08/26/2014 12:57 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

A Descent into Madness in 500-1000 Words: What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I don't really get a summer vacation. A small portfolio of businesses, multiple responsibilities to cherished long-term clients, and a fixer upper farmhouse dating from 1884 tend to put a crimp in the normal summer vacation model.

"So, Ari, what ARE you writing about?" the friends and family ask when informed of my new blog.

"What persona do I use?" is the refrain in my head.

Then I read Altucher. If you haven't read him, you should seriously consider doing so. In his post a few days ago he simply stated that his method is to never hit "publish," unless he is terrified of the outcome. Conveniently, if we accept his methods of innovation, breaking barriers, and living fully, I am right there as a starting point! I am terrified. Yes, on one hand, I want to be liked immensely; on the other hand, I have never shied away from conflict and criticisms (that was the first lie of my column, I am not a masochist who enjoys criticism).

I choose to use this first blog post to promise you that the voice I will put into this blog, will be my voice; that voice which allowed me to become who I am today, and who I wish to be tomorrow, when not fulfilling a role or expectation of anyone but myself. In other words, no sugarcoating (although I do believe I will self-censor the profanities long before editorial has to step in -- as much as that is slightly against the grain) no corporate double-speak, no prim and proper. I will call it like I see it, with ironies, small hypocrisies, and my day-to-day cynical curmudgeonly outlook (my wife calls me the Old Goat. Feel free to join her if you like).

I invite you, the community, to participate. A trite invitation, as after all, it is "social" media as the platform. What I mean to say is that I welcome a dialogue. I welcome crowd sourcing content ideas. I would prefer you call me an idiot and follow up with concrete suggestions for improvement as opposed to no reaction. In short, this blog or column will be as authentic as I can make it.

Nominally, my chosen topic is about business. I am one of those who believes that the world is business and that just about every topic under the sun can fall under that umbrella. To that end, my first column will contain the above introduction, as well as two quick tidbits about the business world that I have been privy to witness over the past two weeks.

Just today, I had an incredibly interesting conversation with an entrepreneur based in Seattle. This gent has, over the past three plus years as a CEO, easily proven himself as one who really makes radical innovation happen. He stated to me that his company, which today manufactures product, would evolve into a big data company within the next three years.

The KIN - Kellogg Innovation Network hosted an event last year, specifically on the topic of big data, with delegates from large businesses, government, and some intrapreneurial (startups nested within larger companies) organizations. Listening to the other KIN delegates, I observed that the majority of these big data initiatives were being led by either the internal strategy team or a cross-functional team with strategy and innovation mixing with the IT roles. However, not a single firm represented was wholesale changing direction from the core, they were merely opening up another business unit or attempting to drive incremental revenues through enhanced product offerings. Of course, there are a few companies out there, that formed specifically to make a play in big data that have yet to prove their track records in the broader market context.

I can't claim to have done exhaustive research on the topic, but anecdotal evidence, and just a few hours of searching leads me to believe that these gents in Seattle are doing something different. They have recognized that the value of their product will be driven to a commodity pricing approaching zero per unit. They have realized that their platform, by which clients make use of their products, will not be defensible IP in any mid to long-term horizon. Rather than panicking, they have simply begun 36 months in advance, augmenting their staff, developing an entirely new strategy, and going all in on the bet that they will have to innovate on the analytics of their products in the field. Bold. Innovative. I look forward to watching their progress.

On a related note, I had another conversation with a marketer who was absolutely convinced that his firm was radically innovative and was the answer to all medium sized business marketing needs. I pity him, and have an ocean of compassion for his clients. I did, however, admire his zeal!

A note to all decision makers: You of course, cannot be the expert in everything. However, need I remind you that educating yourself on a purchase, via the folks selling said product or service, is almost always a recipe for overpaying at best and disaster at worst?

If you are a small or medium business, and you are considering purchasing marketing services of any sort, and in particular, digital marketing, you owe it to yourself to spend just a bit of time researching the very common and often distasteful marketing techniques being evangelized in.

For example:

  • The Secret (self help styled mystical wealth intentionality manifestation-or some mumbo jumbo like that) Thanks, I am not joining your cult, and I prefer my marketing with metrics based ROI optimization. How devotees have pivoted this into a marketing service is a bit beyond me, as I couldn't make it through the book or movie to begin with. But they are doing so apparently.
  • (digital marketing forums, with some nuggets of gold; but a heaping stinking manure pile to wade through to find those nuggets) I immediately suspect anyone with this on his or her resume or marketing materials. There is most assuredly value to be found on these forums, but the forums as your entire background in the marketing industry also leads me to ask about a reference from your parole officer.
  • Any vendor who is selling a program tailored for a specific industry, as opposed to a solution tailored for a particular client (YOU) This last one is of course less about a marketing technique, and more about the basics of sales, but if you're like me, your time is in increasingly short supply. It's a key indicator by which you might cut off a discussion much more rapidly than you might otherwise be inclined.

In summation, my first column was an admission of terror, a hodge-podge of random business musing, and a bar set so low in terms of content that it can only improve. Stick with me, next time I might be hilarious and write about kitten memes. Or perhaps I'll dissect the balance sheet of a nonprofit, or discuss specialty charcuterie marketing. I do promise to keep it short, sweet, honest, and to do my best to entertain as well.