Brand is a Noun; Brand is a Verb

According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. Besides being a name, a brand may also be a symbol (The Coca-Cola Company), motto (Nike), color combination (Tiffany & Co.), and even a sound (NBC).

To distinguish between brand names or characteristics and the brand or branding process, brand is best defined by two of the eight parts of speech.

Brand is mostly used as a noun because it literally translates to the name of a person, place or thing. If a person, place or thing does not have a memorable name or other identifying characteristics, differentiation is limited as is consumer awareness and, subsequently, sales.

When used with an object, brand is also a verb. Although branding usually begins with a name or image, it continues with lights, cameras, and a whole lot of action!

History Repeating Itself

The original purpose for branding was to verify ownership. Ranchers used a hot iron to stamp or seal an image on cattle. Later, the process was transferred to packaged goods, furniture, clothing, and, unfortunately, people.

Although “people brands” are now more popular than livestock and other products, the branding process is relatively the same. Instead of using a hot iron to make an imprint or lasting impression, retailers now use a collection of experiences highlighted by brand characteristics.

Through repetition, a brand is “sealed” on consumer’s minds via the five senses.

By defining brand as a verb and a noun, value and resources are realized. How can brands convince consumers to engage then exchange value (cash, check or charge) in the marketplace?

Create a compelling name with equally compelling sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and touches. Seek not for an “aha” in your business, but an “ahh” from your customers.

How can brands brand successfully? Marketing via mass media and memorable methods will reinforce a brand.

Check out the original post on the GO.CO blog!

Utilizing Marketing Automation For Your Startup

These days, it’s rare to find a startup that have not at least considered implementing a marketing automation solution to drive increased revenue, and for good reason.

According to Circle Research, after 6 months of using a marketing automation solution, 8% of businesses report an increase in revenue. That number rises to 32% after one year of use, and to 40% after two years.

The longer you leverage marketing automation, the more efficient and effective your team becomes in using it, and the larger the return on your investment.

But what exactly is marketing automation? Simply put, a marketing automation solution automates a wide variety of daily marketing tasks that previously had to be done manually. It saves significant time and resources for your company, while simultaneously boosting your ability to find and convert new leads into customers.

A strong solution lets you automate the sending of emails, execution of short or long term marketing campaigns, dissemination of content based on a lead’s stage in the sales funnel, scoring and ranking of leads based on behaviors, and analysis of your efforts so you can continually improve your results.

Agile CRM, for example, is considered a leading automation solution used by small businesses to streamline their sales, marketing, and support teams. They conducted a survey amongst their customers to determine the best and most effective practices when it came to marketing automation in order to better understand the state of their customer’s marketing efforts. What they found may help calibrate your own marketing efforts.

The data from those conversations has been organized into following categories:

  • Number of emails and campaigns per week
  • What does a good email campaign look like?
  • How do most marketers track, nurture and convert leads?
  • What do most marketers present to visitors on their company’s website? 
  • What strategy do effective marketers use to keep prospects engaged while exiting the company website?
  • What are some best practices for mobile marketing?
  • How are most marketers dealing with social media?

Number of emails and campaigns per week

Most marketers Agile talked to are starting 1 or 2 new campaigns per week. On average, each campaign is sending 6 or 7 emails over the course of 3 or 4 weeks. Therefore, a total of 4 to 6 campaigns may be running in parallel at any one time. The number of contacts in each campaign varies from just a few hundred, to tens of thousands.

What does a good email campaign look like?

There are two broad KPIs most marketers measure themselves on:

  • Open Rates = Total number of emails opened, divided by total number of emails delivered
  • CTR = Total number of unique individuals who clicked on a link in the email, divided by the total number of emails delivered

Open rates of 20% or higher are considered pretty good by most marketers. Although, it really depends on the recipient list you use. If the list is well qualified (e.g. your existing users), then you should expect to see open rates at or above 20%. However, if your list is not very qualified, seeing a 20% open rate is good, though 10% is more likely.

Most marketers always place a call to action in their emails—such as a link to featured content, a link to a form, or a link back to the company website or a landing page. CTRs for well-qualified lists should be above 10%, while for unqualified lists, this number may drop to 2%.

If your open rates are lower than those mentioned above, it is time to employ A/B testing on the subject line of your emails. However, if the problem lies in a lower CTR, it is time to consider revising the body of your emails.

How do most marketers track, nurture and convert leads?

Most effective marketers have figured out how to automate and create multiple cadences for email marketing. They can score leads automatically based on user engagement, something that is easily done in Agile CRM. Therefore, good marketing teams can identify the right contacts as qualified leads who are ready to be handed over to the company’s sales team.

What do most marketers present to visitors on their company’s website?

Most of the answers to the question varied, and included the following:

  • Web forms to capture leads [the most common answer]
  • Popups, coupons, and discounts to engage anonymous visitors
  • More targeted/personalized messages to known contacts

What strategy do effective marketers use to keep prospects engaged while exiting the company website? Most marketers seem to have adopted one or both of the following strategies for prospects existing their website. They either offer smart exit intent messages to keep visitors interacting or they offer coupons or discounts where applicable, to tempt customers to at least keep looking and consider purchasing something.

What are some best practices for mobile marketing?

First and foremost, every website needs to be mobile friendly. It is easy to preview mobile views of your website on a desktop by shrinking the browser window or tab to 3.5 inches and seeing how it looks.

Second, most forward-thinking marketers are not simply using SMS, but rather have actually integrated SMS into their CRM to automate SMS campaigning. SMS campaigning produces much higher open and engagement rates than email marketing, but you must first check on the legal restrictions around the use of SMS marketing in your country.

How are most marketers leveraging social media?

Most effective marketers have decided to build their presence on 2 or 3 social networks – focusing energy and resources where their prospects hang out, rather than going after every network.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the most commonly mentioned networks by Agile users, although Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are also mentioned from time to time.

Most effective marketers have integrated their social engagement with their CRM, so that they can track and manage all customer interactions regardless of the channel.

Hopefully, your marketing efforts weigh in at the top 10% of your competitors. If not, it might be time to reevaluate whether you have the right tools to drive results—such as a new CRM, that can help your business align and automate your sales, marketing and support functions from a single platform.

Are you keeping up with your competition and automated your marketing efforts yet?

6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Increase Email Signups

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the founder of Marketing Ramen, marketing strategies for startups on a budget. She’s building marketing strategies and helping startups grow. For full bio –, connect with her @moran_barnea.

It’s no secret that maintaining a blog on your website takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Doing research, writing high quality content and sticking to the publishing schedule does not come easy.

But if you stay creative and think like your readers, your efforts can become highly beneficial.

People often forget that the objectives of having a blog is to engage your community of readers, advance your website’s SEO efforts and generate more leads. Therefore, if you have a blog that no one reads, you may just as well not have one at all.

Improving your blog’s ranking in Google’s SERP will dramatically increase your chances of being discovered by your target audience, which is only half the job. It is also very important to establish a community of returning readers whom you will later be able to convert into clients.

Therefore, if you decide to commit to launching a blog, make sure that as many potential clients as possible know about it.  

If you feel that your “muse” left you, your analytics keep showing low traffic and your content is rarely shared, here are six things you can do right now to increase your email sign-ups (for free):

Twitter Lead Generation

If you have a Twitter account, you can pin a tweet encouraging people to sign-up to your blog. If you are using Twitter Ads, instead of pinning a regular tweet with a link to your blog, use Twitter’s Lead Generation Card to pin a tweet that includes a signup form from your Twitter account page. Having people sign up directly from Twitter will increase the signup rate (more clicks = more drop offs).

See below how Justin Wu (AKA Hackapreneur) did it on his Twitter page:


Facebook Sign-up Button

If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can add a sign-up button to your page as I did below on Marketing Ramen’s Facebook page; Additionally, you can pin a post that encourages people to sign up to your mailing list, to the top of your page’s Timeline. The post will remain on top until it is removed or unpinned. Since I use MailChimp for my email marketing, I created a dedicated list on my Mailchimp account and linked it to the button in order to track the leads that came from my Facebook page.


Visible Blog Tab in Website Navigation

If you launched a website for your startup, keep the blog tab visible in your navigation menu. How will this increase sign ups to your email list, you ask? Well, the more visitors see that there is a blog on your website, the higher the chance that they will visit the blog and eventually sign up for it. Using “pop-ups” that encourage people to sign up for your blog on different pages of your website such as “Technology” or “Products” will not do the job as the pop-up will be out of context.

Here are 2 examples of a good placement of the blog tab in navigation bars, and 2 not so great ones:

#Good: blog tab is in the top menu:


Another good example:


#Bad: blog tab is hiding in submenu:


Another not so great example:


Subscription Popup

Add a popup that will invite your visitors to sign up for the blog when they visit your website.


If your website is based on WordPress, there are several free plugins you can use to add a popup to your website. My all-time favorite and highly popular is SumoMe but you can also check out HelloBar or the MailChimp plugin if you use Mailchimp for your email marketing.

If your website is not WordPress based, you can also add a popup, just need a programmer to help you with it ;-).

Gated Content

One additional thing you can do to increase the signup rate on your website, is to use any piece of gated marketing content you may have in your possession. It can be a white paper, a case study or whatever you think would be beneficial to your visitors.

Add a check box field to the gated content form, allowing visitors to automatically subscribe to your blog after filling out the form in order to download the gated content

Here’s a great example from Hubspot. The field at the bottom of the form allows the users to check the box in order to subscribe to Hubspot’s blog.


Recruit External Websites

Lastly, you can recruit other websites to promote your blog. Search for websites that publish lists of best blogs in your niche or industry and reach out to them to include you in their future posts.

Let’s say you are running a cyber security blog for your company and you are interested in promoting your blog among your target audience.


The top organic results of a quick Google search for “best cyber security blogs” will bring you links to articles that list the most popular cyber security blogs.

In addition to exploring the opportunity of being featured on those blogs, you may also improve your SEO rankings for “best X blogs” or similar keywords by posting an article on your website listing the best blogs in your industry.

Promoting your website on third party websites may require payment, but from my experience, these organic lists are a great source of traffic because usually their readers have a strong intent to search for your product or have interest in the industry in place.

Do you have other tips to increase blog signups? Comment below 🙂

5 Things to Think About Before Creating a Marketing Plan

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the founder of Marketing Ramen, marketing strategies for startups on a budget. She’s building marketing strategies and helping startups grow. For full bio –, connect with her @moran_barnea.

Setting a marketing budget before defining a marketing plan is like putting the cart before the horse. Although there are plenty of online resources that can help you get a general idea of how much your marketing budget should be (depending on the number of years your startup exists, the industry in which it operates, etc.), preparing a marketing road map should come first.

Your marketing budget may change during the budget year, but to make it feasible, it should be built together with a plan that fits the goals of the company and one you could work with on a daily / weekly / monthly basis.

Before creating a detailed marketing plan including budget allocation to the various channels, deadlines, owner and more, there are 5 things to consider:

1. Audience

Startups are agile, and the answer to the question “who is your target audience” may change over the lifetime of the start-up. However, when you initiate your marketing efforts and build a plan and budget, there must be a clear answer to this question. For example, is your product an innovative a/b testing widget aimed at marketing executives in Fortune 500 companies? Is it an app targeted at teenagers ages 12-17 who live in English-speaking countries? Generic marketing targeting e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e (or “anyone who would want to buy the product”) is bad marketing. Even if you want to target multiple audiences, you must define them and often will need to narrow the list of audiences down, depending on your available capital and human resources.

Some would choose to build a persona (or persons) of the potential audience, to better understand who the potential client is and which pain they have that your product can solve. There are several excellent guides online to help build persona and a free Persona builder by Xtensio.

2. Objectives

Once you defined who your target audience is, set your goals for the period of the marketing plan. One goal, for example, can be positioning yourself as an expert in the industry (thought leadership). This can be done by guest columns written by the founder/CEO in relevant blogs (for example, Bessemer Partners mapped Israeli cyber security startups for TechCrunch to position themselves as experienced investors in this industry). Another goal can be increasing sales. This may lead to focusing your budget on paid advertising.

A goal can also be recruiting new employees, and for that you may want to reach out to tech blogs who cover cool office spaces like this article in Fortune. There are additional goals you can have, and the answer to the question what are your goals could be “all of the above.” But, in order to prepare an effective and executable marketing plan, I recommend prioritizing these goals.

3. Marketing Channels

After you set your audience and goals, the next question is where can you find the audience. Going back to the example of targeting marketing execs in Fortune 500 companies, the chance of them reading an article mentioning your company at AdAge or AdWeek is higher than them reading such an article on Mashable. If you target the 12-17 age group, are they on Facebook, or like all of us, moved to Snapchat? Try to understand where your target audience spends most of its time online. Often, the chances of finding good and targeted leads will be higher in niche industry blogs. I worked with a company that targeted c-level executives in the hospitality business. The best leads we got was from an article on a small blog, but one that all c-levels in this industry are subscribed to. Sometimes, being featured in a large publication is a matter of ego more than ROI.

4. Team

While building the marketing plan, ask yourself if there is currently someone on the team that will be able to carry the plan out. If not, is there a need (and budget) to hire a full-time marketing person? If you have an existing team, do you need to hire more people or would outsourcing services like Fiverr and UpWork make do? There are opinions supporting and opposing hiring freelancers, but from my experience, it depends on the person. You can hire an employee with zero dedication and a contractor who gives 120 percent into the project.

5. Budget

This point is derived from the four points above. Only when you set your target audience, objectives, optimal marketing channels and structure of the team will you be able to better understand what budget is needed. The marketing budget should be consistent with the growth to which you aspire. If you decide on a fixed monthly marketing budget throughout the year, it will be difficult to expect that it will support a growth. Start with a realistic budget – both in terms of available resources and also you in terms of your goals (it’s difficult to demand a 10 percent MoM growth with a fixed monthly marketing budget of $1,000). Consider long-term and short-term factors. For example, investing in content and SEO is a long term investment (Google will kill any tricks you try ;-)). In contrast, a PR campaign can and should be limited in time, so you can allocate only a few months out of the budget to it. If you decide to work with a PR agency, you can limit the work to 3-4 months. In addition, as the company’s general budget may vary due to external factors (drop in revenues, declining recruitment, etc.), the marketing budget will vary too, and that should be taken into account as well.

8 People You Should Follow On Snapchat for Marketing, Growth and Startup Advice

Alison is an Account Executive at J.B. Communications, a marketing and strategy agency based in Los Angeles that specializes in innovative startups and a guest author on NoCMO, online marketing strategies for founders and companies without a CMO. Connect with her @AliDaniel89 or on Snapchat at AliPDaniel. 

It took me a while to finally “get” Snapchat. In fact, it wasn’t until earlier this year when my agency’s founder kept sending me random snaps from Comedy Central’s Discover Channel that I finally Googled, “how to use Snapchat” like an old person so that I could figure out how to appropriately respond to her. Yes, I was part of the 1% of Millennials that wasn’t actively using Shapchat, but thanks to my boss’ love for Key and Peele, her refusal to get cable TV, plus my cousin’s random cat videos, I decided it was finally time to become better acquainted.

What I discovered is that Snapchat is a treasure trove of creepy face swaps and barfing rainbow creatures, but it’s also a place where you can learn a lot from people you wouldn’t typically get to have such a close, intimate connection to.

The Snapchatters I found myself drawn to the most were using the medium to share their life experiences and lessons learned in surprisingly digestible and engaging clips. Once I got the hang of Snapchat’s purposefully-hard-to-get UI, I finally “got” it and understood why there are over 100 Million dailyactive users, a number that is consistently growing, and why it’s so attractive to advertisers, marketers and investors.

The brilliance of Snapchat from a marketing perspective is that it’s designed in such a way that it forces users to pay attention. The videos are so short and ephemeral, people are paying close attention to those valuable seconds and that is pure gold. It also adds a level of intimacy and transparency between you and your followers that other platforms like Facebook and Twitter can’t replicate – though Facebook Live could change this.

As someone who works with startups day in and day out, I knew that I could no long ignore the little white ghost on my phone, leaving it as a strategy for our Snapchatting founder to handle. Snapchat is still in its infancy, believe it or not, so startups, get on top of it now while there’s still so much potential to stand out and amass a following! If you’re new to the platform, I suggest checking out Mark Suster’s Snapchat 101 which provided me with everything I needed to know to get snappin’.

Ok, so all this is great, but now comes the hard part. Who are the best people to follow on Snapchat for marketing and startup advice if you actually want to learn something? Snapchat doesn’t make them easy to find. It’s not like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter where you get suggested users to follow or any sort of search functionality. No, it’s pretty barren once you start. So to help you out, I’m sharing my list of the top users to follow for the best startup and marketing advice. From founders to growth hackers to investors, these are the best people I’ve found so far who dish out their experience straight to you. Am I missing any good ones? Probably! So let me know in the comments.

snapchat accounts for startups

Mark Suster: Msuster

Suster is a 2x entrepreneur, angel investor and investment partner at Upfront Ventures. He’s also a prominent blogger and is one of the names that came up most in my search for Snapchat startup stars. His snaps are mostly delivered via “Snap Storms” and center around practical startup and business advice that he’s learned as both an entrepreneur and investor. Be prepared to take notes and screen shots because he goes over a lot of useful information.

Justin Kan: Justinkan

Kan is a serial entrepreneur, Partner at Y Combinator and has been one of my favorite Snapchatters to watch and learn from. He shares insightful advice for entrepreneurs and anyone aspiring to get into the startup scene. You’ll hear anything from his advice on getting a job at a startup, to marketing, recruiting and employee motivation and retention tips for startups. His snaps are often shot while exercising or interspersed between shots of his alligator friend Klaus and John Hamm the raccoon. Oh, and he loves his hoverboard.

Justin Wu: Hackapreneur

One of my other favorites on Snapchat for his practical advice but down-to-earth attitude. Wu is also a serial entrepreneur, founder of and growth marketing genius who has been around the startup block enough times to share some valuable experiences and learnings. His snaps revolve around growth & lean user acquisition, information architecture, books he recommends and even guest snaps from other growth hackers and marketing guys.

Morgan Brown: MorganB180

Brown is the Growth Oriented COO at Inman with years of experience in early stage marketing and growth expertise. He’s got a very welcoming vibe going on his channel, which I like, and his snaps are full of growth marketing tips, hacks, lessons and also some guest snappers who take over his account from time to time to provide fresh marketing perspectives. If you want to understand how growth works online, he’s a good place to start.

Gary Vaynerchuck: Garyvee 

Vaynerchuck is a seasoned entrepreneur, digital strategist, author and social media guru. His talent? Harnessing the power of social media and the internet to build his personal brand. He eschews traditional media buying for social channels and live streaming platforms like Snapchat, Facebook Live and His snaps are often a bit self-promotional but they’re littered with tips for anyone looking for a leg up in social media marketing and internet stardom.

Nik Sharma: Niksharma69

I actually just started following Sharma the other day after catching his takeover on Justin Wu’s (a.k.a. Hackapreneur) Snapchat. He cut his teeth in social by managing and successfully growing the followings for music celebs like Pitbull. On this takeover, he offered some simple yet effective tips to grow your social following – like taking advantage of live streaming platforms before they get popular, using SnapChat Geo filters, and finding and leveraging other user’s audiences to grow your own – like what he did with Hackapreneur’s Snapchat, which obviously worked on me. Looking forward to his how-to snaps about using Geofilters to grow your audience coming up.

Sujan Patel: Sujanpatel16

Patel is the co-founder of Content Marketer &, tools that help scale and automate social media and content marketing. He’s led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and now he’s on Snapchat to share his expertise with the rest of the world. His snaps consist of solid marketing advice mixed in with his adventures around the world.

Hillel Fuld: Hilzfuld

Fuld is a startup advisor, a tech blogger and contributor to outlets like The Next Web, VentureBeat and Business Insider and he’s the CMO of a startup called Zula. Each week he does a feature called “Snapchatorah” where he relates a message from the Torah to startup life and they’re actually quite interesting, no matter what religion (or lack thereof) that you adhere to.

Here are a few more I just started following and might be worth checking out as well. I haven’t watched enough to give my stamp of approval yet, but they come from good recommendations:

  • Talia Wolf: Taliagw
  • Amy Buechler: jujubeeks
  • Hunter Walk: Hunterwalk
  • Alexis Ohanian: Alexisohanian
  • Cammy Murray: Cammysutra6
  • Filip Novak: Filip.Novak
  • John Dumas: Johnleedumas
  • Sarah Snow: Sarahsnows
  • Chris Kubbernus: ChrisKubby

Do you have a Snapchat account you’d like to share? Comment below!


This post was originally published on

4 Startup Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Moran is a marketing advisor with the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of No CMO, online marketing strategies for founders and companies without a CMO. She is a full-stack marketer, building marketing and business strategies for successful startups. For full bio –, connect with her @moran_barnea.

There are many things on your plate while growing your company. You have a team to manage, a product to develop and deals to close. You may or may not have already hired a marketing manager, but you know marketing is crucial for your company’s growth.

You also want to make sure you don’t throw away valuable marketing money.

Making mistakes is normal and as Joseph Conrad said, “it’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes.” Working with entrepreneurs and startups, I’ve learned you can’t avoid all mistakes. But you can avoid some.

Here are the top 4 growth-stage startup marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You don’t have a fixed marketing budget – Just like your general budget planning, you should work with a detailed marketing plan. Creating such a plan makes it easier to understand where your marketing money is going and when. For example, if you’re looking to launch your blog mid-year, your marketing plan should take into consideration the time and budget needed to build the blog and create the initial content. Growing your company and showing growth in your forecasts is nice and all but it has to be backed with a growing marketing budget. SEO work is another example for a marketing initiative that spans through a period of time and needs allocation of funds throughout the budget timeframe (there’s no such a thing as an “SEO campaign”). Setting a fixed marketing budget can be ok for the first couple of months, but if you want to grow, you need to take into consideration a growing budget.   

2. You don’t keep track of the competition – Some startups mistakenly operate thinking that they don’t have competitors. Even if you don’t have direct ones, it’s crucial to look at the nearest ones. Being an entrepreneur, it’s impossible to operate in a bubble (on a side note – telling potential investors you don’t have competitors is probably in their top 3 things they hate to hear). Knowing who your competitors are and following their work can help your business and marketing strategies as well. By signing up to your competitors’ newsletters, and using alert tools such as Mention or IFTTT, you can stay on top of what’s going on in your field.

3. Your tracking tools are not in place – Having tracking tools, such as Google Analytics in place is crucial, as otherwise you’ll be operating like a blind person. Google Analytics is the most popular tracking tool, 100% free, well-known, and reliable. If you don’t like using Google for tracking, there are other tools such as Piwik or Clicky that are just as good (and free) as well, or for both a web and mobile presence, Mixpanel. If you haven’t done so already, set your tracking and make sure that you know how to create goals, funnels and read reports. Having the majority of your traffic marked as “unknown” in Analytics is terrible as you’re spending money on marketing but cannot calculate the ROI. If you are unsure of how to set analytics and connect them correctly yourself, hire a freelancer to do this small project for you.

4. You’re not where your audience is – If your product is an innovative baby sensor that is sold directly to customers on your site, a LinkedIn campaign may not be the best use of your marketing money. Plan your marketing according to where your audience is. If you are a B2B cyber startup and your target audience are CIOs and CISOs of large enterprises, meet them in industry events, publish in blogs and newspapers they read, and re-target them on LinkedIn. If your product on the other hand targets millennials, you have to be very active on social media and mostly these days, Snapchat.

6 Signs You Shouldn’t Have Your Own Startup

Who hasn’t told themselves at least once (or twice) – “I’ve got a great idea and it’ll be worth millions…It’s time to launch my startup.”
That’s good and all, but launching a startup takes far more than a solid idea and a lofty goal. The hard truth is that some people probably shouldn’t become founders.

With every dream comes a reality. It’s not for the faint of heart, and while a healthy dose of delusion will get you through the excruciating pain of your first years as an entrepreneur, you do owe it to yourself to really understand what you’re about to get into. We hear the great success stories and watch the whirlwind humor of Silicon Valley on TV, but rarely talk about the failures.

The statistics alone are revealing. The most recent reveals that  about 9 out of 10 startups fail, and that’s a generous calculation (“not fail” has a broad meaning and can be interpreted in many ways. It doesn’t mean that the 1 out of 10 startups had successful exits or IPOs).Sure, there may be incredible moments of success and accomplishment, but for most, the reality of success is slim to none. Becoming an entrepreneur and launching your own startup takes nerve.

I’d go so far as to say it also requires a certain character and attitude, something that goes as deep as your DNA. If you don’t have it, the dream will quickly be shattered.

Here are 6 things to be cautious of when you first go all-in:

1. You’re perpetually stressed out –  Some people are calm by nature and some are stressed out all the time. Yes, being a successful entrepreneur means you have to be alert and sharp, but it doesn’t mean a constant sense of tension. Planning and launching your startup entails many stressful situations but to be an accomplished entrepreneur, you need to know how to control it. Making decisions and functioning under constant pressure will cause you to make mistakes and eventually fail. The stakes only get higher when you’re tasked with easing a team. Your first 10 employees will develop and carry your company culture to your next 100, and if that culture is riddled with anxiety and worry about the unknown, you simply won’t make it. That kind of mentality creates a toxic work environment, and the only time your team will feel relief is when you take a sick day.



2. You’re indecisive – Making decisions and taking risks on an hourly basis are what startups are all about. You need to be strong with your decisions or risk going into a tailspin.. Successful entrepreneurs know to make decisions quickly, and also stand behind those decisions. We’re not talking about being stubborn and not or refusing to be flexible in changing conditions. Rather, when you’re are unable to make a decision, whether it’s about who to hire or what your product roadmap should look like, you’re letting your self-doubt take over.


3. You have awful budget and forecast planning skills 
You don’t plan your budget right and it seems like you’re always down to your last three months. This could be an extra stressful situation when you have to pay suppliers or employees. A good entrepreneur thinks long-term and also knows to strike the iron while it’s hot. Investors are looking first and foremost at growth and growth opportunities. If you had a period of terrific growth in your startup that’s recently slowed down, it may be too late to get new funding.



4. You spend too much money on useless advisors – You don’t have time to hire staff for all the positions you wish you could fill, so you retain advisors for one-time projects. The devotion and dedication of an advisor is not like the devotion of an employee, and that sometimes makes all the difference. You may also be under the false impression that it saves you money (but it actually doesn’t). A good advisor is costly, and usually not less than what a good hiree would take. A bad advisor will help you with nothing, and happily cash your check all the same.



5. Your interpersonal skills suck – overall, you are not the nicest person. You also like to gossip and talk behind people’s back. Unfortunately, that didn’t change when you launched your own company and hired employees. It’s also extremely difficult for you to say something nice, let alone compliment someone on a job well done and overall, be appreciative of others.



6. You’re not a role model – Your employees and peers don’t look up to you and you expect of them to perform a certain way and do certain things that you are not doing yourself. As an entrepreneur, any person that first meets you will label you a leader and you will immediately sense their respect. But, this leader reputation can fade fast when you are not acting on it. It can start by coming to the office at noon and leaving at 4 to just not caring at staff meetings. Remember that you are at the top of the pyramid, and everyone is noticing you. If you don’t deliver leadership, you will not be perceived as one.



Originally published on Tech In Asia

How To Grow Your Startup With No Budget

Moran is an advisor in the Techstars accelerator in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of MarketingRamen.

As an entrepreneur, you master a wide range of skills: you are resilient, passionate, a leader, and always focused on your company’s success. The vast majority of entrepreneurs also come from a technical background, and the core team they build around them is often comprised of people with similar skills. 

This may often lead to the startup’s marketing efforts being kept on the back burner in the initial stages of the company, and later being outsourced; however, marketing is a crucial aspect of a company and should be treated as such from the start. It defines the positioning of your company in the market, your brand, and the packaging of the product you’re selling. 

The role of CMO has grown dramatically over the past several years as the function of marketing evolved. Marketing is not about just selling the product; it’s about engaging customers and driving growth. Marketers are no longer simply the broadcasters of communications, but rather, they’ve become much more involved in the customer’s journey with the product and the company.

A good CMO needs to be equal parts creative and analytical, thinking outside the box and having a deep understanding of the full picture in terms of what’s going on in the market and within the company. As not all startups can afford to hire a seasoned CMO or even have a marketing budget to begin with, you as an entrepreneur should know that you can grow your startup under a small or even non-existent budget and be your own CMO. Combining your entrepreneurial skills and passion with the right guidance and tools is key to avoiding mistakes and burning a lot of money on ineffective marketing.

During my work with startups and entrepreneurs, I was sometimes amazed at how important decisions like company name, branding, website and the like were made with a seemingly devil-may-care attitude. Entrepreneurs would often latch onto their latest whims and get carried away with them, without considering crucial elements like target audience and fit.

One of the most important things in marketing is planning and strategizing. Instead of diving directly into media buying and testing various channels, think first of your goals. Who your potential clients are, where they are located, and even which devices they are likely to use when visiting your site or trying your product are all important pieces of information you need to have. Understanding who you are selling to and what you are selling does not necessarily require a marketing budget. 

Here are 4 things you can do right now to grow your startup without a CMO or budget:

1. Use existing free resources to spread the word about your startup: There are some high-quality blogs and forums with a large and relevant audience that can be your content distributor and promote your startup. Popular blogs like ProductHuntBetalist and are ones that are being visited often by potential customers, tech industry members (including possible future investors or employees) and reporters. Promoting the launch of your startup in one of these blogs can generate massive traffic to your site and even spark interest in tech reporters who can later on cover your startup in large tech news outlets.

2. Reach out to bloggers and reporters yourself: Having a small or zero dollar marketing budget probably means you won’t be able to afford a good PR agency. Don’t be tempted to work with cheap agencies that can’t deliver (for reference, good PR agencies in the U.S charge somewhere between $5K-$10K/month), but rather do the outreach yourself. Whenever you are ready to spread the word about your company, prepare a pitch or a press release and send it to reporters who you know cover your field. Like anything in marketing, the best results are the targeted ones. Most media outlets publish their reporters’ emails, and there are some great templates you can use to draft a release. Before sending, do your homework on what a reporter is interested in. Influential reporters and bloggers receive hundreds of pitches a day, so the major part of your work is to plan and create a great pitch. To make sure it’s appealing and interesting, run it by your friends first to solicit feedback.

pr for startups

3. Use your personal network: Not all marketing and growth has to do with SEO, conferences and buying media. Your personal network is valuable and can lead to even more valuable second and third degree connections. Maintaining a strong personal network is important for any entrepreneur, as it can be tapped into from the brainstorming stage – advising with friends on aspects of the product, name, etc. – all the way through to the launch stage and future partnerships.

startup network

4. Use A/B testing methods to increase conversion: A/B testing is something that can really help you grow, without investing a lot of money. By using tools such as Optimizely and Unbounce, you can maximize the potential of users who are already visiting your site. A/B testing can be tricky if not done right, as you don’t want to be overwhelmed by numerous variables. Simplify the tests, and each time, check one variable or two. You will be surprised how a small change in the color of a button or the size of your header image can boost your conversion rate, sometimes by 20%-30% or even more.


Originally published on TheNextWeb.

Announcing our First Pre-Startup Weekend Workshop on April 22!

We’re excited to announce the first in a series of pre-Startup Weekend workshops designed to help you gain an edge on developing a company in just 54-hours! Our first workshop is Mobile Apps — From Idea to Execution to Explosion on Wednesday, April 22 from 8:45-11:30 a.m. This isn’t instruction on how to code an app but rather expert guidance on fleshing out your app idea and then succeeding in the marketing of it. The app economy is a complex beast, and it takes careful planning from idea to execution to make your app explode into the market. Our presenters, leading app experts Aaron Watkins (President, Appency) and Rich Foreman (CEO, Apptology), will show you tips, tactics and tricks that will help you succeed in the world of mobile.

And now for the sweet part! If you’ve already registered to attend Startup Weekend May 15-17 you can attend this workshop for free!* Not sure you’re ready to commit yet? We’ve got a deal for you too — just use promo code “swsac” and you can attend for the admission price of just $9 (regularly $40). Admission includes validation for 4 hours of parking and a continental breakfast. This is a fantastic opportunity whether or not you already have an idea for an app. We hope you can join us!

Visit the Workshop Page for all the event details and to register!

*Look for the discount code for free admission to this workshop on your registration confirmation or email us for the information.

#SWDub Mentor Series: Nailing Your Target Market

Shane Murphy is Marketing Director EMEA at AdRoll and has worked for over 10 years taking new products and services to market and growing them for brands like Orange and PaddyPower. He is passionate about helping people build and grow their businesses.

On this third edition of the #SWDub Mentor Series, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, Shane really digs in on how to go about nailing a target market.

Too often people immediately rush into executing the first idea they have before truly refining it and ensuring that the concept is set up for success. You must take your core product or service and define a fully fledged value proposition around it. You need to know how to position it, how to price it, what brand tone of voice to use, all these other elements that take a concept and bring it to life for a target market. Almost every single successful company does not have a unique product, they have a unique customer proposition.

The absolute most critical step in building out your full value proposition is defining your target market. From this, all other things will flow.

Ryanair didn’t win because they are an airline, they won because they clearly understood their target customer, defined a “Low cost and on time” value proposition to target that market, and then executed that value proposition in all their customer touchpoints. Similarly the Nintendo Wii didn’t win when it launched because it was the best console. In fact, on traditional metrics such as processing power it was the worst, but it won by going after a different market segment (families rather than gamers) and then executing the value proposition in everything they did from pricing, graphic design, distribution and marketing.

So how do you define your target market? Let’s dig in!


Defining your target market

Step 1: Use customer segmentation techniques to build a picture of your market

Many of you will have heard about “customer segmentation” before, this is the art of cutting a market up into “segments” and articulating which one you are going after. There are a number of different types of segmentation all of which have their merits. In order to define your target market I would suggest you have a bash at trying to define your customer across all three main segmentation types:

  1. Demographic: what age are they? What sex? Typical job they have? Income level? Where do they live?
  2. Attitudinal: what are their political beliefs? What do they care about in life? What are their attitudes towards your product area? What motivates them?
  3. Behavioural: what behaviours do they display when using your product type? How often do they use your product type? When do they use it? Do they snack on it or binge?

You should take creative licence with making as many assumptions as you like. If you had a massive budget you would commission research to figure this stuff out but for the average startup even just using your own intuition will force you to think much more clearly about your target market than most people do.


Step 2: Write your ‘Pen Portrait’

Writing a Pen Portrait brings everything you know about your target customer into one place and tries to describe the bullseye customer using the Demographic, behavioral and attitudinal information you mapped out in step 1.

Some Questions to ask yourself before writing yours:
1. What’s their name, age, education, sex, job?
2. What are their motivations in life?
3. What makes them happy?
4. What are their fears?
5. What are their political beliefs?
6. What media do they consume?
7. What other brands do they love?

Now try to articulate exactly who your target customer is and write your ‘Pen Portrait’. Write it in the first person. Give them a name. Describe them like you were telling a story about them. Below is an example of one done by Yves Saint Laurent. Notice how incredibly specific it is. You might be worried that if you are that specific about your market you will not be mass market enough. Don’t worry about that. If you hit the bullseye customer you will bleed into a much wider segment than you originally defined. If you don’t define the bullseye you will just fade into irrelevance.

“My name is Elizabeth Duke and I am 29 years old. I currently work as the PR manager for a top London Public Relations Firm.

I have a keen interest in Fashion, and i like to do a ‘season’ shop, once every 3 months. I buy Investment pieces; items that i feel with withstand new trends and offer a classic and simplistic feel. I like to shop in Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci for the more timeless items, but i also shop at Stella McCartney, especially in the summer months, for the fresh and feminine style of the brand.

I currently live in Chelsea, London in a penthouse apartment with my husband, an Investment Banker. We like to visit our country house in the Cotswolds and also enjoy regular visits to our holiday villa in St. Tropez, France.

My interests include Gastronomy and fine wines, Fashion, as previously mentioned, traveling and experiencing new cultures as well as luxury spa retreats. I like to indulge myself with regular treats, and i take great pride in my appearance. In terms of my dislikes, I am not a ‘bargain hunter’, i have little interest in ‘Fashionable but cheap’ items, and I despise high street retailers who create replicas of the designer brands.

I read Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Tatler; the lower market gossip magazines such as Heat, Closer or More are of no appeal to me. The lives of celebrities should be private and not advertised as a public spectacle.

As far as my career is concerned, work comes first and a family comes later at this present point. I love the fast paced, dynamic and ever changing variety of my industry, and I constantly thrive for more”

Great so now you’ve defined your target market. The next step is to define clearly your value proposition.


Defining your Value proposition

A Value Proposition is a statement which outlines how your product or service adds value over and above similar offerings to your defined target customer.

It is a critical statement of intent to outline this value proposition as it forms the basis for how you position your marketing. By defining this you are outlining who you are targeting and why they should care. This then should feed into every element of your marketing.

As mentioned, maintaining proposition consistency is one of the key factors to long term success. Look at companies like Ryanair and Apple, two companies with polar opposite propositions, Low Cost in Ryanair’s case and Product Quality and Simplicity in Apple’s case. They unflinchingly stay loyal to their core propositions and this can be seen in every part of their marketing mix from their communications to their pricing. They have completely different strategies but have achieved long term success by doggedly sticking to their core proposition.

The first step in defining your Value Proposition is to map out your positioning on Bowman’s Strategy Clock. This is a tool used to ensure that you are competing in an effective strategic positioning. Companies who fail often do so as they fail to have a differentiated strategy. Give it a go yourself and make sure you are clear where you sit on the clock.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 17.32.24.png


Position 1: Low Price/Low Value

This is a very clear but not very often used strategy. It involves providing an unapologetically lower quality product / service but for a very low price. When Aldi and Lidl launched this is the positioning they adopted to good effect.

Position 2: Low Price

This strategy usually requires high volume in order to use economies of scale to drive down costs and allow for a profitable low price strategy. If you are going to compete here you will want to be ready for a price war as the likely competitive response is to drop prices. If you are a startup it’s highly unlikely you have higher margins than bigger incumbents and so this strategy can be risky and difficult to scale.

Position 3: Hybrid (moderate price/moderate differentiation)

Companies who compete here offer a low price but for reasonably high quality service. This can be a risky strategy as you can easily send out mixed messages. Also as a startup it’s a difficult strategy to maintain as it again usually requires a higher than average margin to sustain the low prices. It’s unlikely as a startup you are operating at this higher margin. A good example of a company operating here would be Aer Lingus who have started to compete on price with Ryanair while still promoting a quality service message. Aer Lingus have however struggled with this as they neither win on price nor on service.

Position 4: Differentiation

This strategy offers products or services of a high perceived value. Often this means that a higher price is therefore required in order to ensure quality is profitably achieved. Branding and quality in every customer touch point is critical to achieve this. Even if you are selling a physical product customers expect a high level of service from companies operating here so ensure that you have invested appropriately in your customer care and other touch points like your retail presence. Apple is a good example of a company who operate effectively with this strategy. High quality mass market products. This quality can be seen in their unique retail experience.

Position 5: Focused Differentiation

This position on the clock is reserved for the high quality goods which come with high prices. Designer labels such as Hugo Boss or Ferrari are great examples of this. This position can lead to high margins but requires absolute focus on quality in every customer touchpoint. The packaging of a perfume is almost more important than the smell itself.

Positions 6, 7 & 8:

As a startup you should not attempt one of these strategies. You will fail. That is all.


The Value Proposition Statement

OK, so now you know generally how you want to position yourself and your target customer, you’re now ready to write your proposition statement. Essentially a proposition statement outlines what you are going to offer, to whom, and what makes you better than the competition. Below is a simple template you can use to make sure it’s to the point.

Proposition Template:
1.For “insert target customer”
2.Who “insert statement of need or opportunity”
3.Our (product / service) is: “insert product description”
4.That: “insert statement of benefit”
5.Unlike: “insert competitors”
6.We: “insert statement of differentiation”

Example proposition statement for fictional online estate agent:

For internet savvy, cost conscious people who want to let or sell their property, The Good Agent is an online estate agent that provides a low cost, flexible solution that gives the customer complete control of the letting and selling process.

Unlike traditional estate agents like Sherry Fitzgerald, we do not charge high commission rates for an inflexible service. We charge one low fee  and only charge for the services the customer uses. If they want to do their own viewings.. they save. If they want to provide their own photos… they save. If they want to handle negotiations themselves… they save. We offer the first truly customer focused  estate agent service.

Shane will be around mentoring and coaching teams at the Startup Weekend Dublin. Do share and stay tuned for the next post in the #SWDub Mentor Series courtesy of our sponsor, Bank of Ireland.