Always Use a Pencil When Writing Out Your Plans

Always Use Pencil (When Writing Out Your Plans)


Life plans. Business plans. Wedding plans. Travel plans. Marketing plans.


They never seem to work out, do they? And it’s not for lack of proper planning.

The reason our plans often don’t work out the way we planned them is as simple as this. Life happens.

And part of life is the unknown. It’s fluid and changing and you never really can know what will happen next. But still we try to force some level of control over it. Some part of us wants life to be predictable and known – and so we make plans.

What’s your marketing plan? Can you help me build a marketing plan?

Questions like this come up all the time in business – but I’m here to tell you something.

Stop relying on plans.
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Life Hack: Start Drinking Soylent

For me, one of the worst parts about eating is the distraction it puts into the day. Now don’t get me wrong, I love tasty food … but sometimes I have other things I’d rather be doing than making and consuming a meal.

This is where Soylent has been absolutely fantastic. If you’re not familiar with Soylent, it’s basically a kind of nutritional shake type thing you can drink and it replaces your meals. There’s more to it than that, but I’m not here to tell you about what Soylent is. You can read that yourself at their website.

What I do want to get across is just how much of an improvement to my life Soylent has been, and encourage you to give it a try.
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Tip for Success

Nailed It! My One Tip to Make Every Day a Success

If you’re anything like me, you have a massive to-do list – and no matter what you do, that list never seems to get any shorter. It’s an issue self-starters have – we’re never complacent. We never feel like we’ve done enough. There’s always one more thing to do. (Or more accurately, a few hundred more things to do.)

So it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Taking a look at my lists of things to take care of (I use Evernote since it’s simple and portable), every day I risk the possibility of just staring at the list in utter shock at just how much there is to do.

Then when you don’t get anything done, or after you spend a few hours working, you take a look at the list and see what else is left to do, you can feel like a failure.

Maybe you even are.

But there’s one really simple tip I follow every day that keeps me moving forward – positive and productive:
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Sad Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday 2016: A Case of Cyber Monday Withdrawal Blues

Today is Cyber Monday. And for the first time since the invention of Cyber Monday … no, since before Cyber Monday even existed, I’m not working for an e-commerce retailer.

And it’s really weird.

I’ve been caught up in a lot of projects lately that have been taking my attention, but today is one of those days where I feel a bit emptier. As the consumer world goes on their mad rush to find the best online deals, e-commerce marketers are busy watching the returns of their long-planned campaigns, hoping their sites don’t go down and that every promotion goes off without a hiccup.

It’s really one of the most exciting days to work in e-commerce … and I’m missing it. Instead of sitting behind a monitor watching sales roll in, cheering for records to be broken and the marketing plan to be a hit, I’m busy working on other things.

They’re fun things, to be sure. Pretty exciting actually (especially a few things that are in the hopper I can’t talk about yet). But they’re not the rush of Cyber Monday.

So all you e-commerce marketers – while you might get a little stressed out today, try to take everything in. It’s the most exciting retail day of the year for you – and probably the one day you’ve been planning around the most over the last few months.

Enjoy it.

Ride the wave.

Celebrate the successes.

Learn from the mistakes.

Try to take a breath.

Or two.

And then remember this. Cyber Monday isn’t even the biggest online shopping day of the year.

That’s not until Green Monday … which for 2016 means you have until December 12th to really start freaking out.

Oh how I miss it.

How’s your Cyber Monday? Or how was it? Any big successes? Colossal failures? Heart attacks? Share below.


Is It Ethical for Stores to Be Open on Thanksgiving?

When I was growing up it wasn’t even really a question: Should stores be open on Thanksgiving?

The very idea of being open on Thanksgiving was ridiculous – at least unless you were a store that people might rely on for the day. Say a gas station or a grocery store – and even those generally had very limited hours. But as Black Friday (and more recently Cyber Monday) have taken off, the competition has become more fierce and we see more stores open on Thanksgiving.

It’s become such a controversial issue that we now see lists online of stores that will be open or closed on Thanksgiving, and even calls for boycott against those that are open.

Even the other day, a colleague of mine posted an article about stores being open on Thanksgiving, and my knee-jerk reaction was “boo!” But then it got me thinking a bit more. Is it ethical for stores to be open on Thanksgiving? Even more so, is it potentially unethical to be closed?

Like anything in life, there is no easy answer, but there are a few things to think about as you consider the decision.
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I’m a DMN 40 Under 40 Honoree!

A few weeks ago I received word – I was recently selected as a DMN 40 Under 40 Honoree for 2016! According to DMN:

During their relatively short time in this industry, these marketers have embraced the the tidal shifts toward technology and data-based marketing strategy that customers now demand, and have challenged themselves, their peers, and their mentors to take ownership of the customer experience.

As such I’m obviously flattered to be recognized for this list – and to be in such great company. To be recognized alongside other leaders from companies like IMAX, JibJab, eHarmony and Yahoo is an honor I don’t take lightly.

There’s an event at the end of September in New York that I’m still working out the logistics on attending, but even if I don’t make it out there I just wanted to take the time here to thank DMN for selecting me this year. It’s truly appreciated.

You can learn more about the DMN 40 Under 40 here.

Marketing a Single Product vs. Marketing a Service / Brand

A few weeks ago I released my second fiction novel. As far as I can tell, since launch I have yet to sell a single copy. It’s a common issue a lot of authors deal with, but to be honest, I thought I might be an exception to the rule. Having been a professional marketer for almost 16 years now, I thought I knew all the tips and tricks of how to market something. I built out targeted ads for Facebook and Google, announced across my social channels, and even did a few giveaways. But still, not a single copy sold.

Now, you could argue that the reason it’s not selling is because it’s not any good. It is entirely possible that I’m simply not a good writer – but I’m pretty certain that this isn’t the issue, as people aren’t checking out the product and having a negative experience. They’re not even getting that far. As of this writing, there are three customer reviews on Amazon (from people who got advance review copies) and all three are positive. It’s not negative word-of-mouth that’s hurting.

And so, I’ve taken a step back to see just what it is that’s not working and I have come to the conclusion that I’m frankly going about things all wrong. So far with the launch of the book I’ve been focusing on promoting the product. Getting it in front of the right people, hoping that once they come across it and read the marketing blurb I’ll get them to take the hook and make a sale. I’ve been taking everything I’ve learned in my experience and applying it to this new product to push it out there to people to get them to bite – and that’s where I’ve been going about this all wrong.
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My New Novel is Out Now!

As you may or may not know, in addition to my career as a digital marketer, I also am a writer in my spare time.  While I do my best here to keep the two somewhat separate (and keep the focus on this site primarily to digital marketing, UX, etc) I would be a pretty bad marketer if I didn’t announce my new book here.
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Vinyl Records, Steeping Tea and Slowing Down

The other day while I was at a conference I was able to snag a few minutes between some scheduled meetings to take a quick break and grab something to drink. The “beverage table” had the usual carafes of coffee, but they also had a hot water dispenser and a decent selection of bagged tea. As I’d already had my dose of caffeine for the day, I opted for the tea: a decent ginger one (plus they had lemon wedges and honey so it was perfect for me).

While I was letting my tea steep, a colleague of mine who was running the conference came up to me to ask how the tea was and we got into a nice conversation about tea. He’s been getting more and more into it, and over the last six months or so I’ve also made a big switchover to tea. I recommended he check out the Rishi brand stuff (in particular the ginger tumeric and the matcha super green). As we talked though, the conversation moved a bit from the tea itself to a more “philosophical” discussion about why we actually have been liking tea lately – and we both came to a very similar conclusion: simply by going through the process of making tea, we’re forced to slow down.

The simple act of going through a process forces us to slow down.

Working in the tech space, along with just the way our lives work these days, we’re always in a rush and we’re always multitasking. Making yourself take a break from all that to focus on one thing in particular, and go through a process brings us much more back to the present moment, focusing on what we are doing, and going through specific steps to reach a goal. It’s this simple process in and of itself that can be so satisfying. Boil the water, get out the cup, put your tea in a diffuser (or pick out a bag), pour the water, let it steep, add whatever extras you want (honey and lemon for me), and then drink. It’s a process that can’t be sped up, and it requires time and patience. It’s also one of the main reasons I didn’t drink much tea before: I couldn’t just pour a mug and keep on running to the next thing.

I’ve noticed a similar kind of result from listening to vinyl records. If you know me, you know I’m a music nut. I’ve got thousands of CDs, nearly 20,000 (legal) mp3s and subscribe to multiple streaming music services. But what I’ve found over the last few years is that my preferred way to listen to music is through vinyl records. Yes, it’s a bit of a hipster fad (and according to recent surveys, nearly 50% of recent vinyl purchases aren’t even listened to), and beyond the “hip” factor there are things like audio quality and artwork that people enjoy more with vinyl records – but for me the biggest draw to vinyl is simply the process.

When I listen to music on vinyl it forces me to stop and slow down and focus on what I’m doing, much like making a cup of tea does. You thumb through your collection, find the record, pull it from its sleeve, dust it off, put it on the player, start it up and drop the needle. And that’s just to get started. It turns the process into an event, which is very rarely the case with when we just pop on Pandora or Rhapsody or Spotify or even the radio. It makes us slow down and focus on the steps of a process that ultimately bring us joy.

This, in my opinion, is something we all need to do more of. Take time to slow down. Make some tea. Listen to a record. Bake a loaf of bread. Plant a garden. Forcing yourself to step out of the hectic nature of your daily life by doing these simple tasks can bring much greater rewards than just the end product (drinking the tea / eating the bread).

It’s not mindfulness, per se – but it is a way to allow yourself to regain focus. We all need that, I think.


I Really Don’t Like Using Powerpoints and Slides

I’m prepping this week for my upcoming panel on personalization down in Orlando for eTail Connect (it’s about a week off) and one of the things I’m supposed to be doing is preparing a few slides for a 1-2 minute overview on what I’m doing in personalization. I’ve decided I’m not going to do it though, and here’s why.

For the most part, every time I do a presentation with a big slide show, I find myself too tied to my script. In my opinion, any kind of talk should be just that – a talk. Visual aids can be handy if you need to show an example, or if you want to visualize numbers in a chart – but having slides just for the sake of having something to look at defeats the purpose of a talk. When I talk, my goal is to provide the audience with valuable content, and that means being reactive to the audience, the moderator, and anyone else who might be part of the discussion.

Because that’s what it is when I talk. It’s a discussion – or at least it’s meant to be. Even though I usually know quite a bit about the topic being discussed (otherwise why was I invited?), I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything. If I’m in front of a group of people, the best thing you can do is figure out a way to have interaction – and reading scripted notes from a slideshow doesn’t do that at all.

Now I’m not advocating a forced push to get the audience to respond, nor for there to even to necessarily be conversation during the “presentation” part – but what I do prefer is that a presentation gives the audience the feeling that I honestly want to interact and discuss (because I do!). Slides and images and text on screens take away from that, and in my opinion are better off used for a whitepaper, blog post or other kind of media that someone can look at and consume at their leisure. When you’re with people, you need to address the people – not just read a script to them.

So, even though it’s just two minutes of “slide time” per person for my panel discussion, I’m skipping the slides. I’ll explain what it is I’m doing, but I’ll also be taking into account what others on the panel have already said and putting my experience in relative context. The last thing an audience needs is to hear four people say the same thing while they show pictures of their website. Then, the sooner we can get to the “panel,” the better – because that’s when discussion begins and audience members can start hearing the real intriguing truths and challenges we all face, and what we’ve done to try to solve them.

I can only hope there will be questions from the audience afterward. Bonus points if it’s a question I don’t have an answer to and haven’t even thought of. That will give me a whole new challenge to contemplate and maybe even some fascinating one-on-one discussions later on.

P.S. I’m available to speak if you ever need someone.