Start sooner and take people up on their offers to help more often.
Brian Schmitt is the co-founder of TestMyMarketing.com, where small businesses and startups can submit marketing projects to leading marketing experts from around the country who then review, critique, and often rewrite submitted project copy, rearrange graphics, and offer advice to improve message delivery to the target audience.
Brian partnered with Rich Carr of Carr Knowledge, and Matt Lenhard, to launch Test My Marketing in 2011. He holds an MBA and recently relocated to West Palm Beach, Florida with his wife and their three children.
What are you working on right now?
Test My Marketing is in its early stages of getting traction and growth, but we are bootstrapping the endeavor and considering it a success already (we are holding no debt and expanding our reach daily). We just published a new website that automates 90% of our processes and spreads the reviewing load across our experts much more evenly. We’re getting ready to launch a small business marketing makeover contest worth $25,000 in marketing services.
We have a passion for startups and small businesses, with a primary goal of helping them reach their audience with an authentic and actionable message. That is why we have designed this upcoming contest that will provide one lucky small business with a new, up-to-date, easy-to-manage website, radio and newspaper ad, and access to the wisdom of our experts. This is one of our ways of “paying it forward” and we hope the contest winner will someday choose to do the same. We have been so fortunate to build the company we want, and helping others is an important part of our story.
Where did the idea for Test My Marketing come from?
The idea for Test My Marketing began as a seed idea for a press release reviewing service by David McInnis of PRWeb fame. David presented the idea at a special course at the Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas in August of 2011. I grabbed on to the idea, and with David’s permission, turned it into a blog post reviewing service.
The night we launched the site, we had around five people submit blog posts for review, but we had another 30 people submit all kinds of other marketing projects. We quickly followed the demand of the crowd and dropped the “blog only” verbiage and adopted an “anything goes” approach. We began as Test My Message, but later changed our name to Test My Marketing to indicate the broader range of services.
What does your typical day look like?
Early on, my partners and I agreed not to take any profits out of the business so we could reinvest the maximum amount back into growth. This means we all continue to support ourselves independently of TMM. I still work full-time for an online university as the VP of Operations, so I often spend my early mornings and evenings working on Test My Marketing. The majority of my time is spent communicating with our customers and our experts, interacting on blogs, engaging with startup interest groups, reviewing customer experience planning, and handling any administrative tasks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Figure out what the next step is and take it. If I have an idea and begin to plan more than a few moves ahead, I find a dead end and see failure before I’ve even tried. You must quickly evaluate each question by asking, “Is this critical for the next one or two steps or is it in the weeds?” If it is out so far it’s in the weeds, then set it aside for later. Don’t try to answer it now because you’ll likely just get the wrong answer. It may not even be a question you need to be asking.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend I’m most excited about right now is merging the power of the crowd with the laser-focus of an expert through curated crowd-sourcing. I remember reading an article about Best Buy using aggregated data from their front-line sales people to more accurately forecast their sales during the holiday shopping season. It was exciting to see how this curated, crowd-sourced data was extremely powerful for them. Many new businesses are coming alive now by using the curated crowd to create, forecast, predict and manage. It’s fun to see how many new ways the curated crowd can be harnessed.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
While I was in college one summer, I worked in a University of Missouri research lab. I got up at 4:00 in the morning two days per week to drive to a slaughter house and collect pig ovaries from the slaughterhouse floor. Most mornings I worked in the pig barn until it was time for my 1:00 calculus class. That summer I learned that getting into the interesting work meant getting into some smelly situations.
Understanding why you choose to be somewhere, and what your end goal is, takes precedent over a short-term situation that stinks.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Start sooner and take people up on their offers to help more often.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make your decisions for yourself. That sounds cliché, but I see too many people who let others decide for them. They leave their calendar wide open and end up not finishing anything they really intended to get accomplished. My calendar is full almost every day, but that is because I prioritize the things that are important to me and fill in the gaps with the requests of others. Michael Hyatt has a great blog post on saying “no.” I highly recommend it.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We can’t view our business from the perspective of our customer. We are just too close and too involved to have their perspective. As Roy H. Williams puts it, “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.” So talking to our customers, our experts, and other entrepreneurs has been a great way for us to find our weak points and improve how we interact. We love getting outside reviews from the people who know what our customers are seeking.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m not a baseball card collector, but I was as a kid. A recent move led me to my old stash of cards, and I began wondering about selling them. My son had the idea of a baseball card trading smartphone app that would allow you to take photos of your cards and let image recognition determine who’s featured on the card and what type of condition the card is in. The card would then get added to a database of cards, and those interested in purchasing it would contact the owner to negotiate a price. Money would be taken through the app and held in escrow as the card is shipped to buyer. Upon delivery and verification of card and condition, escrow money would be released to the seller through the app.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
My wife is a nurse practitioner who has a PhD in nursing research. She’s probably the most compassionate person I know, and she gets fired up about injustice, especially in regards to children. I think we are both passionate about nutrition and healthcare for children.
We already work at making an impact on kids so they can have access to healthcare and good nutrition in the U.S. and abroad. Getting others to support causes that make real differences in nutrition and healthcare access for children is one of the biggest hurdles we face today.
Tell us a secret.
I’m a bit of healthy eater, but I secretly wish I could eat cereal, peanut butter and jelly, Fritos and chocolate milk.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I use Google Calendar more than anything else. In one glance I can view 13 different calendars from 7 different sources. It is the ultimate to-do list app.
Wunderkit is a great, free app for breaking down tasks into chains of tasks for getting things done and sharing them with others.
Sparrow for Mac. It has a simple interface, but has great functionality. I like being able to see a picture of the people emailing me. Working remotely often means working with people you never meet physically. Sparrow’s Facebook integration helps me visualize and connect better with the person I’m communicating with.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Great Divorce is my all-time favorite book. It’s a deeply spiritual book, but it is also about making decisions that can either trap us or free us.
Name three people we should follow on Twitter. Why?
I rarely check Twitter, but three people I listen to when they blog or speak are:
- Brad Feld is open, honest, and an insanely smart human.
- Jeff Sexton‘s marketing insights are focused and applicable every time he blogs.
- Rich Christiansen is an entrepreneur who’s done it over and over and over and over. He shares how he’s done it and the principles that keep him repeating his successes.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
We have three kids, ages 7, 11 and 14, along with a dachshund named Frankie. They keep us in stitches on a daily basis. To recall one time would be to recall thousands.
Who is your hero?
I can’t name just one. The people I mentioned above and more like them–Mark Effinger, Shawn Askinosie, Roy H. Williams, Kevin Compton, my wife. They’re all real people making real change in the world.
What is going to help global economic recovery more than anything else?
Small businesses succeeding will bring economic healing faster than anything else our government is trying. By making experts who are normally hired by the Fortune 500 crowd available to the sole proprietor, small LLCs and startups, we hope to make an impact in this area.
How do you find what your passionate about?
It’s a rare person who finds something he knows nothing about yet is suddenly passionate over. Passion comes after you have worked at something, been committed to something, and bled for something. People are who completely committed to something become passionate about it. Did you catch that? (Commitment came before being passionate.)