You Know More Than You Think You Do

Anytime you’re looking at a career change, or a new course of study, or just looking to start a new activity that looks like fun such as learning to play the guitar or piano, the hardest part is often getting started.  After all, if you’ve never done something, even the fundamentals look complicated as hell.  But as I’ve noted before, it feels impossible only until you do it.

The best piece of advice I received when I transitioned from brick and mortar retail management to Internet Marketing and Web Strategy Development was to take inventory of the marketable skills and experiences you already have, and find ways to apply them to a new line of work.

Once I got started – and shortly after I was committed to pursuing my online endeavors I realized that I knew a helluva lot more than I had given myself credit for.  Every day I found myself more and more confident talking the talk and walking the walk with people who’ve been in this game for years.  Even though I am a pretty quick study and tend to pick things up rather quickly, at first I was apprehensive and slightly intimidated when it came talking about what it is that I do.  It wasn’t until I explained my occupation to a relative with almost no knowledge of the Internet or how it functions that I realized that I was much further along.

The fact of all of this is pretty similar, if you’ve been even moderately successful in one line of work, you can succeed in another.  I am not saying there won’t be rough patches, but in the overall scheme of things, you know way more than you think you do.

Don’t believe me?  Think your base of knowledge is common and unremarkable?  Take a minute and think about a topic you know a fair amount about but don’t consider yourself to be an expert in, like a hobby or general interest you’ve had for a while.  Maybe you’re a history buff or a baseball fan.  It doesn’t matter.

Now find someone who knows nothing about the subject at hand and teach them what you know.  Let’s take baseball for example.  I played baseball for several years when I was growing up and I’ve watched the game my whole life so I know quite a bit about it, but I am by no means an expert.  Now when I imagine myself trying to teach someone the game, I get lost in the complexity of everything I know to the point where I wouldn’t know where to start.  When I think about balls and strikes and runs and hits and errors and home runs and the difference between force outs and tagged outs and the difference between called strikes and swinging strikes and stolen bases and ground rule doubles and knuckleballs and fastballs and suicide squeezes… I could literally go on and on and on about the things I know about baseball – but even then what I possess in terms of knowledge only firmly qualifies as a fundamental understanding of the game.  In no way am I qualified to manage a Big League team.

But, to someone who knows little to nothing about baseball I can literally answer every single one of their questions confidently and authoritatively, which will position me in the mind of the other person as a solid resource for baseball information.

Another example of someone making a living off of their hobbying experience is video games.  I know of a few people who are very good at a popular online computer game, take screen capture videos of them playing and create tutorial videos to help others.  These videos get hundreds of thousands of views, which opened doors to advertising opportunities.  Another gamer created a membership site where people could get help from a community for a monthly enrollment fee.

You know more than you think you do.  Give yourself credit for what you know, learn a little bit more to feel more confident about yourself and go for it!  As I’ve said numerous times, it’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.

It’s Not Too Late to Get Started in Social Media

Whenever you hear about Social Media, does it sound like a passing fad to you?  Does it seem, as the ageless Betty White eloquently put it, “Like a huge waste of time”?  When you think of all the time you’d have to put into it to be successful, can you imagine about 500 other things you’d much rather be doing with your day?

Well if your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you’re not alone.  There are many individuals and businesses alike that are not on Facebook, or Twitter, or any other Social Media medium, yet their lives go on.  The world does not pass you by just because you don’t announce your exact location to the universe by way of foursquare.

That said, by continuing to ignore Social Media, there is an amazing opportunity that you are missing out on, whether your aspirations to connect with people are personal or professional.  Keeping your head firmly buried in the sand in an attempt to pretend that it doesn’t exist doesn’t keep the conversation from taking place; it simply means that you are choosing to be irrelevant.

Social Media has been around for a while.  Network websites such as Friendster, Myspace, Bebo, LinkedIn, etc. have been around since the early days of the internet.  Today there are hundreds of Social Media platforms that are of varying degrees of relevance.  And, while there are established major players who got into it early on and are revered and admired in their niche, that doesn’t mean that the Social Media landscape is competitive to the point of saturation.

The thing that is great about Twitter, Facebook and the like is the fact that there is, and always will be room for more.  Not only is there plenty of room at the top, but they want you there.  The top Social Media users such as Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) are always looking to connect to relevant people who are going to provide value to them.

So if you’re hesitant to get involved, relieve yourself of your prejudices and jump in with both feet.  Here are a few tips to get you going:

  1. If you haven’t already, create accounts at and
  2. Announce to the world by whatever medium you have that you now have accounts on these sites.  This can be a blog post, or by going through your email contacts, or by simply telling them.  Maybe you operate a retail counter – put your username on display in a conspicuous place, or on your receipt.  If you’ve created a fan page on Facebook, encourage them to ‘like’ your page in order to stay in contact – give them an incentive for doing so.
  3. Once you have a few friends or followers, engage them and watch what they do.  If they seem to be prominent in their respective online communities, participate in the discussions and provide value to them while expecting nothing in return.  This will help you grow your own network one you establish yourself as a valuable resource.
  4. Establish a schedule for the amount of time you’ll dedicate to Social Media participation.  Five minutes a couple times a day should be plenty to get started.  The idea is to accumulate people to connect with.  You don’t have to burn hours a day in front of your laptop in order to be successful in Social Media.

The goal of Social Media isn’t to become a guru with 50,000 followers.  If that happens, great – so long as all of your connections are meaningful.  A friends list that contains nothing but a bunch of arbitrary people that you don’t care about and that doesn’t care about you isn’t doing you any favors.  It may be a relatively slow process, but as long as you’re honest in your approach, and you conduct yourself in such a manner that encourages the organic growth of your network, you’ll do just fine.

Transparency is the Key to Doing Business in the Digital Age

I was in a casual conversation recently with a friend/business colleague of mine who asked me point blank why I have my toll free number dial directly to my cell phone.  His tone wasn’t necessarily critical per se – but more of an overt type of concerned observation as to why I would go to the trouble and additional expense to set up an ’866′ number, just to have it ring straight to my hip pocket.  He implied that employing an additional service directing the caller through a series of prompts would be a much better implication that I am a large successful entity.

At first, I was a little annoyed at this suggestion, but it occurred to me that my friend wasn’t wrong in the traditional sense; it’s that his sense of how small business is conducted has shifted dramatically in recent years.

The advent of blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting and the overall unprecedented access that the everyday person has to virtually everything they could ever want to find out has remove the facade of businesses small and big alike.  The old days of the mystique that businesses were afforded have been replaced with an age of complete transparency.  The internet has placed everyone in a glass house.   Those who accept and embrace this new shift in culture have thrived; those who’ve rejected or ignored it have paid a price.

The reality about transparency is that this is not a bad thing at all.  Is it really unfavorable that your clients are able to verify almost every claim you make?   Not if you’re genuine.  However, if you didn’t really manufacture all of the products on your site like your ‘about’ page says you have, then you’re probably going to have a huge PR problem sooner or later.

So why do I have a toll free number at all?  The reason is simple:  Professionalism.  Even though all calls ring straight to my cell, my email is, I work out of my home office and I seldom delegate, it’s still important for me to be a professional – and to promote an image that instills confidence that I am someone who can and will deliver what I say that I will.  That said, it’s not my position to try to appear to be something I’m not.

I am not a corporation, and when you call my number you’re not going to have to press ‘one‘ for English.  What would be the point?  So you can momentarily get the impression that there are other people here?  Why would I want to waste peoples’ time?  Why should I run the additional risk that they will hang up just to give off a falsehood such as portraying myself as bigger than I actually am?  Is this going to boost confidence?  Maybe, but only until they find out the truth.  And it isn’t a question of if, but WHEN they realize I was lying, how is that going to look?  That I was so insecure about what people would think about my operation that I had to put on a mask?  I don’t know about you, but if I encountered someone like that, I would pretty much irrevocably label them as a huge douche and swear off any chance of ever doing business with them.

The Internet has leveled the playing field in the sense that you can tell the frauds from the real deal pretty swiftly.  Pulling the wool over the eyes of the entire public is a daunting task in and of itself.  Think about it.  Remember that old adage your dad used to say that went something like “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”?  Well this is more true today by a factor of 100.  If even one person sees through your bullshit, the connected nature of the Internet means that information literally travels at the speed of light.  The viral nature of the web, combined with the almost scary  amount of influence that blogs such as The Huffington Post and TechCrunch possess means you’ll be dead in the water faster than you can imagine.  And chances are, the cat will be out of the bag before before you even know it – and by then damage control will be a pipe dream.

Six Principles I’ve learned After One Year of Internet Marketing

The beginning of the second half of the year Twenty-Ten marks the one-year anniversary of my first paying job in this ever changing industry.

That first job was a simple research project that was completed in less than a weeks time, but it opened the door to a wide variety of new tasks and challenges over the past 12 months that have rocked my world in every conceivable way … OK not every conceivable way ;)

1 year in internet marketing


One of the things that I really loved about this industry that was a complete 180 from the world of retail management is the fact that no two jobs are alike.  I’ve had projects that revolved around computer server repair, sunscreen, local restaurants, online auctions, etc.; every single project presents a different set of objectives to achieve and challenges to overcome.  Even multiple tasks for the same client are often very different in scope.

Along the way I’ve learned millions of things – way too many to fit into a single blog post.  But there are a few things that I’d like to share – you may not find this groundbreaking or life-altering but hopefully they’ll at least provide a fundamental reiteration of some basic principles if nothing else.

It’s not who you are.  It’s not even who you know.  It’s who knows you that’s important.

To put it another way, the number of people I know far exceeds the number of people who know me.   I know a lot of business people in this area in the sense that I know what they can do for me with respect to their business.   I know what line of work they’re in and who they’re connected to.  While this is important, saying that I know the Pete Brands (@petebrand) and Rich Apps of the local business scene is only marginally useful unless these people know what I can do for them and others.  To achieve this, you have to give before you get.  Provide true value in any way that you can while expecting nothing in return.

There are no little people.

I say this from the perspective of a ‘little person’.  What I mean by that is although I’ve made a lot of progress in the past 12 months, I’ve by no means arrived.  There are plenty of people around here and beyond who have accomplished a helluva lot more than I have, and are highly regarded in the community.  But what I’ve learned is that despite this fact, they were once little people too.  And furthermore, even though they are more successful than they once were, there were prominent people who helped them get to where they are now when.  And on top of all that, they know that without the little people, there’d be no big people.  It’s like the old adage goes – if there were no ugly girls, there’d be no pretty ones either.

But what I’ve really learned is that no one is really on a pedestal.  Just because someone is on TV a lot or has a nice office and drives a Porsche doesn’t mean that that person should be regarded any differently than anyone else – it just means that they’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish a few things.  But even they know that they didn’t get there without help.

Name dropping is highly underrated.

This is one I just picked up recently.  I was at a recruiting event for a club in downtown GR – they were courting new members to join in order to continue growth and keep the club open.  It was by invite only.  Pete invited me so I decided to go check it out.

There were obviously many members there meeting and greeting prospective newcomers.  I met a gentleman who I knew of prior – he asked me who I knew and when I told him who’d invited me, his face went from the doldrums of a five-minute conversation with someone he never intended to remember to genuine interest.  Now, it wasn’t my intention to drop a name or anything like that – I wasn’t trying to impress this guy and I had been succeeding admirable to this point.  The thing is, I wasn’t trying to win favor with anyone – nor was I trying to work this little bombshell into the conversation.  I just answered his question.  The funny thing is, Pete is pretty highly regarded around these parts – I don’t know if you’ve ever had a friend get famous or have significant success, but this is a new experience for me.  The thing is, Pete is still just Pete to me.  He’s the same guy I’ve always talked shit to at the poker table and on the golf course.

Always strive to be an expert knowing all along you’ll never reach that status… it is OK to not correct people who mistakenly label you as such however :)

Have you ever noticed that the moniker ‘Expert’ is never self applied?  You know why?  Because it’s a myth.  The true experts are labeled by others.  And even if you are considered by your peers to be highly regarded in your field, it isn’t something you should let go to your head.  There is always more to learn, new techniques to develop, new discoveries to be made.  The moment you decide that you’ve learned enough, you’re toast.

There is no guarantee that you’ll be relevant tomorrow, no matter how huge you are today.

If you don’t believe me just ask Myspace.

When it comes to Social Media activities, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

Social Media participation is pretty crucial to the transparency that is required to succeed in today’s business world.  It allows so many opportunities to connect with so many different people that you’re crazy not to engage in these activities.  That said, this is not a tactic or a chore.  If you don’t enjoy sharing and connecting with people, then you shouldn’t participate.

The thing about SM and the like is the fact that if you’re not into it, it will show and the last thing you want is to be labeled a phony.  There are too many choices for consumers today for them to waste their time with someone who doesn’t want to be there.

And a few other nuggets:

If you don’t have time to do it right, you’ll never find time to do it over.

Being self employed does not mean that you are your own boss.  If you have 100 clients, then you have 100 bosses.

You have to be yourself.