Category Archives: Marketing

5 Good Reasons for Being Frugal Entrepreneurs Need to Remember When They Succeed

Over the past two decades, the companies I have run have helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs pay off their credit cards, pay down their student loans and in total have saved them millions of dollars empowering them to have the financial freedom to create amazing business.

I’ve also learned valuable lessons by counseling hard-working people who make more with that they have got. The most valuable lesson of all: Always squeeze the last drop out of a dollar – no matter how many you have.

That seems so basic, but I’ve noticed many of my fellow entrepreneurs lose their way as they climb the ladder of success. Let me explain…

1. Frugality is a state of mind.

When I launched my first business, it was just me. My budget was so tight that my office was a former janitor’s closet. I haggled over the price of a used file cabinet. I had enough money to spend more, but I didn’t need to. I wanted to focus on my new business cash flow, not impress people.

Now that I run businesses with hundreds of employees, I still keep that mindset. I make sure my employees have comfortable office furnishings, but it’s not luxurious. If something can be fixed instead of thrown out, we do so — even if the cost of repair isn’t a marked savings over the price of new.

Why? Because I want everyone I work with to consider the value of the dollars that aren’t their own — because that’s the only way to pass along savings to the clients. Why should employees save money for the company if it doesn’t appear the company is saving money itself?

2. Frugality is the antidote to hypocrisy.

Of course, my employees would resent me if I sat them in comfortable but old desks while I lounged in a palatial office. I do have a corner office — overlooking an alleyway on one side and a roof of another building on the other.

My office is set up for my comfort and the comfort of those I meet with. I don’t care about impressing visitors with my surroundings. If I wanted to impress them with my success, I will impress them with the organization’s results.

With “wage gaps” and “class warfare” the hot terms in the media today, I make no apology for making money. However, showing off your wealth at work doesn’t make you a better person, and it certainly doesn’t make for better employees.

I have a nice house and a nice car, and I make sure my family has nice things. At work, however, I work. I want my employees to do the same. My day starts at 5 AM and I am normally the last person to leave the building in the evening.

3. Frugality keeps you sharp.

No one wants to overpay for anything. I’ve noticed, though, that as entrepreneurs succeed beyond their initial expectations, they tend to slide on getting the most value for their purchases.

“What’s the harm in blowing some cash every so often?” they tell me. “Sometimes, you gotta live a little.”

The problem is, overspending is like under-exercising. If you don’t flex your muscles, they atrophy. Once a business owner gets slack about getting the most bang for the buck, it seldom gets better later. My friend Stacy Johnson founded a personal finance website called Money Talks News, and while he’s been successful enough to live on a Florida waterway with a boat parked out back, he’s never bought a new car in his life.

Why? Johnson explains it like this: “I don’t just consider the cost. I consider the opportunity cost which is the amount of money that could have been made by putting those payments somewhere else. Then I think about ways to make more on my savings and spend less on life’s major expenses, like cars.”

No matter how successful you become, there’s always an opportunity cost for your decisions.

4. You never know when your success will become struggle.

Another friend, Steve Rhode, is best known today as the Get Out of Debt Guy, who helps individuals with their personal debt problems. In a past life, Rhode owned a real estate company that soared high and then crash-landed.

“Many people forget there were little recessions before the big one,” Rhode said. “In 1990, the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and I went bankrupt. No one plans for that. No one says, ‘Hey, I might go flat broke, so I’ll prepare for it.’ So I didn’t.”

Rhode isn’t prepared to go bust again. The odds of that happening are lower, however, because he’s smart with every dollar. It’s also easier to rebound when you have good spending habits.

5. Frugality without extremes.

Those “extreme couponing” reality shows that were the rage a few years ago equated living frugally with spending a lot of time to avoid spending a lot of money. I believe I spend less time saving money than most people do spending it. Because I’ve valued every dollar since I launched my first business, I don’t really think about it. It’s second nature.

Another misconception: Being frugal means never spending big. I’ve purchased multi-million-dollar buildings, however, I negotiated hard and I walked away from deals that were more emotional than financial.

Bottom line: if you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, don’t discard your thrifty ways as you become successful.


Here’s How to Crush It With YouTube Influencers

It’s no secret most traditional online marketing tactics just don’t work anymore. Google’s Display Benchmarks Tool shows the average click-through rate of standard display ads clock in at 0.06 percent, and 47 percent of consumers employ ad blocking technology, as noted by the Reuters Institute.

These trends pose significant challenges to online marketers and underscore the need to employ alternative methods to drive conversions. When properly managed, influencer marketing becomes a powerhouse solution that offers high ROI, has an incredibly long shelf life and conveys massive credibility. In fact, 92 percent of consumers trust influencer endorsements more than typical adverts, according to influencer marketing platform MuseFind.

 In the world of influencer marketing, YouTube is the zenith of social networks. That is not to say, however, that leveraging YouTube personalities is an automatic win. There is a minefield of brand and performance risks that must be navigated to ensure prolific, long-term success. YouTube influencers have reached their level of acclaim by promoting themselves in an authentic manner; people watch them because they say and do as they please.

Here is how to successfully maneuver in this delicate but powerful space.

Lay the groundwork.

In order to reach your goals, pinpoint campaign objectives that serve your company’s broader intentions. Assign KPIs like cost per view, cost per conversion and other vital metrics.

When developing messaging, think in terms of providing a framework; this is not a scripted video. Leave it up to the YouTubers to build an authentic story around your framework and brand guidelines. If copy points are too rigid, there’s a good chance the video will come across as an advertisement, which can harm campaign performance significantly.

Craft an inclusive budget.

Your budget will largely dictate the size and number of influencers you recruit. Acquisition costs fluctuate significantly depending upon Youtuber’s reach, audience engagement, niche, sponsorship type, and many other factors. Generally speaking, integrated video sponsorships should range from $0.04 to $0.07 cost per view (CPV), whereas dedicated videos land at about $0.08 to $0.15 CPV.

Assemble the right team of social authorities.

Influencer identification and selection is without a doubt the most time-consuming step, but it is also the most imperative; this stage can make or break a campaign.

Start by outlining what entails a “brand match.” This should include everything from the influencer’s location to the size, age, sex, level of engagement and geographies of her audience. You also want to ensure her other content is appropriate for your brand and your audience.

Contact influencers that meet brand requirements with a clear and concise pitch letter. Outline sponsorship requirements, expectations, and benefits. Since established YouTubers have the luxury of handpicking brands they want to endorse, finding influencers who generally like your brand and respond with creative storyline suggestions or bonus promotions is, more times than not, a clear indicator of how successful the collaboration will be.

Find the folks who genuinely love your offerings and can’t wait to tell the world, and let them.

I’ll address additional success factors, including A/B testing and measuring results, cutting the fat, refining, repeating and scaling up, in my next article.


4 Ways to Get Big Marketing Results on a Starter Budget

Marketing a startup is tough. You have a limited budget, and you don’t benefit from brand recognition. Even users who have heard of you may not know what you do, but they know your established competitors and people tend to favor the familiar.

Nevertheless, countless startups break through crowded markets. How do they do it with so few marketing dollars? How can you? How do you slay Goliath when all you have is a tiny slingshot?

Below are four powerful ways to squeeze the most out of every marketing dollar you spend.

1. Retargeting

Have you ever visited a website and then noticed thereafter that you keep seeing their ads on other websites? That’s retargeting, and you should push as much of your online ad spending as possible to retargeting.

Retargeting is amazingly cost-efficient. Anyone who lands on one of my company’s web pages, landing pages, or other digital properties will see our ads as he or she continues to browse the web. They are high value leads because they’ve gone to the trouble to visit one of our pages, so they are clearly interested in us. And, indeed, click through and conversion rates are markedly higher when this audience sees retargeted ads than when we run any other online ad campaigns.

2. Email marketing

Email is an extremely cost-efficient and effective marketing tool. Yes, most startups are already using it amid their marketing efforts, but consider making it a higher priority because it can be a goldmine. Of course, building your mailing list is the first challenge. Below are some common methods of building a list.

  • Requesting signups on your site
  • Providing valuable content pieces (e.g., white papers) to encourage readers to join your mailing list when they download the content
  • Collecting business cards at events and conferences
  • Running webinars and collecting emails from participants

I particularly recommend creating valuable content and adding anyone who downloads it to your mailing list. These are typically my company’s most responsive and lucrative leads over time.

Email will be one of your most efficient marketing spends because, well, it costs almost nothing. For instance, MailChimp and Constant Contact are both under $90 per month for up to 10,000 recipients. MailChimp is even free for up to 2,000 recipients.

However, never abuse email marketing! Share content that is useful and relevant. Send special offers, not company updates. Keep your emails brief and use visuals when you can.

3. Public relations

Entrepreneurs always aim high and getting coverage on the biggest news sites is a huge win. But this can take time, and you may need to hire a PR agency or full-time PR person. Even then, you may come up empty.

But if you’re in a hurry to get press coverage and your budget is tight, take a targeted approach. It’s easier to get the attention of niche bloggers or smaller industry sites. Because they are niche in your space, they may be specifically looking for companies like yours.

Remember, press builds on itself; sometimes smaller players get the attention of bigger players. Suddenly, your coverage by a specialist blogger could start working its way up the ladder inside the press echo chamber!

4. A/B testing

For almost every marketing channel you use, A/B testing is the difference between spending your money wisely, and unnecessarily throwing money down the drain.

In one email campaign I ran about customer retention, I wrote two alternate subject lines:

  • “Someone is about to dump you.”
  • “Boost customer retention next month.”

Each went to 1,000 of the names on my 10,000 address mailing list. Both had good click rates, but the first was the clear winner (40 percent vs. 30 percent, respectively).

With 8,000 remaining recipients after the test, the better open rate subject line yielded 3,200 opens. The other would have yielded 2,400 opens. This means I got 800 more opens simply because A/B testing revealed the more attractive subject line before I hit my entire list.

This is even more critical for online ads. You can waste a lot of precious cash, if you don’t do A/B testing. Google automatically helps you optimize ads, but you have to set up the test design. That is, you need to test the headline, body, and call to action (to name a few), as well as ad landing pages. Be methodical, and ensure that you’re always optimizing your results.

My mantra for startup marketing is “smaller hammer, sharper nail.” You can cost-efficiently win customers, without the big budget and team to match your competitors, if you’re savvy, opportunistic and focused. If you’re looking for investment in the future, you’ll get a lot of questions about customer acquisition cost. Make sure that while you are trying to get as many new customers as you can, you keep the acquisition cost down and you’ll be a more appealing investment, as well as a more profitable company.


5 Trends Creating Big Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you must constantly search for innovations to grow your business even more. It’s always a good thing to start testing ideas. There’s just one problem: Many of these new technologies will flop, costing you time and money.

When something works, though, you’ll gain the unfair advantage of being the leader — the first — in your industry. What if you could skip through the noise, learn what’s working for companies in different industries, and implement those tactics in your business?

These five trends might not all work for you, but they’re definitely worth a look. They’re trending now, which means you should consider adding them to your toolkit before they become standard operating procedure and you’re the one left behind.

1. Facebook bots.

This is the hottest topic in the industry right now. Facebook bots are becoming more popular, especially now that we’ve entered the era of artificial intelligence. Many companies have incorporated some form of Facebook bots in their processes. Others focus the bots’ capabilities on their email lists, though I would question the wisdom of such a move in many cases.

DigitalMarketer CEO Ryan Deiss predicted Facebook bots will be the industry trend in 2017, ramping up to compete with email. The best part: It’s become easier for people to develop sophisticated bots without the need to code. ChatMatic, Chattypeople and ManyChat all are doing great work in this area, and I expect more competitors to enter the market in the near future.

2. Business texting.

Business texting made a big splash years ago, but it faded. New technologies have fueled its strong return. The average person carries his or her phone 90 percent of the time. And people respond more readily to texts than calls.

If you want to keep connected with customers and get higher response rates, consider making business texting part of your strategy — even if it’s a small portion to start. Text Request and other services make it easy to launch and test your messages.

3. Smart segmenting.

Your customers don’t want to receive the same message everyone else does. They want specific, highly tailored messages that speak to their experiences and needs. You need to build your business on that demand.

Quizzes and gamified info-gathering content will get you only so far. It’s what happens next that matters. Show your potential customers how you’re working to learn about them and their challenges. Segmenting involves a lot of moving parts, so it’s best to start learning now about this powerful technique.

One service provider is creating a program to help make it easier. So far, it’s available only by invitation.

4. Recurring revenue.

Netflix’s success has other leaders rethinking their approach. Instead of offering a product or service at a larger, one-time fee, many business owners are seeing the benefits of swtiching to a smaller, monthly fee. Recurring revenue is an asset that can drive your growth for years to come.

5. Video.

Videos seemed to enter a bit of a dormant state when podcasts took off, but Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Snapchat are swinging the balance back. Savvy, cost-conscious marketers can do a great deal without an overly fancy setup. If you’re thinking long-term, you’ll need to invest in a few decent tools to make your videos polished and professional-looking.

Trends exist because of increased demand, and that means new opportunities for enterprising business owners. Do a bit of research to decide which of these five options makes the most sense for your business. Then take action to put them into use and track your results. That’s how you stay ahead of the curve — and your competition.


15 Ways to Scale Your Business and Make More Money

There are two things that every entrepreneur wishes for: more time and more money. We yearn for more time because balancing any semblance of a career with the demands of a family life, friends and other interests, becomes overwhelming.

We desire more money so that we can run ads or pay for employees or expand our operations, and everything else in between. Yes, having more money would be great but it’s wasted if you don’t know how to spend or properly invest that money on marketing or growing your business.

The truth? It’s often hard to find time to do anything when you’re enthralled in the perils of building or scaling a business to any degree. Not only do you need to effectively bootstrap your growth by wearing many hats, you also need to constantly work to increase your skill set while struggling to wrangle sales, dealing with customer service and tending to other tedious issues that tend to take up a large chunk of time.

If there never seems to be enough hours in your day, join the club. If you’re not properly managing your time with an effective time management system, or you’re immersed in one bad habit after another that seems to be eating away at all the precious moments you do have, then the problems compound on themselves.

Setting proper goals is necessary for anyone who’s serious about scaling their business, making more money, producing more product or achieving any other dream. They need to be smarter goals and there needs to be powerful reasons behind why those goals absolutely must be achieved.

By creating a plan, taking action and staying persistent no matter what, you can leverage the following strategies and methods to scale your business. It’s not easy. No one ever said it would be. But it is well worth it.

1. Leverage legitimate SEO techniques.

SEO seems complex and confusing, but it really boils down to a few fundamental principles. Those principles are the bedrock for over 200+ rules that go into Google’s current search algorithms. Learn SEO the right way, leveraging the proper techniques, while adhering to Google’s many rules, and you’ll succeed. Your visibility will eventually grow, resulting in a natural increase in leads and sales.

2. Create and share content on a blog.

Starting a blog is simple and straightforward. What isn’t simple and straightforward is actually posting useful and unique content that adds a tremendous amount of value, and doing that consistently. However, blogging is one of the best ways that you can build authority and create an organic audience over time. By becoming an authority, you’ll end up attracting customers rather than chasing after them.

3. Answer questions on Quora.

Quora offers up a great opportunity for online marketers to connect with a massive audience by answering questions and engaging with like-minded individuals from around the world. Use Quora to spread value and further establish yourself as an authority, effectively helping you to scale your business by boosting your visibility through the platform’s massive footprint.

4. Connect with influencers.

I’ve long been fascinated with the concept of influencers, gravitating towards them to uncover the secrets behind how they’ve built such massive audiences. It’s not easy to become an influencer, but if you have a small budget, one near-instantaneous way you can scale your business is to get influencers on board to champion your products or services. This is a quick way to get out in front of a very large audience. But not the cheapest way.

5. Run a contest or giveaway.

Contests and giveaways offer another quick way to market. The word free is very enticing, and people will naturally want to sign up for anything that involves a potential windfall prize. Your giveaway needs to be worth it if you’re going to collect that all-important contact information. However, be sure to pay homage to local laws and regulations when running any kind of contest. FTC regulations run fierce in this arena.

6. Post content on

Medium is by far one of my favorite sites for content marketing. This authority site offers up the ability for anyone to post useful content to market anything online. However, don’t use this to spam. Instead, create useful discussions and tutorials that will further enforce anchor-content on your website. The goal is to market your site the right way and not by spamming links through thin content.

7. Setup a social media content channel.

Social media offers one of the most abundant opportunities for scaling any business, no matter what type of business you’ve started. It also offers an avenue to tap into the world’s connected population, quickly and effectively. Clearly, achieving a massive following is no simple feat, but that shouldn’t deter you from establishing a content channel where you can spread value throughout social media to raise the awareness and visibility of your offers.

8. Build in-depth YouTube tutorials.

Deep-dive into the world of video with YouTube tutorials. Creating a popular YouTube channel isn’t easy, but it is well worth it. To do it, you have to provide in-depth tutorials, helping people to really understand a niche or solve a problem. Whatever it is that you do, help to educate the world on how best to do it. In turn, you’ll become an authority and an industry leader, ultimately leading to greater exposure and eventually, more sales.

9. Create a lead magnet and sales funnel.

Ask any smart online marketer about how they scale out a business, and they’ll tell you the same thing: build an effective sales funnel. Draw them in with a value-laced lead magnet and drop them into a funnel where you can sell them on autopilot. The right sales funnel, split-tested to oblivion, with a clear understanding of your cost-per acquisition, can be scaled infinitely. Not only will you grow your business by leaps and bounds, but you’ll make tremendous amounts of money no matter what business you’re in.

10. Deliver real value through email marketing.

Email marketing is the most powerful driver of sales for leading online marketers and businesses the world over. This isn’t just about your email drip-campaigns that go out automatically; this is about truly reaching out and connecting with your subscribers. It’s that connection to you that will help sell whatever it is that you’re selling on auto-pilot. However, it has to be done the right way. Not by spamming but by genuinely sharing and trying to help others.

11. Hire commission-based sales reps.

Most businesses can’t afford to keep a large staff of sales people on board. Instead, they turn to commission-based sales reps to help provide a stepping stone to the next level in their business. However, those sales reps need to be effectively trained; they can’t simply be hired and forgotten about. Take the time to create training videos and helpful guides to walk them through your entire system and business, and use it to quickly scale things out when you need to bring on more members of the team.

12. Advertise with AdWords or Facebook.

Conversion-pixel tracking is a great way to grow your business online by targeting the right audience. You can do this with a Facebook conversion pixel, while also tracking any event such as shopping cart abandonments or products that were added to a wish list but not purchased and so on. You can then directly target these individuals with ads, enticing them to come back. Similarly, on Google’s AdWords platform, you can use re-targeting through contextual or search-related ads as well.

13. Create coupons on RetailMeNot.

RetailMeNot is a massive online repository for coupons and offers. Companies turn to the site, which is the biggest in the United States for aggregating coupons, in order to help drive traffic to their offers. If your store isn’t already listed, you can request to have it added, then post your coupons afterwards.

14. Setup an affiliate program.

Affiliate programs can drive a significant amount of traffic. In fact, some of the biggest online marketers rely heavily on affiliate income generated through email marketing or pre-existing website or blog traffic. However, setting up an affiliate program isn’t always simple, since there are so many facets involved. If you’re an absolute novice, turn to some of the leading affiliate sites such as Link Share, Impact Radius and Commission Junction. to quickly build an affiliate program.

15. PR outreach via HARO.

If you’re looking to scale your business through the press, utilize HARO, a platform where reporters seek experts and business sources for comments on articles that they have in the works. HARO, which is short for Help A Report Out, is a great forum for connecting with reporters, writers and contributors to some of the leading publishing platforms, without attempting to come in with a “cold” message or contact, which often doesn’t pan out.


Saving the Earth, One Email at a Time

Marketing is not exactly known for being an eco-friendly industry. In fact, the U.S. uses about 68 million trees each year to produce 17 billion catalogs and 65 billion pieces of direct mail, according to the American Forest and Paper Association. However, as the world becomes increasingly more digital, marketers have an opportunity to use digital tools to boost their environmental sustainability and turn this reputation around.

Many businesses plant trees to celebrate Earth Day; however, marketers who instead champion digital communication within their companies will benefit from a sustainable practice that can become a foundational part of their business. Consider the following best practices to help your company become more environmentally friendly for a sustainable future.

Move from direct mail to email.

When it comes to eco-friendly behaviors, some industries are better — and some worse — than others. Real estate, for instance, is notoriously old-fashioned in its marketing habits, relying predominantly on direct mail to reach customers. On the other hand, retailers who have embraced the shift to ecommerce tend to lean toward digital marketing to communicate with their customers. Internet retailers, in particular, generate very little paper across their business practices, delivering receipts, catalogs and other solicitations electronically.

 Reducing your reliance on direct mail to reach customers will have a significant impact on the amount of paper waste your business creates. Shift your focus toward email, and consider how your current marketing content could be delivered electronically. Could a digital newsletter replace a brochure, or an emailed promotion replace a print mailing? Begin introducing QR codes to your print mailings that, when scanned on a smartphone, lead prospects to a landing page where they can easily enter their email address to receive digital communications. Use your traditional marketing pieces to promote your email list generation, and show your customers how they’re supporting your commitment to the environment. Taking that first step to digital might keep thousands of trees firmly rooted where they stand, and drastically reduce paper mailings from ending up as landfill.

Switch to scannable content.

While the restaurant industry has, for the most part, made the initial transition to electronic communication, they’re still lagging behind other industries in how they’re using it sustainably. Restaurants frequently send digital coupons and promotions to their customers but require customers to print them for redemption. While the communication to the customer has minimal environmental impact, the customer becomes the culprit doing damage to the environment.

Make sure the coupons and offer codes you distribute via email can be scanned and redeemed directly from a smartphone or other mobile device. Use responsive design tools to ensure your entire message and the offers it contains are easy to read and scan regardless of the device. Think about ways you can entice your customers to use digital devices for redemption, such as extending a better offer like free delivery to those who don’t print. If your business has an ecommerce site in addition to a physical location, consider whether that promotion can be used online as well as in store, and give clear instructions for both use cases.

Transition processes to an online portal.

Amazon is a force of nature, driving seismic shifts in the ecommerce, marketing and fulfillment industries. The company is setting the stage for how to do business digitally today, and one way Amazon’s influence has reduced paper waste is through the company’s online portal to manage workflow processes. Rather than mail hard copies of receipts and product manuals with new purchases, Amazon gives customers access to digital versions of these materials through their online accounts. These records can be accessed anytime and anywhere, and they track a deep purchase history so customers need not worry about losing documents.

If your business has an online component, consider how building out a customer-facing portal could cut down on overall paper waste. Migrate workflows for receipts, instructions and manuals to this portal, and make it accessible through many mediums like web browsers, devices and even apps. Help your customers understand that they’ll always have access to the documents they need and that their use of your portal is benefiting a greater good — the environment.

Transitioning your marketing efforts to be digital-based might take a bit longer than planting a tree, but the impact on the environment can be similarly enduring. If you can’t get your hands dirty this Earth Day, think about how a few changes to your marketing practices can affect the world around you. We can all do our part by taking steps towards an environmentally sustainable future.


The Evolving Role of Social Media in Ecommerce

As social media and ecommerce become increasingly enmeshed in our lives, the opportunities for them to interact with and bolster each other are innumerable, considering that the average person spends around an hour and 40 minutes browsing social media every day, and the number of internet shoppers in the US will reach 217 million this year.

Back in the old days, a business’s presence would be signified by advertisements in the paper and a physical storefront. Now, in the digital age, business reputations live and die by their social media standing. Right now, social media is used by brands as a way to advertise, increase their online presence, and deliver high-quality customer service. In 2017, we can expect those trends to continue, as some new ones emerge. Let’s take a look at the growing role of social media in ecommerce.

Paid advertisements.

With the almost absurd level of customization you can put on a Facebook ad (age, geography, preferences and more) and the detail with which Facebook can report your results, it’s a no-brainer for brands to keep using Facebook and other social media advertising. It’s also a win for Facebook, which raked in more than $7 billion in advertising in 2016.

 The most successful brands in 2017 will be those able to maximize their reach and effectiveness on paid social media advertising. William Harris, an ecommerce growth consultant for, says, “I see ecommerce brands investing a lot more in paid social, and I think that trend will continue into 2017…it’s not enough to simply pay for ads on Google Shopping. You’ve got to find a good audience on Facebook ads, Instagram ads and more and more, on Pinterest and other paid social media accounts. It’s getting easier to set these up and track the return on advertising, which means more brands will start doing it.”

Private messaging.

Over the past few years, analysts have noticed an interesting, unexpected trend. While the use of public social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter is starting to decline, private messaging services are exploding in popularity. WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are all app juggernauts with colossal engagement numbers running into the billions.

Where the people go, the businesses must follow, and brands are edging their way into private messaging through chatbots. Chatbots, AI personalities that can simulate real conversations, can answer questions on products, offer recommendations, and resolve customer complaints.

Consumers are slowly warming to the idea. According to, 49.4 percent of customers would rather contact a business through a 24/7 messaging service than through the phone. Brands would be prescient to start looking into catboat services as a supplementary channel to reach customers.

Additionally, many private messaging services now offer financial integration. Opening up WeChat, chatting with a brand AI representative, and purchasing a product without closing the app once, is entirely within the realm of possibility in 2017.

In-app purchasing.

The harder it is to buy or access something, the less likely we are to follow through. This explains why ecommerce sites that take a long time to load have higher bounce rates, and online stores with clunky interfaces sell less. One can already buy products through Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Once Apple Pay experiences widespread adoption, it’s almost scary to think about how easy impulse buys will be — if you see something you like on social media, one swipe will get it delivered to your door. Brands should immediately start evaluating how they can sell their products through social networks, coupling a strong advertising presence with an easy purchasing process.

What’s coming.

This year, social media will not only play a big part in ecommerce, but also in all aspects of our social life, just as it has been, arguably, for the last several years. Moreover, several new social network technologies, including powerful advertising tools, chatbots and in-app purchasing, as well as improved design, will make ecommerce easier, and bigger, than ever.


4 Video Advertising Hacks Powerful Enough to Change Your Company

Video is the most engaging ad format for modern consumers — and it is poised to explode into a whole new world of virtual reality formats and devices in coming years, cementing its place in the pantheon of entertainment. Knowing that video is such a foundational pillar in the world of mass communication, why is video advertising still so difficult for advertisers? Partly, it’s because there is so much out there — and because everything is developing so rapidly. I put together this list of handy video tricks to help you use video to capitalize on the web’s fastest growing advertising medium:

1. Match your content to your audience’s preferred inventory.

Video is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution. The monolithic television video market has been run over by the train of social media and shattered into dozens of smaller markets vying for market share. Where viewers once reliably consumed television ads that shared a common format and a standard duration, viewers now consume video on different devices and in different apps that have several formats, lengths and styles.

More than ever before, video consumers themselves determine the way that video is consumed. Contrary to popular belief, consumer attention spans have not decreased, but they have dispersed, across devices and formats. Many social and video apps, including Snapchat and Instagram, substantiate this growing trend by providing consumers with short, vertical videos.

Signs suggest that vertical video consumption will only continue to increase. Already, more than 30 percent of time spent looking at screens is now done looking at them vertically. Traditional, horizontal video advertisements that exceed 30 seconds in length feel utterly foreign in social media environments where content often appears for a few seconds in a vertical scroll.

New virtual reality, interactive and 360 degree formats continue to shift the way that viewers engage with video, and advertisers must create content that fits these new formats. Publishers and advertisers both operate in the attention economy, a landscape where the financial winners are those who can win the attention of consumers barraged by media from all directions by providing relevant native content. Advertisers who target audiences by adapting their video production process and their overall strategies to these changing inventory parameters will be incredibly successful.

2. Cross-promote to generate community engagement. Don’t put your videos in a silo.

Consumers that are active across multiple devices and several formats consume diverse types of content. For advertisers, content will only remain at the top of a consumer’s mind if it engages consumers with coordinated messages across multiple channels and devices that work in concert to create one story. Successful advertisers supplement videos with active social media presences, retargeting campaigns and other audience interaction to drive engagement.

Not only do successful advertisers disseminate their videos across several channels and media, but they also cross-promote their video content internally by linking all of the disparate components of their digital story together across digital channels and externally by leveraging influencer networks for organic content promotion. Both of these internal and external strategies tap into powerful social media networks to build community around brands and tell a story that is greater than any single video or channel.

For advertisers, this means that videos need to successfully engage audience communities by fitting seamlessly into a cross-platform advertising universe. Videos can amplify brand reach by integrating explicitly with social-sharing networks, facilitating audience engagement and collaborating with key influencers. Advertisers that put their audience communities first by adopting cross-promotional video strategies will expand viewership, increase sales and develop brand loyalty.

3. Take steps to ensure viewability and prevent ad fraud.

To command the attention of consumers, advertisers should start with the basics — like ensuring their video advertisements are actually viewable. Given the convoluted state of modern advertising, though, viewability is easy in theory but remarkably difficult in practice. Savvy advertisers, however, can preempt the two primary impediments to viewability by asking the right questions before they launch video ad campaigns,

The first primary challenge to viewability is ad fraud. Many reports claim that for every $3 spent on digital advertising, $1 goes to fraud. Ad fraud is a huge problem in the modern advertising industry. With so many advertising dollars changing hands, the landscape is replete with villainous bots, unsavory scrapers and all manner of arachnophobia-inducing crawlers. Advertisers can prevent losing money to fraudulent advertisers by designating anti-fraud managers, adhering to industry anti-fraud guidelines and insisting on transparent verification for all traffic.

The second challenge to viewability is the lack of detailed viewability metrics. Many video advertising partners and inventory providers only provide viewability about how many impressions of an advertisement have been served, thereby glossing over crucial details such as visibility, completion data and consumer interaction data like skip rate and click-through rate. Advertisers should find advertising partners who provide specific viewability information and should use on the most up-to-date viewability standards to appraise partners and vendors.

4. Demand full-funnel performance, and don’t settle for branding or compromise for siloing.

Until about 10 years ago, advertisers predominantly used video advertisements for building brand awareness. With the advent of direct response video advertising inventory, however, a new breed of advertisers began using video advertisements for performance advertising.

In the future, more and more data will become available for video advertisers. To successfully incorporate video into increasingly diverse marketing efforts, advertisers will need to understand the relative contribution of each individual marketing touchpoint towards conversion. With this in mind, it becomes clear why “branding” budgets that are focused on generating awareness — without being directly tied to ROI — will not provide enough information for advertisers to drive consumers fluidly down the marketing funnel from consideration to conversion.

It is important to remember, too, that creating separate budgets for branding and performance marketing is just a way to stick a band-aid over a gangrenous infection, merely by covering up an obvious and ugly problem it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. It is critical to ensure that all efforts to generate brand awareness and all efforts to facilitate immediate conversion are tied to ROI in a holistic model. By demanding that partners use full-funnel campaign targeting, advertisers can directly tie every dollar of their advertising spend to their bottom line and make efficient budget allocation decisions.


6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Publicity Campaign

A successful publicity campaign can bring in a level of media coverage that lands more customers, more investors, more brand cache, and more recruiting power. That makes hiring an outside publicity firm with experience in your industry a big decision, and knowing what to expect on the front end can help you make the right selection and get more out of the experience. Here are six points to bear in mind when considering hiring a publicist.

1. A good publicist will find multiple angles to use when pitching your story.

Each media outlet serves a different segment of your audience in a different way, so the “hook” of the publicity pitch needs to be tailored to their demographics and the tone of their content.

Having multiple angles in your pitching arsenal is also necessary in case what seemed to be the most obvious angle just isn’t working. Whether due to a general lack of interest or competing current events, sometimes a pivot to a different angle can make or break a campaign.

2. A publicist does not burn valuable journalist relationships with off-target pitches.

A publicist’s contacts, and his or her relationship with those contacts, mean everything to the success of the pitch. Journalists are inundated with pitches from publicists who use a “spray and pray” approach to getting the word out vs thoughtful, well-crafted pitches that are built with the journalists’ audience in mind. For that reason, resist the urge to push your publicist to blast a useless press release. Work with them to find the most interesting, intriguing parts of your story and zero in on finding the audience that really cares.

3. A good publicist is strategic about the order in which they pitch the media.

In many cases, major outlets want an exclusive – so if you write a great opinion piece or information article, for example, your publicist would typically give the major publications first run at picking it up before approaching smaller outlets so that you’re getting maximum impact out of that content.

4. A publicist follows up with creativity and diplomacy.

It’s a rare pitch that captures a journalist’s attention at first glance. Journalists are busy trying to stay on top of current events and trends plus the never-ending pitches from sources known and unknown.

A good publicist will follow up with an added bit of relevance or demographic info to add new life to the pitch, and the publicist should provide you (and whoever else you feel needs it) with a weekly update detailing their pitches and follow up efforts.

5. A publicist does not determine world events.

Unfortunately, sometimes the odds are ever not in your favor. Timing is critical to the success of a publicity campaign. It’s important to consider holidays, tie-ins, anniversaries, and other known timing elements as you strategize your big push.

Even with highly thought-out timing and strategy, a campaign can be completely derailed by the weight of other newsworthy stories that simply monopolize the headlines. Major events like presidential elections will predictably dominate the news for a good length of time, but unforeseen events like natural disasters or celebrity deaths can also deal an unexpected blow to publicity efforts in certain media outlets.

6. A good publicist will tell you what you may not want to hear.

When choosing a publicist, stay away from the “yes-man.” You may need a dose of tough love from your publicist to ensure your expectations are reasonable (we all think our stories are great, after all, and it’s hard to imagine that someone doesn’t care, isn’t it?).

Your publicist also needs to be frank with you about the areas where you need polish, whether that’s speaking on camera or being able to quickly crank out a great opinion article concerning trends in your business when a journalists requests it. Heed their advice and work out those rough spots so that you make the most of these opportunities when they do arrive.

Like so many powerful business relationships, the most effective publicists serve as partners to help you grow your company. Keeping these six points in mind will help ensure a smooth start and better working relationship so you can stay focused on your moment in the spotlight.


3 Questions Pepsi Should Have Asked Before Releasing Its Kendall Jenner Ad

It’s appropriate for brands to make social statements, but it should be done very carefully. A brand can’t just hop onto a social issue; it must be very purposeful and sincere because, truthfully, it might work or it might fail.

Pepsi’s most recent move failed.

The backlash to Pepsi’s new advertisement, in which Kendall Jenner turns a protest into a party by giving a police officer a Pepsi, was almost immediate. Thousands of people complained about the ad on social media, and Pepsi pulled the video from YouTube within one day.

 The brand underestimated the issue they were trying to tackle. While the ad was beautifully shot and wonderfully orchestrated with a celebrity model and some cool music, it appeared to make light of some very serious issues and implied those issues can all be solved by cracking open a can of soda.

It was too beautiful and too orchestrated.

People reacted.

Again: it’s good for brands to take a stand on social issues. Showing you align with your customers’ values is an effective way to be an engaging and valuable part of the community. But you have to tread purposefully.

Make sure you ask yourself these key questions before you dive in.

What do your customers value?

Taking a side or even just simply presenting a social issue is bound to alienate a portion of the population that doesn’t agree. So, make sure you really understand the portion that does agree and what they value. Do a lot of homework and talk to a lot of people. If you want to join them in their point of view, then you better dissect it well in advance. Know where they are coming from and what they’d like to accomplish.

Do you value those same things and can you sincerely tie them to your brand?

Make sure the issues most important to your customers are authentically your views as well. You can’t make up a point of view just to sell product. Your customers and especially those who don’t agree will see right through it. Ask yourself how the issue relates to the business you are in. If there’s no connection, you might have no right to comment. But if it affects your business, it might not just be a right but a duty to speak up. Only then will you be respected for it.

Can you legitimately help with the issue?

Is there something your brand can really do to help? Recognize that no brand can solve any significant social issue alone, so just figure out how to help. Don’t use hyperbole and don’t underestimate the severity of the solution. Instead, showcase the status of the problem and the complexity of the solution. Then join in the effort to help, but don’t promise to make it all go away.

You can’t, and no one will believe you if you say you can.

Pepsi is a case in point.

Feel free to join in the effort to fight for something you and your customers believe in. Your customers are increasingly expecting you to do so — but only in the most authentic, sincere and productive ways.