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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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March 7, 2014

Tools of the Trade: A Process (and 6 Blogging Tools) I Can’t Live Without

March 7, 2014 | By | No Comments

Blog toolsI got an email the other day from Steve in Madison, WI, asking me for tips on how to blog more effectively and efficiently. Well, Steve — and everyone else — here’s what I do.

  1. It’s all about process. You can’t write regularly about any topic without a really solid process. I’ve developed mine over the course of some 9 years of blogging, plus loads of conversations with good friends like Mike Moran, Rob Petersen, and others about what works for them.
  2. Learning. First, I try to keep up on what’s happening in the world of e-commerce, digital marketing and marketing strategy. I talked a couple of weeks ago about using Feedly to keep track of my favorite news sources every week and keep a fresh list of ideas top of mind.
  3. Archiving. For news stories and viewpoints that I really like (or at least want to give more thought to, I use the web clipping feature in Evernote. Very handy, and it works across desktops, the Web, iOS, and Android, so I’ll always have my content where I want it.
  4. Brainstorming. I’m a big fan of outlining my ideas, though I especially like mind-mapping as a way of thinking through those ideas. These days, I’m using FreeMind (for the desktop) and SimpleMind+ (iOS). I may switch to using SimpleMind for the desktop, but I’ve got lots of all FreeMind maps, so… we’ll see.
  5. Planning. I develop a weekly and monthly content calendar. I haven’t switched to more robust tools yet, and still keep everything in an Excel spreadsheet (which you can download here).
  6. Composing. I love MarsEdit for writing and compiling my posts. No, like really. I’ve highlighted the program in my 2013 Holiday Gift Guide and bemoaned its absence in my list of essential iPad blogging apps way back in 2011. In fact, I’ve used MarsEdit for just about every post I’ve published since roughly 2007 or 2008. While you can definitely write and compose posts within WordPress’s editor, I find it’s easier to keep drafts on my local computer and only upload when they’re close to done. The editor integrates beautifully with WordPress and Tumblr (my two go-to publishing tools), as well as Squarespace, Blogger, Movable Type and lots more. I can’t imagine blogging without it. For images, I like iStockPhoto a lot. And I have a handful of little, but useful Python scripts I’ve put together over the years to help with things like compiling the top monthly posts quickly each month.
  7. Publishing. For me, it’s all WordPress, all the time (I run the self-hosted version at Dreamhost, though am really excited about their Dreampress offering). I’ve looked at most of the other big tools out there (and like many of them), but I’ve been using WordPress for most of my blogging life and can’t imagine changing now.
  8. Promoting. Finally, building a successful blog for your business entails promoting your work… but that’s another post. I’ll be sure and offer more details in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Anyway, that’s what works for me. Do you have a different process? Something you can’t live without? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments.

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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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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February 21, 2014

42 Essential Blogs and News Sources I Read Religiously

February 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

Social media marketing tips

OK, so I was giving a talk to a group of marketing grad students at NYU the other day and was asked what I read to keep up on everything going on in Internet marketing, e-commerce, digital strategy, technology, etc.

It’s a great question and I thought you might enjoy a look at my process for keeping on top of what’s trending on a daily basis.

News Essentials

First off, I don’t even try to keep on top of everything. That’s impossible.

What I do, though, is try to understand at a high-level what’s making news.

As it happens, that’s relatively simple. Obviously, the really big news will find you (whether you want it to or not). When Facebook bought WhatsApp the other day, you couldn’t avoid the news. Seriously. It was everywhere. For the other, less crushing, but no less important stuff, here’s what I do:

  1. Skim. I’m a fast reader, but as I’ve already said, no one’s keeping up with all the news out there. So instead of reading at length, I skim the headlines. I will read short articles that jump out at me, but, unless it’s something critical to a meeting or talk I have that day, I usually save the longer ones to read later (e.g., while working out, during lunch, while “watching” TV at night, etc.) The whole process takes maybe 20-30 minutes. Of course, to facilitate skimming, I like…
  2. RSS. Well, mostly, anyway (more on that in a minute). But, yes, good ol’, ugly RSS. I subscribe to lots of feeds in Feedly, but sort a limited set into a “Daily Reads” folder. Those are the headlines I check most every day. Mostly. The title is a bit of lie, though. I rarely read my “Daily Reads” folder every day. More like 4 or 5 times over a 7-day week. That’s usually plenty. Additionally, I like…
  3. Tumblr. I’m a big fan of Tumblr. So much so that I’ve broken out the blogs I follow on Tumblr separately. And I usually check my Tumblr feed at night, adding key posts to my queue of stuff to read later. Again, I might spend 20-30 minutes on Tumblr at night while watching TV (though reading the articles the next day may take longer).

The longer stuff usually goes into Instapaper for when I have time to read in detail (treadmills, taxis, airplanes, and train rides are great for that), though I’m increasingly using Evernote’s Web Clipper option, too.

Anyway, that’s the basic process. Now here’s the list.

Web Sites

These first 19 (well, 18 + 1 as you’ll see), are the sites in my “Daily Reads” folder. They cover the marketing, e-commerce, tech, and media worlds pretty thoroughly. And anything I miss in the first 18 is usually covered by the last item on the list.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll usually save longer pieces until I can give them more attention. But this set usually starts me off in the right place.

  1. Techmeme
  2. Mobile Commerce Daily
  3. TechCrunch – The latest technology news and information on startups
  4. Get Elastic’s E-commerce Blog
  5. Business Insider. Ugh. Annoying, annoying site. But occasionally worthwhile.
  6. Quartz. Or, you can subscribe to their Daily Brief email and have it delivered to your inbox. I do, which is helpful on the days I don’t get to Feedly.
  7. Digital marketing statistics articles from eMarketer
  8. Benedict Evans
  9. Search Engine Land: Must Read News About Search Marketing & Search Engines – Or, much better, subscribe to them on Tumblr (see below) and check it out there.
  10. Monday Note – Media, Tech, Business Models – Publishes only once a week. On Mondays. Get it? Anyway, you don’t have to check every day. Nice.
  11. MarketingCharts: charts & data for marketers in online, Excel and PowerPoint formats
  12. Shop.org Blog | Internet & Multichannel Retailing
  13. Moz.com’s Daily SEO blog
  14. Seth Godin
  15. Augustine Fou’s Opinions, Rants, Raves about Digital » go-Digital Blog on Digital Marketing
  16. Biznology Marketing and Technology Blog
  17. The Future of Commerce
  18. Luxury Daily
  19. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I know this entry seems like I’m cheating. But, yes, I check out Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn every day for at least a few minutes to see what’s trending among my network. Usually, it’s a lot of overlap with the other headlines. But at least I know what the folks I talk to every day are talking about.

Tumblr Blogs

This next batch are the main tech and business blogs I follow on Tumblr. Again, I skim this list usually at night. I don’t know why, especially, but it’s a good time of day for me to think a bit.

  1. The Verge
  2. Futurescope
  3. The Good Idea Exchange
  4. Emergent Futures Tumblelog
  5. Fred Wilson Dot VC
  6. The Social Business
  7. Pew Internet
  8. Paris Lemon (MG Siegler’s blog)
  9. Privacy, Big Data, Human Futures by Gerd Leonhard
  10. The Week
  11. Stowe Boyd
  12. Fast Company
  13. Search Engine Land on Tumblr Ignore them from the earlier list. Read Search Engine Land on Tumblr instead.

Travel Industry

Finally, I do a lot of work in the travel industry. I keep a separate folder in Feedly for this group and check these headlines maybe once or twice a week. There’s usually a lot of overlap on the stories these guys cover, and again, the really timely news usually finds me, which means I don’t have to check as often.

  1. Hotelmarketing.com – must reads for hotel marketers, served fresh daily.
  2. Hotel News Now
  3. Tnooz – Talking travel technology
  4. Skift
  5. A Luxury Travel Blog – For those who enjoy the finer things in life…
  6. Hospitality Net – Home
  7. Milestone Internet Marketing
  8. HeBS Blog
  9. Travolution
  10. Hospitality Industry News | Vikram Singh Blog

And, 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 16, 2013

Five by Five: Thinks Most Popular E-commerce and Internet Marketing Posts 2008-2012

December 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Happy anniversary ThinksWe’re beginning to wrap up the year here around Thinks Central. But I don’t want to miss an important event: Our anniversary. That’s right, Big Thinkers. Your favorite little ol’ e-commerce and marketing blog (well, this blog, anyway) is 9 years old this month. Give or take[*].

Over the course of those 9 years, I’ve published more than 1,750 posts, received some 3,400 comments, received many hundreds of thousands of site visitors and pageviews, and gone through roughly 387 laptops (I may be wrong about that last number).

Anyway, to commemorate this occasion, I thought you might enjoy the 5 most popular posts from each of the last 5 years (2008-2012; I’ll have a full list of the most popular posts of 2013 next week). To determine “most popular” posts, I’ve selected those posts that had significant traffic, better-than-average bounce rate, and large number of social shares. Each post is listed by year and includes its overall rank, too. As a sign of the value of having “legacy” content or “tent-pole” content on your site, many of the oldest posts on the blog continue to gain traffic and, as a result, tend to rank highest in terms of overall traffic. Something to think about as you optimize and enhance your site in 2014.

Without further ado, I offer you The Most Popular Thinks Posts (2008-2012). Enjoy!

Top Posts From 2008

  1. The most popular post from 2008, and still the #1 most popular post overall on the blog is Smart companies use Twitter. Here’s how.
  2. Another biggie, I Heart Zappos – The best customer service story you’ll ever hear (#4 overall)
  3. A very popular look at your need for a website: Is your business still invisible? Why? (#6 overall)
  4. For a long time, the most popular post on the blog was this review: Comparing Jimdo to SiteKreator, Webnode, Weebly and WordPress (#7 overall)
  5. Visitors consistently enjoy this look at how to set up your first business blog (#12 overall)
  6. Twitter was a big topic back in 2008, as this shows: What’s the business value of twitter? (#14 overall)

Top Posts from 2009

  1. This next one is a hugely popular post straight through to today and is frequently among the top 15 most-visited pages each month: 5 Questions About Landing Page URL’s (#2 overall)
  2. This look at the downside of social media still offers some good tips. (#15)
  3. Another post that continues to do well asks: What does an A/B test look like, anyway? (#17)
  4. One of my personal favorites: What are the best tools to improve online marketing? Here’s a hint: Who cares? (#20)
  5. Another slow and steady, but still popular post that continues to do well each month: 4 Steps to Create Great Content For Your Business Blog (#23)

Top Posts from 2010

  1. A big entry from my (on-hiatus) “Small Business E-commerce Link Digest” series: Improving web analytics to improve your business (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – July 9, 2010) (#10 overall)
  2. Good look at analytics tools and theory: What’s the best tool to measure your website? (#45)
  3. First entry that falls outside the top 100, but also my first detailed look at the value in mobile… from three years ago. Just sayin’: Is Amazon’s $1 billion in mobile sales enough to convince you? (#105)
  4. A very popular guest post: Jumpstart E-Commerce Sales with These 5 Easy Tips (#107)
  5. Good question: Is it possible to fail too fast online? (#112)

Top Posts from 2011

  1. A consistently strong performer. Keeps climbing in popularity year after year: Subdomains and Subdirectories for Branding (#9 overall)
  2. I can’t lie. I love this post: You Don’t Need a Website (#26)
  3. Another guest post. Ironically enough, it’s about the value of guest posts: The Benefits of Guest Posts For Your Small Business Blog by Carol Wilson (#36)
  4. Good insights into SoLoMo: Learning 21st Century Social, Local, Mobile and Video Marketing From a 19th Century Company (#51)
  5. Another exploration of social: Social media marketing is a good idea: Reason #324 (well, it’s #54, not 324, actually)

Top Posts from 2012

  1. Good content marketing tips: A dozen useful content marketing best practices worth reviewing (#27 overall)
  2. Good overview and another personal fave. Glad it made the list: Building your brand story (#32)
  3. Great tips: 5 amazing mobile strategy tips from HEDNA (#46)
  4. Excellent guest post: Guest post: Four Keys to Increase E-commerce Exposure in 2012 by Nii Ahene (#49)
  5. And another “Small Business E-commerce Link Digest” entrant: 9+ tips for improving your website’s effectiveness (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – March 23, 2012) (#54)

Well, Big Thinkers, I hope you enjoyed this look back as much as I did. But don’t worry. I’m not getting all nostalgic on you. Look forward to more great e-commerce and Internet marketing content tomorrow (and the next day. And the next. And the next…)

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:

  1. The Secrets Behind “It’s All E-commerce” for 2014
  2. The Zen of Digital Marketing Strategy
  3. 7 Steps to E-Commerce Heaven
  4. Today and Tomorrow: Mobile and The Changing Customer Journey
  5. Warning: Mobile Drives Booking Costs Up and 4 Ways to Prevent It (Travel Tuesday)
  6. Mobile Makes E-commerce Even More “Frictionless”
  7. 3 Key Trends for 2013

Here’s a little history. I originally launched Thinks over on Google’s Blogger service, way back in December, 2004 (you can still view the retired old blog here). Back then, I focused less on marketing and business, to avoid any conflicts with my employer. Instead, I posted slightly snarky observations about Web culture, technology, and really anything that caught my interest.

In December, 2005, I moved the blog to a self-hosted WordPress site (the very one you’re on today, although I switched hosts in November 2007 when my old hosting company folded its tents and vanished in the middle of the night. No joke. You can read about the aftermath here, if you’re interested).

In June, 2006, I launched a second blog, called “TravelStuff,” on WordPress.com to catalog developments in the world of online travel distribution and e-commerce (I worked for a hotel company at the time). Much like the original Thinks, I avoided too much direct commentary about the industry to avoid any conflicts of interest. That content evolved into my current “Travel Tuesday” series. Both the original TravelStuff items and new weekly “Travel Tuesday” posts are now hosted within Thinks but you can still view all travel-related content separately via the TravelStuff.TimPeter.com domain.

And, there you have it. The complete history of Tim Peter Thinks in a nutshell. Hope you enjoyed it. And I hope you keep coming back for more in 2014 and beyond.

Tim Peter

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December 13, 2013

The 2013 Thinks Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2013 | By | No Comments

Holiday gift guideHo, ho, ho, Big Thinkers! There are only a couple of weeks left to shop for Christmas goodies. And if you’re still unsure what to get your favorite business person, here are my favorite items from this past year. Each of the items on this list represents something I bought this past year and found incredibly useful in my work or personal life. I suspect your gift recipients will, too.

We’ve got three categories of gifts, featuring Business Books, Travel Accessories, and Software Tools, so check out all three for a variety of gift-giving ideas.

Full disclosure: I’m an Amazon affiliate, but otherwise receive no compensation for any of the products listed here; I’ve bought everything here with my own money over the last 12 months and highly recommend them.

Anyway, on with the list:

3 Business Books Worth Reading

“Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin is one of the best business books of the year. Lafley’s the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, while Martin’s the Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Together they may have forgotten more about strategy than many will ever learn. The core of the book is a strategic framework that will work for almost any business. Solid, real-world examples help make this immediately applicable. It’s not the lightest read you’ll look at this holiday season. But it’s well worth the effort. Great stuff.
I wrote a full review of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” right around when it first came out. So, I won’t repeat myself much here. But this is an excellent read and a worthwhile addition to anyone’s business bookshelf.
I reviewed Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” a few years ago and named their extraordinary Made to Stick one of the 12 most important business books of the last decade way back in 2007. (In fact, almost anything from that list would make a great gift, too). Their latest effort, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” is a worthy successor to their earlier books and offers fantastic ideas for how to improve your decision-making process. Highly recommended.

3 Must-Have Travel Accessories

My favorite briefcase comes from Thule. Their EnRoute Strut Daypack carries both a 15″ laptop and a 10″ tablet computer (though I carry an iPad mini) in a comfortable, lightweight package that fits in any plane overhead or, when in a pinch, under the seat of you. Given that I’m fairly long-legged, I really appreciate a compact bag that still leaves room for my feet when tucked under the seat in front of me. A great buy.
Want to listen to music while in your hotel room or working out on your back deck? Try the JBL Flip Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android device and offers really great sound quality, with plenty of bass. I’m a big fan.
Have your loved ones ever had the battery go dead on their iPhone, iPad, or Android phone while traveling and not have access to a power outlet? Yes, I hate those people who monopolize the outlets, too. But, while we’re all waiting for airports and Starbuck’s to offer more outlets, the Anker® 2nd Gen Astro3 12000mAh Portable Charger Backup External Battery can recharge up to 3 devices simultaneously and carries enough juice to recharge a single device multiple times. And, it weighs less than two-thirds of a pound, so it’s easy to travel with. Very, very useful gift. In fact, I’d be happy to get another in my stocking this year.

3 Awesome Software Tools

EvernoteYes, Evernote is free. But you can buy a Premium edition of the software for only $5.00 monthly or $45.00 per year. Premium provides additional storage space, offline access to all notebooks on all devices, collaboration tools, and improved search features. I use Evernote for everything across my Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Nexus 4 (yes, I may need help on the gadget front), and love how productive the Premium edition makes me. Your favorite business-person will love this, too.
Mp3 cloudplayer logo600pxAmazon Cloud Player is another “freemium” service. The company will store any MP3 purchases you make at Amazon and up to 250 songs from other sources for free. But, for $24.99 per year, you can upload up to 250,000 songs (!). But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is that Amazon makes its player app available for, brace yourself: Macs, PC’s, iPhones, iPods, iPads, Android phones, set-top boxes from Sonos, Samsung, and Roku, and in cars from Ford, BMW, and Mini. Whew. So, you no longer have to worry about the amount of storage on whatever device(s) you prefer. Just connect to the cloud and listen for days. I am a huge fan.
Long-time readers of the blog (or those who’ve read my Guide to Small Business Blogging) know how big a fan I am of MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software. It’s a phenomenal tool for bloggers, regardless of your platform. It continually wins awards as the best blogging tool. And it ought to continue. No matter whether your favorite blogger uses WordPress, Squarespace, Tumblr, Blogger or about a dozen other platforms, MarsEdit works as an offline/online editor extraordinaire. And, yes, I wrote this very gift guide post using nothing but MarsEdit. Very, very cool tool. (Mac-only)

I hope these gift ideas give you some direction for your favorite folks this holiday season. And I hope you and your favorite folks have a happy, healthy, and wholly wonderful holiday!

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

By

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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September 19, 2013

No Podcast Today

September 19, 2013 | By | No Comments

Sorry Big Thinkers. I’m fighting a cold and sore throat today that’s caused me to lose my voice, more or less. So this week’s podcast will have to wait
Sorry for the inconvenience.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about the future of marketing on 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:

I hope to be back with new content next week.

Thanks for understanding.

Tim Peter

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August 26, 2013

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

August 26, 2013 | By | No Comments

VacationI don’t know about you all, but this tends to be a very quiet week around here at Thinks Central. And, so, as I tend to do, I’m taking a week’s vacation to enjoy the last days of summer. While I may blog if something really big happens (like last week’s Expedia/Travelocity deal or Steve Ballmer’s retirement), feel free to take a look at some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

And, of course, if you’re interested in learning more about the future of marketing on 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.

See you next week!

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.