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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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March 17, 2014

Do You Feel Lucky?

March 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Ambitious manHow many people do you know who are lucky? You know the ones. The people that get all the breaks, that everything goes right for, every time. The ones who find nothing but success in all that they do.

That’s nonsense, of course.

No one gets all the breaks. No one’s life is that perfect.

Instead, every “lucky” person I’ve ever known really succeeded because they were able to make their own luck, even following serious setbacks.

Businesses have lots of ups and downs, every day. But a marketing promotion that doesn’t succeed, a new product that bombs, or a project that fails often plants the seeds of future growth.

A client of mine, for instance, tells a great story about a promotion that didn’t work at all. While it raised awareness for their brand, most of the attention proved negative (as in, “did you see how these people screwed up?”) Instead of ignoring the failure, the company took what didn’t work (“wild promotion to attract more customers”) and turned it into a feature for existing customers (“offer ‘thank you’ deals to great customers to attract more repeat business”). The results have been extraordinary.

Was that lucky? Not really. As one of the team often says, “We paid the tuition; we may as well use the learning.”

So, sure, I’ve talked about luck before on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s always worth remembering. As Louis Pasteur once said,

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

In other words, luck is what you make of it.

Looking for opportunity? Check out my “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Internet Marketing” on Slideshare. It was, by far, the most popular presentation there this month:

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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February 28, 2014

A Good Week

February 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

A good dayThis has been a really good week for me. I’ve just finished up a couple of big, successful projects, signed a few awesome new clients (Hello, and thank you, new clients!), moderated a panel at a very cool conference, and started discussions with some really interesting companies about how we might work together in the future.

By any objective standard, that’s a good week. Really good.

The funny thing is, none of those represent the best part of my week.

The best thing that happened this week? I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary.

And, it occurred to me that so many of the good things in my life—every day, every week, every year—happen because of the support I get from my family, starting with my wife. Just before I launched my business, I was offered an amazing job, with a great salary, excellent benefits, and plenty of interesting work. I remember asking my wife, “What will happen if I don’t take this job?” And she said, “You’ll succeed, that’s what will happen.”

Cool lady, huh?

Someone, I think maybe Woody Allen, once said, “80% of life is just showing up.” And the only secret I’ve ever found in life to getting what you really want comes down to that simple truth. Doesn’t matter if it’s business, or relationships, or marriage. It’s showing up. Doing the work. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. It’s a truth demonstrated to me by my father, my most influential teachers and mentors, and, these days, my wife. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

I hope you’ve had a good week. I know I have. I’m going to enjoy myself this weekend, take a little rest, refresh my mind and my body, spend time with the people I love. I hope you do that too.

And I also can’t wait for next week, to start again.

Have a good weekend.

Got some time to read later this weekend? Interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, finally, you might want to check out some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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January 16, 2014

3 Key Things to Remember About Remote Work

January 16, 2014 | By | No Comments

Building the right teamSo, I realize the whole “work from home vs. work in the office” debate is kind of done, right? Marissa Mayer sent out her memo—a year ago, I might add—the Internet exploded, and promptly forgot about it.

So, why am I bringing this up? Again? A year later?

Funny you should ask.

I was visiting with a client earlier this week and something interesting happened (all parties were completely fine with me sharing this story; as you might expect, names, and a boatload of details, have been changed).

A key individual, we’ll call him “Peter Gibbons” was working remotely to meet some fairly crushing deadlines. He, with the acknowledgement and endorsement of his team, turned off his phone and IM. It’s all good, as the kids say.

He churned out his work, reconnected his devices/utilities, and learned that the world had caught fire while he was offline. Um… kind of not cool.

Anyway, once they team got together, they fixed the issues, and life went on. Not great, mind you. But, y’know, fine.

Now, the guy was completely in the right on this one. He’d done everything right. Everyone thought it was cool. They made the best of the situation and discussed how to ensure this wouldn’t happen in the future (i.e., make sure Peter had some appropriate backup).

Except for one thing.

An individual on another team, who we’ll call “Michael Bolton,” completely lost his mind. “My work is just as important as that guy’s,” he bellowed. Well, insisted. But it came off kind of bellow-y. “How come I don’t get to do what he did? And what’s worse, the whole world caught fire! If that happened to me, I’d get reamed up and down. I’ve got to churn out (pick whichever one works for you):

  • the big client presentation; or,
  • that major press release; or,
  • 5,000 lines of code; or,
  • our entire business strategy for next year.”

He continued, “I’ve got important work to do. And I’m way more productive outside the office. I’m not constantly interrupted by other people and I can focus on getting my job done. It’s ridiculous that I’m held accountable for meeting specific productivity goals and not given the opportunity to meet them.”

And on and on and on. You know the type I’m talking about.

Now, to be fair, his last point has some merit and I’ll come back to that.

But, while I think remote work is right for many people in many situations, there are three, highly related reasons why not everyone should work remotely. At least not every single time they want to. Happily, this individual’s mentor laid them out plainly:

  1. You are not a number. Your value to your organization is more than a single measure, no matter how important the presentation, press release, code, or strategy you’re developing. Now, if you’re legitimately being interrupted by people talking about trivial, non-important stuff, you’ve got a legitimate reason to say, “Hey, sorry, but I can’t talk right now. I’ve really got to get these TPS reports to Lumbergh by the end of the day or they’ll take my Swingline stapler.” But, if they’re trying to solve real, honest-to-goodness work related things, take a minute to assess whether their things might be worth contributing to, too. Which leads to…
  2. You weren’t hired to do one thing. Your value is not that one thing you do. Doesn’t matter how good you are it, either. Part of your value to the organization is “dealing with interruptions” and being available to the rest of your team to answer questions, engage, brainstorm, and, participate in the overall process. Sometimes, maybe even go to a meeting (as long as it’s a useful meeting; I’ll have more to say about this another time). Part of your role in just about any organization is to help move the entire organization forward, not just your piece of it. Which leads to…
  3. Don’t confuse your productivity with your team’s productivity. Finally, this is the kicker. Your client presentation, press release, code, strategy, or what-have-you is undoubtedly important (if it really isn’t, but they’re having you do it anyway, you really want to schedule some time with Lumbergh to sort that out). It may in fact be critical to the organization. But it’s also possible that your focus on that thing creates a roadblock to others’ productivity and, worse, to that of the overall organization. When Peter Gibbons was out of the office and “the whole world caught fire,” it definitely delayed the team’s response. If two or three or four or more people are standing around waiting for you while you work on your project, that’s a pretty big hit to the organization as a whole.

Now, as for Michael Bolton’s complaint about being held accountable for meeting specific productivity goals and not having a realistic opportunity to meet those goals? Yeah, that’s bad. It’s not only demotivating; it can be downright soul-crushing.

What a good manager is supposed to do in those cases is work with Michael Bolton to determine the organization’s actual priorities and create an environment where Michael can both get his work done and get recognition for contributions to the team’s success too. Which, I’m thrilled to say, Michael’s manager accomplished handily.

So, does this mean I’m against remote work?

Absolutely not. Not even for Michael Bolton, sometimes.

With the right people, processes, and platforms in place, many organizations can benefit from getting their folks out of the office from time-to-time (I’d recommend revisiting these tips on how to do just that).

I’ve said many times, people don’t go online; they are online. The web, mobile, social. and otherwise, creates lots of opportunities for people to work at a remove and remain completely connected. What matters is how you make it work in your organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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December 12, 2013

Happy…

December 12, 2013 | By | No Comments

Closing out the yearI’m a little contemplative today. I tend to get this way roughly this time each year.

  1. Because of the holidays and the end of the year, and
  2. Because it’s my birthday.

Yes, I’m one of those. Don’t worry. It’s not a mid-life crisis, just a little year-end contemplation. I think it’s valuable to look back every now and again. And this year, I find myself thinking a lot about my Birthday Reflections post from two years ago:

“…through everything, I’ve had more happy days than sad the last year. Which I hope is true for most people.

I suspect it’s not.

I look around and see people challenged in many different aspects of their lives. Some are unhappy in work. Others are unhappy in love. And still others are unhappy in life, generally.

Now, to be fair, many people face challenges that I can scarcely imagine. We’re sitting in the middle of the worst economy any of us will ever see (we hope). Lots of people are struggling to pay their bill or are worrying about what happens if they get sick. Some aren’t sure how they’re going to pay for their kids’ college or their retirement. Others face very real medical situations for themselves or their family. These are huge problems and ones that I don’t see any easy answers to.

At the same time, I’m excited whenever I talk with a business owner or an entrepreneur or a kid fresh out of school who looks at the world and sees opportunity. Many speak of their plans with such enthusiasm and passion and drive, that they breathe life into everyone who hears what they’ve got to say. You can’t help but get caught up in their excitement for what they’re going to do.

Sure, some won’t succeed, at least not at first. More than a few will likely adjust their plans or their goals along the way once they learn a bit more about their customers, their market, or their assumptions that weren’t quite right. But many will succeed in the long run. And not because they had a better idea or a better business plan or a better operating environment.

No.

What will help them reach their dreams is that enthusiasm, that passion, that drive. We all get knocked down from time to time. The most successful people I know often have suffered serious setbacks or losses somewhere along the way. That’s not cliché. That’s reality. It’s the enthusiasm, the passion and the drive that helps them deal with those setbacks, that helps them overcome the challenges, that helps them get back on the horse when they fall off.”

I’ve long believed it’s important to do what you love. In fact, I’m increasingly convinced that’s true. That doesn’t mean you’ll love it every second. Nor does it mean it’s a guarantee of immediate success.

What it is, though, is the thing that will get you up off the ground when you’re knocked down — and if you’re like most of us, that will happen somewhere along the way. Bill Gates’ first company was called Traf-O-Data. While it wasn’t an outright failure, it didn’t exactly net him his billions. Warren Buffett couldn’t get a job with his hero, Ben Graham, when he first graduated college. Again, that seems to have worked out OK.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a look backwards every now and again — whether on your birthday, the day after a major project tanks, or whatever one appeals to you. But the folks who do what they love quickly absorb whatever lessons they can from the process, then “get back on the horse,” and start moving forward again. Gates’ love of computers and software led him to Microsoft; Buffett’s love of business and finance kept him in the game.

So, as the year starts to close, take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Do I love what I’m doing? Will it sustain me through the tough times?” And if you find the answer is “No,” think about what it would take to get you there.

And, for those of you who answered “Yes,” you’ve got the best present you can have. For you, I’ll close with my thoughts from a couple years ago,

“…my birthday wish is that you find whatever it is that engages your energy and prods your passion (even though that [phrase] sounds a little dirty when I say it out loud). Each year goes a little faster than the one before it, so don’t waste your time worrying too much about what could go wrong. Some bad stuff will happen no matter what you do. That’s life. Just make the most of your time and do what it takes to make yourself—and the people you love—happy.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of my past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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October 4, 2013

The Master Switch by Tim Wu (Book Review of the Week-ish)

October 4, 2013 | By | No Comments

Columbia professor and policy advocate Tim Wu wants you to know what you’re up against. And with “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”—his excellent, important book covering corporate control of information—Wu outlines how governments and conglomerates collaborate to enact gates and tolls around any information channel, from the age of telegraphs through to the current Information Superhighway that is the Internet.

So why am I reviewing a a book from 2011? And what makes this title that’s been sitting on my Kindle for over a year worth reading today?

Lots.

Beginning with the economist Joseph Schumpeter’s notion of creative destruction, Wu outlines a clear and compelling outline of how information empires—think businesses like AT&T, Hollywood film studios, and Google—eventually close previously “open” networks to increase profits and constrain competition.

Now, first, remember that I’m a little conflicted here. My own business depends on intellectual property and extracting a fee from information. But it’s all sorts of hubris for me to suggest I’m the type of business Wu worries about. In fact, Wu seems somewhat disinterested in who wins or loses in business terms.

Instead, Wu has bigger fish to fry. As he asserts after a few dozen pages of setup,

“In an information industry, the cost of monopoly must not be measured in dollars alone, but also in its effect on the economy of ideas and images, the restraint of which can ultimately amount to censorship.”

What appears at first a history of business and economic principles quickly underscores the real cost to consumers: the loss of freedoms, in particular, the freedom of speech. Not surprising, really, when you consider Wu coined the term “net neutrality.”

Recent signs suggest steps towards closing the open Internet in ways very likely to keep Wu up at night: the Washington Post recently accused Comcast of “…acting more and more like a monopolist” in how it prices access to the Web, while the W3C, the body controlling the open standards behind the World Wide Web, is planning to include digital rights management (DRM) technologies in its latest draft specifications. And I’m not going anywhere near the Edward Snowden/NSA stuff here, but draw your own conclusions.

“The Master Switch” is not a light, breezy read. But it’s an important one nonetheless. If your business depends on information and understanding how gatekeepers emerge between you and your customers (spoiler alert: it does), it’s well worth a read. And if your ability to speak out against injustice, intolerance, or oppression depends upon those same gatekeepers (again, it does), the book takes on added importance. Give it a look when you get the chance. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past book reviews, including:

Tim Peter

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August 2, 2013

Free and Easy: The Beginner's Small Business Toolkit by Susan Payton

August 2, 2013 | By | No Comments

Free and inexpensive business toolsWhen you start a business, it’s natural to hang on to every dollar you earn until you become profitable.

That being said, you still need tools to help you manage, market, and grow your business. Fortunately, plenty of free or low-cost options are available to small business owners.

Google

Google offers a variety of wonderful resources for the cash-strapped business owner, and quite a few are free. Rather than using a clunky desktop document program like Word, try creating and sharing documents in the cloud with Google Drive. I love being able to create word processing documents, spreadsheets, forms, and presentations, as well as accessing files from any computer or sharing them with my team members.

Google Mail can help you organize your email under your own web domain. (Tip: Using an email address ending with “@yourcompany.com” looks more professional than one ending with a free email domain like “@gmail.com”). I use the Multiple Inboxes feature to sort emails into categories based on sender and content.

And Google Calendar can help you stay on top of meetings and events. Accessible from any Internetenabled device (including your mobile phone), Calendar lets you update events from one place and send the updated information to all your devices. You can also invite others via email to attend meetings.

Basecamp

As your business grows, it may become more difficult to manage all the projects and tasks you’re working on simultaneously. That’s where project management software comes in handy. Basecamp allows you to assign tasks to team members, track milestones, and house important files and notes. The free option with limited features is a great place to start. If your business needs grow, Basecamp’s scaleable plans start at $30 a month.

Insightly

Tracking information about your customers can help you in several ways:

  • It provides data you can use to increase your sales.
  • It helps you understand each lead individually, allowing you to personalize the sales process.
  • It gives you the ability to create a lasting customer relationship.

Using web-based CRM like Insightly lets you keep notes on every customer interaction, as well as assign tasks to team members and track client emails (I know I hate digging for them in my email folders). Knowing where you are in the sales funnel—as well as what a particular lead is looking for—can increase the chance of closing on a sale.

Insightly also offers integrated project management, so once you make that sale, you can easily move right into the work. Not only that, this integration saves you money because you don’t have to buy separate project management software. You get two powerful tools, plus a lot of great features, for just one price.

Social Media

One of the best marketing tools a small business owner can benefit from is absolutely free. Set up profiles on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for free, and use a social media management tool like Hootsuite to juggle multiple accounts, schedule updates, and track what’s being said about your brand.

Even if you’re hesitant about using social, think twice: A full 77% of B2C companies have found customers through Facebook. It’s a resource that, if tapped properly, might increase your revenues significantly.

What’s Worth Spending Money On

While these tools are free, other areas are worth an investment. If a problem would take you longer to figure out yourself, or if the end result would be less than professional, set aside some cash to cover these areas:

  • Graphic and Web design
  • Technical updates or modifications to your site
  • Social media management (if you lack the time or ability to do it yourself)
  • E-commerce payment processing

More free or low-cost tools are popping up online every day. Find the ones that provide the best value for your brand, and use them to grow your business. Pocket what you would have otherwise spent on these tools and reinvest it into your company.

Interested in learning more about where digital marketing’s headed? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” It’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, though the lessons also apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of pricing and how to make it work for your business, including:

About the Author:
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and contributes to several sites, including ChamberofCommerce.com, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, CorpNet, Small Business Trends, and BizLaunch. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
Tim Peter

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June 19, 2013

Forget Your Industry. How Safe is Your Job from Amazon?

June 19, 2013 | By | No Comments

Measures that matterThe other day, I talked about industries getting “Amazon’d,” where technological shifts (largely brought to bear by the AGFAM-ily), disrupt traditional industry players. More importantly, I talked about how your business can adapt in such an environment.

However, a number of you wrote to me saying, “Screw my industry. What about my career?!?” Or something very much to that effect.

Now, I don’t want to offer false platitudes. (Y’know, as opposed to all those true platitudes going around these days.) It’s fairly certain at least some people will be displaced by these changes.

Unfortunately, that’s not new.

Equally unfortunately, many countries don’t have a great process for helping people transition to new opportunities (or, in the worst cases, few new opportunities exist).

As for whether these disruptive shifts signal “the end of work,” as Jeremy Rifkin called it in his 1995 book of the same name, I honestly have no idea.

In my defense, no one does. While Rifkin’s work may have been prescient, remember that the book was written 13 years prior to the current unemployment crisis. It’s possible his thesis foretold the future. It’s also possible it represents the proverbial broken clock, with the last few years representing one of the two times he’ll actually be right.

Even more telling, Rifkin’s not the first to make this claim. Theorists dating back to John Maynard Keynes in the 1930′s predicted an end to work brought about by a machine age (though, in Keynes’ view, massive technological shifts resulted in the “good problem” of what to do with an abundance of leisure time). And the original Luddites of the early 1800′s smashed machines out of fear of losing their jobs permanently.

So, the “end of work” crowd doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record here.

Of course, the fact that none of these folks have been right in the past doesn’t mean that they are automatically wrong now.

Me? I tend to follow a “plan for the worst, hope for the best,” strategy. Or, as put far better by computer scientist Alan Kay, “The only way to predict the future is to build it.”

Labor, yours and others, is a product. As a marketer, I’m all about products. Whether machines can do “all” the work, plenty of opportunities will exist to fill customer (or, if you must, employer) needs going forward.

The means of production and distribution are now, effectively, free. So use them to your advantage.

Sites like Etsy and Freelancer.com and 99designs and DeviantArt and Disc Makers and Threadless and, yes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, and on and on and on offer opportunities to put your work, your creativity, and your passion in front of potential customers.

Sources like Khan Academy and Coursera and MIT Open Courseware and iTunes U and YouTube and loads of others enable you to learn new skills (like, say, programming, network engineering, or training), on which those machines, their operators, and the capital behind them rely.

New customer segments like older, increasingly active adults, Millenials requiring mentoring, Boomers requiring reverse mentoring, and on and on and on will require myriad new products and services and features and benefits that you can provide if you follow my long-standing advice and focus on your customer (even if, in this case, the customer is somebody different than you’re accustomed to serving).

I’ve said many times that marketing is so much more than advertising. It’s creating products, and finding the right place, price, and promotional vehicles necessary to put those products in front of the right customer. At its core, it’s about helping people solve their problems.

And as long as there are people, there’s an opportunity for you to help them. For fun. And for profit. And if that’s not a job worth doing, I don’t know what is.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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June 14, 2013

Success Has Many Fathers…

June 14, 2013 | By | One Comment

It was my jobI’m sure you’ve all heard this proverb:

“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

(By the way, I’m a big believer in that other proverb that behind every great man is a great woman, so I trust any women reading this feel free to include themselves in the “fatherhood” category, too).

Consider this for a moment: What is success in your world? Do you do what you can to be a “good father” to drive that success?

I’ve been very fortunate in my life and consider myself successful. I have a loving family, wonderful friends, good health, a fulfilling career with a great client roster, and more blessings than I can count.

Second, I’ve been fortunate to have other “fathers” throughout my life, business leaders and mentors who taught me additional lessons that I’ve tried to apply both in business and in my personal life. My father-in-law, for instance, who continually demonstrates the power of listening and critical thinking. An early boss, who taught me tons about the importance of small businesses and how to run an effective business despite limited capital. Another boss who gave the priceless advice that any “problem” that doesn’t include the words “terminal” or “indictment” isn’t that big a deal. Charles Schwab (or as we all called him at the time, “Uncle Chuck”), who showed you can achieve great things without ever compromising your principles.

And in all cases, these men (and more than a few women), have helped shape me into the man I am today.

Of course, none have been more influential than my actual father. My dad was a child of the Depression (he was positively ancient when I was born — and, yes, he’s probably reading this). He taught me the value of a dollar as well as the values of keeping your promises, meeting your responsibilities, and putting in a good day’s work. He set an example of what it means to be a good man that I try to live up to every day.

If you’re a father, either of children or of the dreams you create in others, I wish you a very happy and wonderful Father’s Day this weekend. And continued success for your children.

If you’re interested in hearing more from me, register to receive this special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of leaderships and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 11, 2013

The 4 Laws to Working Smarter in Digital Marketing

March 11, 2013 | By | 4 Comments

Working smarter or working harder?Working harder or working smarter? Which moves your business forward most effectively?

It’s a challenging question, because it’s kind of a trick question. In fact, in part, it’s really about both. With all due respect to Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek fame, there is a certain amount of effort involved in achieving success in what you do.

And while I’ve seen many businesses move forward by embracing “lean methodologies” in their marketing by trying to build “minimum viable products,”, I’ve seen many put too much emphasis on the “minimum,” while putting too little on the “viable” (or “product,” for that matter).

(You can read more about lean methodologies in The Lean Startup
and Running Lean
or read my review of the books here)

So, in practice, you’ve got to work both smart and hard.

But how can you accomplish that? Well, here are 4 ironclad laws of working smarter to help focus you when you work harder, too:

  1. Set clear goals for you, your team, and your vendors. I’ve talked about goals a lot over the years. No, seriously, like a lot. Here and here and here and here. Why so often? Because almost nothing matters more. You’ve got to have clear, articulated goals that help you, your team, and your business partners understand where you’re trying to go and why that matters to your business. Once people understand what you’re trying to accomplish, they’ll often find inventive ways to help you get there (so will your subconscious, if it’s just you). Ever try putting together a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the image on the box? It’s a nightmare. Give your team (and yourself) that image to work from instead.
  2. Focus on what you, and only you, can do best. Delegate or defer the rest. You can’t do everything (more on this in a minute). And as you move forward in your career, it’s often comforting to continue doing the things you enjoy instead of the things that move your business forward. Instead, ask yourself the following question: “What needs doing that no one can do but me?” Focus your efforts there and let others on your team do the things they’re best at.
  3. Track where you spend your time. I love the old quote, “what gets measured gets done.” And I’m often surprised by how many people I work with don’t actually know where their time goes. Use a simple time-tracking tool to see where your time goes. Then restructure your efforts around the areas of greatest importance (see items #1 and #2 for which ones those are).
  4. Commit, commit, commit. Or don’t. But don’t try to do both. Many people struggle to deliver on promises because they’ve “over-committed,” saying they’re going to do things that they never really intend to do. If you’re one of those people, stop. Now. Seriously. Try a Start, Stop, Continue exercise to see what’s really worth doing, then focus only on those items. Learn to say “no” on everything else that doesn’t move you towards your/your business’s goals. You’ll find you’re more able to deliver on your commitments and more able to focus on the areas of actual value for you and your customers.

Working smart and working hard aren’t necessarily an “either/or” proposition. Like many things, it’s finding the right balance for your business. But following the laws outlined above can help you put the right focus in the right areas. And doing that can help you accomplish both at the same time.

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Tim Peter

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February 27, 2013

4 Secrets about Remote Workers Every Marketer Should Know

February 27, 2013 | By | 2 Comments

Managing remote workerrsThere’s been a lot of hullabaloo about Marissa Mayer’s recent change barring Yahoo employees from remote work. Now, for the record, I couldn’t care less whether Yahoo lets its employees work remotely or not.

This post isn’t about Yahoo.

It’s about you and how to succeed whether you choose to let your people work remotely or not.

I’ve run digital marketing and e-commerce teams for the better part of the last 17 years. I’ve worked remotely relatively regularly during the decade prior to launching my company and frequently pushed for more remote work for both others and myself. I also favor it, in the right circumstances, in my current role. So, I’m generally a fan of remote work.

But… I don’t believe for a second that it’s the right decision for every company, every project, or every employee.

If you’re interested in exploring remote work for you or your team, here are 4 tips worth considering:

  1. Don’t confuse individual productivity with team productivity. One of my past employees frequently cited how much he accomplished when freed from interruptions like meetings and, y’know, talking with his co-workers. And while many individuals benefit from focused time away from the office, that doesn’t mean that the team, division, or company benefits equally. This specific individual often ignored emails, phone calls, and instant messaging while working remotely to focus on his specific deliverables — often to the detriment of team members who needed his insights.

    When an individual has specific, non-team dependent deliverables, let them work remotely to accomplish those tasks. But if they’re a key contributor to specific team efforts, they need to be fully available to the other team members regardless of where they work. Either invest in serious telepresence (i.e., video chat, instant messaging, etc.) or get ‘em in the office for those projects.

  2. Measure productivity, not presence. Outputs matter more than inputs. Too many managers give too much attention to those people “in their face” day-to-day. Judge instead the results people produce rather than the hours they’re in the office. As per #1 above, of course, is not only whether they’re “productive,” but whether your people help their teammates succeed, too. The individuals who move the team’s goals forward are worth their weight in gold. And, again, if they’re able to accomplish that remotely, let them work remotely. But if not, don’t hesitate to have them come into the office.

  3. Choose employees to work remotely wisely. Sales people who spend most of their day on the phone, in meetings with potential customers, or traveling? Great. Let them work remotely. The same with people who demonstrate the commitment to managing communications and connection regardless of their location. If not, then remote work may not be appropriate.

  4. Test and see what works in your organization. Screw Yahoo. Who cares if their folks work remotely (or not)? Try letting people work remotely one day a week or once every couple of weeks for 3-6 months and see what happens in your culture, your environment. Do your project teams get more effective or less so? Do teams work better or not? Do your customers realize a benefit or do complaints increase?

Again, I’m in favor of remote work but only in those circumstances where it works well.

Sure, many celebrated figures have chimed in on the Yahoo situation, with Richard Branson recommending giving employees the freedom to work where they want Wired looking deeply into the pros and cons of Yahoo’s decision, Farhad Manjoo saying “Mayer has made a terrible mistake,” and Business Insider suggesting Yahoo had lots of abuse of its work-from-home policy.

Again, I don’t care what anyone says about the Yahoo situation (though as my tips above suggest, I think Manjoo’s thoughts are at best ill-conceived and at worst downright silly).

The point is, you’ve got to do what works for your environment, your company, your productivity, and your culture. And, based on my experience, the tips above will help you figure out what exactly that is.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And check out our past coverage of people management here:

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