All posts by Mr Executive

Online Marketing Agencies: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

On HGTV’s hit show “Love it or List it,” unsatisfied homeowners are given the chance to move to a new house or to renovate the one that they currently have. Some participants on the show choose to sell even after renovation, but many are surprised to find that their current home really was what they wanted… after a few fixes.

Business owners often find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to online marketing agencies.

Many companies are dissatisfied with their current agency. In fact,according to the Agency Management Institute, 50 percent of companies that outsource their online marketing have changed agencies at least once in the last two years. But, much as with homes, sometimes it makes more sense to fix the problems with your current agency than take a risk on a whole new one.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to make a “fixer upper” relationship with your agency into a productive partnership — as well as some of the signs that it’s time to just get out.

Expectations: Your blueprint for success.

One of the most common reasons that businesses decide to look for a new marketing agency is the fact that they’re not getting the results that they want. Of course, to get what you want you have to know what you want. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re getting it or not?

Expectations are like the blueprint for your working relationship. If well-constructed and well-communicated, they keep you and your agency on the same page, working to achieve the same things.

If not, they can be the source of a lot of conflict.

So, how do you know if you’re setting good expectations? Let’s take a look at what constitutes a good expectation.

Basically, good expectations are: 1) clear, 2) achievable and 3) agreed upon.

1. Clear expectations.

It might seem strange to talk about expectations as if you draw them up and refine them. Normally, “expectations” seem like something you just have…right?

Would it help if I called them “goals?”

When it comes to business, expectations and goals are virtually synonyms. If you expect an employee to come into work on time, it should be their goal to meet that expectation. Similarly, if you expect your marketing agency to behave a certain way or achieve a given objective, that should be a goal for your agency.

Now, we’ve probably all heard a few lectures about setting business goals. One of the keys to a good goal is specificity.

If you just want your agency to “make my marketing better,” it will be hard for them to know where to start and it will be hard for you to tell if they’ve succeeded. An agency could do its best but still seem incompetent if it doesn’t know what’s really important to you. On the other hand, if you have well-defined, measurable goals for your agency, then they have something to shoot for and you have a reliable way to gauge their performance.

Of course, you could have the world’s most perfect, specific goal, and it wouldn’t do you any good if you failed to communicate it to your agency. Clear expectations need to be communicated clearly.

2. Achievable expectations.

Even a clear goal can be doomed to fail, though. The goal “$100,000 in sales in six months” might sound great, but if you expect to get it by selling $20 items with a $400 AdWords budget, you can also expect to be disappointed.

On paper, sky high expectations like this are obviously unrealistic, but you’d be surprised at how often businesses expect these sorts of results from their agency partners.

The problem is, companies often choose to outsource online marketing because it is an unfamiliar area and they don’t feel confident handling it on their own. This same lack of familiarity can lead to confusion about what online marketing can and can’t do, leading to years of frustration as one agency after another fails to meet an impossible standard.

But how can you ever be sure that your expectations are realistic if you’re not an expert? Simple — ask an expert. That’s what your agency is for, after all.

Sit down with your account manager and have a talk about your budget, your timeline and your plans for growth. Together, you should be able to come up with goals that will be both aggressive and achievable.

3. Agreeing on expectations.

Let’s imagine that you’ve communicated a clear, realistic goal for your industry — “increase conversion rate by 20 percent per quarter, with10 percent of revenue being reinvested into marketing” — but when you next talk to your account manager a week later he reports that he’s set up your account with analytics to track the quality of your traffic.

This could be pretty frustrating. After all, you asked him to increase your conversion rate and what you got was traffic-tracking analytics.

You told him one thing and you got another. It’s about time to go looking for another agency… right?

Well, that may be a little premature.

If your agency doesn’t seem to be on track with your expectations, it’s important to communicate your frustrations before taking any drastic action.

If (continuing my example) you let your account manager know that you aren’t happy with the apparent focus on traffic instead of conversions, he might get the chance to explain that refining traffic can provide a quick boost to conversion rate and set you up for more successful site testing in the future.

Just knowing this might be enough to satisfy you. Or maybe not. Either way, starting a conversation gives you the opportunity to explain your situation and why you expected things to happen a certain way.

By communicating why your expectations are what they are and askingwhy your agency makes the choices it does, you can start to develop a shared vision and get real buy-in on your goals. And, once you’re on the same page about the what, the why and the how of your online marketing plan, you’re probably on the road to success.

That being said, there are times when you’ve done everything you can to clear up your expectations and priorities, and discussed your conflicts and the agency still insists on pushing their own agenda. In this situation, remember, you’re the customer and it’s your account. If your agency simply refuses to play ball, it might be time to go find someone else to play with.

People problems: Remodeling your relationship.

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of communication, but to be fair, some account managers are tough to talk to. Sometimes you want to hear about the details of your account, but the manager talks in generalities. You want succinct reports and she loves to tell stories. You want to make hard-hitting, aggressive changes and he prefers a cautious approach.

Even if your account is performing well, these types of personality conflicts can make your marketing agency feel like the bane of your existence.

The good news is, these troubles aren’t necessarily permanent.

If you feel like personality conflicts are at the root of your problems, requesting a new account manager can be a simple but effective way to remodel your working relationship. Chances are, your account manager won’t mind the change either. If you thought they were annoying, the feeling was probably mutual.

Changing account managers isn’t always a sure-fire fix, but it’s usually worth a try, since it’s a lot easier to change your point of contact than to go shopping for a brand new agency.

Red flags.

There are some problems, however, that go far beyond mere personality conflicts. If your online marketing agency routinely exhibits any of the following red flag behaviors, you might think about running for the hills:

Does your agency…

  • Make promises it can’t keep?
  • Fail to report on the status of your accounts or give you misleading information?
  • Lose you money through inept choices?
  • Refuse to adjust to the needs of your business?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a good chance that you are working for a lemon of an agency—it’s probably time to look for a new partner.

Dealing with change.

When you own a home, sometimes you love your house, but the community around you changes. For example, if the city builds a high school across the street, the noise level may suddenly become intolerable. It’s not something you had control over, but it can make staying in your current situation difficult.

The same thing can happen in business. Budgets get cut, executive priorities change, mergers take place and markets vary — there are lots of reasons why your old standby agency just might not work for you anymore.

Or could it?

If you really love your house, there are often ways to deal with external problems (eg, soundproofing your walls). Similarly, if your business has undergone changes that affect your online marketing agency, it’s worth talking over these changes with them.

A flexible agency may be able to change your contract to better suit your new needs. Even if this isn’t an option, they may be able to point you in the direction of another high quality agency that would be a better match.

So, if you’re not happy with your current online marketing agency, should you love it or leave it? Consider the following:

Signs that your agency relationship needs a remodel:

  1. Unclear, unachievable or undiscussed expectations
  2. Personality conflicts
  3. Poor communication

Signs that you need a new agency:

  1. Deception or other red flag behaviors
  2. Refusal to work with your reasonable expectations
  3. Large changes in your business

In the end, the choice to love or leave your marketing agency is ultimately up to you, but in many cases, if you’re willing to do a little remodeling, you just might end up with the agency relationship of your dreams.


Want to Make 6 Figures From Your Amazon FBA Business? Here’s How.

If you want to grow your business to six figures, it must be scalable, regardless of the business model. The advantage of a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) business is that you don’t have to warehouse products or handle the picking, packing and shipping. This is part of what makes an FBA business so attractive and, ultimately, scalable.

However, there are two major challenges. In order to get to six figures as an Amazon seller, first, you will have to put a lot of your financial resources into inventory. Second, you will need to sell large quantities of products.

Many business owners make it their goal to make six figures online, as that is a major milestone to hit. Here are some important steps to take as you look to reach a new level of growth in your business.

Crunch the numbers.

Let’s assume you have a profitable business already. But if you’re looking to scale, you can’t ignore the numbers. Here are several tips to ensure you have a business worth growing:

  • Use the FBA revenue calculator to establish the viability of your product(s) after all relevant fees and expenses. In particular, pay attention to the adjusted gross margin, which should be between 15 percent and 20 percent.
  • Track all of your financials the moment you open for business. If you want to sell your business at some point, this information will prove critical to the selling process.
  • Track your numbers using multiple methods so you can keep your finger on the pulse of the business and adjust your strategies as necessary.

Build a dedicated brand website.

You likely started your FBA business absent any intention of subjecting yourself to the technical minutiae of building a website. Steve Chou from tells of a student of his who shared that she’d had a six-figure success on Amazon but also plenty of frustration building a website with an open source shopping cart. She said she eventually found some solace with the Shopify platform.

Even if you’re not technically proficient, any long-term view of your business will convince you that building a website is a step worth taking. Here are four reasons why:

First, you don’t have access to customer data through Amazon. One way to gain access to this invaluable information is a tool like Seller Tools, which will help you track orders and customers. Seller Tools is a great solution, but there is nothing quite like building a website when it comes to capturing customer data.

Second, when you establish a website, you can build your brand, which creates another channel for sales, as well. This will also help you mitigate the risks of building your business on a third-party platform. Amazon of late has had a penchant for changing its terms.

Third, you can take advantage of the Amazon Associates affiliate program to earn affiliate commissions on related products and boost your revenue. By writing reviews on relevant offers and promoting them with a tool like BuzzBundle, you can even generate income on autopilot, assuming you’ve set it up correctly.

Fourth, you can build your email list, which will give you a way to communicate directly with your prospects and customers while collecting the data you need. Knowing your customers will help you find more people just like them to sell to. Don’t forget to set up a follow-up sequence to convert more prospects into customers.

Leverage paid advertising.

As we all know, SEO takes time. You don’t implement a 100-point checklist today and shoot to the top of Google or Amazon tomorrow. Paid advertising will not only help you build some immediate traction with your products, but also lower your customer acquisition cost.

The key to success with advertising is testing. You’ll need to play with your ad images and copy to determine the best way forward. Even if you think you know your customers and your business, you may be surprised to discover what works and what doesn’t.

Building your email list will also come in handy when you’re looking to optimize your advertising, as you’ll be able to create retargeting ads and lookalike audiences.

Grow slowly and sustainably.

Ryan Moran from Freedom Fast Lane has been successful in selling over six figures’ worth on Amazon FBA with just two products.

What we can learn from this is that launching too many products too soon can actually be detrimental to your business. It’s not difficult to see why. When you have a lot of different products to sell, most of your money will be tied up in your inventory. In addition, too many products makes tracking the viability and sales of each product harder. This is a key piece to ensuring profitability, and can’t be ignored.

Moran also shares his two steps to scaling your Amazon business:

  1. Rank higher for your keywords. This takes time. You will begin to rank higher with reviews and sales. Beware of gaming the system, as Amazon has been coming down harder on sellers that are buying or automating reviews.
  2. Release more products. Moran suggests launching more products once you are satisfied with the results of the ones you already have. He notes that launching too many products too early is actually the downfall of many business owners.

Additionally, optimizing your best seller rank is essentially the same process. You need to outsell the competition and get positive reviews for your products. If you can’t seem to outrank the competition, you can always switch to another product offering.

Bottom line: Grow your offerings slowly and sustainably.

Final thoughts

The FBA business model is still relatively new. Slowly, but surely, however, new resources and tools are becoming available. There are now SaaS for Amazon FBA tools you can leverage to grow your business, and these make it easier for you to increase your search rank, track and measure your marketing and sales and ultimately succeed as an Amazon seller.

Scaling, like anything worthwhile, takes time, and it won’t happen overnight. It might be a matter of finding the right product niche. It might be a matter of sticking it out with a single offer until that offer starts converting at a satisfactory level.

Just remember not to take any shortcuts, as they are likely not within Amazon’s terms of use, and could get your business shut down before you reach that coveted six-figure milestone.


4 Advertising Principles from Ad Legend David Ogilvy

Let’s look at some secrets of creative salesmanship from advertising legend David Ogilvy. He advised promoters to follow these four basic principles in creating their messages:

1. Creative brilliance. Marketers need to come up with brilliant concepts that not only catch their best targets’ attention but also sell them on the product. Ogilvy was a proponent of the “big idea” — an unforgettable concept that cap­tures the imagination of your audience and puts your product (or yourself) on the map.

2. Research. Ogilvy didn’t believe in “blowing smoke.” His copy was meticulously based in fact, and he did careful research to uncover the one amazing fact about a product around which he could build an entire ad campaign.

3. Actual results. Ogilvy was a strong believer in judging the quality of an ad by its success at selling the product. Always test the outcome of an ad, and if it isn’t selling, make whatev­er changes are necessary to make it work. This holds true for print ads, banner ads, job applications, blog posts or whatev­er else it is you’re putting out into the world.

4. Professional discipline. Advertising executives were not to be dabblers in the creative realm. They needed to hone their craft and develop programs to train the next generation of adver­tisers. Similarly, if you want to be successful at promoting something, through any medium, apply yourself to creating the best campaigns possible or you’ll never achieve everything that’s possible for you.

This last point is as true today as it was when it was written. Nobody becomes a phenomenon in any field without putting in the time and discipline. This is especially true when it comes to writing promotions — particularly today, when the field is so much more competitive.

To be a successful copywriter, not only do you have to put in the hours to learn how to write, but you also have to research more than ever to make sure that what you write stands out. If you don’t take deep dives into a product and learn what makes it unique, you’ll never rise above the noise.

Today people talk about commodity versus specialty. A commodity is an ordinary product. A specialty product has something about it that makes it unique and exclusive. A great ad writer can take a commodity product and make it stand out as a specialty product by showing what makes it different and better.

The trick is to find the story in the product, and that takes skill. Maybe you’re selling a fish oil supplement. You can turn it into a specialty item by explaining, for example, that your fish oil comes from a unique kind of fish living deep in Icelandic waters, providing better Omega-3. Researching your product has always been important, but it’s even more important today. With more competition and a more skeptical audience, you need great arguments to back every claim you make.

The most famous headline in advertising history

Ogilvy wrote many famous ads during his career, but the one that’s said to have been the most famous headline in advertising history was the one he created for Rolls-Royce. The headline read:

At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.

This groundbreaking ad illustrates all the principles that made Ogilvy’s work stand out. The headline itself was a wonderful example of the “big idea.” No one had ever seen a headline like that before. It intrigued people and pulled them in to read the rest of the ad.

The body of the ad was made up of 13 interesting facts that clearly explained why the Rolls-Royce was unique and why it was worth its sky-high price. And of course Ogilvy tested the ad in a number of venues before launching the nationwide campaign that ended up earning a place in advertising history.

You might think marketers just sit around waiting for inspiration, but that’s not the way it actually works. In describing the process he used to write the Rolls-Royce ad, Ogilvy said he started out, as he always did, by doing his homework. He claimed this was a tedious but necessary process. Ogilvy said that as a marketer, you had to study the product and find out as much about it as you can. The more you know about a product, the more likely you are to come up with the big idea.

When he got the Rolls-Royce account, he spent three weeks reading about the car. In the process, he came upon this statement from a Rolls-Royce engineer: “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise comes from the electric clock.” That became the headline, which was followed by 607 words of factual copy. In a sense, Ogilvy didn’t even write the world’s most famous headline; he took it from a company report. But his genius was in recognizing the power of the statement to work as the lead-in to the ad. Of course, the rest of the ad pulled its weight too: 13 carefully crafted points that each raised and answered a question the reader might have. It even addressed the issue of price in a clever way, stating that the Bentley, manufactured by the same company, was exactly the same machine except for the grille and a much-reduced price. People could buy a Bentley if they “feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce.” This would subtly appeal to Rolls-Royce buyers, who would never see themselves as being diffident about anything.

Lessons for today’s promoters

I think Ogilvy brought a modern touch to advertising that really made his work stand out — and also made it tremendously effective. Many of the copywriters I work with do just as he said: they spend as much time as necessary researching before they ever start writing.

Very often the facts themselves lead to the big idea that will really sell the product. It’s the perspiration of research that gives rise to the creative inspiration. Smart advertisers put this into practice. One company I know hires entry-level copywriters to spend the first year or two only doing research. They don’t write one word of copy until after they master researching the subject area they’re going to be working on. Ogilvy understood the value of this, and once again, he was ahead of his time.

We should also remember to always deal in facts. Especially today, consumers are wary of empty claims that seem to have nothing to back them up. In promoting your product or service or yourself, be sure to provide fact after fact that explains why you’re the best.

And of course, Ogilvy was a pioneer in claiming that testing is everything. That’s the only way to arrive at the best ad, sales piece, website copy or Facebook post that will get you the best results.


9 Ways to Speed Up Content Creation and Connect With More Users

Content creation can be a slow and arduous process. Among marketers, the agile are primed for creating and delivering content at lightning speed. Here are some ways your organization can benefit from leveraging daily customs of those who excel in the field.

1. Align content with user stories.

The user story template should be clear. One user story describes the needs and wants of one persona. This extremely narrow focus serves a purpose. It reduces meandering, mitigates excess and encourages simplicity in customer engagement.

Creating content quickly means doing one thing really well for one person. Your audience should be able to quickly tell who your content is designed around.

2. Get content creators involved early.

Content creators often aren’t part of the planning and strategy sessions that take place at the start of a sprint. But they should be. Silos slow down content production. Involving creatives earlier allows them to become attuned to the overall content strategy. This can help them begin the ideation stage early and potentially short-circuit it by dismissing ideas that don’t fit in with the bigger picture.

This approach also empowers creators to provide valuable feedback from their vantage point. They may foresee potential roadblocks that others miss. Addressing problems early is a major win for any strategy.

3. Create manageable tasks per user story.

Teams and organizations will vary in how they split the tasks that make up a user story. Regardless, it’s important to focus on creating tasks that work directly to accomplish narrative. This prevents the scope of work from expanding.

Likewise, if a team’s run rate is predictable each time, don’t add tasks or stories in the hopes of getting more work done. It is far more important to deliver completed work than to end a run with unfinished tasks.

4. Prioritize the work that is truly critical.

You can’t do everything at once. Make tough decisions about what is absolutely critical and rank the work accordingly. Then, tackle content creation in priority order.

Ideally, team members should complete a user story before moving on to the next one. If disaster strikes, your organization can rest assured that the workflow won’t be interrupted.

5. Get feedback during and after every run so you can fail early.

Teams inevitably will fail. It’s the design of human nature. Agile marketers know the focus is never the failure itself — it’s the after-effects. Getting feedback can be challenging, but it exists to help.

Fail, get feedback, and learn. Then rise up and quickly re-route the course. Consider any and all feedback to increase your content’s quality, effectiveness and responsiveness.

6. Embrace cross-functionality.

Not everyone is an effective content creator. But the people within your organization have accumulated a wide variety of knowledge and experiences that can prove to be a gold mine.

Get rid of the idea that only those hired to create content should contribute to the end product. Crowdsource content creation by allowing every department to contribute. Creatives can then harness the mass knowledge base. This allows them to ideate, create and refine more rapidly.

7. Address blockers on a daily basis.

If a team member is stuck, others need to know — and soon. In agile marketing, status stand-up meetings occur daily. The primary purpose is to find bottlenecks, roadblocks, dead ends and boulders so these obstacles can be removed. Resolve as quickly as possible any issues that cause a work stoppage or inhibit workflow.

Use an end-of-run retrospective.

At the end of every campaign run, schedule a postmortem. Team members discuss what worked well and what could be improved. Postmortems provide value, but only if members derive actionable items from the discussion. It isn’t enough to simply learn what didn’t work. Teams must create goals that address these gaps. Give members ownership over each pitfall. This built-in accountability helps ensure the same issues won’t recur.

8. Abide by the manifesto.

In theory, creators can revise content until the end of time. Seasoned creators rely on external feedback to help determine when a piece is finished. Similarly, developers rely on quality-assurance professionals to determine that functionality is complete.

Establish a mutually agreed-upon definition of “done.” This will function as a checklist to curtail unnecessary time spent on a task. Once a story has checked off every item on the list, it is considered complete. Remember that perfection is never the goal. Content’s role is to deliver value.


Facebook Marketing Tips From a Social Media Expert

Entrepreneur Network partner Kate Volman meets with Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith to discuss how small businesses can utilize Facebook to build their companies.

Since 2007, Smith has been teaching small businesses how to masterFacebook marketing. Many small businesses use outdated Facebook marketing tactics, but it’s important that they stay up-to-date with trends and new features.

Uploading your email list to Facebook, creating videos and using Facebook paid ads and Facebook Messenger are a few of the options that Smith recommends to strengthen your company’s marketing strategy.

Today, Facebook can be a key way to gain new customers and re-engage old ones.

Click play to learn how you can boost your Facebook marketing strategy.

Watch more videos from Volman on her YouTube channel here.

Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.

EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical and provides partners with distribution on as well as our apps on Amazon FireRoku and Apple TV


8 Reasons Why Your CEO Needs Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has become one of the hottest trends for marketers. And, there’s plenty of good reasons why. It’s a powerful and effective way to organically connect with prospective clients and build your brand’s awareness. But, how can you sell your CEO on becoming an influencer?

Here are eight reasons why influencer marketing should be on your CEO’s radar.

1. It’s cost-effective.

Let’s be honest, influencer marketing isn’t 100% free. There are some costs involved, such as hosting a website, paying for social media management and monitoring tools and creating content. Compared to traditional advertising, which can cost thousands of dollars, influencer marketing can easily fit into marketing budgets of any size.

How much money does it really cost you to tweet and write a blog post everyday?

2. Establishes your CEO as an industry thought leader.

Whenever a CEO shares their thoughts or advice that are relevant to their industry, they eventually become a well-respected industry leader. That’s why whenever Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Warren Buffett or even Beyonce speak we listen. They’ve achieved high-levels of success and know the tricks and hacks to achieve that success.

3. Connects and retains customers.

report from Rhythmone found that an astounding 92% of consumers have made a purchase after reading about a product on their favorite blog. While another study has discovered that customers who were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Influencer marketing plays a part in both introducing your brand to customers and retaining them since you’ve built trust with your audience, have engaged and interacted with them and ultimately, humanized your brand. When you do that, people start spreading the word on how awesome you and your company are.

4. Drives recruitment.

Want to attract top-level talent? Get your CEO active in sharing facts about the corporate culture, along with the latest projects and behind-the-scenes visuals of you and your team having some fun. CEOs can even directly engage high-level candidates through social listening.

5. The ROI is phenomenal.

According to a poll done by Tomoson, businesses make an average of $6.50 for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing. And, that ROI can be even higher in other industries.

“For instance, RhythmOne reported an average $21.03 return on every $1 of paid media in the alcoholic beverages advertising category, and a return of $18.98 per $1 spend in the travel and tourism category.

6. Introduces your brand to brand ambassadors.

We’ve already established that word-of-mouth referrals are important. But, a whooping 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s why brands are turning to social media influencers on YouTube or Instagram to become brand ambassadors.

As an influencer, you can spot these individuals on social channels and begin to build relationships with these rising stars so that you can form a partnership that is beneficial for both parties.

7. It’s targetable and trackable.

“Decisions without data are shots in the dark at best. For decades, the advertising industry was limited to shooting in the dark, having only access to traditional strategies that yielded murky information about audience reach, sales funnel influence and branding impact,” writes Misha Talavera, co-founder and CMO of NeoReach.

“The digital world is different. Every website visit, social like and picture posted online can be stored and analyzed, yielding oceans of data that turns into valuable insights about your target market and your advertising performance.”

Thanks to tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights you can easily track your efforts.

8. It’s an alternative to ineffective and outdated ads.

“It will probably comes as no surprise to you (or your CEO) that traditional banner ads have gotten increasingly ineffectual. In fact, according to Google’s Display Benchmarks Tool, the average click-through rate (CTR) of display ads is now only around 0.06%,” says Rampton.

“And keep in mind that some web users choose not to view ads at all. According to the Reuters Institute, 47% of online consumers now use ad blocking technology. This means that if you’re paying for exposure via banner ads, you’ve lost nearly half your audience right out of the gate.”

Businesses need to find alternative strategies for getting exposure and traffic. And, Influencer marketing could be just what’s needed in this advertising-wary culture.  



5 Steps to Creating Metrics That Matter for Your Company

Times have changed since 1998 when ConsumerAffairs was founded at the start of the dot-com boom. When I acquired the company more than 10 years later in 2010 from serial entrepreneur Jim Hood, there was no dashboard or metrics in place. My management team and I had to build all of it from scratch, which is not unusual given that the hyper focus on measurements and the ability for all companies to dashboard is a recent trend. Although I attended Dartmouth, it was at the private equity firm where I worked in San Francisco prior to acquiring my first fixer-upper that I initially heard about dashboarding and metrics. It was 2013 when I finally integrated the now popular mechanism into my starter business.

The impetus was that the ConsumerAffairs sales team had convinced itself that they were steadily working. For some strange reason, the team’s self-proclaimed effort was not translating into revenue. When I peeled back layers of the onion, the Dunning-Kruger effect stared me in the face. When there is no performance review mechanism in place, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to set in where an individual mistakenly believes their output or performance is much higher than it actually is. Staff members were essentially fooling themselves, thinking they were working hard when they actually weren’t.

The lesson I learned from the hidden trend is that a CEO really can not build a business based on faith. Essentially, dashboarding eliminates faith. You build a successful business based on facts and figures that lead to conclusions. As we focused more on being data driven, our growth trajectory continued to rise but first, we needed tools and metrics that evaluated productivity at the individual sales rep level and at the sales team level. Once key performance indicators (KPIs) were implemented, an increase in profitability from the sales department began to set in.

Overall, the most important aspect of evaluating performance in sales is determining a leading indicator from a lagging one. A common leading sales indicator that’s also used at ConsumerAffairs is the weighted pipeline, which displays sales transactions and where the transaction is in the process of closing according to their phase in the cycle. However, it can be more difficult to determine leading vs. lagging indicators in company divisions like human resources and engineering. The ConsumerAffairs employee net promoter score, which measures employee churn, is a leading indicator we’ve developed to evaluate human resources. The net promoter score reveals on a monthly basis whether employees love working at our company.

Armed with the employee net promoter score as a KPI, we can enhance employee retention much more effectively. In this case, improving the rate of employee churn required developing a plan that would enhance the net employee promoter score. To increase the score, we looked at comments, we asked our employees for more information on why they were unhappy and we paid attention to what they were asking for whether it was a vacation stipend, a nursing room for new moms to pump breast milk or implementing a 401K match.

Our philosophy is that employees are customers too and the company is a product.

In other words, if you’re not measuring performance, you can not improve it. Like dieting, losing weight is a lot more effective when you’re counting calories than when you’re not because if you don’t know how many calories are in a particular meal, you cannot calculate them to determine the outcome of pounds. What’s different today is the evolution of business intelligence and data visualization platforms that help to aggregate data.

Typically, a company’s sales department stores data in its own system, the financial division’s data is in its own system and the human resource team’s data is in its own system. Previously, it has been a challenge to centralize this data and glean business intelligence from the various silos. But connections of data across functional groups is now possible because of business intelligence technology where in the past, business intelligence to this degree was available only to corporations that could afford global management consulting firms like McKinsey & Company. Better yet, learn from my experience compliments of ConsumerAffairs. Below are six keys that helped my company to get its groove back after the dot-com bust.

1. Get your data together.

Uncertainty is only increasing in the world. So having an understanding of how the plates shift underneath you is only getting more important tomorrow than it is today. Companies that are not data-drive will miss opportunities to improve and understanding the leading indicators that underlie the success of your departments is the key to being data driven.

2. Dedicate a team.

Organize a group of workers committed to enabling business intelligence. It cannot be something you think you’re buying off the shelf. Our team consists of six people that are all engineers. Even the product managers are engineers.

3. No off the shelf product will solve your problem.

We all know there’s no such thing as a true plug and play BI resource. Business intelligence tools like DOMO allow us to connect all of our data into a singular repository then visualize and query from different data sources based on each team’s unique needs. The data, which includes the employee net promoter score, sales data, financial data, product data and website data, is disseminated internally to everyone on staff so individuals can look at the metrics most important to their own roles.

4. Define what success means for each division.

From each defined marker of success, establish leading indicators to understand how each team is performing day to day, week to week and month to month. Measuring and building dashboards within an organization around the metrics that actually predict success in any functional group will help management keep their finger on the pulse of each department in order.

5. Make sense of it all.

Consultants can come in, figure it out for you and be helpful but more successful companies are just automatic about determining this themselves and making it part of their corporate culture.


Live Your Own Life, Not Someone Else’s

If you watched the Seattle Seahawks play the New York Jets on Sunday, you couldn’t help but notice the glaring difference between the two teams’ head coaches. It was a study in contrast: The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll was as excitable and animated as the Jets’ Todd Bowles was stoic and expressionless.

Do you think their outward demeanor means either coach is less emotionally invested in the game or the outcome? Of course not. Trust me when I tell you — if you’re a coach in the NFL, you love the game of football, you love your team and nothing matters more to you than winning.

That said, everyone reacts differently to emotional stimulus. No two people process events or information exactly the same way. Everyone has his own way of doing things. And that’s especially true of leaders in any field, whether they’re coaches on the field, CEOs in corner offices or entrepreneurs working out of a garage.

 And yet, we consume massive amounts of generic, one-size-fits-all, self-help advice. You know what I’m talking about: personal routines, habits and hacks. How to be productive. What to eat. How to behave. When to wake up and when to go to bed. How to become rich and famous. Why you should quit your day job and start an online business.

If any of those NFL coaches had wasted their precious time on that sort of nonsense, they never would have made it to the top of their profession in the first place. That goes for executives and business leaders, too. The reason is simple. They don’t let anyone else tell them how to think or act.

Real leaders follow their own path. They trust their own instincts. They have the courage and conviction to do things their own way. Of course they have mentors and teachers, but that’s different. That’s personal and specific, not the sort of useless, prescriptive nonsense folks are obsessed with these days.

The worst thing about all that generic content is that its publishers have but one goal: clicks, ad dollars and subscriptions. They don’t have skin in your game. They don’t have your best interests at heart. Rather, they post whatever popular dogma is prevalent at the time. Their job is to feed millions of readers whatever it is they want to hear. Period.

Now, contrast that with what Steve Jobs had to say during his famous2005 Stanford University commencement speech:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Jobs was absolutely right about popular dogma or beliefs being a trap. If he only knew how many of you have fallen for that trap through the breakthrough technology Apple created, he’d probably turn in his grave.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the modern era is that the overwhelming majority of successful executives and business leaders — the kind of people we all admire — don’t waste a minute of their precious time reading or regurgitating that sort of popular garbage. They’re too busy working. They’re too busy doing what matters.

According to the latest report from Domo and, 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence whatsoever, and of the rest, nearly three quarters, use only LinkedIn and few are active. It’s not just that they have better things to do; they don’t see the value in it. Neither do I.

As for books, CEOs I’ve known read everything from classic literature and popular fiction to historical biographies. I’ve seen the occasional business book — but usually by an expert like Drucker or Levitt or dramatic stories about how real executives overcame adversity to achieve extraordinary results.

In a 2014 “Wall Street Journal” op-ed, Bill Gates talked about his favorite business book: a decades-old, out of print edition he borrowed from his mentor, Warren Buffet, “Business Adventures” by John Brooks.

Gates explains that Brooks, a writer for the “New Yorker,” was an exceptional storyteller whose deep knowledge of what happened behind the scenes at exceptional companies like Xerox, General Electric and Ford provided powerful insights into what it takes to succeed in the real business world:

“Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.”

Gates goes on to say that the book has stood the test of time because it’s as much about human nature — how leaders react to challenging circumstances — as it is about specific businesses. It’s that human factor, the drama, that inspires readers to think for themselves and draw conclusions that are relevant to their own circumstances.


How Do You Stand Out From 500,000 Advertisers on Instagram?

Instagram just hit half a million advertisers. But things haven’t always been that rosy: When the company introduced its advertising capabilities,  there was a lot of disgruntlement from users. Now, well into its foray into ads, Instagram is not only still alive but blooming.

However, even with that many advertisers, you’ve got to step up your game to be noticed. Here are some tips on how to achieve that:

1. Native-like visuals

We’ve witnessed an evolution of the platform going from a simple photo-editing app with wacky pseudo-vintage filters for hipsters to one of the leading platforms for artists. Instagram has become less about in-the-moment images and more about perfectly-orchestrated flatlays.

Are you interested in advertising on Instragram? If you are, the first thing you absolutely must take is consider your visuals and how native they look to the platform. In a sense, your promoted content should “blend in” and look like an organic part of the native feed.

2. The first two lines of your copy

While images are the most important element on Instagram, don’t forget that great copywriting can make your ad that much more effective. Keep in mind, though, that Instagram shows only the first two lines of copy. Everything else is hidden under the “Read More” link. So, you want to make sure you get your message across as quickly as possible, and that the core message is conveyed in those first two lines.

3. Entice your audience.

It is crucial that you know your audience. Not only does it help to target the right people on Instagram, it is also one of the determinants of the success of your ads. When you know your audience members, and correctly target them online, your costs per click will be extremely low. Plus, when you know whom you’re talking to, you’ll know what to say to them. What are their needs and struggles? Their interests? How can you entice them to click on your ad?

Finally, if you know something about the people you’re talking to, you’ll know what kind of imagery they like and what their Instagram feed looks like. Is its tone inspirational and pretty? Or casual and silly?

4. Be aware of the context of your ad.

One thing advertisers often overlook is the context in which their ads are being served. Context is essential not only because it makes your ads look organic and unforced in the feed. It’s also a key detail because the same ad can perform completely different in two different situations.

What if visitors are casually scrolling through their feed in the grocery store lane on a Tuesday night? They probably will forget all about your fancy nightclub that has a free cover on Saturdays. But what if they’re out on a Saturday night with some friends and the ad for your bar, which is 15 minutes away, comes up? They’ll be likely to check it out.

Be aware of what advanced capabilities are possible.

To set the time frames when your ad will be shown and to to precisely pinpoint your audience, you need to employ Facebook Power Editor. This tool has amazing tools and features, like targeting people based on the technology they use, determining whether they’re connected to wi-fi, recognizing the language they speak at home, etc.

For example, if you’re advertising an app that’s available on only one of the two major platforms (Android and iOS), you probably want to target the right devices. You might also want to target people only when they’re connected to wi-fi, because your chances of a download will be much lower otherwise.

Overall, Instagram advertising is very exciting. It provides you with an opportunity to reach a huge young audience that actually pays attention to your messages. While half a million advertisers sounds like a lot, sponsored messages on other platforms are much more crowded at this point.


4 Ways to Use Your Local Community to Scale Your Business

Creativity and hungry ambition run through the veins of Colorado’s capital city. Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, it’s easy to get lost daydreaming while gazing westward out the window of any downtown Denver high-rise, filled with a sense of purpose and inspiration. But our geography isn’t the only thing separating The Mile High City – as we proudly tout from 5,280 feet above sea level – from other emerging startup hubs.

Named as the most active city for startups between the coasts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2016, strong networks, stretching across business, philanthropy, politics and academia are why Denver has matured and cultivated fertile grounds for young companies to grow.

 What began with a group of committed leaders driving iconic local industries — from energy to telecommunications to aerospace — has grown into a veritable mecca for burgeoning startups. Tightly bonded networks transcend superficial business card swap meets at happy hour. Creating a network, and the ability to activate it takes time and intention. Ask any collection of Colorado founders and small business supporters and you will detect a thread of state pride and a strong identity. That understanding of mutual success, or destruction, is rooted deep in our ethos. A sense of community, of connection and faith in others is what has helped Denver rise.

Here’s how to tap into the local magic:

1. Seek mentors

The most important professional contact you can make is a strong mentor. Mentors serve as an individual’s board of directors, providing guidance through challenges and offering wisdom from the long road. Effective mentors offer advice, while great mentors listen and teach us to trust our instincts and find the path that best fits.

Developing such supportive relationships takes time. It’s not one and done, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Building a cadre of people willing to shape your success is challenging but worthwhile and is critical to understanding any business landscape. Oh, and in case this wasn’t implied, when mentors offer wisdom … listen!

2. Discover community

Denver Startup Week began with a few friends chatting over beers about how to leverage and celebrate the city’s budding startup scene. Now, startup centric festivities happen all over the world. Out of those events, new ideas, connections and concepts for companies materialize every year. At the least, such gatherings consistently lead to new friendships. Given the opportunity, likeminded folks will gravitate toward each other and seek opportunities to connect. At the outset, major conferences can appear intimidating and chaotic but building a few close relationships can prove defining and a future source of productivity and inspiration.

3. Create value

Care about a cause? Get involved. Denver houses a community that judges success not by a title or earning potential, but by what you give back. There is never an easy time to take up a cause, and always plenty of reasonable excuses. Work, friends, family and kids will always be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean that right now isn’t the perfect time to take up a cause that you care about. Apply yourself, add value to a noble effort and you will find good people looking to have a positive impact. It adds to the richness of your life, in the short term and long haul.

4. Give freely

This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. Your time is valuable but so is everyone else’s. Those people who helped you? The mentors who invested their time? When it comes to building your own legacy, think long and hard about the impact you are having on the community. Building relationships takes time, and creating friendships with people at every stage of your career is the most valuable thing you will ever carry in life. Giving your time will consistently produce intangible rewards.