The Future of Retail Has Never Been Brighter (Thoughts from eTail West 2017)


As February came to a close and March began, some of the smartest people in retail converged on Palm Springs, California like it was some sort of e-commerce Coachella festival. As they do every year around this time, these leaders in retail got together to share a combination of insights and recommendations as to the current state of digital commerce, while thousands more of their peers listened in to hear the latest in what’s happening in this world.

Still, as anyone who’s been in “e-commerce” knows, eTail is about more than just selling things online. It has to be. As e-commerce has evolved over the past two decades its grown from an outlier and change agent to become a key component of how we shop and interact with brands. It’s past mobile commerce, multichannel and even omnichannel. Instead, now with its big brother, Brick and Mortar, it’s become just part of how we consumers buy stuff.

But is it even more than that? If this year’s eTail West conference was any indication, the answer is an absolute YES.
Read more

Break Stuff! (a.k.a. Why Perfection Paralysis and Fear Are Killing Your Business)


Fear and perfection, I’ve found, often go hand-in-hand. It’s a crippling mindset, this idea that everything you do needs to be perfect. And it too often kills good businesses and people from becoming great.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that with modern communication and technology we can be so quickly judged or shamed. The right tweet from the right person can make your company … and the wrong tweet from the wrong person can kill it.

But that’s generally not the way things work. To be frank, most of the time no one cares all that much about what you or your business is doing. At least not enough that it’s going to make or break you.

What will make or break you though is the inability to take action.

Today your success lies more in your ability to move quickly. To risk making mistakes. To break things along the way (and fix them later).
Read more

Always Use a Pencil When Writing Out Your Plans

Always Use Pencil (When Writing Out Your Plans)


Plans.

Life plans. Business plans. Wedding plans. Travel plans. Marketing plans.

Plans.

They never seem to work out, do they? And it’s not for lack of proper planning.

The reason our plans often don’t work out the way we planned them is as simple as this. Life happens.

And part of life is the unknown. It’s fluid and changing and you never really can know what will happen next. But still we try to force some level of control over it. Some part of us wants life to be predictable and known – and so we make plans.

What’s your marketing plan? Can you help me build a marketing plan?

Questions like this come up all the time in business – but I’m here to tell you something.

Stop relying on plans.
Read more

A Quick Hack for Awesome Image + Text Content

Image + Text Typography Content Is Easy (and Awesome) with This Tool


I gotta be honest. I was a little hesitant to share this hack I use for creating image + text content since it gives away a bit of my “magic” – but it’s just too good not to share.

If you use any kind of social network, you’ve seen the images of nicely formatted quotes or affirmations etc. overlaid on nice photography and backgrounds. They’re a great visual (and engaging!) way to get a short message across – so much so that Facebook even recently added in the ability to put background colors behind your text posts as a way to emulate their effectiveness.

But making beautiful graphics is hard, right? There’s certainly a lot more to well-formatted typography than just sticking some text over and image and hitting save (trust me, I’ve tried it). So how do you get the same kind of professional-quality images of your own to share?

Easy. There’s an app for that.
Read more

A Strong Marketing Strategy Requires a Strong Foundation


One of the key tenets I espouse to anyone looking to improve their marketing effectiveness is that marketing should be looked at holistically.

Each part of what we do with our business, particularly in the ways we present our business or brand to the world, is part of marketing. And, whether those actions are online or offline, they all need to work together to build a a greater whole that none of them could accomplish on their own.

That’s a main part of what I do when I’m working with clients – look at their goals as a company and how all their channels and communication are working together to help elevate the brand. This includes looking deep into the data to understand how the channels intersect, where breakpoints are occurring and where things may be missing altogether.

But none of this does any good without a strong foundation.
Read more

Top Ten Sites for Royalty Free Stock Photos

The Top Ten Sites for Beautiful Royalty Free Stock Photos


Where can I find free images to use on my web site and social media without any licensing worries? I need some royalty free stock photos!

It’s a question I get asked pretty frequently – especially since many of my own posts have some great images tied to them.

You could pay for them. And sometimes I do. But a lot of the time things like simple blog posts or social media shares aren’t made with any sort of major return on investment in mind, and therefore can’t have extra budget allotted for creative. So what do you do? Take photos of your own? Leave your posts barren fields of text?

While I do recommend taking and using your own photos when you can (I do it about 20% of the time), there are other solutions – and those are free-to-use, royalty-free images.

Basically they are photos that you are allowed to use on your site or social media, free of charge. Each often has their own terms (like requiring credit, or restricting resale of the images) so be sure to check those out before you go crazy. But they’re a great solution.

And so, here are the top 10 royalty-free photo sites I turn to when I need to procure an image (but just don’t have the budget for something like Getty Images or Adobe Stock).
Read more

Your Customers Know When You’re Full of Shit


As the saying goes, “you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”

But it’s also true that you can’t bullshit an expert.

And that’s something you had better keep in mind when you’re talking to your customers. A lot of them are experts, and they know when you’re full of shit.

Any time you’re talking to a customer, whether it be via email, video, social media or <gasp!> in person, you’re talking to someone in their world.

Read more

Livestream On a Budget

5 Tips to Livestream Your Event on a Budget (And Still Look Professional)


On the evening of January 21, 2017 I made history. From roughly 8pm-12:30am I livestreamed a reading of my entire novel, ‘A Confession,’ across Facebook Live and Periscope/Twitter. As far as I know, I’m the first author ever to do this.

I did it all in my house, on my own, in my basement for under $100.

And now the question everyone keeps asking me is How did you do it?

When I first decided to go all-in with this event, I admit I had a few hesitations. How do I keep the camera rolling? How will it all look? Will the services even let me stream for that long?

Can my throat handle talking for 4.5 hours straight?

Well, the key in making sure the event went off as well as it did was in preparation. Here’s what I did, and what you can also do on your own if you’re ever looking to do a live event of your own.
Read more

Free Webinar: Social Media MUSTS for Building Your Author Platform


Your “author platform.” It’s something every author hears about, and how important is to build one. Whether you’re a self-publishing or going the traditional publishing route, it’s an absolutely key component for any modern author’s success.

Now, there’s a lot of parts to building a successful author platform, including your website, blogging and guest blogging, author and book tours, live events, etc. – but in my experience the area where people seem to struggle the most to make sense of it all is in social media.

It’s been almost 10 years since I published by first novel, and I’ve been a professional digital marketer (I’m the ex-CMO of one of the top-500 e-commerce companies and one of DMN’s Top 40 Under 40 Marketers for 2016) for almost 20 years. So yes, I’ve been around the block. But one of the most important aspects of my success has been in understanding the ins and outs and pluses and minuses of most digital communications platforms.

I want to share what I’ve learned building a world-leading brand as well as my own personal platform with you.

Be aware though that building your author platform alone can’t guarantee sales. For that to happen you’re going to need to write a great book that people want to read. The quality of the product and level of appeal to consumers are going to be extremely important in turning your platform into sales. I’m not a best-selling author … and mostly it’s because what I prefer to write isn’t quite in the mainstream. But what I have done is connected with thousands of other readers and writers and built a strong brand around myself as both an independent author and digital marketing expert.

So, with all that said, there are a few absolute MUSTS that you should be doing with your social media when building your author platform, including a special section on what platforms you need to be on (and why), how to engage with readers and authors in ways that best work on each platform, and how to build your social media platform with strong cross-channel integration in mind.

I originally wanted to share this via a blog post, but honestly there’s just too much information to share and it makes much more sense when I can walk you through it all. So instead I’ll be hosting a live webinar where I’ll go through this all, and even have it open for questions from the attendees so you go away with actionable tips specific for your needs on how to best grow your author platform using social media.

Social Media Musts for Your Author Platform

NEXT WEBINAR: FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2017 @ 12PM EASTERN!

Leadership Lessons from Team-Based Videogaming

Leadership Lessons Learned from Team-Based Video Gaming


I’m a gamer. There’s no argument about it. I’ve been enamored with video games and all the different opportunities they offer in interactive entertainment and experiences ever since I first put my hands on a Nintendo back in 1988. This means I’ve played a lot of games in the last 30 or so years, across multiple platforms and genres. They’re part of my life and absolutely have an effect on how I think about and frame problems and their solutions. And the other night, as I was thinking about the qualities of what makes a strong leader, I was brought back to my experiences as a gamer and how those experiences have helped me to become the type of leader I am.
Read more