Mike Grehan says...

Random musings about search marketing, flying around the planet, networking and people watching.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hong Kong.

I took the tram to Victoria Peak (known locally simply as "the peak") and marvelled as I looked across the skyline. I just knew that another love affair with yet another city, was about to begin.

Our new office is located in Central, which is downtown. There are the twin towers of the International Financial Centre which are known simply as IFC1 and IFC 2. IFC2 is the tallest building in Hong Kong. We're located in IFC1 which is the little brother. However, in the same building, our neighbours include, Google, DoubleClick, Oracle and a number of other tech and marketing companies. So, we're in very good company!

The night before the official opening event for our new office, Jim Banks ( a previous resident of Hong Kong for 20 years) took us all out for dinner to Lang Kwai Fong. This is a very dull and subdued area where it's hard to find a drink and something to eat... Er, to be truthful, you could die of having a good time in this place!

If you want to get noticed in this huge city to promote a new product, there are the usual ways to do it. You can use TV, Radio, Press, Outdoor, Internet... Or you could just get some people to carry you around on their shoulders while you wave around a carton of your new brand of milk.

The official opening event for our new Asia/Pacific Rim operation was held in the famous Happy Valley at the football club. It was a fairly intimate and very laid back event. And I was delighted that the President and CEO of Think Partnership Inc (our parent company) took the time to fly all the way out to join us. Scott P Mitchell is one of the smartest guys I have ever met in the interactive marketing space. He's also one of the greatest businessmen I've ever known. And yes, he's a hell of a nice guy too. So, as you can imagine, both Jim banks and I are very happy to have such a resourceful and talented guy for support in the venture. Here's myself, Jim and Scott at the opening event.

I have some good friends in Hong Kong. And a very strange thing with my buddy Eddie Choi. I wrote about a small world thing with Eddie when he, coincidentally, ended up sitting behind me on a random flight to Nanjing, China and just tapped me on the shoulder.

This time, I was I heading back on the subway to my hotel from the office and standing on the escalator, when - tap on the shoulder - there was Eddie again! In a city of seven million people that's quite spooky!

Here I am with Eddie and another buddy, Shri, who runs a niche ex pat business in Hong Kong and is also a moderator at Webmaster World.

A group of us went out for traditional Chinese food. Jim had been recommended a place by the concierge at our hotel. What a laugh that was. After first of all mistaking the stock pot for the soup course (yes were sipping the hot pot stock on its own) we then set about cooking our own food at the table.

As you can tell from the pic of Jim and Sheree, his lovely wife-to-be, just about everything got thrown in!

Ahhh... so that' s where my underpants ended up!

We met with all of the major search engines while we were there. We had great meetings with MSN and, as I mentioned, Google are in the same building as us. But I was particularly happy with a meeting we had with Yahoo! I spent some time with Yahoo!'s Frankie Ho in Nanjing. So it was great to catch up with him and his Boss Sammy Hsieh. We really do have some excellent joint initiatives to look forward to. Frankie is sitting next to Jim. And Sammy is next to me.

Someone I did spend quite some time with at both ad:tech Shanghai and SES Nanjing, is Inway Ni. He's joint venture partner with Incisive Media for SES, China. He's also part of the fastest growing online marketing company in China. So when he and his boss invited Jim and I to fly to his city in China for a catch up and dinner, we couldn't resist.

Inway is based in Xiamen which is a wonderful seaside resort. So it was a very casual and relaxed meeting we had. The seafront and promenade in Xiamen are as beautiful as you'll see anywhere.

And this time, when we had traditional Chinese food, there were no problems. Inway and his boss, R.Q. had booked a private dining room in the largest restaurant in the city. And then they proceeded to have served the most wonderful banquet you can imagine. The food was so varied and interesting. Of course, there was the big laugh when Inway asked Jim if there was any food he preferred not to eat, and he answered "seafood!" In a resort where the bulk of the fresh food comes from the sea, you can imagine the reaction that got :-)

And so, after a flying visit to meet with our new Chinese colleagues, it was time to head back to Hong Kong.

Having spent the past couple of years working mainly in the north American market, I'm very much looking forward to the future in the east. There are some very large and juicy brands that I'm just dying to work with on that side of the planet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

eMetrics Summit 2006

One of the conferences I look forward to the most on my annual schedule is eMetrics Summit. Chair of the conference is my one of my closest friends, Jim Sterne. Jim is also President of the Web Analytics Association.

The conference attracts, literally, the royalty of UK and European brands. And the same for US brands at the Santa Barbara version of the conference. It's popularity is growing rapidly with new shows for Germany later this month and Washington DC in October.

Not only is Jim Sterne one of the greatest public speakers you'll ever hear, he's also one of the most knowledgeable consultants in online marketing you'll ever meet.

The conference is small and exclusive which means that networking is easy and over the period of three days you can make many new contacts. I've personally generated more quality leads for big brand companies from this conference, than any other.

And I also try to attend as many of the sessions as I can squeeze in. These are presentations from those working on the front line of online business. So they take analytics and metrics very seriously. Many have huge web sites with millions of pages and visitors to track and monitor. End user behaviour and click stream data is something that I'm becoming increasingly immersed in. So here, I also get the opportunity to talk to the leading solutions providers who have many a tale to tell about their own clients.

Plus, as Jim Sterne is known for providing the best surroundings and catering for his conferences (he has much style and taste) you can expect to put on an extra few pounds with the sumptuous lunches and dinners.

You can see the great man himself, in the distance, getting proceedings under way here.

And as it's a little more intimate than the conference Goliath that is ad:tech, I can get some quality time with industry buddies such as my pal Bryan Eisenberg of Future Now Inc.

Bryan and I connect in a lot of areas when it comes to search marketing. He really does get the big picture, for certain. I've just finished my review copy of the new book he and brother Jeffrey have written, and it's pure gold. "Waiting for your cat to bark" is a guaranteed New York Times/Wall Street Journal/ International best seller. No doubt about it.

From pre-click (search) to post-click (persuasion) Bryan and Jeffrey are masters. And because they have such strong marketing backgrounds (like Jim Sterne also) we have some very interesting conversations about search marketing and what really works to increase query streams and follow up with persuasion architecture developed to induce the highest rates of conversion. I do sincerely mean this, buy "Waiting for your cat to bark" as soon as it's a available (June with complementary CD and Yahoo! Search Marketing token).

Oh no - it's another eMetrics dinner! Wonder who the empty seat belongs too?

I had an opportunity to catch up with my new business partner, Jim Banks. And one of the UK's most respected industry commentators, Ashley Friedlein of the e commerce resource behemoth that is e-consultancy.

And who could the two people in this photo be? They are, in fact, Jackie and Andy from Reality PR who handle PR for this conference, as well as SES in London. Not only that, Jackie used to handle Danny Sullivan's PR and from time-to-time handles mine, when I'm in the UK. They're also great friends and I love to have a night out with them. They're both completely nuts!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Napa Valley.

And so it was, that after the heady excitement of ad:tech, a select group got together with the wonderful Sue Bratton and headed out to wine country.

We stopped on the way at a wonderful new winery which isn't actually open for business yet. But our tour guide was a friend so we were invited. By the way, I'd recommend Jim Tennant as a tour guide to anyone thinking about a Napa Valley trip. He really did a magnificent job.

So the first stop was at Palmaz as I've just mentioned, it's not officially open to the public (will be soon) so it was very much a special treat to get in and see it first.

Here we are, my wife and I, with a spectacular backdrop of what Merlot looks like before it gets to me :-)

And here's me inside Palmaz. I know there's Merlot in there somewhere!

That evening the group split into two parties. One which went to the famous French Laundry restaurant. And another which went to the famous Bouchon restaurant. Both are very close to each other in Yountville and both are owned by celebrated Chef Thomas Keller I was with the Bouchon party. You can see my globe-trotting buddy Bill Hunt at the table. Yes we do meet up everywhere!

We stayed at the wonderfully luxurious Villagio Inn and Spa which I'd recommend to anyone. A wonderful place.

The following morning we were taken to Artesa to start the day with a little sparkling Cava. Excellent.

Napa has some beautiful countryside, so it was a very relaxing day.

We moved on to Diamond Oaks where we tasted more wine and had an excellent picnic.

The whole thing was just so laid back. I almost relaxed for a moment!

In the afternoon we moved on to... yes, event more wine tasting. This time at the wonderful Opus 1 winery . I snapped a nice picture of Tatjana sitting on the grass with its wonderful tree lined entrance as a backdrop.

And then, in the evening, the highlight for many in our group: dinner in the wine cave at Reverie. First of all we were greeted and treated to appetizers and drinks out in the grounds. We found ourselves standing in a small glade with a circle of trees

And just look at the height of these trees!

And then, let the real eating and drinking begin as we entered the wine cave.

The setting was perfect for our group. I won't give a laundry list of names. But some of the greatest minds in online marketing sat around the table together that night.

And the wine kept flowing.

I can't tell you just how great the weekend was. So thanks Sue Bratton once again, for arranging such a great time with such great people.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chicago is great!

I mentioned in an earlier post just how much I adore San Francisco. It really is a joy to visit. Up there on my list of loves is Boston, also. But there's Chicago too. Now that's where my corporate headquarters are. And I love to visit. In fact, I'm in Chicago tonight. I just didn't know that I was going to be!

I missed my connection in Chicago on the way back to the UK from San Fran so I have to stay over in chi town. Big apology from American Airlines and all that - but my schedule is sooo tight as I have Jim Sterne's eMetrics summit in London all this week.

Anyway, I had a wonderful weekend in Napa Valley and feel all the more... er, tired for it!

I'll drop a little post about that later this week.

But one thing I did forget to post, was a picture I took of the first incarnation of Google. It stands in the reception area in one of the buildings and it's referred to as the "corkboard". That being due to the fact that Craig Silverstein used exactly that to hold together the many hard drives required to power Google, at that time. About 20, in total, probably :-)

I didn't realize there was a rule about not taking pictures in the lobby area. But I doubt if either I, or Matt Cutts will get into real trouble for me posting a shot of what a hard drive looked like back in 1998!

On the subject of Matt, my ClickZ article is over here. And you can hear the audio excerpts here and here.

I took my wife to see the Golden gate bridge yesterday. It was her first visit to San Fran, so it had to be done. I haven't been to the bridge for ages. It was so good to have a little "touristy" time again