Reflections on Building a Successful Startup Consultancy

Eighteen months ago, Ethan Durham and I founded Kasuria Group, a consultancy for startups. We set out to win our personal freedoms; financial freedom, freedom from groupthink of company cultures, freedom of location, freedom of time. As I look back on a journey that has thoroughly changed both of us, I feel obliged to share some of the wisdom that we gleaned along the path.

My hope with this essay is to awaken as many people as possible from the mundanity of a career that does not invigorate or enrich them. Life is too short for ordinary careers, but even more so, ordinary careers make life short. Sitting at a computer for eight to ten hours a day is bad for your health. If the wider world holds a greater purpose for you, then you should go follow it.

These lessons are true for me and they are true for Ethan; consider them for yourself and see if they are true for you as well:

Adventures Begin In Extraordinary Places

Just under two years ago, in the dead of night under a starry California sky, I drove two hours north of San Francisco and arrived at a dock on the Sacramento River. From there, I boarded a small boat, which sailed into the wind towards a flotilla of houseboats further up the river. With music blasting, with hippies, libertarians, anarchists and other weirdos congregating throughout the boats, it was clear that “I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.” (Or Connecticut in my case)

This was Ephemerisle, a gathering that takes place every year in Northern California. The festival highlights the idealistic mission of autonomous sea colonies- entirely new societies founded on structures in the middle of the ocean, where they can live free from the tyranny and bureaucracy of government. The Seasteading Institute was founded by Peter Thiel, and true to character, tends to attract a crew of gritty libertarians, anxious about government overreach, and wide eyed about the promises of tech. Ephemerisle is an eclectic mix of hyper-intellectual speaker series, venture capitalists doing business deals, free love, all-night raves, and much more. Like many things in counter-culture, Ephemerisle is even weirder than it sounds.

I found myself onboard the zany houseboats of Ephemerisle shortly after leaving a job that had burned me out, and was dreaming of starting my own venture. I had burned through three jobs in three years, so maybe I wasn’t cut out for this whole employee thing. For the four days that I was there, I spent time introspecting on what kind of consultancy I could create, and hoped that I might connect with the right techies there. Ephemerisle wasn’t exactly a conventional place to network, but then again, you never know where adventures will take you.

And in this strangest of places, with tattooed physicists and life extension advocates, with sailors and DIYers and nerds in all directions, I ended up making the right connection that brought Kasuria Group our first client. Even more so, this same connection led me to live in a Victorian mansion in San Francisco with fourteen other people (thanks Corey Breier!).

The lesson I draw from this experience is that to truly make new discoveries, you must venture out of your comfort zone and go to new places. Epigenetic research confirms this empirically — we have encoded genes in our DNA that only manifest themselves under certain conditions, and we likely cannot reach our fullest potential unless we seek out radically different experiences — we are defined by our circumstances. The creative process is more so aided by an influx of new and different ideas. And finally, new experiences are essential for serendipity, or rather synchronicity.

You don’t have to go to Ephemerisle to benefit from this as well. To chart the next phase of your life, go somewhere else and try something new.

Learn on the Fly And Re-Invent

I’ll admit — when I began this journey, there was part of me that doubted whether I had any right to consult. I had an image in my mind of a consultant as a seasoned career professional who, after thirty years on the job and taking a company public, passes on his hard-earned wisdom in exchange for hefty fees.

Twenty years ago, that may have been true. But in this day and age, you don’t need decades of experience to start your own consultancy. You simply need to be able to learn quickly and solve problems for your clients, even if you have no experience in a given area. This requires you to forget your resume, forget who you thought you were, learn a new skill, and simply get it done.

Every career presents some element of personal evolution, but when you run your own company, this process is massively sped up. Throughout the last 18 months, we have had dozens of different clients, and we could not possibly have delivered without a constant willingness to go back to the drawing board and learn from scratch.

The professional skills that I take for granted today are things that I never learned in college and was forced to learn in the heat of the moment. I managed to deliver with no prior experience and I’m proud of it.

Even more so than learning on the job is the power of total reinvention. Ethan started learning to code right around the time when we started the company, and today he is a full-stack developer, serving as the Chief Technology Officer for a well-respected startup. His innumerable late nights spent coding led us to the point where we could start to offer technical services as part of our business, and everything accelerated from there. Ethan recognized that he wasn’t limited by his resume, or his degree, or his past experiences, and underwent a transformation that later allowed him to realize his dream of creating software.

As I can now see so clearly, learning is the origin of all wealth. And in general, when you take your learning into your own hands, and eliminate the constraints of a time-sucking job, your concept of what is possible in life radically changes. The whole world opens up to you.

If you’re willing to take your dreams seriously, start before you’re ready. Total re-invention is possible, and perhaps the only authentic path forward.

Trust

“This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” — Terence McKenna

In the first few months of starting the business, I avoided looking at my bank account. When the total dipped below $1000, it was sometimes easier to look away than to confront the possibility of running out of money. And yet the wild thing is that every single time I got close to the brink and might not have been able to pay rent, a new client would come along in the nick of time and save the day. This wasn’t a one time thing — it was more like my on-going reality for the first year of the business.

The world can feel like a hard place. People stay in bad jobs because without the security of a regular income, their life might come crashing down and they’ll run out of money. They won’t survive out in the wild; the security of the tribe (company) is the only route to safety.

I understand that sentiment, and I also directly and repeatedly confronted all of those fears. Experience taught me that they were unfounded. Financial resources always came through, in the right place and time. I could trust that it was safe to continue down my path.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that *forcing never worked*. We never acquired a single client by sending out cold emails, by attending networking events, by doing all of the things they tell you to do when you start a new consulting business. We consistently found clients in random, unpredictable places.

I’m not saying that there aren’t methodical strategies to find new clients, but in my experience, success arrives in strange places, in mysterious ways. As low as my bank account got during the process of starting this consultancy, I would do it all again, because I know that life has a way of working out even during the “riskiest” of times.

As the above quote suggests, the abyss may not be as dangerous as it seems. Throw yourself into the uncertainty of the deep end and realize that the gifts of life await.

The Road Forward

The entrepreneurial journey is a both a blessing and a curse; a blessing in the sense that it provides your life with an ongoing sense of adventure, joy, and meaning, a curse in that it lasts forever. True to form, Ethan and I have embarked on a new business venture, this time with the goal of using software to help water utilities prevent pipeline leakage. Water leakage is a major problem worldwide, and if we want to live on a planet that works for 100% percent of humanity, we are going to have to step up our water conservation efforts. I’ll let you know how it goes.

We’ve also launched a clothing line, WAV Studios, which Ethan designed from scratch, and which we will be marketing to skate shops throughout San Francisco.

We are continuing to consult, so if you’d like to work with Kasuria Group on either software development or growth marketing strategy goals, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Furthermore, if you are thinking about starting a company or chasing a dream, please let me know how I can help you. Our world and society will be a better place when more individuals wake up and realize how that, they too, can become leaders and pioneers.

If you already know what you need to do, stop waiting and start now. Every additional day spent in a mundane job is a day where you could have been fulfilling your individual potential.

All of us are waiting to see what you will create.

Growing Your B2B Startup With Custom Targeting

The world of digital marketing is buzzing with software and strategies, and for most founders, it is incredibly confusing to navigate this terrain. It seems that every software product or consultant is willing to make a promise to grow your business; sounds great in theory but actually execution tends to be weak. 

The general challenge of digital marketing and growth is to see the forest for the trees, to work with the big picture and not get lost in the details. 

If you are trying to grow a B2B startup, the question is how you can take advantage of the right tools and strategies to secure the highest quality leads and bring them into your funnel. Digital marketing tends to be very good at this, but only under the condition that you know what you are doing. 

At Kasuria Group, we’ve worked with a number of different strategies on the B2B side. We’ve found some that work incredible, and others that work horribly. Furthermore, every business and every industry has a different set of clients with diverse pain points, so it is difficult to speak broadly about a singular strategy to works for B2B lead generation. 

With that said, the strategy we outline below has been broadly effective for a number of our clients. We’ve found that it works beautifully in conjunction with businesses that have excellent models and a proven sales process. Give it a try yourself, or get in touch with us if you’d like to help us implement it.

 

Target Market Identification

In contrast to B2B, Consumer startups are often times fairly fluid in terms of their target market. For example, an Internet of Things startup that improves your Wi-Fi connection has broad appeal in a number of different markets - it may start by targeting young techies but pivot to wealthy home owners, a shift that requires very little changes in terms of underlying technology.

Thus, from a digital marketing perspective, the consumer archetype tends to be a looser hypothetical. 

In contrast, a B2B startup generally needs to know its exact archetype from day one. Though pivots are still widely available, B2B startups address clear business needs from existing organizations. Since revenue for B2B startups comes from large annualized contracts, their products are often times specifically designed for the companies that they eventually hope to sell to. 

If you are growing a B2B startup, it is extraordinarily important to define not only a loose archetype, but actually name the existing companies that you hope to market to. 

For example, if you are designing a software tool that assists with financial planning and analysis at hedge funds, you should have a specific list of hedge funds that you will look to sell to at the end of the day. 

If you have defined this list of prospect companies, then the next obvious step is to identify the decision maker or decision makers within any of these companies. Following from the previous example, you can build a list of CFOs at hedge funds across the country - given that these people will eventually be the ones who have the capacity to say “yes.”

With this list, you can find emails, phone numbers and more, and voila - you have developed the beginning of a high-powered ad targeting strategy. 

 

Advertising

Many lead generation strategies waste gobs of money attempting to search for their relevant prospects through keywords advertising, Facebook demographic targeting and more. While these strategies are invaluable in many realms, they are not as useful for B2B advertising because they waste money on impressions that are almost certainly not directed to the target market. 

Since you have already built your target list, you can easily skip this step and build a custom audience through the use of the Facebook custom filter. 

The Facebook customer filter allows you to manually enter individuals that you’d like to see your ad. All you need is an email address, and from there the filter will advertise to the Facebook accounts that match up. 

Create your ads, turn on the filter, and suddenly, your target market (and no one else) will begin to see ads popping up in their Facebook newsfeed. If you make sure to set the pricing as cost per click, you’ll pay next to nothing until someone from your target market clicks the ads. 

From the perspective of any B2B strategy, a dollar spent on driving a prospect closer into your funnel is a dollar well spent. 

 

Landing Page

Once the prospect has clicked on the ad, then you can drive them to a landing page with a specific call to action. With the right collateral (download a free guide! Schedule a free consultation), they will enter their email address and successfully become a lead. 

With that information secured, your sales team can take it from there.

 

Iteration

As long as your target market is clicking on your ads, you are in good shape. 

Even if they aren’t entering their email address on your landing page, you still have room for unlimited iteration until you are successfully capturing leads. This is, in fact, direct interaction with the market - giving you immediate feedback on how to tailor your brand and improve your perception with the target market.

 

The Road Ahead

Considering a B2B digital marketing strategy? How will you successfully drive prospects of high Annual Contract Value into your funnel?

Get in touch with us if you’d be interested in learning more.

The Problem with Growth Hacking

Silicon Valley has surged in the past six years, with venture capital money flowing and successful tech companies popping up on every corner. Despite talks of a “bubble,” or an industry slow-down, the energy on the ground floor continues to surge. Engineers are making new breakthroughs, Series B rounds are getting funded, and the practice of disruption is a 24/7 phenomenon.

Amid all of this hype, startups developed a variety of new growth techniques, grouped as “Growth Hacking.” Coined by Andrew Chen and evangelized by Sean Ellis, growth hacking bundles together marketing, data science, analytics, and iterative testing, all within the constraints of limited resources. In short, it promises to use all available tools to grow revenue. Consequently, “a growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.

Growth hackers point to the Airbnb’s hacking into Craiglist’s API or DropBox’s referral program as the towering successes of their discipline. Startups are hiring growth hackers like crazy, and there are more than a few Bay Area conferences solely dedicated to finding the elusive technique that will blow your revenue through the roof.

And yet, the practice of growth hacking is deeply problematic.

The Job

A growth hacker’s assignment is to figure out any way to grow the business. This includes A/B testing digital campaigns, hypothesizing UI adjustments, building out referral programs, creating viral content, and so on. A business can grow in manifold ways; therefore, there is no real limit on what tasks fall under a growth hacker’s umbrella.

I can attest because I was a growth hacker for a venture backed startup. My job meant so many different things that it was difficult to pin to one theme, beyond revenue growth.    

In theory, the growth hacker acts like a scientist, optimizing the funnel, iterating on messaging, and experimenting with many channels. The growth hacker finds the best creative channels and evaluates them with objectivity, rigor, and discipline.   

An example of this is when a growth hacker launches several product value pitches on multiple advertising platforms, testing in order to isolate the best channel to market the product.

In practice, the Silicon Valley growth hacker becomes a job oriented around stunts, tactics, and short-term results. For example, a growth hacker at a payroll services software company hires a guy to dress up in an animal costume to run down Market Street in San Francisco and hand out lollipops while promoting the service.

 More real than you'd think...

More real than you'd think...

Growth hacking was intended to overcome the weaknesses of traditional marketing, create discipline, and seize opportunity. Now it is governed by impulse, sloppiness, and distraction.

The Context

The emergence of Growth Hacking was inevitable in Silicon Valley. While it is a new name of a career, it represents the Bay Area to its core.  

First, Northern California is historically the land of get-rich-quick schemes. From the Gold Rush of 1849, where 300,000 prospectors descended on the region to unearth their fortune, to the 1999 tech bubble, where techies galore built a web business designed to go big, this place has never had a problem attracting people looking to strike it rich quickly.

Second, Silicon Valley is dominated by quantitatively-driven engineers who trust data and are skeptical of feelings. The titans of technology - Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin and Larry Page - are programmers (Steve Jobs as the rare exception). And in such fashion, the culture celebrates the scientific method, hard proof, and iteration.

Traditional marketing was never a good fit for Silicon Valley because it addresses neither of these group traits. It requires a big upfront spend and emphasizes creativity at the expense of accountability and metrics.

Growth hacking, on the other hand, addresses both. It promises to “hack” the traditional growth process, gaining a company an advantage through unexploited opportunities. It also takes advantage of analytics and scientific-method style testing that old school marketing never used.

Hacking

As YCombinator co-founder Paul Graham points out, hacking can take on a lot of meanings. Among programmers, he notes, “‘hacker’ connotes mastery in the most literal sense: someone who can make a computer do what he wants—whether the computer wants to or not.”

Conversely, a “hack” can also take on a very negative meaning. As a verb, it can indicate maliciousness (illegally hacking into a databased). As a noun, it can mean someone who trades individual dignity for material reward (a political hack).

With variable meaning, it is no wonder that growth hacking has such a fluid scope of work.

In Practice

Startups are turbulent. Investor pressure is enormous. And thus, it is always appealing to look for quick fixes to drive the organization forward.

And since Silicon Valley naturally celebrates the myth of effortless viral growth, growth hacking has devolved into overhyped tactics that overpromise and underdeliver.

In many ways it has become no different than the “one weird trick” ads that pollute our web content. In fact, supplement CEOs might consider this as a way to hack their growth, despite its cynical motivations.

 Fat Hacking

Fat Hacking

The Answer

As we can see, despite the equally positive and negative connotations of hacking, it has largely come to embody the latter. And thus, we should drop the “hacking” and just leave it at growth.

Growth hacking was onto something in these sense that it smashed the barriers between fluffy marketing, web development, and data-driven testing. Marketing has gained immensely in this sense.

On the other hand, growth hacking is increasingly asked to produce short term results, and thus tends to symbolize clickbait, black-hat SEO, forum spamming, and poorly developed stunts. We should not allow this to distract us from our business goals.

Like always, successful businesses are built on long term strategies, alignment of product and market, and predictable/repeatable systems. The term “growth” alone - without the hack - is perfect for this because it indicates a multidisciplinary revenue approach without promising a timeline.

Marketing and growth will continue to evolve. Even as we obsess over the best ways to increase our bottom line, we must remain wary of the snake oil salesman that can solve our complex problems in one fell swoop.

Through all of this, we can remain optimistic - ambitious CEOs and CMOs are better positioned than ever to use sophisticated tools and strategies to build dynamic businesses. And the world will be better off with more growth and less growth hacking.

The Cheat Code to Growth

Goals. Vision. Success.

No, these aren't your high school English teacher's inspirational posters. These three words are all synonyms for your company's destination: they all represent where you want your company to be at some point in the future.

There's one problem, though: we constantly struggle with the idea of the "future."

The struggle between your company's present battles and future demands, the consequences and distractions of microwave society expectations from your investors and the public (i.e., instant results in thirty seconds), and the constant daily sacrifices you make all muddle these one year, five years, and ten year visions into an evaporating blur.

To make things more difficult, being responsible for the destinations of others within your company can turn what once looked like a worthwhile goal into a black hole.

Despite what conventional wisdom tells us, there's a loophole your company can access. There's a cheat code you can input. It's called digital marketing.

Simply put, if you want to speed up time and get to your end destination sooner, you must move from being a passive observer, waiting for the right users to stumble upon your product, to active leader, identifying your ideal users from the very beginning. If you find the right users, you access power that very few have: the power to dictate their habits.

By identifying and subsequently understanding your ideal customers, you have visibility into their behavior: the items they search for, the websites they frequent, the people they follow.

This same visibility opens the door for you to beat them to where they're wanting to going. Instead of waiting for them to maybe visit your website, you can now place your product right in front of their face. Instead of watching them struggle to find your blog, your blog can be their first notification in the morning.

The best part? Everybody wins. They find a solution to their problems quicker. You limit your downside by only driving highly-qualified traffic to your website. And you reach your goal, that vision, that success, in half the time.

The Linchpin of Growth

In Silicon Valley, raising capital is a badge of honor and a mark of success. It’s the West Coast equivalent of a performance bonus on Wall Street

And while it’s inspiring to see founders acquiring the resources to achieve their business dreams, the fundraising culture is also superficial in many ways. It’s seen as an end in itself instead of a means to end.

Furthermore, the funding environment is shifting, and many founders are oblivious as to how this affects their business.

I believe that both of these shortcomings are because founders are unable to take a step back and see the big picture on fundraising and the growth of their businesses.

Simply put, venture capitalists invest in startups in the present to lay claim to the company’s earnings in the future. Founders take startup money because they have a business that they believe will be more profitable at scale, but don’t have the money to get there. The implicit agreement is that both parties believe that the business will be profitable and more valuable when it is bigger.

Raising money is as much an act of humility as it is pride. As a CEO, getting funded is a recognition that your business might be successful in the future, but that in present form you are lacking the resources to get to that point. Taking money is accepting that you need help from people who have more than you.

It’s also an acknowledgement that you have intense work ahead of you. VC’s and angels give you the resources because they think you might be successful. But they also expect you to do everything in your power to achieve results. You don’t need to be profitable yet, but you need to grow so that you can be profitable in the future.

This explains why Silicon Valley is so growth-obsessive. Future earnings is the name of the game for startups, and since most startups aren’t profitable in their current size, the strategy is to increase the size of the business to become profitable at scale.

Growth is generally not free. If it were free, no one would need to take outside money because you could just grow on your own and keep the profits. Sales, marketing, and advertising are all strategies where you connect to paying customers and generate sales. They are critical element in scaling your business.

There are ways to reach customers for very little, of course, but they are unpredictable and flaky. There is such thing as the occasional free lunch, but it’s unreliable and not an effective way to scale in the long term. If you can make something go viral, that’s fantastic. However, this should be seen as an added bonus and not as a strategy you can easily replicate.

Even from the perspective of selling through cold email outreach, growth is far more effective when you invest in lead generation and other tools to support your team.

You could bootstrap (AKA build a business without funding) if you are profitable early on and can re-invest your resources into marketing. Many lifestyle business work this way. However, if your aspiration is to scale- and many business are only profitable at scale- you’ll need an outside source of cash.

Thus, the money you raise is an essential resource to build scale. Assuming you have some degree of product market fit, you can use your marketing spend to generate new sales.

The progression of growth, funding, growth, funding, and so on is typical because the two are intricately related. There’s a general chicken and the egg problem for startups: you need funding to achieve growth, but at the same time, most times you need growth to gain funding. Investors don’t like to invest without a track record of growth, because there is a higher risk that the end goal- scale with profit- will not be achieved.

The venture funding environment has shifted in the past year, with total Series A dollars invested decreasing by as much as 33% over a one year period. Recognizing the relationship between your growth and fundraising, how does this affect your business decisions and fundamental strategies?

The drought in funding does not indicate a “bubble” or a decrease in liquidity in tech. It means really only one thing: investors are being more cautious with their investments. They are looking for more track record of success and less risk in the companies where they deposit their dollars. In other words, investors need to see evidence of growth and a path to profitability.

From a company standpoint, this means that you need to double down on your marketing and focus on growing your revenue. It also means that you need to think closely about quantifying your return and ensuring that your marketing and sales team is generating the numbers that you need. A strong marketing ROI is an essential metric of success.

Too often, fundraising and marketing are seen in isolation. If you view marketing as a “nice to have,” then there’s no need to invest much in it, and you can hire mediocre talent to run your growth. But if you recognize that marketing is the linchpin in raising money and scaling your company, then you’ll take it far more seriously.

Many growth marketers have tunnel vision and obsess over the details of their respective digital channel. This is a mistake and a sign of weakness. The best marketers think like business strategists, and have a high-level holistic view of how to drive your campaigns and the whole business forward.

The top marketers see your business an expansive network, with many participants and stakeholders. Observing your business from a bird’s eye view, they can improve your strengths and reduce your funnel leaks, leading to a steady increase in your return on marketing spend.

Raising money and growing your startup can seem absurdly complicated, but at their essence, they are both predicated on a powerful belief in your product or service, and the desire to help the right group of people. Form your goals around fundamentals, and you’ll be well on your way to startup success.

Not Your Father's Ad Campaign

Measuring Growth for Online Businesses

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

If you are a fan of Mad Men, you know the story. The escapades of flamboyant advertising executives, the smoke-filled rooms, the risque workplace banter, the steady and generous flow of hard liquor.

It’s the quintessential, unadulterated portrayal of advertising in 1960's America. And a damn good one at that. Compared to today’s ultra-PC workplaces, where even the mildest off-color comment delivers you to the chopping boards of human resources, Mad Men feels like a refreshing throwback to looser times.

But while we all may find moments to channel our inner Don Draper, there’s a central question at play. Namely, how in the world did they ever get away with this behavior? In what world could constant inebriation and a productive company coexist?

Or really, even more than their behavior, how did they know what they were doing was working? Or whether it was working, period?

The quote I led with is illustrative. Its ethos is on point even while its origin is unknown (though spuriously attributed to marketing pioneer John Wanamaker).

The collective attitude toward marketing and advertising was that it just couldn’t be understood that well. It was a shot in the dark that worked. Put up a flashy billboard in Times Square or create a radio ad with a catchy jingle and do your best to persuade as many people as possible to buy your product. Or talk about you. Or even know about you.

And since there wasn’t a prayer of optimizing your ad spend, might as well just throw a bunch of money at your agency and call it day. Absent of any intention to take a rigorous look at where your dollars go, you’re okay with the good ol’ boys who are sloppy at work but get the job done through their networks.

Lo and behold, your advertising causes sales go up. Who cares how or why? It’s time to party.

To some degree this is an exaggeration, but only because no company would ever be so blunt in their outlook towards marketing. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even admit the half-wasted ad spend. After all, they might argue, sales isn’t the only way to measure your marketing; “we’re looking to build awareness.

Fast forward to today and advertising is a completely different ballgame.Total US Digital advertising hit a high of $60 billion in 2015, up 20% from the year from before. This is significant because it introduces the factor of accountability, and we can now attribute digital sales to their respective marketing channels.

The scenes from Mad Men are increasingly rare in real life, partly because it’s no longer valid to say that you can’t tell how well your marketing is working. We now have tools to track our success, from standard coupon codes to Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, and more. And we can zoom into segments and cohorts to get detailed about which parts of our marketing are working and why.

And while awareness is not defunct, it’s also not sufficient. Marketing technology is now good enough that most companies should not be paying for visibility alone. Tracking has gotten really good, and it’s time to take advantage.

And beyond that, you could have the most accurate tracking and reporting, but it would be useless if you didn’t know how to make forward-looking decisions with it.

For a business with a limited resources, tracking and accountability is a beautiful thing. With greater visibility into your growth programs, you can make exponentially better decisions about the way that you allocate your advertising dollars. But on the other hand, you are now forced to concentrate and think hard about what your real growth goals are.

From a sober perspective, your marketing goals should be exclusively focused on what actually drives revenue. In growth marketing, we talk about vanity metrics versus key performance indicators (KPIs). Vanity metrics are stats that aren’t clearly driving sales, whereas KPIs are statistically proven to advance your revenue targets.

For most companies at most times, paying for awareness, impressions, or “eyeballs” are not good uses of your money. It’s never a bad thing for someone to know about your produce or service, but at their essence, these goals are vanity metrics.

On the other hand, email addresses captured, phone numbers of leads locked down, and unique referral codes used are all clearly associated with the end goal of conversion. This is where online businesses should primarily focus their efforts.

When we quantify our success, we have a better way to know exactly what return we’re getting with our money. And we can develop better way to achieve the growth that we need.

There is no longer a blank check in advertising. The performance of marketers can be scrutinized and tracked. And the fading of the reckless Mad Men-style agency is symbolic because workplace chaos cannot coexist with visibility and professional accountability.

From the perspective of the CEO of an online business, it has never been easier to strategize for digital growth. If you are willing to put in the effort, you can know exactly how and why your ad spend is increasing your revenue.

Are you still wasting half of your money on vanity metrics and un-trackable advertising?

Measure your growth. Focus on what matters. It’s 2016 and we can do a better job.

Crafting Google AdWords Expanded Text Ads

While the announcement of updates to the Google AdWords platform were announced earlier this summer, Google kept digital advertisers and marketers big and small on their toes this week as they officially rolled out the new implementations.

The launch included three new updates to Google AdWords: Expanded Text Ads, Responsive Ads, and Bid Adjustments. However, much of the spotlight has been placed on the Expanded Text Ads feature.

There’s good news and bad news: good news is that the extended text ads give you a little bit more breathing room in your copy manueverability. And when I say a little bit, I mean over 50% more space: you now have the ability to write two headlines, each with 30 character limits, and one description line, maxing out at 80 characters.

The bad news? Have fun rewriting all of your copy.

Before you panic — there’s hope! Father Time is on your side. While the smoke subsides and everybody struggles to grasp the full scope of the changes, you can get a leg up on the competition by following these five tips:

  1. If you’re going to take advantage of the ability to craft lengthier headlines, make sure your landing pages are updated to reflect any changes you make. A higher CTR is great, but if you’re only hurting your conversions down the road if you don’t similarly update your landing pages.
  2. Add a call to action in your second headline. Now is your chance to communicate more directly to your target audience, as well as improve your Quality Score, so use it to motivate that audience to take action.
  3. Use ad extensions to include things like additional deep links or location customizers underneath your headlines. These allow you to fune-tune your ad to a user’s seach while making your product or service seem more compelling at the same time.
  4. Keep in mind the timeline of your conversion cycle and where your ads are in that lifecycle. This can affect how quickly or whether you see results in your conversion rates.
  5. 90% of people start a search on one device and finish it on another. As such, check your device reports and make sure your first-click attributions are being accounted for. You may have huge growth in mobile but it’s spanning across devices, so your attribution will appear to be decreasing.

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.” Channel your inner Seneca and beat everyone to market today, not tomorrow.