlitz again. [Read more...]

FeedBlitz: Rewind the Week

FeedBlitzIt’s that time again, time to rewind, and take a look at some of the stories you might have missed this week in the world of tech, business, or sometimes, even the beauty of art.

This week’s FeedBlitz: Rewind the Week touches on all three of the above, with a special ‘hat tip’ towards innovation, and how young people are using today’s latest technology (Google Glass, 3D mapping) to foster change – even if that change is just in how we see ourselves.

Let’s get started. First, nothing says Friday like a ‘tech scandal’, right? [Read more...]

FeedBlitz: Rewind the Week

FeedBlitzFor today’s FeedBlitz:Rewind the Week, we’re going to do a little looking back, and a little looking forward.

This week saw the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. According to one article (of many) “On March 12, 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee proposed a type of digital information sharing at CERN that would use “linked information,” “nodes,” and “hypermedia” to form a “web.””

And if you want a real giggle, have a look at the very first web site, from 1990 (and still live today).

Anyhow, let’s get started, and take a look at some of what’s been kicking around the World Wide Web this week, that you might have missed. [Read more...]

Podcasters Don’t Overload Your RSS Feed

As a Podcaster, and this goes for Bloggers too, I know the feeling of wanting to make all my shows available to everyone. It should to be as simple as it can to get to your content into the hands of subscribers, but what a lot of people want to do is instinctively make all their old shows and posts available in their RSS feed. While I can see the value in that, it may not be the best answer.

Originally there was a limit to how many items you can have in an RSS feed, more specifically the limit was in regards the size of the feed in bytes. Now, technically that it isn’t a factor anymore, however there are services and applications that still adhere to that limit. Keep this in mind that if you run all your shows in your feed you could be making it incompatible for some.
Making a successful Podcast also depends on one important factor, a relationship with the listener. If all your shows and posts are available to the subscribers in a feed, then that will be the end point in your relationship. On my own website we not only publish our Podcast, but we also carry blog content as well. In addition to the Blog content, we do publish some ads on our page to generate a little revenue. If everyone subscribes to your feed and doesn’t go to your website regularly, you are missing an opportunity to get more eyes on what you are doing. More importantly you are also missing an opportunity to extend the relationship with your subscriber.
It is the small things that can help keep your boat sailing in the ocean of social media. Here are some suggestions.
  • Limiting the number if items in your feed to 10 or 20
  • Have a well organized, and easy to navigate archive on the site so people can find older shows, WordPress makes this easy
  • Also, promote your archive on your show by talking it up and make sure your listeners know where to find it
If you are creating compelling content, interested subscribers will come and get it. In the end let your feed compliment your site instead of it being your site.
Guest Post by Kreg Steppe of  Technorama.

Introducing “Help Me Now” from FeedBlitz

Today I’m delighted to formally announce “Help Me Now” – simple to buy, easily afforded RSS to email and FeedBurner Migration setup services, delivered by FeedBlitz’s trusted customer implementation team.

As the industry leader in RSS to email and RSS feed management, Help Me Now makes our in-house expertise available to you. To bloggers, to podcasters, to web designers and virtual assistants, in an easily understood, quickly delivered, readily understood package, tailored to your needs. Use Help Me Now to have FeedBlitz migrate your (or your client’s) FeedBurner feeds, podcasts and mailing lists. Jump start your email subscription forms. Set up and configure your popup settings.

Short on time? Help Me Now gets you going, while you focus on your blog, your business, and your audience.

Why? Because sometimes simply getting started can seem to be just too much. Too techie, too daunting, too time-consuming. Sound familiar? Want to just hand the work off to the people who really know what they’re doing? Then Help Me Now is for you.

There are no surprises, either. It’s easy to get started. No sales pressure, just fill out a web form and generate the package price online based on your usage. Pay for the quote you’ve generated and we will fast track your project.

Help Me Now starts at only $35 for bloggers, and $50 for podcasters. Let us help you. Now, easily, affordably. Learn more about Help Me Now here.

Strategy, Serendipity and Trade Shows

It’s sometimes said that the essence to establishing a successful strategy is deciding what it is that you’re NOT going to do. Any executive running an organization or enterprise, whether Fortune 100 all the way down to solopreneur, faces choices that have to be made. That would be the “executive” part of the role.

While some choices can be easy, some are very difficult to make, especially when they will clearly have a significant effect on the future of the business. When you don’t have the luxury of time or resources to run a proper market research study (and I’m not going to get drawn in this post on the utility of that, particularly for small, nimble, startup-scale companies), it can be an excruciating process when all the choices seem good. Which path to take? Which to abandon? When your enterprise can legitimately execute on paths A, B or C, but is only able to pick one, the stakes are inordinately high.

And so it was, as it happens, for FeedBlitz at the end of 2013. We had several directions that we could invest in that would make various market sectors more successful and power our continued growth. The last thing we wanted to do was try to do them all – that’s a recipe for disaster – but as a team we were finding ourselves somewhat confounded. There weren’t any bad choices, but we had to choose.

So Heather and I found ourselves at #NMX just over a week ago wrestling with these decisions. We didn’t resolve anything, and on the second day of the conference the trade show – where we had a booth – began.

Enter the third element of this post’s triumvirate: Serendipity. Within the first two hours of the expo, and repeatedly confirmed during the next two days, it became absolutely clear what we had to do and where the opportunities for FeedBlitz lay. Visitor after visitor gave us the same story, wanted to know how we could provide a solution, and liked what we had to say.

Essentially, the expo became a giant market research study, where the study came to us and told us unambiguously what we needed to hear.

It’s often claimed that the best benefits of trade shows and industry conferences are the networking opportunities. No debate from me on that one. But if you’re open to serendipity and are able to listen, the benefits go way beyond networking and real-life social interaction.

Oh, and by the way? The first results of the insights are already on the website and appearing in the product. More on that next week!

Quick Cyber Monday Mailing Tips

It’s Cyber Monday – and if you’ve news or deals you want to get out today, better get your email marketing on! Here are some quick tips for FeedBlitz publishers.

Get your offer emails out early

If your automatic schedule is set to later in the day, or you’re on a weekly mailing, you can use our “Newsflash” (email blast) or “On Demand” (hand-picked post selection) mailing capabilities to send an email out right now. Go to your list, click the large green “Send a Mailing” button upper right, and follow the prompts.  Don’t forget that you can pre-schedule newsflash mailings if you want to, and that a newsflash is the perfect vehicle for breaking news, or for when there isn’t a blog post to power the mailing.

Have a clear subject line

If you’re offering a special for Cyber Monday and it’s going to expire, make that clear in the subject. Make sure you get to the point in the subject quickly too – the prevalence of email on mobile phones means you have very little space to make your point in the subject line. Get the job done in less than 35 characters if you can.

Don’t overwhelm

If you have multiple offers, try sending them all in a single email. Your subscribers will feel overwhelmed and bombarded if you overdo it, and unsubscribe. Respect your readers.

Your regular mailings still matter

Especially if your next one isn’t until this afternoon or later in the week, you still need to get it done. How about an article on post-Cyber Monday deals, or (for those who’ve gone a little overboard) debt management? Stay relevant as we hurtle towards Christmas and the New Year.

Any questions?

The support team @FeedBlitz (Twitter) and the support email address are ready to help.