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.

The Best Tools for Busy Entrepreneurs

When you’re running a business, there are a dozen balls to juggle and never enough time to get everything done.

Aside from having a personal assistant (we should all be so lucky!), an entrepreneur can make life easier by having some tools that simply get the job done.

toolsHere are some of the tools that I use on a daily basis to run my start-up marketing consulting business. Some of the tools are similar in functionality or have overlapping features but they all deliver good utility and value.

Humin: Once you discover Humin, you will never want to use the iPhone’s phone app again. Humin is a better way to tap into your contact list.

TriggerFox: An iOS app that combines contacts from multiple places (Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) and delivers insights based on the people who matter in your networks. Since launching a few months ago, TriggerFox has gone through several iterations that has made it easier to use and more useful.

Refresh: If you want on-the-fly insight into people you’re meeting, this iOS app provides background information, email correspondence, and tools to write notes, connect, email and make introductions.

Tempo: The best calendar tool I have come across (and I have used a bunch), Tempo has a rich set of features that includes insights, conference calling and insights.

Fantastical: This is an easy way to use natural language to schedule calendar meetings. If you want to schedule a meeting for tomorrow, all you need to do is type: “Coffee tomorrow at 1 a.m”, Fantastical does the rest. Since discovering it a few years, Fantastical has been a go-to tool on my laptop and desktop. On the iPhone, I use Tempo to schedule meetings.

Rapportive: A Gmail extension (acquired by LinkedIn), Rapportive displays information about people who send you email – location, job, shared connections. It’s particularly useful to get a quick snapshot about people you don’t know.

Trello: One of the easiest project management tools. Trello uses cards to break down projects into bite-sized chunks. It really makes collaboration much easier.

Tweet: Check out these 17 terrific tools & apps for entrepreneurs #startups

Pressly: A content curation plan that makes it easy to embed content into Websites and email marketing, as well as standalone Websites. I’m currently using it to collect content for my weekly startup newsletter. Here’s my startup “hub”.

Pocket: If you consume a lot of content, Pocket is an easy way to quickly add it to a reading list. I have a Chrome extension installed, as well as having it integrated into Zite on my iPhone.

Evernote: A super-popular tool to clip and bookmark content, I use Evernote to collect material when doing research for clients. I’m also using it as a reference source for a book that I’m writing about startup storytelling.

Sparrow: An email client and iOS app acquired by Google, Sparrow makes it easy to create and manage multiple inboxes, which is great if you have email accounts on behalf of different clients. The set up process for each account is dead simple, which is great.

Accompli: Having played around with many iOS email apps, I have settled on Accompli. It recently unveiled a new feature that automatically divides your inbox into “Focused” and “Other”. Accompli has a calendar app as well but I use Tempo for calendar activity.

ProsperWorks: A CRM tool built within GMail, ProperWorks recently completed a major update that made it much more user-friendly and accessible. It’s a valuable tool to identify and classify sales leads.

Streak: Another CRM tool for Gmail, Stark has some solid features. It is a snap to identify sales leads and classify them. I like the ability to schedule email and track opens (frequency and time opened). They plan to offer link tracking in the next six months.

Buffer: A tool that makes it easy to schedule social media updates at specific times. Buffer is time-saving productivity tool for people who want to maintain a steady social media presence but don’t have the time actually be on social media all day.

Riffle: A free extension for many social platforms, Riffle puts Twitter profiles on steroids. It quickly delivers a wealth of information (bios, followers, tweets, top hashtags, mentions, most used clients, etc.) about people who appear in your streams.

Momentum: It is not a productivity or business tool but it’s definitely inspiring. Momentum is a Chrome extension that displays a beautiful photograph upon opening a new tab. You can also write down your priority for the day.

What are the tools and apps that drive your entrepreneurial world?

More: One tool that I didn’t mention originally is Canva, which makes it a snap to create graphics for blogs, social media, presentations, etc. Kevin Restivo also mentioned Sunrise, a mobile calendar app.

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

Are You Using the World’s Oldest and Best Marketing Tool?

When was the last time you made a business call as opposed to using social media or email?

I’d hazard to say most people could count the number of telephone calls on their fingers given how digital marketing is so ubiquitous. In today’s fast-moving world, telephone calls are “old school” because they take time and effort. Why spend the time to make a telephone call when you can fire off an email, text and message in seconds?

telephoneThe use of telephone calls – or lack thereof – struck me last week when I called a friend about plans for a dinner party. Rather than send an email, I called to get details about who was coming and what to bring.

When my friend answered the phone, her immediate reaction was: “Why are you calling me?”. I guess she figured that getting a mid-day telephone call meant there was an emergency or bad news, rather than someone simply wanting to talk.

After getting over the shock that I just wanted to about dinner party plans, we had a great, rambling conversation that could never happen during an email exchange.

For me, the key takeaway was not to under-estimate the connection that happens when you make a telephone call. We forget telephone calls are more personal, nuanced and rich because it’s personal, real-time interaction, as opposed to digital exchanges.

Talking to someone is an experience that has taken a backseat as email, text and social media have taken over as the “best” way to communicate. In many respects, digital technology has made us lazy communicators because there is little need to directly engage with people. Email, text and social media let people communicate on their terms whenever and however they like.

It’s certainly efficient but it makes people forget about the effectiveness of talking to someone on the telephone, or better, in person. Talking to people involves language, tone and attitude.( In person, you can add the value of body lesson to the equation.) Email, text and social media are really straight ahead information tools with little personality.

For start-ups, it is important to remember that while digital marketing and communications have their merits, business really happens and, arguably, accelerates when you make real-world connections. Even a single meeting or telephone call can create the foundation for a solid relationship because people get a good feeling for each other.

Tweet: business really happens and, arguably, accelerates when you make real-world connections - http://ctt.ec/WUxy8+

When I was a newspaper reporter, the difference between a good source and someone who wouldn’t return my telephone calls was often a coffee, lunch or running into them at a conference. With a connection established, the dynamic completely changed.

If you’re a start-up, my advice is talk to people. Call your potential and existing customers, meet people for coffee or lunch, and attend events and conferences. By simply talking to people, new opportunities materialize. Sometimes, they lead to business. Sometimes, they simply start a relationship that builds  your network.

As much as digital communications is great, talking to people is an important part of your marketing and sales arsenal.

More: For some other thoughts on talking to customers, check out the following:

- The New York Times looks at how the telephone call is making a comeback.

- A TechCrunch post on how Intercon is communicating with customers within its app.

- Carey Baird on his seven principles about talking to customers.

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

51 Startup Bloggers That You Gotta Read

Last year, I put together a list of the leading startup bloggers: individuals who regularly write about startups from a marketing, sales, operations or financing perspective. Here’s an updated version featuring 51 bloggers.

bloggingFor the record, the selection process is unscientific. I was looking for individual bloggers, rather than news or blog organizations (e.g. TechCrunch, VentureBeat). I also focused on people who blog fairly regularly, which eliminated many high-profile people who are longer blogging or doing so infrequently.

A few interesting info tidbits:

1. There weren’t has many people as I expected who blog about startups on a regular basis. People such as Tomasz Tunguz, who seems to post every day, are the exception to the rule. It could be that people who work within the startup ecosystem are simply busy doing startup stuff.

2. Startup bloggers come and go. Someone blogs like crazy for a few months, and then slowly disappears into the background. The reality is blogging is hard to sustain on a long-term basis because it’s work. A number of bloggers on my original list were deleted because their blogs were collecting dust.

3. Many blogs run by startups focus on their products and features, rather than thought leadership or insight into the experience of running a startup.

Note: If you know of bloggers who should be on this list, leave a comment.

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

Easy Way to Do Startup Marketing: Use Your Customers

Many startups are dropping the marketing ball by overlooking an amazing resource: their customers.

These customers have taken a leap of faith by embracing a relatively unknown product from a company with no track record. It’s an enormous vote of confidence that a startup should exploit, rather than accept with a contented shrug.

customersAs much as a startup creates marketing collateral and campaigns that resonate, it is much better when a customer becomes an evangelist. This is authentic behaviour that creates a powerful connection with others customers who just need some encouragement to jump on the bandwagon.

Sometimes, product advocate appear organically because the experience is so good or delightful. In other cases, they need a “carrot” to get engaged. Dropbox, for example, did it extremely well by rewarding people with bonus storage if they attracted other users to sign up.

Whatever the approach, it is important for startups to capture the potential of turning customers into a key part of their marketing engines. Their ability to amplify your marketing and validate your product is a powerful one-two combination.

How do startups make this happen?

1. It starts from the beginning of the relationship – be a sale or sign up. At that point, there is a golden opportunity to turn a new user into a fan by simply appreciating their decision and offering some kind of value. It could be a free month, five easy steps to get more from your product, or a thank from the CEO.

It’s like trying to make new friends. You need to nurture the relationship so it grows into something bigger and better.

2. Customers want love and attention. They want validation their decision was correct, particularly when they are among the first customers. Being recognized in some way makes them feel special and wanted.

It also sets the stage for a startup to ask customers to help the cause. If a customer likes a startup’s product and how they’re treated, it is easier to ask them to join your marketing team. And as a startup’s product becomes more popular, it’s even more incentive for early customers to talk about intelligence and good decisions.

3. Make it easy for customers to become marketers. Give them easy ways spread the word, provide them with incentives if they attract new customers, invite them to dinner or meet-ups, or send them a thank card. The easier you make it, the bigger your marketing team becomes.

There are many approaches to start-up marketing but no magical recipe for success. It’s a matter of experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, experiments works. Sometimes, they flop. It depends on many factors.

Customers, on the other hand, are a valuable assets for startups to capitalize on. They have already decided they like you, which means there is a lot of potential to give them a bigger role. Given this opportunity, start-ups must draft customers into the marketing battle.

It’s hard work and take time and creativity, but there are tremendous benefits.

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

Has It Become Way Too Easy to Create a Startup?

Start-ups are exciting and sexy but have they become too easy to create?

It’s a question sparked by a recent article in Entrepreneur about Colin Grussing, who plans to create 52 startup in 52 weeks. Grussing deserves credit for his ambition but is it something that makes sense business-wise?

easy startupsAside from showing people start-ups are far from impossible to launch, what other messages is Grussing delivering? Should everyone create a start-up because it’s a snap to realize your entrepreneurial dreams? Maybe, that’s the whole idea.

On the other hand, Grussing is shining a light on the dark side of the startup ecosystem. With low barriers to entry, everyone is launching a startup, even though many of them are hobbies or long-shots as opposed to viable businesses.

As a result, the landscape is noisy, over-crowded and fraught with startups with no chance of being successful. At the same time, it has made life more challenging for viable startups because there’s so much competition for the spotlight and talent. It is difficult to wage battle when there are so many zombies creating distractions.

There are people who believe more startups is better because it gives people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and, at the same time, the cream will eventually rise to the top. The idea is that entrepreneurship is a good thing so we need to nurture, not discourage it.

For someone who does marketing for start-ups, it may seem sacrilegious to think there are too many. But more isn’t better if people are “playing entrepreneur” rather than running a business meeting a need or solving a problem.

Given the volatile economic conditions, startup are exciting because they let people controls their destinies. They symbolize freedom, optimism and independence. They let people liberate themselves from the cubicle farm.

Making the leap from cubicle to startup doesn’t need a lot of financing. An online service can launch quickly and relatively inexpensively by hiring people on contract or, even better (cheaper), using off-shore talent.

In a matter of weeks or months, a start-up is up and running. The champagne flows and high-fives exchanged. Then, the hard work begins as start-ups scramble to operate in markets teeming competitors. To make matters worse, many entrepreneurs lack experience and the right skills.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how the start-up ecosystem has flourished. Toronto is oozing with excitement and smart entrepreneurs gunning to establish themselves globally. It’s all good.

But I believe the start-up fascination has bubbled over. There are too many people throwing themselves into the fray with half-baked ideas, poor business plans, and mediocre products taking on strong rivals.

In other words, many start-ups should never be started. And they wouldn’t if it wasn’t so damn easy to climb on the bandwagon.

For people thinking about creating a startup, it is a good idea to ask yourself if the world really needs yet another startup.

What do you think? Has it become easy to launch a startup?

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

Job One for a Startup CEO: Welcome Your New Customers

One of the niceties about shopping at Walmart are the front-door greeters. Sure, Walmart is a gazillion-dollar business that puts snuffs out small retailers and squeezes suppliers but there’s nothing being greeted to warm the heart of the bargain-hunting shopper.

In having employees greet customers, Walmart is saying “Hey, we’re glad you’re here.” (As well as having a way to prevent shop lifting but let’s place that detail in the background for the purposes of today’s discussion.)

So, what’s the lesson for startups from Walmart?

It’s all the power of the personal touch and starting off a relationship on the right foot. Much like every journey starts with the first step, the tone of the relationship with the customer starts from the first interactions.

This is why it’s a no-brainer for a startup’s CEO to welcome a new customer into the fold. It’s a way of saying: “We really welcome your decision to take us for a spin. It’s such an important thing that our CEO wanted to welcome you personally”.

Here’s an example of how this should happen:

 Pressly

The email greeting from Pressly CEO Jeff Brenner is likely automated but, nevertheless, it is a huge improvement over the robotic-like greetings that most startups use with they have attracted a new customer.

In thanking the customer and asking if they need any help, Brenner is beginning to shape the startup-customer relationship. You have to remember it’s still early days for the customer. There’s still a good chance the customers could abandon ship for the next shiny startup that captures their attention, so Pressly has to make a good impression.

A key part of a customer’s relationship a business is simply affinity. This can happen in many ways but it involves establishing a connection. Whether it’s a big-box retailer or a scrappy startup, it is important for the customer to believe they are valued.

At the same time, shopping is an emotional exercise. Whether it’s a must-have purchase, a spur of the moment decision or an indulgence, shopping makes us feel something: happiness, satisfaction or relief.

By having the CEO involved in one of the first interaction’s with a new customer, it triggers affinity and emotion and, as important, eases people into the fold. Truth be told, it’s good to be wanted, even if a consumer wants a product. It is important for a startup to show it appreciates someone’s business, particularly in the early days.

Too many startups work so hard to attract customers but completely drop the ball once they manage to get someone to sign up or make a purchase. It’s almost as if the startup believes the hard part is over so they can simply cruise the rest of the way.

The reality is customers are fickle and have little brand loyalty. While a startup was successful in getting them to make a purchase, it is just the beginning of an ongoing process to keep them happy and engaged.

The key consideration is first impressions really matter. If the first email suggests a startup is excited about having a new customer, it sets the stage for the rest of the journey.

I offer strategic and tactical services for startup marketing: strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

 
 

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