I love sitting on trains and just watching.

No, I don’t care about the text message you’re sending your girfriend, or article about the Yankees, or trying to follow along your Slack biz chat. It’s not the micro, it’s the Macro.  

Its incredibly interesting to sit on a train, plane or any public place for that matter and just watch. Who’s reading a magazine versus blasting away on a text message versus reading peacefully on a Kindle.

I don’t spend a ton of time traveling per say in a year, and I look at that as a blessing from this standpoint. Things have switched, from a 53 year old business woman struggling to navigate her Outlook, to now texting while on a conference Skype video call in coordination with a dual-screen presentation / article on her 15inch MacBook  

This is a massive change on every level. Marketers think Facebook doesn’t work, yet the 36 year old father of two (based on his iPhone wallpaper) hasn’t gotten off his FB feed in 82 of the 84 minutes I’ve sat next to him. If you’re selling a well-built and fairly priced watch and targeting 32-45 year old working men, you’re still going to tell me that overpriced TV or print newspaper ad is “the strategy”, and that Facebook / social ads don’t work? 

This change is massive, and it’s so easy to spot. Whether you consider yourself a marketer or not, next time you’re in any public place take a glance around at what people are doing on their iPhone / tablet / laptop.

I think you’ll be surprised. 

 

Toys R Us bankruptcy will highlight everything wrong with marketing education

The Toys R Us bankruptcy has pretty low-key rocked the business world, everybody from other big-box brick-and-mortar retailers, to online retailers, marketers, financial firms and banks alike, albeit for all different reasons. Long story short, the crumbling castle that began coming down with the likes of iTunes and Amazon lost a major tower this month in Toys R Us announcing bankruptcy, and it's going to highlight everything wrong with marketing education, and higher-ed as a whole in the coming 36 months. 

Huh? How'd we go from the business world impacts to molding the minds of late-year teenagers? Bear with me.

The one thing that always drove me crazy in the more traditional marketing classes was sitting there, reading, discussing case studies and marketing tactics from 2, 3, 5 even as high as ten year old situations. How does a case study revolving around revolutionizing a magazine advertisement from 2012 (in a 2013-published textbook) affect me today when Facebook (in my opinion) is the leading and most effective advertising product in the world? See the disconnect yet? 

Here brings me back to the issue with Toys R Us and marketing. In likely 3-5 years, students will be sitting in classrooms reading text books about back when Toys R Us used to be a store parents brought kids to buy toys, but went out of business because of factors which, if by 2020-2022 businesses aren't adopting and mastering, will have affected tens of hundreds of other businesses too. 

If classrooms and thought leaders aren't promoting these issues today, making kids think about these issues today, theoretically thinking about what Toys R Us could have been doing 4-6 years ago to avoid their situation today, well then what's the point, and where will that set these kids up when they're going to graduate and go work for companies like Target and Walmart and Cabela's who will need to solve these very issues? 

Now, this isn't to say all educational institutions does a poor job of this. I'm proud to be an alum of Bryant University who is consistently rated among the top-10 business schools and marketing programs in the country, with good reason. A majority of professors encourage discussions and projects revolving around issues today. But i'm confident this is the minority of most educational institutions, and without a drastic change, and soon, where will we find the marketers and thought leaders to solve these issues of tomorrow? 

Networking is everything, yet nothing at all

Networking isn't a "thing", it's everything  

In college, I had people from all angles teaching me the "importance of networking", of getting out there and making connections, meeting new people and developing opportunities for the future. But here's the thing, I had no idea how to do that. Of course, there were consistent networking events around campus, consisting of students, advisors and business professionals alike standing around in uncomfortable clothing, eating cheese and crackers & forcing conversations with strangers. I went to a few of these, as well as a few sponsored speakers talking about their company and the potential for internships. Each time, I'd think to myself, "Am I networking? Am I doing it right?". I had no clue. 

It wasn't until long after I graduated (well, I graduated 8 months ago, so take that as you wish) that i really figured out what networking is. 

It's everything, it's all the time, and it's really nothing at all.

The best networking I ever did? I had coffee after class one morning with a professor, who took time out if his day to take 20 minutes and catch up. Coffee lead to talking to me about a company one of his recent alumni worked for, who'd be on campus in a few days. I researched this company, had an interview with the northern division manager, they liked me and I flew to Milwaukee for a final round interview the following week, and had a job offer. Fast forward 6 months, here I am, working for that very company. How could one, 20-minute coffee be more fruitful than the countless "networking events" I had been to and seen advertised for four years? 

Now, here’s the problem with that. You can’t see the future, and you have no idea when this moment is going to come. So what do you do? Go to every single one in the hopes that it’s “the” one? Try to pick and choose which you attend, based on who you think will be there, or around your schedule? 

My advice, is to trust your gut. You might be saying, “oh please, that’s your advice”? Yeah, it is. 

Do you have a big test tomorrow, and can’t catch up with an old buddy who’s on campus and who’s working at that accounting firm you’d love to get into? Well, my advice to you is screw the test, because in the grand scheme, meeting up for a beer with the potential to get a recruiter’s contact information is far more valuable than getting a 90 on an exam when you might instead just pull off a 70. 

If you think the test is a more valuable use of those 5 hours, then by all means, study. If you’re doing well in class and/or don’t care much for the topic, then get dinner. Do the best you can, and what you think is best, in every situation. After all, isn’t that all you can really do anyways? 

The other thing I can’t stress enough is to be open, get yourself out there. Make up 500 business cards with your contact info, degree and expertise, and carry them, all the time. You never know where your buddy’s sister works, or who your roommate’s dad might know while out to dinner on parents weekend. 

Utilize what’s around you every single day. Don’t just throw an application on a website, dig deeper, try to find the recruiter’s contact information, follow the company on social, reach out to connections you may have on LinkedIn, and I promise you, things will fall into place. It could be days, it could be years, but the hustle pays off. 

I run a business from my MacBook & my iPhone

Take a second to let that sink in. It's 2016, and I can keep a business - clients, networking, vendors, etc - running from a laptop and an iPhone, from anywhere in the world as long as there's power and an internet hookup. 

Now imagine that mindset 50 years ago, 20 years ago (1996), even as close as 5 years ago (2011). Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would be possible, yet here I am. It's not for everybody, but in conversations with friends and colleagues on this idea, I've discovered three main aspects where I can contribute my (early) successes to, and where I'm sure a majority of my future ones will come from. 

1) Stay Organized

I don't mean keep some BS desktop calendar that you rip the pages off each month, actually get organized. Do you have notes from every client or business meeting you've ever had available in the palm of your hand? Does your calendar show you what your day and meetings look like 38 days from today, again accessible right in your pocket? If not, I highly recommend you get to that point. 

I run a custom domain email address from Google Apps (Ben@BenSawicki.com) for $5/mo, and from that I get the professional aspect of a custom email, plus the entire Google suite - Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Pages/Sheets - all available across any platform. I'm also huge on the productivity platform Trello. Originally created to allow teams a common work space to stay organized, I use this solo to organize projects and client work, and further break down ToDo's, social log-ins, meeting notes, and more. Other software like Dropbox and Evernote keep files, images and notes organized and available on any platform. 

2) Utilize Technology

While it may be true that technology is changing at a mind boggling rate, I think we've finally reached a point of only mild, incremental growth. For example, the jump in technology from the iPhone 4, to the 5, and then the 6 was massive. New phone styles, exponentially better cameras, quicker processors, larger screens, etc. However, fromt he 6 to the 7, while sporting some new colors and a better camera on the 7plus, not much has changed. I think that's what we're looking at for technology today, new phones and laptops may get 10-20% faster, but the portability, size and major functionality are at an all time high. 

What's more, is that it's incredibly affordable. A phone that used to cost nearly 4-figures, and what used to be a $5,000 Mac computer can now be had sometimes for free with a new carrier plan, and a fully-loaded, ultra-portable MacBook Pro can be had for under $1,500. Utilize the (relatively) cheap technology landscape to further your business. 

Me personally, I've grown to be an avid Apple fan. I've always been an iPhone user, but recently upgrading to a 13" MacBook Air (for under $1,000) has increased my productivity tenfold. I'm able to sync messages, email and notes to my iPhone 6s Plus at lightning speed, so I always have that note or client file wherever I happen to be. The Apple suite of software, multi-desktop capabilities, and iMessaging clients from my laptop is incredible, and coming from a Windows-only user the past 5 years, I'm happy I made the switch. 

3) Biz Dev

I honestly never knew what this meant. From the second I showed up to college, and our career center preached networking and developing business connections, I just never got it. It took until senior year to really understand how to network, what it looked like and how it would help, which has fed directly into my business success. So often during conversations with friends or family, something comes up that leads me to throw in a slight jab about what it is my business does, and that often leads to some type of project work. That's biz dev, and it's crucial to business success. I don't believe in the "ABC - Always Be Selling" mantra, for fear of sounding like that cliche, "scummy" sales person, however you should know the right times to grab a business card, or give a brief pitch. 

 

Business is changing. I'm not saying you should start a company from your laptop and 2 weeks later try to raise $4 million dollars towards it. I'm saying, if it's what you're meant to do, there has never been a better time to pursue that journey. 

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat....Email?

If what I'm about to describe is an accurate representation of you, raise your hand (figuratively, unless you really want to raise your hand): 

You have an email account, probably set up 3-5 years ago, that now gets so many "junk" emails from Macy's, Apple, Target, Groupon (yes, I'm basing this off of my own email) and more, that you don't even take the time to truly go through them anymore. 

Keep your hand up if checking that email account looks something like this - you open it up at 8pm and have 54 unread emails, you scroll through the latest, maybe open 2-3 that have an interesting sale or news clip, scroll back to the top and hit "mark all as read", and then repeat the process tomorrow. 

Email, in a way, has transitioned into another social media stream. It's a platform we can check to get news, sale information, promotion and more. In the same way we can follow Nordstrom on Twitter, we can subscribe to their email list and get content that way, it's no different. 

 

Does this inbox look like one of your old email accounts? It may be the new norm of email

Does this inbox look like one of your old email accounts? It may be the new norm of email

The issue with this form of marketing is that marketers have not adopted the "new way" of thinking and analyzing social media ROI. Too many companies and marketing departments still say "we need to utilize social media to grow our email list" or go out and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on "relevant" email lists just to spam individuals with content they didn't want in the first place. 

Email marketing today is just another platform, another tool in which a 21st century marketer must use, but utilize, understand and analyze appropriately. While email certainly isn't dead, nor do I believe it's dying, the way consumers use and interact with their email inbox today now looks more like a social media feed, rather than a dedicated communicating tool as it used to be. 

Do you have questions about how to integrate email into a strategic digital marketing plan? Shoot me a message, I'd be happy to chat:

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Snapchat, My Mom, & Why it Matters?

What does Snapchat, Millennials, my Mother (hey Mom), and marketing all have to do with one another?

Millennials love to be different, want to be unique, and look for every medium and platform to tell the world how cool and unique they are, and what they’re doing. Enter, Snapchat, a platform that allows you to post photo or video in a documentary-type style in one second, and have it viewed by hundreds of thousands of people in the next. It’s not as conversational as Twitter, and is a different timeline than Instagram. Personally, I feel for many people, especially the young 12–18 year old demographic, it’s even replacing traditional text messaging as a means of communication. Why text message, when you can send your friends real-time direct photos and videos, with a sentence or caption?

Millennials have grown up with Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram, and now Snapchat. They’re used to share pictures and updates in real-time, and these kids (are we still kids?) thrive off of this interaction. That’s why Snapchat has become so popular, it provides the opportunity for instant gratification and sharing. Users can show off how “cool” their Saturday nights at the club are, or stunning shots of their recent vacation to Hawaii.

Enter, Snapchat and Snapchat Geo-filters, the first of their inevitable multiple paid products. When I’m on campus at school at Bryant University, there are two Bryant-themed filters I can overlay on my snaps. Last Christmas season, Snapchat had ornament-style graphics available based on which state you were in. I went home to Western Massachusetts for Christmas, and my snaps had a “MA” ornament filter available to place in the corner to show my followers where I was, home for the holidays. Originally reserved for Snapchat to upload, they’ve recently released their platform for uploading your own custom filters for anything; birthday parties, weddings, and the likes (Read Gary Vaynerchuk’s guide to the new feature here). It’s absurdly cheap, for the potential reach and usability, both for personal use and absolutely for business use.

So what? Users can put cute little borders and graphics on their snaps of them hiking a mountain, or sipping a margarita on a beach somewhere? My mom is a prime time example of this (Hey Mom). Everywhere we go, the first thing she does is pull out her phone, load Snapchat and see what types of filters she gets for that location.

But what she does next is what’s truly intriguing, and is growing. She’ll snap a picture of me and my brother, overlay a filter, and DOWNLOAD IT. Two minutes later, that photo of us & cute little Boston-themed filter are on Facebook, for her friends and family to see. Instantly they know where we are, based on the filter, and 15 comments ensue about having a good time, safe travels, etc.

But again, why does this matter as a marketer?

Assume my mom is in Boston, and one of the Boston-themed filters she finds is sponsored by a small, yet locally popular coffee shop, who has uploaded this Snapchat filter for a 2 mile radius around the shop. The filter features their brand new all-natural iced tea, and its 94 degrees that day. Best case scenario, my mom drags us to the shop for an iced tea. Or she posts that to her story, and a flood of her local Bostonian friends reply, highly recommending the shop, and they get our business that way. It’s a platform with a tough ROI to measure, but does that mean a brand shouldn’t do it at all? Absolutely not. It’s a situation where it will pay dividends in 12–18 to be an early mover on (Again, check out Gary Varynerchuk’s work on this), and become known as the industry standard for advertising on Snapchat as their analytics and advertising platforms continue to develop.

Snapchat is where the attention of the younger generation is, and it’s growing older by the day. The sooner the marketer realizes, understands and embraces this process, both in organic and paid content, the sooner they can execute on this attention, and get a step ahead of the competition.

 

This blog post originally appeared on my Medium page: https://medium.com/@BenSawicki/snapchat-my-mom-why-it-matters-a39341d7c022#.y93vbakut 

Does social media start conversations, or is it the conversation?

These four powerhouses in the social media world today are how a majority of the world, from 18 year old guys to middle-aged moms converse, connect, and update their “friends” on what’s going on. I say friends like “friends”, because I ask you the question — what percentage of your friends list on any given platform are you actually friends with? 80% 50% 10%? Platforms are used differently by different demographics, which is important for marketers to know. Personally, I have like 1,300 Facebook friends, and I never realized the benefit of this until launching BaS Marketing, in which I already had a large platform in which to get the word out.

My mom, for instance, (Hey Mom), has probably a hundred friends or so. But she knows them, every single one, and her Facebook platform and usage arguably is more effective and allows her to share with people she truly cares about when she posts a picture of us from this past Easter Sunday. She spends a lot of time catching up on her news feed, seeing what her friends are up to because she knows every single one. I may spend only a few minutes on Facebook, because I have so many friends and might not care to read though every piece of news. A marketer who is attempting to target my mom to sell product or services to on Facebook must understand this, because she’s going to use Facebook much differently than I am.

But is Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram the conversation, or does it simply start the conversation.

 

Read the rest of my blog here, on Medium.com:

https://medium.com/@BenSawicki/does-social-media-start-conversations-or-is-it-the-conversation-251bb5bca00#.cxcwm3f36