Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

Hi, I'm Blake.

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

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Why not recommend?

As you may know, Lindsey and I our expecting our first child this October. We attended a prenatal class on Saturday and during the break decided to turn in our pre-admittance form. This was so we wouldn’t have to do it the day of the delivery.

On the form, there is a question that asks if you have a preference for a pediatric (kid) doctor. Since this is our first baby, I decided to ask the nurse if she might recommend an MD. She said “Legally I’m not allowed.” How does that work? You can’t recommend someone who does good work? That’s what the business world is based on. If someone does good work, they’ll get recommended. How did bad doctors luck out in the medical world from good competition?

And by the way, I’m still taking recommendations for pediatricians in Provo, Utah.

Forward Thinking, Moving Forward

Robert and I have recently set some development goals to learn new web technologies. First on the list, AJAX. What’s that you ask? It stands for “asynchronous JavaScript and XML.” You’ve probably seen it used on Google Maps and a few other sites.

AJAX basically lets you load data or new page results without refreshing the page (i.e. what takes place when the screen flashes to load new content. You can also incorporate graphics and motion, hence it’s a great replacement for that sticky and sometimes annoying flash you see.

Robert is already off to a great start, so we look forward to including this useful technology on our upcoming projects.

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Name That Company

Need a good product, service, or company name? Head on over to Igor’s site and download their name guide for some good ideas and proper techniques. It could be very useful if you’re not going to end your company with Inc., Co., Enterprise, or even Vandalay Industries.

Tell me where that last one comes from and you’ll have yourself a good Friday.

Internet Marketing Comes Alive

Robert and I have just wrapped up a prototype web application that automates search engine marketing. It’s very nifty and we’re really pleased with how it’s turning out.

With that said, I’d like to give thanks to my partner, friend, and lead developer at Griffio, Robert Bradford. He was trained as an accountant at BYU and learned programming the practical way to make his accounting tasks easier. He takes the same approach with all our clients and it truly shows in his work. Not a programmer, but a “make-things-easier” guy…

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When You Can’t Do it Alone

When you can’t do it alone, get resourceful. As some of you may know, Keane is one of my favorite bands. They are a trio but when playing live have the fullness of an ensemble. After their guitarist left, they relied on software to pick up the slack rather than bring on more hands. The result? A non-watered down, enhanced live performance.

Good technology can do the same in the business world too.

(Read The Power of Three)

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Best thing to do with a busted laptop

My business partner’s computer kicked the bucket recently. Rather than trashing it, we played baseball with it. I’m pitching the laptop and my partner Robert is swinging for the fences. Photo taken on a beautiful Utah afternoon in his backyard.

Words to Live (work) By

Here is a sampling of attitudes and attendant behaviors that can promote good customer service within a company. It’s even good for life occurrences.

  • I appreciate your business. Greet the client with enthusiasm unfeigned. Use their name and don’t use the excuse “I’m bad with names.” Make an effort.
  • I will devote my full attention to your needs. Sometimes I multi-task while listening to my wife Lindsey. It’s worthless and really frustrates her. Give the person/client your full attention. Stop other activities, listen, and clarify with questions.
  • I will take ownership of your needs. Don’t pass the buck here and don’t keep transferring the client to another person.
  • I will be knowledgeable and professional. Provide insight to help a person get what they are looking for. If you don’t know, get someone who does.
  • I will be responsive to your questions and requests. (learn more) fulfill commitments and responses in a timely fashion. This includes emails and voicemails and will show the client that you value their time.

Hopefully the above attitudes will take your customer service policy off your wall and put it to action. It takes work, but those around you will reap the benefits and will reward you for the added effort.

[Source: CMO Magazine]

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Creative Jobs on the Rise

Chief marketing officer’s say the top two skills they will be looking to hire over the next 12 months will be the always number one “sales force” positions at 34% of all new hires and “creative graphic designers” at a close second with 33%. Designers, get those resumes ready.

Businesses will always need good design to sell their products and services but it’s still nice to see them give it more attention.

(Source: CMO Magazine)

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Custom Software Increases ROI

Pure Vida, an online retailer, opted to invest in a custom online database for it’s information system. It cost around $40,000, almost six times the cost of the best off-the-shelf package priced at $6,500.

However, the system helped increase the company’s sales from $100,000 to nearly $4 million in under five years. Talk about ROI. To be fair, custom software isn’t for everyone, but if you are serious about your business, the above example could easily become a reality through a custom software solution.

Griffio is currently helping a local firm cut their total process time of just one application by 95%. I know it sounds like drummed up marketing numbers, but it’s the truth. From 20 hours to 1 hour with good, made-to-order software. It’s those results that make our work meaningful.

(Source: Technology Review, July 2005)

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Google SMS

I guess I’ve been living in a cave for the past year, but apparently Google released a text-message search system for your cell phone about a year ago. Called “Google SMS” the service allows you to search and get a reply within 1 minute via text message. Want to know what movies are playing but not around your trusty computer? Just plug in your zip code and type
“movies” and you’ll get instant results.

Just send a text message to 46645 (googl) with your search term as the message and you’ll get what you need. Wa-la.

Learn More

What to call an un-intelligent person

Growing up, I had a good friend named Rob Hugo. We called him “Bab” but he was also known as “Sausage” ’cause he got sick once after eating and that’s what came up. Anyway, he was a rambunctious, bright, and very funny kid. I owe it to Rob for one of my all time favorite synonyms for less-than-smart individuals: Schaef (pronounced “shafe”).

Legend has it that Rob had an not-so-bright friend with the last name Schaefer. Anytime someone screwed up or did something unruly, they were dubbed a Schaef. So the next time someone does something to make you mad, frustrated, or upset, take it out on them by calling them a schaef. It will feel good, be less offensive, and hopefully after this, add a little history to your vocabulary.

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Internet Time

How fast does information move now? I get pop-ups from my RSS reader when news breaks, to the second. News moves too fast for TV networks now, as more and more people switch to the internet as their primary source of news.

It’s a great time to live and be in business, and the internet makes it all the easier.

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Yield Management

What is yield management? Well, it’s the process of understanding through the use of computers and the internet how to anticipate consumer behavior to maximize revenues. It’s starting to be used by dicount airline companies and other perishable goods.

I wonder how this could be used in the B2B software sales world…

Learn more

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10th Planet in the Solar System

It’s official. We know have 10 planets in our solar system. Dubbed Xena, the new planet is said to be much bigger than Pluto. That makes it 75 years since we last discovered a planet which is pretty amazing. (Pluto was discovered in 1930)

(Source: NASA)

Majority of companies still not on search engines

Of the top 100 private companies listed in the May 2005 Utah Business magazine, 71% were not listed for their main keywords on Google. It must be worse in other states due to the fact that Utah is extremely ahead of it’s time in the tech sector.

That’s a sad thing given that 84% of internet users use search engines to find the goods and services they are looking for. Guess what else these companies lack. A performing website and database to track, save data, close sales, and increase productivity. I guess it can’t get any worse.

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Peer-to-Peer Banking?

Check out www.zopa.com. Apparently you can bank with other people now. 6% return for good credit lenders, 9% for the riskier ones. Seems like it makes sense, but it will be interesting to see if it can take off.

I’m all for cutting out the middle men.

Unwritten Rules in Management

Want to get your hands on a copy of the “CEO’s Secret Handbook?” We’ll, you can’t buy it in stores, but you can order it FREE at Raytheon’s website.

I’ve read through it, and it provides some very good and useful insights into good business management. While most of the 40 some suggestions are in fact common sense, they are great reminders and maybe even some new things you’ve overlooked in your career.

Get it now!

Hologram Advertising

This is amazing. A Danish company has started selling hologram advertising to several European countries. The ads have gathered huge crowds to catch a glimpse of the oh so catchy and un-cluttered entertainment while simultaneously being pitched to.

See the ad here by clicking on the first video.

Merging Competition

A lot of companies are merging these days. I was taught in business school that this is bad for competition. In the old world I agree. In the new world of peer-to-peer networking, I think the idea is outdated.

The eBay’s, Amazon’s, and even the Kazaa’s of the world will make sure that merging companies stay in check. No more monopolistic pricing and lack of innovation. We the consumers will stay connected in a peer-to-peer environment and force them to behave.

What makes all this possible? The internet. It changes how we access information, run businesses, and even work. Griffio is currently developing a web application for a new client that will cut their operational costs by 95%. It sounds crazy I know, but it’s true. From 20 hours to 1 hour of work time. That alone will help us compete with the big boys.

Why I dislike sports media

Who does the sports media work for? Here’s a hint. The fan. And that’s a problem because it’s seems like sports writers, broadcasters, and other media outlets always sympathize with athletes. A majority of ESPN writers even say they would still vote Mark MacGuire into the hall of fame knowing he took steroids. What? Yeah, and Ben Johnson should still hold the world record in the 100m dash even though he was juiced at the time.

I recently read an article in which the author compared athletes that use steroids to rock stars that are under the influence while writing songs. He cites that the Beatles are widely believed to have been high while writing many of their songs. Here’s the problem with that horrible analogy: there’s no evidence that being high allows a musician to write a better song. On the contrary, pumping steroids into your bloodstream will increase your strength, allow you to run faster, and even time a 95mph fastball more precisely.

Mass media along with their archaic writers drive me crazy. Long live internet news via weblogs.

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Top Prospecting Methods

For all you salesman out there (which is just about anyone who tries to influence others), here are three of the most consistent prospecting methods:

  1. Asking for referrals. Remember to always ask clients, colleagues, even prospects if they know anyone who could benefit from your services.
  2. Executive Networking. Let your work speak for itself. Get your client CEO’s to call or email others in their industry on your behalf. Executive-to-executive sales will always outperform seller-to-executive sales.
  3. Cold Calling. Yup. That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, the reason this method keeps re-occurring in sales is that it works. No other method can increase your prospecting efforts like cold calling can. (I have personally closed many profitable clients this way.)

There are lots of other ways to build your pipelines, but hopefully this will prioritize them and remind you of what works.

[Source: Power Prospecting by Patrick Hansen]

The Alma Matter Goes Old Skool

Tradition is back and hopefully with a little luck, so is a good football team. Let’s see if these new BYU uniforms, along with a new coach, can get the team out of it’s recent funk. At least it’s looking like it could be good year for college football.

Long live the bowls!

Movie Review: March of the Penguin’s

This documentary was a surprise to me. It is extremely well done and the cinematography is fantastic. It’s a heart-felt story of how Empire Penguins migrate and breed during the cold winter months in Antarctica. You will be amazed and impressed upon seeing what it takes to give birth to a baby chick and how family oriented Penguins can be. Very good story and it helps to have Morgan Freeman narrate.

Overall: B+

See trailer

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 craigslist.org:

“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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Frolf

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.)