Side Hustle Time

  

It is never a bad time to start a side hustle. The ability to learn new skills, earn additional income, or help others is critical for personal and professional growth. A side hustle is not about quitting your job (at least not initially), it’s about starting a side project(s), in addition to your full-time job. Examples could be starting a landscaping business, house painting, building man caves, or teaching at a local community college. A side hustle does not have to take the place of your full-time job, but it can provide you with a platform to eventually operate your own business full-time (if that is your ultimate goal).

Starting a side hustle has many positives. The most notable benefit is additional income. A side hustle can provide a wide range of new sources of money (e.g., blogging, dog walking, writing, photography). Dependent on your goals, you might focus on an additional $500 per month, or thousands of extra dollars. Whatever the goal, be realistic and patient. Side hustles usually take time before you start earning money. However, the work you put into the new project will be well-worth the effort.

Another benefit is the ability to learn and utilize new skills. You might work a full-time job as an accountant but you love woodworking. Maybe your side hustle is building fancy dog houses. The ability to not disrupt your regular income stream, while doing something you love, is a great way to keep your skills sharp and provide new ways to stay creative and positive (it is too easy to get negative working in many organizations).

Staying sane is another important benefit. Too often you work in jobs or organizations that do not provide a challenging or engaging environment. The job makes you feel awful, or just bored or disinterested. The ability to leave “hell” each day and do something you love and which makes you feel great is incredibly important to your mental and physical well-being.

Not all of us can quit our day jobs. We have bills, responsibilities, etc. However, knowing that at the end of the day the “real fun” begins is a great way to change your attitude. For example, if you studied market research but cannot utilize the skills in your current organization, start a market research company and keep your skills sharp. Or volunteer at a local non-profit and use your research knowledge. The ability to practice your skills, help an organization you believe in, and gain new personal contacts is invaluable for future success.

In addition, starting a side hustle is great insurance for any disruption to your current career. What if you get laid off next week from your current job? Do you have at least 6 months of savings to live on? Are you prepared to apply for a new job, wait, interview, wait, don’t hear back, etc? The job market is tough and finding a new job takes time. Don’t wait for bad times. Starting a side hustle can help buffer any unexpected disruption with your current career.

Also, the ability to earn additional income as you age is another great benefit of a side hustle. Most of us will need to work later in life. Doing something you love which provides additional income is a great way to offset future medical expenses or allow you to have amazing vacations every year (why live on a strict budget when a bit of extra effort can result in great gains). The more you apply your skills outside your current job, the less stress and frustration you will experience with your day-to-day job, and live a much better life.

There are some negatives associated with side hustles. Excessive focus on a side hustle can jeopardize your full time job. You don’t want to “drop the ball” on your main source of income while building the side gig. You need to make sure the side hustle does not creep into your 9 to 5 world. You don’t want your boss getting upset as you work on the side hustle during normal business hours. Work on the side hustle before or after work hours, or during lunch. Do not provide the “corporate rumor mill” to accuse you of working on your own business during “company time”.

Another negative is time. Starting a side hustle takes a lot of time and effort. If you are serious about your side hustle, you need to realize that many things will need to take a backseat as you build the new venture. Forget about TV and Netflix. Forget about spending hours per day on social media (unless you are using it for your business). Forget about watching 8 hours of football on Sunday. You need to focus on time management. You have to continually plan how you will divide your time between work, family, friends, and the side hustle (and you need to schedule some downtime). Use tools such as a daily planner, checklists, or other ways to ensure you are effective and efficient with your time.

When is the best time to start a side hustle? Now! Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Just jump in and start. Stop reading book after book on the topic you love, and start applying your learnings. You are only on this planet for a finite number of years – so don’t waste time. The sooner you begin, the quicker your side hustle will allow you to achieve your goals. In addition, you do not want to be 90 years old sitting on your porch, wishing you tried – don’t become a cliché. Don’t wish and dream; do.

No matter your success, you will learn and grow as you focus on the side hustle. Don’t get disappointed if you fail or things take much longer than planned. Building a side hustle is a marathon, not a sprint. If you love your current job or hate it, a side hustle is a great opportunity to grow. The ability to learn new skills, share your skills with others, and earn additional income is a great way to leverage your free time.

So stop making excuses. Stop wasting time. Live your life and do things you love. You only live once, so do not let this opportunity pass.

The System of Profound Knowledge

Global business is becoming increasingly volatile and competitive. These massive changes are due to socio-economic issues, changing demographic needs, and the ever-quickening advancement of technology. In this chaotic and extremely competitive environment, leaders need to focus on continuous improvement throughout the entire organization.

Leaders need to ensure the organization is positioned for long-term success. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, primarily known as the God of Quality and the usage of statistical control techniques, focused on areas where management needs apply energy; understanding of statistical control techniques, the realization of everything being a process, and the importance on focusing on people, not technology, costs, or other variables. Deming felt that true organizational change had to come from the top-down.

Through his many years of teaching and consulting, Deming developed his System of Profound Knowledge. The system was composed of four key areas to direct management in the process of driving improvement and change throughout an organization. Deming felt that along with the use of statistical control techniques, management need to focus on the following four items.

  1. Appreciation of a system: understand the entire process, include customers, suppliers, etc., and understand how all interact with one another; think of a system as a single entity with all elements working together; the system needs to seek a steady state of operation which determines overall output
  2. Knowledge of variation: understand statistical sampling in measurements; understand the difference between common and special causes of variation; constantly seek a steady state with minimal variation
  3. Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known; knowledge must follow theory
  4. Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.

These four points interact with one another. You cannot use one and not the other. Applying these four items focuses on managers to see everything as a process, everything is within a system, and all things are accomplished by people. Management needs to understand that people get things done. In addition, all people are different so a manager must be aware of the differences and ensure the overall system is developed so all individuals can succeed.

In addition to these four points, Deming also developed his 14 Points for Management. These points were presented in his book Out of the Crisis. These 14 points are recognized as the foundation of the total quality management (TQM) movement. These points should be applied in conjunction with the System of Profound Knowledge four key points. The System of Profound Knowledge is the basis for application of Deming’s famous 14 Points for Management, described below.

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.
  5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

For a well-run system, management must understand and support the use of statistical controls to eliminate variation. These points can be used in all areas of the organization; production, engineering, marketing, customer researcher, etc. This mindset and approach to business are opposite of the way most organizations operate.

Too often leaders will not break with tradition nor upset the status quo. For true change and success, leaders need to embrace change, creativity, and innovation to develop competitive advantages. Doing what you have always done is not sufficient.

The need for a forward-thinking leader with the courage to break from the status quo is required. Ongoing support, training, and the understanding of the different components to eliminate variability will result in a stronger, well-run, people-focused organization.

Deming’s theories and teachings were one of the main reasons for Japan’s post-WWII success. In addition, Deming helped turn around Ford Motor Co. after the era of cost reductions from Robert McNamara and his “whiz kids”. Deming’s teachings resulted in the all-new 1986 Taurus that was the first product that used customer research before product development started. The success of the Taurus also demonstrated Ford’s commitment to quality.

I highly recommend reading Deming’s books and his various papers. Don’t be intimidated by the focus on statistics. Developing an understanding of the importance of measurements and controlling variability is critical for continuous improvement. Management must understand that everything is a process, and must be viewed as a system of inter-related parts. The more you think of everything as a system, change can be fun and engaging. Employee morale will improve, quality will increase, costs will decrease, and overall operational tempo will be much higher. As a combination, these are difficult for competitors to replicate.

References

  • https://deming.org/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming
  • https://asq.org/
  • The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education by Deming
  • Out of the Crisis by Deming
  • The Essential Deming by Dr. Joyce Orsini
  • Drastic Changes for Western Management by W. Edwards Deming
  • Management’s Responsibility for the Use of Statistical Techniques in Industry by W. Edwards Deming
  • What Happened in Japan? By W. Edwards Deming
  • Report to Management by W. Edwards Deming
  • On the Use of Theory by W. Edwards Deming

Market Research: Biases and Ethics

When conducting market research (MR), two key areas to be aware of are biases and ethics. Bias is defined as prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group; typically in an unfair way. Ethics are the moral principles that govern your behavior or how you conduct an activity. In this age of fake news, it is critical to ensure your research minimizes bias (yours and respondents) and you conduct ethical research. Conducting your research with minimal bias and with an ethical behavior is critical as a provider of market information to drive decision making, solve problems, or identify new opportunities.

Biases

You need to be aware of bias when conducting market research (MR). It is very easy to allow your biases to influence your research. Your biases can affect how you plan your research, design the research study, write your questionnaire, or interpret data. You must stay objective.

To avoid bias or uncover it when reviewing someone else’s research you must use critical thinking to analyze and evaluate the data and findings. Ask questions such as, who developed the research, why was it conducted, how was it conducted, etc. Think critically, carefully judge the results and conclusions, use logical reasoning, and be very objective. Keep emotions in check and maintain an open mind. During secondary research, do not let findings cloud your objectivity as you conduct your exploratory qualitative research.

During qualitative and quantitative data gathering, bias typically occurs due to how you word questions. Bias also occurs how you ask the questions. Therefore, avoid using biased language that encourages respondents to choose a specific answer or response. For example, do not use positive language such as “do you agree with …” The positive language will possibly sway the interviewee.

The same can happen with negative language or leading questions. You want to avoid influencing respondents in any way. For example, “If you found out your motorcycle was built with inexpensive and questionable parts from China, would you change your mind about Japanese motorcycles (Weston, 2009)?”

Leading questions can prompt or encourage a specific answer. For example, Isn’t it true that Japanese cars are more reliable than American-made automobiles? or “Don’t you agree that providing children with mandatory healthcare is a right of every citizen?” or “How would you rate career of legendary football quarterback Joe Montana?”.

During qualitative data gathering, maintain a relative level of anonymity and neutrality. Do not share too much personal information with the people you are interviewing. You can introduce bias if attendees know facts about you such as you were born in a foreign country, you are a Democrat, you hunt, or other personal information. Knowing about you and your beliefs can cause interviewees to stereotype resulting in agreement or disagreement with what you ask. Also, be cognizant of what you wear during the research. If you are interviewing farmers in Nebraska, you probably don’t want to display tattoos, piercings, or wear a t-shirt emblazoned with a Democratic senator’s face on it. Don’t take the chance, be neutral. Your job is to gather information, not present your opinions. Also, don’t ask about past events. Another bias to avoid is selection bias.

Human’s memories are not very accurate. Recall bias may occur causing past events to be remembered differently, skewing results (Wheelan, 2013). For example, if you ask someone how he or she felt when they first rode a motorcycle 25 years ago, you will not get an accurate response. They might remember it as a joyful experience, but at the time, they were very scared and did not want to ride. Human memory is fragile, try to avoid historical questions as much as possible. If you include historical questions, provide cues to assist the respondent in remembering past events . Recent experiences are typically more accurate than past events.

Selection bias (sometimes referred to as sampling error) occurs when you select a sample that is not representable of the population (it weakens external validity, or the ability to generalize the results to the overall population). It can easily cause the sample to provide inaccurate or misleading information. For example, you want to survey people on the general attitudes of U.S. citizens towards gun ownership. If you only survey white males, over 55 years old, and living in southern Arkansas, there is a strong probability your results will note strong, positive attitudes toward gun ownership. For a proper understanding of U.S. citizens’ opinions on gun ownership, you need to sample a wide range of people, from different ethnic groups, and geographical locations. To avoid selection bias (and potentially inaccurate results), have several people review the sampling procedure to ensure no issues are identified (before you conduct the research).

Most importantly, strive to be objective in every aspect of your research. From planning to writing surveys to choosing a sample and interpreting data, the only things that matter are your objectivity and integrity. Be viewed as someone who honestly reports what is happening in the market, not sugarcoating bad news or trying to get something you want to be approved. If you gathered the data objectively and it agrees with your hypotheses, then your intuition was right. However, always let the data guide decision-making (along with subject-matter knowledge and intuition). Lastly, have several people review your discussion guide or questionnaire; this will help identify and eliminate any potential issues (before you conduct research).

Do not allow your experience to bias your research. Begin  your research with naivety and an open mind. Also, be extremely ethical in how you conduct your research. Ethics play a major part in research. Your integrity and ethical behavior and actions are what communicates your reputation as a source of accurate and reputable information.

Ethics

Ethics are the moral principles that guide an individual’s behavior. As a market researcher, you must conduct yourself with honesty, fairness, and confidentiality (MRA, 2013). Most importantly, you must always treat respondents with respect and in a professional manner (MRA, 2013). You need to handle respondent data with confidentiality. Your integrity as a trusted source of information is dependent on your professionalism and objectivity. You must always report your MR results accurately and honestly (MRA, 2013). The following are a few areas to pay attention when conducting MR. Most importantly, have empathy and respect for participants.

Avoid invading the subject’s privacy. Maintain respect and confidentiality of your respondents’ personal information and data (Graham, 2003). As organizations collect an increasing amount of consumer data, you must honor respondent requests. For example, if a customer requests to be removed from an email list, remove her information. Don’t frustrate customers.

Breaches of confidentiality is another ethical issue for researchers. Sharing customer information without their permission is unethical and can often result in legal penalties. For example, you sell your customer data to another company, and they solicit business from these customers. Never share respondent information without permission.

You need to be transparent; honor all promises to respondents (MRA, 2013). For example, do not cloak MR as a covert way to sell your products or services. Research should be a stand-alone activity that focuses on gathering data to answer questions and drive business decisions. Never allow sales pitches or product endorsements during your research.

Most importantly, your research should never harm. Do not harm subjects (physically or mentally) when conducting a field experiment. For example, you perform a taste test between two beverages. You do not inform the participants that the drinks contain alcohol. One person has an adverse reaction to alcohol and goes to a hospital. A second subject was a recovering alcoholic and now begins drinking again. Not clearly explaining the research to respondents can result in harmful effects on participants and flawed results. Approach your research with the mindset that if your study were shared on national news, your friends and family would be proud.

Another way researchers conduct unethical research is with lengthy qualitative data gathering sessions. For example, you recruit focus group participants for a 90-minute session. At two hours, you keep asking questions and explain that you only need a few more minutes of their time. After 180 minutes, attendees start complaining and state they do not want to participate any longer. You must protect the respondents’ rights and respect their requests. Your research should not adversely affect attendees.

Never lie and subject individuals or groups to unreasonable research tactics. No matter how many executives are behind the one-way mirror and keep requesting additional questions, it is your job to focus on the attendee’s health and well-being and treat them accordingly. Keep respondents happy and you will be able to contact them later for future research studies.

Ethical behavior is critical in every aspect of the business. However, as a market researcher, you are beholden to higher standards and trusted with customer’s confidential information. Always conduct MR ethically. Don’t lie to respondents, don’t manipulate the data to tell a story, and most importantly do not design a research study to support personal agendas.

Conclusion

Ensuring your MR has minimal bias and is conducted with a high level of ethical behavior is critical for a successful project. Minimizing bias with awareness, critical thinking, and careful planning will ensure you collect valuable information to inform decision makers, help solve problems, or find new market opportunities.

Ethical research is critical to your reputation as a source of objective and accurate data. Never take “short cuts” or deceive when planning and conducting research. Avoid negatively influencing participants with leading language, deceitfully worded questions, or field experiments that are “gamed” to produce a desired result.

As a market researcher, it is your obligation as a trusted source of information to gather data and present it accurately. Holding yourself to high standards will ensure you have a strong reputation as a trusted source of valuable information that strives to improve the organization, rather than political or personal gains. Always ask questions to ensure your research plan, questionnaire, analysis, etc., is unbiased and conducted ethically.

 

Podcasting 101

         

Are you trying to promote yourself as a subject matter expert (SME)? Do you want to share tools and techniques to help people succeed? Do you need a way to build awareness but have a small budget? Have you thought about starting a podcast?

The last several months I have been learning to podcast and developing episodes for a June launch (I plan to have ten episodes uploaded to provide immediate content for listeners). I thought I would share my experience to help you pursue this path with minimal pain and expense. If you like sharing information and want to expand your reach and increase awareness, podcasts are a great way to get noticed and build your business.

Podcasts are growing in popularity and are an economical way to create and distribute regular content. So what is a podcast? It’s an episodic series of digital audio. You record an episode, upload it to a web host, and people listen to it on computers, phones, etc., anytime, anywhere. Pretty simple.

Just like terrestrial radio but on the internet. The best part is you have total control of your content, production, etc., unlike radio which has editors, is difficult to get on, and has a lot of legal restrictions. Podcasts are the wild west of the new age of digital media.

The best part of starting a podcast is you can talk about any subject. You also don’t need any fancy equipment. Just use your smartphone’s voice recorder, upload the file to your computer, edit it, and upload to your web host. The production level won’t be very high, but it is a great way to “dip your toes” in the world of podcasting without spending money. Here is a great article to show you what you might need (https://www.omnicoreagency.com/best-podcast-equipment/).

Once you get some experience and decide you really want to do this long-term, you will need some higher-end equipment. There are many different levels of equipment (e.g., price, performance), from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, and a lot in between (https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-equipment/). Podcasting will not break the bank. I highly recommend you watch lots of YouTube videos and read various blogs (as well as listening to a lot of podcasts) to figure out what works best for you. I am a total geek, so I read lots of books, watched hundreds of videos, and listened to hundreds of podcasts to learn this really cool digital media platform.

What pulled me in to the podcast world was my love of comedy. Comedians are the pioneers in this relatively new medium. Comedians such as Marc Maron (http://www.wtfpod.com/), Adam Corolla (http://adamcarolla.com/), and Joe Rogan (http://podcasts.joerogan.net/) led the charge. They realized they could control the content and the medium while providing content their fans enjoyed.

Other comedians followed and realized the benefit to their careers. Comedians such as Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky (http://www.yourmomshousepodcast.com/), Bert Kreischer (http://bertcast.com/), and Ari Shaffirr (http://www.arishaffir.com/category/podcast/) built massive followings that turbocharged their careers. The majority of comedians have podcasts – good or bad.

Many celebrities have also started podcasts to build new audiences and additional income streams. Professional wrestler Steve “Stone Cold” Austin has a great podcast (https://www.podcastone.com/Steve-Austin-Show), actor Dax Shepard just started his podcast (http://podbay.fm/show/1345682353), and historian Dan Carlin has one of the best history podcasts (https://www.dancarlin.com/). Most of these podcasters create their episodes in their homes. It doesn’t take a fancy studio or expensive studio-grade equipment. You just need passion for your topics and to produce great content.

When creating episodes, the following is a very high-level to-do list.

  1. Decide on a topic
  2. Create an outline or script
  3. Record
  4. Edit
  5. Upload
  6. Share
  7. Promote

Develop a theme you want the podcast to cover (e.g., business, history, car racing, model trains). Make sure you have a clear target audience and know what they like to listen to (e.g., topic, length of episode). Dependent on the type of podcast you decide to create – interview people, share information, discuss various topics, etc., you will need to do the following.

Podcasts take a lot of work. You need to create and post new content weekly. You want fresh content to keep listeners coming back each week, as well as ensuring you are found during search results (Google search loves fresh content).

It requires new skills (e.g., recording, editing, promoting). The benefits will help you develop your business or improve your skills at your current organization. For example, the ability to create audio and video content allows you to transfer the same skills to your market research reports, new product requests, etc. The more interactive your content is, the higher the overall engagement.

Here is a rough overview of how I am figuring out the podcast world. I knew I wanted to do this and wanted a well-produced show, but on a budget (except the microphone and recorder). I did not want to pay someone every week to edit and produce my shows; I knew I could do it myself.

My podcast consists of weekly episodes focused on business strategy and innovation topics. The podcast is not focused on interviews, so I do not have to worry about finding guests. I just need a weekly topic that will help people become much better at business.

I purchased the following equipment (along with estimated expenses):

  • Zoom H4n Pro recorder w/extra memory cards – $220
  • Zoom H4n Pro accessory kit – $50
  • Heil PR40 microphone, boom arm, C-clamp mount, shock mount, cables, pop filter, and windscreen – $500
  • External hard drive – $150
  • Sony MDF7506 Pro Headphones – $80
  • Logo – $65

The total I’ve spent is about $1,000. The Zoom recorder and Heil microphone are high-end, but I decided to spend the extra money as I wanted high-quality sound to provide a professional image. In addition, I knew I was going to do this for a long time and wanted to invest in good equipment up-front.

You can start your own professional-sounding podcast with a lot less money. There are some great microphones for about $100 (a Blue Yeti microphone is excellent and only $130) and you can record directly into Audacity, so no need for a recorder.

You can also buy a low-cost mixing board for about $75, to allow you to ensure your audio levels are perfect (I use the Zoom recorder for this). I like the mobility of the recorder to take on the road and be ready to develop episodes or interview people on a moment’s notice, so there will be multiple uses.

I’ve spent the last few months learning Audacity, free audio editing software. There is a lot of audio editing software available but Audacity is easy to learn and gets the job done – for free. I also practice every day to improve my on-air voice – try to eliminate awkward pauses, weird mouth noises, etc. (just become good at speaking into a microphone).

I hired someone from www.Fiverr.com to create a logo. This logo will be used on iTunes and other places I upload my episodes, as well as my website. In addition, I will use it for my microphone cube, to look really cool during video episodes.

I also plan to hire someone to record a professional sounding intro and outro for each episode. A professional intro keeps people engaged while a professional outro reminds listeners where to find additional information, how to subscribe to the podcast, and share various calls-to-action (CTA).

If you have a website created in WordPress you will need the Blubrry plug-in to handle the files (https://www.blubrry.com/). You also need a web host for your files (such as Libsyn (https://www.libsyn.com/)). It takes a little work to figure out how to use these, but there are plenty of great videos to help you get started.

Don’t freak out. This is not really difficult, just takes some time and a plan. The more organized you can be while developing the podcast, the easier it will be.

Each episode consists of several different audio tracks:

  • Professional intro
  • Background music
  • Episode intro
  • Episode
  • Background music
  • Episode outro
  • Professional outro

I am still developing the “design” of the podcast, but using seven separate tracks in each episode provides a professional and engaging podcast. I drop each track into Audacity, set the various settings (e.g., normalization, compression, equalization), combine each with proper fade-ins and fade-outs, and develop informative show notes.

A few months before I launch the podcast I will interact on various groups or forums (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn). Daily interactions will help “prime the pump” prior to my full launch – get people to notice me as a reliable source of business information. Then in June I will post within the various groups and forums about each episode. Each weekly episode will also be supported by a related blog post and video. I also have a detailed content calendar to ensure a continuous stream of daily and weekly information.

I try to be as efficient as possible, so when I am developing each script, I leverage the content to write my blog post and record videos. I am able to develop and create multiple pieces of content by myself, without the need to outsource. I am serious about growing my training and consulting business, so I do all this work during my lunch hour and at night and weekends (I currently have a 9 to 5 job). I have basically given up TV, though still read a lot.

It takes time and dedication to create a weekly podcast, but I have a lot of fun developing, recording, and editing each episode. In addition, I now have several new skills to leverage for future job opportunities. I am using my free time to learn new skills and develop my side hustle (which I hope will become full-time).

If you want to create a platform for a future side hustle (e.g., training, consulting, teaching, market research, writing), you need to be serious and dedicated. If you really want to do something you love, you have to put in the time and effort. If you are not familiar with podcasts, listen to a few of the ones I mentioned or topics that interest you. Watch a lot of YouTube videos and see if this is something you want to do.

Just remember, it takes a lot of consistent work but the rewards can be great. You need to be a lifelong learner. Learning how to create podcasts will provide you with great skills and ways to avoid spending money outsourcing (it will also provide new skills to increase your value within your organization). The more you practice, the better you will become and it will be easier – like anything. You just need to create a daily, weekly, and monthly habit. Have fun and share valuable content to new audiences all over the world.

 

References

https://www.zoom-na.com/

https://www.audacityteam.org/

https://heilsound.com/

https://jrelibrary.com/articles/joe-rogan-experience-podcast-equipment-studio-setup/

https://www.libsyn.com/

https://www.blubrry.com/

https://www.bluedesigns.com/products/yeti/

http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator

Inbound Marketing and Product Management – Part II

The market is getting increasingly competitive and dynamic. Consumers are inundated with a constant flow of information. It is becoming harder to get people’s attention and turn them into qualified sales leads. Worse, marketing departments are operating with smaller budgets and bare-bone teams. So, how do you get through all the noise to reach and engage with customers? Inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing (also known as content marketing) focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing specific content for a targeted consumer segment (focus on providing free content). The focus is on providing high value content to a clearly defined audience to demonstrate you are an expert in your field, your product aligns with their values and lifestyle, and provide fun/entertaining content. Types of content that are very effective within content marketing are:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • White papers

Why Inbound Marketing?

Why adopt inbound marketing? Consumers are constantly searching for sources of information they can trust. They don’t want a hard sale. They want honest and insightful content to learn more and improve their lives. Inbound marketing replaces high pressure sales tactics, as customers are already primed to buy your products or services after absorbing your content (no further selling required). The trust you developed from your consistent content feeds makes sales conversions much easier.

Inbound marketing replaces hard selling with value that customers desire. Inbound marketing is not about sharing useless information. Your goal is to pull customers in and provide relevant and valuable information they find critical to get their jobs done. The content you create helps to improve awareness of your offerings and educates consumers.

There are multiple ways to succeed with inbound marketing. First, know everything about your customers. Get out and talk to them and develop personas to share with teams. Second, make sure all your content is based on keywords to drive search engine optimization (SEO). You want to develop ways to drive traffic to your website, collect leads, and close sales content marketing is a critical component of SEO. A strategy based on clear links, individual landing pages for each offering, and simple call-to-actions (CTA) to convert leads allows your loyal customers to get everything needed from you.

What it Takes

Inbound marketing is not easy. It takes a lot of work to consistently develop valuable content. The first step is to understand your target customers. What do they want? How do they consume information (e.g., mobile, TV, video, white papers)? Where do they consume information? Understanding your target customer and developing content that meets what they want and located where they consume, is critical.

Most inbound marketing is provided online. The goal is to create an infrastructure that keeps consumers returning to your various content platforms (e.g., blog, podcast, video, eBooks). You can also develop hardcopy books, workshops, and speaking engagements to engage in-person. The combination of online and in-person interaction provides multiple avenues to develop relationships and build your business.

Adopting a inbound marketing model requires skills not typical of a marketing team. The first step is a careful understanding of your target customers. In addition, journalism skills are critical to ensure well written and produced articles, white papers, case studies, etc. Content development requires strong writing skills, creativity, and a deep understanding of targets. Don’t stress over technology. It is easy to learn or relatively inexpensive to outsource.

The other requirement is a consistent schedule of content. You want to develop habits (for yourself and your customers) to deliver and receive valuable content on a regular basis. Teams need to develop content calendars to ensure ongoing delivery. You must provide daily content to maintain engagement.

Students and Individuals

And for you aspiring marketing professionals or someone looking to change careers or build a side gig, inbound marketing is a valuable tool to display your talents and skills. Creating a blog, podcast, or video series to share your knowledge is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills, talents, and value to recruiters and hiring managers.

The skills inbound marketing requires are vital for a successful business career. The daily requirements to create new and interesting content creates powerful habits to improve your writing, design, and research skills. The more you create the better you will become in your chosen profession or to build a successful side gig. Consistent writing and ideation will create a powerful foundation for a successful business.

Resources

There are great resources to help you get up-to-speed quickly. Gary Vaynerchuk (https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/) is one of the leaders in this movement. His book Crush It! is an excellent guide to leverage content and social media.

Other great sources of information are Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman as well as the many books from David Meerman Scott (https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/). Check-out the Hubspot Academy (https://academy.hubspot.com/) to strengthen your skills. Don’t spend too much time learning and researching. Just jump in and start creating. The more you practice (and learn) the better your content will become.

Joe Pullizzi’s book Epic Content Marketing (http://www.joepulizzi.com/books/) is another great resource. Also, listen to podcasts to understand this medium. In addition, always develop content that you would pay for. If you would pay for it, then offering it for free provides a higher level of value. Develop content your targeted audience wants to read, listen to, and watch. And provide it for FREE.

PROS and CONS

Benefits of inbound marketing are:

  • Increase sales
  • Reduce internal costs (e.g., less paid media)
  • Loyal customers

The detailed work of creating ongoing content creates a more engaged and creative workforce who clearly understands the customer’s desires. Building an internal army of creative producers is a long-term investment in future success. The more your employees understand your customers’ needs and constantly develop new, creative ideas to engage them, the higher probability of long-term success.

Negatives include:

  • Time to develop new skills (writing, video production, audio production, etc.)
  • Challenge of leveraging keywords and SEO in all content
  • Difficult to clearly understand target customers

The mindset to move beyond paid media is also difficult for many to accept (especially those who have been practicing traditional marketing for many years). TV is not dead, yet, but has much lower return dependent on specific demographics. If you do not have a budget for consistent national advertising, content marketing is a great alternative to the high costs and low conversion rates associated with mainstream medium. In addition, clear goals and objectives need to be defined to communicate success. You will need to convince leaders that inbound marketing takes more effort, but the returns are potentially greater at less cost. Identify several key measures to track and determine what is working.

Overall, the PROS outweigh the CONS. Instead of wasting resources on a shotgun approach to marketing, your targeted content and media will have higher ROI as you focus solely on targeted customers. Start small – maybe one product or sub-segment. Measure, test, and experiment to understand what works (and doesn’t). The more you understand your customers – what they want and where they want to access it – the more engaged they will become as you continually deliver high-value content that meets their needs.

Conclusion

Overall inbound marketing is an excellent strategy to engage with customers. As more and more organizations focus on targeted customers, the ability to directly engage with timely and valuable content will help to increase engagement and result in more effective leads (and easier conversions). Adopting inbound marketing can be intimidating, but with a disciplined approach to understanding your customers, developing internal skills, and delivering ongoing, timely content will create strong differentiation and competitive advantages.

No matter the goal – corporate marketing or personal brand promotion – inbound marketing works extremely well. Also, many organizations are still behind with the power of inbound marketing. You can quickly move ahead of competitors as you engage in a more intimate way with customers..

Start slow. Write a blog and post interesting content on social media. Then move into podcasting or video production. Podcasts are easy to do and interviewing guests can bring new visitors to your website. In addition, videos are the future. Making high quality short videos that engage with customers has never been easier. Software such as Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/) or iMovie (https://www.apple.com/imovie/) allows anyone to create professional looking content with little practice. And you don’t need any special equipment to start. Just use your smartphone and imagination. Create fun and engaging content every day.

As you dive into inbound marketing, you and your team will have endless ideas to create great, informative, and engaging content for a specific audience. Developing natural inbound leads is the power of inbound marketing. Potential customers will find your content, embrace its value, and be convinced to use your solutions.

Don’t wait, start now. It is as simple as getting out of the office, talking to potential customers, and creating great content. Now go out there, and Crush It!

References

http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/

https://www.hubspot.com/

SMART Goals

   

When developing plans, it is critical to develop goals. Developing clear, specific goals helps you focus and ensure you operate effectively and efficiently. Time is the most valuable resource you have and you must create a clear roadmap to achieve business success. Developing SMART goals ensures you stay laser focused on achieving your targets.

SMART goals are specific, measureable, actionable, realistic, and timely. Creating SMART goals provides a clear, measurable roadmap for you and your teams. As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage, what you can’t measure”. Teams want and need direction. Creating SMART goals provides this.

Daniel D. Matthews (2011) in his excellent book The A3 Workbook provides an excellent template for developing a SMART goal. The goal statement should include four criteria:

  1. Do what (verb)
  2. To what (brief descriptive statement)
  3. How much (specific measurement)
  4. By when (specific time frame)

The following is an example of a specific and clear target statement using Matthews (2011) template.

Increase (verb) SuperX Refrigerator sales in the East region (to what) from 7% to 11% (how much) by March 31, 2017 (by when).

Use questions to develop each element of the statement:

Specific – what do you want to accomplish, etc.

Measurable – how much, how many, etc.

Actionable – how can this be accomplished, what is required, etc.

Realistic – is this possible, is this viable, feasible, or desirable, etc.

Timely – when do we need to accomplish this, etc.

Make sure the goal statement clearly states the goal you are trying to achieve by removing the root cause of the problem or achieving a specific accomplishment. Most importantly, the statement must be measureable – you cannot manage what you do not measure (the SMART goal template will help keep you focused). Without clear measures it is extremely difficult to manage and improve.

Leaders need to provide a clear direction for teams. Employees want to know where they need to go and develop plans how to get there. Developing SMART goals provides this needed structure and discipline.

Practice writing SMART goals, then share with team members, and slowly integrate within your plans. As your team members understand the benefits of SMART goals, you will have higher probabilities of success and a stronger, more cohesive team. Stop wasting time, add some discipline to your planning, and use your time more effectively.

 

Reference

The A3 Workbook: Unlock Your Problem-Solving Mind by Daniel D. Matthews (2011)

Kaizen Comedy

Kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “continuous improvement” (the Japanese characters translate directly to “change” and “good”). It is a mindset that nothing is perfect and everything must (and needs to be) improved. When driven by senior leadership, kaizen can create a powerful organizational culture that focuses on developing competitive advantages and differentiation.

A kaizen mindset focuses on teamwork, personal discipline, and embracing failure. In addition, everyone within the organization is encouraged to continually provide suggestions to improve every aspect of the business. Kaizen focuses on standardizing repeatable processes, measuring effectiveness, comparing measurements over time, ongoing creativity and innovation, and working within a cycle of continuous improvement.

Organizations focused on kaizen often use improvement process cycles such as plan, do, check, and act (PDCA). A never-ending process to think-create-innovate and improve. Toyota demonstrated how kaizen can create a highly successful organization while Masaaki Imai brought kaizen to the world’s attention with his famous book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.

As a business professional, you can develop a kaizen philosophy learning from stand-up comedians. Don’t laugh, successful comedians live and breathe based on a mindset (and practice) of continuous improvement. Never being satisfied with their current work, they continually refine and change their jokes and stories. They embrace failure based on “bombing” and then going back and rewriting their jokes.

Comedians also never stay complacent. Successful comedians get stage time as often as possible (typically several times per night, several nights per week). In addition, they will travel hundreds of miles for $25 to get stage time. It’s about practice, failure, and perseverance. It’s about never giving up and continually pushing forward to grow, learn, and eventually succeed. It’s a constant focus on improvement. It’s about moving beyond what was successful to create new material and redefine your skills.

Nightly practice in front of live crowds, creating podcasts, doing talk radio, writing every day, working corporate events, performing at colleges, etc., are all ways comedians develop skills and continually improve. Just like comedians, business professionals need to embrace business not as a 9-5 job, but as an opportunity to continually learn. In addition, business professionals need to enjoy creating, developing, and providing great products that customers embrace.

Always look for better ways to do things. Stay positive and avoid complacency and doing the same thing day-after-day. Develop new ways to ideate, educate sales people on new products, or engage with new audiences. An ongoing, deliberate focus to continuously improve will change your personal and professional lives (for good) and make for a more enjoyable and exciting career.

Comedians, just like successful businesses, focus on the customer (audience) to “feel” how jokes are received (and what people think is funny). Comedians also focus on identifying root causes. Why did the joke “bomb”? After a bomb (i.e., failure), comedians will go back and listen to audio recording of their set and determine why the joke was not successful. They will continually refine the joke until they have removed all the clutter and have a joke that connects with the audience. Just as you need to continually understand what customers like and dislike about your product, comedians continually refine their product (i.e., jokes, stories, etc.)

Nothing is ever perfect. Everything can be improved. A kaizen mindset can transform how you do your work and how your company performs. A focus on daily improvement, embracing failure and learning from it, creating high quality products, and meeting customer needs is the foundation of a kaizen culture.

Become the student of your chosen profession. Don’t stop learning when you finish college. The majority of powerful business tools are not taught in school. You need to find these through an ongoing search for knowledge and improvement.

Become a comedian. Be like Dean Delray who decided to become a professional comedian at age 44 (after 25 years in the music industry). He rode his motorcycle to get stage time anywhere and in any weather. He got on stage hundreds of times per year. He developed a podcast and worked at his craft. He is now touring with Bill Burr (probably one of the all-time greatest comedians) and is starting to become very successful. It only took 7 years, getting stage time 7 days per week, never complaining, and working every day to improve his writing and skills. (https://www.deandelray.com/)

How about Jerry Seinfeld – maybe the master of kaizen. He writes every day. No breaks, no excuses. In addition, he still does stand up, has a hugely successful web series (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee), and produces shows, writes books, etc. No matter how successful he was with his TV show (Seinfeld) he still works every day to get better at comedy. The cycle of improvement never ends. (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/)

Another comedian with the kaizen mindset is Joe Rogan. From acting and being one of the top stand-up comedians, to being one of the pioneers of podcasting, to working as the color commentator for the UFC, he never stops. Every night he can be found at local SoCal comedy clubs practicing new material. And he doesn’t get comfortable with successful material, either. Every year he keeps creating new material to engage his audiences and stay relevant. Hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude equals success. (http://podcasts.joerogan.net/)

No matter your job, adopting a kaizen mindset can result in a better, happier life, and great personal and professional success. Business professionals need to learn from comedians. Develop the habits to continually refine and improve your skills, practice every day, and embrace failure. Lifelong learning and improvement is as critical for successful business as successful comedy.

Quirk’s OC Event – Market Research Insights

The annual two-day Quirk’s market research conference in Irvine, CA just wrapped up (January 30-31, 2018) (http://www.thequirksevent.com/orange-county/). This was my first time attending, even though it is in my backyard, and it was a great event. Attendance was over 800 with approximately 60+ vendors. In addition, there were 68 seminars over the two days.

I always recommend market researchers get out of the office as much as possible. You can only learn so much from staring at data. You need to talk to customers, retailers, suppliers, etc., to drive new insights. In addition, market researchers need to be lifelong learners. The ability to learn new techniques, new software, and technology and rub-elbows with fellow researchers is a powerful way to grow. Events like the Quirk’s Event are invaluable to improve your knowledge and skills.

Companies such as Digsite (https://www.digsite.com/), Fieldworks 9http://www.fieldwork.com/), Fuel Cycle (https://fuelcycle.com/), and Marketing Systems Group (http://www.m-s-g.com/Web/Index.aspx) were on display. The opportunity to learn about a variety of market research tools and interact with key suppliers is invaluable to develop new, innovative ways to engage with your customers. In addition, the exhibit of the University of Georgia and Market Research Institute International (MRII) provided an excellent overview of their market research courses to help educate the next generation of researchers (or improve your team member skills) (https://blog.mrii.org/courses.

I also attended some excellent seminars, also. The presentation from aha (http://ahaonlineresearch.com/) on qualitative research provided some great tips to improve your qualitative research and engagement techniques. In addition, the presentation from Blizzard Entertainment’s (https://www.blizzard.com/en-us/) Research Director offered some great tips on providing value and increasing your influence within your organization.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting with Vox Pop (https://mediavoxpop.com/). If you want to take your research to the next level with real-time video, this is the future. Vox Pop allows you to provide survey respondents with the ability to provide video responses (not just boring open-ended questions). Vox Pop then allows you to easily analyze the videos in a short amount of time, and pull key verbatims and create short, powerful videos to drive insights within the organization.

For example, you can embed Vox Pop into your online Qualtrics survey and have respondents add video testimonials to certain questions. Not only do you get powerful qualitative feedback (from any device) in a quantitative survey, but the video provides interaction and higher engagement for respondents. Vox Pop’s attraction is the fast, seamless way to analyze video content.

 

The attraction of Vox Pop is the powerful (and easy) ability to analyze text analytics from each video, make specific topic categories based on respondent comments, and then string the video clips together for an impactful presentation. Vox Pop also provides quick transcription of each video as well as the ability to add subtitles. In addition, several large research companies are using Vox Pop in the backend of their products. I highly recommend checking out the Vox Pop website (https://mediavoxpop.com/) and setup a demo. This can really change the way you do qualitative research.

Overall, the Quirk’s OC event was excellent. It was an unbelievable value as the Quirk’s team ensures a streamlined conference that only costs a few hundred dollars. There is nothing fancy (no expensive lunch and dinners, no high-priced speakers, etc.), but everything you need to improve your research skills. Finger food was provided by the exhibitors and there were plenty of drinks and snacks to keep you fueled. As someone who conducts mostly DIY research, the ability to attend 15 seminars and have 1-on-1 meetings with five research vendors in two days was a great use of time.

 

The East Coast Quirk’s event is scheduled February 27-28 in Brooklyn, NY. If you are in the area, check it out (http://www.thequirksevent.com/brooklyn/).

#marketresearch #quirks #research #creativity #innovation #voxpop

Dr. Edward de Bono

    Parallel thinking. Lateral thinking. Random word. Six thinking hats. These are just a few of the theories and tools developed by Dr. Edward de Bono. Dr. de Bono is one of the foremost authorities on creative thinking. He was born in Malta in 1933 and is a PdD in medicine. After practicing and researching medicine, he moved to how humans think and create new ideas.

He taught at prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. He has been at the forefront of creativity and innovation for decades. Dr. de Bono has written over 50 books that have been translated in over 35 languages. His teachings have been adopted by schools, public and private companies, and governments. Companies across the globe such as IBM, Siemens, AT&T, Du Pont, and British Airways have trained thousands of employees and adopted many of de Bono’s teachings.

The two most accepted and “famous” innovations from him are parallel thinking and lateral thinking. Parallel thinking was developed to overcome the innate issues with Western-style thinking which are based on arguing and trying to get your idea accepted, rather than the best idea. The goal of parallel thinking is to develop as many ideas as possible, and work together to the best solution, not just the solution your Vice President wants. The Six Thinking Hats (Hats) are the key tool within parallel thinking.

The Hats are six colored hats, each representing a different thinking process. The benefit of the Hats is to separate each thought process to ensure focus and avoid jumping between different ideas. Each hat is discussed for only a few minutes before moving to the next hat. The benefit of the Hats is to ensure all the information on a topic is reviewed by the team holistically – pros, cons, feelings, new ideas, etc.

 Lateral thinking focuses on changing perspectives to develop new ideas. It is a proactive, deliberate way to continually move forward to develop new ideas rather than finding an immediate solution. Not all the ideas will be useful, but it is important to focus on quality and deal with quantity later. Within lateral thinking, the two most adopted tools are random word and PO. Random word uses a word that is not associated with the topic of focus to drive new connections.

For example, you are developing new ways to improve your accounting system. You choose the random word BIRD. Then you pick four words related to BIRD. For example, feathers, flies, nest, and tweet. You would then use these four words to develop new ideas linking to the topic, improving the accounting system. The random word forces you to think outside of normal patterns and to forcefully look at unrelated words to drive new ideas. PO is another excellent tool within lateral thinking.

PO stands for provocation. A provocation forces thinking in a new direction. You use the word PO to precede a provocation/statement. PO is used to overcome limitations and optimize the pattern behavior of the human brain. Use PO as a stop sign to pause and then develop new ideas. Instead of immediately saying NO to something, you can insert PO to expand the thinking and look for more options.

For example, someone on the product planning team says they need another $10 million. Before saying NO, restate the problem using PO and develop new ways to create new products with the current budget. Stating PO indicates that it’s time for new ideas and to not immediately say NO. PO forces you to avoid traditional thinking patterns and search for new ideas. The product planning team might develop ideas to crowdsource suggestions from customers, talk to engineers in a different industry and understand how they solve similar problems, or talk to suppliers on ways to reduce overall costs.

PO can also be used to connect two disparate ideas. For example, automobile PO deodorant. PO links these two unrelated words (ideas) to drive new ideas. This prompts expanded thinking and look for ideas that are not directly related to the topic. Some potential ideas; develop new ways to incorporate scent into the driving experience or develop a roll-on paint dispenser to cover-up scratches.

Change the way you think. Move from EITHER/OR to AND. Say AND instead of BUT. Think of WHAT CAN BE rather than WHA T IS. If you want to improve your creative thinking skills and help your teams innovate, read Dr. de Bono’s books. You can watch his lectures on YouTube, but they are slow and painful. Here are a few of his great books to help you on your journey of self-improvement.

Dr. de Bono was a very interesting person. His theories can be used in your personal or professional life. The power of parallel thinking and lateral thinking is the adoption of deliberate and systematic methods to develop new ideas any time and any place. Read his books and start using the tools every day to transform your life.

Lateral thinking: Creativity Step by Step. (1970). New York, NY: Harper & Row Publisher (http://amzn.to/2GjCcBo)

Six Thinking Hats. (1985). New York, NY: Back Bay Books (http://amzn.to/2E9ErH5)

Teach Your Child How to Think. (1992). New York, NY: Penguin Books USA, Inc. (http://amzn.to/2FhwtuD)

https://www.edwdebono.com/

#parallelthinking #lateralthinking #sixthinkinghats #creativethinking #innovation #creativity

Inbound Marketing and the Product Manager

    

Product managers are the tip of the marketing spear. You develop overall product strategy, identify target customers, develop positioning and messaging direction, and create the roadmap for sales and marketing teams. As the unnamed (and often unheralded) marketing expert within the company, the product manager is tasked to ensure customer-focused products are developed and effective sales and marketing tactics are deployed for optimal market success.

Many marketing teams are constrained with limited budgets and immense pressure from executives and board members. In addition, too many marketers are using a traditional marketing playbook that is inefficient and ineffective today. Most marketing teams do not have budgets for national campaigns which result in a miniscule number of effective leads; though they continually focus on TV, radio, and print and pushing product information to groups of people who are not interested. Sales leaders spend large amounts of money on sales incentives which devalue the brand must. These are not long-term strategies to survive. It is time to stop. It’s time to rethink what you do.

With increasing “noise” in the consumer landscape, traditional sales and marketing tactics ineffectively result in large amounts of wasted scarce and valuable resources. So, how can your organization build a loyal and excited following that spreads word of your new product and they line up to purchase your products? Inbound marketing, often referred to as content marketing is the optimal method to build loyal and rabid fans. Inbound marketing uses less money (than traditional marketing/advertising) and results in high engagement, specifically with targeted customers. The goal is high conversion rates.

Inbound marketing is all about engaging with targeted customers and providing valuable content where these customers consume information. It is not about selling. It is about educating, entertaining, and informing. Organizations need to be a valuable source of information and content. Don’t talk about your product and all its features. Demonstrate how the product solves the customer’s problems. Develop stories of how customers use your product to make their lives better. Focus on customers.

To become a great inbound marketer (and a great marketer in general), you need the mindset of a journalist marketer. You need to create blogs and podcasts to engage customers. You need to make informative (and often fun) videos to attract your targets. You must leverage the power of social media and share informative posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You need to develop effective calls-to-actions (CTAs) to drive engagement.

You must change your mindset and embrace the new reality. The days of national TV campaigns that have horrible ROI, press events that focus on dying media channels (where your targets are not spending time) and websites that are basically “digital brochures” are over. The communication landscape is a messy, noisy, and congested environment. To ensure you are “surgical” with what you develop and to engage your targets, you must be laser-focused on the optimal mediums, and continuously monitor performance and adapt as needed. Ongoing “tweaking” of everything needs to be a key part of your organization’s culture.

As Bob Dylan noted 40+ years ago, “the times they are A-changin”. The days of spending millions on TV ads to “interrupt” a wide range of targets and (mostly) non-targets is over. The mentality of “shotgun blast” tactics is inefficient and ineffective. It is time to have fun, be extremely creative, and closely engage with potential customers. It is time to develop an internal army of marketers who continually improve; they build-measure-learn.

Product managers need to focus on developing an intimate understanding of the target customers and determine where and how they can be engaged. What medium do they use to find out about products to solve their problems? What type of content do they prefer to learn about new products? Most importantly, who are they and where do they spend their time (I’m talking about how they access information, not necessarily geographically or physically where they reside).

Product managers must carefully identify their target customers, develop a product that helps them meet their needs or overcome pain points, and provide engaging content where these targets spend their time. What I’m talking about is really Marketing 101, but is even more important in this chaotic digital world that we try and navigate effectively.

Train your teams. Build a powerful organization of skilled inbound marketers. Empower your internal teams and create a Marketing Army. Build trust. Everyone must be a marketer of your product, not just the folks in PR or your social media team. Empower employees to write blogs, create podcasts, or develop video series. Have engineering teams develop effective frequently asked questions (FAQs) or how-to videos. Develop an endless stream of valuable content to keep the focus on your customers and how you solve their problems.

Develop the core skills and encourage co-workers from all parts of the organization, not just sales or marketing to engage with customers. Train teams in copywriting, photography, search engine optimization, etc. Make it easy for your teams to develop great content. Develop standard operating procedures (SOP) with clear constraints of what they can and cannot do. Provide helpful hashtag terms (#) to allow everyone to use the same keywords for the most effective engagement. Most importantly, this must be done in-house. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, waste your precious dollars outsourcing most of this to ineffective creative agencies.

Test and experiment. Most marketing teams just shoot out a lot of “stuff” and hope some of it sticks. Advertisers have been testing and experimenting for over 100 years. Unfortunately, most marketers avoid this. They prefer to focus on fancy websites, pretty designs, and avoid effective content. They build it and hope people will come. Unfortunately, they do not know their customers or what they need. They stare at spreadsheets but never talk to actual customers. There are no plans to measure what works and what doesn’t. There is not an incentive to continuously improve. They don’t test different messaging or media. They avoid the hard work of constantly tweaking and experimenting to determine the optimal and most effective engagement tactics. In other words, they are unprofessional and lazy.

The “good ole days” are over. Marketing communication teams must stop wasting time and pretending to live in an episode of Mad Men. Product managers need to drive marketing strategy. This begins with a deep knowledge of the customer and their struggles. This begins with knowing exactly where to provide content and engage with these audiences.

Get out and learn who your targeted customers are. Learn everything you can about them, create amazing products that solve their problems, and then develop remarkable content to engage these target customers. Don’t “spray and pray”. Be a sniper. Be focused on your target. Keep adjusting until you “hit” them over and over again.

Inbound marketing is fun and effective. Enjoy being creative and developing awesome and amazing products and content. Watch your teams’ morale skyrocket. Be constantly engaged with customers. Build a community. Don’t focus on “one and done”. Use inbound marketing along with traditional methods and measure everything. Focus on what works and stop wasting time and money with marketing tactics that were developed before the internet and social media. Rethink how you think.

The following are excellent references to become a master of inbound marketing.

HubSpot Academy – https://academy.hubspot.com/

David Meerman Scott – https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/

Ryan Holiday – https://ryanholiday.net/

Brendon Burchard – https://brendon.com/

#inboundmarketing #contentmarketing #marketing #productmanager #socialmedia #content #strategicmarketing #madmen #advertising #hubspot