Why You Need to Understand the Peanut Butter Manifesto


peanut_butterIn 2006 Brad Garlinghouse, a SVP at Yahoo, infamously penned an internal memo to all Yahoo employees, called the “Peanut Butter Manifesto.” The thesis of the memo was that Yahoo was spreading itself too thing, like peanut butter on a slice of bread. This lack of focus lead to Yahoo’s inability to dominate one vertical, causing it to fall behind with everything they touched. I encourage everyone starting a business to read this and take the message to heart.

Prepare.io is my second company. My first, Demeter Interactive, was a digital marketing agency. I’ve learned a great deal during my entrepreneurial years, but one lesson that resonates in my mind on a near daily basis is Mr. Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto. That’s because as entrepreneurs, we’re programmed to think big. We think that whatever we’re doing, can be applied to anything. Our focus starts to widen horizontally rather than narrow vertically. This is exactly what Yahoo suffered from, as to many young businesses.

When you’re first starting your company, you need to be laser focused. Instead of building a product that any industry can use, build a product that only one industry can use. Then, focus on dominating that one industry. Just that one. Once you’ve found success in that one industry, you can expand horizontally. But the worst thing you can do is start off in a much too general direction.

Amazon-Original-WebsiteA great example of this is Amazon. Today, we think of Amazon as the juggernaut that it is, absolutely killing it in every single industry. But don’t forget that Amazon started strictly as a book e-retailer. Amazon, purveyor of every type of good/service imaginable, was once only a book vendor. But they got really good at selling books before they started their expansion into everything imaginable.

Think about your company and how you can tighten its focus. Let’s say you’re offering social media marketing services. Social media marketing can be applied to any industry, and as marketers we often try to apply our skills to any industry. But wouldn’t it be better to solely focus on one industry? How much more business do you think you could get if you built a reputation as being a kick-ass marketer for the food industry? You will have repeated case studies with success in the food industry, instilling confidence in your skills. Sounds better than trying to market yourself as someone who can market shoes, food, technology, and retail? Narrowing your focus will make your business much stronger.

Not an entrepreneur? Well, let’s apply this philosophy to your marketing plan. There are tons of different marketing channels out there and there seems to be pressure to use all of them.  What’s the opportunity cost of not using Instagram or email marketing for your business? All of a sudden, you’re stretched too thin and none of your marketing works. Different companies have different growth channels. It’s all about finding your optimal channel and then going all in on that channel. Don’t spread yourself too thin!

The reason why I’m passing this information as a reminder to myself, as well as a lesson to you. The first version of Prepare.io has been very horizontal. It’s confusing and its value is not easily identified by users. This is why I’ve been thinking about the product, who its for, and where its going for a while. In the next few weeks/months, you’re going to see a lot of changes with Prepare.io. I’m currently adding some really useful features, while deleting some equally useful features. All in an effort to streamline Prepare.io’s value and make this a product that you’ll have to use on a daily basis.

Like always, feel free to email me your feedback. jesse at prepare dot io. I am the in the process of completely rebuilding the product and I can’t wait to show you the new Prepare.io.  If you have a feature you’re interested in seeing Prepare.io add, I would love to hear it.



Talk Anything Interview: Joe Matsushima


Prepare.io founder, Jesse Bouman, just started a podcast. Prepare.io sponsors the podcast so we’re going to occasionally share some of the episodes, if they’re relevant.

TalkAnything.FM is meant to inform. Jesse interviews up and coming professionals about their craft and their journey. You really get to understand the struggle these individuals experience and the knowledge they’ve accumulated in the different industries.  Since TalkAnything.FM is broad and Jesse will be speaking to professionals in different industries, we’re only going to post interviews that are relevant to you. If you’d like to subscribe and listen to all the podcasts, go to TalkAnything.FM.

In the third episode, Jesse chats with Joe Matsushima, co-founder of Denizen Company. Joe and his team are known for creating masterful viral videos. They have an impressive number of hits that have millions of views. Recently, Denizen Company and its content department Hello Denizen, have created the viral hit, “Tiny Hamster Eats Tiny Burritos” as well as the subsequent videos in the series.

Jesse talks to Joe about how he got into the viral video space, what makes a great piece of content, and the psychology of sharing. It’s a fascinating talk, especially if you’ve ever wondered how videos on the internet can get millions of views.



Slow and Steady Wins the Race


hamburgerDo a quick Yelp search for hamburgers in your area and you’ll most likely find hundreds of tiny hamburger joints. My search alone came up with over 600 places to get a hamburger. That’s a lot of places to buy a hamburger. No matter how gourmet you try and make it, a hamburger is a hamburger. So how can there be so many restaurants in business that serve hamburgers?

Nearly fourteen years ago Joel Spolsky wrote a very insightful post about business strategy. In his “Strategy Letter I: Ben and Jerry’s vs. Amazon” Spolsky outlines two very distinct strategies that every entrepreneur must make at the beginning of the company’s life; grow slowly, organically, and profitably, or push for a land grab, getting as big as fast as you can. This is a very important determinations for your business.

Image Courtesy of Warner Brothers (Please don't sue me)

Image Courtesy of Warner Brothers (Please don’t sue me)

Unless you’re building a cutting edge software or Internet company, like Amazon, you’re most likely going to be in the Ben and Jerry’s camp. Like the thousands of burger joints in the world, you are one of many, with little to distinguish yourself from your competitors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

There is a lot of emphasis on building your company fast. Getting as many users/customers as you can, proving you have this hyper, month over month growth. It’s as if your company doesn’t exist if you’re now showing 400% growth month over month. If you get caught up in this strategy when your business doesn’t call for it, then you’re going to fail.

Slow and steady wins the race. Just as in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish. Set small goals for yourself and start to achieve them, one by one. If your burger shack has two employees and you try and get 5,000 customers during the first week and 10,000 the next week, you’re going to be overwhelmed. Your customers will be underwhelmed and your business will die. But if you start with 50 customers this week and 70 next week, and 100 the week after, you’re on the right path.

Apply this advice to any aspect of your life. I truly believe it will help you. Think about the tortoise and the hare. Think about how many places serve hamburgers. Whether it’s your health, business, love life, or investments, things take time. Good things happen to those who are patient. Slow and steady growth will get you to where you want to be. Focus on being better than you were yesterday and you will go far.

 



How Can I Become Motivated?


“If you can dream it, you can build it.” – Walt Disney

self-motivationI’ve got a lot going on in my life. I have Prepare.io, consulting projects, I started a podcast, and I’m on the board of the non-profit I started. Someone asked me the other day, “How can I become motivated?”

It’s a question that many people struggle with. I struggle with it.  There is often a gap in between your reality and your desires. The thing that is standing in between these two worlds is often motivation. People who “do” accomplish more because they just go after things. Whereas the rest of the population just sits there and waits. So how can you be one of those people who finds the motivation to jump off the proverbial ledge?

First let me say, it’s not easy. It took me 26 years to take the leap. It’s gotten considerably easier since then. Once daunting things now seem trivial to me. But I still remember how scared I was. Crippled with fear and filled with admiration and a twinge of jealousy of those I looked up to. Here are some of the things that I found, drive me.

moron_ride1. Fear

I am terrified of failure. I’m terrified of being normal. I’m afraid that I’m going to get lost in the sea of mediocrity. I haven’t given up. I have friends in their thirties who tell me things like, “I don’t have dreams anymore. I just want a secure job and live my life. My fantasies are gone.” I’m afraid of that.

2. Ego

This is something that I’m just admitting out loud for the first time. I have a huge ego. I am mild mannered and put my head down to work hard, but that doesn’t mean I want to be in the shadows my whole life. We all have ego, some of our egos are bigger than others, like mine. But some of people are afraid to admit they have ego, like it’s a bad thing. Well, maybe it is, but I have an ego and this is the first time I’ve shared it with the world.

3. Dreams

My dreams also correlate with my fear. I still have dreams. I still envision my dream job, the home with a bustling family, the financial freedom to live my life with flexibility. I haven’t given up on my dreams and they push me everyday.

Image Courtesy of HMA.net.nz

Image Courtesy of HMA.net.nz

Finding your motivation is a personal journey. What motivates you might not motivate me. But you have to figure out what exactly motivates you. Once you know what motivates you, you have to stay motivated.

Every February, I sit down and I complete the same written exercise. I’ve been doing this for four years now. I sit down and I write out my personal and professional goals. Where am I in life? What do I want? What do I not want? Then I map out how I’m going to achieve these goals. Lastly, I list people that I admire and why I admire them.

I keep this all in one Evernote notebook. That way I can look back and see how my goals have changed, how they’re they same, and where my growth has been. It’s a great exercise to do that will really help you identify your goals and fears.

It’s important that everyone discovers what motivates them. Even if your dream isn’t as grandiose as others, there has to be a reason that you get out of bed in the morning. Find it. And when you do, make sure you don’t lose site of this. This is how you’ll fight through the hard times and accomplish your dreams.

Be honest with yourself. Discover what motivates you. Why do you want certain things? Understanding the “why” can help you find the motivation you desire.



How Tucker Max Kickstarted My Writing


Tucker Max is a self-described asshole. An asshole is a New York Times best selling author. If you’ve never heard of Tucker Max, go check out his website. All you need to do is read one story and you’ll know his story. In fact, read this one.

i-hope-they-serve-beer-in-hellNow I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “How did this dickhead inspire you to start writing?” Short answer, he made me laugh. Long answer, well, it’s much longer.

My friend Matt gave me Tucker Max’s book in 2008. I ripped through it in days. I was still in the “Just out of college, I can still party like a rockstar” phase of my young professional life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew when I read Tucker Max’s stories, that I had many stories that were similar. And because he made me laugh out loud every other page, I thought that I could make other people laugh too. Tucker Max’s outrageous stories made me want to find an audience and tell stories. So I started a blog.

I had been blogging since December 2006 already, so it’s not like I was new to putting pen to paper publicly. But reading Tucker Max’s escapades made me feel free, like I could literally write about anything. In a weird way, he released me from any creative shackles I may have had. Because nothing I could write could be as absurd and profane as any Tucker Max story.

anonymous-mask

Image Courtesy of HDW.

It was then I launched my own anonymous dating blog. Don’t ask me the name, it’s now lost in the Internet archives. But I quickly built a following through this blog. This is how I really learned to build an audience and tailor my writing. What started out as a blog that chronicled my bad, awkward dates, turned into a blog outlining my journey for love. Yes, it sounds super lame and girly, but it’s what my readers wanted. In fact, most of my readers were women. Not the intended audience I had in mind!

While this blog only lasted two years, I learned a lot from it. I learned not to be afraid, I learned that I could write, and I learned how to cater my writing to an audience over a steady period of time. I met a lot of great people through that blog, some who I still speak to today, and that blog has lead to many other writing gigs.

Since then, I’ve not only written posts on my personal blog more or on this blog, but I’ve also been paid to write for different companies. Tucker Max’s writing has literally opened up doors for me and put money in my pocket. All because one asshole felt it was necessary to write about his every sexual conquest.

Whether it your company blog or a personal one, don’t be afraid to just write. For some, it’s such a monumental first step, when in reality, it shouldn’t be. You could Google “how to start a company blog” all you want, but knowing the technical aspects of a company blog won’t help you actually start. Doing it will. Over time, your blog will get better. Who cares if you don’t know what to write about? Just write. That’s what I’m doing right now. This blog will continue to find its voice. But if you go back and look at my archived posts,  you’ll see a huge gap. That’s because I didn’t know what to blog about and through more about what to blog about than actually blogging. Dumb.

Figuring out what to write about is hard for anyone. My advice to you is take a page from Tucker Max’s life and just write. Know one knows how brilliant you are until you write it down.

[Guy Fawkes photo courtesy of HDW]



When to Use Who’s vs Whose


Who's the Boss

Alright, I know this is a lot of grammar lessons, but I ran into this issue today. I couldn’t remember when to use who’s vs whose.  I hate when I’m not 100% sure with a rule of grammar. So I had to look it up so I didn’t look like a high school dropout. Here’s what I found.

Who’s

Who’s is a contraction of “who is.” It can be used for “who has” but that’s not as common.

Examples:

Who’s watching the grill?

Who’s going to the party?

Who’s speaking at the event?

 

Whose

whose-line

Whose is the possessive of “who.” You can use it for “which” but that’s the minority use case.

Examples:

Whose car is this?

Whose dog ate my flowers?

Do you know whose house this is?

So after writing this out, it seems really easy. Which just makes it worse if I were to get it wrong. That’s why I wrote this, to make sure I never forget. But if I forget, who’s going to help me remember? Eh?



The Real Secret to Gaining Twitter Followers


If you do a quick search for “How to Gain Twitter Followers” you’ll find 27,000,000 results. Take a deeper look at those results and you’re going to find the some combination of the following tips:

– Be Personable

– Follow People Back

– Share Interesting Content

– Retweet People

– Have keywords in your bio

Blah, blah, blah, blah bullshit.

I hate these articles so much. I would bet you $100 that if you were to start your Twitter account today and follow “rules” like these, you would not grow your Twitter following beyond 200 followers. I’d wager a guess that you get excited for 2-3 retweets. That’s because following these “secrets” to gaining Twitter followers is a bunch of crap.

Forget Everything You Think You Know About Twitter

Here’s the REAL secret to gaining more Twitter followers.

Be exceptional…outside of Twitter.

That’s right, your Twitter success has nothing to do with your Twitter account. If you really want tens of thousands of Twitter followers that hang on to your every tweet, don’t worry about your avatar, your bio, your Twitter background. None of that matters. People follow success.

Focus on your business, writing, cooking, or whatever it is you do. Because if you excel in your chosen field, you will gain the respect you starve for. You’ll get the follower count you want and the retweets you desire. Most importantly, you’ll have the influence that can make a difference.

Don’t Believe Me? Need Proof?

I’m going to provide you with three examples that reflect my advice to you. The first is my friend John. John is becoming a well-known expert in health, fitness, and wellness in New York. You can see that he’s been tweeting for a while, with nearly 2,000 tweets sent. But his follower total is only at 140.

Johnny-Adamic-Twitter

Now let’s take a look at famed writer, Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is far less active than my friend John with 71 total tweets. But he also has a few New York Times Best Selling titles to his name. Which is why his follower count is over 216,000 despite his limited use.

Gladwell-Twitter

My last example is uber-billionaire, Larry Ellison. Mr. Ellison is one of the richest men in the world, with a fortune over $50 billion. Yes, with a “B.” Despite sending only ONE tweet, Larry Ellison has over 46,000 Twitter followers.

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 5.05.43 PM

As you can see, it’s your success that makes people follow you on Twitter, not your optimized profile or how often you tweet.

Please stop wasting your time reading these pointless articles about how to gain Twitter followers. Four or five years ago, these tips might have been useful. People were still getting used to Twitter. I even gave people advice like this. But over the years, having witnessed people on Twitter, both first and second hand, I can confidently say that what you do outside of Twitter matters more. Instead of worrying about optimizing your tweets, work your ass off to become the best marketer, entrepreneur, actor, director, writer, you can be. Success breeds success. Twitter included.

 



Increase Your Blog Traffic With StumbleUpon


via SearchEngineJournal.com

via SearchEngineJournal.com

I’ve written about getting more traffic to your site in the past, but web traffic is a never ending battle. I’ve tried many different tactics to generate more blog traffic over the course of the years. Some successful, others not. I want to talk to you today about one of my unsuccessful attempts at traffic…StumbleUpon.

If you do a search for something like, “increase you blog traffic with StumbleUpon” you will find a bunch of articles about how to use StumbleUpon to increase your website’s traffic. They’ll go through how to set up your account and all that jazz. But I’m here to tell you to save yourself the time and energy and skip StumbleUpon.

Why Do People Like StumbleUpon?

As a user, StumbleUpon is great because you’re able to discover a great deal of new content very quickly. When I first learned about StumbleUpon I would just sit there, for what seemed like hours,  “stumbling upon” new sites. There were so many sites that I’d never think to look up pop up on my screen. It was great.

Why Do Marketers Like StumbleUpon?

First of all, understand that there are two aspects of StumbleUpon. There are the free stumbles, where you submit your link for free and StumbleUpon might share your site with people who are interested in your topic. For those that don’t like to leave things to chance, you can use Paid StumbleUpon. Paid StumbleUpon is the same as the free version, except you are paying $.10 a stumble.

So if StumbleUpon shares your site to 10 people, that would cost your a $1.00. For $.18, StumbleUpon will give you even better targeting. If you’re not aware of typical web traffic prices, this is really cheap. A click on Facebook to my site might cost me $1-2 at the very least. That’s a 10-1 ratio. Google would probably be more. I’ve definitely paid $4-5 on both Google and Linkedin. So as far as cost and quantity, Paid StumbleUpon is great.

Caveat Emptor.

Why Do I Hate StumbleUpon for Blog Traffic?

Simple. It’s terrible traffic. The quality of from StumbleUpon, paid or otherwise, is super bad. If for some reason you only have to report on visitors, you’re going to have a huge success. But only an idiot would accept a report like that. If you have any kind of experience, you’re going to look at things like bounce rate, time on site, pages per view, and where she clicked. Basically you want to know what actions the visitor took.

In my experience with StumbleUpon, I’ve found the analytics to resemble something like this: 7 seconds on site, bounce rate of 90%, and 1.1 pages viewed. There is NO way that anyone can read anything worthwhile in 7 seconds. If they actually did, then your content sucks because they didn’t want to get past 7 seconds. But the reality is that these stats reflect the behavior of a StumbleUpon user. Stare blankly at your screen. Mindlessly press “Stumble” and see a new site. Read a headline or two and then click “Stumble” again. Off to a new site. Now does that really do your blog any good?

I really don’t understand why people feel so compelled to use StumbleUpon for blog traffic. I think it’s because the allure of high traffic for pennies. Everything StumbleUpon is selling you want to believe. But like any deal that sounds too good to be true, so is StumbleUpon. Do yourself a favor and skip StumbleUpon when you’re planning your traffic acquisition strategy.



How to Eliminate the Passive Voice


via Daniel Hollister

via Daniel Hollister

My entire life, I’ve written in the passive voice. My Dad always harped on me for writing in the passive voice. I never saw anything wrong with it. Most of this blog will have the passive voice. But, writing in the passive voice is confusing. It weakens the clarity of your writing, which is why your teachers (and parents) want you to eliminate it from your writing. Here’s how to eliminate the passive voice in your writing.

What is the Passive Voice?

First, let’s start by defining the passive voice.

Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence.

What the shit does that mean? Unless you were an English major and know the English language inside and out, this doesn’t help you.

For me, I get confused on the “subject of the sentence.” Yep, embarrassing, but it’s true. So let’s define what a subject is.

The subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that is doing or being something. You can find the subject of a sentence if you can find the verb. Ask the question, “Who or what ‘verbs’ or ‘verbed’?” and the answer to that question is the subject. (Definition courtesy of Capital Community College Foundation)

Here’s the thing, even knowing what the subject of a sentence is, figuring out the passive voice is tricky. Then I discovered the greatest trick in the book.

The Zombie Rule

via Twitter

via Grammarly 

The Zombie Rule was created by a professor, Rebecca Johnson. Months ago she tweeted out her mind blowing tip. If you can insert, “by zombies” after the verb, you have the passive voice. It’s that simple!

Let’s look at two examples.

1. The school was attacked. 

2. Zombies attacked the school. 

Which sentence was written in the passive voice? Which one is the active voice?

Now let’s add “by zombies”

1. The school was attacked (by zombies).

2. Zombies attacked the school (by zombies).

Adding “by zombies” makes is abundantly clear that sentence #1 is written in the passive voice, while #2 is written in the active voice.

There you have it. You now know what the passive voice is and how to identify it in a sentence. I should note, that the passive voice is usually considered bad. But, that’s not always the case. The passive voice is not preferred because it dilutes clarity, but in certain scenarios it’s perfectly ok to use the passive voice.

[First Image Courtesy of Daniel Hollister]

[Second Image Courtesy of Grammarly/Rebecca Johnson]



What’s the Difference Between Affect vs. Effect?


via Quinn Dombrowski

via Quinn Dombrowski

This is embarrassing, but I still get affect vs. effect wrong. But you know what? So do a lot of people. I know it has something to do with one being a verb and the other one a noun, but I still forget which is which. I end up just changing my sentence instead of looking like an idiot and writing effect instead of affect. So enough of that. Let’s breakdown what the difference between affect vs. effect is.

What’s the Difference Between Affect and Effect?

Affect = Verb

Effect = Noun

See? I told you it had something to do with verbs and nouns. It’s not that easy though. If it was, I’d have remembered it by now. So what’s the trick to remembering this?

When To Use Affect?

Alright, we’ve established that “affect” is a verb, but what does that mean? Affect means to influence. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The weather affected my decision to wear a coat. 

My poor attitude had an affect on my team’s performance.

When To Use Effect?

For most people, effect is the default word to use. Most of the time they’re right. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know the right use of the word. Effect is a noun and its common meaning means “a result.”

I was not effected by the storm. 

Your smell has no effect on me.

Rules to Help You Remember

Everyone has their own rule to remember the difference between affect and effect. Except me that is.  I did some digging and these are a few that I found.

Affect is an verb. Affect starts with “A.” So does action. Affect = action.

Cause and effect. Affect is the cause and effect is, well, effect.

Verb substitution. If you’re unsure, replace affect with a verb to see if the sentence makes sense.

Ex:

As a child, he was affected by his parents.

As a child, he was affected eaten by his parents.

The Aardvark Rule

via Marie Hale

via Marie Hale

 “The arrows affected Aardvark. The effect was eye-popping.” 

Remember these two sentences. The sentence with “affect” has all the “A” words. The sentence with “effect” has the “e” word in it.

Exceptions to the Rule

Just when you think you have the rules down, you find out there’s an exception to the rule. There’s always an exception. I’m hesitant to even include these, because you’re going to use affect as a verb, effect as a noun 95% of the time.

Affect can be used as a noun in reference to psychology – the mood someone appears to have. Psychologists can’t really know how a patient feels, they can only speculate how someone appears to feel.

Effect can be used as a verb and it means “to bring about” or “to accomplish.” Like, “The congressman hopes to effect change in his district.”

How are you feeling about the difference between affect and effect? I’m feeling more confident, but I’m sure I’ll still make some mistakes. I’ll be sure to reference this post when I am unsure. I hope this post helps you in your writing.

[First Image Courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski]

[Second Image Courtesy of Marie Hale]