Tag Archives: DigitalMarketing

Online Marketing Strategies For Every Entrepreneur

Online Marketing Strategies

                           For Every Entrepreneur

The internet has radically transformed how we build and promote businesses: We have access to far more resources and far more potential than ever before. So, why do so many entrepreneurs end up neglecting these fruitful opportunities by forgoing marketing, or delaying it as an unnecessary expenditure?

What is Skinny Coffee?

 

 

What is Skinny Coffee?

Valentus Slim Roast Coffee Review:

Can Slim Roast Healthy Coffee Help with Weight Loss?

What is Skinny Coffee?  Valentus Slim Roast Coffee Review: Can Slim Roast Healthy Coffee Help with Weight Loss?

There's two really big things to note with the Slim Roast 'Skinny Coffee';  weight loss seems to continue to be a struggle for so many people around the world, and almost everyone loves coffee!

So if nothing else, bringing these two together is literally just Brilliant!

One of my favorite things about waking up in the morning is to enjoy a delicious cup of hot coffee… is there anything better than that first sip?

What if that same habit that so many of us have would also help to set us up for a day of natural fat burning and weight loss?

Well, how does it work?

 

What is Valentus Slim Roast Coffee and How does it work?  My official Skinny Coffee Slim Roast Review:

 

According to the Valentus website,  Slim Roast is 'formulated with natural appetite suppressants, feel good ingredients and detox components SlimROAST is a great addition to your weight management program. Not only will you find managing your weight with SlimROAST will produce exciting results, but you will love the taste of this delicious Italian dark roast coffee.

  • Controls appetite
  • Regulates sugar absorption
  • Regulates fat absorption
  • Promotes brain health and focus
  • Elevates mood
  • Antioxidant
 
Valentus Slim Roast skinny coffee has a number of key ingredients which help the body to naturally  and safely burn more fat and lose weight combined with exercise and a healthy diet (I would never recommend anyone just assume a product alone is all they need to help them, I truly believe it should be an enhancement to an already healthy lifestyle that just needs a little boost!)
 
SlimRoast Ingredients Benefits:
Valentus is excited to announce the launch of our newest product innovation to join our Prevail© line of functional beverages, our ever popular SlimROAST Weight Loss Coffee. A new favorite among coffee drinkers, Valentus’ Italian Dark Roast Coffee is infused with functional ingredients that make up our proprietary formula that tastes amazing!
Garcinia Cambogia:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An incredibly efficient fat burning ingredient, Garcinia Cambogia has received much media attention for it’s effect on weight loss and food consumption control. This pure ingredient is 100% natural; it is sometimes referred to as Tamarind, and it grows primarily in the lush green mountains of India, southeast Asia as well as in Central Africa. Its primary ingredient is the dietary super supplement known as HCA, which is proven in scientific studies to stop hunger in its tracks. The tamarind fruit has traditionally been used in soups as appetizers before meals, because of the smaller portion sizes due to limited amount of food. It’s appetite suppression qualities helped make villagers feel more full (satiety) and the fruit would increase the workers’ fat burning skills (thermogenesis) providing an increase in energy and productivity.
Ginseng 100:1 Extract:
Most young people these days are beginning to look and feel older, in some cases even hitting puberty far earlier than was the norm even one generation earlier. Ginseng is known to combat the free radicals that give the human skin mantle that look of premature aging. Valentus’ pure 100:1 extract works extremely well when combined with our other proprietary ingredients. This root is an immune system balancing, super supplement that should be admired by all.
L-Carnitine & Chromium:
This amino acid and mineral’s main function is to help insulin carry sugar into muscle cells where it is stored as energy. A lack of chromium could cause fluctuating blood-sugar levels which trigger sugar cravings. As a carbohydrate dependent society, increasing the amount of L-Carnitine & Chromium in our diet in our formula’s proportions will assist the body’s ability to manage its carbohydrate cravings and, in turn, assist with a successful weight management protocol.
Phaseolamin:
This ingredient combines with an enzyme in the body called alpha-amylase – which is involved in the digestion of starch – and helps to temporarily block its activities. Alpha-amylase is secreted in saliva and is produced in the pancreas, and is responsible for breaking down starch into simple sugars, which can then be absorbed in the small intestine. Blocking this digestive enzyme prevents the digestion of carbohydrates, which means they are able to pass largely undigested through the gastrointestinal tract. The end result is a decrease in the number of calories absorbed, thereby helping to promote weight loss.
Cassiolamine:
This multi-flavonoid compound helps in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and in the reduction of high blood pressure. Cassiolamine is an ingredient in Slim Roast that helps to maintain healthy blood vessels by reducing the adhesion (stickiness) of blood platelets, which promotes healthy blood flow. Our pure ingredient formula also serves as an anti-oxidant, which helps to maintain a healthy heart and improved immune system. What this natural legume based extract is mostly known for is its powerful lipase-inhibiting features, which results in the prevention of fat absorption and an effective carbohydrate blocker.
Green Tea 100:1 Extract:
Green tea contains 2% to 4% caffeine, which affects thinking and alertness, increases urine output, and may improve the function of brain messengers. Caffeine is thought to stimulate the nervous system, heart, and muscles by increasing the release of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Antioxidants and other substances in green tea have been shown in studies to help protect the heart and blood vessels additionally.
Chlorogenic Acid:
This is the main active ingredient in Green Coffee Bean, it is a powerful thermogenic fat burner. It holds promise in many aspects of health and cognition similar to bioflavonoids and shares some effects similar to caffeine, but less potent. Studies show that Chlorogenic Acid may also decrease the absorption of dietary carbohydrate, as well as provide anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Dark Italian Roast Arabica Coffee:
It is also known as the "coffee shrub of Arabia", "mountain coffee" or "Arabica coffee". Arabica coffee is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated. The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the mid-15th century, in the Sufi Muslim monasteries around Mocha in Yemen. Arabica coffee production in Indonesia began in 1699.
High-quality Arabica is beautifully fragrant, sweet and round, with a slight and pleasant acidity, with just a mild hint of bitterness.
So, can Slim Roast really help with weight loss?  
Would you like a cup of Slim Roast?
SO many people are sharing results and are so excited about how they look at feel by adding this to their diet and lifestyle!  Click here to read Valentus Slim Roast testimonials.
Next, learn more by experiencing the Valentus Slim Roast for yourself…take a free tour here and Experience the Valentus difference with their unique product line and referral plan when you share your excitement with others!
Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Valentus Review – Legit MLM Business or Scam?

Valentus Review – Legit MLM Business or Scam?

 

Welcome to my Valentus Review!

 

A lot of people asked me to do a review on this company so I decided to do one.
You may be on this blog post because someone pitched you on the business opportunity or maybe asked you to try their product.

Am I right?

I have been there many times so, in this blog post, I am going to walk you through the company, the products, and compensation plan so you can make the right decision.
I am at the end of the blog post going to reveal some shocking truth that can actually lead you to failure…
So pay attention to this review and read it all the way to the end…
It could be the difference between success and failure…
First, let’s see what the company is all about…

Valentus Review – The MLM Company

Website:  www.valentus.com

Valentus MLM is the brainchild of Dave Jordan who happens to be the founder and CEO.

The company was in pre-launch until September 1st, 2014 and then officially launched just after that date.

After doing some investigation on Dave Jordan, it looks like he is very experienced in this field and has been very successful.

Which is a great sign because the wrong leadership can destroy a company…

But it looks like he checks out good :)

One word of advice, stay away from companies that don’t fully disclose their leadership when you are doing any kind of research on a company.

Alright, now let’s take a look at their products…

Valentus Reviews – The Products

Valentus had 4 products as of September of 2015, they could always add more later on.
All of the products are in powder form so you can pour it in a glass, add some water and stir.

Here are the four products:

Prevail Energy – This is an energy drink and apparently all natural.

Prevail Immune – This has anti-oxidants and vitamins that support the immune system.

Prevail Trim – This is a weight loss drink

Slim Roast – This is a weight loss healthy coffee

I was trying to find product prices, but it’s next to impossible unless you know a distributor.
All companies should at least disclose the retail prices…
When I was looking for some Valentus product reviews, I noticed 99% of them were done by
distributors so It’s hard to gauge if the products are any good…

Alright, next let’s take a look at the compensation plan…

Valentus – The Compensation Plan

In the Valentus compensation plan, you can get paid in 4 ways.

1) Fast Start Bonus (Up to $100)

2) Retail Commissions (25%)

3) Binary Commissions (Up to $100,000 per Week)

4) Matching Binary Commissions (7 Generations Starting at 25%)

5) 1% Global Volume Shared Enrollment Pool

6)  Car Bonus ($400-$3000 per month)

7) Legacy Coded Bonus ($100 unblocked to unlimited levels)

Below, I actually posted some videos of the compensation plan done by Dave Jordan. Now
before you watch them I want to let you know that I do NOT endorse these videos, it’s for
education purposes only.

Fast Start Bonus:

Dual Team Commissions (Binary)

Duel Team Check Match (Matching Binary Commissions)

Legacy Coded Bonus

Valentus Review – The Verdict

Overall, the company is far from a scam and is a legit MLM company which is a great sign.
That’s because the leadership behind the company is very strong…
Like I told you earlier, the leadership can make or break a company.

Now if you were paying attention I told you in the beginning that there is something in this
company that can lead you to failure right?

I am going to be straight up here…

You are NOT going to make much money selling the actual product…

They say you make 25% commissions on retail, but the truth is you have to sell $10,000
worth of product in a week to make a decent paycheck…

The BIG money is in recruiting….
That is where 98% of the people will fail…
I am just sharing the truth from being in the industry for a few years now.
Now I am not bashing Valentus in any way like I said it’s a great company, but it’s just not newbie friendly…
You will have to know how to recruit very well to make good money in this business and THAT is the truth.
Also, if you look on eBay, you can see how cheap Valentus products are going for…
They are going for a major loss because not many people know how to sell…

So what’s the solution to all of this madness?

The only solution is a business model that doesn’t require recruiting…
Where the actual product/training makes your money without you actually selling it…
So after reviewing hundreds of companies, I finally found one that actually fits in that category…

Click Here and See What I Mean.

– No Blogging

– No Recruiting

– No Marketing

– No Cold calling

– No Selling

And you don’t need any technical skills either…

All you have to do is get started, follow the training and take action…

It’s COMPLETELY newbie friendly and the fact it doesn’t require recruiting means it will be easier
for you to actually profit…

Heck, I have people profit their first day…

Imagine that?

You get started and you make more money than you invested in the first day?

That is TOTALLY possible here.

Click here and Watch This Video.

And if you are in Valentus, this will actually work hand to hand…

Why?

It will actually show you how you can move those products online without selling them below cost…

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

How to Build an Inbound Marketing Strategy in 24 Hours

      How to Build an Inbound Marketing

 

                                           Strategy in 24 Hours

 

"I'm active on social media."

"I'm blogging regularly."

"I'm using SEO best practices."

"I feel like I'm doing everything right, but I'm not seeing results."

Do any of these statements sound familiar? A lot of marketers and CEOs we talk to feel like they are doing all the right things.  But, they aren't achieving their goals. A recent survey from DM News confirms this is common. 46% of the executives surveyed, stated that a "lack of an effective strategy" was the biggest obstacle in achieving their inbound marketing goals. So why is everyone struggling? I'm not quite sure as to WHY, but in this article, I'll show you HOW you can overcome this obstacle…and overcome it in the next 24 hours.  Let's roll!

What is Strategy?

First, let's identify what strategy actually is. It really doesn't have to be that complicated. A strategy is simply a plan of action designed to achieve an expected goal.  So, we need a goal to get started. For the purpose of this article, let's say that our goal is to generate 50 qualified leads per month for the sales team.

A worthy goal.

Now, we need a plan of action that will get us there.

Note: You may have a different inbound marketing goal, so just apply this same framework in order to backtrack from your goal to an activity plan.

Identify Audience

If we're going to generate 50 qualified leads per month for the sales team, we need to define a "quality lead". Let's pretend we're a software company that provides project management software for contractors like roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc.  The sales team says that if they can get a Demo Request, they consider that a quality lead. 

Okay, so now we've got an audience and we know what a quality lead is.  We're getting closer to being able to build our plan of action.

Action Steps for Identifying Your Audience:

  1. Nail down your target market. Target Market Example: Contractors located in the United States that are doing between $500,000 and $20M in revenue annually. 
  2. Talk to the sales team and establish what a quality lead is. In this case, we know we need 50 Demo Requests each month.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. Honestly, this should be something you already know (your target market).  But give yourself an hour to talk to a few people inside your company, read through your messaging, and establish who you're really after.
  2. Give yourself another hour to talk to a few sales reps or the sales manager at your company. Or potentially, you're talking to the owner or president.  Make sure you find out exactly what will be considered a quality lead.

Identify Where Your Audience Lives Online

Once we know who our audience is and what our goal is, we need to locate our audience.  Where are they online?  You'll want to look at social media, blogs, websites, and forums.  Make a big list!  Here's what I might do if I were looking for contractors. 

First, I'd dive into social media. I know LinkedIn is better for B2B, so I head there first.  There are tons of various groups, so I started looking for groups full of my audience. A quick search for "roofers" brings up 38 different groups.

 

I will continue my search for "HVAC", "plumbers", and "electricians".  After spending some time gathering a list, hopefully I've identified at least 25 solid groups that have my target audience. 

Next, I'll explore other social media options to see if there is anything industry specific.  After spending some time on Google, I run across Houzz, a social network for contractors, builders and remodelers.

Still further, I'll spend some time on Google again looking for blogs, forums and other websites where I might find my audience.

At the end of this research process, you should easily have 50-100 websites (forums, blogs and other websites), groups (on LinkedIn or Facebook) and communities (on Google+) on your list. Now, we're getting somewhere! We're narrowing down the Web and locating the corners in which we want to spend our time and effort.

Action Steps for Finding Your Audience:

  1. Spend time looking at social media, websites, blogs and forums for your target audience.
  2. Create a master list with links to these places.

Time Estimate: 4 hours

  1. Don't shortchange yourself here.  Put in the time to locate your audience.  This step will serve you well for many inbound campaigns into the future, so spend about four hours doing your research.
  2. Create the list as you go along.

Identify Pains, Problems, Questions

Ok, just to re-cap.  We now know:

  • Our goal
  • Who we're targeting
  • Where they live online

Now, it's time to dig for pain. As you're doing your research and visiting groups, websites and blogs with your audience, start listening. What does that mean, really? How do you listen? What are you listening for?

What you want to do is listen to the problems that your audience is expressing. You want to write down the questions they are asking.  Write down the things they are complaining about. You want to be able to speak their language.

You'll start to see different discussion questions, comments on blogs, or frustrations. Here are a few sample discussion topics I pulled from a LinkedIn Group full of roofers.

Obviously, you want to identify challenges and pains around the product or service you offer, but sometimes you can get some really powerful insight just by writing down any common questions or problems. You'll start to see some trends.

As you'll see in the next section, we want to use these questions, pains and problems in our content and messaging.

Action Steps for Identifying Pains, Problems and Questions:

  1. Go to 10-20 places on your master list and start copying and pasting your audience's discussions and questions.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. This should take you about 2 hours, but don't be afraid to spend 3 or 4 if you feel you're not seeing any trends.

Create a Content Calendar

Alright, now we're ready to create a content calendar. Most people want to rush into this step because it feels like you're accomplishing something. However, this step won't be worth much if you haven't dedicated the time to your research.

There are articles that walk through this step in much more detail, so I'm not going to do that.  This will be a high level overview.

Basically, now that we've got a sense for what our audience is dealing with, we can brainstorm some effective blog titles, maybe some webinar topics and definitely some e-book ideas. If we think back to our goal of 50 qualified leads per month, you might be asking, "How many blog articles should I be writing?" or "How many lead generation offers, like e-books, do I need?"

You can make an educated guess, but this is always the unknown with strategy. (Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty)  You make the best plan of action you can to achieve your goal, but you'll need to adjust your plan over time depending on how close you are getting to that goal.

Based on my experience, without knowing how much traffic this hypothetical website is getting or how many leads it's currently generating, you'll want to be creating 2-3 blog posts per week. You'll also want to have at least two or three e-books that you can leverage to capture leads.

In addition to the e-books, you'll want to create email nurturing campaigns that will move leads down the funnel towards the goal step of a Demo Request.  For a quick and effective guide to lead nurturing, check out this document here.  It will walk you through the steps of taking an e-book lead and moving it towards a goal like a Demo Request.

Action Steps for Content Calendar:

  1. Brainstorm blog topics, e-book and/or webinar topics.
  2. Map out how many blog articles you'll need to create each week.
  3. Plan your e-book creation.
  4. Plan your lead nurturing sequences.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. Spend 1 hour brainstorming topics and titles.
  2. 15 minutes for mapping out your blog calendar.
  3. 20 minutes for planning out your e-books.
  4. 20 minutes mapping out your lead nurturing sequences.

Create a Promotions Plan

Your promotions plan is just as important, if not more important that your content plan and calendar.  Most marketers feel like once they hit "publish", it's time to start working on the next piece.  Not true!  Once you hit publish, it's time to go to work promoting that article. 

You spent time writing it, editing it, finding an amazing photo and placing a relevant call to action.  Now, it's time to zero in on our audience and share that content with them. This is how we'll drive people back to our content, they'll click on our e-books, receive our emails and ultimately sign up for that demo!

Creating your promotional plan will be much easier now that you've got a master list of where your audience lives. You'll be able to share your blog articles as discussions in exactly the right LinkedIn Groups.

You'll be able to comment on other websites and blogs and reference your content in a super relevant fashion because you know exactly what your audiences challenges and pains are. You'll be able to craft blog titles that are irresistible to your audience because you studied their problems and pains.

Your promotions plan should basically be the time you spend promoting your article to all the places on your master list. It might look something like this:

Blog Title: 5 Project Management Struggles Roofers Face…and How to Solve Them

Promotion:

  • Create a discussion in all 20 LinkedIn Groups and frame it with the question "What is your biggest project management challenge right now?"
  • Share article on Twitter using the hashtags #projectmanagement #roofers #contractors #HVAC #plumbers. Rotate hashtags. Schedule 10-20 Tweets over the next 30 days.
  • Jump into a couple of forums and find the discussions around project management.  Add value to the discussion and add a link to the blog post as a reference point.
  • Find individual contractors on Houzz or other websites and send a personal email with a link to the article.
  • Send out an email to all current leads in the database and share the article.

So, your promotions plan will have some activity that you'll do every time you create a blog post.  Then, for specific topics, you may have additional activities you'll want to add that make sense based on the topic.

Action Steps for Content Calendar:

  1. Write out all the possible promotional activities you might have for a specific blog post.   Each time you publish, go to that list and execute as many as possible!

Time Estimate: 1 hour

  1. Spend an hour brainstorming all the ways you could promote a blog post, e-book or piece of content.

Your Strategy

Phew!  There's a lot of work there, but you can do it… and you can do it in less than 24 hours!  The total time spent in this process totals 11 hours.  Obviously, it would be a long work day to push through these activities, but you'll be setting yourself up for success over the next several months, if not years. If you can't block off an entire day to do this, spend a couple hours each day for a week and you'll be all set.

Your goals and strategy will change over time, but I wanted to break down a very simplistic way to create a strategy quickly and start moving forward. 

Just to re-cap what you need to do:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Who are you targeting?
  3. Where do they live online?
  4. Develop your content calendar.
  5. Create a promotional list.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

The Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

The Fundamentals for a Successful

Inbound-Marketing Strategy

An entrepreneur’s responsibilities reach far and wide. You wear a number of hats on a day-to-day basis, none more important than marketing. To succeed, you must learn the strategies and practices that work best in 2014.

A deep understanding of inbound marketing best practices is vital to the growth and success of your business. No matter how busy you are, you simply can't ignore the importance of marketing your brand effectively. Take a look at the eight most important things every entrepreneur needs to know about inbound marketing.

1. The traditional marketing playbook is broken. Almost everyone – 91 percent, to be precise – has unsubscribed from email lists. Two-out-of-three people (68 percent) who record TV content do so to skip advertisements and, according to DoubleClick, the average click-through rate on display ads is only 0.2 percent. The way modern consumers shop and make purchases has changed dramatically, and as such, businesses must adapt in order to survive.

In an interview, it was said, “The Internet has fundamentally changed how we live our lives, and as consumers, we now have more options than ever to tune out marketing that is annoying. Most entrepreneurs I know understand that based on their own experience, but when it comes to marketing their business, they default to the traditional marketing playbook because it's easy or because it's what everyone has always done for years. That's a huge mistake."

You can no longer rent your way to consumer attention, you need to earn it. Instead of dreaming up new ways to interrupt your way into your prospects’ lives, invest in ways to engage them meaningfully with an inbound experience.

2. Your content must be remarkable enough to break through the clutter. Think about how many channels you have on your television, and how many websites and social media channels compete for your attention each day. The same is true for your customers. It’s not enough to just produce content. Your content must educate, inspire or entertain your audience.

Don’t talk about your brand non-stop or try to sell people too early or often in your content. Instead, try to spark interesting dialogue and discussion with your content. Doing so will pay off with attention and engagement.

3. Think of your website as a hub, not a megaphone. Far too many businesses think about their websites as broadcast channels for addressing a large group of people. Your website functions best when its content and design are built with a human touch. Instead of writing copy to impress your competitors, create copy and experiences an individual customer will love.

Don’t scream through a megaphone at your customers. Design the entire end-to-end experience with individual humans in mind. Conversation trumps a broadcast message every time. Design your web experience accordingly.

4. Inbound includes content and code. Many entrepreneurs mistake massive volumes of content for an inbound strategy, forgetting that shipping code is indispensable as well. Specifically, free tools are powerful in converting web traffic into highly engaged leads.

For example, InsightSquared created Sales Funnel, a free tool that allows Salesforce users to quickly and efficiently diagnose their sales funnel. Leads that try Sales Funnel convert at a rate almost twenty times higher than leads that don’t.

Free tools can transform your entire customer experience. Invest developer resources into your marketing efforts for the biggest impact possible.

5. Master the call to action.  Think about how hard you work to get traffic to your site. Now think of what happens if a visitor comes to your site and doesn’t know where to go or what to do next once they visit. You’ve just wasted all of your hard efforts!

Your call to action is a "sign post" showing your visitors where they should go next. If someone came to your blog first, you want to make it easy and seamless for them to subscribe to read similar articles. If a visitor comes from a co-marketing initiative with a partner, ensure the copy on the site is built specifically to appeal to someone who knows both your brands. Tailor the next step accordingly.

It’s not enough to optimize your site for search. You have to optimize your site for action.

6. Get visual. The average attention span is just eight seconds, so even if you want to write a 10,000-word essay on your new product launch, chances are slim that your audience will get through it.

Creating remarkable visual content is a great way to cut through content clutter and stand out from the pack. If you don’t have an army of designers at your disposal, use Canva or Visage to create simple and beautiful visuals, hire a young freelancer to pitch in or just put your iPhone to good use taking pictures of your space, your customers, your team and your product.

When it comes to content, a photo (or video) really is worth 1,000 words.

7. Inbound delivers higher ROI for your business. In a 2013 survey, American inbound marketers spending more than $25,000 per year saved an average of 13 percent in overall cost per lead ($36 versus $41 with outbound).

It’s far more expensive to continue pouring money into paid channels that don’t deliver returns than it is to invest in blogging and social media. Inbound marketing is good for your bottom line and your brand.

8. Hire wisely. If you’re hiring an in-house marketer or an agency to help with your marketing efforts, you need a skill set that matches your strategy. Invest in people who are digitally savvy, highly analytical, have significant reach on the web and have experience creating remarkable content.

Today’s marketing world requires companies to continually optimize. The team behind you must be well equipped, comfortable with the technology and have the tenacity to update your strategy and approach on a daily basis to meet your growth goals.

Successful inbound marketing is a science that requires a specific expertise and plenty of experience. Even if marketing isn’t your cup of tea, it’s important that you know and understand the basics. If you keep these tips in mind, you can rest assured that your business is practicing the latest and greatest inbound marketing techniques, and maximizing its growth potential.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Tips for Successful Business Development

Tips for Successful Business Development

 

"We need to hire a Business Development Person"

Many founders and CEOs come asking, “we need to hire a biz dev person, do you know anyone?” Few roles have more varied job descriptions than business development. It’s no wonder why it is hard to figure out who to hire, what this person should do and how to measure success. Read below for tips on successful business development for startups, including how to avoid many of the typical frustrations with business development.

1. Hire the Right Person at the Right Time

A person with deep industry knowledge and strong network ready to “do deals” can turn into a disaster if it is too early in a company’s product lifecycle. There are three stages in the commercialization process and not everyone is suited for every stage.

  • Scouting: The earliest stage of a company. At this point, business development is about identifying various routes to market, points of leverage and providing the internal team early market feedback. The ability to work with product and engineering teams is a key skill.

  • Testing: At this stage, biz dev will close a few deals to test assumptions and provide measureable input before you scale the business. Analytical skills to set up a framework for what to measure, and examining the data, will determine if and where to scale based on the company’s strengths and vision.

  • Scaling: After gathering data from early deals and validating a path to achieve your goals, business development is ready to start replicating deals and putting a support structure in place.

2. Business Development Is Not Sales

In general, business development will identify and create partnerships that enable leverage for driving revenue, distribution or that enhance the product. Sales is focused almost exclusively on driving revenue. Similar distinctions will apply when hiring a sales leader for an early stage company versus a more mature organization.

3. Post-Deal Management Is Crucial

All successful deals are a result of accountability and proactive management — by both biz dev and account management. In most cases, the account manager is a different person than the biz dev person who did the deal. Ideally, the account manager has variable compensation or incentives tied to meeting the goals established by both parties. If you are not ready to allocate the resources to support a deal, think twice before signing it.

4. Qualitative Versus Quantitative

Companies sometimes try to build a business purely around a qualitative value proposition, which is difficult and has a higher likelihood of failure. The market is less willing to pay for a better user experience or the promise of increased engagement, even if they like the product and find it useful. A quantitative value (lowers cost, drives revenue, more customers, etc.) dramatically increases the odds of success. One way to remember this rule is the pacemaker versus the hearing aid analogy: If you could only have one, which one would you choose?

5. Support for Business Development Is Essential

A good business developer will engage internal resources along the way to ensure the company can meet the goals and expectations of a partnership. A lack of support will almost certainly lead to finger pointing and blaming when things go south. Everyone should own part of the success or failure from the start.

6. Establish a Framework for Assessing Opportunity

In order to gain support from your team, everyone needs to understand why the deal makes sense for your company. Does it drive revenue, lead to new users or enable the company to enter a new market or vertical? When the goal is clear and measurable, it makes it easier to address issues like, “Why are we converting below projections?”

7. Make Deals Carefully

There is a difference between doing deals and doing the right deals. A good dealmaker can help identify a false signal –- when there is just enough market momentum and revenue to mask the greater opportunity. Conversely, a less experienced dealmaker or one with the wrong incentives can generate enough momentum and distract the company from the bigger opportunity. Many companies have been weighed down by a bad deal they later regretted -– this is where you want to develop a level of understanding and trust with your business development person.

8. There Are No Legal Issues

A legal agreement codifies a business arrangement and includes commercial terms as well as what happens if things do not work out. This requires business development and legal counsel to assess the business opportunity versus the business risk and explain the trade-offs to management.

Building a company is hard and requires a lot of things to go well including having a great product and team. Watching an idea become a product and a product generate revenue that becomes a successful company makes it all worthwhile. Bringing in the right business development person at the right stage, and following these other guidelines, will keep your company on the right track.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Sales vs. Business Development What’s the Difference?

Sales vs. Business Development What's the Difference?

sales-vs-business-development.jpg

What's the Difference?

Sales and business development. Just two different ways to refer to the same activity — getting your company’s product into customers' hands. Right? Actually, sales and business development should not be considered the same job at all.

Instead, think of the two roles as complementary halves of a whole. It’s true that both positions exist to help grow your business, but they achieve this end in different ways. Read on to understand the division between sales and business development, and learn what parts of the sales process each team owns.

The Difference Between Sales and Business Development

1) What is business development?

First things first. There are two types of activity commonly referred to as “business development,” but they bear little resemblance to each other in both job function and importance within an organization.

In the traditional sense, business development refers to activities designed to expand your organization's reach into a new market — for example, forming partnerships with other businesses to sell Company X’s product to Company Y’s customers.

The type of business development we’re talking about here, however — also known as sales development — is a specialized sales role. Business or sales development reps (BDRs or SDRs, respectively) are tasked with researching, prospecting, and qualifying leads before passing them off to the sales team to further develop and close.

This means that SDRs do not carry quotas — although they are responsible for bringing in enough qualified leads that generate a certain amount of business, they are not directly responsible for closing deals.

2) What is sales?

Sales is all about closing. After receiving a qualified lead from an SDR, sales reps take the deals across the finish line. Sales reps might perform some additional qualification in certain circumstances, but their primary objective is to close deals. Sales reps are also responsible for demonstrating the product, handling prospect objections, and drafting contracts.

3) Why the split?

According to Bryan Gonzalez, a sales development analyst at research and advisory group TOPO, there are two primary reasons why the sales process has been split into sales development and sales — the increased difficulty of reaching buyers and the benefits of specialization. 

Reaching a buyer “now requires a larger effort by smarter people,” Gonzalez said. “More research and more touches on a lead are required to connect, and it’s not as valuable to have someone with a quota on their head doing that.”

So taking a cue from Henry Ford, companies have split the sales cycle into specialized areas of responsibility to maximize efficiency and output. 

Closing is no easy feat, and it doesn’t make sense to have your top sales reps spend time researching companies and hunting for leads if they’re best at selling. In the same vein, prospecting and qualifying is neither a fast nor simple process. Separating prospecting from selling allows each team to focus all their energy on one task, instead of dividing their time between two different and time-consuming objectives.

Another advantage of splitting the two roles is the ability to mold reps from an early stage in their careers and cut down on hiring costs, says HubSpot's global director of business development Justin Hiatt. 

"A sales development team take some of the prospecting and qualifying burdens off your quota-carrying reps’ shoulders," Hiatt writes. "But its grander purpose is to become a training ground for your sales organization. It’s a place for your SDRs to prove they can become quota-carrying reps and should feed new reps into your organization every year. "

4) Are there any overlaps in the sales development rep (SDR)/sales rep role?

Yes and no. SDR and sales rep positions don’t have too much crossover when it comes to day-to-day activities unless your reps are also responsible for some of their own prospecting. However, the teams should be hyper-aligned. Both SDRs and sales reps must understand your organization’s ideal buyer persona and be able to spot good fit opportunities.

5) When should an SDR pass a lead to sales?

The point at which an SDR passes a lead to a salesperson will vary from company to company. It rests on how your sales team defines what makes a lead “sales qualified.”

There are several different frameworks for sales qualification: BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline), ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money), and GPCT, to name a few.

But no matter what framework you use to qualify leads, SDRs should become adept at uncovering the following:

  • Whether they're talking to a decision maker. If the contact is a low-level employee with no purchasing power, it’s imperative to figure that out sooner rather than later.
  • Whether the company could use your product. If your product or service solves a problem that doesn’t exist in your lead’s industry, it’s not a good idea to pass that lead along to a sales rep.
  • Whether the lead’s problems can be solved by your product. Every company has different needs. Digging a little deeper to find out exactly where a lead needs help is critical to determining whether or not your product can solve the problem.

Many organizations have their SDRs go a step further than this basic qualification to get a better sense of whether a lead is ready to buy. They require SDRs to look for two additional pieces of information:

  • Whether the lead needs a solution in the near future. It’s possible that at the time your SDRs first make contact with a lead, their problems aren’t serious enough to warrant a purchase. This doesn’t mean the lead is dead, but passing it along too soon is a waste of sales reps' time.
  • What kind of budget the lead is working with. This isn’t the time to get into specific pricing breakdowns or negotiations, but it’s important to know if your product is priced in the same ballpark as what a lead can afford.

Throughout the qualification process, SDRs should spend the majority of their time asking questions and listening to the prospect. However, it’s also important that they educate leads about what solutions your company offers and start demonstrating their value so any potential misalignment is rooted out early.

6) How should a sales development call differ from a sales call?

As outlined above, an SDR’s responsibility is to find out as much as possible about a lead’s company, pain points and need for a solution. Early conversations should revolve around gathering this information. A sales conversation should pick up where the SDR left off, with the endgame of getting a deal signed. Sales calls can cover a wide range of things — here are just a few examples:

  • Demonstrating how your value proposition applies to your prospect’s business pain
  • Comparing your product to your competitors' 
  • Setting up a trial of your product, if applicable
  • Product demonstrations
  • Price breakdowns
  • Implementation plans
  • Contract terms

The degree of separation between business development and sales will vary from organization to organization. Especially in smaller companies, sales reps might be responsible for both prospecting and closing, and that’s okay. But as you grow, separating and clearly defining the roles of the two teams will allow each to focus on what they do best, and help your business reach new heights.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

What is part of Advertising?

What is part of Advertising?

 

Recently, I landed the tech-journalism equivalent of a Thomas Pynchon interview: I got someone from Twitter to answer my call. Notorious for keeping its communications department locked up tight, Twitter is not only the psychic bellwether and newswire for the media industry, but also a stingy interview-granter, especially now that it’s floundering with poor profits, executive turnover, and a toxic culture. I’ve tried to get them on the record before. No one has replied.

This time, though, a senior executive from one of Twitter’s key divisions seemed happy—eager, even—to talk with me, and for as long as I wanted. You might even say he prattled. I was a little stunned: I’d been writing about tech matters for years as a freelance journalist, and this was far more access than I was used to receiving. What was different? I was calling as a reporter—but not exactly. I was writing a story for The Atlantic—but not for the news division. Instead, I was working for a moneymaking wing of The Atlantic called Re:think, and I was writing sponsored content.

In case you haven’t heard, journalism is now in perpetual crisis, and conditions are increasingly surreal. The fate of the controversialists at Gawker rests on a delayed jury trial over a Hulk Hogan sex tape. Newspapers publish directly to Facebook, and Snapchat hires journalists away from CNN. Last year, the Pulitzer Prizes doubled as the irony awards; one winner in the local reporting category, it emerged, had left his newspaper job months earlier for a better paying gig in PR. “Is there a future in journalism and writing and the Internet?” Choire Sicha, co-founder of The Awl, wrote last January. “Haha, Heck no, not really.” Even those who have kept their jobs in journalism, he explained, can’t say what they might be doing, or where, in a few years’ time. Disruption clouds the future even as it holds it up for worship.

But for every crisis in every industry, a potential savior emerges. And in journalism, the latest candidate is sponsored content.

Also called native advertising, sponsored content borrows the look, the name recognition, and even the staff of its host publication to push brand messages on unsuspecting viewers. Forget old-fashioned banner ads, those most reviled of early Internet artifacts. This is vertically integrated, barely disclaimed content marketing, and it’s here to solve journalism’s cash flow problem, or so we’re told. “15 Reasons Your Next Vacation Needs to Be in SW Florida,” went a recent BuzzFeed headline—just another listicle crying out for eyeballs on an overcrowded homepage, except this one had a tiny yellow sidebar to announce, in a sneaky whisper, “Promoted by the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.”

Advertorials are what we expect out of BuzzFeed, the ur-source of digital doggerel and the first media company to open its own in-house studio—a sort of mini Saatchi & Saatchi—to build “original, custom content” for brands. But now legacy publishers are following BuzzFeed’s lead, heeding the call of the digital co-marketers and starting in-house sponsored content shops of their own. CNN opened one last spring, and its keepers, with nary a trace of self-awareness, dubbed it Courageous. The New York Times has T Brand Studio (clients include Dell, Shell, and Goldman Sachs), the S. I. Newhouse empire has something called 23 Stories by Condé Nast, and The Atlantic has Re:think. As the breathless barkers who sell the stuff will tell you, sponsored content has something for everyone. Brands get their exposure, publishers get their bankroll, freelancer reporters get some work on the side, and readers get advertising that goes down exceptionally easy—if they even notice they’re seeing an ad at all.

The promise is that quality promotional content will sit cheek-by-jowl with traditional journalism, aping its style and leveraging its prestige without undermining its credibility.

The problem, as I learned all too quickly when I wrote my sponsored story for The Atlantic (paid for by a prominent tech multinational), is that the line between what’s sponsored and what isn’t—between advertising and journalism—has already been rubbed away. Whether it can be redrawn will it depend less on the hand-wringing of professional idealists and more on the wavering resolve of an industry that, hearing chronic news of the apocalypse, has begun to quake and ask, Is it too late to convert?

Like Pigs to Sponsors

It was money that got me into the sponsored content racket.

As a freelance journalist, you learn, with a great deal of self-loathing, to follow the scent of cash. Every so often, a writer friend stumbles upon a startup, or a journal backed by a well-heeled foundation, and a flag goes up: there’s money here! And off we stampede, like hogs snuffling through the underbrush in search of truffles, pitching and writing until the funds dry up or an editor gets laid off.

A while ago, one of those signals came wafting over from The Atlantic’s sponsored content shop. Like many of these upstart projects, Re:think has a roster of full-time employees—designers, editors, programmers—but it also relies on freelance writers to get the job done. (Think Lena Dunham’s character on Girls, cranking out Neiman Marcus–branded stories for GQ.)

It is a strange thing to identify yourself
as a journalist and then ask someone to
comment for an ad you’re creating.

I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea of sponsored content, much less the spotty record of Re:think, which began with a gaffe and a whimper in 2013. Among its first clients was the Church of Scientology—“David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year,” went the headline—and The Atlantic’s “creative marketing group” has been recovering from that embarrassment ever since.

But my new Atlantic contact gave me the lowdown: the magazine was looking to expand its sponsored offerings, and it would pay obscenely well—up to $4 per word in some cases, a rate that can be found these days only at the glossiest of glossy mags.

I had written a few pieces for The Atlantic’s website before, at the measly rate of $150 each. Now I was in line for up to forty times that, if only I could twist my journalistic skills to what was essentially reported copywriting.

Perhaps best of all, I wouldn’t have to use my byline.

Naturally, I said yes.

Soon I was meeting my contact, who had the title of integrated marketing manager, at a Union Square coffee shop. I was delighted—few editors have ever asked me out for coffee, which may say as much about my personal charms as it does about their harried schedules. The marketing manager, whom I’ll call Alex, was a pleasant, smart guy in his mid-twenties with an editorial background. He understood why writers like me would be doing this work and why we might feel a little sheepish about it (none of his previous contributors had used a byline, he told me). Advertisers would have some say over the final product, but their involvement would be “minimal.”

Within days I had signed on to do an article sponsored by IBM. The piece would involve “reporting,” and the goal was to achieve the look, feel, and mannerisms of a bona fide Atlantic story—except maybe with fancier graphics. The story was supposed to trumpet the merits of Watson, IBM’s heavily promoted super-computer, and its new partnership with Twitter. Specifically, I was charged with disclosing the ways in which Watson, by analyzing real-time data piped in from Twitter, would soon revolutionize the future of news.

I dove in gamely, wearing my reporter’s face. Alex took the lead, booking me phone interviews with vice presidents of IBM and Twitter, who were exceedingly accommodating. In exchange for access, though, I got instructions. I was required to submit some questions in advance of each interview, and company PR reps would sit in on the calls.

It was clear that all parties—The Atlantic, IBM, Twitter, and especially me, with my reservations about taking the assignment in the first place—wanted this exercise to resemble real journalism. The trouble was, none of the VPs I interviewed seemed to grasp the meaning of “news,” much less what all their high-level info-crunching might have to do with its future. Instead, my interviewees talked, with excitement and eloquence, about the sheer amount of data being transmitted, the raw power of IBM’s analytics software, and possible applications for big business. (If you want to know what people in Peoria think about your new basketball shoe, the Watson supercomputer is your guy.)

The closest we got to something useful was when a Twitter executive speculated that in the aftermath of a disaster, emergency services might scan tweets to see where help is needed. However aligned our purposes—in this case, promoting the Twitter and IBM brands—we were speaking two different languages. I had been tasked with writing a story that didn’t exist.

Freelancing is a miserable hustle, one that few people pursue by choice, and with an estimated one-third of American workers now swelling the ranks of the precariously employed, journalists can claim no special privilege in their anhedonia. (It’s a different kind of privilege—occasional infusions of parental generosity; a spouse with a steady job; an improbable, and briefly lucrative, run as a game-show contestant—that has allowed me to stay in this game for so long.) I considered putting the assignment. But my spouse had recently quit work to return to graduate school, and I found myself in the familiar too-afraid-to-look-at-my-account-balance zone, with no shortage of investigative stories to pitch, but no editors willing to pay me for them.

So I kept at it, digging around a bit more to see if any media companies were doing interesting work with Twitter. (Few were, it seemed, despite the data journalism fad sweeping the industry.) I asked a contact at Nieman Lab, a journalism think tank if she had any thoughts, but mostly we ended up talking about the peculiarities of sponsored content. It is indeed a strange thing to identify yourself as a journalist and then ask someone to comment on an ad you’re creating.

But I’m a writer, I thought. Whipping nothing into something is what I do! Remembering that this was an advertisement, I set aside years of techno-skepticism, channeled the fawning credulousness of a TechCrunch-style puff piece, and wrote in my most chipper, optimistic voice. I dropped in some references to Dataminr, Vocativ, and other data-driven journalism projects, but for the most part, I strung together quotations from my interviews and stuck to a fan-fiction script. Since we were talking about the “future” of news, it all seemed inherently speculative anyway. (What was the future but a set of informed guesses that would never be questioned or compared against the eventual outcome?) Within a few days, I managed to put together a readable draft. I figured I had done a reasonable job—certainly I had presented IBM and Twitter in a positive light—and maybe, just possibly, earned my ample fee.

Things hit a snag, though, when the Re:think team brought in a ringer: a longtime editor who, I was told, had overseen a well-known news magazine during its “heyday.” He would help shepherd the article, or ad, or whatever it was, to completion. While Alex had been genial, this journalistic veteran played in a different key. (Any time someone’s first message opens with the words “please don’t react to the length of this email,” you know you’re in for something real.) The article needed work, he said. But what kind of work wasn’t clear.

I began to wonder if, like me, this veteran editor was just trying to earn his fee. How much was he making, I wondered? How much does an editor who presided over an industry’s golden age receive to consult for the same industry during its hospice years? Did he hate himself too, at least a little bit, for using his decades of expertise to gin up propaganda for corporations that, were he to approach them as a journalist, would shoo him away with a curt “no comment”?

My questions became nagging anxieties and then, over the next few nights, a full-blown existential crisis. I was a month away from the release of my first book, a critical treatment of the big tech companies and the world they’ve made for us, and here I was sweating over an assignment glorifying some of those same companies. And I couldn’t even figure out how to do it properly! I had the impression, common to many anxiety sufferers, that my problems were self-made but also eminently real. This sentiment merged with a number of other ugly feelings—my disgust toward the media establishment, my distaste for advertising, my profound frustration with the older editor, my fear that I would be grinding out bullshit work like this for the rest of my days—until I thought that I just couldn’t do it. I began to wonder how I would explain to my spouse that, because I couldn’t finish this assignment, we would have to change our names and move to a foreign country. It all made a kind of sense.

In a tidier narrative, I would say that this was when I stumbled upon some epiphanic moment, either converting to the sacred cause of content marketing or storming off the assignment in a righteous airing of my principles. But the truth is much more banal. For a few days, I paced my apartment, smoking a healthy amount of weed, racking my paranoiac’s brain to figure out how I could possibly—in the words of the consulting editor—“square this circle.” The editor kept after me for a new draft of the article, and finally, on a cold Saturday, after receiving his third email of the day, I sat down, banged it out, and filed.

Media companies hail their “brand sponsors”
and “featured partners” as if they were
journalistic saviors instead of Typhoid Marys.

Several weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I wondered if I had blown my easy paycheck and they had moved on without me. I wrote to the consulting editor and asked about the article. “It’s live!” he said. He didn’t have a link, but it was online, somewhere. We’d done it, I guess.

I found the article, dressed up with a lush design meant to obscure its meaty content, under the headline (writ large) “The Race to Probe the Twittersphere” and the disclaimer (writ small) “sponsor content.” The Atlantic’s logo nodded its approval from the top of the page.

The text mostly resembled the last draft I had sent, with a few flourishes and anecdotes thrown in. It was, I thought, nothing special and barely worth the trouble. It’s the kind of work that one should do simply for the money, without looking for any higher meaning. Neurotics, or purists, need not apply.

I submitted some paperwork, and a month later, a check arrived for $2,000. Except for my book advance, it was the most I had ever received for a single piece of writing.

Firewall, Farewell

Such is the anticlimax of sponsored content: it promises to know the future of news, but in the end, all it’s got is cash (and vaguely aspirational brand messaging). Sure, native ads may be sleeker and slightly more substantial than annoying buy-now banner spots, but there’s no panacea here for journalism—no corrective to the vapid advertising of the past, no white knight for anxious legacy publications trying to get the Internet right, no savvy compromise that will cede part of a media company’s soul to keep the rest of it (namely, the news division) pristine and intact.

Far from it. Because who would bother pitching a story to The Atlantic for $100 when you could pitch yourself as a copywriter and make twenty times as much? And why would a Fortune 500 executive respond to a journalist’s questions when he could just hire The Atlantic to produce a glittering, 1,200-word advertorial instead and then buy some promoted tweets to ensure it racks up shares?

The notion that a publication could sell access to its editorial style without also changing the terms of journalistic access itself is laughable. While the Times insists that it maintains a strict firewall between its T Brand Studio and its hallowed newsroom (“The news and editorial staffs of the New York Times had no role in this post’s preparation,” goes a typical disclaimer), other publishers make overlap a featured selling point. When Condé Nast opened its sponsored content shop, it promised marketers “access to our unparalleled editorial assets.” Even the venerable Guardian traffics in two tiers of payola—“supported by” and “paid content/paid for by”—with each reflecting a different level of editorial independence, advertiser participation, and other possible outside funding. These deals have produced strange results, like a “Shell and Working Mums partner zone”—a clutch of puff pieces sponsored by a noted polluter and published in a newspaper known for its vocal fossil-fuel divestment campaign.

Vice, which is known as much for its marketing arm as for its neo-gonzo journalism, has reportedly spiked news stories for fear of offending its brand sponsors. The same goes for BuzzFeed, whose staffers pass effortlessly from its advertising division to its editorial division.

If you’re able to coax a candid reply from an editor who works for, perhaps, a conglomerate comprising a movie studio, a struggling stable of magazines, and several other conflicts of interest waiting to happen, you’re likely to hear tales of panicked phone calls from marketing managers asking if that snarky four-hundred-word blog post is really worth risking the $1 million ad buy under way a few doors down. (The inevitable answer: of course it isn’t; delete the post and live to fight another day.)

Last spring, the American Society of Magazine Editors relaxed its guidelines for native advertising, changing “Don’t Ask Editors to Write Ads” to something resembling a wink and a nod: “Editors should avoid working with and reporting on the same marketer.” So much for the firewall.

These challenges, of course, aren’t entirely new. In his book Media Freedom, Richard Barbrook writes that during France’s Third Republic, “both national and local newspapers sold ‘editorial advertising’ to interested companies or governments.” Bribes were regularly exchanged. “Because publishing was a business,” Barbrook writes, “newspaper-owners were as interested in selling their products to advertisers as to their readers.” Plus ça change.

But as journalists imitate advertisers and advertisers imitate (and hire) journalists, they are converging on a shared style and sensibility. Newsfeeds and timelines become constant streams of media—a mutating mass of useless lists, videos, GIFs, viral schlock, service journalism, catchy charts, and other modular material that travels easily on social networks—all of it shorn of context. Who paid for this article, why am I seeing it, am I supposed to be entertained or convinced to buy something? The answers to these questions are all cordoned off behind the algorithmic curtain.

Access Swapping, Mattress Hopping

I should have emerged from my sponsored content gig with the kind of relieved rededication to my craft that would overcome, say, a new driver reeling from the adrenaline surge of his first head-on near-miss. Instead, though, my tour of the sponsored content waterfront permanently altered my own vision of journalism’s future—and not at all in a good way.

Consider the example of Maxim, a former lad mag now trying to reinvent itself as something more respectable—GQ lite, perhaps, or something like the old Details. Maxim may not be anyone’s pinnacle of taste, but it’s an interesting reclamation project with several things going in its favor: brand recognition; the hiring of Kate Lanphear, a respected editor from the Times’ style magazine, as editor in chief; and a built-in base of luxury advertisers. Recently, Maxim has staffed up, given its writers travel budgets and room to go after weightier fare, and revamped its covers in a more tasteful style, photographing models from the neck up. (One issue featured Idris Elba, who is a man, making him unique in Maxim cover history.)

If the old Maxim was unabashedly brand-friendly, the new Maxim has simply doubled down on the posture, furnishing its readers with bottomless cocktails of content about gadgets, cars, clothes, and other indulgences that tend to come with free samples, sumptuous photo packages, and referral links to online stores.

Last year, according to a source at the magazine, the editorial team was flooded with attention from a PR firm hired by Casper, a “mattress startup” backed by celebrity investors and a vigorous marketing campaign. Casper sent a number of free mattresses to the Maxim staff, some of whom duly took them home. There was nothing unusual about that: the magazine even has a swag table where unclaimed gifts are up for grabs. “It is literally insane, the amount of shit they throw at editors,” says the insider. “We’re talking thousands of dollars, the amount of free stuff that a single editor can get in a year.” An eighty-inch Vizio television, for example, arrived, gratis, in the Maxim offices; it was addressed to a departed staffer and no one was quite sure what to do with it.

Because it’s a venture-capital-funded company, valuing growth above profit, Casper can afford to spend lavishly on product sample giveaways for potentially influential fans, whether they’re magazine journalists or Kylie Jenner, who once Instagrammed a photo of her Casper mattress. My Maxim source mentioned that colleagues at BuzzFeed also received free mattresses last year—and in February, BuzzFeed published a sponsored post authored by Casper, followed in March and June by glowing reports about the company, one written by a freelancer, the other by a BuzzFeed staffer. As the staffer’s article noted, BuzzFeed and Casper “share some investors.”

In the case of Maxim, Casper naturally hoped for something in return for its largesse. After the mattresses went mostly unreturned (one of the company’s selling points is that you can send back a mattress you don’t like), a PR rep began probing Maxim, asking where the coverage was. The site’s editorial director asked a gathering of staffers if any of them had accepted the free mattresses. About ten hands went up, representing nearly $10,000 in gifts. That was too much, the editorial director decided. They would have to write an article. Eventually, the site published a Q&A with one of Casper’s founders.

It probably didn’t matter to the innovators at Casper that they had doled out so much money for what was essentially one web article. The VC-backed company was looking to create brand awareness through any method possible, and as the Maxim source told me, merely getting Maxim’s journalists to use its product was itself considered a win. Now Casper had “ten people who go to bed every night working for what’s essentially a consumer propaganda machine, saying, ‘Oh, I fucking love this mattress.’”

On the face of it, this is a familiar tale: wherever free product samples appear, positive coverage is not far behind. But there’s an added twist. In addition to its giveaway initiative, Casper had a little something going on the side. After the mattress haul, three Maxim staffers were approached by the same PR firm to find out if they wanted to interview for positions at Van Winkle’s, a new website dedicated to “smarter sleep and wakefulness.” In May, Matt Berical, a Maxim editor, decided to jump ship for the new venture.[*] It is not immediately clear who sponsors VanWinkle.com, but if you poke around, you’ll land on a familiar name: “Van Winkle’s is published,” says the site’s About page, “by Casper Sleep, Inc.”

Too Many Salmons

And so it is that American journalism, in this late decadent phase, has come to mistake its biggest rivals for its dearest sponsors. Now that visibility, which can be bought like so many ad impressions, is won by gaming search and social platforms, publishers are no longer just hosting or appeasing advertisers; they are also competing with them. They are employing the same sponsor-pleasing jargon, vying for the same resource—attention—in the same newsfeeds and timelines, and scouting the same talent. Last year, Starbucks tapped Rajiv Chandrasekaran, an award-winning Washington Post reporter, to lead a media company. Rhapsody, a new literary magazine produced by United Airlines, is wooing top-shelf writers. Meanwhile, much as the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the Times rush to release articles to Facebook Instant without seeming to care that Facebook is in the process of consolidating its own publishing monopoly, media companies hail their “brand sponsors” and “featured partners” as if they were journalistic saviors instead of Typhoid Marys.

Maybe the key to all this rudderless and frenzied market obsequity resides in the simple realization that the media business is no longer a business. Instead, it’s a line item for a cable conglomerate, a confidence game played with venture capitalists, a glamor object for a newly moneyed twenty-eight-year-old tycoon, a passport to power for a foreign oligarch. Or more to the point, it’s simply content—culture’s Astroturf—around which increasingly sophisticated advertising may be targeted until no one, not even its creators, can tell the two apart.

Yet it’s hard not to think that, despite all of the industry’s failures, despite its own self-imposed deathwatch, journalism may still have a future.

The truth, after all, is that there is money in journalism. It’s just woefully misallocated, doled out according to a stars-and-scrubs model that rewards brand-name journalists no one’s ever heard of outside of New York. Meanwhile, a mass of freelancers—whose work is necessary to the functioning of many publications—cadge whatever assignments they can and don’t complain when the checks take six months to arrive. A great deal more cash is wasted on outside consultants, events, quixotic reporting trips, redesigns, and other ventures that may please advertisers or middle managers but do little for readers. Recent high-profile failures include Chris Hughes’s attempt to reinvent The New Republic—a $20 million outlay that, according to reports, was mostly spent on office space, interior decorating, consultants, and lavish parties.[**] Racket and Ratter, two well-funded journalism startups, folded after publishing little, or in the former’s case, nothing at all. ESPN, despite its boundless resources, shuttered Grantland, its beloved outlet for literary sports journalism and pop culture coverage, and bungled the launch of The Undefeated, a black-interest site, firing founding editor Jason Whitlock, whose long history of public histrionics (and no history of managing anyone) had augured poorly from the start, or so it had seemed to anyone outside of ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. In their numbing waste of talent, attention, and money, these stumbles recall the demise of Portfolio and Talk, nine-figure failures that came to symbolize an earlier era of bubble thinking.

The truth, after all, is
that there is money
in journalism. It’s just
woefully misallocated.

Apart from these emblematic cases, we generally learn how corrupt this industry is only on the rare occasion when some company is forced to open its books or when a former Time magazine intern, for instance, tells you that Charles Krauthammer used to get $7,000 per column. After Tina Brown left The Daily Beast, I finally learned why, in years of writing for them, I could never get more than $250 for an article: she spent it all.

Not long ago, Felix Salmon, one such brand-name journalist working for Fusion, a media startup flush with buzz and cash but short on readership, published a meandering post that asked a simple question: “Is there any such thing as a career in digital journalism?” His answer was the same as Choire Sicha’s: no, not really. And he very well may be right. But Salmon left out an important detail: his salary is rumored to be $250,000. So my answer to his question is this: not as long as digital journalism employs people like Felix Salmon.

For that amount of money, you could hire five smart thirty-year-old writers, especially if you’re not drafting through the traditional Ivy League patronage system. You could pay a bunch of writers to actually write.

Alternatively, with the same cash outlay, you could consign them to the remunerative banality of sponsored content, which might pose the greatest threat, in the end, to young journalists. Do the math: Why pay for a journalism conference when you could attend “Food, from Farm to Table,” hosted by the National Press Foundation and funded by Monsanto? From there, it’s just a skip and a jump over to VanWinkle.com.

As of now, there’s a glut of young writers circling, anxiously wondering if they’ll ever have more to show at the end of a year than a bunch of 1099s, double Social Security tax, and a few new Twitter followers. If journalism hopes to recuperate itself as a viable career, it will have to find a way to let some of these people in and to keep those who want to stay. Otherwise, the advertisers wait, and their pocketbooks are bigger.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Advertising Analytics 2.0

Advertising Analytics 2.0

 

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    One of our clients, a consumer electronics giant, had long gauged its advertising impact one medium at a time. As most businesses still do, it measured how its TV, print, radio, and online ads each functioned independently to drive sales. The company hadn’t grasped the notion that ads increasingly interact.
     

 

 

For instance, a TV spot can prompt a Google search that leads to a click-through on a display ad that, ultimately, ends in a sale. To tease apart how its ads work in concert across media and sales channels, our client recently adopted new, sophisticated data analytics techniques. The analyses revealed, for example, that TV ate up 85% of the budget in one new-product campaign, whereas YouTube ads—a 6% slice of the budget—were nearly twice as effective at prompting online searches that led to purchases. And search ads, at 4% of the company’s total advertising budget, generated 25% of sales. Armed with those rich findings and the latest predictive analytics, the company reallocated its ad dollars, realizing a 9% lift in sales without spending a penny more on advertising.

That sort of insight represents the holy grail in marketing—knowing precisely how all the moving parts of a campaign collectively drive sales and what happens when you adjust them. Until recently, the picture was fuzzy at best. Media-mix modeling, introduced in the early 1980s, helped marketers link scanner data with advertising and decide how to allocate marketing resources. For about 20 years, everyone gorged on this low-hanging fruit, until the advent of digital marketing in the late 1990s. With the ability to monitor every mouse click, measuring the cause-and-effect relationship between advertising and purchasing became somewhat easier. Marketers started tracking a consumer’s most recent action online—say, a click on a banner ad—and attributing a purchase behavior to it.

Combined with a handful of time-honored measurement techniques—consumer surveys, focus groups, media-mix models, and last-click attribution—such outmoded methods have lulled many marketers into complacency. They mistakenly think they have a handle on how their advertising actually affects behavior and drives revenue. But that approach is backward-looking: It largely treats advertising touch points—in-store and online display ads, TV, radio, direct mail, and so on—as if each works in isolation. Making matters worse, different teams, agencies, and media buyers operate in silos and use different methods of measurement as they compete for the same resources. This still-common practice, what we call swim-lane measurement, explains why marketers often misattribute specific outcomes to their marketing activities and why finance tends to doubt the value of marketing. (See the exhibit “Get Out of Your Swim Lanes.”) As one CFO of a Fortune 200 company told me, “When I add up the ROIs from each of our silos, the company appears twice as big as it actually is.”

Get Out of Your Swim Lanes

Today’s consumers are exposed to an expanding, fragmented array of marketing touch points across media and sales channels. Imagine that while viewing a TV spot for a Toyota Camry, a consumer uses her mobile device to Google “sedans.” Up pops a paid search link for Camry, as well as car reviews. She clicks through to Car and Driver’s website to read some reviews, and while perusing, she notices a display ad from a local dealership but doesn’t click on it. One review contains a link to YouTube videos people have made about their Camrys. On YouTube, she also watches Toyota’s clever “Camry Reinvented” Super Bowl ad from eight months earlier. During her commute to work that week she sees a Toyota billboard she hadn’t noticed before and then receives a direct-mail piece from the company offering a time-limited deal. She visits local dealerships’ websites, including those promoted on Car and Driver and in the direct-mail piece, and at last heads to a dealer, where she test-drives the car and buys it.

Toyota’s chief marketing officer should ask two questions: How did this combination of ad exposures interact to influence this consumer? Is Toyota investing the right amounts at the right points in the customer decision journey to spark her to action?

Data Deluge

Seismic shifts in both technology and consumer behavior during the past decade have produced a granular, virtually infinite record of every action consumers take online. Add to that the oceans of data from DVRs and digital set-top boxes, retail checkout, credit card transactions, call center logs, and myriad other sources, and you find that marketers now have access to a previously unimaginable trove of information about what consumers see and do.

The opportunity is clear, but so is the challenge. As the celebrated statistician and writer Nate Silver put it, “Every day, three times per second, we produce the equivalent of the amount of data that the Library of Congress has in its entire print collection. Most of it is…irrelevant noise. So unless you have good techniques for filtering and processing the information, you’re going to get into trouble.”

In this new world, marketers who stick with traditional analytics 1.0 measurement approaches do so at their peril. Those methods, which look backward a few times a year to correlate sales with a few dozen variables, are dangerously outdated. Many of the world’s biggest multinationals are now deploying analytics 2.0, a set of capabilities that can chew through terabytes of data and hundreds of variables in real time. It allows these companies to create an ultra-high-definition picture of their marketing performance, run scenarios, and change ad strategies on the fly. Enabled by recent exponential leaps in computing power, cloud-based analytics, and cheap data storage, these predictive tools measure the interaction of advertising across media and sales channels, and they identify precisely how exogenous variables (including the broader economy, competitive offerings, and even the weather) affect ad performance. The resulting analyses, put simply, reveal what really works. With these data-driven insights, companies can often maintain their existing budgets yet achieve improvements of 10% to 30% (sometimes more) in marketing performance.

Drawing on the pioneering mathematical models developed by UCLA marketing professor and MarketShare co-founder Dominique Hanssens, our firm provides analytics 2.0 solutions to many large global companies. The models quantify cross-media and cross-channel effects of marketing, as well as direct and indirect effects of all business drivers, and the software employs cloud computing and big-data capabilities. The cases we present in this article are drawn from our client companies. Numerous other firms—such as VivaKi, Omniture, and DoubleClick—have emerged in recent years to meet the growing demand for advanced analytics.

The Move to 2.0

Powered by the integration of big data, cloud computing, and new analytical methods, analytics 2.0 provides fundamentally new insights into marketing’s effect on revenue. It involves three broad activities: attribution, the process of quantifying the contribution of each element of advertising; optimization, or “war gaming” by using predictive analytics tools to run scenarios for business planning; and allocation, the real-time redistribution of resources across marketing activities according to optimization scenarios. Although those activities are described in this article as sequential steps, they may occur simultaneously in practice; outputs from one activity feed into another iteratively so that the analytics capability continuously improves.

How One Company Attributed, Optimized, and Allocated

Attribution.

To determine how your advertising activities interact to drive purchases, start by gathering data. Many companies we’ve worked with the claim at first that they lack the required data in-house. That is almost always not the case. Companies are awash in data, albeit dispersed and, often, unintentionally hidden. Relevant data typically exist within sales, finance, customer service, distribution, and other functions outside marketing.

Knowing what to focus on—the signal rather than the noise—is a critical part of the process. To accurately model their businesses, companies must collect data across five broad categories: market conditions, competitive activities, marketing actions, consumer response, and business outcomes. (See the exhibit “Optimizing Advertising.”)

Optimizing Advertising

With detailed data that parse product sales and advertising metrics by medium and location, sophisticated analytics can reveal the impact of marketing activities across swim lanes—for example, between one medium, say television, and another, social media. We call these indirect effects “assist rates.” Recognizing an assist depends on the ability to track how consumer behavior changes in response to advertising investments and sales activities. To oversimplify a bit: An analysis could pick up a spike in consumers’ click-throughs on an online banner ad after a new TV spot goes live—and link that effect to changes in purchase patterns. This would capture the spot’s “assist” to the banner ad and provide a truer picture of the TV ad’s ROI. More subtly, analytics can reveal the assist effects of ads that consumers don’t actively engage with—showing, for example, a 12% jump in search activity for a product after deployment of a banner ad that only 0.1% of consumers click on.

This insight translates directly to any advertising that consumers encounter but may not specifically act on, including TV ads, social media placements, PR, online or outdoor displays, mobile ads, and in-store promotions. Think of the billboard ad on our Toyota buyer’s commute. The ad itself probably didn’t cause her to drive to the dealership and purchase a car. But it may have nudged her to look at the direct-mail piece when it arrived, which ultimately inspired the visit to the dealership—a complete customer journey we can now measure. It’s difficult or impossible to quantify such assist effects at an individual level, particularly when they involve off-line ads, so analytics 2.0 works by exposing those effects. It uses a sophisticated series of simultaneous-equation statistical models that reassemble various interrelated effects into a view that accurately explains the market behavior.

The hazards of simplistic swim-lane measurement were personal for one of our client’s marketing executives. Early in his career, at a high-profile e-commerce company, the marketing team presented to finance some campaign results that had been generated using traditional analytics methods:

Things quickly became awkward when finance pointed out that the business unit had generated only $110 million in revenue, $50 million short of the reported total. The discrepancy arose because, lacking good data, leaders in each swim lane claimed the same bucket of revenue.

That lesson stuck with this executive as he set out to help solve the industry problem of incorrect attribution. He eventually joined a consumer technology company that has enthusiastically embraced analytics 2.0. There he created an analytics platform to reveal how the company’s advertising and sales force activities interacted.

Examples like these necessarily distil the complexity of analytics 2.0. In actual analyses run by a large company, statistical models may account for hundreds or thousands of permutations of advertising and sales tactics, as well as exogenous variables such as geography, employment rates, pricing, a season of the year, competitive offerings, and so on. When you analyze every permutation of an ad campaign according to those variables, the complexity of the task and the necessity for cloud computing and storage become clear. You also realize that such analyses allow you, for example, to instantly see how a new TV ad affects consumers’ online search patterns—and then to change your keyword search bidding strategy to buy up relevant words as the ad is running. They might also help you identify Facebook’s actual effect on both short-term revenue and long-term brand equity.

Optimization.

Once a marketer has quantified the relative contribution of each component of its marketing activities and the influence of important exogenous factors, war gaming is the next step. It involves using predictive-analytics tools to run scenarios for business planning. Maybe you want to know what will happen to your revenue if you cut outdoor display advertising for a certain product line by 10% in San Diego—or if you shift 15% of your product-related TV ad spending to online search and display. Perhaps you need to identify the implications for your advertising if a competitor reduces prices in Tokyo or if fuel prices go up in Sydney.

Working with the vast quantities of data collected and analyzed through the attribution process, you can assign an “elasticity” to every business driver you’ve measured, from TV advertising to search ads to fuel prices and local temperatures. (Elasticity is the ratio of the percentage change in one variable to the percentage change in another.) Knowing the elasticities of your business drivers helps you predict how specific changes you make will influence particular outcomes. If your TV ads’ elasticity in relation to sales is .03, for example, doubling your TV ad budget will yield a 3% lift in sales, when all other variables remain constant. In short, analytics 2.0 modeling reveals how all driver elasticities interact to affect sales. (See the exhibit “How Ads Interact to Boost Sales.”)

How Ads Interact to Boost Sales

War gaming uses the actual elasticities of your business drivers to run hundreds or thousands of scenarios within minutes. In a typical war-gaming process, team members define marketing goals (such as a certain revenue target, share goal, or margin goal), often across multiple products and markets. Crunching the vast database of driver elasticities, optimization software generates a set of most-likely scenarios along with marketing recommendations to achieve them. The software also can test specific what-if scenarios: For instance, how will sales of our midsize pickup truck in Denver be affected if gas prices climb 5% and we launch a combined TV and online campaign promoting a $300 rebate?

At Ford, marketing communications director Matthew VanDyke leads a cross-functional team involving IT, finance, marketing, and other functions. The group is tasked with optimizing Ford’s $1 billion in advertising spending. Using advanced analytics, the team routinely runs thousands of scenarios involving hundreds of variables to gauge the probable effects of different ad strategies under a range of complex circumstances. The analyses incorporate insights from the attribution step, allowing Ford to predict from one scenario to the next how changes in advertising investment in one medium are likely to affect ad performance in others, and how exogenous factors might influence outcomes.

For example, as consumers’ interest in fuel-efficient vehicles has grown, Ford’s marketing science manager Mike Macri and his team have used war gaming to quickly assess which markets will be receptive to creative messages about fuel efficiency and have redirected advertising resources accordingly via their agency partners. Indeed, these war games are driving several current cross-media campaigns for Ford.

Predictive analytics also allow Ford to war-game changes in media planning and purchasing, both nationally and locally. For instance, it discovered that the company’s overall digital spending, though appropriate, was overemphasizing digital display and underinvesting in search. In addition, before the firm used war-game scenario planning, national and local marketing budgets were treated separately and rarely coordinated. It had been difficult for Ford to determine, for example, how much it should provide in matching funds to dealer groups, whether consumer incentive levels differ among the various cars and regions in its portfolio, and how boosting social-media spending and reducing traditional media buys would affect sales to young drivers. War gaming allowed Ford to predict how those scenarios would play out before actually making changes. The result: Shifts from the national budget to local budgets have produced tens of millions of dollars in new revenues, with no net change in the total ad budget.

Marketers are also using analytics 2.0 to run what-if scenarios for advertising new-product launches, ad buys in markets where data are limited, and the potential effects of surprise moves by competitors. For instance, as a global consumer electronics company client of ours was preparing to launch a game-changing product in an emerging market where historical sales-marketing data were scarce, it used advanced analytics to review advertising behavior by competitors and accurately predict their spending for upcoming releases. Using those predictions and optimization scenarios, the company successfully entered the market with a much clearer understanding of the strategic landscape and adjusted its plans quickly to address new competitive dynamics.

Allocation.

Gone are the days of setting a marketing plan and letting it run its course—the so-called run-and-done approach. As technology, media companies, and media buyers continue to remove friction from the process, advertising has become easier to transact, place, measure, and expand or kill. Marketers can now readily adjust or allocate advertising in different markets on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis—and, online, even from one fraction of a second to the next. Allocation involves putting the results of your attribution and war-gaming efforts into the market, measuring outcomes, validating models (that is, running in-market experiments to confirm the findings of an analysis), and making course corrections.

At one of the world’s largest software companies, senior management realized that it needed more accountability and precision in its marketing, as allocation decisions had historically not been based on scientific analysis. To understand which marketing activities were driving leads to its website, resellers, and retail partners—and thereby generating sales—the marketing leadership team used analytics 2.0 to reveal how all its marketing components interacted.

By using models that ultimately accounted for hundreds of variables, the company quantified the precise combination of ads that most effectively stimulated software trials, which activities by resellers generated the most profits, and how advertising in one product category influenced purchasing in other categories. With those insights, the firm reallocated marketing dollars for its various B2B and B2C products. Shifts between off-line and online spending, as well as investments in brand building, have boosted revenues by millions of dollars incrementally.

This company’s analytics 2.0 system has gained credibility with executive management, is now driving minute-to-minute allocation decisions, and is being rolled out globally. As a result, the firm’s advertising ROI has nearly doubled over the past three years.

Five Steps to Implementation

Analytics, once a back-of-the-house research function, is becoming entwined in daily strategy development and operations. Executives who were pioneering early digital marketing teams 10 years ago are advancing to the CMO office. Already wired for measurement, they are often amazed at the analytics immaturity of the broader advertising industry. These new CMOs are taking more responsibility for technology budgets and are creating a culture of fact-based decision making within advertising. Technology consultancy Gartner estimates that within five years, most CMOs will have a bigger technology budget than chief technology officers do.

Technology is necessary but not sufficient to move an organization to analytics 2.0. In our experience, these initiatives require five steps, which can be implemented even by small companies:

First, embrace analytics 2.0 as an organization-wide effort that must be championed by a C-level executive sponsor. Often, pockets of resistance to new analytics approaches crop up, as they challenge closely held beliefs about what works and what doesn’t. Senior-level buy-in is essential to help promote clarity of vision and alignment in the early stages.

Second, assign an analytics-minded director or manager to become the point person for the effort. It should be someone with strong analytical skills and a reputation for objectivity. This person can report to the CMO or sit on a cross-functional team between marketing and finance. As the project expands, he or she can help guide business planning and resource allocation across units.

Third, armed with a prioritized list of questions you seek to answer, conduct an inventory of data throughout the organization. Intelligence that is essential to successful analytics 2.0 efforts is often buried in many functions beyond marketing, from finance to customer service. Identify and consolidate those disparate data sets and create systems for ongoing collection. Treat the data as you would intellectual property, given its asset value.

Fourth, start small with proofs of concept involving a particular line of business, geography, or product group. Build limited-scope models that aim to achieve early wins.

Fifth, test aggressively and feed the results back into the model. For instance, if your optimization analysis suggests that shifting some ad spending from TV to online display will boost sales, try a small, local experiment and use the results to refine your calculations. In-market testing is old hat—what’s new is getting the cross-media attribution right so that your testing is more effective.

When businesses have multiple sales channels such as retail, online, value-added resellers, or multiple products and geographies, analytics 2.0 may become more complex than internal teams can handle. That’s when vendors with specific analytics and computing capabilities are needed. But any company can begin the journey and build much of the required infrastructure for analytics—and the culture of adaptive marketing—in-house. The challenge is as much organizational as computational. Either way, the writing is on the wall: Marketing is rapidly becoming a war of knowledge, insight, and asymmetric advantage gained through analytics 2.0. Companies that don’t adopt next-generation analytics will be overtaken by those that do.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

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