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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’


Once, Twice, Three Times Trackable

December 29th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

Whether you’re creating a marketing piece/strategy, or getting into social media, you need to be conscious of how you will measure the success, or failure, of your endeavor. Like sending a package through UPS or FedEx, you’ll want to know your items were received and arrived. It could be the amount of emails you collected, the number of page views you hoped to achieve, the amount of sales you intend to make, or any number of reasons, but you need to be conscious, as you start your efforts, that you have a way to track your leads back to its source.

There are tons of ways you could to track your efforts. You could create specific urls to direct people back to a page on your website they could only reach by that marketing piece/effort, a phone number that is only used for that marketing piece/effort, or by the number of physical bodies that show up on the scheduled day. Whatever you choose, decide on what it will be before you get started. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked people how they determined the success of their piece only to hear “We didn’t think about that until after we printed it”.

I am not suggesting, in any way, that you should throw out everything you’ve created till now if you can’t track them. If there are pieces you have that don’t have a way to be tracked, find a creative way to make them so with the resources you have at your disposal. Here are a few creative ideas:

  • Use mailing labels on your brochures/postcards to update your information.
  • Call the places you’ve placed advertising with to see if you can alter the type in the next edition.
  • Place analytics tools, like Google Analytics, on your site to see where people visiting it are going.
  • Use sites like bit.ly to shorten, and track, the website links you put out in social media.

Once you’ve got the means in place to track the items, you need to determine what success means to your project, strategy, or piece. I’m going to ask you exercise some patience when it comes to tracking your success. Overnight success or an instant explosion of interest is not, and I repeat not, likely. It will take time, but you should determine what timeframe you are comfortable with or accepting of.

A little thought on how to figure out what success will look like. Please understand that it might take a few days for people to get a hold of your effort and that you can’t factor for people who many not be interested in your effort sharing it with others. There are multiple theories of success that you could use to determine your final outcome. One theory of success is the Pareto principle, often called the 80-20 rule, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The 1 Percent Rule is another, and Wikipedia defines it as “the 1 percent rule or the 90-9-1 principle reflects a theory that more people will lurk in a virtual community than will participate. This term is often used as a euphemism for participation inequality in the context of the Internet.”

Lastly, please don’t think I’m saying tracking your items is a quick thing to do. Tracking your efforts is a task unto itself. You’ll need to set aside some time to review your statistics and outcome as they come in. This could be day to day, month to month, or an accumulative total in a year. It’s best to take a step back and remember it’s not personal, but in these numbers you can find what works and what doesn’t.

The last thing you want to do is feel like any piece you’ve created was out there with no means for you to know it works. I hope this post has inspired some ideas of how you could begin to track the success of what is working and what doesn’t. This is me giving you a bit of permission to experiment with what works and what doesn’t, but always give each thing you choose to do a way to measure it’s success.

I would love your thoughts on today’s post here in the comments or you can reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Eight Things to think about before you use Social Media

December 24th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

Every day, more and more people become aware of the possibilities, successes, and capabilities of using social media as part of their marketing strategy. Some take the time to learn how to use the tools. Some will start blindly, get frustrated, stop using, and cry of it’s a failure/waste of time. Others will create accounts on the big social media sites, be less than passively involved, and ultimately forget they have them until someone asks a question.

With the people who are looking to get started using the tools of Social media, or are in the early stages of using them, here are Eight Things to think about before you use Social Media:

  1. Will this be a marketing tool or a customer service tool? People have a wide range of reasons to start using social media for their business. Often it is to promote themselves or their business, but companies, like Comcast and Zappos, have found that Social Media can be a great tool for improving customer service/experience.
  2. Are you the best person to take this on? Speaking of Zappos, their CEO Tony Hsieh, is their voice on Twitter. Not every CEO is the best person to be the online face of the company or organization. Chris Brogan, in his post “Develop a Strong Personal Brand Online Part 1”, wrote that you should “…remember that branding isn’t playing a role. Be yourself. It will become apparent rather quickly if you’re being someone that you’re not.”  This is the same whether it is a personal or professional brand. Deciding if you, or your boss, are the right person to be on social media is hard choice to make, especially when egos are involved, but depending on how you decide to use social media could make that choice for you.
  3. Do you have people around you that can teach you? Or is there someone in your company/organization that is already passionate about social media? Like Zappos, Comcast uses social media as a customer service tool, but instead of their CEO using it their Twitter account is maintained by Frank Eliason, Senior Director for Comcast National Customer Service. Because of Frank and Tony’s efforts, there have been a lot of companies following their format and finding success, and failure, in social media.  These are just two examples, but make sure that whatever your choice that the voice you choose fits the overall tone and attitude of your company.
  4. Are you willing to listen more than you talk? A big part of making social media an effective tool for marketing/customer service is the ability to listen to what your audience has to say as much as you intend to talk. People want to be talked “to” not “at”, so make sure that you find a balance between reviewing, responding, and posting.
  5. Do you have the time to focus on social media? Social media, like any other marketing/customer service effort, will take time out of your day. But, like checking your email or attending a meeting, if you believe it to be important to the success of your business, or your personal brand, you will find the time. A rule of thumb that works well for me is, and I can’t recall where I first heard it, “If you have time to schedule and attend a meeting…you have time for social media”.
  6. What social media tools will you use? Whether it’s wiki, blog, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other avenues you could choose from, you need to decide which will be the best one for you depending on who your intended audience is. Take a little time and do some research to see just where your intended audience is, and they may not be using social media yet, to see if your choice is worth the time before you jump head first.
  7. Are you patient? Just like finding the time for social media, you need to understand that it will take time. Unless you are already a well known individual in the public eye, and being a legend in your own mind doesn’t count, then it will take time to grow your audience. You are also going to have to live with some people either not buying into your idea or talking negatively about your company, or personal brand. Don’t try to judge your success by the successes of others, but don’t throw in the towel early because it’s not doing what you think it should. You didn’t start a company just to quit did you? Treat your social media the same way.
  8. What will you determine as success? Will it be number of follower (which I don’t recommend)? Will it be how often your messages are shared? Will it be how many of your followers take an action on your behalf/request? That is really up to you, but I implore you to be realistic about your goals. Remember, you will need patience, clear intentions, and an ability to weather the storm as it comes, but success is ultimately determined by you, your efforts, and your choices.

What I can tell you is that if you are looking for a quick solution, or instant boost in sales, then social media is not for you. There, I said it. I’m sure you’re expecting me to say that no matter who you are or what you do that you should jump on the social media band wagon, but I’m sorry that’s not true. It has to make sense for you, your brand, or your company.

I would love your thoughts on this post or if there are other things you think people should keep in mind in the comments below. You can reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

The Beauty of Keeping It Simple…

December 22nd, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

In my last post “What is this ROI thing” I posted that “…marketing really comes down to the simple questions we learned in school. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.” Did I shock and offend a few people by simplifying that? More than likely I didn’t, but I have found that people who get easily offended by someone exposing the initial simplicity of something are ultimately trying to keep everyone else from knowing how simple it is as well.

There is no reason, in my opinion, that someone should just put a shingle on their door and expect customers to expect to know they are there and open. There are a laundry list of reasons that most businesses don’t make it past the two year mark and over all I see that as poor planning across the board. I have known more than my fair share of start-ups or small business owners that have forgone a marketing strategy in their first year or two because they have viewed it as too costly, confusing, or complicated. When in reality, that fear kept them from reaching a wider customer base or audience.

You need to know how you are going to get people to learn about your great new product/service/Whatchamacallit. Simply just creating the same marketing pieces that everyone has (a website, a business card, etc.) won’t have your phone ringing and email box filled with orders. I wish I could say it was that simple, but it’s not. You first need to think of those six simple questions as you go into the creation of your marketing piece/strategy.

The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How will vary depending on what you want to do. Here are some great examples of starter questions for your next marketing strategy/piece, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • Who –Who will want this? Who do we want to know about our latest product/service? Who is going to purchase our [insert item/service]? Who will carry our message for us?
  • What – What will we use to reach/tell people about? What will we use to measure who successful this is? What will separate us from all the other daily noise that our audience receives? What will we use to track it?
  • When – When will we be putting this out? When is the most effective time for us to launch this? When will use to track the success? When do we review on how well this is doing?
  • Where – Where are the people we want to reach with this? Where will be put this that people may not expect? Where will we announce the product/place/thing/event? Where do we want this to take our business?
  • Why – Why are we going to do this? Why will the audience we are trying to reach care? Why are we using X over Y? Why aren’t we using multiple opportunities for people to reach us?
  • How – How are we going to create this? How are we going to measure the success? How are we going to get this out to our chosen audience? How often are we going to try this to see if it is successful at different times of the year?

I know I’ve kept this extremely simple, but the biggest reason for that is that the resources for you to create your marketing plan are already available to you on this site. Steven Fisher wrote a great piece that I view as a strong follow up to this post, the Guide to Writing a Killer Marketing Plan.

I hope you at least come away from this post with a sense that your first marketing strategy doesn’t have to be scary or overly complicated. When you are in your first year or two of business your time is very valuable, but by asking simple questions up front you save yourself some time and be better prepared for when you hire a designer, marketing firm, or whomever to accomplish your goals.

I am interested in Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions you’ve come up with. Please leave them in the comments below or you can reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Five Things You Must Avoid With Your Startup

December 21st, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

I was doing research for my upcoming book “Rules for Entrepreneurs” and providing advice on starting a business is mostly about what not to do. You can only provide recommendations so much until you have to just do it. This is why “Startup FAIL” posts are popular and allow a sort of therapy and war story sharing with fellow entrepreneurs. I came across this post from Momentum Venture Partners that I had to share with you below. These are five great things that you must avoid with your startup (MY FAVORITE? You are building a company, not a club):

There’s no shortage of advice for start-up companies to follow, but in my experience working with emerging technology companies I’ve noticed something that’s just as important: there are certain pitfalls that bog down entrepreneurs, costing them money, time and ultimately a chance to break through the clutter. Every new venture has limited resources – and limited time – to get off the ground, and anything that needlessly burns cash or slows progress limits the chances of making it to the next level. Here are five ways to avoid the most common traps that snare new companies.

1 – Don’t overspend on marketing or advertising

During the late 1990s dot-com boom it was common practice for companies to blow millions of dollars on ambitious advertising and marketing campaigns. Remember the Pets.com sock puppet? It was a funny ad campaign – highlighted by blowing $1.2 million on a Super Bowl television spot – but it wasn’t so funny when the company closed its doors nine months after going public, and investors probably weren’t laughing when they recouped just 17 cents on the dollar two years later.

While most early-stage companies don’t have the resources to mount a marketing effort on that scale, entrepreneurs are often tempted to divert valuable resources to advertising and promotional activities before their products are ready for prime time. A great example is a social networking company I recently worked with. They spent a fair bit of money on acquiring members, but their site wasn’t ready to offer the full range of services they were planning. As a result, users went to the site but had a terrible user experience because there was nothing for them to do once they logged in. The company might as well have stacked up their cash, poured kerosene on the pile and lit a match.

Entrepreneurs need to make sure that any marketing or advertising they do is in support of a specific and tangible goal. For example, it might be worth spending money to generate profitable traffic or to reach a critical mass of customers in a “tipping point” business, but writing checks to achieve the amorphous goal of “awareness” is a sure-fire way to lose money with no discernible benefit.

2 – Don’t confuse years of experience with ability to execute

One of the most difficult parts of being an entrepreneur is hiring the right team. After all, one misstep in a key area could not only cost you money, but could also set the company’s growth plans back. For example, hiring a director of engineering who lacks the right skills or acumen to deliver on your vision could delay the release of your products, which could have devastating consequences for a new company trying to succeed in a crowded marketplace.

Many entrepreneurs overspend on seasoned executives so that they can make sure that their mission-critical work is done quickly and efficiently, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I worked with a start-up mobile applications company that hired a seasoned business-development person to generate deals with major advertisers. They paid him an annual salary of more than $200,000, but never saw any results. In addition to his high pay, he was racking up exorbitant travel costs, including expensive hotel rooms and dinners. It was pretty clear that he was enjoying the lifestyle, flexible hours and good salary without the pressure of incentives to deliver results. In this case, hiring a scrappy, less-experienced candidate with bonus or stock-based compensation would have been a much better choice.

3 – Don’t lock yourself away from the world

Deciding on the right product strategy is a never-ending tightrope walk between sticking to your vision and building products that will generate short-term sales. After all, no one wants to build the wrong solution for the market, but at the same time you can’t spend your time “chasing the rainbow” looking for the next big trend. I have seen companies that are so busy responding to others’ points of view they lose focus on the core rationale for founding their business. But I have also seen companies that go to the opposite extreme, locking themselves away from the world for months on end to build the “perfect” product.

The best approach for start-up entrepreneurs is to try your best to walk the line: pursue a vision while at the same time taking time to really understand the problem you are trying to solve. Sit down with potential customers to hear their pain and really figure out what they’re looking for and take advantage of experts in your own community or industry by recruiting advisors who can help you determine your sales, product and marketing strategies. In many cases, they won’t even ask to be compensated! Also, you need to get out in the world to start refining your elevator pitch. Before you ever get in front of a VC, you’ll have to sell yourself to potential employees, landlords, strategic partners, banks and many others. Get used to it so you’re good and ready for the investor pitch.

4 – Don’t forget you are building a company, not a club

Part of being an entrepreneur is relying on your friends and personal contacts to help you get off the ground, but be wary of hiring or partnering with people who don’t add value to your business. It’s happened to me personally, experiencing the thrill of starting a business with a group of friends only to hit painful bumps in the road later as people show different levels of commitment or value. For some businesses, these conflicts can become debilitating.

While there are no tried and true rules for dealing with friends and family, there are a few things to be aware of. First, make sure you pick partners that have a passion and an expertise that can move your business forward. Second, make sure they are committed to leave their current jobs to join you full time. I’ve seen several companies suffer major conflicts when one partner can’t get himself to leave the comfort of the corporate world. Third, look for warning signs that might indicate your partner isn’t cut out for startup work. Does he panic every time something takes longer than it should? Does he demand an outlandish salary? Does he analyze every decision to death? Take care of partner mismatches as soon as possible! The pain of fixing the problem only gets worse when you bring in outside capital. There’s nothing more damaging to a relationship than having to side with an investor when she demands you fire your college roommate.

5 – Don’t be timid

The meek may one day inherit the earth, but the present belongs to those who are decisive and assertive. If you need help or advice don’t beat around the bush: just come out and ask. Plenty of people are willing to give guidance, but chances are that they’re not going to come to you without being asked, and you’ll never get anywhere unless you make a conscious decision every day to actively pursue what you need.

Don’t even know where to start? It’s easy – you just need to pick up the phone and start dialing. Looking for someone to help you write a column for your new women’s fashion site? Go out and buy every fashion magazine and start calling every name on the masthead to see if the editors or writers will spend a few minutes answering your questions. Most likely, they will. Looking for that first reference customer? Go to the industry trade shows and strike up conversations with people you meet on the floor. If you have your pitch down, you’ll be surprised how many people will be willing to help or get involved. It takes guts at every step to be an entrepreneur, and if you’re skittish about asking for advice and guidance today, chances are you’re not going to be very successful when you have to start asking professional investors for money.

Got Another Pitfall We Should Add to the List?

After reading that, do you think that there is another major pitfall that should be added to the list? Leave a comment.

What is this ROI thing?

December 17th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I was considering calling this post “How much effort are you willing to be put into getting what you want”, but ultimately changed my mind because I wanted the people who have asked me the question in the title to dig a little deeper. Lately I’ve been having a lot of conversations about Return on Investment, almost always just called ROI, with people interested in consulting work or at my day job.  I’ve come to the conclusion that most people throw this term around without thinking about all the different possible ROI there actually is. To start us all from equal ground, let’s check out what our friend Wikipedia defines Return on Investment as:

“In finance, rate of return (ROR), also known as return on investment (ROI), rate of profit or sometimes just return, is the ratio of money gained or lost (whether realized or unrealized) on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. The amount of money gained or lost may be referred to as interest, profit/loss, gain/loss, or net income/loss. The money invested may be referred to as the asset, capital, principal, or the cost basis of the investment.”

I know a lot of people that use the term ROI for their marketing, but Wikipedia calls it Return on Marketing Investment and defines it as:

“Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) and Marketing ROI are defined as the optimization of marketing spend for the short and long term in support of the brand strategy by building a market model using valid, objective marketing metrics. Improving ROMI leads to improved marketing effectiveness, increased revenue, profit and market share for the same amount of marketing spend”

Since the same simple acronym is used for a multitude of purposes, and equations to determine it, I can see how people get confused, discouraged, or laser focused on one aspect of a larger whole. When it comes to your marketing strategy, pieces, or tactics, the ROI is going to vary with each effort. I know this may sound like an overwhelming concept, but it really isn’t as bad as it might seem.  It really breaks down to a simple statement, “Is the result worth the effort”. Is that oversimplifying it? Maybe a bit, but marketing really comes down to the simple questions we learned in school. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

I can hear the cries now, “Mike you left out the cost aspect of it.” No, I didn’t. There’s a cost to everything. Whether it’s the amount of money that’s being put out or the amount of volunteers or paid employees taking their valuable time to brainstorm, create, implement and execute the strategy or piece. That, to me, is all part of the effort. So, as I asked above, how much effort are you willing to put into getting what you want?

You can determine that with a few simple questions. What is your ultimate goal/end result? What resources will you need to accomplish the goal/end result? Is the goal/end result worth the resources used?

You can make the answer to those questions as complicated or as simple as you want. For example, “the investment of passing out six thousand invitations is worth the three hundred people who actually attend, because the people who don’t will ultimately learn more about our party/product/services when they go home, use the specific url we created for the postcard, and research it.” Or another, “the investment of having my team of employees strategize for a marketing pieces is worth it because when the piece comes to completion they will have a greater sense of ownership of it and then want to help see it succeed in getting the x number of emails/sales/donations/etc. we want it to achieve”.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

You can get a marketing genius to come in and tell you that the Return of X minus the Financial Investment of Y divided by the Time Investment of Z hours is what your ROI will be. Ultimately, it comes down to how important, or valuable, the return is to you, your organization or company, your strategy, or success of your ultimate plan of world marketing domination. So, I’ll ask you the same question I have before, but in a different way, when you sit down to decide on your next marketing piece/strategy/effort is the return worth the investment?

I would love your thoughts on what ROI means to you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or you can reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Advice on Starting and Building a Great Business – A #GrowSmartBiz Interview with Jake Weatherly of Palo Alto Software

November 18th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

PasLOGO_highres_webMany people might not be familiar with the name Palo Alto Software, but I bet if I said “Business Plan Pro” or “Marketing Plan Pro” you would probably say “oh, yeah, I have heard of that” or “I used that to kickstart my business plan process”. This is a credit to their branding and ability to be on almost every retail shelf where software is sold.

Jake_Weatherly_WebJake Weatherly is VP of Customer Experience, which covers all customer service, support, retail presence and non-web sales efforts. He has been with the company since he was 19 as a part time employee while in college. He was the 12th person hired by Tim Berry, the company’s founder, President, and original author of Business Plan Pro. Over the years he has been responsible for everything from partner engineering, to product marketing, education, training, and product evangelism.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about effective business planning and the role of software in helping small business owners grow their business. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Steve: Jake, Palo Alto Software has been around for over 20 years and as technology and business models have evolved, how has your product mix evolved to help businesses large and small?
Jake:
For businesses large and small, the value of planning is about the process, not just the plan. Over the years our business planning and marketing planning lines have grown to include a UK version, products for nonprofits, social enterprise planning software, programs to write business plans in Spanish, a monthly recurring revenue model, and the list goes on. Our customers have benefited from our software constantly evolving with new technology, and we have made business planning exponentially easier and faster year after year.

Looking just at products and features, however, does not tell the true story. Our software catalog has evolved from an original focus on creating a document to become a comprehensive set of tools and services to help you start, run, and grow business. Sure we consistently help small business owners and executive teams all over the world obtain their start-up and subsequent rounds of funding, but our customers quickly realize that the value of planning lies in the process itself; it’s not just about creating the document. Business Plan Pro and Marketing Plan Pro help companies large and small take action and develop leadership in their respective markets. Palo Alto Software customers compare their monthly and quarterly achievements against what they planned, and as simple as it sounds, that’s the difference between achieving successful results versus being slow, reactive, and cumbersome in the marketplace.

Steve: Palo Alto Software has shifted its mission to not just providing software to help a business stay on track but to teach them how to be more effective with your tools. Could you elaborate on that more?
Jake:
Simply handing off a tool and moving on to the next potential customer will not lead to long-term success. Our responsibility is clear; we help people succeed in business, and central to that role are our training, implementation, and support services. For entrepreneurs who wish to work with experts, we have a team of business success coaches who hold people accountable to achieve their objectives. For the do-it-yourselfers, we offer a vast library of training and help resources. Our support and product specialists are available to ensure successful implementation of ongoing planning and forecasting. The bottom line? Our customers are succeeding everyday by turning to us to help with starting, running, and growing their businesses.

Steve: You have adapted best practices of software as a service and the move to web based software. What are some things you are doing to build community or streamline the planning process with these kinds of offerings?
Jake:
We have created web-based tools and a long-standing community of experts and entrepreneurs who contribute content that we make available for free on our websites www.Bplans.com and www.Mplans.com. We were early adopters of live and on-demand online training, we’re big in the blogosphere with our own blogs and partners, and we are part of the entrepreneurial community online using social networking technology like Twitter and Facebook. With these kinds of offerings we are able to be anywhere anytime and everywhere all the time. In the end, it’s about effective collaboration, and all of the stages of business from start-up to growth and maturity benefit from being part of the conversation instead of observing from the sidelines.

Steve: Many people are familiar with Business Plan Pro or Marketing Plan Pro. What are some other products and services that Palo Alto provides that small businesses should be aware of?
Jake:
Very near and dear to my heart are our two latest products: Email Center Pro, and Start, Run, & Grow Your Business.
Email Center Pro helps companies respond to their customers quickly and accurately every time. It’s the result of five years of engineering for my support, customer service, and sales teams to decrease their email response time to customers. Before we created this SaaS offering, our customers were getting responses between 24 and 48 hours after asking their question – unacceptable. We now respond to customer emails in less than an hour, and so we released Email Center Pro just over a year ago to help people achieve the same results to manage customer email and get out from under their inboxes.

Start, Run, & Grow Your Business is huge. Years of discussions with hundreds of thousands of businesses about their needs and a solid history of quality partnerships brought the program together. Start, Run, & Grow Your Business combines best-in-class solutions with educational content to help you reach more customers, sell more products and services, and improve business productivity. Successful business owners today are using awesome logos; they’re sending email newsletters; they have great web sites, and they love learning from industry experts. Start, Run, & Grow Your Business delivers all of this for a super low price, and that means we will be working with more entrepreneurs than ever before. That’s really exciting.

Steve: To wrap up I always like to ask a “five things” question. So for you, what are five things a small business should consider when beginning the planning and forecasting process?
Jake:
I am going to keep this one simple by focusing on actions and not words:

  1. Start anywhere, and start now.
  2. Forecast your sales and expenses and then regularly compare against what you achieve. Adjust your plan accordingly, and repeat the process.
  3. Only do what you need now. Get to the other parts as you need them.
  4. Don’t get stuck in the details. Remember to stay focused on the future.
  5. Use the Internet, join the online conversation, and get out on the street to research your customers, your competitors, and build your strategies.

Interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, Author of “Crush It!” Part 2

October 20th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

Here is the part two of my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk author of “Crush It! Why now is the time to cash in on your passion”. If you missed it, you can read the first part of the interview here.

Mike Dougherty: If Misha’s grown up and she’s entering the work force, like you did, what life lessons would you pass onto her?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Well first, I would instill in her so much self esteem in her along the way, that she would be more than capable from the get go, she wouldn’t need much. That being said, you know, it comes down to really understanding that it’s all about doing what you want. There’s nothing else. There really isn’t. Cash is bullcrap and its overrated.  It’s all about happiness. Nobody was ninety-five, laying on their deathbed, and said they wished they worked more or made more money. They wished they’d spent more time with their family. They wished they did things they liked.

So, one thing I’ve been very good at, and I hope she picks up DNA wise, is I do what I want. While loving everyone else and doing all the right things for my family, the second I felt any negativity, or one percent unhappiness, with Wine Library retail I started Wine Library TV.

Do what you want. I want her to realize it’s ridiculously hard work to achieve anything worth while. There’s two ways to build the biggest building in town. One is to just build the biggest building and the other is to tear all the other buildings around you down. I think ninety percent tear and I want her in that ten percent that just builds the biggest building. That’s something somebody said to me and I’m very proud of. This older business gentleman said, that I was one of the best examples of building the biggest building. Not trying to hurt anyone else around him. I thought that was nice. It was a nice compliment and it stuck with me.

Mike Dougherty: It was very nice. So is that a key factor for you, when you do business, is to try to get the biggest bang for the buck while not causing collateral damage all around you?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Yeah, I think that’s imperative. You don’t want to hurt people. As an aggressive retailer you sometimes hurt wineries, brands, but it’s about communication and we speak to our wineries heavily.

Mike Dougherty: You’ve gone through the honeymoon phase several times with multiple projects. You’ve gotten the project done. The idea is on the table. What is your best advice for somebody who started a small business, or is in a small business, and the honeymoon phase has peaked and they are getting a little bit burnt out, and crispy, but they are still in love with the idea?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Reinvent it…slightly. It’s like sex. Dress up, right? You’re not changing your partner.

Mike Dougherty: You’re changing the experience.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Right. So spice it up. Change the displays in your store. Bring in a new product launch. Go into a new niche in your consulting business. Don’t fish where all the fish are. I mean, that’s what I did. I got into tech, because I started fishing in tech because wine places were the place that I didn’t necessarily feel like I wanted to fish at. I mean I did, but I wanted to find new ponds. And I found Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and all these other new worlds that have been influential in my growth.

Mike Dougherty: Speaking of those, you’ve been in this for about three years now. How have you seen this little are we are in called social media this grow and change over the past three years?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Well, it got renamed from Web 2.0 [laughs]. It’s become a lot more businesslike and less kind of dreamy and zen. And that bodes well for me because I’m a business man. Actually, that bodes less well for me, because I liked when everyone was hippie about it, you know, because I’m an entrepreneur. At the end of the day, I think it’s maturing, but I still think it’s completely under appreciated and underrated. I still don’t think people really realize what’s going on.

Mike Dougherty: So when are you looking for the next book to come out?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Next year this time.

Mike Dougherty: Do you want to give away what it’s about or do you want to keep it a secret?

Gary Vaynerchuk: I’ll give you a hint that it’s focusing very heavily on contradictions.

Mike Dougherty: And to wrap it up, last question, because I like to do something weird, what’s your all time favorite wrestler from the 1980’s?

Gary Vaynerchuk: That is the easiest question I’ve been asked of all time. It’s the Macho Man Randy Savage.

Mike Dougherty: I’m a [Jimmy] Snuka guy.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Are you a Snuka guy?

Mike Dougherty: I am.

Gary Vaynerchuk: So Macho Man came along when every single person liked [Hulk] Hogan. And Hogan’s liker Federer, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, and [Michael] Jordan to me. There’s just no fun in rooting for them. I want to work for it.  And so it was Macho Man for me.

Mike Dougherty: Nicely done, sir. Thank you for a great interview.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Thank you so much.

With that Gary went back to his daily hustle and I header back home to get the interview committed to paper…um…laptop. After spending some time with Gary in person, I can tell you that he is not just an online persona. What you see is what you get and that, dear reader, was refreshing and inspiring.

As I mentioned before, my review copy of “Crush It!” arrived the day of the interview. So you’ll have to wait till the end of the month for that review, but Gary was kind enough to offer two free copies of the book for me to give away. I’m going to give away the second book at the end of the review, but to earn this first copy you need to need to be the first person to respond, in a comment below, with the answer to the following questions:

1) What is the tagline of Cork’d?

2) What did Gary say his brother AJ is finally getting? And what does that mean?

3) Where do you send your receipts to get a personalized video from Gary as part of Crush It! – The Experience?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this interview so leave a comment here. You can reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, Author of “Crush It!” Part 1

October 13th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

So there I was, no kidding, driving up to Wine Library, in Springfield, New Jersey, to meet Gary Vaynerchuk author of “Crush It! Why now is the time to cash in on your passion”. My review copy arrived the day of the interview so, with the drive and only reading one chapter that was offered online, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to ask. I mean what do you ask a guy who’s probably been asked the same questions over and over to keep an interview like this fresh?

As I drove by Wine Library, trying to find a café with wireless to kill some time, I was in awe in the size of the building. Had I not been looking for it I might have thought it was just another office building, but knowing that this is a wine store taking up damn near a full block of real estate…I knew I was in for a great experience.

I entered Wine Library and was met by Matt, Gary’s right hand man, who took me up to Gary’s office, where Wine Library TV is filmed, and lets me know that Gary, true to his word, was in a day that was full of hustle. Matt let me know, Gary was wrapping up a business meeting for the store and would be right in to talk afterwards.

Gary exited his meeting displaying all the passion, and thunder, he’s been known for and was ready to go. After a few minutes to set things up, giving Gary an opportunity to take care of a few things, we got right into it.

We had a lot to talk about so this interview will be broken up into two parts. Next portion of the interview will be released next Tuesday. Here is the transcript of our interview:

Mike Dougherty: First question, Gary, how are you doing?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Phenominal.

Mike Dougherty: You’ve got a bunch of stuff going on today.

Gary Vaynerchuk: [laughs] Yeah, man. It’s always hustle, it’s always grind, and it’s always exciting. And things are good.

Mike Dougherty: So you’re putting out a book.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Yup.

Mike Dougherty: You’ve got CinderellaWine.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Yeah you can see a lot of chatter out about that today.

Mike Dougherty: And then the gourmet site.

Gary Vaynerchuk: The GourmetLibrary.com site. It’s funny. You know they kind of got announced together. And I think all the hype is on CinderellaWine.com. And then there is Cork’d, which I only launched a month ago.

Mike Dougherty: How are they all going at the same time? How are you going with all of this at the same time?

Gary Vaynerchuk:

Good people around me. You know, that’s always the key. And it’s what I want to do. That’s the kind of entrepreneur I am.  I want to scratch those itches. I want to do as many things as possible.

Mike Dougherty: So without giving anything away, how many irons in the fire do you actually have besides what you just launched now?

Gary Vaynerchuk: The ones that are launched now….these were my big secrets. As of August I had Cork’d, CinderellaWine, and GourmetLibrary all primed for push. They are now out. I think I’m kind of….there’s one more. There’s one more that will be out very shortly and then everyone’s going to be completely stunned by my insanity. Wine Library, Wine Library TV, the book, Cork’d, VaynerMedia, CinderellaWine, Gourmet Library, and one more really cool site.

Mike Dougherty: How is VaynerMedia going by the way?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Really well. You know my brother AJ is well on his way to getting his daps, not being my brother or getting a free ride. People are starting to interact with him and realize he’s got a lot of chops. Working with NHL, the Jetts, and a lot of cool brands and really enjoying it. Consulting is hard, you know, because the way I work, speed and hustle wise, is not normal. I’m starting to realize that. And it’s obviously very different for brands that are big, corporate, and fortune 500. There are a lot of cool things going on, but I’m enjoying it.

Mike Dougherty: Nice. For someone getting into “Crush It!” for the first time, or experiencing you through Wine Library TV or maybe GaryVaynderchuk.com, what is the best advice that you can ask for them to take away from “Crush It!”?

Gary Vaynerchuk: That everything has changed. That everything I wrote in this book was not real five years ago. And that’s really important to understand, because at the end of the day everything has changed and there’s so much opportunity. The fact that cash is now not king. The fact that sweat equity and caring and hustle and innovation is…that’s a big deal. The fact is that cash has been neutralized by the growing platforms of the internet.

Mike Dougherty: How long was “Crush It!”, from beginning to end, as a journey for you?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Writing it or the thesis of the book?

Mike Dougherty: The entire process from concept to creation.

Gary Vaynerchuk: From the actual practicality of the book. Probably four months. Not to bad.

Mike Dougherty: No, not at all.

Gary Vaynerchuk: You know, this is kind of my manifesto. So I very much dictated the whole thing. I can talk a lot so I banged it out. So it wasn’t too hard.

Mike Dougherty: So talk about the things people can do if they buy multiple copies of the book.

Gary Vaynerchuk: You mean the Experience thing I did? You like that?

Mike Dougherty: I love it.

Gary Vaynerchuk: Yeah it was pretty cool. I really think this is the future of bands and content in general. You know, three books you get a wrist band. So on crushitbook.com, if you go there, you’ll see a big button that says “the experience” so you can buy three books. You can buy thirty-five books and get me to make a special video for you, which I think is pretty fun. I think it’s one hundred fifty books for a Skype call and I have this one day in December for two hundred and fifty books. Then there’s dinner and consulting for five hundred books. And so it’s just creating new and fun ways to interact with my audience. You know, it’s not the cheapest way, but for the one hundred fifty, two hundred fifty, and five hundred copies those are really for corporations. It’s going to be fun.

Mike Dougherty: Now how are you balancing all of that plus fatherhood?

Gary Vaynerchuk: That’s a great question. Not as well as I hoped, at some level right now so far, if I’m being honest and transparent. I would like to spend a little more time with Misha. Early on, it’s good that she’s still in that four months and under range. But this is a real big push for me with the book and all these launches. I’ll definitely be settling in, in 2010.

That wraps up Part One of my interview with Gary. In Part Two Gary gives the advice he’ll give to Misha when she enters the business world, his philosophy on doing business, and a really great answer to an odd question. Plus, you’ll learn how you can get a free copy of Gary’s “Crush It!”.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this interview so leave a comment here. You can reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

For Start-up Businesses, CRM Software is Not the Answer

October 9th, 2009 :: NetsoL-Chief

Instead, it is the question.  Small businesses, new businesses, unintentional businesses are still looking for the answers.  When you are still concocting the winning sales strategy, determining the right pricing structure, exploring service channels and developing your company’s voice, you can’t plug a handful of purchased leads into a preexisting  sales pipeline and expect a reliable return.  When your business is growing  1 or 10 or maybe  100 customers at a time, you need to be able to follow each relationship where the customer leads it.  Not where the software dictates it go.

At this stage of the game you need to understand your customers including who they are, why they buy your product, how much they can afford to pay for it, when they like to use it and why they tell their friends about it.  Then you can start determining some sales and marketing strategies.  If you are selling kids clothing online, you might see your mommy customers spreading the word on Twitter. If you are selling live bait to seasonal  tourists, Twitter might not be the way to go . There are no magic growing beans for new businesses.  The fun part is figuring it out as you go.

With this in mind I have a few suggestions for building a small business CRM (customer relationship management) tool  that will grow with your business:

–          Collect as much information as you can about your customers.  At every point of contact reach out to them and be sure to save every nugget of information they are willing to give.  Have an e-mail list sign-up in your retail shop. Keep detailed records of all purchases and decisions behind them (how they found you, what they bought etc).  If they send an e-mail to your support team, add their signature data (phone number, address, company web site etc.) into your CRM as part of the  logging process.

–          Ask for their personal or business web site address.  Or glean it from any e-mail messages sent in to your sales or support teams.

–          Periodically surf the web sites of your best customers and collect any information that might be helpful market research (their business type, location, personal interests, etc.). Save it all in your CRM system so that you will start to notice trends (my 9:00 AM coffee clients are apparently all chess players, all our customers in Australia are service businesses, etc.)

–          If they include any information about social media profiles, capture that in your CRM.  Look for a link to any blogs they contribute to, their Twitter account, their LinkedIn account, etc. You may not be networking in social media, yet, but when you do it will be nice to have some friends there to reach out to. And it is a great way to learn more about the things your customers want you to know about them.

–          Periodically survey your customers or potential customers about your product or service.  Limit the demographic questions to 1 or 2 short questions (i.e., “what type of business”, “annual sales”, “number of customers”, etc.) and have the rest of the questions focus on ways that you can help them (ie feedback on your product, pain points they are experiencing, ideas for new features, etc.).

–          Keep your data clean.  Right now it might be easy to scan an excel spreadsheet and read through the business categories your survey respondents typed in themselves.  But if you make that field a multi-select form (rather than a text field) in your web form then you will be able to more easily spot trends over time as you slice and dice your data with custom reports and graphs.

–          Integrate your CRM with as many of your other applications as possible – with your mobile phone, your e-mail software, your invoicing software, your web forms, your shopping cart software, etc. You do not have time to do double, triple, quintuple entries for your growing network. And it is helpful to know that John Doe bought one of your products, but the real insight comes when you see that he has bought the same product every quarter for 3 years, always pays promptly, has recommended it to his friends on Facebook, always reads your newsletter and rarely needs customer support.

I’m Pamela O’Hara (@pmohara on Twitter) the co-founder and owner of BatchBlue Software, the maker of BatchBook small business CRM product and host of #SBBuzz, a weekly Twitter chat discussing small business technology.  We’ve designed our  CRM product to be as flexible and agile as the entrepreneurial businesses that are using it. We understand the importance of a CRM solution that helps you ask the right questions and manage the answers.

Eight things to keep in mind on during your project

October 8th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

It’s time for another excited edition of “Mike Dougherty’s Eight Things”. In other posts in this series, I’ve gone over things to have figured out before you meet your designer, things to help you choose your next marketing piece, and things to think about before you start your logo. I’ll get back to other things about different pieces, like websites and such, but for now we’re going to talk about things to keep in mind during the project.

A project is much more than just figuring out what you want and hiring a designer. You have a place, and a job to do, in the project as well. Without any further ado, here are eight things to keep in mind during your project.

  1. Home Runs aren’t common. As a designer, there are reasons we do comps (mock-ups of the possible project design) and ask a lot of questions. It happens, but very rarely, that a designer will nail the exact nuances of a project on the first try. The main reason for that is we, designers, are not mind readers. We’re more like detectives trying to figure out what the final image will be by asking you for your input. We’re more like archeologists of imagination. We keep working till we find that magical, mysterious beast that is your project.
  2. The Milestones of your project. There are steps, in any project, that deliverables and notes are required. Make sure you, and your team if you have one, are keeping on schedule so that when it’s time for your approval, or notes, the window of time for response doesn’t turn into a gaping hole.
  3. Your approval process. It is critical for you to be fully, mentally and physically, present for the approval process. If you sign off on a design know now that you have just completed that portion of the project. Going back to make changes, because you didn’t invest the full amount of time you needed to make it right…is going to cost you time and money. Before you put your pen to paper to approve…see #8 of this list.
  4. That your scope isn’t being “creeped”. You, and your designer, agreed to a list of certain items, and tasks, that would make up this project. Adding things, after the project has been agreed upon and started, will cost you time and money as well. Rather than go on about it here, read my previous post “It’s called a SCOPE of work, you CREEP” here on GrowSmartBusiness.
  5. Your friends won’t live your choices.  I’ve seen, time and time again, people take the comps, the designer gave them to approve, to their friends for feedback. Bottom line, you have to live with this design…not your friends. Very rarely will your friends be brutally honest with you. More often than not they will not want to hurt your feelings. A better source of feedback is your current, or prospective, clients. If you are unsure yourself it might mean that you aren’t happy with the design and can’t articulate why…which is ok, but work with your designer to see what you can do to get you to #8.
  6. The designers’ time is just as valuable as yours. When it comes time to meet with your designer, for the first time or on Milestone steps, make sure you dedicate that time to your designer. They cleared their schedule for you, and your project, the least you could do is do the same. Let the phone go to voicemail or someone else get it. The emails will be there after the meeting to be addressed. And for, Pete’s sake, do not try to close a sale while your designer is present. Yes, all of these things have happened in my presence and I’ve actually had to say, “If this project, and my time, is not important to you…then maybe we should put this on hold”.
  7. If you want to add more…it’s a new project. I know you love your designer and you two have become friends. Or you think you’re designer is such cool frood who knows where his towel is (if you get that reference award yourself 20 geek points…I’m keeping track), but anything beyond what was agreed upon, I hate to say this, is a new project and will add time and money (gee…do I sense a theme) to your project. Take a minute, if you haven’t already, and review the eight things to help you choose your next marketing piece. These could help ensure that you, and your designer, successfully get you to #8.
  8. You have to be happy with the results. This process takes time, but at the end of the day you, the client, ultimately have to be happy with the results. It’s partially your job to make sure you are. You need to be so excited about your marketing piece that you want to tell it to the mountains. If you aren’t, keep working with your designer to get there…as long as it is within the agreed scope of the project of course.I, personally, don’t believe in the “these are your only three choices to pick from” game that some designers play. I know that’s going to make me very unpopular, but ultimately we’re providing a service. IF your designer wants to keep you in a “only three choices” box that only allows you so much room…get a new designer, but know that you have to respect #6 to get to #8.

I want to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed. Who knows, you could inspire another “Eight Things” list, which you would be credited for.

You can always reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As always dear reader, thank you for reading and stay wicked.