Mark Cuban, Your Business & the Flathead Guide
15 Minutes of Fame?
A friend of mine called me to say that he saw me on TV a while back. I told him that it has been many years since I had been on TV so he must be mistaken. He said that he was watching a biography of Mark Cuban and up popped a photo of me with Mark and some other fellows. He asked how I knew Mark and how our paths had crossed. He then asked how I went from early Internet pioneer to living and working in the Flathead Valley. It is an interesting story, so I thought I would share it with you.
Internet B.G. (Before Google)
Back in the go-go days of the Internet (right after Al Gore invented it) it seemed like any pimply-faced teenager with a novel idea could find investors willing to fund anything as long as you were under 25 and were fluent in geekspeak.
A couple friends and I, although we were older than 25, launched an ISP in Dallas in 1993. We were extremely blessed to have discovered a programmer/network engineer who could do damn near anything that we dreamed up and his creativity literally made us famous. Back then, everything was new; there were few server management programs, no website builder programs, no way to manage traffic or stream audio or video.
Our company, PICnet, was responsible for creating a number of industry firsts. We were the first company in the universe to send text messages to alphanumeric pagers via an online interface we created. We built the first automated online website builder. It was an exciting time and early on we focused on web hosting and creating websites for some notable companies such as Frito-Lay, Virgin Records, the Texas Rangers MLB and even the Vatican.
Enter Audio Streaming Online
One day a couple of fellows visited our office and told me they had developed a way to stream live audio over the Internet. At the time, the only way to hear an audio or video file was to download it (which could take hours on a slow modem) and then play it. Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner had everything they needed except a ‘big pipe’ Internet connection, and that was why they were interested in talking to us; they wanted to ‘borrow’ our pipe.
Long story short, we agreed and soon afterwards the first live audio broadcast, which happened to be a college basketball game, was broadcast over the Internet. Mark Cuban and I have a few things in common, and some…not so much.
- We were both born in a suburb of Pittsburgh, but we didn’t know each other
- We both collected stamps as kids
- We were both in the Internet business in Dallas, TX when we first met
- Mark is a billionaire – I’m not
- Mark loves to be on TV – I don’t
- Mark owns a basketball team – I’m not a big basketball fan
- Mark is a ruthless businessman & investor – I’m not
Mark’s unique audio streaming service gained instant fame and Internet search giant Yahoo saw it as a way to fend off new upstarts like Google. Yahoo never could figure out how to capitalize on audio streaming, but selling his company made Mark a billionaire. And you probably know the rest of Mark’s story.
(The photo from above appears around 7:41 in this video.)
Getting Down to Business
We sold our ISP to a company called Netcom, which was the largest ISP in the world at the time. I remained with Netcom for a couple of years, but I grew weary of the corporate machine that was being led by people who had little understanding of what the Internet was or what it could become. Post Netcom I was involved in a couple other Internet start-ups, but since those days I’ve spent the majority of my time as an online marketing consultant to small businesses.
Helping Flathead Valley Businesses
Our family moved to Montana in 2002. We fell in love with the Flathead Valley while visiting a Kalispell client of mine (a story you’ve heard many times) and decided that we wanted to live in the Flathead. Since moving here I have consulted with scores of local businesses and as an SEO specialist, the one challenge I had with every client was obtaining local backlinks to their websites. It is hard to believe, but with all the changes in search algorithms over the years, the one thing that has never changed is how much value they place on links from local websites.
Flathead Valley Business Directory
For years I noodled on the idea of creating a “local business directory” for the sole purpose of solving that problem. Finally, in late 2012, I got busy and in December of that year I launched the Flathead Valley Business Directory™ d.b.a the Flathead Guide.
Although the ‘local link’ alone is worth many times the cost of admission, I wanted our business listings to offer significant benefits for our customers. (See example listing at right)
Powerful Listing Features
Each company listing functions as a stand-alone mini website. Businesses can have an unlimited text description, a photo slideshow of their products or services, they can add videos or virtually anything you can embed in a standard website. In addition to links to your website and blog, you can also link to all major social sites, add keyword search tags and have a Google map displaying your location.
In addition to having a complementary website that can capture search results for your business, listings are also mobile friendly. This means that they look great on Tablet PCs and Smartphones. Since 25% to 40% of traffic these days is from mobile devices, this is extremely important as search engines now display different search results for queries made from mobile devices.
Another objective in creating the Flathead Guide was to make the cost for a listing a ‘no brainier’. I didn’t want a business to abandon their ongoing advertising efforts to be able to afford a Flathead Guide listing. At only $4 per month (paid annually) a listing in the Flathead Guide is arguably the best advertising and promotional value available anywhere.
More Bang for Fewer Bucks
Considering any other conventional advertising option, a listing in the Flathead Guide is a mind boggling value. As an obvious example, you can spend hundreds of dollars for one ad that appears one time in the newspaper versus a Flathead Guide listing that costs $4 per month and works 24x7x365 and has huge SEO benefits.
Find Buyers at the Moment They are Ready to Buy!
Think about it, if you need a contractor, do you reach for the newspaper to see who may have placed an ad today? Of course not, you go online and search for “Construction or Contractors, etc”. And if you are like most folks, you have no idea where the Yellow Pages is hiding and you probably haven’t used it for years.
People search online when they want to solve a problem or want to buy something and THAT is how the Flathead Guide helps you attract buyers at the exact moment they are ready to buy.
Better than Facebook, Twitter or any Social Media
Most of us are involved in ‘Social Media’ because someone told us that we need to be there to grow our business. Because search engines are using ‘Social Proof’ as one of the metrics they use to rank our websites, our involvement is necessary. The down side is that the ROI on the time invested in social media seldom translates into new business. People don’t go to Facebook or Twitter to buy things, they go to share photos of their cats. When people want to buy, they ‘search’.
The Flathead Guide, Your Business & Mark Cuban
In our business careers, our paths often cross with others who play some part in shaping our lives or having an impact that causes us to refocus or change directions. Some of these people might be ‘famous’, but most are just average people who appear at the right time and cause us to think or act on an idea. Mark and I had no such life-changing relationship, we were just two businessmen who saw value in working together.
The Flathead Guide provides that type of value to local businesses. Your Flathead Guide listing may not affect your business in any way, yet it could bring you that one new customer who becomes your #1 profit source. It could be the reason your website climbs higher in search results and introduces many new customers to your products and services.
The Flathead Guide is an additional marketing channel for you to connect with prospective customers, and it does so less expensively than ANY other source available. How many new customers do you need to justify a $4 per month expenditure?
Mark Cuban and I haven’t talked since the late 90’s and we obviously don’t hang out in the same circles, but we both remain focused on the Internet for business purposes. I don’t know if Mark has ever visited the Flathead Valley, but I’m sure that if he had, the Mavs would be the “Montana Mavericks” by now.
Your listing in the Flathead Guide will not make you a billionaire, but it can help you reach more customers. Add your business to the Flathead Valley Business Directory™ now. Click to read about the benefits of having your business listed in the Flathead Guide!