Investing a little at a time, early and often.

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Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

When my daughter was born, I opened an investment portfolio in her name. My goal was to put away $1,000 a year for the next 18 years and let the compounding interest do the rest. This plan would add up to a nice stockpile that would help with college, a start-up business, or whatever else she plans on doing with her life.

I wanted to give her a headstart in life.

At 2 years old, she has much more than $2,000 in her portfolio and has double-digit percentage gains.

Once I started moving money around, I got hooked on it and made drastic changes to the amount of money I’ve been putting aside for her each year. …

My wife and I are not those kinds of parents.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

For the last few years, we’ve seen on the Christmas card mailing list of our millennial friends and family.

We’re not the kind of parents done shopping in September or that send Christmas cards to people we hardly speak to throughout the year.

We’ve received half a dozen cards so far this year, and it’s making us feel like we dropped the proverbial Christmas ball.

Does that mean we’re bad parents?

I don’t think so, but here’s a list of things we were able to accomplish this month to help with our feelings of inadequacy:

  • We got all of our shopping done before Christmas…

Santa 2.0

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Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

I never thought visiting Santa could be compared to taking a trip to see your black sheep uncle in prison upstate, but this year is granting us the opportunity to live our wildest reality.

This weekend, we booked a photoshoot with Santa. It will be my daughter’s third photo with Santa but first separated by plexiglass.

She won’t be sitting on his lap. Instead, she’ll wave to him through a see-through plastic divider that will likely be wiped down with a commercial-grade cleanser between children.

Santa, like your drunk uncle, will be sitting helplessly behind glass, waving good cheer and whatever else he has back there. …

Who knew a human thumb could wield such power?

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Brands and companies are constantly vying for our attention. In a world full of distractions, we must protect it at all costs.

The amount of emails I get daily is astounding, and trust me, I’m not that important. But it seems my attention is at a premium, and one of the methods used to garner it is through email.

After years of having my same email address (two decades), I must be on hundreds of email marketing lists nowadays. This means I get way too many emails to read on any given day. You probably do, too. …

Build trust using the voice of your customer

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Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

In a previous article, I talked a lot about where innovation comes from.

It appears I have innovation on the mind a lot lately — where does it come from? When does it make sense to innovate? How do we know exactly what to make? I’m going to stay within that theme to illustrate a thought around trust in marketing.

I’m going to use the Paid, Owned, and Earned model for this exercise. If you've never heard of that model, here’s a quick breakdown with a graphic to outline how it works.

Paid media is any advertising where you pay to get your message across, which may include things such as TV, print, radio, or pay-per-click. Owned media are outlets that your company owns, like your website or company social media profiles. Finally, earned media is what others say about you on social media, online review sites, or traditional word of mouth. …

There are plenty of resources to find what matters to our customers. Just take a look under the hood

Three antique cars with their hoods up
Three antique cars with their hoods up
Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

Instead of making wild guesses or making decisions based on feelings, there are plenty of helpful resources to find what matters to the customer, many of which we already have access to if we take a look under the hood.

Customer Service

I start with the frontline and work my way inward. They hear it straight from the customer all day long.

When I was the marketing director for three ecommerce websites years ago, I watched our website metrics, dashboards, and LivePerson customer service software like a hawk. …

Personalization is the process of delivering the right content, to the right person, at the right time.

Hand holding a marker drawing a wireframe
Hand holding a marker drawing a wireframe
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Amazon has been personalizing their site content for years by remembering your order history and products you viewed during your last visit and using that information to serve up recommended products that are relevant to you.

“Did you recently buy a coffeemaker? You’ll probably need coffee filters, coffee, and why don’t you check out our new coffee mugs and travel tumblers while you’re here.”

The engines and algorithms behind our websites and web applications are getting smarter

Pandora and Spotify recommend music based on your listening history. Open Netflix, and you’ll see recommended movies and TV shows based on your viewing history.

Website visitors are savvy and have grown to expect this behavior, and after spending a few years in the higher education industry, I noticed that field was no exception. I’ll outline some higher ed examples below to illustrate the ideas, but this can apply to any industry. …

Some flowers bloom on their own time.

Little girl with flower
Little girl with flower
Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

My daughter is 2 ½ years old and says hi to everyone.

If she sees a stranger, she immediately says, “hiyo,” toddler talk for hello. It’s adorable and horrifying at the same time.

Three years ago, when we were preparing for her birth, we had a million worries like any new parent has, but none of them involved a global pandemic.

But at least we got some time to prepare. My hat goes off to any new parents that had a child for the first time during this nightmare.

Parenting in quarantine

After locking ourselves away for months in quarantine and being scared of human interaction (even with our family) we started to loosen up a little bit for the sake of our sanity and overall mental health. …

It starts with empathy and lives at the intersection of desirability, viability, and feasibility

Crumpled paper next to a paper airplane
Crumpled paper next to a paper airplane
Photo by Matt Ridley on Unsplash

My mom always said, “If you have to tell someone you’re smart or funny, then you’re probably neither.”

It was a harsh way of teaching me how to read people and their egos, and it holds true with companies and brands, too.

Plenty of companies say they’re innovative, but are they really? There’s a problem if you have to tell the world that you’re innovative, the same one my mom warned me about so many years ago. Shouldn’t the work you do speak for itself?

This got me thinking: Where does true innovation come from and how do you know you are truly innovating and not just upgrading a piece of stale technology? …


Joe Wilson

Creative writer of poetry, music, customer journeys and creative briefs. Customer experience-obsessed brand and digital marketing strategist.

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