SMS Marketing. The Ad everybody reads.

I’ll never forget the day I got ice cream in the mail. I would’ve gotten there faster if they’d just texted it to me.

I remember the first mail I ever got.

I was five years old. Running out to get the mail was one of my favorite pastimes, and obviously that had nothing to do with the prospect of getting something especially for me. None of it was ever addressed to me, so I really didn’t care what it was. The entire process fascinated me. Letters, bills, postcards, and catalogs being hand delivered by that shiny white truck with the eagle emblazoned on its flank and the driver hanging out the wrong side? It was borderline magical. So when I ran out to the mailbox and saw there, atop the stack of other meaningless crap, that the magical mail machine had manufactured a message just for me, my brain almost exploded out of my head with excitement.

It wasn’t a letter; it didn’t even come in an envelope. It was a pink and brown image of an ice cream cone, a birthday cake, a familiar logo, and a birthday message just for me on off-white cardstock. Baskin freaking Robbins. 31 Flavors. A free cone was all mine. It was the greatest missive in the history of the universe.

And what happened next? I bugged the ever-loving life out of my parents until they hauled me and my five siblings into the station wagon to go deliver the prize of all prizes, my birthday treat: one heaping scoop of Gold Medal Ribbon on a crispy sugar cone of happiness. Of course, 31 Flavors garnered their own prize: a family full of paying customers.

It was a perfect plan. They capitalized on a young boy’s nearly religious devotion to the mail, fascinated by the novelty of it (at least for me). They extended an offer I’d never let my parents refuse. I had asked for it. I’d filled out the registration form with my mom the first time I set foot in Baskin Robbins. And they had a really strong idea I, turning the ripe old age of five, probably wouldn’t come alone.

Do you remember feeling that way about mail? Maybe you still do, but, unlike my five-year-old free-ice-cream-cone-eating self, you probably are alone. Now the offers that come through the mail often go straight into the garbage can. I don’t line the mailbox with a drawstring plastic lilac scented bag or anything, but a whole lot gets thrown away. There’s far from any guarantee that I’ll read my mail, let alone respond to it.

Fast forward to 1997, when I had my first email account, a Juno.com address. I’d have to bum a friend’s computer, log on with a dial-up modem, and endure the manic progression of screeches and beeps that accompanied the green progress bar indicating if I had received one, two, or if miracles conspired with fate, three messages to my account. At that point, email had become the new must-read medium. I didn’t care what came through at 28.8 kbps, it was gold to me. I would jump on any offer that came via email . . . this was all pre-Viagra bulk order offers and Nigerian royalty scam spam, mind you. I didn’t ever, um, act on any of that.

Anyway. It didn’t take that long for email to lose its luster in my and everyone else’s mind. Email marketing can still be great, but it’s not must-read material anymore. And you still never know when your recipients will open the message or if they’ll do anything about it.

Social media marketing has gone through much the same cycle. It was new, it was great, and it still works okay, but . . . nobody’s social media marketing is guaranteed viewing. Facebook users (and Facebook itself) just have too much control over what shows up on their timelines. The novelty is gone.

But there is still one place where the five-year-old promo addict in all of us still reigns supreme. Our phones. One place on our phones holds special prominence: the text. Facebook, twitter, and Instagram notifications are big, sure. And a lot of us check our email with rabid fervor. But nothing grabs our attention like the almighty text.

SMS (Short Message Service) marketing takes advantage of the fact that more than 90% of text messages are read within the first three minutes of receipt. (Some research puts this number as high as 99% overall.) Sure, there are plenty of people who don’t text at all. No matter what the research says, your own personal experience has surely taught you that some people (maybe you) just don’t hang on to their phones like their next text will provide their next breath. But the people who do read EVERYTHING.

SMS marketing may not be the lifeblood of your marketing efforts, but it works more efficiently than any other marketing method. When done properly, you’re capturing people just like the five-year-old sucker for ice cream:

  • Text recipients ALWAYS check for new messages
  • They read EVERYTHING that comes to them
  • They LOVE responding to offers
  • They ASKED to receive them
  • They BRING OTHER PEOPLE when they act on your offers

When SMS marketing is done right, it works brilliantly. So make sure you find someone who knows how to do it right and serve your needs well. Personally, I recommend Sentext Solutions, a full-service SMS marketing agency that provides custom designs, automated database management, simple guided merchant tutorials, and personal assistance every step of the way. A business of any size doesn’t need an SMS marketing department or a giant budget, just a personal rep and about ten minutes a week.

If you’d like to know more about setting up an affordable SMS messaging campaign capable of generating literally thousands of dollars of additional revenue and instant responsive communication with your customers, comment here or submit this form and I’d be happy to tell you more

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Shmanguage

I don’t understand it. (You should know that sometimes when I say “I don’t understand,” I mean that I do understand, but I’m just not particularly happy about the conclusion.) All too frequently, I see people acting as the grammar police of the universe; they scour worlds real, social, and virtual for every misspelling, usage error, and made up word and publicize their findings to the fullest extent of their broadcast reach. Whether they (or you, I don’t know) do this as a service to the general intellectual health of the public or as punishment to those who dare trample on the sacred ground of the English language or as a self-pleasuring stroke to their own egos, I really do not know or care. (Okay, maybe I have a pretty good idea, and I obviously care enough to write about it, but to the latter point, you should know I did start writing this in 2011 . . . so I don’t care that much.)

What I do know is it’s annoying as hell. As someone who has made a living correcting errors and improving the condition of the collections of words that crossed my gaze (and who reads The Chicago Manual of Style for pleasure), I notice and dislike grammatical and spelling errors quite a lot. I am also guilty of making them. But I rarely call attention to the mistakes of anyone who is not me. I mean I. Quite frankly, it isn’t my place to do so. I dislike flaws in grammar far less than I despise arrogance and treating people like Less Thans over the way they spell or speak or write.

The point of usage, grammar, spelling, whatever is to communicate effectively. That’s it. Using the objective case in the subject of one’s (or is it ones?) sentences is no sin. It’s a simple mistake which has not once in the history of mankind caused the least bit of confusion in communication. So what, in the name of the Associated Press and their unholy abandonment of the Oxford Comma, is the point of correcting people’s grammar when you understand perfectly what they’re trying to say? Hmm. Let’s examine the possible answers.

To improve the way they communicate? A) That’s not your job (if it is, please, go right ahead). B) They can obviously communicate just fine. You understood not only what they were saying but also the so-called proper way to say it.

To make them better people? Yes, because the true measure of a woman or a man is adherence to a style guide.

To put an end to the evils of bad usage and poor spelling? I’m so glad you chose to replace those evils with bad manners and poor taste.

Please stop.

There are some instances when public (or even one-on-one) grammar/spelling correction is called for. If you’re a grammar teacher, for instance. Or an editor in the act of editing something, NOT just having a conversation with someone. If you are a parent, it is perfectly acceptable to correct your children’s grammar. It is your job to teach them. If you are working with someone who is about to enter a social or professional situation in which a blunder would cause embarrassment, please do feel free to gently and kindly alert said someone to the mistake. But come on. In most instances, this is not what any of you grammar correctionistas are doing, and you know it.

Oh, and that reminds me: let people make up words. Every word in every language was made up by someone at some point. There is absolutely no reason to stop now. Language is living, and it should grow accordingly. Don’t ever stop making up words. Don’t ever discourage others from making up word. Look what happened to Latin.

Now, I understand I must sound hypocritical (or hypercritical) as I publicly correct your manners for publicly correcting someone’s grammar. And, yeah, I can see that. I suppose it’s not my place to tell you how to live any more than it’s your place to tell other people how to communicate. But I will say this: the people who say supposably instead of supposedly aren’t hurting anyone. They’re getting their points across. They aren’t hurting you, you’re just being overly critical, which is your fault not theirs. But what you’re doing? You’re making people feel stupid to make yourself feel smart (or one of the other reasons, I don’t really know). That’s a bigger offense in my book.

But I’ll make you a deal. I’ll never bring this up again. I don’t make it a habit to correct people for correcting other people’s grammar. Typically, the only time I say anything to the grammar Nazis is when they are wrong. People who incorrectly correct other people’s grammar are just too (or two) wrong to allow. For instance: “You’re not nauseous, you’re nauseated.” They’re synonyms, jackwad. If you count yourself more authoritative than Merriam-Webster, I find your arrogance nauseating. Use nauseous or nauseated or nauseating according to your preference. Don’t correct people for preferring another perfectly acceptable and common way to express the same idea. Or people who say things like, “Can you have an apple? I don’t know, can you? Say ‘may I’ next time.” Guess what? Can and may are interchangeable in that context. And someone can feel good, not just feel well. If you correct someone for using good in place of well in that case because an adverb is needed to modify the verb well, you should be slapped and slapped well. Well and good modify the subject in such a sentence, not the verb as feel is a linking verb. Either will suffice. See? Look what you made me do. Now I’m correcting people’s grammar, too. Kind of.

Anyway. Consider this a brief timeout from my general preference to silence such objections. I’ll stop correcting you. Now please, for the love of Webster, stop correcting everyone else.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (YouTube Version)

Gold, Frankincense, and Ham

I’ve posted this a couple of times in different ways, but instead of the mp3 version, here’s a YouTube version of my performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, if that makes viewing easier. If that doesn’t make enjoying it easier, forget this ever happened.

Carry on. And enjoy. Merry Christmas.

Rise

No bird ever soared by holding others to the ground..
And never did a feather feel the sun by facing down.
The sunshine of happiness warms the weathered faces of
Those souls whose wings outstretch through bitter clouds to rise above.

Happy Birthday, Maya

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Oh, Maya. How can you possibly be one year old?

This year has been a rough one for some of us, but I think you enjoyed it more than anyone. And you have brought more joy to more people than you could possibly know. You have no idea how much you are loved. You have only a glimpse of how much I love you, and I’m just one little person.

 

From the moment you were just a sparkly thought in my mind, I have loved you. And there has never been, nor will there ever be, a moment in which my heart is not warmed by the thought of your precious, beautiful soul.

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I adore you, Maya. I can’t believe you have red hair, but it’s gorgeous, as is the rest of you. Your smile melts me every time I see it, and I can’t wait to see you grow to enjoy and understand your role in this family of ours that you help to make absolutely amazing.

May your every dream and wish come true, baby girl.

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stumped

The remains of a noble tree
The remains of a noble tree

I’m still standing. The tree, notsomuch.

A tree fell on my car.

Well, that’s a terribly self-centered way to look at what happened on Tuesday morning. The car was a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It was a machine, assembled ten years ago out of glass, metal, and plastic. It wasn’t without sentimental value; it had carried me through a journey of well over 100,000 miles and ten years of life . . . and it was pretty and comfortable and mine. But it was a car that had been a part of this world for ten years with limited expectancy for continued usefulness. It is now of lesser value than the sum of its parts, or so I’m expecting Liberty Mutual’s assessor to inform me.

But in the grand scheme of things, the car is insignificant, let alone the fact that it was mine. Here’s a better way to say what happened Tuesday morning:

A tree fell.

It was a grand, noble maple tree. A sugar maple, I think. I can’t say precisely how old it was because the high winds that tackled it to the ground ripped the core of the trunk out of its stump and left a jagged, illegible record of its life. But it was an old, old tree. Older than me, I’m sure, and probably older than my parents or even my grandparents. It was a big old tree.

So for me to link that tree’s demise with that of my car just because it’s my car . . . that just seems impossibly screwed up to me.

I can think about why the tree fell in terms of how it affects me or, worse, how I may have affected it. And isn’t that how we’re tempted to think? Why did this happen to me? What might I have done to bring this ginormous tree crashing onto my car? But it didn’t happen to me. I was there. Well, I wasn’t even there, my car was. It happened. For me to wonder for even a millisecond what role my existence played in the atmospheric struggle that brought this tree to the earth . . . or to my Toyota, ending its considerable life atop my insignificant vehicle would be nothing short of self-absorbed.

Superstition isn’t the belief in something bigger and invisible, it’s the belief that one’s own influence in the universe is bigger and more powerful than it really is.

Because my car was there in the street when the storm played Paul Bunyan, a lot of people have gazed at the wreckage and expressed their grief over my loss. I admit, I’m one of those people. But the big loss is not my Corolla. It’s not my need for a rental. It’s not the bits of glass still peppering the street.

A tree fell. A grand and noble tree that has been a part of this spot on the landscape of our world for generations has been broken, dismembered, and carted off. In the vast configuration, that’s the story. It was a beautiful thing, and I’m sad to see it die.

It’s the end of my world as I know it

Maya almost fills up an arm

4 lbs, 11 oz of beautiful.

I was a little surprised when I got the text. “They want to deliver this week.” Because, you know, Maya was supposed to be born three weeks later. I was a little more surprised when I discovered that by “this week,” they meant, “tomorrow.”

I had figured that Maya was in a hurry. But seeing it in black and white . . . or black and green, I guess. Texts can be so pretty. Anyway, confirmation of her early arrival into our sight shocked me. It shocked us. In a good way.

The next morning, I ran. I’ve been training for a hypothetical 5K for the past couple of months, I guess, and I was due for a run. The first song to pulse through my ear buds was “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. That made me laugh. It didn’t make me want to spell her name Mia, but it was close enough.

The next song was “Born to Run.” This also seemed funny. Born indeed.

And the next song made me laugh the most. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).” Because, you know, it is the end of the world and everything. Just ask the Mayans. See how my phone makes jokes? And, obviously, it feels like life as I’ve known it is over.

This beautiful girl has changed everything.

Maya Ryan Kellogg was born at 12:35 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2012. She weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. And Heather? Holy crap, Heather. she gave birth with no pain meds. She’s a fierce woman, y’all. And she’s doing great. Seriously, as well as could possibly be expected.

And Maya? She’s small. She’s got a big heart. She’s a great eater. She’s super strong. I love her to tears.

We expect to go home tomorrow morning. So, world? Watch out. She means business.

Walk/Run

So. Tomorrow I was supposed to walk with Team James & Jake at the Valparaiso March for Babies. Ironically, poetically enough, those plans are in flux because my daughter was born three weeks early. One of two things will happen: 1) I’ll find a way to go to the walk with my team and my sons and we’ll walk like crazy (probably literally). I highly doubt this will happen. 2) I’ll run. Five miles. On my own, but not. Because I want to honor my commitment. I want to honor James and Jake Fletcher. And I want to honor the support of those who have already given.

You might not know that I’ve been running. Not very fast, not very far, but pretty consistently. Every other day, about 3 miles of running. 5 miles will probably feel like a lot, to me, but I’ll do it. I have to.

I’m hoping you’ll support me, this cause, and this family with your prayers, a gift, whatever you’d like. Thank you!

Two Boys and a Girl

On May 5, I’m walking five miles for two boys and a girl.

Addison, Colin, and I are walking in the March for Babies to raise money for the March of Dimes. Heather won’t be walking, she will (if everything goes according to plan) be just 19 days away from giving birth to our daughter.

But not everything goes according to plan. It usually doesn’t.

Neither Addison nor Colin were born prematurely or with birth defects, but when I look at them and the joy they bring to my life, I think of the many parents and children for whom things weren’t so easy. And won’t be. And I think about my daughter who is on the way I don’t really know when. How much does it mean to me to know that there are people who dedicate their lives to ensuring she has the best chance to live a long and happy life? Um, yeah.

So the least I can do is dedicate one Saturday to helping them. I’m walking for my two boys and my girl. But that’s not all.

I’m walking for two boys named James & Jake. And a girl named Beth. This is just my first year with this team, but it is the fifth and final year for Team James & Jake. I’m honored to be a part of it, and I would be thrilled if you would share in that honor with a gift in support of this walk.

Okay

I haven’t been posting much.

Life has seemed a bit whirlwindy.

I’m at McDonald’s.

I have a new job (same place, new title, way different set of responsibilities . . . I’ll tell more later).

I’m also teaching a class.

Tonight, Beth and I will resume our Idol chats. I seriously cannot wait.

The Cubs are still a thing.

Carry on.

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