What we offer

Marketing Strategy

Discover, identify and engage your target audiences with well-defined plans that reflect goals, priorities and the competitive landscape.

Messaging

Create a story tackling these questions: what does your product do, what’s the value and what are the benefits. Sets the stage for effective marketing and sales.

Content Marketing

High-quality content for Websites, videos, blog posts, infographics, email newsletters and press releases delivered on a subscription basis.

Product Marketing

Strategic and tactical insight on how your product should be positioned, priced and promoted within the marketplace.

Why I'll Probably Never Abandon Gmail

Email is a red-hot marketplace but there’s a big reason I can’t abandon Gmail: the extension.

As someone who lives and breathes in my inbox, the ability to pimp Gmail is seductive is the “killer app” that makes it easy to ignore Mailbox, etc. Sure, I get tempted by a start-up that claims to have figured out email, but it needs to blow away Gmail to win the day.

Google ChromeHaving done of experimenting and dabbling, here are the extensions within my Gmail portfolio:

1. 1Password: One of the best and most user-friend password managers, 1Password is a great way to log into Websites and create new passwords along the way. You need to purchase 1Password’s software to use the extension.

2. Assistant.io: For people who need to arrange meetings, Assistant lets you provide someone with a variety of times and dates fit into your schedule. When someone picks an available slot, the meeting appears in everyone’s calendar. (Free)

3. Buffer: For people who have multiple social media accounts, Buffer makes it quick and easy to post updates, including the ability to queue them up or schedule them for the future. (Free and premium).

4. Charlie: One of the newest additions to the portfolio, Charlie delivers a “dossier” via email or a dashboard about the people you’re scheduled to meet. It’s a great way to prepare for a meeting without having to do much work.

5. Client for Google Analytics: Rather than log into Google Analytics, this extension makes it accessible from the browser. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Google Analytics, but it’s enough to provide a healthy snapshot.

6. Evernote: This extension makes it easy to bookmark and clip Websites and notes, as well as provide tags. It’s an excellent productivity tool, particularly for people who read a lot of content or doing research.

7. Feedly Mini: Anyone using Feedly as an RSS reader can quickly add new Websites with a couple of clicks.

8. Full Contact: At one time, Rapportive was the extension for providing you with details about the people who had sent you email. Then, LinkedIn bought Rapportive, which was gradually neutered. Full Contact has just stepped up as a superb alternative. Anyone using Rapportive should immediately switch to Full Contact.

9. Momentum: When opening a new tab, would you rather see the Websites that you have recently visited, Google or a beautiful photograph? Momentum has a new photo every day and a way to note your biggest priority.

10. One Tab: I’m a tab junkie. It’s normal for me to have 20 to 30 tabs open at once. One Tab makes your tabs available and reduces the amount of processing resources by putting everything into a single tab.

11. Point: In theory, Point has a lot of utility by making it easy to share content, rather than using email. In practice, it hasn’t worked as promised but still worth checking out.

12. Print Friendly: If you want to print text but not images, Print Friendly is an easy service, and it’s free.

13. Riffle: It offers a wealth of information about people on Twitter beyond the basic stuff provided by Twitter.

14. Pocket: One of the best ways to put aside content for later, Pocket is super user-friendly. It’s quick and it’s easy to tag content.

15. Streak for Gmail: A mini-CRM integrated into Gmail, Streak’s most useful feature is the ability to track email opens. It plans to offer Website link tracking soon.

16. Wisestamp: I would love to use Wisestamp to power my email signature. It offers the ability to include social media services, and links to a variety of sources such as recent blog posts and newsletters. Unfortunately, it’s not playing nice with the other extensions, so I’m going back and forth with Wisestamp support to figure it out.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services. Everything from Websites audits to core messaging, Website overhauls and strategic marketing plans.

Six Big Lessons From Six Years of Startup Consulting

Six years ago, I lost my job with a start-up, PlanetEye.

It wasn’t a surprise.

The global economy was in a downward spiral and venture capital for start-ups was evaporating. When the CEO asked me for coffee, I knew it was coming but losing your job on the cusp of the holidays is still difficult.

But losing my job was the best thing to ever happen to me professionally.

lemonsAfter being a good corporate soldier, it was an opportunity to do something different. The easy option would have been going back to journalism (I had worked as a technology reporter at the National Post and Globe & Mail) or getting a marketing job with a start-up.

Instead, I leapt into entrepreneurship. To be honest, it wasn’t a leap as much as dipping my toe in the water. It began with a marketing consulting gig for a gaming start-up, which led to some work with other start-ups.

After a few months, I had a viable business. From that moment, it was game-on as I wasn’t going back to a start-up or a cubicle. Credit goes to my wife, Pamela, who provided the gentle push to embrace entrepreneurship.

It has been a rewarding experience. From a professional standpoint, it feels like an invaluable and never-ending education. There is no room for complacency, and always ways to learn and evolve.

Personally, it has given me lifestyle flexibility – the ability to have work/life balance at a time when family life is chaotic, consuming and amazing.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I have learned:

1. Don’t be afraid of embracing new opportunities – big or small. It’s scary to cross the chasm to a new job or start-up. In general, most people don’t like change; it’s easier to stick with the status quo.

But the chasm isn’t as wide as you think. It takes courage and faith but once getting to the other side, you realize it was easier than you thought.

2. Focus on your strengths, rather than trying to be all things to all people. At first, I said I could do everything and anything. But it was difficult for people to know what I did exactly.

When I narrowed down the list of services, it waseasier for people to make a purchase decision. At the same, there are opportunities to offer “off-menu” services.

3. As Alec Baldwin says in Glengarry Glen Ross, it is important to “Always be closing”. Whether it’s hard or soft sales, the pursuit of new business never stops. You’re constantly seeking opportunities to get a meeting, pitch a product or service, or offer information to drive business development. As important, you’re closing even when you’re busy with customers.

4. Make it easy for customers to purchase. Selling is challenging, especially when dealing with start-ups that have little insight into marketing, as well as concerns about spending money on marketing versus other things (e.g. development, sales). This means having easy ways to encourage customers to buy. For my business, I have a one-pager that has more details about my services, approach, and clients.

5. Drink a lot of coffee. We live in a digital world but business really happens when you meet in person. It could be coffee meetings, speaking engagements or attending events.

It’s all about making connections and spreading the word first-hand, as opposed to relying on social media or content marketing. A single meeting with someone can establish the tone for a long-term relationship.

6. Never stop learning: Change is constant. The market shifts, customer needs evolve and new tools emerge. As a result, it is hard to keep doing business the same way, even when business is thriving. It is crucial to keep expanding your knowledge and try new things. I’m in the midst of re-positioning my business serve customers better. In the process, I’m learning new tools, and getting help from other people.

For people who operate their own business, what the key lessons that you have learned along the way?


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services. Everything from Websites audits to core messaging, Website overhauls and strategic marketing plans.

Strong Value Propositions Drive the Sales Funnel

What are the biggest benefits of your product? Why is it better than the competition?

Can you deliver this information quickly – say in less than 10 seconds?

IMG_0179 If not, your value propositions need some serious attention.

Why are they such a big deal?

For startups (and larger companies), value propositions are short and powerful statements that quickly and clearly communicate the benefits of your product and how it addresses a customer’s problems or points of pain.

It tells customers what you do for them and, as important, why they should buy from you. Another way of looking at it is value propositions answer the question: “What’s it in for me?’  that sets everyone in motion.

Another definition is from Neil Patel who defines a value proposition as a “sentence that tells your visitors why they should buy from you and not your competitors.”

It goes without saying that compelling value propositions drive customers deeper into the sales funnel because they give people reasons to buy from you. In that sense, value propositions are a simple but crucial proposition.

How are value propositions created?

It’s not a complicated process but it takes time to do right.

It starts with getting a strong handle on your customers. What are their characteristics, buying habits, needs, interests and motivations? What products are they currently using, and what are the shortcomings of those products? And if they switched to new or different product, what benefits would win them over?

In other words, it’s an in-depth exercise that delivers lots of insight into what resonates with customers.

Another important ingredient is looking at your product. What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? How is it unique or different? How it is better or worse than the competition. What the most attractive features?

Asking these questions will hopefully allow the most compelling ideas to rise to the surface. It will put the spotlight on your product’s advantages, differences and the ways it connects with consumers looking to make their lives easier, more efficient, more profitable, fun, etc.

An important consideration is aligning value propositions with strategic goals and target audiences. I’m working with a mobile start-up looking to pursue two distinct target audiences – experts and people seeking expertise.

A key part of the value proposition exercise was deciding which audience was the bigger priority, which had a direct impact on creating value propositions. We decided to focus on experts. It doesn’t mean we’re ignoring expert seekers, but they are the secondary audience in the short-term.

When the value proposition process works well, the end result is something like this:

Optimizely:

A/B testing you’ll actually use

One optimization platform for websites and mobile apps

Why it works: Short and sweet but clear about what Optimizely does and, as important, an emphasis on how it’s unique.

Unbounce:

Build, publish & A/B testing landing pages with I.T.

The mobile responsive landing page builder for marketers

Why it works: There’s no confusion what Unbounce delivers, and why it’s so easy for customers to embrace.

How can you tell if your value propositions are any good?

The best to discover whether you’re value propositions work is simple: do lots of testing. It’s a classic A/B approach that involves using several different value propositions to see which one generates the best response.

You want people to spend little time thinking about what your startup does and why it’s interesting. There is no confusion or guess-work. You know a value proposition has scored when someone quickly nods their head (aka they get what you do), and then want to know more. This is the ideal scenario because it indicates you have captured their attention.

To jump-start the value proposition process, check out the Value Proposition Canvas, as well this QuickSprout infographic. If you want to talk about how your company can create compelling value proposition, drop me a note.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services. This includes messaging and value proposition creation.

Why Talking to Your Customers is a No-Brainer

Why is that many companies spend so much time  pursuing potential customers, and so little time after they become paying customers?

It is a huge mystery and, frankly, a terrible way of doing business.

customersBy not speaking with customers, it sends the message their business isn’t really valued and there’s little or no interest in building a relationship. And let’s be clear: emails powered by marketing automation software don’t count as “talking” to customers.

Talking to your customers is a no-brainer because it delivers a boat-load of value and insight. You learn what your customers are thinking, the services and products they like or dislike, the problems they’re having, and how you can make improvements.

And, as important, it says to customers that “we care about your business”, and that you want to make them a key part of how the business operates.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t talk to customers. Maybe they don’t care, maybe they’re too busy or complacent, or maybe they’re afraid. Unfortunately, none of these are excuses.

The importance of talking to customers was thrust into the spotlight recently when a client, Jumbleberry, decided to get feedback and ideas about how to make its customers more successful. Jumbleberry CEO Danny Lee and myself set up a series of 15 to 20-minute interviews to ask some straightforward questions.

Here are some of key things I learned:

1. Customers are more than happy to talk with you. In fact, they’re often more than happy. Since so few companies actually talk to customers, you score huge points immediately by being different. And if it’s the CEO doing the outreach, it’s even more powerful and impactful.

2. If you ask for 15 to 20 minutes, you can easily get a lot more time. Once a customer gets on the phone, they are not at all anxious to hang up. In fact, they see it as a huge and rare opportunity to provide direct feedback and ideas.

After we went though our questions, it was interesting to hear customers ask about Jumbleberry’s growth plans. This suggests the company’s customers see themselves as partners in achieving success. (Note: Jumbleberry is an advertising network focused on cost-per-acquisition, or CPA, campaigns.)

3. Customers will happily tell you what they like about your service and, as important, they will tell you about things that make them unhappy. The criticism is more valuable than the positive because it offers a different perspective. As Bill Gates says “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.

4. Talking to customers is a great business development opportunity. Nothing says we value and want your business than talking to the CEO. It provides customers with encouragement and motivation to do more business with you.

5. It delivers a lot of competitive insight and intelligence. While it’s great to hear how your company is doing, some customers also do business with rivals, who are doing business better or differently. It’s a great opportunity to get the inside scoop to make strategic and tactical adjustments.

6. You get a much better picture of your customers – their interests, needs, motivations and points of pain. The more know, the better you can serve them and improve at selling to potential customers. And the best part is getting this insight is simply a matter of asking them questions and listening to their feedback, ideas and needs.

Bottom line: When it comes to customers, love them rather than ignore them. Don’t be afraid, shy or reluctant to talk to them. After all, they decided to purchase your product, so the least you can do is give them some attention.

More: Mark Suster has a good post on how not respecting your customer will undermine your success.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services: everything from Website audits and messaging (aka corporate storytelling) to Website refreshes and long-term projects to establish a solid marketing foundation that drives sales.

A Fresh Take to Business Using External Perspective

Last week, I talked how perspective plays a key role in the success of entrepreneurs. It was a post that emerged from personal experience.

Like many entrepreneurs, I live in a state of what I call “healthy anxiety”. When things are going well, you worry about when the next customer will emerge. When things are quiet, it is difficult not to hit the panic button.

DSC_0705While my consulting business is thriving (knock on wood!), there’s a danger in being complacent or happy with the status quo. It’s good to enjoy your success but also important to keep your foot on the accelerator.

Over the past few months, I have been dealing with a strong sense that my game needs a different approach. The way I sell, market and articulate my startup marketing services needs a fresh approach. Call it gut feel, an entrepreneur’s intuition or restlessness, but staying the course doesn’t like the right move.

So change is in the works.

The challenge is making changes myself is difficult, if not impossible. Like any entrepreneur, I’m so close to the action, it is hard to have perspective and a strong sense of what exactly to do. When I mention this dilemma to people, they mention the adage “you can always tell the cobbler by his shoes”.

After scuffling with a plan of attack, I decided the solution was getting a trio of people to support the cause. Having people with different ideas and no preconceived notions is a great way to figure out what to do and make changes.

Julie Zuzik (aka The Corporate Yogi) is working with me about defining the value being delivered to customers, and how my services are articulated and sold. While we have only had two sessions, there has already been some tangible and meaty changes materialize. I’m looking forward to seeing what else emerges going forward.

Jonathan Siu is working with me to look at how to best leverage the content that I produce. I think my content is pretty good so hoping a new approach and content plays will lead to a larger, more engaged audience.

Jonathan is also diving into my Website analytics to get a better handle on how people are using it and the content being consumed.

Some of Jonathan’s work will play a key role in the Website’s redesign, work being handled by Laura Wills, who has done some great work on my marketing collateral.

At this point, I’m not about the creative direction but the Website will be more punchy, cleaner and do a better job of showcasing my services, clients (who I need to highlight more) and content. I also think Laura will be taking a stab at re-making my personal brand.

It’s an exciting process because the timing seems right and, as important, it is a multi-faceted approach that will have a major impact on how my business operates.

It’s more than a fresh coat pain. It’s more like updating an operating system. The underlying technology is the same but it will look and feel different, and, hopefully, run better.

For entrepreneurs who feel their business is stuck, stale or need a shot in the arm, it’s important to look for people with different skills and experience. They bring new ideas and approaches that not always be comfortable or seem appropriate.

And here’s where having perspective is invaluable because it allows you to permit changes to happen.

What strategies or techniques do you use to make small or big changes? How do you make sure external ideas enter the mix?


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services: messaging, marketing strategies and content creation.

A Startup Entrepreneur’s Biggest Weakness: No Perspective

Start-up entrepreneurs bring a lot to the table but many of them lack a critical ingredient for success: perspective.

As much as having a strong vision is important, it is also necessary to recognize different ways to look at things. It is the ability to examine the strengths and weakness of different ideas and concepts, including your own.

perspectiveThis is difficult because people love their own ideas. It means they are resistant, opposed or dismissive of ideas that don’t strike them as right. This a recipe for disaster because it offers no room for agility, flexibility or changes.

On the other hand, having perspective means there is an openness to new, strange or even radical ideas. It’s a healthier approach because it stops entrepreneurs from backing themselves into a corner strategically and tactically.

Having perspective doesn’t necessarily mean accepting every idea. Instead, it’s the power to accept things that could spark even small changes in vision, direction and plans.

As a start-up consultant, I often run into issues with a lack of perspective when it comes to development new messaging. It’s my job to creating messaging by combining what I hear from entrepreneurs and what I learn about their business and markets.

In some cases, this messaging is dramatically different from how the start-up has been presenting itself. The words, tone and value propositions are different. They strike an entrepreneur as wrong, uncomfortable or going against the grain.

The initial reaction is rejecting the messaging, even though it reflects what the entrepreneur has told me, as well as what competitors are doing.

While the messaging isn’t always perfect, it is a mistake for an entrepreneur to summarily dismiss it. This just shows a lack of perspective and, frankly, experience or immaturity.

So how do entrepreneurs embrace perspective?

It starts with a seemingly radical concept: taking a deep breath when hearing new or different ideas. Rather than falling in love or rejecting them, perspective means taking the time to digest and think things through before deciding on their merit.

Second, an entrepreneur has to develop the ability to find something (anything?) positive, helpful or interesting from new or different ideas. In this case, it is about focusing on ways to move the ball forward by using perspective to discover value in everything.

Third, perspective means being able to admit you’re wrong. This is tough because entrepreneurs are smart and proud people. Being wrong is often seen as a weakness or failure.

But having perspective allows an entrepreneur to learn from their mistakes. In some cases, it lets them make small adjustments. In other case, it gives them the freedom to make radical changes. That’s the biggest value of perspective.

To get a better handle on your level of perspective, try this: when someone suggests an idea, or offers feedback or criticism, think about the other person’s motives and thought process before you react. With some perspective, the world takes on different angles.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services: messaging, marketing strategies and content creation.

 
 

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