Despite my varied experiences, I'm a salesperson, and for me, that means solving people’s problems. Father of three/ Husband to one wife/ Marketing Junkie/ Voracious Reader/ Foodie/ improbable Yogi
Despite my varied experiences, I'm a salesperson, and for me, that means solving people’s problems. Father of three/ Husband to one wife/ Marketing Junkie/ Voracious Reader/ Foodie/ improbable Yogi

Per’s Pearls: When does the QSR version of American Graffiti come out? 

It was an amazing sight. Lots of kids with red wagons with bunting, random pets walking, and waiving; cowboys riding lovingly groomed horses; minor dignitaries, and car dealership owners, riding in antique cars soaking up the crowd’s cheers- it was lovely.” 

Pure Americana

My cousin and her family left the Bay Area, just before covid made this a fashionable trend, for the wilds of Michigan. We spoke recently and were discussing the differences, primarily the cost of living, natural beauty, and weather. She said, “you get 8 weeks of summer, not like the Bay Area where spring and fall shoulder summer to stretch it out for most of the year; but the upside is it’s a real summer, hot and humid; and full of Americana.”  This got me thinking of the America of Norman Rockwell, Coke memorabilia, and the place of retail in this collective nostalgia. 

Searching for Americana

When I was a college intern for CBS This Morning, my boss sent me to Fort Dodge, Iowa to interview Fred Grandy, who was the Congressman for Iowa, but better known as Gopher from the Love Boat TV show.  I met Congressman Grandy the night before at the Holiday Inn, where we were both staying, by chance, and spent the evening drinking beers and discussing Single-Payer Healthcare. I was pro and he con, but it was a fun, respectful conversation.  

The next day we met for the interview, where he was the Grand Marshall for the town parade, which I spent the hour before I left for my flight observing. It was an amazing sight. Lots of kids with red wagons with bunting, random pets walking, and waiving; cowboys riding lovingly groomed horses; minor dignitaries, and car dealership owners, riding in antique cars soaking up the crowd’s cheers- it was lovely. 

I jumped on a plane and got back to NYC in time to view Macy’s fireworks show, which was splashy, loud, and also, very American.  

As American as a Baked Apple Pie Lava Pockets

Over thirty years later, what stuck with me is the idea that small towns represent the American psyche. Rockwell’s artwork was full of the idealism of America’s small towns. Fort Dodge’s population of 24,168, which is half of my town, but a fraction of my greater metro area which has 7.75 million inhabitants (to be fair Iowa is half that at 3.15M). I’m asking myself what place do QSRs (Quick Serve Restaurants) represent in these small towns, and therefore in their culture vs mine? 

Outside of Agriculture, QSR’s are one of the most common first employers in rural communities. Culver’s, a Midwestern burger and Fresh Frozen Custard franchise, with 800 restaurants in 25 states have provided 3,000 scholarships worth $5M to their employees. Culver’s also extols its training and advancement opportunities for employees.  

In towns like Fort Dodge, the local Culver’s is also a focal point for teens and young people. Googling things to do in Fort Dodge includes the normal array of sporting activities, an Art Museum, and Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural. Given these options, I’m guessing Culver’s is hopping on any given Friday night. And I imagine most know one another on either side of the counter. 

In my immediate community, we look forward to the Twin Cities (Corte Madera and Larkspur) Parade, which has the same mix as the Fort Dodge parade of decades gone by, and the Marin County Fair. The parade and fair generate a lot of business as folks come in to enjoy the spectacle. But from a local business stand, it’s hard to stand out. Local messaging is key to success in this saturated market. 

A&W, which has more than 900 locations, with more than 550 in the U.S., and at over 100 years old is America’s oldest franchise restaurant chain. This was my childhood local hamburger joint and is around the corner from the County Fair. Unlike Fort Dodge Culver’s, it competes with a host of youth activities, and first-time jobs; and does a poor job at self-promotion.  

Putting on my promotion hat, I’d be sending out email blasts before the events to promote A&W’s wonderful root beer floats after a hot day of overpriced fairground food. I’ve never seen them, or any QSRs, participate in the 4th of July parade or have a booth at the fair. This could be intentional by the organizers, but why wouldn’t you remind residents that you are a part of your community and not just a location of an international restaurant chain? 

Nouveau Americanism

QSRs make up 50% of the American restaurant industry. There are 204,555 QSRs in the US as of 2022, up 1.3% from 2021. 83% of American families eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a week and the average family spends 10% of their annual income on fast food. The local Culver’s, Pizza Hut, or A&W is an engine for growth and provides a consistent level of food whether you’re in Springfield California, Illinois, or Florida.  

The next big marketing wave for these local franchises is to access sophisticated marketing tools that their HQ use, but in a simplified form, to help solidify their position in their communities. Celebrate the High School team’s victory, the Farmer’s market in the mall, the Fair and Parades that make up our annual lifecycles- but most importantly celebrate and promote your place as an organizer or participant! Perhaps the next Americana artist will wax nostalgic for the local QSR location, their hyper-local marketing, and how that evokes nostalgia for the newest iteration of American identity- aka Americana? 

Contact Per with any questions or comments:

Posted by percaroe

Per’s Pearls: On Dude and Y’all

“We can smell when language is used as an affectation, when it’s not genuine… I may not be able to work a y’all but I can work the hell out of Dude.”

My Father, the King of Italy, Ladies and Gentlemen

I remember a vacation in Mexico, where my Argentinian raised father insisted on speaking Spanish. He was excited to be able to show off, as my mom, sister and I only spoke English and Danish. What we soon learned, was the staff was convinced he was speaking Italian (and proceeded to call him El Rey de Italia). They understood our English and 7th grade Spanish better than my fluent Dad. Why? Because language is local. Or as George Bernard Shaw said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” My father’s Spanish was specific to Argentina, had we been in the high Mexican mountains, he would have had even greater difficulty as Mexico is broken into four to ten dialects, depending on who you ask.

In the olden days of email (2003), we were excited when we first added “Universal” Spanish and French to our UI and UTF-8, so our clients could use the tools in their native language and send emails that would render properly. As SaaS has matured, we now routinely see software updates say, “We’ve added Finnish!” That’s awesome for the 5.5 million Finns- 70% of whom speak excellent English. But that’s not where localization of language should be anymore, we shouldn’t just be playing clean-up, should we?

When Pet Supplies Plus started using Sageflo, over the first 12 months, franchisees sent over 2,000 campaigns. Franchisees saw their email click-to-open rate (CTOR) increase by 19%, and average basket size has increased by 12%. Part of this was that they were sending more messages by expanding access to guard railed email-templates sent through Responsys (their existing ESP vendor), but a lot of it came down to language.

I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you are not into the whole brevity thing.

I was on a call with a Partner from Atlanta, she’s a local-born and raised. On the call, she dropped a casual y’all, which got me thinking, could I use y’all in casual conversation and sound authentic? Nope, I am a Marin, CA kid, I live a mile from where I grew up. I may not be able to work a y’all but I can work the hell out of Dude. Dude‘s a great word, it’s multifaceted based entirely on tone. Or, as Kaiser Kuo wrote in The Beijinger when trying to teach Mandarin tonality- “The Dude System”:

1. Dūde, the disapproving tone, as to the clumsy roommate who’s just knocked over your three-foot Graphix and gotten bong water all over your Poli Sci 142 reader: “Dude, I can’t believe you spilled my bong again!”

2. Dúde?, in the concerned but creeped-out way you might address the roommate you discover sitting cross-legged in the dark, chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” and sounding a little brass bell.

3. Duǔde, scornfully, as if your roommate has asked to borrow 50 dollars so his sensei can align his chakras: “Yeah right, dude.”

4. Dùde!, as if you are exclaiming in triumph to your roommate when coming home from class having gotten a date with Elena from your macroeconomics class.

A Pack of Bulldogs go after Trident wielding jocks

As we get closer to the customer, think of your local chain fast food restaurant. When one says, “Come down to Montecito and celebrate our Dogs beat the Trojans! Two for one milk shakes.” Someone from Marin County would know that there has not been a canine attack on ancient Greeks at a town in Southern California. They’d know that the San Rafael High School football team beat the Terra Linda HS team and that you get a discount at the local mall. The localization of language has a lot of subtlety and one can get wrong-footed very easily; we can smell when language is used as an affectation, when it’s not genuine.

By empowering our Franchises, Branches, and Brands to send email, SMS, and Social we solve several issues at once. We allow them to use your existing messaging platforms (you know they’re sending on some janky ESP otherwise) with simplified Templates, Filtering and Reporting; increasing the communication volume and personalizing the content to a degree unattainable to any Corporate Marketing Team, while simultaneously retaining the collected data that comes from focused campaigns which feeds future campaigns. So, when you think language localization, think hyper-local.

Contact Per with any questions or comments:

Posted by percaroe

Per’s Pearls: A Funny Thing Happened at the Show…

“This industry, Saas, and behavioral marketing are too small to screw people over. Everyone is three degrees from one another, so let’s all try and do a small kindness for one another.”

A few weeks ago, I attended Shoptalk in Las Vegas where I kept running into old friends from my work life. I’ve been in SaaS since 1999, but email marketing as a focus since 2003, so the +4,700 people on LinkedIn shouldn’t be a big surprise. What is a surprise to me, is the frequent and varied manner in which we all intersect.

One friend, we’ll call Jim (names obfuscated to protect deal cycles), was an old boss and we’ve been friends since Silverpop. Jim now works with Dan (let’s call him) whom I worked with at Lyris after they acquired EmailLabs 15 years ago. Now Dan and Jim work together at a cool real-time marketing platform firm that enables businesses to understand and deliver a contextual experience for their prospects and customers to influence desired outcomes.

Jim and I were walking the floor catching up on family and such when the head of a fabulous Quebec-based professional services firm specializing in commerce and digital transformations walked by, slapped my arm, said hi, and rushed off to a meeting. I had one of those mental gap moments where I couldn’t recall his name but knew from whence, I knew him… those are awesome. Just as Jim was heading back to his booth, I recalled the cool agency guy’s name and blurted it out. Jim stopped, turned around, and said, “wait, that’s him, he’s on my shortlist of people to find at this show!” We rushed back in his general direction and finally found him in a meeting. Long story short, I’m helping them get together for a call now.

Why Should I help Jim?

I know and trust Jim, and I know the Canadian marketer is smart and always looking for the next cool thing. What’s the downside to me introducing these two people whom I know and trust? Nothing. What’s the upside to me? Nothing immediately. Jim’s not going to give me a finder’s fee. But I know that reputation is everything and the big wheel always has a turn.

Dr. Feelgood: Why Selfless Giving Makes Us Happier

According to a paper by Saulin, A., Baumgartner, T., Gianotti, L.R.R. et al. Frequency of helping friends and helping strangers is explained by different neural signatures. They tracked a neural baseline activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) – a brain region associated with self-control and strategic social behavior – predicts the daily frequency of helping friends, whereas the daily frequency of helping strangers was predicted by neural baseline activation in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) – a brain region associated with social cognition processes. In short, helping, or giving, fire up different parts of our brain. It’s like Bill Murray’s speech at the end of Scrooged:

It’s Christmas Eve.

It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer; we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more.

For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.

It’s a miracle. It’s really a sort of a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve. And if you waste that miracle, you’re going to burn for it.

I know what I’m talking about. You have to to do something. You have to take a chance. You do have to get involved.

There are people that are having trouble making make their miracle happen.

And if you give, then it can happen. Then the miracle can happen to you.

It’s not just the poor and the hungry; it’s everybody who has got to have this miracle. And it can happen tonight for all of you.

If you believe in this spirit thing, the miracle will happen, and then you’ll want it to happen again tomorrow.

You won’t be one of these people who says, “Christmas is once a year, and it’s a fraud.” It’s not. It can happen every day.

A Mitzvah

Over coffee recently, my friend, Steve Gershik reminded me of Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity- the highest is to help a friend to gain employment (which Steve and Jim have both done for me), or ensure they are not dependent on others. A lesser is to give to an unknown recipient, who also is unaware of the benefactor. Each degree of giving down is less altruistic until the gift is given unwillingly. My goal with Jim is to simply repay many small (and one big) favors he’s done for me over the years. My goal with the Canadian marketing executive is to share something I think would be cool for his firm. In Maimonides’s perspective, it is a middling thing, a small favor.

Reputation Rules

Had Jim asked me to introduce him to someone that I didn’t feel was a good fit, I would have told him. If Jim had been a bad actor in the past and played loose with deliverables, I would have avoided him. This industry, SaaS, and behavioral marketing are too small to screw people over. Everyone is three degrees from one another, so let’s all try and do a small kindness for one another tomorrow and then we’ll want to be like Bill and want that feeling every day.

Contact Per with any questions or comments:

Posted by percaroe

Per’s Pearls: Longer hours don’t equal more production or better results

“We sell email, if we screw up, no one’s gonna die.”

I’m going to take a swipe at looking down the path a bit ahead and seeing what may happen with a techie’s lens. Argue with me, call me an idiot, but let’s try and keep to a data-driven discussion.

What do we owe our jobs?

When I was interviewing with Aaron Smith, our CEO, for the CRO position, we had several deep discussions on what work meant to us and what sort of company we wanted to build. One thing we were in violent agreement on, was longer hours don’t equal more production or better results. Sageflo has a half-day Friday and no work on the last Friday of the month policy that is, not shockingly, very popular. Do I peel out at the stroke of 12 every Friday? Uhhhh, no. I’m in sales and have a ton of work to do, but I will leave after I’ve gotten done what I can and then I hard unplug for the weekend.

Do The Math

Aaron had tracked performance and found that despite an 11.2% decrease in time expectations (this took me a half-hour to figure out, please don’t make me share the math), productivity was in line or above what was expected. Which tracks with several larger sample size studies.

An Icelandic study, over four years, tracked 2,500 employees whose 35-36 workweeks showed productivity stayed the same or improved, while the researchers found that “worker wellbeing dramatically increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout to health and work-life balance.“, according to the Autonomy findings.

A Microsoft Japan study from 2019 (pre-pandemic) found that reducing the workweek by one day led to a 40% increase in productivity, increased employee happiness, and resulted in a 23% decrease in electricity usage.

Finally, in 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, announced a 20% gain in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after a trial of paying people their regular salary for working four days. The company made the policy permanent.

Cognitive Studies

Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “Flow” in 1975 to describe those moments when you’re completely absorbed in a challenging but doable task. Think of this heuristic technique in relation to your workday. What percentage of your time is focused on activities that will progress your work and drive your company forward? Wouldn’t it be better that when we’re at work, we’re focused on work; and when we’re off work, we’re present for ourselves, our families, our interests, our passions?  There are a host of studies that show that we’re only able to focus for so long on a task before we’re running on empty and just taking up space.

One of my colleagues used to say, “we sell email, if we screw up, no one’s gonna die”. It was his way of not taking ourselves too seriously. Now I think of two of my college roommates who are doctors. If they screw up at work, people die.  And yet, the medical field still holds onto this bizarre fascination with driving residents to work 70-80 hours per week during hospital rotations and 40-50 hours per week on outpatient clinic rotations. Lawyers on a partner track routinely work 60-80 hours as do the wall street bros. One must ask, is it any wonder that drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in these industries; and what is slipping between the cracks due to cognitive failure?

Goal vs. Hours

As a good manager, business owner, or employee think of the Outcomes for which your work strives. Mine is simple- grow Sageflo to a +$50MM in sales company over the next five years. To achieve this goal, I need to break down everything into manageable bits and work every hour of the workweek to accomplish the steps to the end goal. What is your high-level goal, and what are the steps you need to take to reach them? Do I think about work when I’m away from my computer? Absolutely! The best time for me is when I’m on my yoga mat or in my garden weeding. My brain can roam, the wheels can turn freely, and then BAM! Big idea, or small realization, or recollection that I need to send out that email. But none of that would be possible if I’m perennially exhausted from looking busy.

Contact Per with any questions or comments:

Posted by percaroe

Per’s Pearls: Where are we 2-years after our 6-week lockdown and the great migration?

This is the first in a series where I’ll be taking a swipe at looking down the path a bit ahead and seeing what may happen through a techie’s lens. Argue with me, call me an idiot, but let’s try and keep to a data-driven discussion.

It’s been two years since we started our quick, six-week lock-down. Covid cases in the US have fallen almost as fast as people’s willingness to keep our lives on hold. Though the Washington Post today leads with a story of Europe seeing a spike in Omicron cases, EU regulators continue to relax their requirements. Timehop reminded me that two years ago today I stated we will remember this time as BC and AC- before and after Covid. I stand behind that statement, but more importantly, what does AC mean and look like?

Housing in Urban centers

Two years ago, the press was filled with stories of high-wage tech workers fleeing San Francisco for rural settings. So where are we with that? Though we did see rental costs in major metro’s (SF, NYC, Boston, and DC) crater by up to 30%, they’re now inching back to BC levels. Instead of rushing out to Wisconsin or rural Nebraska, untethered workers mainly stayed within 150 miles around the Bay Area, according to research done on Post Office and Census data. This, along with historically low-interest rates, explains the spike in housing prices in Sacramento.

Office Space and Work from Home

Will we go back to the office? Yes and no seems to be the safe answer. Most of my coworkers have been free of the office for years, so this is an acceleration of a trend vs a new phenomenon. Some people, not me, but some people like an office. Sageflo’s CEO likes to have a space outside of the home, but skateboard-ably close, to separate workspace from home space. We had the opportunity to build an office when we remodeled our house, so I can close a door and leave work behind.

What data shows us, is that people work longer and are far more productive when they can work from home. Part of this bleeds into the conversation being had (sadly mainly just in Europe so far) about contacting employees outside of work hours. VW made a big deal about this for their staff a few years back and Portugal has recently passed a law forbidding bosses to reach out after their normal working hours.

Finally, on this point, I feel it’s a sign of poor management to want to “keep an eye on my people”. Most jobs are metric-driven and very traceable through work tools. Instead of making people commute so you can eye-ball them, try hiring good people, pay them well, and work to make them understand what is expected of them and how you will be monitoring performance. But give them access to what they need to succeed, and that may be an office space or a good chair for the home office.

Trade shows

I’m a big fan of face-to-face, and I enjoy working trade shows, so there is my bias. But after recently attending eTail West (and prepping for Shoptalk), I likened the mood to the moment after a champaign cork pops. People were hugging each other and vigorously shaking hands. The bar at the JW Marriott turned into “the pit” where people crowded so close a friend stated,” I couldn’t see hands but could see shoulders, so that was too close for comfort”. Some of us are triple shotted with a floater of active covid (I took part in the January surge with a stuffy nose), so I feel very comfortable to mingle. Others do not share my endemic laissez-faire attitude, and that’s completely understandable. Provided this spike in Europe doesn’t hit the US too hard, I suspect it will be a banner year for events.

Wrapping up, I think we’ll see an absolutely fundamental shift in how we do business and I feel so bad for the students and newly employed young people who have had to start their careers under these extraordinarily weird circumstances. If anyone has tried to access mental health services (anticipate huge waits), if you moved to Springfield and discover that they don’t have decent Chinese food, or if you’re debating what to do about that huge lease you can’t get out of… try and take a breath, the market will shift like it always does. We’ll see a surge of new people going into mental health services, restaurants will open as the market for great food moves from the cities to the rural regions and maybe, just maybe, major metros will start converting office space into living space.

Contact Per with any questions or comments:

Posted by percaroe