Tag Archives: online marketing
Eric Stetson is the founder and CEO of 60 Best Inc., a Northern Virginia based information technology company that is developing an online periodical media aggregator to launch by July 1, 2012 at 60Best.com.
60Best will simplify the way people find what’s worth reading and follow their favorite bloggers and news feeds.
Eric was kind enough to take some time off from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for me.
This is the first part of a two part interview and a must-read for anyone considering investing in intellectual property for wealth building.
We’ve all seen the share-market and the housing market boom and crash. It is my personal opinion that the only thing that we, as thinking individuals, must invest in is ourselves and education of others for sustainable profit, self-growth and betterment of society.
So, without further ado, the first part of the interview:
What was your first job and what was the most important thing you learned from it?
My first “real” job, i.e. after graduating from college, was working in the director’s office at Voice of America. I was the personal secretary and research assistant to the director of this U.S. international broadcasting agency of over 1,300 employees. In addition to various administrative tasks such as managing the director’s schedule and correspondence, I had an opportunity to do some interesting projects such as a quality control assessment of journalistic output at VOA, and I sat in on high-level executive meetings.
The most important thing I learned from this position was the importance of leadership style and how it can either positively or negatively affect morale within an organization and perception of the organization from the outside. A good leader has to be able to set firm priorities and shake things up when necessary, without bruising too many egos or appearing to be bull-headed, unsympathetic or inaccessible. You have to know the limits of the situation and push just as far as you can without going over the line.
Because I was one of the closest employees to the director on a daily basis, I had the opportunity to observe how he would define goals, develop strategies, listen to advice, make decisions, and carry them out. Even though I was fresh out of college and therefore didn’t actually participate in the decision-making process, I got to see it happening. And as a gatekeeper to the director, I also got a sense of how employees from various departments of the organization were reacting to things the director was doing and his management style as it affected them.
Essentially, I got to work in close proximity to the CEO of a large organization. What a learning experience! Looking back on it, I think it was one of the best jobs I could have had in terms of preparing me to be a CEO myself someday.
How did you start your business?
Starting 60 Best, Inc. was a gradual process. I first got the idea for the 60Best.com website in mid 2010, almost two years ago, but my original idea was quite a bit more complex than the site we’re launching this summer. The first thing I had to do was come up with a plan for how to develop my idea in phases, beginning with something I could create with a very small amount of capital, i.e. my own investment. Fortunately, I was able to persuade some family and friends to invest as well, since it turned out I needed extra funds just to accomplish what needed to be done for a limited launch version. Later on, we’ll keep improving the website, adding more features and functionality – some of which I originally envisioned, but which I realized would require even more money and staff to make it a reality.
I had a background in website development, mostly front-end development and design, which I had done as a freelancer for some clients, but I had to improve my skills to create even a partially functional prototype of what would ultimately become 60 Best. Beyond that, I needed to hire professional developers with strong coding ability, especially on the back-end, to help me create something worthy of launching as an open beta for use by the public. For several months, I worked with part-time freelancers from developing countries who worked for cheap. There were many delays and frustrations, although they did help to advance the project somewhat. Finally I decided to hire an American who is working full-time here locally, and we’re rapidly moving toward completion and launch by the end of June.
On the business side of things, I had to write a solid and well-presented business plan, and learn all the legalities of how to incorporate a for-profit corporation and raise capital by selling stock to my personal connections. I also had to do a lot of networking and begin pitching my company to potential angel investors and venture capital firms to lay the groundwork for future growth, meet with other people who could help me in various ways, interview potential employees, open an office, and find a good attorney to assist with various types of contracts and agreements. I did have a background in starting and running a nonprofit organization, and some of that knowledge and experience was relevant, but there was a lot that was new and different as well, which I had to learn as I went along, since I don’t have a business degree or prior experience as an entrepreneur.
60 Best, Inc. was incorporated in November, 2011. Currently our team consists of two full-time and two part-time employees or contractors, plus a couple of advisors and consultants. We’re well on our way to becoming a successful IT startup, but it hasn’t been easy – and this is only getting to the point of launching a beta version on the web. However, based on the level of interest we’ve already received, I am confident that soon after our website goes live we will rapidly move to the next level, attract major investment, hire more employees, and keep improving our product.
What is the biggest challenge for you in running your business?
The biggest challenge in this early phase – pre-product and pre-revenue – has been to attract high-quality people to work on the project. There are cheap developers and there are good developers, and they usually aren’t the same people. There are also extremely busy freelancers who take projects that they don’t actually complete in a timely fashion. It’s hard to find good developers who are willing to accept a lower salary to work for a web-based startup with no website yet and commit to finishing it – hard, but not impossible.
Another challenge is how to persuade people to invest in a company that doesn’t have a product yet. You need money to build the product, but all you can show the potential investor is an idea and a business plan. I didn’t have much money when I started my company, so I had to rely on the strength of my idea and my persuasive ability to raise enough capital from other people to get everything done. No matter how frugal you are, you end up spending more than you think you’ll need when you first start a business – or such has been my experience. Unless you’re already rich or you know rich people, you are always worried about running out of money before you get to launch. But you just have to somehow make it happen.
What would be your advice to those graduating college and entering today’s challenging job market?
Do something to make yourself stand out from the crowd. That might mean doing some freelance work or volunteer work in your field, or a relevant internship, or starting a project that you’re passionate about, or anything that shows you are highly motivated and take initiative. Nowadays, it’s hard to get a good job based only on a college degree. Be entrepreneurial in your life. You don’t necessarily have to start a business, but think of yourself as a business. Successful startup companies always have to be innovating, learning and growing, and trying to do something special that will get noticed. They also have to know how to market themselves. Your career is like a startup right now. Live the role.
Stay tuned for the second part of the interview where Eric discusses some tips for getting started on writing books and his views on how globalisation and extensive telecommunications will impact the economy and job markets around the world.
Do you find it eerie that Groupon comes up with deals that you’d been hoping that they’d have?
Here’s the sequence of events, you’re at work and you mind wanders off to that holiday in Cairns, where you went snorkelling for the first time.
You’re drifting off to the bottom of the sea in the middle of the day in your cubicle and thinking about how much fun snorkelling was. You wonder, wouldn’t it have been more fun if you had tried the SCUBA gear and dived into the depths of the ocean to interact with the beauty and mysteries of the undersea world?
Man, if only you could learn to dive or maybe get certified.
An e-mail pops up in your inbox! It’s Groupon! Today’s daily deal includes a diving certification at an amazingly low price! You’d be a fool not to act now. Wow, how’d they do that?
Yes, Groupon has been tempting me for quite some time now but I have been refusing their offerings. In fact, I was boycotting Groupon.
Why? It’s something petty I know. They’d never responded to the job applications I’d made with them. Not even an acknowledgment! Geez, some people. So that’s why Groupon was on ignore in my world.
But no more. Groupon has finally responded with a rejection letter that could have only come out of my mind. It’s like, we are meant to be. The way we gently let down, the way we think, the way we word things, it’s all too eerily similar.
So here’s the best rejection letter I’ve received, compliments of Groupon:
Thank you for getting in touch with us and we appreciate your keen interest in working for Groupon Australia!
It was a hard decision to make. After reviewing all of the candidates, we are sorry to say that you were not chosen in this instance. Don’t lose hope; continue the search. The perfect job is out there waiting for you. Feel free to apply for a position with Groupon Australia again in the future.
Instead of folding your application into a paper airplane and fly it out of the window, we would like to keep your details for future reference. If we realize, we have made a terrible mistake and a vacancy presents itself that fits your profile- you will be the first person we contact.
We wish you personal and professional success in the future.
Thank you Groupon Australia. Now I’m no longer left wondering whatever happened to my job applications. Maybe we can go back to where we were but there’s just one thing. I don’t have a job yet.
Groupon, can you make a Groupon voucher for helping people with resumes and coverletters by an expert (ME!) who’s worked on four continents and diverse sectors and who has a wide selection of resume templates, cover letters and other job seeking accessories?
What do you think? The ball’s on your court.
If you’ve ever been on a bad blind date, you will know exactly how awkward a bad job interview feels.
As with dates, for job interviews the rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t feel right, it’s just not right.
So how do bad job interviews come about?
Well, as with bad blind dates, the major contributing factor is one thing, and one thing only: YOUR DESPERATION.
Along the way in your job search, you will be contacted by small companies that don’t have a clear vision.
These types of companies might be very scattered and uncertain, but worse may be run by a director who thinks he knows exactly where it’s all headed.
The way that director thinks is that the business will be flowing once he just adds the extra ingredient. That extra ingredient may potentially be you. The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to be the icing on the cake when the cake is just not there!
I’ve had enough experience in my employment history to recognise this sort of problem when I see it. However, I didn’t have the foresight to see it before I went to the interview with such a company just last week.
Perhaps I was deluding myself in hopes that this job would be the one! After all, the interview was precisely on the 28th and final day (could this be a sign?) of my challenge to find a job. Needless to say, I was hoping very hard for this to be the one.
Sometimes, when people are desperate, they delude themselves and overlook the problems that are staring them right in the face. This doesn’t just happen in pursuit of marriage, but in the pursuit of a job as well.
There were all sorts of indications beforehand to signal that this company just did not have it together! The website was a mess, the person who contacted me did not have any marketing materials to provide me (and she was the head of marketing) and of course Google maps showed the location to be some old house! Trust me, these are clear indications that there’s something quite not right with the business.
So of course, when I showed up for the interview, it seemed the only thing the director was interested in was my contacts in the US Government. This particular small business was distributing highly sensitive nuclear medical equipment, but because of socialised medicine in Australia, this proved to be less profitable than selling nuclear sensors to be used in security in such paranoid countries as the US. So they had changed their business plan and were marketing the medical equipment as nuclear sensors in the hopes that the US Government would sign a huge contract with them.
The problem with this approach was that the change over to the new business plan was not implemented with thought and care. Their website was highly confusing, hard to navigate and with both security and nuclear medicine equipment photos and descriptions jumbled together in one hot mess. This could hardly appeal to any government seriously considering signing a security contract.
The messy business plan, no clear vision or mission and the hard-to-navigate website could have been indicators to not even go to the interview and to save myself the half hour of my time that I wasted.
However, soon after feeling cheated out of my time, I came up with an idea to reach the company to turn my loss of time into profit. What can I say? I’m inspired to conserve and make the most of my time. Time is money, money is time and there’s no way anyone’s going to be wasting mine.
So I wrote a brief and inspired letter to the ‘marketing’ department on Friday:
I thank you for your time last week to meet with me. I found the meeting to be very informative in the mission and vision of the company as it’s branching off into new niche areas.
As you know, my background is in online marketing and HR. As such, I’ve taken some time to draft out a report on how you can improve the online presence to reach your targeted audience.
I will go ahead and add more examples and detail to the report to help you achieve sustainable growth for Gammasonics. The report is on offer for $50. Also you can purchase the outline for $25 and if you find the outline to be helpful, you can use the credit towards the full report which will be available next week.
I’m still waiting for a response. Hey, can’t blame me for trying.
In today’s competitive economy, many employers have become aware of the priceless intrinsic value of an entrepreneurial employee.
Now it may seem like a bit of a paradox to be both entrepreneurial and an employee. Let’s examine this phenomenon.
When I was gazing through many of the job ads for marketing and digital media, the description of the desired candidate as ‘entrepreneurial’ seemed to have spread like wildfire to all of the ads.
Why would companies want someone entrepreneurial and what could they offer in return to such individuals? Surely, if someone is entrepreneurial that person would be off somewhere making money from his or her ventures? The more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense.
If a company is headed by a leader, or someone confident in his/her stance and authority in the field, that person would want to work with others who will develop themselves fast past the restrictions of some cubicle. In thinking outside of the cube, pushing the boundaries of the job, and developing new skills along the way, the individual in the role has a chance to both develop himself and develop the company. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
OK, so this makes sense from the company’s point of view. They want someone who will push the agenda forward and go boldly where no one has gone before, but surely why would such a person want a job?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t entrepreneurs the independent rebels of the industry who make their own rules and build their own empires? I suppose it used to be that way in the days when most people were taught to be complacent.
It seems, largely because of the availability of technology and resources to any individual, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and manner of expression.
I mean just look at me! I’m published and continuing to write and grow, all without some publisher’s or opinion maker’s permission. However, just because I can, doesn’t mean I’m going to go on a one person mission to conquer and rediscover America.
I can use the leverage a company can offer me to work more productively and learn to hit the mark by having access to a larger audience. So am I an entrepreneur? Could being an entrepreneur be my unique selling point (USP)?
I say I qualify as an entrepreneur. In the past few weeks I put up a couple of ads on Gumtree. One of the ads was for resume and cover letter writing, (I feel I’m the authority in this field after having successfully gotten so many interviews with so many companies) and the other one was for writing SEO articles.
In cooperation with Gumtree, I could use my skills as ways to earn money. It was amazing! The ideas I’d put out on cyberspace were attracting business and bringing me money in no time. I got responses fast and successfully completed assignments!
What’s more, the people I provided services for thanked me and complimented me! My Gumtree ads and experience were bearing fruit and I continue to receive requests for my services. Below are some of the e-mails I’ve received thanking me for my services.
So much appreciated if I apply for any other positions in the future, is it ok to ask for help? I will pay for help we’re packing up and moving to central coast soon. My husband will be doing his TAA course soon so may need you for that in the near future! Thanks
Ella, I I love your work !!! You are TRULY gifted.!!! There are some minor changes I’m going to make, but it is brilliant. Hope that you can help me further with the rest of the site and also my dads site. Thank you again Ravi.. (below is evidence of payment of $50). I will check stats in two months and honour promise
The best part of this whole experience has been knowing that I have skills others want and are willing to pay for. This has greatly restored my confidence in myself.
It also isn’t too bad that I’m helping others and having a chance to make a difference in their lives by helping them get a job or attracting more online business to their websites.
Best of all though, I’m working! Working is the single greatest gift you can give yourself to find meaning in your life.
Everybody has their own unique breakthrough moment when they realise they just can’t take any more.
The breakthrough is a painful time where you’re breaking through some of the restraints that are both protecting you (your ego) and also keeping you firmly confined in your comfort zone.
Once you’re over the initial pain of the breakthrough and let go of all segments of the shell you’d been hanging on to, you’re on your way to an intense period of growth and action.
My breakthrough happened when I got laid off from my job as an online content manager at a small company. Whilst it’s true that there are no small roles, only small actors, some forms of management just don’t allow employees to grow within their roles. I started showing symptoms of dissatisfaction. My discontent at my job coincided with a period of roughness in the economy, yielding results that bring me back to the job market.
Getting fired from my job really got me fired up. Literally! I was under fire that was heating up my desire for a new job and causing it to reach its boiling point. I had only 28 days to find a new job to sponsor me in Australia or face losing my 457 visa!
To recap, I did lots of soul-searching following the days after losing my job. I did a personal inventory of my assets and liabilities. My major asset is that I can put a spin on anything to turn it into a game. Who doesn’t love a game? I certainly do.
Almost all games that I love have two key elements: 1. a set quantity of things to accomplish, 2. a set amount of time to achieve the result. I was lucky because in my 28 day challenge, the result and the time available to me were already determined by the conditions of an Australian visa.
I mentioned that I realised two very important lessons along the way on my 28 day challenge that will always stay with me as valuable life experiences. The first one being that in a job search, you have to be completely self-reliant and willing to go out there with your initiative to meet companies directly.
It’s an absolute waste of time to get any middle people like online job search websites and recruiters involved, as this will prolong the process and decrease your chances of getting the job. I mean who’s going to hire a marketer who can’t market himself?
The second important lesson for conducting effective job searches is to have an organized plan of action. You can organize your action depending on the industry you are looking to work in, but reaching out to as many people in your field as possible, publishing materials, and continuing to work on a freelance or contractor basis as you search for a job, are all very effective modes of action for getting you the job.
The fact that you are willing to work and are using your skills to meet a market demand demonstrates that you love what you do and will do it even if you are not employed by a company. Also, entrepreneurism is a highly valued character trait in private enterprise. Is there a better way to demonstrate your entreprenurial side than by taking matters into your own hands to create a cash flow for yourself?
So now with planned action in place, you have to also be prepared to deal with rejections. Rejection will always happen in any area of life. It’s how you deal with it that will determine you as a successful person. I received many rejection letters, because I was applying to many jobs in a frenzied state of madness.
Persistence in the end pays off. Think of it like knocking on opportunity’s door. Opportunity is there and will answer because your persistence will wear it down eventually. I continued to work for myself, helped others write resumes, cover letters, SEO articles and business profiles. I continued to do what I loved, which is writing!
I also continued to attend marketing seminars. Seminars are a great way to observe the power of persistence in action. The hosts will always tell you that they were not always successful on the first try but the fact that they learned from their experiences and moved on made them break through opportunity’s door and they have been rewarded.
At such a seminar, my own job opportunity arose.
I will be working with Steve McKnight, an industrious property investor, writer and an amazing internet marketer to leverage his efforts and to learn and develop myself further as an internet marketer. I look forward to the collaboration even though it is a part time opportunity.
I mentioned that it’s important to have a plan B. My plan B was going back to school. I’m very happy to have enrolled in IT courses where I will be boosting my knowledge of the amazing technology that brings us all within a click of each other.
I’m also able to stay in Australia because I’m now on the student visa. Great thing about being on a student visa is that you can still work part time. I will use my part time work as an opportunity to explore my passion for writing to see where it will take me.
I’ve also written to everyone I’ve met along the way on my 28 day recruitment challenge. I thank everyone for helping me realize certain key things:
1) My fear of not finding a job had taken over and I was totally compromising my own personal goals. This is just a recipe for disaster. I would not be finding a job I loved and wanted to develop with, I’d just be finding another temporary fix.
2) Having a plan B allowed me a platform for finding what I truly wanted in a career.
Not everyone can have the luxury of a plan B, but every well constructed plan MUST include an exit strategy. This has been a bonus lesson for me.
30 days ago I was called into the special meeting room by the firing squad (HR department) of my previous job.
The slowing down in the economy especially in the housing market meant that the small home loan financing firm was suffering some losses and on top of this economic stagnation there were all the expenses with moving into a new office, hiring new administrative staff and buying new furniture and equipment.
I didn’t have to be a genius to get a sense that my services were a luxury to the small company.
I was an online content producer at the time and could sense from all the talk in the internet marketing industry that article writing and link-building were services that could easily be outsourced to workers in the Philippines. I had the distinct frustration of having worked with a Filipino writer myself and was doubtful that my offline and public relations efforts for the company could be replaced by remote staff. However, when times are tough, cutting staff is an unavoidable way to preserve the business.
For many small businesses the HR policy seems to be ‘hire monkeys, pay them peanuts’. I wasn’t a monkey but I was happy and complacent about receiving peanuts. The reason was that I’d received my 457 work visa sponsorship through them and they were making it possible for me to live and work in Australia.
Being on the 457 work visa has certain conditions. One of which is that once you’re laid off from the job with the employer that’s sponsoring you, you have to find another company that will be willing to sponsor you in your nominated job field (marketing for me) in 28 days or leave the country.
Now, many non-residents on the 457 visa are lackadaisical about this 28 day rule. The expat forums are filled with postings talking about having had up to a 5 month gap before finding another job that offered the 457 visa sponsorship. But not me. I’m a stickler to the rules. Besides, life is a game and you have more fun (and upset less people) when you stick to the rules and play fairly.
So I created my 28 day challenge. I had precisely 28 days (did I mention that this was right before Easter, a 3 day holiday?) to find a job or get out.
Being a time-restricted job seeker for the first time in my life was tough. I didn’t know where to start. I turned to seek.com. It was during these 28 days that I got a sense that seek.com is the personal ads of the job market. Why do I say that? Think about it, the big companies almost never have the need to advertise on seek because they are attractive and can source people on their own merits. The job seekers who have their network of professionals get head-hunted or hear about jobs on the inside. It’s only the desperate, pathetic, unattractive, friendless and people new in town who go on seek.com. It also didn’t help that many of the ads on seek.com were posted by third party recruiters.
I wasted 10 days of my precious 28 days on seek.com ads! Of course I got no results! Is it any wonder? Now if you are a non-resident on the 457 visa, you should never talk to recruiters. Why? Because companies pay recruiters an overhead for finding them people and they want to hire people that they won’t have to pay visa application fees for. As soon as a company sees you are a non-resident on paper, they will avoid you like the plague.
My first precious lesson as a job seeker in Sydney had cost me 10 days! 10 days out of 28 precious days that I needed. I was down to 18 days with more lessons to learn.