Apple’s MacBook Air Lineup Is Now Faster and $100 Cheaper

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The Key to Balancing Business and Personal Social Media

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19 Social Media Facts That Every Marketer Should Know (Video with cover)

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A Trend Is Always A Trap: A Famous Ad Man on Mediocrity



“No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” as the saying goes.

IBM here is a metaphor for the safe choice. For jumping on the corporate bandwagon. For following the trends of business.

Trend following might be safe for corporate types, but for startup founders, “safe” is a four-letter word.

Just ask legendary ad man George Lois:

Because advertising and marketing is an art, the solution to each new problem or challenge should begin with a blank canvas and an open mind, not with nervous borrowings of other people’s mediocrities.That’s precisely what “trends” are—a search for something “safe”—and why a reliance on them leads to oblivion.

Despite the risks of trend following, startups are notoriously bad about doing so (see my post Why Does Your Startup Sound Like a Startup? for more). Startup trends appear in homepage layouts, messaging, user acquisition plans, and even approaches to company culture.

But your runway’s shrinking and everything’s on fire and how are you going to make payroll?

This is no time for the safety of other people’s mediocrities.

Lois, again:

In any creative industry, the fact that others are moving in a certain direction is always proof positive, at least to me, that new direction is the only direction.

Sounds a lot like the startup worldview. So it’s weird that, when, it comes to branding and messaging, so many startups fall into the trend trap of mediocrity and then oblivion.

Disruptive technology, you say? Too bad you look and sound like every other player in your space.

What if your messaging and marketing were as disruptive as your technology? What if your team put in the effort to tell a truly compelling and meaningful brand story that did justice to your product?

Leave the trends to the bloggers and journalists; they need something to write about come January.

By the way, when asked for insight into the coming year’s trends, Lois says:

My answer is always identical to what I said the previous year: “Beats the shit out of me. I’ll know it when I do it.”

Patrick Woods is a hybrid ad man/startup guy. As director of a>m ventures, he connects startups with awesome branding, PR, and marketing strategy.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

5 Simple Ways to Use Twitter to Its Full Potential


twitter tipsEven the best businesses can have trouble adjusting to social media. It’s understandable that plenty of profitable and professional companies don’t use Twitter correctly, especially if they’ve been in business for many years before social media came into play. However, customers keep up with businesses online, and they will judge your ability to use Twitter and other social media sites.

If you want to attract more technology-savvy clients, then you need to make sure that you’re making the most of your Twitter account. Twitter can help bring in more potential customers and promote loyalty from your current customers, but only if you’re tweeting the right things in the right way. Take a look at these five things that even good businesses do badly on Twitter, and make note of what you could be doing differently.

  1. They forget to create a profile. One of the worst things you can do is keep your profile picture as the little egg you first start out as. Make it personal. Upload a professional profile picture for your company. The picture should ideally be something that is recognizable even when it’s small. Don’t forget to also fill out your bio. If there is nothing there, people won’t know who you are or what your company does. This should be one of the first things that you do — there’s no excuse for you to be tweeting with an unfinished profile.
  2. They tweet just about business. Yes, Twitter is a great way to show off your company and gain new customers. However, you shouldn’t plug your business in every tweet. Do people really want to read 140-character advertisements all day long? Tweet photos of your workplace or employees, facts about your industry, tips that you learned along the way, a funny anecdote or a question for your followers. People will be more likely to follow you and recommend you to others if they actually enjoy reading your tweets.
  3. They don’t follow polite Twitter etiquette. Just because you’re interacting on the Internet doesn’t mean that you should let your social graces fall to the wayside. Don’t do tacky things like constantly beg for retweets or use excessive hashtags. Take the time to check your spelling and grammar. Use correct punctuation. No, you don’t need to use three exclamation points. Treat Twitter as though you were writing a company email or a friendly note to a client. You can have fun and joke around on Twitter, but make sure you do it in a suitable and easy-to-understand way.
  4. They tweet too rarely. If you’re not tweeting regularly, then you’re not tweeting correctly. Twitter is made for frequent, daily updates. Because you’re limited to 140 characters, you should feel the need to tweet frequently anyway. If you’re having trouble remembering to tweet at least once a day, try a social media management tool that allows you to schedule tweets in advance, such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck.
  5. They don’t interact with others. You shouldn’t just be tweeting out into the abyss and assuming that your followers are reading. Think of Twitter as sort of a meet-and-greet. Make conversation with others and share interesting news and facts. Get to know people within your industry as well. This might sound counterintuitive or like fraternizing with the enemy, but it will help expand your social network. It’s perfectly fine to talk customers and other business owners on Twitter too. Compliment others on something they’ve done that you admire. Ask them about their experiences in your industry. Thank your customers for their patronage, and make sure that you make it personal and sincerely mean it. Interacting is what Twitter is all about, so start talking to others and not just to yourself!

Did you take note of what you could change on your own Twitter account? Not making the most of Twitter doesn’t mean that you run a bad business, but it does mean that you are losing out on potential customers. Now that you’re armed with these tips, go ahead and rethink how you use Twitter. Redesign your account and start tweeting new, more interesting things. Twitter should be a enjoyable experience for both you and your followers, so go have some fun!

Brendon Schenecker is equal parts developer and CEO, which has led to array of tech-based startups and over 10 years of experience managing startup ventures. Brendon is currently founder and CEO of Travel Vegas, a technology-focused destination travel company.

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 Much Should You Spend On Marketing?

If you’re wondering what your marketing budget should be, you’re not alone. This is the million-dollar question: How can you be sure you’re spending the right amount of money on the right types of marketing? Many say it’s an art, not a science. Others argue that there is a clear equation that can help you to calculate exactly how much of your marketing dollars to place where. Simply figure out the equation, enter your variables, and voila.

incontent3In truth, it’s a little bit of both. With a little thought, a little math, a little data, and a little creativity, it is possible to have a good idea of how much to invest in marketing for the highest possible return. In terms of “return,” I have a strong finance view. Simply put, the role of marketing is to create leads and business opportunities. You should always return to this metric. 

The key to ROI marketing is to not only determine your marketing budget, but to consistently building your company revenue. Your ROI always needs to link back to actual sales.

Return on Investment Marketing

ROI marketing is a measurement tool. It measures how much profit you make on a given marketing investment. To figure out the return on your investment, you need to identify a few figures to plug into your ROI formulas (as long as you are consistent, you can define your terms however you choose):

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS): The actual cost to produce your product (or provide your service)
  • Marketing investment: Media cost or production cost
  • Revenue: Your total revenue or your gross or net profit

The Components of ROI Marketing

There are six key components of ROI marketing:

  1. Understanding lifetime customer value. Once you know this, you can begin to figure out how much you should expect to spend on new customer acquisition. To calculate the lifetime value of a customer, you need to identify the following variables: average annual revenue per customer, average gross profit margin (before any marketing expense), cost of capital, and average number of years per customer.
  2. Estimating target acquisition cost per customer cost. Look at your company data. Take the total cost of your marketing budget and divide by the number of customers you won with this investment. This is your historic acquisition price.
  3. Determining your marketing budget. Divide your target revenue by the average customer revenue. Then multiply this number by the target acquisition price. Once you have your ROI goal and overall annual revenue goal, calculate your targeted marketing spend.
  4. Predicting which tactic will help you to realize your customer acquisition goals. Use the by-product of your calculations to make some informed decisions as to which marketing strategy will be most successful in helping you to achieve your goals.
  5. Setting your marketing ROI goal. Once you have established your ROI threshold, stick to it. If a marketing initiative isn’t hitting the threshold, cut it. Put your marketing dollars where you know they will have a greater impact.
  6. Monitoring your ROI. Measure, measure, and measure again. Use your results to continuously improve your campaigns and maximize your marketing dollars.

ROI Marketing: More Than a Measurement

How you choose to track your marketing spend and calculate your ROI marketing can differ from company to company. It’s important that you make the effort to add some rigor to your marketing activities. Even if your calculations aren’t exact, they can still show you clear trends of which marketing activities are getting real results and which aren’t. And again, results means actual sales.

With a small business, you can’t afford to waste your funds on marketing with low ROI. But calculating the best marketing spend isn’t just about managing your costs; it’s also about making sure that you are using your limited money to get the best ROI. You don’t want to miss any opportunities to help your business to acquire customers and earn revenue.

Ultimately, ROI marketing is more than a measure, it’s also a philosophy. But you can’t implement ROI marketing without making a larger organizational change. This is no small task.

Some early-stage startups with limited funding might view marketing as a low priority; an unnecessary cost. In fact, marketing is not just an outlay of capital. It’s an investment back into your company — not a drain on it. ROI marketing helps you to justify your investments, supporting the old adage that you need money to make money.

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

David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, an outsourced financial services firm that provides early-stage companies with day-to-day transactional accounting, CFO service, tax, and valuation services and support. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.

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 My 1-Year-Old Taught Me About Marketing



My wife, Erin, and I celebrated our daughter Violet’s first birthday recently. We joked that the celebration was really for us surviving a whole year with an infant. If you have kids, then you know exactly what I mean. That first year wasn’t pretty, but boy was it worth it!

In 365 days, Violet transformed from what I endearingly call her helpless, alien-looking newborn days, to a walking, babbling, playful, and extraordinarily cute baby girl (see proof below).

Violet's First Birthday

Looking back on 2013, I find there are many similarities between raising a 1-year-old and launching new marketing campaigns. Both require a significant time investment. Both require realistic expectations about results to avoid frustration. And there’s no question both are well worth the investment.

Recognizing these similarities will ensure you create a more realistic marketing plan and should help you push through the inevitable rough patches in 2014.

incontent3Invest the Time Required

Everyone knows babies need a LOT of attention. And even when they sleep, most new parents find it hard to relax. Then, as the infant grows, she starts to sleep through the night, hold her own bottle, and even play by herself. I found the first three months were the most stressful and required the most investment of time, but each subsequent month became easier and easier.

The same is true when launching a new marketing campaign. Let’s use Google AdWords as an example. When you set up a new AdWords campaign, you need to realize the first few months are going to be the most stressful and time consuming. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for your particular “baby.” Sure, there are commonalities among top-performing ad campaigns across different industries and offers — just like every infant needs sleep, clean diapers and food. But you won’t figure out the specifics, like the best time of the day to run your ads or the best ad copy and bid for a particular keyword, until you and your baby have spent some quality time together.

You need to realize that the first three months of a new marketing campaign are going to be tough. This is true whether you’re implementing in-house or outsourcing to a marketing company. It’s going to be stressful and you need to commit the time required to learn what works in your particular market.

As a result, you also need to be realistic about how many new campaigns you can launch in a year. I can’t imagine having another newborn right now. I’m simply not ready for the time commitment. With that in mind, take a look at your 2014 marketing plan and make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin by launching too many campaigns. It’s always better to get one campaign working before moving on to a second one. Otherwise, you could just end up babysitting a bunch of failed campaigns.

Set Realistic Expectations

I believe the biggest cause of frustration with online marketing comes from unrealistic expectations. We now live in a world where we all want instant gratification. I frequently hear stories about businesses that unsuccessfully tried Google AdWords, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, email marketing, or some other tactic. When I pry, I learn that the business “tried” for a month or two. That’s the equivalent of getting upset because your baby is not walking at 6 months old!

To be clear, I’m not saying you should continue to invest in a losing marketing campaign. However, as a general rule of thumb, I find that most businesses give up too quickly because they don’t have realistic expectations about how long it will take to see significant results.

For example, last month we sold 85 seats to our Google Analytics training by sending a couple emails to our in-house email list. Clearly, email marketing works. I could go on and on about all the benefits of email marketing, but I don’t need to. The sales speak for themselves. However, we worked very hard over the past three years to build our email database, form a strong relationship and continuously provide value to our subscribers. There’s no way we could have sold 85 seats if we had just started using email marketing in the past 6–12 months. That’s about as realistic as Violet reading one of her books tonight.

Be more realistic with your sales projections from online marketing. SEO, social media, and email marketing are all long-term marketing tactics. AdWords advertising can generate sales within hours, but it will typically take months to dial in your advertising so that you’re consistently generating a positive return.  The most successful businesses use a long-term portfolio approach to marketing, similar to savvy investors.

Focus on Incremental Improvements

Up to this point, I realize I haven’t painted a very rosy picture. Maybe I’m a little cranky from so many sleepless nights with Violet this past year.

But seriously, I do believe businesses need to hear this if they are going to succeed in 2014. Competition is fierce, and I’m sorry to say that the days of “set-it-and-forget-it” online marketing campaigns are over. The businesses that take a long-term approach and implement pig-headed discipline will come out on top.

I’ll never forget the day in Central Park when Violet started walking on her own for the first time. It took almost a year to go from rolling over, to crawling, to walking. Every day she improved just a little bit more, until finally it all clicked, and she toddled away from me while uncontrollably laughing.

That’s the approach we all need to take with our marketing. Don’t expect overnight miracles. Focus on incremental improvements in your online marketing campaigns throughout the year.

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

Phil Frost is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Main Street ROI in New York, NY. Main Street ROI teaches internet marketing strategies that actually work for small businesses. Click here to get the Ultimate SEO Checklist to help you rank higher in Google.

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 Brandfolder Makes Your Marketing Life Easier



One of the most frustrating things about writing tech stories and planning national conferences is that we often need simple assets from companies (think logos, headshots, etc), but it can take an eternity to get them. Emails back and forth, which everyone hates, and we’re still usually down to the wire.

Brandfolder is a recent Techstars Boulder graduate that’s going to fix that for me. While it’s actually aimed at marketing and PR professionals, the ultimate goal is to provide a one-stop place for companies to upload these assets and open them to whomever needs them.

The guys at Brandfolder are already looking at some great traction, and anything that cuts down on email is a win in my book.

Check out our Q&A with Brandfolder CEO Brian Parks below. (And yes, I got the logo above from the company’s Brandfolder.)

What is your startup called?


What’s the story behind your idea?

It’s pretty simple – I spent several years doing investment banking and business development, and I constantly needed other companies’ information in order to represent them to the market (be it in an M&A pitch deck or on an online travel website). I always found myself waiting for pretty low-level stuff that every company had (logos, headshots, product images, copy), and it slowed down my ability to do deals. I would get this content in a multitude of ways (and often had to hound people for it) and then it was on me to dig through it, organize it and pull what I needed. It was very annoying and extremely inefficient.

So, I set out to create a standard for organizing and sharing this type of content, which happens to be branding and marketing assets. It’s really the marketers and designers within companies who control this content, so we’ve built a tool for them firstly. Ultimately, to scratch my own itch, I want to make this content accessible and on-demand for the most part (of course, some stuff must remain private) in a standardized fashion across companies (on one website –, so people who need it are empowered to grab it and move on. The two big things to me are accessibility and accuracy and fostering a new paradigm of control for brands around this content. Control is not having your content buried and under lock and key; control is serving up the content people need in a frictionless manner.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

I’ll start off by saying we met at a Startup Weekend event, which I think is pretty awesome. I was dipping my toes further into the startup ecosystem, and Paul was new to Denver just looking to hack and meet folks.

  • Brian Parks, Co-founder & CEO

Before getting into startups, my background was in finance. I worked as an M&A investment banker for five years before moving into startups. I joined an online travel startup in the “basement stage” as employee #1. After 18 months of running operations and business development, I decided to strike off on my own. I moved to San Francisco for a summer to learn how to code, came back and worked as a developer for a bit and then started Brandfolder. And here, I am today. What else can I tell ya?

  • Paul Arterburn, Co-founder & Head of Product

Paul built the first website his hometown of Imperial, Nebraska had ever seen (at least that’s how he tells it…). He was the tech dude in town. He went off to college where he studied finance/entrepreneurship along with some computer science. He spent the next 5 years working for a fortune 500 retail company as an analyst, where he basically automated his job, went remote and started doing more development work for clients through his consulting company. Paul’s been involved with Branfolder since pretty much day one and runs our product development.

What problem do you solve?

The general disorganization and inaccessibility of branding and marketing materials across companies. This content is called upon more than anything else within and across organizations (by internal and external parties); yet, it lacks a dedicated home built specifically for it. We’re a time saver for marketers and designers and the people they support (sales, partners, press).

Why now?

2 reasons:

1) Proliferation of cloud storage – We love cloud storage, but we feel this problem is only exacerbated by how damn easy it is to throw stuff into Dropbox/Drive. “oh, I can put everything here, and I never have to delete anything! I’ll call this one logo_highres_used for marketing deck 7_final_v4.jpg”). Dropbox is really built for having my stuff everywhere, which it does a phenomenal job at. It’s not built for having everyone else’s stuff in one place, which is what we’re here for. 80% of our users also use Dropbox, as do we, of course, but they also realize it’s not the right tool for every job.

2) Demand for content – More and more visual marketing content is being created and deployed to more presences, and it’s tough to keep up with and keep everyone on the same page. This content is in high demand, so we’re here to put it on demand (first by one link and eventually by more interesting delivery).

What was it like going through Techstars Boulder? What was most surprising about that experience?

An honor. A whirlwind. A great time. A lot of pitch practicing.

Biggest surprise: Just how generous and engaged the mentors and network at large are. That is the #1 lasting benefit of the program. I’m looking for a VP of Sales right now and have a 30+ year enterprise sales guy (mentor I met briefly over the summer) helping me out. All I had to do was ask. That’s just awesome.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

Thousands of brands using Brandfolder

What are your next milestones?

Thousands more brands using Brandfolder

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

 There’s also a great discussion on Brandfolder here.EETNBannerAd1

ThinkVine Proves Software Is Eating the World


Earlier this month, Cincinnati-based ThinkVine announced the release of their DIY marketing mix optimization platform.

If you’re like me and didn’t know what marketing mix optimization was, Wikipedia defines it like this:

Marketing mix modeling (MMM) is a term of art for the use of statistical analysis such as multivariateregressions on sales and marketing time series data to estimate the impact of various marketing tactics (marketing mix) on sales and then forecast the impact of future sets of tactics. It is often used to optimize advertising mix and promotional tactics with respect to sales revenue or profit.

So, basically, marketing professionals can plug certain factors into a simulated system and predict what will produce the best results. Before ThinkVine’s release, that usually meant expensive consultants and time-consuming simulations. With the ThinkVine software, companies can do a lot of the work themselves.

“Marketing planning and optimization are undergoing a transformation as brands turn to automation and real-time data to become more agile,” ThinkVine CEO Mark Battaglia said in a statement. “Old-fashioned econometric models can’t keep up with consumers in the age of social and mobile. With this software update, ThinkVine gives marketers the information they need to respond immediately to ever-changing markets.”

Subscription to the software includes lots of customer support from the ThinkVine team, but if your company has a full time data scientist just hanging around, the new updates allow for the DIY option, too.

ThinkVine’s software is the kind of unsexy B2B product that startups outside of Silicon Valley are so good at. Steady businesses meeting needs may not get the press attention of flashy consumer-facing Internet companies, but that’s not stopping them from making money. The software doesn’t meet the needs of the average consumer, but ThinkVine’s customers–including PepsiCo, MillerCoors, Sara Lee, The Hershey Company, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Georgia-Pacific, and Valvoline–find that kind of data and predictive ability invaluable.

Companies like ThinkVine are the playing out of Marc Andreesen’s prophetic quote about software eating the world. With their experience handling real world problems, startups outside of Silicon Valley are poised to lead that charge.


Great Marketing Is Not The Enemy of Great Product

IMG_3323In some circles, “marketing” is a four letter word.

For some, it’s as if marketing is the enemy of product, and they believe a great product will somehow find a way to sell itself. The implication is that marketing is needed only when the product isn’t good enough.If you need marketing, you’re doing something wrong.

While it’s true that good marketing won’t go far in helping a bad product, I think the product-marketing distinction disregards the value that can be created when the overlap between product and marketing is realized and exploited.

This false dichotomy happens for a few reasons.

First is that the term marketing is too broad to be instructive when working with early-stage companies. Discussing the constituent parts of the process is much more useful. Distribution strategy and user adoption, branding and naming, messaging and copywriting, pricing strategy—these are much more meaningful than “marketing” as a category.

In a similar vein, product is dangerously broad as well. As marketing has constituent parts, so does the concept of product. User stories, back- and front-end code, UI design and copy, transactional emails, the overall look and feel—these are all constituent parts of product.

In startups, as in most companies, there’s a portion of product and marketing activities that bridge the gap and live in both worlds.

Elements of marketing can augment elements of product, and vice versa.

Real value can be created in the cases where facets of marketing and elements of product overlap.

There are many examples of this overlap. Here are a few:

  • Copy in the UI: does it align with the voice and tone of the brand as established in the brand platform, on the marketing site, and on social accounts?
  • Transactional emails: are they sensitive to the realities of user behavior as seen within the app?
  • Overall aesthetic: is there design consistency between the personality and texture of your name, logo, marketing assets, and user interface?
  • Blog posts, white papers, case studies, and other marketing assets: do they reflect the attitudes and beliefs of users? do they account for data about usage and allow that data to influence the direction?

In a world where the earliest interactions between user and product occur within the context of an app store–first with app icon and name, then with screenshots–the separation between product and marketing is an increasingly false distinction.

Couple that with the necessity of building in effective viral hooks along with other growth hacking techniques, and it’s clear that the monolithic categories of product and marketing are rarely meaningful.

Thinking in separate product-marketing silos, then, e.g. “we need to start thinking about marketing now that the beta is live,” is harmful to the growth of your product.

So take time to dig a bit deeper past the abstraction of high-level categories. Proceed with caution when you hear someone waxing poetic on the notions of product or the dangers of marketing. And take advantage of the product-marketing overlap to strengthen your experience and further endear yourself to users.

Still need help? I’m offering free 30-minute Google Hangout office hour sessions to take questions about startup branding and messaging. No strings attached. Get in touch if that interests you.

Patrick Woods is a hybrid ad man/startup guy. As director of a>m ventures, he connects startups with awesome branding, PR, and marketing strategy.

*Nibletz is an a>m ventures portfolio company.

**This post first appeared on Medium.