Don’t be stupid

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend lately that has me very worried. Two specific pieces of advice.

  1. It is okay to quit your job.
  2. Follow your dreams.

This post may come across harsh, but I can tell you it comes from experience and the reality of growing up.

It is not ok to quit your job

  1. You have financial obligations – student loans, rent, credit cards, future retirement, future spouse, future kids, future house, future car, future vacation. Notice I said future quite a few times.
    I was young once and I lived the dream. I worked at startups, I was unemployed, I traveled. Maybe I’m a worrier, but I knew someday I wanted a family and it was not going to be cheap.
  2. The grass is not greener on the other side. Being self employed is not easy. It is the hardest job there is. It can be fulfilling, but it is a struggle to land clients and deliver work at the same time.
  3. Taking time off makes it more difficult to land your next job when you return. Your skills will deteriorate if you don’t use them. The gap in your resume will also raise eyebrows.

Don’t follow your dreams

Rarely do your dreams/passion pay well. Many people love to be creative – write, paint, make movies, etc. But those careers generally don’t pay well. This post on LinkedIn sums it up well.

Suck it up

My suggestion is to suck it up and do your job. Embrace your skills, celebrate the small wins, enjoy your vacations/time-off to their fullest, and save for the future.

Be thankful you have a job. At any time, your company may lose a major client or miss the mark about the future. Companies big and small shut down and have layoffs all the time. If you get laid off, then that is the time to reflect on your career choices.

Work on your skills. You were hired and kept around because you are decent to good at your job. Build on those skills so you can get a promotion and a raise.

Enjoy your time off. If you want to travel, take your 2-3 weeks consecutively and travel. Maybe you have the option for longer sabbatical, sure take it.

Think about the future. Sure, live in the moment and enjoy the day, but plan for the future.

If you really still want to quit your job or follow your passion, then find a side hustle to help you satisfy those desires.

Should you monetize your blog from the beginning?

My friend and I had a disagreement heated debate the other day. Should you have a business plan to monetize your blog from the beginning? Assuming a blog was the primary asset, should you have a monetization plan that you execute early on and then scale as your audience grows? Or grow your audience and monetize later? I’m a fan for the former – monetize early and grow a “business” rather than just an audience.

There are many advantages to starting to monetize early on. The primary being that you will learn if you can monetize your audience. Can you sell ads against your content? Will your audience buy your product? Will they trust your recommendations. Start small, but having proof that someone will pay you money is a huge motivator. And any money that you make can go right back into building the business – better design, more ads, more content etc. It’s a adding fuel to the fire.

My concern is that by waiting, you’re just investing time and money into a product that might not make you any money.

The opposite is to grow your audience and then monetize – think Twitter and Facebook. Their primary revenue comes from sell advertising against their audience. They can do it on a global scale with custom products, something a small blog can’t do.

Thoughts?

 

Would you work for Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross?

The above video is the famous speech delivered by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

There are usually two reactions to the rant. You can say “Yeah!” and get motivated and energized or you can say “What an a-hole!” and dismiss the whole situation.

Is he a good boss? Probably not.
Would you work for someone like that? I definitely would.
As a boss in today’s corporate culture, he wouldn’t last. But his motivation, drive, and vision are key to a being a great leader. Take away the cursing (although a little cursing at work is ok with me) and you’ll have a boss who will push you do do your best.

FYI, all hiring managers want the person who says “YEAH!, let’s go out and sell some real estate.”

Young graduates and entitlement

I’ve been reading more and more few stories about younger generations who have a different view on what the world and a feeling of “entitlement”.

It starts at a very young age and carries into university settings.  See the results of this survey – conducted by by Rutgers, but not at Rutgers.

They believe that since they’re paying for their education, they should get to decide whether they go to class or not

And then the students complain about the professors and curriculums are too demanding and request their grades be changed.

This exchange between a NYU professor and a late student sums it up well.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard . . .

And it carries into careers

It worries me as a manager of people if young graduates don’t have this figured out. Business is hard. We don’t get bonuses, salary increases, promotions based on effort. You need to deliver results. You need to take responsibility for getting their work done and doing it in a professional manner. Our customers don’t care how many hours you work, they care about getting the best product for their hard earned money.

So a piece of advice to future young professionals. Man (or woman) up. Be humble and work your ass off. The good stuff will follow.

 

Things to be aware of when you’re thinking about B2B sales

There are huge differences when you are a startup selling to another startup, a small company, a mid size, or a Fortune 1000 company.

Startup to startup is generally very straight forward – neither have that much to lose and are willing to take risks, decision makers are easily accessible, it is usually a win/win, little regulatory and legal restrictions. But as you move up the scale, each sale gets exponentially harder and the payoff is that much greater. A $50k annual contract is a rounding error to a Fortune 1000, but closing the deal is not easy.

Here are some thoughts cobbled together from conversations I’ve had over the last few months.
  • Find an inside connection. Like raising financing, you need an advocate to help socialize and support your product. You may also need a shepherd, someone who can guide you thru and review/audit processes. Work your network to find a potential user of your product.
  • Position your product to be additive rather than a replacement. There are politics, allocated budgets, existing systems and integrations, and people involved with any product decision, so be an advocate rather than an adversary.
    Let’s say you developed a new enterprise content management system (CMS). Your target list of potential customers probably already have a CMS. It may be WordPress supported by WordPress VIP or Adobe’s Experience Manager. Chances are, they have integrations of all sorts with internal tools like PIMs and DAMs and external services like SalesForce or MailChimp. It’s nearly impossible for an upstart to come in a ask a company to rip out years of work. Instead add value to the existing ecosystem and fill in the gaps. For a CMS, that maybe a better user interface for content creation – drag and drop elements, responsive design, and multi screen previews. Get a toehold to being with.
  • Prepare for a long sales process. Large companies make decisions by consensus and are risk averse. There technology reviews, contract reviews and vendor on boarding. You also need to prove that you have longevity. No one wants to risk investing in a company or product that won’t be around after a few years.
  • Prepared to customize your product to their needs. There is a school of thought that says you should find a client to fund the development of your product. It is sound advice unless the client has very specific needs and nuances that will derail you off your product roadmap.
The industry and product also play a big part into the complexities of closing the sale. Pharma and financial services are heavily regulated, everything from the marketing copy on the homepage to the hosting producer will be scrutinized. CPGs are less regulated.

April 21st, 2015 – The Mobile Apocalypse?

Remember the upheaval caused by Google’s Panda or Penguin algorithm updates?  Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said at SMX Munich that the latest algorithm change will have even more impact on search rankings than either Panda or Penguin ever had.

What is this new algorithm?

At the end of February, Google executives made a big announcement about the next algorithm change that will affect search engine rankings starting on April 21st. “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” Google announced. They added, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

What does this mean?

First, a business that does not have a dedicated mobile site, mobile app, or mobile-responsive web design will lose its current ranking, potentially falling to virtual obscurity.

Second, “Worldwide” means that the algorithm update affects mobile searchers and search results in all countries at the same time, rather than just rolling out in the U.S. first.

Third, the mobile-friendly update affects mobile search results – i.e., searches from smartphones’ and tablets – not searches conducted on a desktop or laptop computer.

In late March, during a Google+ Hangout titled ‘Q&A session for mobile-friendly ranking change’, Google’s staff claimed the following:

  1. It will take a week rollout the algorithm.
  2. You are either mobile-friendly or not – there will be no “degrees of mobile-friendliness” in this algorithm.
  3. It will be on a page-by-page basis. Therefore, if mobile usability issues affect only a few pages, you should not receive a site-wide penalty. This also means you do not have to worry about making your site 100% mobile-friendly by the April 21st deadline. You may decide to prioritize the optimization of problem pages based on their importance or existing search visibility.
  4. It will be on real-time basis. This means Google will take into account changes to your website as soon as it crawls the modified page. It does not mean you will instantly receive better rankings if you make recommended improvements. If it typically takes a long time for Google to crawl your site, you need to work even faster to ensure your site is ready in time.

Why is Google rolling out the new algorithm?

According to a Google survey, 94 per cent of people use a mobile phone to get local information and the vast majority of those searches take place at home or at work, despite it being likely the person searching could do so on a desktop computer.

According to the survey, 73 percent of web users prefer mobile-friendly websites and 61 percent leave a site if it is not mobile-friendly. 73 percent of mobile searches trigger a call or a visit to a business.

How do you find out if your site is mobile friendly?

The quickest way to check if Google considers a page to be, mobile-friendly is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool which is found at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.

 

Awesome with border
Figure 1- Mobile Test

If found mobile-friendly, the page will appear in Google’s mobile search results with a mobile-friendly label, and receive a ranking boost. Above is www.mysitevitals.com‘s mobile friendly test pass.

The Mobile-Friendly Test tool is great for quick checks. However, for an in-depth, whole-site review, you will need to have Google Webmaster Tools set up.

Within Webmaster Tools, you will find the mobile usability report. This scans your website for usability errors, and then presents all the problems found, along with the number of pages affected.

What do you do if your site is not mobile friendly?

If your site is already mobile-friendly, you will not have much to worry about. However, if you have not yet implemented a mobile strategy for your online presence, Google has a guide to creating mobile-friendly sites.

Disclaimer: shameless plug on the way :).  When we were creating MySiteVitals, we had the mobile user in mind.  I’ve had a lot – and I mean a lot – of people tell me that if there were a better way to view their analytics quickly and on the go, that they would be much more inclined to use Google Analytics.  GA is great, as long as you are viewing it from a desktop and are highly proficient with the software.  But for the average website owner, it’s not very practical.  MySiteVitals delivers the most essential stats on your website or app in an easy to read report each morning.  Leveraging analytics is vital to the success of any website; don’t let the hassle of using Google Analytics get in your way.  Sign up with MySiteVitals and see how simple it really is.

As a startup or small business, you need to focus to win

I attended a hospitality industry conference this past weekend and met some amazing people. Hospitality is not one my of areas of interest, but I attended with an openmind. Everyone I met, weather they worked for a large corporation or a small business, all had the similar issues that I think about on a regular basis. One example that stuck with me was about branding and how to think about segmenting your product for your target audience.
The hotel industry has a very interesting challenge, they have essentially one product – rooms. But the major hotel chains have multiple brands focus on distinct target audiences and price points. I kind of knew this internally, but when the speaker gave examples, it really made sense.
For example, Starwood has 9 different brands bucketed into three categories – luxury, mainstream, extended stay. Within the ultra-luxury category (my categorization), they have three different brands – St. Regis, the Luxury Collection, and W Hotels. While they are all focused on the big/free spender, they have specific targets within that big spender audience. The St. Regis is focused on ultra high touch and service. The Luxury Collection’s target audience is world travelers who want local experiences. The W is focused on young/urban trendsetters who like fashion and music. It’s no coincidence the W hotel lobbies resemble a night club.
A large corporation such as Starwood has the resources (money and people) to go after multiple audiences. But what about a small company or startup? Startups need to focus. Pick a single audience/niche/target and solely focus on that until you either win (i.e. become an authority) or fail (i.e. can’t make a business out of it)
In contrast to Starwood, there is a small property in Aspen, CO called The Little Nell.  Most people, including myself, have never heard of it (I did a quick poll of some friends). The Little Nell is “the” place to be in town, if you can afford it, of course. How did they get that reputation? Amazing customer service and doing “the little things” according to Yelp. If you ask regulars or locals about where to stay, they’ll recommend The Little Nell over any other hotel in town.

So the morale of the story is to focus on a specific audience, be excellent at what you do and delight the customer.
I don’t think any of these things are new, but it was interesting to me how it applies across industries and companies of all sizes.

Content Marketing can bring in a whole new revenue stream

I was reviewing next steps with a client around their digital marketing plans – specifically content marketing and SEO. I was telling the client that we needed to beef up content that would help drive organic search traffic.

A salesperson in the room responded that the conversion from SEO traffic was very low and would drag down overall conversion rates, and even if we did convert them, there weren’t good customers.

Here was my response:

1. Organic search traffic is a relatively cheap source of prospect leads. The majority of the leads today come from networking and referrals. So the volume is low and conversions high as those are high touch sales channels. SEO on the other hand is high volume and low touch, which is a completely different way of thinking.

If the high touch sales funnel today takes in 10 leads and converts 1, that’s a 10% conversion rate. And that customer generates $100 profit.
From SEO, your leads are 1000 and you convert 5. That’s a .5% conversion rate. SUCKS! And each customer only generates $50 profit. But as a channel, it drives $250 in profit.
Which would you rather have? This is a very simplistic example, but don’t discount it without seeing the full picture.

2. Networking and Referrals bring in the exact same “type” of leads. They’re friends and all from the same small circles. This leads to a niche product. This is where the real opportunity lies. SEO will bring in a different type of customer. So create a different product that will convert them into better customers.

If you’re just starting on content marketing, keep this in mind – no matter how much you focus on a specific customer, you will bring in visitors that are different. It is your job to determine if those different visitors are good or not.

I see it as an opportunity to learn and see if your product can serve an entirely new audience and revenue stream, one that is currently untapped by you.

How to remove the color flash from the Genesis Agency Pro Theme

genesis agency pro background flash color

I’ve recently started playing with the Genesis Framework and I must say it is pretty impressive, flexible, and confusing all at the same time. I hope the confusion fades away as I get more comfortable.

Anyways, I recently installed the Agency Pro theme for a client. The theme is great, except of the color flash that happens with the background image.

I found several topics in the forums discussing the fix and most pointed to this post (now a paid blog). However, it was wasn’t addressing the problem. It was removing the fading in of the background image, but not removing the flash of the color. Since the above link is now a paid blog, you can read my post about how to remove the fade in.

The fix is to change the background color to black or white before the image loads. That will make it a “blank” area before the image fills in.

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