Friday, August 11, 2017

What I learned this summer as an intern @ a tech startup

Yesterday was the last day at AdAdapted, the company that I interned at this summer via Spark's Summer Digital Marketing Workshop program.  I wanted to take the time to share some of my experiences, good and bad, as an intern at AdAdapted.

In a nutshell, AdAdapted partners with leading CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands and grocery/list-related app publishers to provide effective mobile advertising solutions.  <--That took me a few months to really refine how I personally describe what the company does.

I'll start with the bad (there aren't many).  The only problems I had with this summer's internship stemmed from personal problems and are in no way the faults of AdAdapted or the Summer Workshop:

  • Consistently being on time
    • I am known for being fashionably late, and I am not proud of this in any way.  Living about 30 miles from work, my only real commute option was to take US-23; two lanes and under construction.  The time it took me to get to work ranged from 27 minutes to an hour and a half; leaving my house at 8am everytime.
  • Pursuing 'side quests' instead of focusing on the Primary Quest
    • I spent about 20 hours redoing the Publisher Outreach database (CRM database via Google sheets).  A lot of the time was spent watching YouTube tutorials learning different Excel/Google Sheets formulas and I didn't bill for the tutorial time.  This is valuable to AdAdapted and they plan to continue using it instead of the previous version.  The only thing is, had I spent that 20 hours reaching out to different app publishers (primary objective), I could have set up more meetings; more valuable to AdAdapted.
Time for the good, which most definitely squashes the bad:
  • I learned so much about what I have been studying for years (marketing) through application instead of only theory/examples.  I tend to learn faster and more effectively, as most do, through exercising theory and practicing it.  This internship gave me that in spades.
  • Networking
    • To be honest, I am not a huge fan of organized networking when it comes to 'selling myself' or my skillset.  I do however, see the value in this form of networking.  Personally, I prefer to network organically and Spark is the best place in the world to meet new, relevant people in a casual manner.  
  • Email marketing
    • In my previous work, I became familiarized with touches and maintaining professional relationships with customers.  Prior to this internship, I was only familiarized with B2C email marketing.  I found that B2B marketing was a lot more fun when I decided to steer away from 'canned' emails and start to tailor each individual email respective to the company I was reaching out to.  I learned to expect a way hire response rate with this approach.
  • Job opportunities
    • At Spark, you are always surrounded with a wide variety of professionals that work in a variety of industries.  It's the perfect opportunity to learn more about yourself and find what industry suits you best.  

The Summer Clinic is built to help individual people and small businesses succeed.  I think that the 10 hrs/wk cap is a brilliant way to 'get your feet wet' without jumping into a career headfirst.  I met a lot of awesome people that I plan to keep in touch with.  Everyone was very supportive, patient and respectful; from the instructors to the interns.  I am very appreciative of each and every person that contributed to this summer's workshop, thank you!  

I would highly recommend this program to anyone that is still unsure about what they want to specialize in or anyone that already knows exactly what they want to do.  It gives you a chance to contribute to the community and support small businesses as well as picking up and practicing professional skills.

My favorite sales lessons from a sales guru

Working as a wireless consultant (cellphone salesman) at a Verizon retailer, I was always seeking advice from salesmen I viewed as legitimate; honest.  I had a mentor in the years that I worked there an I still keep in touch with him today.  His name is John and he worked at the Ann Arbor location for 10 years and now works in East Lansing.

John's customers would always walk out of the door happy after working with him and John always kept a professional, yet charismatic/goofy attitude.  The fact that he could stay goofy and perform well at his job is what made me interested in him as a mentor.  I have worked with countless sales reps that made more money than me, and even John in some cases, but I must say that they did not share the same level of transparency as John has.  To be perfectly honest, I believe he may be in the wrong industry as far as fully utilizing his skillset goes.

Anyway, John taught me a couple of mantras that have helped me stay focused as a salesman, because let's face it, sales is everything.  Here are two of my favorites:

"Underpromise, overdeliver"
I never want to be 'that dude' who appears cocky, arrogant and overly confident.  These people tend to overpromise.  The problem with this (especially as a procrastinator) is that you are setting the bar so high that you may not be able to reach your goal; close the sale.  It's not to say that you shouldn't set the bar at all, but modesty and humbleness are, to me, the most important characteristics of someone that I trust and respect.

"Well, we are a privately owned, for-profit business."
This sounds like it should never be said, and on paper, it seems very abrasive and something that you should never say to a customer.  99% of the time, you shouldn't.  However, in sales, especially B2C, you will occasionally work with a customer that is never satisfied on price.  There are several things that should be said before you say the above quote, but it is an excellent last resort card, especially when you are a people-pleaser.  The bottom-line is that if you are being paid commission, and have challenging KPIs that you need to hit (and in this case, hitting all KPIs can make up 25% of your check), there is a line that you need not let anyone cross when 'laying down' can make you miss out on 25% of your check.

Ultimately, the lesson is to keep your customers' needs in mind, but don't forget about the mission of your company, and more importantly, your mission as a person.

How an aspiring search marketer views clickbait

After spending a lot of time learning the ins and outs of Google AdWords and search marketing in general, I have a new perspective on clickbait.

On social media, I am a wallflower; observing popular posts on my LinkedIn/Facebook feed.  Now, I am analyzing the observations I have made with my relatively new 'search marketing filter'.

In my opinion, clickbait is all about making your sub-par content shine with an interesting thumbnail or a general description of the full picture of your content.  These brief descriptions must be a bit wacky/somewhat inappropriate for the respective platform.  Here's an example of one I saw on LinkedIn:

"Wow, doesn't this guy know that LinkedIn is a professional network?  No pants? I better click read more to confirm my assumption that this guy is misusing this professional platform.."
-One of the dudes that liked this post

Now, I should have clicked to explain what I'm trying to say, but I can assure you that the no pants comment was probably pertaining to only having a bathing suit for a business meeting, or something along those lines.  My apologies.

My point being, I am normally disappointed when I click an article with an interesting title, only to find that the content of the article almost has nothing to do with the title.  The clever way to do it is to contradict what the title says in your content so it is at least relevant to the audience; internet sarcasm in a way.

After running different ads on Google AdWords on the search side of things, I know the importance of having a landing page that is relevant to your ad. You want to intercept someones search based on a keyword(s) in their search query and connect them to your site/business that hopefully relates to exactly what they're looking for. 

With this experience, I find it very interesting that clickbait would not really fly on a search ad as you want the landing page to reflect the ad; that is, if you want to have a positive quality score or better yet, have your ad appear in the first place.  I know that it sounds like I'm hating on clickbait quite a bit, I totally am.  I see how valuable it can be for an advertiser, but I find it misleading.  

There is definitely a difference between a catchy, relevant title and clickbait.  

Why you should stop agonizing and just do it

I am stubborn in a lot of ways like the fox in the above comic.  The most visible form of my stubbornness is my attention to detail and desire to be fully prepared for everything that I do.  The problem is, I am also a procrastinator.  I spend way more time brainstorming ideas than I do actually acting on these ideas.

The main example is related to the required number of blog posts for the summer clinic digital marketing workshop.  To get the Spark certification, we need to have 14 blog posts by the time the clinic ends (among other requirements).  I am an internet-introvert and I like everything to be as good as I can possibly get it if I plan on sharing it to the public.

My problem is, I let my 'desire for perfection' give me an excuse to put something off; I'm still coming up with ideas for blog posts waiting til I find the best one, but not actually writing any content.  I am currently in the midst of this as I write this blog post; I need to have 14 by 5pm today.  This is post 11/14 and I know I would've had better content if I didn't 'pussy-foot' around these last few weeks and just blogged!

It would have been easier for me to get it all out and then go back and edit later.  As stubborn as I may be, this has taught me a lesson that I hope stays with me as I am also sacrificing other opportunities by playing catch-up.

What you may not know about memes and how they relate to digital marketing

I have been hunting memes for years now without knowing what they actually were and I am here to share with you one my of my most interesting Google searches in the last few months.

If you asked me "What is the definition of  meme?" two months ago, I would have said,

"A recognizable photo that has a universal meaning with a witty header and footer."

I was wrong...a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square...the pictures with a witty header/footer are definitely memes, however, memes aren't exclusive to this medium.  The definition, as seen in above image, in way more general than I could have ever imagined.  It made me rethink the whole idea of memes and specifically, how valuable they are or can be to digital marketers.

Thinking beyond memes represented with pictures, it is safe to say that a living, walking, breathing human being can absolutely be a meme as well, as long as their behaviors are mimicked and passed from person to person.  An example of a behavioral, non-digital meme is 'dabbing'.  If you don't know what it is, see below picture as you have probably interacted with several 'dabbing' goons without even knowing it.  Instead of explaining what it is, here's an example of a 'dabber'.
To be honest, like most memes, I don't know who really started the whole dab meme (and frankly, I don't really care).  Most, if not all millennials know exactly what dabbing is because their awesome friend, family member, classmate, or stranger on the streets participates in the act liberally.

With this newfound understanding of memes, I naturally tried to relate it back to digital marketing and whether or not there is value in marketing in a 'memely' fashion.  The fact that I don't know where most memes originate, or really care to know for that matter, tells me that it may not be the best way to increase brand awareness.  On the other hand, you could be like the NFL and watermark a gif of grandma dabbing.  I absolutely see more pros than I do cons, the main pro being how rapidly a meme can spread an infect everyone.

The internet is the ultimate platform for a meme, and I would put money on the fact that advertisers are really pushing to invent the next popular meme.

A Michigander's business and networking perspective


 Michigan is a very unique place for several reasons:

  •   Split into lower peninsula and upper peninsula
  •   Living here for one year will immerse you in all four seasons
  •   Parts of our northern neighbor, Canada, are south of Detroit ("Born and raised and south Detroit a.k.a. Canada" - Journey)
            Now, because humans are a product of their environment (to an extent), you can only expect different perspectives of business from state to state and in places like Michigan, city to city.  In my opinion, strangers in the UP (upper peninsula) are way more relaxed conversationally than a stranger in the lower peninsula.  However, I believe LP strangers are more open-minded than a UP stranger in regard to topics of discussion.  Also, growing up in Canton, then living in Ypsi, and now Brighton (all cities in MI), I have found that the 'vibe' varies drastically when it comes to conversational approach (or cold sales approach).  I feel like working in different cities can sharpen your ability to network intuitively and avoid any conversational awkwardness.
            Experiencing hot summers, freezing winters, and the smooth (or drastic at times) fall and spring times play a huge role in conditioning one's tolerance.  I have never believed in a 'secret formula' for happiness or success as the formula must change and evolve all the time (like the seasons).  Having worked in commissioned sales, I can safely say that month-to-month, my checks could be $2k less than the previous months.  Not because I started to shoo customers away, but because foot traffic would unexpectedly drop.  The point I am trying to get across is that in sales, you should hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  Living in Michigan, you can wear a bathing suit all summer long, but you'll probably need to change if you want to be comfortable in the fall and winter.  I hope you see the connection here.

         As Andre 3000 said, "You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather."


Sunday, July 23, 2017

5 hotkeys that help me multitask effectively

When I am researching qualified prospects and taking notes on each individual company, it can lead to a huge cluster and leave me feeling disorganized.  My last job in sales required me to run about 3 programs at all times with several browser tabs open at the same time.   Staying productive and efficient can be a challenge when you have an overwhelming amount of information in front of you and it can take a lot of petty time to get the job done. 

Photo Source"

Hotkeys are keyboard shortcuts designed to save time by eliminating the need to ‘click around’ to get to where you need to be.  Here are some hotkeys for Windows (should be similar for Mac OS, switch CTRL with Command) that have saved me a lot of time and led me to be more productive when multitasking:
1)     CTRL+X/C/V
a.      You probably knew these ones already.  If you didn’t:
                                                        i.      CTRL+X will cut highlighted data
                                                       ii.      CTRL+C will copy highlighted data
                                                     iii.      CTRL+V will paste whatever is copied/cut on your clipboard
2)     ALT+Tab
a.      This one is probably my favorite.  This will switch you to your last program in use (provided it is still open).  This is very useful if you need to input individual data from one program to the next or referencing something quickly and switching back.  Keep ALT held and continue pushing tab until you get to the program you desire
3)     CTRL+Tab
a.      This will switch between tabs on your web browser      
4)     Tab/Shift+Tab
a.      When filling out a form, for example, hitting tab will take you to the next field.  Shift+Tab will take you back to previous field
5)     CTRL+Z/CTRL+Shift+Z
a.      Did you just accidentally delete a bunch of important data? No problem.  Hit CTRL+Z to undo changes quickly.  Adding shift to that formula will redo changes made

I am aware that I may be preaching to the choir on some of these hotkeys, but I wanted to share the ones that have helped me multitask most effectively.  Do you have a favorite that isn’t listed here?  Leave your favorite in the comments.