5 Marketing and Distribution Channels for Sustaining a Successful App

app marketing

Your app is not alone. Right now, there are more than 1 million apps in the App Store, vying for users’ attention in nearly every category.

Building a great product isn’t enough to make your app the next Angry Birds, and Apple knows it. Just last month, it introduced a “Best New Updates” section to improve the discoverability of apps long after their initial release. But to create a sustainable app, you need to build in solid marketing and distribution strategies to get your app into the hands of the people who need it most.

Take Everpix, for example. When the photo storage company closed its doors, it came as a total surprise to users. It was an excellent product that sorted photos with ease and stored an unlimited number of images for a small yearly fee.

Everpix had the potential to overturn companies like Dropbox and Flickr, but it made one major mistake: It put all of its budget into product development, leaving little money to sustain the company as it tried to grow its user base. While it seems unfair, the fact is a great product isn’t enough to succeed in the app marketplace. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between development and marketing to ensure sustainability.

Grow Users and Keep the Lights On

Here are five strategies to capitalize on the marketing and distribution of your new app:

  1. Release early and release often. You may have heard this refrain before, but it’s vital for growing your user base and attracting investors’ attention. Release core features, then leverage communities such as Hacker News and Product Hunt to grab early adopters before building out the kitchen sink. Look at it this way: If you don’t have a user base, how can you be sure you’re building something people want?
  2. Find your niche. You can differentiate your app in a crowded market in two ways: Introduce features that no one else has, or target a specific niche. These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. Take QUAD, for instance — yet another entrant in the crowded mobile messaging market. QUAD focused on its unique ability to message more than 50 people and has heavily marketed its app to college groups like fraternities and sororities that have a real need for a bulk messaging system. By doing so, it’s enabled itself to live alongside other messaging juggernauts like WhatsApp and GroupMe, rather than compete with them.
  3. Be exclusive. Nowadays, it seems like everyone uses Spotify, but it wasn’t long ago that the company was just starting out in the U.S. and only available by invitation. While Spotify used invitations to make it easier to scale in a new country, it also had the added benefit of creating buzz around this exclusive new app. By capitalizing on word-of-mouth marketing, Spotify helped itself stand out in an arena that companies like Rdio and Rhapsody had been occupying for years.
  4. Optimize for the App Store. Much like the need to optimize your website for search engines, it’s important to make sure your app has the right keywords in its title and description so users can find you. It sounds minor, but if your app doesn’t come up when users type relevant keywords into the search bar, then it might as well not exist. That’s why app design and development companies like Fueled have started making App Store optimization an integral part of their development process.
  5. Build in social calls to action. Social word of mouth is one of the best ways to grow your user base. Build in social sharing so users can brag about what they’ve just accomplished, whether that’s leveling up in a game or logging miles in a running app.

It’s easy to assume your app can become the next Snapchat as long as you build a solid product, but what makes that app successful isn’t the fact that it exists — it’s the efficiencies it creates. By focusing on marketing strategies alongside product development, you can create an app that not only makes life better for your users, but also makes a profit for your startup.

Gideon Kimbrell is a Miami, FL software engineer and serial entrepreneur. His software engineering work has been praised by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Born in Montana in a log cabin, he entered university at age 15. By 16 he had programmed his first “hot or not” style website. He is the founder of InList.com. InList curates the most exclusive international nightlife and charity events.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

4 Tips for Empowering Your Team


Your team is your greatest asset — are you helping them help you?

In the initial stages of any business, there is a chance that you will see very rapid growth in the number of employees that you have. While this can be an exciting time, it can also be very stressful and frightening. Team members might come directly to you for advice and guidance because you have the overall vision about what needs to be done.

Your first instinct might be to keep them at arm’s length, but it is your job to inspire and manage the team. Here are some ways that you can help empower your employees and give them the tools necessary to become the successful individuals that you want them to be. Don’t tell them to get off your back — urge them to join you!

  1. Respect the individual. Each person on your team has their own set of skills and experiences. And if you are a young or first-time entrepreneur, chances are pretty good that you’re going to be guiding people who are older than you. Don’t see this as a challenge, but an opportunity to use their experience and knowledge to your advantage. Hear what they have to say and think about what you can implement in order to move the business forward. Of course, this goes for everyone on your team — not just the veterans. Remember that each person has traits that you wanted, even if they don’t excel in other areas.
  2. Be open to new ideas. Keep an open door policy within the company. Some of the best ideas come from unseen sources, and it’s important that you don’t miss them. Let your team know that you are always open to new ideas and that they shouldn’t be afraid to suggest things. These folks are on the front line. They know more about the inner workings of the system than you realize. 
  3. Set the example. It is up to you to motivate your employees and show them what you expect of them. Show them how you want to maintain standards and what needs to be accomplished. If you simply bark orders, you’re not contributing to anyone’s success. If your team sees that you aren’t above the protocol, they are more likely to follow it with you. If you adopt the best practice early on, your team will be able to maintain a higher standard for customers and each other.
  4. Empower your team. Lastly, never forget how important it is to empower your employees. They need to be able to handle some situations without asking you for help. Customers may be waiting for a response, and if they wait for your response each time something comes up, it only slows down the process. Give them the training and knowledge that they need to succeed at what they set out to accomplish. You can do this a number of different ways, but remember that meetings and training sessions can eat up a lot of time and resources. Systems, like a digital guidance system, can be an excellent asset during growth spurts.

By following these four steps, you’ll enable your team to solve issues as they encounter them — so you can focus on more growth in the future.

 Dan Adika is CEO and Co-Founder at WalkMe, an online guidance and engagement platform. WalkMe provides a cloud-based service designed to help professionals – customer support managers, user experience managers, training professionals, SaaS providers and sales managers – to guide and engage prospects, customers, employees and partners through any online …4


9 Ways to Measure Your Branding

Group of Multiethnic Busy People Working in an Office

Question: How do you measure whether your branding efforts are working or not? What do you look for?

Using Fresh Web Explorer

“I measure our branding efforts explicitly with Fresh Web Explorer. I use it to track every mention of our brand and branded terms across the Web, including tweets, comments, forums, blogs, etc. It helps me discover conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, and it enables me to keep a pulse on the broader reach of our marketing campaigns.”


Seeing Strangers Recognize Your Logo

“Branding is an important part in marketing because it means you’ve made a personal connection with your audience and inspired some level of longevity for your brand. It’s not just about a number, but rather the feeling you invoke in your target audience. They say that if you capture their hearts, you have them forever. You know this when strangers recognize your logo or company during conversation.”


 Using Google Analytics

“We use Google Analytics to check our branded keywords and how they grow weekly, monthly, etc. It’s a good way to measure branding efforts to see how many times people are typing your brand into the search engine.”


Being Recognized

“It sounds simple, but the best way of knowing if your branding efforts are working is to ask someone to say (or spell) the name of your company. If fellow business colleagues, industry insiders or consumers can say or spell your company name correctly, then half of your battle is already won. Recognition is key to recall efforts.”


Talking to People

“If people are likely to get on the phone with you when you reach out — or better yet, if they are coming to you — then your branding efforts are working. We’ve seen a huge change in the last year of businesses coming to us instead of us reaching out because of the articles we’ve published that build credibility for our brand. “

Influence & Co.

Asking for Feedback


“We directly ask our potential business partners and customer leads how they heard about us. I’m always asking for feedback on our creative work like mailers and infographics in every business-related meeting. It helps me to keep thinking about how to improve and open the conversation to learn what branding efforts other businesses are pursuing. “

Eyeflow Internet Marketing

 Checking Your Conversion Rates

“If your conversion rates have increased, it can mean that the same visitors who have never purchased before are now excited to get to know your product or service. Branding helps soft sell to potential customers who weren’t ready to make a purchase initially but might give your business a chance after repeated exposure. If your conversion rates go up, your branding efforts are not in vain.”

Blank Label

Tracking Leads

“We keep a very close eye on our metrics — particularly lead gen. If our subscribers, opt-ins and sales are increasing, we know that we’re doing a good job promoting our brand. We are particularly interested in tracking referrals from clients because we are intensely focused on providing excellent customer service. If our clients are referring friends, we know that we’re doing a great job.”

Automation Heroes

Seeing Company Growth

“We help our clients assess branding efforts through seeing increased leads, higher lead conversion rates, faster close rates, higher paying customers and overall company growth. If you aren’t hitting all four cylinders, get some outside expertise to help you!”

Ascendant Group

5 Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make On Social Media

Linkedin online social network

You’ve been hard at work all day on your startup; chatting with investors and developing a marketing campaign. You finally have a couple minutes to yourself and decide to log in into your social media outlets to post a status about your shiny new venture. Next thing you know, you’re completing BuzzFeed quizzes and cursing silently at your friends who just got back from vacation in Hawaii. Does this distraction validate all the naysayers who claim that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be on social media?

Absolutely not.

While it’s easy to get distracted or even depressed while browsing through a news feed, social media is an incredible resource for entrepreneurs. And what better way to communicate nowadays than through social platforms?

The problem then isn’t in the game, it’s the player. From investing time in the wrong platforms to over sharing, you can make many mistakes when it comes to your social presence. To help, I’ve outlined five things every entrepreneur should stop doing on social media.

1. Focusing on Your Past Accomplishments

We know that you’re proud of your past accomplishments, but you don’t have to share every single feat with all of your peers throughout all of your social media outlets. While you may be excited about your achievements — whether it’s that perfect GPA, that time you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, or the five previous startups you successfully launched — things are always better in moderation.

Instead of trying to constantly validate yourself, focus on the present and remember why you are on social media. Devote your time to mapping out a social media campaign for your current project so that it will lead you to future success.

2. Being Negative

To be brutally honest, no one wants to hear you complain. We all have those days; we all get sick; we all get frustrated and angry with something or someone. In other words, we all have problems and we don’t need our newsfeeds filled with negativity. That’s not saying that your nearest and dearest don’t care, it’s just that negative posts aren’t effective. In fact, studies have found that positive posts on Facebook are more influential and contagious — which is what you want on social media.

On that note, you also shouldn’t share articles that bash your competition or are overly political. By doing so, you’re automatically eliminating a good portion of your followers as most people don’t want to read political rhetoric or anything that opposes a brand for which they may also feel loyalty.

3. Too Much Talking, Not Enough Listening

It’s widely accepted that social media is a conversation; the whole point of being on social media is engaging with other people. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs are only on social media to talk rather than listen. Instead of just pushing your business, take a couple of minutes every day to find out what’s going on with your followers and engage them. For example, if someone just got a promotion, acknowledge that major accomplishment. This shows that there is a real person behind your account who actually cares about the people who are supporting their up and coming business.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be promoting your business at all. It’s just shouldn’t be all of the time. As a general rule, make sure that four out of every five communications on social media are non-sales or business posts. That doesn’t mean that your posts can’t be relevant to your field. They should just be content your followers can enjoy and engage with, like an infographic, video or list.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Tools

Did you know that there are a lot of great tools available that can optimize your social media accounts? If you did, why aren’t you using them?

For example, there are free or reasonably priced tools that can perform analytics. This is important because it can inform you which posts have gotten the most feedback, as well as show feedback from your followers. This can be a great way to test ideas without investing a lot of resources into research. While social media may not be the best way to perform high-level market research, it’s a start. It can give you some insight into the wants and needs of your customers.

Furthermore, there are tools that can schedule posts, create graphs and track your growth. Since there are so many options out there, we suggest that you check out these eight.

5. Promoting Multiple Things At Once

While I understand that there are literally a million things running through your mind (since “adults with ADHD are 300 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs”) you shouldn’t promote more than one business at a time. People will get confused. Instead, put all of your energy into the product or service that is ready to go. Once that’s been identified, plan and market only that product or service.

Although ADHD can be an awesome trait for an entrepreneur to have, it doesn’t exactly translate well on social media. So focus on just one venture in order to be clear and not confuse the market.

Improving the way you interact on social media can not only lessen your likelihood of distraction, but also enhance your business. Have you noticed any other social media mishaps from your fellow entrepreneurs?  

An entrepreneur and connector, John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Host, a hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

4 Ways to Keep Your Backers Happy After a Crowdfunding Campaign


You did it! You hit the magic number, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign built on preparation, a compelling video, strong promotion and a savvy campaign page. Give yourself a pat on the back and save some energy, because once the buzz of your successful campaign fades, you’ll quickly realize you are accountable to hundreds, if not thousands of contributors, rather than a few VC board members.

SkyBell raised over five times our funding goal with thousands of backers in 50 countries. We entered the development phase looking to turn our home automation concept into a reality, and quickly realized our success depended on our ability to execute our vision and fulfill our orders. It wasn’t easy, but these four principles helped us launch successfully — and turn our own crowdfunded product into a sustainable business.

Tip 1: Stay Focused on the Product

One of the great outcomes of a crowdfunding campaign is the feedback you receive from backers and the public. Take every opportunity to document this feedback, but also consider how implementing a new feature may impact your timeline, costs and core offering. Be more conservative, as adding features after the campaign can push you beyond the committed delivery date of your initial concept.

It’s also tempting to entertain ideas for second product versions, distribution and other opportunities too soon. Take the time to assess these opportunities yet stay aware of how they impact your short-term fulfillment capabilities. Your objective is to ship your product. Then, focus on growing from a successful launch.

Tip 2: Keep Your Backers in the Loop

Your backers share your vision and passion. Even though they are not investors in the traditional sense, backers are a part of the journey and will want to participate as much as possible.

The key to keeping backers happy is communication. Even when we thought we were communicating consistently, it still wasn’t enough. While it’s easy to get bogged down in development or conserve your message for proprietary reasons, make every effort to provide detailed updates on a frequent basis. This will assure your backers that things are rolling and that it’s all part of the crowdfunding process.

This becomes particularly important if your launch date pushes out. On average, crowdfunded projects that fulfill their perks do so 90 days after the original target date. If you don’t communicate enough during the development phase, you could see a turning point where backers become anxious. We learned that the best approach is to share as many details as possible and keep communication consistent. This gives you the best chance of keeping backers positive leading up to the launch.

Tip 3: Plan Ahead for Customer Support and Bug Fixes

In a perfect world, every launch goes exactly as planned and users sing your praises. The reality is that all startup product launches have bugs. Your team will be small due to operating on discounted funds from your campaign. This puts extra pressure on creating an efficient customer service strategy.

Break your support efforts into web support, customer service and bug reporting. First, your website should have documentation, FAQs, photos and videos on how to use the product or service ahead of the launch. Make sure it is easy to find. Second, document potential issues and their solutions for your customer service team so they understand how best to help customers. Third, create a plan to record bugs from users, consolidate them for the development team and to communicate fixes to users via updates and customer service team.

Remember, your backers will expect a few bugs and they’ll be thrilled if you have the resources ready to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

Tip 4: The Bridge From Campaign Funds and Your Next Round

Your ability to cultivate a second income stream quickly after launch could be the difference between a thriving business and fifteen minutes of fame.

For most crowdfunded startups, there comes a time when your initial funds run low. This can happen before or just after your launch. The result is a gap between your initially crowdsourced funds and your next round of funding. Financing will likely not be an option.

The key is to identify additional revenue sources that will help you obtain new orders after launch. If you offer hardware and media perks, consider selling direct on your website and on Amazon.com. If you developed software, try to regenerate the buzz from your campaign and drive sales on your site.

There’s no doubt that crowdfunding has created new opportunities for startups that could never have been possible otherwise. From start to finish, it’s a great vehicle that makes innovation possible and allows you to build a sustainable business. To get there, you’ll have to carefully navigate the post-campaign phase to strategically position yourself for long-term success.

Andrew Thomas (@apthomas) is co-founder of SkyBell – a home automation startup pioneering a Wi-Fi video doorbell that allows users to answer their front door from a smartphone. SkyBell raised $585,000 through Indiegogo and was named a 2014 CES Innovations Award Nominee.  Andrew specializes in marketing and mobile user experience design for product and software development.  Andrew speaks and writes on topics including home automation, crowdfunding and startups.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

3 Things That Don’t Matter for A Successful Mentor Relationship

Dinner In Outdoor Restaurant

Twice a year, a 70-year-old Italian immigrant-turned-millionaire CEO walks into Cortese’s restaurant in Binghamton with his 20-something Haitian mentee and orders the same exact dinner: baked salmon, pork chops, Caesar salad with Italian crumbly and a side of gnocchi. While this scene sounds straight out of the movie “Finding Forrester,” it’s just a typical dinner with my long-standing mentor, Angelo Mastrangelo.

Those dinners, and our fruitful mentorship (he helped me to sell an Internet startup after college and become the East Coast Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007), led me to delve deep into the importance of race, age and gender in mentorships. Namely, should these qualities matter at all? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Here are three reasons I believe you should look beyond race and gender in your mentor/mentee relationship.

Avoid Blind Spots

Let’s be honest: when looking for a mentor, it’s hard to overlook our tendency to orbit toward people who look like us in regards to race, age and gender.

Is this a bad thing? “It depends,” says Ellen Ensher, Ph.D. Ensher is professor of management at Loyola Marymount University and co-author of Power Mentoring: How Mentors and Protégés Get the Most Out of Their Relationships. “While there are clear benefits to having someone in your corner who empathizes with you, there are some risks.” 

When you only seek mentorship from entrepreneurs who share your world view, you run the risk of developing blind spots for how the outside world views you.

Take Zoe Damacela, 22. A Northwestern University senior and fashion entrepreneur who was part of President Obama’s “Startup America” Initiative,  she made clear that being a daughter of a single mom makes her more comfortable with women as mentors. But, she adds, “I try to push myself beyond my comfort zone and get a male perspective, especially in fashion, where perception is everything.”

Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of ContextMedia, put it this way: ”Women mentors are really great at helping build confidence, teaching communication skills, and training on other hard skills that are needed to succeed. Male mentors add perspective and allow us to learn how we are being perceived — whether it is body language, dressing, or tone of voice. I think both sets of mentors together — male and female — build a strong and comprehensive team.”

‘Perceived Similarity’ Leads to Deeper Bonds

The Los Angeles race riots of 1992 led to a big push to study mentoring amongst disadvantaged youth in that city. Professor Ellen Ensher led the charge to uncover a question that had dogged researchers for years: Did race even matter in mentoring?

Her research yielded an interesting finding: the idea of perceived similarity. In the past, many people believed mentors connected to mentees based on “surface similarity” — i.e., psychological and social forces like race, class, gender and age. As the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

But recent studies show that perceived similarities, such as shared values, attitudes and goals, actually form deeper bonds in the long run.

“Age, race, and gender is of course still the elephant in the room,” explains Professor Ensher, “but I push my clients to get to know their mentor as quickly as possible and build on those common bonds.”

Those are the relationships that tend to endure. And that’s why I meet with Angelo every few months at Cortese’s. We may not look similar, but we are both immigrants and former athletes who value ethics, hustle, and Italian crumbly cheese.

Plus, it may be necessary to look past race in mentoring relationships for minorities, especially in industries that are predominantly white and male. Compared to their peers, talented professionals of color don’t get fast-tracked until much later in their career. But many of those who do reach the executive suite find a key mentor within the first three years, according to a study by Harvard’s David Thomas, the nation’s leading researcher on race and mentoring.

An African-American corporate acquisitions lawyer I spoke to (who wished to remain unnamed) confessed, “There were only a few black partners at the firm but older Africans Americans never mentored me. They saw me as a threat to the position they worked so hard to attain and resented me for rising so quickly. In fact, most of my mentors have been Jewish. We connected on the ‘underdog’ mentality, and they have all been supportive and offered guidance through office politics and the ebbs and flows of a volatile industry.”

Age Doesn’t Matter, But Life Stage Does

In today’s hyper-connected and tech savvy world, a good mentor can be older or younger than you. More important is their stage in life.

Are they a retired industry vet looking to give back? Busy starting a new family or business? Would they be at a stage to view you as competition? These are all things to consider. Importantly, life stage does not always match age. A report on the post-recession generation found nearly half of the 25- to 34-year-olds surveyed said they’ve put off purchasing a home; 29 percent say they’ve delayed starting a family; and 26 percent still live with their parents.

By that logic, an older mentor may be beneficial, especially to a young entrepreneur. They probably have experience you don’t. Just be realistic about how much time to expect from them based on where they are in their career.

In the end, you must find a mentor who is a good fit for you — not just on the surface, but in terms of what benefits they can provide. Who knows? Maybe soon you’ll be on your way to Cortese’s for dinner with your brand-new mentor, too.


Bert Gervais, a.k.a. “The Mentor Guy”, is the founder of Success Mentor Education. He is a national best selling author, speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. You can follow him @BertGervais.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Be Like LeBron: Build Your Business at Home


Where we grow up influences our ideas, imagination and relationships. Our home communities are the launching pads from which we explore the world, most often leaving to find the perfect place to live and work. This usually means moving to the city, leaving rural and small communities to slowly decline.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. We can build our communities to be the ones we want to live in. LeBron James just accepted this challenge, and you can too.

The Decision to Lead

LeBron James gave hope to communities everywhere by announcing he was returning to Ohio to play basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Interestingly, his decision was to return home first and play basketball second:

“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.”

In his open letter to Sports Illustrated, LeBron articulated a certain feeling of responsibility that many of us feel when thinking about our homes. Usually, we are too afraid to act upon this feeling:

“I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”

The Perfect Place

It’s easy to find the perfect place. You can quickly search the top cities in the world and shop for homes the way you would shop produce in the grocery store, choosing the one that is just the right size, color and flavor for who you want to be. However, it’s much harder to create the perfect place. Looking around your community and raising your hand to create change takes time and work. But it’s also incredibly rewarding.

Knowing that you were there when no one else was, sweating and creating change, creates your legacy and forces you to work harder than you thought possible. In doing so, you make more of a difference than you could have imagined.

The challenge of returning home and building your community is that it never ends. You never quite get things the way you want them; but that’s the fun part. When you take ownership in your city, you join an organic creation that is continually moving and changing. You are one of the leaders driving that change.

LeBron admitted as much when he said:

“I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that.”

The Prodigal Path

LeBron’s decision highlights the prodigal path we hope our own children will take: exploring the world, mastering a craft and returning to share.

First for LeBron was the disastrous decision. As he admits in his letter, he would have done things differently if he’d had the chance, but he still would have left:

“These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go…Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.”

Explore the World

Building a community does not mean you can’t leave. Quite the contrary. Our communities are best when new ideas are brought into them. It is thus essential for us to first explore the world and discover what is possible. For LeBron, this meant heading to South Beach.

For the un-athletic, this might mean going to college, traveling the world, working in the Peace Corps, volunteering for an organization, working a variety of different jobs, dating a variety of people, playing in a band, learning to surf or studying a new language.

Whatever your curiosity calls you to do, do it. Learn from it. Then, use your time in the world to master your craft.

Master A Craft

Once we discover our passion out in the world, we then need to work on it. It’s difficult to start something in your own community until you have perspective and experience on how it works.

LeBron needed experience working in a world-class organization so he knew what he wanted to build when he returned home. You might need time in a certain job, place or relationship before you have an idea of what you want to dedicate your time to building.

Share Your Discoveries

The final step of returning home is always the most difficult. Most of us believe it’s not possible. Fortunately, now more than any moment in history, we can live anywhere and connect with others everywhere.

This presents a new opportunity for communities around the world. The top talent can live in your city and still work with clients anywhere or learn from colleagues and collaborators everywhere. What’s more, these returnees come with a wealth of experience. They have explored the world, discovered a craft and now they have returned to share what they have discovered.

As we master a craft, we need to ask ourselves: Can I bring this skill back to the place that matters to me? How can I share my knowledge and passion with those who matter most?

Some industries pose interesting challenges. There are only 30 NBA teams, so we can’t all return home to play for our local one. The vast majority of us, however, have no excuse.

  • If your community doesn’t have the business or industry you want to work in, build it.
  • If your community doesn’t have the cultural scene that you long for, nurture it.
  • If your community doesn’t have the people you want to spend time with, invite them to join.

What’s amazing is that a tiny number of people who care about their community can inspire massive action.

By returning home and building the community you want to be a part of, you are showing others that it is possible. You are proving that it is not hard to start. Your bravery in starting means that others will follow suit. This is how change happens and this is how movements are started.

The Return Home Revolution

LeBron may not have single-handedly launched the return home revolution. He has, however, validated the desire many of us feel: the calling to return home and make our community better.

As in Northeast Ohio, so is it in communities around the world:

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

Fortunately the hard work is part of the reward, and the amazing things you build will influence the generations who follow. As LeBron said: “I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.” Are you?

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog here.

Scott Meyer is the “brofounder” (co-founder and brother) of 9 Clouds, a digital marketing and education firm that improves the digital literacy of businesses. He writes and hosts the Digital Homesteading blog and podcast focusing on growing rural business and community and is the author of “Navigating Social Media: A Field Guide.”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Transform Your Fear of Failure

Portrait of a smiling businessman talking on the phone at street

Entrepreneurs often struggle when they start doing cold calls. They hate calling others to drum up business and they’re not good at it, either. Their approach is too timid and they give up too soon when they encounter resistance. They don’t manage objections well, so they don’t bring home the bacon.

Fear Of Failure

One of the guys on our team had problems with cold calling. This seemed strange because he was an audacious, bold and outgoing person. But tell him to sell on the phone and he turned into a frightened little chicken.

The cause was obvious: fear of failure. He was scared of rejection. We both knew it. He also rationally understood that this fear did not serve a positive purpose, but he was still stuck in it.

Turning Fears Into Reality

But how could we get him unstuck? How could we shake him up and change this state? I decided to challenge him with a new task: to fail with every call. For the rest of the day, I told him he should call people and make them hang up on him. His mission was to fail miserably.

To make it more fun, I told him to fail in a different way with each call. “Start by speaking painfully slow and unenthusiastic,” I suggested.

Our little coaching conversation turned into the center of attention in the office. Everyone on our team was looking at him when he made the first call. His discomfort was obvious. But he played along. He spoke each word painfully, slowly, with excruciatingly long silences and pauses. It was painful to hear. Everyone in the office had to tap into the core of our self control not to burst out laughing. But there was no holding back once the other person hung up on him. The whole office was going crazy, including him.

The team came up with a new challenge for the second call: stuttering. And so he did; he stuttered his way through half a conversation. After 10 of these calls the atmosphere in the whole room had totally changed.

Changing Your State

I looked him in the eyes and said: ”Now go get’em. Close deals. Take everything you’ve got and make it happen. Have fun!” And suddenly he was a different person. A total transformation of energy: he became fearless and unstoppable, a relentless machine.

But what exactly caused this transformation? It wasn’t a new insight; he already knew that it was just fear holding him back. But he had now transferred that insight from a logical, rational level into an instinctive insight. He had emotionally internalized what he already knew mentally by making failure real. And that led to the breakthrough in his behavior.

Use These Techniques If You Feel Anxious About Cold Calling

  1. Address the issue and verbalize it.
  2. Instead of trying to avoid failure, aim for failure.
  3. Be creative about different ways to successfully achieve failure.
  4. Have fun and be silly. It will unlock the secret vault of sales power deep inside of you.
  5. Now that you have experienced what failure feels like, realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
  6. Now crush it and see how you can perform once you aim for success.

How have you lost your fear of failure in the past? Please share your stories and experiences so we can all let go of our fears and live more adventurous and successful lives.

A version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Steli Efti is the Co-Founder / CEO of Close.io and an advisor to several startups and entrepreneurs.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What I Learned From Building 3 Companies in 5 Years

a man holding the globe

I’ve started three completely different companies in the past five years: BlogDash, Feast and CMX Media. Each one has taught me a great deal. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about building a company, about other people, and about the world.

When exploring and moving quickly through new terrain, we often don’t stop to look back at what we’ve learned. This post has allowed me to see some of the bigger epiphanies that have changed how I think about startups and life. Let’s dig right in.

You don’t have to raise money.

There’s this unspoken belief in the Valley that in order to build a successful company, you need to raise money and grow it to massive scale. That’s just not true. Many companies have been able to build something massive without raising money, either by being scrappy or by building revenue-first companies. We haven’t had to raise any money for CMX because we started with a product that makes it organically (conferences).

If everyone is trying to build something massive, who’s going to take care of the smaller problems — the problems that are very real, but may not have a massive market size? Build what you believe in. If it happens to be something that needs investment, then great — raise money. If it’s not, that’s OK. Don’t build something to raise money. That’s a backward mentality. Almost every major business started with something very small and focused.

You can ignore most advice.

Other entrepreneurs love to give advice, but usually aren’t very good at it. People don’t want to give bad advice. It’s just that they often don’t have enough context to really understand your problem.

What’s worse than taking advice from entrepreneurs is taking advice from most investors. Whenever I speak to investors, they tell me what I need to do in order to succeed, which is usually for their benefit only. They’ll tell you what you need to do in order to be worthy of their investment. This may or may not be in line with what you believe in.

Of course, there are some investors and entrepreneurs who give great advice. From my experience, they’re the exceptions. What makes them great is that they ask a lot of questions and help you come to your own conclusion.

Just remember, no one knows your team and your business as well as you do. Use advice as a source of inspiration or to gain new perspectives, but never let it drive your direction. That decision has to come from yourself and your team.

Your worst-case scenario is better than you think.

Most entrepreneurs fear that they are taking on more risk than they actually are.

We never really address our worst-case scenarios. They remain this dark, ominous concept looming in the back of our minds. Is our company is going to fail? Are we are going to be broke — living on the street, ashamed, ridiculed and depressed? It feels like a nightmare and it can prevent us from really going for what we want.

But when you actually think about your options, you will realize that you have a much better worst-case scenario that you might think. If your company fails, you can get a job (entrepreneurs are very hirable), live with a friend or family while you get back on your feet, try a unique profession like working on a farm or working at a library, travel on an extreme budget, consult, join a friend’s company, etc. There are so many options, all of which are far from the depressing end that you might imagine if you don’t address the idea of your worst-case scenario.

Do what you believe in.

Do you believe in what you’re doing? It’s the single most important question for any entrepreneur. If the answer is no, nothing else matters. If the answer is yes, then nothing should stop you from moving forward. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, you stand a chance of defying the odds and succeeding.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

We get so caught up in the success and failure of other companies, and it can really mess with our emotions. Their success is not your failure. And even if it were, success itself is relative. People define success in a number of ways. So don’t get caught up in what other startups are doing. Focus on what’s in front of you. The only thing that matters is executing on your vision. At previous companies, I’ve made the mistake of looking too much to competitors to guide certain decisions.

Competitors can become friends

Startups change frequently. Someone you consider a direct competitor can one day become a great partner. A great partner can one day become a competitor. The best thing you can do is treat everyone you meet with respect and be helpful to competitors and partners alike.

Create space for honest reflection.

It’s easy to have your head down for long periods of time and never come up for air, talk to your team or see the bigger picture.

When I was working on Feast, my co-founder Nadia Eghbal and I often worked remotely. We made it a habit to meet every week just to talk. We shared our feelings. and our fears. We gave each other brutally honest feedback. We talked about the direction the company was moving and whether or not it felt right. The hardest and most important decisions we made for Feast came from those talks. They led to some of the most successful strides and always left us with greater clarity.

If you can do it in person, then leave the office, go for a walk, or sit in a park. Create physical, mental and emotional space where you can have an open and honest conversation.

Ask customers to pay as soon as possible.

If you plan on selling a product, it’s never too soon to ask customers to pay.

It’s too easy to continue building great things while gaining an audience and delaying the uncomfortable task of asking for money. But you must do it. It’s the only way you will really know if your business is real. If you ask for money, people will either say yes or no. If they decline, you can learn what you really need to build in order to solve a problem worth paying for.

Grow your culture organically.

I used to try to think strategically about what a healthy culture would look like for the companies I started. I’ve since learned that great cultures form on their own. They aren’t planned. They start with the founders and translate to the team. You can find culture in everything from the subtle interactions and habits that form amongst the team.

I think that’s why it’s difficult to develop a real culture when you hire too many people right away. I’ve seen that happen too. As a result, the company will try to manufacture a culture instead of growing one naturally.

You have to take care of yourself in order to succeed.

The startup world is so focused on speed. You work hard. You work long hours. You work late. You might fail, but it certainly won’t be for lack of hustle. That’s all good and commendable, but I’ve found it to be completely unsustainable and inefficient.

There are some really successful people who are workaholics. But there are also a lot of really successful people who build daily routines so they can take time for themselves and their families. They make sure they’re emotionally, mentally and physically healthy. If you want to help the world, you have to help yourself first.

At CMX we encourage members of our team to travel, work on their own schedule, and build their daily routine around what will make them healthiest and most productive.

Learn from personal experience.

You won’t truly understand what I’m sharing until you experience it yourself. So if you take one thing away from this post, continue to experiment. Put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Take risks. If you don’t know anything about fundraising but you think you need to do it, just start. You’ll learn quickly. Just take that first step and you’ll learn along the way.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

David Spinks is the CEO of CMX Media, hosts of CMXSummit and CMXHub, the world’s largest conference and online publication for the community industry. 

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Why Conversions Matter More Than Traffic

traffic on pin board vector

At the end of the day, website traffic is primarily a vanity metric. While I suppose you could say that higher traffic numbers are indicative of successful awareness-building initiatives and external marketing campaigns, it seems that the biggest benefit of measuring traffic metrics comes from establishing bragging rights amongst your peers.

“I just hit 50,000 uniques per month,” you might say. Or, “Last month, my site’s traffic increased by 25 percent!” That’s all well and good, but what I really want to know about are your conversion numbers.

To put things in perspective, I’d much rather have a website that gets 100 visitors per month and converts 15 percent of them into paying customers than a site that gets 100,000 uniques and only averages a 0.01 percent conversion rate. If I’m selling a product that retails for $200, that first scenario nets me $3,000 a month in sales. The second example gives me just $2,000 per month for my efforts.

If you have to pick one thing to focus on when it comes to your website’s performance, make it your conversion rate — not your visitor counts.  Here’s how to put a proper conversion rate optimization plan into place:

Identify Your Conversion Paths

Tracking conversions doesn’t necessarily mean tracking sales. Depending on your business’s structure and customer acquisition processes, “conversions” could include any of the following completed actions and more:

  • Purchasing a product
  • Signing up for a free trial
  • Requesting more information
  • Viewing a video
  • Downloading an ebook
  • Completing a lead generation form
  • Sharing your content on a social media website
  • Printing a coupon
  • Opting in to your email newsletter

It’s also likely that your website will have to measure more than one potential conversion action. If you can’t turn a visitor into a paying customer right away, for example, it’s probably still worth your time to pursue a secondary conversion option. Something like getting a future buyer to download a coupon.

It’s even possible that your website will offer all of the conversion options above. But for the purposes of launching a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program, focus on no more than 2-3 actions that have the biggest impact on your business’s bottom line.

Once you have these conversion actions identified, map out every step that a site visitor must take in order to complete the conversion process. You can break this down in terms of “entry,” “action” and “exit.”

For example, suppose your action is downloading a free ebook from a specific landing page on your site. To convert, visitors will need to enter your landing page from another page on your site that contains a link or call to action referring to the page, take theaction of downloading the book and then exit the action by landing on a “Thank You” page (preferably one that encourages them to share links to the book on their favorite social sites). Knowing each step in your conversion path will be important for installing analytics and tracking tools.

Implement Conversion Rate Tracking Tools

Now that you know what you want your visitors to do, you need to install a tracking tool that will tell you whether or not they’re doing it. One great tool for tracking many different types of conversions is Google Analytics, which offers Analytics Goals and Funnels to measure things like ebook downloads.

Once the visitor has finished their transaction, set up a “URL Destination” goal type to trigger whenever a visitor lands on the “thank-you.html” page, indicating that the download is complete. Google Analytics will assign a value of $25 to each completed conversion and track visitor movements throughout the site as they lead up to the conversion.

Note that, for the purposes of funnel visualization, page views can occur nonsequentially and still trigger a funnel match: If, for example, a visitor went to the “Services” page before the “About” page. Each individual step isn’t required to make it count as a conversion. In this case, if a visitor goes directly from “About” to the ebook landing page.

As this Goal gathers data, you can use the funnel visualization report to determine whether visitors are moving smoothly through the conversion path or if they’re falling out and the process needs to be improved.

This specific process can be used for most of the conversion actions listed above, though a full description of the setup process for each is beyond the scope of this article. Rest assured that if Google Analytics doesn’t meet your conversion path tracking needs, there are plenty of other tools out there that will. FoxMetrics and KISSMetrics, for example, are two programs that will work well if your goal monitoring needs are more complex.

Set Conversion Goals

Finally, keep in mind that your ultimate goal isn’t conversion rate tracking — it’s conversion rate optimization! You don’t just want to monitor whether or not your visitors are converting. You want to actually increase the total number of conversions.

Let’s say that the Google Analytics data captured indicates that roughly 5 percent of your overall site visitors are completing your desired ebook download action. Knowing that, you might make it your goal to increase this percentage two-fold. To get to that 10 percent conversion rate, you could try A/B split testing different variables on your ebook landing page, investing in new, more targeted traffic streams or making your calls-to-action more apparent throughout your site.

As time goes on, you’ll want to revisit both the goals you’ve set for yourself and how you’ve adjusted your course as needed. With regular improvements and a careful tracking, you’ll be able to do much more for your website’s performance than increase the number of visitors alone.

Sujan Patel has championed internet marketing and entrepreneurship for over a decade. His experience, ideas and strategies have helped 100s companies build and strengthen their businesses online. Sujan is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers ofWhen I Work — an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses. 

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Staying Focused is The Key to Success

fist bumping

The early years of a startup can be chaotic and desperate. Even a great idea needs capital to get off the ground. In the beginning you need cash, so you chase every opportunity. You say “yes” to anything and everything because you need clients; you need investment; you need to turn your idea into an actual business. You are excited and you want to grow, so everyone who offers you money is a potential client, a potential investor, someone you need.

Unfortunately, every thoughtless “yes” leads you further into a trap. Too quickly you’ll take on too many things. You’ll have differentiated into too many products, options and services in an effort to please anyone who shows even a hint of interest in your company. In a few years, your company is just okay at a whole bunch of things instead of great at a few.

Saying “yes” disrupts your focus.

When you started your business, you probably had one great idea. You knew what you wanted to do, what kind of business you wanted to have. There was a central product, a main service, a particular methodology. You had focus and you were determined. In the rip tide of those early years, hold on to that focus. Keep it in front of you. To be successful and stay focused, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Choose a business model. Obviously, as a startup, you are going to have to make changes. Adjusting to the environment is a skill that you’ll acquire quickly. But once you have the lay of the land and have seen the various possibilities, it’s time to put together the business model that works for you. Figure out who you are trying to market to, why they’ll want your product, how much they’ll pay for it and how you will get it to them. You might have to do some experimenting, but when you find something that makes sense to you, follow that course.
  2. Pick one or two things to be good at, and stick with them. To be the best, you have to learn and build on your experience. If you keep changing what you do and moving with the whims of potential clients, you’ll never get good enough to be at the top. People will ask for products or services that are just one step away from what you already do. You’ll be tempted, but don’t give in. The slippery slope quickly degrades your business and takes away from your ability to develop and invest in that one thing you know you can do better than everyone else. You believed in your idea enough to start a business; believe in it enough to see it through.
  3. Fire your bad clients. Of all the challenges to focus, this one is the hardest. Once you take on a client, you may feel obligated to continue working with them. But bad clients will suck you dry. They will take advantage of your need for cash; they will cling to you in the hopes that you can do what no one else can: fix them. Look at the ROI. Consider the advantages or benefits to working with these people. If you can’t find the upside, get rid of them. You’re going to survive a lot longer if you don’t let people suck your blood. Focus on your product. Don’t trade excessive time commitments for a little money.

The more opportunities you say “yes” to, the more you lose the value of what you are trying to accomplish. When you are wide-eyed and money-hungry, coach yourself to say “no”; to turn things down when they don’t fit or if they won’t bring in a significant return. Do not take on every opportunity. Stick to what you want to do. Imagine your end goal — what you want your company to look like once you have made it. And above all, stay focused — after all, it’s your business.


Ty Morse is the CEO of Songwhale, an interactive technology company focusing on enterprise SMS solutions and Direct Response campaigns, both domestic and international. Since the company’s 2007 launch, Ty has grown Songwhale from 2 people to over 100. A two time Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Ty has been featured in the NY Times, Wired, NPR, PBS, and Discovery Channel and published in Forbes, the NY Report, and Geek.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Broaden Your Search for the Right Investors

two people making money deal

If you’re part of an accelerator or startup, the SEC just granted you a new way to approach funding in 2014: the right to solicit a broader range of investors.

I wouldn’t jump the gun on this opportunity too quickly, though — there’s a bit of fine print to read first. For one thing, the new, relaxed rules on “general solicitation” are subject to change.

What You Need to Know About This SEC Change

In response to the JOBS Act, the SEC is now allowing startups to advertise their stock to investors. Many people believe this gives companies free rein to go after money — an assumption fueled by crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

In reality, you and your legal team have to take more precautions to ensure the buyers are accredited, which essentially means that they’re financially capable and know what they’re doing. If you don’t know a buyer, you must do the appropriate research to confirm the investor is accredited.

Besides researching the legality of an investor, startups and accelerators also have to work on their marketing strategies. To fully enjoy this new opportunity, founders must know how to attract the right investors and then reel them in with the right pitch.

Marketing to Investors

Here are three marketing tactics to help you find the right investors.

  1. Leverage the power of social networks. LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for potential investors. Try posting enticing information or even direct messaging some of your connections.
  2. Look into crowdfunding websites. Crowdfunding websites curate and position business concepts to a community of potential investors. If an investor is interested, his contact information is passed on to the startup. Research the crowdfunding sites that fit your industry best.
  3. Utilize community events. Community and public events are excellent ways to solicit interest in an exciting business opportunity. By getting exposure at contests, trade events, and other public displays, you can generate investor curiosity.

Pitching to a New Audience

Once you’ve garnered investor interest, the next step is creating the right pitch. Historically, pitch decks were targeted at investors who knew the company well. When marketing to a more general audience, you must work with a different set of assumptions.

Not all investors will understand the business, let alone the market opportunity. The pitch has to be broadened, well-supported, and designed to attract the right potential partner. Think of it as fishing: In a small pond with fewer species, you know exactly which type of bait to use. With a huge lake, you’re making an educated guess.

Crafting Your Pitch

To give you more than a shot in the dark, here are some guidelines to craft a successful pitch.

  • Clearly show the potential for return. Investors are interested in how an investment can mature, earn a profit, and get them a nice multiple on exit. Explain how scalable the opportunity is, the size of your market, and how disruptive the product or service will be to this market. Most importantly, clearly explain how you plan to earn revenue.
  • Don’t get caught up in “how it works.” Many entrepreneurs get caught up in the technical details when pitching their business ideas, but investors don’t care nearly as much about how something works as they do about the potential impact it will have on the market. 
  • Ensure you’re pitching the right investor. The wrong partners can be toxic. As you discuss your business idea with investors, consider whether or not they’re a good fit for your startup. Just because they have money doesn’t mean they’ll make good partners. (This goes beyond ensuring investors meet the criteria in the regulations.)

In addition to the guidelines above, the key is giving the investor confidence that you haven’t invented the numbers or the market opportunity. You want to convey that your prospects are very real in a way the investor can understand.

These newly relaxed rules don’t give you carte blanche, but by doing your homework, marketing to the right investors, and carefully considering each prospect, they could create a great opportunity for your business.

Alex Friedman is the co-founder and president of Ruckus [http://ruckusmarketing.com/], a full-service agency, tech partner, and accelerator that is devoted to helping businesses grow. At Ruckus, Alex has been at the forefront of developing technology for nearly a decade, advising entrepreneurs and growing brands and Fortune clients alike.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Take Advantage of the Latest Trends in Crowdfunding


Those of you familiar with crowdfunding know it’s quickly evolving into an industry itself. In fact, crowdfunding is predicted to create at least 270,000 jobs and inject $65 billion into the economy by 2014’s end.

As an entrepreneur (current or aspiring), how can crowdfunding help you grow your business? To find out, it’s helpful to understand the trends driving the most successful campaigns and to choose the right platform for your project.

Entrepreneurs can take advantage of these three big crowdfunding movements:

The Rise of the DIY Entrepreneur

In the past, entrepreneurs with business ideas relied on venture capital or raised seed funding from friends and family. Crowdfunding offers an advantage traditional methods don’t by providing validation as well as money. A successful campaign shows that there’s a market for what you offer. Getting additional funding is easier once an idea is proven viable.

For example, Bluff Works, a wrinkle-free men’s pants company, had over a thousand backers on Kickstarter and raised more than $128,000 — far exceeding its $13,500 goal. Its founder used the campaign to conduct market research and learned that customers wanted black pants, something he hadn’t considered when launching the campaign.

Leveraging an Existing Network

Another emerging trend is using your existing network to jump start a campaign. This works for entrepreneurs, writers and artists with devoted followings who are invested in what you have to say.

People enjoy the “story behind the story.” A behind-the-scenes look at what you intend to create increases your likelihood of getting funded. After losing her child, Angela Miller built support for her book by sharing her story on social media. Her campaign garnered 217 supporters (70 percent strangers) and raised $12,978 on Pubslush.

Funding Tech, Apparel and Video Production

Cutting-edge gadgets do especially well on crowdfunding sites. The Pebble Smartwatch raised over $10 million on Kickstarter, for example.

Fashion also gets a lot of coverage in the crowdfunding space. Stantt, a casual shirt company, raised cash on Kickstarter and was able to offer over 50 sizes, thanks to precise body measurements and 3D body scans.

Producing films costs a lot of money, and crowdfunding mitigates some of the financial risk. The “Veronica Mars” movie projectshattered Kickstarter records when it raised more than $5.7 million from 91,585 fans of the canceled show.

If your project fits into one of these categories, it’s made for crowdfunding. Even if it doesn’t, you can see what made these campaigns succeed: A real user need (Pebble), dissatisfaction with current offerings (Stantt), and a cult-like following (“Veronica Mars”).

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Campaign

Before setting up your campaign, evaluate the platforms available and weigh the advantages of each.

  • Kickstarter: This company specializes in creative projects (films, games, music, art, design and technology), all of which remain fully owned by their creators. The funding is all or nothing, meaning you must raise the entirety of your goal to receive any money.
  • Indiegogo: Geared toward the international community, Indiegogo supports 224 countries and territories, five currencies, and four languages.
  • Pubslush: My company, Pubslush, funds literary and publishing projects. Authors can evaluate interest in their ideas and learn readers’ demographics. Readers can pledge money to bring books to fruition.
  • Crowdfunder: Crowdfunder connects investors and entrepreneurs in film and entertainment, small business and technology. It serves North and South America and accepts minimum investments of $1,000.
  • StartSomeGood: This site specializes in social entrepreneurship and allows you to set a Tipping Point Goal (what a project must raise to make an impact) and an Ultimate Fundraising Goal.

Once you’ve chosen a platform, position your campaign for success.

  1. Learn from other campaigns. Review the most successful campaigns on different sites to see what worked. What wording did they use? What rewards were offered? How much interaction did the users have with backers?
  2. Get advice from those who’ve been there. Reach out to individuals who’ve run successful campaigns. Ask what worked well, what they’d do differently, and what insider tips they can offer.
  3. Develop a pre-campaign strategy. Campaigns that gain 30 percent of their goal within the first week are more likely to succeed. Get between 30 and 50 percent of your supporters in place before launching your campaign.

Crowdfunding opens a world of possibilities, but it’s not an easy out or a guaranteed way to get funding. But if you do your research, choose the appropriate platform, and promote your campaign before its launch, your odds of success are much better.

Amanda L. Barbara is the vice president and co-founder of Pubslush (www.pubslush.com), a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. Follow on Twitter

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

9 Great CRM Tools for Startups

CRM for startups



“My cleaning company uses Highrise. It’s for our service managers and owners. We track all of our email communication with clients, important information, anniversaries and notes about their homes/offices. It also has tasks so I can make sure my managers take care of things. With reminders, we never miss a client anniversary. It’s been a great web-based CRM solution. ”

Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial

Streak for Gmail

“The Poshly team uses Google Apps for Business throughout our organization, including for email solutions. Because we’re in Gmail all day, it’s easy for us to integrate Gmail-based CRM options, likeStreak. Streak is fantastic because it not only has traditional CRM capabilities, like shared contacts and accounts, but it also lets us save text “snippets” that we can use to standardize email replies.”

Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Intuit QuickBase

“Being a startup, we loved custom-building everything to our own needs, rather than getting frustrated with standard options. We absolutely love Intuit’s product QuickBase that allows a young company to customize fields and sections according to its unique workflow. After seven happy years, we’ve grown and are now migrating to Salesforce.com, which is better suited for larger organizations. ”

Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia


“We originally used Zoho, but we switched to Salesforce.com as we grew our sales team. At this point, Salesforce.com has even more features than what we need; this will enable Salesforce.com to scale well as we continue to grow. ”

Jesse Pujji, Ampush


“We are big fans of Infusionsoft. While it’s not advertised as a CRM, it does so much more to automate your business and your marketing. As we’ve grown, it’s become more and more valuable. Sometimes, it seems as though it can do just about anything, which leaves endless possibilities for as long as we are technically a small business.”

Benji Rabhan, MorrisCore


“I’m a fan of ONTRAPORT. The software offers a good 360-degree view of your contacts, along with lead scoring and automatic routing of leads.”

John Hall, Influence & Co.


“Salesforce.com is an amazing platform that can be customized well beyond its basic features. There are also many plug-ins that can be used for things like marketing and ERP integration. We periodically make changes to the way we use the system, so it can grow as our organization grows.”

Ziver Birg, Zivelo

Our Own System

“We built our own proprietary CRM from scratch over the last five years. The existing products in the market, from Salesforce.com and similar companies, were not specific enough to our particular business. Building it in Ruby on Rails and hosting it in the cloud (Amazon’s EC2 stack) has allowed us to easily scale up as our company and team grew.”

Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors

Highrise and Salesforce.com

“When we first started out, we had a small team, and Highrise (37signals) was an excellent way to manage contacts, keep emails attached to accounts and delegate tasks. Now that our organization is bigger and we have more sophisticated campaigns, Salesforce.com really is the way to go. Innovative features, like Chatter, allow for an organization with a global presence to keep everyone in the loop.”

Michael Costigan, Youth Leadership Specialist