stack of books

What I Learned From an Unplugged Weekend

What I Learned From an Unplugged Weekend 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

A couple weekends ago I turned my phone back into a phone, took the smart out of smartphone if you will and unplugged for the weekend.

It was long overdue. I knew it could be done. Even though I’m fairly young and of the generation who grew up with this technology – hyper-connected and uber social, I still remember a time when I had to go home to check my voicemail. I remember when dinner was just food and drink and conversation, when small talk was a courtesy and an art and when people couldn’t see what I was eating unless they were with me.

So, I read about National Day of Unplugging on Twitter somewhere. Surprise. I can always use a good cause (excuse) to get behind. A reason not to check emails from bed first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep. A reason not to experience everything from behind a 4″ screen. Being on-demand is exhausting. It does something to you. It’s not healthy.

The premise: sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, no social media, no apps, no texting, no internet. Those might not be the official rules but I clarified for myself that a phone was a phone only. You talk on it. I also shut down my laptop. Turned that sucker off. No smart tv either – nada. I disconnected to feel more connected to what’s around me.

I easily stuck to the rules and timeline and I learned some new things, and some I’d forgotten, along the way:

1. I take amazing photos in my mind when I’m really seeing something. And the filter is one of kind.

2. To share those pictures in my head and do them justice I need to be a great storyteller. I need to be descriptive. I need to be authentic. I need to communicate in a way that is understandable to whomever I’m talking with. It’s an exercise that translates to how we communicate as marketers.

3. I miss writing, physical writing, with pen and paper. Cursive is a dying art in itself. Some schools have stopped teaching it and no matter the reason it breaks my heart.

5. Rarely is there a real good reason to hurry. Most deadlines are arbitrary and most drama is self-imposed or due to complete lack of planning.

6. I feel infinitely more creative within the margins. By “margins” I don’t mean “within the lines” or “within the rules” but rather within the margins between to-dos. The white space on my calendar, the times not working to meet a demanding deadline. It’s important for all of us to understand our individual process for the getting the best of our abilities in a way that is sustainable and allows us to do it long-term.

Taking care of yourself helps you take care of your customers and your business. Sometimes you have to disconnect in order to connect with what matters.

Have you unplugged recently? How’d it go? Share with us in the comments.

Photo credit: Ginny


Growing Our Business: A Look Ahead

Growing Our Business: A Look Ahead 880 461 Marsh Williams

When we started this little experiment we had several goals in mind: everyone will always be treated with respect, clients will always receive our best counsel, we will never take on a project just for the money, and we will create a culture where people get to showcase their talents, love what they do and love where they do it. Oh, yeah…and we will not compromise on any of these points.

So far we’ve done pretty well, but now comes growth.

Rightly or not, what we’ve created feels like a recipe of well-blended ingredients, but now we need to add in some new people, new skills and probably a new office. What’s this going to do? How do we add to the mix but not loose the flavor we’ve created?

At this point we’ve made two decisions about Shout Out’s growth, people are everything. Finding the right people with the right personalities and skill sets is absolutely essential, and in a showdown personality always trumps skills. Skills can be improved, but it’s a little tougher with personalities.

Secondly, we want to make sure we continue our philosophy of taking what we do very seriously, but not so much with ourselves. We need to stay true to ourselves. To manage this we have proclaimed Nathaniel our company Oracle; the keeper of the flame, our personality barometer. His sense of what is right and wrong for us is spot on, and last but not least it’s because we love calling him The Oracle.

Actually we’re going to do what every organization out there does: do the best we can. But, we’re going to journal this process of growth and see what we do learn. If you have any interest please join us and ask us any questions you have along the way.

Photo Credit: ortizmj12

laptop and notebok outside

Inspiration For Everyday Business

Inspiration For Everyday Business 842 452 Shout Out Studio

It’s February. It’s down-right nasty outside. It’s still the beginning of the year so business is crazy. Considering all of this, it can be easy to fall into an inspirational slump. For us, creativity is at the forefront of what we do, so we have to fix this, stat. Last week we worked in a new office space for the day with color and creativity surrounding us and it was awesome. That space got me thinking; what are more ways to get out of the creativity slump in the bleak days of winter?

Switch it up.

The notebook you use, your regular schedule, the font you type in, the color of your nails. Simple changes, something new, can inspire you to switch it up mentally. Heck, even if there is something you really don’t like about your day, such as conference calls, make fun of it.

Have your meetings somewhere awesome.

We recommend gathering someplace where diversity and inspiration is around every corner. If you usually have your meetings in a small white room go crazy and have it at a cool space like this, or at a new coffee shop in town.

Focus on you.

It can be challenging to inspire a whole team, when all else fails, focus on inspiring yourself. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Catch a few Webinars or Podcasts for motivation. Doodle, even if its not good. When you are inspired it can catch like wildfire around the office. You can even do something great on the weekends like turn off your phone for a whole day (Say whatttt?!).

Do you have ways to stay inspired during the dull days of winter? Let us know.

Photo credit: David Joyce


There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying No

There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying No 880 461 Marsh Williams

At one point in my career, about 324 years ago, I had the privilege of working with Harry Gard, one of the original people behind CompuServe, and one of his favorite sayings was “…I’ve made more money saying no than I ever have said yes.”

I’ve always had a tendency to say yes and felt saying no to something, be it a client, a project, a whatever was a sign of weakness. “I don’t want anyone thinking there’s something I can’t do,” and that philosophy has probably created more problems for me than I want to admit. There’s nothing wrong with stretching yourself and learning, but overreaching and promising something just so you can say yes can cause a lot of problems.

But, over time, I’ve come to understand that know what can be done and what should be done in a given situation is a great strength. I’ve learned to say no. Oh don’t get me wrong I still hate to say no, but I’ve learned that it’s the best route in certain situations.

Two weeks ago we were in a meeting with a prospective client and we were asked if we could help them develop a retail marketing strategy for something. Could we? Maybe. (That’s nothing but arrogance speaking.) Should we? No. It’s way out of our experience and core competencies. I told them that it was just not something we were comfortable with and it would be lying to them if I said we could.

The CEO thanked me. What I was really prepared for was, “Well thank you but we’re looking for a firm with broader capabilities.” What I got was, “…thank you. That’s the most honest answer we’ve had in any of our meetings. I’m just sick and tired of everyone saying they can do everything.”

Did I want to tell him yes…of course, I’m a recovering pleaser, but I had to tell him the truth. He would have found out anyway and at that point, our relationship and credibility would have taken a huge hit.

Saying no is hard, there is no doubt about it, but if asked to do something outside your expertise or abilities, try it…I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Photo Credit: gaptone

Picture of tools on table

Excellent New Marketing Tool for WordPress

Excellent New Marketing Tool for WordPress 776 415 Marsh Williams

Everyone has heard about marketing automation; the holy grail of business software solutions; at least this week. The solutions abound, HubSpot, ActOn, Infusionsoft, Marketo, and so on. They promise the moon, and for those with the human and financial capital to use them effectively, they actually deliver outstanding results. But what about the little guy, what about the small business that wants some of the same capabilities but has a staff of five and no money to spend. What do they do?

Well, using our superpower of prognostication we think we may have found one; LeadIn. We’ve been trying it out for the last few weeks and really like what we’ve seen so far. Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but it already is adding value to our organization.

In short, the current software provides capabilities to track individuals who visit a website and fill out any associated form, be it a request for information, a download of some sort, or joining a newsletter. LeadIn adds a tracking cookie to the visitors’ browser and automatically ads them to the LeadIn contacts section it will create in your WordPress site. In that sense, it is as powerful as the other options that cost thousands of dollars per month.

The folks at LeadIn are very much on the right track and have designs for bringing significant capabilities to the WordPress world.

Now the reason for this blatant plug…something we don’t do often…they need testers. Right now they are seeking to get as many people as they can accommodate to install the beta PlugIn and try it out. If this holds any interest for you, we hope you will check them out and we can all watch together as they move forward.

Photo Credit: tashland

picture of lego man screaming

Fear Driven Business Scares Me

Fear Driven Business Scares Me 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Business can be rough these days. The pressure is on to keep up with the demands and changing ideas of consumers – who seem to be spending less and less. Or maybe they’re just spending smarter.

The trends you jump on this morning are dying by sunset and new trends have moved in. Your competitors are innovating. New competitors are popping up every day – all full of personality and caffeine. Or piss and vinegar as my granddad would say.

I have no idea what those ingredients have to do with anything, but still.

And so, when the heat is on and there are decisions to be made that will have a ripple effect across the organization, far too many companies react based on fear. Like when you punch a haunted house worker even though you know it’s all fake.

It’s fight or flight. It’s instinct.

The difference between socking a guy wearing a zombie mask and leading your company or team with a desperate hand is that the former is a one-time event and the latter often turns into a habit. Those decisions can begin to build on themselves.  They stack up until you have to dig your way out. Change the culture.

Seth Godin talks about something similar here. He calls it Stoogecraft.

So how does one help prevent a layer of suffocating fear-based decisions? read more

Summer Company Bucket List image of sand buckets on the beach

How and Why to Make a Company Bucket List

How and Why to Make a Company Bucket List 880 461 Shout Out Studio

June is here and everyone is getting that summer itch. It’s the one where people would rather be out and about instead of in the office. It’s the same one that has everyone dreaming of that vacation to The Outer Banks they have coming up.

So, you have a pile of things you have to get done before you can get to the summer fun. What do you do? (I promise I’m not leading you to a cheesy infomercial)

Make a Summer Company Bucket List! For not only fun things but ridiculously productive things as well. 

Yes, you can do both. When everyone else is taking half days to hit the beach or golf course get creative with your productivity.

What are some things that you’ve wanted to do but keep putting off? DO THOSE THINGS. Schedule time to do it this summer. It doesn’t have to be something you are dreading to do, but if it is, make it into something fun by adding a change of scenery. Find a great coffee shop, restaurant or pub with a patio for instance. read more

Image of Apple logo on building

Resigning from the Cult of Mac

Resigning from the Cult of Mac 880 461 Marsh Williams

Clearly I’m not an analyst but I have religiously followed Apple since I bought my first Mac in 1984. Apple products have been a staple in our family and in my companies since they first hit the market. I was definitely in the “Cult of Mac” until this morning, when I came to a very solid realization: I’m not and actually never was.

I was in the cult of Steve Jobs and that’s gone.

In the last year I’ve watched Apple make several painful read more

Image of Spartan Lego man

How to Work Smart and Hard

How to Work Smart and Hard 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Work Smart and Hard – Imagine what you could accomplish

I always remember the saying, “work smart, not hard.” My granddad used to tell me that despite the hard work he put in – long hours as a steelworker. I wore the “work smart, not hard” mantra like a cape all through school and it worked out pretty well.

Except for in math class. We won’t talk about math class.

As I got older though and began to pay attention to the leaders I respected and how their efforts related to the things I wanted to accomplish I thought back on the “work smart, not hard” philosophy. But instead of trying to figure out new and better ways to implement that strategy I thought, “imagine what could I accomplish if I do both.”

Now, in the midst of growing a young company, working smart and working hard is a must for meeting goals. Technology makes it pretty easy to work smart. Focus, inspiration, self-awareness and self-discipline make it easier to work hard. Here are some thoughts on both. read more


Passion For Doing It Right.

Passion For Doing It Right. 842 452 Marsh Williams

One of the great things about our work is that we’re always meeting new people. Every week we are getting to talk with entrepreneurs who are doing everything from creating new medical devices to craft brewers, and there is one undeniable link: they are incredibly passionate about what they are doing. I love this! It’s not often I throw exclamation marks around but there it is.

Seriously, I can’t remember when I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many people who are passionately committed to making something great. It almost seems like a recommitment to the craftsman era of the 1900’s when small groups of people got together bonded by their passion for art, furniture making, architecture, whatever. This movement which was essentially anti-industrial stood for craftsmanship and simplicity, and while today’s movement may seem read more


FileTransporter: Small Business Solution for File Sharing

FileTransporter: Small Business Solution for File Sharing 842 452 Marsh Williams

A New File Sharing Option Hits the Market

As a confessed Kickstarter Junkie, and as an excuse to continue my addiction, I thought it might be fun to review some of the items we’ve acquired — actually it’s just me, but saying “we” makes me feel better — and let you know what we think. The first one to enter the spotlight is the new Transporter from Connected Data a small business solution for file sharing.

Online collaboration has become the norm. A number of solutions facilitate that collaboration including online file sharing. With offerings like DropBox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and Box there is no shortage of choices; however, the more of these solutions that come into play, the more the monthly expense compounds. With staff and clients accessing our DropBox, our monthly expense has climbed well north of what it was originally and we expect this trend to continue. So when we saw the Transporter project on Kickstarter it looked really interesting as a solution for small business file sharing.

Transporter promises the same type of online file sharing with a simple interface, better security and no monthly fees. It also comes in several “flavors” including 1 TB and 2 TB storage offerings, so we jumped on board and ordered one to test as a replacement for DropBox. read more

Image of cup with title of Thanks For Your Tips

3 Strangers at Home in the People Business

3 Strangers at Home in the People Business 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

I’m sitting down to write this out of the blue post at 11:30 am on this here Friday morning and I’ve already had the pleasure of crossing paths with 3 cool strangers in 3 hours. All of them passionate about their work. All of them interesting and genuine.

All of them with great names too….weird.

These 3 new strangers; Bren the coffee shop barista, Slade – a networking connection, and Monroe over at the electronics store have me feeling inspired this morning. Yes, people do still go to the electronics store.

Now, I meet new people often and I visit a number of different coffee shops and retail locations. People are typically friendly and helpful in Columbus, so what made these 3 folks so inspiring? read more

Kickstarter 1

17 Reasons You Should Know About Kickstarter

17 Reasons You Should Know About Kickstarter 1920 700 Marsh Williams

Some of you may know about Kickstarter, but to some, it will be new, so hang in and follow along…

Hi, my name is Marsh and I’m addicted to Kickstarter.

It all started because of my love for, and fascination with, gadgets. At first, it was just small things like smartphones, apps and anything that buzzes, whirs or makes a lights up. Then someone turned me on to Kickstarter and that is where things got worse

For those of you who may not know Kickstarter, it is a crowdsource platform for new products and services. Think of it as a storefront for ideas, the ultimate in window shopping. Anyone who follows the Kickstarter guidelines can launch a product. Companies promote their offering via a mini business plan, product description and usually a promotional video. They establish a fundraising goal for the launch and let people vote with their wallets.

read more


A Plea to Get Your Business Online

A Plea to Get Your Business Online 842 452 Shout Out Studio

I’m here to help your business, so I wanted to make a simple plea.

Please use the internet to reach your audience. For your own sake… please…..

Millions and millions of folks across the country are logging in every day. Folks sitting in their cubicle are surfing the web while they’re supposed to be working. Retired grandparents are sitting at home reading Facebook on their iPad. Anyone under 30 is trying to look you up on their iPhone (hopefully not while they’re driving) or asking their Twitter friends for recommendations on businesses that do exactly what you do. read more

5 Must Reads for Small Businesses

5 must reads for small business folks and business dreamers

5 must reads for small business folks and business dreamers 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Not every book you read to help your small business has to do with accounting or hiring and firing or how to be the perfect manager. Those may be important topics but so are less tangible subjects such as inspiration, creativity, and differentiation.

Below are five must-reads for small business owners and business dreamers of all sorts.

read more


Seducing Your Audience

Seducing Your Audience 842 452 Shout Out Studio

Choosing between boring, yelling at or seducing your audience seems obvious; seduction wins, duh! But all too often we don’t take the time to seduce the audience. We fall into messaging, writing and design that will offend nobody and –  consequently –  will engage nobody.

Seduction requires being subtle in some ways & overt in others. Being forward yet being coy. A bit of tug & pull will have your target audience drooling over read more

Marketing Analytics

Analytics Marketing Tips

Analytics Marketing Tips 842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Analytics Marketing Strategies

Understanding analytics marketing these days seems to require the Wizard of Oz. A group of uniquely important characters, related in more ways than they realize – all with individual goals that turn out to be on the same ultimate path. They all rely on each other to get where they’re going. They all have a role to play. read more

Photo of a row of seats in a college lecture hall

The Benefits of Internships

The Benefits of Internships 880 461 Shout Out Studio

I can sit studying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs and core elements of consumer-driven marketing strategy for years, which it seems I have been doing nothing but for 4 years. Yet no matter how much I immerse myself in my textbooks, nothing will prepare me for real life experience more than working in, well, real life.

This is where Shout Out Studio comes into play.

read more

Photo of a calander with margins

Plan Your Work with Margins

Plan Your Work with Margins 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

The last few months have been a sprint. Seeing how times like that can impact the quality of work and life got me thinking about margins. Not the profit kind, though they are important for your business. I’m referring to time margins. Thought margins. Creative margins. Take a break margins. Read some fiction margins. Listen to your favorite record margins. Go for a walk, play with the dog, grab a drink with friends, margins. read more

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