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

Creation of compelling brand stories featuring unique value propositions and leading benefits to attract customers and drive them down the sales funnel.

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.

Forget About To-Do Apps; Use a Moleskine Planner

Is it me, or does a new “to-do” app launch every day. They claim to make it easier to create and manage “to-do” lists. But after checking out a bunch of them, I think they create as much work as they purportedly save.

My recommendation: Forget about digital “to-do” apps. The best, easiest and most user-friendly “to-do” list “app” is a Moleskine. They’re easy to access and, as important, provide a tangible, visceral connection to the things you need to get done.

Moleskin


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Bad Idea? No Problem for New Startups!

Just before the global economy melted down in 2008, I read a story in the New York Times about a bank extending a huge mortgage to a couple in Los Angeles that were barely making ends meet. Looking back, the alarm bells should have started ringing.

For the last few months, I have been uneasy about the exuberance for startups. It seems everyone is doing one given the barriers to entry are so, so low.

But I think there are strong signals that startups have jumped the shark with the launch of a new startup, Morning Person. (I discovered it on Product Hunt, so it must be real, right?)

Morning PersonMorning Person is a service that has a “real person” call you in the morning, go through your schedule, and hold you accountable for yesterday’s to-do list. It costs $20/month for non- native speaker and $30/month. But if you sign up now, there is a 20% discount!

This startup must be someone’s idea of a joke because the service seems so unbelievable, it can’t be the real deal. If it is a joke, I say “Well played!” as it does a great job of illustrating the increasingly bizarre world of startups.

I’m a big fan of startups, entrepreneurship and innovation but not every idea should spawn a startup. Simply because your idea is vaguely plausible or, frankly, implausible doesn’t mean it should come to life.

But startups are irresistible creatures because the barriers to entry are minimal. Armed with an idea, you can hire a developer and a designer, and launch a service in no time.

That’s the easy part. The hard part is attracting customers (always a good thing!) and having people pay for your service (also a good thing!).

But getting customers and generating revenue are entrepreneurial after-thoughts these days because it is more fun to create something to become join the startup community.

We’re definitely living in interesting times given global economic volatility is a fact of life. Startups provide people with hope, motivation and goals. And trying something – even if it has absolutely no chance of success – can provide valuable experience.

In that regard, there is an upside to the tsunami of silly startups being created. A positive from the carnage of bad, half-ass and stupid ideas are entrepreneurs with battle scars and hard-earned lessons. Some of these entrepreneurs will hopefully embrace better ideas, and have valuable experience to enjoy more success.

In the meantime, we will continue to see startups that are doomed to fail from the time they appear on the scene. Unfortunately, there is no startup “governor” to throttle or regulate activity, which means Product Hunt will have lots of content for months to come.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Love Your Startup Customers? Here Are 10 Ways to Reward Them

For startups scrambling to establish a foothold, customers are precious commodities. After all, no customers equals no business.

But aside from delivering a great product, what are the other ways that you can reward customers for, well, being customers? For start-ups looking for ideas on how to go the extra mile, here’s a list of 10 approaches:

1. Give them a little bit extra: To encourage customers to invite other people to sign up, Dropbox offers additional storage for each new person who joined. Someone with a free account can add as much as 16GB in storage space through referrals.

2. Break bread with them – On its way to the SXSW conference in Austin, Freshbooks rented an RV, and arranged to meet customers along the way. The 12-day “Road Burn” tour involved breakfasts, lunches and dinners with existing and potential customers.

customers3. Put them in the spotlight – To generate case studies, Shopify asks customers to send them stories about how they’re successfully using the e-commerce platform. The case studies are then featured on Shopify’s blog.

4. Thank them – Pressly: When customers register for Pressly’s content curation platform, they receive a welcome email from the CEO, Jeff Brenner, who also asks if they need any help getting going. It’s an automated process but it works.

5. Ask for their ideas and feedback: To get a better idea about the customer experience, Groove CEO Alex Turnbull spent 100 hours talking with 500 customers over a four-week period – a process he described as “mindblowingly valuable”

6. Sell their stuff: From its roots as a place to share your best photos, 500px has become an e-commerce platform that lets users sell their photos through a licensing marketplace.

7. Send them pizza: To test its customer service, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had someone phone customer service to see if they would deliver pizza to their hotel. The rep gave them a list of local pizza places that would solve their late-night needs.startup customers pizza

8. Make them mayor: Foursquare (aka Swarm) makes customers feel special by making them “mayor” of particular location. In some ways, being the “mayor” of a restaurant is silly but people clearly like the different stature.

9. Drop by for a visit: It took awhile (a year) but Close.io decided that building relationships with customers would happen if they visited them.

10. Educate, engage and entertain: In the early days (before its acquisition by Intuit), Mint used its blog to not only attract customers but provide them valuable content. When the U.S. economy, for example, was struggling, Mint published a post on how to do home-made jam.

It is important to remember that none of the approaches above will cost you a lot of money to embrace. Instead, they require creativity, focus and a willingness to invest the time and people to make it happen. The upside is treating your customers well has huge benefits. It creates customer loyalty and drives brand personality and valuable word of mouth.

What are some of the other ways that startups can reward their customers?


For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Time to Climb on the Entrepreneur Bandwagon?

The idea of becoming an entrepreneur is seductive and sexy. And there’s never been an easier time to do your own thing so why not get in the game?

For people who attended the Art of Entrepreneurship earlier this week in Toronto, it was difficult (impossible?) not to believe that being an entrepreneur is the thing to do.

gary vaynerchukListening to Gary Vaynerchuk and Alexis Ohanian is like taking entrepreneurial crack.

Tweet: Listening to Gary Vaynerchuk and Alexis Ohanian is like taking entrepreneurial crack.

Upon getting the first hit, your excitement grows. If you’re not an entrepreneur, you want to jump on the bandwagon. For entrepreneurs, it only gets them more stoked about to do more.

Ohanian’s talk include this beauty slide:

“Entrepreneur is just French for “has ideas, does them.”

Vaynerchuk, meanwhile, is a talk-mile-a-minute poster boy for entrepreneurship. He grew is family’s wine business to $60-million in sales from $3- million, and now has a digital agency with $50-million in sales.

I’m fascinated by the rise of the entrepreneur. Maybe it’s a sign of the economic times where volatility and job insecurity are a fact of life. Maybe it reflects a growing need for people to control their destinies. Maybe it’s just sexier than working in a cubicle.

As someone who became entrepreneur by accident after I was let go from a start-up in 2008 (remember the global economic crisis?), I think there is an entrepreneur in everyone.

Sometimes, it is easily unleashed – e.g. people like Vaynerchuk and Ohanian. Sometimes, people get pushed into entrepreneurship. Sometimes, people don’t have the courage, flexibility, energy or financial resources to make it happen.

As much as being an entrepreneur is sexy, it is also a lot of work and there is a lot of stress.

How are you going to pay the bills? What happens if no one buys your product, or the competition gets fierce? What happens if you fail or the business struggles? These are questions asked on a regular basis by entrepreneurs.

To be honest, there are times when being an entrepreneur is overwhelming. I wonder whether have a “regular” job would be easier and offer more security. Then, I take a deep breath and remind myself about the benefits of being entrepreneur – flexibility, doing something you love, time with family, etc.

As much as I’m a cheerleader for being an entrepreneur, it is not for everyone. As Ohanian said, if entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would do it.

Being entrepreneur is consuming. It takes a lot of time, energy and conviction, as well as sacrifices. For some people, getting a paycheck every two weeks and three or weeks of vacation makes them happy. It provides professional satisfaction and financial security. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

People who become entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily smarter or work harder than non-entrepreneurs. They just have a hunger, drive, opportunity or encouragement to dive in. If it doesn’t work out, they can dive back in or go back to the cubicle. To many entrepreneurs, there is no downside.

And it has never been easier to embrace entrepreneurship, particularly when it comes to starting an online business. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s probably the perfect time to scratch that itch.

For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

If Not Money, What Makes Startup Employees Happy?

I recently had coffee with a fast-growing, Silicon Valley-based start-up looking to open a small development shop in Toronto. With little insight into Toronto’s start-up community, they wanted to know how to attract talent.

It is an interesting question because many start-up employees aren’t financial mercenaries. There are many reasons why people work for start-ups: an exciting product, opportunities to grow and make an impact, a culture that embraces innovation, working with cool people, etc.

happy startupMy advice to the executives was pretty basic: open a downtown office, stock the kitchen with snacks, provide free monthly public transportation passes, and offer catered lunches, flexible work hours and solid compensation.

If this is a recipe to attract employees, I started to think about how start-ups keep employees. Retaining people is as important as hiring them but retention doesn’t get as much attention when finding new talent is a priority.

For most start-ups that want employees to stick around, I don’t think it’s about the money. Sure, they need to properly compensate people but good salaries are table stakes

The ability to keep employees has more to do with non-financial variables, which are difficult to quantify. It is things like having a positive corporate culture, making people feel like they play integral roles, and creating a strong team.

There is no secret sauce to create something so special that people want to stay at a time when startups are scrambling to attract talent. I think it hinges on having leaders committed to nurturing a good workplace culture, and employees willing to make a personal investment to build a place where they like to work.

At “The Art of Entrepreneurship” conference in Toronto today, Method’s Eric Ryan talked about how all employees are “responsible for culture”. To nurture corporate culture, Ryan said it involves things such as having a different person lead the daily huddle, drink carts and an annual prom.

I’m currently working with a fast-growing start-up with extremely low turnover. The employees are happy, the corporate vibe is cool and comfortable, and people are friends with their co-workers. As a startup marketing consultant, it’s a great place to hang out.

So what’s the secret?

I think everything starts at the top with an executive team with strong personal connections with employees. There are no management/employee barriers as executives are transparent about the business and its success.

The strong social connections can come from having the processes to hire good people – not only people with good technical skills but people with the right personalities. As important, the start-up grows the team through a variety of small and large social events. All in all, all this activity plays an important role.

From a high level perspective, the key to keeping start-up employees is offering people something as valuable as money. It’s the willingness to let employees be involved, engaged and excitement about being a key part in building something. They don’t want to simply be cogs in the wheel.

It is also important to recognize people for their individual and team contributions. It doesn’t always mean more money; it is “soft” rewards such as coffee on Monday morning, gift cards, or simply public pats on the back.

To keep employees in the fold, start-ups should strive to create a stimulating and rewarding work environment. As important, this is a something that continually evolves with new wrinkles, ideas and initiatives.

A start-up will never be able to keep all of its employees happy or retain everyone. But it is possible to build a corporate culture that makes it difficult to leave.

How do you think start-ups can keep their employees?

Tweet: How do you think start-ups can keep their employees?

For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

The Low-Profile Company Behind 1Password

AgileBits may be one of Canada’s most successful software makers but you couldn’t tell by its low profile. The Toronto-based company’s flagship product is 1Password, one of the leading ways to create strong passwords for your online accounts.

agilebitsWhile acclaimed by people in the security and password communities, AgileBits probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. To get some insight into the company’s growth, I touched with AgileBit’s David Chartier:

1. Can you give me a mini-history of AgileBits? When was it started and who’s behind it?

We started in 2005 when our co-founders Dave Teare and Roustem Karimov began working on projects together. At the time, they simply got annoyed at all the passwords they needed to remember for all their apps and web services.

Like many of our favorite products, they set out to solve a personal problem and built a tool that would create strong, unique passwords, remember then, and log them in automatically. The weren’t even planning on releasing it publicly until they showed it to a few friends and realized they had created something special.

Recently we gained a CEO, Jeff Shiner, and we are now a team of nearly 60 people spread across languages and the globe.

2. 1Password is one of the leading password tools. How do you manage the product’s evolution in terms of driving innovation, customer demands and the competitive landscape?

We believe there is a balance to maintain between security and convenience. Our job is to make the secure thing to do the convenient thing to do, all the while saving you time on the web.

We spend a lot of time polishing our vision for 1Password and listening to our incredible customers. We also have a huge beta team (over 25,000 on Mac alone) that is very influential in our direction.

The thing about security is that it’s a process, not a destination. Tools and techniques on all ends of this spectrum are constantly evolving, so as we’re building new features we have to constantly evolve 1Password’s foundation to stay secure and resilient.

3. What’s AgileBit’s marketing/brand strategy? Would it be fair to say the company has a modest profile in broad market terms but strong within its niche?

Since we started, we have relied largely on word of mouth and educating both the press and our customers. Most people know they need help getting things done so they seek out a task manager. But far too many people are still not aware that reusing their birthday + pet’s name as a password everywhere is a catastrophic security bomb waiting to happen.

We’ve found education and a strong, human-powered customer support system to be invaluable in showing people that 1Password is a better, more secure, yet convenient way to work and play on the web.

4. What were the biggest challenges transitioning the company from startup to small business?

Well to start, I should probably note that AgileBits has never taken funding. From the beginning, we set out to make a great product that people would pay for, especially because we’re dealing with some of the most sensitive information of all peoples’ passwords, credit cards, addresses, and more.

But given 1Password’s nature and origin, I’d say the largest transition was when we realized that it was becoming much more than an internal tool or even a side project. People started to really care about 1Password (“1Passwd”, back in this time), a lot of them, and we realized we could help people everywhere get more secure online.

5. What are the biggest growth challenges?

Scaling the company to support our growing customer base and deciding where to go next. Our customer base is larger and more diverse than ever, and we get just about every request you could imagine. The trick is to keep building, keep listening to our customers, and staying focused on 1Password’s mission to save time and make you more secure online.

More: Interesting to see Lifehacker do a Q&A with 1Password after this post appeared. Maybe 1Password’s profile is on the rise!

For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

 
 

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