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19 Dec 2011

Getting To Know You: Mike Huber

Getting to Know You

In this edition of the Vertical Measures Employee Interview Series, we speak with client services director Mike Huber about how online marketing has changed the last few decades, his experience growing up as an army brat and his bushy mustache.

Michael Schwartz: What do you do here at Vertical Measures?

Mike Huber: Point out the obvious, ask a lot of questions and look for ways to improve our deliverables and our processes.

Michael: What accomplishment are you most proud of since joining VM?

Mike: I can’t point to one single thing.  We’ve started a number of projects that should improve our processes and the overall performance of the company.  The wiki is constantly being updated with new information and the good news there is more and more people are editing/adding pages.  It still needs to gain traction as a go-to resource.  And speaking of resources, our database should help us to be much more efficient and allow us to deliver better links to our clients.

I like the way our redesign on our CSG and sales proposals is coming along as well.

Michael: What did you learn managing the sales department at AZCentral?

Mike: Managing salespeople is like herding cats.  Each one has their own ideas on how to make goal and they don’t want to follow any prescribed way of doing things.  I learned that if I inspected what I expected that in most cases, my sellers would meet or exceed their goals.  What gets rewarded gets repeated, so I spent a lot of time working on commission programs, incentives and recognition programs.

I also learned that you needed to be very educational in your approach to selling in a new market.  Our business is the same way today.  We need to describe the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ for our clients.  They need to understand why we recommend and implement the marketing strategies we do.

Michael: Describe how different the online marketing world is now compared to when you worked at The Republic in the late 90s.

Mike: Actually I could write a book about it.  Marketing on the Internet was just ramping up and everything was new.  It was an exciting time because we were doing what no one else had done before…we were making it up as we went along.  I remember one of the first things we did was a ‘live’ Lasik surgery and we had to buy extra bandwidth in order to accommodate all the traffic we anticipated it would generate.

Banner ads and CPM buys were the rage and interstitial advertising was just developing.  We found ways to sell outside of the basic ads with dynamic HTML ads and other creative placements.

One of the things that I remember is the number of businesses that would come and pitch their product or service.  Many of them had great ideas but didn’t have a way to monetize their offerings.  I recall asking many of them, “So, how can we make money with this”?

I also remember it was much easier to compete for page one rankings.  When I worked for Alliance Reservations Network just after my AZCentral days, I was involved in a follow-the-leader approach for SEO.  I would analyze our competitors and emulate what they were doing on the web.  Before Google filtered commercial links you could buy one and get all the link juice to apply.  I found an especially good link my competitors were using and within days we had the first 15 listings in Google for the term ‘Clearwater Beach hotels.’  That was the only time I ever had to de-optimize for Google.

Michael: What is the most important aspect of a well-rounded Internet marketing plan?

Mike: I think a lot of people confuse goals with strategy.  A goal is your preferred future state and a strategy is a document that helps you get there.  With that in mind, you have to make sure your strategy or marketing plan looks at all the aspects of your positioning on the web and how that interrelates to your goals.  Good plans have specific measureable details, timelines and action steps.

Michael: I understand your wife is eating a vegetarian diet and has roped you in as well for the most part. What kind of adjustment has that been for you?

Mike: I wish I could say I’m as dedicated to a vegetarian diet as I was.  I lost 10 pounds and felt great during that first month.  What I missed more than anything else was the actual ‘texture’ of meat.  I found that if the vegetarian meal had mushrooms, it was a good substitute for that.  I’m sure after the holidays are over, I’ll be much better at sticking to that diet.

Michael: Rumor has it that you moved around quite a bit as a kid and lived in locales as exotic as Iran. How often did you move and what was it like to live abroad?

Mike: I’m an Army brat.  My dad served in the military for 27 years.  I can tell you that it was fun for me as a kid.  We moved about every 18 months.  Here’s a list of places we lived:  Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, California, Kansas, Okinawa, Iran and Arizona.

I lived in Iran in the late 60’s, early 70’s.  It was an interesting time as the Shah was still in power and he was trying to westernize the country.  Even though he was a constitutional monarch, I think Iranians had much more freedom back then than they do now.   It was quite a shock going there as their culture is significantly different than that of the U.S.

There wasn’t a military base and we lived in a neighborhood in Tehran.  We actually lived next to an orchard that was owned by the Shah.  I remember my brother and I hopping the wall and snagging pomegranates and cherries.

The American community there spent a lot of time together and did things to remind us of what we’d left behind.  Like football.  That’s me on the left.

I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

By comparison, my boys have only lived in Iowa and Arizona.

Michael: I know you run a couple of web sites on the side. What have been your main goals with those sites?

Mike: My main goals are to develop passive income.  The sites are mostly travel focused by specific location destination.  For example, Arizona Tourism is a site about Arizona and all the fun you can have here on your vacation.  It’s actually my favorite to work on because I’ve been all around the state taking pictures, hiking and enjoying what Arizona has to offer.

For example, here’s a shot of Havasupai that I took.

Building my own sites has helped me to understand HTML, CSS and other things that affect rankings.  It allows me to ‘look under the hood’ at our clients’ websites and understand some of the things that might be negatively impacting their rankings.

Michael: Now I must ask, how long have you had that mustache?

Mike: I’ve had it since I was in my early 20’s.  I only shaved it off a couple of times.  After I’d been married about three years, I shaved off half of it and then sat next to my wife on the couch.  She could only see that side that was left.  I asked her what she would think if I shaved it off.  She said she didn’t know because I’d always had is since I met her…so I turned my head…she laughed really hard.

Michael: How did you become a Toastmasters Club president and what was that experience like for you?

Mike: We started a Toastmasters Club in downtown Phoenix.  I was the second president of the club.  I had a vested interest in the club succeeding as I was one of the people that got it started and as the club president, I continued to develop club activities and growing membership.

Toastmasters is a great organization as it allows you a place to practice pubic speaking in a safe and supporting environment.  Everyone at the meeting has a goal of becoming a better speaker and they often share tips and tricks on how to improve.  One of the very best parts of Toastmaster’s is practicing extemporaneous speaking.  Once you learn some of the ‘tricks,’ it’s much easier to organize and deliver a quick impromptu speech.

Remember those annoying lectures in college where the professor would uh, ahhh and mmm their way through class…they should have gone to Toastmasters to learn how to transition from one thought to another without using annoying pauses.  And, to all the people under 30 who use the word ‘like’ for transitions, go to Toastmasters and learn how to take that out of your vocabulary.

Michael: Finally, what do you like about working at Vertical Measures?

Mike: What I like best is working with really smart people who are truly experts at search optimization, social media marketing, content marketing and link building. And, I like the relaxed, collaborative atmosphere.

2 Comments

  • Dan @ Custom Polo Shirts Dec 20, 2011

    Enjoyed the interview. Question, you touch a little on marketing but what are some of the more cost effective ways of reaching an audience without expensive ad campaigns?

  • Mike Dec 20, 2011

    Depends on the audience and what your product or service is. If your service is Internet Marketing, It could be as simple as dropping your business card into a book at Barnes & Noble with a title dealing with Internet Marketing.

    If you’re trying to build traffic to your site, link building can be a great start. You can ask for links or create great content that is link-worthy.

    Or, it could be volunteering to speak at a Rotary Club or other club meeting about a topic related to your product or services.

    These are just some quick ideas. It’s best to have an overall strategy and then to develop tactical plans for deployment.