15 Apr 2015

Twitter shoots itself in the foot by cutting off Datasift access

No Comments twitter


Last week, Twitter announced they’re cutting off API access to providers like Datasift, forcing everyone to go through GNIP, the data reseller service they purchased.

Full disclosure, we were a customer of GNIP (not Datasift), and were forced to pay between $5,000 to $20,000 per month for access to Twitter data.  And Datasift via Mark Suster is disappointed that Twitter didn’t make the split amicably. People are wondering if Facebook will yank everyone but Datasift’s access in retaliation.

My bet is no.

Why does this matter to you?

If you want to grow your community, perform social analytics, or run ads– and if that has something to do with Twitter– then you’ll need Twitter data to make decisions.  Twitter folks, if you’re reading this, making decisions = spending money. Without analytics, brands can’t understand where Twitter campaigns are performing.

They are in the dark.

So while forcing everyone to go through GNIP may yield Twitter a few million dollars, this is penny-wise and pound foolish. Twitter’s potential advertising business is not worth maiming for data access fees.

That’s why Facebook has never charged for their APIs and likely never will.  Facebook even made their ads API open to everyone. Anyone can get basic access without having to jump through hoops. Facebook has even free training in Facebook Blueprint, Facebook for Business, the various Facebook developer garages, free training materials, and so forth. All of this is free– since it builds the ecosystem of developers, brands, and consumers.

Google doesn’t charge for Google Analytics or the API because they know that stronger intelligence leads to more ad dollars. In fact, Google has been investing heavily in free tools for marketers: Think With Google, Google Tag Manager, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Translate, Google My Business, Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and so forth.

If I were Dick Costolo…

I’d find out what Datasift customers have been doing with the Twitter data. If the metrics lead to analysis and then action, they’re saving pennies by throwing away dollars.
The last thing customers want to do is get into the business of building data infrastructure.  I know this. The very reason we play in the data space is because of the complexities of dealing with multiple APIs from multiple vendors.

Not an option for small businesses and a shaky play for even enterprise-level brands to have their data strategy reliant upon just a GNIP or Datasift. The Adobes of the world will eventually release something here, likely via acquisition, while you see other third parties building logic layers (data models) via platforms (like Pylon from Datasift) so expensive that if you have to ask, you’re missing a few zeros in your budget.

Maybe the marketing automation or tag management players will come in to save us, for the geeks that care to discuss. But for the rest of us, we mourn the slow irrelevance and demise of Twitter at their own hand.
Maybe Twitter with smart folks like Adam Bain will wake up to see that analytics (or at least data) needs to be free.

09 Feb 2015

Fraud in the name of God

No Comments fraud, marketing ethics

The Wall Street Journal published an article of how some authors get on best seller lists by pre-buying books.
One of the main perpetrators is ResultSource in San Diego, who has a cozy clientele of megapastors and the religious right.

Tyndale, Crossway, Harper Collins Christian, and the other large Christian publishers have regularly used these tactics.
Until they are willing to declare such practices unethical, you can expect this to continue.

The rationale to manipulate rankings makes sense– guys like David Jeremiah and Mark Driscoll note that they otherwise wouldn’t get the attention.
In niche markets, selling 3,000 copies is often enough to make a New York Times best seller list.
Yet bulk orders and free copies shouldn’t count the same as individual purchases, even if these bulk orders are funneled through buying networks disguised to look like authentic purchases.

Pre-buying books is the equivalent of buying Facebook fans and twitter followers.
Promoting yourself as a New York Times best-selling author definitely drives follow-on sales, lucrative speaking gigs, general cachet, and the whiff of sweet prosperity.
It’s not different than gaming your Alexa ranking, buying links for tricky Google SEO, or embellishing your resume.

But this unethical behavior by the most self-righteous of people backfires– undermining their cause.
It’s like the cheaters who are calling for Brian Williams head– that he should be kicked off NBC.
And it led to the downfall of Mars Hill Church, perhaps not indirectly, but a compounding of manipulating people, media, and book sales.

In the shared economy, where we crowdsource opinions and make decisions by relying upon the preferences of others, do you expect such behavior to be more rampant?
Likewise, do you trust people who are acutely image-conscious and actively seek the public spotlight?

Personal branding is neither good nor evil, used by hypocritical maniacs and good people alike.

I was recently asked to join an exclusive club for folks who have a 70+ Klout score.
Aside from whether Klout is even an accurate measure of influence, the notion of hanging around influencers is silly.
It’s wanting to join Mensa to hang out with other high IQ people (I’m guilty of trying this).

What matters is not your intellect, but what you stand for.
I could hang around a bunch of people with a Klout of 80, but if they’re influential about car repair, home furnishings, or things I don’t care about, it’s no good.
Likewise, having a bunch of random followers in a social network or nameless people who bought a book (but didn’t read it), is pointless.

07 Feb 2015

Only 44% of American adults have a good job

No Comments personal branding, promoting yourself

Our government say the unemployment rate is only 5.6%, but it’s a “big lie” according to Joe Clifton, CEO of Gallup.
Gallup is a measurement and polling company, so if anyone knows how to manipulate numbers, they would.

We’ve talked about the slave economy, where people have micro-jobs, but are still indentured servants.
Is this the world of tubes in the back of your neck, while we sleep in pink slime pods?

No, it’s just one where the idea of a “job” has shifted from being loyal to one company for 20+ years to doing small tasks in a crowd-sourced environment.
It means that your reputation based on task completion is more important than what a piece of paper says.

Your rating on eBay, Uber, LinkedIn, or whatever is far more compelling than what you say about yourself.
Your business’ rating on Yelp, Glassdoor, and Facebook is far more believable than your own review of your services or products.

Corporate brochures give way to personal branding, where your personal reputation bubbles up to your company’s brand value.

So in most cases, the idea of having a job is now synonymous with who you are and what you stand for.
At least if you have a job that you like.

Back to the 44% figure in our title and the 5.6% unemployment figure.
The 44% is for people who are consistently working 30 hours a week.
Several problems with that:

They could be making minimum wage– so while technically employed, it might not be a “good job”.

1) Some people aren’t hourly. For example, I’m not. Sometimes I work a few hours in a week and sometimes 100 hours. I definitely don’t have a steady job, nor is my value determined by how many hours I put into my work.  If you’re in a factory or place where you wear a name tag, sure. But if you’re an entrepreneur and builder of things, you’re not being paid by the hour. It’s results, baby!

2) If you’re doing something that involves expertise, then you should be spending at least 20% of your time learning, if not more. Should these count as hours? Hard to say, but I spend a few hours a day reading and improving my skills– not just to forestall obsolescence, but because I love what I’m doing.


3) This is assuming someone else is employing you as a cog in their machine. It not only doesn’t include entrepreneurship, but discourages it.

The United States should redefine employment as people making an earnest living doing what they love while covering their basic financial needs.
Hard to measure, but certainly more accurate than being able to count as employed a person who “worked” one hour last week.

Instead of polling people on how many hours they got paid for by someone else, why not ask them if they’re doing what they love, with people they love, and making ends meet?

I believe these are the 3 criteria of job alignment, but most people get only one of them.
Maybe a job that pays well, but you hate what you’re doing and have jerk co-workers and bosses.
Or you love the job, but it doesn’t pay.
Or you’re working with friends, but suffering in some awful place.

Personal branding, which is what we are helping students do, is the intersection of these three.

If you connect someone’s passion with a commercial interest (a client who will pay), you’ve got the love and financial part.
If you have a program that brings people together into teams, then they can work with like-minded people.

LinkedIn meets a dating site or Uber for marketing, we like to say.

What do you think?

29 Jan 2015

Yes and No on guest posting.

No Comments writing

Yes, guest posting is a fantastic technique and drives awesome results. No, don’t do it like this random person who emailed me just now. This particular one is so egregious we can use it as an example of what not to do.

Before you reach out to someone, make sure to look at their content and say something relevant.

Remember a few years ago when people would hit you up for links, perhaps using an automated tool to message webmasters? Make your comment so relevant there’s no way a robot could have sent it and clearly it was meant for them.

Mass blasting your messages will actually backfire.

It’s like comment spam on your blog, which is more auto-generated nonsense.

Build up your personal profile across multiple sites.

In this case, I’m using the Gmail rapportive plug-in, plus Sidekick. Both will look up someone on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere, as you review their email. This particular person doesn’t have any profiles showing up, so they look fake.

Message people from your own domain.

Looks a lot more legit than aifurled834@hotmail.com or something random like that. When you have alex@alexhoug.com, people know you care enough to get your personal branding right. For young adults who don’t have their own domain, we will generate a subdomain with your name, which is almost as good.

Tweet and comment on their stuff before ever sending a naked email.

Even if you just retweet, because you might not yet know enough to say something intelligent, that’s a good first step.

Share a couple links to what you’ve done and perhaps propose a topic specifically for them.

If you look reputable, I’ll probably Google you to see what you’ve written, but might as well include this, anyway. State your intent upfront– if you shamelessly want to spam their site, truly want to further their cause, or build your brand.

Join myblogu.com and private groups in your area of expertise.

Not for SEO reasons, but because you want to be on top of industry trends. When something happens, you can create “stone soup” by assembling one sentence quotes from a few thought leaders. Then you have an article.

Give before you get.

The more important the person you’re trying to reach, the more you have to stand out among the masses who have hands outstretched. Genuine compliments are irresistible to most influencers and doing this is a surprisingly rare and effective tactic. That said, I welcome guest posts– anything that reinforces something I care about and adds value to the community. We’ll even spend our own money to promote these folks, since we believe in paying it forward.

One guest blog post won’t lift you to stardom.

But you might be surprised how few posts it takes to truly connect with a small circle in a tight niche. Expect 6 months to a year, or however long it takes you to craft a few dozen high quality posts on your site and others.

23 Jan 2015

Why paying for content is like paying for sex

No Comments content marketing
  • They’re doing it for the money, not true love.
  • The quality is never as good.
  • You’re dealing with people you don’t really know or like.
  • The best things in life are free.

Are you looking for a long-term relationship or a moment of passion?

Content marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, marketing automation, social media marketing, and all of these things are the same thing.
They’re long-term commitments to building a community aligned around your cause– what you stand for.

I get requests for people who want to pay me to let them guest post their spammy article on one of our sites.
If your content is good, you won’t have to pay me to promote it. In fact, I’ll promote your stuff on my dime if it’s good.

And there are conferences that cold call us, wanting to charge us to speak.

We had nearly 30 conferences last year that paid us to speak to a great audience, so why would we pay?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t run Facebook or Linkedin ads.
There’s a difference between “amplification” of great content versus shameless advertising of promotional material.
With amplification, you’re paying social postage to reach influencers– buying stamps, if you will.
With advertising, you’re treating customers as targets who need to be pried of their wallets.

Mike McEuen shared the following insights:

Michael McEuen_Headshot“Outsourced writers often don’t understand the true audience, instead taking creative liberties. This produces a cookie-cutter piece that falls flat – resulting in low lead counts and high engagement costs. The audience knows they’re being duped.”

Why paying for content is like paying for sex:

  • You don’t know if the content has been used before.
  • You have no idea what the going rate is for freelancers.
  • You don’t know who owns the content.

If you treat your marketing efforts as a relationship of multiple stages: first date, courtship, first kiss, marriage, etc, then you stage your marketing accordingly.
The AEC (audience, engagement, conversion) funnel enables you to do that.
It’s segmentation and personalization– tying your content to the right audience.

Funnel Graphic2 V3

There’s no way some random freelancer can randomly insert themselves into your conversation to say something relevant.
The drive-by marketer is painfully obvious to spot, though she believes she’s taking a clever shortcut.

In B2B, the problem is more severe, since the funnel stages are longer and buyers more sophisticated.
You might have some great whitepapers, blogs, and product releases to share on your site or LinkedIn.
But unless you time their delivery by the type of customer and where they are in the relationship with you, you’re an inadvertent spammer.

No amount of LinkedIn geek ads knowledge of bidding and targeting will save you if you don’t have your strategy in place.
In other words, GCT (clear goals, relevant content, and target audiences).

AJ Wilcox provided his thoughts:

unnamed“Though the targeting on LinkedIn advertising is fantastic, it rarely compensates for failure to create a cohesive content and audience plan that delivers the correct message to that audience. A spray-and-pray strategy is no strategy at all.”

Why Paying for Content is Like Paying for Sex:

  • You regret it after it’s too late
  • You don’t know what you’re getting from them

Buying tools won’t make you a pro content marketer any more than an amateur with the finest clubs will improve his slice.
Outsourcing this tricky issue to agencies won’t help either, though they can help you fine-tune messaging and technical optimization.
The content you produce must come from the heart– the WHY of your business.

That’s hard.
And only you can do it.

Are you paying for content or are you investing in your brand?

13 Jan 2015

Cold-hearted people cannot be effective content marketers.

6 Comments content marketing

10 years ago, I bled purple.

On the Yahoo! campus, we had purple couches, purple cows, and even purple sprinkler heads.
We had a Yahoo! running team and a Yahoo! cycling team, thanks to the generous support of my friend David Filo, who at the time was the richest man in the world under 30 and co-founder of Yahoo!.


Dennis Yu

That was 2005 and Facebook was only a year old back then.
I was also 135 pounds and could still run 3 miles in 15 minutes flat.

2015-01-14 01_18_38-weekend_20050819 040 _ Flickr - Photo Sharing!

But I digress.

Arguably, at Yahoo! we had the best engineering team in the world.

Just ask Google, who took many of our folks– the best money could buy.

Or just ask Facebook, who took many of Google’s people, including their head chef.
Then again, much of the IPO-chasing tech talent has left Facebook for the next latest thing, making disloyalty cool.
But in consensual sex, is there a crime if both parties are in agreement?

Old-timers like me can reminisce and regale you with “back in my day” stories of walking uphill both ways.
But what is worth observing is the shift from teamwork to the cult of personality.

The superstar enters the arena

You see this in the NBA where there are now a few superstars.
You see this in Elon Musk– a singular figure who gave life to Tesla and SpaceX.
You can substitute your own Steve Jobs or Barack Obama.

Why is there such increasing emphasis on the superhero?
Some will claim that it’s what the public wants, so Yahoo! hires a Marissa Mayer.
I believe the public looks to a messianic figure when there are problems, a larger saviour for larger problems.

“Because I’m proud to be an American, cuz….”

Chicken or egg, the unemployment problems and decline of the United States are real.
To admit this doesn’t make me unpatriotic– I’d argue I’m more American for wanting to solve it.
And it will take more than a village.

When I joined Yahoo!, I was still in my mid-20′s.
I want to say the average age was 24, so I was right in the middle of the pack.

And when you’re that age, you have time to work crazy hours to do crazy things.
By the time I left, the average age was 30, so you’ve got young parents, people buying houses, and doing life sorts of things.
That’s not bad.  It just meant that the company had transformed to a stable, employee-based culture.

Most folks had 5-6 meetings a day and left at 5 pm.
We used to have only hallway meetings and stayed late to get stuff done.
There were no content marketers or social marketers.
We created content and were social as a by-product of our passion.

Is this a glorified view of technology where the teenage “brogrammers” hold disdain for the older generation?
If you’re in the viciously competitive tech space, you better be working hard-- disrupt or be disrupted.
But for the 99% of folks that are in companies not in hyperactive growth, this model doesn’t apply.

What it’s like living in the crucible

The early folks at Yahoo! and other such companies would agree with me that they got the most work done between 6 pm and midnight.
After a day crammed with meetings (others won’t let you escape from their meetings), you finally have time to actually work.
I can see the number of virtual heads nodding, thinking this is true in their companies.

I’d usually hang out at the Yahoo! cafeteria, called Url’s, since the food was good and subsidized.
Google’s food was free, but I didn’t want to bike the 5 miles up the road to Mountain View.
And in the cafeteria, I’d also see Filo, Jan Koum, Stuart Butterfield, and these sorts of folks, on their laptops plugging away.


The company was less than 2,000 people, so it was easier to collaborate.
When Yahoo! grew to 12,000, the number of layers created crazy politics.
And not to mention the influx of B and C quality players– we weren’t sure how these people snuck in.

It was easier to get money and you’d be less likely to offend people if you spoke your mind.

Full-circle back to academia and government research

Most of us know that the Internet was not created by Al Gore.
But it was government funding that led to DARPA.

And the collegial research environment was what spawned great ideas, creating incubators like Xerox PARC.
I wasn’t old enough to see those days, but I was fortunate enough to meet some of these folks, like the folks who created SABRE and ran American Airlines.
It was partly why I went to Yahoo!, because I could work with super talented people who were still team players.

My fear is that the public focus on larger-than-life personalities is destroying the teamwork necessary to build truly mission-based companies.
No amount of Asana, basecamp, or co-working will make up for venture-funded mentalities to groom startups to be sold.
Some will argue about Silicon Valley now glorifying the A-hole– they’re just mad at the perception, however accurate.

You could blame the media and late-night infomercial marketers for advancing the illusion of overnight, easy success.
I doubt the “Social Network” movie did anyone any good, but that’s Hollywood’s angle to sell more tickets.

We’ve living in a drought… of teamwork, love, and knowledge

Somehow we have to get back to collaboration in business, where people aren’t afraid of sharing.
Yesterday I spoke to someone who runs a successful agency– he couldn’t do content marketing because he was scared of sharing secrets.

If you believe there’s not enough to go around, you’ll hoard what you have and treat others with suspicion.
And then conferences devolve into vendor pitch fests, since nobody wants to share.

There is such pessimism by the millennials and older folks alike.
My goal is to find the optimistics in the crowd who believe that giving doesn’t mean you have less, but actually more.
The systems and training we build will enable certification and job creation for young adults to spread their love and knowledge.

Cold-hearted people cannot be effective content marketers.

Imagine a system that weeds out people who are not team players.
We’re building it.

Those who want to be superstars on stage or the big bosses giving orders to their peons– they will want personal branding, too.
But real personal branding is what people say about you– and the only authentic version emanates from a servant’s heart.

I wonder how many businesses will make this transition: to be stuck in traditional “blast” advertising or to nurture their community.
No amount of tools will be able to mask a marketer who doesn’t truly care for his customers.
You could outsource your marketing, which is increasingly technical, to an agency for a variety of plausible-sounding reasons.
But your customers recognize the voice of their shepherd and only you can guide authentic marketing.

And it’s also why you don’t want to work with mean clients. They don’t have warm hearts necessary to produce awesome content.

08 Jan 2015

Google’s search share went from 79% to 75%– why that doesn’t matter

No Comments Ad serving, facebook marketing and advertising, Inbound marketing, internet marketing training

So much quibbling among the SEOs of how Bing is stealing traffic from Google or how Yahoo! isn’t what it once was.
Ten years ago, I worked at Yahoo!. And while I’d be tempted to chime in on this tempest in a teapot, they’re missing the point.


That’s me with Jerry and David, who co-founded Yahoo!

People are increasingly spending their time in apps and in closed gardens.
Facebook kicked out Bing, which powered their search, in favor of their own search.
Do you think Amazon is going to let Google ever power their search results?
How about letting Google into your very personal Snapchat experience?

The search game as we know it is over– Google has won with a dominant monopoly position.
The old-timers will argue that Yandex’s 55% share in Russia or Baidu in China at 56% means there’s still competition.
Or maybe they’ll point at how search is still strong and getting more personalized.

But what they miss is that personalization technology, no matter how awesome, is only as good as the amount and quality of the underlying data.
The social network and app economy has far more data than the search engine does– they have no incentive to share it.

In the long-run, whoever has the most robust data about users will do a better job personalizing.

That creates ad revenue, which allows the network to invest in more features (things like gmail or driving cars) and better ad tech.

It’s not that Google is going to be dead or that search is going the way of the print yellow pages.
It’s that search has reached maturity, so Google is having to do things like invest in wearables and Uber.
It’s less about buggy whips and more about Innovator’s Dilemma.

So don’t be like the old geezers sitting on the front porch swapping war stories.

Make sure you know who your customers are, independent of the keywords they search, social networks they hang out on, apps they use, videos they play, brands they like, or places they visit.
The sites/apps/things that they frequent will be the ones providing self-serve ad interfaces allowing you to target exactly these people.

Right now, Facebook has the most profile information and user activity, so they’re the current winner in targeted personalization.
But you know that Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even Apple have released their own targeted ad platforms, fueled by their user behavior.

A keyword is not a user

The search engine doesn’t remember what you’ve done last time– you get the same answer each time.
When you set up your marketing automation properly, you’re able to snipe the demand well before it ever becomes a search.

So when we start to see search decline, you’ll know why– it’s like an ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure.
And the cost to both acquire and keep customers via inbound marketing is much cheaper than paying full price at the last minute when the customer finally needs it.

04 Jan 2015

How to scale up your agency: a fresh approach

9 Comments affiliate marketing, finance and economics, local advertising, outdoor activities, people management, promoting yourself, Stand Up for the Little Guy

A colleague and I were discussing “leadership” and what that truly meant.  We came up with this analogy, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Moving rocks for a living? Imagine you move rocks for a living.  The more rocks you move, the more you’re paid.  You don’t move rocks, you don’t get paid.  Thus, you understand the direct linkage between putting in time and compensation.  This is the hourly wage model– some rock movers get paid more than others, whether flipping burgers, working in a big corporation, or drilling teeth. The more teeth you can drill, the more you’re paid.  Are you a corporate wage slave or someone who is paid piecemeal?  This was me for twenty years of my life– a prostitute selling my time for money. Whether I billed $5 per hour or $250– it was the same thing. One day in the proverbial quarry, you decide that moving more rocks to get paid more was not the right answer.  At best, you might move 20% more rocks than the other guy in a particular day, but it wasn’t sustainable.  So you leave the quarry for 7 days, much to the surprise of your fellow laborers. In that time you move no rocks and make no income.


But when you come back, you are driving a bulldozer.  Now, in one day you are able to move 100 times what a single laborer can do. But to get that bulldozer, you had to temporarily earn nothing– plus spend money to buy the vehicle and spend time learning how to drive the thing.  Your fellow laborers, noses down, continue to keep moving rocks– they don’t look up to see you in the bulldozer. They have heard about bulldozers in the magazines, but never thought it was something possible for them.

You hang out with the other guys driving bulldozers.  You have newfound wealth, which is fleeting, since the crowd you run with also enjoys the same standard of living.  You’re right back in the middle of your peers.  It feels great to be 100 times more productive than you were before, but you’re not quite fulfilled.


So you leave the quarry again and disappear for 7 days.  In that time you move no rocks and make no income.  And when you return, you are back with 100 bulldozers and 100 other eager new bulldozer operators. You’ve opened a bulldozer training school!  Flocks of manual laborers who used to move rocks now come to be trained by you.  And you make a commission on the rocks they move, since these laborers didn’t have enough money to buy their own bulldozers.  These laborers are now moving 100 times what they did before, but given the costs of training, equipment, and your profit, they only make 10 times what they did before.  Still, they are happy.

And you are temporarily happy.  With 100 bulldozer operators moving 100 times as many rocks as a single man can do, you’re at 10,000 times your earlier productivity.  Your lifestyle has changed, too.  You have have a Granite Card by American Express and have a new mansion in Boulder. People admire you–you’re a ROCK star. They think that the secret to your success is getting stoned.

But it’s not enough– something inside you is not quite satisfied.  You can only train so many new bulldozer operators per day.  You’re still moving rocks in a sense, just mass quantities. Growth in your bulldozer school is directly related to the amount of time you’ve put in.  So one day you close the bulldozer school.  The press thinks you’ve gone mad– that you’ve lost your marble.


You disappear for 7 days.  And when you return, you’re holding a brochure in your hand– “How to Open Your Own Bulldozer Training School”.  You’re created a franchise model, where you are training up other school owners. You have first hand experience in training new bulldozer operators, so new school owners can rely on your experience.  You now have sold 100 franchises, each one with a happy owner training 100 bulldozer operators, who in turn do the work of 100 laborers.  That’s 1 million times leverage.


You would not have been able to pull this off unless you had personal experience moving rocks, driving bulldozers, training bulldozer operators, and running a franchised business.  You were able to take your knowledge and multiply it.   If you didn’t intimately understand each aspect of the business, scaling up would have just multiplied losses.

Now examine your life and what you do.  Are you moving rocks or are you multiplying? Writing software is a multiplication process.  You can write one copy and sell it an infinite number of times.  You could hand-build a single PPC campaign for a client or perhaps write a campaign management tool that can do it over and over in an automated fashion.  But just like the rock moving analogy, if you aren’t a practitioner with hands-on experience in managing campaigns, your automation won’t be effective.  There are lots of guys selling software that builds websites, manages PPC campaigns, creates SEO reports, sends out emails, and any variety of tasks.

If you want to create massive value, consider the rocks that you are moving. Can you write software or processes that can make life easier for others– or perhaps do some task faster, more effectively, or at lower cost?  Everyone has something they know exceedingly well.  What is that skill for you?  You don’t have to be able to write code.  Software is nothing more than rules for machines, just like processes are rules for humans.

living the McLife? McDonalds is a software company that just happens to make burgers.  People go to McDonalds not because it has the most delicious burgers, but for the consistency of the food and the experience. You can take pimply-faced teens all over the world, minds distracted with their latest relationship dramas, speaking different languages, skilled or not– and still turn out that same value meal each time. That’s process for you.


BlitzLocal is about empowering individuals to become entrepreneurs– we provide the tools and process to allow folks who know little about internet marketing, but are eager and willing to learn, to perform like experts. Our analysts are trained to help small business owners grow their practices.  We’re about the little guy helping the little guy.  Do you want to be a part of our team?  Contact me to find out more.

01 Jan 2015

Competition is for losers

1 Comment local advertising

In his new book “Zero to One” and in this awesome Stanford startup lecture, Peter Thiel talks about how companies need to differentiate such that you have no competitors.
That sounds ridiculous, if you’re a consultant, since there are so many other consultants out there beating their chests, all saying they’re knowledgeable, care for clients, and such.

And you could narrow the definition of the “competition” by geography, but that’s artificial.
I live in Plymouth, MN, so I might say I’m the best social analytics person in this town of 70,576 people.
No other people seem to rank for this search in Google, not even me, though it would be easy enough:

Screenshot 2015-01-01 15.58.33

But that’s because there is nothing inherently special about social analytics in this town versus any other town.

A friend of mine is a well-traveled conference speaker, and he brings his book around wherever he goes.
He touts his book as a best-seller on Amazon. The credibility wins him clients.
But his dirty secret is that his chosen category is so narrow that his meager dozen book sales are enough to put him at #1 on Amazon.

Choosing your differentiation by vertical versus geography is actually okay, since industry requires specialized expertise and contacts.
Thiel talks about how it’s better to be #1 in a small market instead of just another player in a big one.

In the former, you have passionate raving fans who are your biggest asset.
In the latter, you have to fight for every dollar.

And if you’re doing what you truly love, your deep passion will show through.
You won’t be intimidated by those who are more knowledgeable than you, since they’re partners in your cause, not enemies.
You’re generating enough inbound revenue that you’re not fighting others for dollars.

You hear a lot of people say “follow your dreams”

Good advice, but how does someone who doesn’t yet have an established area of expertise build upon this?
What if you’re a student who is still in college and can’t see beyond local retail jobs in your hometown.
It all sounds good, in theory, especially when told by folks who are already successful and talented.

“But how does this apply to me?” they say, leading to false hope and inaction.

The answer is taking incremental steps in something we call “personal branding”.
Even if you don’t have a specialization, it’s the act of starting that will open up opportunities.
The small steps of setting up your profile on different networks, setting up Google Alerts on things you’re interested in, and writing short notes about what you observe is what counts.
Along the way, you’ll build a network, which will lead to the expertise when you need it.
You won’t be able to see in advance how this will unfold– you just need to get going.

Perhaps you’re self-conscious about your writing skills– then just blog for 5 minutes a day.
Sure, your initial blog posts will suck, but I promise you that you’ll get way better and faster.
Do this for 6 weeks straight and you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come.

Just 15 minutes a day

Don’t tell me about how busy you are. We all are.
Spend 15 minutes a day doing this.


That’s 15 minutes less surfing the web, watching your favorite show, or whatever.
You’ve got plenty of areas you can find that time. Just don’t steal from sleep.

Of the people who say they’re busy, I notice they can cut 15 minutes a day of complaining time.
The same is true of people making New Year’s resolutions to do something– don’t be one of those people.

My favorite technique is to just act immediately instead of procrastinating to later.
In the time you would have spent shuffling things around, you could have already done a couple small things.

What no competition look like

The “so called” competitors you have are likely stuck in neutral in their content marketing and branding efforts.
And if they’re any good, you’ll want to reach out to them to partner, to create content together and to work together on projects.

When you’re sharing your knowledge openly, then you create an atmosphere where others reciprocate.
Rather than being a pompous know-it-all, you’re admitting where you need help, actively soliciting feedback.
And this attracts empathy, creates conversation, and drives the sort of clients that you want.


You don’t need a sales team, since nobody has to cold call or bang on doors.
Clients come to you, they pay you what you ask, and you’re treated well.

You’re happy to work with them and they’re delighted with you, even when you screw up.
They’re so pleased that they create content with you as willing advocates of your techniques.
You’ve made them look good and they reciprocate.

This, in turn, draws in more people who want to work for you (which you tell them is “with you”, not “for you”).
The content that you’ve shared so freely also doubles as training material for new staff.
It becomes the process that all your people follow in how you execute projects in checklist fashion.

All your people follow the learn-do-teach (LDT) triangle principle.
You lead by your knowledge (learn) and example (do) and others know leadership comes from learning and doing first.

“Stop, don’t!” versus “Don’t stop!”

If you’re at the stage where you don’t have something you’re known for, just get going.
You might have to drop a few clients or projects to free up the time to work on the good ones.
So fire those bad clients and drop those bad behaviors.

Make your mission so clear that if you were to ask someone who knows you what you do, their answer is clear.


Are all your people practicing personal branding?
If not, then, paradoxically, it’s in your interest to build up their attractiveness to other companies.
By making them more employable elsewhere, you’ll lose those who aren’t loyal, but generate so much more from those you keep.

People who are really good can go anywhere, anyway.
They’re not machines or inventory to manage, but athletes to be coached.
You’re not a boss or a manager, but a leader and inspirer.

If you’re a student, seek out folks who genuinely care about your personal success.
As they move up in the world, they’ll take you along with them.

So the question is not “Who are your competitors?’
Rather ask, “Who are your friends and allies?”

Do you have a list of these folks that you want to actively cultivate?

22 Dec 2014

As an entrepreneur, you face the most concentrated of unspoken evils.

1 Comment Entrepreneurship, Featured, people management

Yes, you’re busy. But go watch this video right now, anyway:

It’s 48 minutes of encouragement and perspective for entrepreneurs with Elon Musk.
If you’re still reading this, go back and at least watch from 34 minutes onward.

As an entrepreneur, every problem in the company is brought to you, so you end up spending most of your time doing stuff you don’t want to do.
Elon Musk calls it staring into the abyss and eating glass– to continually be on the verge of extinction and have a high tolerance for pain.
It’s a lonely place and something we’re not supposed to talk about. So keep on pretending.

Whether people admit it or not, life is hard.
So be kind to one another.

Elon poured half of his gains from PayPal into SpaceX, being fully comfortable that it might be a complete loss.
And even though he’s been quite successful– commercially to deliver payloads to the International Space Station and send satellites into orbit– he still predicts 13-14 years to even achieve his goal of sending a mission to Mars.

He’s been at it since 2002, so he’s already a dozen years into it.
And he’s got the same trajectory for Tesla, which will also take at least a dozen more years to get to where half of all cars in the US are electric (made by Telsa or not).

It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.
Ask Facebook, Google, or most of the businesses you know, technology-related or not.

The most important causes take a decade to realize.
And for a founder to be willing to eat glass, it better be a cause of that magnitude.

Are you working on something that’s truly worthy of your time?

Is it the kind of mission that inspires others to join in your WHY?

2014-12-22 21_05_54-Do you want to really understand Dennis Yu_

Are you looking to get bought out by some other company or do you want to grow to where you can buy out others?

Alex Houg and I officially co-founded Portage in the summer of 2014, but it’s been an idea incubating for much longer.
We’re long-term believers in changing how students transition from K12 to the workplace and we’re building these connections with businesses.


Khan Academy gives away their online education for free.
They believe knowledge should be free.  We concur and go one step further to say that job support should be free, too.

2014-12-22 20_15_45-(1) Dashboard _ Khan Academy

Next year will be 10 years since I left Yahoo! to be an entrepreneur, so my hope is that the time I’ve put in will truly start to pay off.
If failure is the best teacher, then I’m one of her most familiar students.

2014-12-22 20_49_18-Dennis Yu

My hat’s off to anyone who is trying to get their business off the ground, make the next round of payroll, or take their mission to the next level.