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The Internet Isn’t Free

The internet isn't freeNewsflash: The internet isn’t free. Recently, a company called AdTrap announced that they have devised a method of blocking nearly all advertisements online. From Google (including YouTube) to news sites, text and display advertising is eliminated. Your “privacy is protected” and you “can’t be profiled by advertisers”. No more ads to interrupt your experience. No more videos to watch before you watch your videos.

Sounds great.

Who Pays for the Internet?

Just one problem – those ads pay for the internet. Google isn’t free. CNN isn’t free. YouTube isn’t free. Facebook isn’t free. The internet isn’t free. Websites cost money. So how much are you willing to pay?

$1.00 every time you want to log onto Facebook?
$0.25 for every Google search?
$2.99 for every news story?
$0.50 for every sport score?

Best of all – how much would you be willing to pay per email? At just $0.10 for every send AND receive (remember, your cell phone is billed for incoming AND outgoing calls), those charges will quickly add up every month.

Most of the internet is paid for by advertising. Millions of companies support the efforts and results of billions of websites. There must be a compromise between users and providers.

The Value of Advertising

Advertisers and their ad agencies, like Arkside Marketing (shameless plug), are always looking for new ways to reach you…but not for the reasons or with the methods you might think.

You are not a target because you are alive. Companies only want to reach you if they believe you can use their product or service. If they broadcast to everyone, it would be a waste of money. Companies don’t like wasting money when it comes to advertising. When I’m consulting with a client, I help them build a customer profile of the ideal person who might respond to an ad and use their product or service. That helps shape a marketing strategy.

As I’ve said on this blog before, people would be amazed at how much data is anonymously (usually) collected about them. Google and other companies with similar goals to serve up advertising know A LOT about you. Age range, favorite foods, sports, family size, ethnicity, photos, recent purchases, banking patterns, bills, email address…the list goes on and on. In most cases, none of this is connected with your name. You’re a profile. A demographic. And that’s really all advertising needs to be useful to you and the advertiser.

Advertising Is Necessary Because The Internet Isn’t Free

You currently pay a telecommunications company to access everything on the internet. One website or one million, your price of admission is the same. Advertising ensures that most sites you want don’t cost you anything more. You can search, share, learn, and teach for free because advertisers want to share their product or service with you. So instead of paying a dollar for every video you watch on YouTube or song you hear on Pandora, you have to watch or listen to a :15-second ad. Is that really so hard to do?

Would you be willing to pay for everything you do on the internet? Share your comment below.

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Benefits and Challenges of Being an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur mountain of paperwork“You must love being your own boss.”

“It must be great running your own company.”

“I bet you make a lot more money now that you’re the boss!”

“A lot less stress, huh?”

These and a few others are some of the well-meaning but uninformed comments I’ve heard in the last month as I re-launched my company, Arkside Marketing.

I fully admit that there have been many moments of pride, excitement, enthusiasm, and optimism on this journey. But it has absolutely not been stress-free or easy. Despite the fact that this is not my first trip down the road of entrepreneurial employment, it is the most challenging and fluid in my life. Let me explain what it means to be an entrepreneur.

The Sleepless Entrepreneur

If you are currently an entrepreneur or considering that path, I hope you are embarking into something for which you are passionate. You need an innovative product or service that you wholeheartedly support and understand. If that is the case, you can forget sleep. Your life is built around ideas, meetings, deadlines, expectations of others, regulations, taxes, paperwork, and inspirations.

Guess what? They don’t all arrive between 8am and 5pm.

If you love what you do, you will have dreams about the company. You will have nightmares about every client firing you on the same day. There will be projects you didn’t plan, schedules you have to move, people you want to meet, solutions that pop up from simple inspirations, and contracts that need to be signed. Oh, and don’t forget those all-import “to do” lists. You’ll be making those until your fingers bleed.

The Organized Entrepreneur

If you love paperwork, be an entrepreneur. Vendor contracts, employee paperwork, tax documents, accounting, bills, receipts, notes, and client documents will have you in a never-ending sea of paperwork.

You get to organize it however you want and that presents a whole new challenge: where to put it all. You have the esteemed privilege of creating your own filing system for all of these various categories of “stuff” and make sure that all documents are properly filed throughout the day. Every day. By everyone who works for you.

I suppose it isn’t fair for me to only talk about “paperwork”. This same organization requirement applies to all of your digital documentation as well. Apparently, if you put all this “stuff” in the “cloud” it can still rain back down on you. Darn.

The Rich Entrepreneur

Between 50% and 75% of all new businesses fail within the first 1-5 years (the published statistics vary widely). The entrepreneur community is one that wants to make a difference and make a profit at the same time. Both of those goals take time.

Your company (and you) may not turn a profit for the first 2-3 years. You are incurring substantial costs and it will take time to grow your company.

I’m not rich and I’m not making a ton of money with a brand new company. But this is where patience is a virtue because short term victories are stepping stones to long term success. I knew that going in and I’m prepared to live on ramen noodles for a while to reach bigger goals.

Are You An Entrepreneur?

If you have a passion for a new and innovative product or service, are ready to make some difficult choices, raise some money, and throw your life into a tailspin, you might be an entrepreneur. Someone in a multi-level marketing scheme or network marketing endeavor is NOT an entrepreneur. They are a salesperson. Don’t get me started.

Personally, I look forward to helping organizations achieve their goals through marketing. I enjoy the challenge and exploration of new solutions for each custom project. Despite all the hurdles, I also enjoy growing my company, offering people employment opportunities, and being an active part of my community.

I signed on for the benefits and challenges of being an entrepreneur. I’m okay with that. My new venture is not stress free and I’m not instantly wealthy. But it is great running my own company.

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Gave My Notice at Moss Bros. Auto Group

2 weeks on a Post-It

WHOA!

I gave notice to my boss yesterday. Leaving on good terms and I’ll be there for another two weeks. I have been with Moss Bros. Auto Group for over 6 years, but an incredible opportunity awaits. I’m excited about the future!

If you know of anyone who may be interested in the position (Director of Marketing for Moss Bros. Auto Group), please send me their resume or contact info. We are actively searching and I would appreciate your help.

In the mean time, I will have very exciting news in the coming days. If you haven’t already, please follow me on social media and catch the announcement.

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Quote About Life and Advertising

“When will the truth come into season? I have a feeling it will be a long time.”

It is far too often accepted to “fudge”, “stretch”, or “embellish” in advertising. These aren’t always negative and in some cases can be part of a creative license. Marketers have a strong opportunity to stand out and impress their customers with truth and honesty in their ads.

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Bad Customer Service is Bad Marketing

There are still millions of companies that fail to understand a basic premise about their own environment – customer service matters. These companies occupy a space in which they no longer have control over their brand. They can still buy ads, media coverage, and politicians, but the people -customers- are empowered with tools never before seen in the history of commerce.

It is easy to spot a company that still relies on disappointing sales tactics such as incentive deadlines, playing on a sense of fear, or blatant lies. Internally, the sales staff is constantly under pressure to meet a high quota or log their every interaction for managerial oversight. They prioritize landing the next sale over earning the next 10 sales. I recently had two experiences in the same Friday that reinforced the basic principles behind the necessity of good customer service.

sears vision statement customer serviceThe first involved Sears. My wife scheduled a repair for our refrigerator and while making the appointment, she was solicited to receive a free estimate on the same day on any home repair. We had been considering new windows and there was “no obligation” so she booked the estimator simultaneously. Near the end of the estimation process, she called my office to share the price and other details. I work close to home and decided to talk to the guy in person. I came home and Steve (the estimator) immediately began telling me about all of the pricing and rebate incentives if I purchased windows today. I explained that I wouldn’t be making such an important investment in my home after a brief conversation and no other estimates or research on the subject.

“Okay man. I understand. Thank you for your time.”

He was packed and out the front door in under 60 seconds. Literally. No effort to answer my remaining questions, no information about alternative window options, scheduling, warranties…nothing. I didn’t buy so he didn’t care.

It may go without saying that while it took him less than 60 seconds to leave my house, it also took me less than 60 seconds to decide against using Sears for this project.

I have the pleasure of connecting with Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias, on various social media and I posed this encounter to him. He is a champion of educating companies on the benefits of truly great customer service and how to position themselves for healthier business by investing in a Return on Relationship­™. In his words,

“The Sears salesperson had an amazing opportunity staring him in the face. If nothing else you would have most probably shared with others the way he added value to the process.”

And right he is!

Customers today are equipped to dramatically impact a company with a comment on Facebook, screen capture of a Twitter feed, or an experience shared on Yelp. This shortsighted salesman was ready to pressure my wife with incentives and deadlines but unprepared to build a relationship with a customer. If he had done things the right way and not stormed off like a child, he may have earned a customer in the near future. Now he has no chance of doing that.

Once I got back in my car and headed back to work, the second bad customer service experience began. I got a call from someone at my office that a person was there to see me. We didn’t have a meeting scheduled but if he was willing to wait 15 minutes for me to return, I could give him a few minutes to meet. It was my sales rep from a company called Search Options, whom I had spoken with earlier in the year and explained that I couldn’t move forward with them because I was under contract with my current vendor and happy with the relationship. But he dropped by anyway to tell me that one of his corporate officers was flying into the area next week and he would love to setup a meeting with me so I could learn more about their services and hopefully capture our business immediately. I again explained that I am already contracted with another vendor and it doesn’t come up for review until the end of the year. He actually said, “I remember you mentioned that but if you meet with him I think you’ll like what you hear.”

Clearly he had no respect for my current relationship but wanted me to start one with him. I started picturing a mistress who wanted me to cheat on my wife but then stay loyal to the mistress.

Again, I presented the situation to Ted Rubin and got his opinion:

“[He] could have set himself up as first in line when your other contract was coming to a close simply by leveraging the visit by his corporate officer as a relationship building tool, rather than a sales opportunity. Let you know the time and effort they were willing to put in, even while being aware that it would be 6-8 months before you could seriously consider.”

Similar to the Sears instance, instead of being disrespectful and pressuring for a quick sale today, the salesman could have laid a strong foundation and “set himself up as first in line”.

As companies navigate the still-new waters of social media, they need to realize that the way they treat people in their stores is the way they will be portrayed online. It is impossible to cover it up, gloss over it, or pretend it didn’t happen. A chorus of negative feedback will expose your behavior as it truly is. And never forget that people are three times more likely to complain than they are to praise. This is how brands get hijacked by empowered customers and -for good or bad- it is usually accurate.

My thanks to Ted Rubin for giving his insight. Please share your good or bad customer service experience that impacted your decisions with a comment below.

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