Have you ever read the personal ads? The ones that catch your attention generally have some specific detail that you relate to. Others read, "I like music and movies and long walks on the beach...." It makes you wonder why you don't see lonely singles wandering aimlessly on the beaches of the world with their iPods.
The difference in detail is what I'm talking about when you start to analyze what you like to do in life, as well as what you're good at. Not only should you know that you like music, but what kind and why. If you want to be a musician, it is important to know whether you love writing the lyrics and melody, whether you prefer creating the musical accompaniment, or really want to be the lead singer. Maybe you really enjoy two or all three aspects, maybe just one. If you love to belt out the soul of the song, but can't write a poetic line to save you life, then welcome to the world of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Keep digging deeper into the question of "why?" Force yourself to be the annoying four year old until you can't stand yourself any longer.
If you do really understand what you love and why, how do you know if you are truly talented at it? For the younger entrepreneur you have a wealth of information in your grades and tests. Take a look back at those dreadful high school and college days. Maybe you didn't have too many A's, but what classes did you excel in? What were your Iowa basic test scores? How were your SAT' and ACT scores? What areas did your guidance counselor tests show you had aptitude in? And then again, ask "Why?" Go take an IQ test. We all think we are above average, but that math just doesn't work.
Empirical data like tests and grades aside, ask people. Ask them to be honest with you though. Our friends and families and even strangers want to be polite. They want to be helpful and encouraging, which is wonderful, but destructive. Whether it's a mentor like a former teacher or a boss, they have to be honest and blunt with you. Think you can sing? Rent some studio time and record yourself, and have someone listen to it. If they cringe, you may have your answer.
And as you interact with these people, analyze them as much as you can. Your opinion of their skills and talents will change over time as you grow. Do they possess the ability to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and improve upon them? I got better at chess by playing people who were better than I was, but playing a grand master would have been pointless because the gulf would have been too vast... unless that grand master was also a very good instructor.
There are tools and people out there who can help you achieve your dreams and goals, but only if you can honestly identify what those dreams and goals are, and how your talents, skills, and passions apply to them. Good luck!
The White House issued a statement today announcing the blueprint for a “Privacy Bill of Rights”. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read it HERE
Without diving into the politics of why Obama isn’t trying to create an actual privacy law, suffice it to say that the upcoming privacy bill is all about the attempt to protect consumers online, including legislation that would allow the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General to enforce the new bill when it comes out.
While there are several key points to understanding the new privacy bill, the one that may affect marketers the most involves the news that the Digital Advertising Alliance is going to endorse “do not track” features which would allow consumers to easily opt out of being tracked online. In order to accomplish this, they are exploring agreements with major browser developers to offer easy opt-out browser features.
I won’t digress to weigh-in on the sometimes controversial extent to which advertisers are able to track consumer data, including the oft-discussed abuses by Facebook and Google, but as a marketer seriously exploring cookie-based re-targeting of visitors to our sites as a potential tool to add this year, this new bill gives me cause for concern.
The ability to keep my brand in front of potential customers as they navigate elsewhere certainly has its appeal. If a customer has spent time on our sites, the implied, if potentially vague “permission to market” by serving up ads on the subsequent sites they visit offer the opportunity for prospects to see and think about the information from our sites for weeks afterward.
As you may well be aware, this is not an inexpensive service. If the average consumer is given the ability to easily opt out of re-targeting, it will be interesting to see how the pool of available re-targeting prospects changes in size, and how the cost to service those who have not opted out may increase.
I will definitely be keeping an eye on this as the year progresses. Re-targeting may not be an option for me this year after all.
Given that there is so much that still needs to develop from this news, what are your initial thoughts?
Here are a few challenges associated with the "Do what you love" cliché:
- How do I find know if I love something if I've never done it?
- I have so many interests! How do I decide?
- How do I take what I love and make it into a business?
I have the advantage of fifteen years of experience to look back on, and so I can apply 20/20 hindsight. Perhaps it will be of benefit as you start to consider your future business endeavors. In order to answer some of these questions, my advice is that you start to regularly ask yourself, "Why?" Hopefully you'll see a pattern emerge.
I like to figure things out. I like to calculate and think ahead and identify a solution. I like playing chess and working a few moves ahead, and that has stayed with me in nearly every aspect of my life. I really enjoy understanding the process, and I like improving the process. If you will, I love to game the system.
My working career began at FedEx in 1990 at the age of 18. I worked at the airport location here in Milwaukee, loading planes and trucks in the middle of the night. Certainly not the most glamorous job, but there are aspects of that job that helped set my course. Looking back, here's what I can tell you started there and has stayed with me.
At FedEx, that meant stacking freight in a container so that it wouldn't move during transport. Why? Several reasons. First, I liked the math and physics of it - "T-stacking" a container made sense, and if I did it right, nothing moved during shipping and nothing got crushed. Another benefit - more freight fit, which made for a more efficient operation. That's the "game the system" side that I like so much. How could I make it better or easier? A third plus - oh, it pissed me off when I opened a container with thousands of pounds of freight only to have a box fall on me because someone else didn't stack the freight smartly. So, pay it forward a little. I didn't want my stacking scheme hurting someone else.
From the airport, I moved into the newly emerging PC environment at FedEx, and worked on databases and spreadsheets to help analyze freight flow and route scheduling. Again, I enjoyed figuring out the formula's in Excel and Access to get the accurate, useful information we needed, and then working to understand and analyze just what that data meant and how it could help change operations. I also dove into the ISO 9000 quality systems integration that FedEx implemented, which looked closely at processes, procedures, and Best Practices.
My passion doesn't manifest only from my job though. Over the past ten years, my wife and I have come to truly enjoy scuba diving, and with it, I also took up underwater photography. With diving, while I love the opportunity to experience sea life up close, I get just as much excitement from improving my diving skills. What can I do to better control my buoyancy? How does my breathing affect me in the water. How can I dive with less weight in my vest, so I can stay under longer? What equipment changes can I make that allow me to be more hydrodynamic, or move faster, or with greater control and comfort?
Taking up underwater photography has set off the same desire for information and understanding. Good photography is both an art and a science. When I started, I'd get the accidental fabulous photo, but I didn't know why. Now, after several classes and cameras and tens of thousands of photos, I'm a much better photographer... and I understand why. I love the art behind composing a good photo as well as the technical aspects of the camera and lens that help make that composition work.
So, after you take an honest, objective look at what you are really passionate about and more importantly why, then the business ideas can flow from there. I will dive into that aspect in the next post.
I like to think that if there is a marketing tool or tactic that can be implemented with measurable results for better interaction and lead conversion, then I will likely explore it. I have indicated in the past that I appreciate the "wide-open cookie jar of marketing possibilities" as a benefit of working for a small business. Admittedly, with the copious number of tools available, I do get pretty excited about quite a few things.
As a result, I periodically evaluate existing marketing tools and potential tactics against my overall marketing strategy to make sure that I’m not sacrificing effectiveness by not spending as much time with each that I should.
The large quantity of marketing tactics I have chosen to employ usually means that I just work more, much to the chagrin of the boss, and for which I receive regular chastising. But if I take the time to successfully implement a new tool, or do something like completely restructure our adwords program complete with vertical-specific, keyword silo-ed, tiered campaigns with multi-variate landing pages for each, and the results are very positive, I want to continue utilizing such plans.
The problem as a one-man marketer for a small software shop, is that I found myself spread pretty thin in the attempt to maximize effectiveness of so many tools and ideas.
This, along with my decision before the first of the year to migrate to a new marketing automation platform as well as a new CRM whilst preparing for a new product launch, led the boss to ask me a very pointed question, “Do you need some help?”
My Initial reaction was, “Certainly not, I should definitely be able to handle effective marketing for a software shop our size.” But the more I thought about it, I realized that I really only had two options - Cut back on the number of individual endeavors so I wouldn’t be working as much, or hire an assistant.
Stubborn pride was never an issue, I always focus on what is most beneficial for the company. But I tend to be the driven sort, and had already invested so much time establishing successful campaigns, and had so many things I still wanted to dive into, that justifying the extra cost for additional sales was kind of a no-brainer.
I think it is important to understand that there definitely can be too much marketing, the key is how you most effectively manage your time to maximize the success of each tool you use.
I’m very grateful that right about the time I should have reined myself in, not only was the boss already on top of it, but the company was in a position to bring on an extra employee.
Bonus is that we just need to find a replacement for my new marketing assistant, Tish, who is moving over from our sales department. Turns out she has an MBA in Marketing – who knew?
About Big Bang Blog
There are many reasons to write a small business blog, we wanted to bring you at least a few reasons to read one. The Big Bang Blog covers the ins and outs of running a small software business, as well as a variety of small business marketing and media topics. Please leave us your comments and questions.
Be sure to visit our UIU Blog for Industry Insights, Product Updates, Support Notes and more.
|About Adam Murphy -
Adam is the President and Owner of Big Bang LLC and espouses a pretty progressive small business philosophy based primarily around hiring the right people and getting the hell out of their way.
|About Nate Bauer -
Nate is the Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC and pretty much spends his days tip-toeing on the pinnacle of how to most effectively implement strategy given the wide open cookie jar of small business marketing possibilities.
|About Kelley Burian - @kelleyburian
Kelley is the Sales Director for Big Bang LLC. Responsible for everything from GSA contracts, resellers and international customers, she has her hands full doing whatever she can to make sure our valued clients are thrilled with our fantastic products.