Perd Hapley is a Dimension-Traveling Alien

will-the-real-perd-hapley-please-stand-up-2-26474-1428472335-14_dblbigIf you’re like me, then you have a strong and abiding love for Parks & Recreation. I can admit that it is one of my favorite comedies in recent memory, due in large part to the brilliant casting and writing. And Ron Swanson, always Ron Swanson.

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However, I came to an interesting realization the other day: Perd Hapley is a dimension-travelling alien observer who is clearly the most powerful being in the shared TV universe. For eagle-eyed fans, you will notice that Jay Jackson, the actor who plays Perd, has a penchant for reading the news on your favorite TV show.

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What you never noticed though, his how closely he likes to stay to danger and intrigue. Much like the Observers from Fringe, I think that Jay Jackson has created a kind of shape-shifting constant character that is not unlike Stan Lee in every MCU movie.

Starting in 2007, Jackson has played a report or news anchor no less than 14 times, including:

Bones (TV Series)
Scandal (TV Series)
The Catch (TV Series)
Supergirl (TV Series)
Pretty Little Liars (TV Series)
Parks and Recreation (TV Series)
Revenge (TV Series)
Battleship (Movie)
Fred: The Show (TV Series)
Body of Proof (TV Series)
The Mentalist (TV Series)
Fast Five (Movie)
The Closer (TV Series)
Dexter (TV Series)

Now, perhaps you can say that he has been typecast as a reporter/news anchor or even that Jay Jackson likes playing these parts. However, I like to think that a casting agent, writer, producer, director, or even Jackson himself is purposely creating one of the greatest easter eggs in all of TV history.

So, the next time you are watching a TV show and they cut to a reporter in the field or an anchor delivering the news, don’t be surprised if it is Perd Hapley looking back at you.

A New Condition

The world is in crisis.

We have been lied to.

Each of us deceived by those who we thought would protect us. Conditioning has placed us where we are. Conditioning is what will free us once more. There is much about the world around us that we cannot understand for what it is; interconnected parts working for each other against the best interests of humanity. Like lambs to the slaughter, we were shown our roles. We did not fight for what we believed, nor did we conform to what they wished.

We succumbed to the will of perceived inevitability.

I think that we are avoiding the most obvious point of it all. It is not whether it is happening because we started it. The thing that we must remember is that we can do something about it. What we know and believe is little more than what we were told to believe; the wealth of our knowledge is little more than what has been told to us. The nations of this world are divided by walls and barriers that are not physical, but instead ideological and financial. We are not creatures of evil or apathy, but instead we are taught and engrained throughout our lives to behave this way, adhering and following the antediluvian archetypes of centuries and empires past.

What can be offered is not a panacea.

What can be offered is to help find the value in living and the love in what is all around you. These times that face us are powerful and sorrowful, for each day defines the next. A change does not appear before our eyes, but is instead the earnest incremental struggle of ideals and beliefs that will change the world.

It has been said that one human being cannot change the world. This creates a false dichotomy insofar that we have been made to believe that either our actions can change the world, or they cannot. This is not the way of things. We may change, for good or bad, when we lift up (and are lifted up by) our brothers and sisters.

The world is sick.

Humanity is ailing.

We have hunger, famine, disease, and widespread violence the world over. Consuming the resources of this one planet, we do so at such a rate that we will collapse beneath the weight of our own refuse before our time. If we are to survive, then we must fight to stay. We must believe that this world is worth having, and prove that we deserve to occupy this planet.

Some have deferred responsibility, saying that the world will do what it must and technology will catch up. But how can technology match our consumption and destruction pace for pace, if all of our monetary resources are being funneled into that consumption and destruction? All of us are responsible for what we do, how we behave, and the lives we live.

We as a species face such a need for survival. No longer can we look at the plights of the world through rose-colored glasses, or from atop our distant steeples. We must accept responsibility for the actions of the nations in which we live. Though we did not deprive a village of their resources, our constant demand for new things has driven industry to knock on the doors of nations the world over for resources.

It is time to stand up and say no more.

Caring about other people needs to be trendy.

Not because being eco-friendly and caring about your fello human is popular amongst the rich and the famous, but because it can and will save the world. None of us are perfect. Nothing is expected of us in this life except what we are willing to give. But, we must not be afraid to give.

We are a community whether we wish to believe it or otherwise. Even if you strand yourself in the farthest reaches of the world, your existence is dependent upon the creation and distribution of consumer goods that you will need in order to survive. We are an interconnected world. We have this one world and we have to prove that we belong here. I have heard (from loved ones and mentors alike) that we cannot be responsible for what is happening to his world; that we are too insignificant to make an impact.

But this feels like an excuse.

As is such with much of life, we want to be responsible when it is in our best interest. When what we have done appears as a black mark upon who we are, then we decide we can  no longer influence events. People wish to judge others actions, but not be judged on what they do. They wish to say whatever comes to their minds, critiquing and attacking others, but not to be held responsible for the insufferable, illogical discourse that marks their opinions and doubts.

It would appear that empathy is a forgotten emotion.

Creating a system in which the blame falls on the individual despite the nature of the system has become the standard. We think that every person is capable of overcoming circumstances; that advantages are not awarded by birth and affluence. Pop culture has ingrained in us that if we think positively about something, if we dare to dream, then we can influence our future.

But this strikes me as logically incongruent.

And it should sound problematic to the world.

This type of belief blames those who do not rise above their circumstances. There is a passive nature to this time of admonition, hidden behind a beautiful possibility. I ask: is this truly the nature of the world? If you believe something, then doors will open for you? I think the outliers and exceptions have become the norm. We expect that if we try hard, then we will be rewarded.

What of those afflicted with famine and victims of genocide forced into refugee camps the world over? What of rape victims? What of children abused? What of people killed because of the color of their skin? Did these people not wish hard enough? Did they not direct their thoughts in the proper direction to find hope? Certainly I have outlined only the horrors of the world, but we cannot turn a blind eye upon these sores on the back of humanity.

We have to stand up for those who have no voice.

Have we become a nation that hears, but does not listen? Have we become a nation that speaks, but says nothing? Some of my peers, as well as those a generation older, fear assisting those less fortunate; that by giving to them, the will to achieve will be broken. That somehow helping those that cannot help themselves will erode the fabric of who we are.

Is this true?

I am not suggesting that we bankrupt ourselves to help others, but as Peter Singer has suggested, we should give enough so that the least well-off can rise to a level that could be considered basic. When there are children starving in countries where what we pay for a gallon of gas could feed them for a day, I have to question whether sacrificing some of the comfort and affluence so others may simply live should not be mandatory.

We have been tricked into believing something that is not true.

They told us that there is a right way and a wrong way. They said there are Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, pro-war or against war. All around us the constructs of our society dictate endless false dichotomies that force us to choose one over the other without examining the rationality, or possibility, of something that we cannot perceive.

I sometimes try to think of a world that is so unlike this one. The mantra that there is no better place to live, or that we are number one, simply makes me sad. Who wants to be number one in a world where there is so much suffering and sadness? In America, there is immunity to the horrors and travesties of the world. We are insulated from the world that surrounds us.

We rally behind demagogues, partisan rhetoricians who care more about the game of being elected than demanding excellence and change of policy. They have become so assimilated into the culture of domination and conditioning that their campaigning rhetoric is little more than a clever game of chess with words. They dance and shuffle with issues that should matter, but know that the hot button issues (the ones we have been conditioned to care about) should have well-articulated and formulated opinions.

The world does not change because power is assumed. One person can direct the world in a positive direction, but the capacity for change is within each of us. The ability to radically alter our circumstances is in the belief that we are equal, that we can help each other. Leaving those deemed as unworthy to fend in a world that rewards selfishness and shuns those less fortunate prepares us for failure.

I fear that when the times do not regulate themselves quickly enough, that change does not happen with the turn of a phrase or the passing of a single day, that some will be quick to demonize. One person can lead. One person can inspire. But it takes a nation to change. It takes a world to see.

There are times in history we look back upon when reading, or taught in a classroom, that we shudder at the humanitarian violations of a government and the apathy of the people at its base. We wonder to ourselves how a nation loses its moral compass.

Apathy.

Compliance.

Comfort and Conformity.

Ponder the world as it is. Take it in and really think about it. Talk about it amongst your friends and family and encourage intellectual discourse. Find your own answers. Seek out information. Do not be satisfied with the status quo or the regurgitated material that you see on every news channel. Fight against the propaganda and lip service of news that is created for you. Remember that you have the power to change your mind.

People may tell you what to think, but you decide whether or not you will believe what is being feed to you is truth, or if you will search for something that might be difficult. Some may try to convince you that questioning the good life is wrong, or that what you have read is wrong.

There is nothing wrong with disbelief, it encourages discovery.

Do not be afraid to be proven wrong, or to prove something wrong. These are the issues I grapple with every day. These are issues that I think autonomous beings of the free world must talk about. It would be intellectually dishonest of us as thinking beings to not analyze the impact of who we are on the world. We need to demand change, to stand with others instead of standing apart.

A new condition must prevail.

On Strong Female Characters, Face-less Heroes, and Myriad Personalities

Sixth Prime

When I started writing Sixth Prime, I decided early on to do something very deliberate: I would make half the main characters women; I would make sure the personalities better reflected the myriad of the human experience; and I would describe characters without using skin color or any physical identifiers.

You might be wondering: what exactly is the point of that?

Women represent half the population

I would be remiss if I ignored the statistics right in front of me. More than half of the world’s population is female, so why wouldn’t I include a representative number of female characters? I’m talking about adventurers and villains, scientists and soldiers, and everything in between. The goal should be to tell the best possible story. I waited until I had outlined everything, and then randomly assigned characters as men and women (this includes romantic relationships as well, so buckle your seatbelts).

Personality guides behavior and decision-making.

I went to graduate school for psychology, and as such I’ve always had a fascination with why people do what they do. This, naturally, translated into thinking about how I could smuggle personality psychology into a narrative. The Prime saga, beginning with Sixth Prime, is an attempt to do just that. I wanted readers to feel like they were represented by one of the characters in such a way that the decisions and consequences felt more real to them.

The reader should decide how the characters look.  

I know it’s a long shot, but maybe (just maybe) the Prime Saga becomes a movie or limited series. I bring this up because nothing is worse than people arguing how characters should look or the kinds of actors or actresses who should play them. Really, even if an adaptation is not in order, I love the idea of people coming to their own conclusions about how a character should look based on their choices, personality, and behavior. I want the characters to be defined by how they make readers feel; I want a reader to be able to see themselves in the character and as the character.

 

Here is the working teaser:

2.3.5.7.11.13.

A war brews as a galaxy struggles to maintain a peace treaty signed in haste. The Commonwealth boasts sprawling cities built upon slums. The Sovereignty has placed the yoke of industry upon its citizens. Sixteen men and women are connected in a way they cannot yet understand. A murder of a prominent artist begins a chain of events that will ultimately determine the fate of the universe.

Only thirteen will remain.

In the end, there can be only one Prime.

Are you a Prime?

 

Interested yet? I sure hope so. If you are, then how about a brief excerpt? Check it out at: https://authordanobrien.com/2016/07/28/preview-of-sixth-prime/

Perhaps you want to grab the Kindle version for only $2.99? http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENLPOVG

 

 

Is impatience the real enemy of reaching your goals?

If you are like most writers, the excitement of writing a book can very nearly be everything you need to finish and publish, to reach your goal. In many ways, this is true of all goal-setting behavior. I was lamenting the other day that I really wanted to be done with Sixth Prime (seriously, click and give it a read) because I think it will resonate with readers. Even though there is still another draft to go before several rounds of edits, and then design, I wanted it now.

Why is that I wonder?

The impatience paradox. I talk a lot about starting goals and setting goals, but very little about completing a goal when you have stalled in the middle. I like to call this the impatience paradox. This is the overwhelming feeling that creeps in mid-goal, which is usually accompanied by fatigue with the process and a burning, irrational desire that people should already be supportive of the finished product (or goal). For writers, this is often the moment when you think this book could be “the one,” and you really just want everyone to be sharing and reading and writing and freaking out over it. As normal as that sounds (impatience happens to everyone in pursuit of a goal, especially if that goal is within reach), it can be a productivity and discipline killer. It can make you switch your focus or collapse beneath the weight of wanting it to be done. So what can you do?

Overcoming impatience. Don’t let impatience keep you from reaching your goals. In order to get past impatience, you need to recognize it for what it is: fear. More than likely, you are having anxiety about the outcome of your goal, or how achieving your goal will affect you. Once you publish that book, people will react to it. What if they hate it? What if they love it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if people want more? Regardless of how it makes you feel, you need to remember that you started down this path for a very good reason. You had a goal; don’t give up now.

Reaching your goals. So, how do you get back on track? Simple: remember why you started down this path in the first place. Return to both the long-term goal you set in the beginning and the smaller goals in support of it. Rebuild those behavior-reward dyads once more and trend toward discipline; make the goal more important than the smaller roadblocks you put in your way. Use the simple formula of pairing the behavior that needs to be completed (writing every day) in order to reach your goal (finishing your novel) with a reward you only get when you perform that behavior (writing every day, just in case you forgot).

Being able to embrace that you are impatient, and can still reach your goals, sets you up for success in the future. The real enemy is giving up.

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Why I’m A Coward

04fWe all have something that we really want in our lives. Perhaps it is a dream that we actively and purposefully ignore; maybe it is something just on the periphery of our awareness. In my opinion, either we are honest about what we really want or we allow ignorance of it to guide our actions.

For me, it is wanting to be a screenwriter.

I’ve found a way to work on my own terms and make money; I’ve created a universe where I can write novels and short stories, while working freelance, without having to show up to a traditional 9-5 job. Even so, if I’m being honest, I have failed to really pursue what I want to do.

It is right there, in the forefront of my mind, when I wake up every morning.

It is right there, within reach, in everything I do.

But I don’t go after it.

Why? Fear.

I’m afraid of what it will cost me to pursue it.

Or at least what I think it will cost me.

I make excuses about not wanting to move to LA or put my wife in the position of us not making enough money. I talk about wanting to be able to provide a standard of living as a means to not jump in with both feet. The reality is that it is achievable if I wanted it bad enough; if I wanted more than I wanted comfort, more than I wanted to succumb to fear and let it guide my behavior.

I’m a chicken-shit when it comes to the thing I will regret as I lay dying.

Sure, I’ve published a lot of books and I’ve manged a modicum of success. However, I talk about becoming successful enough with my books that Hollywood will take notice. If I were being truly fearless, I would doggedly pursue that dream, hustling and working toward it without regard for failure. I wouldn’t wait for my success and my dream to overlap. I would go out and get, leaving nothing on the table when I do.

I wanted to end this with something powerful like no more or  I will pursue it now that I have laid it bare. But really, I remain afraid of upsetting what I have. I will continue down the path of least resistance, holding the idea with me each day that my dream will remain beyond my reach as long as I don’t pursue it. I will continue to be honest about not pursuing it, but will likely remain afraid to go after it in some misguided notion of homeostasis.

I will live a great life with the woman I love, but I will always know that I was too scared to pursue the personal goal that, objectively, would not have upset my life, but more than likely given a rich texture to it I would have cherished.

I will continue to be a coward hiding behind a veil of simpler personal success accented by easy-to-attain personal goals that are easier to recover from if I fail.

I can do better.

You, dear reader, don’t have to be a coward like me.

Take chances. Chase your dreams.

The Psychological Advantage

Business-Psychology-Learning-how-to-Make-your-Products-Stand-out-to-Potential-CustomersAccording to Forbes, 39.2% of psychology majors coming right out of college had an offer for a job somewhere. Of course, the knowledge and skill base of your average graduate is pretty variable, but it does speak to the utility of a background in psychology. Most companies, at some point or another, fall into a trap of the latest psychological-metric trend guaranteed to increase growth and productivity, or lend a hand to HR in order to hire the right folks.

However, let’s talk about using psychology to your benefit.

Watson and Skinner, the pioneers of behaviorism, taught us a lot about human behavior and how to understand behavioral contingencies. It was Skinner, however, who gifted us operant conditioning and a quick path to behavior modification that could yield actionable goal-setting (and adherence) behavior.

Alright, let’s back up.

That was a lot of jargon coming at your fast.

Understand the behavior. So what is that you are trying to do? Be accurate and honest here. Are you trying to write more every day? Do you want more conversions from your marketing campaign? Do you want to be more productive and complete more things on your to-do list? Whatever the thing is that you want to do, define it, and describe it well.

Salient, powerful reward. This is really the tricky part for program adherence. When we think of rewarding ourselves, we generally land on something that we could do without, or something we have a lot of ways to get. What you want to do is choose something specific, salient, and powerful; and by that I mean something that you couldn’t go through the day without. How about an example? A good friend of mine really wanted to finish the novel he had been talking about for a decade. The problem was: he didn’t make the time; and he lacked the discipline to stick to a writing schedule. He asked me what he could do differently since I am a productivity and discipline junkie. I asked what he did every day; he shrugged. As we were sitting over coffee, I noticed that he checked his phone a few times. I asked him what had captured his attention. Apparently, he had become addicted to one of those app games where you built little towns and went to war with other players. He explained that if he didn’t check in often, his town and little digital population would be decimated. That was the a-ha moment: I had successfully found what he couldn’t live without. The solution was simple. He would have to write a certain amount of words in order to check on his digital world. Lo and behold, the strategy worked because the reward was very clear.

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Volume. Behavior change takes time; as such, you will have lots of opportunities to fail (which is the currency of success), but, more importantly, you will be able to repeat the behavior-reward dyad enough times to truly turn it into a habit. The actual amount of time it takes for this kind of habituation varies based on psychological makeup, the task, the reward, and a host of other things. Some estimates put it as low as 10 days and more conservative suggestions put it at closer to eight weeks. Either way, volume is your friend; when in doubt, keep working that behavioral contingency.

Make the behavior as easy as possible to guarantee program adherence. Human beings like to complicate things. We want difficult explanations to simple problems, because we can’t imagine that the answer shouldn’t be multi-faceted and complex. You might talk about looking for a simple solution, but what you really mean is you want an easy answer, which is not the same.

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Procrastinate Procrastination (Or How I Learned to Love Setting Goals)

Procrastination_(No_Wall_Uncovered_VII)There are countless articles spread across the vast universe that is the internet on how to eliminate procrastination; to put a finer point on it, all that has been said on the subject has been studied, collated, optioned, and opined about. We all know that procrastination is kryptonite for successful business practices (and not to mention writing goals). But what can we do about it?

I love talking about time management; no, seriously, that was not meant as joke. (Stop laughing.) Being productive means growth, and I am all about growing early and often. Here are some of my favorite methodologies:

Chunking. This method is often used to memorize numbers and names. If you wanted to remember a phone number, remember it as two numbers: 434 and 7133 (instead of 434-7133). For tasks in a given day, put a few different tasks together as a block and complete all of them together before taking a break or rewarding yourself with something salient or moving on. (More on behavior modification in a bit.)

Momentum and motivation. Motivating yourself can be difficult; often, people hide behind a lack of motivation when explaining away why they didn’t complete a project r finish that novel. The easiest way to overcome this is to give yourself some motivation: do something you really want after completing the task. Even better, once you get some momentum, knock out some more goals!

Location. Some places lend themselves to procrastinating more so than other places. Sitting in front of your TV binge-watching a show is not the best place to get some work done (or meet your writing goals). Relocate to a distraction-free zone (as best you can) and set yourself up for success.

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Establish rewards and consequences. Behavior modification remains one of the few tried and true methods for creating behavior change (like procrastinating less). For the purposes of simplicity, let’s say that it is building a contingent relationship with clear rewards and consequences. For instance, if you wanted to write a certain number of words a day, say 2000, then you would want to reward the action of writing 2000 words with something you can only get from completing the task; you don’t write the words, you don’t get your reward. Pretty simple, right? Building your day out of a series of contingent relationships like this can pay real dividends in terms of getting things done.

Create and adhere to deadlines. Setting deadlines has been proven to help people reach their goals. Knowing that there is a finish line helps you to think about your time in a meaningful way. Adhering to those deadlines, over time, makes you averse to procrastinating in the future.

Share your goals for increased accountability. Sometimes, letting other people know about what you need to do can create a network of accountability: people asking you throughout your day whether or not you finished what you intended can keep the task on the top of your mind. Fair warning: this can be very exhausting, especially if you are have difficulty adhering to your plan (or if you are easily upset).

Adapt your goals accordingly. In many ways, this might be the most important tool. Things change, and it is important to change with them. Too often, we just keep doing things the same way to reach the same goals with little real success. We become accustomed to doing something because we have always done it this way. If you want different results, think about doing things a different way.

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Changing of the Guard: What Behavioral Marketing Has to Become

8468788107_6a1b3ae1ea_oWhat it was

Behavioral marketing is still the go-to for major companies, as well as smaller professionals. The purpose being very simple: use information to tailor a personal experience instead of bludgeoning people with the same message time and again. The digital age helped usher in this type of advertising, as analytics and cookies overtook data collection. Retargeting and direct targeting was simpler than ever and you were one step away from closing the loop and using information collected during an internet search to get your product in front of a potential customer.

What you like determines what you are shown.

For an older generation, this kind of marketing has great value. The demographic for Facebook users continues to rise, and it should come as no surprise that among internet giants, Facebook represents the most nuanced approach to behavioral marketing: bundling, collating, and redirecting interests and behaviors in or to show you relevant ads. Our feeds are increasing filled with bright and shiny advertisements created specifically for our enjoyment.

So why does it need to change?

Simply put: the population is getting older, which means a young generation (millennials) are increasingly involved in traditionally robust purchasing activities (cars, homes, condos, interior design). Unsurprisingly, this contrarian generation has little interest in being advertised to; in point of fact, a Forbes article from April 2015 suggested that they were moving away from this kind of “talking at you” approach in favor of a more authentic conversation.

If you want to sell to the millennial generation, then perhaps you need to pivot to a more transformational type of marketing; one that involves millennials in the conversation, as opposed to trying to out-think them in a technological space (where they are very adept).


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What it needs to become

Buzzfeed adopted a native advertising approach that has been paying dividends in terms of engagement and interest. Not all companies are set up for this kind of information-driven type of advertising, and suggesting that they adopt it would be foolish.

Nativism need not be about company pitches written as clickbait articles.

Culture, not trends. What millennials care about is sharing a culture, not just sharing the trend that everyone else is riding. This generation has been sourcing things digitally for nearly their entire lives; what they are searching for is a meaningful relationship with a brand that also provides a service or product. Trending topics dominate the digital sphere, but the best companies bend them to meet the needs of their subscriber base and not the other wall around.

Less noise, more perspective. Let’s face it, repurposing articles and talking about whatever is current becomes noise once you get past the first or second page of a feed or search.  Every company has a story or a narrative, and that is what you should be advocating: your perspective. What makes you unique? How do you provide something different, meaningful, and valuable?

Be agile and offer value. Content marketing has value because it checks a lot of the boxes we are talking about. You want to craft content, not just refurbish generalities from other similar sites you gleaned doing a long-tail keyword search. Returning to this idea of native marketing, it is not likely you will be able to replicate Buzzfeed’s model. You can take a step in the right direction by leaning more heavily on generating organic conversations through social media instead of bombarding visitors to your site with a barrage of pop-ups and squeeze pages.

Authenticity matters. This shows empathy by not immediately doubling down on sales scripts triggered by SEO and redirected landing pages. By imagining the customer’s experience, putting yourselves in the shoes of someone coming to your site, you are harnessing an approach that better sets up having a conversation, as opposed to a hard sales pitch. It is in avoiding this kind of sales deafness that you can tap into something that really matters for millennials: mindfulness. Replace the salesman with a teacher, someone who wants to share powerful information that can change someone’s life; this fosters social proof, one of the most valuable things in business.

Highlight the transformative process, not the product. One of the most tangible ways to experience a paradigm shift in your sales is to see social outreach as a transformative process that turns cold leads into advocates. And the simplest way to accomplish this is to be present, to focus on being a part of the conversation as opposed to scheduling the conversation.

The tools of the trade may change, but one thing as always been true about marketing and sales development: consistency. Day in and day out, you need to have a plan, delegate accordingly, and prepare for market and industry shifts. The millennials represent a new shift, and it is time to adapt.

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Cut the Spam and Offer Value

CTA_mailinglistWe have all experienced the deluge of spam emails from companies we have subscribed to with the good-faith idea that we would be getting value, not fluff. On the other hand, many business professionals have been in the unenviable position of knowing that an email marketing campaign converts (and they really do), but not really know what to include in order to get subscribers engaged with the material. No one wants to receive spam, and no one sends out subscriber emails wanting them to end up in a spam filter.

Often, the difference between spam email marketing and good email marketing is minimal. However, if you can’t learn to recognize the difference, then your subscriber base will taper off and potential clients will start to tune you out.

Spam email precludes a relationship with your subscriber base. It demonstrates a lack of understanding for what they want to read, how often they want to read, and how they like to consume information. Whenever your instinct is to send something out in bulk or as unsolicited, then I can almost guarantee you either are meaning to spam or, at the very least, are being an unintentional spammer.

There are plenty of instances of digital communication that qualifies as unsolicited without necessarily being spam, like an email to a potential client or reaching out to a blogger or journalist for an interview even though you had not previously networked with them. Unless you are being very negligent in your prospect research, you will at least address it to the right person, use the correct name, and have a real reason for contacting them.

However, the moment you drop a slew of captured emails into a newsletter and blast a generic sales pitch or clickbait article, you’ve adopted the questionable practice of spam email marketing. Try to remember why people come to your blog (or website) in the first place. Why did they even bother signing up for a newsletter? I can be fairly certain it was not to read generic sales pitches sent to their email with alarming frequency.

So what can you do?

Offer value. A growing trend in content marketing (and digital marketing in general) is offering meaningful networking that nurtures relationships, as opposed to hammering the sales goal relentlessly in each and every communication. Generic content just makes sure search engines pick it up; you want to cultivate content that people read who use search engines to find it. More than half of folks will not even bother reading an impersonal and irrelevant-looking email sent to their inbox. If that doesn’t scream caution when sending out your newsletter, then perhaps spam marketing is for you.

Keep it honest. If they signed up, then, at least initially, they felt like you were someone they could trust. By staying true to your initial focus for creating a newsletter or email campaign in the first place, your subscribers will be more likely to open and engage with your content. Don’t overwhelm them with erroneous or unrelated information that does not speak to why they signed up in the first place.

Keep it simple. There are basic email practices for a reason. Don’t barrage the subject line with titles where all the letters are capitalized or relies on an over-usage of spam-like keywords that people believe work all the time. Learn your email client so that instead of a generic salutation, you can actually include the subscriber’s name. Relevancy rears its ugly head again; don’t bother sending them content that tries to trick them into a sale. The simple math is if you keep sending things people don’t want, there will not be any subscribers to send content to.

Content and email marketing is all about making a real connection with your readers. Why would you bother with spam if you can offer something meaningful?

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