Why Startups Should Celebrate Big Wins: The Psychology of Celebration in Entrepreneurship

Frank Gruber bootstrapped Tech.co (formerly Tech Cocktail) to grow organically and profitably. Since raising $2.5 million from Tony Hsieh and moving headquarters to downtown Las Vegas, Tech.co has reached millions of people.

Gruber has interviewed some of the world’s most exceptional entrepreneurs, including Jason Fried of Basecamp, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress. He’s even written a book (Startup Mixology) to capture the most powerful lessons learned along the way. But I recently had a chance to talk with Gruber to dive deep into a couple of counter-intuitive concepts for high-impact entrepreneurship.

Watch (or listen) to the full conversation with Tech.co CEO Frank Gruber below:

Here’s the full audio with Frank Gruber for on-the-go and audiophile Verge friends:

Watch or listen to the full interview to learn:

  • Why entrepreneurs need to celebrate their wins with their team (and families!)
  • Strategies for bootstrapping to a scalable business
  • Stories from the tenches from Tech.co startups around the world

frank gruber tech cocktailFrank Gruber and I also talk about Tech.co’s annual startup conference—Celebrate. I’ll be joining them this year to moderate a powerhouse panel of investors.

Want to join me?

Drop a comment below for a chance to get a FREE pass to Celebrate 2015. Let me know one thing you’ve accomplished in your startup over the past month. We’ll pick our favorite 3, and give an all-access pass to Celebrate 2015.

So… what should you and your startup team celebrate?

How to Find and Attend the Best Conferences to Grow Your Business

Ludovic Ulrich hails from France, but he’s spent more than a decade leading projects at Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce—the goliaths of Silicon Valley. Sure, these companies may dominate the digital world, but they all wield a powerful weapon in engaging their customers and partners. . .


Sometimes it’s their own user conferences like Dreamforce, and often its partner conferences where they speak, exhibit, or and attend. Through all of his travels and conferences, Ulrich has developed a superpower he’s learned to use to support startups and his own initiatives.

Beyond being the Director of Salesforce for Startups, Ludo is a is the sensei of startup and technology conferences, having spoken at, sponsored, and attended dozens (if not more). In this interview, Ulrich shares exactly how to find the best conferences and how to attend those conferences to yield insane results for your business and career. Watch it here:

Or listen to the audio on how to find and attend conferences here:

I’m going to dive right in. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room . . .

Are conferences a waste of time?  

events a waste of time

Well… Yes. 

The way that most people attend conferences, it’s a complete waste of time. But that’s not you. You’re in the 1% who wants to get the most out of your experiences. So, we’re going to show you have attending conferences can become the most valuable thing you do, mmkay?

“Do your homework,” Ulrich says. “Who are the sponsors? Who are the speakers?” If you’re not seriously curating your list of potential conferences, you’re missing the most important part of developing your event efficiency.

Find the conferences where you know—or are very familiar with—at least one of the speakers, sponsors, or organizers. These people can be your seminar sherpas, blazing the trail for your at conference breakout sessions or on the tradeshow floor. Lean on these people to get to the good stuff, especially if they’ve attended the conference before:

Which after parties are the best for your industry?

Which sessions are the most productive?

Use social media at events to follow the connections and chatter in your industry. Leverage connections with large brands to gain access to the best parts of conferences and learn how to make the most of your visit. Then, go to work on your plan of attack. . .

How do you stand out at conferences?

This ain’t no junior high school dance. So why do so many people play conferences as a lone wolf or around the periphery?

how to attend events

If you’re going to spend the money, and more importantly take the time, to attend an industry conference, you must jump in there and make the most of every minute. You want to be yourself, but you really want to be the best version of yourself. 

Don’t mingle for the sake of mingling. Have 1-3 specific asks in mind before you even go to the conference (for investors, it’s __________ …. for developers, it’s __________ … for the media and bloggers, it’s __________).

Don’t actually take breaks during the break. That’s for suckers or people who drink too much Mountain Dew :) …. But seriously, find the people who you really want to connect with (you probably created this list while doing your pre-conference research).

Don’t be a clingy conference goer. Make your connection, find an opportunity to reconnect later, then move on. No one wants to be latched to someone at the hip for an entire conference. This will inhibit your ability to move around, meet new people, and find new opportunities. So get your ninja uniform on and be the event assassin that I know you are. And yes, I mean that as a metaphor.

You were probably wondering, and the answer is yes, you can go too far. . .

WARNING: Don’t Be This Person at a Conference

Keep an eye out for any behaviors that might group you into one of these conference attendee categories:

  • The eye darter: These are the people who are never fully present in anything. They have so much FOMO (fear of missing out) that they’re constantly looking around for the next best thing—even if they’re already in a conversation.
  • The card pusher: “Here’s my card!” We all know this person. They push their cards on anyone and everyone even if there’s no logical reason to exchange contact info. As a general rule: don’t give out your card unless someone asks you for it.
  • The frat boy/girl: You can always find this person within proximity of the bar. “Open bar, dude!” is the warcry of the conference frat boy or girl. But a conference isn’t a frat party. So just know your limits, and you’ll avoid being grouped into this category.

How do you approach someone at a conference?

Ahhh, now you’re asking the right questions young padawan. This is the most important skill in for a productive conference attendee and there are a couple of important principles to keep in mind.

make friends at conferences


First and foremost, be respectful of people’s time. Everyone has ponied up their time and money (or their employer’s money) to be at the conference or tradeshow and there’s a finite amount of time to take it all in. So you need to always be thinking about answering one question:

How can you make it worth someone’s time to talk to you?

There are a couple of strategies here. It’s important to be interesting, so even if you can’t do something to directly help someone or their business, you at least have an engaging exchange and that person remembers (at least in general) what you’re all about. That means you should have a couple of canned anecdotes that bring you and your business to life!

be interesting at eventsAsk your marketing director (or a friend who is a good story teller) how to talk about what you do in a way that makes it interesting. You can find a few ideas here.

And I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. . . Have a clear ask. Preferably this person will have mentioned something that makes you think they can help, but even if the opportunity doesn’t present itself, you can always go with something along the lines of “You know, I’m working on this facebook ad campaign and it’s really challenging because it’s my first time doing an ad buy… You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with experience with that, would you?”

Not the most tailored approach, but still much much better than “So I heard the Foo Fighters are playing later. That’s pretty cool.”

When in doubt, show that you’ve done your homework. If you don’t know anything about your new conferencemate’s company or industry, you can always create some value by sharing something interesting you learned about the conference during your pre-conference research. Maybe it’s an uber-secret after party, or maybe it’s just a hidden gem of a coffee shop that has great wi-fi and lattes . . . but if you’re generous to conference goers, the conference will be generous right back to you.

Don’t forget to follow up with connections made at conferences (you can do this more easily if you track your conversations along the way) and take notes for next year.

Where can I do more research on conferences and industry events?

Startup SummitI’ll be putting these strategies the Salesforce Startup Summit, a conference produced by Ulrich and his team within the larger Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. If you want to join me, just drop a comment below and I’ll send you a code to get 50% off your Startup Summit registration. Or check out other great conferences in your industry.

I like using Lanyrd when researching and searching for events, but you can also find great stuff on Techmeme and similar information hubs. As you attend more conferences, you may even learn some techniques for getting into events for free. Now, you’ll be the pro. 

What conferences have you attended? What are the most productive parts of events for you?


How a Winning Psychology Fueled a $20-million Profitable Tech Company

John Qualls grew up on the West side of Indianapolis—on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

“I felt like I was in this situation and I needed to find a way out,” John recalls. “I was a straight-F student in high school and around 15 or 16, I realized I was going absolutely nowhere.”

john-qualls-eleven-fiftyBut in the following years, John would prove to himself that he isn’t the kind of guy who sits around waiting for something to happen. He has a winning psychology. John’s quest has taken him literally around the world and led to him starting a technology company that would end up reaching profitability and $20 million in revenue within its first three years.

In this candid interview with John Qualls, you’ll learn:

  • how he made a million dollars in sales selling out of a bookstore,
  • how John started one of the first cloud hosting companies (BlueLock), and
  • why he’s now leading the charge in software development education at Eleven Fifty
  • …and more!

I was lucky enough to work closely with Qualls at his first startup and can tell you that there’s more substance and life experience in John’s pinky finger than there is in the average startup founder. I’m confident you’ll learn something by watching the full interview here:

On the go? Listen to the whole Winning Psychology Interview Here:

Why a Winning Psychology Drives Success in Startups

I rode shotgun with John Qualls in the early days of BlueLock as we scaled annual revenues north of the million-dollar mark. It was there, riding between sales calls, that I was able to witness first-hand John’s remarkable psychology.

I credit his consecutive successes to three core traits, which you can see from watching our conversation:

Winning Psychology Trait #1: Let Gratitude Give Life to Your Dreams

Winning Psychology

John’s childhood on the West side of Indianapolis didn’t give him a clear path for growth. But despite his limiting circumstances, something told him that there was something more out there, beyond his immediate reality.

This belief in abundance led Qualls to join the Marine Corps, which would establish a strong foundation of skills and habits while exposing him to other areas of the world.

“Living in Japan, I had this tremendous appreciation for what we had in the United States,” John says. As I’ve worked with John through the past five years, it’s become clear to me that his attitude of gratitude has fueled a powerful abundance mentality. These qualities have become John’s startup superpowers to weather the storm of entrepreneurship while allowing him to see opportunity where others do not.

Winning Psychology Trait #2: Let Go of Excuses

“I’ve seen it kill so many companies and so many people’s career,” says Qualls. The cancer that has killed so many ambitious dreams is something that John calls the “Can’t, sir.”

As in, “I’m sorry, I can’t, sir.

John Qualls - Winning PsychologyAnd John doesn’t let any such language infect his mind. That’s because this kind of self talk limits creativity, ambition and ultimately, potential.

“Why can’t you do that?” was John’s attitude while making moves in his first professional role after returning to the United States. And while John humbly credits his success to naivete, it’s clear that it’s the lack of perceived limits that allowed John to think big—and swing big.

By letting go of excuses, John found early success in sales, selling more than a million dollars in contracts out of a bookstore by simply approaching people who picked up books from the “computers and programming” section of the shelves. That same lack of limits gave John the ambition to pursue an RFP in the early days of BlueLock, which would turn out to be a pivotal multi-million-dollar contract with Lehman Brothers.

Winning Psychology Trait #3: Stop Playing to Not Lose. Play to Win!

“It literally about killed me. I was sleeping 8 hours total each week for about 8 months straight,” John recalls of the days following the signing of the Lehman Brothers contract at BlueLock.

And John credits his success to this focus on moving towards a goal, as opposed to focusing on avoiding negative results. He calls this paradigm shift playing not to lose vs. playing to win.

This relentless pursuit of positive goals has empowered Qualls to make difficult decisions, like replacing himself as CEO of his own company after three years of consistent growth. But it continues to drive his efforts today, as John continues to elevate the level of talent in his home state of Indiana.

“It’s about finding your passions and getting involved with people,” John says. As the President of Eleven Fifty Coding Academy, Qualls is working to help people learn to code. He’s attracting and training the best people and companies to grow their tech businesses in Indiana—something he refers to as “brain gain.”

(Tweet this story, or your own growth story with the hashtag #BrainGainIN)

How can you invest in these three psychological traits for yourself? We all have these qualities within ourselves. The question is…

Will you continue to invest in them? Will you continue to invest in you?


How Monthly Investor Updates Scored $10 Million in Funding for WedPics

Before Justin Miller’s mobile company had 2.5+ million users, he was working out of a basement, searching for an industry where his tech company could thrive.

Miller has since been kicked out of that basement office, threatened by large-scale companies, and faced several funding crunches. But Miller’s startup, WedPics now powers personalized photo-sharing for 10,000 weddings per weekend, with monthly uploads in the millions. Watch Justin Miller’s candid interview from Verge North Carolina and learn the real story behind how he grew WedPics (and exactly WHY monthly investor updates are so important):

WedPics CEO and Co-founder Justin Miller didn’t have prior expertise or experience in launching or growing a tech startup. But the team’s resourcefulness made creative use of the resources available in the growing tech hub of the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill).

justin-miller-monthly-investor-updates“This was everybody’s first startup,” says Miller. “But we were just driven and had the determination to figure out how to make things happen.”

Miller believes in his team and the startup community in North Carolina. He is a graduate of North Carolina State (NC State) University and veteran of IBM, where he spent 7 years honing his skills before launching WedPics (then named deja mi, inc) in 2011.

WedPics has $9.9 million in 5 rounds of funding, according to CrunchBase. Investors include the likes of well-known thought leader and investor Brad Feld and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran.

“None of us knew anything about the wedding space,” said Miller. But the team has prevailed through effective user acquisition, tech development, and communication. The co-founder attributes the WedPics investment success to one key CEO habit:

Write Monthly Investor Updates

“I needed to figure out a way to stay at the top of everybody’s radar,” said Miller. “[Doing monthly investor updates] is one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Here’s what Miller did with his WedPics investor and partner updates:

  • Send at the beginning of every month
  • Give overview of how we did the previous month
  • Provide cumulative overview of how we’ve been performing to date

“That is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” says Miller. Several investors and investor groups have explained why monthly investor reports are important and have even provided investor update templates for founders to use. But Miller shares which qualities made the WedPics updates so valuable:

5 Keys to Effective Investor Updates

  1. WedPics-investor-updateStay relevant (share only the information relevant to company’s current direction).
  2. Show traction.
  3. Make it a quick read (Pro Tip: use charts where it’s helpful).
  4. Be transparent.
  5. Don’t expect responses (people are busy, so be consistent even if updates don’t immediately spark a dialogue).

Even if your tech company doesn’t have investors, you can use monthly investor updates to form and direct your thinking, keep your team on the same page, and facilitate partner opportunities. WedPics not only shared with investors and potential investors, but used the monthly investors reports to keep potential partners, acquirers, and acquisition targets updated on their team’s progress.

Side note: social sharing app Buffer does a great job of sharing their monthly investor updates. Read through their past updates here. I also really like the notes on investor updates from Groove CEO Alex Turnbull: read his advice here.

Watch the Full WedPics Interview to Learn More About Investor Updates AND:

  • WedPics User Growth Strategy
  • Why Sharing Personally is Important for Founders
  • Why WedPics is Still Taking Risks
  • How North Carolina is Supporting Startup Growth

Watch the WedPics interview …or…. leave a comment below! Are you currently sending regular investor updates? What benefits (or even negative side effects) have you experienced as a result?

From Broke to Breakthrough: Peter Voogd and 6 Months to 6 Figures

I recently listened to the audiobook of 6 Months to 6 Figures by Peter Voogd, and his perspective really resonated with me. And not just because we have a shared past of door-to-door sales (I sold vacuum cleaners, he sold Cutco knives). Voogd went from broke to a game changer who practically defines the word “hustle.” In his book, and in this interview, he shares keys to success for fellow entrepreneurs.

“You only know how strong you really are until being strong is the only option you have. ”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figure

Watch the full interview with Peter Voogd:

On the go? Listen to the whole interview here:

Inspiration vs. Habits.

A lot of us entrepreneurs are inspired, which helps us drive action, but Voogd emphasized the importance of productive habits: “Inspiration is short-term and feels good in the moment, but it’s hard to sustain because you don’t have the habits.” One recipe for success he described was the habit of asking himself “What did I do well? What can I do better?” after every single meeting or presentation.

Circle of Influence.

Voogd further explained how taking it upon yourself to figure out these effective habits is unnecessary: “It takes people so much longer to get to an end result than they would’ve got if they actually reached out to people that are already playing the game at a higher level. They will tell you what the best habits are.” Identify the top five people in your industry and reach out to them. Stop making excuses and, as Nike advises, just do it. You’ll probably be surprised by how easy it is to get a hold of even famous people, who can then help you drastically shorten your learning curve. Watch Voogd explain his circle of influence epiphany →

“You have to realize that everyone who has a network now once didn’t. The first step is increasing your level of certainty that you can connect with people like that, whether you have anything to offer or not.”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figures

“The Unrequired Things.”

6monthsto6figuresAlong with establishing effective habits, Voogd spoke about how going above and beyond is the key. One way to go the extra mile is having utter confidence in selling yourself: “You have to believe wholeheartedly that the product is better for [your customer], and they are better off having it than if they don’t.”

The second unrequired thing is writing down the internal reasons that drive you to do what you do. You might come up with 20 to 30 reasons, then boil them down to four or five core ones. Voogd underscored that reasons come first, results come second: “Too many people just go after results, without having strong enough reasons, and if they go through challenges, they don’t have any reasons to pull them through the challenge.”

The Million Dollar Question.

A great story Voogd shared was from when he was a sales manager in his early 20s, striving to hit a $1 million sales goal that was thought to be unattainable. You can probably guess the outcome, but don’t miss how he did it →

“Anything is possible to those who value their goals, their dreams, and their visions over their current excuses or reality.”

-Peter Voogd, Author of the Best Seller 6 Months to 6 Figure

The One-Page Productivity Planner

Voogd shared the details of his one-page productivity planner. The exercise here is to simplify and focus on what really matters. Get the gist below, download his template here, or watch him explain it 

  1. Brief vision-statement. What’s your ideal outcome in six months?
  2. Your BIG 5 Goals for the next 12 months.
  3. Your Top Five Reasons, the most powerful ones that drive you the most.
  4. Your Key Values, to connect to what’s most important to you. For example, a few of Voogd’s are are flexibility, autonomy, and impact.

Download the 1-Page Productivity Sheet >>

Talk about impact! The Game Changers Academy Voogd founded has trained and inspired over 4,500 entrepreneurs, and his podcasts, videos, websites and social media reach over 200,000 people monthly.

Want to learn even more from outstanding young entrepreneurs?

On July 30th, I’ll take the stage with Santiago Jaramillo, one of Inc Magazine’s “30 Under 30″ for a special launch event in the brand new offices of his growing mobile tech company, Bluebridge. Get your tickets now!

Peter Voogd Interview Transcript show

Midwest Vs. Silicon Valley: Tech Talent and Lifestyle

“We’ve got great talent,” says voicemail inventor Scott Jones. “We just need more of it. And frankly,” Scott continued, “I think many would say the same in Silicon Valley.”

Watch the interview here:

“I hear a lot of complaints from people on the coasts,” Jones laments. The cost of living and other inconveniences of cities like San Francisco have left many yearning for more. This makes areas like the Midwest not only more attractive to employees, but to business owners as well.

Scott Jones on Silicon Valley“Once you find people, they stay put longer here,” Jones says. And with growing entrepreneurial ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, there are more and more resources to grow a tech startups beyond San Francisco.

“They can never find enough of the great talent,” says Jones. “And that’s what we want to create here at Eleven Fifty.

Scott Jones is the co-founder of Eleven Fifty coding academy based in Indianapolis, Indiana. We’re excited to announce that Eleven Fifty is now an official sponsor of Verge HQ in Indiana, offering exclusive access and unique opportunities to its members. Use code “VERGEhigh5 at registration to save on your next coding course.

Cost of living San Francisco

Why Learn Coding? w/ Scott Voicemail Inventor Scott Jones [VIDEO]

I sat down into the red velvet seats of one of the greatest home theaters in the world. But I wasn’t in New York or Los Angeles.

Voicemail inventor Scott Jones recently made his home (read: mansion) into one of the most ambitious undertakings in the field of education. With the unveiling of Eleven Fifty coding academy, Jones launched a new approach to learning to code software. Full disclosure: Eleven Fifty is a sponsor of Verge. And there are very good reasons why we decided to partner up…

Watch the video below to see Scott’s answer to the question “Why learn coding?” and maybe even more intriguingly… Why Indiana?

So, why learn coding?

C’mon! Are you living under a rock?

I know I’m not the only one getting hit up dozens of times a week asking if I know anyone who “knows how to build iPhone apps” or someone in search of a “technical co-founder.” Coding skills are in high demand.

It doesn’t matter if you know the latest language or not, it’s the underlying principles and thinking strategies of software development that lay the foundation to build great software–whether you want to build the next enterprisey software death star… or just annoy your friends with a new app that will be hotter than Flappy Bird.

Why learn coding in Indiana?

scott-jonesWell, besides the fact that the Indiana startup community’s got it going on, there’s one critical aspect that sets Indiana apart. . .


By hosting their intensive coding courses in the home of voicemail inventor Scott Jones, Eleven Fifty has crafted an immersive approach to learning to code. Walking through the halls (and the sick home theater, and indoor basketball court, and commercial kitchen…), you can feel the knowledge being pumped into the brains of students as they develop real-life apps with hands-on guidance from some of the most talented trainers in software.

There are also several great developer communities and new organizations that are working relentlessly to help more people become more technically proficient.

Why learn coding now?

It seriously has never been easier. If you want to learn to code but haven’t written your first line yet, it’s just because you’re lazy.

Hey, I won’t hold it against you. Just get started. Like… now.

If you want to get a taste of this immersive approach to learning to code, we’ve got something special for you. . .

Use the discount code below for 40% off the Security course

May 28th and 29th. Get the deets and get registered for the course here:


Code: verge@efa
The code can be entered at the checkout! So… check. it. out. (sorry, I had to)

If you’re within driving distance of the academy, I hope you’ll join us for our May 28th Evolution of Code event at Eleven Fifty. You can register here (while tickets are still available):


So, let me know where you’re at. . . Are you learning some coding basics? Or wanting to take your technical game to the next level? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me a tweet!

Entrepreneurial Tips from a CPA CEO: Neil Berman on Founding, Leaving, Returning to and Growing Delivra

When the stereotypical entrepreneur is a 20-something with a sales or marketing background shooting for the moon, Neil Berman stands apart. He had a career in accounting before founding Delivra, an email marketing service provider that’s a “unicorn” in its own way.
The company itself is a rarity in the software world: it’s profitable. I spoke with the CEO about the advantages his accounting background gave him and what’s in store for Delivra.

Watch the full interview with Neil Berman here:

Dot-com Boom Beginnings

The year was 1999. Adoption of the Internet was rising rapidly, and Berman wanted in on “what I felt was a really big thing.” A former employer had once told him that if he could find a business that met three criteria – faster, better, and cheaper – he should go for it. Berman’s wife was working for the postal service at that time, and when he compared email communication to regular mail, Berman felt it met all three: “I stuck my stake in the ground and went from there.”

Entrepreneurship, CPA-Style.

Until then, Berman was an accountant: “I still belong to the Indiana CPA Society.” Working on the public side of accounting, he gained an inner look at many companies and what made them successful… or not. When starting his own company, Berman just didn’t buy into the classic entrepreneurial model of raising money, growing as fast as possible, and selling out. Between his conservative mindset and desire for independence, he opted to not seek investors and instead grew organically, initially starting Delivra out of his own home.

“I’ve seen entrepreneurs with great ideas, but the faster they grow, the more money they lose. Then their business collapses, and they don’t really understand why.”

-Neil Berman, Founder and CEO of Delivra

To this day, the company is opening a new regional office every three months without having to raise money or get a bank loan. When mentoring others about entrepreneurial finances, Berman said, “I find that either their eyes glaze over or they’re afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to appear stupid.” He emphasized that it’s vital to understand your business’s key performance indicators, especially what you have to do to break even. “If you’re in school today, take some of those accounting classes that you hate,” he advised wryly. “I didn’t like them either, but it’ll be useful information someday.”

On Walking Away…

NeilBermanLike fellow CEOs Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz, Berman left his own company and returned, but for a very different reason. Six years ago, Berman’s wife became ill and passed away very suddenly. Devastated, he hired a team of five to run the company’s functional departments in his stead and traveled the world: “I didn’t know if Delivra was going to be my future. I had to get grounded again.”

…And Coming Back.

Two years ago, Berman did return: “Coming back home to email software felt comfortable for me. I loved the software business and wanted to take it to the next level.” However, while the company was still profitable, competition had considerably heated up during his absence, and sales had flattened: “What we were doing previously had stopped working.” Berman jumped back into the saddle and set about determining Delivra’s future.

On Consultants and Dirty Laundry.

Since he knew the business, the market, and the competition, Berman had a vision for Delivra’s path forward but hired consultants to help him make a more informed decision. After “doing what consultants do” – surveying and interviewing customers, staff, and people both inside and outside of the industry – they presented a recommendation that aligned with Berman’s hunch but was better defined and more actionable. When working with consultants, Berman stressed transparency: “You need to be communicative about everything. Air the dirty laundry.”

“The Magic Differentiator.”

DelivraToday’s email marketing industry is competitive, but Delivra is investing a lot of money in product development to offer clients a robust marketing solution. But perhaps its biggest differentiator is its focus on building relationships with clients via its expanding network of regional offices and offering them product enablement help up front: “We find that to be a magic differentiator. Although it costs more, we’re going to close more sales, and that’s how we’re going to grow the business.”

A Crash Course on Email Deliverability.

Delivra takes pride in helping its customers’ emails reach inboxes the right way: “Today, delivering email with the blizzard of spam that’s out there is challenging. It’s part science and it’s part art.” Watch Berman’s crash course on email deliverability and list hygiene →

How do you try to apply a financial mindset to your entrepreneurial venture? Comment below!

See Delivra for Yourself on May 14th!

It’s pretty awesome to see what Delivra has built in Indianapolis, Indiana. We use Delivra at Verge and I’m blown away by the people at this company. Come meet them for yourself at Delivra’s open house on May 14th. Hope to see you there! Click here to RSVP →

Transcript: show

How to Steal the Best Digital Marketing Ideas

Eric Clapton MasteryEric Clapton became a guitar god by first practicing riffs created by blues guitar legend Robert Johnson. Clapton developed his own style as he listened to other artists, played with new bands, and found the guitar licks that he grew to love.

Becoming a master of digital marketing is no different.

But first, you’ve got to get the right stuff into your brain (Clapton wouldn’t have become Clapton if he’d imitated amateurs). If you want to master digital marketing idea generation, you have to first get comfortable with borrowing things that work elsewhere.

Use this 20-minute daily practice to steal the best digital marketing ideas for your start up or growing company.

Become a magnet for digital marketing strategy ideas.

Set aside 20 minutes a day. Go ahead and block it out on your calendar so you commit to it. Then use the time as follows:

First 5 minutes: Choose the 10 best growth articles of the day.

Skim through the 3 best marketing ideas bubbling up on the internet that day. You can subscribe to company emails that you like to find fresh digital marketing ideas. But I like to use Q&A and user-submission tools to help me identify what’s worth reading and what isn’t. I highly recommend:

During this first 5 minutes, you should simply identify the 5-10 most compelling articles. Identify these by finding the submissions that have the most upvotes, comments, or keywords in the title that indicate the article might be particularly relevant to your business.

Pro Tip: You can do this process even more quickly by hold shift while you click each tab. This will open the article in a new tab without changing windows and allow you to complete this first part of discovery quickly.

Second 5 minutes: Identify the best digital marketing ideas.

Is it worth reading every word of every article that catches your attention online? (hint: probably not)

digital marketing ideas

Get in the habit of good skimming technique by taking the 5-10 articles identified in your first 5 minutes of discovery and forcing yourself to review the article in 30 seconds or less. Do this by reading through the headlines and subheads, bolded words, and key phrases (which generally appear in the first and last sentences of paragraphs).

Your goal here should be to find the best 3 articles for you to dig into and really comprehend. These should be articles that challenge you to think in a new way or learn something new.

Third 5 minutes: Dig in.

Now that you’ve figured out where the gold is hidden, it’s time to put on your headlamp and headlamp. Because, we’re going mining!

In each of your final three digital marketing ideas, look for explicit tactics that are tied to measurable outcomes. As you identify clear tactics, jot some notes on how you might apply those same marketing tactics to your business. Here’s an example of a digital marketing concept:

“Add a live chat function on product pages”

Keep it brief, but descriptive. If necessary, add a couple of extra thoughts on how you could make this marketing idea work for your business. We’ll need that for the final step.

Final 5 minutes: Build out one digital marketing idea.

You should have about 7-10 concepts from three articles at this point. Now it’s time to identify and dig in once again.

Rank your marketing concepts by potential impact to your business or ease of implementation, depending on your current work capacity. Write a number to the left of each concept statement indicating which should be top priority (number 1).

Then, take your number one idea and bullet out a few more notes on that concept:

  • What existing campaign or marketing strength would this concept leverage?
  • Given your existing marketing strategies, what kind of impact could you expect to your key metrics? Write these down as rough goals.
  • How quickly could you expect to implement? Jot down what you think might be a good goal.

Save these notes to review at the end of each week. This is an important step for getting your marketing ideas implemented

Make your digital marketing idea your own.

Using this 20-minute daily practice with allow you to see enough digital marketing ideas to come up with your own ideas. By giving yourself some time between initial idea generation and review at the end of each week, you’ll give your subconscious the space it needs to gestate.

By making this a daily habit, your brain will begin to see patterns in digital marketing ideas. This discipline will help you steal and implement the best ideas, and give our business the biggest opportunities by making them your own.

BONUS: How to Get the Best Marketing Ideas before they hit the Internet

Pssst… here’s a little secret that the best entrepreneurs and marketers don’t want you to know…

The very best marketing ideas are usually shared at industry conferences months before the case studies get shared publically on the internet. This gives you time to capture the market and refine before others start stealing the same marketing ideas.

Join the MBO Digital Marketing Conference and Ideate Like a Boss

Verge HQ teamed up with one of the Midwest’s best digital marketing conferences, MBO. We’re hosting our pitch night this Wednesday, April 29th. We’ll have a panel of marketing tech thought leaders, as well as some of the most innovative software companies presenting their tech and marketing.

But just for you, you can attend the entire MBO conference and get more than $60 off your registration with the code VERGE15.

Register now >>

MBO Indy




It’s no secret that Indianapolis is a leader in Marketing and Tech. I hope you’ll join us!


From Open Waters to Red Oceans: T.A. McCann’s Adventure as a Successful Sailor and Entrepreneur

T.A. McCann is one of the few people on the planet who can claim astronomical success in not one but two areas; in his case, sailing AND entrepreneurship. But are they that different? I sat down with the tech company founder and America’s Cup winner about both bouncing back from failure and tips for achieving success.

Watch the full interview with T.A. McCann here:

Adventures in Entrepreneurship and Sailing with T.A. McCann

sailing and entrepreneurshipMcCann got the entrepreneurial bug around the tender age of 12 when he started a lawn care business: “The feeling of independence and being able to control my own destiny has always been important to me.” Perhaps that’s why, after graduating from Purdue (which is still going strong when it comes to shaping entrepreneurs!) and becoming a mechanical engineer, he quit to pursue the freedom of the open waters. An accomplished professional sailor, he won the America’s Cup in 1992.

What do Sailing and Entrepreneurship Have in Common?

Quite a lot, in fact! In his blog post on the subject, McCann observes that the skill, engineering excellence and perseverance shown by Larry Ellison and his victorious Oracle Team USA are “all things that go into a building a successful startup.” From finding a competitive advantage to working under a deadline, watch McCann draw all the parallels →

“If you’re only achieving at 20%, the goal is too hard. If you’re achieving at 100%, then the goal is too easy.”

-T.A. McCann, Sailor / Entrepreneur / Investor

Resetting the Goal Posts.

TA MccannMcCann’s sailing career was not without some setbacks. When competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race), his team was closing in on victory when suddenly, the mast fell down. Bitterly disappointed, almost everyone on the team wanted to quit. But in the three days it took to get back to land, a transformation from despair to hope took place: “We tried to find what we could salvage. Could we still win the last leg? Could we actually complete the race?” After resetting the goal posts, the team did in fact win the last leg handily and achieved a lot of reset goals.

“We just showed up at the wrong time.”

Not every entrepreneurial venture was a success, either. McCann returned to the tech world from sailing in the late 90s – in the midst of the dot-com bubble – with a startup called Helpshare: “It was a reasonably good idea, and we had built the company properly, but right when we were planning to go raise money, the crash happened.”

The Case For Corporate Experience.

ta-mccann-americas-cupThe loss was devastating, and McCann ended up joining Microsoft. During his three years there, he financially and emotionally recharged while still innovating and learning skills on the scale of a large company, “things that are different than what you need to learn for a startup,” like how to build software for hundreds of millions of customers in 123 languages. Eventually, a venture capitalist McCann had worked with through the product he had built for Microsoft Exchange invited him to become an entrepreneur-in-residence.

Entering a Red Ocean.

In 2008, McCann launched Gist amid several competitors already in the content discovery space. It started with the goal bringing users relevant news but evolved, using integrations with Google’s and Twitter’s APIs, into a social address book: “If I have all of my contacts in one place, and the system can give me news both about them and by them, then I can use to better understand them, and by understanding them I can build better relationships with them.” Through consistent customer feedback, Gist evolved into a relationship manager and caught RIM’s eye, which acquired the company in 2011.

The Importance of Building Relationships.

rival iq ta mccannWhen I asked him for advice he would give to entrepreneurs, McCann underscored the importance of building relationships for recruiting, reaching thought leaders, courting investors, and finding customers: “The stronger a relationship is, the more likely someone is going to do something for you or recommend you or your product to somebody else.” His most recent tech venture, Rival IQ (which we use at Verge, and I highly recommend), can help you learn how to best build relationships with customers through data-driven marketing. McCann also shared his 5-3-2 Rule for building relationships on social media. Watch him explain the strategy →

Want to learn even more from T.A. McCann?

Join 1,000 founders, investors, and builders at this year’s Innovation Showcase in July! A limited number of Early-Bird tickets are available for the full conference with more than 70 fundable companies. Reserve your spot here →

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