Monday, January 24, 2011

Too cold to play outside? Bring on the books!

The last few days, it has been brutally cold in New England. Today, it was -16°. No, that is not a typo: MINUS SIXTEEN. And we have about four feet of snow on the ground, with another foot or two supposedly on the way later this week. (Goody.)

Anyway, since the weather is simply not kid-friendly (or adult friendly, for that matter), we've been finding ways to entertain C indoors. And I am beyond thrilled to say that one of her favorite things to do is to read. There are tons and tons of "best kids' books" lists out there, but since C's favorites include some classics and some newer reads, I thought it would be fun to publish my own mini-list. In no particular order, here's a short list of some of C's prime picks:

1. The Red Lemon, by Bob Staake 
This book is completely charming. Farmer McPhee, a lemon farmer, finds a red lemon in his orchard. Bright, colorful illustrations, and a lot of fun to read. (A side note: I read this to C's class one day, and the kids were fighting to sit on my lap. That's how good this book is, people.)

2. Moomin's Lift-the-flap Hide and Seek, by Tove Jansson
My parents went to Sweden this summer, and brought back this book for C. The creatures on each page have silly names (Snorkmaiden, Fillyjonk, Stinky), which just cracks her up. And there's not much that's cuter than a two-year old's belly laugh.

3. Harry The Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
My husband and I both remember reading this book as kids...and since it was originally published in 1956, I'd be willing to bet some good money that my parents probably read it, too. C enjoys reading it now, and maybe some day, her kids will read it as well.

4. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus, by Mo Willems
I love, love, LOVE this book. Mo Willems' illustrations are so fun, and require the reader to really ham it up. (They do in our house, anyway.) Wheedling, negotiating pigeon? Check. Full-on pigeon meltdown? Check. New love at the end of the story? Check. We recently received Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late as a gift, and I'm thinking that will soon be on a regular rotation, too.

5. Potty, by Leslie Patricelli
C is starting to show some interest in using a potty, so this book is high on our list. We have most of Leslie Patricelli's books, and all of them feature a curious little guy who only seems to wear diapers, except for when he's sleeping. C has started to "read" some of these books back to us.

6. Ten Black Dots, by Donald Crews
I'm convinced that this clever book has helped C learn how to count to ten. She likes to point out all of the dots (though she also sometimes thinks that they're indicative of pop-up flaps), and every time she sees a train, she yells, "Carrying freight through sun and rain!"

7. Mother Goose (various)
We have so many versions of Mother Goose, I feel like the old woman in the shoe...but with books, not kids. That being said, each of these books are wonderful, for different reasons: Tomie's Little Mother Goose has lots of short poems, which is helpful for squirmy toddlers/short attention spans. The Real Mother Goose has just one rhyme on each facing page, making it a quick read for bedtime, and My Very First Mother Goose has more than 100 pages: a Mother Goose anthology! I was very surprised at how many rhymes I remembered from my own childhood...and how many I'd never heard before.  

8. Where Is the Green Sheep?, by Mem Fox 
Rainbow-colored sheep dancing, singing, and being brave: what's not to love? Very sweet, easy-to-read book, with lots to look at.  

9. Find Your ABC's, by Richard Scarry
Another classic from my own/my husband's childhood. This is actually intended for kids a little older (4 - 8, according to Amazon), but C enjoys looking at all of the pictures and pointing out Sam and Dudley (the protagonists) on each page. She's gotten really good at finding some very obscure objects, too. 

10. C Goes Apple Picking, by GiGi
OK, so this book isn't available for purchase online, but I had to mention it, because C loves it, and I know I'll always treasure it, too. My mom made C a custom photo book, using photos that she took when we went apple picking together, and C asks us to read it again and again. My mom claims it was incredibly easy and fun to put together, and lots of photo-sharing companies (Snapfish, KodakGallery) offer this type of keepsake book. I'm hoping that one of these days, I'll get around to creating one myself. 

So that's our list. It changes and grows on an almost weekly basis, of course, but if you have little kids and are looking for some new reading material, I hope this helps. Please share your favorites in the comments!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

California, here I come!

This week, we had more than two feet of snow fall in one day. And it's snowing again this evening. I am well aware that I live in New England, where a snowy winter is de rigeur, and since it's only January, we're still at the very beginning of what's likely to be a long, cold winter. However, a ray of sunshine has entered my frozen world: I just registered for the 2011 AIM Conference, which is being held in sunny California at the beginning of May.

I went to the AIM Conference for the first time last year, and it was excellent. Though the trip from the east coast to the west is a long one, I got so much out of the sessions and made some great contacts, too. This year's conference promises to be outstanding as well, with early agenda items including the below (as of January 15):
  • What Happened to My Leads? (Actual) Sales Phone Calls Gone Wrong
  • A New Product/Company Competition – New Companies Vie for “Best New Product or Service of the Year” judged by investors and the audience.
  • Social Shopping - Why is Groupon Worth $3 Billion? Do Peer Recommendations Matter That Much?
I didn't have to negotiate attendance, since my company and manager are very pro-education and networking (lucky me!), but if you need some tips to persuade a "deal boy without a clue," I highly suggest watching this video, courtesy of Stephen Lefkovits, Executive Producer of AIM and principal of Joshua Tree Internet Media, LLC and Joshua Tree Consulting.

Yep, we marketers have a pretty good sense of humor, which is one of the reasons that this conference ranks so high on my list of must attend events. If your plans take you to California, please look me up: I'll be the girl smiling blissfully in the sun, and eagerly networking with my peers. May can't come fast enough!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Checking in, ma'am?

As I've mentioned previously on this blog, I am a big fan of Foursquare. I even wrote a post a few months back, called "Four things I like about Foursquare," and all of what I wrote still holds true. But just recently, I ran into a thought-provoking situation that I'm willing to wager is quite common.

For the third time, I've been ousted as the mayor of my favorite yoga studio. By the same person. Who happens to be a teacher at said yoga studio. (In fairness, she also attends classes regularly as a participant.) This woman and I jostle for the mayorship on an almost weekly basis, and we've congratulated one another online for knocking the other gal off the pedestal. Part of me loves the friendly competition, which I know is a big part of Foursquare's appeal. I also genuinely admire this yogini for being so diligent with her practice - and for remembering to check in, which I don't always do. However, part of me is a teensy bit irritated that an employee of a retail establishment is able to claim the mayorship in the first place. (I know, I sound like a whiny little kid. And for those of you who aren't on Foursquare, like my husband, you're probably rolling your eyes and saying, "Who the heck cares?" But bear with me, please.)

I've read that employees can be "blocked" from checking in at the places where they work, but am not sure whether that practice is particularly widespread. Nor am I sure that it's entirely fair, since if employees are also customers, why shouldn't they be allowed to check in like anyone else? And if you work for a division of a company that customers don't frequent, i.e., a corporate headquarters office, do the same rules apply? In the spirit of full disclosure, that last scenario applies to me: I am the mayor of The Dolben Company, but our multifamily properties that are listed on Foursquare all have different mayors, and generally speaking, I don't check in at our properties when I do site visits.

Rumors have been floating around indicating that Foursquare may someday allow for co/vice mayors, or different check-in categories for employees and customers, but none of that exists today. And of course, Foursquare isn't the only game in town when it comes to location-based marketing. The other platforms all have different rules and rewards, but I'm only talking about Foursquare here, since my personal experience is limited to that.

As location-based marketing continues to become more mainstream, I'd be very curious to know your thoughts on what is considered "fair game" when it comes to check-ins. In the meantime, I am going to gather my yoga gear together in hopes of catching a midweek class...and if I'm able to claim the mayorship again, well, that's just a bonus, isn't it?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A few predictions for 2011.

So, it's officially 2011. And in the spirit of the season (lists galore!), I'd like to offer three predictions for marketers, based on my own thoughts and on conversations with my peers.

1. Location-based marketing will continue to grow in popularity. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places: if you're not using one (or more) of these services already, I predict that my fellow marketers are going to try and tempt you to jump on board this year. Special deals and more await you. And of course, if you use Foursquare, like I do, there's the "game" aspect of this type of social networking, including some friendly competition for local mayorships.

2. QR tags will finally take off. A way to provide information that can be easily accessed by smartphone, QR tags and Microsoft tags (see SearchEngineLand's article for more on Microsoft tags) offer customers and prospects an online experience, ranging from custom landing pages, to video, to online coupons, without having to manually navigate to a specific URL. Interestingly, Microsoft tags can be custom-branded.

3. Ratings and reviews will become even more important, no matter what industry you're in. I work in multifamily marketing, and has long been the only resource for apartment-seekers to get information. The problem with ApartmentRatings is that it's incredibly biased: the ratings skew heavily toward the negative, and apartment managers have to pay to respond to any feedback that residents leave. Thankfully, Yelp and Google Place pages have started to turn the tide a bit, and it's now easier to find a more balanced opinion. In addition, industry-focused companies, such as Property Solutions (with whom my company works) now offer a variety of ways for residents and prospects to offer feedback, with the option for property managers to post those comments on our resident and prospect portals. Other companies, like RentWiki and RentMineOnline (again, my company works with both of these vendors), also allow companies to collect and share resident comments, along with widgets that can easily be incorporated into other media.

So there are my top three predictions for the year ahead...I'll be very interested to see how things unfold. What are your predictions? Would love to hear your thoughts.