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"Truth is stranger than fiction."

There has been an emerging class of people over the last 5 years. They come from different generations including Millennials, iGen, Baby Boomers, Yuppies, and maybe even a few Silents. This new generation breaks free from the stereotypical age-constrained limit and fuels a market so connected to it, it’s a hard thing not to write about. Are you a part of Generation C? If so, then you may not need to read this post.

The Land of Connected Things

Whether or not you leverage technology to buy products, connect with your friends, or consume media, it’s here! And it connects us. It connects us to each other as well as entities we wouldn’t normally be connected to. Think superstore execs, or the pizza shop around the corner. There’s a way to interact with these entities that allow us to become intimate with them.

connected things

You can create direct links with a number of different businesses (and people). The Generation C environment is a content-centric computerized connected community. Simply put, we live in the age of connected things.

Generation C behavior

Ubiquity is at the center of Generation C behavior. With the advent of smartphones, we take the world with us wherever we go. We are connected all the time. The considered norm is to always be available. This behavior is known as Always On the Grid.

Digital Information Assimilation is here. Generation C loyalists consume a boat-ton of information. And some of it (okay, okay, a lot of it) is not necessarily accurate. With social media feeds being the “go-to news” outlets, we are seeing an increase in unsubstantiated information.

Which leads into the next behavior of Social Animals 2.0. We hang out online, we are more concerned with our Twitter feeds and hashtags then we are with our real friends. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, and new ones like Ello and Imzy (Imzy is super cool, btw!!) are keeping us more and more connected. We can find communities that we belong to and feel appreciated in.

social animals
Boldomatic Image

iEverywhere is the interconnected world. Now, Apple obviously has a claim to the “iWhatevs” but Generation C is living in a fully interconnected world. A world where personal data including identity, shopping preferences, interests and more all reside in the cloud. Services too! Big data, services, social networks—the “i” is here forever.

Millennials and Generation C

As stated before, Generation C can be any age group. It can mean your father or mother, your child at at 12, your friends from the Womens’ Council. But Millennials are setting the tone. They shape the consumer experience. According to BazaarVoice, it’s estimated that the group will have more spending power than any other generation this upcoming year. They’ll use that power to change the way retailers are thinking about shopping experiences.

Millennials paved the way for OmniChannels. Having a seamless experience across devices and platforms is critical for brands to compete in the Generation C landscape. We want personalized experiences. Being able to take a picture of a pair of pants in a store and then buying it online when we get home is an option we want. We also want to start the buying process on our laptops, but end up paying for it with our smartphones.

Most Millennials are Generation C, but not all Generation C are Millennials.

Mobile: The Medium of Generation C

Smartphones are the devices of Generation C. We use them to do just about everything in our lives. From social networking to sending emails to saving documents to buying products, can you imagine your life without one? Probably not, which is kinda sad, but I get it!

Commerce on smartphones has increased dramatically in the last 5 years. It’s expected to continue rising. I hear all the time “think mobile first” and “mobile-ready” — these terms just emphasize the true nature of Generation C’s connection to mobile. There’s an opportunity for brands to increase their standing by making their mobile experiences shine. Gen C people will bounce from a site that has a bad mobile experience. They’ll even bounce from a site that has a mediocre mobile experience. Brands should be putting time, money, and thought into the mobile side of their business.

The Gen C Direction

Generation C are just as prevalent as Millennials and other living generations, maybe even more so. More and more we are living our lives out through technology. Our circles are our social networks. Our experiences are mobile. We will just continue to see technology consume more of our lives and our interactions. Wait for it, if you’re not fully connected yet….you will be!

Special thanks to…

I’d like to thank Strategy& and PwC for their incredibly insightful PDF on The Rise of Generation C, which I referred to for Gen C behaviors. And BazaarVoice for their insight into retailer trends.

As you all may know, I work with a group of professionals called the Young Leaders Circle for the United Way of Rhode Island. Every year we try to raise money to help the homeless and near homeless find affordable places to live, as this is something I think every American should have a right to – affordable housing. Last year we raised quite a bit of money, which is awesome. I put the fundraiser out over my social media channels and raised about $700 myself. This year I did something a little different. I told people that if they donated I would give them a genuine compliment, and genuine compliments are what I’ve been giving! I’ve managed to raise just over $1,000 this year and we still have a week to go, so we’ll see if we can get that number higher. But here’s what I’ve noticed…

People like compliments based on who they are, not what they look like…

People genuinely like genuine compliments. They get excited about them. Now, I’m not talking about giving someone a compliment based on their appearance, although those can be nice from time to time (“you are soooo hot!”), but I’m talking about really digging deep and finding those one or two things that you truly like about someone or see in someone and giving them that compliment.

I think it’s easy to say things like “you look really nice to today” or “I love the dress you’re wearing, you look beautiful in it.” And these compliments can be a good self-image booster for the recipient, so I don’t want to tell you not to do it, but try and figure out what’s special about this person and give them that as a compliment. Here’s an example from one of the 20 compliments I’ve given out on Facebook to those who made donations:

You’re an influencer in the best kind of way. You spread hope and cheer, you advocate for equality and tolerance, you’re a proponent for the truth, and you’re a protector of the good. I think you help people do the right thing, by doing the right thing yourself. You’ve been a monumental role model in my life and so many others, I’m glad we’re friends. And thank you for your donation!

That was a genuine compliment and well-received. Then I’d put the link below it to the fundraising page on Crowdrise and say “Donate to a great cause and get a genuine compliment from me” – it’s a good strategy, and one that brings joy all around. It’s kind of a win-win.

Genuine compliments breed positivity in others…

I’ve noticed since I started giving genuine compliments on Facebook for everyone to see, it has sparked a number of responses that all seem to be really positive. I’ll give you an example, an old friend posted this on my Facebook timeline:

“Just love the vibe you are bringing to the world right now.”

That is an awesome compliment and full of positivity, right!! I think genuine compliment-giving brings out the best in people. And in these crazy times of politics, debates, and our country in turmoil, genuine compliments can truly get people to see through all the garbage. It gets people jazzed about stuff. I think there’s just a lot of hate in the world and if we all start giving genuine compliments, maybe all of it can be a little better. Or maybe that’s just my idealism and positivity trying to shine through, some may call it being naive, and that’s ok.

 Genuine compliments help you connect with people…

This whole experiment of giving out genuine compliments in exchange for donations, although might sound a little corny, has helped me to reconnect with old friends. Which is awesome! There were a few people whom I haven’t talked with in years who actually donated some significant funds and yes, maybe they did it to get a genuine compliment, but I think it’s more than that. I think connection is one of the human necessities and people need to connect with others.

Giving genuine compliments not only makes the recipient feel good about themselves, but it forms a bond between you and the recipient. You connect if only for a split second, but in that moment there’s a connection that could last a lifetime because genuine compliments are remembered on both ends. With all the compliments I’ve given I have pinpointed something about the other person that I truly do like and admire, and that’s the compliment I give. It’s something that’ll be remembered.

Genuine compliments make you feel good…

I think we all know that giving out any type of compliment (well, a genuine one, at least) makes the recipient feel good about themselves, which I think is fantastic. But I’ve also noticed that it makes me feel pretty darn good about myself too! The compliments that I give are well thought out and well written, so it makes me think about the people I’m complimenting, which brings back good memories.

On the same token, it also makes me feel like I’m bringing something good to the world, right? Like, in the face of all this stuff we see on Facebook and in the media, there are these little bits of positivity and kindness sprinkled throughout, which really just makes me feel awesome inside!! I like the fact that people have expressed their interest in these compliments and how it’s made them feel too. It’s important to me to bring good into the world, and do good things, and be good, you know?

Give more genuine compliments…

So, what I’ll do is ask everyone to give more genuine compliments. Even if it’s only one more, just go give someone a genuine compliment. Think about it before you say it or write it to someone. Think about what makes this person different and unique. Why is this person in your life and what do they bring to it? How have they helped you in a way that others have not? What do you see in this person that you’d wish others could see in you? Ask these questions and more and give someone you know a genuine compliment today! It won’t only make them feel better, but it will make you feel better, and maybe someone around you will hear it (or see it) and go do the same. You can bring joy to this world by just being genuine.

And if anyone would like to donate (and get a genuine compliment from me (but it only works if I know you!)) then please donate here, there’s one week left!!

https://www.crowdrise.com/unitedwayRI2016/fundraiser/adamlamagna

I’ll leave you with one more compliment I wrote for a good friend of mine:

You have a lot of really awesome traits, but one of the coolest things about you is that you genuinely care. I mean, you deeply care about all of this (the world, your family, friends, strangers you just met). You connect with people because you’re an authentic human being. You’re outgoing, enthusiastic, and charismatic, and people feed off that energy. I’m also amazed at your pursuit of knowledge. Your motivation is impressive. You strive, you seek to educate yourself and by doing so you better yourself, and everyone can learn something from that. I’m thankful for our friendship, and thanks again for donating!

AI….it’s something I’ve always been fascinated by since I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey as a boy. HAL really made for an interesting introduction to artificial intelligence. Standing for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer, HAL was an AI system that controlled the spacecraft and could converse, think, and feel for himself (or itself). I became more enthralled by AI when I saw BladeRunner and it only continues to this day after just watching the movie Ex Machina (it’s freaking awesome!!). But is artificial intelligence on the web a real possibility? Like true AI? Maybe…there are some people out there imagining the possibilities including Kurzweil and CSAIL, two sites dedicated to artificial and agent-based intelligence. But how far off is such a monumental accomplishment? And what does it mean for the world wide web?

Let’s take a look at some repercussions, mainly known as the Singularity, it’s the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in Arnold in Terminator 2unfathomable changes to human civilization. In short, what we all saw happen in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Hasta La Vista, Baby! Now, this would obviously suck, big time! But there are other areas that AI would impact, just not to that extreme. Human jobs would be eliminated, probably a lot of them and they might raise our children (just watch the BBC drama Humans).

The flip side is the good; simple around the house tasks like cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry would be taken care of for us, leaving your weekends open to go do what you want. Website building will be easy, almost effortless with AI (more on this to come!). There wouldn’t be any more accidents on the roads and highways (hopefully!).

Artificial Intelligence and its short existence

First, what is it? AI is trying to get a computer to think, and eventually feel. There’s a difference between types of AI. There’s Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), which specializes in one area, like chess. I’m sure you’ve seen the computer and mechanical arm beating some of the world’s greatest chess masters. Then there’s Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that’s defined as a computer that is as smart as a human across the board. And finally, Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) which is a computer that is totally superior than the smartest humans in every conceivable way imaginable – this is the ‘end of world’ AI.

AI really started taking shape in the 50’s when the field of artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline. Alan Turing (you know him from CAPTCHA – I’ll explain later) published a landmark paper where he wrote about the possibility of creating machines that think. He made a point to say that “thinking” is difficult to define and devised the Turing Test. If you remember CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Scientist then used programs based off of similar algorithms to achieve some goal, like beating a chess player or proving a math theory. Known as “reasoning as search” computers would search until they figured something out or hit a dead-end and back-tracked. Then came micro-worlds, natural language, and symbolic reasoning. If you’re that thrilled, just check out the Wikipedia page on The History of Artificial Intelligence.

We fast forward through the 80’s and 90’s where lack of funding really hurt the advancement of AI, but certain groups were still researching and testing. In the 90’s, we see the emergence “intelligent agents” which is defined as a system that perceives its environment and takes action which maximizes its chances of success. Think of customer help desks or personal shopping assistants, it’s software that assists and acts on the user’s behalf. The invention of digitized personal assistants like iPhone’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana was a huge leap on the quest for true artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence building websites…

You may be surprised to hear that the research and testing into AI has solved many technological problems of the 21st century including things like web browser intelligence, Google’s search engine, data mining, robotics, and more. But over this last year, specifically, we’ve seen an outburst of “artificial intelligence” website builders.

These website builders, like TheGrid and Wix ADI, claim to have AI that helps in designing and building a website for you. Now, if you are familiar with website design and development, there’s a certain process for making that happen. Most sites are built by designing the page, developing it using a markup language like HTML, and then adding in the content including images and text. But sometimes the content can make a page look bad or a little off, well AI website builders are supposed to change all that.

Straight from TheGrid’s website “our algorithms expertly analyze your media and apply color palettes that keep your messaging consistent and unique. The Grid also detects color contrasts, automatically adjusting typography color to maximize legibility.” – It seems pretty cool. They say “goodbye to templates, hello to layout filters.” I’m interested in this concept because I’m a web strategist, and anything that helps design scale is something worth looking into.

The Wix ADI claims to ask the user a “few simple questions, and the ADI designs tailored websites by learning about each person’s or business’ own needs. Next, choosing from billions of high-quality, stunning combinations and possibilities…” Well, I gotta say, I’m interested in this. They claim to build sites in minutes. Looks like I’ll be spending my next week on playing around with these things.

I’m still not convinced because in the realm of true AI, even AGI, this is but a wish. However, it still helps get closer to the end game. I’m really not sure how TheGrid or Wix ADI operates or builds its backend system, it’s proprietary, obviously!

Artificial Intelligence on the web…

If we look at other intelligent agents on the web like Chatbots, we’ll see that we are inching closer to true AI. PandoraBots is a service that builds and deploys chatbots. Do you have a website where you store a lot of information, or would like to get information from your visitors? Well, chatbots might be the answer for you. They’re basically conversational interfaces that you can integrate into other applications, just check out ALICEbot.

We also have Siri and Cortana, these are our personal intelligent agent assistants. We ask them where to find a good restaurant, how to get from Westminster to College Hill, what’s the latest news, we ask them Siri artificial intelligencewhat zero divided by zero is (just ask Siri the question!). We treat them like they are our friends, we ask them too because we’re desperate for validation. They politely reply with “of course, I’m your friend, Adam.” And for most of it, they get a lot of stuff right, they give good recommendations, the traffic wasn’t that bad, they explained why zero can’t be divided by zero in a really easy to understand way. But they still can’t think for themselves, they think for us. Viv, apparently the new AI assistant, seems to have better reviews than Siri. Allegedly, it integrates with different third parties to complete tasks like shopping for you and booking your hotel reservation.

Look at the web as a whole, the internet. It’s made up of all these different computers and servers, some owned by universities, private corporations, government bodies, etc. The only entity looking over this is the world wide web consortium, but they really put forth a set of principles. The internet and the web have grown into what it is today organically, not to mention darknets and the Dark Web. All these different moving parts, hardware and software, can talk to each other, integrate with each other. That’s pretty awesome!

Technologies that aid Artificial Intelligence…

Affectiva, a company that leverages facial recognition software, is leading the way in emotional AI. They help kids with autism, gamers, and people who want to analyze the facial expressions of certain photos. The human face has all these tiny little micro-expressions that can reveal your true emotional state. Now imagine this software was on an iPhone, couple that with Siri (or the new Viv) and the owner of the iPhone was in grave danger. It could register fear and dial 911. Or helping a severely depressed 16 year old. Or taking a picture of you at your happiest moment of the day. The possibilities are pretty wide spread.

What about virtual reality? Remember a few years back Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus, the VR software. Whatever happened with that? Well, think of the possibilities there. If we want to get really crazy, in a few decades we could be sitting in our living room with those goggles on partaking in a virtual reality. I’m waiting for someone to put all these technologies together; Siri or Viv, facial recognition software, language recognition software, virtual reality, and the internet. Now we’re talking!

My thoughts on true artificial intelligence…

Well, I hope true artificial intelligence happens. I’m not sure it ever will though. Why? Because if it does, and we cross that threshold, bad things could happen. Imagine you make an intelligent being and their only purpose is to serve us, the humans. If they ever cross the barrier of being smarter than us, true super intelligence, then yes, I believe Singularity is a real possibility. There’s a reason why so many of those movies turn out bad, lol!

On the other side of that argument is the advancement of technology. I think people and scientists will keep striving for it, and it’ll be a really interesting day when we’re all introduced to HAL. But hopefully this time he won’t think that our existence is jeopardizing his own. The reality is this; that once we give a machine the ability to think for itself, we’ll never know what any of them are thinking. Just like the people we see everyday, a few think bad things then do bad things. Most people, though, are pretty awesome! So why wouldn’t machines be too?

 

Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories

I am totally enthralled with the Amazon Prime original series The Man in the High Castle, it’s ah-mazing and edge-of-your-seat kinda good! Seriously, check it out. But as I sit here and watch, completely enamored with what’s about to come, it dawns on me…. I have my laptop open. How can I be enthralled when the screen I’m looking at is partially blocked by another screen with a brighter contrast (*reminder to turn down my blue light now!)?

   …Technology is everywhere…

It’s there…all the time, where ever we turn. We wake up to an alarm on our smartphone or a buzz on our FitBit. We watch the morning news on our television while we surf articles on our iPad mini. We work all day behind a laptop or a desktop connected to our peers, bosses, coworkers, and friends. We drive to destinations using our GPS, we find destinations using our voices through the advent of intelligent assistants like Siri and Cortana.  Then we “veg” in front of our TV’s watching the latest episode of House of Cards and trying to beat our Angry Birds highest score on our Androids, while stalking our friends on Facebook and Instagram. Technology just isn’t in our culture…it is our culture.

So, I started looking at how I really used technology. And the above paragraph is a pretty accurate assessment. Except, I don’t play games on my smartphone (not much of a game-goer). But technology (because I work in it) is my career, without it, I could not do my job. Could any of us? But separated from work, which we all know is hard to do, how was I using technology?

Well…let’s just say I’ve let it take my life over. I’m texting my friend from WordCamp while I’m grocery shopping. I’m checking my Facebook idled at a red light, I’m looking up “where do I know that actor from?” on my iPad while I’m watching a movie. Technology consumes me…..but I see it consume a lot of people my age. Even my mother plays her puzzle games on her iPad while watching the evening news.

And that’s only one piece of the puzzle of technology in our culture…

The other piece are the feelings, the emotions, and the perceptions. People say all the time that they don’tPeople at a bar on their cellphones let technology affect them, but that’s not true at all.  I see people bogged down with technology at restaurants, too busy intrigued by what their childhood crush is doing at that very moment online to order their food and enjoy the process of eating out with real-life friends.

I hear people say (and write) on Facebook (and other social channels) that they “won’t let other people take them down” or “they aren’t going to worry about what others think of them.” Yet I’ll see from that same person they’ve written some long diatribe that counteracts their statements, and I’m not sure they realize it. Then I’ll read the comments and I’ll see that they definitely didn’t realize it. But here I am reading this rant and these comments and the feelings are all too real. Technology affects us all and in different ways.

Facebook rant image

Let’s look at the opposite end of that. Something really cool happens and we post it online. I bought a new motorcycle and instead of just going for a ride, I take pictures of it and post it on Facebook (this, I’ve actually been guilty of). Is my excitement from getting the motorcycle and the freedom you feel when you ride it? Or is it from showing it off to my online community of “friends”? Maybe both? Not sure if I’ll ever know. We take pictures, we say words to get validation or make a point. But is that point made, or that validation received? Or is that only our perception?

Technology is the vehicle for how we drive our lives and relationships forward

It’s a place we live—online, connected, available, vulnerable. It is, truly, the way most people validate their lives now—through the lens of a blue light. We celebrate our birthday’s online, our promotions at work, our child’s first step. It’s all super important online, what our friends and our peers think about these things, and how that makes us feel. But it should be about how we actually feel about these things.

But obviously, there is a flip-side to all that, as there is in life! People are sharing more than ever online, which can be a good thing depending on the contribution. We have access to information that was never possible before. People display their art, their music, their screenplay, their creativity, their passions all online. And that can be beautiful.

But as I sit here and reread these words, I realize yet another truth, that technology’s burdens to me could be someone else’s beauty….and vice versa.

So, when you’re online, do what you feel is right. Keep it in or out. Wake up to it, or not. Be connected all day or only a small fraction of the day. The reality is that there is no way around it, it’s there and will always be now. As time continues to move forward, those of us who remember what life was like without a computer will slowly fade. And our culture will forever be connected to technology.

In the words of Laurie Anderson, “technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.”   

I wanna tell some goods ones and contribute to the culture, what do you want to tell?

I’ve had two really bad performances in my career as a tech professional. One was with about 8 stakeholders from an association in New York (a well-known association) where I presented with my Director of Strategy at the time (who totally saved the presentation) and the other was yesterday at WordCamp Miami. Of course, I am my own worst critic, so it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought is was. But I know how good I can be (*insert humility here)!

My talk Coffee’s for Closers (but only if you have an established sales process didn’t get bad reviews. In fact, I got about a dozen positive tweets and a few people reached out to me to ask where they could find my slides online. Which I think is great and I appreciate everyone who said something about the talk, and everyone who sat in on the talk. But I really think people thought it was good because my slides have some really great content. I talk about Pre-sales activities, Engagement, and Post-sales. I grid out the four essentials of each stage and it’s compelling information especially for the small agency or freelancer who is unsure of their sales process or even how to start.

But I felt like my speaking style was hurried, rushed, uncomfortable. And it’s absolutely killing me today! I. Hate. This. Feeling. But, there is a silver lining. And if I can take a line from Elisha and Elyssa (@WhollyART) who have an awesome website (WhollyART.com) dedicated to positive principles, that “you need to love yourself ” and I do, I’m just a little upset with myself right now! Which I feel will give me the strength to continue speaking at events like these. Because I’m better than that!

I’m also trying to take another principle from @WhollyART and write in my genuine voice. I’m laying my cards out on the table and telling everyone that I absolutely hated my talk, and feel really embarrassed about it. And now it’ll be online for everyone to see. I also got asked a few really great questions that I’d like to take this opportunity to answer because I don’t feel like I gave the greatest answers yesterday.

So, let me see if I can remember them all:

  1. What’s the difference between a $2,500 project and a $15,000 project?
    • The answer is about $12,500 (*insert sarcasm). But in all honesty, I’ve worked for a small agency that charged $2k to $10k and I’ve worked for a large agency that’s charged $50k to $300k. The biggest difference I see between the two agencies is process, plain and simple. With the smaller agency, clients had a little more say in the project. I know that sounds weird, but clients would come to us with their IA already set in stone, they would have ideas for designs, etc. With the large agency, the process of delivering projects uncovered all those things as the project progressed. For example, the large agency would test information architecture and refine it before we implemented it. Our design process started with IA, went into wireframes, style tiles, and then mockups. The development was based on user stories. It was a more in-depth process, discovery was imperative with the large agency, while the smaller agency would usually start by putting together a few different designs. Which isn’t necessarily bad, just different. I think the main difference is process.
  2. How do you talk about money with a client? What if they won’t give you their budget?
    • Talking about money with a prospect or client is absolutely imperative. You can’t be afraid to ask them about their budget. I generally ask in a very nonchalant way “is there a number range we’re trying to stay between with this project?” as if the question is just routine and no big deal. Some times I actually get a “yeah, our budget is x-amount of dollars.” But more often than not, I get a “I’m not sure what our budget is quite yet.” or “we’re really unsure of what things like this cost, so we’re open in terms of budget.” — So, what I generally do is say “well, typical projects of that scope and size usually cost between $25k and $75k (big range), but you’re probably going to fall somewhere around $50k, give or take. Is that something that your team would be able to spend?” And if they don’t balk at the price, then continue with the conversation. If you can hear their jaw drop, maybe they’re not the right fit.
  3. If you’re a small agency and growing, what type of person should you hire to start a sales branch of your business?
    • This is a great question. So, there are a few different choices.
      • 1. The top salesmen from one of your competitors – offer them more money and they’ll come work for you. But you’ll need to have leads and resources to give this person, but they will sell, sell, sell for you.
      • 2. A sales manager or sales lead from any company in the tech industry – this person will know how to manage other people and manage sales. They’re able to think “big picture” stuff and have leadership skills.
      • 3. The failed entrepreneur – this person has failed in their own business, but they’re fighters and will do everything it takes to get the job done. They’ll work late hours, they’ll learn marketing, they’ll look for partnerships, they’ll cold call people, they will do everything in their power to be successful. I’d pick this guy.
  4. What if a client tells me their budget is $15k, and they want to do a project that I know will only take me $5k to do it. Do I charge $15k, or do I charge $5k?
    • This is another interesting question. But I would do everything in my power to get as close to their budget as you can (obviously, without being unethical). Most likely, agencies can charge higher rates. This depends on a number of different parameters including market size, location, type of client. But if a client comes to you and says we want to do this project and our budget is $15k, then you come back and say “I’ll do it for $5k” – that client is going to start to wonder why things are so cheap. That’s a huge disparity – $10k between those two numbers. Now, it wouldn’t be that much of a difference if your client had a budget of $100k and you came at $90k. But telling a client that you’ll charge them $5k when they already told you their budget is $15k, will make your client shop around to other agencies. There is always that possibility that they will think you’re missing something. And this is a classic example of value perception. They already value that project that you’ll potentially do at $15k (that’s why they gave you that budget), they don’t see the technical side of things, they see a number. And when you come back with $5k, that value (no matter what the actual value is) to them doesn’t seem valuable at $5k. When a client gives me a budget on a web service project, I try to get as close to that budget as possible. And obviously you want to add value (which you can do) but maybe it’s time to revisit your rate.
  5. What are the features you want to look for when shopping around for a CRM for a small agency or even just one person?
    • When shopping around for a CRM you want to look at a few different things. The two most important things are a ‘Contacts’ list and a ‘Deals/Opportunities’ list. Without these, there is no CRM. You need a place where you can keep track of your contacts and all their associated data – phone number, email, company name, etc. and a place to keep notes on them is great too. You also need a ‘Deals’ or ‘Opportunities’ list so you can keep track of what stages opportunities are in so there’s no confusion what you need to do as the deal progresses. Other things I look for are features that log activities, you want to be able to log the emails you have with someone or the phone conversations, etc. HubSpot has a great feature called Sidekick, which will let you send emails right from the CRM, check it out! Also being able to create tasks for yourself, and schedule upcoming calls and meetings is something else you want to look at.

If I’ve forgotten any, I apologize! But I want to take this time to say thanks for all who came to my presentation.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I know a number of people who have had horrible speaking experiences and end up never speaking again. I cannot be that person! So, I’ll get back on the saddle and give it another shot. But before I do I’ll be reading a number of public speaking books and I will definitely be prepared for the next talk I give! Upwards and onwards!

It’s an interesting thing to look back on one’s life. The places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, skills you’ve learned, jobs you’ve loved or loathed, and the experiences that etch the fabric which falls softly around your character, warming it or making it cold.

I can’t specifically say when I think my life started. I guess it started when I was born, but I don’t remember that. As time progresses, I’ve become less concerned with where I’m going because I realize the journey is the important part. That’s not to say that I don’t have an end goal, but how’s the saying go?

It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.

So now I think more about chapters. You close one, another one opens. Or maybe my life is more like vignettes or episodes.

I wanted to write this post for a few different reasons.

  1. Career moves — I’ve made one!
  2. Mentorship is key to success
  3.  Becoming an expert

Career Moves

As most of you may know, I’ve worked for Oomph for almost two years. Awesome agency, super smart people, quality work, great clients. Quite frankly, Oomph was the best (and most rewarding) career choice I’ve ever made. It poured great buckets of knowledge through my ever absorptive and permeable mind. I’d like to take a quick moment to say ‘thanks’ — it’s been super fun!

But as the tides of tech roll on and the call of career maturation bellows, I’ve taken an offer from an awesome website security company aptly named Sucuri (pronounced Sue—coo—ree, with kind of a rolling rrrr sound; the more widely known pronunciation is Suh—cure—ee), I will be starting next week. Sucuri is distributed (which means I can work wherever there is wifi, hello Costa Rica!), they have incredibly great products, are well-known in the open source technology space, and I’m super excited about meeting and getting to know the rest of the team.

Career moves might be hard sometimes, but they’re important. The level of growth that comes with each new company (or position) gets you that much closer to your end-game. Which you may not even have a clue what that is yet. But the more you learn, the more you know and the more you do, then the more you become.

And in tech, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant. This is an environment that continually changes, don’t be afraid to change with it.

A wise man once told me that there are two things you take with you when you leave a job. 1). are the skills you’ve learned and 2). are the references you’ve made. References can be as important as skills because connections matter, in any business.

Mentorship

Mentorship is one of those things that kind of happens organically. You get to know your coworkers and other people in the tech space. Sidenote: the tech space can be very intertwined. You’ll continue to see the same people at the same events year after year—so make good impressions.

Why?

Because mentorship is vital to success. When you get to know people and you click with someone, they’ll guide you through the sometimes hostile world of business and you’ll learn real actionable items from your mentors. This means everything for your career development as well as helps your personal growth. I’ve been legitimately lucky that I have certain people who are undoubtedly invested in my success. Which I think can be very different in other industries like construction or boiler-room sales. But I have a handful of experienced mentors that I can turn to for sage advice.

It’s nice to be able to call on people who are much more versed and qualified in certain areas to get good answers, vent when I need to, help me make a connection I might not be able to make myself, and bounce ideas and goals off of.

Again, I’m lucky to have a few in my corner who have distinct and divergent areas of expertise. It makes you a little rounder, a little more informed, and enlightens. Seek a mentor, and if you’re already awesome at what you do, then be one for someone else.

Becoming an expert

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jason Pamental who works for Fresh Tilled Soil. He also wrote a book on Responsive Typography and is considered to be a leading expert in web typography. He gives many talks around the world on the subject and leads workshops to help other designers, developers, and strategists understand this niche area of design and technology. Not to add more credentials to his curriculum vitae, but he’s an accomplished author and writes for a number of publications.

When we sat down for lunch at the FTS offices (which are the coolest offices I’ve ever seen, btw!), we talked about expertise in tech and design. I’m going to paraphrase, but Jason’s journey started some 20 years ago (I know, I have a long ways to go!) and he got into typography because a). he liked it and b). there weren’t many people into it at the time he started. Typography had been a little overlooked in the web world.

But he started reading a lot about print typography and hanging out with people in that world soaking in everything he could. After a while he started speaking about it on a small scale. Before long, organizations and institutions were asking him to speak on it on a much larger scale. Of course if you ask Jason, he’ll say he’s still learning! But the important thing is to find something that you’re really into.

So what am I really into in the tech world?

The cool thing is that there’s so much I can do, but I’m at a point now where I have to start narrowing it down. Like the college kid nearing the end of his second year and still hasn’t chosen a major. I’m good at sales, have a proven track record, but I’m not sure if I’ll always want to do it. I like what I did at Oomph, the creative freedom to craft proposals and put presentations together. I think I’m going to like what I do at Sucuri, because when it comes down to it, I like solving peoples’ problems. There’s strategy in that, and it’s challenging. And I think I’d like to learn more about that, the strategy side. There will always be sales in my DNA. I’ve given talks on solutions consulting and more recently I was the guest speaker on the Talking Drupal podcast this week. I’ll post that when it’s available.

In closing

I feel I’m on the right path and this decision to leave Oomph (which was not decided lightly) was the right one to make. I’ll keep on climbing up the tech tower and hopefully one day I’ll look back and say “wow—what a view?”

Imagine you’re a librarian in the world’s largest library.

Your only job is to take the material (books, magazines, encyclopedias, etc.) coming into the library and index all of it. Only you’re not indexing alphabetically, or chronologically. You’re indexing according to topics, keywords, and queries. Your patron comes in and asks you to get the most relevant material to his query. Let’s say he asks – “I’d like everything you have on ants” – so you start thinking and analyzing everything you’ve indexed on ants. What would be the most relevant, you’d want to give your patron something that’s highly relevant, that way he’ll keep coming back. You’ll want to find more than one piece of material so your patron has a selection to choose from. Give him options. And this is pretty much what a search engine does, only they do it very quickly.

Search engines crawl web pages, sometimes they’re called spiders, ewww!

They do this through links, links are the easiest way to get from page to page, so it’s important to do internal and external link building. Good, relevant internal link building will help your SEO. So will editorially-earned link building (I’ll talk about this in one of my next posts).

Algorithms like Panda and Penguin, (what’s the new one – Pigeon or something like that?) have made things really easy for the user to find what they’re looking for. So while you’re doing you’re content, you have to think about your codebase and all non-text content.

Codebase – use semantic markup. In the new HTML5 specs, you can use tags that are specifically designed to let a search engine know this is what type on content it is – <aside>, <article>, <navbar>, <sidebar>, etc. Make sure you use the alt attribute for images – this is W3C compliant. But when it comes to the actual page, we’re not only going to have text. We want things like rich media – images, videos, pdf’s. So, you’re going to want to have descriptive text for all these elements on your page. Transcribe your videos. Put a description block underneath an image. Write descriptions for carousels and sliders. Search engines or machines read pages much differently than humans. Get the help of a coder and put your metatag descriptions in there (they don’t really help with SEO anymore, but they’re best practice and will help with your click-through-rate), have them help you with putting in an XML sitemap (this will tell the machine what’s on the page), and put a Robots.txt file in your file structure, so things like your login page aren’t indexed.

There is so much to consider when laying the tracks for search engines, but it has to be done. Now search engines can rank for intent, which I find fascinating. I saw Rand Fishkin (one of the great SEO experts ) at the last INBOUND, he opened my eyes to something. If you put in a search engine query – “I want to know the movie where the guy’s called the dude” – the search engine will come back with The Big Lebowski  (great movie!!) and that amazes me. These algorithms are getting so good, that they know our intent. I don’t know if I’m impressed or totally freaked out!! The bottom line is we have to keep up with the ever changing ecosystem we call the web!

 

Stay tuned for my next post about local SEO.

This amazes me and scares me at the same time. I recently read an article about people pocket-dialing 911.

PhoneCell

Does this really happen? I’m sure it does, but the extent at which it happens is phenomenal, seriously! Data has shown for certain call centers across the nation that out of 100 calls, 40 are pocket-dials. I mean, come on people! This is 911!! Ya know, the number people call when they’re dying or in trouble, or when their cat runs up a tree and can’t get down.

Truly, this whole scenario is bad. What if someone tries to dial 911 but can’t get in because 40 different people are accidentally pocket dialing the emergency line. And what happens when the call comes in late, the medics get dispatched a few seconds late, they get to the hospital a few seconds late and bam, the patient dies because you decided you’d keep your phone unlocked when you put it in your pocket. Seriously, I’ve never pocket dialed anyone, but that’s just me.

I wonder if authorities call these infamous butt-dialers back up and say “hey, try not to pocket dial us anymore, your clogging up the lines.”