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Monday, November 14, 2011

Marketing a BBQ Smoker

One of the skills I knew I needed to develop after leaving the corporate world was
how to nap better
marketing and promotions. The easiest thing to do, of course, was buy Google ads. That's what I did for Tremore Breeze Smoker. It did very well, generating lots of hits and getting us on many BBQ sites. Overall, it costed about $300 over a month or so.

I didn't stop there though. My partner and I took a trip to the Heart of Kentucky Bourbon and BBQ Fest to see how the BBQ competition circuit was - we had decided to target competition teams for our smoker. The competitors had just turned in their food to the judges, so many of them were just sitting around enjoying a beer. We learned a ton just talking with them, and they were all amazingly friendly. We asked them about their smokers, what frustrated them, and what made them choose their current smoker. But the best question I asked a team captain was, "How did you find out about the smoker you bought?" The answer was he saw an ad in the Kansas City BBQ Society newsletter (called the "Bullsheet." one other thing I learned about these people is they love their puns). This was an amazing insight; people would buy their smokers based purely on an ad in a newsletter.

So I quickly created an ad and placed it in the Bullsheet. The ad costs about $300 for 6 months. Within days of it publishing, we were getting inquiries from our website and phone calls. We probably average about one inquiry a week, I would guess mostly from the Bullsheet ad. The people that contacted us were knowledgeable and had great questions. The return on investment from the Bullsheet ads were much better than the Google ads. We got a lot of website hits, but didn't get any inquiries from them. So we decided to kill the Google ads, and right now we're still reaping the benefits of the Bullsheet ads.

I was inspired to write about this after reading a great post on A Smart Bear Blog called How cold calling (properly) works better than AdWords. The post also talks about sales, or more specifically cold calling - another skill I aimed to learn. More on that later...


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Google Doodles would've never happened at P&G

Today Google paid tribute to Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday in what is becoming a very popular feature: The Google Doodle. Another great Doodle I remember is the tribute to Les Paul, where you could play a tune with strings on the Google logo. Coincidentally, I'm listening to an audiobook entitled "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59." It's told by Doug Edwards, one of the first brand managers Google brought in, and how he had to adjust to Google's lack of corporate-ness, coming from decades of big corporation experience.

Also coincidentally, I had just finished the chapter where he talks about the first Google Doodles. The people at Google wanted to have fun with Thanksgiving, Election Day, Mothers Day, etc. by making fun things happen with Google logo. But Edwards fought it, saying it was taught in all marketing books that you don't mess with your brand equity. Fortunately, he lost, and the rest is Doodle history.

As I'm going through the book, it just reminded me of how frustrating the corporate world is. He talks about how he was taught in his corporate experience that ideas were things to be stomped out before they drained resources, and how Google was so much different. He also talks about how, in the corporate world, you only did what was in your job description, for fear of stepping on toes. Many of the things he talked about wanting to stop or implement from the old corporate world got turned back, for the better.

No, I'm not going to apply for a job at Google. I doubt they're perfect either. But this really goes to show how the corporate world is broken. I really feel there will be a revolution in the future where big corporations get disrupted. Smaller companies with better cultures will get more out of their people, making them more successful. Hopefully, I'll never need to return to the corporate world again.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy | Derek Sivers

I firmly believe a good leader knows when to lead and when to follow. I recently came across the concept of the "first follower" on Derrick Siver's blog, and he makes an awesome illustration of it with a video clip "First follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy:"

I've put this into action a few times. In an organization where I'm an officer, I've tried to use any influence I've built up to support another person's initiative. During meetings, when someone is trying to make a point but people weren't able to hear him/her, I'll say "so and so is trying to make a point" at  the next natural break. This allows all points to be heard, which makes the organization better.

Be the first follower... and recognize people who are YOUR first followers!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Timely post: What to do with your inactive blogs

Another timely post from Problogger entitled "5 Brilliant Things You Can Do with an Inactive Blog." As I said in the previous post, I was up to my neck in blogs... I guess if you're a successful blog on blogs, you must be good at blogging...


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogs coming out of my ears!

I've got a dilemma. Hoping for some advice from the community.

I have the opposite issues of what this Problogger post is talking about. I have so many topics I want to blog about that I end up starting myriad blogs. Here's what they are:

  • Corporatepreneur (this blog) - started with a couple friends to blog about entrepreneurship while working in the corporate world) ACTIVE
  • Nottheblog (notthebookstore.blogspot.com) - to promote NOTtheBookStore.com INACTIVE
  • Dale's Sabbatical (dalessabbatical.blogspot.com) - to update people about the 3 month sabbatical I was taking INACTIVE
  • Wok this Way (wokthisway.blogspot.com) - A blog discussing being Asian American in the midwest (have decent amount of content, INACTIVE now)
  • Forever Cheesehead (forevercheesehead.blogspot.com) - Blogging about Wisconsin sports outside of Wisconsin (SEMI-ACTIVE)
  • Cincyasian (cincyasian.com) - Where to get good (good enough at least) Asian food in Cincinnati (ACTIVE, but just started)
  • Breeze Blog (www.breezebbq.com/ask-a-bbq-expert-blog) - News on the Tremore Breeze Smoker (ACTIVE)
This doesn't include two blogs I consider personal, so not sharing publicly... even though it's findable. This also doesn't include two or three more blog topics I've considered starting, including one on investing in the stock market and another discussing baseball statistics.

The reason I started so many is because I feel like blogs need to be targeted in order to best get traffic. Each one has its own niche that I was hoping to exploit. But I realize I also need to be dedicated enough to a blog to give it proper content and to promote it properly. Plus, with my personal blogs, I want to keep it semi-private, and also because I'm sure it's a different audience that wants to read about my personal stuff than my public stuff. Or maybe that's not true?

What I've come up with is one blog that I can just blog about things that come to mind, and ideally have a good tagging system that allows sorting into RSS feeds that people who are interested in only one topic can subscribe to. I'm sure that's not ideal in terms of getting and holding traffic, but I can't seem to garner up enough inspiration to keep all those blogs full of content.

The article from Problogger was really good. I might go this route for now, and then see if niches naturally fall out of it. Any advice from the blogging community?

-Up to my neck in blogs


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pimp my ROAD office! Best remote locations to work

I recently went on a 2.5 week, 14 city road trip out to the east coast (Adam, I almost looked you up but I ran out of time as I had a game to catch in Boston!). I went to see my Milwaukee Brewers play at Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium in NYC, and along the way visited a whole bunch of places. One thing I enjoy doing is working from different places, in essence showing that one can escape the artificial lights of the cubical world in exchange for more inspirational locales.

Out of all the place I visited, the #1 place to work was Battery Park in New York City. They had tables near one of the food stands where you had a view of the harbor and to top it off, the Statue of Liberty in the background. I happened to be there on an absolutely beautiful day. The park had free, fast AT&T wifi. You could not ask for anything more.
Statue of Liberty is in the distance above the left person's head
 I only wish I could stay longer, but alas Katz Deli was calling my name...


Sunday, April 17, 2011

NOTtheBookstore.com - end of an era

The first venture I created that actually brought in revenue was a website called NOTtheBookstore.com. I started it in 2007. Last week, I made the decision to stop working on it and focus on other ventures.

I learned a lot from it:

Outsourcing tasks that don't make sense for me to do
 I learned to use elance.com, and hired someone offshore to do data entry work that would've taken me hours. That experience taught me how to manage someone offshore, and helped me to think which tasks I should be focusing on and what tasks I should outsource. (Thanks to the book 4-hour Workweek for this concept).

Working with a site you didn't program is hard
I hired someone to program an upgrade to the website for the first time, adding the ability to pull data from Amazon to calculate just how much you'd save over the campus bookstore. But there were all these tweaks I wanted to do, and looking through all that code was daunting. I'm actually pretty proud of myself that I was able to make the tweaks I needed to, because I'm someone who's never heard of object oriented whatchamacallit before. It's because of this experience that I starting learning Wordpress and I'm going to start any new website I create with Wordpress so I have control over features.

Marketing and promotion
I've never needed to market or promote anything before in my life. I started with Facebook ads (back then, they were DIRT cheap) and on a whim contacted the Xavier Marketing Club. That started off a great 2 year relationship, in which I still keep in touch with 1-2 of them. I also realized that a college campus might be a great sales and promotion channel that companies aren't leveraging. You have a bunch of people, similar age, interests, all tightly packed in a small area. Really encourages word of mouth and viralness!

Continous improvement
After a couple of semesters of relative success, I stopped marketing at Xavier to focus on the bigger University of Cincinnati. Part of this was an experiment to see if it was self sustaining. It wasn't, as sales dropped a good amount. I learned that you need to constantly be in touch and looking to improve your business. Also, a good company with a low barrier to entry needs to reinvent itself all the time. I think NOTtheBookStore needed to be reinvented to add more and more value to the site.

Scale up
I tried to scale the success at XU to the University of Cincinnati, which had 5X the number of students. I went through the same process, worked with their marketing club, promoted with fliers and advertising in the school newspaper. But UC just never took off. I have a couple of theories: 1. A larger campus means a longer build up part of the curve before it tips. 2. On a larger campus, there's a lot more choices and a lot more noise, so your message gets diluted. Or maybe it just needed more time. I don't think I cracked the nut on this one, if anyone has thoughts I'd love to hear them!

All in all, a great experience. It gave me a glimpse of what things could be like. And it made me a real entrepreneur.

If anyone has more insights or advice as to more I can take away from this experience, please comment!

P.S. Here's a copy of the email I sent out to my student list:

Hello NOTtheBookStore fans and friends!

About 5 years ago, I was in year 3 of what turned out to be a 6 year stint in the Xavier University MBA program. I lamented to a friend about the cost of textbooks, and she told me she bought them on Amazon. “But how do you know what books you need for your classes?” I asked her. She told me to find it on the bookstore website.

In a different setting, one of my friends was talking to me about the Amazon affiliate program. Basically, if someone clicks on your Amazon link and buys something, you get a percentage of the sale as commission. At this point, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head: Why not help students save money on textbooks by showing them how much cheaper it was on Amazon?

NOTtheBookStore was born.  The name and logo came to me as I was trying to fall asleep one night. I woke up, fired up my computer, and created the first logo: A BS with a slash through it. How funny and rebellious!

What the first NOTtheBookStore.com site looked like:

Over the next 5 years, NOTtheBookstore.com would evolve from a website that looked like an amateur programmed it (because I was an amateur) into something a little less amateur looking but professionally programmed. Along the way, I formed a relationship with the Xavier Marketing Club. They were an enthusiastic bunch, and I wasn’t sure who was enjoying it more: them for having something to work on that was very relevant to them, or me for working with great students and getting all the great publicity! Book sales shot up from about 50 in Spring of 2008 to over 400 in Fall of 2008 after the Marketing Club did its thing. I know for a fact that at least 2-3 people got great resume builders from the experience, and I’m really happy that NOTtheBookstore.com was able to provide that.

NOTtheBookStore.com was my first business venture. Overall, at best I think the venture broke even from a profit standpoint. But all the stuff I learned and all of the people I got to work with was priceless. That’s why I’m not really that sad to make the announcement right now that I’m closing down NOTtheBookstore.com as we know it. I will leave the site up with our story and to continue to show people how to save money on textbooks, but won’t be adding more books for future semesters.

It was truly fun while it lasted. There were many students who sent me emails or told me in person how great it was that someone was trying to help them out. One of the things I was deathly afraid of was giving the wrong book information on the site. One day I got an email from someone to tell me that the book was wrong for his class, and I was ready to respond with an apology. But his email went on to tell me what the right book was, and ended with “thanks for doing this and helping us save money!” It goes to show that if you’re sincere in trying to help people, they will not only be forgiving but will help you back.

Thank you all so much for using NOTtheBookStore.com and being part of this wonderful experience! I now have a company called Wild Ting Enterprises, in which I hope to start more of these types of ventures (www.wildting.com). I also have a blog called the Corporatepreneur (www.corporatepreneur.com). Please feel free to drop me a line and I wish you all the best!

Dale Ting

P.S. I also want to give a shout out to the University of Cincinnati American Marketing Association. They were wonderful as well, as we tried to expand NOTtheBookStore.com to UC for a couple of quarters.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Introducing Wild Ting Enterprises

I'm happy to unveil today about a weeks worth of work coming up with the equity for my umbrella company, Wild Ting Enterprises. It was actually a lot of fun because I got to put down exactly what I was thinking. The process of designing the logo was actually extremely helpful in coming up with the equity, so I'll just talk about how the logo came about!

I wanted to start with the Chinese character for my last name. I always thought it was neat that the character itself looked a lot like the letter "T", which would be perfect for a logo with "Ting" in it. For those of you who don't read Chinese, that's the symbol that's in gold. I think it's neat that if you didn't read Chinese, it would be a neat looking logo. I had one person ask me why every logo design submitted had the "T" written that way. There's your answer Karen! This word is the third easiest Chinese character to write in the Chinese language (the easiest being the character for "one" which is just one line across, and second easiest "two" being two lines across).

The next part I wanted in the logo was the idea of many random things coming together into one. I wanted a "chaos theory" type concept, where out of randomness comes beautiful order. I'm a very random thinker. I tend to connect things that may appear to be very different on the surface but if you look more abstractly it's very clear. I'm not a detailed planner, I think in this "order out of randomness" style that many institutions tried to straighten out of me. I thought about doing something with fractals, which I still think is a pretty neat idea that I might incorporate into a logo in the future.

I ended up with a photomosiac concept... I'm sure you've seen them before, they're these computer generated pictures made up of a lot of smaller pictures. That's what the squares of different shades of red represent. The idea is taking many individual ventures, represented by individual pictures, which really have no pattern to them, and putting them together to form a bigger picture. There are also little squares in the process of coming into place in the upper right to indicate that I plan on constantly adding new ventures to the mosaic.

The color scheme comes out of the idea of a Chinese red envelope. These red envelopes are most known for being given out during Chinese New Year from your elders. They symbolize good fortune and contain money... both things a good business enterprise needs! I also like the idea of respecting those who have come before you and helping others who come after you (being a mentor and having a mentor). And finally, it's very fitting because my last day at P&G was on Chinese New Year Day.

So there you go! Feel free to check out the website, www.wildting.com. There I've listed a few placeholder ventures that I have been working on, or are planning to work on. This list isn't quite complete yet as I'm still converging on what ventures I'll be working on.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anti dot.bomb model

As I'm getting my umbrella entity set up, I'm trying to figure out what my company will stand for, what principles will guide it, and what we're trying to do. One thing I knew I didn't want was to do the dot.bomb business model, but I couldn't put my finger on what the anti-dot.bomb business model was. I think bootstrapping is as close as it gets. I ran across Chris Garrett's posting on Escape Velocity called Bootstrapping Rules that hit it right on the head. I like how Chris mentioned how this mentality changes your operating strategy. I definitely plan on incorporating these principles in my fledgling company!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Ta da!

Well, after many years of adopting a "don't ask don't tell" type policy for my Corporatepreneurial ventures, I think I'm ready to talk about myself. It's only fitting that Adam let the secret out on his blog, as I've used him and others as role models to get myself to the point I am now.

My name is Dale Ting. I live in Cincinnati, OH and recently left a Fortune 50 company.... Of course, that company would be Procter and Gamble, makers of Tide, Downy, Bounce, Crest, Swiffer, Pringles, etc. etc. etc. (As an aside, P&G owns Gillette, which was Adam's former company's archnemisis. My idea for the product to end this "more blades" war would be to invent an infinity bladed razor. Basically, you have a just a field of billions of tiny razors. Then what would they do, infinity plus one?)

You'd be hard pressed to find a consumer products company bigger than P&G. I spent 10 years at P&G after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Chemical Engineering degree. So I'm another engineer turned entrepreneur. I've just now stopped referring to P&G as "we" - it's a hard habit to break after 10 years there. I've also just recently gotten more comfortable with calling myself an entrepreneur.

I'm also an ABC - American Born Chinese. This dynamic played out in the fears that I had to get over to make this move. I've mentioned my dad many times before in this blog, and one of the cultural things I had to get over was the strong desire to please your parents. My dad wasn't quite Tiger Mom (thank goodness) but the cultural values were there. I'm happy to report, my dad recently sent me an article that said people who were doing what fulfills them were happier and lived longer. He also has been helping me with one of the new ventures I've started up. So things have turned out great on that front as well.

I was originally going to go into entrepreneurship cold turkey... No income, only a bunch of ideas that needed vetting out. But I was lucky that an opportunity came along with a company called oneCARE, a much smaller company (actually 1000X smaller) who among other things licenses P&G brands and comes up with the smaller products off that brand (i.e. anything Bounce that's not dryer sheets, anything Tide that's not detergent). It was a perfect fit as they were located in Cincinnati and could use my experience with P&G. They also were great in providing me the flexibility to work part time so I could work on my entrepreneurial ventures. I hope to reward them for this opportunity by launching a bunch of products!

I'm hoping this post shows you the real human being behind this blog, and removes some barriers for me in networking with everyone out there.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coming out... of the cubicle

This is big news. Almost as big as the unveiling of Superman as Clark Kent. Or maybe Spiderman as Peter Parker. OK maybe not. Before I left my job with a Fortune 50 company, I wanted to keep under the radar a bit about my entrepreneurial aspirations. I made sure to keep things separate from the company, never using company resources to do my side things, and never doing anything that would be considered a conflict of interest with the company. But just to be sure, I wanted to do more of a don't ask don't tell thing.

Now, with my new company, I've been pretty transparent with my intentions. I work 3 days a week, with the other days giving me a chance to work on outside ventures. So now, I've decided to come of the cubicle so to speak. One friend of mine asked me how that would benefit me... I think it's cool for a couple reasons. It'll make me a little more real to the readers of this blog. And second, I might be able to get some valuable contacts or advice from the people here now that I can disclose the things I'm working on.

In the next post or two, I'll disclose the company I worked for and where I work now. And if I get brave enough, I'll even post what projects I'm working on! Thanks all for keeping up with the Corporatepreneur blog all these years. I'm really looking forward to this next phase!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Figuring out everything that's wrong with me - surprise!

As I was winding down my time at my big corporation, I figured I'd take advantage of my medical benefits while I had them. I was also trying to figure out what my new years resolutions were, so I figured I'd be data based in my resolutions.

I had a few things I was concerned about, things that most Americans were concerned about. These things included my weight, cholesterol, and salt intake. I went and got a physical with a full workup. Everything was fine, except the cholesterol might've been a little high, so they wanted to do some follow-up. I asked my doctor about salt intake, and he said if you're not feeling your fingers swell up, that means your body is taking care of it fine.

The follow up on the cholesterol came back everything was fine. So OK, what do I need to set my New Years resolution to fix? Looking at myself in the mirror, I figured I had some room for improvement on my weight. So I went to the fitness center and asked for a body fat measurement. The lady gave me a thing to hold, and it measured 18%. OK, there's a number I can work on reducing. The only data point I knew about body fat was Shaquille O'Neal in his prime was 4%. I looked on the wall, where there was a poster of body fat percentages and what they meant. 18% correlated to moderately lean. The fitness lady said "Hmm, that's very good." So nothing to fix here I guess.

The company also offers counseling as a benefit, and people recommended I go see one before making a huge decision like this. I also wanted to work on this issue of mine where I'd never want to start anything. So I went to see a counselor. After a few sessions, I realized I knew and had thought of everything he was asking me about. Was I financially ready? Was I emotionally ready? Recall I had blogged earlier about all the fears I had and how I overcame them. He wasn't really helping with the "never starting anything" issue, so I figured it was something that everyone had issues with and I needed to get over myself. So, no issues here.

So after a physical, body fat measurement, and counseling session, I came to the conclusion: THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. The data said so. Sure, I can eat better and gain a bit more muscle and be a more efficient worker. But the way I am now shouldn't stop me from doing anything. I needed to stop thinking there was something with me and using that as an excuse for anything.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

My goal, reward, and punishment for the next month or so

Goal: From now until 3/27, not counting two weeks in there where I'm on vacation, I will book 15 hours per week of focused, concentrated work on business ideas. I recently discovered slimtimer.com which allows you to time yourself and tag what the time was used for.

Reward: My baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, play in my current city, Cincinnati, on OPENING DAY 3/31. A friend with season tickets gave me the chance to buy 2 tickets, which I've purchased. If I make it, I will go to opening day. As a twist, I will treat the 2nd ticket to a friend who's been a peer mentor for me in the entrepreneurship world. This will not only get me motivated to complete this, but he will also be motivated to help me!

Punishment: I will sell or give away the tickets and donate $50 to a charity of a team I hate. I'm thinking New York Yankees right now, I'll hafta do some research on that.

Thanks again to Neville for providing the inspiration for this type of goal setting!


Friday, February 4, 2011

A major announcement

Hello everyone. I'm happy to announce that I've joined the ranks of the people who've taken the plunge. Last week, I resigned from the Fortune 50 company I've worked at for 10 years. Originally, I was going to go cold turkey into entrepreneurship, but I got a great opportunity to work part time as a consultant while doing entrepreneurial ventures on the side.

More to come. Thanks to all who read this blog (should we call it "Preneur" now?) for your advice and support. It's a little surreal to me after reading about everyone else doing it, that I've done it myself.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Lessons from a Kindle

Over the holidays, I received an Amazon Kindle for my birthday. I turned it on, took a look at the first page, and swiped my hand across the screen to go to the next page.

It took me a good 3-4 swipes before I realized that I needed to press the ">" button to go to the next page.

That got me thinking. The Fortune 50 company that I work for always laments about "Habit Adoption" being such a challenge. Many blamed failed product launches on habit adoption issues. We dump tons of marketing money into helping people form different habits. Why had I formed such a strong habit from my iPhone that it took me that much time to unlearn it for the Kindle?

Because it's freakin' intuitive. Run your hand across the screen, the page moves with it. It's really easy to get used to something that's intuitive. My Fortune 50 company (and other ones out there) should put the challenge to our design folks to make the product so freakin' easy to use that you don't hafta worry about habit adoption.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to answer the "So what do you do?" question

Paraphrasing from the movie The Social Network:

Hot Stanford co-ed, getting out of bed: Where do you work?
Lucky guy still in bed:  I'm an entrepreneur.
HSCE: So you're unemployed?

One thing that I've wondered about is if my social status would take a hit if I didn't have a full time job (I don't have that much social status to begin with). How many people would understand I did it by choice? Although analyzing the situation more, the lucky guy was asked that question the next morning. Continuing with the dialogue:

Lucky guy: You ever heard of Napster?
Lucky guy: I invented it
HSCE: Wow, I slept with the guy who invented Napster.

The moral of the story: If you don't have a full time job by choice, you can increase your social status by doing something cool, even if it doesn't make money. I.E., if you're gonna quit your job, go invent Napster!


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