WebAfternoon: Why I Love The Web

I was blessed with the opportunity to share a five minute lightning talk at this past Saturday’s A Web Afternoon mini-conference. The goal of the event? A conversation by people who love the web and all it’s possibilities. A special hat-tip to J Cornelius for the generous invitation. I had a wonderful time.

Video may be available down the road, but I thought I’d share a rough recollection of what I said to the attendees. Enjoy.

My one slide...

Best-selling author, cartoonist and general all-round agitator and instigator Hugh MacLeod published this cartoon several years ago. “The web has made kicking ass easier to achieve, and mediocrity harder to sustain. Mediocrity now howls in protest.”

I love this cartoon. I look at it every day. It inspires me, it makes me think about what is possible on the web. You see, the web changed my life. It gave me a voice.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was the quintessential introvert. Quiet. Shy. Reserved. I hated, detested, social interactions. I doubt that I said a total of 200 words during high school.

Today, childhood friends, family, and high school and college buddies are stunned that I make my living doing internet radio…

The web made that possible…

You see, my first gig out of school was in politics, thus, I became a political operative for the next several years. It wasn’t until I transitioned from political operative to marketing strategist that I began to come out of my shell.

Why?

The web made that possible. I experimented with the web. Tried things. Learned things. Succeeded. Failed. Failed again. And then, I stumbled onto podcasting. And that changed how I do business.

Nowadays, I do internet radio for a living. I have a studio in north Atlanta, conduct dozens of interviews a week, reach thousands, and travel coast to coast broadcasting from trade shows.

It is a fun way to earn a living, helping people and organizations tell their story. The web made that possible…

Why? The web unleashes your true potential. It unleashes your true power. And like me, it can help you find your voice. There is an artist…there is a creative…in all of us. If you let it, the web will draw that out.

You can reach millions. You can inspire millions. You can educate millions. And yes, you can even instigate millions [pointing to image of cartoon].

yesterday at GTRI, the venue...

Now, I am about to finish my second book, a collection of essays entitled Kicking Fear’s Ass, the title inspired by that cartoon [pointing again].

It is a collection of essays from people about how they are combating, and battling fear. The project is eye opening. And it reminds me that still far too many people are NOT taking advantage of what the web has to offer. And it is up to us to help them see what is possible.

And sadly, the three things that I believe hold most people back, are the three things that I think makes the web so wide open to possibility.

They say, “Oh Todd, the web is just too big. My message will be lost.” Perhaps, but there is a niche out there for you. A niche that only you can reach, that only you can touch, that only you can motivate. It is hard work finding that niche, glorious work, but hard. But when you find it, your world changes.

Two, people are scared of the transparency of the web. They think they don’t like people getting into their business. I say bunk. Transparency is what makes the web great.

I can spend an hour on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, and see what inspires you, see what motivates you, see what moves you, and see what pisses you off. This is how I learn about you. And this makes for powerful connections between us. In my view, Twitter is a window into your soul.

Transparency makes the web great.

Three, people are too damn afraid of negative reactions, negative feedback. It is the reason still too many organizations do NOT engage on the social web. Heck, not a podcast goes by that I don’t trip on a word, stumble on a phrase, or mispronounce someone’s name. And sure as heck, someone calls me on it.

But that makes me human…and that’s how I connect with my guests.

You will get negative feedback on the web. But don’t worry, that never ending flow of information will keep flowing, and people will be talking about something else soon enough.

And the great thing is, when you get negative feedback, there will be people in your community who will lift you up, help you, support you, advise you, counsel you, collaborate with you and love you…

And that’s what makes us ALL better.

The web changed my life. It gave me a voice. The web made that happen.

Now I need you to help others see what’s possible, to find their own voice on the web, to help others kick ass on the web [pointing to cartoon again].

Now let’s get to work. Thank you.

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Google+ Will Grow Your Business, If You Believe

Do You Believe?

As you might have heard, Google+ has launched over the past week. You can find me here.

Clients are beginning to ask me is it worth it? My answer is yes. If you believe.

If you believe that the social web moves the needle for your business. If you believe that conversation and relationships are what drive sales. If you believe that interacting with human beings – using social platforms – move people to action.

Most don’t believe.

In fact, a majority of small business people still need to be convinced of the value of blogging. Of Twitter. Of using Facebook for business. Of podcasting. Heck, some still need to believe that LinkedIn can drive business opportunity.

So my recommendation is this: if you are still futzin’ around with and learning the value of blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…it probably isn’t worth your time diving into Google+. Yet.

How will I use Google+? I will use it as a better way to keep in touch with close friends. I will use it as a way to deepen relationships with people I want to get to know better. And of course, I will use it for prospecting…both for new business and to recruit guests for all my radio shows.

Google+ does two things that change the game, in my opinion. One, they have a feature called Hangouts, where you can have a group video chat with up to ten people. Think of the collaborative opportunities with that… Two-way skyping is so 2010. Ten-way collaboration, learning, sharing…now that’s social, and that’s powerful…

And two, you can very easily group your connections into small, organized groups, called Circles.

Why does Circles matter? On Twitter, for instance, when I share a news article, my entire following of 5,100+ sees it. On Circles, if I only want my close friends to see something, I can opt for that. If I build a circle for prospects, which I’ve done, then I can choose to only share content with my prospects.

Circles makes it very easy to target specific content with a specific audience. You can do this on Facebook, but it isn’t easy and it is very cumbersome. And you can’t do it on Twitter.

For me, I will be very strict in who I let into my Google+ world. I am only connecting with people I know, and very specific people that I want to get to know. I am NOT blindly following anyone who wants to connect. My Twitter and Facebook worlds are too big. With Google+, I will closely monitor who I let into my little world.

So, Google+ is a game changer, in my opinion. But don’t join in just to half-ass it. If you believe that social connection matters, if building and cultivating human relationships matter, Google+ might be the best social network yet.

But don’t engage anywhere on the social web until you believe…

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[Todd Schnick is a marketing strategist, helping entrepreneurs become intrepid marketers...]
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I Survived Making A Cold Call, And 7 Reasons Why I Will Never Do It Again

Are you building connection with your prospects first?

So, I actually performed a cold call the other day.

It sucked.

To fill you in, I made a few cold calls on behalf of a client. I am producing a radio show on their behalf, and am doing a little recruiting to help secure specific guests for their show.

Let me say again, it sucked.

And, I am not surprised to report, and you aren’t surprised to learn, I haven’t heard a damn thing from the individual. And honestly, I assume that I never will.

And I don’t blame them.

Cold calling is hard. The target doesn’t know you exist. Doesn’t care that you exist. Doesn’t want you to exist. Doesn’t want to give you time. Doesn’t want to make time for you…

…unless you build a relationship with them. And therein lies the secret to cold calling.

What I should have done for my client was accept their list of show targets, and then done the following:

1. See if they are active on Twitter, and follow them. Because then I can look for opportunities to engage with them when they tweet something.

1.5. And if they are active on Twitter, set up a Twitter Search query to keep an eye on their activity, so I can learn what they are interested in talking about in real time.

2. See if they blog. Because then I can look for new posts that I can comment and engage my target.

3. Do a Google search for them individually. See what pops up in the query. Are they active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc?

4. Do a Google search around their organization, to learn about their latest news, new product announcements, quarterly earnings, etc. Here, you are identifying opportunities to reach out and engage your prospect.

5. Search their name (and their organization) on LinkedIn. See what comes up. See what groups they are active in. Perhaps join those groups yourself to engage your prospect there.

6. Now you can connect with them on Google+, and place them in your “prospect” circle, and look for opportunities to connect there.

7. You are probably not friends with them on Facebook, but if you scan their profile, some people still allow you to view their profile. From this, you can see the things they are interested in (“likes”), and this could potentially give you some things in common, which make connection easier to achieve.

So, that’s what it takes. And yeah, it takes a little time. But when you finally connect with your target individual, it is NO LONGER a cold call.

It reminds me of the film Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman. If you’ve seen it, you remember the coach’s instruction that the team had to pass the ball five times before taking a shot at the hoop. This was meant to encourage better shot selection and to break down the defense.

Same principle with destroying cold calls forever:

You shouldn’t make a contact to your target individuals until you’ve engaged in at least five meaningful non-sales conversations with your prospect.

This encourages more meaningful conversation to actually get to know someone, and breaks down their defenses to a cold sales call from a complete stranger.

The seven tactics above help with that. What do you think? And what else would you suggest?

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[Todd Schnick is a marketing strategist, helping entrepreneurs become intrepid marketers...]
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[pic from IMDB]

A Twenty-Four Year Old Sales Cycle: A Facebook Case Study

What I am about to report, is nothing you haven’t heard before. But the story bears repeating again. Because you just never know where business opportunities will come from.

My old high school...

I got a lead on a new consulting gig yesterday…

…from a guy I haven’t seen in 24 years.

Yes, from a guy in my senior class in high school. He and I connected on Facebook a few years back. And just yesterday, he connected with me on LinkedIn when he reached out to see if I was interested in exploring the gig.

Now, I don’t know if this will go anywhere. It might not.

But isn’t that just exciting? He and I weren’t the closest of friends in high school. We didn’t hang out on weekends and such. But we sat together often. And had fun messin’ around in class from time to time.

So, as I said, nothing profound to report here with this post.

This is just a story, happening in real time, for all the people who tell me that social media isn’t a place to market your business, especially Facebook.

And to be honest, I don’t really “market” my business on Facebook, I just promote my content when I publish something.

So over time, this guy just happened to learn enough about what I do for a living to inquire.

In fact, the real lesson here is to spend more time on Facebook cultivating relationships with people such as my old friend. Imagine if we all used the tools the way they are designed, and actually dialog with people.

That’s the lesson for me. I engage with people more than the average fellow, but not enough. And trust me, I will adjust my strategy a bit…

You should too.

And you should also remember, there is value in every friend, connection, and follower. Even one you haven’t seen in 24 years.

If you just engage…

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[pic found here]

Own A Restaurant? You Better Be On Twitter

Sent a tweet late yesterday morning to one of my favorite restaurants. I was going to be driving by, so I tweeted asking about take-out options…

And within 15 minutes, I got messaged back with a phone number to call to place my order.

Good show Verde!

To be honest, if you are a restaurant, you need to be on Twitter. If you are not, you are slowly bleeding to death.

You need to respond quickly to inquiries like mine… Because if you are missing them, you are losing opportunities to restaurants that are responding.

Don’t give me any crap about not having time. It is simply a matter of having someone at the restaurant, monitoring their Twitter page on a smart phone clipped to their waist.

Simple. No excuses.

It is just the price of doing restaurant business today.

Here are other things I’d do with this:

1. Obviously, respond quickly to tweets like the one I sent above.

2. I’d send Twitpics out frequently, and/or upload pics to your restaurant Facebook page. Send out pics of good meals, send out pics of people celebrating their birthdays, send out pics of cool cocktails, bottles of wine that you offer…

3. Wanting to build up a lunchtime crowd, send out pics of large office parties and tweet out specials. Direct from your smart phone as you walk around the restaurant…

4. Send out tweets like this: “We currently have a waiting list, but first person to come in and ask for Gary’s table, you’ll get seated right away!”

5. As long as you have the smart phone attached to the hip, you really ought to be monitoring your geolocation check-ins — Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places…respond to comments, or go say hello to people who have just checked-in…

6. Why does having people check-in on Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places matter? Because when they do, those announcements generally show up in people’s twitter streams and/or Facebook streams. This builds awareness of your restaurant. Demonstrates that your joint is vibrant and happening!

What else would you add?

If you own or operate a restaurant, and you aren’t active on Twitter, you are missing opportunities to build deeper relationships with people in your community, and building more loyal customers.

Simple.

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9 Step Plan To Use Social Media To Hack Your Cold-Calling Nightmare

I just don’t know why cold calling is necessary. I don’t understand why you would make a phone call to someone you don’t know, who isn’t expecting your call, and expect to advance a sale as a result.

I know it works…if you believe a response rate of one percent “works.”

First, my definition of cold calling: When you call through a phone list of (unqualified) leads, and they don’t know you, and have no idea who you are or why you are calling (other than to harass them and try to potentially sell them something).

I thank my lucky Gods that I have never had to cold call in my work. Because I wouldn’t do it. I’d prefer inserting toothpicks into my eyes.

But there is opportunity in those lists of leads. Here is how I would hack the cold-calling process:

1. Get the list of leads. Whatever the list. Whether you are responsible for procurring the list, or whether your sales manager gives you a list, perhaps marketing provides them, or maybe you have to bribe the boss to get the Glengarry leads. I don’t care. Get your hands on your list.

2. Google them. Find out what you can. In my mind, you are looking for a few things. Find their LinkedIn profile. See if they are on Facebook. Are they on Twitter? And most importantly, see if they have a website and/or blog. And keep an eye open for anything else interesting, such as your lead being quoted in an article somewhere.

3. Set up a Google Alert. This is especially true for any leads that look promising. This way, you can capture any online mention of these people, and from this, you might find a bit of information that you can use to your advantage, as well as simply getting to learn more about them. Finding an excuse to contact someone is much easier than the traditional cold call, such as reaching out to comment on their mention in a news article.

4. If they are active on Twitter, set up a Twitter Search query. Here is how to do this. Monitor the Twitter stream of the people on your list. What are they tweeting? What films are they seeing? Where are they going to dinner? Where are they going on vacation? Here are 14 ways to strike up a conversation on Twitter.

5. Find common interests on Facebook. Facebook is trickier, since the person must give you permission to formally connect. And it also depends on your security settings. But when I search a lot of people that are not my “friends” on Facebook, their profiles still provide me with a lot of information about who this person is by providing the list of people and organizations they are fans of. You can very likely find some sort of common interest by reviewing these lists. File this away, it will be helpful later.

6. See where they engage on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, like Facebook, requires this person to formally agree to connect with you. But most likely, you are able to review their profile and can look for bits on their resume that can be helpful, or more importantly, show you what LinkedIn groups they are active in. Here, you can also join those groups and look for a way to connect.

7. Yes, you can even use Foursquare to your advantage. What? Really? Yes really. See if any of the names on your list have Foursquare profiles. If they do, they are probably also active on Twitter, and you can likely see where they check-in on either their Foursquare profile or on Twitter. Why does this matter? Because if you monitor their stream, you can strike up a conversation. How? Well, if they check into a bookstore on Foursquare, in addition to now knowing they like to read, you can also reach out and ask what book they got, and did they like it. You have just started conversation, and also a new relationship.

8. Do they have a blog? If they do, this is the best news yet. You can get a peek into their mind, their thought process, their interests. And you can read their posts, and comment on them! This is the best way to connect with someone. They will appreciate you taking the time to comment on their blog, and this will do more to advance your relationship that virtually anything else.

9. ENGAGE! This is obviously the most important step. After the preliminary work you have done with steps one through eight, you now have knowledge. You have details. You have data. You can now make strategic moves to connect with this once unknown name on a list. They are no longer a name. They are now a person with a history. You have things in common (most likely). The GREAT thing about the social web is that it is accepted to reach out to people and connect and dialog.

No, people don’t like to be cold called. But they don’t mind you reaching out on Twitter. Take advantage of this phenomenon.

You see, in the film clip from Glengarry Glen Ross above, the lead sales guy talks about AIDA (Attention, Interest, Decision, Action). Think how much easier this process would be if you could do a little advance work using social media to connect with those leads? Using the internet to get to know these people a bit more, see what they are interested in, seeing what they write, seeing how they work.

Can you now see how much easier it would be to gain attention and interest, using the tactics described above? You have the beginnings of a relationship now.

With your new friendship, you can suggest a quiet cup of coffee. Or make arrangements to chat by phone to discuss common interests. And the miserable existence that is cold-calling will soon become a distant memory…

What do you think? What are some other ways to hack cold-calling that I missed?

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20 Ways To Jumpstart Your Personal Brand

With the social web, the modern ease of communication, and an ever-connected and wired world, it has never been easier to build your personal brand and share it with the world. And yeah, this assumes you do good work, meet deadlines, and have the respect of the community around you.

But here are a few ideas on some things you can do to give your personal brand a little boost:

1. Engage with real people on the social web. Don’t use Twitter or Facebook as vehicles to drive sell messages one-way. Use them for what they were built for, to actually communicate with real people. Strike up conversations.

2. Publish an ebook. Nothing says you are an expert than when you publish. And since most of us won’t ever publish a book, putting together an e-book is a great way to establish yourself in the marketplace.

3. Interview someone who inspires you. This can be a written article, a blog post, and/or a podcast. But find people who move you, and share the reasons with your audience. You will move them too. And be appreciated for sharing.

4. Announce a charity/non-profit you or your company is supporting. This adds to your story. This makes you different. This makes you trustworthy. And, in addition to helping boost your brand, it will be immensely gratifying!

5. Do a book review. Do a review about a book that made you a better person. And/or a better business person. This helps and serves your audience, providing knowledge they ought to know. But, in a small way, sort of identifies you with the message of the book itself…

6. Announce a big personal goal. For me, it was talking about my distance running. This gets people talking about you. And following you on your journey.

7. Talk about a failure, and what you are going to do as a result of it. This is the stuff of legend. To be courageous enough to talk about your failures, and what you learned from it. This connects with people, because, they have probably had a similar failure. And it helps others avoid your mistakes…

8. Go on the road, and talk about you learned from your destination. We all admire travelers. We live vicariously through them. But what really moves us is when travelers tell us what they learned from their adventures.

9. Publish a bucket list. But more importantly, explain how you are actually going to achieve those dreams. Listing your big goals and adventures? Says a lot about you. And probably connects you to people who share those dreams…

10. Talk about how you overcome a very personal fear. This makes you human. And approachable. And shows you a person of character.

11. Talk about what makes you happy. and content. This will inspire. And make you someone worth knowing.

12. Talk about what makes you sad, and what you are doing to fight through it. Part of marketing and sales is being relatable to people, finding something in common. Building rapport, and sharing this very human side of you does a lot to build trust.

13. Launch a podcast. Even you can have your own radio show. Having a podcast is a great way to share wonderful people with your audience. Having a podcast is also a great way to reach out and connect with people that are important to know.

14. Launch a video TV show. And don’t tell me that is hard. All it takes is buying a Flipcam, interview people on a regular basis, and publish on YouTube. Just be sure your show helps and educates people.

15. Be a curator. Become a recognized source of valuable content. Share articles on the social web. Provide lists of recommended books.

16. Write an article about how you overcame a major problem…on a project, in life. Demonstrating to the world that you can solve problems is a very marketable skill, and shows you as valuable.

17. Serve on the board of a non-profit. You’ll meet new people. And it will add some flavor to the story of you. And your network will like the taste.

18. Speak in public. I don’t mean keynote in front of 1,000 people. I am talking about volunteering to speak to a local business association. Teach them what you know.

19. Be a connector. When you make it a point to connect people who should know each other, you make a difference in their lives. Do it often enough, you have influence.

20. Stop worrying. The less you worry about building your personal brand, the stronger it will be. Nothing from 1-19 is for you. Those all exist to help others. This is what matters.

What do you think? What would you add?

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[cartoon by hugh macleod]

Social Media: A View To A Lazy Business Culture?

We’ll stipulate that many organizations don’t understand how to integrate the social web into their marketing.

The reasons vary:

1. Some don’t see value (the infernal ROI question).
2. Some don’t want employees “wasting time” with it.
3. Some fear they have nothing to say.
4. They do not want to be openly vulnerable to criticism.
5. Some fear they are sharing insider secrets.
6. Some worry they may lose control. Of their people. Of the message…

I will be honest. In just a few short years, the paradigm through which I view organizations has shifted. Dramatically.

In the past, I viewed favorably organizations that had cool advertisements, whether on television or clever full-page ads in the magazines I cared about.

A cool, hip magazine ad was tangible, in that if the message and/or image moved me, I could cut it out and tape it to my dorm room or office wall. Not long ago, my office inhabited the underground space of my house – and the bare walls were literally covered with whiteboards and dozens of magazine ads taped to the walls…

But these days, my office is where ever my laptop sits: coffee shops, co-working spaces, client’s offices, dining room table or the sofa.

And with that change, so has my view of engaging organizations.

These days, in my mind, organizations have to be present on the social web. Blogging, engaging, using Facebook or Twitter. If they are not? I view them differently, almost don’t take them as serious.

I am not suggesting this is the correct viewpoint. It is my viewpoint. But I suspect the viewpoint of many.

To me, when an organization cites one of the reasons listed above as to why they are not engaging on the social web, my opinion of them turns dramatically. Naturally, upon further investigation, one discovers a business culture that does not permit/allow/encourage/understand the value and power of the social web.

Most assume I am suggesting a complete marketing overhaul and using ONLY social media instead of any existing programs. And to me, this suggests a lazy culture. Now, that may be harsh, and I think a big piece of that non-execution is simply not understanding.

But fear of empowering employees to tap into their broad networks for the long-term benefit of the company is lazy.
Fear of making the effort to learn more is lazy.
Fear of sharing your knowledge of your market space with a world who wants to learn, is lazy.
Fear of connecting with a public, especially your customers, in a meaningful, personal way is lazy.

Yeah, I get it. It stands to reason that Nike, Apple and Zappos have more opportunity to be cool and hip with social media than a company that manufactures water filtration units.

Maybe. I still think an organization can be viewed as an innovative, unorthodox and clever organization doing good things, having an impact on their community — even if their market space isn’t sexy.

I think a big part of how that is conveyed is by how they are perceived, and that story can easily be told/shared via the social web. And to not play in that sandbox is just lazy.

Look, at the end of the day, social media may not play a major part in your marketing, but in this day and age, you need to be present there. And to close that off with a “talk to the hand” attitude, is symbolic of an organization looking for the easy way.

What do you think?

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

Your 2011 Marketing Plan: What Is Your Networking Strategy?

Day Eleven (of Thirty-One):

Question To Ask Yourself: What is your networking strategy?

How significant a role does networking play in your prospecting efforts? Attend too many events? Attend too few events? Attend all the wrong events? Go to the same groups week after week, seeing the same people?

Are you going to events that are populated with your actual target market? And how effective is your follow-up strategy?

And how do you see social media playing a role in your online networking? Are you employing the same “networking” tactics on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?

What I am doing: Admittedly, I built my business starting in 2007 attending dozens and dozens of networking events. But in these last years, I have hardly gotten out of the office.

With three companies, a radio show and word of mouth, I rely a lot less on attending events than I did at first. And, I now do a lot of my networking online. I identify people I want to get to know (either as a prospect OR as a parter) online, then set a face-to-face meeting.

What about you?

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Todd is planning his 2011 marketing attack. He is asking himself a series of hard questions, questions that will fine tune his go-to-market strategy. This December, Todd will share one question per day, hoping these questions help you too…

Click HERE to follow the entire series on what questions to ask as you draft your 2011 marketing plan!

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Your 2011 Marketing Plan: Is Social Media Right For You?

Day Seven (of Thirty-One):

Question To Ask Yourself: Is Social Media Right For You?

The answer is yes.

Problem is, most people don’t do it right.

They blast messaging one-way. They don’t engage. They don’t build relationships. They don’t educate. And most importantly, most don’t give the process time to take root, and give up before the time investment bears fruit.

Have you identified where your prospects/referral sources are spending time (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)? Have you grasped the concept of using the tools to make meaningful connections? Are you helping others?

What I am doing: Social media continues to be an integral piece of my marketing strategy, and is working well for me. Of course, I will continue to seek improvements, and work harder at setting up more effective “listening posts” to better identify and capture more business opportunities.

My more difficult challenge is to continue learning how to better educate and equip my clients and partners on the power of the medium.

I believe in this. My bigger challenge is more effectively inspiring others to believe too.

What about you?

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Todd is planning his 2011 marketing attack. He is asking himself a series of hard questions, questions that will fine tune his go-to-market strategy. This December, Todd will share one question per day, hoping these questions help you too…

Click HERE to follow the entire series on what questions to ask as you draft your 2011 marketing plan!

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