Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

CATEGORY: Marketing

New experiment – 30 consecutive days of blogging

I’m going to blog for 30 straight days. Today, February 15, is day 1, and this is the first of 30 posts.

I’ve had this blog for a few years now but I’ve never been able to consistently create content.

There are plenty of reasons why, and here are some of them:

  • I’ve been busy with other projects.
  • I had a baby 9 months ago, and taking care of Maya requires a lot of time and energy.
  • There are times when I felt no one is reading what I write (which may be true), so I get discouraged.
  • (Insert any other reason here)

Actually, all of those are excuses, not reasons.

The real reason is that I’ve never dedicated myself enough to make blogging a habit.

With this experiment, I’m going to see if it can become a habit.

I recently listened to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show where Seth Godin was the guest. Seth said that blogging was one of the best business decisions he has ever made, and that prompted me to start this experiment. You should definitely listen to that episode. It’s pretty amazing and really helpful.

What am I going to blog about for the next 30 days?

Anything.

The posts are going to be about whatever is on my mind.

They may be about startups and my entrepreneurial journey.

Or my family and friends.

Or something random and interesting (to me) that I see that day.

These articles aren’t going to be fully though-out and researched pieces. Rather, this blog will be a journal or diary of sorts.

The posts probably won’t be the most grammatically correct, either. They probably won’t have any pretty pictures.

I don’t want perfection to get in the way of me just writing and publishing.

After 30 days, we’ll see where I stand and how I feel about blogging.

At best, I’ll continue to blog everyday.

At worst, I’ll develop a deep hatred for blogging and writing. I don’t expect that to happen, but it would suck if it did, because my livelihood depends on writing.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride with me. It should be fun. I hope.

Anyway, here goes! I’m hitting publish right now!

Do you regret your past career decisions? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Career regret

Studies have shown that workers can have up to seven careers in their lifetime. If you’re one of these people, this means that you may have had to take a few steps back and completely start over with little experience in your new job or industry.

Thus, when thinking about your career trajectory, it’s easy to say “I wish I had done that sooner,” or “Man, if I knew then what I know now, I’d totally be killing it today,” or whatever else people say about the career and life decisions that they regret.

Many people who have made career changes wish that they realized sooner what they wanted to do with their lives. They think that they’re really late to the game and regret not doing things differently in the past.

My career has been a winding, swerving roller coaster, and I think this way sometimes. But it’s bullshit. And when I do think this way, I always call myself out, because things change all the time, and you never know how past experiences can help your current or future prospects.

Here’s what I mean.

My convoluted career path

I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2000 but had no desire to work in that field after graduation. After all, life wasn’t to be spent in a lab or steel mill.

Thus, I pursued my Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering (IE) to hopefully start my career in the consulting industry. After obtaining that diploma in 2001 and getting a consulting gig, I wished I was interested in IE sooner. I felt that my four years of undergrad could have been better spent pursuing an IE major, and I wouldn’t have had to attend grad school.

Oh, regret.

The consulting career then ran its course.

When I started my career in sports business a few years later, I then wished that I had jumped into that industry sooner.

I was living the dream at my marketing job at the Washington Capitals. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine working in another industry.

Even when basking in the glow of my dream sports marketing job, I thought about how far up the corporate ladder I would have been had I started working in sports business after undergrad, instead of seven years and two graduate degrees (and lots of debt) later.

Oh, regret.

Until, of course, that career ran its course and I became an entrepreneur.

Do I wish that I had pursued entrepreneurship earlier in my career? Not at all.

You are the sum of your experiences

Your experiences make you the person you are now, and your current career is the aggregate result of your past careers. Even if your past careers seem completely disconnected from what you’re doing now, don’t ever regret the path you took nor take your past experience for granted.

I never came close to using materials science and engineering concepts in any of my careers, but that degree laid the foundation for the analytical thinking I use everyday.

I actually did use my IE degree in my consulting career, which is a plus. And even though I don’t directly apply IE to my current job, the concepts of efficient work, project and time management, and process analytics certainly influence each task that I execute on a daily basis.

And looking back, the MBA that I attained isn’t a necessary credential for an entrepreneur; rather, many say the degree is a detriment. But do I regret getting that degree? No way.

Although I attended NYU Stern to pursue a career in sports business, I learned so much about marketing, branding, and management, skills that I use every day. And much of my professional network stems from my time at NYU, which has helped and will continue to benefit my career in the future.

Conclusion

Sure, everyone wishes they had pursued certain career paths earlier, but hindsight is always 20/20. Don’t even waste time looking back and regretting your choices.

Just know that your past experiences make you who you are now, and that’s a good thing.

Your turn

Have you made career decisions that you regret? How do you think those decisions have impacted your career trajectory? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article, sign up for my email list below, and connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Post for ThornTech.com – What We Learned at the Mobile Marketing Association’s New York Forum

MMA NY Forum

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “What We Learned at the Mobile Marketing Association’s New York Forum.

Part of the Thorn Technologies team took a trip to the Big Apple last week to attend the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) New York Forum. This was a super educational event where we learned about the latest mobile technologies and techniques brands are using to engage with their customers and prospects. Here are some of the key takeaways from the event.

Read more here.

Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Image courtesy of the Mobile Marketing Association.

New Consulting Partnership with WiserAdvisor.com

Wiser Advisor LogoI’m happy to announce that I’ve entered into a consulting partnership with WiserAdvisor.com, a startup based in Fairfax, VA, that helps connect people looking to better manage their wealth with accredited, pre-screened financial advisors (FAs). WiserAdvisor.com is part of Respond.com, which is a similar but more broad-based site that helps consumers find and hire local businesses for a number of categories such as home improvement, insurance, photography, and many more.

WiserAdvisor is building tools and processes to better engage and educate people about personal finance with the eventual goal of connecting them with FAs to help them achieve their financial objectives. My role is to help lead content strategy and marketing, which means I’ll be acquiring, creating, and reviewing this educational content and leveraging technology to deliver the right content to the targeted audience at the right time.

Murtaza Amil, the CEO of Respond.com, reached out to me last September via the contact form on this blog (I knew this blog would pay off someday!). After a few meetings and phone calls, he brought me on board to help. He has put together a strong team that has a solid grasp of technology, strategy, marketing, and operations and how it all works together to acquire new clients.

For me, this is a great balance between consulting and startups. I’m looking forward to contributing to this project and helping WiserAdvisor grow.

And if you need a financial advisor, please check out WiserAdvisor.com!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

My first guest blog post for CEA – My Path to Entrepreneurship

I’m proud to announce that I’ll be guest-blogging for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) about entrepreneurship and startups! I’ll write about my ups and downs, lessons learned, and any other experiences as an entrepreneur.

Check out my first post where I talk about my journey to entrepreneurship and how there’s no one path to becoming an entrepreneur. I hope you like this article, and stay tuned for the rest of the series!

I’d like to thank Sean Parker, Jamie Carracher, and Lindsay Bianco at CEA for this opportunity.

Enjoy!

Like this post? Then follow me on Twitter at @mikewchan, connect with me on LinkedIn, and add me to your Google+ circles for future updates.

New Partnership with Exhilarator

Exhilarator Logo

I’m proud to announce that I’ve forged a consulting partnership with Exhilarator, a unique “startup factory” based in DC, and will provide them with marketing consulting and business development services.

Exhilarator Overview

Exhilarator is so unique because it is part accelerator, part services company, and part events company, all focusing on scaling startups.

The accelerator accepts 4-5 consumer tech startups on a rolling basis, houses them in their offices in Georgetown for four months, and provides them with business model refinement, customer acquisition, mentorship, and anything else that will help these companies grow.

The services part, with which I’ll be most involved, helps entrepreneurs execute on their vision. Whether the entrepreneur has an idea that needs validation or looks to grow her existing company, Exhilarator can provide these services on a fee basis. I’m partnering with Exhilarator to both bring in new business and help execute client projects.

Finally, Exhilarator runs SwitchPitch, a series of events that helps startups enter into strategic partnerships with large, multi-national corporations looking to get projects off the ground. If you’re a tech entrepreneur in NYC, check out the upcoming SwitchPitch NYC event on October 1.

The company is all about scaling startups and it’s doing it three different ways, two of which that actually bring in revenue. Really smart.

How This Opportunity Unfolded

I first met Exhilarator Founder Michael Goldstein last year at a startup conference; at that time, I was working on my failed smart calendar company Dokkit and he was running his accelerator named Endeavor. After the event, we immediately connected on LinkedIn but didn’t interact with each other too often after that.

Then a couple of months ago, Michael reached out to inquire about my consulting work. We met for coffee and chatted about the projects that I was working on and what he was building at Exhilarator. I thought the concept of Exhilarator just made so much sense and I was really interested. We met twice more and decided that a partnership would be a good fit, and recently pitched our first project together.

This is a great opportunity because it combines the two worlds that I’m involved in and passionate about – marketing and startups. I’m really looking forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Michael and the Exhilarator team.

And if you’re a startup or small business and need help launching and growing your business, please reach out!

Like this post? Then follow me on Twitter – @mikewchan – for future updates.

Terrible Commercials Running Now

In a recent post, I wrote about my favorite TV commercial campaigns running now. This post is the exact opposite of that. Let’s get to it.

Most Commercials from State Farm

Commercials can be bad for a number of reasons, two of which State Farm is guilty:

  1. They try to be funny but aren’t.
  2. They try to promote products and features in situations that aren’t realistic.

It’s great that State Farm’s customer service representatives are available 24/7, but who ever calls them in the middle of the night, in the dark, from their living room?

It’s awesome that your customers can diagram accidents with a mobile app and file a claim on the spot, but who does that so calmly? Where’s the other car in the accident? And who really thinks that everything on the Internet is true? Come on.

Would you stop on the side of a random road in the boonies, where buffalo roam wildly, to eat lunch? Where is this place and who are these guys?

Not all of their commercials are bad, as I do enjoy the Chris Paul / Cliff Paul ads, like this one. But the bad ads outnumber the good ads by a huge margin, and the badness is compounded by the fact that they’re played over and over and over again.

GEICO’s “Happier Than” Campaign

For the most part, I really like GEICO’s advertising. They have a clean, crisp tagline – “Fifteen minutes can save you 15% on car insurance”. They’ve created iconic characters like the gecko, the caveman, and Maxwell the pig. And overall, their ads are funny and on point.

But I’m just not a fan of their “Happier Than” campaign. I get the message behind the ads – comparing their customers’ happiness to those in more comical situations – but spots like “Witch in a Broom Factory” (below) and “Hump Day” just aren’t funny to me. And I wouldn’t have any idea that the commercial was for insurance if it didn’t say GEICO at the end. I’m looking forward to their next campaign just to be done with this one.

Burger King

Burger King has had a tough stretch in advertising for a while now, and it’s shown in the company’s performance over the last few years.

Before 2011, when Crispin Porter & Bogusky was their agency of record, BK had really cutting-edge, provocative commercials but the strategy of targeting “bros” was a massive mistake for the quick service restaurant (QSR). As a result, their sales and market share dropped over that time period while McDonald’s and Wendy’s grew, and BK dropped from the #2 burger chain, with Wendy’s claiming that spot.

Now their ads are much more tame but almost equally ineffective. The strategy of focusing more on the food caters to a much broader audience, which is what a huge QSR should do, and the tone of their ads are more muted. But spots like Word Association and Soft Serve (see below), while highlighting the food more, don’t connect with anyone in particular and just aren’t memorable, which is a death knell for many commercial campaigns.

So there you have it – the commercials that I like the least right now. What are some that you don’t like? Let me know in the comments.

Like this post? Then follow me on Twitter – @mikewchan – for future updates.

Guest Blog Post on ThornTech.com About The Rise of the Second Screen and What Broadcasters and Marketers Should Do

Family On Sofa With Laptop And Digital Tablet Watching TV

Check out my guest blog post on ThornTech.com called “What Else Are You Doing While Watching TV? The Rise of the Second Screen and What Broadcasters and Marketers Should Do.

More and more people are using their tablets and smartphones while watching TV to interact with their favorite shows and fellow viewers. This article outlines how viewers are doing it, how this behavior is impacting broadcasters and marketers, and what they need to do to keep up with this changing landscape.

If you found this interesting, please follow me on Twitter – @mikewchan – for future updates.

My First Year of Entrepreneurship – What I Think and What I’ve Learned

entrepreneurship01

Just over a year ago, I left my job at the Washington Capitals to become an entrepreneur. It’s been a valuable learning experience and a great ride, but like any other job, there have been ups and downs. I wrote a post last August about what I learned after one month on my own, and this article augments those thoughts.

While I’ve learned a ton over the past year, I think I’ve broken even in terms of progress. In the corporate world, that’s unacceptable. In the entrepreneurship and startup worlds, depending on the situation, it may be a bit more common. Regardless, it’s kinda depressing.

Consulting

On one hand, the independent consulting work I’ve been doing has been going really well. I currently have three core, long-term clients for which I hope I’m doing a good job and we’re making solid progress toward our goals. I’ve also successfully executed two other short-term projects. Additionally, I have a couple of other potential clients in the pipeline. The best part is that all of these clients and projects have come through referrals, with no formal sales or business development processes. I can’t complain one bit about my consulting work.

Startup Stuff

But consulting is not why I became an entrepreneur. I want to build a technology startup, and on that front, I haven’t done much at all.

I wrote about what happened with my first startup, Dokkit. Since then, I’ve made only a little progress in my second at-bat. But a big takeaway I learned was that ideally, the startup team should come first, then the idea (for other opinions on this, see here and here). I am working with a couple of developers on a startup, and one of the team members is a consulting client of mine, so we know how each other functions and work really well together. We’ve thrown around a ton of ideas but haven’t been able to agree with one that we all want to execute. This process can be really frustrating, but I think the hardest part, assembling a founding team that you know you can work well with, is out of the way. We’re taking our time with developing the concept and being really diligent about pursuing an idea that we’re all passionate about and has the potential to be a real business. Though it’s moving slowly, I think we’re going about it the right way.

An exciting endeavor I’m involved in is volunteering as an Up Global (formerly Startup Weekend) DC Organizer, where I coordinate events and workshops that help entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground, learn about startup frameworks and resources, and connect with fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve only been doing this for a few months but it has allowed me to give back to the DC entrepreneurship community and meet many smart, talented, and driven entrepreneurs who may build the next great company.

Overall, there’s been a lot of activity but not so much progress. I’m working to change that.

The Struggle

Yeah, I’m going through ups and downs, but I’m not yet going through The Struggle. The Struggle sounds horrendous, but part of me wants to feel that stress and have that kind of responsibility. I am lucky to be in the situation I’m in – I have a really supportive wife, family, and friends and stable consulting work – but those blessings may be hiding the urgency that many startup entrepreneurs face that forces them to move at 100 miles per hour and really get shit done. Don’t get me wrong, I count my blessings everyday, but sometimes wonder about the other ways they impact my work.

One year in, it’s been an amazing ride so far. But I stress out everyday thinking that I’m not moving fast enough, learning enough, or making enough progress. Regardless, I wouldn’t change a thing. And when I write another post like this in a year, hopefully I’ll have a lot more to say about the technology company I’m building.

My Favorite Recent TV Commercials

I’m a big fan of great commercials, and they’re one of the reasons why I first became interested in marketing. With attention-sucking technologies like DVRs, social media, and mobile apps, the ability of a TV commercial to grab viewers’ attention and connect with them on a substantial level is really important for brands, especially since buying TV air time is really expensive.

I think most will pinpoint creativity and humor as the key parts of a great commercial. But a great commercial goes deeper; the ability of a commercial to be in sync with the company’s brand and connect with a target audience is paramount to the marketer in me. Here is a list of TV ad campaigns that I really like, both because of their creativity as well as their strategic value.

AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” Campaign

The message and delivery of these ads are “not complicated” at all, but this campaign has layers upon layers of complex awesomeness.

Everything links back to the campaign’s core aspect of not being complicated. AT&T boils their competitive advantages down to specific facts, such as having the largest 4G network, the fastest 4G LTE network for iPhone 5, and  saving on phones and plans. They then deliver these facts through simple phrases like “More is Better”, “Faster is Better”, and “Saving is Better than Not Saving” (no duh!). Better yet, they have these messages delivered via hilarious children and comedian moderator Beck Bennett, whose dry, straight-faced personality is perfect. The campaign also morphs to take advantage of popular events such as Mother’s Day and the NCAA Tournament.

AT&T has a home run campaign on its hands, combining key aspects like creativity, humor, relatability, and brand strategy. Check out these great commercials here. I definitely want more!

Allstate Insurance’s “Mayhem” Campaign

My favorite part of this campaign is the personification of disasters that can happen to us at anytime in our lives. We’ve all left our sunroofs open when it rains, made some questionable driving moves listening to our GPS, or have no idea what a water heater can do, and the Mayhem guy portrays these situations in dramatic, treacherous fashion.

Insurance is a commodity product, so these companies have to be really creative to connect with potential consumers. Allstate does this perfectly by personifying distaster and relating to our everyday lives.

You can see Allstate’s recent “Mayhem” commercials here.

IBM’s “Smarter Planet” Campaign

Over the last decade or so, IBM has remade itself from a product-centric company that sold computers and servers to an organization that is more focused on delivering services. Thus, the old commercials that highlighted products and features have given way to those that highlight IBM’s employees and the impactful work they’re doing.

That’s why I love IBM’s “Smarter Planet” campaign – it’s so perfectly reflective of the company’s corporate and brand strategy. When I watch these commercials, I truly get the feeling that IBM has brilliant employees who are working on projects that will improve the world and make it a smarter planet. There’s no fluff involved here; IBM just shows the problems they’re solving and the people who are solving them.

You can see a bunch of IBM’s “Smarter Planet” commercials here.

Let me know what you think in the comments; I’d love to hear your thoughts on these campaigns as well as others that you like, and why.

My next post will highlight the TV commercial campaigns that I like least. That should be fun!

Like this post? Then follow me on Twitter – @mikewchan – for future updates.