The e-mail lifeline.
I hope many of you either have had your summer vacations or are in the midst of planning one before the season's over. All of us need time to breath and step away from the day-to-day challenges of work to reconnect with the adventurous kids that live deep inside.
This summer has been very special for me. In late June, I celebrated one of those landmark birthdays: the dreaded 5-0. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I wanted to ride across the United States on a motorcycle. After negotiating with a host of friends and family concerned about the inherent risks, I shipped my wheels to Las Vegas, NV. I shared the ride with a biker friend the first week. The second week, I was on my own -- all the way from Billings, MT, to New York City.
Running a company the size of mine means regardless of time zone or location, I had to be reachable. So I strapped my laptop, wireless card, and BlackBerry on the back of the bike solely to use that magical invention -- e-mail -- throughout the traverse. Over the two weeks and nearly 5,100 miles, my connection with the world was conducted exclusively via e-mail. Each night I found a way to issue a series of ride reports (13 in total) to a willing group of friends and family eager for location information and a morning dose of images, conversations, and impressions from the vantage point of a Harley making its way through some of the most beautiful landscape in the world.
My route took me from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam and out to the Grand Canyon. Two-lane roads wound through Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, the Beartooth Highway, Devils Tower, and the Badlands, and each night road signs directed me to a Super 8 or Holiday Inn Express -- all touting free Internet or in-room wireless Internet. My daughter Rosie remarked only I would make this cross-country trip with an IBM laptop and wireless card. Hotels were ranked by their ability to provide me with Internet access so I could conduct business, receive messages from home and friends, and issue my ride reports. What's remarkable about today's world is even in the most remote areas and smallest towns, I could communicate through e-mail. Only one night, outside the northern entrance to Yellowstone in a very small town, did the Super 8 fail me. But that evening, in the midst of a raging thunderstorm, I sat in the lobby of a local pub and used my wireless card to communicate through e-mail.
The Internet and e-mail transformed the world. I remember as a kid the rush we all got on vacation. We'd buy postcards from far away places and send them to friends. Sometimes we'd write letters postmarked from an isolated town, like Stillwater, NJ, where my grandparents had their country house. The Internet has brought the world closer together and continues to provide tremendous lessons on the power of e-mail communications. In towns across the country, cable coverage was spotty, but access to the world and news came through my Web connection. In the evening, I'd check e-mail, pay bills, converse with friends online, and at times purchase gifts. Of course, I always checked the weather for the next day's ride. In fact, weather alerts I signed up for were a godsend. I also found myself e-mailing local merchants for directions and ideas for tours and venues I could visit.
Cruising along the roads of the U.S. on my bike allowed me to ponder a range of issues. As a frequent traveler, I've spent a great deal of time flying over some of the most breathtaking landscape without realizing it. If motorcycling isn't your thing, rent one of those RVs and take the family on a long, extended ride. I promise the trip will alter your life in a meaningful way. Never before have I felt more in awe of this great land and more aware of the great responsibility we all have in preserving the natural beauty of the forests, lakes, and mountain ranges for generations to come.
I met an incredible number of super people along the way. Many were international travelers. We shared meals, fill-ups along the road, moments of awe gazing at beautiful landscapes. When we parted, we exchanged e-mail addresses. We promised we'd write, and we have. My favorites were a fantastic husband and wife team from Belgium who were making their way across the country for the third time, totally amazed with its beauty. We've e-mailed several times since my return. A lifelong friendship began, and it will be sustained primarily through e-mail.
My trip was one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever experienced, largely due to the Internet and e-mail. We can't truly shut off our responsibilities as we did when we were kids. It was comforting to have the time to deal with the issues of the day, keep in touch with those who matter in life -- friends, family, and business associates -- then return to the road to be embraced by splendor and majesty.
Hopefully, this column has provided you insight, commentary, and ideas over the years on ways in which you can improve the performance of your marketing efforts through e-mail. It's my hope you'll relax this summer and understand we all need a break from the battle from time to time. Take a road trip. No worries. You can take an e-mail connection with you.
Until next time,
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Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.
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