Working for The Man

Working for The Man

I work for a great company. And the best part is that there’s a lot of ways that I can make the company even greater, which is my job, and which is to say I have a great job. I’m happy to be able to say that I have a great job at a great company, even if that company is actually 6+ companies and the industry is one I have no prior experience in. Fortunately, I learn fast, especially when I’m learning about something I’m interested in. The world my company operates in is one I’m interested in, and I think most men would be: industrial manufacturing. But it doesn’t end there by a long shot. Precision engineering is intimately involved and at an impressive scale.

a large dryer

There are so many positive aspects of where I work and what I do, it would fill a novel. But I’m going to try and break it all down and sort out the most relevant parts. And some of the info can’t be divulged due to competitive secrets and proprietary factors. I’m going to explain it as if I was talking to my daughter Cecelia because, in fact, a lot of the reason I bother writing stuff like this down is so she can read it one day and may it will help her understand what I do, where, and how I think.

The primary company I work for basically builds asphalt plants. I’ve already come to regard asphalt as black gold. Asphalt is good, cement is bad. It’s a private company that was started by a guy from Missouri around 4 decades ago, and he has managed to build a very impressive portfolio of companies and assemble a wonderful group of people. It’s a testament to the type of person he is, and the type of person that does well in the business world. He’s still the president, and my boss, and he’s forgotten more about asphalt than most people in the business know. Of course he’s smart and shrewd, but he’s also funny, humble and an all-around great guy. And politically, he and I see eye to eye as well, which is not only refreshing, but rare in Louisville, KY which is a dark shade of blue. His leadership style is awesome. He’s very open to trying new ideas and things, and up to date technologically, which is an impressive trait. He’s very concise. He’s on the ball.

When I was evaluating the company and trying to decide where I was going to work, something that struck me was the number of people that have been working there for a long time. The company has around 300 employees and collectively, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number years’ experience, all of them earned at our company, amounted to well over a thousand. 20, 25, 30, 35+ years there isn’t uncommon, believe it or not, but it’s VERY uncommon  these days in business overall. Quite a few people there are easily retireable, but they keep on working because it’s such a great place to work. People don’t leave. As a result, there is a definite family feeling within the company. A lot of those people have spent more time at work with each other over the years than with their spouses. But of course, families are celebrated there, and there are all sorts of opportunities to interact in a non-work way, like the giant company picnic at Beckley Creek Park coming up or the birthday lunch bashes that are held each month for all the people that have a birthday that month. This past Wednesday was my birthday and it fell on the same day as the company party for me and about 5 others.

Something else that stood out to me when I was thinking about joining them is the way they interviewed and “recruited” me. I was lucky enough to have a few other companies interested in me simultaneously, and was able to compare experiences. The company I work for now contacted me via email after I missed their calls because my little daughter set up call forwarding somehow when she was playing with my phone. Thank God. However, I wanted to work for a company with people that are diligent enough to follow up via email if they can’t reach someone over the phone, so I could view it as a test instead. I interviewed with the owner, and the key employees among the companies who I’d be working with, and was even taken out to lunch before I ever even met an employee of another company that was interviewing me via a paid recruiter. They acted fast, and were personal, and direct, and decisive. It was clear who the winner was among the group of candidate companies. And after I was hired, the owner went out of his way to make me feel welcome, and he still does. That’s partly why he’s successful.

There are a lot of things I love about my job but I won’t list them out. Everyone has their preferences, so what I enjoy and find fulfilling is probably different than most. But it always comes back to the company. I’m given the latitude and freedom to make meaningful changes to the company, which is rewarding. What I do directly impacts the bottom line, so it’s a thrill to find ways I can increase revenue, and I’m identifying a lot of opportunities. I wish there were more hours in the day so I could implement the things I’m building and planning more quickly. But I know for a fact that what I’m doing and will be doing will have a dramatic effect on our revenue (and costs) which enriches all the people that work there. So I’m helping to make a lot of people’s lives better. That’s a nice thing to be able to say about your job. My job entails creativity as well as being able to use my MBA, which is perfect.

We have several manufacturing facilities around Louisville, and visiting them is always fun. One of the cool things I now get to do is see how our products are made. Our products are like gigantic Tonka toys. They’re huge. We also make industrial dryers and kilns for people all around the world, so the business isn’t limited to the world of asphalt at all. People use our dryers to help manufacture all sorts of things. Bourbon, food, chemicals, and on and on. And not only do we make the best in the business, we make a lot of innovative products no one else even has. We have engineers all over the place, and they design some clever heavy duty items for the industry. We have a lot of brains in our company, which is also appealing. Lots of thinkers. And builders. Which is part of what makes it such a great fit for me–I love building things and being around high-energy people who are achievers.

I get to learn all the time, too which is awesome. Obviously with no asphalt or engineering background, I’ve got a lot to learn right now. Drinking from a firehose, as they say. Which I’m doing but the owner is making sure I have all the tools I need and providing opportunities for me to get plant tours and taught from some of the most experienced people in the business. Formal learning as well; I’m getting my OSHA and MSHA certifications next week. And staying abreast of innovation and new technology is encouraged. The owner gave me a copy of Disrupt by Luke Williams which I’ll be reading this weekend. How great is this place?

 

The 2 Worlds of Marketing

The 2 Worlds of Marketing

Most people don’t give marketing much thought. Which is how marketers like it. But with so many people online these days, it’s impossible to avoid online marketers trying every trick in the book to lure you into buying their products and services. That’s why a lot of people confuse marketing with sales. Sales are part of marketing, but marketing isn’t really a part of sales.

And with so many companies and people trying to sell stuff online, there has emerged a very large cottage industry of “digital” marketers. I even label myself as such depending on who I’m marketing myself to. My background is that of traditional marketing, however, which is a completely different field. During the years by running an online business, I’ve learned all there is about digital marketing as well, and even have certifications in it, for whatever they’re worth.

You’ll see a lot of familiar names, especially if you hang out on LinkedIn, such as Neil Patel, Larry Kim, Gary Vaynerchuk and Neal Schaffer. What you’ll also notice in these people’s bios is that they’re speakers and authors as well(and quite well-paid consultants). Their names always appear on the “must-follow” and “most influential” lists of marketers.

But that’s misleading. And that’s because you have to know what marketing really is, which most people don’t. They think it has to do with sales and advertising. Which it does, but that isn’t what it is.

A good example is this article that landed in my inbox which is “21 Questions to Ask before Implementing Marketing Automation.” It begins with a SHOCKING! statistic that less than 10% of companies have implemented automated marketing. That’s most likely because they aren’t talking about marketing. It’s “Sales Lead Software.” The sales department would be handling this, not marketing. Marketing for the product/service was primarily done long ago when the marketing plan was being executed. This whole article is geared more toward sales, not marketing, but it has “marketing” littered throughout it.

Marketing is about satisfying people’s wants and needs in, hopefully, an innovative way. Doesn’t have to be innovative, but in a competitive setting like business it should be to be successful. And there are lots of innovative ways to go about that task using the internet. And within that space, these folks are pretty good at marketing. Themselves. To people that are also looking to reach a large target market, like they do with themselves. This is where it begins to get blurry.

Traditional marketing consists of market research using any number of tools such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and so on to determine the size of the target market, the interest in the product or service and associated features, and whether there’s even a market at all. A detailed inspection is done with regards to the environmental aspects that surround the product/service, such as governmental/regulatory issues, geographical issues, technological, political, and competitive factors that need to be considered. Usually, a great amount of data are collected to analyze using multivariate testing and regression analysis and the whole affair is heavily quantified and then manipulated and many, many complex Excel spreadsheets are created with lots of graphs and charts to illustrate the findings. This is what CMOs and highly-paid consultants do for companies, and what you learn to do when you get an MBA like I did. And you can dive even deeper, like I did, and concentrate in marketing strategy.

Contrast that with digital marketing, which consists mostly of getting followers, “likes,” getting people to engage with your blog posts, and sign up for newsletters and email lists. It’s really more “sales” than marketing. Hubspot, which has become a multibillion-dollar company by helping small businesses market themselves, specializes in “inbound marketing,” as it’s commonly known, but in fact is a series of sales tactics. It also involves SEO, which is simply staying on top of best practices to rank in Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

The people mentioned earlier are adept at leading people down the sales funnel via trial and error of growing their own personal fan base over the years, but likely have never spent much time actually studying marketing, per se. They are charismatic, and have good sales chops, have found their niche, but would have a hard time telling you what a p-value is used for. What makes these “marketing influencers” money is speaking gigs and book sales, and not so much bare-metal marketing.

For me personally, I’ve found it’s best to be versed in both traditional and digital marketing. Digital marketing is a supplement to traditional and is a valuable, and I’d even argue necessary, set of tools in ths day and age. It’s sort of rare to find that set of skills as I look around, however. Thus the 2 separate worlds of marketing that are developing. Universities don’t teach digital marketing. It’s something that changes too quickly and involves trends, dynamic coding, writing skills, design and schools simply aren’t agile enough to properly equip anyone to be effective. And the digital marketers don’t typically mess with the academic world of traditional marketing. You might find a few people that happen to have an MBA or a Masters in Marketing, but it’s usually just coincidental.

So How’s The Marketing Going?

So How’s The Marketing Going?

Marketing Accountability

So time to check in with results since my last post. I’m doing pretty well, actually. I’m growing my Twitter base in a hockey stick fashion and getting a lot more eyeballs on my LinkedIn profile, Facebook pages and groups and my numbers on my marketing blog and here are starting an upward trend. The key is consistency. Finding a sweet spot as far as types of content that resonate with my audience and discovering what times of the day is best to send it out. My biggest challenge is having a toddler to watch after, which I cherish and comes as my top priority, so at that expense go my marketing efforts. I can’t stay consistent just yet because I have other priorities.

iphone looking at twitter

In addition to marketing that site, I’ve also burdened myself with hosting a Product Hunt Hackathon here in Louisville, and I’ll be building a product myself, which will be an audible desktop penpal setup, and down the line have it work with Alexa and iOS software. It’s for the blind or illiterate who would like to have a pen pal but would rather speak their message to their pen pal instead of writing it and mail it and wait. It’s just a side project to mess around with. I’ll have it hosted at penpals.fun. So I’m putting that on my plate along with looking for a full-time job and taking care of a 2-year-old, a 16-year-old dog and a cat. And sometimes, apparently, a very well-fed possum.

product hunt

What’s the biggest benefit of this marketing effort is that I’m learning a TON of digital marketing tips and techniques and staying on top of the bleeding edge marketing stuff. Machine Learning and AI and VR marketing, for example. I’m able to stay on top of the latest marketing trends and automation tools and am trying out a bunch of them to see what works best for what type of work. A lot of what’s out there is the same version of a product, with small iterations changed and a different feature here and there. I’m finding a lot of money doesn’t need t be spent to access some pretty powerful tools, and for a usually reasonable fee, you can get your hands on some really powerful gear. Google is especially generous with their software.

So I’m still forging ahead, and making gains, which are humble but what’s to be expected in the embryonic stages of such an endeavor. I’ve done this enough to know that it takes time. Tha’s the biggest power the internet has: the effect of time.

 

Cranking Marketing up to 11

Cranking Marketing up to 11

MarketingDesk.io

If you’re in the marketing business, you surely are familiar with what the marketing landscape looks like online: it’s packed with tools, tips, articles, software, and “pros” offering advice and products to help you learn more about, boost and help you and companies with all types of marketing. Sounds great, right?

Problem is, there are a lot of different types of marketing. Inbound, content, SEO, SEM, digital, automation, branding, product, email, affiliate, and over a hundred more at least.  And then subcategories of those. It gets to be messy fast, and marketers being marketers, many of them are in it to make a buck or two. Or a lot more. And the range of knowledge and experience and authenticity of those marketers that want to help you is all over the place. People with no marketing experience at all, who’ve gotten their “skills” from reading other people’s articles, to marketing professors who are into academic marketing, to legitimate digital marketers, to hobbyists, to…. You get the point. A lot of what you see online is about affiliate marketing, which personally I’d put near the bottom of the list of legitimacy, to more academic and B2B marketing/digital that incorporates a bundle of skills which includes SEO, content, SEM, display, and a pretty big marketing mix. That may or may not include developing one or more sales funnels that rely on inbound marketing using platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce. I’d place that somewhere near the top, alongside “academic” marketing, although academia is woefully outdated and out of touch with the realities of practical marketing in the modern world. It’s where much research and marketing studies are generated, alongside consulting firms that release complex case studies like McKinsey.

What you tend to learn in school is purely theoretical, with possibly a few case studies and maybe some real-world experience comprised of teamwork, working on an actual marketing problem that a business is willing to let students work on for free/experience. That’s typically found in graduate-level work at the better schools, and even then, it doesn’t teach you much of anything about real digital marketing whatsoever and what the skills and tools are you need to know to get a job doing it. You have to teach yourself or learn on the job, which is more and more unlikely that you’ll find an employer willing to pay to train you in 2017 when there are a lot of people that already are trained. My tenured professor wife knows nothing about business itself and wouldn’t know what she was even looking at if you showed her a Google Analytics or Infusionsoft dashboard, or anything about SEO at all, for example. It’s the same with law school; it doesn’t teach you lawyering or how to practice law, just the dry research and academic aspects. It’s also why we’re seeing people like Steve Wozniak and organizations/companies like Google funding and setting up schools and other training programs that simply leapfrog underperforming, overpriced colleges that aren’t preparing students for actual work whatsoever.

There’s also a wide range of quality when it comes to marketing programs in Universities as well. Top-tier schools, of course, will offer that in spades, but 80% of marketing degrees come from schools most people have never heard of, in accelerated 1-year programs that aren’t really worth much all.  And even if they do offer a respectable opportunity to learn marketing, that’s not to say the students will take advantage of it. I cite my own experience of teaching marketing management at a local University to 35 students as an adjunct professor. The top students were motivated and walked out with some good tools and knowledge. The bottom never bothered to even learn the definition of marketing, even though I told them repeatedly if they only learned one thing in that class, the definition of marketing should be it. And the last question on my final exam was: “What is the definition of marketing?” Guess what? People still got it totally wrong.

So the point is, it’s like wading through an ocean of misinformation and an overabundance of barely-relevant information and tools and advice, much of which contradicts or is poorly-communicated to the point of being utterly confusing. I know this because I’ve spent the past 6+ years online plowing through it all on almost a daily basis. I also have an MBA with a concentration in marketing strategy. I’ve also taught marketing management at the University level, as I mentioned And if that wasn’t enough immersion, I’ve been married to a marketing professor who I traveled alongside with through her Ph.D. program and all which that life entailed. Marketing has been the world I’ve inhabited for nearly a decade. And I’m presently on the hunt for a digital marketing job now myself and am preparing myself for such a role so when I get one, which hopefully is soon, I can hit the ground running in every way.

What I’ve decided to do is create a website that will be the headquarters for a digital marketing hub, with a Facebook page and a Facebook group to supplement it, and grow a community around it for relevant discussion and ideas. It’ll take time to grow organically which I realize — I don’t plan on advertising to grow it or worry about monetizing it or anything, and I’ve built some decent sized communities online before for various concerns like web development and design, so I know what it takes and what to expect. And that’s fine; what that strategy eventually yields is high-quality and manageable, which are among the most important criteria.

Plus I think it’ll not only be fun but will serve as a great resource for my new digital marketing job. If I get the one that I really want and think I have a great shot at, it’ll be perfect. And it’ll be something rewarding I can share and work on as a highly productive side project as well.

So if you’re into digital marketing or any type of “legitimate” marketing, come take a look, join and participate! And let me know what you think; criticism and ideas are the driving force behind its growth and quality standards. There will be tools, tips, strategy, discussion and marketing resources galore.

marketing desk

One of Those Rare Days

One of Those Rare Days

I don’t post much personal stuff on this blog, ironically, because there are better places to record those types of things, and I know no one cares about it anyway. “Ask not what you can do for the internet, but what the internet can do for you” is most people’s attitude, so I’d rather provide informational posts of value rather than useless personal blather. I’ve managed a personal blog since 2010, so I’ve learned what sells and what doesn’t. Which is a good lead-in to this post.

Today was one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time, for two reasons.

When I first moved to Louisville back in 2011/2012 – I can’t even remember off the top of my head anymore because I don’t generally spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror, I set out to find who the movers and shakers are in the tech and business scene here. Louisville isn’t a massive city, so it wasn’t too hard to pinpoint a few dozen names who were making things happen here. Who’s been having successful exits, who’s in the 40 under 40, etc… And one of those people kept popping up, all the time on my radar. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and even work with quite a few of those impressive people, but never that one guy who really impressed me among the top few. But I’ve followed his work this whole time, in a professional-stalker manner (I’m intentionally not mentioning his name because that doesn’t seem polite or appropriate).

And today I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him for an hour or so about working with him, just sort of randomly. I’m in the job market now, looking for digital marketing work, and it just so happens he’s in the market for a digital marketer. He’s the Managing Director and was a co-founder of the business, which has been on the Inc. 5000 six times and has won many awards and is simply a great tech firm with some of the biggest brains in Louisville, with operations overseas that employ around 1,200. But that I was in that room telling him how I could help him was a strange experience, after following his body of impressive work for so long. Which brings me to the second reason.

I realized I know a lot more about digital marketing and marketing in general than I thought I did after that meeting. Sort of like reverse-imposter syndrome. While I thought the meeting might be a humbling experience(the man has been described to me as a “genius” by others), it proved the opposite and was more encouraging than intimidating. I’m sure that has a lot to do with his obvious humility and character. But it shouldn’t be such a surprise, since I have an MBA in marketing strategy, have taught marketing management, and for years now have lived and breathed the exact work they’re having pain points and problems with, if not decades when talking about writing compelling copy and following bleeding-edge tech. And it’s not exactly a crackerjack operation. So the same strange meeting also yielded the realization I’ve been selling myself pretty short. Which is a nice sensation-don’t get me wrong.

My little business operates at a $95/hour rate, which I haven’t had a problem getting, once qualified clients are located. That’s the hardest part, which is the same issue many businesses have, including the one I was exploring today. But it may be time to reevaluate some avenues I’ve been feeling out because I think my capabilities and skills are above where I’ve been punching. Which is a great epiphany to have, but makes your mind spin with new opportunities. It’s exciting to think about what the future may hold. We’ll see what doors today open.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

FOLLOW UP:

SO. Here’s what happened. This is my email to the Managing Director of the firm. 

Dear XXXXXX

For professional reasons I just wanted to document what transpired regarding my consulting engagement offer with GlowTouch Technologies, so hopefully, the situation doesn’t reoccur, to record it for my reference, and make sure the event doesn’t just vanish into the ether.

On October 17 you verbally extended an offer for a three-month engagement after interviewing and gathering information with you and Paul Kuamoo to identify areas for optimization via data collection, analysis, and marketing strategy implementation and techniques for your customer support division, including writing SEO optimized blog posts. I was to increase conversion rates for your sales department by identifying and executing marketing methods and was allowed three months before reviewing the measurable results and effects of my efforts. For my work, we agreed compensation would be $5000 per month, and I was to begin on October 23 at 1:00 pm to provide time for you to prepare your marketing team for my complementary insertion and due to the fact I had prior commitments before that date and time. After the three month engagement, we would review the outcome and situation to see if my continued efforts would be of utility in a full-time capacity or not.

On October 20, after I appropriated some necessary software and developed preliminary strategies to hit the ground running with as little friction as possible on October 23, and declined two other procured but scarce consulting offers to focus intently on the quarterly GlowTouch Technology engagement, we discussed the agreement once again. You informed me you had alerted GlowTouch Technology’s marketing team that I would be helping them in a consulting capacity, and their reaction to your presentation was revolt. Your solution was to immediately remove me from the verbally agreed upon engagement and put your staff on a type of notice, with the mention that my services may or may not be needed at some undefined point in the future.  

I’m still currently available and willing to assist GlowTouch Technologies with marketing issues. However, my experience causes me to suspect the misalignment within your marketing department may be a result of using an agile methodology which tends to separate duties over time within operational sectors, resulting in inefficiencies. There may also be managerial issues at play, but I have no way of pinpointing them without assigning myself to research and inspecting where the business problems may lie.  

In any case, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts and pursuits and hope you find the solutions and results you’re seeking. It was a pleasure to finally meet you, and I truly hope our paths cross again.

Best,

Michael