Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

A Friend in need

(Source: David Armano)

Some of you may have heard of the unfortunate accident that Gavin Heaton‘s father-in-law, Noel, and fellow cyclists Mike, Dave and Dr. Steve, met with during a recent cycling trip (prior to Christmas).

3 things we can do?

1. Blog
2. Donate
3. Thoughts

Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Gavin and his family.

Filed under: Uncategorized

5-Steps to Community Building — via Business Week

This is an addendum to my recent post on Business Week’s article — True Believers. Here’s a second serving of quotes from the article, which also serves as an overview of how-to “connect, foster, and build” a community of evangelists:

1. Don’t just preach; practice —

For many companies, transforming customers from passive buyers to active participants demands a seismic shift in thinking. You can’t just slap up a blog and expect people to get excited.

2. Customer evangelism is TANGIBLE!

The benefits of courting customer advocates are clear. Research by Bain & Co. over the past decade has found that revenues of companies with the highest levels of customer loyalty grew more than twice as fast as those of their competitors. And University of Michigan researchers have seen a strong correlation between a company’s ratings on its customer satisfaction index and its future stock market performance.

3. Court the lovers —

While bringing in customers from the get-go is a great strategy, every company has loyal followers who may become advocates. It’s simply a matter of finding them.

4. More importantly; Court the HATERS —

When looking for advocates, don’t make the mistake of writing off customers who have complaints about your company. Addressing their concerns may well convert them into your most fanatical followers.

5. The Secret Sauce — build the community:

It’s a lot less tangible than how often someone buys from you, but customers who see themselves mirrored in your brand are more likely to be loyal. You can develop that reflection by building a community in which customers can interact with your employees as well as their peers.

Are you a believer now? The best way to find out is by trying out the 5-step formula outlined above.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Evangelism & the Almighty Dollar

Recently, I wrote about Guy Kawasaki’s post on how the dollar bill actually impacts evangelism negatively:

That is, if a company brings money into an evangelistic relationship with its customers, it could create barriers and instead of incentives—for example, if Apple, Harley-Davidson, and Tivo paid their customers to spread the word.

However, I was glad to hear that the converse is not necessarily true. Actually, I read a Business Week article today (via Ben McConnell) that proved that customer evangelism can actually accentuate solid sales. In some cases (such as Karmaloop), it could contribute an astounding 15% of revenue:

Selling clothing dreamt up by customers is just one facet of a business model that brings customers so far into Karmaloop’s DNA that they have become, in effect, extensions of the company’s sales, marketing, and product development teams. Karmaloop has an 8,000-strong army of customers who proselytize the brand and get discounts or cash when they, or someone they’ve referred, make a purchase.

Not all companies can be Karmaloop, but the fact remains that within the DNA of EVERY company exists the word-of-mouth (WOM) gene that is responsible for any success a company has. And the faster you connect with that core target audience, the better it is for a company’s brand longevity and brand differentiation. Another company that is in the process of creating similar customer evangelists across different cities is Yelp. Read my thoughts on Yelp’s paid community evangelism.

Let me clarify that companies should NOT get into evangelism for the lure of the returns. However, they have a mandate to ENGAGE with their customer & prospects thereby creating a community of evangelists for the benefit of users & it’s SIMPLE. Here’s a 4-step How-to?:

1. Break the walls between customer, prospect, and employee


3. Respond

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3…

Read the entire Business Week article here!

Here are some services I absolutely LOVE! Are you a customer evangelist yourself?

Unleash your inner evangelist! Feel free to share your VOICE here. Post a comment.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

5 Google Services you’ve gotta try & WHY?

Seduced by the Dork Google Side

What started off as an innocent distraction w/ a RSS reader is turning into a case of full-blown Googlitis. After initially, trying out some of the below mentioned services and not liking them, I realize I’m slowly converting — one service at a time, back to Google.

The reason: Google seems to be listening.

Here are the 5 services I’ve recently converted to:

1. GReader

As I’ve already blogged about it – this is the service that started it all.

Why switch to GReader?

2. Gmail

As you can see in the sidebar to your right, I’ve shifted from my email from yahoo! to gmail (as of Christmas 06)! Moving forward, please contact me at:

Why switch?:

* Free as opposed to $19.00 that I was paying Yahoo! for Premium email services
* POP Service — the sole reason I resorted to paying the $19 fee was the ability to access my email via Outlook AND I could get POP access for free on gmail
* Storage capacity: ~2.8 Gb on Gmail vs. 1 Gb for Free Yahoo! Email
* Combined with Google Calendar, you can add an event directly from your email, making your time management more effective
* Labels – opportunity to tag conversations multiple times, so if you receive an email from a friend during the 06 holidays, you can label it under “friends” and “holidays 06”.
* Email threads as conversations — being a blogger I love the idea of viewing emails as conversations as opposed to contents in a folder. Here all back-and-forth email with a particular contact and subject line is grouped together as 1 conversation
* Superior search — sorting emails via folders is so old-school, it makes much more sense to not care how much email you receive and instead just search for keywords. Quite a paradigm shift in the way you process email.
* Speed – loads much quicker than Yahoo! Mail

3. GMaps

I tried Google Earth when it was launched, but after a few trial runs of the slow-loading application, I realized there wasn’t much value add to me personally and moreover it was tied to the desktop. And, at that time Yahoo! Maps offered me the capability to store locations and map from point a-b-c-d.

So, why switch?

* Gmaps has just introduced the a-b-c-d mapping service
* It also has added the capability to save all my locations online. Moreover, when I last checked, Yahoo! Maps restricted my ability to store more than x locations via my Yahoo! account!?
* Integration w/ Google Blog search — Try searching for mario sundar under Gmaps and you’ll see events/locations I’d blogged about!
* Speed — much faster than Yahoo!Maps flash animation

4. GCal vs. iScrybe

I tried Google Calendar and like it’s integration w/ Gmail. However, there’s a new calendar service in town called iScrybe!

So why NOT switch?

1. iScrybe rocks (check out brief demo here — you’ll know why?!)

Sign up for iScrybe beta invite, here


Google bookmarks was my first attempt at web bookmarks (even before delicious) and I loved it except for the fact that I needed to access it via the toolbar. Since then I’ve grown accustomed to delicious’ simplicity and prefer the delicious toolbar to Google bookmarks.

In all the above cases, I initially tried out the Google service and didn’t like it. Much to my surprise — months later, Google is back with a must-try service after having listened to their users. The keywords here are listen and evolve.

Filed under: Uncategorized

The List that Mack Built!

What Mack started as a simple effort to bring more link love to lower ranked bloggers has slowly built steam and is growing in blogosphere prominence. For those not in the know, here are the origins:

Here’s the deal: In an effort to bring more link-love to those blogs that I feel aren’t getting their due, I’ve created a small list of blogs below that I’ve linked to. The idea is to create a meme built around giving link-love to the blogs that deserve it, and hopefully turn Technorati’s system of using a blog’s # of links to determine its ‘authority’, on its ear – Mack’s post

Here are Mack’s further updates: here and here

Most recently, Mack’s Z-list got picked up by Seth (via the Hitchhiker’s guide!) who then created a Squidoo page for readers to vote on their favorite z-list blog! It’s a small blog world out there!

For those interested in expanding your Google reader RSS feeds with some new feeds for the new year. Here’s the expanded Z-list (all blogs recommended by your favorite marketing bloggers!):

Creative Think
Movie Marketing Madness
Blog Till You Drop!
Get Shouty!
One Reader at a Time
Critical Fluff
The New PR
Own Your Brand!
Work, in Plain English
Buzz Canuck
New Millenium PR
Pardon My French
Troy Worman’s Blog
The Instigator Blog
Diva Marketing
Marketing Hipster
The Marketing Minute
Funny Business
The Frager Factor
Open The Dialogue
Word Sell
Note to CMO:
That’s Great Marketing!
Shotgun Marketing Blog
Customers Rock!
Being Peter Kim
Pow! Right Between The Eyes! Andy Nulman’s Blog About Surprise
Billions With Zero Knowledge
Working at Home on the Internet
MapleLeaf 2.0
Two Hat Marketing

The Engaging Brand
The Branding Blog
Drew’s Marketing Minute
Golden Practices
Tell Ten Friends
Flooring the Consumer
Kinetic Ideas
Unconventional Thinking
Conversation Agent
The Copywriting Maven
Hee-Haw Marketing
Scott Burkett’s Pothole on the Infobahn
Multi-Cult Classics
Logic + Emotion
Branding & Marketing
Popcorn n Roses
On Influence & Automation
Servant of Chaos
Presentation Zen
Dmitry Linkov
John Wagner
Nick Rice
CKs Blog
Design Sojourn
Frozen Puck
The Sartorialist
Small Surfaces
Africa Unchained
Marketing Nirvana
Bob Sutton
¡Hola! Oi! Hi!
Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid!
Women, Art, Life: Weaving It All Together
Community Guy
Social Media on the fly
Jeremy Latham’s Blog
SMogger Social Media Blog

Speaking of Seth, here’s a recent podcast interview of him by Jennifer Jones (Podtech).

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Pay the Community forward – Yelp Style?

I was recently alerted to this terrific post where Spike Jones defines a brand ambassador (via Ben McConnell) — keywords include passionate, loyal, loud advocate, goodwill spreader! It goes on to conclude that “is personal and fulfilling for that person who is NOT there for PR or to push product, but to spread the love, per se.” I couldn’t agree more with Spike.

I’m sure Heather Green from Business Week would agree too!

Last week, Business Week ran an article by Burt Helm (Heather’s colleague) about Yelp. I’m sure most of you have heard of, a web 2.0 version of Zagats meets MySpace. The article talks about how is:

…using a small part of the $16 million in venture capital they’ve raised to create a sophisticated system of compensation that could create a model for building buzz around a fledgling Web site—or test the limits of paying users to contribute online content.

While Jeremy Stoppelman (founder – yelp) insists that the job in question (marketing assistants) only help with

…getting the ball rolling in a new markets only. Because these are untouched markets there is little/no community and thus very little user to user interaction relative to our major markets. The program is phased out as soon as a community starts to form…

Heather Green believes that:

one of the tenants that buzz marketing needs to follow is transparency. The Word of Mouth Marketing Assn. (WOMMA), for instance, mandates full disclosure.

The reason for all this furore:

Two marketing assistants interviewed by said that while they would tell anyone who asked that they worked for Yelp, they didn’t always disclose it when interacting with users.

What do my fellow community enthusiasts think? Jeremiah? Mack? Damon?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

TIME’s Person of the Year – Powered by Web 2.0

Quick Update: I just heard from William Beutler, Senior Online Analyst with New Media Strategies. It was interesting to see how he’d predicted TIME’s pick in an October post on his blog! Smart thinking!

Interestingly enough, Steve Rubel had argued that “Bloggers” should be voted as Person of the Year in 2004 and HyperGene Media Blog had argued for citizen journalists!!

So now back to reality, 2 years later – with YOU being voted as TIME’s Person of the YEAR 2006!

Community rocks the TIME vote!

In an unprecedented move, TIME Magazine has chosen to celebrate the phenomenon of web 2.0 (there’s even a piece titled Web Boom 2.0) and the intense community building it has unleashed, by naming the Person of the Year as YOU!!! Looks like YouTube founders came a close second to YOU, since they have a feature article in the issue. Here’s a synopsis:

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Yes, the write-up is highly romanticized & cheesy, but when the aforementioned credit goes to each and every blogger on the planet, it forces us to sit back and review what we end up doing every working day on our blogs. To put things in perspective, TIME wonders:

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, for some unbelievable reason, you and I. And that unbelievable reason, is that we see in each other a family of like-minded collaborators with whom we love sharing concepts and ideas related to a topic we all feel passionate about, and through that we foster & maintain our very own global marketing community.

And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is YOU.

And I’m so glad to be a part of this growing community of marketing collaborators and look forward to a year filled with exciting discoveries, face-to-face meetings, and hundreds of blog posts. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jeremiah who first evangelized blogging to me and to the marketing community who welcomed me — Mack, Ann, Eric, Karl, & David.

To friends, family and community! Happy Holidays!

(Source: TIME‘s Person of the Year Article)

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Marketing Blog Meme

Mack’s BACK, too! Close on the heels of my Guy’s Back post, I’m glad to announce that our good friend Mack is back, with yet another cool community building idea. Here’s the breakdown.

Spread some Link Love

Let’s say you have discovered 5 new blogs that you’d like your fellow marketing bloggers to discover. Here’s how you spread the “marketing blog meme”.

Step 1: Create a post, add five new marketing blogs that you love

Step 2: Your friend adds a few more marketing blogs to the list and posts about it

Step 3: Your friends’ friend will discover that, adds a few more, and post about it…well I guess you get it.

Here’s Mack’s listing:

Shotgun Marketing Blog
Customers Rock!
Being Peter Kim

Here are a couple of new blogs I discovered recently:
Community Guy
Social Media on the fly

I’ve also added all the above to the Custom Made Google Marketing Search Engine I created recently.

Also, thanks to Jeremy Toeman for linking to my recent evangelism post.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Guy’s back — and he needs YOUR help!

As an ardent fan of Guy Kawasaki, I’ve been lamenting the fact that he doesn’t blog too often nowadays, but every once in a while, Guy comes up with a tremendously cool idea and this last one, is super-cool.

Close on the heels of Matthew Ingram’s recent post questioning the “Wisdom of Crowds“, Guy decides to put that very wisdom (in question) to action, by summoning the collective minds of today’s marketers in helping him craft the table of contents for his new book.


It’s been two years since The Art of the Start hit the streets, and I’m ready to write another book. I have some ideas, but I’d like to tap the “wisdom of the crowd” in order to ensure that it appeals to “the long tail” in this “Web 2.0” world. 🙂

So…I’ve created a wiki for the book that’s located here. The password for contributors is “kickbutt”. I’ve used PBwiki.

Personally, I’d love to see Guy take on the changing face of marketing in this day and age of social media, word-of-mouth marketing, community evangelism (which to a great extent he pioneered almost 20 years ago).

I’d love to see all my favorite marketing bloggers contribute to such a cool concept and let’s see how Guy crafts the content. What do you think Ann, CK, Eric, Jennifer, Chris, Paul, Mike, community mavens: Mack, Jeremiah, Damon, … and tech evangelists Will Pate, Anil Iyer, Thomas Hawk? Any suggestions?

This is one marketing project, I’ll be paying close attention to.

Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been memed…

…wasn’t expecting this… Well, every now & then, there’s a huge buzz around memes and if you’re on the marketing blogosphere, chances are you’ve been memed already. What is a Meme?

A meme is a set of questions that are passed from person to person.  You fill out the questions. Post them on your blog. Then you tag another blogger who is supposed to do the same thing – via Mark Cuban

Memes have their detractors (like Cuban) who believes that:

“It has the same intellectual resonance as doing The Wave at an event. You are embarrased if you do it sober; belligerant to non wavers if you do it drunk.”

LOL! Anyways, I think it’s harmless community building and when Ann tags me there’s no way I can avoid it.

So here are 4 things about me that you probably don’t know:

1. Taking a cue from David’s meme, let me add that the first job I’ve had in the USA was at Taco Bell, and have never been to one since then 🙂
2. I’ve got to confess my inner geekiness. Having lived in India most of my life, I started my career as an electronics engineer, transitioned to being a software developer (legacy applications, COBOL, etc…) and finally found my calling in marketing and evangelism.
3. I hate Bollywood movies (imagine watching Grease, over and over again), but love Bollywood music.
4. I’m a huge cinephile, as you may have guessed from many of my film centric posts (Snakes on a Plane, Borat). Favorite directors include Kurosawa, Fellini, Mallick, Burton, and so many more.

Since I’m not sure how some people feel about being tagged, I’m going to avoid naming my friends JeremiahDamon, Tracy, Easton, and Chris 😉 No obligation, guys.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar