It was February 9th, 2009. I arrived to work early that Monday morning to plan my week and get a jump on what was already a challenging sales quarter. Then around 8:15am an email came across my inbox from the CEO announcing an 8% layoff. Surely, the folks who were going to be let go were told on Friday or something, or so I thought to myself.
Then my manager walked up to my cube at 8:30. I could tell by the look in his eyes, he wasn’t stopping by to say good morning. I had just left Dell in August 2008 to join NetApp as a new Account Executive to build out their west Texas commercial business. I was the newest member to the team and reveled at the potential opportunity to make more money than I ever have. This job would have put me in the big leagues in terms of C level sales and income. The product was compelling and I could see how I could differentiate in a competitive data storage market. Especially, once I was able to get in front of a customer, our story and demo was spot on. So much so that EMC purchased them last year as they continued to take market share and develop their channel.
While I originally was looking for a job with more money (MBA Loans to pay), I was also looking to get off the road. This job also offered an opportunity to further develop my cold-calling and prospecting skills. I had been traveling full-time with Dell for over two years and it was wearing on me and my family. Furthermore, since I had moved to Dallas from Austin to take the job, I hadn’t developed any relationships in my community and really had no network beyond the few SMEI meetings I had attended and my local church. The NetApp Dallas based role offered the chance to eat dinner at home more often, see my kids activities and start to network socially and professionally.
Money Wasn’t The Answer
What I realized right away is that I just wasn’t motivated to sell data storage. Now I’m not saying I was the best sales person on the planet, but the lack of passion about the product affected my commitment to the job. Oddly enough, at new hire orientation, I still drove my team to win the best team presentation on the product. However, I’ve always been extremely ambitious and told myself I would do anything to succeed. But I was lost professionally, spiritually, and physically. I had no connection to the company and while I really enjoyed the team I worked with, we were sales guys and were really focused on our own territories. Sales is the ultimate meritocracy and that’s what I have always loved about it.
Fortunately, I had a decent severance package even for having been there 6 months. I recognized right away that I wanted to return to marketing with a strong customer interaction and business development focus. I had been actively engaged on LinkedIn and connecting to folks, but I realized for what I wanted to do, most of my existing network in Dallas was too far removed. At that point, I didn’t realize how tough the job market actually was. However, I realized how powerful social media was in achieving my goals, but had no idea what an impact it would have on my life.
Social Media Helped Me Find My Passion and Get Me Closer to my Dream
I saw the potential of social media early on and had been a power user of LinkedIn since it first launched. A few days after I was laid off, I posted this to my LinkedIn status update: “I’m a free agent, who wants me”. Honestly, I didn’t anticipate any response. I wanted to test how many folks really monitored these updates and possibly test my social capital as well. At this point I had well over 1,000 connections on Linkedin. Surprisingly, I not only received numerous offers to help me out, but more importantly, an email from a former customer that put my consulting business in action. At this point, I wasn’t even considering consulting. It was a large 4YR university that I had previously sold to who also knew me as a marketer at Dell. It was this first four month consulting engagement that made me realize the potential of social media. This project doubled their web traffic and tripled their revenue.
This last year has provided incredible opportunities and challenges. Obviously, financially it’s been difficult as I started the consulting business and I’ve had to make some very tough choices to do something I’m passionate about. That being said, I’ve had some opportunities to affect change that I never knew possible. I realized it was time to find a career I could really get motivated about. Then, my first opportunity to speak about social media came as I started a career support group at my church. My first presentation was on the power of social media and Linkedin in to develop ones personal brand and to network. It received rave reviews and I coached numerous folks not only on the philosophy but the tools as well. More importantly, I gave access to my network and taught others how to find contacts. As a sales rep, I could find anyone. I then spoke at the DFW Social Media Marketing Meetup in March 2009 to a full room. Little did I know, that topic would become one of my signature speeches.
Ever since I read “The Pursuit of Wow” by Tom Peters, I knew I wanted to be an author and professional speaker. I was too busy doing my current job at Dell to develop speaking opportunities outside my own company and industry. This is the problem with most people, they never take the time to sit down and really think about what they want to do. Furthermore, they don’t take action. They just make incremental job changes. To increase my knowledge of social media, I started reading blogs and books voraciously. I already had a background in direct marketing at Dell and several startups, but if I was going to talk about marketing in the context of social media I also had to practice it. The consulting not only offered that tactical testing ground but also helped me understand other strategies I saw in practice.
Out of passion and necessity come Creative Destruction. This passion and need to succeed and survive are fostering new ideas, new collaboration, and a whole new set of friends and connections that I would have never imagined. I’m having discussions with all sizes of companies and agencies about outstanding opportunities. As I was working on my taxes this past weekend, I was amazed at how much I money I actually earned. Albeit, not what I made before. Means its time to work harder, smarter and to partner more.
One of the big successes of last year was around the social media workshops I executed in New Mexico. I had a network there and a place to stay since my mother and mother-in-law live there. My largest event was in Las Cruces, NM where I filled a room with 50 people, predominantly in real estate, at $99 a piece for a social media workshop. That turned into several consulting opportunities as well. The fact I spent zero on advertising to generate that kind of return is amazing.
I am seeing more and more opportunities to continue to consult and partner with friends and business associates such as Cameron Gawley, Eddy Badrina and Chris Walters. The idea of a virtual company that comes together for various projects then disbands has been discussed regularly with Chris Walters and I. I’ve always been a firm believer that social media has provided an opportunity for me to network online to eventually meet folks offline. That’s where the real work gets done.
20 Wonderful Ways Social Media has Changed my Life
- Executed numerous speaking gigs and jump started my paid speaking career
- Empowered me to relaunch the Social Media Club of Dallas and connect me to the team that’s helping lead
- Allowed me to increase my network 5-10X
- Introduced me to more authors than I ever imagined such as Chris Brogan, Tim Sanders and former client Michelle Prince
- Led me to help organize and speak at Ignite Dallas through someone I met on twitter
- Featured in the Dallas Morning News Business section January 30, 2010 and March 2, 2010
- Interviewed on CNN Radio about Ignite Dallas
- Interviewed on BlogTalk Radio multiple times about social media and personal branding
- Completed my first Triathlon and chronicled it on my first blogs – cathartic process. Motivation came from a long lost friend I connected to on Facebook.
- Strengthened my religion.
- Empowered me to start a career support group at my church and teach personal branding and the modern job search via LinkedIn, etc.
- Realized that Bacon is freaking cool, tastes good, and is good for SEO and personal branding
- Delivered several paid workshops and marketed solely over social media
- Developed some amazing friendships and new business partners
- Helped me find my passion for community building
- Helped me find my passion for teaching
- Allowed me to spend more time and home with my wife and two wonderful daughters
- My wife went back to work – Yes it changed my life too, not just financially :). She’s happier
- Featured in Wiley book Twitter Marketing an Hour a Day by Hollis Thomases who found me on Twitter
- … and many more to come
This post is also the premise behind a book topic that would obviously be an autobiography. If you haven’t seen Lemonade the Movie, this post is also motivated around that theme. “It’s not a Pink Slip, It’s a blank Page”
Let me know your thoughts and comments. I’m obviously opening the kimono a bit here and hope there are others like me who have had similar experiences and wonderful things happen as a result. I know God has a plan for me.
Ok I need to get back to work. Off to meet someone for lunch.
Mike D. Merrill (@mikedmerrill)
Mike Merrill is Professional Speaker, Digital Strategist and Passionate about Business Growth and Product. He serves as an Enterprise Account Executive for Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. Mike also found the Social Media Club of Dallas.