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Here’s How To Launch A Startup That Could Be Acquired By A Top Tech Company

Business Insider

I’ll start with one of my favorite thoughts, by Alex Haley in his essay “The Shadowland of Dreams”:

Many a young person tells me he wants to be a writer. I always encourage such people, but I also explain that there’s a big difference between “being a writer” and writing. In most cases these individuals are dreaming of wealth and fame, not the long hours alone at the typewriter. “You’ve got to want to write,” I say to them, “not want to be a writer.”

The reality is that writing is a lonely, private and poor-paying affair. For every writer kissed by fortune, there are thousands more whose longing is never requited. Even those who succeed often know long periods of neglect and poverty. I did.

When the startup economy booms, like it did in 1999 and like it is again in 2014, many people suddenly discover they want to “be an entrepreneur.” Newly-minted MBAs who otherwise would have joined Goldman Sachs or McKinsey instead head west to San Francisco. Big company lifers from Oracle or HP abruptly jump ship, not wanting to “miss out” on the next gold rush.

Too often, these folks quickly find a like-minded co-founder who also wants to join the “startup scene”, brainstorm a few ideas, pick one that seems plausible, hack up a product, then buy a wheelbarrow they can use to take their money to the bank when the acquisition offers start to roll in.

They almost never need that wheelbarrow. Starting a company is as Alex Haley described writing: the best companies are usually not started by people who want to “be an entrepreneur.” They are started by people who are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific problem, are driven to solve it, and then get busy building a company to bring it to life. They rarely go to tech conferences, can’t be found at launch parties, and they certainly don’t have a quick acquisition as their primary goal.

In contract, those who want to get rich by “being an entrepreneur” often come up with ideas that don’t really reflect any proprietary insight or interest. They’ll launch an undifferentiated e-commerce site with few barriers to entry, or they’ll read a Gartner report about a new enterprise market predicted to be worth billions, and they’ll jump into it with a me-too product. When they hit the inevitable bumps in the road, they may not have the drive to power over them, or they may not have the proprietary insight to outsmart competitors.

The best entrepreneurs work on ideas that grow out of their personal experiences and aptitudes. Their ideas often are counter-intuitive and don’t seem likely to work at first. I highly recommend this essay by Paul Graham: How to Get Startup Ideas. One of Paul’s best thoughts is:

The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.” At YC we call ideas that grow naturally out of the founders’ own experiences “organic” startup ideas. The most successful startups almost all begin this way.”

Now, many of these “organic” founders also want to get rich, as do their investors and the employees who join them, but they also expect to spend years toiling away with lots of setbacks and trial and error. They know that if they get rich it will be because they are working on an idea where they have an edge in terms of knowledge and enthusiasm, not because they have joined a lucrative profession called “being an entrepreneur.”

All that being said, I would never discourage someone who truly is interested in startups from pursuing one — I’d certainly rather have them here in Silicon Valley rather than send them back to Wall Street. Startup life can provide a career full of accelerated learning, great camaraderie and teamwork, and it will at least leave you with some great stories. If you really want to enter the startup world, and not only for a quick acquisition, you could try:

  • Get awesome at something. Become a great engineer. Designer. Product manager. Marketer. Sales rep. Growth hacker. It is hard to start or join a great company if you aren’t great at a job that most startups need done.
  • Go deep in an industry. Many of the best companies are started by founds with proprietary knowledge in a specific field, like ad technology, insurance, supply chain management, information security, or many others.
  • Join a great startup. If you don’t have an idea where you have proprietary knowledge or passion, follow founders who do. Join the team early, contribute however you can, learn as much as you can, and it may lead to your founding your own company in the future as you get exposed to more people and ideas.

Why Giants Aren’t Always What They Seem

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Why Giants Aren’t Always What They Seem

Success in today’s marketplace hinges on innovation. Behemoth enterprises know that in order to stay competitive they need to constantly diversify and improve on their offerings. They need to harness the latest and greatest technologies – but these technologies can’t be made in these large companies’ labs. 

The new technologies are being built in incubators and startups at lightning speeds. Currently, there are 940 vendors in the marketing technology space offering innovative, disruptive solutions, and a lot of consolidation has already taken place here. The giants are relying on the little guys to drive innovation, which is why these small and mid-sized businesses are so important.

Innovation is moving downstream, and with it, marketing automation. In its 2014 Marketing Automation BuyerView, technology guidance firm Software Advice found that 50% of all businesses interested in marketing automation were in the SMB space, and that 90% were considering the technology for the very first time. Similarly, Forrester Research’s most recent Wave report pointed to several vendors who had already taken notice of this windfall, and had developed platforms specific to the small to mid-market consumer.

The lesson to be learned in all this is a simple one: businesses today are looking to move beyond the monolithic, enterprise-level suites of old, toward smaller, smarter, more flexible marketing solutions. In other words, bigger really isn’t better, and the giants of past eras aren’t nearly as gigantic as they once seemed.

For proof of this point, we need only consider the following facts. The marketing automation industry has grown by 50% annually for a number of years now, but has managed only to penetrate a mere 3% of non-tech companies in the mid-market. This leaves open a segment opportunity worth up to $8bn, and yet it is often passed over.

The few businesses that have been savvy enough to tap into this space have reaped tremendous rewards as a result. Act-On, for instance, has garnered 2100 customers across verticals like finance, insurance, agriculture, and manufacturing. Better still, the deals they’ve won have largely been noncompetitive, and from companies that were familiar with marketing automation already but unsure as to what solutions to choose.

More importantly, a great deal of innovation has already taken place at the mid-market level for this one reason: the more modern their marketing techniques are, the better chance small businesses have of competing against larger peers.

As Forrester notes in its recent Wave report, the B2B space for marketing automation is tipped to explode in the coming year, and will likely be driven by small, tech startups; slightly more than 50% of companies in this space already use automated lead-to-revenue management platforms to fuel sales pipelines, improve process maturity, and improve collaboration between sales and marketing. And it won’t be long before others follow suit.

All signs tell us that the days of marketing giants have come and gone. The future of marketing automation will be shaped by the plucky, ever-agile small and mid-market players.

For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here

How to win followers and influence journalism: lessons from journalists with the most followers on Twitter

Muck Rack

In the Mid-Year Social Journalism Report, Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant ranked the broadcast and print/online journalists with the most followers on Twitter. With more than 5 million followers, Anderson Cooper ranks far ahead of all other journalists. Several standout journalists boast over 2 million followers at press time: Rachel MaddowLarry KingChris HardwickAdam Schefter, and Bill Simmons.

We aren’t all aiming for millions of followers. But even if we start with an audience of dozens or hundreds of followers, we can look to the Twitter habits and strategies of these most-followed journalists for tips on gaining more followers and readers for our work.

Using the ForSight social media analytics platform, built by Crimson Hexagon (full disclosure: I work there), to monitor tweeting and engagement tactics and trends, distinct patterns of highly successful journalists on Twitter emerge. These patterns suggest that visibility through high-profile jobs like Anderson Cooper’s gig at CNN aren’t they only thing separating most followed journalists from the rest of the pack. For this study, I analyzed the activity around the Twitter handles of the five print/online journalists with the most followers as of June 2014 (Adam Schefter, Bill Simmons, Arianna Huffington,David Pogue, and Nicholas Kristof) from January 1, 2014 to July 4, 2014.

There are plenty of ways to gain followers aside from having a daily gig on a major television station, including getting widely retweeted, inspiring people to mention you when they share your work and participating in conversations that are important to your audience.

Here are five concrete lessons I took from my analysis of highly-followed journalists that you can incorporate into your approach to tweeting and using Twitter in your journalistic work to gain a larger audience and more influence: 

1. Tweet Every Day. Regular engagement is the key. If you want to build your follower count, put out Tweets every day. Think of Twitter like a Giga Pet, those electronic toys back in the day that needed to be fed and watered. Each of the five exhibit peaks and valleys in sending Tweets, but send them they do – nearly every single day, weekends included.

2. Send a Flurry of Tweets About Events. Intensify your Twitter presence around events related to your beat or expertise. Each of the journalists’ owned media profiles on Twitter exhibited significant daily activity, as well as distinct spikes in sent Tweets and engagement, including mentions and Retweets, around events.

For example, Arianna Huffington’s Twitter handle saw its most engagement on a single day on Mother’s Day, a day when @ariannahuff Tweeted actively. With 360 million total possible impressions from Tweets and Retweets in one day, you can be sure @ariannahuff picked up new followers as a result of her Mother’s Day Tweets.

Bill Simmons saw a burst of engagement in late April of this year when he Tweeted 22 times about Donald Sterling, Adam Silver, and the NBA from April 26-29. During that time, an on-location Tweet from the Clippers game garnered 2,422 Retweets. Over four days, @BillSimmons added 6,000 new followers.

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Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

By Jessica Maxwell

We recently completed research that looked at how irrelevant content impacts B2B vendors’ bottom lines. We did two separate surveys that were based on technology buyers who had actively made a purchase decision in the last 12 to 18 months; one was to a US audience and one was to a UK audience.

Despite how different these two regions are, we were surprised to see that the results were extremely similar for every question we asked. Content is irrelevant in both of these markets, and no one is happy about it.

Click to continue reading

Here is an infographic view of the US and UK comparison:

irrelevant digital content impacts B2B Irrelevant Digital Content Impacts B2B Vendors in US & UK

For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here 

These Are The Hottest New Startups To Watch This Year

Business Insider

A lot of hot new startups have already launched this year. Business Insider has identified some of the most promising startups that got started in 2014, that have potential to make a dent. Some of these startups are tackling things like ecommerce, news reading, and making the internet more mainstream.

10. Yo is trying to change the way we communicate with people.

Yo, at its core, is pretty ridiculous. Sending a “Yo” to someone merely lets that person know you’re thinking about them. But a few months after launching quietly on April Fools’ Day, Yo rocketed to the top of the app store. It has raised $1.2 million to date, though, investors have reportedly offered to give Yo more than $2.5 million.

9. Glamsquad is an on-demand beauty services startup.

Glamsquad lets you schedule on-demand hair and makeup appointments. You can kind of think of it as an Uber for beauty services. If you’re scrapped for time, just open up the Glamsquad app or website to schedule a trained stylist to come to you. The only rule is that you need to have your hair washed and wet when the stylist arrives. Founded this year, Glamsquad has already raised $1.5 million.

8. Knozen wants to become a personality API.

Knozen recently raised $2.25 million for its iPhone app that lets coworkers rate each other anonymously. Knozen pits two coworkers against each other and asks a series of questions like, “Which person is friendlier?” or, “Who is more conventional?” Down the road, Knozen hopes to turn the product into a personality API simply so that employers can get a better idea of who someone really is.

7. Shadow wants to help you get the most out of your sleep and dreams.

Shadow is an alarm clock that helps you record and remember your dreams. It launched a $50,000 campaign on Kickstarter last September, and raised $82,577. Shadow, which launched in alpha earlier this month, will gently wake you up with escalating alarms and then immediately prompt you to either type or speak about your dreams. Over time, you’ll be able to know if your dream is unique or recurring, and if so, how often it happens. You can choose to share your dreams with other people, or keep them totally private.

6. ThriveOn wants to change the face of mental health.

ThriveOn, a mental health care startup, won the health category at the South by Southwest accelerator competition earlier this year. ThriveOn is an online and mobile service that offers intake, counseling, and exercises for people with mental health issues. The idea is to make mental health care as easy as other online services by helping patients avoid long wait times, in-person interactions, and costly fees. When you first sign up, you take the assessment to get a full report of your well-being across five different aspects of mental health: mood, stress, anxiety, body image, and sleep. Based on your results, you’ll choose a personalized program of sessions, all of which have been developed based on methodologies in clinical psychology. Each session is a combination of reading, interactive exercises, mood and behavior tracking, and weekly feedback from your ThriveOn coach. As you continue to use the program, you’ll be able to track your progress and learn how your thoughts and behaviors affect your mental health. ThriveOn is currently part of Rock Health, an organization that funds and supports startups trying to transform health care. It’s launching its full program this summer.

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The Best Tactics to Generate More Leads from Facebook and Twitter

SocialMedia Today

Social Media is a great way to connect, share and interact with others beyond the known periphery. Savvy business people are interested to explore this opportunity and reach maximum number of potential customers via social media. You will come across many online blogs discussing the best ways to enhance your social media reach. We will not delve into that same matter further. Our focus will be on something else…… Lead Generation.

Likes, pins, followers, comments, friends, and engagement- these are popular social media metrics. But, what is more vital to consider whether such metrics result on sales at the end of the day? Otherwise, all of them are completely useless.

Change your perspective

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media sites is that they are just only for brand awareness and not for generating leads. If you consider the same, your business is missing out a lucrative marketing channel.

Instead, of getting distracted with the counts of Facebook “likes “and Twitter “followers”, focus on the statistics that can contribute to your revenue. It will be impossible to track ROI, if your organization’s social media strategy is not constructed to support lead generation. It is high time to change your outlook and concentrate on generating social media leads.

If you are planning to start a lead generation campaign, Facebook and Twitter profiles are great places to begin with. Here are a few tips that you should consider to generate leads from these two well-known social media profiles:

Facebook

There are 1.2 billion active monthly users on Facebook and therefore, this channel is the prime focus of the business owners. However, this platform is often not conducive for direct sales, but by distributing quality content and engaging with the customers in one-to-one communication it possible to build trust among the Facebook users. What else you can do to generate leads from this popular channel? Let’s see-

Attracting the customers

First, it is important to understand the kind of information your potential customers are looking for. Sweepstakes, contests and group offers on your Facebook page are good to attract the attention of the customers. Do you remember “Do Us a Flavor” campaign from Lay’s? The brand just asked for a new flavor that the customers may like in their chips. The idea was simple and it clicked. This campaign generated huge publicity and the brand has no doubt gained lots of new customers.

Try to know your customers

You should also think about the information that you might like to know from your customers. It will be easier for you to convert your visitors into lead once you are equipped with more information about them. For that, you may use Facebook tab to ask them few simple questions. However, a social media user does not like these tabs and rarely visit them. You have to think of ways to encourage a visitor to fill up the questionnaire. A giveaway or offer can be enticing and works well to gather customer insights. You can also reveal the content of your website, if the user is ready to fill the signup form. Always try to keep such forms concise with minimum questions. You may ask for email address, demographic data or geographic location information. But, before that, customize your tab and make it brand related.

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What’s REALLY the Best Time to Post on Social Media?

SocialMedia Today

There are a heap of posts and infographics floating about the web which detail the best days and times to post to the various social media platforms. Some even have studies and data linked to them, showing the optimum times to get the most engagement and reach when posting on your chosen platform. While these generic guides are helpful – following this advice is better than just posting at random – the one thing I always think is, “Yeah, but…”

You see, generic data can be useful and can provide you with a level of guidance, but the generic audience they’re targeting with those times is not your audience. For example, the data might show the best time of day to post to Twitter is 11am on a Thursday, because that’s when the majority of users are active – but the specific audience that you want to reach might not necessarily be in that majority. And because of that, it’s also possible that the optimum time to reach them might not be 11am on Thursday. Maybe it’s a different time, a different day entirely – optimum times can vary significantly from industry to industry and business to business. With this in mind, here are a couple of methods you can use to ascertain the optimum times to reach the audience you really want to reach – your audience (and the audience of your competitors).

How to Locate Your Optimum Time to Post on Facebook

Anyone with a Facebook business page will also have access to Facebook Page Insights. While Insights tracks a tonne of data about your page interactions, this data is sometimes not as clear as you’d like when trying to work out optimum times to post. Enter Fanpage Karma. Fanpage Karma provides detailed analytics on your Facebook page, including helpful charts that show which days, times and post types are best for your audience.

Using this, you can work out what times you should post, and what type of content you should post, to maximise reach, response and engagement, based on your specific business data.

But what if that’s not enough? That data might be great, but that doesn’t necessarily show you the best times to post, just the best times to post based on your own previous behaviour. What if you’re just starting out and you haven’t posted enough for that data to be indicative? What if you’ve only posted at certain times of day, say, morning and night, but maybe, if you posted at midday, that might be better? That won’t show up in the data, right? The best way to get around this is to also analyse your competitors.

To do this, you can either look up your competition, based on what you already know, or you can research who your competitors are by looking them up in Google (make sure you search in incognito mode so the search results are not specific to you). Search for the top five keywords or phrases you want/expect people to associate with your brand – you can also enter a location, if your main competitors are local. For each search, note down the top results, then look them up on Facebook and run their pages through Fanpage Karma too.

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Power in their hands? 4 challenges publishers should think about as opportunities

The Media Briefing

You’re entitled to an eye roll over the phrase “the power is firmly in their hands” when someone references the changing mobile landscape, but the phrase still stands.

We’re not the ones saying it this time, however, but rather IDG Global Solutions in their latest report/survey: The Mobile Evolution: Connecting Content.

More than 23,500 executives and consumers across 43 countries were interviewed for the report, which focuses on four key areas:

  1. Tech choices
  2. Attention
  3. Video
  4. The evolving media landscape

1. Tech choices

As well as the simple technological fact that the internet is a two-way communication platform and doesn’t run on a broadcast model like print, radio, or television, it also means that communication has changed as our culture is always-on.

That always-on factor is being taken advantage of by companies looking to grab your attention wherever they can. Phone in your pocket? Not to worry, we’ll strap a mobile to your wrist and call it a smartwatch. Left your smartwatch at home? Not to worry, we’ll place a screen directly in front of your eyes so there’s no escape.

“The future is predicted to be omnichannel. People want to move seamlessly between devices wherever, whatever, whenever they want,” says the report, but we say it’s already here: smart TVs, tablets, mobiles, tablets, smartwatches and google glass are all evidence of different screens used in different ways that consumers are already using.

We’ll permit you another eyeroll at the phrase “The Internet of Things,” but it’s another point in the direction of omnichannel consumption habits.

2. Attention

Although placing screens directly in front of your eyes captures your attention pretty well, most people still don’t own Google Glass. More and more people are buying tablets, however: IDG reports that three years ago when they conducted the study only 20 percent of respondents said they owned a tablet. That figure is now 60 percent.

Capturing your audience’s attention is also harder than before. The disruptive nature of the internet has changed the way we communicate, too, especially for younger people, who text (up to 160 characters), Snapchat (up to 10 seconds), Instagram (up to 15 seconds), Tweet (up to 140 characters), and Emoji (we’re coining the verb) in short bursts.

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10 Tips For Building A Community On Twitter

MediaBistro

If a tweet is sent and no one is around to read it, does it make an impact? This isn’t a philosophical question: the answer is resoundingly “no.”

If you’re not part of a community on Twitter, you’re likely not seeing any real engagement with your content. Here are ten tips for building a community that will add value to your Twitter experience.

1. Tweet consistently

This applies to both timing and topic. The more regularly you tweet throughout the week, and the more on-topic you are (whichever topic that may be), the more targeted followers you will attract.

2. Be helpful

Give before you ask. Offer to help someone – whether they have asked a question, need a favor or they are simply new to Twitter – and they will remember you. Do this enough times, and you’ll build a loyal following of folks who know where to turn when they need something.

3. Search for them

Use Twitter’s advanced search or a Twitter directory to search for people that you’d like in your community. You can search by topic, keyword and more to discover who’s tweeting about the things you’re interested in. Then, follow a handful of these accounts each day, and you’ll be surprised by how many follow you back!

4. Leverage existing connections

You probably already have an offline community, especially if you’re tweeting on behalf of a business – so use it! Let your in-store customers, the people you email, and everyone you’re connected to professionally know you tweet by adding your Twitter handle to store signage, your email signature and more.

5. Build a strong brand

Communities flourish where they have a distinct mandate. So if you have a strong brand presence, one that matches your offline or other digital presence, you’ll be more likely to attract and keep followers who are eager to engage with your brand.

6. Know the lingo

Understanding the basics of Twitter is a must when building a community. If you’re unsure of what RT or DM means, you can take a look at Twitter’s glossary.

7. Respond to all @replies

No community member likes to be ignored! Don’t forget to respond, in a timely manner, to everyone who interacts with you on Twitter. This will show your community that you are engaged, and not simply using Twitter to broadcast one-way messages.

8. Start a hashtag chat

Hashtag chats are all the rage these days, with brands, celebrities and experts coming together with their communities to discuss a single topic on Twitter. Chats can be one-off, or they can be scheduled regularly. They are a great way to build a community, as they promote engagement, networking and learning. We have resources for you if you’re looking to start a hashtag chat, or if you want to just dip your toes in first and join an pre-existing chat.

9. Promote others

Even if you are the center of your community, you won’t last long if all you do is self-promote. Try promoting others by retweeting them, sharing their content and introducing them to one another.

10. Network with influencers

Influencers can amplify your message, and get it in front of a large, targeted, engaged audience. Try building relationships with a handful of influencers in your industry to tap into an even larger community.

Enough with Random Acts of Content

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Enough with Random Acts of Content

By Bob Jonhson

About six years ago I began using the phrase “random acts of content.” Imagine that when you fast forward to today we are still stuck in a rut without the ability to be methodical. We still use what I call a “cover the waterfront” mentality with our content assets. That means they try to cover too much ground such as multiple buying stages, decision roles or audience segments.  This makes it far more difficult to discover several things:

  • How a buyers content consumption reveals the current stage of the decision process
  • What particular role a buyer plays in the process
  • What their primary hot button is if it is technical, financial, or business impact
  • What value propositions are most motivating to them

So, you are left with a demographic approach to nurturing, that is, based on their registration or profile information rather than what they are most interested in. This simply does not enable nurturing which must focus on what is most relevant to that individual with sufficient focus.  So who in your organization is going to step up to this?

I had over thirty recent meetings where I asked the sales and marketing people if the current challenge is to fill the funnel or move the buyer through it. One person said both, one new business unit head said fill it, and everyone else said move the buyer through it.  So, why are so many doing nothing about it except buying more lists, sending out more emails, talking about marketing qualified and sales qualified leads and creating false thresholds of time or number of assets downloaded to determine lead viability and when to push them to partner or direct sales.

The keys to nurture is to break up your content into what can be chunked effectively to the buyer  based on preferences, needs and buying stage. In each asset, call out what stage it is for as well as role and interest.  If you open an asset with something like “While you build your shortlist of finalists…” you immediately tell the buyer what stage the asset intends to aid. But just stick to a single stage in any given asset and for the later stages where you most likely have gaps, take shortened versions of earlier stage assets and pull out the elements that address members of the larger buying teams who are likely from the lines of business, finance and operations. Smarter and more concise content reduces a tendency towards randomness. Then, you can nurture more effectively and better gauge where a buyer is in the decision process.

 For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here