April 13, 2010

Jerry, Part Four. On Grandparents.com


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The Ambassadors Of Internet's Quan

By Tim McHale

For as much as I learn from each of the people we interview at the MadAve Journal, it's funny how some of the greatest insights come from what wasn't said. For example, in Part One, Jerry mentioned that he worked with Seth Godin, before Godin published paradigm-changing book, titled "Permission Marketing."

What Jerry didn't say was that Seth dedicated the blockbuster work TO Jerry.

From Seth's blog: "A long time ago, I dedicated the book "Permission Marketing" to my friend and colleague Jerry Shereshewsky.... I've been thinking about Jerry a lot lately. As I work on my new project, I find myself telling stories about him and his impact on me, on organizations and on the way people think."

Another story about Jerry comes from Ms. Adrienne Skinner, a net evangelist and founding president of WinStar Interactive. She and Jerry worked together at Yahoo! for many years. Today, as Vice President of Comcast Interactive Media, Adrienne told me, "Aside from being one of the most interesting men I have ever met, Jerry taught me that (1) there is always at least one new and different way to solve any marketing challenge, and (2) having fun practicing our craft is essential to producing great work. The fact that he is an icon in the industry as it morphs into a digitally-centered world is no surprise, given his fearless drive into new opportunities. No one else can bring together the best of the old and new in creative talent as a result."

If you've been reading this series over the last few days, you've noticed that we've been drawing on a similarity between Jerry Shereshewsky and the story of Jerry McGuire. Obviously, the first one is their first name. Another is that they both dedicated their careers to a professionalism-based mission. The third is that they are Ambassadors. Take a look at the First Three Chapters of this novel 4-part series.

As Jerry sells Grandparents.com to MadAve he is also tasked with educating agencies and brands about a next generation strategy which he calls, Life Stage Marketing. It takes some doing for marketers to change their thinking and reliance on consumer demographic and behavioral-based profiling and targeting. As the last three articles have shown, this is not the first time he has achieved this. He's an original.

Cameron Crowe's film is filled with original lines and Quotes that are now a part of our culture. Here are two that pertain to digital marketing today. "We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors." The second is the solution toward generating results. "I love the mornings! I clap my hands every morning and say, 'This is gonna be a great day!'

There is nobody as truly qualified to change how the industry thinks, or has as much enthusiasm and fun doing it as Jerry Shereshewsky. Godin said it best with this, "Every once in a while, you work with someone who carries a distortion reality field, someone who impacts everything he touches, causing it to respond. Jerry pushed me and the rest of our team further, and in more ways, then most of us expected could happen. And he did it with an energy, generosity and love that seems way too rare."


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Jerry: Okay now, let me ask you a question.

Tim: Wait a minute. I'm not so sure I like this.

Jerry: LOL! Tell me what the single most important factor marketers should consider when they think about marketing to grandparents?

Tim: This must be a trick question. I don't know. Getting your AARP card?

Jerry: No. When your daughter or daughter-in-law announces that she's pregnant!

Tim: (Deer caught in the headlights look on face) :--)

Jerry: I bet you never thought of that.

Tim: (Silence) I didn't.

Jerry: Trust me, anyone who is a grandparent does. Also anyone who's pregnant does as well. I had one person a media buyer at a major agency that didn't get it until she called me one day to tell me she's pregnant and that she wanted to set up a meeting.

Tim: Are parenting magazines like Parenting, like Parents, servicing this market at all?

Jerry: I could imagine one of these days, one of them will.

Tim: Right. I've worked on many brands aimed at new families but had not seen this connection before.

Jerry: In addition to selling in the target as a distinct void to be serviced, the larger element we have before us is to educating the marketplace to move from demographic targeting to life stage marketing.

Tim: Right.

Jerry: What's the earlier sign that a parent in the near future will become a grandparent?

Tim: A fetal monitor exam?

Jerry: Wrong again! When a parent learns that their son or daughter announces they are getting married!


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Tim: I feel like an idiot!

Jerry: Don't. The entire Madison Avenue community needs to re-tool their strategic thinking.

Tim: That's a pretty broad statement

Jerry: It is. Here's some evidence. Packaged goods companies and so many others target people who are moving into a new home or apartment. They spend a lot of money chasing these people, because moving triggers all sorts of spending in categories that they otherwise will not have interest in after they settle down.

Tim: What's the point?

Jerry: There are virtually no automobile or financial advertisers using life stage marketing in their advertising messages. 95% of all the advertising in bridal books is endemic-based. Consider that getting married is considered one of the top 3 things a person does in their life, it's astonishing how much opportunity there is for those marketers who get it.

Tim: That's interesting. You're pointing to huge voids. On a priority level, brides and grandparents aren't high on the pecking order of specific markets that need to be addressed. Is it because of the scarcity of marketing funds once basic objectives have been achieved?

Jerry: Nah, it's the scarcity of people in creative, strategic planning and in media planning who are prone to consider new ideas. It's inertia all over again. Why risk doing something this year that we didn't do last year.

Tim: Let's get into the niches of the media. Are there many grandparent blogs?

Jerry: Some.. not a lot. Part of it is that... how do I say this.. let's call them 50+ folks have a different set of concerns about privacy than the 20-somethings. Kids out there put stuff on Facebook and MySpace that you'd hard by if you knew your kids were doing that, because they think it is cool and funny and there is no implications and repercussions. They are not concerned about identity thefts, they are not concerned about some employer 5-10 years from now looking at something that they had posted.

Tim: That's becoming more apparent everyday.

Jerry: Older people, become to a certain degree, socially, much more conservative. And they are more risk averse. It also it has to do with their comfort with the technology.

Tim: What other areas of new media are you in? What is your search and e-commerce offering?

Jerry: We are certainly using a SEM and SOM tremendously to generate traffic. We are not right now on wireless or social media as of yet. We are developing 3 widgets, but we'll never call them a widget to our readers. We'll tell people they are handy little content tools. We are analyzing everything. We have a little deal with Amazon when we review toy or a book or something. We just add a link to Amazon for readers who want to buy. We envision large scale opportunities with e-commerce though it's most likely 18-24 months away.


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Tim: Tell me about your content. Some of the things that you are really proud of?

Jerry: First of all, it's 100% ours. We do scrape from anybody else. We don't borrow. One of the coolest things we've done this year, which has extraordinary reader response is called "101 things to do" in the 25 major markets. "101 things" is a franchise. We actually get emails from people who say, "I'm not a grandparent, but I have found more usefulness from your 101 things section than any other site online!"

Tim: You have done research I'm sure, within the overall market place with people who are Baby Booms or people who are about to become grandparents. What is the awareness of grandparents.com, not so much in terms of the awareness as a concept that their relevance is different. I've just got a double "P" last year but that has no relevance to me.

Jerry: Let me put it to you this way, We just started advertising on television for our site. Day after day, although we measure essentially how much did we spend today, and how many visitors did we get, so we are doing conventional direct marketing analysis. But we are recognizing that day-by-day the longer the campaign run, the lower my cost of acquisition and the higher my conversion to newsletter subscription.

Tim: I'd imagine your newsletter is far more.. well it's obviously more targeted, because its self identified?

Jerry: But so is the website. In fact there are people, as I mentioned who are not grandparents who are on our website. That's cool, because they are behaving like grand parents.

Tim: Other than just natural, organic search, do you know what portion of your organic search are grandparents?

Jerry: No. But I'm assuming, it is very, very high, because, we look at the terms that people are searching for. Almost all of the traffic that we get from search comes in because somebody typed in the search box for grandparents, grandparents.com, or grandparent.com or some version of that. They're using the Search Bar as a Nav Bar. We get a certain amount of traffic coming from people who are looking for one of the destinations we list as part of our "101 things" The best thing that we can do is promote our story to people and have them come and explore the site and find that there are lots of things in this grandparents.com universe from them to take advantage of.

Tim: Now you've mentioned, statistics that are census-based are more quantitative. With regard to relevance, have you produced research with any of the major research companies that illuminates this and substantiates the things that you're suggesting?

Jerry: There are a couple of things. We subscribe to the Simmons. One of the reasons is that they break out "grandparents." Therefore, buyers can measure "Grandparents 45-65." I can look at grandparents 65 + or at grandparents 45-65 or non-grandparents 45-65. From there we find really interesting things about brand preference, brand familiarity. It's been very helpful. We're doing a lot of work for the company called Focalist, which is a joint venture between [xx] and AARP.

Tim: I know who they are.

Jerry: There's a strong cultural connection with Focalist. I'm going to be speaking at their conference in October. We also work very closely with an organization in Richmond, Virginia called the Boomer project. They are on the leading edge of understanding sociological and psychological dynamics, much more qualitative aspects of marketing to this particular audience.

Tim: Have you done a subscriber study yet?


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Jerry: We've done on travel so far and will be doing a full-scale study in the next few months. That's key initiative as you can imagine.

Tim: Can you talk to me about the number of uniques and the overall basics of how your audience measures in scale and size?

Jerry: We have only just begun. In the last month, we launched an aggressive marketing program to build subscribers. Currently we have 150,000 uniques a month. We'll by the end of this year get to about a million.

Tim: How many page views?

Jerry: Our registered users are giving us about 8 page views per visit and they are giving us about 3 visits a month.

Tim: I could envision strong loyalty over time to the site and newsletter over time.

Jerry: One third of all our traffic are registered. Our traffic spikes on Thursday, when we mail the newsletter out.

Tim: Do you see a tipping point, if you will.. Is it 2 years from now? Obviously, that's something you have to be sensitive from a financial standpoint. You've been through this before. When do you see yourselves in the black?

Jerry: Well, 2010 is our black year, 2009 is going to be our tipping point year. People will see Pepsi on the site in July. Shortly thereafter they'll see a major oil company on our site. We've in the process of closing a major financial services partner. Collectively these will demonstrate in thought and deed that our audience is dynamic. It's not ladies on scooters going to get their hair dyed white. Our audience does not eat dinner at 4pm.


Jerry: It's a challenge for any company selling a market before they can illuminate how their property addresses it. Thankfully, I am fortunate I know Madison Avenue well. When I spend time with the VP of Marketing or the President of a division, or better yet, the CEO of the company, I make a very good sale. First of all, most of them are exactly who my audience is or who recognize that they are going to be. Once the agency gets "Permission" as Seth and I used before, the agency becomes far more responsive.

Tim: Once that permission is granted, how long does it take for a company to create a relevant program that comes to life with you property?

Jerry: Three months from concept to solution. Not that long in the scheme of things. Plus, once it's established, it takes on a life of its own. Part of the reason we can help generate speed to market is that a marketer doesn't have to spend $1,000,000 to initiate a program which will produce measurable results.

Tim: That's interesting.

Jerry: On the B2B side, there is no substitute for having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with somebody. I'll enjoy this aspect of our business. It's a business of relationships. My goal is schedule as many face-to-face meetings with people as possible. Remember St. Paul. He took his message to the people on feed. That's what we do.

Tim: You mentioned Johnson and Johnson, the cruise organization and Playskool. What do you doing for those campaigns specifically?

Jerry: Look at each one of them carefully. We run advertising and produce content, that is integrated, which to the consumer has great usability that's not just trying to make a sale. For instance, Playskool, we created a micro site for them, into which we brought, video that they already owned of their toys in use. So that a grandparent or parent for that matter, not only can look at the picture of that toy, and read some information about the toy, but they can look at a child of a certain age to see if that toy is age appropriate. They can see it. That's incredibly useful to our subscribers and our sponsor.

Tim: That's great as well for people who aren't grandparents who buys gifts for kids,

Jerry: It's like being a parent. The nature of what the interaction is and the nature of the commitment and the nature of all those things changes and evolves. There's a joke. The joke is when you are a new parent and your baby drops a bottle on the floor, you quickly get the bottle, wash it out, put it in the dishwasher, sterilize it and then you get a new bottle. The second baby drops a bottle, you pick it up, wipe it off with your hand and give it back to the kid, and the third baby drops the bottle, you tell the 2nd baby to go get the kid's bottle back.

Tim: LOL!

Jerry: With experience comes expertise. So while we have relevancy to certain grandparents of whatever age, the people who need us most are new grandparents and grandparents at a distance. About 55% of all grandparents live more than 3 hours from one or more of their grandchildren.

Tim: Interesting.

Jerry: We're also going to be introducing a whole section of contents where grandparents whose grandchildren have got special needs.

Tim: Two more questions. As the CEO of Grandparents.com what's your pitch, 25-words or less?

Jerry: I think what we're looking at here is the slow discovery of the fact that our world looks different today, than it did 25 or 30 years ago. We saw the outline of the baby boom as they were reaching into becoming 40. Now we're looking into the baby boom coming into their 60s. They have been disruptive to the market place at every step along the way, from the day one. They'll continue to be so. As they'll live longer, they're going to be grandparents for a lot longer than previous generations of grandparents. They have way more money and they are way better educated that any grandparent generation in history.

Tim: So you are selling the baby boomers just at a different life stage?

Jerry: It's the boomer at the grandparent life stage. Exactly right. There is no grey in the word grandparent.

Tim: Final question not as the CEO of Grandparents.com but as Jerry Shereshewsky. What have you learned from the time you began your career in the mail room to here, which college grads coming into the business should know?

Jerry: About myself, I've learnt what I'm good at, what I'm not good at. There are some basic truths, things that I always believed in; that you do to other people, what you'd like them to do to you. If you treat people the way you'd like to be treated, it actually works. I've learnt the long and hard way, that very often, it is not what you know, but who you know. The value of your network and the value of your reputation is without a doubt, more important than anything. I would walk out the door and close up shop before I would let anything interfere with my reputation for fairness and honesty. These are things that transcend. You can't be greedy. You've got to be a giver. Believe that if you give, you'll get some too.

Tim: Words to live by. Thanks, Jerry. This was great!

Jerry: It was my pleasure, Tim!


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