Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Successful Startup Tips

Everyone’s heard the line that half of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years, or whatever the made-up statistic is. To truly know what’s going on with startup businesses, it would be wise to narrow the discussion down to a segment, industry, geographical area, or combination thereof. So it doesn’t do much good to generalize, or even worry about what people say as far as that goes because what you should be interested in is what space you’ll be playing in. America’s business scene is too dynamic to make such generalizations, which is a great thing to be able to say, as an American. Who happens to be interested in business.

I’ve written enough business and marketing plans, interviewed enough business owners, and been in and around business at this point in my life to know why most businesses fail. And just as importantly, why and how startups succeed. 

The biggest mistake: Not making sure the numbers work.

What I see more than anything is an eagerness to rush to market before doing due diligence and research and working the numbers.

Is your product/service even marketable? Have you tested it out in the marketplace? How? There are lots of ways. But make sure people are even willing to pay money for your value proposition. And even if they SAY they would, that’s a lot different from actually laying their money down, so beware.

Trying your product out in the real world is a step to gather some numbers. Pricing is a tricky science/art. It’s helpful to know some finance and economic theory when pricing out goods. It shouldn’t be a guessing game.

A website I visit daily is Product Hunt. I was one of the early members way back when founder Ryan Hoover was rolling it out, which he did very responsibly, as a Y-Combinator project. And he’s continued to build it into a serious business that is widely used (and actually makes money!)

product hunt logo

But what Product Hunt does is introduce new products and services that are “hunted” down by early adopters, developers, designers, marketers, and other people that I like. Those goods and services are then upvoted by the public, and you can talk to the makers and discuss the products. It’s a great way to find some ways to work more efficiently and some nice design, development and writing tools.

But since it’s inception a few years ago, I’ve watched thousands of new products come and go on that site and read and talked to the makers/proprietors. And many of the products, when deployed to make money, fail as businesses. They didn’t do their homework, didn’t see if there was a marketable demand for their offering, and didn’t make sure the numbers worked. Many of the hunted products are side hustles developers and Silicon Valley types unveil there, who know a lot about programming, but nothin about business. So it goes.

But it doesn’t end there. That’s just the beginning. Forecasting sales and demand for new products is difficult. But with some hard work and smarts, you, or someone with an MBA, should be able to formulate some realistic scenarios. Work the numbers. Pay your taxes, your licensing, lease, vendors, employees, and throw in a realistic, workable marketing budget among all your many other expenses and see what your margins look like. (This is where a lot of people would/should go back to the drawing board when they see that their “Next Uber” idea may not work.)

The second biggest mistake: No Business Plan

Believe it or not, a lot of businesses start with no plan written out. Just some random goals and a pile of money and a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. If you don’t develop a plan, you don’t know where you’re going, or what to do if you get off course. You don’t know when you’ve reached important goals, haven’t set any goals, and have set sail into a stormy sea with no compass or guidance. It happens all the time.

Writing out a business plan, and it should be written, may sound like a chore, but it’s critical. If you can’t write out your business plan, then it may be worthwhile to reassess the idea.

A business plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page tome with illustrations, slide deck and citations.  It can be fairly simple, but it should be thorough and make sense. You should be able to show it to a banker and not be laughed out of the room.

There are a lot of resources for business plans. The SBA is a great place to start and more specifically, S.C.O.R.E..

The third biggest mistake: No Marketing Plan

Marketing plan? What’s that? I’ve worked for businessmen and women and companies that have been around for decades and are highly profitable that have never bothered to devise a marketing plan.

So, why bother, if they’re that successful, you ask? Because if they had bothered to either hire a marketer like me or produce a marketing plan themselves, their $100 million+ businesses very well could be $1 billion+ businesses. If that’s something they’d be interested in, and you have to assume that’s why they do what they do.

I’m not making that up, either. But strange things happen over time with privately-held companies. And the strangeness is fine. But if a marketing plan were in place and being followed and used as a guide, business owners wouldn’t end up with a profitable train wreck on their hands, which happens. A lot. It sounds like a fine scenario, minus the train-wreck thing, no? But what do you do with a business that might have 300+ employees that depend on you and no one wants to buy you out because it’s such a mess, and you have no one to pass the business on to?

In addition to serving as a guide, a well-written marketing plan also sets important goals and reigns in scope and scale. In this age of mega multi-channel marketing, there’s an urge to go haywire and position yourself everywhere possible. That’s not a wise tactic.

As with so much in life, preparation is the key to success. Please do yourself a favor and make sure that the energy, time and money you’re about to invest is going to the right places and doing the right work. It makes all the difference.

Want to Find a New Job? Brace Yourself.

Want to Find a New Job? Brace Yourself.

A job I had for about a year and a half while I was getting my MBA at The University of Alabama was working in the Graduate School of Business helping business graduate students find jobs. That included internships for MBA students during the summer between years in the 2-year program, and locating full-time employment upon graduating. The people I helped ranged between new graduates getting their Masters in Marketing, Finance, Accounting or whatever to experienced older students returning to get their MBA, such as I was doing and wanted to springboard into an executive corporate position or enter the workforce at a higher level than previously possible. Their fate, future employment, and livelihoods rested in my hands to no small degree, so I worked hard to learn how to network, craft resumes, and position oneself to land jobs. You’d think with that experience I’d be able to snag any job I want.

During that time I reviewed and edited several hundred resumes, working with the students to make them laser-focused on the work they desired at the companies they desired, many being Fortune 500 companies. I’m an English major, a former editor, and at the time a current editor, editing Ph.D. students’ and professors’ academic journal submissions and Ph.D. theses, which consisted of making the simplest of concepts as complex and magniloquent as possible. So I have some writing, proofreading and copywriting skills. I also helped them write scripts for video resumes. I love to write, so all this was right up my alley.

I’ve also interviewed and hired countless candidates for all sorts of positions, from web developers to graphic designers, to counter help, to simply an endless list of positions and people. However, one thing I would never claim to be is a recruiter or HR expert. Evaluating someone for a specific position and coming up with a compensation package isn’t something just anyone can do, contrary to how a lot of people end up being hired. People generally aren’t very good at judging others and tend to look at superficial factors and elements that are irrelevant to the job. One look at our civil servants will attest to this.

Something that I believe would be useful for nearly every hiring manager that’s going to be working with the person they’re hiring is having all serious candidates take the Predictive Index. I’ve taken it, and it’s surprisingly accurate and immensely useful for people to get a grasp on what someone’s all about who they haven’t ever met before. It helps managers know what makes their employees tick as well. Useful information for effective management, for sure, especially when things might get sticky which, if you work hard and long enough with people, they will. People are variables, so knowing how to best help solve circumstances that may arise with and between them is valuable.

The concept of those doing the hiring not being as skilled at hiring as they should be is what I think a lot of frustrated job seekers overlook when they commiserate over not being able to find a job. I read a lot of posts and articles on LinkedIn and business periodicals about how companies won’t hire older workers, black workers, female workers, or whatever the discriminatory claim may be. In a sense, they’re right. But I don’t think the discrimination is as overt and blatant as alleged.

Please note, I’m not bashing the people entrusted to do the hiring on a personal level – it’s just what happens. I’ve been there. It’s just a poor longstanding management practice that can be improved upon and would make some extraordinary gains within the company.

Claiming bias is an easy thing to do. Talk is cheap, and it’s easy enough for me to see that as far as companies passing over older workers that are well-suited for positions, the issue is real. The investigations into and legal consequences stemming from proven cases are far less than racial and gender discrimination, however. It’s really just a hard thing to prove, even though I’ve personally seen some egregious fouls when it comes to hiring and asking about age. Papa John’s corporate website asks right off the bat how old you are when applying on their site, for example.  But is that illegal? Obviously not. Is it strange and off-putting to potential employees? Definitely.

I’m currently looking for work, and between a previous job search and this one, I’ve applied to well over 200 jobs. For a time I kept statistics on the results of my efforts, but after several months, it became an exercise that was more depressing than beneficial. However, I saw many patterns and learned a lot by going through the onerous steps and rings of fire that I went through during the search. Perhaps someone can learn some things from my work.

As I mentioned, I have some expertise in crafting resumes. Is mine perfect? No. But it’s pretty good and better than most. (When you’re unemployed, hiring someone to help you with your resume seems like a luxury, unless you’re really in dire need.) I hone my resume for each position I apply for. I write a customized cover letter for each position I apply for, and get the name of the hiring manager, if at all possible. Some companies want to keep applicants at arm’s length though and don’t provide ANY contact information, even on their website or LinkedIn. And some don’t want to be bothered by them at all, I’ve learned. There’s a Fortune 50 company in town here that set up an interview with me, and the telephone interview was pre-recorded and recorded my answers to a bunch of generic “tell me about a time you encountered a difficult situation and how you overcame it” type questions. I couldn’t believe it. By far, the worst experience I’ve had with interviews. You don’t get any feedback to your answers, and honestly, I was so shocked by the format, I had trouble concentrating on my answers for the first 10 minutes or so. Which supports my theory which is this:

The people doing the hiring have no specialized hiring skills or respectable level of experience hiring employees for the positions for which they’ve been tasked. They are typically just other employees within the department which has a position to fill. And when they’re choosing who to hire, they look for people that seem like themselves or they think they’ll get along with or enjoy working with. Not the person who’s best for the job, foremost. Personal traits are important — don’t get me wrong. But they shouldn’t be the priority. And even when that aspect is dismissed, the temporary “hiring manager” still doesn’t know what to ask, what to look for exactly, how to ask interview questions, or how to assess potential employees.

My evidence to support my theory is strong. Including my own experiences. When I was last hired, I was hired by a company that consisted of a lot of middle-aged white men who shared the same political views as me and we were part of the same “culture.” Nothing wrong with that, per se. There was plenty of diversity at the company, and there were more women that worked there than men and all races were accounted for. But the guys that hired me were part of my demographic. And I believe that’s why a lot of middle-aged men, and women, are looked over by those looking to hire, who these days are younger and of a different demographic group in a number of factors. Political ideology, number of children, marriage, (even number of tattoos in some cases.) I think race and gender play lesser factors in 2019 than age and political stances, personally.

I’m guilty of this as well. I’ve been put in positions to hire subordinates and it’s too easy to just toss a resume out of dozens or even hundreds in the “nope” pile or pass over someone for reasons that may or may not be appropriate. Instead of looking for factors that make a strong candidate and aptitudes we can build upon, we start looking for things that make them an unappealing candidate. It’s easy to do.

As an aside, I also believe this phenomenon to be a major reason our public schools are in such a mess. Where I live in Louisville, KY, which is one of the largest public school systems in the country, the school system couldn’t be any more jacked up. The state’s been trying to come in to take over the system because the people entrusted to run it have done such an abysmal job. The obvious reason to me is that the people running the massive operation are school teachers, not trained business, project management or operations experts whatsoever. The opposite experience, in fact. But they hire others like themselves and put people in positions they shouldn’t be because of superficial and political factors, not because they are qualified for the jobs, which are some serious and difficult jobs which require a lot of skill, experience, and training for. Not a teaching certificate and Masters of Education. They need MBAs, in fact.

But back to the job search. Modern job searches are far easier for the candidate and the employer than ever before. While the temptation to blast out a zillion resumes all over the internet is great, that shotgun approach doesn’t work. And, if you have a resume like mine that attracts recruiters that want to place high-income earners, don’t be surprised to be inundated by cold-calling recruiters that have all sorts of positions available. (That they can’t discuss or reveal, and look suspiciously like a lot of the jobs that are posted on Google jobs, Indeed, or any other number of job posting sites. Kind of a turn-off.)

Monster.com used to the go-to place for jobs. It was a terrible experience for years and as such, seems to have been put in its place. I don’t even see it mentioned anymore as a contender for job searches by anyone. LinkedIn, Google Jobs, Indeed, and Glass Door seem to be the hot spots, for the time being. And lots of niche sites for tech jobs, remote jobs, freelance jobs, etc… (None really for MBAs, which may be something to look into as a side project…) And then there are a TON of websites that scrape jobs from these sites and offer the chance to see postings, as long as you give them your personal information and sign up for their site to be spammed by them daily. Don’t do it. It’s a waste of time. Even state employment websites are nothing but the same scraping-type site with the same jobs free available with a google search.

But what about the jobs that aren’t posted? Well, I go to the company sites that I believe may have a need for the type work I do–marketing, marketing strategy, and advanced marketing with an MBA and some serious experience, which is comprised of a lot more than being able to manage social media accounts. I know advanced data analysis and project management and can manage a large enterprise with big budgets and P&Ls. And a lot more. I send LinkedIn messages to some people that might be able to help me, which is a premium feature. And I get no responses usually. Which just makes you wonder.

I don’t make excuses. I’m a problem solver and an opportunity-finder. I have a growth mindset. I’ve taught myself how to code and how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign and all sorts of software to stay relevant. I am a lifelong learner and love cutting edge technology and finding ways to use it. Every problem has a solution, and my job is finding the best ones available. So while an ongoing job search isn’t my idea of fun, it’s a numbers game. And persistence, and optimism, and strength and a test of one’s will.

Here’s been my experience with looking for jobs. While a lot of this is tongue in cheek, a lot of it is the truth and what I’ve actually experienced.

Jobs a-plenty out there! So what happens when it’s time to apply? You’ll fill out an application online usually, which consists of uploading a resume. However, that is a preface to filling in, line by line, your resume and all your personal information again. And then answering several pages of legal questions about your race, citizen status, sex, your veteran status, whether you have a disability, your blood type, your favorite food, music, movies, and so on. Then you’ll include languages you know and how well you can speak and write them. Then a list of skills you’ll need to provide for their job-search agent software. Then a list of certificates, additional awards, and other details that might be pertinent. Then all your social media links and a link to your online portfolio. (You do have a professional portfolio on hand, don’t you?) Then you can upload any other files that they might want. Then you can upload your cover letter, which should be customized and proofread. You can then review your information, and hit submit. Chances are 50/50 that you won’t get an error message or a notice that you’ve timed out and need to start over.

Once that has been submitted, you may or may not get an email that the company has received your information via generic “do not respond” email. Then you may or may not ever hear from them. If you do, it’s an invitation to interview over the phone with a preliminary person who takes notes on you to pass along to someone else that might want to interview you. If that decision is made, which usually takes a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to speak to an employee that may or may not work in the department you’ll be working in. They’ll ask you questions about your resume, your past and current interest in their company and chat about how desperately they need a person in the position, then inform you it’ll be 3 or 4 weeks until someone can look at the candidates and make some decisions. You most likely won’t hear from them again and will see that they’ve posted for the position again on Google Jobs. Or, a month later you’ll get another generic, “Thanks but no thanks” email from them.

Sometimes the interviews go really well, and you make it to round 4 or 5 and get to either speak with a decision-maker or go in for an in-person interview. For me, these usually go really well, and I leave very optimistically. I do much better speaking to people face to face than over the phone, and enjoy face-time rather than our cell phones going in and out while the interviewer is driving down the highway, which happens more than I can believe. When I show up and they see the amount of grey hair I have, however, things seem to change. Apparently, they think I’m some sort of wizard or sorcerer that’s come to cast revenue-decreasing spells upon their books, when in fact it’s the opposite.

And after that interview, as we part ways laughing and everything seems like it couldn’t have gone better, there’s no telling what will happen. I’ve had no follow up at all until I follow up and discover they’re hired someone else and forgot to inform me, or decided that even though it was once a life-or-death situation, they decided not to hire anyone and are just putting the decision off, even though what I offer the company on a silver platter directly and positively impacts the bottom line. I had one guy who was the partner at a local marketing/web-design-type company tell me I was the perfect candidate, except that I didn’t have agency experience. Apparently owning and running one while working within it doesn’t count. As well as working with agencies all the time. And then told me that was probably a good thing. But let the position sit open for months and months, and in fact, is still open. Apparently, their company isn’t the type that’s interested in making more money. My position pays for itself in spades. Letting it sit open isn’t smart and is bad business. But what do I know? Here’s a good article discussing three things hiring managers want to know in an interview.

Here’s a copied/pasted explanation from a company I recently sent an application to with the steps to be hired, as an example. I’ve deleted the company’s name because that doesn’t matter. But just to give you an idea of what awaits you, time-wise.

Candidates for this position can expect the hiring process to follow the order below. Please keep in mind that candidates can be declined from the position at any stage of the process. To learn more about someone who may be conducting the interview, find her/his job title on our team page.

  • Qualified candidates receive a short questionnaire from our Global Recruiters.
    1. What would differentiate you and make you a great marketing program manager for ACME Corp?
    2. What is your knowledge of the space that ACME Corp. is in? (e.g. industry trends).
    3. Generally, how would you describe the communication preferences of developers and technical IT management?
  • Selected candidates will be invited to schedule a screening call with one of our Global Recruiters.
  • Candidates will complete a take-home exercise preparing a spreadsheet of event attendees for use in a marketing program, and send the completed exercise to our Marketing Operations Manager.
  • Next, candidates will be invited to schedule a series of 45 minute interviews with our Marketing Operations Manager, Online Marketing Manager, and Content Marketing Manager.
  • Candidates will then be invited to schedule 45 minute interviews with our Senior Director of Marketing and Sales Development and CMO.
  • Finally, our CEO may choose to conduct a final interview.
  • Successful candidates will subsequently be made an offer via email

Additional details about our process can be found on our hiring page.

Here’s another cut/paste from an actual marketing job posting detailing their hiring process. This isn’t unique, but you have to imagine what the timeline usually is for arranging this many face-to-face interviews is with this many busy people, including yourself. Typically it’s at least one month, and I’ve had the process last as many as three months because they’re interviewing at least several other candidates they need to arrange all these interviews with as well, if not more than several. Then all these people have to meet with one another to discuss each candidate along the way. It doesn’t come across as the “need to hire yesterday” issue that you’re told. And if it is, then you have to also wonder if this is how all important decisions are made at that company.

Hiring Process

  • 30-minute screening with our Global Recruiters
  • Interview with Manager, North American Field Marketing
  • Interview with the Director of US East Sales
  • Interview with a Strategic Account Leader
  • Interview with West Field Marketing Manager
  • Interview with Chief Marketing Officer

Here’s a new question I was asked while applying at a financial services firm today:

Do you identify as LGBT?

Do you identify as LGBT?

I also think for the question “Why did you leave your last employer?” my response from here out will be “Nothing lasts.” Perhaps that’s too philosophical.

#gethired

 

 

 

Marketing Guitars

Marketing Guitars

Guitar Marketing

Two things I know about really well at this point in my life are marketing and guitars. And one of the hardest jobs there is must be marketing guitars. At least, marketing them successfully, which means increasing ROI, sustaining (if not growing)margins, decreasing costs, maintaining if not improving the target market segments’ perceptions about them, and the rest of the duties product managers, marketing managers and directors, VP’s and the other roles tasked with the job have.

I would love such a challenge, incidentally if anyone wants to put me up to it.

But guitars are similar to motorcycles, or at least some makes of them such as Harley Davidsons, certain high-profile custom bikes and a small list of other brands like Triumph, Indian, and others that have gone in and out of business due to the challenges I mention here. The main problems are saturation, limited room for product innovation, and being chained to cyclical and fickle target markets that come and go with generational tastes, fads, cultural trends and external forces such as media involvement, since a lot of what compels people (a lot of males for both, coincidentally) is the whole “image” owning and using guitars and motorcycles conveys. Or, at least what their perception is of what they convey to others, mostly fawning ladies that like guys with motorcycles and who play guitar, which is a study left to another time. Machismo is connected to motorcycle ownership, and no small number of guitars have been sold in hopes of being the next teen idol on a stage with an army of attractive roadies backstage waiting to spend time with the next Peter Frampton. Even though I’m sure studies will reveal the results are far from what someone would consider successful.

Back to marketing the things though, particularly guitars. Acoustic guitars have been around for approximately 370 years in modern form. Since 200BC if you want to consider the lute a type of guitar. Electric guitars have been around less time, understandably, for ~90 years. The number of manufacturers has been in the hundreds, if not thousands, with only a few remaining, and even fewer remaining profitable. Most makers have been absorbed by corporations, mainly buying the badge and reissuing cheaper models made in Mexico or other cheap labor markets. Some makers have used technology to make instruments at a lesser cost, by using laser cutters and robots. I’ve seen new guitars as cheap as $20 made in China, that are playable.

acoustic guitar timeline

The big names in the space worth discussing are Gibson, Fender, and Taylor. There are a lot of other brands, like Guild, Paul Reed Smith and Washburn, but they are owned by Gibson and Fender and large corporations, and not really independent luthiers of magnitude. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of worthy brands to consider – there are – but they aren’t giant global guitar shops. Recording King is a small batch shop, which I own an instrument from, in fact. And small boutique luthiers exist all across the world and make incredible instruments. But they are specialty makers and command large commissions. They aren’t the people I’m talking about having to market either.

Taylor is an interesting case study because they’ve been around since the 1970s, in California, still headed up by Bob Taylor. Thanks to a reemergence in acoustic music in the 1990s with Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, et al., Taylor saw a surge in popularity and expanded their operations considerably, as they also began manufacturing instruments in Mexico and cutting costs while increasing margins by increasing their lines and prices. Rather dramatically in some cases. The US made models that use exotic woods can be near $10,000 apiece these days. Most domestic acoustics hover in the $3,000-6,000 range and aren’t for the average plinker.

rosa lee mcfall

My Taylor 414 acoustic

But each year, if not a few times each year, Taylor introduces new models, new innovations, and new marketing strategies that keep the cash coming in. It’s impressive, and I’ve studied it carefully over the years.

There are a few ways they stay competitive that should be noted. Some are very good and some are sort of weak, but I’m sure they are still effective or else they wouldn’t be employed. (The tactics, that is, not the people.) Incidentally, Fender has caught onto some of their strategies and has done a great job themselves of keeping themselves relevant through technology. Specifically, their app, YouTube presence and lessons they offer, focusing on the new player.

Taylor sends out a Wood and Wire magazine to people that own their instruments, which is a high-end publication as far as marketing materials go. Taylor also has an app that has the usual tuner, metronome(in FourTrack), videos, and a way to store information about your Taylor guitars, but they also have come up with an innovative service called TaylorSense™.

TaylorSense is a trademarked ability to remotely and electronically monitor everything about your instrument to keep it in top condition. Specifically, humidity, temperature, battery life and impact(when it’s dropped, not how hard you’re shredding). Taylor owners typically take very good care of their guitars, and they should considering they cost more than a lot of people’s cars. Humidity control is very important for wooden instruments, there’s no denying, but most guitar owners aren’t likely to be able to have a humidor for their guitars or the technology to keep instruments at a desired humidity and temperature.

You have to have a guitar that has the sensors installed, of course. And that means….buying a new guitar! Why not!? A built-in hygrometer is a must! These features actually are useful for the gigging musician, who are putting their guitars in the back of hot cars, vans, and airplanes and carting them across hill and dale. Having your guitar in Charleston, SC for a week and then toting it suddenly to Sedona, AZ, for example, isn’t a good idea.

Fender introduces new models all the time. And a lot of the time they’re “new” just like the old ones. A reissue of 1950’s Les Pauls for example. A gold top! New flaming! There’s not a whole lot to jump and down about unless you have lots of money and collect the things, in my opinion. And even then, it’s dubious to me. Taylor does the same thing, a twist here and there to the cosmetics, a new bracing that “redefines” guitar playing, using a “new,” limited stock of wood, or whatever. But there have been few real breakthroughs when it comes to creating an awesome guitar, either electric or acoustic. Mostly gimmickry and marketing hype. Which is still effective. I have to believe the big guys have MBA types that can run tests and validate the effectiveness of the strategies, rather than just winging it like a lot of businesses do, incredibly.

If you look on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, Reverb, or a gazillion other places where there’s a used guitar marketplace (and new guitars as well) it’s easy to see there’s no shortage of guitars in the world. Just like motorcycles. Nice ones, too. So, how does a company get people to shell out $1000+ for a new guitar?

jessica

My Gibson Les Paul

With the methods above, like the nice onboarding job Fender’s doing with their YouTube videos, creative placements, like within Youtube videos like this one with Ed O’Brien of Radiohead fame, talking about his Stratocaster offering with Fender, or Rush’s guitarist Alex Lifeson discussing his namesake gear in other very interesting and genuine interviews/lessons. Authenticity is a big deal in marketing, and using it is effective with this type of product, and companies. If you look in the comments on the “That Pedal Show” video, you’ll see many people wanting to go out and buy that guitar of his just from watching the video. Or this one. Myself included.

offset telecaster

My offset Limited Edition Fender Telecaster

Another effective tactic is to grow your target market. Women and guitars haven’t traditionally been one in the same, save for but a few creative, explorative, adventurous types. And of course in guitar advertising, with half-naked women draped over guitars, or holding one without even pretending to know a single chord. How they fit in playing guitar is an interesting topic in itself. However, there is a recent noticeable surge in interest by women and acoustic guitar ownership, which is successfully being seized by manufacturers, if not helped greatly by guitar marketers.

If you join some of the many guitar-related groups on Facebook, you’ll notice how many fantastic ladies post videos of themselves playing, and singing, pieces they’ve learned or even written. It’s impressive. I’d argue women should be able to equal if not surpass men with acoustic guitar proficiency. I base that on the fact they’re generally better with small tactile tasks with their fingers. They can do fast, accurate motions better than thick-fingered gorillas men can, like sewing, embroidery, knitting and lock-picking. Just kidding about that last one; I have no idea. But it makes sense. They are no less creative when it comes to writing music, and often are more naturally adept at converting passion and feelings into works of art. Music itself has lots of mathematic undertones to it, which is one of the few reasons that may deter females. I’m not saying that to be masochistic – it’s just a natural fact, which some people refuse to believe despite evidence as long as humans have existed to the contrary. It’s why women are having to be coaxed, unsuccessfully I might add, into engineering and computer programming fields, as well as mathematics and other highly quantitative areas.

When scouting out marketing tactics for this piece, I noticed Fender marketers decided to take the safe route and inject an androgynous female with a man’s haircut, but with tattoos and rings and edgy clothing with their acoustic and electric models on display. It’s as visually neutral as possible.

Fender Play

Although you can, and should use effects pedals and loopers with acoustics, they generally are gear for electrics. And this type of gear that men can spend a fortune of money on as women can shoes, and days playing around with, is just something that doesn’t interest the softer sex. It’s like guys like remote controls and lots of knobs on things, and women want it simple and “just done.”

effects pedals and looper

My effects pedals and looper

I don’t seem to notice more women adopting electric guitar ownership, which is also understandable for the above-mentioned reasons. Electric guitars don’t offer the natural, soft, organic tones and typically the same level of visual artistry as acoustics do, with their exotic woods and finishes. Electrics are made from driftwood and anything you can think of as well, sure, but they just don’t add up to acoustic instruments in terms of sheer beauty. The electronics, huge fingerguards, tremolos, knobs, and other onboard instrumentation detract from the luthier’s work on an acoustic. Some don’t, like Taylor’s electrics, but generally, they’re night and day visually. The pricing on visually beautiful electrics also set them in another league in terms of price from the everyday Stratocaster/Telecaster/Les Paul type guitars. You’re looking at several thousand dollars just to get an entry-level Taylor. You can get an arguably decent, yet totally average-looking and constructed electric for a few hundred.

red fender telecaster maple neck

My Red Telecaster

Something guitar marketers are smartly doing is making guitar ownership something personal, and something that is enjoyed on a level that is enjoyed as a passionate hobby for self-improvement and recreation. That’s opposed to years past when guitars were bought to become the next rock-god, usually even just in the owner’s mind.

The evolution of electric guitar ownership typically goes: air-guitar to tennis racquet to Harmony garage-sale acoustic to Squier Strat to used bottom-level Les Paul or Mexican Made Telecaster to new Strat, Tele or Les Paul, to collecting dozens of vintage collectible Les Pauls, Strats, Teles to collecting all sorts of exotic, weird, vintage makes.

Rock and roll music was what kept people, mostly teenage boys and middle-aged men, buying axes from pawn shops and lusting after shiny new ones. But over the past decade or two, rock and roll has taken a backseat to hip-hop and more electronic music, instead of wannabe Stevie Ray Vaughns. Cultural trends have had an impact on the industry which has been brutal.

electric guitar timeline

These guys talk about Fender and Paul Reed Smith and dicuss the topic, and they know their stuff:

This is a great discussion about Rock and Roll and the future of music in America.

A snippet:

Instead of receiving long, related “strings” of ideas, organized or synthesized for us, we are increasingly exposed to short, modular blips of information–ads, commands, theories, shreds of news, truncated bits and blobs that refuse to fit neatly into our pre-existing mental files. The new imagery resists classification, partly because it often falls outside our old conceptual categories, but also because it comes in packages that are too oddly shaped, transient, and disconnected.

 

 

 

 

Amazon Tells New York Nevermind

Amazon Tells New York Nevermind

At the last minute, for Amazon to decide to not locate their much-anticipated HQ2 in New York because they were obviously not welcome there by the government and loudmouthed activists, is an example of how insane some situations have become between politicians and capitalists. If you look at the photos of the people who don’t want Amazon to locate there, you have to wonder, how in the world would it even impact them personally? In New York, the people trust the government to make the decisions for them, whether that’s about abortion or economics and finance. Both issues the government was never intended to be a tool to handle for the people it represents. And both times it failed. New York is a collectivist state and allows mob rule to employ a few people to make decisions on behalf of the entire state, much like a socialist state. Much like Venezuela, in fact. There are the people at the top that make the decisions and tell the people at the bottom what decisions they should be making, which is what enriches the people at the top. It’s a fascinating arrangement to watch from afar.

Who were the winners and losers here? Well, Take Amazon. They lost nothing. They’re still the biggest company on Earth. Take New York. They lost the chance for tens of thousands of high paying -high skilled jobs, billions in tax money, a spike in intellectual capital to move to the place, a flagship hub of commerce to be placed where cities lined up to have the very opportunity they threw away and more. It could have been the beginning of an East Coast Silicon Valley, for better or worse. When companies locate to cities like that they inevitably create opportunities that were never imagined and give back to the citizens in ways never asked. It draws attention and intellectual resources to the spot where they’re located. There’s a reason cities were lining up for years jockeying to be the place Amazon chose. And New York told them to get lost. Because of short-term political egos and power plays. Not for the benefit of the people of New York and any long term success.

I’m not sure how DeBlasio or anyone can begin to think New York is now better off than they would have been with Amazon locating their HQ2 there. Jeff Bezos knows a thing or two about business and planning for and funding the future. Much more than anyone in government does. And Bezos might not know as much as they do about how government works, but that may be just as well. No one seems to know how the government should work, and at the same time, everyone seems to know. Northern Virginia was the real winner here, and that will be felt down into North Carolina.

Baby Boomers and Money=Babies and Money

Baby Boomers and Money=Babies and Money

This is a financial study just released by Merril Lynch about Baby boomers and their financial standing and comprehension. Baby boomers, mind you, being the generation that should be retiring now en masse. There should be a HUGE transition of wealth they’ve accumulated and saved being moved, withdrawn, spend, gifted, etc… But the reality is that many are still working, many are trying to just find work, and many can’t even get a job, so they’ve found a way to live off taxpayers until…

When you have over 80% of them who don’t even know how much they need to retire, and they’re AT retirement age, that’s pretty bad news. America herself is $21 trillion in debt, largely because of political promises, kicking cans, unforeseen consequences, foreseen and ignored consequences, voter ignorance, and utter irresponsibility. If you look at who grew that amount the most over history it would have been…you guessed it, the baby boomers.

It will be interesting to see how, if any of it, is solved. The government has no money to bail them out. Their kids are the most likely targets, but one look at them and their parent’s financial acumen being hereditary is apparent. I work with no small number of men who are past retirement age, who not only have their grown children living with them, but their family and their grandchildren. And they’re having to work to support them all until… My next door neighbors still have their grown adult child living with them in the basement. It’s not uncommon. It’s a new paradigm in American culture. It’s not a healthy one either. It goes along with the decline of marriage, the steep increase in single parent homes, especially among blacks, and strange multigenerational arrangements that don’t exactly form a strong triangular foundation or mother/father/child.

fir-new-challenges-new-solutions
How to Get News Without Cable

How to Get News Without Cable

I haven’t subscribed to a cable service in a very, very long time, and I don’t watch TV like I did growing up. Everything’s changed. The way I consume media, and the way it’s offered, both for the better.

People  I grew up around used to get their news from one of the 3 or4 stations they picked up on tv: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. from around 5:30-8pm each weekday night, households across America had one of the old-school, much revered, talking heads telling them what was going on in the world. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, etc… They also had a subscription to a local newspaper, the State newspaper and possibly a few other periodicals like the WSJ or NYT. They also subscribed to magazines like Newsweek and Time and that was how we stayed on top of the current events. Usually, a few days or even weeks after things had taken place. If at all, and carefully (and responsibly) presented by journalists.

Flash forward to today when it’s clickbait headlines, noise, absolute bias, ulterior motives, activist journalism, and a firehose of information given by people who have no idea what they’re talking about to the actual source and SMEs themselves.

Additionally, no one much gets “cable tv” anymore like in the ’80s or even ’90s. Maybe satellite for rural areas. And subscriptions to newspapers has fallen off the chart. Social media has replaced a lot of the time we used to spend absorbing the current events and thinking and learning about where we along the timeline of global history, politically, economically, politically, culturally, etc…

The way I’ve learned to best manage it and stay sane and unbiased and well-informed is to curate the information that’s out there. A co-worker asked me how I get my news. She listens to NPR on the way to work, gets it from social media, and maybe a couple of other sources.

info-overload

The way I’ve chosen to get my information isn’t from the sources, but the topics. I know who provides the material, and I’m aware of their certain leanings, whether politically, or how in-depth and insightful I on their on their reporting. As useless as USA Today and CNN are, they still have a lot of resources dedicated to acquiring and distributing information. I feel I should take advantage of that. I’m fairly smart enough to filter out the bias and read it from the author’s perspective, even if it differs from my own. That helps give me a more balanced idea of what’s really going on, and how our society is really reacting to it.

One of the most frequent, easiest and best tools I use for this is Refind. It’s awesome. And it is well-integrated and has simple ways to save and view articles. And there’s a social aspect to it, but not too much.  I’d highly recommend trying it out. An extension I find handy, if not slightly distracting in a good way, is that every time I open a new tab in my browser, I’m given the latest and newest stories that might be of interest to me. I can quickly scan the articles and see if there’s something to bookmark for later, share, or save to a collection to little libraries I’m building on certain topics, or about certain events or people. In this way, I can filter out all the things I’m not interested in, and only get the relevant stuff. And it learns my preferences and makes suggestions on who and what to follow as well, which just makes it more and finely-tuned and dialed in.

Try Refind today, feel more enlightened and sane tomorrow.