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Marketing implies selling. Communication implies relationship.

That line is from a tweet of mine last week that really seemed to resonate with a big audience. Which in turn pushed it back on to Think Digital and our purpose as an organization.

The Chandler Bing Question

What is it that we actually do? I struggled with this question for a long time. Not because I didn’t know the answer. It was because I didn’t want to say we do social media marketing, the default category companies like Think Digital are placed into.

The reality is that isn’t the only thing we do. It’s a component, but it’s not “the thing.” Sometimes there are agencies or individuals who spend their whole entire day doing social media marketing.

I wanted our company to be more than that. Not that it’s bad, but the reality is social media as a trend or hot topic is fleeting.

I don’t want to build a fleeting business; I want a business that’s around for a long haul.

That was a tension point. The other tension point was the course I created: Think Digital Academy.

I found out as people were taking the course that they wanted customized plans or help with implementation. They wanted to learn the stuff we were teaching in the academy for their whole team which looks differently than what the course will offer.

Simply calling ourselves a digital or social media marketing company seemed short sighted.

A Digital Communication Company

We are renaming Think Digital as a digital communication company because nobody wants to be sold to, but everyone wants a friend. We settled here because we help brands, individuals, and organizations build lasting online relationships.

The long and short of it is this: the more relationships that you start, nurture, and multiply the more opportunity you have for connection around your big idea.

That connection can mean sales, it can mean capturing email addresses, it can mean more donations/donors. It can mean tons of different things depending on your scenario.

At the heart of what we do, we facilitate and help people build those relationships online with the people they care about and the people who care about what they care about.

At the end of the day that is who we are and what we do. It just so happens that right now the avenue for doing that is social media and building websites and writing email newsletters. It’s in consulting and in teaching courses. But this can all change! It may be completely different 10 years from now.

We have the ability to change and adapt as a digital communications company. If I put my stake in the ground that we are a social media marketing company come hell or high water, or company is going to end when social media is swept aside by the next thing.

The Chandler Bing Answer

Eventually we found out what Chandler Bing does: he was an IT procurement manager! I think we have finally found out what Think Digital does: we are a digital communications company.

My team would love to show you what digital communications means. If you need help building relationships online, shoot me an email here.


When you start a business, it’s like being thrown overboard.

Every person I have known that has been on a cruise knows one undeniable thing: that cruise can go one way or another. It can be amazing or terrible. There really is no in-between.

Businesses Are Cruise Ships

When you start a business, the ship that you’re being thrown off of is like a discount cruise line. When you work for someone else, there is usually a moment when you realize you’re on a mediocre cruise line. By that I mean the food is kind of like the food at your college cafeteria. The entertainment is the rejects from American Idol. And you’re constantly seasick.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a miserable time to me.

There are a few benefits to this discount ship. You are safe, secure, fed, and you have a place to sleep. It may not be the Ritz Carlton of the high seas, but it is comfortable. Now imagine that before you start a business, you’re standing on the deck and looking over the railings thinking “I wonder if life could be different. I wonder if there is another way to sail these seas.”

Before you know it, somebody has come along and thrown you overboard while you stand on the rail and dream. Why? The reasons may be vast and varied. Someone else might need your room: meaning the company has found a way to get what you do done more cheaply. Or they may be eliminating rooms altogether: in other words, the company is downsizing.

The other situation may be that you have jumped overboard as well, because you can’t stand the way of life any longer and you know there is a new reality out there for you. For whatever reason, you are now completely immersed in an ice cold ocean called “Reality.” If you don’t do something quickly you are going to drown.

This is just like starting your own business. It’s important for you to know this because you may think you know what the waters will feel like but you don’t. Until you actually immerse yourself in it, there is no possible way to be prepared.

Year One: Craft a Raft

The first year of business is basically just like when you first jump into the waters.  Your instincts kick in and you start kicking and clawing and paddling your way up to the surface!

You realize that life can be different than the one that you had on board, but you have to be the one to build the raft. No one will give you a raft, no one is going to rescue you. You have to be the one to prepare the new form of transportation. You are responsible for your own rescue.

So you fight and claw and paddle your way to the surface. You poke your face just above the surface and start gasping for air. Little by little, shreds and pieces of debris and driftwood come your way. You start collecting them, binding them together, and forming your own ship.

That breaking through and cobbling together of a raft is symbolic of the first year of running your own business. Many people do not make it past this first year. Many people cannot keep their heads above water long enough to build their own life raft let alone build the luxury liner they were envisioning when they were either thrown overboard or made the jump by choice.

Year Two: A Bigger Boat

If you make it past the first year, then you spend the next year gathering more pieces of sea debris and continuing to fortify and grow your ship. This is where Think Digital is at right now! We’re nearing the end of our second year. We’ve grown our ship to the point where other people can fit on it and are being supported by it.

Year Three: Enter the Enemies

But the danger isn’t over yet – because the third year is when the sharks come. That’s when you really see what you’re made of. That’s where your ship begins to support you and others, but it also helps you fend off any predators that want to take you out.

These sharks can be anything from competitors to the bank to poor cash flow planning to HR issues to bad team members. There is an endless line of sharks waiting to munch on you and take you out.

After the third year something happens. The storms stop. You get the sharks under control and you even find ways to utilize them to power your business. After the third year, you really start to pick up steam. That is when your ship starts to really take shape and you start sailing towards the life that you imagined as you were toppling over the rail on that old mediocre cruise ship.

The key is this: upwards of 50% of startup businesses do not make it out of the first 3 years. There’s a reason for that! Because fighting your way to the surface, building your own life raft, and then growing it into the luxury liner you imagined is really hard.

The Price of Admission

While it is hard, it is the price of admission. Every single preconceived idea I had about entrepreneurship has been almost categorically wrong. It is an exhausting ride, but it is a thrilling ride, and I would not have it any other way.

Many of you reading this post need to understand this metaphor of building a business before you start. It is a fight and it is a struggle. It may look easy from the outside. Go ahead and think about a business that you idolize. I guarantee you that every single person attached to that business has fought through this struggle. It may not have lasted as long, but they have been through it.

The price of entry is fighting this battle, and it is a glorious price. Once you pay it you can begin to see and taste the new reality that you know exists. Listen to and nurture that voice inside that is aiming for the luxury liner, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself under water fighting for your life.


Have you ever been stuck in a maze?

Here in Iowa, every fall we have these weird, quirky things called corn mazes.

(I’m sure they have them elsewhere in the world, but, you know….IOWA.)

my kids in a cornfield

My kids LOVE the corn mazes. It’s actually kind of weird. I call them “Children of the Corn” but they just stare at me. Blankly. Whatever.

We have to go through a maze at least once each year or the Daddy Stock drops about a million percentage points.

They usually whiz through them with no trouble. They haven’t met a maze they couldn’t match.

But last year, my little Evie got stuck.

See, Finn (my son) and I went into the maze and, thinking Evie was safely close by, zoomed ahead.

Left. Right. Sprint. Rest. Think. Move.

It wasn’t until about 5 minutes in where I looked back behind me and….NO EVIE.

Two thoughts popped into my mind:

ONE: Oh my goodness, Kerry (my wife) is going to kill me!

TWO: Oh my goodness, Kerry is going to KILL me!


…And then I heard it in the distance… A tiny, shrill, frantic little scream:




I knew instantly it was Evie.

I could hear the fear in her voice. It was time to move fast and take action.

I shouted back between the rows and rows of corn paths obstructing my view….

Evie! Daddy’s here! Don’t be scared! Just follow my voice!

…and then…

Evie! Daddy’s almost got you! I can hear you! It’s okay!

…and then…


I caught up to her just as some fellow maze-goers were about to call the police and report a lost little girl and, quite possibly, haul me off to jail.

I scooped her up and navigated the rest of the maze with her in my arms.

I wasn’t letting go–plus, I don’t think she would have given me an option!

We exited the maze and sat down as a family to the customary post-maze picnic of apple cider donuts and cider.



Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.

I was talking with a small businesses owner, let’s call him “Jed”.

Jed is a 35-year-old man with a bricks-and-mortar business he loves dearly.

He’s a far cry from even remotely resembling my 3-year-old daughter, except for one thing…

Panic. Dread. Fear. Anxiety.

See, Jed knows digital marketing (a.k.a. website, blog, email, and social media) is a must. He just has no idea where to start.

I heard the panic as he described the frustration of building his email list.

The dread as he described converting his social media followers into customers.

The frustration of no one reading his blog posts.

The futility of sending out one enewsletter after the next with no traction.

In short, he feels stuck. Maybe you do too.

Thankfully there’s a way out of the maze (and it doesn’t even involve me scooping you up in my arms!).

Jed doesn’t have to stay stuck. Neither do you. If you feel like you’re stuck in the social media maze, click the button below to find your way out.

Click Here to Escape

I hear you. I know what you’re feeling. Let’s get you out.