Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

Hi, I'm Blake.

I run this joint. Don’t know where to start? Let me show you around:

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal

Search Wars

Forget the Cola Wars, search wars should really be interesting when Microsoft releases their new Operating System dubbed Vista next year. I’m guessing MSN search will be tightly integrated.

Funny how Microsoft are just following everything Google and Yahoo does though. I guess their strategy is just to bank on their next operating system.

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Business Blogging for Beginners

A weblog can be an excellent tool for business. However, it must be done in an effective manner if you wish to impress your prospects, clients, and vendors and maybe even gain their trust. Here’s some helpful hints.

  1. Make introductions. Make sure your readers know who you are and why you maintain this blog. Let them know what can be found therein and why they should read it.
  2. Be authentic. Don’t make your blog sound like the rest of your boring marketing write-ups. Tell stories and make it interesting.
  3. Dress business casual. Blogs didn’t get to wear they are today because they sounded like the front story on the New York Times. Be personable in your writing. Grammer mistakes are okay but be respectful of your readers and don’t share anything you wouldn’t tell your mother.
  4. Don’t scrimp. People read and return to blogs for new content. If you don’t update it at least 3-5 times week, don’t bother. Blogs cost little money, but take a lot of time.

There you have it. Take a different approach and have fun with your writing. If you do that, “they will come.”

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Napoleon Dynamite Director Update

Jared Hess, writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite, has announced his new comedy featuring Jack Black. Dubbed Nacho Livre, the movie is about a priest (Black) that tries to save his orphanage from closure by becoming a Mexican wrestler by night. The film is set to be released in 2006. Hopefully Hess can overcome the oh so famous sophomore jinx.

Uncommonly Common

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”
– John Heinz

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Heinz. I believe that all great companies do just that. They take something that’s common, and just do it right. Microsoft didn’t invent Windows or even DOS. They made the operating system easy to use for the consumer. Google was about 4 years late after Yahoo in the search engine market. However, they developed better search technology and the rest is history.

I can rarely think of a different case, and it’s the same with our company. We sell databases. Those are very common and have been around for a long time. But if we develop them in an intuitive way, we’ll continue to find success and hopefully one day become great.

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Adventures in Poor Advertising

I recently stumbled upon this ad while perusing

“Average looking women needed for Photography this Summer $$$ “

This has to be the least flattering thing I’ve ever seen. Average looking women? Who in their right mind is going to respond to that… “I guess I’m only average looking. Sure, I’ll apply and make $$$.”

Man in Yellow

Hats off to Lance Armstrong and his current lead in the Tour de France. We shall see if he can win his 7th consecutive title this Sunday as he looks again to make history.

Yanks Moving Up

The US Men’s Soccer team has just been bumped up to 6th place in the overall FIFA world soccer rankings their best ever position. This means the governing soccer body deems the US group a better team than France, England, Spain, and Portugal based on current performance. It should be noted, however, than on many foreign clubs, the big boys don’t show up to play unless it’s the World Cup. None-the-less, it’s signs of improvement.

[Source: ESPN]

Make up your mind

Why can’t web companies make up their minds? Far too often they try to be everything to everyone. They do hosting, graphic design, print media, cd’s, multi-media, websites, business cards, manufacturing… Okay, maybe not the last one, but c’mon. What do you really do?

If a web company, or any company for that matter cites multiple areas of expertise, that should be a red flag. You’re better off doing business with a company that is willing to commit to one area of focus that it does well.

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Investors look at IT not just balance sheets

Business Week has an interesting article on how companies with good IT have revenue growth upwards of 30% better than their competitors. Not that these companies necessarily spend more money on IT, but they consistently have many more IT projects going on. These include mobile technologies, internet, and web services that increase productivity and cut costs.

This is great news for Griffio as that is our main focus: increasing productivity and cutting costs through web services.

Read Article

My Beef with HMO’s

You know what I would do if I had a billion dollars and magical powers? I would reform the US health insurance industry. Lofty? Yes. Possible? You bet. Here’s how:

  1. Go back to helping people. That’s right. Do what insurance was suppose to do. Offer people the best medical care, when and where they want. My health insurance company would also be a non-profit, thus mitigating moral dilemmas that are oh so common to the industry (life or profits?).
  2. Socialize pharmaceuticals. I know that sounds crazy, but after living in Brazil and paying $2 for what costs about $120 in the US, I think socializing medicine would reduce the overall cost of medical aid while keeping the same high level of professional doctors. Private doctors + public medicine. I think it would make a good mix.

Until then, back to making billions and working on acquiring magical powers…

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Illusions of Grandeur

I found the below pick at Russell Davies’ Blog. He’s always posting fascinating pictures like this one from a while back. He claims it is real, and it looks incredible.

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Get candy. Get candy. Get candy.

There sure are a lot of good candies and sweets out in the world. Very few are better than the simple goodness that are Tootsie Rolls. I like the usual treats, but as far as shear consumption goes, I could tare through a whole bag of the chocolate chews in one sitting.

I also hear they’re a healthy candy, if that’s even possible. Regardless, keep ’em coming.

Why Most Small Businesses Fail

Now there’s a question that has been answered in a million different ways. Here’s my take:

Most small businesses fail because owners overextend their personal payroll. They pay themselves too much when the first few checks start coming in. Now some may argue that “No, if you don’t have a good product or have poor management skills, that will doom a company.” While this is true, I believe staying conservative in your payroll can buy you time to learn anything, be it improving/changing your product, and learning better management skills.

Robert (my partner) and I don’t pay ourselves as much as we could. We’ll start once we are sure the company has hit the growth stage and we can cover all our expenses over an extended period.

Apple sales increase by 75%

Did you know that not too long ago Microsoft and Dell claimed that Apple Computer would die out? Guess again. The company has been tearing up the computer industry for a solid year now thanks to the beloved iPod. (I love my Mini.)

Guess what happens when people buy iPods? They start buying Macs, thus taking away precious dollars from BillSoft and Dell.

When you deliver a product that just works and is exactly what the public wants, wonders take place. Parabens Apple! Now if we can only get you to design a two-button mouse…

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Toilet Bar

File this one under who knows, but apparently this toilet bar is found in Taiwan. It’s interesting to see the types of restaurants and businesses that actually get started. Any other weird ones you’ve come across in your day?

(Thanks to Chris for sending the image)

Aluminum Anomaly

Have any of you ever seen those SlimFast drinks? While the chocolate shakes sure are delicious, I find the near indestructible cans rather odd. I wonder why they just don’t use standard aluminum ones.

Do they think overweight individuals will inadvertently crush the cans until they loose some weight?

Good Clients

Robert and I are currently working with an excellent company from Salt Lake City. We are putting the finishing touches on a product database for them and are looking forward to providing additional work in the months to come.

I must say, they have been a pleasure to work with over the past several months. They have also helped me realize my appreciation for good clients versus the bad ones. Here’s why (feel free to exchange the word clients with people):

  1. Good clients make your life happy. Thy appreciate what you do and will compensate you for quality workmanship.
  2. Good clients are responsible. They understand that work must be done on both sides to produce a quality product and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
  3. Good clients are trustworthy. They keep their word and will go out of their way to help you.

Surround yourself with good clients. Life’s too short and just not worth it to work with bad ones.

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I’ve recently taken a liking to Frisbee Golf, Disc Golf, or as George Castanza calls it; Frolf. Having not played the game since about 11 or 12, it was great to get out again with professional discs. I think I’ll start taking it up again.

For a list of courses, click here.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I just got done watching 2001 for the first time since my youth. Artistic? Yes. Good movie? Not really. Let it be known that I’ve got beef with Kubrick though upon realizing it was he that also created the horrible Clockwork Orange, AI, and other tasteless movies such as Eyes Wide Shut. I think he should have stuck with photography instead of using controversy to fuel his cult Hollywood following.

Either way, the movie has great cinematography, and I enjoyed the classical soundtrack combined with it’s slow pace.

Designer Resources

I came across a great website that helps you find FREE stock photos for any use. Some are good, some are bad, but it sure beats the rather expensive “rights managed” images.

Also for you designers, be sure to check out the classic Lorem Ipsum text generator. It’s been the dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry since the 1500’s.

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Mickey Dee’s & Movies?

McDonalds has just launched an in store DVD rental service call RedBox. For just $1/night, you get access to over 40 new release titles via credit card. Just pop in your card select a movie, and presto! Instant movie.

You can even get one free rental per visa card by selecting the “rent with promo” button on the RedBox kiosk. Just enter in the code “FREE” and you’re good to go.

Lindsey and I have been getting free rentals on all our debit/credit cards and plan on using it as a cheaper and easier alternative to Blockbuster. Try it out at your nearest McDonalds. Very cool.

Bore of the Worlds

Do me a favor. Don’t go see War of the Worlds. Don’t give Spielberg and Cruise your money cause it’s not worth it. Granted, the first hour of the film was very intense and really well done. That last half? Horrible. Boring. Holes fill the story and by the last scene, the entire movie collapses.

The movie should have never been made, but they released it anyway to exploit public pockets with a big name director and actor. This stunt makes me loose respect for the both of them as artists. (4/10)

Google Earth

Google’s new software program is really quite nifty. Dubbed Google Earth, it’s the better version of their recently released Google Maps. The program allows the working class access to satellite photos from space. Very nice.

It’s only a matter of time before Google takes over all of our computers…

American in London

American Andy Roddick will play against Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean in the Wimbledon quarterfinals tomorrow. Being the only other competing American besides the 35 year old Agassi, Roddick is all we have on the horizon to keep the states winning in pro tennis. Plus he’s a classy kid.

Here’s to victory Andy! [Update: He won. On to the semis.]

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King Kong Trailer

This just looks silly. Peter Jackson has got to be the most overrated director in Hollywood right now. Whatever happened to directing new and original movies instead of classic remakes? Has this guy ever directed his own film? And don’t get me started on his poor character development.

Watch Trailer

Best of the 90’s

For those who know me, you know I’m a late 90’s techno junkie. I still get a rush listening to trance music of not so long ago. Fortunately for some, I could never convince others of the rhythmic and vocal-less goodness that is electronic music.

Enter Chicane. This English DJ produces beautiful, light, bass-heavy music that is great for any occasion. The best two of his albums are 1997’s Far From Maddening Crowds and 2000’s Behind the Sun. Check them out and see if I can finally convert those close to me. (Doubtful, but I’ll never give up.)

Blogging Madness

In addition to Smooth Harold, my personal, work, and business blog, I run a Nintendo Blog on the side to stay young at heart. Dubbed Infendo for “The Nintendo Informant” the site focuses on news and speculation related to upcoming software and hardware released by the Japanese company.

Last week the blog caught on like wild fire. We received an anonymous tip about a speculative advertisement. Being the first to break the story, gaming sites and blogs couldn’t stop linking back to us. Last Friday alone, we had almost 5,000 visitors up from 46 the previous Friday. The blog has been averaging around 2,000 visitors since then and looks to keep growing.

What’s the take-away from this post? Blogging is about mixing news with opinion and then sharing it with others. With a little luck, some publicity, and good postings, thousands of people can take an interest in what you say. Now if I can only get Smooth Harold a jumping. But alas, how interesting can the rambling of a 25 year old web consultant be…

Why Good to Great Isn’t

Because it’s written for already good companies. A majority of US businesses being run by entrepreneurs have yet to prove themselves. Therefore, I would like to see From Nothing to Good. Then I’ll focus on taking my company the rest of the way.

I only got through half his book, but plan on finishing it once I’m good.

Genworth Financial

I’ve seen lots of Genworth Financial commercials on ESPN as of late. The basic premise of this ads is that GE admits that investing and insurance is complicated. This makes me wonder, is it complicated by nature, or do companies such as AIG, Smith Barney, and GE make it that way to increase profits.

It sure would be nice if someone could come in and renew that archaic dinosaur of an industry. You know I need it.

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Run Away From Flash Sites

If someone comes a knockin’ on your door trying to sell you a Flash site, run as far away as you can and quickly. Adobe wants to own the internet realm the way Microsoft owns the OS market. Flash is sticky, hard on search engines, and it’s ActionScript is just not as scalable as other dynamic languages. Granted, we use Flash elements for nice graphical effects, but even AJAX (think Google maps) is starting to do what Flash has always done.

Flash is good for niche websites and only if in parts on others. Pay closer attention to XML, JSP, and of course, PHP.

Summer Solstice (June 22)

Today is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere while the Sun is farthest north. Consider this a useless tid-bit of information.

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Batman Begins Review

I’m gonna come right out and say it… A-. That’s what I give the recent Warner Bros release based on excellent character development, captivating story, truthfulness to the overall comic genre, and shear entertainment. It must be noted, however, that of all the comics I liked as a kid, Batman was my favorite. He is the only super hero that doesn’t have any super powers. Well, unless you count the earnest desire to combat evil and a plethora of money to build nice toys.

Lessons Learned from Hitch

Hitch was a fun and entertaining movie. However, I liked the insight it shed on the consulting industry even more. In the movie, the main character Hitch, played by Will Smith is a dating consultant. He helps couples successfully get past the third date and fall in love. He does it all covertly as to not ruin the relationship.

At the end of the movie, his cover gets blown and people start coming down on him. In one scene, one of his client’s girlfriends is expressing her frustrations on him. She can’t believe he trained her boyfriend to accidentally spill mustard on his shirt and dance crazy. In other words the things she loved about him. Hitch replied that he hadn’t nothing to do with those things and didn’t endorse them at all. She then proceeds to ask him, what exactly did he do, to which he replies, “I guess nothing.”

I am an IT consultant. Sure I help clients with technical issues the same way Hitch helped his clients work on their smoothness, but in the end, we really don’t do much. The true value of the consultant is derived by his/her solely being there for the paying organization. A teacher. A coach. A support group. A friend. We assist and help in areas where the company may struggle, but the success is really all the client’s.

Consulting (or professional assistance) is to business as weights are to a weight lifter. Both are necessary if the client wants to progress rather than plateau-ing. But it is the weight lifter that is the true winner.

Best of Seattle

Lindsey and I had a great trip to Seattle. Some of my favs include lunch at the Space Needle, Snoqualmie Falls, Lake Sawyer, the ferry ride, Discovery Park, and of course the Mariners’ game. It’s an excellent get away and we look forward to going back soon.

Click here to view my Flickr slide show.

“I learned to climb trees in the Pacific Northwest.” – Newman

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Smart Folders

Smart Folders, developed by Blinkx, offers a user-friendly way for people to do what the more technically minded among us have already done with RSS feeds. SmartFolders work like a regular folder on your desktop, only that a web survey pushes information and media directly to your folder. Pretty nifty. Now for those of you who aren’t already working with RSS, do it now! You will love it. (I recommend SharpReader. It’s link is to your right.)

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All Marketers Are Liars

The latest issue of CMO Magazine has a great book excerpt from All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. The premise of Mr. Godin’s book is that marketers don’t sell a product or service, they sell a story. What matters is what the consumer believes, not if it’s factual or not. He goes on to say that Marketers profit because consumers buy what they want, not what they need. You tell the consumer a story, and the consumer buys the story, not the product.

He gives an example of how a young lady purchases a pair of high end Puma shoes for $125. She didn’t care about support or the durability of the uppers. She was imagining how she’d look when she put them on and how her appearance would dramatically improve her life once other people saw how cool she was. The way Stephanie felt when she bought the Pumas was the product. Not the sneakers made for $3 in China.

He ends by saying that marketers have great power, but that doesn’t mean we have to lie to successfully sell products. He claims a story that works, combined with authenticity builds a brand and a business for the ages.

Best line from the book: Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life, and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.

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An Open Alternative to eBay

Ebay is good, but I’d be interested in knowing if there is any open source version in development. Or maybe, a company that just charges a listing fee of like $.50 regardless of the product. Could this work?

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Push(y) E-Mail

Are you addicted to email? I am. I have a problem. Since I work from a home office, I’m always popping by my desk to see if I have a little surprise in the inbox. Is there any way to combat this?

Perspective Research

There is a new research philosophy aiming to replace satisfaction surveys. It’s called perspective research and it’s all about exposing a customer’s unmet needs. It can not only help retain current clients but attract new ones through the use of an online survey. (Griffio can help you build the latter!)

Unlike satisfaction surveys, perspective research focuses on what companies want to become rather than how well you worked for them. The basic premise is to ask questions that incite genuine responses. For example: “If your firm could be a famous personality, who would it be? Who would you want to be?” By asking that, you find out what they want to become and what you can provide to help them get there.

We have found this technique to be very effective. An example of this would be one of our first clients. While working for them, we found that they wanted to be the technology leader in their industry. By knowing that, we were able to upsell a custom database valued at over six times what they were already paying per year. Revenue we hadn’t even seen the first time we worked for them.

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Flickr is quickly becoming the “Google” of images. By far the most resourceful image database out there. If you haven’t already checked out Flickr Tags, it’s an excellent way to search for any photo you might be looking for, and it’s way better than Google images. Start you account and get FREE web space for hosting your images.

Maybe someday the company will replace stock photography altogether.

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New Griffio Ad Campaigns

We’ve got two new ad campaigns running on our homepage. They are random images so just refresh the page to cycle through all 7 ad images. The new campaigns represent the following:

  1. I am open source. The idea behind this ad is that businesses are better off implementing proven open source technologies such as PHP/MySQL than using proprietary systems. It’s faster, cheaper, and more scalable.
  2. Lowered operational costs. Griffio doesn’t sell databases and websites. We sell efficiency. We help companies raise their profits by lowering their costs. We can help by upwards of 40% based of existing client feedback.

As always, your feedback is appreciated.

PHP 10th Anniversary

Forget Linux, when you think of the most resourceful and useful open source technology, it’s got to be PHP/Apache. Granted, Linux has provided a lot to the open source community if not started it, but PHP’s success just proves it as the most useful of open source technology.

Here’s to 10 more great years…

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Don’t call too soon.

I just sent off an email today to a gentleman inquiring about his capital funding service. I got a call literally a minute after sending the email and noticed the caller ID as the company I just sent an email to. Surprised, I decided to let him leave a message, which he didn’t. Funny that I didn’t include my phone number on purpose yet he went right to my website to get it and called without thinking I might not have wanted him to. Nothing says small business more than jumping on a lead within seconds. Always let it simmer a little and give the potential buyer some time to think about your services.

It just goes to show that you do want the people you buy from to at least be semi-busy. (You wouldn’t want to go to a doctor that doesn’t have any existing patients would you?)

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Music Industry [Poor Business Model]

The music industry is a really poor business model. Squeeze as much as you can out of your suppliers (musicians) and skimp on what you give to your customers. Case in point: iTunes downloads. I just downloaded the delicious “Third Wish” off the In America soundtrack in 128kbps quality. That’s the equivalent of a little less than CD quality. The idea (I have read) is that the music industry wants you to buy songs twice: once digitally, and another for higher quality down the road. They are not satisfied with us buying from them just once.

Any wonder why so many people keep stealing music from them? It would be easy to see yourself as the digital Robin Hood of music with the way they keep acting. Someone could make a lot of money becoming the Dell direct of music with most of the profits going to the artists. Hopefully that will come sooner than later.

If you haven’t already used Craigslist, you should. This site is an excellent resource for EVERYONE. Whether you’re looking for a job, looking for contract work, looking for new business, looking to advertise, looking to hire freelance or fulltime employees, or even looking for a date, this is the place.

I have been using it in anyway I can to network and find new business nationwide. I’m on direct RSS feeds for web work so the minute any new posting pops up, I get it right away. Watch out, ’cause this badboy is the new Ebay. Only better though because it’s FREE.

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State of Grace

[What I’m listening to]

I just got done watching another brilliant Häagen-Dazs commercial. It’s the one about their new light ice cream. Very good advertising indeed and the music is incredible. One of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard. It was commercially produced by Largoland out of Germany exclusively for the commercial and can be downloaded legally and FREE by clicking here. (right click to save)

The gracefulness of the campaign is unmatched. Do yourself a favor and watch the commercial if you already haven’t done so.

Have a nice weekend.

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Is there any question?

What web server and scripting technology should I use for my website? Other than the fact that it’s the most stable, most resourceful, and FREE, the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) configuration is the only way to go for you online needs. Just look at the server market trends since ’95. Apache is the only one that’s growing. Almost 70% of the total server market. Products that grow do so for a reason.

If you are considering a new website or database, I cannot honestly think of a situation where LAMP would not be ideal for small, medium, even many large companies.

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Working hard or hardly working?

I would like to comment on how great of a day I’m having today (if yours is not so hot, I apologize in advance). I really enjoy when you get so deeply enthralled in your work, that it’s just you, your tasks, and the tools you use to finish the job. It’s a wonderful and very productive feeling. In my case, it’s a computer, call-backs, emails, customer service issues, invoicing, proposals, site design, and prospecting. Our sales pipeline is the best it’s been in months so hopefully we can show our clients the value in the work we provide and close them out.

When it gets this enjoyable, the hard work and hardly working lines get extremely blurred. It’s like you’re doing what you were just meant to be doing.

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Website Creation Strategy

Griffio has just released a new website creation strategy file. It’s purpose is to help considering companies, individuals, and organizations think through their online goals and web strategies for a prospective website. Whether you already have an existing site, or are planning for a new one, this easy-to-use PDF will help ensure internet success.

Download Now!

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Chief Blogging Officer (CBO)

Slashdot is reporting that companies are now hiring professional bloggers. The work descriptions include writing for corporate websites and the ability to promote through the use of blogs and the internet. Apparently the positions pay anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000. Not too shabby for thoughtless commenting.

Outsourced blogging may have a niche…

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Good Salesman

Small business employees have the opportunity to wear many hats. My main “hat” for example says Project Manager, which is a fancy way of saying I take care of and manage all client projects and make sure they’re done on time. I’m also an HTML designer, proposal writer, secretary, general manager and even a salesman from time to time.

So what makes a good salesman? Well that question would be like asking, “What makes a good baseball team?” or “What makes a good human being?” for that matter. There are obviously many functions involved in answering the above questions. With that said, however, I do believe one thing is common in all great salesmen.

Continue reading…

It must work

I read an article last night in Business 2.0 (a great mag btw) about the effectiveness of late night infomercials. According to the report, the industry has been adding first time clients at a rate of about 33% per year since the mid 80’s, including fortune 1000 customers. I never thought I would say this, but I guess even infomercials, if done right, can work.

Now I’m not going to start a infomercial campaign or anything, but this article led me to believe that as long as something consistently shows up, it must work. Otherwise, people wouldn’t use it. That alone should provide helpful insight in evaluating alternative marketing options for yourself, your company, or even your job.

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Creativity vs. Standard Layouts

I just read a great article that backs up my Intelligent Design post from earlier this month. It applies more towards web design but the author shares the same theory of good product design.


Have you ever said, “I love all these new books being published, but they all look like books.” Or maybe, “That’s a beautiful car, but why does it have 4 round wheels?”

Read Article

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Designer Tips

Need a fresh color palette? Just pixelate. How many times have you sat down to start on a design and gone crazy trying to choose a color palette? What if you could just give photoshop a picture you like and have it pick the color palette for you? Well,you can.

All you have to do is select a picture, photo, or stock image you like. Nevermind what it is, just focus on the tones. Next, fire up PhotoShop and load the picture. Under the Filters menu, select Pixelate > Mosaic. Set the cell size to about 70 and you’re good to go.

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My wife used a rather crafty word this evening: flippant. Know what it means? If so, you’re smarter than me, otherwise, I was going to tell but I thought you might remember it better if you looked it up. Nice word!

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It’s a girl!

It’s official, the wife and I are expecting a girl. She is in good health and were looking forward to meeting her in October. Love you Lindz!

Trump University

Donald Trump decides to cash in on the widely successfully online university model. Due mostly to the success of his show The Apprentice (which I stopped watching after the first season), Trump University will feature short classes on real estate, marketing, and entrepreneurship. No online degrees will be offered, rather, $300 courses that teach practice over theory. I bet this approach will be huge based off his name alone.

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The French Open

Laissez les jeux commencer! Any tennis fans out there? If so, the greatest tennis championship begins today in Paris (yes, it’s even better than Wimbledon). What makes The French Open so unique you may ask? Well, it’s all in the famous red clay. Clay is the slowest of playing surfaces. The ball grips on the sticky clay and bounces high. This slows the ball down and makes for exceptionally long points. The average point is around 17-20 strokes, so it can be very entertaining.

Some of you may like to know how I become a tennis fan. If so, here’s a funny story on how I began watching The French Open, and the game of tennis for that matter.

After graduating from high school, I decided to sleep in ’till noon for a week straight. I never was good at sleeping in, so I altered my plan to staying in bed until noon. The Monday after graduating, I awoke around 10:00AM. I grabbed the remote and flipped on the TV. Immediately I was watching two guys playing tennis on red clay. Now I had never really watched tennis before, so had it not been for my lethargic state I probably would have changed the channel quick like. By the end of the match I was hooked, and one week later a new tennis fan was faithfully watching the final (while still in bed).

2 Step Lead Generation

The below article is a quick and easy read into 2-step marketing (the idea that you give something freely to your target buyer, then follow up with them). The premise is that you let potential clients build trust with you prior to you’re asking them for the sale. Offer them something of value. If they like it, they’ll be more inclined to hear your pitch.

Read article

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Do or do not. There is no try.

I just finished watching Star Wars 3. While it showcases John Lucas’ talent as a movie maker, it still lacks the funny overtones and great acting of the first three films. I was really excited because some critics have said it’s as good as the originals. Sadly, I feel this one was a little over-the-top and really had some dry acting.

It’s an entertaining film though, and sheds new light on the series. The ending is done especially well so you should enjoy that. Overall, I give it a flat B.

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Follow the leader

Websites are a great business tool anyway you look at them. I’ve recently been re-optimizing Griffio’s meta tags and it’s fairly easy with the help of your leading competitors. Whatever it is you sell, Google it, and then see who comes on top. Take the top 5 natural rankings and view their meta data (to do so, click on View, then Source on your browser. The meta tag content should be near the top). See what keywords your competitors are using and apply as needed to your own. This WON’T make your natural ranking leap right up to the top, but it’s a foot in the right direction.

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Auto Form Filling

Some of you may have already used this, but RoboForm is a very nice FREE web utility. It easily stores you critical online passwords in a safe and secure manner. To logon to this very blog, I just clicked a drop down box, and selected the site. Wa-la! RoboForm navigates to the page, fills in the password, and submits it. Very fast and a great tool!

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Intelligent Design

Too many people try to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to product design. I guess they think that being outside of the box will automatically classify their efforts as creative. This belief couldn’t be further from the truth. Good design doesn’t always require creativity. Innovation does. So I guess before starting to design a product you need to decide, “Am I’m designing or innovating?” Once you get that down, you’ll be much more successful with your creations.

A quick example of this might be if you were a shirt designer. You might decide to “design outside of the box” by moving the shirt pocket from the left side to the right. The shirt was already working fine though as shirt users expect the pocket to be on the left side. In this case, you wouldn’t reinvent the shirt, just redesign it to make it look better. Maybe try a new pattern or a different color, but don’t try to innovate the already functioning shirt. You have to consistently use common sense to achieve intelligent design.

Continue reading…

Keane Concert Review

I have been very excited to see Keane live in concert. Their CD Hopes & Fears has been one of my favorites over the past year. Their is a certain freshness to the album, even given that some of their songs do sound similar. But how do the they sound live? How are they as performers?

First off, for those of you comparing Keane to Coldplay, their is no comparison. Keane has outplayed them with only one record to Coldplay’s three. Haven seen both in concert, I must say Keane brought so much more energy, enjoyment and freshness to their live sound. The lead singer’s voice is one of the prettiest, melodic voices I’ve ever heard. It’s that good. The piano player rocks. He constantly was on the verge of knocking over his piano. The drummer is tight and ads the perfect rhythm section san bass (bass is sequenced on a laptop). The two sure do bring a lot of energy and sound for only having two musicians playing . The light and video was something I didn’t expect, but brought an additional level of ambiance to the already full sound at the lovely Abravanel Hall in downtown SLC. One of the nicest venues I’ve ever been to.

The evening was a blast! The music was even better. Very good show! A+

Google House Cleaning

According to Slashdot, Google will start combating how those gimmicky SEO (search engine optimization) companies use artificial link inflation (i.e. spam). Apparently, Google will revamp how PageRank takes into account the freshness of a webpage as well as some other features.

This proves yet again, that if you build your business on gimmicks, it will only last for a short time. (Think trendy weight loss products and you’ll have a good understanding of how most SEO companies work.) Not that there aren’t good SEO companies to help a site’s performance, but it is getting harder and harder to do because of saturation. I propose Link Optimization (LO) instead of just SEO. For example, who are the most important bloggers in your industry with the most traffic? Post thoughtful comments on their blogs and watch the traffic roll in. I’ve recently experienced 9 times my normal traffic because of the above strategy. It works!

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A Case For Entrepreneurs

I got a call this evening from a good friend of mine in Seattle. He is a businessman by birth and was instrumental in helping me take the entrepreneurial leap a few years ago. He got me thinking about what it is to be an entrepreneur so I did a little research and thought I’d share my findings with you.

The word entrepreneur is Old French for “undertake” or engage. There are two things I feel define a true entrepreneur. One, an entrepreneur assumes risk. That is, they take a chance. While not everyone is meant to be in business for themselves, risk takers aren’t afraid to be creative. They put themselves on the line. Sometimes you fail and learn how to better yourself. Usually you’ll succeed and learn from your success. Second, an entrepreneur has a strong desire to make something better. They can either start a new company to feel the void, or propose a new way of doing something at work. Entrepreneurs are individuals that find greater enjoyment in life by exercising risk and being passionate about making a difference. If you can do that in whatever it is you do, you will find immense purpose in your craft.

It takes guts and passion to be an entrepreneur. The greater the passion, the higher quality of work. It can be intimidating, but what a feeling to give it your all and see where it takes you. Speak up in your workgroups. Share your ideas. Start a new company. Take a stand for something you believe in. All are forms of “preneurs” or undertakers. All are ways of adding enjoyment to your workload (and maybe even your pocketbook).

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To All the Mothers…

This post is a tribute to all the great mothers in the world. First and foremost to my mother Cathy Snow. Thanks mom, I love you. Secondly, to all the other mother’s I’ve known in my life: Lindsey, Annette, Rhea, Colleen, Cami, Summmer, and Lucky. Happy Mother’s Day! You really make the world go round, and are great models of love, charity, and responsibility that the world needs more of.

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Million Dollar Baby

Lindsey and I just finished watching Million Dollar Baby for the first time. It is really one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (right up there with Hotel Rwanda). For those of you who haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. It’s a boxing tragedy about guts, chutzpah, and endurance. Heck, I almost even cried at one point. Clint Eastwood has proven himself one of the best writer/director/actors in Hollywood. Very creative, very well-done, and an excellent story. A-


I have a very talented younger sister. She is currently a student at the prestigious School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and has just partially launched her personal website. It can be found by clicking here.

Lexia offers a simple yet sometimes skewed perspective of art. Her style is very enjoyable and refreshing to look at. For those of you who enjoyed the intro to the Napoleon Dynamite movie, Lexi’s been creating that style since before the movie was released.

Nice work.

The Positive Effects of Networking

Griffio has been selling databases and websites since the summer of 2003. It was a lot tougher back then to find new work. In the short period of time since then, we’ve been fortunate enough to have the number of referrals and repeat-work greatly increase. Just over the past two weeks I’ve received several emails from people saying they’ve heard about us and would like to talk. And I’ve received two requests for repeat-work from existing clients in as many days.

Networking is all about genuine friendship. If you are someone that is trustworthy, meaning you are true to your word, people will find you. They will reach out to take advantage of what you do well. While the effects might not be immediate, they will eventually become evident if you remain persistent in your efforts.

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Google to offer free web hosting?

Speculation has been spreading on the internet that Google might one day offer free web hosting. It makes sense in that it could allow Google to capitalize on “content control” which they seem to be going after. This very blog is hosted free on Google servers. By offering free web hosting, the company could control the site content. The better they do that, the better they can protect their search technology and profitability.

Funny how their motto is “Don’t be evil.” Isn’t that bound to happen the larger a company gets? (greater bureaucracy = greater amount of evil?) I sure am glad I’m not in the hosting business.

Systems Thinking

by Mark Butler (Guest Contributor)

Next time you squash a bug or make a nasty comment to someone, think about the repercussions that your actions will have upon yourself and the world around you. Sometimes called Interconnectivity or Systems Thinking, there is a new paradigm shift away from Darwinism (survival of the fittest) toward Interconnectivity (we are all in this together). Street names include Karma, intention, and duality. Mom Butler used to call it, “you made this bed, now lie in it,” and “you reap what you sow.”

The basic principle states that by projecting a positive energy and attitude toward life, good things will happen to you in return. By controlling the ego, shifting your thoughts and beliefs away from low energy sources, and tapping into the positive energy around you, you can somewhat “co-create” a positive, stress-free, and successful life.

Some excellent books that I highly recommend that touch on the subjects of Systems Thinking:

– The Power of Intention – Dyer
– Manifest your Destiny – Dyer
– Power vs. Force – Hawkins
– 7 Steps to Genius Everyday – Gelb
– Think & Grow Rich – Hill
– The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Covey

Seattle Bound

My wife and I are planning a trip to Seattle in June. She is from there but this will be the first time I’ve been. We plan on doing the tourist stuff, and especially catch a Mariner’s game, but if anyone knows of some fun locations and restaurants, let us know.

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Got customer service?

There is a plethora of business books out in the world claiming to reveal the next big thing to make money or better run your business. Some are good, most are bad. There are books on management, sales, and even customer service. The last one I think is laughable. Customer service is equivalent to how you cordially serve your customers to make them happy. If you don’t understand that, I don’t know how you would be in business.

I therefore present Griffio’s “corporate policy” on customer service. It’s rather simple and is based on one thing: accountability. Be responsive to those you interact with. Here’s how:

  1. Return phone calls within 1.5 hours – it’s tough, but it can be done. You will be surprised how comforting a returned phone call can be to your customers. By your doing it, they will have more respect for you and your company.
  2. Reply to emails on the same day – When someone writes an email, respond to it. It usually takes about 10 seconds to do so. I recently emailed a gentleman last week inquiring about his marketing services. I still haven’t heard from him. My bet is that if he treats his potential customer’s poorly, a paying customer probably won’t get much response from him either.

Reason being: customer service is about character not dollars. It’s something that is hard to teach although it can be done. The two above items should help your efforts in showing your customers that you care enough to respond to them. They have been the only formal customer service policies we follow and have taken our company a long way in being one of the most responsive firms in our industry. Sure beats reading a long, boring business book on customer service.

PC Widgets

Stealing some of the thunder from Apple’s new OS (Tiger) that comes out this Friday, there is already a widget program for the PC. A widget is a mini application that runs on your desktop behind your open windows. I currently have the local temperature, calendar, search bar, local movie times, and my appointments running on my desktop. Other widgets include a real time stock ticker and live traffic cams. Very helpful indeed and much better than having to load a website for a little tid-bit of information.

Download the program now by clicking here.

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Problem Solving

Some of you may like to know: exactly how does Griffio go about solving our clients’ business challenges? Well, we’ve loosely documented but rigidly followed the below ideology. (It applies to all sorts of problems and not just how to make web-based business software.)

  1. Discover. Find out what the problem is. A lot of times, you can just ask, “What’s the problem?” or “How can I make your job easier?” Otherwise, conduct in-depth research, such as thorough exploration and investigation to expose the predicament.
  2. Design. After you understand where the problem is, you need to think it through. What ways can you solve the issue? What would work best? Continued research must take place to test your ideas during this phase. Contrary to popular problem solving formulas, this is where most of the testing should take place. An example would be how a certain web page will work or how my audience would react to this idea. Try to uncover any potential hang-ups the idea or process may have.
  3. Develop. Create or build the supporting materials. This step generally includes the use of technical tools such as a software editor, a hammer, or even written notes. Good craftsmanship must take place to ensure quality.
  4. Deliver. Once the system or idea is built or completed, deliver it, launch it, present it, or sell it. This is the part where you give and/or tell the “problemee” what you think will best improve their current state.
  5. Support. This is where you help implement you solution, be it an idea or website. Problem solving requires change, both logistical and behavioral. Good support facilitates that change. The audience should be free to ask questions or get training as to how to best use your idea.

Hopefully, this will help or add to how you approach problems. The idea is to use these steps or a derivative of them in solving just about anything. If you come up with any areas that this might not work (i.e. marriage) please let me know by filling out our quick and easy comment box.

People Meeting, Meeting People

Today I had the opportunity to meet with two potential clients in Salt Lake City. These meetings were “first contact” and are only second in enjoyment to “closing a sale” meetings. I really take pleasure in sitting down with people and seeing how our company can help improve their businesses. It’s a pleasure to discover their backgrounds; where they’re from, what they do, and what makes them tick. I think that’s why I like business so much. Lots of psychology invloved. Hopefully my Father’s PHD in Psychology along with his wise influence on me as a boy can help me in that respect.

Robert, my partner and close friend, have really enjoyed this past year since formally graduating. Although we started Griffio while still in school, this day marks a full year in which we have been working full time for ourselves. We’ve learned a lot about failure, success, and have met literally hundreds of individuals. Large ones, small ones, funny ones, boring ones, rude ones, kind ones, fast ones, slow ones, shady ones, and sincere ones. The work we do is a blast. But it wouldn’t be worth anything without the people that work strives to serve.

Even if you’re not in the business industry, take every opportunity you can to meet someone new. It doesn’t take much, but the positive effects will carry you a long way.

(Sorry for the sermon.)

Word Speed Anyone?

Boy, the Snow Family sure loves a good word fight. My diction problems aside, words sure do move a lot faster than they used to. Webster didn’t have “blog” on file in 2003, although the word had been in existence since the inception of the World Wide Web in ‘95. In 2004, the reference publisher had to quickly add it to their online dictionary because it was the most searched word of 2004 along with incumbent and insurgent.

Using the word “consultancy” in the about me section of this blog is kind of fancy smancy on my part, but it is in fact an established business term. Just Google or Amazon it and you will see. Just because Webster’s takes a little longer to catch on, doesn’t mean that the term isn’t a commonly accepted word in the English language. Wanna a faster dictionary/encyclopedia? Try Wikipedia.

Now if we can only get “Strateegery” into the dictionary…

Music that keeps it interesting

More on the entertainment side of things (I’ll get back to business postings soon enough) I’ve recently been enjoying a band called Royksopp. Their album Melody A.M. is quite the delight. Go check it out!

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Ending the suspense on this one…

Smooth Harold? Is it I? Who is Smooth Harold? Let me hastily post the short version of how the blog’s name came to fruition.

I was good friends with a Michael Komenda years back in Brazil. He is like a skinning living version of Chris Farley. Anyway, he had a band called Smooth Harold in high school. I asked him where he got the name from, and he said he once saw a kid wearing a green shirt that said “Smooth Harold” on the back. I liked the name and Komenda had stopped using it, so I took it for myself.

Commenting on the name, my good friend Josh sent me the following text message: “U little blogging son of a gun! I love [the name] – long live King Harold.”

Back at you Tubby! Or should I say, Art Vandelay?

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The Video Game Pianist

I just came across an excellent amateur pianist that has recorded very professional renditions of Mario Brothers, Zelda, and Sonic the hedgehog themes. All solos on the piano. This guy is very talented. Go on, take a trip down memory lane…

Download the album here.

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Want a great FREE magazine subscription?

You can sign up for a free subscription to CMO Magazine by clicking here. The magazine is filled with good marketing advice and has some of the thickest/nicest paper this side of the Mississippi. Just fill out the request form and you’ll be on your way.

I usually despise free internet offers, cause they tend to sell your information, therefore never making the offer free. This one is worth the pickup though.

Disruptive Technology or Disruptive Myth?

John C. Dvorak, a good but rather quirky writer at times, has a great article on why disruptive technology is just a bunch of business rubbish.

Disruptive technology is a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. He claims it to be an innovation that comes in cheaper, and is better than current technology. The disruptive technology then supposedly replaces the older technology. Only problem is, there is no real evidence supporting this idea.

Quote from Dvorak: “There is no such thing as a disruptive technology. There are inventions and new ideas, many of which fail while others succeed. That’s it. This concept [of disruptive technology] only services venture capitalists who need a new term for the PowerPoint show to sucker investors.”

Can we stop with the cliches and false ideas as to how to make more money in business? The equation is simple:

Consumer Need + Quality Product + Great Service = Happy Customer. That yields happy profits. (more oversimplied business equations coming soon!)

It’s funny how many businesses forget the first ingredient in the equation…

New Griffio Desktop

Okay, i’ll take it easy on the Griffio promotions, but in the meantime, download our new delicious desktop wallpaper for your enjoyment.

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Griffio: What’s in a name?

griffio-logoI get asked now and then how I came up with the name of my company, Griffio. Here’s the answer:

In the summer of 2003, Dave Andersen (my first partner) and I were trying to decide on a name for our new web company. We created a long list of prospective words. Some good. Some not. Some flat out silly.

Anyhoo, I was reading an article one day by an Italian author named Griffo. At that time, I was also mentoring with a gentleman from Experio (now known as Hitachi Consulting). I liked the “io” in Experio and the “g” in Griffo. So I experimented with the two words until Griffio came out. The name stuck. Armed with an art degree, my sister Lexia told me to emphasize the “g” in the logomark. That stuck, too.

So there you have it. That’s how Griffio came to be.

Baseball Begins…

Yeah, yeah, yeah, i know. Steriods this, steriods that. But despite the cheating of several star players, it is still a great game. Nothing beats eating chilly dawgs smoothered in brown mustard at Turner Field. Anyway, the point of this posting is the excitement I have for a close friend of mine from middle school, Matt Holiday.

He made it to the big leagues last year due to an injury of another player. He started hitting well (even some HR’s and a grand slam) and just like that, he’s now starting for the Colorado Rockies in left field. The wife and I watch him play every now and then on Fox Sports as I muddle under my breath, “shoulda been a baseball player…” But hey, I love my job and the people i work with, so no complaints.


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Bloggers = Jounalists?


Okay, this might be somewhat of a dated topic, but should biased, opinionated web loggers enjoy the same protection as so called “non-biased, but they really are biased” journalists? Apple Computer seems to think not in wake of their recent litigation against bloggers who got the computer company ruffled when they took the steam out of their new ipods and imacs.

Let me know your thoughts on this one… Do bloggers deserved to be treated as new amateur journalists of the new era? As for me, it is yet to be determined. (Sara, this goes for you too!)

“PFG – pretty freakin good”