Key Elements of a Daily Highlights Email

Do you email your customers? If you don’t, but want a simple “how to” to get you started, just follow the example of our very first Saffire client, Rodeo Austin.

Rodeo Austin sends out emails before their event (which of course, we highly recommend!), but this example is a “daily highlights” email. It has 5 key elements, which we outline below.

The good news? You can schedule these emails months in advance to go out during your event! So put it on your calendar, and we promise you’ll see your revenue and attendance increase!

Business Etiquette from NALS & RMA Conference

It’s not often that I feel 76.8% wrong, but the business etiquette course by Marion Gellatly of Powerful Presence did just that.

My favorite thing I learned was that when someone is toasting you, you shouldn’t drink. And this came in handy immediately after the conference.

I shared this new information with my business partners and their families at dinner, and a few of us decided to constantly toast our creative director for the rest of the night! (It became slightly less funny when he started toasting us back in retaliation!)

But in all seriousness, Marion gave me some things to think about, and the key things I learned are:

  • When setting the table:
    • Remember BMW – Bread (plate), Meal, Water (glass) – in that order from left to right
    • Use silverware from outward in towards the center
  • When you sit down:
    • Enter your chair from the right
    • Immediately put your napkin in your lap, folded in half with the fold toward you
  • During the meal:
    • No getting up for any reason, except for between courses; if you do leave, put your napkin on your chair, only on the table when finished
    • No “grooming” (lipstick, fixing hair, etc.)
    • No handbag or phone on the table
    • No sharing from one plate – ask for an extra
    • Spoon soup away from you
    • Pass food to the right, offering left first
    • If your food arrives earlier, wait for permission from others at the table before beginning (don’t start if they don’t give it)
  • When you are finished:
    • Put your silverware side by side on the right side of your plate
    • Don’t ask for leftovers (This one will be hardest for me!)
  • If you are the host:
    • Ask if they have food allergies or preferences after they accept your invitation; make two suggestions – mainstream and ethnic
    • Reconfirm the morning of the event
    • Wait 20 minutes if they are late
    • Direct your guests where to sit; if only one guest, sit them kitty corner from you
    • Allow your guest to order first; if your guest orders two courses, match his order
    • Don’t start business conversation until the orders have been taken

I hope these tips are as helpful and as interesting for you as they were for me….but I may still take home my leftovers!

My Trip to NALS & RMA Conference

I’ve just returned from the North American Live Stock and Rodeo Managers Association conference in Red Lodge, Montana. And I can sum it up by saying, what a hoot!

These are the nicest people you’ll ever come across, which really validated our decision to focus on this industry. I couldn’t decide whether the people were more like a family or a small town, but they were so welcoming and appreciative of our sponsorship; I truly loved my time with this special group.

I sponsored the conference on the advice of Bucky Lamb, the CEO of our wonderful partner Rodeo Austin. He said there were no guarantees, but he felt this would be a receptive audience to our message. I only went with the hope that I’d make some friends in the industry, and I certainly did. But I think I even gave some events something to think about in raising the bar on their online presence.

One thing I was struck by is just how many issues these event coordinators face besides online marketing and their event websites. I am so engrossed in the online world that it’s easy to forget it is only a small (but important!) part of the myriad of details it takes to put on a successful event.

There was a great session on social media, where I got to hear Steve Richo and Mark O’Shea from Noise New Media give some fascinating statistics and advice on integrating social media into an online marketing plan. There was also a surprisingly informative presentation by Marion Gellatly at Powerful Presence about business etiquette, where I learned I break approximately 76.8% of the rules!  Oops. (More on that in another post.)

But the most fun was in the amazing places Justin Mills of The NILE (the host of this year’s conference) arranged for us to see – from a cattle tagging manufacturer to a bull testing facility to a belt buckle store to the Buffalo Bill Historic Center to World Famous Pig Races and great meals at Irma Hotel and music by a very entertaining songwriter who shared this funny quote: “Drink, because the brain cell you kill might be the one that was holding you back.”

Thank you to everyone at NALS & RMA! It was great to meet you, and I’m already looking forward to next year!

The power of DIY

Wow. We’ve been building big websites for a long time.  And for about a decade, we’ve been telling people that not only would we never build a website without tools to manage it themselves, but we feel that web developers who do are borderline unethical.

I know, “them’s fighting words.” But think about it. There is great technology out there to manage website content. So why would a web developer not allow a client to make changes themselves? We think it’s because they want to charge for changes, thus keeping their revenue stream flowing.

Again, having worked on big websites for so long, we rarely think about the fact that many smaller websites don’t have the choice but to depend on their web developer to make changes. Yesterday, I talked to someone who could get instant changes from their web developer (So rare!).

But today, the fair manager I talked to isn’t so lucky.

He had gone through nightmare experiences with web developers; promises were made and broken. Even simple changes could go 7-10 days without being made. All from a guy down the street.

When I explained the features of Saffire, he didn’t mince words. He said that lots of fairs and rodeos can’t afford web agencies, so they try to get it done locally. And they’re frustrated. He said people need what we offer. They know they need it. But they don’t know how to get it. So I see our job as to help them by showing them!

Saffire creates event ecommerce websites that people can manage on their own, and it’s simple. One of our favorite things to do is to show it to people. They literally can’t believe how easy and even fun it is to see changes they make on their password-protected admin site appear on their customer site… instantly!

So if you want to see Saffire in action, just give us a call at 512-480-8566. We’ll be happy to kick the tires with you and show you just how fun DIY can be.

Rodeo Austin Goes Mobile

Event ecommerce and more on Rodeo Austin's mobile site
Mobile Event Website

We couldn’t help ourselves. We simply had to release a new mobile site for Rodeo Austin.

We spent years telling clients “not yet” when they asked about mobile sites, but now that the stars have aligned so that the time is right, we were excited to help them get on the mobile bandwagon!

The Rodeo Austin mobile event website released today. We’re super proud of it. From this site, you can:

  • See a calendar of events by date, event type or location
  • Get directions
  • Buy tickets
  • Sign up for updates

Please visit this new mobile event website from your smartphone at

The guy down the street

I started doing market research today on what people are looking for in their event websites.

On my first phone call to a fair about her event website, I found out that she was pretty happy with the guy down the street who does their website. This was great to hear, since most of the time, I only hear from people who have had very bad experiences with their web developers.

But on the other hand, it’s hard to know how to sell against this guy. Our team isn’t that big, but we have people who specialize in project management, writing, marketing, user interface, HTML, graphic design, programming, server/security management, etc. And they are all different people… in some cases more than one who perform the different skills needed to build a high-quality event website!

What I want to tell event directors is, we want to be your guy down the street! What would it take for you to give us a shot? Seriously, we want to know!

We know it’s scary to call a company in Austin, Texas. Whether you’re a couple hours away or a several hour plane ride, you may be concerned about being able to get a hold of us.

But having been in business since 1998, we can assure you we’re not going anywhere. And we give you the tools to manage your site yourself (and with all our resources, your site will surely be so much higher quality than a one-man show). So you can rest easier that you have everything you need to manage your website.

Since a  picture says a thousand words, here are photos of some of our team members. See? We’re really not that scary!

Why Event Ecommerce Websites

I started doing websites in 1995, less than a year after the web came to prominence. I didn’t go to school for it…because it didn’t exist.

But I love marketing and I love technology, so I anxiously embraced this new marketing medium when I had the chance.

And it’s been a wild ride.

Looking back, ecommerce has always been my first love website-wise. It’s the ultimate “rubber meets the road” metric that’s totally trackable. And I love being on my clients’ revenue side of the spreadsheet, not the expense side (like we would be if we just put up a brochure website, for example).

We’ve had the opportunity to do some great work for companies like Nike, Jeep, Chrysler, Panasonic, Widmer Brewing, PG Tips and many more.

Right now, we do all the internet strategy for, and it’s never a dull moment!

But a couple years ago, we got one of those life-changing, out-of-the-blue phone calls from Rodeo Austin. They invited us to submit a bid for their event’s website redesign.

I think maybe a dozen firms submitted bids, and we were ecstatic when we became their interactive partner. Two rodeos later, we’re still their partner and are always improving their event website.

We started looking around and saw the fair and rodeo industry as one we could really help.  I mean this in the most respectful way, but it’s rare that I get to see an industry anymore that could benefit from better event websites than fairs, rodeos and other events. And let’s be honest…

We just love fairs and rodeos!

So we took the ecommerce platform we’d been fine-tuning for years with products, customized it for event websites and released the platform you now know as Saffire.

We are just wrapping up a new website for the South Texas State Fair in Beaumont. We’re working on deals with others, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Let the wild ride continue!

They Like Us, They Really Like Us!

I love award ceremonies. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s seeing and hearing from stars when they’re vulnerable but trying really hard. Maybe it’s seeing George Clooney in a suit. Or maybe it’s just because I love movies and music, so the Oscars, Globes and Grammies are all on my Tivo list (and I even forgive my son Hudson for being born during the entire span of the Grammies two years ago).

But awards have started to take on a new meaning with Saffire. We’ve entered Rodeo Austin, a Saffire Client Pro website we did last year and the craziest thing has happened.

We have won every award we entered.

I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve got to tell you; it’s felt pretty good. It’s made me feel validated for thinking there was a place for us in the fair and rodeo industry!

I couldn’t be more excited about our offering. And it’s awesome to have so many others confirm that they like it too.

Next time, I’ll tell you why we decided to launch Saffire in the first place. Stay tuned!

Getting Up Off the Couch

I’ve always told customers that it’s really hard to get online leads and sales from offline marketing efforts. I’ve said this not to discourage them from doing it, but to set realistic expectations. It’s just really hard to overcome inertia to get people off the couch where they read their email and to their computer to type in a URL.

Well now I’ve experienced this for myself.

We sent out about 1,700 postcards to fairs and rodeos across the country, and we’re holding our breath to find out if anyone is interested enough to call us. I have to remember that it will take several exposures to our name before people respond, but like I also always say, patience isn’t my virtue!

Here’s the postcard. I think it’s so fun, but let us know what you think.

What are your experiences with direct mail? We’d love to hear success stories!

Eight Followers

As a consultant who has built websites across many industries since 1995, I’m accustomed to (and love) helping people build their brands online. But it’s been awhile since I’ve done it for myself. Now that we’ve launched Saffire, I’ve gotten a taste of building our own brand from scratch. And let me tell you one thing I bet you already know.

It’s nerve-wracking!

I’m used to having the feeling of never getting to do quite as much as I’d like. But it’s taking it to a new level for it to be about something so near and dear to our hearts.

Eight followers. That’s how many Twitter followers we had last night. And we knew all of them. It’s a dauntingly small number, especially thinking about how to increase it dramatically. (Please follow us! :))

So we followed a bunch of fairs and rodeos, which is our target audience for Saffire. In our dreams, they’d follow us back, or at least come check out our product that creates best-in-class event websites. But either way, we look forward to keeping our finger on what’s going on in the industry… and sharing it when we think it’s something our customers would care about.

I’ll try to document what we’re doing to build the Saffire brand and product, so check back to see what we’re up to and offer us ideas if you have them. And cross your fingers for us that we’re well into the double digits soon!