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The Rollercoaster We Call College Pro... I Mean 'Life'

Guest post by Marcel A Krawczyk originally posted at CollegePro.com as “What College Pro Can Do for Me” The year was 2004 and I was a third year computer science major having spent many nights banging my head against the wall coding in C++ for class and scripting in PERL for my software engineer internship. I thought to myself as I studied while watching TV, surfing the web and listening to music (a typical college student regime for learning), “College is a lot of work and I don’t even know if this is what I want to do the rest of my life”. Each summer that I returned to my software engineer internship I felt like James McAvoy from the movie Wanted. I knew being in front of a computer, in a cubicle, in an overly air conditioned building through my 40’s was not the life style I wanted. I wanted more and I needed to experience more to discover what I wanted. That semester I made a significant decision, probably the biggest decision I had made up to that point in my life, and I can only tell how impactful that decision was in the time that followed. I declined my offer to return for a third year internship and accepted an offer (after a grueling interview process that reminded me of pledging for a fraternity – not to be confused with “The Fraternity” from the movie Wanted) to manage a College Pro franchise. My thoughts that day were “AM I CRAZY?! Business is not my major; I just passed on a ‘safe’ career choice; and my parents are flipping out!” But, oddly, I felt really good about my choice. I was excited! — Before I go on, here are undeniable truths about College Pro from my experience: College Pro is truly a no-fluff real life experience. Failure is a possibility – not the I-got-a-bad-grade type of failure. Success is also a possibility… […]

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Steve Jobs: The Man of iGeneration

The news is unavoidable. Steve Jobs; the founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple, the hippy-savvy entrepreneur, the John Lennon of the technology sector, passed away last week at the age of 56. Media is exploding everywhere with the news. The day of his death, October 5th, 2011, almost every single Facebook status update was a Steve Jobs quote. And rightfully so. The man was friggin’ genius! His story is the American Dream most people can only tweet about, but he actually lived it. Check out this article off of theBusiness Network landmarking his accomplishments. But right now we’re going to throw out a deep socio-existential question (make sure your iPacemaker is on)…With Jobs gone, what the hell is going to happen to the future of technological advancement?! For this new generation of Tech-hip youth, it is unfathomable to even consider living without an iPod, iPhone, MacBook, or the plethora of other iProducts out there. Less than 10 years ago we were listening to Blink-182 on our CD-players…God knows how hard it was to fit that brick into your pocket. Jobs was able to make electronic equipment personally accessible for the average Joe. The “i” everything essentially allowed us to personalize our music, the way we work, and reach a new level of self-expression and productivity. Pretty heavy, right? Yeah. But now what? Others are asking the same question. The man was a visionary. Pretty big shoes to fill, or sneakers should we say. Steve Jobs was just a down right cool cat who sincerely cared about the things that actually mattered. With all the greedy, idiot Big Wigs out there, it’s up to us to carry on Jobs’ vision and passion if we want to keep the technological momentum going. It would be nice if we could score some of that good Frisco LSD, too. It might speed up the process. Our glasses up to you, Steve. You were definitely the man… […]

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Bootstrapping: Building Your Brand on a Budget

Do you want press relating to your business every other day?!?! In a video fromAppSumo called “Why Brand Perception Sells (and how to build your own)”, Jonathan Kay from the Grasshopper Group is interviewed by Paul Hontz from The Startup Foundry to pick his brain as to why he is so successful at building the Grasshopper Group brand and gaining press. We are going to highlight a few of Jonathan’s points for building brand perception and show you how to build it on a budget. If Money is an Issue, Give Your Time Yes! If your budget does not allow for the expertise and experience of your readily available, friendly and fun marketing and pr team then you must invest your personal time. When you are a start up your time is your currency. This being said, if you are spending too much time on activities that are taking away from you generating immediate revenue you may find more value in spending the money than spending the time and seek consultation with a marketing and pr agency (cough cough hint hint). Establish Your Guidelines There are few things that are more daunting than a blank screen. Jonathan suggests to get started set a guideline in the form of a challenge. Challenge yourself to generate ideas that cost less than $15 and 5 minutes of time per person to make a personal connection. In Jonathan’s example he wrote a hand written letter and sent a $5 gift card for Starbucks to a blogger who he found had written a review. The total cost for the letter, postage and gift card was about $7 and from that low cost and thoughtful action of genuinely saying ‘thank you’ the blogger wrote more reviews. Standout From the Crowd Everyone expects and is entitled to a product that works, good customer service and competitive pricing. According to Jonathan these are not selling points, features, or benefits of your business. These are standards… […]

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Where Are My Leads? My Facebook Page Just Sits There.

You have your Facebook page open, you have a nicely designed profile picture encouraging people to ‘like’ your page, and you fortunately have people following your status updates. According to your friends, your business acquaintances, and your articles you have read online, your business should be skyrocketing on the social media spaceship! Today we will shine some Northern Lights on you by providing facts as to why people and customers are not gravitating to your business (just yet). First off, if you had sat down with a skilled and knowledgeable Little Jack team member you wouldn’t be wondering how to use Facebook to get leads or let alone reading this article. We would have shaken the misconceptions of social media, Facebook, and lead generation from your head so quickly that most clients like to pat us on the back. But that is neither here nor there and you ARE reading this article. Fact # 1 Social media is not new or magical Before the Internet existed social media existed. It even had a name – customer service. It was what set competing products, brands and services apart providing a competitive advantage for one company over another. As times and technologies change, a major effect is how we as people communicate with one another. Social media exposes conversations at an astronomical rate with its capabilities to share, comment, and tag amongst a community of millions. If businesses are not on the right communication channels at the right times major opportunity is being missed to respond to questions, gain insight, interact with a market, address issues and even gain leads. Fact # 2 Lead generation requires a strategy The game plan for most business owners is to generate leads which ideally will lead to more revenue. Step one is to define what a lead is. Is a lead someone who signs up for your newsletter? If you answered ‘yes’ then define how qualified of… […]

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Branding That Gets People To Do Anything

So there we were right hand raised reciting the Tough Mudder pledge consisting of leaving no fellow participant behind and that we (individually) understand that this is a challenge and not a race. Fortunately our Little Jack team experienced only minor injuries (bumps, bruises and a hospitalizing dislocated shoulder…) during the 25 obstacle 10 mile course taking place on July 23rd at Devil’s Head Ski resort in Merrimac, WI. Although nothing of serious nature happened to our team we did witness a participant break his femur and about 100 others taken to the hospital. So why would, not just the 6 crazy adrenaline junkies and possibly insane members of our team, but the other 5,000 participants take part in such an event? We say it’s a winning mix of branding, building participant loyalty and delivering what you promise. Tough Mudder and Branding. Crazy military style obstacle courses aren’t entirely unique. There is the Warrior Dash, the Spartan Race and the Rebel Race to name a few. According to Tough Mudder’s website they feel the people that are going to participate in their event versus any other is that their event is not a race but a challenge. This is a unified message apparent on their website, their marketing material, their welcome package, news articles, user submitted YouTube videos and even on signs posted throughout the course. Every interaction we have had with Tough Mudder made this message of being a challenge and not a race clear. The event is about pushing yourself beyond your physical and mental comfort zone and providing the same level of support and encouragement to everyone participating. At one point one of our teammates (Marcel Krawczyk) found himself half hung over a 10 foot wall when another participant ran up behind him and assisted him by launching him over the wall (Marcel says thank you). Tough Mudder chose an angle different from it’s competitors and kept the message clear, consistent and concise at all interactions with the… […]

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Help! Who am I?!?! 5 Tips To Successfully Rebrand Your Business

This morning Little Jack woke up, took a shower, got dressed and looked in the mirror. Little Jack returned to the closet grabbed a new outfit, changed into it and looked in the mirror again. Today was one of those days – Little Jack just was not feeling it. So Little Jack returned to the closet, set aside the shorts and button down shirt and went with his go to power outfit, his seersucker suit! We’ve all been there. In our business we may be stuck in our ways and it took an outsider’s perspective to identify that, even though we are technically efficient and producing better work than ever, to the public our brand perception may appear a little rough around the edges. Or we first identify, if we are fortunate and self reflective enough, that our brand and our business has become stagnant and it is time for a change. Just as you have evolved over time to stay relevant so should your business. Here are our 5 tips to successfully rebrand your business: 1) Why?!?! Start by asking yourself and your team questions, and we mean lots of questions. Why is it time for a rebrand? How will this rebrand drive revenue? What will this rebrand consist of? How far into the business will this rebrand affect? Logos? Operations? Customer service? Customer experience? What is your mission? What is the possible downside to rebranding at this time? When would a good time for a rebrand be? Your rebrand should either address an issue, evolve for trends, growth through lateral thinking  (Serious Creativity andNew Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono) or a combination of them. 2) Research The extent of your research could be daunting and a time consuming activity depending your business. However, research always plays an impactful role in business. Start by talking to people. Ask your customers, employees, business partners and industry experts their opinion about your company. Ask… […]

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Stop Poking Me and Just Listen! Networking is Easier than You Know…

Our friend, we’ll call him Bob, attended an event filled with business professionals. The majority of the attendees, like Bob, saw this event as an opportunity to further their career, pitch an idea, get a better job, meet the right people, or anything else that was self-benefiting. Bob, like his fellow attendees, had business cards on-hand, his 30 second pitch ready and a mobile device to take notes on everyone he met. The night before Bob spent studying rules of networking and techniques for how to successfully network for a job. That is a lot to remember! We’ll simplify both business networking and social networking right now with our networking quick tips. 1)      You Are Always Networking. This does not mean every person you meet is someone you are selling to or that networking is something that happens only when you attend a specific event. Rather every person you meet is an opportunity to build a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. 2)      Give. Give. Give. Think, “How can I make this person’s life easier? How can I help solve this person’s issue? Who could this person benefit from meeting that I know and they do not?” Get to know the person you are talking to. Ask her questions about herself. You will be remembered if you can offer a solution to something that is beneficial to the person you are speaking with and not just seeking benefits for yourself. 3)      Keep In Touch. Take the time to call or email a minimum of 5 of your contacts a day to say ‘Hello’, ‘Hi’, or even ‘Buenos Dias’. A 5 minute phone call or a 2 minute email is more than enough time to check-in. If someone has more to say, setup a time for a longer conversation or a time to grab coffee. At 5 people a day and 365 days a year you can keep in touch with 1,825 people! That is a big network! Taking the math a… […]

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