VLG’s investment in technology illustrates a commitment to providing mobile, digital, and direct mail services that address ABM challenges.

ADDISON, TexasOct. 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — VLG Marketing LLC (VLG) announces the acquisition of Atlanta startup Burner Rocket for an undisclosed amount. The Dallas-based digital marketing agency continues to increase the diversity of its proprietary technology offering that addresses shifts in business-to-business marketing strategies with the advent of account-based marketing (ABM) and account-based selling (ABS).
VLG Marketing acquires Burner Rocket

Mail SIM-enable Android Phone, Call, Text, Track, Alert via Slack

The acquisition now gives VLG—known for adventurous mail pieces, unique, personalized websites, and its proprietary DialogEngine platform—the ability to offer its clients a direct mail experience like no other. The agency and its customers will be able to mail SIM-enabled mobile phones to prospects, delivering real-time, trackable content to targets at key accounts.
“We’ve always viewed technology as the key to staying ahead in an industry full of copycat solutions,” said VLG President Michael Simmons, “because it gives us the ability to remain agile and meet the unique needs of our customers in an ever-changing B2B marketing space.”
Burner Rocket developed technology that allows agencies to provision and personalize mobile phones for one-to-one marketing engagement. The startup provided marketing and sales teams with key insights beyond customer engagement through sales team follow-up—a long time challenge for non-digital direct mail programs.
“In VLG, we found a company that will take our vision for Burner Rocket to the next level,” said Daryl Lu, one of the creators of Burner Rocket. “This is a great win for the Atlanta startup scene, but also a win for marketing and sales teams as they continue to engage prospects innovatively and with authenticity.”
“After seeing low efficacy of existing marketing technologies, we leveraged economies of scale allowing us to ship full-service cell phones to key accounts. They open the box, we call the phone — crazy idea but it performed phenomenally to get into conversations instantly,” said SalesWise CTO Jason Parekh. “VLG has a shared commitment to pushing the boundaries of marketing technology making this a natural fit.”
Burner Rocket was spawned by another Atlanta startup, SalesWise, which was founded by Gregg Freishtat and Jason Parekh. SalesWise developed a business relationship intelligence (BRI) platform that unifies information from all silos, including enterprise calendar, email, documents, contacts, and CRM data. The platform circumvents manual data entry by automatically organizing and presenting the data in an elegant product, boosting sales enablement, follow-up and close rates.
Contacts:
VLG Marketing, Angela Shori, 972.792.9550 or hello@wefightboredom.com
SalesWise (Burner Rocket), Daryl Lu, 678.221.4358 or daryl@saleswise.com
Related Links

I’ve been toying with a few ideas on the side these days. They’ve been all over the place including even speaking with Emory University’s Department of Technology Transfers. Hey, I’m an opportunist! I go after opportunities that I can bring to fruition and that sound exciting. I don’t always have experience in these areas. However, I’m betting on myself to figure it out as I go.
One recent idea has been in the SMS chatbot world. Specifically, how managers organize teams in preparation for the next game. Typically, this is done via mass email threads or annoying group texts. Then, players delay and delay responding. Oftentimes, the emails are buried. Then, managers must find subs should not enough people say they can make the game.
I immediately thought about using text messages as the delivery mechanism. SMS, specifically, might get faster responses minus the group messages (MMS). I’ve run into the problems of being a manager plenty of times in the past. I did not do the Mom Test. Instead, my friend and I just start digging into leveraging Twilio.
The problem is not overly complicated. The problem isn’t a big world problem. I don’t know how well to monetize. All this tells me I should not pursue the idea. However, I’m pushing on.
I’m pursuing this idea called TeamChatThing as a testbed to learn more about the SMS world and what’s available. What I like about SMS (short-messaging service, or text) is that aside from emails, phone, and face-to-face interactions, SMS is the next ubiquitous communication channel. SMS is something most people are so familiar with. There’s no need to push new users to download apps.
Team management aspect is a test. I want to test people’s responses and response times. I want to test the complications of RSVP’ing – specific use case. I want to dig into what’s possible to automatically respond and record responses.
Leveraging SMS for a chatbot is challenging. SMS is a stream of linear messages. It’s near difficult to create threads, let alone a simple response-question association. (Think about when two questions are asked on SMS and a single response comes in. Which question(s) is the response to?) SMS does not have much meta-data, either. SMS provides:
  • Phone numbers involved
  • Date & time
  • Message body
  • That’s it.

Complexity builds as players, in this case, are connected to different teams. Understand which team the player is responding to is tough.
It’s a fascinating problem. I’m eager to continue digging into what’s possible and the deeper challenges with SMS.
                                                                           
Yes, the way service is dubbed TeamChatThing. J

I discovered my dryer was broke last week – wasn’t heating. I called a local repair service that I had used before for a refrigerator before. While the technician – I’ll call him John – was working on the dryer, we just started talking about business. Turns out he’s one of the owners of the company. He and I batted back and forth thoughts on sales, where he sees opportunities and challenges for his profession, and how he achieves success.

Thoughts on Sales and Business

John started the repair teaching me about my dryer – the do’s and don’t’s. He walked through what he was testing and why. He was teaching me because I took apart some of the dryer before he arrived. I tried to diagnose the problem myself but found myself lacking.
As we talked about the dryer, he asked me what I do – sales. He asked me a lot of questions about sales and why I found it both challenging and rewarding. After a few more probing questions, I asked him his interest. John shared how he viewed sales as an “everyone has to do it” thing. He realizes the most important aspect of sales is building trust. He talks about how he often does not ask for a sale, but find people “buying” his services. Customers want to buy from him. He builds trust with customers. It’s what he was doing with me early on by teaching me about the dryer – establishing credibility. He established more trust while knowing I’d still need help to fix appliances anyways. Read: I’d be a customer again.

Where John Sees Great Opportunity

John feels most technicians, especially those working for big companies, work for a stable hourly wage. But the good technicians want commissions. These are the ones who know that if they deliver for customers, they’ll get repeat customers – earn more money. For John, he sees the opportunity for technicians who have the soft skills knowing technicians are the foot soldier sales force, not back-office staff. Technicians interface directly with customers.
Technical education is where John sees the greatest opportunities. John says local colleges and high schools have done away with many of the basic electrician courses, focusing instead on services. Now, there’s a dearth of capable technicians who can truly troubleshoot, and not just “part changers”. Adding to the problem are larger companies who do not offer proper training to technicians (hard and soft skills).
Being a technician is “recession proof”, he says. People still need to wash clothes. They still need refrigerated foods. People still need HVAC during recessions. He feels this is an area he’s poised to continue to succeed, but where other can step into looking for good job opportunities.

How John Succeeds

John enjoyed talking about business. He’s an avid listener to podcasts like Zig Ziglar’s to help him as a business owner. Since his job takes him across the city at times, John listens to business podcasts daily.
He’s a constant student. He cites his interest and passion for learning about electricity. In the past, in school, he did not apply himself or care much for different school subjects because they weren’t applicable to him. But when John started changing the context of geometry or science into terms he enjoyed like electricity or appliances – everyday objects – he started to absorb material faster and better. 
He credits his success to always learning. It’s one of the reasons why John schedules at least an hour a week – something doable – towards reflection and planning. He calls his Sunday his “ritual” day. He sets this time aside and turns off his electronics to focus on learning – developing “mastery” of his craft and improving his business.
There are entrepreneurs everywhere. They’re not always the internet stars in Silicon Valley. Most are the small business owners striving to build a life for themselves and their families – those pushing themselves.
Setting aside time for a dryer repair became so much more than just a repair. It was a networking opportunity and learning experience. It was an opportunity to meet a Stranger and be empathetic.

I received a gift of a book recently – Ray Dalio’s Principles. Funny, though, as my bud handed it to me realizing that it was a hefty book, and he knew how much I enjoyed audiobooks. However, I do love a good physical book so I can take notes on or re-read/ review. (Kindle e-books included.) Well, Jeremy, I listened to the e-book for this one, too. ?But are taking notes and reviewing the hardback you gifted.

I enjoyed Ray’s book based on his leadership and the principles he instilled while leading his company Bridgewater from the ground to a 1,600+ behemoth in the financial world. What was inspiring to read, too, was how he initially co-founded the company but early on, had to let everyone go including his co-founder who left as not much money was coming in. Ray had to rebuild his team from just one (himself) to the company it is today.
The book is can be broken up into a few parts – his and Bridgewater’s story before diving into the personal and business principles. There are hundreds of principles that grounds the company in its business dealings, and that enables it to continue to thrive.
In any case, here are a few of my take-aways:
  • Like Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage, Ray finds personal assessments to be highly informative. Each assessment provides a view into the strengths and weaknesses of team members, which enables Ray’s team to build teams to deliver the best outcomes. He takes a lot of the personal and politics out of the equation and leans into data.
  • Ray is a fan of leveraging artificial intelligence. Really, he’s a fan of blending both computer systems with human intelligence and interactions. He started building his forecasting and analytics systems from the start – continuously training it to perfect forecasting. He’s able to leverage opposing outcomes from either “system” to dive into what could be missing or inaccurate. Meanwhile, agreeing results from both systems gives high confidence of known outcomes.
  • One of the biggest drivers of Ray and Bridgewater’s success is the idea of radical transparency. This means that personal assessments are completely out in the open so that team members understand how each other acts and works. Transparency enables teams to make mistakes, but own up to them so the rest of the team can learn and prevent future similar mistakes.
  • Meritocracy over autocracy for Bridgewater. Here, all associates at Bridgewater has the ability to challenge authority as long as there is clear merit in the person and the process. This is also where Ray leans into his belief that credence should be given to those who have demonstrated success in at least three occasions of some task/ venture. I touched on this in one of my previous posts in how this affects how I feel in my own ability to coach. But thinking about this idea, Ray has also only had “one” entrepreneurial/ business success (with Bridgewater)… not three. ?

There are many, many principles in the book (just as the title implies). It’s best not to try to adhere to all of the principles from the get go. Heck, it may not make sense to adopt any of the principles. It’s important realize whatever principles make sense (for me, you, whoever). However, it’s a constant practice to not only align myself to my principles, but also ensuring a company is aligned. And much like Bridgewater, if some principle should be rescinded or updated, it’s all possible as long as there is merit and transparency to the process.

I’ve been thinking about the Amazon Effect lesson from my customer discovery research of e-commerce from last week. There are a lot of tenets to the Amazon Effect including the rise of expectations of delivery, access to goods, etc. but the one I thought about most was.

The Amazon Effect has affected some of the longest-standing fundamentals of web. That is, time on site used to be a valuable metric. Amazon has proven that a winning strategy can be the opposite — get in, find what you want, check out and get out. Fast. Come back again.

The idea sticks out because it flies in the face of expectations and a metric that website owners typically watch for – “the higher the time on page, the better”. Amazon, however, is about getting folks in and out. This is the experience Amazon wants to build as it then drives consumers to come back.
As I let this idea marinate, one thing becomes clear – Amazon knows its “wow moment”. They’re not just focused on shortening the path to check out. They’re focused on shortening the path to the “aha!” and “wow” moment. That’s the experience. That’s about getting customers getting exactly what they want, when they want, how they want, and where they want (at home, largely).
Southwest Airlines is another company who challenged a long-standing industry paradigm. In this case, it was the airline industry’s paradigm of filling a plane. Southwest can tout its success with 45 straight years of profitability. Most airlines believed profitability and revenue necessitated every seat on a plane be sold and filled. It’s one of the reasons they oversell flights.
Southwest, on the other hand, realized their bottleneck and path to revenue was the plane. As long as a plane sits on the tarmac, the more underutilized the plane is. Thus, it’s not making money.
Southwest built their business on turn-around time – how fast they could turn a flight around, even if it meant the plane was not full. They flourished with the “10-minute turnaround” as other airlines were turning planes at 60 minutes – the time from entering a gate, loading passengers and cargo, and leaving the gate.
For Southwest, the wow moment is arriving at the destination realizing their fees were far less than rivals (in addition to above-and-beyond customer service).
Longstanding business practices don’t always make sense. Consumer habits and expectations continually change. Stay focused on the customer, and realize there are more ways to achieve success, especially, when ushering the market into a new era.

I’ve been on a customer discovery journey over the last couple weeks. I haven’t dug deep on Mom Test-esque questions. Instead, I’m setting a baseline on the e-commerce space for myself.
Below are highlights from my discussions so far –
  • Initial round of 7 folks from the e-commerce space representing directors and managers of marketing with a couple in sales. Companies were each in the $1B+ category largely in consumer, but also having B2B opportunities.
  • Primary levers for growing e-commerce businesses:
    • Customer acquisition
    • Fulfillment
    • These two levers have the greatest effect on net revenue
  • To achieve higher sales, too, companies are evaluating:
    • Shortest path to revenue — “click-to-checkout”
    • Building an “optimal” customer experience
  • Customer experience for companies range from custom, and temporary, showrooms to shortening the path to revenue with engaging design elements (e.g. imagery, product information consistency)
  • The Amazon Effect has affected some of the longest-standing fundamentals of web. That is, time on site used to be a valuable metric. Amazon has proven that a winning strategy can be the opposite — get in, find what you want, check out and get out. Fast. Come back again
  • Combating the big players in customer acquisition can be difficult as they spend millions upon millions in advertising, especially, on Google and Facebook. Smaller players have to focus on niches and aiming for the repeat buy
  • There are big opportunities, still
    • Most folks still believe less than 30% of the market value (10%, more likely) is still uncovered in e-commerce (“Everyone’s gathering data, but how do you use it?”)
    • There is a lot of data being collected; however, most companies still don’t know how best to utilize the data to deliver good value
    • Dynamic pricing is highly sought after with most folks seeing this as a prime opportunity for customer acquisition and revenue growth (new and recurring)
    • Exceptional customer support and returns processes are vital to keeping customers. When you consider the difficulty of acquiring customers, keeping customers should be an ongoing strategy top-of-mind

I’m still digging into the space as it’s largely unfamiliar outside of my personal shopping. Any take-aways standing out for you that surprises you? Anything contrary to what you thought?

I’m listening to Ray Dalio’s book Principles. At whatever page I’m on, he talks about being open while also being persistent. His point revolves around the principle for always learning. To learn, people need to be open to listening. And yet, people are quick to dig into their own ideas, even if they haven’t showcased success – myself included.
Ray believes successful leaders should be able to showcase at least three instances of such in some area.
It dawns on me on this site that I espouse a lot about entrepreneurship without several successes – if we classify a liquidity event as success (e.g. stock offering, being acquired). That could continue to promote the idea that success only comes from a liquidity event which is not true. From this standpoint, should readers even value what I have to say? That’s a humbling question.
Though, Ray describes the value inexperience brings with it including new, outside perspective. He also talks about gaining buy-in from others with experience like an “influential committee”. Gain the support of those with the credibility or cite sources with credibility to bring credibility to the inexperienced.
I form my own thoughts, while oftentimes, cite or bring in others to provide credibility because I need it. I don’t have the CV to persuade without.
This brings two critical thoughts:
  • I must be careful in how I guide and advise others. I can speak of my experiences and what I’ve learned. However, I should be wary of how I guide others towards whatever their ideas of success are if I do not have the requisite experience to do so.
  • Seeking a “win” is paramount to me. Then, I need to seek my next win. I am not in the upper echelons of successful leaders right now because I don’t deserve to be. Oh, but I want to be in the group who helps architect the future. But how can I join the group if I don’t have the credentials to be amongst them?

Especially the last point, it’s causing me to reflect on my path of seeking my next entrepreneurial journey. Should I continue seeking very early-stage startups (or my own) knowing there’s such a great chance of failure? More failures only mean I become successful at failure, right?

Or, should I join a venture that is beyond early-stage where I can learn scale and gain mastery?
I’m thinking. Should I lean one way or the other? In short: I’m not there yet.

I posted recently about the importance to periodically check how a current role/ position fits into the greater journey – “Before Making Moves Based On Today’s Bad, Chart How All The Dots Align to A Path”. I took this to heart recently by reviewing my resume and updating my skills and experience. It’s made me aware of my career progression and my upcoming path as I head into my mid-30s. In short: optically, I’ve been rather stagnant.
Building a startup is incredibly hard work. Many startups do not come close to the type of success that is read about in the news or even the local startup digest. Entrepreneurship, though intrinsically rewarding, is not well-received professionally.
As I’ve had the great opportunities to lead sales at Body Boss Fitness, SalesWise, and SalesWise’s new product/ brand Burner Rocket, they’ve all been tough experiences to get through. Starting from virtually nothing and fighting to get scraps of the first 10 customers and then the next is rarely seen from the outside. The mind soaks up more information than what any “normal corporate” job may provide. However, it’s, in some ways, specialized. The bruises and cuts that I have felt by leading the charge for what a sales process may look like, what are the pieces of collateral that will help sell, how do we support our customers when we don’t even know the full metrics of what is working and what is not… those lessons are not always visible to the outside world. And yet, I know the incredible value that has been learned. I know the pains and the difficulties to get to where we are. I have good hypotheses for why we may not have grown at a faster clip, but from the outside, there’s little stock. Growing from 0-10 may not be as impressive as being a leader who hit the $2MM ARR quota from last year’s $1.5MM. Should that be?
Again, periodically looking through the portfolios of seemingly little accomplishments for early-stage opportunities, I can sense there’s a strain. There’s a pull and a fight between the desire to hop into a role where the hard work has mostly been done. Perhaps, there’s a need for an optimizer or a player to just “grow more”. It’s a struggle – to be a part of something so early that the chances of success are low. The challenges and rewards are greater. Or, do I take the easier route by following the path others have already trotted on before. In that way, perhaps I can have the requisite bullet points for others to note and say, “yes, he’s had that experience of hitting XX of quota”.
Being an entrepreneur and taking a real fight to creating something special isn’t always lauded. It’s rarely what folks are really looking for. But they’re the opportunities I’m looking for. It looks like I’m still on the right path.

When it comes to finding efficiencies and cost savings, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeves. It’s certainly helpful as an entrepreneur – sometimes bootstrapped. Of course, not all things are tricks as much as they are realizations. Here are a few:
  • I attended Emory University’s Goizueta Business School back 2012-2013 for my MBA. Back then, early on, at least, I thought I was going to graduate and re-enter the world of consulting. I suspected I would garner a nice-sized pay bump. I had visions of getting a BMW M3 and upgrade my house (purchased 2009). Except, I ended up going full-time into boot-strapped entrepreneurship. There were no upgrades. I kept my expenses relatively low, and stuck it out with the same car and house for years.  I did eventually change my car last year but stayed in my house. What’s fascinating are the visions for bigger, better when I thought about higher wages. However, they’re not things I needed. I’ve been happy in my home, and honestly, I probably should’ve kept my car instead upgrading. Not everything needs to be (or should be) “upgraded”.
  • I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Outside of company lunches or going out with others, I largely eat peanut butter sandwiches. No, there’s no jelly. Over the years, they’ve tasted more and more bland. However, I stick to them for a few reasons. For one, they’re incredibly cheap. Two, I eat one at a time and perhaps three throughout the day. It helps control my appetite while providing some nourishment. Three, it takes seven swipes of the knife with about a tablespoon of peanut butter to spread + a couple minutes in the toaster oven. When this is extrapolated across the days of the week, the weeks in the month, and the months in the year, it’s a known quantity of what I’m dealing with – highly efficient in preparation and cost. Four, it’s incredibly clean. Without jelly, a toasted peanut butter sandwich keeps my hands clean, and the sandwich bag can be reused throughout the week. Eating while working then is easy. Five, at any moment, I can still be flexible in going out for lunch. The sandwich I would have for lunch that day can be saved for tomorrow. The shelf-life is helps extend that “lunch runway”.
  • Oatmeal for breakfast almost every day. I don’t typically eat or go out for breakfast like I occasionally do for lunch, so my breakfasts are even more routine than peanut butter sandwiches. In this case, it’s a half-cup of oatmeal. I’ve recently thrown in a half-tablespoon of chia seeds for more substance. I put more water into the oatmeal than required, and I prepare it in a cup. This allows me to “drink” the oatmeal without using utensils. It keeps everything clean while being highly efficient for consumption.
  • Blueberries or similar small, round fruits for fruit/ snack. Another staple of my daily diet is a cup of blueberries, typically, kept in a round container. Blueberries in a round container allows me to also “drink” the blueberries as they roll out of the cup. It’s simple. Like the sandwiches and oatmeal, this snack keeps my hands clean while reducing “friction” of utensils, peeling a fruit, use my fingers to pick up, etc.
  • Meal prep with an Instant Pot. My dinners are usually varied from week to week – contrary to my otherwise routine daily meals. However, I still have the same dinner throughout that week. Ever since I acquired an Instant Pot, I’ve been able to prepare a larger, more varied quantity of food while adding varying degrees of taste. It’s been fantastic versus my tried and true pasta menus of the past.

I’ve always been easy with money – never budgeting. I made enough while being light on expenses to not worry much about budget or retirement. However, times have changed.
In my current “situation”, I’ve become much more cost-conscious as my income has dipped significantly. I used to view my financial position as comfortable, and I wanted to be able to go out without worrying about buying “extra things” if I wanted. However, this has since flipped. It’s a different lifestyle I am adapting. I still go out and visit the local coffee shop to work. I’ve determined that spending a little in this area enables me to be more productive in other areas. Thus, it’s an investment I should make. However, I am being humbled with my choices now. Even little purchases like choosing a medium-sized drink vs. a small is coming into view. My selection of a simple iced tea is not just out of preference anymore.
I share all of this to be transparent while also helping others consider the choices they make – need vs. want. I still take in some luxuries; though, much less frequently. But also, all my small “sacrifices” and tweaks are just that – small. They can add up to be a more significant cost mitigation. However, they can easily be wiped out with a single carefree moment.
For example, my car that I traded in last year was fully paid off. I had just received a pay bump at my job. Now, I pay almost $600 monthly. That’s an incredible expense today. Forgoing a few Grande Strawberry Acai Refreshers and Pad Thai dinners don’t mitigate anywhere close to that monthly car payment.
This is a humbling experience. I can easily pull a rip cord and jump back into a high-paying job where none of the financial pressures I put on myself today “matter”. However, how would that fit into my personal mission? How does all of this affect my pursuit of entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship oftentimes boils down to burn rate.
I’m also enjoying this experience and financial perspective. This is causing me to think more critically about my resources and expenditures in every way.
Think about where you are today in your home, your car, your clothes. Are you still seeking more? Why? What happens when you cut back on expenses? What happens when you cut back on pay?

I just wrapped up The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I’m finally crossing off books that have been recommended to me several years ago. This was one of those books that I had already heard so much about, especially given my highly habitual life.

The book centers around 7 habits that Covey covers:
  • Be proactive.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • Put first things first.
  • Think win-win.
  • Seek to understand, then to be understood.
  • Synergize.
  • Sharpen the saw.

The first three habits are focused around the self while habits 4-6 are about the external relations. The last habit is about constant improvement. 

What makes Covey’s book easy to understand and approachable are the real-world examples and applicability to everyday life. I won’t go into detail about each of the habits. However, I will say that each habit is a constant practice for me which makes sense given Covey’s message.
Of the habits, the most difficult for me are seeking to understand and thinking win-win. Too often we hear the saying that we have two ears and one mouth – pointing to the importance for active listening and focusing on the speaker, not of how we should respond or navigate the conversation to fit our own motives. Personally, I can be highly impulsive and want to jump into conversations quickly. As a sales person, this is a well-known problem. It’s akin to pitching without knowing or understand the needs of the customer.
The second habit I know I struggle with is to think win-win. Admittedly, I do struggle with looking for winning scenarios for other parties, not just myself. This is a key to the negotiating text Getting to Yes – while focusing on interests, not positions. My default thinking is to win regardless of other parties. I want to point to my competitiveness to want to be the best. However, it’s most likely just my own selfishness and ego. Maybe it’s all the same.
I believe I have very strong locus of control when it comes to my internal drivers. This also fits well with seventh habit of always sharpening the saw – always improving. In fact, Covey touches on, in particular, the importance of physical health and exercise. This is one of the most important areas of my life. As an extrovert, continuing to develop my external-facing habits is critical for continued success. Covey reiterates over and over again how society is beyond independent people. Instead, it’s about society –interdependence. We rely on relationships to build and succeed.