Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vendors Waste Money at SMB Events

A few days ago I posted an article about Vendors Are Not Evil. And you might call this one . . . but They're Not Good Marketers in The SMB Space.

Please note this very important message from last time: We need vendors at these events. We need them to engage. We need them to have a two-way dialogue. We need to educate them on our clients and their needs. We need them to educate us on where the products are going.

But . . .

Vendors frequently show up at SMB Events and they have no idea why they're there. Someone, somewhere knows why they're at the event. But not necessarily the people at the event.

One of my favorite activities at conferences is to ask the people in the booths why they are there: "What are you hoping to get out of this show?" On VERY rare occasions someone will say "100 new names on our mailing list; six new sign-ups; or one big sale."

99.99% of the time, the answer is, "We just mostly need to be here, improve name recognition, and make sure people are aware of our product."

WTF? You're [Microsoft / HP / Intel / Zenith / Connect wise / Autotask / Cisco / etc.] - People have heard of you! The people at this show have heard of you. Name recognition should be off the table as a "reason" to be here.

Your world consists of a very large funnel with many layers. Every single thing you do at these conferences should either move people into the funnel or through the funnel to a sale. Recognizing the name Microsoft is the stupidest excuse possible for being at a show. Computer illiterate people know the name Microsoft.

So, at a minimum, the person in the booth has no idea why they're at the show. That's okay as long as someone does - AND the activities in the booth are designed to advance that goal.

(One huge exception to this rant is the Exchange/Everything Channel events. The featured sponsors there have a lot of fun and orchestrate a whole series of activities over several days to advance their goals. That's not true of most vendors at the show, but clearly true of the featured sponsors who do the "board meetings" and related activities.)

We (VARs, MSPs, etc.) tend to think in terms of the 2-5 big shows we go to every year. But vendors frequently do 12-24 events a year. Some large vendors do 100-200 events a year. Some do much more than that.

Consider 100 events at $25,000 to $100,000 each . . . and pretty soon it adds up to real money!

They spend millions of dollars . . . frequently with no idea of why they're doing it, how they will measure the outcome, or what they specifically want. As I deal with these large companies I'm amazed at how ineffective their marketing habits are.

Just to pick on Microsoft again . . . Does anyone remember the week a bunch of us received pineapples with no marketing message or indication of why it showed up? We had apparently been in some marketing program, and one piece of that was to send us a pineapple. But there was ZERO communication about why this thing just showed up.

No connections. No call to action. No story about sales. No link to a web site.

Building an SMB Strategy That Works

So what can vendors do to get value from their conference appearances?

In my opinion the key is to Engage us in a discussion. Don't come down like Moses from the Mountain and tell us the way it's gonna be.

We are business owners. And the people who go to conferences tend to be successful enough to shell out money for a conference, airfare, hotel, meals, and maybe some entertainment. In other words, we have the money to there. Trunk slammers with two clients charging $40/hr are NOT attending these conferences.

So, as business owners, we don't expect to be told what to do. Especially by people who want us to give them our money.

Here's big shocker: We want to make more money. We want great products, great tools, new customers, and things that differentiate us from the competition. Here's how you can help:

- Have a program that allows two-way communication
Listen to us. You will sometimes get little or no feedback. You will sometimes be ignored. And other times you'll get a confusing collection of requests that seem to conflict with each other.

Lesson: We're not the homogenized, unified "type" your marketing people came up with. We're entrepreneurs who want to have a conversation about our collective future.

Commit to this communication. Don't allocate $50,000 to one project and then cut it because it wasn't what you wanted. Commit an ongoing piece of your marketing budget to user groups, focus groups, forums, Facebook personnel, feedback, interacting with us as human beings and business owners.

(Note: Microsoft has absolutely excelled at this with their Small Business initiatives for Partners. No relationship is perfect, but you can't argue that they're not trying. They have engaged the SMB/SBS community for YEARS with one initiative after another.)

- Give us access to your programs/tools/products

Some vendors make it so difficult to do business that small I.T. companies simply can't participate. For small items, this means free NFR copies, free 60-day trials, etc. For more expensive products and services, we don't expect to get everything for free. But there should be some kind of NFR program that's EASY to engage in. You don't have to give away $1,000 products. But have an X% off NFR program that doesn't require a mound of paperwork.

If you sign people up for FREE marketing materials and free/paid NFR programs, you will give and get great value at the SMB conferences. You will engage people in a discussion (see previous item) and learn how their businesses work.

- Address the Business Model

Technology is great. We're all nerds. When we get a new PC, we open it and look around. Geek Geek Geek.

But that's not why we're at the conference. Don't spend your time going through menu options. We can do that. We're very technical. Point, click. That's a skill we all share.

We want to know how "this" fits in the small business stack. How will your management tool save me money? How will your tool help me run my business better? How will your product make my client's drool because it improves their business?

Our clients are generally LESS interested in bits and bytes than we are. So gigabyte is just a thing. How will your product help them make money? Because if we can help them make money, they will engage us. And that helps us make money. And that helps you make money.

- Support your products!

This sounds stupid . . . but it's amazing how many people have good-to-great products with horrible technical support, zero technical support, or expensive technical support.

There should be a separate support line for technicians. You can screen for stupidity. Those of us who know what we're doing and learn fast will not be offended. We tend to sell more product than the newbies who should be transferred to the end-user support line.

But your VAR partners deserve a support line that gets answered and provides good support. And I know you need to have a layer for incompetent technicians. I get that. But there should be some way to skip that layer quickly and easily if we're competent.

When I call tech support, I deserve to only talk to someone who knows more than I do about your product. Period. One of the reasons we stopped using Microsoft support several years ago is that the first-line techs were absolutely incompetent AND made it difficult to escalate a call.

We don't sell Dell, but I am always happy to call Dell's Gold Support because every person I've ever dealt with there is a rock star. Yes, the client has to have a support contract. But I think that's completely reasonable.

At a minimum, support to simply install a product should be free unless the product is very complicated. Backup and anti-virus programs do not fall into the category of "complicated." Simple programs that should simply work should simply provide free tech support.

If you're losing money on this, ask your engineering team to create a better installation process.

A Sad Example

Back in the day . . . we used to bounce back and forth between the two major backup products on the market: Backup Exec and ARCServe.

Gradually, ARCServe's tech support went downhill to the point where they apparently just stopped answering the phone.

ARCServe support seemed to simply after the client bought it. So we stopped selling it. Apparently, so did everyone else. Over time we stopped selling ARCServe and only sold Backup Exec.

ARCServe got bought by CA. Backup Exec got bought by Symantec.

About five or six years ago CA made a MAJOR push to re-enter the SMB community. They gave away thousands of copies of the CA ARCServe product. They sponsored events. They engaged in discussions. They tried really hard to push their product on us.

But I had such a bad taste in my mouth from their previous experience that my for-sale copy of the brand new ARCServe sat on my shelf for several years before I put it in the box for Goodwill.

I could not bring myself to trying that product, no matter how good it was technically, because of my bad experience from the past. Apparently many other people had the same experience.

CA might have worn me down with a two-way communication process. With user group support. With engagement. With programs to educate me. With GREAT tech support. With an active role in the community.

Instead, they faded away. They checked the box that says "We tried selling in the SMB space" and chocked it up as a loss. They might still sell their products to the SMB space, but they certainly don't work hard to engage us and listen to us.

And that story is not about the quality of the product.

It's not really about the quality of their tech support because I never gave their revised tech support an opportunity to help me.

That story is about failing the SMB VAR and then failing to engage the community in order to make a come-back. It's about using a top-down command structure view of the world to spend millions of dollars fruitlessly pushing a product without creating any kind of relationship with the potential partners.

I'm not saying every company out there needs to have a "Head Schmoozer" to engage with the SMB Community. But there should be some process to work with us in the way WE are comfortable working. Small businesses . . . and virtually all SMB VARs are small businesses . . . like to deal with people, with straight-forward process, and with programs that have a pretty direct effect on the bottom line.

- - - - -

Maybe I'm getting old, but I want to be seduced.


Want to figure out how to make money with Cloud Computing?

Today is the last day to register for the SMB Nation Preday and save $50. The price goes up tomorrow.

Details at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Walking Into the Cloud - Prices Go Up Friday!

PLEASE do yourself a favor and register now for the big SMB Nation PreDay Event - Walking Into The Cloud: Make Money Selling Cloud Services in the SMB Space

This is a SIX HOUR training by two SMB I.T. Pros. And it's only $199 right now. But October 1st the price goes to $249.

Please join us in Las Vegas for this event. We will focus entirely on moving into cloud services AND making money while doing it.

The program starts at 10AM on October 21st.

I will be joined by Jeff Johnson from Technology Marketing Toolkit. He will present strategies for Marketing and Selling Cloud services.

So the price of admission includes six hours of education, plus lunch! Six hours of content - all focused directly at cloud services.

General Topics Include:

-- Intro to Cloud Services
-- Moving into The Cloud
-- Migration Strategies
-- Selling and Marketing Cloud Services
-- Developing a Cloud-Based Business Model

---------- ---------- ---------- ----------

Please Register Today
Early registration is only $199
After October 1st this price will go to $249

---------- ---------- ---------- ----------

SMB Nation Preday Event - October 21, 2010
Walking Into the Cloud
An introduction to Cloud Services in the SMB Space - with a special focus on making money today!

Many of us have made a living selling, installing, and maintaining Microsoft's Small Business Server. But now as we begin to integrate cloud services we need to figure out how to make that transition in an orderly - and profitable manner.

Among other things, we're going to talk about...

- Specific offerings you can use to make money
- Marketing and promotion
- The effect on your personnel and operations
- The practical side of building your own, reselling others' solutions, and simply being an agent for another product
- How to restructure what you do for greater success in the cloud
- and more!

Plan Now to arrive a day early and add some major laser-focused content to your SMB Nation experience.

Money Back Guarantee

Satisfaction guaranteed, as always.

If you buy any Seminars from Great Little Book Publishing, we Guarantee your satisfaction - or you get a 100% refund - No Questions Asked!

- - -
Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino
(Right next door to the Flamingo)
Las Vegas, NV

Map to Cloud Services Seminar:

- - -

For more information about the speakers and event, see

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vendors Are Not Evil

I sit on a couple of committees for CompTIA (see and recently sat in on a committee call to analyze the recent Breakaway event.

One of the key elements of discussion was about Vendors and whether they get value from these events. Some people also questioned whether attendees got benefit from having vendors there.

Over the years I have heard every side of this discussion. Some people claim that vendors are evil because they send sales people to stick their hands in our pockets while we're trying to have a business-level discussion our improving our businesses. On a similar vein, some people consider vendors a necessary evil because their money makes it possible for us to have these events. See the "sidebar" on conference costs below.

Personally, I believe both of these positions are silly and misguided. In addition to paying for lunches, vendors serve a vital role. Under the right circumstances, they educate us on our profession. They show us new ways to make money. They give us new products to sell. They train us on products and sales techniques.

Some vendors even educate us on a complete new business model for the future. This was clearly the case with managed services.

. . .

I believe it is important for us to mingle with vendors. In addition to the reasons given above, it is just generally good for all of us to join in the never-ending discussion of what are industry is doing, where it's going, and how we're all going to get there together.

Because we are all going to get somewhere together, whether we choose the course or go stumbling in the dark hoping to find the way.

Vendors need resellers. They make money because we buy their tools or sell their products. They need to court us. They need to get our attention, train us, get us hooked, and help us to be successful. They also need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry. If they hear that we're moving in a certain direction, they need to adjust their strategies and practices.

Some vendors are very good at working with - and within - the SMB community. Microsoft is on the top of this list. In addition to their "certified" partner program, they have whole infrastructures built to engage the community. HP has also been working in the SMB space for a long time.

Other companies jumped on the SMB bandwagon because they joined the frenzy of activity of the last 6-7 years. But some of the companies on this list have no real dedication to small business or small business consultants. Symantec and CA fall into this category.

In both cases, these companies developed an SMB strategy with little or no input from the community. They took the "big business" approach of simply creating a budget and executing a plan. Here, Joe, you're in charge of SMB. And when that top-down presentation fell flat, they just moved on to the next thing.

I'm writing another post on why it is that vendors are generally missing the boat at the conferences. But in the meantime,

. . . Vendors are not evil.

We need them. They should make us love them.

And we should recognize that we are all better off with lots of vendors at the conferences, meetings, and other events. Ideally, this interaction makes us ALL better at what we do.

And that makes us all more money.

Sidebar: The Cost of Conferences

Conferences cost money. Lots of money. LOTS of money. LOTS and LOTS of money. You get the point.

I was recently at a "boutique" hotel that charges $1,000 to rent a small room that won't even sit 100 people. When I put on my little three-hour events, I frequently pay $400 - $1,000 for a room. Large rooms are a lot more. Imagine a ballroom with all the dividers down so 600 or 800 people can get together at once.

Food is another consideration. You want a real shocker? Ask a hotel for their catering menu. $30-75 per person is not unusual for snackage or lunch. Dinner is more in the range of $50-$120 per person. So if you get a lot of buffets and salads, consider the price.

Oh . . . and then there's the gratuities. 18-21% is normally built in. Then you have sales tax on top of that. And most cities have their own taxes on top of that. Altogether, you can expect to pay 30-40% in gratuities and taxes. So that $20 turkey sandwich is really going to be more like $27 by the end of the day.

And then . . . Shipping is a killer. You know those big monster booths? They cost money. And some hotel charge you to have things shipped there, even if they're already getting you for room rentals and food.

I realize this is all under the category of "business expense." But just don't forget that the word expense is prominent when you're talking hotels and conferences.


Want to figure out how to make money with Cloud Computing?

Join the Cloud Services Rotatable today and listen a great series of podcasts!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

HP Hands On Lab: Thin Clients

Once you start deploying Cloud Services, Virtual Servers, and Virtual Desktops, you'll need to start selling Thin Clients.

Why do you need thin clients? Well, sometimes you don't. So you have to decide when you do. If you're replacing an aging desktop, you can lock down that desktop so it's really just a brain-dead terminal. But it will still need a certain level of maintenance.

Thin clients are pretty maintenance-free. We like to sell TCs with a three year warranty and enough juice to get the job done.

(Here's a great example: HP t5740 Thin Client with Intel Atom N280 1.66 GHz, Windows Embedded Standard 2009. This is a wireless thin client. Very handy. See more info at

But . . .

As soon as you start deploying thin clients you start to realize that there are things to learn. As simple as these things are, they do need to be configured. Are you connecting to a Zenith Smart Style box? RDP? Citrix? Or just hitting the web for a web-based line of business application?

And of course the next question is, what's the best way to mass-configure these babies? After all, part of the process for providing low-maintenance systems is the ability to just pop in a USB stick and duplicate your configuration again and again.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a FREE hands-on lab for thin client technlogy.

Yeah, that would be great.

Annoucing . . .

FREE HP Hands-On Labs - Successful Deployment of Thin Clients

At SMB Nation
All day October 23rd
Las Vegas, Baby!

Presented by . . . Me!

Well, I'll be helping Andrew and the HP team with the business side of the presentations.

We'll walk through the menus and show you some of the cool things we are able to do with thin clients. And of course a bunch of Best Practices.

You can't miss it on the schedule. I'm not sure what the limit is on seats for the hands-on lab, so check out the SMB Nation schedule when you arrive.

And I hope to see you there!



Now Shipping . . .
The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations Book Ever!

by Erick Simpson

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Intel Hybrid Cloud Hands-on-Lab at SMB Nation

Please join me Friday, October 22nd for a great Intel Hands-on-Lab . . . and an opportunity to win some great prizes.

The HOL is at SMB Nation
Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas
Friday Oct. 22
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Session description:

Make IT-as-a-Service EASY with the Intel® Hybrid Cloud. In this hands-on lab, I will join the folks from Intel to introduce Intel's innovative new subscription-based turnkey server solution for small businesses. Offer your customers a real server, with Microsoft SBS 2008 and other appliances like firewall, backup, and more - all on a monthly pay-as-you-go basis, with full remote manageability. I'll provide an overview of the solution and a live demonstration of remote server configuration and appliance management.

Note: Prizes!

Attendees will have a chance to win a Lenovo TS200v server or one of 5 copies of my book The Network Migration Workbook!

I believe space is limited to 100 people, so plan to get there early.

- - - - -

Here are some notes for the presentation.

1. Learn how to make IT as a Service for Small Business easy with Intel Hybrid Cloud

2. See a live demonstration of remote server configuration and management

3. Hands-on opportunity to remotely control live Hybrid Cloud Servers in Intel's data center

4. Chance to win a free Lenovo TS200V Server

5. Chance to win one of 5 copies of "The Network Migration Workbook" we will be raffling off

Hope to see you there!

- - - - -

In the meantime . . .

Please join me for a Webinar with Jason from Intel on Friday, Sept. 17th at 11 AM Pacific.

Details are here:


Join Me In Las Vegas

October 21, 2010 . . . for

Walking Into The Cloud

* Six-Hour training * Get ready NOW to start making money with Cloud Services in the SMB Space. *

Find Out About Migrating from SBS to The Cloud

Early registration is only $199!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Verizon MiFi Card - Hacked to Perfection

I've had the Verizon MiFi Wireless card for just over two months. It replaces my Sprint Wireless Novatel card.

I switched for two simple reasons. The Verizon MiFi is less expensive for an unlimited plan. And the MiFi card allows me to share my internet connectivity with four of my closest friends.

The 3G network has been great. To be honest, I tried Verizon's wireless connectivity about five years ago and it sucked, so I moved to Sprint and have never failed to connect within the U.S. But Verizon's 3G network is now quite widespread, so I thought I'd take a chance.

When I cruised to Columbus, Oh and Nashville/Franklin, TN awhile back, it was the first test run for the Verizon MiFi card. As I had hoped, it performed great.

When I was moving from my house to an apartment recently, I was without internet connectivity from Comcast for some time. The Verizon MiFi 2200 did a great job of filling in.

Now . . . The nerd gets restless.

So as I use the MiFi 2200 device more and more, I notice a few things.

First, battery life is AMAZING. 4+ hours no problem. I have no idea how they do this.

Second, for a totally secure line with no wifi signal, I tether it to the USB. This charges the device and gives me "modem" access at 3G speeds.

Third, the freakin thing hybernates if I ignore it for half an hour.

So I wonder how I can get inside and play with it. Here's what I found.

- The standard IP address for the device is
- When I browse to that address, I get a nice web page. Battery life indicator: Nice. Info on IP address, etc. Nice.
- And a login screen. It takes me 3 minutes to enter "admin" as the password. This is AFTER I attempted to enter the MAC-specific password required to access the device via wifi.

Once inside the device, there are several settings that are useful.

(NOTE: Before you make ANY changes, go to the "Advanced/Config File" tab and save your device configuration. At least you'll be able to get back to where you are now.)

- You can turn off security if you wish.
- You can change the wifi channel (mine was 11 by default)
- You can choose the security encoding (WEP 64bit, WEP 128bit, WPA2 Personal/PSK (AES), or the default WPA Personal/PSK (TKIP)
- You can change the security key/password. I don't recommend this because the pw is attached to a sticker on the back of the device. No one from the internet can see the bottom of your MiFi card.

- You can change the device IP address. So if you've already got a WiFi Router in your house with the address of (extremely likely), then this won't conflict. I recommend setting this to just about anything else. The 172.16.x.x range is available as private IPs and is rarely used.

- If you want real security, you can clamp down this device to only connect with specific MAC addresses. That kicks butt, in my opinion.
- You can also limit incoming protocols to a handful of old standards. These include email, ftp, http, DNS, and VPN (plus a few more).
- You can add to this list with customized applications. Cool.

- You can disable SSID broadcast.
- You can disable the DHCP server. Kinda cool, low-tech security, especially if you've changed the IP address range.

- You can download the configuration file! Yes. Awesome. One of my "rules" is that we save the configuration of any router we're working on before we make changes. The default name is config.xml.sav. Change this to include a date, such as config20100914.xml.sav

The Advance/Diagnostics tab has some cool information, including current status, signal strength, and whether the device is operating in EVDO mode. Click on Modem Status button for this.

Port Forwarding is available under Advance/Port Forwarding. Holy smokes. This will be like Border Radio or something. But you can set up incoming traffic to go to specific devices on the network. Remember that you can only have five devices connected at once. And this is 99.9999% useless. But if you have a use, it's pretty cool.

Power Mode - This is the only real annoying thing about the MiFi 2200. It goes to sleep if you get distracted with a phone call or Andy Griffith re-run. Change "Enter Standby Mode" to Never. Battery life will drop to 4 hours. Get over it.

I have no stake in Verizon. But this little device kicks booty.

Many year ago, at SMB Nation 2.0, the hotel meeting room was filled with nerds on laptops. And every once in awhile everyone in the room would moan "Ohhhhhhh" and some would curse. I decided then and there that I would always have my own Internet when I travel.

Until July of this year, that Internet has been Sprint Wireless. Fast, reliable, awesome.

Now it is Verizon. I have canceled the Sprint card altogether and am loving the power, speed, and flexibility of the MiFi 2200 from Verizon.

(Now that I've posted this, you can expect a replacement card to be announced within 20 minutes.)

- - - - -

If there's a weakness in the information I've given you here, it's this: Anyone you share your card with will be able to browse to and enter the password "admin" to change all your settings. PLEASE go to Security/Password and change your password. You can put it on the bottom with a label maker, or put it in a text file next to the configuration file you just created.


Join Me In Las Vegas

October 21, 2010 . . . for

Walking Into The Cloud

* Six-Hour training * Get ready NOW to start making money with Cloud Services in the SMB Space. *

Find Out About Migrating from SBS to The Cloud

Early registration is only $199!

Cloud Podcast and Cloud Webcast this Week

What a busy week!

Today (Tuesday) I am driving my daughter down to UC San Diego -- about 500 miles door to door.

Wednesday I'll be doing a podcast from my "remote studio" in San Diego. Then Friday I'll be doing a webcast from the same location.

So while I'll be sorta vacationing, I'll make sure you get the info you need! Here's what's up:

- - - - -

Become a Cloud "Knowledge Worker"

September 15th
9 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern
Register Now:

Join us Wednesday at 9 AM Pacific for the Cloud Services Roundtable. Harry Brelsford and I will talk with David Lady, president of Aspen University about the SMB Nation Pocket MBA Online Certification Course.

You've heard about Harry's Pocket MBA program, but you might not know the details - or the bigger picture for SMB Consultants. Harry's been pushing the business-speak side of consulting forever. So this program is just the next extension of that.

In addition to being an example of a cloud-based business, this online MBA certificate program is designed to help you become a cloud knowledge worker.

This is an accredited program offered 100% online through Aspen University, located in Denver, Colorado. The curriculum includes a wide variety of subjects:

    Looking In at Your Business
    • SMB Consulting Best Practices
    • Entrepreneurship: A Powerful Economic Force
    • Strategic Management: Gaining a Competitive Edge
    • Managing Cash Flow
    • Creative Use of Advertising and Promotions
    • Pricing and Credit Strategies
    • Global Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs
    • Managing People: A Company’s Most Valuable Resource
    • Staffing and Leading a Growing Company
    • Wage and Hour Regulation
    • Worker’s Compensation
    • Employee Benefits
    Looking Out at Your Clients
    • Developing and Delivering on the IT Value Proposition
    • Developing IT Strategy for Business Value
    • Linking IT to Business Metrics
    • Managing Perceptions of IT
    • Analyzing Consumer Markets
    • Analyzing Business Markets
    • Identifying Market Segments and Targets
    • The Financial Environment: Concepts and Principles

Register now and find out all the details Wednesday.

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Intel Hybrid Cloud Server - Click by Click

Friday, we are doing another webinar with Intel on their new Hybrid Cloud Server. I just got an email last night that they've simplified the application process for participating in this program. Yeah.

Anyway, we'll be talking to Jason Davidson from Intel about "A closer look at the Intel Hybrid Cloud Server" - Deployment Basics, Licensing, and More!

Join us

Friday Sept. 17th
11 AM Pacific / 2 PM Eastern
Register Now:

The Intel Hybrid Cloud Server is designed to be an on-premise cloud server that simplifies the deployment and licensing of SBS, Server 2008, and a lot of related software. Check it out Friday!

- - - -

and wish me luck on my trip!


Now Available:
Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations
Seminar on MP3 Download

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hacking Craigslist for Job Postings

I love . . . LOVE . . . Craigslist for finding employees.

I found my best long-term employee ever on Craigslist (Jennifer was with me for six years). See The $200 Miracle.

we have also hired several technicians and administrative staff, plus all of our interns through Craigslist ads.

In addition, let me say that we have used "professional" services on a few occasions before we settled on Craigslist. One person only lasted 30 days and cost us a fortune. Another stayed for two years and still cost us a fortune. Neither one was anywhere near the price of the professional service.

We have also used and other big-name online databases. These were the worst. Lots of spammy applications from desperate SQL programmers all over the country but zero qualified candidates in our area. Now Sacramento's off the beaten path, so I can't say what these services are like in larger metro areas. I think we're the 20th largest metro area, but we're close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. So that might have something to do with it.

Anyway . . . We love Craigslist.

But we had to learn how to hack Craigslist so it fit our needs. We consistently get 150-200 resumes when we place an ad. With the recession, we've been getting 300 or more. This is overwhelming to deal with. Many ads are just people spamming any ad remotely related to their field because the people who run job-search classes tell them to do this.

(Note for job seekers: The people who teach classes on how to find a job have probably never hired anyone in their lives. So take their advice with a big grain of salt.)

Also, because of the recession, we get a number of people who just need to spam some poor fool like me so they can tell the state unemployment office that they looked for a job. I know this is depressing for them, but that doesn't make my life easier.

So here's the reality of what we've been stuck with: hundreds of resumes, most totally unqualified, and we're so overwhelmed by the process that we're likely to skip over some very qualified candidates because we're just bleary-eyed.

The Basic Problem is that people (or computer scripts) scan the listings for some keyword. Then the automated spam-o-matic job search routine starts. Resumes flood out whether relevant or not. In many cases it is clear that the applicant hasn't even read the ad.

So we developed a screwy screening process that works really well. Basically, we do not accept resumes on the first round. Here are the instructions for technical consultants:
    - Do not send a resume until requested to do so. We will not look at unsolicited resumes.

    - To apply for this position send the following two items to [email protected]:

    - 1) 1-2 paragraph description of why you are passionate about technical consulting

    - 2) Go to to register and share your MCP transcript. Email the link to us.

    - We will send a technology self-assessment to people who stand out. Some of these people will be asked to submit resumes.

The last time we did this for a technician we got 26 applicants, of which 7 were good enough to be taken seriously. That's a huge improvement for us. Certainly better than 300! And because we were able to pre-screen for writing ability and customer service attitude, we had really great candidates.

We are currently seeking someone to help with our marketing and programs for the next few months. Our process here is very similar. The instructions were:

    NOTE: This is an on-site position. Please do not apply if you are outside the Sacramento area.

    Please do not send a resume!
    If we want your resume, we'll ask for it. If you send a resume before that you will be disqualified.

    Our screening process is designed to eliminate robots, virtual assistants, and people who are spamming every ad on the internet.

    What to do:

    -> Send me two written paragraphs.

    One paragraph is on why you are qualified for this position.

    One paragraph is on why you are passionate about customer service.

    We will pick a handful of people to send resumes.

Because of the detailed ad description, we got some great paragraphs. I also think the people who respond are more relaxed and engaged because they know a human being will be reading their applications. One person wrote in her paragraphs, "Organizing things makes my soul sing. Laaa!" That was good enough to get an invitation for a resume.

Hacking Craigslist

If you have a process to plow through 300 resumes and feel like you're doing justice to yourself and the job candidates, then good for you. We need to narrow it down a bit.

This process works because it shifts a key piece of the candidate screening from the middle to the beginning of the hiring process. Instead of opening the floodgates and then filtering, we are filtering first.

We still get a few people who just a send a resume. But now I can simply move them to the deleted item folder with zero guilt. Who wants an employee that can't follow the most basic instructions?

You can hack Craigslist yourself very easily. Just figure out which skills you need more than anything else and set up a screening process. And remember: that "most important" skill won't be technical expertise. That is assumed and you will verify that at a different point in the process. Here you want to screen for things like communication skills, attitude, and customer service.

Play with it . . . and have fun!


Join Me In Las Vegas

October 21, 2010 . . . for

Walking Into The Cloud

* Six-Hour training * Get ready NOW to start making money with Cloud Services in the SMB Space. *

Find Out About Migrating from SBS to The Cloud

Early registration is only $199!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Upcoming Events: Cloud Services

Posted: The Five Reasons Your Last Marketing Campaign Sucked Out Loud - And How You Can Make Sure Your Next One Totally Rocks - Cloud Services Roundtable with Jerry Kennedy

- - - - -

We've got some big events coming up. Please take a minute to register today!

Sept. 15th: Cloud Services Roundtable
9 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern

You've heard about Harry Brelsford's Pocket MBA program, but you might not know the details - or the bigger picture for SMB Consultants.

In addition to being an example of a cloud-based business, this online MBA certificate program is designed to help you become a cloud knowledge worker. We are working to get the president of Aspen University on the line as well

Register Now:

Intel® Hybrid Cloud - Click by Click
Sept. 17th
11 AM Pacific / 2 PM Eastern

See the longer blog post on this at

By now you should have heard of the Intel Hybrid Cloud server and the related pilot program for I.T. Consultants. You may have seen the pictures I posted from our visit to Intel recently. See Photos on Facebook. (See Photos of Intel Hybrid Cloud on Facebook.)

This webinar will be a click-by-click look at the benefits of the Intel Hybrid Cloud Server. One of the focuses will be on how you can make money with this solution!

Please join us on this FREE educational webinar.
Register Now:

SMB Nation Preday: Walking Into The Cloud
October 21st
10 AM Pacific
- Live In-Person Event!

Finally, please take a minute to look at what we're up to with the SMB Nation preday event! Visit

Jeff Johnson from Technology Marketing Toolkit will join me to talk about Cloud Services -- Everything from Selling Cloud Services to

- Specific offerings you can use to make money

- Marketing and promotion

- The effect on your personnel and operations

- The practical side of building your own, reselling others' solutions, and simply being an agent for another product

- How to restructure what you do for greater success in the cloud

- and more!

This event is 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM and includes coffee, lunch, and snacks. We also have a special program scheduled with Zenith Infotech. All in all it will be a great program!

Seven hours of great education . . . for only $199 if you register now. Full Price goes into effect October 1st!

Find out more and register today at

Of course you can just say Oh Just Sign Me Up Now.

See you there!

- - - - -

There are all kinds of events going on the SMB space. I try to publish as many as I can in my weekly newsletter. You can sign up for that free of charge at SMB Books. Just click on the "Join Karl's SMB Email" link.


Want to figure out how to make money with Cloud Computing?

Join the Cloud Services Roudtable today and listen a great series of podcasts!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends Use Geek Squad

Yesterday I got a very interesting "tech support" call. My ex-wife called in a complete panic. A friend of hers accidently deleted all of her data from her laptop.

[Please insert comments about backup strategies, ex-wives, friends who are stupid, and whatever else is on your mind.]

As a rule, I don't answer my phone. She knows that, so she texted me to tell me that she has a computer emergency. So I called her back. She explained that her friend (I'll call him Doof-Boy. That's not his real name.) accidently deleted 13 GB of critically important data that was not backed up.

[Stop it. I know that takes awhile and there's a big "cancel" button up the whole time. I didn't ask whether Doof-Boy did this on purpose.]

Anyway . . .

When I finally got the Ex on the phone, she said she couldn't get ahold of me so she was driving to Best Buy to have the guys at Geek Squad take a look at it. Oh My Gawd.

My heart stopped. I was almost in a panic. "You can't do that" I found myself saying. "The only thing they ever do to fix a computer is format the hard drive, re-install the operating system, and tell you you're screwed. For $300. Please don't take the computer to Geek Squad."

Now I admit I am biased. First, I'm in the technology business. So of course my crazy skills cannot be denied. In my mind, no one else can solve a problem as good as me. Okay, ego addressed. Move on.

But, second, I hear lots of stories about Geek Squad. In the first years or so that they have been formatting hard drives because a driver wouldn't load, I've heard nothing but complaints about them. 100%. I know someone must be happy with their services, but I've never met that person.

I have heard hundreds and hundreds of stories about people who are dissatisfied with G.S. And I have never heard one single person defend them or talk about how happy they are. You know, a spontaneous endorsement goes a long ways.

I have had a lot of bad experiences with various products and services. But there are always defenders. For example, if I tell about AT&T's absolute stupidity over my DSL upgrade at my old house, someone is likely to chime in that they have AT&T and love it.

When people like something, they chime in. "Yeah. But we had a problem last year and they fixed it really fast." Spontaneous. Not really an endorsement as such. Just a casual comment in support. And every once in awhile you'll get a raving review.

But not with Geek Squad. Now maybe, in response to this post, all the happy customers for G.S. will come out of the woodwork and post their great stories of success. But in the real world, I just hear one story after another about how all their data was lost.

So . . . just so you know the end of the tale. The data was too large to be stored in the recycle bin. But I had set aside a large part of the C: drive for previous versions when I set up the machine. So I was able to recover the data in short order.

I would like to think the G.S. would have done the same thing, but I have zero evidence to believe they would.

Maybe they're not the worst tech support on the planet. But I literally felt a chill at the thought that someone would rely on them for critical data services. In my opinion, every singe computer shop on earth is better qualified.

Important Lesson: Geek Squad Will Take Your Customers

My Ex and I were married for 19 years. She knows what I do for a living.

But she was going to take her computer to Geek Squad. Probably drove past six computer stores to get there.


Because they have mind share. They have a big, national brand. They have clean shirts and they are located inside of a big, respectable store.

I can't imagine a small business relying on G.S. for anything.

But then I couldn't imagine that an intelligent individual would go to them either.

The world is changing.

[Final Note: Ex left here instructions to drive straight to any store she wants to buy a backup hard drive. It will probably be Best Buy.]


Join Me In Las Vegas

October 21, 2010 . . . for

Walking Into The Cloud

* Six-Hour training * Get ready NOW to start making money with Cloud Services in the SMB Space. *

Find Out About Migrating from SBS to The Cloud

Early registration is only $199!