The Independence Day Lesson in Communications

The Independence Day Lesson in Communications

Happy Independence Day everyone!  Hopefully you’re in the process of lighting up those barbeque grills, telling your kids that they can’t play with the sparklers until its dark outside, and packing up your coolers to go see some awesome fireworks.  That’s what Independence Day is all about; being with your loved ones and celebrating the birth of our nation.

So once again, I say happy 4th of July everyone.  Just be sure to be responsible on the way home since there will be police checkpoints everywhere tonight.

While I still have your attention though, I couldn’t help but bring up some current events that has really bothered me lately.  The Charleston shooter Dylan Roof trying to start a race war, and the amazing message of love from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The landmark passing of gay marriage and the arguments that it’s created.  The demands for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag.  Or Donald Trump’s demand to secure the Mexican borders from rapists, drug dealers and murderers.
Lately, it’s been one rant after another…and they are all focused on stripping away our individual Independence.

I am proud to say that I’m a happily married white male heterosexual Christian that was born and raised in the United States, and I respect the heck out of our forefathers for the liberties we were given.  By law, we can say and do almost anything in our pursuit to find happiness in this country, and I am a firm believer in pro-choice for virtually every political hot topic you can name.  That’s what the United States has always been about- the right to choose and live free.
Then again, we are expected to be “politically correct,” even when it goes against everything we’ve been raised to believe.  Take gay marriage, for example…I am thrilled that homosexuals can now form a lasting union in the eyes of the law.  I believe that the spirit of the constitution was meant to grant these rights to all Americans, and it’s about time that the government got this one right.  And it’s even more important for our nation because it’s establishing a right for a minority voice.

At the same time, however, my Christian upbringing tells me that it’s a sinful lifestyle.  I am against homosexuality because my God commands me to be, but I am certainly not against homosexuals.  Every single one of us is a sinner and the Bible never once says to hate those living in sin…it actually says the exact opposite.  We’re supposed to love everyone and try to help them, even if we disagree with their lifestyles.

You know who else thought that equality wasn’t the way to go?  Hitler.  Napoleon.  Stalin.  Genghis Khan.  Kim Jong-um.  Very, very bad people.

When we look at the other side of the coin though, people like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Confucius and Thomas Jefferson taught the exact opposite- they wanted real equality.  That’s the kind that can only exist when everyone has an even playing field and NOBODY is told that their views do not matter.  Yet that’s what we do every single day on TV, through the media and every outlet we can think of…we tell others why what we believe is more important than everyone else around us.  Folks, that’s just hate and racism…no matter how nicely you sugar-coat it.

Until our leaders begin to accept that simple truth, organizations like the NAACP and the LGBT will continue to be just as racist as the KKK.  But who’s right and who’s wrong?  It really doesn’t matter if we’re only going to focus on our personal goals and say the heck with everyone else.

NYC Independence DayAs a country, we are more divided than ever before because of our freedoms, and we often use it as an excuse to not even consider opposing viewpoints.  By definition, that makes those types of people a racist, a communist and about a dozen other words I will not use here- but it’s 100% true nonetheless.  We all tend to forget that there can be a middle-ground where everyone’s beliefs are respected…even if they’re not accepted as a popular viewpoint.

Just remember, as Americans we are all granted equal rights to define our own little slice of happiness.  But if you don’t stop and consider all viewpoints before passing judgement, then you’re making our Constitution just a little bit less powerful every time.  And while it’s your right to do so, I would hope that we are better than that as a nation.

So as you celebrate your Independence tonight, I want you to do one very important thing for me.  Take a look around you and see how diverse we are as a nation.  As those colorful fireworks explode over your head, remember that it was a long, hard road to arrive at where we are today.  And the path forward will likely be even harder still, but it’s not too late for you to be a champion for America.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, black, brown or white, Republican or Democrat, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim…you can do a little better to respect the viewpoints of others around you.  That’s the principle that this amazing nation was formed on, and that’s what makes it the most incredible country on the planet.

So the next time you disagree about politics, do what those brave men and women at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church chose to do- let love conquer hate and put a stop to this senseless racism among us.  Have a great Fourth of July everyone.

Can One Blog Post Completely Change Your Life?

Can One Blog Post Completely Change Your Life?

writing great blog postsQuick question- why do even bother blogging anymore?

If we were being honest here, most would likely answer that they blog purely for the search optimization perks that come from fresh content.  And don’t get me wrong; that’s a great reason…especially since it helps you occasionally earn a few backlinks or possibly a few new clients along the way.

But what if I told you that people forge life-changing partnerships all of the time just off a well-written blog post, introduction letter or marketing pitch?

It happens every single day.

For example, I’ve had an incredibly large influencer in the online marketing realm reach out earlier today and ask if I want to sit down for lunch.  If the meeting goes as well as I’m hoping it will, it could absolutely change my life with a job opportunity or some type of partnership.  And it all came from a simple blog post about how to engage your customers.

That brief conversation got me thinking- can people’s lives really change in the blink of an eye off of something as insignificant as a blog post?  So I began to do a little bit of research and you’ll be surprised at what I found- dozens of billionaires once sat right where you and I are today.

And all it took was that one awesome contact; that one defining moment…and everything changed in an instant.  Donald Trump.  Mark Cuban.  Bill Gates.  I kept finding the same types of rags to riches stories over and over again, simply because the person took a chance and put themselves out there for the world to see.

Here are just a few of the more entertaining stories I found about a few written words changing someone’s life-

Edgar Allen Poe’s Letter to Charles Dickens

famous writerIn the mid 1830’s, an aspiring young Edgar Allen Poe was so impressed with the writings of Charles Dickens in England that he decided to send a letter asking for advice.  Since Poe was virtually unknown at this time with only a few published poems, he knew that not just any letter would do.  Experts recount that Poe spent weeks perfecting every single word in that letter to ensure that Dickens would be so impressed, he would have no choice but to reply.

Well, that first letter did make it to Dickens and history clearly shows that it carried the intended effect- the pair became regular pen pals from that point forward.  In fact, Dickens travelled all the way to Philadelphia in 1839 to meet Poe in person.  Many believe that Dickens’s novel “Barnaby Rudge” was the inspiration for Poe’s famous poem “The Raven.”

In case you’re wondering why this story really matters, Poe was not completely sold on a career in writing until he proved it to himself through this incredible validation.  So without this one simple life-changing letter, you’d probably be sitting there thinking, “Edgar Allen Who?”

Twelve Year Old Kid Writes NFL Executives

Benefits of writing Late last year, twelve year old Cade Pope started taking an interest in football and decided that it was time to select a favorite NFL team.  But since he didn’t know a thing about football, his young mind decided that the best move was to simply write every single NFL owner and ask them about their respective franchises.

As you can probably imaging, Cade’s mother was not expecting much of a response.  About two weeks later, however, the owner of the Carolina Panthers (Jerry Richardson) sent Cade a signed football helmet and a hand-written letter praising him for reaching out.  The story has since gone viral and the Pope family has been showered with kind words and affection from millions around the entire globe.

Now, it may not seem like Cade’s simple letter was life-changing by any means, but you must not fully remember what it’s like to be twelve years old.  For a kid, that’s about as life-changing as you can get.

Steve Jobs Places Redefines Apple w/ Personal Message

In the late 1990’s, Apple was literally on the brink of financial ruin when Steve Jobs decided to launch his “Think Different” campaign on national television.  As you can see from the video above, it is a personal statement that Jobs personally drafted to inspire others to think outside of the box and become an innovator and a dreamer within their own personal lives.

And virtually overnight, this one simple statement made Apple relevant to consumers all over again.  Think about that for a moment- if Jobs had not opened up to the American public the way that he did, your iPods, iPads and the iTunes store could have remained just another good idea that was never capitalized on.

Can a Blog Post Really Change Your Life?

billionaire bloggerHere’s my message for all of you writers, marketers, small business owners and bloggers out there- great words really do matter.  If you have something to say that the world may be interested in hearing, then say it loud and clear and share it with everyone you know.  There is absolutely no telling who may read your words and how it could create a life-changing moment for you or someone that’s listening in.

Ultimately, that’s what blogging is all about in the first place.  If you inspire your readers, more often than not they’ll become followers and eventually customers.  And every now and then, it opens doors that you otherwise couldn’t even imagine.  Just ask people like Pete Cashmore, Timothy Sykes or Michael Arrington…they were once sitting behind their keyboards typing away exactly like we do.

So what can you tell the world to make everything change within your professional career?  I am eagerly listening.

What’s Holding You Back in Online Marketing?

What’s Holding You Back in Online Marketing?

Be honest with yourselfWhile I’ve developed a fantastic career from inspiring others and teaching them about the finer points of online marketing, I can honestly admit that I’m a lousy pastry cook.  I’m also dreadful on ice skates, frustrated by politics and virtually useless when it comes to pop culture trivia.

I bring up these points not to make light of my shortcomings in life, but to show that we cannot ever really experience true growth without realizing what we’re bad at.

Just the other day, for example, I met with a friend who was furious that he was overlooked for a promotion at work.  And when he started rambling off the strengths of his resume compared to the person that was hired, it did sound like he was an excellent candidate.  Once we took a closer look at the job vacancy though, it clearly stated that the company was looking for someone with experience in email marketing…and my friend had none at all.

Here’s the thing though; my friend had been waiting for this position to become available for over a year now, and he knew each and every qualification that the company would look for.  Since he had such a stellar resume for some aspects of the position, he completely overlooked the one criterion that he wasn’t good at- and it was ultimately what cost him the position.  To make things even worse, I’m fantastic at email marketing and we hang out several times per week.  I could have easily made this a strength on his resume if he mentioned it a year ago.

So I want you to hear one thing loud and clear today- it is okay to struggle with some things in life.  Heck, I think it’s a core requirement for being human.

Instead of ignoring these shortcomings, however, you need to embrace them, seek out knowledge that will help you overcome these obstacles and become a better professional because of it.  By the way, I’m not talking about cooking or ice skating here either.

I’m talking about the traits that really matter in your life.  Listening.  Teamwork.  Generosity.  Honesty.  Empathy.  Dedication.  Loyalty.  Plus the hundreds of other skills, traits and abilities that you use within your profession on a daily basis.  And surprisingly, these are often the hardest things for us to see within ourselves…even though we can spot them a mile away within our friends and co-workers.

So what’s holding you or your company back in the world of online marketing?

Capitalizing on Inspiration within Our Daily Lives

Capitalizing on Inspiration within Our Daily Lives

Inspiration Internet MarketingThe other day, I was sitting at my desk and collecting my thoughts before a staff meeting when a really great idea hit me.  This wasn’t just any good idea mind you, but something that could have turned out to be huge for me personally and professionally.  In fact, I was so excited about the idea that reached for my notepad to write it down…but then the phone rang.

So naturally, I answered the phone and got deep into conversation about something else entirely.  Then I hung up, rushed down to my meeting and never thought about my game-changing idea again until late that evening.  And by then, I had absolutely no clue what that great idea was.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

From my experiences, I honestly believe that almost everyone has million dollar ideas all the time; they just fail to act on those thoughts.  The people who are considered the greatest minds of our generation, however, know how to take these ideas and build on them until something concrete starts to form, and then they begin to build a plan of action to make that idea a reality.

InspirationBill Gates.  Stephen King.  Warren Buffett.  Michael Jordan.  They all went through the exact same process to become successful in life.  And it was ultimately their imagination that set them on that long and winding path towards success.

What separates you from these great names?  It’s actually a lot less than you think.

The A-list of innovators above all started with the exact same dreams and aspirations that you and I have every day, and just like us…they knew that reaching their ultimate goals was a one in a million type of journey.  In fact, all of them were nervous…scared even…when they were young, broke and dreaming of what their futures could hold, but they took action anyway and stared failure right in the eyes.

And you know what?  All of them failed before they ultimately succeeded, but that didn’t stop them from imagining greatness and working even harder towards achieving it.  So my message for you today is to dream big, take chances and stop allowing life’s roadblocks to discourage your progress.

That and remember to write down your great ideas before you answer a phone call…that one’s important too!

Can My Business Get a Serious Boost in Sales with Internet Marketing?

Can My Business Get a Serious Boost in Sales with Internet Marketing?

internet marketing spartanburgBelieve it or not, it’s not just business owners who can gain immense benefits from learning about internet marketing and search optimization.  With some hard work and determination, almost anyone can drive in serious profits through a properly run website.

Well, I’d better back up for a moment and say that very few websites actually make any money at all.  The reason that they fail is due to a lack of knowledge about how internet marketing really works, so they end up experimenting, getting frustrated and ultimately quitting.  To me, that’s not really a failure though…that’s like walking into a knife fight with a set of salad tongs and hoping for the best.  It just doesn’t end too pretty when you’re not really prepared.

That’s why I start every conversation with new clients with one simple question- how will the website you want me to build help you make more money? 

Even though I can find the answer to that question myself for most industries, it’s the client who will ultimately sink or swim with their new domain unless they have a solid grasp on where their customers are coming from, what type of information those people are looking for and how to actually get them to go from being a lead to a customer. 

Even if Upstate Synergy is running your campaigns for you, there still has to be someone on your end responding to leads via email, social media and through your website.  And when people search for a business from their smartphones, they want the answers they’re looking for RIGHT NOW.  If you can’t provide that then they’re on to the next business…and that’s where most internet marketing campaigns end up falling short of their projected mark.

So understand this- internet marketing can completely revolutionize your business if you are fully dedicated to the process.  I have clients every single day that see their bottom line go from zeroes to heroes by optimizing their websites and working their online leads properly, but a web development firm can only do so much. 

In other words, it is my job to deliver the leads to your doorstep.  It is your job to close the deal.  And if you’re not willing to learn how the lead generation process works, then you shouldn’t invest another penny in your website or any form of online marketing.

The good news is that Upstate Synergy is here to teach you everything you could possibly need to know about internet marketing and we will happily come to your Upstate business and fully educate your staff on the latest trends and techniques.  So if your current campaigns are not delivering new customers to your doorstep, feel free to contact us through the enclosed form and we’ll happily perform a free website analysis to see what you can be doing better.

Learn to Truly Respect Your Subscribers in Email Marketing

Learn to Truly Respect Your Subscribers in Email Marketing

trust in email marketingLet’s face it; very few businesses get it right when it comes to email marketing in Spartanburg.  Either they completely overstep their bounds by filling their users’ inbox with non-stop advertising, or they simply send a message or two per year and hope for the best.  Neither method actually produces results though because that’s not what the consumer signed up for.

Take Papa John’s Pizza, for example.  Some of their promotions, like earning a free pizza for placing an order during major sporting events, are fantastic ideas that drastically boost their sales on big party occasions.  So you know they have some smart marketers in place within their corporate offices.

Why then do they email their entire lists with “specials” 8-12 times per week when the offer is actually regular menu price?  It makes absolutely no sense since they’re finding their way to spam folders and alienating their customer base more and more every single day.

Learn to Build Actual Relationships

Email Marketing RestaurantsThe main thing Papa Johns (and everyone else) does wrong is forgetting that email is supposed to be about building genuine relationships.  That can’t happen if your marketing department doesn’t have respect for their customers though, because people see straight through false promises and gimmicks these days.  The average person receives over 250 emails per address, per day, so we’ve become very good in a very short period of time when it comes to spotting spam.

Here’s the amazing thing though- companies who respect their customers and use email to build stronger relationships actually see five to ten times the average return on each campaign.  And they gain up to ten times the conversions with only a handful of total messages sent out each month…which completely goes against the way big business handles email.

So instead of trying to sell something, message your customers only when you have something of value to tell them.  They will respect you for it a whole lot more and it is the only way to create lifelong customers that are always willing to listen.

Properly Manage your Email Lists

trust in email marketingAnother thing that completely boggles my mind is how large corporations violate their own privacy policies without giving it a second thought.  For example, you’ve probably come across several websites recently that had a banner offering a free eBook download in exchange for you sharing your email address.  And honestly, this is a great way to generate potential leads…and it’s also a great way to chase potential leads away.

Case and point- a local Spartanburg insurance company (that I’m not going to call out directly) offers a free PDF download to teach potential clients about deductibles and other things they should consider before choosing a home insurance policy.  Just in the past week, however, they’ve emailed me about RV insurance (I don’t have an RV), motorcycle insurance (I don’t have one of those either), an upcoming agent conference (I’m not a licensed agent) and three other messages that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Now, if this company really wanted me to use them for home insurance, wouldn’t it make a heck of a lot more sense for them to only contact me about that one service?  But they can’t do that because their email lists are all clumped together into one generic category.  In other words, they have no idea who I am or why they’re emailing me in the first place…but they just keep on messaging anyway.

To avoid this common problem, you absolutely must sort your email lists based on each lead’s initial interests.  The more specific your messaging is to their needs, the more your campaigns will convert and produce favorable results.

When You Sell, Offer an Unbeatable Value

email marketing offersLet’s talk about Papa John’s one more time- specifically, all those “specials” they send me as a trusted customer.  I’ve always wondered; do they really think that Americans are so unbelievably stupid that they wouldn’t glance at the actual online menus to see that they’re not being offered a deal?  And once we realize that we’ve been lied to, do they really still expect us to order from them that day anyway?

As my twelve year old likes to say, “Heck to the no-no.”

Here’s the almost laughable thing that happens though; when consumers see an offer that initially interests them, it creates a genuine desire to buy.  If the messaging is not genuine though, then that initial interest will push them straight to a competitor’s doorstep.  And in Papa John’s case, there’s no telling how many pies they inadvertently sell for Pizza Hut, Dominos and all the independent franchises.

So the point here is that if you’re going to make a sales pitch through email, then it better be a genuinely good offer that the consumer doesn’t have to think too hard about.  Because if there’s even the faintest hint of doubt within that messaging, then you’re actually marketing for your competitors instead.