Smile, life happens whether you are ready or not!
Thud! “Sell this.”
That’s what my publisher said at Hearst one day in 2008 a few short weeks after a devastating Hurricane hit the area my newspaper was in.
The thud on my desk was a soft copy proof – about 200 pages – for a book I did not even know we were making. As the Online Manager and Marketing Manager, my title said I was focused elsewhere, but the reality was much like the Life commercial that says “Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything”, I had the “Give it to Justin he’ll make anything work” reputation. In the 8 months before I had launched a 32 page Hispanic Newspaper, a monthly 86 page glossy society magazine and was responsible for training sales staff even though we had two people “doing that” already. Although I have a lot of experience in sales and training people how to be effective in sales, I previously had no experience launching newspapers or magazines from the ground up nor had I ever launched a book.
Great, I’m so excited by this new opportunity. That’s NOT what I said; in fact I was more like… what tha!? Are you serious?! You gotta-be-kiddin me?! Anyway, I treated it the same way I had in the past with advertising plans, television shoots, web projects and the time I sold my soul to a hockey franchise (more on that later)! I just looked at the moving parts and our goals and started working the process.
The success and the reason you care is because my publisher wanted to sell 2,000 books, I put together a few programs and sold 2,000 to one company within two weeks, then went on to sell another roughly 8,000 books four weeks after that. $2750,000 in book sales in six week isn’t too bad is it?
“How’s that working out for you?” What Dr. Phil taught me.
A couple months after selling approximately 10,000 hurricane books, I was hired by a publisher and my first project would be the sales and marketing of a very high quality photography book featuring the likes of Dr. Phil, Cesar Millan, George W. Bush, Owen Wilson, Steve Miller (of the Steve Miller Band), Pat Green, Isaac Mizrahi, Nolan Ryan, Zig Ziglar and about 80 other wonderful celebrities, musicians and business leaders. Unlike the earlier hurricane book experience this was a different level, different process, and different dynamics.
I ended up selling thousands of books, but in unconventional ways and with a lot of leg work – more than the hurricane book. And while I loved the project, the coordinating of the author/photographer, celebrities and fulfillment groups were a huge undertaking. In the end, I had a total of three different book titles I was able to put my thumbprint on before finally asking myself, like Dr Phil, “how’s that working out”. As it turns out the book business was not my thing, but the lessons learned, the publishing process, the scale and objectives are remarkable. The one big lesson I learned and still carry forward is this; in publishing of any kind, if you want to make money doing it you need three things; an audience, a platform to leverage, and a buying/selling atmosphere – ironically, the content only matters as much as the other three variables indicates it does. Great content by itself is simply not enough.
“We Will, We Will, Rock You” and how I sold my soul to a hockey franchise.
I think it was 2002 and my company was dense with a new kind of talent. On staff I had not one but two animators / illustrators, one flash artist, a web designer a programmer, a secretary and me – the jack of all trades doing a lot of account management, client service, business development, project management and a little of everything else. You know, the life of a high strung, probably under qualified owner with lots and lots and lots of overhead. At this time, we were hooked in with all the advertising agencies around town and were getting a lot of great motion graphics work and web dev work. Good times in a small town with less than 150,000 people. Apparently not too small for a Hockey Franchise though.
I remember our original proposal to the hockey team being a jaw dropping $130,000 or so for us to build a custom ecommerce, score keeping, game stats, and audio broadcasting via the website along with a full 2 minute 3d modeled animation video, marketing collateral and assistance with the audio and video production during the home games. Did I mention I was 23 or 24 at the time?
After negotiations and such, we landed at somewhere around $90,000 and I never regretted a project more before nor after – well, except perhaps the 1 year custom CRM we developed for a boat dealer, but that’s another story. In this case, though, it ended up consuming me and my entire shop for months on end and we began playing a dangerous game of resource management, fulfillment, production, client service and vendor recruiting as opening day neared.
I remember we ended up having seven machines rendering Lightwave and 3D Studio Max files for nearly a week – almost 24/7. Just in time to deliver the full 2 minute video for the opening night – it was awesome. And as a part of the deal, I (as the owner of the company) ran the audio board to played music and sound effects throughout the game – all 30 of them.
I learned more than I can possibly say here, but the biggest thing was knowing what I (we) should do versus what we should outsource, how to better scope and better write contracts, and when to walk away from an opportunity that’s not really an opportunity.
“Where is the automated email system” and other questions that can bite you in the ass.
Did I mention that I learned how to better scope projects and better write contracts thanks to the Hockey Franchise? Oops, I lied and it cost me big time. In fact it turned a 3 month project into an 11 month project that nearly sunk me in order to deliver “according to the contract”. Just so you know, “an automated email marketing system” implies a lot of features especially when it’s integrated into the custom site you are developing and is supposed to be easy to administrate in the backend.
In 2004 / 2005 I had the misfortune of meeting a business man who owned several stores that sold items in the $10,000 to $250,000 range. The original inquiry was simple enough. They needed a website redesign and maybe some online marketing and SEO. After talking to them a $3,000 budget turned into something much bigger. The project became a full content management system and customer relationship management tool as well as an F&I tool, sales management and quoting tool and online marketing system.
My hard file on this project is literally 3 inches thick. Over the course of 11 months I met with the CEO about once a week for a minimum of 1 hour sometimes as many as 3 hours as he pulled out of my kicking and scream body, one of the most sophisticated, intelligent systems I’ve ever seen. Of course it was all hard wired around his exact needs, his point of sale system, his finance process, and his sales process – but man it was an impressive feat. This is where I really got to dig in on advanced business consulting and user interface design, information architecture, and intuitive design.
Even though my proposal and contract was more than 10 pages long and backed up by a multipage non-disclosure agreement and a five year non-compete I still suffered scope creep, ambiguously define features, and inconclusive wireframes and mockups of the system. In short, I got beat up during fulfillment. This project, despite having developed our own custom CMS and ecommerce system, lead me to steer away from serious plans at large scale programming projects.
“Fair value for fair value” and other great sales phrases that work.
In 2010, my company began focusing on strategy more so than production. Our promise was to deliver fair value for fair value – which is to say, nothing cookie cutter, nothing ridiculously marked up, and absolutely specific to that companies needs. We wouldn’t recommend something just because we could or just because they would pay for it. It needed to work for their business.
I apply a pretty strict view of consulting at this level. I share more about here on the website, about value (as in total value not low price) and “what’s in it for me” filtering. When you are talking strategy the primary offer is clarity of vision and a proven method of getting results and turning goals into action plans and literally creating opportunities based on market situations or customer needs or both. In short, we create a plan, promise and deliver. Turns out, that’s pretty valuable to executives and busy CEO’s.
Anyway, back in 2010, we went like gangbusters and had client engagements and project engagements as low as $10,000 all the way up to $90,000 almost overnight. Despite many naysayers that challenged our business model informing us that no one buys strategy, they only buy production and project fulfillment – we demonstrated (and still demonstrate) that’s not true at all.
Our biggest successes involve a strategic plan that ultimately included the execution and fulfillment in order to meet the strategic needs of the company. These are things as basic as collateral materials or websites and as advanced as marketing strategies, advertising campaigns and mixed media lead generation.
Turns out, when you ask where people want to go, beyond the thing they want such as a website or marketing program, they will tell you. And when they do, you get to decide where you fit in their vision and how you can best help them. Picking your projects and making big things happen is fun but also very demanding.
This is where I learned how to sell tactics and strategy together while actually facilitating the work over long periods of time and making large profits that were fair. Never before has there been a greater demand for people who know things. Special insights, or how many things tie together for specific business needs.
Video killed the radio star and other insights dad can’t teach us.
Everything we know about relationships, sales, marketing, and behavior has shifted in a new direction thanks to these here interwebs. All the advice my dad gave, no longer applies and it’s questionable if it ever did in the 90’s or 2000’s either.
In the 90’s I knew websites would become the new front door to businesses, the new handshake. I’m happy to say I was right. In the early 2000’s I knew we needed a way for clients to update their own website instead of relying on coders. I spent a few thousand hours on developing a content management system in house that did multi-language support, embedded video (before YouTube existed) and included meta data and title data for page by page SEO BEFORE WordPress was even bits on hard drives. I also knew that video would be important to the future of the web and that someday we would do a lot, if not all, business online. Turns out I was right on that too. I did not know there would be a Google, a Facebook, or an iPhone, iPad and Kindle nor all the open source software and apps freely available, but I do now! I also know the web is already and will continue to be a booming area and will be further neutralized as a place that does NOT require technical expertise to use it effectively.
So, if you are not focusing on your voice, your perspective, and your relationships you are falling behind. If you are not learning the web, social media, SEO, ecommerce, lead generation, online marketing you are falling behind – these are the “business basics” of the future, the kind of things that even the kids, hourly employees, and interns will have a working knowledge of. This is big, and you must be diving in now, not later!
In 2011, I had an awakening.
While I am capable of a lot, for years I was still missing out on my greatest good, the thing that most excited me. My ultimate purpose. You see, in consulting and all forms of work I’ve done in the past 15 or so years I’ve made a lot of money for other people, solved a lot of other business problems but was only able to do that in a one-to-one way and only when substantial money was on the table. The dynamics were always around catching fish, not teaching to catch fish.
When I looked around and inventoried my greatest joy, I realized it came from helping people. I like exploring, learning, doing and testing things then telling others about how things work and how it can help them in their business. And that’s where we are now. I’m shifting my future to be focused on helping you and your business in ways I never got from others around me.
So, as a seasoned web and marketing consultant, speaker, mentor, trainer and leader, I’ll now be focused on sharing the greatest gifts and knowledge I can possibly share – my own experiences, tools, insights, and time.
I’ll give it to you straight and without fear of failure. Been there and done that and still pushed on. I’m not always right, but I’m often on the right track and that’s usually far better than others.
What’s that got to do with you?
Well, for one, nothing happens unless you make it happen and you better be able to make things happen – or at least figure it out when you don’t. And that means you may just need the help I can provide here on the site or in the subscribers only area (it’s free).
It also means that I’ve got a track record of unusual (and successful) experiences in technology, marketing, sales, publishing and business that show perseverance, business intelligence, sales methods, processes, production needs, and how to make money. You can and will do all this too – I’ll teach, show, expose or otherwise inform you. That’s my goal.
From the small projects a freelancer may be looking at to the large accounts you may desire to land – I’ve been there and I’ve stood shaking in my boots as I knocked on the door of opportunity. And here I am, still standing, and living my best life now.