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?

 

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.

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.

A little PR for @myflightinfo

A little PR goes a long long way for @myflightinfo

I launched the bot during the first week of January this year.  Actually, it was a few days before the Miracle on the Hudson event.  So, I decided to hold off on the marketing.

I was marketing the bot to those I though would find it useful.  I would keep a search column open for “flight status” on Tweetdeck and when a tweet matched, I would review and send a reply if it made sense.  This was simple, easy and non-intrusive.  But I knew it wasn’t going to garner the followers to make it into a successful product.

On Monday Feb. 9, a tweet went out from @mashable linking to a post by @iElliott on productivity with twitter.
Update: I did not approach @mashable or @iElliott for a plug.  I assume they found it to be useful and wanted to share it with their readers.

@mashable tweet
@mashable tweet

This started the flow of followers.  Before the tweet, there were about 12 followers; 24 hours later, 270.  It was mad rush in the first few hours and has slowed to a trickle now.  (I will see if can plot the follower flow) The majority of followers is in the US, which is good, cause the product mostly supports US and large international airlines.

map of @myflightinfo
map of @myflightinfo

Now the hard part of delivering what the followers want – a simple and useful product.

I have lots of ideas about how to make it better, but I’d like to incorporate what the users want.

If you have any comments/questions/suggestions please send to @myflightinfo or to me at my personal account @lmai

Don’t forget to check your flight status with @myflightinfo !!
You can get your own map of followers at http://www.ironmonkeyventures.com/mapmytweeps

Facebook execs selling their shares

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_33/b4096000952343.htm

Business Week article says Facebook execs are selling their shares.

2 interesting things
1.  There really isn’t supposed to be a market for this, and VC firms frown upon this.  Apparently FB is addressing this internally.
2.  The valuation is around $3.5 – $5 billion.  That’s way below the $15 billion valuation Microsoft paid.