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?

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?

Why I Wasn’t Invited to Speak at TEDx Tampa Bay

I’m Not

I’m not a player.  I’m not a sought-after speaker.  My blog doesn’t draw thousands of visitors each day (maybe in a month it does).

TEDx

So why wasn’t I invited to share my wisdom at the 2011 TEDx Tampa Bay?

The A-Crowd

In high school I wasn’t in the A-Crowd.  Heck when I got there I wasn’t even in the C-Crowd.  But I wanted more.  More friends like any teenager. I wanted people to want to be with me.

That hasn’t changed has it?  I want to be popular.  Have people listen to me speak.  Pay me money to speak.  I want TEDx to want me.

I wanted the invite.

Yearbook Photographer

In high school I wasn’t a jock.  So I took my photography skill and became the yearbook and newspaper photographer.  Bingo.  It was admission to the A-Crowd.  It was an identity.  People knew my name.
High School Photographer

At the 10 and 20 year reunions, they knew my name.

I have something to say.  But I haven’t found an audience.  That’s OK, I’ll keep talking.  Everyone says I need to speak to my audience about them and not be about me.  But that’s all I know.  Me.  Not them.  I can only tell my story and hope that it will connect with someone.

Backstage Pass

Today I still want to be in that A-Crowd even if it means I have to work my way in.  I’m headed to the invite-only Mashable Connect in May.  Not as Mark Regan, but as Mark Regan an the Internet Marketing guy at Coast Dental.  My application as Mark Regan was denied.  So I reapplied as Coast Dental and BAM, I’m in.

Mashable Connect

Did they want titles?  Did they want to make sure there were no salesmen, scammers or affiliate kings? I don’t know, but I’m in.  Again everyone will know my name.

Maybe I can back-door TEDx the same way.  Do you guys want me to speak as Coast Dental?  Maybe as a great husband or Gator fan?  Maybe I can connect you with someone important or in some way make you important.

Kingmaker

That’s what I did in high school without knowing it.  I was a kingmaker in my own right.  I held the keys to yearbook immortality.  Do I need to find a 2011 equivalent before I can be invited to speak at TEDx?

Maybe I’ll try to find it.

Maybe I’ll just continue to be me and one day a TEDx by a different name will recognize me, care what I have say and invite me to speak at their event.

I Invited Me

I’m not waiting for them.  I’m not waiting to be picked.  I’ve picked myself and moved on to my next great masterpiece.

It’s me.  Want to know more?

Elections Are Not Customer-Focused

I Voted

ELECTION DAY

Today is Election Day and in my usual manner I crammed my research into the last 24 hours before voting this morning.  I do that every time I vote.

But as I’m driving to my precinct I was reminded of how many people don’t vote because they are uninformed.  Much like a customer who is not ready to buy, they don’t buy.

In marketing we say “be there when the customer is ready to buy.”

YEAR-ROUND ELECTIONS

So why can’t the election process work the same way?  Let’s have a constant election process that lets people make their voice heard when they are ready and interested in voting.

Sure you would have to address issues like consistency in office, moderating impacts from current events and such, but you wouldn’t have this massive rush of only a very small minority of people making decisions for the masses.

Let’s put voting software in the card swipe at gas stations and grocery stores.

THE DIFFERENCE

Of course this is just a joke.  I say it to only contrast the difference between decision-making out there.  We marketers pace ourselves to be there when the customer wants to decide.  Elected officials only put on their customer face once every 4 years.

I envy them.

Digital Assets: Choosing Between Customer Satisfaction And Sales Integrity

Recently I purchased two digital products that did not meet my satisfaction. The way each company handled the situation brought to light how complicated business can be when your product has zero production costs.

Digital assets follow the rule: the first instance costs thousands/millions to create. The cost of creating the 2nd and subsequent instances is effectively zero. So how do you protect that asset if there is no way to return the product with certainty it was not used, duplicated or sold?

Experience #1


Last month I bought an audiobook from iTunes: Trust Agents. It’s a great book, highly recommended and well worth the read. I knew that before I bought it and I still believe it. However the audio version needs a lot of work. The two authors, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, actually narrated the audiobook. I’m not sure why some people want to do that. And if they do there should be some gatekeeper auditioning the authors as narrators. One of the two authors would consistently drop the volume of each sentence towards the end so that the last word was whispered. I listen to 3-4 audiobooks a month on my drive to/from work. It was in my Top 3 “A Pain To Listen To”. I stopped listening after chapter 3.

Having spent $20 for the audiobook I was a little upset. Years ago I would have chalked it up as a loss and just fumed. But not in today’s world. I decided an email to iTunes would only take 2 minutes of my life. So I explained my dissatisfaction and sent it away. After an immediate auto-reply I received an email from John within 4 hours.

Dear Mark,

I’m sorry to learn that this item did not meet the standard of quality you have come to expect from the iTunes Store.

I have reversed the charge for “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust”. In three to five business days, a credit of $20.95 should be posted to a combination of the credit card that appears on the receipt for that purchase and your store credit.

I have also submitted this item for investigation. Apple takes the quality of the items offered on the iTunes Store seriously and will investigate the issue with this item, but I can’t say when or if the issue will be resolved. Please try again in a few weeks.

Thank you for your understanding. I hope that you continue to enjoy using the iTunes Store.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue, please feel free to reply to this email and I will do my best to assist you.

Sincerely,
John
iTunes Store Customer Support

Of course the credit was applied within 24 hours not 3-5 business days. This was handled so professionally I felt guilty for even asking for the refund.

Experience #2

Next up was a Joomla-WordPress integration tool from CorePHP. I had been pining away for this tool to use here on this site to integrate this blog (WordPress) into the look-and-feel of the website (Joomla). When I finally forked over the $80 I realized (or so I thought) that it was meant for another purpose. It would not work for me. I was bummed. Certain I could not use the tool I emailed their support team explaining what I really needed and asking for a refund given my misunderstanding. Yes, you would think that since it was not an impulse buy that I wouldn’t have made this mistake. And you’d be right, read on.

No auto-reply to my email was received, but I did receive a less than satisfying response from CorePHP within an hour:

Mark,

‘corePHP’ does not offer a cash refund or any exchanges once they have been downloaded. Unlike physical goods, electronically distributed software and software licenses can be easily duplicated. Accordingly, it is our policy that once we have distributed a release version to a customer, the sale is final and the software can not be returned for a refund or credit. Please refer to our Return policy as stated on our site: http://www.xxxxxx.com/subscription-plans.html#TOS

The WordPress is a product that sets inside of the Joomla, so the Joomla site is still in it’s normal state. The demo site shows how the site works. If you have any issues that you wish the developer to assist you with feel free to ask, and they can help you.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Kindest Regards,

********
‘corePHP’

Here’s my problem with this response.

  1. He didn’t address the true cause of my refund request. I actually explained what I thought it would do and that it didn’t meet my needs. Had he tried to solve that problem he would have shown me that the product actually does do what I need it to do. I had pulled the refund trigger too quickly. Of course I didn’t find this out until I was told I had no recourse for refunding my money. It was then I that I spent the time to look at the tool more closely and realize it does do what I need.
  2. Having a policy that penalizes the legitimate refund requests to protect the company against the scammers is wrong. You should not build your business model protecting yourself against all forms of attack. Just the most likely ones, which this is not. Any scammer who wants this product is going to find it for free or pay $80 and share it liberally. Their policy does not stop that, but it does penalize me unnecessarily.

I don’t have a problem with CorePHP. I’ve intentionally not linked to their site because I’m not interested in bashing them. I only use them as an example. They have a good product that I am still working on deploying. My issue was with the blanket “no” response that was obviously a canned response since the sale could have been saved and this post never have been written.

Results

In the end I have consumed both of the products that I asked for refund. The book was eventually bought in hardcover because I really did want to read it. And the tool is slowly being deployed on this website.

I don’t envy companies that sell a digital product. However I do believe that the online world again mirrors the offline world when it comes to customer satisfaction. You must do what’s right for the customer. My loyalty to iTunes only grew from my experience. CorePHP will need to do a little more to earn that level of loyalty.

How far is too far when growing your network through online friends, connections and followers?

ConnectionsLast Thursday morning I went to an intimate vendor presentation attended by me and two other companies.  I was there early enough to enjoy the bagels and drinks and meet the other two women attending and exchange business cards with them.  At the time they both appeared as new people in my life.

During the presentation I looked more closely at one woman and she started to look familiar to me.  So I looked at her business card and her name was familiar to me this time.  So I tuned out for the next 5 minutes to go on an obsession binge of mine.  Whipping out my Blackberry Storm I pulled up my LinkedIn profile to see if we shared a connection.

Oh Crap!

We were connected on LinkedIn!  We didn’t share a common acquaintance.  We were first degree connections.  How could I not know her?

I am not one of the people obsessed with growing my LinkedIn database with random invite requests.  Every invite request I’ve sent out or accepted has been the result of an actual in-person meeting or a 1-to-1 email exchange.  A type of interaction where I would not be ashamed to ask for a LinkedIn connection.

So what was broken here?  Some of my guesses:

  1. My memory: That’s not an unlikely reason for me not recognizing her.  I’m not the best at remembering people.  But here’s the kicker on that one.  I found her in my Outlook Contacts.  Not the main one we all keep up-to-date, but rather Outlook’s “Collected Contacts” database that gets created on the fly from all of your emails sent or received.  A quick look at the date it was created found April of 2009.  Less than a year ago!  Again, what is going wrong with my memory that I have had a interaction with someone less than a year ago not not know from where?
  2. Two of my worlds have collided: Maybe I met her socially and decided to link with her.  It’s rare that I do that, but I do think differently socially than I do professionally so maybe that’s why I don’t remember her.  I also meet a lot more people outside of work than I do at work so I could then blame it again on #1 above, my memory.
  3. I don’t know here well enough to be LinkedIn: I’m beginning to think that must be the answer.  Given the email exchange (which I could not find) I guess I went out there any linked in to her.  Not proud of that.  That is not what I want to be known for or to use LinkedIn for.  It devalues it and the relationships I have with those already on LinkedIn.

So what’s the moral here?

First I’m going to reach out to that woman and have an email exchange so that I can justify having her in my list of connections.  But more important than that I’m going to be more diligent in growing and cataloging my relationships in the various social networks.

Twitter is a different beast and serves a different role regarding followers and the implied relationship we have with them.  Facebook is yet another that has grown from a high school reunion into a “your life as a cocktail party“.  But if LinkedIn is truly “your resume” as quoted by Brent Britton then you really need to know everyone there.

And finally if you’re reading this and we’re connected on LinkedIn when we shouldn’t be, feel free to un-link me.  I’ll send a request when I deserve it.

How To Display A Vanity Phone Number

I have always been bothered by vanity phone numbers.  Maybe it’s the slow process of translating letters to numbers.  Maybe it’s that once I had a cell phone which had no letters on the keypad making vanity phone numbers useless.

My guess is that it really is those phone numbers that have more than 7 letters/digits in them.  This imprecision just bothers me.  It makes me wonder if people dial the 8th, 9th and 10th digit needlessly.  Anything beyond 10 digits (not including area code/800) grates on me for a different reason.  That is just missing the whole point of a vanity phone number.

Well this morning I found peace.  Air Rescue has found a way to use more than 7 digits without bothering me.  Take a look at this photo I took as well as their website.   They have treated the extra letters (I-T) differently in this car’s paint job and that to me is approaching perfection.  They have realized that some of us don’t like the extra digits and put our minds at rest that they are not needed.

For any small business wanting to display their vanity phone number, take note.  It is details like this in the execution of your marketing that make a difference.

Thank you Air Rescue!

Is a business coach just a therapist?

I have a meeting this week with a business coach.  I’m curious about how this works.  Will he just be more of a therapist or will he bring some business knowledge to the table and help me with my current struggles of strategy and salesmanship?