How To Fix 3 Bad Marketing Habits

by Danny Wong

We marketers sometimes don't always get it right.

We buy ad space on sites that look pretty. We giggle with glee when someone tweets about our product. We let out a victory cry when we are mentioned in the news. But often, marketers forget to ask the question: What will this do for our business?

Unfortunately, this is a frighteningly common problem. We forget that everything we do should somehow impact our business’ bottom line, and, instead, point to the number of page views our site received -- despite having miserable conversion rates and web sales.  

As a result, some marketers hit a plateau. They are married to a certain way of doing things and slip into a few bad habits:

1. The premium-press trap. “Look at how much success we’ve had. The Wall Street Journaland Oprah love our product. This week alone, 16 premium-press outlets mentioned us.”

But how many sales resulted from those enviable PR hits? For some, exposure in The New York Times can dramatically change their business. In the early stages of one of my startups, that was actually the case. Yet, Michael Ellsberg shares his example of how coveted features in theTimes and CNN led to underwhelming book sales. Instead, he attributes much of his book’s success to a guest post he “published on the blog of one lone dude in SF obsessed with fat loss, female orgasms and lifting Russian kettle bells.”

2. The no-metric loop. “This campaign works. I can’t give you exact numbers, it just does.”

If you’re not obsessed with analyzing the effectiveness of each of your marketing activities, you’re doing it wrong. Without measurable results, you are unable to know whether or not your efforts are getting better or worse.

3. The bandwagon mistake. “This is something everyone is doing; therefore, this is somethingwe should be doing.”

This is a completely invalid argument. Years ago, when social media was popularized, marketers by the swarms joined Twitter and Facebook. They created branded accounts only because so-called industry experts proclaimed social was the key to success and because all of their peers blindly followed the trend. Today, some of those marketers still have no clue what they’re doing in social media and still waste their time managing company profiles.

If you want to be a better marketer, don’t let bad habits dictate the pace of your professional growth. Resolve to stop making the same mistakes and to discover and cultivate new skills whilst honing existing ones.

Here is a simple guide to help you become a better marketer:

Identify critical business goals and metrics. Essentially, know your key performance indicators, or KPIs. Begin with a quantified understanding of how many new sales or users it will take for you to be successful and always keeping that end goal in mind.

List the things you do on a weekly basis. Understanding what you do is critical to self-improvement.

Estimate the time it takes to complete each task. Knowing how long things take provides valuable insight for the upcoming steps. 

Measure the relative impact of each task and weigh it against time spent. Consider these two scenarios: your weekly email newsletter brings in $1,500 in new sales and takes two hours to craft, deliver and manage and in a week, your pay-per-click campaign drives $3,000 worth of sales, costs $2,000 in ad spend, and requires five hours of weekly optimization and maintenance. Now, a question: Which marketing activity delivers greater profit-per-hour? Keep these metrics in mind when making future decisions. Commit to doing more things that are high-yield and low-investment.

Trim the fat. With the analysis from step four, you’re ready to make smarter decisions about your overall strategy. Stop doing things that are outrageously time-consuming and fail to drive results. (Hint: Remember your KPIs)

Spend 80 percent of your time on proven strategies and 20 percent experimenting with new tactics. Devote the bulk of your time towards efforts that are proven to work (so you’re productive), then budget a small chunk of time each week for “experimental projects” (so you’re always learning).

Go bold. Test your courage and grit with daring campaigns. Invest in your first native ad, pilot a web series or perform a public stunt. Effectively, you drive business metrics forward when you spend most of your time on “guaranteed hits” and use the remainder of your time to try new strategies that may be pivotal for your business’s growth.

Rinse and repeat. You do yourself a disservice when you do not quantify the impact of your work. You also fail as a marketer when you do not change up your rigid routine by introducing new methods and techniques to your marketing playbook. Do not repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Instead, make new ones.

Through constant experimentation and testing, you’ll fail often, but, in due time, you’ll identify a handful of wildly successful and scalable tactics that may grow your business quickly in a matter of months. 

Give the Perfect Elevator Pitch

Can you tell what you do in a compelling way?  Believe it or not, most people can't. Here's how to do it efficiently and effectively.


Ah, the classic elevator pitch. It's a challenge every entrepreneur, marketer, and sales person must meet, and yet most do it poorly. The concept is simple: communicate what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator from ground level until the door opens and you have to leave. Of course, those of us living in New York have the advantage of very tall buildings. Truthfully though, you have about 1--2 minutes to leave an impression powerful enough to get someone to continue the conversation after exiting.

Everyone needs a simple and compelling way to explain what they do. It's the key to successfully prospecting networking events, chance meetings and parties for new business. But unfortunately the way most people explain themselves comes off self indulgent and boring resulting in wasted conversations and fruitless encounters.

Here is the typical wrong way:

Hi, my name is Frank Smith and I am the CEO of Smith Marketing Services. We help companies grow and we give great customer service. Do you have any marketing needs?

The people on the receiving end may or may not think they need a marketing company. Most likely, they are only thinking about what they are going to pitch to you.  This pitch does nothing to compel people to engage further, only to continue the conversation in hopes you want to buy what they are offering. Ultimately everyone's time is wasted.

A powerful elevator pitch, however, communicates a compelling value proposition that attracts customers predisposed to buy.  It can help you efficiently weed through a large group, stopping only for meaningful conversations with real potential customers. Here is a step-by-step process on how it's done:

Step 1--Connect with Empathy

Create a specific pain statement for the customers you want. You really only want to talk to people who are willing to pay for the problem you solve. Otherwise you are wasting your time and effort.  For example:

You know how growing companies with revenue over $5,000,000 struggle with getting sales people to say the same thing, let alone the right thing? Often they grow on the sales ability of the entrepreneur, never putting efficient marketing systems in place; then they hit a plateau and can't scale.

If the people hearing this don't get it or know someone who would, they can answer no and you can move on, having wasted less than 20 seconds.  But if their company is suffering from the issue you outlined you'll be able to witness their face drop as they identify painfully with the scenario.  Now you immediately look smart and empathetic as they affirm that the picture you painted is terrible and frustrating. You have gained their attention.

Step 2--Offer an Objective Solution

So now they are listening and they just got vulnerable. No need to put them on the defensive. They are thinking you might be pretty smart and insightful. Don't prove them wrong by trying to close just yet. Continue showing them how smart you are by offering up an objective solution to their issues. Begin with the entrepreneurial mantra: Wouldn't it be great...? For example:

Wouldn't it be great if there were a company that could design and implement comprehensive marketing that makes your sales process efficient and lets your salespeople close more deals?

If people don't respond positively to this statement then they weren't really connecting in Step 1 and you can dump the conversation having only wasted 30 seconds total. Those who connect should be now hanging on every word and nodding their heads, thankful that someone finally gets their frustration.

Step 3--Provide Differentiation

Now they are 90% there. The best way to close is by explaining why only you are the best to provide the solution they need. You have to ready a couple of points that truly differentiate you from your competition. Note that "Experience" or "Great Customer Service" won't make you stand out since all of your competitors claim the same even if it's not true. A true differentiator is something your competitor can't do or won't do without great effort or expense. Here's the finish:

My company uses proven project management and storytelling techniques honed from our background in theater. Additionally we use proprietary processes outlined in my #1 bestselling marketing books and my national column on Inc. 

Perhaps I could send you a link to my column or a couple of chapters from my books?

If they say no, you only wasted 1 minute. If they say yes, you have succeeded in starting a conversation that may lead to business.  The last line is incredibly important because it gives you permission to get their email and pursue a relationship. Even if you aren't a writer, have compelling content like white papers, videos or blog posts ready to email and support your pitch as promised. That way you won't have to carry a ton of collateral into every elevator.

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No. 1 Marketing Mistake You're Making

by James Archer via @inc

Marketers need to inject a bit of this into their efforts to catch the most customers.

frustrated silhouette


When a company isn't catching enough fish (especially in a tough economy), the CEO's instinct is often to cast a wider net, hire more people to cast nets, or simply cast the net more frequently.

Unfortunately, they seldom consider the most obvious solution: mending the holes in those nets. They apply ever-increasing effort toward something that's just not going to work well because they're missing the real problem.

It's not really their fault, though: it's just a natural consequence of what got them to be CEOs in the first place.

You see, CEOs tend to be quick decision-makers. They're used to reviewing the observable facts of a situation and taking quick and decisive action. Of the four decision modes (Spontaneous, Humanistic, Methodical, and Competitive) they tend to be Competitive. And even if they don't start out that way, the tough realities of being a CEO usually push them in that direction over time.

This fast and logical decision-making style actually puts them at a disadvantage when dealing with consumers. Why? Because consumers typically don't shop like that.

In relatively affluent markets, such as the United States, consumers are driven less by rudimentary needs like features and benefits, and more by psychological needs like affiliation, aspiration, and identity. They make decisions based on the same motivations that many CEOs have actually spent years trying to discipline out of themselves so they could think clearly and be good CEOs.

We all know the companies that consumers get excited about and love to evangelize: Apple, Zappos, Harley-Davidson, etc. These are companies that understand the emotional side of the equation, and build it into their business strategies. From the top down, they acknowledge and embrace how their customers really think, and design their business strategies around it.

On the other hand, a typical small- or medium-sized business does a relatively poor job of this. Because the CEOs are competitive-minded, they try to solve their marketing problem with quantity (hits, clicks, likes, impressions, followers) instead of quality (emotion, inspiration, connection, identity, affiliation). They develop metric-lust, and pursue tactics that fit nicely into a spreadsheet, but aren't really acknowledging the reality of the customer's conscious and sub-conscious behavior.

The result, unfortunately, is an experience that fails to keep the customer around. She sees it, shrugs, and quickly forgets. The short-term marketing tactics get her into the net, but she slips right through the big hole in the bottom.

(If you don't believe me, go check your web stats to see how little time people are spending on your site, how few pages they're visiting, and how many aren't turning into customers.)

To mend your net, you have to create an emotional experience that's so sticky, so engaging, so compelling that they don't want to leave. To compete in a tough market, you have to make your customers feel something.

(And here's a pro tip: your corporate vision statement and generic corporate valuesabout quality, service, integrity, etc., unfortunately won't do it.)

Once you've designed an emotion-focused experience for your customers, your sales and marketing dollars will go further than they ever have before. One dip of the net will land you hundreds of fish, instead of the few you're catching now. Only then does it really make sense to ramp up your net-casting efforts.

You'll have to get out of your comfort zone to do it, though. You can't solve this problem sitting at your desk staring at a spreadsheet, trying to find the logical answer. Go talk to your customers. Figure out what's frustrating them. Learn what gets them excited. And work with your team to brainstorm ways to add layers of real emotion to your business.

Try mending those nets, and see what happens. You'll be glad you did!

The Real Truth About Sales Tests

How do you know if that sales candidate you or your sales manager fell in love with is really the superstar you hope they are?  Before you pin your hopes on your managers’ ability to screen, recruit, interview and hire…you should know how pre-employment testing can raise your success rate in hiring new salespeople.

The keys to pre-employment testing is to make sure you’re testing for the right things.

Example:  Do you want to hire salespeople who knowhow to sell?  Or do you want to hire people who willsell?  Understanding the difference can make or break your career as an executive.  The right test will give you an accurate, honest assessment about your candidate and list them into the following four categories:

# 1. Can Sell and Will Sell:  Know what to do and consistently execute in selling situations.  Hire and train these and you’ll never need to worry about hitting budget.

#2. Can Sell but Won’t Sell: This is the most dangerous person to have on your team.  They know what do in selling situations but don’t consistently execute.  We keep giving them more time because “they’re just so good”. If you’ve got these on your team, find out quick if they’re fixable.  If not, replace them.

#3. Cannot Sell But Will Sell: This person is the one that may pleasantly surprises you.  They don’t look or act like they could sell their way out of a paper bag, but they sell anyway.  Hire these, provide the right type of on-going training and you can guarantee superstar performance.

#4.  Cannot and Won’t Sell: Hopefully you don’t have any of these.   They’re easiest to spot and you should deal with them quickly and decisively.

What’s the right type of test?  There are so many sales pre-employment tests which fall into four types.  Here are the characteristics and limitations of each.

Personality Tests:  Determines personality type and stability.  Cannot accurately predict whether or not people can or will sell.  It also brings up old beliefs that an outgoing personality, a real “people person” will be a good salesperson. After doing this for years, that is not a predictor of strong sale ability at all.

Benchmark Tests: These are an analysis of your “best salesperson(s) and taking the “characteristics of this person to try to hire in their image. In my opinion it is the combination of each person that makes them successful or not and to try to mirror that is setting up for failure.

Sales Aptitude Tests:  Assess what people know about selling.  They won’t necessarily tell you whether or not someone will execute is a selling situation.  There’s a huge gap between knowing and doing.

Internal beliefs Test:  Measures strengths and hidden weaknesses that more accurately predicts whether or not someone will sell.   Measures guts, goals, selling system effectiveness, willingness to prospect, and their willingness to do whatever it takes even if it’s uncomfortable.

If you want to know how someone will fit in your company’s culture or how to manage them, use a behavioral test.  If you want to predict future sales performance, use an Internal belief test.

When combined with a strong recruiting process, you can virtually eliminate bad sales force hires.  Hold your managers accountable for their hiring mistakes. Sales training should come only when you have hired the right people.

Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton knew how to hold his managers accountable for their hiring recommendations.  When his executives hired a candidate, Walton asked each to write a page outlining the candidate’s strengths and why they were hiring the candidate.  In the event that employee ever needed to be fired, Walton required the manager to write a page explaining why.  Then the manager had to travel to see Walton to personally explain the differences in the two memos.  After one of these sessions, few managers repeated a hiring mistake.

There is nothing more important than hiring the right people. It should be an ongoing process. When you have a good strong group, then and only then should you spend time and money on training. You need the right ingredients to make a great meal even if the recipe is good, right!

Email me if you would like a sample; And ask!

8 Steps for Refreshing your Brand

rebrandingOne must contemplate the distinction between branding and rebranding. Rebranding is often miscast as an exercise in repairing one’s reputation. Some rebranding efforts focus on mitigating a negative image (such as Philip Morris’s name change to Altria or AIG’s move of their advisory business to Sagepoint). Yet rebranding may also represent subtle changes in positioning, or the recasting of visual identify, such as Starbucks recent move to a more contemporary look.

If you thinking about rebranding your company, bear in the mind the following considerations:

Seek out simplification-Today’s rebranding efforts are often a function of providing clarity to the marketplace and removing brand confusion. Citi’s recent rebranding removed a single word (if the word bank is in your name, it may not be a bad a idea to remove it). Our cluttered market values simplicity.

Leverage Social Media from the ground up- Within our firm, we recently rebuilt our website, refreshed our brand, and printed new business cards (including a QR code). All of our marketing includes embedded social media components, with the intent of driving traffic to our website where prospects can experience various multimedia tools that are featured online.

Use emotional triggers-Google famous Parisian Love ad (when an American finds love in Paris) is a classic example of using emotional messaging to capture the imagination of your audience. All marketing should utilize emotional triggers.

Enter new markets- Pabst Blue Ribbon, perceived as an also-ran in the U.S. rebranded in China as an ultra-premium American lager (PBR) and is selling for upwards of $44 a bottle (the Chinese may not have everything figured out).

Reshape perceptions about quality-Rebranding should not appear cosmetic or contrived. Harley Davidson’s slide in perceived quality in the 80’s was magnified by stiff competition from Japanese competitors.  The company’s drastic repositioning included a return to its core products and the formation of the Harley Owners Group (HOG’s),  which reestablished Harley a bad boy brand.

Identify unmet needs- Your offer may need to change as the utility of your product or the benefits that differentiate it may shift over time.  Marketers will often use a tag line when they wish to preserve there brand equity, and point out new features or benefits.

Use professionals- Rebranding can back fire when companies draw attention to their marketing.  Many smaller companies try to utilize self service template web sites and similar home grown tools that come off as……home grown. Marketing requires constant investment. Hire people who can assist you with both messaging and technology.

Understand the hard and soft costs- Change can be expensive, given the need to reprint, re-sign, change email addresses, etc. Consider all your  hard and soft costs (including management team band) with as you refresh your brand.

Organizations often under appreciate the importance of branding. In this world of hyper-competition, the way you communicate the nuances of your brand are more important than ever.

Getting the Marketing Mix Right

via HBS Working Knowledge

Businesses rely on solid marketing strategies to boost sales—yet the tools used to evaluate these strategies often provide misleading results, leaving managers with the inability to accurately measure how they can get the best bang for their marketing buck.

"Companies really need to pay attention to the effectiveness of their marketing instruments"

Thomas J. Steenburgh, an associate professor in the Marketing Unit at Harvard Business School, has developed a new analytical tool that more accurately measures the effectiveness of various marketing efforts. He created the model with Qiang Liu, an assistant professor of marketing at Purdue University, and Sachin Gupta, the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and professor of marketing at Cornell University.

Steenburgh believes that the model could help brand managers determine which marketing strategies work best to invest in.

"Companies really need to pay attention to the effectiveness of their marketing instruments," Steenburgh says. "They need to look at whether they're creating new customers or whether they're just drawing customers away from competitors. It's a fundamental question in the field, and this model helps measure that."

The ideal mix

When planning marketing campaigns, brand managers have a wide portfolio of weapons to draw on, including in-store merchandising, advertising, coupons and sweepstakes, trade promotions, prices, and deployment of a direct sales force. The key is crafting the right mix between them—the ideal brew needed to achieve sales and market share goals.

The trick is that each marketing effort affects consumer behavior in different ways, and also prompts different types of responses from competitors. Some activities result in expanding demand across an entire category of products. Take for example the "Got Milk" advertising campaign, which is intended to increase demand for a category of products, milk. In contrast, an advertisement that points out how one brand is better than a competitor's brand has the goal of encouraging consumers to switch products within a particular category.

If a business seeks to grow demand for a category of products, the effort may not elicit much of a reaction from its competitors; after all, if the entire category grows the rising tide lifts all boats. But a competitor's reaction is typically quite different when a company attempts to move in on its market share, perhaps by offering price discounts. Since this strategy is viewed as more threatening, the competitor can be expected to retaliate with prejudice—often by firing off a campaign to win back many more customers than it lost.

"We know that retaliation happens and that companies worry about that," Steenburgh says. "But nobody benefits when both companies are retaliating. One effort just offsets the other."

Measuring the different effects of these marketing strategies can help brand managers make the right decisions about which strategies to use in their marketing mix. Steenburgh, Liu, and Gupta argue that the tools that have been used in the past to analyze the effectiveness of different marketing activities—called discrete choice models—can skew the results and misguide brand managers.

Traditional discrete choice models—logit, nested logit, and probit, for example—are flawed because they make it appear as if all marketing activities produce the same results, the researchers contend. In reality, differences between various marketing instruments are often significant. The cause of these flawed results comes from what is called the Invariant Proportion of Substitution (IPS) property, which implies that the proportion of demand generated by taking business away from a competitor is the same, no matter which marketing activity is used.

"These models get run all the time in academics," Steenburgh says. "There has been some talk at conferences where there seems to be an understanding that these models are too restrictive."

Widening the view

So the professors created a new discrete choice model called Flexible Substitution Logit (FSL), described in their working paper The Flexible Substitution Logit: Uncovering Category Expansion and Share Impacts of Marketing Instruments. The model relaxes the IPS property and allows a wider variety of results to be analyzed when studying the effects of different marketing instruments. By doing so, "the FSL allows a wider variety of individual-level choice behavior to be recovered from the data," according to the researchers.

The team tested the new model by looking at the marketing of prescription drugs, namely, statins, used to lower cholesterol levels in people at risk for cardiovascular disease. Using data from 2002 to 2004, they studied the three primary ways these drugs were marketed by Pfizer, Merk, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AstraZeneca: "detailing," in which drug firm representatives personally visit physicians to sell the drug; at professional meetings and events (M&E) sponsored by the pharmaceutical firms; and by using direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA).

First, they employed the complex mathematical formulas of traditional models to study different marketing strategies used by the drug companies. They found that the IPS property created counterintuitive estimates of demand gains attributable to these marketing investments. Although logically the researchers expected detailing to generate greater demand for the products than either direct-to-consumer advertising or meetings and events, the traditional models would not allow them to discover this because of the IPS.

When they applied their FSL model, however, the results provided much greater detail about the potential effects of different marketing investments. For example, the model predicted that sales gains from DTCA and M&E would come primarily through category expansion (87.4 percent and 70.2 percent, respectively), whereas gains from detailing would come at the expense of competing drugs (84 percent). By contrast, the random coefficient logit model predicted that gains from DTCA, M&E, and detailing would come largely from competing drugs.

"The FSL model is very useful if you want to predict consumer demand," Steenburgh says. "This model gives you a better way to do that."

Figuring in payback

With results that provide a better analysis of how different marketing instruments work, brand managers can now decide how to best invest their marketing dollars. For example, if a brand manager is concerned about retaliation from competitors, the best decision may be to limit investment in detailing and instead put more emphasis on direct-to-consumer advertising or on sponsoring meetings and events, both of which are more likely to expand the category.

Steenburgh notes that future research is needed to find alternative models that overcome the IPS, and he hopes that the FSL model will be applied in other studies that examine the effectiveness of marketing instruments.

"It would be interesting to apply the FSL model in a lot of other situations to see which ones expand the pie and which ones threaten other actions," he says. 

About the author

Dina Gerdeman is a writer based in Mansfield, Massachusetts.

You Can't Analyze Your Way to Growth via @harvardbiz

The biggest enemy of top-line growth is analysis and its best friend is appreciation. Sure, in a small minority of companies and industries, like the smartphone business these days, there is explosive growth, and if an analysis is done of past trends, it shows lots of opportunity for top-line growth.

But in the majority of businesses, if the available data are crunched, it shows a slowly growing industry — one growing with GDP or population. That generally convinces the company in question that there aren't really opportunities for top-line growth, and that in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The fundamental reason is that analysis of data is all about the past. Data analysis crunches the past and extrapolates it into the future. And the past does not include opportunities that exist but have not yet happened. So, analysis conspicuously excludes ways to serve customers that have not been tried or imagined or ways to turn non-customers into customers.

Thus the more we rely on data analysis, the more it will tell a dour story on top-line growth — and not give particularly useful insights. The data analysis of P&G's home care business — hard surface cleaners, dish and dishwater detergents — would have indicated that there weren't many opportunities for top-line growth circa 2000. These categories were growing at something between population growth and GDP growth, clearly candidates for harvesting or maybe sale.

If instead, the core tool is not analysis but rather appreciation —deep appreciation of the consumer's life — what makes it hard or easy; what makes her (in this category) happy or sad — there is the opportunity to imagine possibilities that do not exist.

For instance, suppose your consumers have to clean floors. It's easy enough to appreciate that mopping a floor is a fairly miserable task. Think about what it involves: getting out and filling a bucket, dragging the bucket around and repeatedly jamming the mop in and out of it, and then dumping out and cleaning the bucket. If you appreciate your floor-cleaning customers, you'll be looking to help them avoid having to go through this experience every time they have to clean a floor — because not every floor will need such a heavy-duty approach. It was out of this appreciation-triggered insight that the electrostatic Swiffer anti-mop was born and produced massive top-line growth, approaching $1 billion in sales in a decade.

A similar thing happened with Febreze.

There was a slowly growing market for air fresheners that masked odors emanating from hard-to-clean household items like furniture, drapes, and carpets. However, odor masking was hardly an optimal solution for the consumer. Appreciation of the consumer's feelings would have revealed that genuine odor elimination was the underlying desire.

Out of that appreciation came Febreze, which captures and eliminates the odor molecules in fabrics. Not surprisingly, it also produced spectacular top-line growth where the conventional analysis showed that there wasn't much to be had.

Organizationally and behaviorally, analysis and appreciation are two very different things. Analysis is distant, done in office towers far from the consumer. It requires lots of quantitative proficiency but very little experience in the business in question. It depends on data-mining: finding data sources to crunch, often from data suppliers to the industry. Appreciation is intimate, done in close proximity to the consumer. It requires qualitative proficiency and deeper experience in the business. It requires the manufacture of unique data, rather than the use of data that already exists.

In my experience, most organizations have more of the former capabilities and behaviors than of the latter and hence most struggle with top-line growth. The biggest issue isn't the absence of top-line growth opportunities but rather the lack of belief that they exist. And that is driven by the dominance of analysis over appreciation.

Roger Martin



Roger Martin ( is the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada. He is the author, most recently, of Fixing the Game. For more information, including events with Roger, click here.



Ten Keys to a Killer Name for Your Company via @startuppro

Naming is an art... I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved with some very clever and creating people at the birth of my last few ventures.  We selected Click Forensics, OPTIMAL iQ and Max Deal.  Each meets the criteria outlined below in this excellent post by Martin Zwilling.

Ten Keys to a Killer Name for Your Company

killer-domain-nameFirst things first – your startup needs a name! This may seem a silly and frivolous task, but it may be the most important decision you make. The name of your business has a tremendous impact on how customers and investors view you, and in today’s small world, it’s a world-wide decision.

Please don’t send me any more business plans with TBD or NewCo in the title position. Right or wrong, the name you choose, or don’t choose, speaks volumes about your business savvy and understanding of the world you are about to enter. Here are some key things I look for in the name, with some help from Alex Frankel and others:

  1. Unique and unforgettable. In the trade, this is called “stickiness.” But the issue of stickiness turns out to be kind of, well, sticky. Every company wants a name that stands out from the crowd, a catchy handle that will remain fresh and memorable over time. That’s a challenge because naming trends change, often year by year, making timeless names hard to find (remember the dot.coms). 

  2. Avoid unusual spellings. When creating a name, stay with words that can easily be spelled by customers. Some startup founders try unusual word spellings to make their business stand out, but this can be trouble when customers ‘Google’ your business to find you, or try to refer you to others. Stay with traditional word spelling, and avoid those catchy words that you love to explain at cocktail parties. 

  3. Easy to pronounce and remember. Forget made-up words and nonsense phrases. Make your business name one that customers can pronounce and remember easily. Skip the acronyms, which mean nothing to most people. When choosing an identity for a company or a product, simple and straightforward are back in style, and cost less to brand. 

  4. Keep it simple. The shorter in length, the better. Limit it to two syllables. Avoid using hyphens and other special characters. Since certain algorithms and directory listings work alphabetically, pick a name closer to A than Z. These days, it even helps if the name can easily be turned into a verb, like Google me. 

  5. Make some sense. Occasionally, business owners will choose names that are nonsense words. Quirky words (Yahoo, Google, Fogdog) or trademark-proof names concocted from scratch (Novartis, Aventis, Lycos) are a big risk. Always check the international implications. More than one company has been embarrassed by a new name that had negative and even obscene connotations in another language. 

  6. Give a clue. Try to adopt a business name that provides some information about what your business does. Calling your landscaping business “Lawn and Order” is appropriate, but the same name would not do well for a handyman business. Your business name should match your business in order to remind customers what services you provide. 

  7. Make sure the name is available. This may sound obvious, but a miss here will cost you dearly. Your company name and Internet domain name should probably be the same, so check out your preferred names with your State Incorporationsite, Network Solutions for the domain name, and the U.S. Patent Office for Trademarks. 

  8. Favor common suffixes. Everyone will assume that your company name is your domain name minus the suffix “.com” or the standard suffix for your country. If these suffixes are not available for the name you prefer, pick a new name rather than settling for an alternate suffix like “.net” or “.info.” Get all three suffixes if you can. 

  9. Don't box yourself in. Avoid picking names that don't allow your business to move around or add to its product line. This means avoiding geographic locations or product categories to your business name. With these specifics, customers will be confused if you expand your business to different locations or add on to your product line. 

  10. Sample potential customers. Come up with a few different name choices and try them out on potential customers, investors, and co-workers. Skip your family and friends who know too much. Ask questions about the names to see if they give off the impression you desire.

If you are still unsure of yourself, you should know that there are many dedicated firms, like Igor and A Hundred Monkeys, that can relieve you of $1M of your hard-earned funds to come up with just the right appellation. Hmmm. I wonder how much they spent on their own names?

Marty Zwilling

CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; Arizona Angels Selection Committee; Entrepreneur in Residence at ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management. See me on Twitter as StartupPro, and on LinkedIn and Facebook by name. Published on Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Business Insider.
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"@Tippr Proposes 'Open Deal Format': A Standard For The Group Buying Industry" via @techcrunch

There are a few things I know something about, running a "platform" play is one of them.  The Platform Play comes from the book titled, "The Marketing Playbook".  It describes how a small somewhat obscure company can try to get everyone to the table for the good of the eco-system.  It's not easy to pull of, but when done correctly can ensure sustaining success for the company and potentially, the entire eco-system.  Tippr is the latest example to give it a shot.  The problem they will face is there are no "angry farmers", those who are beaing hurt but not having a standard in place.  

However, I am for the underdog, especially those who red the same books as I do!  Good luck Tippr...

Tippr, which provides white-label services for group buying, is proposing a new potential technology standard for the group buying industry today, dubbed the “Open Deal Format” or ODF. The company is inviting interested parties, which include group buying service providers, publishers and social networks, to a meeting in Seattle next month.

It will then formally propose the standard to its peers, once it has finished beta testing ODF with publishers in its PoweredByTippr network, the company adds.

Ultimately, its goal is to have an industry spec published by the end of this year, Tippr says.

Here’s what Tippr is proposing: a specification that streamlines the open exchange of group deal information between deal parties (merchants, group buying services, publishers, aggregators etc.), essentially enabling advertisers to promote deals across multiple platforms with multiple audiences. An open standard would make it easier for publishers to “select, run and financially reconcile” group commerce offers, Tippr believes.

Martin Tobias, founder and CEO of Tippr’s parent company Kashless, which is backed by $5 million in venture capital, comments:

“Publishers launching group buying sites need access to the richest set of national, local and online offers to augment their own sales efforts. Similarly, deal sourcers selling directly to local merchants need to maximize the revenue potential of their sales effort by widening their distribution potential.

The problem is everyone uses a different format to submit their deal information. This makes it extremely difficult and time intensive to exchange information between these parties, resulting in slower time to market and, often, more redemption errors.”

Once there is a standard in place, a merchant would be able to submit its offer to any group buying site (including Groupon, LivingSocial, and of course, Tippr) if they adopt the standard, without too much effort. The group buying service provider would, in turn, be able to quickly add the deal to its offer pipeline, and provide its audience a larger breadth of deals.

Tippr has invited representatives from AOL, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yipit, Groupon, LivingSocial, DealPop and TravelZoo, among others, to its December meeting.

It will interesting to see how much attention they get from industry players across the board, and if the group can reach an agreement on an open standard. It would certainly make things much more interesting than they already are in the red hot space.

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
Founded: February, 2010 leverages collective buying power to fulfill consumers’ daily cravings for the guaranteed best deals on goods, services, and events, while supporting local businesses and communities. is the only collective buying site to offer… Learn More