Advice to my Daughters (and my team)

When I recently read an article about some famous NFL dad’s post to his daughter, it made me think what I would pass on to my daughters.

Once I wrote it down I realized that it’s not just advice for little girls, but appropriate us all.  In particular, I think of my team at the office as they continue to master what we do and master their own life.

Advice to my Daughters

  1. Seek life-changing events. Go to the bigger party. Get off of the couch. Choose the path with the better story.
  2. Master  decisions and learn from outcomes.  Do not confuse the two.  A good outcome does not necessarily mean you made a good decision.
  3. When you’re young (pre-18) you should be rewarded for trying. After that all rewards are based on doing.  Most people struggle with this transition.
  4. Answer to 3 people.  If you’re not sure if you should do something or not do something in life. Take a moment and, in your head, ask 3 people what they would think. For me those 3 people have always been: my mom, my wife and my boss. If I can get all three to agree, in my head, then I’ve passed moral test. They don’t always agree, by the way.

I know I’m missing a money nugget, but I haven’t been able to condense one down into a single profound statement yet.

What do you have?

The Amazon Effect

The thing about Walmart that it forces you to be better. Scott McClelland, H-E-B

For those that whine and complain about the “Walmart Effect” and its impact on their small business, they have another thing coming.

With Amazon’s launch of local state tax collection in California this week it’s only a matter time before the other 49 states fall in line.

Amazon has given up lobbying the various governments to stop or delay local taxation. They are now putting up logistical distribution centers in every state. This is going to allow them to easily make next day or even same-day delivery on significantly more of their inventory.

Do you think every mom-and-pop or even regional retailer has seen this coming and thought about the impact on their sales?  I don’t either, I think very few have seen this coming,

But it’s a game changer that everyone is going to be hit by but few are going to respond and come out better than they started.  Better than Amazon.

The Walmart Effect will pale in comparison to the Amazon Effect.

Counting Your Mistakes

Yesterday a colleague and I had discussions about business issues currently challenging us.

And it reminded me of one of my foundations for how I approach business and personal life.

While I know a popular self-help, professional development approach is to always look for the wins and not worry about the losses, I personally believe that when you look back on a day or week or month it’s more important to look at your mistakes.

I believe it’s important to define and measure yourself against short and long-term goals, mind you. However I think you should combine that with a look at your mistakes.

I like to look back on a day or week or even an entire project and determine how many bad decisions and mistakes I made. The fewer the better.

I feel that one of the ways to win is to make the least mistakes possible.

Maybe it’s me but when I can reduce my mistakes or even eliminate them I find that I’m firing on all cylinders and truly knocking it out of the park.

What do you overachievers think of this attitude?

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

How many brands really manage their presence well from their initial touch point with the consumer while at the top of the sales funnel all the way through to the consumer’s conversion?

I rarely see it happen to be honest.

The best practitioners I’ve seen are those in the automotive space. There the brand coexists with a regional or DMA level entity which also coexists with each individual dealer.

Go ahead Google ‘prius’. I did just now and this is what I got.

Brand and Dealer Coexistence

 

All three coexisting harmoniously.

But at what expense? I’ve heard second hand how little coordination is going on here between the three groups who really number in the thousands throughout the US.

In this case, Wesley Chapel Toyota is cutting a check to Google directly. They’re also paying some fixed percentage into their local co-op, Southeast Toyota Distributors, who is advertising with these funds. And finally they bought the car from the manufacturer, Toyota, who in turn used some of the margin to advertise the Prius.

Is it that competitive in the automotive space that they must own all three of the top spots on AdWords? To do this they are competing against themselves right? That’s the only way you can own all three spots!

Isn’t there a better way to solve this problem?

Being Smart is Overrated

It’s not that it’s bad to be smart. I know a lot of great people, close friends, who are smart. It’s just that there’s this belief that smart equals successful. That’s just not true.

Throughout my my life I’m met some wicked smart people who are just getting by and I’ve met some who many would never use the word smart to describe, yet they successful beyond your wildest dreams.

No, it’s not smart that determines success. Though being smart may give you a head start.

I know this because I have run across many successful people and smart is not what they have in common. What they have in common is they DO things.

They create things that people need. They solve problems that others never even knew were a problem. And they get paid handsomely for this.

So you’re not smart? Big eff’ing deal! If you want to be successful, it’s not a requirement so stop letting it hold you back. Get out there and DO something!

Because Doing Something is NOT overrated!

Think I’m wrong?

Suit Up with Campaign Biographies

Tell the Story – and Learn from It – With a Biography of a Campaign

BiographyThis is about learning from your mistakes and triumphs, and from the mistakes and triumphs of those who came before you. It’s about crashing through the stubborn veil of novelty and unfamiliarity to reach new heights of creativity. It’s about remembering what worked – and avoiding what did not. That’s what a biography of a campaign is meant to do for those who participated in the process, and for those who will join the team in the future. Ultimately, it’s about making things simpler for everyone by creating a concise, detailed story that records the highs, the lows, and all the lessons learned.

Since process simplification is the goal of the biography of a campaign, it might seem a little incongruous to start out with a piece of high-flying rhetoric from one of the great mythologists and scholars of the 20th century. But Joseph Campbell captured the sense of the biography of a campaign with this quote from his 1987 collaboration with Bill Moyers, the PBS documentary, the Power of Myth:

“These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religion over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what the guide signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself. ”

The Power of a Story

Campbell’s passion was story. He made it his life’s work to dig deep into the ancient mythologies of the world, to decipher their similarities, to discover their convergent “guide signs” and make their meanings accessible to modern humanity. The idea wasn’t to find a meaning for life, he said. The idea was to glean lessons from the stories of mythology in order to know how to live well.

Similarly, a biography of a campaign tells the story, warts and all, from birth to post-mortem, of your campaign. It goes far deeper than the typical campaign report which, like any eulogy, tends to emphasize the positive. The biography of the campaign is written as a way to identify what Campbell might call the guide signs. This is particularly useful for people who are new to the company, who might come in knowing “how” to do the work, but have not had the time to decipher “why” things are done the way they’re done at their new place of business. It’s also helpful for those who’ve been around for a while, because it’s not always easy to remember the stage-by-stage details once a project has been put to bed.

Pivotal Moments

The Turning Points

The actual day by day process of writing a campaign biography helps managers recognize the turning points in a campaign, the moments when decisions were made that set the campaign on the path to success. Turning points occur in the form of obstacles, anticipated or unexpected, that must be overcome. Chances are, especially in cases of recurring campaigns, those obstacles are going to reappear – again and again. With a campaign biography committed to memory (or at least near at hand for perusal), the story of how these obstacles were overcome can serve the same function as a recipe for an amateur chef. It’s one thing to be familiar with all the ingredients of a gourmet dish (or the familiar stages of your particular type of campaign). It’s another thing entirely to know how to put those ingredients together in order to create a meal worth eating (or a campaign that returns real value).

Create New Recipes From Old

Old Recipes
The biography of a campaign is also like a recipe in this respect: It is a living document, shaped and enhanced by those who are inclined to put their personal imprint upon it. As you learn the lessons imparted by the campaign biography, you and your team should “spice it up” by implementing what you have learned according to the unique requirements of each ensuing campaign.

In other words, follow the guide signs, but don’t be afraid to veer onto a different path if the moment calls for it. In fact, creative growth depends on the willingness to question the solutions of yesterday. On the other hand, creativity unguided by the knowledge of what came before is often an exercise in banality. For example, the impressionists and surrealists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would’ve been laughed out of Paris if they had not already demonstrated their deep understanding of the traditional forms given to art. They knew intimately what had been done by their predecessors, and for the sake of creativity and truth they decided to do it different – and, depending on your point of view – better. The point is, they built on the successes and mistakes of others, which were well-documented and hung in the salons of Montmartre and the galleries of the Left Bank (not to mention the Louvre).

Suit Up!

Suit UpThat’s why we create the biography of the campaign. It’s not just a to-do list. It’s not just a creative brief. It’s not just a dry campaign report or post-mortem. It’s a story we build today to be told tomorrow. It’s a historical record of our thought processes, our internal struggles, our epiphanies. It’s a way to improve the process of campaign development and implementation, and a way to do better work for our clients. And that, after all, is what it’s about.

Google+ Local: It Really is a Game Changer

Google's Canary In a Coal MineThe conversion of Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages earlier this month was a game changer. Yes, it seems like Google comes out with something shiny and new every other day that can be termed a “game changer,” but this one actually is. Especially for small business owners whose profitability depends on the prominence of their position in a local Google search conducted by potential customers. And more changes are on the way. Big changes.

The Story

In short, what happened on June 1 was Google began the process of converting the business places pages that used to serve as a company’s primary presence in the Google search universe. Those Places pages, when verified by the owner and properly optimized with accurate information about the company, began to dominate many search results about two summers ago.

Google + Local

Now, instead of a Google Places page, companies will have a new Google+ Local page. Much of the same information will be included, but the presentation will be cleaner and – in theory – provide more social functionality for consumers. The five-star rating system Google used for customer comments has been replaced by a 1 through 30 Zagat rating system (think restaurant reviews, only for all types of businesses).

ZagatWhy You Should Care?

Why is it important for business owners to know this? Because this is more than a simple renaming of a product by Google. This is the proverbial canary in the social coal mine, and what happens next could very well shift our whole way of thinking about how we use the Internet for commerce. Google’s commitment to all things social kicked into full gear last year, with the introduction of the Google+ social network. Google+ for business followed, and now comes Google+ Local.

Google+ was greeted with relative indifference. Compared to the nearly 1 billion users on Facebook and 500 million on Twitter, the 90 million Google+ users barely register as a ripple. Business hasn’t ignored it as a way to interact with consumers, certainly, but any social media strategy inevitably begins with Facebook and Twitter (and, increasingly, Path, Pinterest and Instagram).

So, how might the introduction of Google+ Local change that for companies that rely on search position to create conversions and sales (in other words, just about every small business in existence)?

Unlike Google Places pages, Google+ Local pages will be indexed by search engines. This means a well-optimized Google+ Local page is now critical. You might have gotten away with setting up your Google Places page and then ignoring it, as long as your company’s website was optimized and filled with fresh, engaging content on a regular basis. You won’t be able to do that with a Google+ Local page, because this thing is going to show up in the search result. Although no one can predict just how prominent they will become in search results, especially in the ever-shifting world of mobile search, there’s every reason to believe a Google+ Local page might take precedence over your company’s own website. And even if that doesn’t become the case, it would still be foolhardy to ignore your Google+ Local page, because there’s another factor that is steaming our way.

The Longer Term Impact

That factor goes right back to Google’s very public commitment to social. Soon – Google isn’t saying when, exactly – the Google+ Local page will be directly tied to your company’s Google+ business page. As of now, the back end dashboard for the Google+ Local page will be the same as you used for your Google Places page. But that will change when the two become integrated, and there’s another social-related reason for that, as well.

Google Sign InGoogle wants people to sign in under their Google user names when they conduct Internet searches. The most important corporate asset Google has is the user data it collects as people use its products. In the past, people used to be able to interact with businesses on Google Places pages without being signed into a Google+ account. Now, if someone wants to make a comment on a business on a Google+ Local page, they must be signed into their Google+ account. This will eliminate the dreaded anonymous review, which seems great. But that cuts both ways, because people in their Google+ network will immediately know exactly what they think of the business, and potentially make buying decisions based on that opinion. A bad review written with an actual name attached carries much more weight than an anonymous shot that could have been written by a malicious competitor or disgruntled former employee.

The Facebook Threat

The tie-in between Google+ and Google+ Local reveals the real crux of it – Google isn’t trying to become the next Facebook. By tying Google+ personal accounts to Google+ Local reviews, and by tying Google+ Local to your company’s Google+ business page, Google is trying to become all things to all people.

And since Google is still the 800-pound gorilla of search, you need to pay attention to this inexorable shift to social. It matters to the bottom line now, and it’s going to matter a great deal more in the future.

Do you have a different take on this move by Google? Let me hear from you.

Website Development: Don’t Skip the Two Most Important Steps

What do website development, entrepreneurship and awesome sex have in common?

All three can rock your world if you are mentally strong and disciplined enough to practice delayed gratification. Oh, and this: No matter how accomplished you think you are at these things, there’s a decent chance you’re not doing it as well as you could be.

The sex thing? That’s a discussion for another time, maybe over beers once we know each other a little better. And even though I believe anyone who hopes to be successful in the Internet marketing industry would do well to learn as much as possible about the principles of entrepreneurship, the concept of delayed gratification in business is not really what this is about, either.

It’s about this: It is a bad idea to skip or skim over the two most important steps in developing a kick-ass website. But what are those steps? And why are they so important? More on that in a minute.

Listen, if you’re satisfied with your current process for website development; if you think you know what you’re doing and don’t need to know more; if all you care about is the quick fee you’ll make off your next website launch; by all means, feel free to move along. Best of luck to you.

If you’re still reading, good. It means you would have done well as one of those kids in the Stanford marshmallow test. Rather than gobbling down that lone marshmallow in front of you, you have the patience required to discipline yourself to wait for that second marshmallow you were promised.

Here It Is

The two steps you should never – ever – skip or skim over in website development are the precise definition of goals and the proper use of functional mockups.

Website Development Skipped Steps

OK, no big secret, that. Of course you set goals. Of course you use functional mockups. But do you, really?

Here’s the thing. After initial discovery with a client, once you have that first, vague notion of how to proceed, how often do you find yourself skipping directly to the development of design mockups? Come on, be honest. You and I know that’s the fun part – it’s where the artistry of web development lives.

Yet, the artistry can’t come to life without the consummation of a happy marriage between clear, well-defined goals based on a deep and thorough discovery process and a functional wireframe designed specifically to achieve those goals. Only when those two steps are integrated – and approved by the client – is a project truly ready to graduate to the design mockup phase.

Look, I’m not necessarily saying you’re taking lazy shortcuts if you don’t pay enough attention to the definition of goals and the creation of functional mockups. What I’m saying is, you might not even know you’re selling those steps short. The point is, you probably already do this well, but you might not be doing it as well as you could be.

Why?

So, why are these steps so important?

Because well-defined goals establish traceable metrics that tell you – in no uncertain terms – how well or poorly your site is doing. These metrics, in turn, help you learn about what works and what doesn’t, lessons that you can incorporate into your future websites. And using functional mockups the right way allows you to think clearly – without the distraction of a website’s many potential design bells and whistles – about how you intend to achieve those established goals.

It takes time, it takes thought, and yes, it might feel a little painful and tedious at times. It will undoubtedly slow you down and delay the “fun” part, as well as the tangible reward of a launched and successful site. In some respects, it takes the magic out of website development, because you are forced to do things a little more clinically.

But these two steps are absolutely mandatory if you want to deliver meaningful results to your clients and reach your full potential in the industry. And why would you settle for less than your full potential? Be strong. Be patient. Practice discipline. Trust me on this – it’s worth the wait.

And You?

Have you seen these steps skipped? Tell me your war story below?

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