Navigating Torrential Sunny Skies and No Wind

I started getting back into flying about a year ago. Flying is time consuming and expensive, so getting back into wasn’t simply deciding on getting back into an old hobby, it was a decision that took time and strategy because ultimately I need to make the money I spend on flying back.

A decade ago I was flight instructing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was learning to fly bigger and faster aircraft and basically working like any pilot destined for an airline job, with one exception. I felt like I could never take the plunge to fly full time because I was so worried about money and my job “day” job paid decently. My “day” job was actually an overnight job in Albuquerque that I’d get off work from at 7am then drive an hour to Santa Fe to flight instruct. Any misery that you’re imagining isn’t a quarter of how I actually felt toward the end of the week. On some days I’d have to pull over on I-25 and sleep for 15-minutes just to ensure I’d make it to the airport.

At any rate, when I had to choose between the stability of my overnight editorial job or flying I chose the path that I already had a steady paycheck and health insurance at. So, that’s how Copilot eventually was founded. You can take airplanes away from a pilot, but you can’t take the freedom of flight away from him.

My path to flying again, I decided, needed to begin with me renewing my flight instructor certificate (CFI). It was more symbolic than anything since I renew it every two years and it never lapsed. I used the online courses as a jumping off point for the bookwork involved with flying. I renewed my CFI in July, got my medical certificate and took a couple of flights with an instructor before my flight review was complete and I was legal to fly again! Now it was the last day of July and I was ready to make my first solo flight in a decade.

I took off on a cloudy but still hot summer day. The windsock lay limp as I pushed the throttle forward in the Cessna 172. I was just going to go around the pattern a few times and treat it like my first solo, which is just three times around the pattern. I still didn’t know the area well, and it was evening before I even left for the airport. Before I could get around the pattern one time a storm came out of nowhere and all of a sudden there was a 30 knot crosswind on an east/west runway. The storm had come right out of the north. There was no convective activity, and the clouds were still well above legal clearance for visual flight rules (VFR) flying so the online weather report I was looking at looked innocent enough.

To make a long story short, I lived to tell the tale. I flew around in the rain for an hour before the storm drifted off and I was able to land. Like any memorable flight or work day as a marketer, there was something to be learned from it and luckily my lesson didn’t end up as an accident report for others to learn from.

Fast forward five months later. While my investment hasn’t started paying off yet, my last two flights have been on beautiful afternoons with snowcapped peaks fading into the dark blue of the winter sky a few miles west of my route. From 3,000 feet above the ground (AGL) we could see all the way across the Denver metro area to the south and into Wyoming toward the north. The winds were non-existent to the point that a challenge was figuring out which runway to take off from. Any pilot, from their first solo on could have gotten the plane up and down those two days. So what were the lessons on those flights?


I took my kids up one at a time on those flights. The first was my 9-year old son’s turn, then the next flight my 7-year old daughter’s. Flying solo, or even with a student, or even passengers, the thought of mortality doesn’t come up a lot. Even on the aforementioned flight in July it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t land. The next level of flying isn’t always a bigger plane or a new job, sometimes it’s the cargo you have and the baggage you’d leave behind if you didn’t land.

First Flight

Yes, I realize this is a marketing blog and I need to reign it in and relate it to something useful to my audience. Copilot Marketing, Content and SEO is as big of a leap for my family as taking our kids flying. I understand marketing and business just like I understand aerodynamics and V-speeds. But, I also know that I wouldn’t take the risk without the confidence to be successful.

For those of you that tuned in to see how Dottie is growing, this is what she is becoming…

But her guardian instincts are beginning to kick in. This bone is actually the shin of an intruder from a couple nights ago…

At least that’s what she told me.

Good dog, Dottie.

‘Tis the Season – To Move Forward

What’s the point in dwelling on the past. Let bygones be bygones is what I say. Microbes had their way with us in 2020, but they didn’t know who they were dealing with when they set their sights on humans, so we’ll get them back in 2021. They’ll wish they had chosen to stay with bats or civets or Wuhan labs or wherever they came from sooner than later.

At any rate, what to look forward to? Normalcy for one. The Roaring ’20s perhaps? A century ago it was partly triggered by the passing of a pandemic, so there’s hope. But, for Fly By Night, we’re going to get to a new normal too.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to mesh our Copilot’s marketing messaging with aviation and having a continual theme. Combining careers and passions is harder than it seems (and costly for that matter). I’m still convinced it can be done though. Since I started taking flying seriously again, I started reading through National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aircraft accident reports. It occurred to me as I read through them that most of my education hasn’t been from people telling me how to do something, rather it’s been from me completely screwing up and learning to do it differently next time.

Of course in marketing you can do that and remain confident that you will live to learn the lesson. In aviation, not so much. I remember a time, I was 18 years old, on a cross-country working on my private pilot’s license. I was taking off out of Paris, Texas to head back to Addison Airport and the second I was airborne I just drifted toward the wind sock. I had no control. The rudder didn’t do anything, I didn’t want to use too much aileron as I was so close to the ground (the fact that I even considered that with my experience at the time is remarkable when I think back) and I just continued toward it. The only reason I didn’t hit the windsock is that the plane missed it. Even today, with my flight instructor rating and thousands of take offs later in the same kind of plane I can’t definitely say what happened.

I can tell you what’s going to happen in Fly By Night though. An accident report will be analyzed. AKA a plane crashed on takeoff because he didn’t check his fuel and it turned out that he had just enough to get him airborne (you’d be surprised how often that happens). That’s pretty interesting whether or not you’re a pilot, in my opinion anyways. Then we’ll correlate that to a marketing issue — The ad campaign took off seamlessly, but… the client pulled the plug on budget before the first conversion!

So that will be happening. Stay tuned and be excited. By the way. You might wonder why there’s a puppy as the image. That’s Dottie, the ultimate moving forward icon. As our family Christmas present watch her grow alongside Copilot. As a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix she has a long way to go, just like us. Hope to have you join us on the flight.

How the Holiday Peloton Ad Played Against Society and Won

At Copilot we’re encouraged to express our views on marketing, advertising, and business in general that is trending in the news.  If you have a viewpoint and are looking for a place to voice it, click here to reach out for guest post consideration.

First off, I don’t own a Peloton.  I am not their target market.  I do know that people who own them are passionate about them and defend the price.  I casually mentioned to someone over drinks recently, while we were discussing training regiments, that I thought the Peloton was too expensive when the rec center I go to is only $25 a month.  The conversation then steered from training to a passionate defense of the Peloton. 

Recently Peloton has been all over the news for the following ad:

Before I move on, here are a sample of articles about what people think of the ad:

Peloton Ad Is Criticized as Sexist and Dystopian

Peloton Doesn’t Understand the People Who Love It Most

New Peloton commercial sparks cries of sexism

Social-Media’s Latest Exercise: Getting Worked Up Over a Peloton Ad

So, who won this fight?  We all know the adage, There Is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity.  For Peloton this couldn’t be truer.  The ad alone, which I’ll get to in a second, is kind of a run of the mill ad that I’d have never personally seen if not for the news coverage around it.  Thanks to Peloton’s detractors, though, millions of people have seen the ad that wouldn’t have without any negative pushback. 

A $2,000 exercise bike that you have to buy a subscription with to get the most out of it is not for everyone.  Peloton has to be aware of that. In fact, knowing what I know about marketing (which, for those of you looking for a marketer to help in 2020, is a lot) they have more data about their target audience than they could ever know what to do with.  When they create and run an ad for a particular audience the people who it’s not intended for should probably just ignore it.  (If Peloton is running the same ad with actors in Black Face or have swastikas laid around the house, that’s another story and their should be outrage. But, that’s clearly not the case here) The public’s out roar on the topic didn’t cause someone to not buy the bike, it only put it in front of more eyes so that more people might buy it. 

This ad was a boon for both their marketing team and PR team.  The PR team handled the situation beautifully, by waiting a day for the news cycle to play out before responding. You can read the response here.  They weren’t exactly responding to an emergency situation, so they had time to strategize the best way to respond.

The Advertising Game

People take a very button up approach to marketing.  Even in Peloton’s case, their sets are perfect, their actors are pristine, and their message is clear, this bike is exclusive, it’s not for everyone.  And in a society that is fighting inequality and exclusivity Peloton is an easy target.  But, like gentrification in the world’s largest cities, it’s easy to rail against, but their target market is still buying. 

No matter how tight your marketing efforts are, nothing will ever be perfect, and that’s why you have to be both creative and agile.  Peloton knows their game better than people Tweeting against them.  They know that society is against their message.  And lo and behold, with only three weeks till Christmas society gave Peloton the perfect Christmas gift…

They played against society and won millions of dollars worth of free advertising!

Why Digital Marketers Need to Be More Than Marketers; They Need to Be Entrepreneurs

Note: I pulled this from the archives of unpublished work I have. On first glance I thought I saw why I never published it, but after rereading it I reconsidered. I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether or not this kind of storytelling has any place in online marketing…

So, it’s storytelling you want? Then it’s storytelling you’re going to get. Sit back, and get ears ready for a tale that sounds so tall that even Paul Bunyan couldn’t reach the top of it. But, on my grandparents graves, every last bit of it is true. Inbound marketing is a cruel world. Clients come and go, traffic is up and down, leads are good or bad, new terminology and jargon is used daily. The faint of heart shouldn’t set foot in an inbound marketer’s work space, for fear of certain confusion.

So, who did set foot near 2 x 4 sized desk one day, but a young lad. He was inquiring about a position he saw in evening edition of our local periodical. I made certain it was the evening edition as we had different positions listed in the morning, late morning, mid-afternoon and night editions. After confirming that it was indeed the evening edition I got up and shut the office door behind him. The person who took this position would need to be a certain caliber and I didn’t want to embarrass him during his interview in front of the entire staff.

The six other staff members that I shared the room with were equally intrigued by what type of person would have the gall to go after a job like this. The job in question was that of an inbound marketing coordinator. The person who is worthy of this position would have to do tasks like blogging, content creation, social media management and email marketing while all the while trying to stay ahead of the completion and harness as many quality leads as possible.

I said earlier that this job isn’t for the faint of heart, now you have a better understanding of why. This job wasn’t just for some creative type to come in and write a few lines, send a few Tweets, drink a little whiskey and call it a day. No, this job would require someone to write a lot of lines, send a lot of Tweets and drink a ton of whiskey. This job required not just a marketer, but an entrepreneur, that French word meaning adventurer.

So, I told him, “get out of here, this job isn’t for you.”

In response he asked, “how do you know, you’ve never met me.”

“I like your gumption,” I said, for I was just testing him to see if he was the type of person who gives up easily. You see, inbound marketing is a long, tedious process that will require resilience as campaigns ramp up and numbers aren’t being met yet. If the word ‘no’ is in your vocabulary being an inbound marketer isn’t for you.

Sure, digital marketing is often done in anonymity, sitting behind a computer, writing content, bidding on ad space, and posting and emailing. The basics of inbound marketing are simple enough, after all. Blogging, social media, email marketing and the leads start flowing in. That’s not what I wanted to hear from this guy, though. Of course, I wanted him to know how to set up the foundation of an inbound marketing campaign. Yeah, I wanted him to understand the analytics. But, I also want someone who can look past the definition of inbound and create a digital lead generation machine using whatever tactics possible.

I decided to give this guy some of my attention. “Tell me your name,” I asked. Since I was sitting at my computer I planned on Googling him and doing a little research as we spoke.

“The name is Tim, short for Timothy, which is short for Timothy William, which is short for Timothy William White, which is actually short for Timothy William White Jr.,” he replied succinctly. “But, people call me T to save time.”

“Tell me T, what do you think about inbound marketing?”

“I love the concept. It’s so great to be marketed to without any pressure and to find the right resources I need to educate myself when I need it. There are some things about it though…,” T trailed off into thought and looked embarrassed that he didn’t know what else to say.

I waited patiently for him to gather his thoughts. He seemed on the cusp of saying something prophetic. His lips began to quiver, he opened his mouth and what he said will be something I’ll never forget. He said rather glibly, “It just seems like there’s a limit to how many leads you can produce.”

He looked up at me to see if I would nod in agreement. I just stared. “I mean there are only so many people out there who can possibly find your content. Only so many people Google certain keywords. Only so many people follow you on social media, so I just don’t understand how your audience can expand.”

I glared at him. How could such a person respond to the ad in the evening paper which clearly said I need someone with gumption? How could this person, who had such promise, take such a turn toward disappointment?

“You imbecile,” I yelled, in retrospect, a bit harshly. “You can’t limit yourself to the current audience. If you don’t have a large enough audience you have to go out and find people to market to. You have to do what it takes. Put fliers on windshields, run a commercial, hell, higher a sky-writer for all I care, just don’t limit yourself.”

He stared at me apologetically. I felt bad. He had learned what he did from the books. Nonetheless, what he told me was theoretically incorrect, anyhow. You can certainly gain an audience organically with great content and a great product. T was too narrow minded to look beyond the current audience.

“Do reveal your source on that please. I daresay I misheard you and then rather harshly admonished you for no reason,” I decided to give him a second chance. No one can possibly think that in a world where almost half of the population, 4 billion people, use the internet, that the audience is set.

“Well, sir, I did read otherwise, even on your blog, but the market just seems so niche, who else could want to read new content and anyone else involved in the marketplace is certainly savvy enough to have already come across what they are looking for,” he responded.

My patience had returned, and I calmly got up from my desk and put my arm on his shoulder to see him out. “You see T, there is a reason I was so shocked that someone called for the position posted in the evening paper. Being an inbound marketer is more than meets the eye. Sure, there are the foundational elements that you need to be successful, but you can do so much more, as long as it’s ethical, to drive traffic, engage an audience and ultimately gain leads. I think you’re a good guy T and I admire your moxy, but this job isn’t for you.”

It was sad to see him walk glumly down the hallway and I was sorry I was so harsh toward him, but I can’t help it. I went to my desk and began to rewrite the ad for tomorrow’s evening periodical. This time I asked for someone who has tried and failed at something but then tried again until it worked.

The Buyer’s Journey – How a Couch Taught Me the Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing

Note: This is a fun little piece that I think is fitting for the launch of the website. I wrote this in 2014 as part of my interview process at Revenue River Marketing, the agency that launched my digital marketing career…

I’m thinking about buying a couch at IKEA this weekend. My wife and I have actually been considering buying this couch for about six months and I think we’re finally going to take the plunge into new couch ownership. How does this relate to inbound marketing?

Recently I’ve been working on my HubSpot certifications and I hear the words Buyer’s Persona, Buyer’s Journey, Buyer, Buyer, Buyer, there seems to be a trend. I’m starting to think that the goal of inbound marketing is to impress people enough so that they’ll buy something from you.

In the training I was asked to remember the last time I bought something online, but I feel like my IKEA experience is a better example. It’s important to note that we own a couch, I have no need for a new couch other than to own something new. We were not in the market for a new couch, yet that couch has come up in conversation at least once a week since before Christmas between my wife and I. Let me explain my Buyer’s Journey…


I shall start from the beginning, why did we choose IKEA to begin with? We have to go out of our way to get to IKEA, we have to get in our car and drive about 15 miles out of the city to get there, IKEA is an iconic retail store worth occasionally going out of the way to get to, so it has that going for it. Of course to create a website that is iconic takes time, but one that is worth going out of the way for takes only effort and ability, something that most people in this field can and do aspire to. Once in IKEA no one bothers you to ask if you’d like to look at a couch or anything else. It is set up to where you have no choice but to look at every product they offer. Can you do this on a web site? Probably not without a lot of clutter, but can you make your web site easily navigable and your content interesting enough for people to want to navigate beyond what they are necessarily looking for, that’s really the ultimate goal.


We happened to see the couch on our maze through the store and with no pressure we went from the buyer’s awareness stage to the buyer’s consideration stage in a matter of minutes. Of course we’ve stayed at the consideration stage for months, but that’s okay with IKEA, we’ve gone back several times since to look at the couch, and I’m not going to drive 15 miles without buying anything.


Now I’m at the critical decision stage, but the presentation, the lack of pressure, the quality of the product and the company reputation has made the decision easy for me. I’ve weighed the pros and cons I’ve compared couches and prices at other companies, now I only need to figure out if I can get a truck to get it home.

Next time you buy something, be it a candy bar, a new car or something online, think about what prompted you to make that purchase and use that knowledge to sway others to buy your product or service.