Archive for Featured
Below is an opinion piece that I solicited from a total stranger. I paid him $5 using a service called Fiverr asking him to write a quick bio. Below is what I got. Pretty cool, huh?
Keith Wilcox is living a life many parents can only dream of. After a string of soul-sucking and unfortunate jobs, Keith has finally found the good life, home-schooling his kids, working from home, and imparting parenting wisdom to people around the globe.
The first thing people may wonder about Keith is how, exactly, he is able to give credible parenting advice? The reasons are many, but consider these:
First, Keith was a nationally-ranked high school athlete. What does that have to do with parenting and advice? Plenty—it took hours, months, and years of dedication to get to that level. Keith, even in his early years, was able to stick to a task and find success after the hard work. Those same principles of hard work, discipline, and success have translated quite well into his parenting skills and advice.
Second, Keith has used that athletic success to help his son become a professional tennis player. Again, it’s almost hard to comprehend what a difficult task that is, with the level of competition and the insane amounts of dedication it takes, not just from the player, but from those around him, and in this case, his dad Keith.
And third, Keith has chosen to home school his sons. While the reasons are sundry, it doesn’t take much more than a glance at any news story on any day (like today’s shooting at a public school in Ohio) to see why a father would want to home school his sons. Not only does he get to impart to them the many life lessons and character-building experiences he has had, but he is able to bond with them on a level many fathers with they could with their children.
Lastly, Keith is simply a fulfilled person. So many people go through life searching for a purpose, trying to fill a void, and that emptiness can affect them and those around them. Keith, on the other hand, is extremely fulfilled, living the life he always desired. In Keith’s own words, “My life will be complete and I can die happy when I know that my kids have grown up to be strong, intelligent, and self sufficient people.” With the amount of love and dedication to his children he has shown in his life thus far, it can be safely said that Keith is a complete, happy, and dynamic businessman, blogger, husband, and father.
Today I was over at the offices of ICOSA Magazine, a Denver-based publisher that is sponsored by CAP Logistics. Who would have thought that a logistics company could produce such high quality content? Here are some things I’ve learned about their efforts to make the world a better place:
- They interview world leaders (presidents of countries and CEOs of major corporations) to get their opinion on the state of the economy. They don’t charge for this or charge for the magazine– there is no catch.
- Recently, they interviewed Bishop Desmond Tutu about his perspectives on hope and optimism.
- They have an entire issue dedicated to infrastructure– improving water, architecture, roads, bridges, electrical grids– highlighting the efforts of individuals and businesses to improve the world.
Collaborative leadership is about getting different people in the community to work together to grow the pie for everyone. These are weighty topics, but are worth engaging in. Kudos to ICOSA for making it happen and not taking a dime on it.
Here’s the other part to understand– by interviewing the heads of mining companies, heavy equipment, and other firms that are clients or potential clients, their magazine also has great business value. If you’re the CEO of a mining company that has less than stellar reputation with green community, this good PR is something you’d want. And you’d be quite inclined to do business with CAP when they put that shiny magazine in your hands.
Thank you to Gayle Dendinger, founder of CAP Logistics, and Eli Regalado, for having us over at their facilities to share.
Sometimes you get a piece of advice so deep, yet so obvious, that you have to stop for a minute to think about it. Thanks to Gillian Muessig, President of SEOmoz, for mentoring me on this– her five magic words a bit later….
Have you ever been approached by a prospective client that would like to do business with you, but clearly doesn’t have the money? These are “wanna be” clients. They can’t afford to be clients, but have champagne tastes on a beer budget. See if any of these sound familiar to you:
- “We want to be business partners with you and share the risk” (translation: “we have no money”).
- “If you deliver us the revenue, then we can pay you your fee” (translation: “we have no money”).
- “I can get this a lot cheaper elsewhere” (translation: “we have no money”).
- “Let’s do a trade-out of services” (translation: “we have no money”).
- “We need to ask you some questions to qualify you” (translation: “we have no money and want to string you along for free advice in the meantime”).
If you ever hear any of this, here are the 5 magic words you say…. Drum roll, please…
WE ‘RE NOT RIGHT FOR EVERYONE.
Repeat that to yourself three times to lock it into your head. Don’t fall into the trap of selling yourself short. You’ll regret taking on a cheap client– and not only are they the ones with the least money, but also the neediest and hardest to deal with. Our best clients pay us handsomely, treat us well, and are a joy to work with. The clients where we’ve made exceptions to this rule suck the life out of us and sometimes make us wonder why we’re in this business. Spare your staff the angst and remember these 5 magic words, else you risk losing your best people, too (who can work anywhere).
Tell the prospect, firmly and politely, that you work with a select group of clients — that you work with the best in the industry and pay your people well, because you have the best people. Mention that you don’t compete on being the cheapest game in town, nor are you the most expensive. If they keep pushing, hold the line — say that you’re not a discount agency, that you can refer them to other agencies that would gladly take their project.
The clients that do pass this bar are going to be businesses that are likely to be solid in their operations, have folks who appreciate value, and will rekindle the excitement that caused you to strike out on your own to begin with. You’re being paid well enough to afford to do a good job, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your staff members look forward to working with these clients and the enthusiasm is infectious.
Bruce Clay pulled me aside at SMX Advanced last year and gave me similar advice. He said the key to getting the right clients is to “stand in the middle of the road, arms outstretched, screaming that you are the best.” Half the people will think you’re crazy and walk away. The other half will say “Gee, he really must be the best” and then hire you.
Bruce also advised to ask the prospect this question, “If your child was sick, would you go for the cheapest heart surgeon or the best?” That should do it. If not, you don’t want to work with them. Their business is like their child– and when you have only one shot to do it right, they should choose the best every time, unless they have no money.
You don’t want or need to have every potential deal that’s out there. Be choosy. Would you rather have 40 clients that each pay you $1k a month in fees or 4 clients that each pay you $10k a month? If you have 4 clients, you can focus your efforts to deliver solid value, build a solid relationship, and have on-going solid business deals — as opposed to spreading your efforts thin among the chorus of squeaky wheels that compete for your attention.
So let’s make it 6 magic words, courtesy of Gillian:
SORRY, WE’RE NOT RIGHT FOR EVERYONE.
Maybe when that prospective clients get a little larger, they’ll be right for you– or maybe if they’re serious about what it takes to succeed in online marketing. But remember that if you’re having a hard time with them when they haven’t even paid a dime, imagine how they’ll be when they’ve handed you a few dollars.
If you follow the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), then remember that you need only a few clients to have a great business. Don’t be afraid to cut some clients loose. They may have been right for you a couple years ago when you were a smaller firm or just getting started. But now you’re a different company and have moved on to a different client base. You can recommend others that can do a great job.
If you like this, please let me know or send a note to Gillian thanking her for the advice she’s has generously given here.
Let’s first address the size of the local online advertising market, then show why these masses will have a good shot at finding success in 2010, but haven’t before. If you don’t like stats, skip down to the red text below and start reading.
Borrell Research, in their 2009 “Main Street Goes Interactive” report lists 14.6 million small businesses online in the United States. Kelsey claims 18 million. Other Yellow Pages publishers claim upwards of 22 million. Whatever cut-off you use for small business– if you include lemonade stands and folks selling tupperware or beauty cream at night– the price point for these small businesses is $500 a month for advertising. That’s not just PPC or even online marketing to build websites and run email campaigns– that’s the whole budget for everything.
For paid search, these businesses spend an average of $261 on paid search per employee per year– keep in mind the lie of averages, since you’re accounting for companies that spend zero, as well as those hobbyist businesses. That $261 represents 11% of the total ad budget, which works out to $2,373 per employee per year. Assuming the average small business salary is $35k, then advertising is 7% of labor cost– low for professional service firms, but high for a retailer.
- SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) spend on average only $267 per year on their website (hosting, development, and support).
- While all businesses spend only 26% of their online marketing dollar on advertising, SMBs spend 83%.
- While all businesses spend 67% of their online dollars on support, small businesses spend 9.3%.
Why? They can’t afford custom development for just a couple hundred dollars. And the ones doing paid search are using self-serve with budgets of a couple hundred dollars a month– way too small for an agency to pick up and provide a listings product, PPC campaign, site development, email autoresponder, call tracking, and the significant consulting (client education) needed to make this happen.
The small business sweet spot is $500 a month and under, while the price point in the market to truly deliver value (there are players who are less than $500 per month, but don’t deliver the full solution needed) is $2,000 per month. That gap will close in 2010.
The way it will close is through the intersection of local, mobile, and social. The research we did at Yahoo! showed that small businesses are not comfortable with self-serve, no matter how “simple” we try to make creation of PPC campaigns, building a site through templates, setting up email autoresponders, and so forth. Too daunting, not enough time, too expensive– and therefore it remains untouched. The stats from 2007 were that 87% of small businesses were aware of PPC, but only 9% of them were actually doing it. This gap underscores the point.
Video game dynamics teach users complex systems of rules via a gradual leveling and unlocking mechanism– starting from a basic set of operations and gradually revealing new features and options until players have learned the game. You can read here about these mechanisms and how they apply to Farmville, your local supermarket, learning to read, or other activity by checking out this post on social game dynamics.
Now these games have moved from the desktop to your phone– and now there are games such as FourSquare, Gowalla, and Poynt, where you can earn virtual currency in a giant, real world scavenger hunt. And the phone knows where you are, can take pictures, can collect data in ways that PC’s can’t.
And the social networks have now amassed the social graph in ways that makes game dynamics truly possible. Facebook recently shot through 350 million users worldwide and is now 25% of the traffic in the United States– that’s 1 in 4 pageviews across ALL traffic in the US–
So now you have a mobile crowd that is connected to the social graph, earning incentives to record where they are and gather information on local businesses.
THIS is your salesforce. This is the borg that will assimilate you into the hive– the stay at home moms that will earn points for enrolling small businesses into BlitzLocal, playing a video game that happens to earn them real dollars. This is the army of local entrepreneurs, playing not FarmVille, but BlitzVille. We’re not calling it that, but you get the idea. Watch as thousands of stay at home dads, motivated by online video games designed to enroll small businesses use a system that simplifies the process of online marketing for local businesses.
And the small business will receive personal service from their friends, a measurable result from the system that they’re using together (after all, video games are all about clear rules), and have a good time while they’re at it. No more hard sell, no more being handed off to the next available call center agent (he says his name is “Peter”, but you know it’s not from his accent).
It will be interesting to see how the traditional model of aggressive direct sales fares in the open, social, local, mobile approach:
- Consider how they will react when small businesses demand transparency (just show me the CarFax) on how much of their dollar is actually being spent on ads versus sales commission and overhead.
- How will they deal with margin compression when their model of having multiple people involved in the process– sales, operations, engineering, support– gets squeezed down when the local/social/mobile approach requires just one person who is eager, well-educated and already has a relationship with that client? The direct sales model has 30% of cost in sales and marketing, while the local/social/mobile model has no traditional advertising costs.
- How will the traditional sales model deal with a price point that will drop below $500 per month– maybe to $200 per month– ye still be forced to drive as much value at the previous $1,000 a month packages? You’ll see a deflationary impact just like the rapid obsolescence of computer equipment.
- And to the software sellers, who are licensing software for $200 a month– so they do meet the price point– how will they solve the “last mile” problem of collecting enough data from that small business owner to be able to create a website that is compelling– that won’t waste the traffic that comes from a templatized PPC campaign? The SaaS (software as a service) model of monthly software fees is appealing for its scale and ability to sell at low price points, but will fall down for not being able to integrate service. If service weren’t necessary, then everyone would be on Adwords and WordPress already.
- What will the software and direct sales firms do when they cannot spend their way out of the margin issue, no matter how much money they raise– IPO or not? If you’re selling $10 bills for $8, you’re not going to make it up in volume.
The model of local/social/mobile is:
- Akin to the open source software movement– a belief that the community can organize to provide products for nearly free and of better quality– that results should be transparent and that campaigns should be owned by the small business, as opposed to being held hostage so they can’t switch out.
- Keeping dollars in the local economy– to support local businesses, with anyone being able to start their own local Internet marketing firm to serve their neighbors honorably– to create a grass roots army of local Internet marketing experts.
- Employing stay at home moms, students, and anyone who is well-educated, but can’t work full-time in sales. We’ll tap into the labor market of part-time and underemployed folks, who might not be trained professionally in Internet marketing, but can use our systems to create results as good or better than the “big firms”. They might have a Masters degree, but need to spend time with the kids. Or maybe they just don’t want to work in an office 40 hours a week.
If you want to join our team, see our training processes, or even try our product for free, just drop me a line. Gamers of the world unite. You will be assimilated.
I get pitched a ton of ideas and most of them are pretty good. No doubt, it’s a GREAT idea! Odds are that it might not be truly unique, as is typical in web entrepreneurship. However, the winner in the space is the first to properly execute. No experience founding a company before, don’t have a lot of money, need engineering expertise? Have no fear. My advice for you is to go out and buy “Founders at Work”– which has interviews with a dozen web entrepreneurs who went on to found Yahoo!, PayPal, and other ventures. Find out what it’s really like in taking something from concept to a multi-billion dollar reality– it’s probably not what you think.
Already have in mind an agency you want to pay to develop your concept? Don’t do it. That agency likely has solid experts in PHP, Facebook development , WordPress, or whatever,— but if you look at the stats, rarely does a tech startup succeed by having agency development resources. Unless you have a TON of cash and don’t need inspired engineering, the odds are not in your favor going this route. The catch-22 of agency work is that if these folks were so great, why aren’t they building their own ideas? Analogously, if you’re such a great stockbroker, then why aren’t you building your own portfolio? Great tech startups need a technical co-founder. If you’re paying a contractor or worse– an agency– you’re not getting someone who is sleeping, dreaming, and eating your idea, 24×7.
Ideas are a dime a dozen– execution is everything. And rarely can one person summon the energy needed to pull it off, even if you have all the skills needed. You might also read “Hackers and Painters” which goes into detail on how great builders, innovators, and engineers in the web space are the same thing.
So first order of business, before you’re looking at hiring other people or spending money on marketing is to find others who will join you in the cause. Let those other guys spent a year chasing those VC dollars, while you focus on execution, are absolutely frugal with every dollar, and have a lean, hungry team looking for results.
Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to meet Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot. His tips, while seemingly anti-VC, are right on target. Fail quickly by releasing early– then you can suck less faster. Don’t release your product for free– charge for it. Start demoing on real customer, not your friends who will say what you want to hear. Focus on results, not on powerpoint presentations. Don’t go pitch everyone you know– you’ll end up spinning your wheels. And ignore those naysayers (often friend and family) who mean well, but serve only to pull you down.
Good luck on your idea!
It’s bad enough that there are over 60 million users (including me) wasting real time and real money growing virtual crops to earn virtual points. A new article in TechCrunch blows the doors on an industry that is set to generate over a billion dollars in 2009 (source: Nick O’Neill of AllFacebook.com).
Look out for a guest article I’ve written, which will show up either on TechCrunch or AllFacebook– which goes into the mechanics of ad network earnings on both the virtual currency and social ad side of things. It’s 7 pages long and 2,478 words.
Networks like OfferPal and SuperRewards don’t have long until they’re busted for what’s really going on. And if you’re a publisher doing more than $20k a month and want to do better, contact me privately– I have options for you.
Meanwhile, keep playing FarmVille– it’s addictive as hell! I’m at level 30 now and having a great time. My advice is to grow grapes, as they have the highest profit for any 1 day crop. If you’re patient enough, just buy a ton of hay bales and sell them. Buy 200 hay bales, which cost 100 dollars each and get you 5 experience points, and you earn 1,000 experience points. For the same $20,000 you’d have to spend $100,000 on a windmill.
So what’s your view– a user who doesn’t care, someone who thinks Farmville is a stupid waste of time, an affiliate marketer who wants to cash in on this somehow, or a game developer that is looking for a better way to make money? Love to hear your thoughts. I will respond to all comments here.
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