Tools to help you grow your business.

Nick SerjeantOn February 6th I had Nick Serjeant from Facebook Canada as my special guest presenter at my Our Digital Coach workshop in Toronto. We had 14 agency executives and marketers and Nick took us behind the scenes and shared some of Facebook’s insider information. My biggest takeaways were:

  • It’s a waste of money to spend a lot of your budget on fancy third-party apps that give you extra tabs and functionality on your Facebook brand page. The percentage of your fan base that ever visits your page is tiny. Most of your fans will interact with your content (the content you post off your page) in their newsfeed. So you need to spend your time and money developing an amazing content strategy so your posts get read, and more importantly, don’t get hidden by the user. 
  • Gimmicky fans are bad for your brand and your marketing ROI. Gimmicky fans are fans that liked you, not because of who you are and your content, but because you incented them to like you. Here’s why they are bad for you: On average a brand can expect about 16% organic reach to their fan base through the news feed. This means that if a brand has 100 fans, every time the brand posts, 16 people will see the post organically in their new feed. However, the Facebook algorythm adjusts this number based on how users react to your content. If users “hide” your brand from their feed, the algorythm adjusts and your posts get shown less and less often. So that 16% drops and can drop all the way to 0%. Now why would a user hide you from their newsfeed? Because they aren’t interested in your content! So fans who liked you only to get a contest entry or something similar are very likely to hide you and this will affect your organic newsfeed exposure to all your fans, even the ones who like you for your content. So those gimmicky fans end up killing the viral spread of your branding that you came to Facebook for in the firstplace. 
  • Email marketing delivers higher organic reach and better branding opportunities than Facebook (on average). Most brands are under the illusion that when they post a fair number of their fans will see their post. I bet most brands think it’s in the 50-70% of the fans range. It’s a bit of a harsh reality check to find it’s only 16%. But if you think about your own newsfeed and how much brand content you bother to read, it’s not surprising. Many good email lists have open rates better than 16% and you get way more space in an email for brand messaging. This is why I advise most businesses to prioritize building their email lists ahead of their social media efforts. This doesn’t mean that Facebook marketing is a waste of time, just that I’d recommend you excel at email marketing first. What I wonder, and don’t have data for at hand, is whether younger people are on social media more than email and so my advice is valid if your target skews over 30 but if your target is teens and 20 year olds then social media might have better organic reach than email. Something to look into.
  • Paid media on Facebook was a key driven of brand success in all the case studies shared. The main way to increase your reach beyond the 16% organic is paid Facebook media and, not surprisingly, all the case studies Facebook shared involved brands who invested in paid media on Facebook to reach a much higher percentage of their fans than 16%. In the Facebook brand promotions I have run for CPG brands, this has definitely been the case. The implication is that you better allocate a decent paid media budget for your Facebook marketing if you want enough reach.
  • You need an inspiring content strategy that will deliver lightweight, authentic content into people’s news feeds. This topic deserves its own separate post but I found it helpful to dwell on the keywords inspiring, lightweight and authentic. So many brands violate these principles and I found them to be a nice simple guideline. Look out for a future post on developing your content strategy for Facebook.



Last week we talked about defining success with Google AdWords. Today I’m going to go into more detail on the average Cost of Acquisition and the Average Net Lifetime Value and why these numbers are so important.

When I start Google AdWords campaign for clients one of the first things I try to find out is whether the client knows what their average Cost Of Acquisition (COA) is in any other channels they are using, or the Average Net Lifetime Value (ANLTV) of a customer.  Almost always I find that clients have no idea. They have never bothered to calculate them, or on the rare occasion that they have calculated their COA, they have left out real costs like their time or staff time, especially for time intensive marketing approaches like trade shows or events. The reason it’s important to have some comparative COA and ANLTV numbers is that it helps you form a more accurate judgement about the cost of acquisition that you will pay in Google AdWords.

For example: I had one client that after a few weeks of testing discovered that their cost of acquisition for a new lead by a Google AdWord was around $20. They thought this was expensive and wanted to pull the plug on Google AdWords. After helping them analyze the data from their other marketing programs which included outdoor signage, direct mail and events, we worked out that in the previous year their average cost of acquisition was in the $300-$500 range. Suddenly $20 looked really good and Google AdWords was a positive initiative.

Check out my list of the top 9 mistakes people make with Google Adwords.

I saw this infographic from posted on LinkedIn today and thought you’d find it useful.

The Small Business Social Media Cheat Sheet

As seen on

If you manage several WordPress websites and are tired of having to login every month to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, upgrade all the plug-ins and perform backups and other admin functions then ManageWP Worker is the plug-in you need. There is a monthly fee but for the time it saves me it’s worth it.

Here is their official site with pricing and all the features explained.

Plans and Pricing  ManageWP


Pricing  ManageWP

A Toronto restaurant tweets limited-time menu items as well as “secret passwords” or “secret codewords”. People who visit the restaurant and mention the password/codeword get a free drink. They think their social media efforts have increased their walk-in traffic 20% in the last few months. I like the way this plays into the psychology of motivation related to “being special” or “being part of a special club” and “getting something because I know a secret no-one else knows.”

Social media expert Marc Gordon shared this example at the Constant Contact sponsored “Get Down To Business” Social Media for Small Business conference a few weeks ago in Toronto.

Thank you for visiting, an innovation and strategy consulting firm in Burlington and Oakville.

I attended the Constant Contact sponsored “Get Down To Business” Social Media for Small Business conference a few weeks ago in Toronto. social media expert Marc Gordon addressed this question:

How do I know my Social Media efforts are working?

ANSWER: Social media is working for you if it leads to quality face to face meetings with potential prospects or referrers OR, if your prospects are not local, then an email address and opt-in.

Nicely put Marc!

Therefore your website must capture leads with an offer and an email opt-in. I know you have heard this before but if your website still doesn’t have this then take the time to make a compelling offer (like a downloadable whitepaper or video) and put up a lead capture form. If you haven’t signed up with one of MailChimp, Aweber, MadMimi, ConstantContact or Infusionsoft then do so and use their tools to create the email capture embed code and put it into your site. If you use WordPress or Joomla, there are free plugins from these email providers that make integrating it easy.

Thank you for visiting, an innovation and strategy consulting firm in Burlington and Oakville.

Google has just introduced its version of the Facebook LIKE button and if you are looking for the latest tool in the battle for better search engine rankings, this should be on your radar. It’s called the Google +1 button and it launched in the US in March 2011 and has made its way into various popular plugins in the last few weeks. Google says “+1 buttons let people who love your content recommend it on Google search.”

It’s estimated that more than 50% of corporations don’t allow their employees to access Facebook from the office. But they do allow access to Google. So this could give the Google +1 button a huge advantage over the Facebook Like button.

I would be wary of immediately thinking of how you can get all your employees to like your company page and send it to the first page of Google search results. But try it 🙂  I’m sure the google engineers are smarter than us and have or soon will figure out how to prevent people gaming the +1 button.

Quality content is still the key. That’s what intelligent people want from the web and Google only has value if it can keep showing you quality content and weeding out the junk produced by people hoping to just get traffic without real work or talent. The +1 button is just another tool that google hopes will increase it’s ability to show you quality content.

Expert articles on the implications of Google +1 for SEO

Implementing the Google +1 sharing tool

You can implement the tool from google directly, but you have to know how to implement a code snippet:

WordPress Plugins for adding the Google +1 button

My personal favorite social sharing plugin is the AddThis Plugin and they just added support for the Google +1 button.

AddThis WordPress Plugin on strategycube com

Google +1 integrated into AddThis WordPress Plugin

AddThis WordPress Plugin Options

Google +1 in the AddThis WordPress Plugin admin


Some stand-alone WordPress plugins:

Known Issues

There is no support for the +1 button in Internet Explorer yet and I had some minor troubles viewing it in Firefox for Mac. It showed up fine in Chrome for Mac.

The Alumni Magazine at Marriott School at Brigham Young University recently published an excellent article on how to improve adoption of new products based on new research into consumer behavior with new products. You can download the article here.

American overconfidence vanishes once consumers try a new product, and it’s replaced with exaggerated self-doubt.

In a study published in the February 2011 issue of Journal of Consumer Research, Billeter reports something that he suspected all along: American overconfidence vanishes once consumers try a new product, and it’s replaced with exaggerated self-doubt. “The bottom line is that before people try a new product, they think that it will be easier than it is,” Billeter explains. “And after they’ve tried it once, they think they’re going to be worse than they actually will be.”

So how do you keep users from abandoning your new product before they get the benefits?

Four strategies to help companies improve product adoption rates:

Billeter recommended four strategies to help companies improve product adoption rates:
1. Design products to feel familiar,
2. Hire a guide for your demo,
3. Take advantage of technology and timing, and
4. Buy time with bundled pricing incentives.

These might sound a little fluffy but read the details of their points – they have some very good ideas many companies could copy.

I love a good 60 second screencast on a product

Related to their points 2 and 3, I think software products and web tools should all have very well made screencast videos that act like guides to walk consumers through getting past initial setup and usage confusion to the wins.  Even relatively simple products can benefit from one.

Here are some of my favorite product screencasts: and click on the video or and click on the “Skitch in 60 seconds” video and click watch video in the centre right (small icon)


Thank you for visiting, an innovation and strategy consulting firm in Burlington and Oakville.

If you are leading a startup you will at some point have to decide how to compensate your team.  Who do you give equity to? Do you do profit sharing for the team, or just bonuses? Or should you just give a plain old vanilla salary.

Many of the CEO’s I have worked with are fundamentally sales guys. Not always, but often. They were frequently phenomenally successful sales guys in the past and their lone-wolf talents sent them off to start their own business which, because they could sell, avoided bankruptcy, beat the odds and became very successful.

Not surprisingly most of them love incentives and bonus plans – because most sales people are paid some sort of  commission. They figure that since it worked for them it should work for others. And it’s an honest mistake – one I’ve made. But I have often had this nagging doubt that just because it worked for this person in that circumstance, something doesn’t add up to it working now, in this role. But I could never convince myself and so I often lined up behind the driving force of the sales guy CEO.

I’m leading a startup at the moment, a B2B SaaS product. We have a staff of 4, soon to be 6, and 3 shared resources. So I’m thinking about compensation and incentives at the moment.

This morning I watched this TED talk: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation. (I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this post.)

His thesis is that consistent data from reputable universities shows that while incentives may work for well-defined, linear, mechanical roles, they are counter-productive for roles that require creativity and problem solving or have high degrees of ambiguity. Now I’m not a genius but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a startup whose work is primarily linear and well-defined. In roles that require creativity and problem solving and that operate in ambiguous circumstances, Dan argues the 3 key motivators are: AUTONOMY, MASTERY and PURPOSE.

Based on my huge respect for the work Gallup has done on engagement I think he’s very close but that he’s over-simplified it slightly. Gallup would argue that engaged employees can say yes to each of their famous Gallup 12 Questions, or Q12, or in short: are operating in an area of talent and passion, with a manager who cares and sets clear expectations for them.

Whether you go with Dan’s top 3 or the Gallup Q12, incentives or monetary rewards are strangely absent. So what is the leader of a start-up to do?

My plan for motivating my software startup team:

Here’s where I think I’m going as far as my plan for motivating my team:

  1. Make sure they have great front-line manager. For now that’s me but we’re hiring a new team leader so I can transition into an advisory role and I have to make sure I get them a first class, Gallup Q12 style manager. And while I’m their manager I need to focus on the next 3 items:  (I have to admit that even as I write this I’m thinking that I need to lift my head out of preparing the VC presentation and running financials and make sure I am doing what I just wrote.)
  2. Make sure that each of them is operating in their areas of talent and passion. Which means you had better have a way of figuring out their talents and passions.
  3. Set clear expectations. In writing, because the spoken word gets forgotten and becomes vague over time.
  4. Make sure that each of them know that I care about them personally. Which takes time doesn’t it. You have to slow down long enough to ask questions and listen and remember.
  5. Pay them well enough that money isn’t an issue. I generally aim for 70-80% of the salary range for that job in that market (assuming you can get your hands on a recent compensation survey report.)
  6. Give equity to the most senior leaders so that their success become inextricably linked to the long term success of the business. Where necessary give equity to some of the key people who take risks and sacrifice early on.
  7. Avoid a short term focused bonus or incentive plan.
  8. If the business generates profit, pay out decent bonuses to your team, but don’t link it to a linear “if you do X I’ll pay you a bonus of Y”. In fact, because of this TED talk, I don’t think I will promise a bonus at all. Instead I’ll be talking about “the team achieving its goals” and how we’ll all feel when we do because being part of a talented, successful team is very fulfilling for the kind of people I want on my teams. So when we do generate some profit (and we will), we’ll share the wealth in an appropriate way, but it will not be a focus of how we motivate it our team.

If you are leading a startup I’d appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Thank you for visiting


Many CEOs and small business owners ask me – “how can I use social media to grow my business?” The cheapest and fastest strategy is to maximize your use of Linked In, personally if you are a sole proprietor or thought leader, or corporately if you are the leader of a larger organization.

Here is a simple roadmap to get you off the ground and starting to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand or the brand of your business. If you are a sole proprietor then you will need to do this yourself. If you are the leader of a larger business then your thought leaders, marketers and sales people need to be doing this. And you can’t force them to because their LinkedIn profile is theirs, not a corporate asset, so you’ll have to cast a compelling vision as to why they should do this that connects your company’s interests to their interests.

Get your LinkedIn profile up to date

  • It should not read like a resume. People don’t expect it to be quite so formal.
  • People like short, succinct stories.
  • You can view my profile here: I’m not by any means suggesting it’s one of the best but it may give you some ideas.

Do I need my photo on LinkedIn?

  • Yes but make sure you don’t put up a bad photo. No photo is better than a bad photo. But a good photo makes you more approachable and helps you to stand out in lists.
  • A good photo: Consider black and white or sepia – it can look very professional.
  • A bad photo: blurry, cluttered background, too dark, back-lit, too many colors.

Build your network on LinkedIn

  • Define who is a good network prospect for you: a potential customer, someone who could refer people to you, someone influential who could write a recommendation about you.
  • Go though your mental Rolodex (or whatever equivalent you use) and write out a list of your past contacts that you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn and begin inviting them. Write your own invitation note – don’t just use the default.
  • Every time you meet someone who is a good network prospect, invite them on Linked In within hours, definitely within 24 hours. After I go to an event the first thing I do when I get back to the office is sit with a pile of business cards and invite people on Linked In.

How to write a good LinkedIn Status Update

  • Write out what brand you want to personally own in the minds of the members of your network.
    • Pretend that you are a colleague you worked with 10 years ago and haven’t seen since. They reconnect with you on LinkedIn and begin seeing your status updates. Based on those updates they form an impression of who you have become and what you are doing now and what your niche or specialty is. What impression do you want them to have of you?
  • Suggestions:
    • Give mini press releases when you have an announcement you want them to know about.
    • Ask for help or advice. People like giving advice and on LinkedIn it’s quick and easy. This can be for you personally or on behalf of a member of your group who needs help.
    • Setup a twitter account and check the “Publish to twitter” checkbox
    • If you have a website or a blog and you care about its organic search rankings then use carefully chosen keywords that you are trying to rank for in your status update
  • Examples:
  • American overconfidence vanishes once consumers try a new product, and it’s replaced with exaggerated self-doubt. 4 tips for improving new product adoption from Marriott School professor Darron Billeter.
  • Excited to announce that FusionCom (one of my businesses) has just hired a new CEO – Mark Taylor from McKinsey.
  • Heading to SXSW Conference this week – anyone else from Toronto going? Ping me!
  • Trying to find an affordable ad agency with specialty in clean tech – any suggestions?
  • Watchouts:
    • Confidentiality is a cornerstone of business. You can’t violate that here – so stay away from including details when you think the people involved would not want you to.
    • However, it’s the details that often make the posts more interesting so ask the relevant people for permission so that you don’t become “the bland update guy” on LinkedIn.

Recommendations on LinkedIn

  • Don’t ask unless you recently got great unsolicited feedback from someone – then it’s OK to ask them.
  • Give to get. Start by writing recommendations for people from whom you’d like to get a recommendation.

Pulling prospect lists using LinkedIn

  • The advanced People search allows you to pull all the people with “the likely title of your ideal prospect ” (or whatever) in their title who are within X km radius of a given postal code/zip code. This is an extremely useful feature.

LinkedIn Groups

  • Consider making a LinkedIn group for a group of your prospects as long as you have a clear vision of:
  • What this group of people have in common in terms of interest and needs
  • A clear vision of how they will be able to and WANT TO help one another
  • A clear vision of a role you can play that adds value and positions you how you want to be seen
  • If you ask your group members whether they want a Linked In group, most will say they don’t know what they would use it for. You’ll have to show them how you intend to use it so that they see the value. Some groups may not engage and then they won’t get value from it.
  • Establish a clear purpose for how the group will be used and how to keep it from become useless in the eyes of your members.
  • Make it invitation only.
  • Commit time to moderating it. Read what’s on it. Use what you read to help the members.
  • Pick up the phone and call a member based on something they wrote in the group’s Discussion section. Show them that you are reading and responding.

Doing research on LinkedIn

  • Once you find a prospect you may want to find a list of their coworkers using the Company tab. The Company tab also gives you some rich detail about the company that might be helpful, especially new hires and recent alumni. People are often much more open to talking to outsiders when they are new in a role.

More LinkedIn training

If you’d like in-depth training on how you can build you personal brand online, consider attending one of these full day courses in Internet Marketing in Toronto or Oakville.