And perhaps less smoke: actually no smoke at all. Today I was in the city for several appointments and a couple of events. Since I do not belong to a club like the Union League, where I ended up having lunch and an evening event, I could not use that as the base.
Instead, I walked to 17th and Market to see the nice people at ING Direct Cafe'. They are a savings bank, with a new checking account product, and a home away from home for many in the city. You go in, get a nice cup of reasonably-priced Java, a wonderful smile from the baristas/ING Direct accounts specialists and a perusing of their new gear on display.
Then you get to use one of the computers with free Internet access. They all have your ING Direct screen as a splash page, but the young people I saw there today were definitely doing some browsing and email checking instead of opening checking accounts. That's all right, say the staff, the place is buzzing with activity and sooner or later a customer picks up a brochure that explains how much interest the Orange Account pays you -- and you're in.
On one of the flat screens hanging above the bar, they are streaming the latest video by CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann wearing a, you guessed it, orange tie. I had an alterior motive for being there as well. Fellow blogger Lisa Haneberg is doing a book tour this year and I am helping put together an event with her at this location. Two Weeks to a Breakthrough is perfect for this space and for Fast Company readers' network. We will likely partner with the local chapter of ASTD (American Society for Training and Development).
Lisa is high energy and is doing a whole tour on a bike, that is in and of itself remarkable. The topic of her book is perfect for the mix of professionals we have within our group, and we will be using our favorite local bookstore -- I will be blogging about him tomorrow at FC Expert blogs. Mike Sansone at ConverStations has been blogging about her book for weeks, and I cannot wait to meet Lisa. Remember how I wrote about her as one of the stars of 2007 at year end?
I was observing the people using the free access today. Many of them were completely absorbed into the conversation in their heads and with their emails and sites. Is this move by ING Direct helping the online bank? You bet, many of the conversations I witnessed during the hour I was there were eventually related to savings and accounts. Plus the cafe' helps provide a home away from home for many of the account holders visiting the city.
A very different experience than what I have in Modena, Italy. Yet very similar in a way: same cafe', just new media. Is this a great branding and awareness building tool for ING Direct? Do you want to know which events we had there? Dan Pink with Free Agent Nation was the first one. Then we hosted Ben McConnell on Creating Customer Evangelists. This is the perfect place to invite Lisa to share her lessons on breakthrough. And many of our members got very nice interest rates from online accounts in the process.