I love my “job” here as the Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser! I get to “work” with some of my favorite people on the planet, some of the sharpest minds I know, and just genuinely good people. A perfect example of that is our newest contributor, who happens to also be a good friend of mine (though she can be a troublemaker- “she started it”)- Sarai Snyder. Sarai is one of the most genuinely passionate advocates I have ever encountered in cycling, but when it comes to women in cycling, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody more passionate, or knowledgeable. That’s high praise indeed, given the exemplary women I know in this world of cycling. And, I’d be willing to bet that all the other women I know, would agree with my assessment.
Sarai is genuinely one of my favorite people in the world of cycling, and on that same precious list outside of the context of cycling. She’s kinda the ginger-haired, freckled little sister I never had. And if she doesn’t stop touching my stuff and get out of my room, I’m gonna yank her pigtails!
As is the tradition here, I’ll let Sarai cover her own intro… if for no other reason than the fact I absolutely LOVE making all of my contributors talk about themselves in the third person voice.
Growing up in the hills of Kentucky, rolling around on bicycles meant riding on anything other than paved roads and cement sidewalks. At the age of 10, with her younger sister Tamar by her side, Sarai would bomb down steep hillsides and launch off homemade jumps.
Several years later, on her new-to-her Barracuda, she found that mountain biking was what she was born to do. Some say, in 1994, when she went out for her first mountain bike ride, she never really came back.
In 2005, Sarai became intimately involved with one of her local bike shops and soon took on the role of manager. The shop noticed an immediate shift. The number of women showing up for group rides and making purchases grew substantially.
Seeing the importance of community involvement in building the local cycling culture, Sarai started working with local advocacy organizations and later co-founded Queen City Bike, now Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s non-profit cycling advocacy organization. With an education in fine art, Sarai felt she had finally found a practical application for her creative skills, bringing a fresh perspective to actively encouraging more cyclists.
Taking the knowledge and experience she gained in Kentucky, Sarai moved to Boulder, Colorado where she founded Girl Bike Love. Recognizing the need for a larger women’s cycling community, the mission of Girl Bike Love is “to educate and empower women in cycling”. With such a simple mission, the online community has grown beautifully, connecting women all around the world.
With the support of this passionate group of followers, in the spring of 2012, CycloFemme – A Global Women’s Cycling Day was launched. In just 9 short weeks, 163 rides were registered in 14 countries. In 2013 those numbers grew to 229 rides in 31 countries.
Sarai loves every aspect of cycling and is constantly challenged to decide which discipline she loves most. Outside of running Girl Bike Love and CycloFemme, Sarai spends most of her time consulting for cycling companies, writing, and riding.
Perfect! Third person… I love it.
Now it’s time to prove just how damn smart she is.
We, as an industry, need to read these words and really chew on them and digest them. There IS a Revolution, and it IS here now; how are WE going to be a part of it? If you’re on the outside looking in and trying to “figure this out”, you could learn a lot by getting involved and listening. LISTENING. Small word, big concept.
While most of the cycling industry spent their time at Interbike ogling fresh lines and paint schemes, fumbling new gadgets, trading stories with old friends, searching out the next best happy hour, and hand counting the number of consumers they personally witnessed on day three, a notable revolution was taking place in a cozy little corner of the showroom floor with comfy couches, pillows, velvet stools and gasp – WOMEN.
Throughout the three day show the Women’s Lounge hosted by the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC) was abuzz with momentum.
Women from all over the industry came together in quiet little game changing meetings while most others quietly strolled on by.
As the cycling industry continues it’s pursuit of “What Women Want” they largely fail to ask, listen, watch and learn from the very demographic they are trying to reach. Most will read this article, snicker and point fingers.
We all know it’s true. Many will say “We are being innovative, we listen, we like women, look here, we have an entire line of amazing women’s products”.
And while amazing products are much appreciated, this is exactly when it becomes clear who is missing the boat.
The answer to attracting the female consumer is only marginally related to product. Women are not the opposite of men. Women are riders, cyclists, mountain bikers, roadies, commuters, huckers, bmxers, fixies, pros, messengers, bike tourers, and track racers just as men are. Our gender does not change the fact that as such we want bikes and gear that fit well, function flawlessly, look good and make us feel even better. We want great places to ride, great bike shops and mechanics to care for our bikes, and great events and races to participate in.
Above all, as women, we want to be supported and acknowledged as equals, not physically the same, but as riders, racers, consumers and leaders. In turn, we use our buying power and our social influence to vote for the companies that are doing just that.
There is an emerging core of women in cycling that are creating strong partnerships, with great ethics, professionalism and powerful leadership. We are being innovative in our relationships, aligning with non endemic partners. We are working together to actively, strategically, and effectively attract more women to cycling.
So why does this matter to you, to your brand, to the cycling industry as a whole?
Because we have the women’s cycling market at our fingertips. And contrary to traditional marketing set forth in the industrial or marketing economies of the past, as Seth Godin suggests, “we are living in a connection economy”. Today, branding and marketing strategy hinges on the emotional connection.
By proudly supporting and investing in women’s cycling organizations, initiatives, and individuals that are directly cultivating the women’s cycling community there is a special opportunity to create lasting, authentic, emotional connections with female consumers.
The question is no longer “how do we attract more women to cycling?” but “how do we support those who are?”
Next time the opportunity arises to engage with the leaders of the women’s cycling revolution, take the time to create that emotional connection, to listen, to ask how you can show your support, and above all to say ‘thank you’.
The revolution is not about quicker shifting, cleaner cable routing, lighter, stronger, faster bikes, wheels, shoes or helmets. The revolution is not a product, the revolution is women in cycling.
Short and sweet… a lot like Sarai herself.
Are YOU… are WE… a part of the Revolution, or watching on the sidelines worrying about the restless masses? As you evaluate your marketing dollars (as I look at my own), consider the possibility that you might effect actual sales of your products/ services by supporting a growing customer base that is clamoring for your simple acknowledgement of their existence.
The best thing about this blog, in some ways, is the fact I get to introduce and/ or work with some really incredible people. Like the recent introduction of Steve Parke, this new member of the Kool-Aid Krew is somebody I have a great deal of respect for, as well as consider a friend. Jeff, like myself, is a former Marketing Manager for BH Bikes and Pivot Cycles. Though Jeff is a great marketing mind and obviously great with words, he can also design and build websites/ web stores and then create the content. He’s more than just a utility player… he’s a one man team. From being a journalist, to a Marketing wanker, to being able to write html in his sleep… he’s kind of a rock star.
(Photo stolen from Facebook, via Daniel Limburg.)
Not only is he an avid cyclist, he’s also a connoisseur of the punk genre, and the occasional beer. Possibly his only flaw is the fact that he’s living my dream of living in Belgium with his family and is fully emerged in all things Belgium and cycling. The jerk.
As part of the fun, for me, I get to make the contributors write their own brief bios… forcing them to speak in 3rd person, if at all possible. With that in mind, meet Jeff Lockwod;
Jeff Lockwood was born, raised and educated in the mountains of Pennsylvania. From an early age, he started making jobs out of his hobbies. He graduated from waxing and tuning skis in grade school to becoming a ski lift attendant in high school. In college, he realized he could meet more girls as a ski instructor. Soon after college graduation, he was officially indoctrinated into the bicycle industry by taking a job with Dirt Rag magazine. With the exception of two years when he experimented with work in the general population, he’s worked in various capacities in the bike world: writer, editor, marketing director, online manager, web designer and more. Lockwood is currently a hired gun, writing articles for various magazines and web sites, and providing marketing services and copywriting for brands within the bike industry. Jeff, his wife and their two daughters currently split their time between Antwerp, Belgium and the spare bedrooms and couches of relatives and friends in Pennsylvania.
I want to envision him in a dark room in a small belgian cottage, nice ale on his desk, wearing a sweater with leather patches on the elbows, and possibly some Descendents playing softly/ loudly in the background.
Jeff’s first post is an excellently written introduction to the use of Twitter in brand building. This simple set of guidelines should be read and printed out by marketing Managers/ Brand Managers at companies big and small… trust me. Give it a thorough read… I’m gonna read it a few more times and make a nice checklist to remind myself with.
Branding Through Twitter
Twitter is an extremely useful and effective tool when it comes to helping define and galvanize your brand. On its own*, Twitter allows your brand to post messages in a lightning-fast and concise manner, which makes it very easy to reach a qualified audience.
Using the “conduit” metaphor, I will explain how Twitter postings can have an impact on your brand, organization, company and products…as well as define and strengthen your message. Brief and limited examples as well as possible success metrics are listed within each Conduit in an effort to get some ideas rolling for you.
*Note: Twitter can and should be used in combination with other social media campaigns as well as on- and off-line initiatives to completely capitalize on its robust reach. For the sake of simplicity we’ll keep the focus on basic concepts for this post.
At the very basic level, Twitter can be used to dispense information about your brand. Postings within the Information Conduit metaphor are “selfish” in the sense that they directly relate to, promote and come from the brand and don’t really reach from farther within than that.
- Company news
- Athlete/Team news, info and results
- Photos and videos
Success Metrics: Aside from retweets, passive information such as this is difficult to quantify. However the branding impressions and informational nature are important.
Very closely related to the Information Conduit metaphor is the Promotion Conduit. The key difference between the two is that postings within the Promotion Conduit do the hard sell rather than passive information from the Information Conduit. Think: Liberal use of “calls to action.”
- Product push
- Special sales
- Special promotions
- Special events
- Explain how a product can be of benefit to a consumer, etc.
- Directly correlated increased sales
Twitter offers the general public a very direct, very public conduit to air grievances, ask questions and raise issues with your products and brand. Twitter as a Support Conduit allows your brand a two-way channel to support and resolve issues with customers.
- Passively offer followers opportunity to express feelings and experiences with products.
- Promptly respond to posts describing problems or complaints to solve their problems.
- Publicly display and promote resolutions to customer concerns. (when applicable)
- Gain user/customer product use details to advance product development and customer service education.
- Increased posting of queries for help
- Public thanks or praise of brand
In an effort the give people the opportunity to claim any sort of connection with the your brand, Twitter can be used to interact with people. Thus, people will have a higher degree of identity with the brand, as well as a personal and tangible connection.
- Ask questions of followers.
- When @YourBrand is mentioned, comment on it. (when applicable)
- Provide a certain level of commentary on discussions.
- Create and participate in organic conversations on any variety of topics.
- Coordinate with other social, online and offline initiatives to increase visibility and engagement across channels. (when applicable)
- Follower number, retweet rate and @mentions are increasing.
- You’re engaging in ongoing conversation with followers.
Through creative posting, Twitter can be used to inspire people to want to ride more, be active and trust your brand as a wise and experienced voice in cycling.
- Quotes on/about cycling, strength, determination, etc.
- Stories and images of winning in or around cycling.
- Educate customers and potential customers on how your products, company or brand can inspire confidence in performance, reliability and more.
- Retweets of articles and postings about fitness, mechanical and nutritional tips.
- Follower number, retweet rate and @mentions are increasing.
It doesn’t have to be all business…or at least appear as all business. People come to Twitter to gather information and to take a quick break from work, studying, training, etc. Lighten things up and keep it interesting.
The best bet to entertain your audience is to offer some light commentary, interesting news and wise use of wit. Keep it light, keep it honest and don’t offend. Audiences will appreciate this more informal voice of your brand.
- Follower number, retweet rate and @mentions are increasing.
Don’t Clog the Conduit
It’s easy to get carried away with Twitter by posting too much too often. Over-posting on Twitter will result in your message and brand becoming diluted. Worse is the fact that your postings will start to annoy followers if they see too much information coming through. Exercise some moderation when it comes to posting frequency.
- Follower number, retweet rate and @mentions are NOT decreasing.
To Whom are You Aiming the Conduit?
We’ll assume you know your audience and how to speak to them. Don’t forget that. In addition to those people, here’s who else is listening:
- Potential customers
- Other divisions within your organization
- Your boss
- Partnering companies/organizations/brands
- Other brand champions
- Competing brands/organizations/companies
Ok, so, I realize that our “rebirth” hasn’t exactly been supersonic. All of us were very excited to relaunch this thing and then life, work, holidays, illness, etc stepped into the way. For me personally, this all coincided with starting a new job and developing one of the most significantly paralyzing bouts of Writer’s Block® I’ve ever endured. (I’ve been able to pride myself in working through blocks like this before- even creating entire catalogs while fighting this ailment… but not this time.)
That said, it still sucks that the excitement kinda came and went…
However, that will hopefully change very soon. I am proud to announce the first post from a new contributor has recently landed in my inbox and will be landing in this space within a day or two. I’m supremely proud to be able to introduce this contributor to this audience and the first post is a good one… so you’ll wanna come back and read it.
Stay tuned… I promise, it’ll be worth it.
Thank YOU all for your support and patience. Here’s to an incredible 2013.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
Here we are again, after a number of failed attempts to relaunch this blog… we’re finally crossing the threshold from “gonna” to “doing”. And to be perfectly honest, I’m happier than you can imagine!
This blog’s first post was on November 20, 2005– a short and simple introduction to the blog and its original intended goals/ purpose. Even though the past few years have seen barely any activity here (aside from claims that I was going to get it rolling again), the blog has somehow continued to get visitors and I’ve continued to be asked why I haven’t really restarted it. Honestly, that’s very flattering to me. To me, it shows there is still a “need” for a blog like this one- dedicated to the bike industry or other industries that choose to use cycling as a way to market themselves and their products/ services. Over the years, the content has varied from Marketing and PR, to news and current events within the cycling world- whether in the industry or the larger cycling community… and that doesn’t bother me. Not at all. I originally provided all the content myself, but then I realized that I didn’t have the time to maintain it by myself anymore, yet there were plenty of topics to discuss, and I’m blessed to know a lot people who are much smarter than me. That holds true today, as well.
Over the coming days and weeks, I will introduce new and old contributors as they share their first posts. I’ll provide a little background on each contributor, along with why I am so delighted they are a part of the Krew. Sincerely, the contributor list here is going to read like an All-Star roster. And it is. I am so pleased to be working with these fine folks- many you have likely heard of, and others who you will want to get to know better… trust me. My goal, as Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser, is to make sure that we uphold my original criteria of providing relevant content that is insightful, useful, and critical when needed. A sense of humor goes a long way too… trust me, again. We’re not here to simply shoot spitballs from the back of the class- this blog’s purpose is to educate, enlighten, share, and hopefully encourage real, open, and honest dialog. If we stray from those simple principles, I hope that you will let us know- because they are very important to me.
With the size and variety of the contributor list, it might get a little noisy around here- which is a good thing. It should also mean that content remains fresh and covers tons of topics. We have folks from nearly every corner of the cycling world; sales reps, manufacturers, marketers, advocacy experts, retail, media, and from multiple continents… and more will follow. The content is guaranteed to be unique and thoughtful. Again, that makes me extremely happy.
(Sharing a meal- hot pot- Taiwan style.)
So, nearly 7yrs after this blog was created, it has now become something much bigger and much more special than I ever imagined it would. I thank you for remaining or becoming interested in this silly project, and I am very much indebted to the incredible group of people who will be working with me to provide content here. We may not post every day, but you can bet there will be some incredible content coming your way, so stay tuned and check in often.
Once again, thank you for putting up with my repeated proclamations of our return from the dead. This time, I’m pretty confident in the likelihood it’s going to stick. I look forward to sharing each new contributor with you, and like you, I can’t wait to see what they have to say.
In closing, I’d like to say- “WE’RE BACK!”
This is gonna be really good.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(Me with my first bike- the beginning of the end… and the beginning of a lifelong love.)
Alright, it’s really gonna happen. We’re going to be back bigger, better, and stronger than ever with new and old contributors, and a renewed commitment to providing compelling commentary, insight, analysis… and hopefully a few laughs along the way.
Please allow us (by “us” I mean “me”) a little time to migrate everything over from Blogger to WordPress, refresh links, dump the old spam comments, and generally clean up.
As the host of this party, my real job is to make sure the guests have a good time, and make sure there are enough snacks for everybody. I’ll be contributing as well, but I’m excited that the Kool-Aid Krew is going to be collectively providing great content here… which is terribly exciting for me. I can’t wait to introduce/ reintroduce all the contributors. The best part is making them write bios in third person; Tim likes that a lot, yes he does!
I’ll be back and forth here a lot as I work on things… even with a little content along the way…
Please stay tuned because things are going to get very interesting and entertaining. Promise.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
To all who have sent in writing samples and emailed an interest in joining the Kool-Aid Krew, I just want to say thank you and let you know you will be hearing from me soon- I promise. Frankly, I’m tempted to take all of you on as contributors… and just might! I’m one nutty editor/ Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser.
If you haven’t already heard from me, you will soon, so please be patient… I do have a day job after all…
I’m very excited about the changes and upgrades coming to this site and I thank you for your patience and continuing support.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser