Rock Tumbler: Ever Had A “Great Idea” Only For Reality To Beat The Sh%* Out Of You For It?


Have you ever had a great idea—only for reality to beat the sh%* out of your confidence in it?

I started in 2010.

I was broke then. I had less than $200 in the bank.

My previous software startup, BlueSkyLocal, had failed.

I had moved home to live with family. I figured I’d look for a job rather than keep going.

But I felt like a part of me was dying each time I walked into an interview.

I felt I had given up—given up on a dream that was vital to who I wanted to be.

I felt defeated.

“What had I done wrong?” I wondered.

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2010: Just Do It.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– Chinese Proverb

I journaled at night. I read books about the great, enduring companies that grew large, some lasting over 100 years.

Like American Express, or General Electric for instance.

As I wrote and reflected, I remembered this one time, back when I was a teenager. I thought the high school experience was shallow and a waste of time.

So I made a plan to drop out.

I didn’t know much about entrepreneurship, but I was passionate about creating stuff. Namely, writing fiction and painting.

My plan was: (1) Drop out, (2) Write and paint every day, (3) Make millions.

Being as I wasn’t an adult (and didn’t have a car), I was easily persuaded to stay in school by my family and teachers.

At the end of my college career I decided to go against the advice of my two mentors (who were also entrepreneurs):

“We think you should get a job, work in corporate for a while. Get experience.”

I moved forward with BlueSkyLocal anyway, which was a web-based SaaS product.

It didn’t work out.

“What had I done wrong?” I kept wondering.

“You need to apply to more jobs,” my parents urged.

After hearing it enough times, it seemed logical. I was living rent-free and I didn’t want to be one of “those people”.

My fourth job interview was in the city. I put on a suit (not my style at all) and rode the train in.

The interview went fine. I knew they would offer me the job.

I called up a friend as I rode the elevator down from the interview. He was in the area and so we met at a diner across the street.

We talked a bit. He knew me well enough to know my heart was not in it.

He asked me a simple question: “If you don’t want to do it, then why are you?”

I fumbled over my words, I said something like “well, I need to pay the bills, have to grow up and earn a salary.”

He shook his head and stopped me. I’ll never forget what he said next because it was like his words snapped me out of a spell.

“I think that’s a load of bullshit, Matt.”

It shocked me because I knew it was true.

I laid awake that night thinking and coaching myself on “what next?”

I wrote this in my journal—exactly 8 years ago from today:

April 30th, 2010 ~10:30 PM — “Shaping / Shaped By”

You have a choice, so does everyone else. You can choose to be shaped by reality (by your environment, by your friends and family, by societal expectations) or you can choose to shape reality, to build your own environment, craft your own expectations, to think for yourself.

I am successful and my success will only expand exponentially from this point, because I am aware of my limits, and the fact that, in a sense, they are only my limits because I choose for them to be. Therefore all (or many) limits are a choice and I can choose to exceed them or even remove them completely.

A few days after that I decided I’d give the startup thing another shot.

It wasn’t simply: “Well, let’s just give it a go!” :: shrug!::

It was a decision based on realistic planning. I knew how we would generate revenue and profit in the short term, and I knew the market was there.

(I knew because I made just as much money in college designing a few websites as I had from my first startup.)

There was something profound in making the decision. I felt as if I had armor on. It deflected all doubts.

I would build a company. Not just a web app this time. A company that made an impact.

“You’re an asshole,” my girlfriend at the time had told me.

I had just explained to her I would not be searching for a job any longer and I would focus on my startup. But she had a “normal” job at an investment bank in the city.

I left a note breaking up with her the following morning.

“You seem lazy,” my parents said. “You don’t seem very ambitious… You’re throwing your life away.”

Two weeks later I was holding a check for $5,000 in my hands for our first web design client. This was more money than my last startup had earned in 6 months.

I moved out a week later.

I pasted the quote from my journal to the wall in front of my desk, along with a couple of the other gems above.

Key Lessons:

  • It’s corny and cliche but, you have to believe in yourself. Your sense of belief defines what you can or cannot do. It shapes your reality, it shapes your most important life decisions.
  • Be willing to say “no” to everyone. Almost all criticism or “life advice” is reflective of the person giving it, and not reflective of its own quality or merit.

2011 – 2012: Money In, Money Out

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt  

(This is one of the quotes that made me want to start a business)

I put my head down and worked my ass off.

When I needed reassurance, I read the journal quote pasted to the wall in front of me.

When I needed energy, I read the negative quotes. They made me angry, and the anger fueled my energy to work 12 hours a day and longer sometimes.

I remember going food shopping in those early days. I had so little money, I remember thinking that when I could buy food without worrying about the cost—then I’d be “rich”.

I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a while.

I didn’t go out, except to the gym.

I remember one time crying myself to sleep in the second month because I thought I was going to be evicted. At the time, I couldn’t afford rent.

The next day, I got up and went out to a networking event. I closed a deal with a new client.

I kept closing deals for new projects…

Ten months after starting we had $35,000 of cash profits in the bank.

At our peak that first year we were generating $20,000 to $35,000 revenue per month. We had a full-time team of five, with three others who were part-time.

We generated $106,000 in revenue that first year, with close to 50% gross profit margins.

The money was great, but it was validation that I had said “NO” to the doubts of others and succeeded.

It was also validation for the bigger vision: to build a great company.

Our mission:

Accelerate Creativity & The Entrepreneurial Spirit

And the company values we were building on (and still have to this day):

  1. Relentless Self-Improvement.
  2. Honor Your Ability to Create.
  3. Enjoyment, because life may be shorter than you realize.

I enjoyed talking about these ideas and planning for the future with the team and new hires.

Life was good. We were growing fast…

Around this time I had an idea for a web application for email marketing.

I coded the first version myself.

Then, once I had the team, I naively let them take over. We poured tens-of-thousands into it. Unfortunately, we never officially launched it, though we did have a few clients as paying customers.

We were forced to stop working on because just then we lost a couple of big clients.

One went on a spending freeze. They were a startup too. I was informed of this when I called the accountant to ask about our invoice which was two weeks late.

“F%$K YOU!” she yelled and hung up the phone.

I’m not kidding, that happened.

One of our clients had flown us out to Beijing, China at the time. He was a “coach” (idiot) of sorts.

I went against my better judgment and let this “coach” exercise his “conflict ethics” philosophy via emails. I called our client in an effort to pay us.

We got paid… But it destroyed the relationship.

Our other contracts couldn’t make up the difference. Our payroll was recurring $16,000 every month, but our company earned money on a per project basis.

The math was simple… But I hesitated.

I considered our team members friends. They had families. And I had never fired someone.

Eventually, after our bank account was drained of much of its profits two months later, I laid off the whole team.

It worked to save the business… Barely…

Then I had to fire my best friend, someone I had known since middle school.

I had taken him on as a business partner, but we had a different vision on how to grow the company.

Mine was systems and a content marketing focused.

His was more about networking.

After I fired him he became very upset and disillusioned. Like me, he believed in the company. In his anger, he threatened to poach all of the company’s clients.

We eventually worked it out and I bought back his shares in the company.

As a startup in the position we were in, you have to act fast and decide fast. There’s no time for lengthy debates.

I had hoped that having a business partner would give me more time to focus on marketing and internal systems. Unfortunately, we didn’t complement each other in that way.

I was better able to attract and close sales on my own, without the need for debate or discussion. And it was so unbelievably necessary…

Our finances were so tight by then  that at our worst moment, our bank account went negative $3,300.

I didn’t even know that was possible!

But we clawed our way back.

I woke up at 6 am every day, and did the job of five people.

Whatever it took to keep the company alive, I did it.

I hate cliches but those early days were a giant roller coaster.

It was rough, but constantly taking action helped distract me and stay focused on what mattered.

By then I knew more about what clients wanted.

Our work was always high quality, and we made money for most of our clients.

I also knew more about how to attract clients via content marketing, and I knew a bit more about how to sell.

I realized that the fatal flaw in our business was the lack of consistent leads and high overhead costs.

We had built our first sales funnel, but it wasn’t sustainable or scalable.

I pondered how to solve this problem as our bank account turned from red to black (profitable)…


Key Lessons:

  • Focus and drive applied to a market that wants what you’re selling is deadly effective for growth.
  • Know your numbers.
  • Fire faster.

2013 — 2015: Press On

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”          

– Calvin Coolidge

In case you missed the hint, so much stuff can and does go wrong in starting a company.

If you’ve got startup experience, you probably already know this.

Some of it you can anticipate—e.g. Business partnerships rarely last a lifetime. You need to assume they will end at some point before they even start.

(On this point, I actually prefer not having a partner for now. It seems to complicate things. If you’re afraid to go for it alone, don’t be. Everything necessary for success is based on your ability to learn and develop your skillset. Partners can help, but they can also hinder.)

A lot of it though you just can’t anticipate. You just have to move forward.

Press on.

There will always be struggles and challenges. But make sure those challenges come of your choosing and are not borne of circumstance or of someone else.

After those first two years, I knew I wanted to move away from the project-based model of work.

I wanted to get to a point where I could focus on products.

But I wasn’t sure how.

As many consultants, freelancers, and agencies know too well: project-based business models are extremely up and down, “feast or famine.”

You have to do the work, but then no one is bringing in more leads because you’re busy doing the work.

And you can’t sell more either because you need to finish the work you already have. Your capacity is fixed based on your time.

Then when the work is done, you have to hustle and run around to drum up client leads. Otherwise, you can’t cover your expenses.

It’s a very, very unsettling pattern to get trapped in.

At this was when sales funnels were starting to become a thing. I wrote one of the first, most comprehensive, and most popular articles on the subject. But this was still before productized services.

With revenue back on track, I did the smartest / riskiest thing I could:

I stopped selling services completely.

In hindsight, this was a complete impractical move. I thought it was a distraction.

I thought I could make it work, somehow…

Stopping that allowed me to go all-in on coding this web application idea that I was certain (I had hoped) to be a huge, viral success.

I maxed out my credit card and the company cards, paid for rent and everything else with them.

I ignored “final notices” from the cable, electricity, etc. as long as possible.

Nothing would distract or deter me.

I put my head down and worked my ass off.

It had worked before, so why not now?

But unlike that first year, the mistake I didn’t realize I was making was this:

At the price points we were planning to charge, it would take an incredibly large number of customers before we were profitable.

I did one thing right though: I pre-sold the idea to about a dozen customers from the beginning.

So the idea was validated. Now I just needed to finish building it…

And I did. I coded day and night.

The idea behind the app was that people will help you increase your reach on social media if you helped them back.

I knocked out one feature after another.

The momentum was building.

And finally, we launched.

Techcrunch and others covered us.

We gained fifteen new customers that first day.

But the momentum didn’t last and the product didn’t take off.

Instead of fixing the problems (I was too close to the product and too concerned about the mounting debt / lack of income—which is a completely rational reaction), I decided to pause working on it.

I went back to selling services.

(Note that all of this is occurring over the course of weeks and months.)

I did that for a while, but the problems came up.

It was far better than in the past.

We had a solid lead generation funnel setup now. Client leads streamed in daily, requesting consultations. I would close deals over the phone.

I never had to go to networking events to drum up business.

We never had to pay Google or anyone else for ads.

We weren’t at the mercy of referrals either.

Despite this positive development, the problems that popped up were:

  • Lack of predictable revenue since it was project-based. Hiring and making other long term investments was nearly impossible from a risk-management standpoint.
  • Scaling—How could we hire full-time in order to take on more clients? I felt adamant about not making the same costly mistakes of 2010 and 2011…

I felt stuck. But not defeated.

I knew I wanted to build products and sell them online.

As I explained though, the challenge with that — even if you charge monthly — is volume. You have to be able to cover your overhead.

And there’s a reason why the CEO of Constant Contact, the Founder of BareMetrics and other SaaS founders call their growth curve:

“The long, slow SaaS ramp of death.”

To get to the point where I could work on products, it seemed I had to solve this problem first:

  • The lack of predictability coupled with the inability to scale sucking any joy or excitement out of the work.


Well, instead of growing it was more like a giant balancing act, hiring part-time or per project team members on the one hand—and on the other hand closing deals while being careful not to close too few or too many projects.

There had to be a solution!…

Key Lessons:

  • To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to properly manage your risk. Too much risk and you’ll go out of business. Too little and it’s also likely you’ll fail because your product or service probably isn’t unique enough.
  • Unless you have the capital to launch something “brand new” with clear limits and objectives (e.g. we’re going to be here with dev / sales by X date), you should always build on top of what is already working.
  • Don’t believe the hype in media or marketers’ emails, people talking about how much money they make and how easy it was. It’s probably not an accurate picture of what really happened.
  • Not ideas—but hard work, solving problems for other people, and marketing with proven principles of persuasion are the best predictors of success.

2015 – 2017: Productized—building on top of what works.

“If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you may wake up each day with failure in mind because the goal is hard to reach, and you are progressing only by small amounts, It takes up all your willpower. I recommend that instead of a goal, you have a system.”

—Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert, Author, Entrepreneur

I had more or less solved the lead generation problem by building a lead generation system. It took the form of an inbound sales funnel.

The business was out of the danger zone. Website traffic was steadily increasing.

This was all good news.

However, the core problem of revenue predictability and how to scale remained.

We were still stuck.

While I pondered how to solve that, I started launching my first digital product.

I remember it was a conversion guide for $19. I sent an email to our audience, went to the gym, checked my phone, and saw alerts that several people had bought.

It was a test and a small victory. It reminded me of where I wanted to get the company to as an entrepreneur.

Excited at the idea, I doubled down and developed this product idea into a full-blown ebook and mini-interactive online course—my first.

I wrote a 300-page course book in 4 weeks. I recorded the videos in a week.

When it was done, I decided to launch it via a webinar.

I had never done a webinar before.

But webinars were “hot” right? It was early 2015, other marketers were making tens of thousands of dollars with them, right? They all said so.

So it would be easy for us.

Of course.

No problem…

The problem was, I wasn’t focused on it.

I was managing projects with our team and for our clients and hiring and payroll etc. most of the day.

Without any real focus on the process behind making it work, I simply assumed I knew better, or at least enough.

Besides… We had about 2,500 genuine 100% grade A organic email optins.

It was a sure thing.

I put on the webinar, I gave the presentation, I made the offer.

No one bought.

Literally, zero people bought.

I think the price was something like $199 or $99. I honestly don’t remember. In either case, it wasn’t that expensive since it was a launch special.

Clearly, though, I had done something wrong.

I paused on the webinar idea until I could figure out what had gone wrong.

I began studying the webinar presentations of others.

I broke them done, line by line, slide by slide.

I emailed Lewis Howes who was selling a webinar product then.

He’d given a presentation and I emailed to say thanks. We were in the same networking group at the time, the Young Entrepreneur Council.

He tried to twist my arm to buy, in a really messed-up way. It completely changed my opinion of him and his business.

I made a mental note to never do that to my customers in the future…

Anyway, while I was learning about webinars, I set up a simple email funnel to give new subscribers useful content and then offer them the product.

That actually seemed to work. I had adjusted the price and what was included as another test.

That seemed to work. Just about every other day my phone “dinged” with a notification saying we’d earned $49.

“Cool. Progress,” I thought.

Later on, I put on the webinar again. This time I followed the proven template I created based on the example webinar presentations I was studying.

We generated something like $500.

Nice, it was working, finally.

Not enough for the number of hours and late nights it required, but it was starting to work.

I made another webinar presentation about two months later.

I had practiced more, and polished the pitch and offer a bit more.

Perhaps most importantly, I did more to promote the webinar, to build anticipation so the attendance rate would be higher.

We broke the $1,000 mark from that webinar. And we started getting some nice testimonials from students of the online course.

This was all fine and good, but $1,000 wouldn’t pay the bills.

I had to keep turning my attention back to projects.

That’s when reality punched me in the face.

A client scammed me and the business out of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time.

After working day and night consulting with him, managing his team for what seemed like a great opportunity—he disappeared. Even though I’d grown his sales funnel to 6-figures run-rate generating $10,000 within 5 days of launching.

This represented a 600% increase in his conversion rate!

I had worked non-stop for two months, thru the Thanksgiving holiday.

And I was pissed off.

I had been “taken” and lost out on thousands of dollars, as well as what was a great case study.

Man, I was bitter at this time.

But I had no money to take legal action, nor did I have time to waste.

The one silver lining is that I had learned something from working with this rotten apple.

I learned how capable I was.

To get those results in 60 days for a market I wasn’t familiar with before.

Plus, it was for a membership website, a digital product in other words.

I was fed up and ready for a change. I wouldn’t let this guy defeat me.

I decided I’d apply my upgraded skill set and all I’d learned recently to transform our business.

I saw no reason why I couldn’t optimize our sales funnel to convert the same way we were selling our online course.

The next day I whipped up a landing page, along with a pricing table. There were 3 tiers ranging from $99 to $299 per month.

I would build a competitor to WPCurve, I initially thought.

WordPress maintenance, tweaks. That sort of thing.

No more “lengthy proposals” and qualifying phone calls that didn’t make our client’s lives nor the company’s any better—or so I hoped.

After all, WPCurve was an example of a scalable, productized service.

Surely it would work for us too. We had plenty of traffic now, over 10,000 visitors per month.

So I fired off a pitch to our email list.

Some people clicked, but no buyers.

I waited…

Nothing happened.

A week went by.

One guy called us up.

Sure, he’d give us a try. He was a former customer of WPCurve, he wasn’t happy with them for some reason… Oh and, did we have a discount?

I start firing off more emails to our list, not waiting.

WHAT DO YOU WANT THAT I CAN GIVE YOU? I essentially asked, while also pitching a couple of new ideas.

A few people replied with feedback.

I followed-up and conversed with them some more.

This is what Sean Ellis and others call “customer development.”

I took the exact words of these people I was conversing with and slapped them on our landing page.

I adjusted the rest of the copy to fit with what they said they wanted.

It would be a “done-for-you sales funnel service.”

(We later rebranded it as “done-with-you” due to the price points.)

The prices remained the same, starting at $99 / month.

I fired off a launch email the next day.

Someone bought immediately. No free trial and they weren’t even on our email list.

She simply wanted what we were selling and she bought.

“Ok then! Awesome!” I thought. “Now I just need to figure out how to provide this service.”

The startup analogy “building the bike while riding it” floated to the top of my mind, and stayed there, for a while…

I doubled down on the service fast, ironing out our funnel.

We stopped taking on client projects completely.

We didn’t have a long runway of cash, so the transition had to be fast.

Two days before Christmas, 2015, I hosted a webinar with updated content and then pitched the productized sales funnel service.

The number of customers signing up rose rapidly after that.

By Christmas, 6 weeks after we’d launched, we had about 20 customers on our new productized service. This represented over $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

Within eight months we broke the six-figure annual recurring revenue mark, ~$8,300 per month, $100,000+ per year.

(source: ProfitWell)

It was an exciting ride at the time.

It felt like some sort of break-through in terms of our business model. And it was.

But there were massive problems with the service.

  1. The scope of work, as in, what we would do and how, at such a low price point, was not well defined at all.
  2. I tried to hire and train people but, it was difficult to retain talent. We simply could not compensate them enough to where it made sense for them long-term. In addition, the turnover of our team was high.
  3. Customer churn for the service was high after the three-month mark because the scope of work wasn’t well defined.

Over time my team and I hammered on these problems and things slowly improved. Still, we weren’t profiting much.

My stress levels were through the roof.

I was answering customer emails non-stop. I would write mini-essays in each email. This is because our service said it included strategy, and I wanted to do my best to keep customers happy so they wouldn’t churn.

This business model was brand new to me, so even though we were growing and improving, every cancellation felt like a loss.

A year later I revamped the service completely.

I decided to test making the service be super well-defined and limited in terms of scope.

We would manage customers’ email pop-ups via ongoing AB testing.

This sort of worked, but I wasn’t “into” it and neither was our audience.

Around this time I got out of a bad relationship. Since I was reflecting at this time, I reminded myself of my goal to make the business into a products business, not just a productized service.

I decided then was the opportunity to give that a real try…

Key Lessons:

  • If you’re not sure what to do, but know that some parts of your business are working, the least risky thing you can do is to build on top of what works.

    I got lucky with launching our first productizing service. “Lucky” — because I was talking to customers and members of our audience. You see, we already had lots of traffic related to sales funnels. So, many people in our audience already wanted a service related to that.

    The funnel service built on what was already working rather than a “Wordpress” service which didn’t align with our audience.

2017: Success, & bootstrapping a digital products business

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  —Albert Einstein

A bootstrapped business means you don’t take outside investment in order to finance a company and grow.

Instead, you are growing from the revenue and profits of customers.

Customers are your investors.

Another fact of running a bootstrapped business is that you have to become profitable almost immediately.

Of course, if you have money saved up, sure, your “runway” is longer.

But no matter what, you can’t lose money forever…

In the first quarter of 2017, I went full-steam ahead with selling products.

I didn’t feel so confident in it though.

“If you think a thing is impossible, then you will make it impossible.”

—Bruce Lee

And in my heart, I wasn’t optimistic at this moment for a few reasons.

First, our runway to get to profitability was short.

We had a couple of clients whose sales funnels we were still managing at the time.

I started reshaping our sales funnel to focus on selling our online course. However, we could never get above ~$2,000 per month, which was the magic number for profitability.

And revenue was completely inconsistent too.

Second, I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know.

And I sort of knew it! 😀

By April of 2017, I could see we were about to run out of cash in a matter of weeks.

So, I stopped working on products and launched a new productized service.

Where as the previous one from 2015-2016 was branded as “done-with-you” — we brand this as 100% done-for-you.

My gut feeling, from talking with past customers is that this is what they secretly wanted.

And we charged appropriately this time to ensure we would accomplish that for our clients. The price was more than 10X higher than the entry-level price for the previous service.

I sculpted the funnel as perfectly as I could, doing my best to define clearly (unlike the previous time) exactly what clients would get.

Then I launched it.

Clients and cash flooded in.

It was exactly what our audience wanted.

I built out our team as fast as possible.

Within two months of launching, we were generating over $19,000 per month (MRR), or about $230,000 annually.

(source: ProfitWell)

The sale wasn’t automated as I had originally hoped. However, our sales funnel was so good, and so well optimized, that I had a 70% close rate when getting on the phone with clients.

It felt good to have a full team of talented people, and to not have to worry about cash flow for a change—to instead focus on delivering our service for clients.

But I hadn’t forgotten about products.

A few months later, after much preparation, we launched our 6-Figure Sales Funnel training.

It was the most successful product launch we had done to date, generating over $5,000 in gross revenue.

The day of the launch, I was getting ready to take my first “real” vacation to the Dominican Republic in years.

My team was set up to handle all our clients, but I wanted to make sure our new product launch was a success.

I worked for 48 hours straight and then slept for a few hours and went back to work.

You might think I felt tired. To the contrary, I felt alive.

Then I hopped on a plane and met up with the girl who would later become my wife in the DR.

While I was on the beach, looking out at a turquoise ocean smoking a cigar with my beautiful lady, I felt my phone vibrating as sales came in.

The business was running, we were making a profit while delivering real value, and we had a full team.

It was a moment of victory.

But it didn’t last.

Because nothing ever does.

And if you ever find yourself thinking “I’ve arrived, I’m finally a success” — you need to slap yourself in the face because it doesn’t work that way.

This following quote is the only enduring and true description in what success really is.

It rings true to me and maybe it will for you as well if you stop to consider it.

2018: Products, 100%.

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

—Earl Nightingale

If your success is based on an impossible image framed for you by others — friends, family, media — then, that can’t be your success.

Because a standard defined by other people and not you is always moving.

It will never be enough.

You will never feel fulfilled because it can never be achieved.

It felt cool to lay on that beach and know we were making money and delivering value.

But I earned that moment. It wasn’t some fantasy.

And quite frankly, doing that for longer than a week would have gotten boring.

My standard of success was and always has been to build a great company that can grow without me.

Our mission has always been: “Accelerate creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Those things can never be fully achieved, and that’s on purpose.

Nothing can ever be perfect, but it’s about the progress you make towards that standard or mission you set.

I continued working and traveling through Latin America with my future wife for the rest of 2017.

When I was running the business in Costa Rica, I decided the company was close to the point where, coming up soon, I could make another run at the digital products business model.

This time would be different.

We had a bank account full of cash. I had done a good job of managing our profit margins.

We could literally not make a single dollar, and still be fine for at least eight months.

The other thing we had going for us was that we also had a large email list of 12,000+ active email subscribers…

“Your income is directly proportional to the amount of value you deliver.”

“The money isn’t in the email list, it’s in the relationship you have with your list.”

—Frank Kern

I laid the groundwork, and by the start of 2018, we’d wrapped up all our client accounts.

We launched our first tripwire in January.

Then launched the Sales Funnel Diagram Pack in April, which was and remains a very popular product.

Over 1,200 copies of both products sold to date.

In our first 10 months as a products business, we sold to 1,600 new customers.

We had a 12% conversion rate from an email subscriber to paying customer.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

I failed to reduce the size of our team soon enough. We simply didn’t need a team of ten people anymore.

Our (cash) burn rate remained much higher than it should have been for that reason.

Revenue kept creeping up, month after month, sometimes tripling or growing by 50%+ from one month to the next.

I shared the journey in monthly growth reports and videos on our blog.

This was great.

But I didn’t know my numbers.

(I recently wrote an article about common start-up mistakes by the way which covers this in greater detail.)

I didn’t know what number exactly we had to reach before we would be profitable.

So we kept burning cash faster than we took it in.

I could have turned off our subscriptions to various tools and web apps we no longer needed—but again, I didn’t know my numbers.

This cost us hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

I was learning rapidly at this time about what it took to run a digital products business.

One clear pattern was that the more emails, content, videos, and launches we did—the more our sales grew.

However, as time went on two things happened…

  1. I realized I was creating a job for myself.
  2. The pressure to grow sales month to month became tremendous.

First, although our business was now very “scalable” I found myself working harder and harder for incremental gains.

The business seemed to revolve around how much time I put into it.

That was unexpected.

But it made sense when I thought about it. We’d been charging clients monthly for our service the year before. But now our business model was one-off sales.

There was no recurring component.

And every month we were starting from zero.

Combine that with number two…

Sure, every month we did better, and I’d celebrate that fact and what I learned on video and on our blog.

The truth was, I didn’t want to “fail” publicly. I was a sales funnel expert and if our sales went down for even a single month, this would be really bad… right?

These two things conspired to take me away from developing new products. Instead, I found myself always focused on that last day of the month and getting revenue to be higher before then.

I focused harder and harder on marketing and putting out new offers and content.

It kept working, and I kept doing it.

When in month 8 we finally didn’t grow for the first time—I have to tell you, I actually felt relieved.

I was tired of thinking and investing my effort for shorter term gains.

I wanted to create new products and improve the underlying business model.

2018 overall was a HUGE victory though, despite the challenges.

Compared to revenue from selling our digital products in 2017, we grew by 297% (here’s the article with the full breakdown, published at the beginning of 2019).

Key Lessons:

  • Know your numbers, know how much it takes to become profitable.
  • Be aware of your systems, and underlying incentives you create for yourself based on those work systems.
  • Invest to create long-term value, always.

2019: Rocket Tumbler, and Sticking with it.

The following is a quote from an essay by Steve Jobs, published in Fortune magazine, Jan. 24, 2000:

When I got started I was 20 or 21, and my role models were the semiconductor guys like Robert Noyce and Andy Grove of Intel, and of course Bill Hewlett and David Packard. They were out not so much to make money as to change the world and to build companies that could keep growing and changing. They left incredible legacies…

But then, the rewarding thing isn’t merely to start a company or to take it public. It’s like when you’re a parent. Although the birth experience is a miracle, what’s truly rewarding is living with your child and helping him grow up.

The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.

So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.”

2019 is still unfolding.

As I write this, I’ve just turned 32 and April is almost over.

The last eight months of the business have felt up and down.

This is primarily because we’re only at breakeven or making a small profit.

We launched a new product in February called Proven Sales Conversion Pack, which I’m quite proud of.

But I’ve gone back and forth in my mind recently.

Should we go back and launch our done-for-you service again?

Or should I go forward?

But to where? What’s the goal post we’re aiming at next?

For a while, the goal was simply to “get here.”

It was quite painful to burn through the company’s savings, as well as my personal savings in order to make this leap to products in 2018…

To see the numbers evaporate from our bank account month after month (but slowing, as revenue rose).

Then at the beginning of the month, we start from zero again (as I explained above).

It’s tempting to want to go back to what feels “safe.”

I remember when I was in college with my first business.

I got to be somewhat known around campus since my companies made the front page of the newspapers a few times, among other things.

Friends and other students would ask me why I wanted to be an entrepreneur, why take the risk?

Without hesitating I think I’d reply with something like:

“Now is the only time to do it. Life is short. We will all die someday. I have something important I want to contribute before that happens.”

I still feel that way.

I’m reminded of another quote by Steve Jobs, which I’ll embed as a video below.

In the video, Steve tells the story of making friends with a scary old man who lived up the street with him.

He explains how the old man showed him his “rock tumbler.” He’d put rocks he’d collected into it, and it would rotate around. He’d leave it for a few days. When he took them out after that, the rocks would shine like gems.

Steve related this to being in a team of people and working towards a common goal, especially as a startup. The people, he said…

“They polish each other. And they polish the ideas. And what comes out are these really beautiful stones.”

I won’t give up or go backwards. There were well thought out reasons I made the shifts I did in the past.

I’m staying the course.

Because reality is what we make of it.

If I’m honest, things are actually pretty good. We are making a small profit every month.

And that’s coming from unique products I created for our customers, from scratch!

I’m only 16 months into this journey since we transitioned away from the agency model.

My skill set as an entrepreneur and marketer has only grown.

I’ve put in a lot of work and overcome many challenges just to get to this point—and it’s getting better.

You see, I’ve realized that…

Sometimes, reality is a rock tumbler. And the longer you stay in, exposing yourself to the challenges of it, the more polished you get.

And I’m staying in.

So I hope you’ll continue the journey with me too as I reveal the destination we’re climbing toward…

Because success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal—an ideal that WE get to choose.

The road is bumpy, especially when you do something new—and I’m constantly doing new things as you can see.

Expect the journey to be a challenge.

If you do that, then maybe you won’t be discouraged.

Maybe you’ll be more likely to take action on whatever idea is sailing through your mind right now.

Maybe you’ll enjoy the ride…

And I hope my company and I get the opportunity to be there, right alongside you, helping.

Keep convertin’, stay focused,

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Webinar Features – White Board


Continuing my series on less talked-about web conferencing features, we take a look at white board functionality. As is common in this business, terminology is inexact and people use the same words to describe different things, so let’s all get on the same page.

If your webinar product relies exclusively on screen sharing to display content (GoToWebinar and Zoom are examples), you are unlikely to see a separate “white board” functionality broken out. Instead, you may have annotation tools that let you mark up whatever is being shown to the participants. A few vendors refer to this as their white board.

* TIP: You can press the W key while in PowerPoint slide show mode to blank out the current slide and show a white screen. Make your own white board at any time!

Other products have a white board mode that is distinct from slide annotations. These white boards may contain additional functionality such as:

  • The ability to “flip pages” to capture and review successive screens of white board markings
  • The ability to show the white board at the same time as other content such as slides
  • The ability to let breakout groups create their own white boards and then rejoin the master conference to share them with everyone
  • The ability to let hosts or participants save or print white board pages
  • The ability to grant drawing control to specific attendees or all participants in a web conference

There is one more use of the term that is less common… Some companies market physical white boards that hang on a wall in a conference room. As people draw on the board (with specialized pens or finger touches), the images are electronically converted to online annotations that can be shared with remote conference participants and captured for later review.

I previously wrote a couple of posts going into excruciating detail about annotation tools. You may want to review Part One and Part Two in order to get a better understanding of how products approach the idea of drawing markups. That is not the focus of this post.

Instead, I want to examine the purpose and use of a virtual white board in a web conference. I recently put out a request on Twitter asking people about their use of white boards in webinars. Responses ranged from “Never” and “Prohibited in our company” to “It’s too clunky to be practical” to “Very effective” and “We use it all the time!”

I asked a few respondents to share more specifics. One thing I found interesting was that quite a few people indicated white boards were used extensively or primarily for group brainstorming. In many cases, the only annotation being done was textual. I can’t help but feel that this could be accomplished more effectively if vendors created tools built specifically for the use case. ON24 offers an example with their “Idea Widget.” It lets participants type ideas, comment on other people’s submissions, and rank entries. This could get past the perception of “clunkiness” when trying to use a graphical tool to manipulate text elements. It also eliminates the learning curve when participants try to figure out the annotation tools given to them.

Others mentioned the usefulness of being able to sketch a graphical concept and solicit comments and suggestions allowing incremental refinement. A development team working on a new user interface might want to illustrate their ideas.

An Adobe Connect user said that they break training classes into smaller groups for interactive exercises using Connect’s breakout rooms. Each small team can work together using their own white board to share ideas. Then their team’s consensus can be shared with the full class when the breakouts rejoin the main conference.

One person brought up the use of white boards to help create hand-drawn graphics to support a talk, in the style popularized by the Khan Academy. Professional educators are used to writing on chalkboards or white boards as they speak, but for many of us, it is hard to multi-task between writing and talking in real time. I would definitely recommend using an externally-connected tablet and stylus for this purpose, rather than trying to do extensive drawing with a mouse moving a pointer on your computer screen. I think this technique is more effective for recordings, where you can speed up the drawing tasks so they match a fast and smooth speaking pace.

I once attended a public webinar with a hundred people or so in attendance. The presenter opened up a white board and gave drawing permission to the entire audience. There wasn’t much point to the exercise… It was mostly a way to encourage active participation and we didn’t take away any new concepts. I must admit that I shuddered a bit. Fortunately nobody experimented by drawing crude representations of genitalia on the screen, but it was still a mess of overlapping lines and colors. As with any other presentation or interaction tool, there should be a reason to use it in the context of your talk or meeting. Bringing in technology elements “because they are cool” is an invitation to distract from your message and waste your audience’s time.

I think there is an opportunity for better development and implementation in many conferencing products when it comes to white boards. Vendors should pay more attention to the use case of brainstorming and group development. Allow a mix of graphical elements and text that is actually treated as text. Maybe something along the lines of Adobe PDF with its review-mode ability to place comment boxes next to elements. Add more upvoting and ranking capabilities. Make sure to include functionality to drag elements around the screen for easy visual re-ranking.

I think there is also a case to be made for a simple “guest drawing” mode that allows people to add contributions without seeing a confusing menu of annotation options, while permitting power users to access additional options if they are comfortable with them.

If you are in the “never use white boards” camp, you might want to see if there are use cases you hadn’t considered, where it could benefit communication and interaction in a specific situation. White boards are not a necessity for every user or every web meeting, but there is no doubt that they can offer additional flexibility and power if implemented well and managed effectively.


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Mobile Marketing: 3 Impactful Concepts to Action Now (2019+)



Do not continue reading this piece if you can afford to ignore the current state of Mobile:

  • The total global amount of smartphone users is on track to reach 2.87 billion by 2020
  • Over 40% of online transactions are completed on mobile devices
  • Almost 70% of digital ad dollars are spent on mobile ads
  • Mobile technology accounts for 58% of all videos watched
  • 51% of customers say they use mobile devices to discover new brands and products


I somehow knew you’d still be here. 😉

It’s indisputable that every business in existence must bake ‘Mobile’ into all aspects of marketing in our touchscreen-obsessed era.

Mobile devices have completely evolved the way customers search, engage and buy.

Whether used to research a company, write a review, contact customer service or make the final purchase — (and much, much more) — collective stats indicate the extent to which mobile technology facilitates brand touchpoints.

Contevo demonstrated this point of significance via B2C research:

Before we jump into anything else, there’s an encompassing question to ask:

What is Mobile Marketing, exactly?

Concept #1: Truly Understanding ‘Mobile Marketing’

If you redesigned your website to be responsive to all screen sizes, this alone (unfortunately) doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing Mobile Marketing’…

Have you also ensured your website is lightning fast to load on numerous devices?

While a combination of the two is absolutely crucial for success this year onward — we’re still not anywhere near the definition of Mobile Marketing.

Essentially, it can be interpreted as:

Marketing that specifically caters for and/or targets mobile device users.

The term ‘Mobile Marketing’ is generally used as a blanket term to include mobile phones and tablets (sometimes even extending to wearables like smartwatches), although they each notably demand different approaches due to variations in product type and usage.

Now, it may seem like less hassle to simply throw phones and tablets in the same marketing bucket — but the way people use these respective devices calls for granular targeting.

Top-performing marketers understand the necessity of piecing together the behavior-led device jigsaw in order to communicate with their customers in ways they prefer.

i.e. Tablets are used more during downtime when relaxed users are browsing and/or spending at leisure, therefore the average purchase made via these devices is higher in value (plus, the average retail conversion rate on tablets stands at 2.2.% compared to 0.7% on smartphones)

i.e. While tablets aren’t predominantly used for calling or SMS functions, their bigger screens indicate a prime opportunity to engage users in a highly visual and interactive manner that’s not otherwise possible on smaller smartphones

Clearer when described this way, right?

Design or functional elements like mobile responsiveness and site speed are merely the basic foundations required — they pave the way to a joyful, memorable customer experience (because nobody enjoys fiddling around with manual screen resizing, and your visitors certainly don’t want to wait around for a whole 1 minute whilst a sluggish page loads).

Mobile Marketing strategies are the attractive layers on top; the methods and channels that enable you to effectively reach your on-the-move audience at their convenience.

And ‘convenience’ is something you should be paying utmost attention to:

“91% of adults keep their smartphones within arm’s reach.”

(Source: Forbes via Morgan Stanley)

(Infographic Source: BuildFire)

The best you can do in today’s hectic world is to meet your audience where they are, whenever and however it suits them.

‘Going Mobile’ is your vehicle to this achievement!

  • It makes you stand out as a brand
  • You create lasting impressions as you show up elegantly across multiple formats
  • You become likeable because your audiences realize you appreciate their needs

Impress your customers enough to make them crave interaction with your business again and again.

We’ve nailed the definition of Mobile Marketing, which now sets you in good stead to experiment with the following strategies.

Concept #2: Being Customer Journey-Driven

A particularly valued mindset is fundamentally required for your marketing cogs to turn smoothly in sync with your audience and customers.

Any other way of thinking can spell trouble…

Similarly to the way some businesses generalize Mobile Marketing to be precisely the same approach across mobile phones and tablets, another common misconception is that ‘everything is simply Mobile’ and therefore all marketing must be aligned (albeit at the expense of other devices and touchpoints).

e.g. Offering a mobile app to customers —  although failing to construct a website login area where they can also access related content.

Marketing Charts’ research indicated why this is a ridiculously bad idea:

A ‘strictly Mobile first’ perspective in marketing can create perilous tunnel vision and actually alienate members of your audience, rather than encouraging their engagement and loyalty.

It would be akin to assuming a desktop-only strategy is awesome in 2019+.


How do you circumvent this hazard?

Visualize entire, connected customer journeys (not detached viewing devices).

It’s obvious that mobile tech is everywhere, but there is still a considerable amount of people who use desktop devices in addition to — or sometimes even instead of — mobiles and tablets.

Then remember that 3 or more smartphones can be found in a third of U.S. households, while Australians have 6.4 screens per home and Brits own 7.4 internet devices per home.

“Smartphone use is overwhelmingly popular for some activities such as social media, messaging and catching up with news — but the majority of consumers in western markets also have desktop (and tablet) devices which they tend to use for more detailed review and purchasing.”(Rephrased from Source: Dave Chaffey via Smart Insights)

To sum it up:

The customer journey is increasingly complex, taking place across multiple devices over any length of time.

You must rise above ‘device level’ thinking, and master ‘journey level’ marketing.

There are a ton of articles out there promising to tell you how, but they don’t really deliver. Frustrating, I know!

Here are three concise, overarching steps to take:


Intimately grasp the lifestyles, habits and device preferences of your current audience (research, interview and/or survey as many of them as possible).

Seriously, just get to know these people and build healthy relationships without being creepy.

This is marketing 101; the foundation of everything thereafter.

As an added bonus — it’s a golden opportunity to spark interaction with your existing customers, showing them you care and are physically present to engage.

Think how you felt the last time a brand did that for you!

It’s pretty rare, thus memorable.

If you really want to get things moving fast, you can further incentivize your audience by offering beneficial prizes or rewards. Consider what would undoubtedly make you jump at the chance…

And while this definitely isn’t the holy grail of data because of its disconnected state (in its standard form), you can also extract all your past collected data in locations such as your Google Analytics ‘Devices’ tab for some additional surface insights:


Begin selecting and implementing ultra-modern martech (Marketing Technology) tools that are capable of monitoring, evaluating and connecting all your future traffic in a way that makes sense of the multiple-device journey.

Don’t you just love it when pieces of kit can do a lot of the work for you?

I’ll share how and what, in just a moment.

Pssst … Marketers had it much harder only a few years ago.

The past situation:

Marketer Jones sat there drawing up what he perceived to be the journey of his future customers, second-guessing what each person wanted solely based on (relatively limited and generalized) past information and analysis via Google Analytics — such as how they browsed and purchased.

Audience interviews and surveys helped, but they didn’t paint the full picture.

For instance, he didn’t know the Samsung tablet user that converted was actually the same iPhone user that visited his e-commerce website a week before via Social Media. There was no way of joining the dots between devices without developing sign-in functionality hooked up to CRM software.

Even so, this was no simple task — and the user would still need to be logged in across both devices.

Marketer Jones created a few customer personas from his siloed research, and a basic marketing strategy that was rigidly based on his mapping efforts.

The main problems he would face by using this method:

Too much data to manually interpret accurately, a one-size-fits-all approach, and inability to serve the right continual content to precise segments of his audience at optimal times, on their multiple devices.

It would have been as difficult to deploy as it is to say!

Datalicious demonstrated the cross-device maze and why it matters for your business (not to mention offline touchpoints, or even the impact this all has on customer experiences):

The situation today:

It’s 2019, and there is a wealth of outstanding technology available at our fingertips.

Marketer Mary is able to identify the user who started their journey on a mobile device, then viewed more on desktop, before finally converting to become a customer via tablet days later.

She even knows this user originated from a specific Facebook ad, and the purchase derived from her subsequent email marketing campaign — including which particular email prompted the bottom line result.

This allows her to constantly (and semi-automatically) tailor her marketing messages to the individual’s interests, device preferences and journey stage; a process that applies to all her customers.


She uses tools like:

  • Marketo to unmask otherwise ‘anonymous’ visitors to her website
  • Optimove (PostFunnel’s sponsor) to allow each customer to decide what comes next in their unique personalized journey, rather than a traditional pre-planned marketer’s view
  • Evergage to establish ‘unified customer profiles’ (UCPs) that identify people across all the devices from which they connect with her brand, instead of them being classed as multiple individuals

“Unified customer profiles improve campaign conversions by an average of 30%.”
(Rephrased from Source: Rocket Fuel)

Clever, huh?

Coupled with all the exclusive knowledge from her audience research, interviews and surveys — Marketer Mary’s got it going on!


This needn’t be exhaustive:

Be devoted to regularly testing and measuring your marketing processes.

Are your mobile push notifications repelling visitors? Does your app keep users engaged? Is anybody actually converting after watching your videos on tablet? How are multi-device customers flowing through your automation funnel?

Martech tools are merely as good as the people driving them, and you can only truly gain valuable feedback from one place…

Your audience is key, as always.

  • Consistently make sense of, and piece together the audience data you collect (most top-tier martech tools will come equipped with analytics out of the box, and/or they will be integrable with your current stack)
  • Ensure you’re tracking the right metrics and KPIs
  • Directly ask your visitors if they are happy with your cross-device efforts by using tools like Hotjar, Qualaroo and Customer Thermometer
  • Stay fluid, adjusting your marketing to suit the above

Now, let’s move on to one of the most interesting ways mobile hardware be harmoniously intertwined with marketing and sales strategies.

Concept #3: Getting Creative with Augmented Reality

Make no mistake, there are a number of other widely trending Mobile topics that could instead be covered here — social messaging apps, push notifications, video marketing, in-app ads, voice search etc.

However, you’ve probably heard a lot about them all before!

AR is a mighty impactful yet less-understood technique to wow your mobile audience and drive sales through immersive experiences…

And it may be much closer to your business than first expected:

“Forecasted to develop into a $83 billion market by 2021, the next 12 months will see the AR space continue to balloon.”
(Rephrased from Source: Digitales Media)

The power of Augmented Reality truly made the limelight when Pokémon Go was released back in 2016, allowing kids and adults alike to catch ‘em all in the real world — interacting with those famous virtual creatures in real physical environments by using the geolocational smartphone app.

(Image & Stats Source: Zugara)

Its insane popularity within just one week speaks volumes about the combination of AR and Mobile:

  • The game topped both iOS and Android app stores
  • It was producing in excess of $1.6 million dollars per day via the iTunes store alone
  • It surpassed Twitter’s number of active daily users

The running numbers have kept pace, too:

You might be thinking, “How exactly does this apply to my business?”

Well, mull over those massive stats — and check out the following inspirational, incredibly diverse examples of B2C and B2B AR success stories.

Hint: No matter your business model, you can tap into Augmented Reality and propel your audience engagement.

Even if it’s just a fraction of what Pokémon Go achieved, you’ll be doing very well indeed…

L’Oréal & YouCam Makeup (B2C)

Partnering with Perfect Corp., the global beauty brand of 100+ years now features a large range of its makeup within the award-winning YouCam Makeup app.

(You will notice a pattern in these examples — and that is it pays to collaborate in the AR space today, while it’s predominantly an in-app market — a shifting landscape that is capable of becoming more web-based in future.)

The ideal partnership offers beauty lovers an opportunity to experience and test L’Oréal makeup as it would appear on their faces, before even having to lift an eyeliner pencil or spend any cash.

(Image Source: L’Oréal)

The app provides education on products, and users can shop directly through the app when decisions have been made, of course.

Importantly, get this:

By also utilizing the app in-store at special L’Oréal counters, online and offline customer journeys begin to merge.

Refer back to concept #2!

The brand went a step further by implementing this additional medium of engagement — and it’s commendable.

“We are delighted to present a seamless makeover experience that brings L’Oréal products to life through AR technology…”

“This partnership represents a significant milestone that transforms the way consumers discover, try, and buy.”

(Rephrased from Source: Alice Chang of Perfect Corp.)

YouCam crossed the 100 million download threshold during 2016, becoming the number one makeover app in the world.

Fancy giving it a go? YouCam Makeup is available (for free) on the App Store and Google Play.

I always wondered how pink gloss would suit me…

Ottobock’s Prosthetic Limb Innovation (B2B)

The remarkable team at SparkLabs, an AR agency, were hired to design three multilingual apps for Ottobock to support its sales and marketing of prosthetics.

Ottobock, a world-leading manufacturer of prosthetic limbs, required a better way to communicate all the benefits and intricate details of its innovative products — which are by nature, highly complex and difficult to explain to all audiences (as you can probably imagine).

The AR app built by SparkLabs allowed any otherwise concealed working parts to be on full display in an interactive manner, helping Ottobock’s salespeople to demonstrate how the prosthetics functioned by using their mobile devices, like the tablet examples below:

(Image Source: Mustard Design)

So, how did the app operate?

CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) versions of products were created, available on demand within the app when staff were pitching for healthcare contracts — all they had to do was scan certain sections of their sales literature to activate the product simulations.

Amazingly, the app made it possible to see through outer layers of the CGI-simulated  products in realtime by use of the device’s camera, giving the potential client an x-ray view of the pioneering machinery they were witnessing, and how it would manoeuvre in real life.

“B2B delivery of Augmented Reality is horrendously underused. In most cases, AR in B2B offers significant value.”
(Source: Dan Betts of Spark via B2B Marketing)

Not only is this elegant strategy formidable for winning clients in such a fierce and hard-to-please industry — it does wonders for recognition.

Ottobock are positioned as a high-tech innovator in its field; its dazzling AR app greatly contributing to this well-earned reputation.

There’s still more to come from SparkLabs in a moment, although below is another quick snapshot of what they do (wow!):

Make My Magnum (B2C)

Magnum collaborated with Blippar to generate awareness of the Magnum Pleasure Store that pops up across the globe, intermittently opening for business during the Summer months.

What better way to grow exposure than by offering compelling and buzz-worthy brand interaction?

Magnum’s immersive mobile ad campaign harnessed the power of Augmented Reality by utilizing users’ smartphones to let them experience a variety of flavors in 180 degrees.

Is your mouth watering yet? Mine certainly is.

Users could look up, down, and from side-to-side to reveal a choice of coatings, toppings and drizzles — overlaid onto the real-world physical environment around them.

The promotion was so juicy, it won a prestigious award in 2018 for ‘most effective AR campaign’.

(Image Source: Mobile Marketing Magazine)

This ‘design your own Magnum’ concept was followed up with the ability to view directions to your nearest Magnum Pleasure Store and actually buy your unique Magnum — at a discount.

[All these noted brands are astonishingly good at blurring the lines between ‘device’ and ‘offline’, which is the very fabric of AR.]

PLUS: Remember I mentioned about AR moving from closed apps to the internet?

The complete campaign was published to the web using Blippar’s AR ad unit, meaning users only had to tap the unusual Magnum mobile ad to launch their Augmented Reality experience.

No app download necessary!

Very, very clever indeed — and a sign of what’s to come regarding our web as we know it.

“The campaign delivered superb results for Magnum, dwarfing those typically produced by rich media ads.”
(Source: Mobile Marketing Magazine)

The Magnum Pleasure Store draws crowds in their tens of thousands, including a whole host of celebrities.

Not bad at all for an ice cream brand, right?

Constantia Flexibles’ Packaging (B2B)

Constantia Flexibles is one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of packaging and labels, primarily accommodating the food sector.

How about a desirable client list like:

Pepsi, Unilever, Coca Cola, Nestlé — the big names continue thereafter.

I wanted to wrap-up with (sorry, couldn’t resist) this particular B2B brand because some might consider the product type beyond any means of innovation…

Well, think twice!

Imagine what AR can do for your business, if a company like Constantia can accomplish the following.

SparkLabs again created a cutting edge Augmented Reality solution, this time breathing new life into Constantia’s packaging products.

I’m talking about AR packaging that provides clients the ability to genially engage consumers by delivering Augmented Reality games, video, competitions, and more — directly via their mobile devices as they shop.

The future already landed…

While walking through the food aisle of your local superstore, experiment by activating an AR app on your device and indiscriminately pointing the camera — you may just experience it for yourself.

(If not, you could look quite silly until the tech is more commonly known.)

“Shoppers can play an engaging driving game right from a Coca Cola bottle, have a highly detailed animated dragon fly out from their Doritos packet, or see a virtual TV screen appear from their chocolate bar playing the latest advert from Milka, all in Augmented Reality.”
(Source: Mustard Design)

(Example of Coca Cola AR)

A content management system (CMS) was included in the project, giving Constantia complete control over their new platform and simulatnaeously reducing ongoing development costs.

To make a relatable comparison, this CMS would be like a customized WordPress platform for the Augmented Reality packaging.

But the team at SparkLabs weren’t finished just yet…

Bespoke analytics granted all clients of Constantia their own data portal whereby they could keep track of how consumers were engaging with their AR packaging.

Likely with zeal, according to research:

(Screenshot Source: Constantia via YouTube)

Having since realized the further potential of AR — on top of the already stunning benefits for its brand and clientele — Constantia partnered with Wikitude, an independent AR tech provider, towards the end of 2018.

This strategic move (in the packaging industry, of all industries!) should sound alarm bells in your mind…

Get in on the trend while it’s still in its early phases. ☺

I’ll leave you with a few final convincing words from a guy who knows his onions:

“We believe that Augmented Reality is one of those new mediums that could be as big as, if not bigger than the web.”

(Source: Scott Belsky of Adobe via The Independent)

The post Mobile Marketing: 3 Impactful Concepts to Action Now (2019+) appeared first on Post Funnel.

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All-in-One or A la Carte?


All-in-one or A la carte, which approach do you prefer when selecting your technology tools? My personal preference over time has been the A la carte method, selecting specific tools from a table of choices. This allows me to pick the best fit for my needs at the time, and yet allow me to switch […]

The post All-in-One or A la Carte? appeared first on Fill the Funnel.


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How to Optimize Your Social Media Posts


The never-ending wave of social media algorithm updates gives many marketers a hard time. 63% identified changes to SEO/search algorithms as their most important content marketing issue. Instead of adopting a hit-or-miss approach, check out these tips to optimize your social media posts and get them squarely and memorably in front of your audience.


Brands across many industries have seen a decline in organic reach since Facebook’s shift toward prioritizing conversations with family and friends. In fact, posts from top brands have suffered a 50% reduction in overall engagement. Use the following tactics to improve your reach despite the cloudy conditions in Facebookland.

Deliver engaging content: Aim to understand your customers on a granular level. Find out how they’re engaging on social media and use those insights to create informative, inspiring, and entertaining posts. As one example, outdoor brand REI produces content that relates to their customers’ lifestyles and connects with them on an emotional level. The brand’s Mirnavator video, which tells the story of a plus-sized runner, has over 6 million views and 54,000 shares (and counting).

Use Facebook Audience Optimization: This feature helps marketers reach specific audience segments and increase engagement. Just narrow down the subsets and incorporate tags that are both, directly and indirectly, related to your post in order to connect with more users. For a glimpse at how your audience receives your content, head to the ‘Insights’ tab on your Facebook page and click ‘Posts’ in the navigation bar.

Go Live: On average, live posts get six times more interactions than regular videos. Personalize your live video and increase discoverability by including location and adding an activity. To boost ranking and engagement, encourage viewers to leave comments or questions, and respond to them in real time. Add polls to your broadcast and stay live for at least 10 minutes. Finally, consider mixing Facebook Live videos with other original content to maximize organic reach.


With over 5000 tweets sent every second, standing out on Twitter can be challenging. In fact, the average engagement rate is only 0.046% per post. While you can use native content to drive engagement, the following tips can help bolster your Twitter strategy.

Include relevant hashtags: Increase your reach and discoverability by including branded or relevant trending hashtags in your tweets. Tweets with at least one hashtag earn 2x more engagement than those with none. Ensure hashtags fit organically into your tweet, stick to one or two to avoid looking spammy, and don’t use caps lock.

Have fun with emojis: Incorporate emojis into your tweets to capture attention and connect with your audience. Tweets with emojis receive 25% more engagement than tweets that don’t feature the special characters. To avoid emoji fail, use only those that relate to your message. If you’re feeling creative, take advantage of Twitter’s 280-word limit to creatively tell stories, as restaurant chain IHOP did below:


Use video: Video content thrives on Twitter. Tweets with video attracted 10x more engagements than tweets without video. Use a mixture of captions, animated text overlays, and engaging visuals to make it easy for viewers to follow with or without sound. To make your video more enticing, feature branded elements and experiment with video lengths until you find what works.


With Instagram generating over 4x more interactions than Facebook, the photo sharing app evolved from a selfie destination to a marketing platform for businesses. Because the number of engagements determines the post’s position in the feed, these three tactics will help ensure consumers see your content

Use shoppable tags: More than 90 million users tap shopping tags on Instagram. Reduce friction in the shopping journey by placing shoppable tags in your posts and stories. Double-check that links take users directly to the item’s landing page and resist the urge to include tags in all your posts.


Include location tags: If you have a physical retail store, include location tags in your posts and stories to gain exposure for your brand and make your posts discoverable in search. Posts with a location tag see 79% more engagement than posts without. Encourage consumers to include their location in posts about your brand so you can easily engage with them.

Put your best photo forward:  Compared to videos and carousels, photos on Instagram earn the most engagement. Share images with faces to humanize your brand while also posting both UGC and influencer posts. Make sure you obtain permission to share content that doesn’t belong to you and give photo credit in your posts.


83% of marketers say video gives them good ROI, and 45% plan to add YouTube to their marketing efforts. In view of the likely upsurge on YouTube, these suggestions will help consumers discover your content.

Transcription: Include transcripts in your videos so search engines can crawl your content and rank it accordingly. Use a professional video transcription service or transcription software to include text in multiple languages, making your videos accessible to more viewers.

Keywords: Optimize your videos to rank for popular search queries by placing relevant keywords in their titles, tags, description, and thumbnail files. To find strong keywords, use the YouTube Search Suggest feature, carry out competitor research, or use keyword tools to view low-competition keywords.

Description: Target your description wordcount at 250+, place important keywords at the beginning of your description, and include no more than 15 relevant hashtags. Be sure to include timestamps to help viewers skip to important parts of your videos as well as links to playlists.

Don’t Stop Learning

Like it or not, you’re at the mercy of social media algorithms. To make sure your audience sees your posts, keep your eye on updates and continue learning how to adapt to evolving social media algorithms. Focus on creating authentic content with compelling visuals to generate engagement, invest in vertical and interactive video, and consider amplifying your best organic content with paid boosts to stay top of mind.

The post How to Optimize Your Social Media Posts appeared first on Post Funnel.

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NEWS // New Representation: Tea & Water Pictures


I’m pleased to announce that I am now represented by Tea & Water Pictures in New York, London and Beijing. They are an exciting agency that have a some great production experience and a team with really diverse but complimentary backgrounds, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together over the next few years!

They’ve also done a little interview with me which, if you’re interested, you can read here 

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Webex Meetings – Inexcusable Video Behavior


Meeting hosts cannot turn off a participant’s video stream in Webex Meetings. To use the street abbreviation vernacular, OMG WTF??!?!?

There I was, acting as technical host and moderator on a client’s Webex meeting. Two people were presenting, using video. They wanted a collaborative environment where everyone in the small audience could share chat messages and chime in on audio if desired.

I started out with instructions for the attendees, showing them how to mute and unmute themselves, participate in chat, etc. A few people joined in with live webcams, so I assured them that they didn’t have to be on video and told them how to toggle off their camera feed.

We got started, and the presenters were on a roll, talking away. Sure enough, someone joined the meeting late and enabled their webcam. I could tell that they didn’t realize they were visible to all participants. I tried writing her a private chat message, but she didn’t see it. So when the presenters took a breath, I had to break in and interrupt the flow of the meeting to publicly tell the person that her camera was on and give her instructions on how to turn it off.

This is insane. If I see an undesired video feed from a meeting participant, I MUST have the ability to quickly turn it off. There are just too many obvious opportunities for people to broadcast something embarrassing to fellow attendees without realizing it. I don’t want to call attention to it, I don’t want to interrupt the speakers, I don’t want a delay in responding. I just want to cut off that video stream instantly and only for that one person. Webex won’t let me.

I called Webex technical support to make sure I had not overlooked something. My support rep first tried to tell me that I could disable video for all meeting participants. I told him that was not the right solution… I want video in the meeting. My presenters need to be seen. I just need to be able to control the stream for a given individual. He said, “Oh, I’m sure there’s a way. Let me check documentation.” (pause) “Hmmm, I didn’t find it. Let me ask my colleagues here in the office.” (pause) “Hmmm, they don’t know. Let me start a meeting and invite you to attend on camera.” (pause) “Hmmm, it looks like there isn’t a way to do what you want.”

This is simply insane. It’s not an operational bug, it’s a matter of faulty design. It shows a basic lack of understanding on how millions of customers interact with their product. It has to be fixed, and fixed quickly.

Does your video collaboration product have the same limitation? I certainly hope not!


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How To Create Content Strategies That Improve The Customer Experience


Your Content Needs To Be Part Of A Holistic Approach

Billions of pieces of content are produced annually. But just as much of that content is generic and indistinguishable, the content strategies that produce it tend to be half-baked or, even worse, nonexistent.

The content craze has reached a point where most businesses are creating content without any real purpose or thought. Content has become an obligation everyone feels they need to fulfill rather than a powerful tool that uses strategy to marry customer needs and business goals.

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NEWS // New Representation: Tea & Water Pictures


I’m pleased to announce that I am now represented by Tea & Water Pictures in New York, London and Beijing. They are an exciting agency that have a some great production experience and a team with really diverse but complimentary backgrounds, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve together over the next few years!

They’ve also done a little interview with me which, if you’re interested, you can read here 

Read more