Archive | Personal Development

My 10 Items – Stripped Down Bug Out Bag

Recently a family member has turned me onto a TV show on The History Channel in which contestants are left fully alone in a wilderness survival situation and the person who “survives” the longest wins a sum of money.

I really enjoy the TV show and one of the unique elements of the show is that each contestant can only choose 10 items to take with them (aside from clothing and a few other things). It got me thinking… if I ever have to bug out I have a pretty hefty bag and each member of my family has their own unique bag… but if I was limited to 10 items what would they be?

Bear in mind of course that my objective isn't to win a TV show prize but to last an undetermined amount of time outside of the city in a true survival scenario.

I am presuming of course that I already have my standard EDC items on me. Clothing, a pocket knife, my handgun, and a simple flashlight, and a few other things. With that in mind what follows is my 10 items that would make up my “limited” bug out bag. In no particular order…

Number 1: Henry Survival Rifle and .22lr Ammo

I love my Henry Survival Rifle. It packs down small with the barrel, frame, and magazines stowing in the stock of the rifle.

It has proven reliable for decades of US Military and civilian use. .22 ammo is cheap, stores pretty well, and you can keep A LOT of it in a tight space.

This should be an effective tool for hunting small game and getting enough meat for a small family in most environments.

Click Here to Learn More ~$400 + Ammo

Number 2: Solar Panels W/ Anker USB Portable Charger

I have purchased and tested a number of portable solar panels and I think this 28W BigBlue is really excellent especially for the price. Pair this with the 26800mAh Anker Power Charger and you should be able to store enough electricity from a single day of good sunlight to be able to charge all the other various things (see my below list) for about a week or more.

Instead of packing a ton of batteries, I'm effectively choosing electronic items below (like my flashlight, lighter, etc) that all recharge via USB and thus I can capture power from the sun, store it in the Anker charger, and then recharge my other various tools as needed.

For this particular article we are focused on only 10 things but consider the number of items you can source these days that can be recharged with USB power. Any type of battery, small vacuums, lanterns, coolers, heaters, bug zappers, and more.

Below I talk about a lighter, ham radio, and headlamp that will all recharge from my solar panels with power bank setup.

Click Here For the Solar Panels $73.96. | Click Here For the Anker Charger $59.99

Number 3: Trauma and First-Aid Kit

Crap happens and any bug-out bag without appropriate medical supplies is a bad situation waiting to happen.

Basic things like a good band-aid can prevent nasty infections and of course, more serious injuries can require a splint, tourniquet, heavy gauze, etc.

I would make sure your medical kit includes at the minimum: Tourniquet, Pressure Bandage, Chest Seals, Hemostatic Gauze, Elastic Wrap, basic first aid stuff like band-aids, and a splint.

I think the Wind River kit from Mountain Man Medical has about everything you could need. I would add a moldable splint to the kit and then call it good.

Click here for the Wind River $190. | Click here for the Moldable Splint $6.99.

Number 4: 1-2 Large Heavy-Duty Tarps

Tarps can be handy for a number of things but the obvious critical use is shelter building.

Shelter along with food and water is one of the three critical elements to any survival situation.

Also, tarps can be used to collect rain water.

A good tarp is going to set you up for quick and long-term success in most environments. The right tarps can also double as a thermal blanket.

Click here to learn more $34.99

Number 5: USB Rechargeable Arc Lighter

Obviously, you need a fire starter.

I've used a fair number of Ferro rods, and the “everstrike” style lighters but my current favorite option is an “Arc Lighter.”

Arc Lighters run on electricity, not lighter fluid. Unlike a Ferro rod, an Arc lighter works every time and isn't susceptible to wind.

A charge will last a long time on these things but of course, you can recharge it from the solar panels.

Click Here to Learn More $12.99

Number 6: Baofeng UV-5R+ Ham Two Way Radio W/ USB Recharger

Communications are important in any survival situation.

While I happen to be a licensed HAM operator, you don't have to be licensed to buy and own a HAM radio, and in an emergency, you don't need a license to operate the radio either. Sounds like a no-brainer right?

Also, a Ham is going to give you access to emergency frequencies and the NOAA weather broadcast. You don't need a traditional emergency radio if you have a HAM.

By default, most handheld radios will require an AC outlet to recharge but the handheld radio I recommend will recharge using a specialized but low-cost USB cable once again meaning I can use my solar power to recharge my radio!

Click Here to Get The Radio $29.99.Click Here to Get the USB Charger $5.99

Number 7: 620 LB Paracord With Integrated Fishing Line

Some time Google the phrase “survival uses of paracord” and spend the 10 minutes it will take to read all the various ways paracord can come in handy in a bad situation.

You want to make sure you purchase quality paracord and I prefer a paracord that is made up of fishing line, snare wire, and tinder among other things.

This means I can buy a single product (about 100 feet of strong rope/cord) and also have in it some fishing line and tinder if needed.

Click here for my favorite paracord $29.98

Number 8: Bushcraft Survival Knife

I don't think I have to explain the value of a good knife in a survival situation. You want a strong, high-quality, fixed blade.

This is one of those types of products where you can spend $20 up to $2000 if you really want to. Here are two options worth considering:

Marakniv 4.1″ Fixed Blade Knife $17.99
Celtibero Cocobolo Knife $129.95

Number 9: Water Filter & Canteen

Technology has had a great impact on water filter options in the last 15 years.

You probably have a few Life Straws sitting around somewhere but I've recently upgraded to the “Survivor Filter” Kit.

This tool will filter 264 gallons per filter and comes with 5 extra filters. That is a lot of water.

In addition, is will screw onto a traditional water bottle which I think is a nice feature despite the small profile.

Click here to see the “Survivor Filter” $40.00

Number 10: USB Rechargeable Multi-Mode Headlamp

In an ideal world I would have a number of lantern, handheld light, and headlamp options but if I'm stuck with only 10 items I'll take a really good headlamp.

Once again I'm choosing a headlamp that can be USB recharged so I can utilize my solar panels.

A good headlamp should have some different brightness levels and an adjustable head as well.

Click here for the QS Headlamp I Use

If you are interested the TV show referenced above is “Alone.” You can find at least one of the 7 seasons on Prime, Hulu, and Netflix.

Space matters and while you may not be limited to 10 items in your bag, making sure you have the best gear matters!

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What Do People Find When They Google Your Name?

There were 5 of us inside the cab of a Ford F350 driving back home from our week-long trip to SHOT Show in Las Vegas. 12 hours in the car doesn't exactly go by quickly and somehow we got on the topic of what one finds when they type their own name into Google.

I Know What I'll Find

Over the last decade, I've put some effort into tracking search results for my name and optimizing pages that I want to be found when people check me out.

For the most part my colleagues in the car it turns out, haven't given it much thought or effort.

Does It Matter?

I think it matters. When I interview potential employees I Google their name. When I meet someone at a tradeshow or get an email introduction to a new person, I Google their name.

A quick search tells me a lot about the person… even if what I learn is that they don't have much of a digital footprint. In 2020 when I'm writing this, the lack of a digital footprint can be a real bad thing depending on the business you are in.

So How Do You Control Searches For Your Name?

All normal SEO principles matter and of course depending on how common your name is the greater the challenge you have in front of you. There are a decent number of Jacob Paulsens' in the world but nothing like trying to compete on Google for Mark Smith I'm sure.

The things I've done over the years that seem to work:

  1. LinkedIn is a SEO Giant. When I search for a name on Google the odds are very high that one LinkedIn profile will be in the search results. ONE. Make sure you have an up to date profile and make sure you have built out your profile really well. Do you have a cover image, a profile image, a description, etc?Do you have your employment history and credentials? Do you have recommendations? There are plenty of other good reasons to be rocking it on LinkedIn, but ensuring that YOU outrank others with your name on a search engine search is a really good reason.
  2. Twitter is almost always there. For whatever reason when it comes to search power Twitter beats Facebook every time. Generally, when there is a Facebook link in a Google search result it just takes you to another search result page in Facebook. Not very useful. Twitter not only generally outranks Facebook in search but it also indexes specific user accounts and will take the search directly to your profile. Make your Twitter profile awesome and complete. Obviously make sure it has your name… not a nickname but the name someone might type into a Google search when looking for you.
These are the top 4 results on Google at the time of this writing when searching my name. LinkedIn, my business site, Twitter, and then my personal blog. LinkedIn and Twitter just dominate most of the time when I search a person's name.
  1. Have a website that is your name as the domain. Having a website does mean there is a cost and you have to have some basic knowledge and skills to build and maintain said website but if you can get some version of yourname.com that is going to do wonders to control search traffic for your name.
  2. Identify the single place that you WANT to be the #1 search result for your name, and make sure your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all other web assets you can control link back to that website.
  3. As a general rule cross-link everything. On your LinkedIn profile and YouTube channel, for example, be sure to put in your Twitter link. The more all your web assets link to each other the easier it is for Google to see that all of that is associated together and that this “Your Name” is more relevant and popular than anyone else sharing that same name.
  4. Rename images. When you upload an image of yourself anywhere online (Your website, Twitter, Facebook, etc) be sure to put your name as the file name of the image. Also if you are loading it to a website you control; add your name as the ALT title of the image. Almost for sure in the top 10 results on Google for your name is going to be some image results. Google is going to show 3-5 images and give the user the option to see more images that meet that search criterion. Uploading images online that have your name as the file name and/or alt text is going to help you control that part of the search results.
  1. Use Google Alerts to find web content with your name and where possible link it back to you. Google Alerts are a free service from Google that alerts you anytime a given phrase or set of words are found newly anywhere online. I have a few Google alerts set up with different variations of my name and so on occasion, Google emails me to let me know the word Jacob Paulsen has just popped up somewhere new. I ALWAYS check those web pages. If it is about me I certainly want to know what people are saying about me. I might contact the website owner or publisher and ask if they can please link my name back to my website. I might leave a comment if it is a news story, blog post, or article that accepts comments and in that comment include a link to my website. The goal is for Google to see that this webpage that has my name on it also has a link back to this other website that has more information about me. This ensures that the website I control is more likely to be the authoritative source for my name that should rank higher in search results. If the web page is about some other Jacob Paulsen out there I may still try to leave a comment and say something like “hey nice name” and still link back to my site.

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Jacob Email Sins

I have a problem. I'm neurotic when it comes to email. I manage my inbox really carefully and I care too much about proper email etiquette.

Over the years I've developed a list of what I've come to call Email Sins. Things that are just against any decent email etiquette and, in my opinion, should not be done. Here they are:

No Subject Line Emails:

If you are going to send someone an email have the decency to include a subject line. Leaving the subject line blank does make me more likely to open your email but also more likely to think you are incompetent or lazy.

Using An Old Thread:

What I think happens is you want to send an email to someone but you are too clueless to know how to create contacts and then reference them when adding a recipient to your email.

So, you do a search in your inbox for that person's name and find the last email conversation between the two of you and you reply to that email with an entirely new conversation that is in no way related to the previous email you are replying to.

This creates confusion. As I read your email I'm trying to understand what it has to do with the previous conversation and in the future, if I ever have to search my inbox to find your email I am going to have a hard time finding it because it is nestled in a threat with an unrelated subject line.

Sending An Email With a Request To Call or Text

I still don't understand why people do this. I get an email that looks something like this:

“Hey, Jacob give me a call.”

That is all. Nothing more to the email than that. This is super annoying.

There is the whole fact that you could have just called me but more importantly and really what makes this an email sin is that you went to the effort to type an email but effectively refused to tell me WHY you feel we need to chat on the phone.

Would it be that hard to append something to the end of the sentence to communicate the topic of the desired phone call?

What is worse is when that phone call takes place and the topic of conversation could and should have been fully handled via email. Why did we have to get on the phone at all? Clearly you have my email address and are capable of typing…

An Unruly Inbox

Now if your email inbox is a disaster that shouldn't affect me but what sometimes happens is I walk past a computer of one of my employees or a friend and I catch a glimpse of their email inbox and see they have somewhere between 150 and 14,000 unread emails.

This makes me want to vomit a little inside. Your personal email is your business I suppose but in the business world quality communication via email is a standard. Anyone not capable of managing an inbox so as to ensure they don't drop the ball or an important thing doesn't fall through the cracks needs to make a serious change.

So what are your email sins? What really gets on your nerves? Let me know in the comments below.

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Getting Past The Spam Filter And Into The Inbox

Like most of my blog posts, this one is in response to a question I recently received (and have received many times in the past) from a friend.

Email Marketing continues to be a strong and valuable asset in the hands of any marketer. However, email deliverability or the ability to get one's marketing emails into the inbox of the recipient is a paramount and critical factor.

And similar to how all the search engine marketers are constantly trying to figure out the workings of the Google Algorithm; email marketers are trying to figure out the workings of the ESPs (Email Service Providers) & the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and their algorithms.

*Note that in this article I'll refer to ESPs universally to refer to both ISPs and ESPs.

What follows is a round-up of some of the more important factors that impact email deliverability. Each is discussed in short form with a link to a credible and thorough article on the topic.

This could be overwhelming to anyone who is new to the topic. Don't feel like you have to do each of these things perfectly… but starting to manage any of these factors where currently you don't manage them at all, is sure to have a positive impact.

Not in any specific order:

Avoid Spam Complaints

It goes without saying that having your emails marked as SPAM is a really good way to communicate to the ESPs that your emails shouldn't make it to the inbox.

Resource: Definitive Guide About Spam Complaints

  1. Make the unsubscribe link EXTREMELY easy to find. In the welcome email consider putting it at the top in line with the welcome paragraph in addition to having it in the footer.
  2. Don't do shady crap to get more email subscribers who didn't explicitly give you their email address
  3. Always send new subscribers a good welcome email that explains WHAT and HOW OFTEN you will be emailing them. If possible also include detail about where you got their email address so they can be reminded they opted in.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

It feels warm and fuzzy inside to have a big email list. We want to associate big with better but it isn't so.

The number of quality subscribers matters and has a positive affect.

Equally so the number of bad subscribers (anyone who doesn't want to get your emails) matters and has a negative affect.

Focus an equal amount of energy on removing the bad subscribers (or not adding them to begin with) as you do on getting good subscribers.

Don't Buy Lists And If Possible Force Double Opt-In

There is great risk, both short-term and long term to having people on your email list that didn't ask or agree to be there.

The value proposition here is: Add some bad subscribers that MIGHT buy your product knowing that most of them won't which will make it so that long term even your good subscribers will stop seeing your emails.

RESOURCE: Why Buying Email Lists Is Always a Bad Idea

Is the short term gain worth the long term loss?

Also consider:

  • Purchased email lists often contain spam trap email addresses that signal to the ESP that you bought that list and are sending spam
  • You are not violating the CAN-SPAM Act in the US but you are violating GDPR
  • Email marketing services and providers generally have policies against it and can penalize you or kick you off their system.

Don't Send From Free Domain Email Addresses

Don't make your “from” or “sender” address something with @gmail, @yahoo, @msn, etc.

For one you can't use custom authentication (see next section) but think about it… they know you didn't send it. Meaning, if I use my Gmail email for example and send an email out to a list of 1000 people and 300 of those have Gmail addresses; Gmail is smart enough to figure out that that email wasn't actually sent from Gmail.

It says it was sent from [email protected] to [email protected] but Gmail sees that it isn't in the sent box of [email protected] This looks like phishing and carries enormous SPAM weight.

Use Custom Authentication

Email authentication is basically the process of sending email that is identified as originating from your sending domain. This helps ESPs verify that the email is coming from where it says it is coming from.

Basically is allows your email marketing platform to send verified email on your behalf that actually originating from YOUR domain.

Setting this up requires one of several methods that all require some form of adding or editing DNS records on your domain. Many email marketing platforms have tutorials or guides to walk you through this.

RESOURCE: What is And How to Setup Email Authentication

Avoid Spammy Words and Phrases

ESPs maintain a list of words and phrases that are often associated with SPAM email. The use of these words on occasion isn't likely to have any significant impact on your deliverability but a high concentration of them or frequent use of them will hurt.

Being somewhat familiar with the list will at very least help you know when you should avoid certain words or look for alternative ways to say something.

RESOURCE: Test the Spammyness of your Emails

Don't Use URL Shorteners

Avoid using URLs like bit.ly or tiny.url or other shortener services. ESPs just see that you are trying to redirect people and that isn't generally associated with good senders.

Your email marketing platform should be tracking opens and clicks anyway so you don't need those shorteners for analytics.

Limit the Amount of HTML

Companies that send marketing and promotional email want it to look very professional, so often they use complex coded email templates with a lot of images.

Using simple code only and as little of it as possible is going to positively impact your deliverability over time.

Don't Use A Shared Sending IP Address

A sender IP reputation, as viewed by the ESPs, is associated with the originating IP address from which email is being sent. Most of the popular email marketing platforms by default will have you sharing a sender IP with other users of that platform.

Often you have to pay more for a dedicated IP address but it is worth it. Do you want your sender reputation to be negatively affected because the other users sharing the IP address do spammy stuff?

Warm Up Your Dedicated IP Address

When you do start using a dedicated IP address you need to warm up that IP address. Warming it up is the process of slowing building up it's sending reputation.

Suddenly sending a lot of email from a new IP address is going to throw up a red flag to the ESPs.

RESOURCE: How to Properly Warm Up An IP Address

Send With Consistent Frequency

The ESPs get concerned when you go from sending email once a month to once a day. Being consistent with your sending volume and frequency will help your sender reputation.

Ask Customers to Whitelist You

In the same way that it hurts your sender reputation when recipients mark your email as SPAM, it may help when recipients whitelist you.

Whitelisting basically means they set a filter or do whatever else is necessary depending on the ESP or email client to communicate to the system that they WANT your emails to get to the inbox.

In addition to potentially having a positive impact on your sender reputation it most certainly goes a long way to ensure that specific subscriber sees your emails.

Ask them to whitelist you, maybe as part of a welcome email and consider providing some instructions for how they can go about doing so.

Remove Bounces

A bounced subscriber or email address is one where the email address is not able to receive your emails. This could be because the email address doesn't exist, the inbox is full, or a myriad of other reasons.

If your email marketing platform is worth anything at all it will have a Feedback Loop that communicates the issue back to the system and automatically marks that subscriber as bounced.

You don't want to continue to send email to an email address that can't receive it. This costs you money and hurts your sender reputation.

Purge or Clean Your List Frequently

So what about those subscribers that haven't bounced, but they just don't engage with your content anymore?

In the last 90 or 120 days or more they haven't opened a single email or clicked on a single link.

If you are hanging on to those contacts thinking that eventually, they will “re-activate” and out of the blue start opening your emails again and buying from you that is wishful thinking.

These contacts cost you money and hurt your sender reputation. Use automated processes often available from your email marketing platform to identify and remove those contacts.

You can always move them into a re-engagement campaign that sends them 1-3 emails specifically designed to “wake them up” and get them to engage with you once again. But beyond a few emails to that end, continuing to send them email as part of your normal sending is foolish.

Check Blacklists

Sometimes bad things happen. Maybe you broke one too many rules or someone hacks your account and does naughty things.

For whatever reason if you end up blacklisted it will have obvious negative impact on your deliverability.

Blacklists are generally 3rd party companies that specialize in identifying and registering naughty IP addresses. ESPs then rely on them to help filter out bad email.

On a regular basis, you should check the biggest blacklists and see if you are on them. If you are, appeal the decision and get removed.

RESOURCE: Email Blacklists 101 – What You Need to Know

Be Compliant With The CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN SPAM Act is a law that prohibits behavior consistent with spammers.

In short, it requires that you make it easy how recipients can unsubscribe and honor those requests. In addition, you need to have accurate and congruent subject lines, and to include the company physical address.

RESOURCE: The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 – Email marketing compliance

Include Your Business Name In the Sender Name

You want email recipients to quickly be able to identify the company that sent the email. While you can and should (per the CAN SPAM Act) include your company name in the body of the email somewhere (generally in a footer) including it in the FROM line is a good practice.

Don't Include Attachments

Just please don't do it. Including attachments is a certain way to hit the SPAM box.

Use Good Spelling and Grammar

Check your emails for good spelling and grammar. The ESPs have learned over time that Spammers tend to have bad grammar and they tend to spell words wrong in an attempt to get past firewalls.

Spelling errors and grammar mistakes are not only bad for your credibility and brand but also can have a negative impact on your sender score.

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You Have Emails But You Don’t Have An Email Marketing Strategy

This is for any business owner or marketer who is currently NOT sending regular emails to an email list of subscribers, customers, and potential customers.

This conversation usually happens when I'm talking to a business owner who has been around for a few years but doesn't currently send much or any email.

WHY You Need to Be Sending Email

Not building and cultivating an email list is costing you money. Depending on how amazing your email strategy is, your lack of doing something is probably costing you between 5 cents and a dollar per email address per month.

Now I get it… writing emails is hard and can be expensive! That is what has been holding you back. It doesn't have to be that rough… I promise.

Scraping Together Your Email List

Before we get into the how and what, we need to build your email list. It is time to go to all your various resources and combine all the files, exports, and other assets you have to build out your email list.

Where possible, you want to capture as much data about each email subscriber as possible but specifically where you can be sure to export/capture: First Name, Last Name, Email Address, State, Zip Code.

This information will be handy later when you are making so much money from email you can't handle it and you decide to start segmenting or customizing emails to each recipient 🙂

Here are a number of potential resources you may consider where you can find email addresses you have collected over the many years you have been in business:

  • Your eCommerce system
  • Your CMS where customer data is stored
  • Any 3rd party system where you have hosted a giveaway in the past
  • If you have ever donated product to someone else's giveaway and they captured emails they may be able to provide them to you
  • Your fulfillment and shipping software or system
  • Your outlook or email contact list and that of your employees
  • If you are in the B2B space you may have a Rolodex or large pile of business cards. There are phone apps that can take pictures of your cards and extract the email addresses.

A Warning Not To Buy Or Steal Emails…

There is often a temptation to buy an email list from a vendor or swap email lists with a partner or vendor. I strongly discourage this. People don't like getting emails from random businesses that they didn't specifically opt-in to receive or with whom they have some sort of relationship or brand awareness.

Further, it could be a violation of terms or at very least trust from that 3rd party to be providing you with those email addresses.

Lastly, if you have personally overseen the gathering process of email addresses that end up on your email list you don't know where they came from and frankly quality is MUCH more important than quantity.

Often purchased email lists contain email addresses specifically built and monitored by email service providers to catch companies that are sending SPAM and junk mail.

Waking Up Your List or Sending the First “WARNING” Email

Now, you have put together your email list and you are wondering what to do next. Well, first thing you need to do is WARN these people you are planning to send them email.

This is tactically wise but also ethically good. If you have email addresses that up until now you have never sent anything and all of the sudden you are going to send them email with any type of frequency don't you think they deserve a heads up and the option to say “no thank you?”

In addition to the warm and fuzzy reasons, there is a tactical benefit as well. It costs money to send email and for every email address on your list that isn't interested in receiving emails you are going to be paying to send it to them.

Further, if they mark your email as SPAM or move it to their junk folder this is going to hurt your sender reputation which in the long term will keep your emails from getting to the contacts who DO want to receive them.

Getting “bad” contacts off your list is just as important as getting “good” contacts onto your list.

So We Start With The Ferris Cold Email Template

I first saw this email several years ago when top blogger, podcast, and author Tim Ferris decided to resurrect his email list and start emailing them after years of ignoring the list.

I have adapted and used this template several times and I encourage you to adapt it for your business:

The easier you make it for people to unsubscribe the better because remember one of the core goals of this email is to get “bad” contacts off your list before you start sending frequent emails.

Also note that Tim provides some value in his email by including some free resources and products that help people engage with his brand and remember who he is and how he can provide them with value moving forward.

How Often Should You Send Email?

Congrats. At this point, you have pulled together your email list and warned them you will be sending more frequent email. Now what?

Commit to a regular sending frequency. How often you send email is not nearly as important as committing to a frequency and communicating what that will be.

Meaning, be consistent. If you commit to sending weekly, plan to send weekly; and however often you commit to sending, manage that expectation moving forward by telling subscribers what to expect.

You can manage that expectation in the Ferris Cold Email template and anywhere on your website where people can opt-in to receive emails. Every new subscriber should get some sort of “welcome” email and in that email manage expectations about how often you send emails.

What Should You Send?

I have found that this is where the rubber hits the roads. Most of the business owners I talk to get stuck on this part.

Listen, if you are already busy and haven't been sending emails for the last however many years then taking on a serious email strategy that requires typing up great emails often is probably unrealistic.

I generally suggest, just to get the ball rolling that you build some sort of newsletter template that is going to be low work to build and execute.

Something with 3-4 sections that you can quickly insert content into and hit send. For example, one of our brands does a weekly newsletter which includes 4 sections.

  1. Section 1 is their latest podcast episode (yeah its a podcast)
  2. A social feature. Basically featuring an instagram follower/customer
  3. Share of the week in which they include an article, video, or similar from some other website or channel that isn't them. (it is ok to share content that isn't yours)
  4. Product of the week. Exactly what it sounds like.
I think this was my first ever marketing email. In that business we decided to write and send a weekly “safety tip” to our contacts to create a lot of value and drive high open rates. Then we put an offer at the bottom of each email.

Once you have a template built out it should be low maintenance to commit to your sending schedule.

But This Newsletter Won't Make You A Ton of Money

Now you have the foundation in place but if you really want to generate cash from your email you need to go beyond this.

You now built your list and got them to expect regular emails from you that contain valuable information. Great job. This is the most difficult part.

Now you need to figure out how to monetize this. Monetization strategies are going to vary dramatically from one business to the next depending on what you sell, who your customers are, and much more.

Obviously sending emails that promote your own product or service include sales, referral or loyalty programs, and new product offerings is a good idea.

In addition you may be able to market 3rd party services or products that are not a conflict with your own products. You might be able to get paid a commission based on the performance or just get paid a direct advertising fee for promoting that 3rd party's product(s).

This article was meant to get you to this point. You can read other articles on my site about email marketing or consult with a marketing coach to keep the ball rolling but I promise that email with be a low cost, high ROI asset of you do it right!

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Are You The Hero Or The Victim Of Your Story?

We all relate well to superhero stories. Who doesn't love a story of someone swooping in to save everyone from a great calamity and criminal? As it relates to our own life story, I have found there are generally three types of characters; Heroes, Victims, and Bad Guys. Which are you?

Sadly We Are All Three From Time to Time

Below I will clarify how I identify these characters but it is important to note that we have some of all three inside of us. Our objective in life is to try to play the role of hero as often as we can by suppressing the character traits of bad guys and victims.

Who Is The Hero?

Everyone loves the hero. The hero is always available and ready to sacrifice anything for the greater good. Heroes are selfless, strong, prepared, and willing to make sacrifices. Heroes are focused on serving others and dedicate their lives to the success of others.

The hero is the person who works long hours to feed their family. The mom who loses sleep to feed the baby. The school teacher who works nights writing detailed feedback for their students.

It doesn't matter what you do for a living, where you live, or your family situation. Anyone can be a hero in their current story… right now. All it takes is a shift in attitude.

Who Is The Victim?

Traditionally we don't think of victims of the latest Batman movie with a negative connotation and sometimes bad things happen to all people but in your story, your attitude not your circumstances determine if you are the victim or the hero of any given moment.

The victim is the person who is entitled, dependent on others, and focused on what is in it for them. Victims think they deserve something from the world and become frustrated when the heroes around them don't provide things for them.

The victim is the person who spends time complaining instead of working. Victims hesitate to do anything uncomfortable or inconvenient for others.

Who Is The Bad Guy?

The bad guy of the story is the person who is acting purely with the intent to harm others. Bad guys have gone beyond victimhood to a state of proactive destruction. Selfishness has turned into blatant disregard for others.

The bad guy knows their actions are harmful to others but is past the point of caring. Don't be the bad guy.

So How Do I Make Sure I'm Playing The Hero?

Since we all have some of all three characters inside of use we have to first be able to recognize the character we are playing at any given moment. We freely move between these different roles during the course of our daily story.

Next time something hard happens to you stop and ask which role you are going to play.

Parenting Example From My Life

My son's room is a disaster, his dirty dishes are still sitting on the counter and even though he has been asked to do his homework he has just walked out of his room dressed up in a costume and holding the appropriate props. I'm furious. Its the last straw.

If I decide to be the bad guy: I'll punish him without any thought. I won't talk to him, I won't give him a chance to explain, and I'll make sure the punishment REALLY hurts.

If I play the victim: I'll tell him my life is too hard to deal with this crap. I'll explain how I slave away all day long only to have to then deal with disobedient children. I'll pass out a punishment with the sense that this might help him understand how I feel about his actions.

If I play the hero: I'll see this as another teaching moment. I'll take a deep breath to summon my inner superman and I'll ask him to explain why he isn't doing what he was asked. I'll explain WHY it is so important for him to do what he was asked and I'll help him take the attitude of a hero as well.

Business Example From My Life

Someone has just published a video on YouTube saying my company and my product suck. They said our marketing practices are immoral and our company is nothing but a scam full of cheating and horrible humans.

If I decide to be the bad guy: I'll probably report the video to YouTube and then watch his last 5 videos so I can figure out what is really the worse thing about him that I can say. Then I'll publish my own video explaining why he is a moron and knows nothing about anything.

If I play the victim: I'll tell my employees that this horrible mean person is saying bad things about us that aren't true. I'll send him a message that explains how wrong he really is about everything he said and why he should appologize and take down the video.

If I play the hero: I'll watch that video 5 times and ask myself as honestly as possible if he is right in any of his accusations. I'll take immediate steps to improve my marketing process and change what we do to prevent anyone from ever having such a bad experience again. I'll send him a message that explains how grateful I am for the feedback no matter how hard it is to hear. I'll let him know what I've done to make business changes based on that feedback.

What Can You Change?

Take a moment to do some introspection. Think about the last horrible thing or hard thing that happened in your story. Were you the hero in that moment?

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Top Hacks For Hiring Amazing Employees

I currently have 12 employees. I have had to hire a total of 18 employees in this current business and many many more in past ventures and jobs.

I used to dread the process. Trying to get applicants and then trying to guess who is the right person based on resumes… No wonder research suggests that odds of finding a good employee are about 50/50 no matter the hiring process or amount of resources dedicated to finding the right applicant.

Truth is, everything has changed for me. I love hiring new people now because I've found the formula that works for me. If you follow the below steps you will save a ton of time and stress while greatly maximizing the chances of finding good people.

Indeed.com Is Magic

Trick number one, use indeed.com. Over the last 5 years Indeed has grown very fast and has overtaken the monster.coms' that previously dominated the space for decades.

Indeed allows employers to post jobs for free. When the platform was still growing I felt that the free listing generally served my purposes. Depending on the job you are hiring for and the pool of potential applicants in your target area you might be fine with the free option.

However, I found that if I sponsor my listing for about $20 a day and let that run for 3 days and then turn off the paid promotional aspect of it the momentum continues and I can get about 5-6 applicants a day for 10-12 days in a row with an investment of only $60.

Be sure to download the Indeed mobile app that makes it easy for employers to peruse job applicants.

Lastly indeed will optionally auto-notify rejected applicants that they didn't get the job. Awesome!

Job Title Is Everything

The number one thing I'm looking for is someone who really wants to work for me. Not just someone who really wants a job but that truly would rather work for me than anywhere else. So the job posting process is designed to filter out anyone else.

The first step to doing that is to use a job title that says exactly what you actually want… not what society thinks should go on the new employee's business card.

Recently I hired for a customer service rep. The job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Relationship Professional”

Before that my last hire was a mobile app developer. Job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Mobile Developer Extraordinaire”

Yes I start all my job postings with Firearm Enthusiast because I want people who are excited to work for me and will be happy to be part of our company's mission. Why beat around that bush?

Have Something Super Valuable to Offer

If you want to hire really awesome people you have to offer an opportunity that really good people would consider.

If your pay sucks, your benefits are not existent, and the work environment is not inviting you cannot get good applicants.

We try to pay more than any other company would. We allow most employees to work from home. We don't regulate vacation days or time off. It may not be like working for Google but about half of our employees have taken pay cuts to work for us because of the value of the opportunity.

Ask/Require Cover Letter
Resumes are, in my opinion, not very good at telling me what I actually need to know. Do they really want to work here?

Sure the resume will tell me if they are qualified and if they have experience but it won't give me any sense for their level of desire.

That is why I request a cover letter. You can request the cover letter at the very top of your job description and certainly, that will help applicants know you are requesting one. However, don't despair if you don't see a lot of cover letters.

Platforms like Indeed are designed to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for your job from a mobile phone.

So, after I review a resume if I think the applicant appears qualified and I'm interested I send them a message (via Indeed) requesting a “cover letter” detailing their passion for my industry. I use a saved templated response that looks like this:

Dear Applicant, thank you for applying for our job. A resume is a horrible way to gauge your desire to work for our company and your passion for our industry. To be considered for our position I kindly request that you send me back a message explaining why you want to work in the Firearm industry, and detailing your passion for the second amendment and self-defense. Thank you!

With that in place, if the person doesn't reply to my request I reject their application. Those who do reply with a cover letter get considered.

Do Short Phone Interviews To Narrow Down the Group

If you have followed the above process you are going to have a decent number of good applicants. Do not interview them all!

Instead, call the top 10 or so and conduct 5-minute phone interviews. This should make it easy to get it down to a final shortlist of 5 or less than you can interview.

Ask Them To Ask Questions

My favorite interview question? “What questions do you have for me about the company or opportunity?”

I don't have a simple or magical explanation as to why this works but it does. I always get great insight into the individual when I let them air all questions they have.

Good luck with your next hire!

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Good Business Books for Startups?

The below first appeared on Quora as an answer to the question, “What are some awesome books to read for business startups?”

Naturally there are going to be some books that I would recommend for companies in certain industries and not others… but since your question is more generic… here is a generic list of books you should consider: (links will direct you to Amazon)

*NOTE: All of these are available in Audio from Amazon/Audible. Follow links to Amazon for all available versions.

The E-Myth Revisited: Explains the difference between entrepreneurs, mechanics, and managers and helps you understand how to find the right people to grow an organization by beginning with the end in mind.

The Lean Startup: The book that revolutioned the idea of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Explains the method for getting a product to market and developing a fast feedback loop so the product can evolve and you can win the market lighting fast.

The Personal MBA: The book is meant to be a crash course in everything you need to know about running a business from accounting to marketing. Its a great rough overview.

Start With Why: Helps you understand how to find purpose as an individual, organization, and product so as to allow one to find the right customers, develop the right products, and maximize profits.

If you want to clarify the type of business you are starting or specific concerns you have I could make more specific recommendations.

Here are a list of Business Books that I may not directly recommend for a “startup” but I would say anyone in any business who wants to succeed and grow the company should read regardless:

I could continue but the list would get long very quickly 🙂

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A Man Without Hobbies?

I just searched online for a definition of “hobby.” It is:

An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure.

Based on that definition I am not sure what hobbies, if any, I have.

I have activities I enjoy in which I have in the past engaged or in which I might on rare occasion engage. For example I love playing Paintball or at very least I used to love it and assume I still would enjoy playing. I haven't played in over a decade and sold my equipment over 6 years ago.

I enjoy, or again at very least used to enjoy, spelunking. I used to keep a spelunking bag of appropriate gear in the trunk of my car in case I got the itch to explore a new cave one day after work. It's been over 13 years since I was in a cave.

You might begin to feel pity for me. Poor Jacob is too busy to do his favorite things. You shouldn't. I don't ever experience any feelings of missing these activities. If I really missed them with any significant amount of emotion I would find a way to engage in them again… but I don't. I'm not lacking in the resources to do so. Of course i claim to be a busy person but what adult human doesn't claim to be busy and yet I observe that friends, family members, and other adults around me routinely justify allotting resources to a hobby. Humans do this because we feel passion for something and like to engage in that thing in order to feel happy or balanced.

So then I end with a few potential theories about myself.

Perhaps I enjoy my average day of none leisure activity (ie work and family time) sufficiently so to feel fulfilled, happy, and balanced.

Or perhaps I have a mental imbalance which affords me the ability to feel balanced despite a lack of variety or “fun” activity.

Or perhaps I'm just ultimately boring as a person. I would rather not inconvenience myself beyond any small measure in order to do something I profess to greatly enjoy.

The truth is probably some mixture of the three ideas but wherever the truth is what I do know is that I feel perfectly happy and balanced.

Now back to work…

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Entrepreneurs You Are Machine Builders

Previously I wrote about the most common misconceptions and lies of entrepreneurs. Here we will talk about the correct vision of the modern entrepreneur. The way I have learned and understand it best is using the metaphor of building machines.

I view a business as a machine, simple or complex, that generates a profit. It may sound overly simple at first but at the core that is the idea. In my head I see the machine as a box that has an input on one side and an output on the other side. Into the input the entrepreneur inserts resources which may include some or all of the following: time, money, energy, capital, etc. On the other side of the machine money comes out. The work of the entrepreneur is to make sure that more money comes out of the output than went into the input. This often requires taking the machine apart and changing the mechanics to make the machine more efficient. See image below.

building a business

The good thing about building a business is that you can start just by building the simplest form of your machine (often called the minimal viable product or MVP). Put differently you want to start by inserting one dollar of resources into the machine and tweak the machine until two dollars come out the other side. Once you have these core “nuts and bolts” configured you can start to input one hundred dollars into one side and expect two hundred dollars to come out the other side.

An example of a simple machine

An entrepreneur may write an extensive guide on how to do something… say, “How to install surround sound speakers into your walls and ceiling without hiring a contractor.” The entrepreneur spends $50 on some advertisements on Google to appear when people search for “How to install speakers in walls.” The entrepreneur charges $25 for the downloadable book on their website and makes four sales from the $50 in advertising. $50 went into the machine and $100 came out the other side. There was some other initial capital that went into the guide and the website but those costs will be minimal inputs over time as the machine outputs revenue.

An example of a complex machine

Proctor and Gamble employ a R&D team to experiment with various chemicals to come up with new product ideas. One of the engineers figures out how to engineer a chemical to effectively get rid of odors. The company spends a few hundred thousand dollars working on the formula and product branding. Then another few hundred thousand to do focus groups and product testing. Eventually P&G does a test launch of the product in select Walmart stores. After a few months of figuring out what packaging makes it move off the shelves P&G invests a few million dollars in that local market for TV advertising about the product. They spend a few hundred thousand to create a few different versions of the ad to find out which version works best to educate consumers. Eventually the right formula of packaging and marketing is discovered and the product is launched nationally. We haven't even talked about the complexity of manufacturing and distribution. At this point several million dollars are put into the machine and it begins to turn out millions.

Complex machines tend to carry much greater risk and liability because so much more money may have to go into the machine to test if it works. This is why today's entrepreneurs are more focused than ever on developing a minimal viable product in order to test the machine at a low scale. Once the machine functions the entrepreneur can scale it into a big business by inputting more resources.

Once the entrepreneur discovers the tricks of machine building its much easier to replicate the process with new product ideas.

So the question is, what machine are you building?

 

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