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A quest to discover what truly motivates people

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The purpose of INBOUND 2014 is to provide the inspiration, education, and connections any aspiring writer and marketer needs to transform their career.

Why INBOUND 2014. I made the decision in November 2013 that I wanted to pave my own path – in two days, I accepted a job, packed my bags, said goodbye friends and family, and flew to San Francisco to join the startup movement. I quickly learned that there’s no standard way of navigating the trenches of forced flexibility, but there are amazing people out there to help your cause. When you’re starting out as a writer, you realize that you’re only as good as the connections you make and the stuff you publish. Enter INBOUND 2014. 

INBOUND 2014 is an amazing opportunity not solely because of the profound insights and information from respected speakers around the world, but also because it’s a chance to share ideas with other aspiring writers and marketers while making huge connections.

Who knows? Maybe I find my next client, my next employer, or my next mentor. Or maybe I just throw my two senses into a conversation where Simon Sinek and Malcom Gladwell are shooting the shit about what truly motivates people. Either way, I’ll leave that conference with more knowledge, more understanding, and more wisdom about what’s happening in the world of inbound marketing and writing.

More about INBOUND 2014.This is a marketing conference like no other, and it’s taking over the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for 4 days this September 15th -18th.  Thousands of marketing and writing professionals from almost every industry imaginable and from all corners of the globe fill the Center to hear inspiring keynotes, innovative talks, educational breakouts, hands-on lessons, and participate in tons of networking. This year’s keynotes include Shiza ShahidGuy Kawasaki, Simon Sinek, Martha Stewart, Malcolm Gladwell, Dharmesh Shah, and Brian Halligan of Hubspot

INBOUND 2014 fuels the passion that drives the most innovative and successful business leaders of our time.

As renowned writer and moralist, Luc de Clapiers, once said:

 “The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one’s opportunities and make the most of one’s resources.”

I fully intend to do so. This is a chance for me to learn how remarkable the INBOUND experience, and especially its content, truly is.

Gratitude. I had a recent conversation with a friend and fellow entrepreneur about the struggles of trying to make it in startup life. After mentioning a few highs and some lows taking place in my life, he said to me, “There are no lows, only highs. It just takes you awhile to figure that out.” And so, I am thankful for the experiences that have shaped me – the mentors, the guides, my family and friends – and for the fresh new perspective I too often miss.

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves

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Image credit: http://downtownspeakerseries.com/

The progress of the recent revitalization efforts of downtown Las Vegas as well as its guided transformation into the most community-focused large city in the world is more than inspiring. It’s about empowering people to follow their passions while creating a vibrant, connected urban core.

To outsiders, it’s something to marvel at – the way they’ve been able to manufacture a sense of purpose and motivation that other cities have failed to accomplish, respectfully. To locals, it’s been a journey filled with ups and downs more intense than their recent gambling spree or their latest startup experience.  

It goes without saying that local entrepreneurs have been affected by the transformation in more ways than they care to explain. They have no choice but to take the good with the bad.

People

The Startup Institute revealed in a survey this year, that more than three quarters (79%) of startups are struggling to find the right talent, with 41% of start-ups citing this as a reason for failure. This struggle is nationwide, of course, and I can only apply it to a city that I’ve been a part of for a short while now, but one I’ve surely invested much more than just my time.

In Vegas, the current startup initiative may not directly aim to equip startups with the people and skills necessary to be successful, but it’s clearly a huge need in a growing community of tech entrepreneurs. Instead, the initiative is to bring in outsiders – less formerly known by the community as ‘transplants’ – with great ideas. Those ideas are meant to help foster innovation in the midst of a constant downtown revitalization project.

The problem is that those ideas are not supported by the current Vegas talent necessary to execute them. Nor is the initiative doing much to help their cause. Again, there is no lack of ideas; there is a lack of skilled developers who can bring them to life.

Startup Institute founder Aaron O’Hearn said:

"It is alarming to see the extent of staffing challenges in the startup community. While there is much talk about start-up hubs thriving, there is a real danger they won’t reach their full potential because the talent pipeline is not strong enough.

'Short on time and resources, founders are struggling to find new recruits who can add immediate value in fast-moving teams. This is a worrying trend and it's important to bring this to the public's attention as high-growth technology companies continue to play a bigger role in the economy.”

Money

The second most popular reason for startup failure – according to the Startup Institute survey – was a lack of funding, with 26% of respondents citing it as their main issue.

Vegas startups who want funding are all going to places with much greener pastures. I talk with entrepreneurs often about their current funding campaigns and it always starts with talks about their travels to San Francisco. “That’s where the money is,” they say, and that’s where the successes have come from for startups and entrepreneurs who need money to scale their business model, pay their employees, and obtain enough credibility to be of interest to any respected developer.

Indeed there is money here in Vegas, but VCs are hesitant to give it away unless there is a solid team behind the idea. Without providing the necessary resources for all these tech entrepreneurs to achieve the big vision, Vegas cannot achieve theirs. Our economy needs to support all these tech entrepreneurs – both at a local level and the transplants from around the country – and either there is no plan in the current initiative to change this or it’s very well hidden.

Is this simply the aftermath of a city in it’s infancy as an aspiring tech hub? Or is it a distribution of funds being funneled into ideas that aren’t necessarily in the best interests of a community being dragged along by the ambitious goals of city trying a make a name for itself? Perhaps both.

Responsibility

I can’t tell you that those leading the revitalization efforts in downtown Las Vegas haven’t considered these questions. I also can’t tell you whether or not they’ve figured them out. It is, without question, an amazing effort by a group of people with an ambitious mission, and they have my full support. 

What I can tell you however, is that there are growing issues affecting entrepreneurs in a small town trying to be big. The resources – both human and financial – are not in the plenty, and to misguide them would be a disconcerting botch. 

25 things that everyone in media should know

I haven’t been in startup life for a very long time, but one thing has been clear to me since I found myself waist deep in the bloody waters of this thing called the media. You have to learn fast and become a doer, not a thinker. Thinking only gets you so far; and the less you actually do, the more likely you are to start drowning in your own incompetence. The hardest pill to swallow is that there is no one else to blame but yourself.

There are definitely some things I’ve picked up during my short term in the industry. They’ve served me well to this point. To help keep your own head above water, I’ve decided to share them below.

#1 Do smart things that create buzz.

#2 Talk to your key demographic first.

#3 Product placement everywhere.

#4 Create a lifestyle around your brand.

#5 Social is huge. People in media look at what you’re posting on Facebook and Instagram.

#6 Three ingredients to get attention in media:  Be distinctive. Be disruptive. Be connective.

#7 You need credibility, so start small. Big magazines don’t talk to startups until they’ve been around for at least a year because most of them fail by then.

#8 Know your pitch. Make it short, sweet, and convincing.

#9 Be niche. Know who you are talking to. And listen to them.

#10 Know who to contact. Start with lower level editors – interns or assistants. Ideas come from the bottom up. For startups, that’s where you start – from the bottom. You need an initial contact, not the CEO.

#11 Everyone is accessible. Hit up assistants on social.

#12 When you reach out, know what they do. Research the writer and see what they are writing about. Understand that they are also looking for stories.

#13 Know where are they are looking. They are definitely looking on social and other media outlets.

#14 Have a press kit that reflects your brand, but they won’t read more than two sentences before throwing it away. Put it up on your website for them to look at.

#15 Send as many press releases as possible otherwise no one will hear you. Media will not remember you or care about you until they’ve seen you about 6 times – then they will listen to you.

#16 Attend webinars to learn. They create many of them and put out valuable information.

#17 Always have a hook.

#18 Are you tied to a charity? You should be. Media likes charity!

#18 Stand out. Maybe you’ve sent some salacious Snapchats. That would really get their attention.

#20 Don’t piss anyone off along the way. They’ll remember.

#21 A good publicist brings the media a good story. If you don’t know how to bring a good story, then you’re not worth anyone’s time.

#22 Talk to journalists, and ex-journalists turned bloggers.

#23 It’s all about reach. Bloggers fill the gaps that media can’t reach. Approach the right ones.

#24 If you don’t do swag you come off as mediocre. Sorry.

#25 All press is good press.

Why you should give your baby an iPad

I recently attended an event in Las Vegas where some tech-enthused locals could meet up for a drink or two and chat about their successes. I was a tagalong to one of the after parties and found myself trying to push my way into every conversation. On one such occasion, a small debate formed around the suggestion of kids growing up with technology. I said, “It’s a good thing to give your 3-year old an iPad. He will grow up tech smart. But it’s also good to have a social life.” I thought this was a pretty common point of view – a majority opinion – and I was playing my part in the conversation by throwing it in there.

Both of the people I was talking to, however, thought different. I watched their eyes grow big at the comment as they nodded their heads. They clearly disagreed with that last part about having a social life.

The one to my left spoke first. “Well, I was raised by my grandparents and they stuck me in front of a TV my entire childhood and I think I turned out alright.”

The one to my right added to the argument by explaining how video games dominated most of his free time as a kid. “I played a lot of Final Fantasy growing up. Even in high school and well into college.” He, too, mentioned how well he turned out.

The truth of the matter is, they’re right. 

The TV fanatic on my left eventually found computers and then taught herself how to code by age 12. She’s now an ex-Googler turned entrepreneur. Her first two startups failed, but she hit bank on her third and the company is still growing. 

The video game enthusiast to my right transferred his gaming skills into a computer science degree at an Ivy League level and then became VP at the largest social gaming company in the US. He recently left that job to pursue his interests in angel investing, where he funded a company that provides insurance to the newest commodity technology known to man. 

I’d say they turned out alright.

So the next time you’re faced with a decision about buying an iPad for your 3-year old or a cell phone for your child, or at the very least before you throw your two senses into a conversation that you clearly don’t qualify to be a part of, consider the above. 

Do I think that I’m smarter than you? You’re damn right I do.

What would Harvey do?

Aside from being a genius, sidekick Mike Ross knows what success looks like. He sees it every day when he walks into his mentor’s office. He’s been learning the ropes from his hard-hitting boss since day one. He knows how to work the system and come out on top when the odds are stacked against him. He also knows success doesn’t simply come to a man who’s perfected his trade. It’s about the man behind the desk. Its equal parts business sense and compassion, combined with an unsurpassed swag. He knows this because Harvey Reginald Specter knows this.

The man behind the desk

Harvey Specter is the epitome of a man driven by success. He puts it all out there to bring home a win any way he can. He’s smart, classy, and doesn’t compromise on his personal values. Being a man is about standing up for what you believe in. It’s about principal. If you want to be a better man, then take some advice from the great Harvey Specter.

"If you’re talking about loyalty, you better goddamn earn it."

This applies in and out of the office, but both are defined by the ethical priorities you hold yourself to. In the early days of Harvey’s career, he realized that an associate backdated postage when he missed a filing, so he walked right into his boss’s office and told her that if the firm did not declare misconduct, he would report them to the D.A. Impressed, Jessica soon paid for Harvey to go to Harvard Law. “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

"You start behind the eight ball, you’ll never get in front."

No matter what time you get in, work harder and smarter than everyone else and nobody will question your ability to get the job done. Harvey Specter doesn’t focus on what’s standing in his way. He focuses on finding a way. Don’t think like a rookie – even if you are one. When Harvey landed a job at the best law firm in New York, he dominated. Why? Because everyone thought he worked 100 hours a day. "Winners don’t say sorry when the other side plays the game.”

“Didn’t I tell you to buy a suit?”

Understand that the way you look has a direct impact on the way others perceive you. Harvey dresses to impress. It’s not about looking nice for the late night executive party. Its about confidence. He knows that you need to be able to show your clients you’re competent enough to keep their billion-dollar business thriving without having to say a word. "People respond to how we’re dressed so like it or not, this is what you have to do."

"Don’t be cocky. It doesn’t look good."

When you proclaim yourself as “the best closer in New York City” and no one disputes you, then you have right to be a little cocky – especially if you can back it up with wins. But that’s just not Harvey’s style. Sure, he has some tendencies that make weaker men vomit before walking into his glass-walled office – that’s because he knows he has to be able to back up that big mouth of his. But you can’t climb your way to the top without modesty – which is a tough feat when Michael Jordan is on your speed dial.  “I don’t have dreams, I have goals. Now, it’s on to the next one.”

"I appreciate a good single malt. I don’t pretend I can make one."

Collect things, expensive things – and do it with things you have a passion for. You do this and you’ll be lucky to have a vinyl record collection half the size of Harvey Specter’s, which he so proudly displays in his luxurious Manhattan office. I’m not saying everyone enjoys drinking scotch on the rocks while listening to timeless Blues music during their midnight debriefing of a multi-million dollar deal, but when you surround yourself with the things you love then your work can only improve. “Life is this – I like this.”

“If they know you care they’ll walk all over you.”

No matter how big you’ve made it, don’t forget where you came from. Harvey’s father, Gordon Specter, who had long been rooting for him to be promoted, died of a heart attack. Harvey has been visiting his grave occasionally since then, symbolically sharing drinks with him. He has also kept a record of his father, who was a saxophone player, in his office. “I’m opposed to having emotions, not against using them.”

“Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.”

Be a man others can look up to, but don’t lose your edge. Harvey likes to playfully bully his protégé, Mike Ross, especially when he believes Mike is asking for help with things he can figure out himself.  However, when Mike actually needs it, Harvey is always there to give him advice, help, and support, both on a professional and personal level. “If you think I can’t kick your ass up and down this floor, take a swing and see what happens.”

 “Mrs. Robinson, you’re not trying to seduce me are you?”

Surely, you haven’t considered the fact that Mr. I’m the Best Closer This City’s Ever Seen is not a ladies man. He not only wins in the court room, but he knows how to land the hottest girl at his biggest client’s holiday ball. Harvey knows how to treat a woman right, and it doesn’t hurt that when they take one step into his Manhattan penthouse, they feel like royalty. “What can I say, it came with the name.”

The bottom line: "So I’d say the ball’s in your court, but the truth is your balls are in my fist. Now I apologize if that image is too pansy for you, but I’m comfortable enough with my manhood to put it out there." – The great Harvey Specter

Rockstar Games presents: How to succeed

 

Despite the negative reviews from overprotective mothers about the violence in Rockstar video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it gave many coming-of-age adolescents an incredibly accurate portrayal about the natural progression of success in real-life.

Vice City is the story of a man desperate to make it big in this crazy world. He starts at the bottom, goes through some pretty intense ups and downs, and then eventually climbs his way to the top. Sure, he has the occasional shootout with crooked cops and temperamental drug dealers, but who doesn’t?

Embrace the challenge

Let’s put the violence and illegal activity aside for a second.  This game is about overcoming adversity. It’s about having dreams and letting nothing get in the way of making them come true. Vice City presents many challenges and you need to use your creative mind to figure out how to overcome them if you want to get that paper.

Learn the business

Slowly, you start buying small-town stores and shops to generate enough income to pay for the infrequent street corner prostitute and move up the social ladder. Eventually you learn that the more you own, the more money and power you retain. Not to mention that these multiple sources of income give you a much needed flexibility – especially when you’re looking for a place to crash between a recent bank job and paying off your latest hit commissioned by a mad-man strip club owner – you know, the typical work-life balance we all strive for.

Take over the world

This story comes to its climax with a timely showdown. If you can handle an automatic weapon with skill, then you’ll be able to survive long enough to see your biggest rival fall as you take ownership of a house big enough to take over the world in.

The bottom line: Vice City taught us that you can have anything you want in this life, you just have to know how to get it – and stay out of jail. 

The advantages of living in a tech hub

Great ideas come from all over, not just tech hubs, but the reason those great ideas are far more likely to thrive in tech hubs is because of the people who live there. The quality of education and the cultural work ethic is what attracted the big boys of Facebook and Oracle, and although they snapped up loads of tech talent, there’s plenty more out there.

The competition is crazy in tech hubs and the motivation is unreal. Everyone believes that what they are working on is the next Facebook, the next Google, or the next Snapchat.  And believe me, they will go to great lengths to give themselves the best chance. The first time I walked into a startup den, I realized what I was missing out on while living in the small confines of my hometown far away from a hub like San Francisco.

Sure, my chances may have been improved in a small town because of the smaller number of people that think they have something of real value that may or may not change the world, but take one step into one of those startup dens and you’ll realize there are people out there just like you. And those people are surrounded by other people who have the same dreams you do, who have the same motivation you do, and who have been in this business longer than you.

The files are in the computer?

It doesn’t take long to feel small. There are more pictures of Jobs and Wozniak tacked to office headboards than I care to describe. These tech entrepreneurs move fast, because if they don’t, they know the guy next to them is going to take advantage of their hesitation.

You don’t get this kind of social community in places elsewhere. It’s eat or be eaten. It’s inspiring and stressful all at the same time. Its momentum, and you’ll do pretty much anything to keep it going.

Once you’re in a tech hub, you realize that everyone on the outside are mere spectators falling behind by the second. They are confused and they are probably more ignorant than they care to admit about the possibilities of a growing industry determined to take over the world.

Don’t be that guy.

The first person I met at one of these dens grabbed my arm and shuttled me into the nearest conference room to give the run-down about how to survive in a place like this. He started scribbling on a whiteboard before I had the chance to say a word. Then as my eye caught a pretty comfy-looking seat in the corner, he told me not to sit down without even looking away from his less-than-readable notes.

x>y

“Have you heard of this before?” he asked me, and then started explaining before I could answer. X is the amount of work you do. Y is your compensation. “Do you understand? This will be your life for quite a long time. You should be so lucky.” He then shooed me out of the room after giving a final sacred piece of advice that I’ve carried with me ever since. “You are always the most important person in the room.” Despite what seemed like a contradiction at the time, I nodded my head and then closed the door behind me.

The bottom line: You will gain respect, but you have to work your ass off. 

Let’s hug it out

I was recently talking with a colleague about how collaborative her b2b company is with current customers. She explained that it really depends on the customer, but the more data sharing that goes on between the two, the better the results for everyone. She also explained that it can be difficult to inspire even your closest customers to give up the smallest amounts of data.

It is said that b2b collaboration is by far one of the most difficult practices to implement, but the investment is well worth the effort. As the stakeholders in your increasing networked business environment continue to grow, you experience wins via collaboration, effective interactions, and by ensuring all relevant parties can actively participate in the creation of business value – whether it’s measured in revenue, process enhancements, or some other factor.

If b2b collaboration means better results for all parties, then why doesn’t every company utilize this strategy with their customers or vendors?

The answer to that is really quite simple. It’s a matter of deciding what’s more important. Is it more important to maintain whatever leverage you have on your customer or vendor during negotiations? Or is pushing the entire b2b industry forward a top priority for your company?

I can assure you that most, if not all, companies don’t consider the latter of the two a top priority. Why make it better for everyone when I can make it better for just myself?

Businesses, like people, are unpredictable. One day, your customers could reciprocate your generous efforts to help them scale their business by sharing valuable information with you. The next day their egos could get in the way and they decide to take advantage of you by harnessing your shared information and then completely ignore your requests for an equal trade.

The world isn’t fair. If you have a brilliant idea that will allow both parties to reap increasing revenues, but it requires both to give up some power, then you’re going to have a very hard time actually persuading anyone of anything.  

The truth of the matter is that making it better for everyone is, in fact, making it better for you. This may make you more vulnerable to your customers or vendors, but it is going to enhance your business – not just in the short term, but the long term as well. Of course you’re going to lose some buying power (both of you are), but this collaborative strategy is going to help push the entire industry forward. It’s going to raise everyone to a higher playing field. What follows is higher revenue and more opportunities.

The bottom line: Companies need to embrace more collaboration with one another in order to bring customers and vendors into a seamless and fluid community of commerce.

This is not a sales call

They say cold calling is a thing of the past thanks to the evolution of this grand thing called lead generation. Sales 2.0, or lead nurturing, is a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with clients and sales prospects. Marketers no longer cast wide nets and hope for the best. Instead, marketing automation and digital intelligence databases allow your marketing team to zero in on leads and traffic sources that your sales reps are far more likely to convert.

Here’s a quick story

One of my closest colleagues is in sales, and has been for a better part of the past decade. I recently sought his advice on this thing called lead generation. Least it to say, this really sent a rush of excitement through his veins. “For one thing,” he says, “cold calling is a thing of the past! I’m no longer making unsolicited calls to people who don’t want to buy our product.” I urged him on, no matter how ridiculous he was beginning to sound. “It’s called lead nurturing. Our lists are improved and every lead is interested in listening. Lives are exponentially better for sales reps everywhere!”

I then watched my spritely colleague skip back to his little cubicle to make another 100 calls to prospective leads.  

All leads are not created equal

I will support the popular notion that cold calling has evolved along with lead generation, but cold calling is not dead. It happens every day, and it happens a lot. We are still cold calling to people that may or may not want to buy our product. Sure, your nurturing program shows that they certainly have shown topical interest, but the recipient is still probably not expecting your call – and if they are, they are definitely not looking forward to it.

Despite my cynical viewpoint on sales reps new-world view on the subject, today’s improved targeted lists are becoming common practice in the b2b industry. Marketers can refine their leads and sales can determine which ones are more likely to welcome their calls. Our medium for connecting with them has not changed, but leads are more likely to listen to us than ever before.

Enter conversation marketing

To be competitive today, smart companies must develop dedicated “demand creation” programs. Demand creation is a process of engaging your entire market, and developing relationships with your customers long before they are ready to buy.

This is not a sales call.

Developing relationships with your leads requires nurturing. It requires conversation. Has your company left the days of unsolicited cold calling? I can guess your answer because the answer cannot be anything but a firm no. That’s ok, but the least you can do is help your cause by freeing sales reps to engage prospects more proactively. Join the rest of us who are implementing marketing automation to revamp your operations so your sales team can see dramatically improved results.

The bottom line: Cold calling is still like finding a needle in a haystack, but the haystack is smaller.

Either way, someone is full of shit

It’s up to marketing to generate leads with intriguing campaigns and it’s up to sales to determine which of those leads are worth pursuing. Marketing adapts, and then repeats. Round and round we go.

It’s interesting how these two terms get thrown around in conversation without much thought about how one affects the other. It’s just easier to combine sales and marketing into one generic concept. The relationship between the two is a complex one – or at least more complex than any of your college professors made you believe.

The two are dependent upon one another – that is for sure. But that dependency is not static. Both are not dependent on one another all the time. There is a natural order of things. Sales are first dependent on marketing. Sales have nothing to sell without marketing. This must happen first. At some point, marketing becomes dependent upon sales because if sales cannot close on the leads that marketing brought to them, well then there will be nothing to market. The business will cease to exist. And then marketing usually says to sales something like, “Hey! You’re sales team can’t sell shit.”

If sales cannot close then they need to tell marketing why. Perhaps the leads are bad. Perhaps the massive amounts of people that marketing brought them were not qualified in the first place – even if those people showed interest.

Either way, the sales team will usually say to marketing something like, “Hey! These leads are complete shit. Give me something else.” At which point marketing will go back to the drawing board, implement the next brilliant plan, and then serve up more leads to the sales team. The better job sales does of finding out why those leads were complete shit, the better job marketing can do finding better ones. This means that marketing does help sales develop and qualify leads.

Ok, so the sales team lived up to their big egos and converted some leads into customers – great. But it’s not over. Both of these teams are still – and more than ever – dependent on one another. Sales determine what the existing customers need and then once again relay this information back to the marketing team.

Round and round we go.

It’s quite obvious that this process may repeat several times before a sale is even made. But after so many repetitions without sales, both should be held responsible. However, I assure you that neither will admit wrongdoing. Let the blame game begin. Sales criticize the branding plan, and marketing accuses sales of not working hard enough or smart enough. Then begins the economic friction, which is generated by the need to divide the total budget granted by senior management to support both sales and marketing – neither side is ever happy and there is never enough money to go around.

The bottom line: Regardless of their dependencies and their constant need to remove themselves from the other, sales and marketing will forever be included in the same sentence. The better they work together, the faster they will be able to scale revenue.