How and Why to Learn SQL to Be a Better Marketer


Why Learn SQL

You’ve probably had run into a situation where you wanted to know the answer to a question like this:

"I wonder the average number of actions a user takes on my website?"

Or this:

"I’m curious who the top 10% of my users are who do some action?"

Or this:

"How can I see the emails of all users who signed up after May?"

These are all incredibly reasonable questions to ask for actionable data that can improve your marketing efforts. But what recourse do you have to answer them? Maybe you ask your development team to find answers for you - on top of their already hectic schedule. Maybe you use your admin tools in a hack-y way to arrive at an answer. Maybe you can’t answer them at all.

This is why you need SQL. Using SQL allows you to answer and execute on these questions.

But the best reason to learn SQL is that it’s easy to learn and it will empower you to your job better.

I recently taught myself SQL from scratch over just a weekend and now use it all the time. Here’s how you can too.

How to Learn SQL

There are a number of good resources around the web to learn SQL. I personally found this Udemy course by Bucky Roberts to be easy, clear, and comprehensive. For whatever reason, the Udemy videos end early. You can watch the rest of Bucky’s series at thenewboston.

To get a SQL server quickly onto your computer to use as you go through the course, download MAMP

Here are some other recommended resources if you want to learn SQL: * Schemaverse * GalaXQL - Interactive SQL tutorial * SQL Problems and Solutions - INteractive textbook * Learn SQL The Hard Way (ALPHA) * SQLZOO

If you take an hour every night during a week or just spend some time on the weekend, you’ll be up and running with SQL in no time.

Bonus - SQL Syntax

I took notes on syntax while taking Bucky Robert’s course. Hopefully you find this a good crib-sheet. I refer to it all the time. If you’re stuck, you can always try Googling the answer as well.

Download this file

Social Media Resolutions for 2014

Here are some ways I hope to improve my social media habits in 2014. I hope it gives you some ideas about how you should be using social media in 2014 as well.

1. Don’t be lazy - Post natively for each platform

A lot of tools for social media (including Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social) let you queue or schedule posts, which can be incredibly useful. Most of those services also let you write one post and share it to multiple social networks.

Increasingly, I find this does not work because it’s lazy. It’s so easy to just post once. But the result is not optimized for each platform. It ignores the platform’s context even if it’s good content.

This year I resolve that when I want to share on multiple networks, I’ll do so in a native format for each.

2. More pictures

Twitter really put a big emphasis at the end of 2013 on pictures, with pictures included in the stream of the mobile app and also in direct messages. Pictures already engaged better on Facebook. And of course Instagram and Pinterest are built on pictures. I plan on including a picture with every post, if at all possible. Even a picture of text can be interesting and informative.

I wrote this blog post with Draft

3. Engage influencers through lists

Torrey Dye wrote one of my favorite social media posts of the year on how to engage with influencers. It requires some setup by creating a twitter list, but it works. I intend to follow it this year.

4. Test and embrace emerging platforms

Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram Video all took off in 2013. I can’t predict what product will break out in 2014, but whatever it may be, I plan to embrace it. Get on early, experiment with the format, and find out what works. Getting in early is an easy way to gain a competitive advantage.

5. Use one platform to drive data to another

My favorite and most used social network is twitter. It’s also not surprisingly where I have the largest following. I of course have a presence on most other social networks, plus slideshare and my email newsletter which I want to grow.

I plan to use twitter to build awareness of my other presences. Especially my email newsletter - with twitter lead gen cards - which you should sign up for here.


How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert


To read about how other professionals became experts in their craft sign up for Startup Edition #23.  

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

I started my career out as a “product guy.”  But about 4 years ago I realized that product was a small piece of the startup puzzle.  I became fascinated with how products were growing.  Thus, my journey on learning growth and customer acquisition began.  

I have a degree from the University of Michigan (Go Blue, btw!), but not in marketing.  I am completely self taught.  As a result of my learning, I have started multiple companies funded by tier 1 investors, held VP Product Marketing and CMO positions, grown consumer products to millions of daily active users, and advised/consulted numerous others on growth.

I’m not here to brag.  My point is, if I can do it, you can do it too and I want to share my tips and lessons learned.

Where You CAN’T Learn Customer Acquisition

First thing is first.  Let me clear the air on a few things so you don’t waste your time.  

1.  There is no one unicorn course/source that will teach you everything you need.  So stop searching for the one. 

2.  You will not learn digital marketing and customer acquisition in college. The realm of digital marketing is changing extremely fast, and the rate of change is accelerating.  Universities/colleges are too slow to adapt.  There are some foundational things you will get from college courses (that I will cover), but even those you can get in other places faster and cheaper.   

Going to college doesn’t hurt.  But our education system, plain and simple, is not teaching the things to to make people productive in the work environment.  Filling the gap between what you learn in college, and the skills to make you productive in the work environment is up to you!

3.  You will not become a customer acquisition expert by exclusively watching/reading endless courses and blogs.  At some point you just have to jump in and get your hands dirty.  More on this later.  

4.  Certifications are bullshit.  You will probably run into a bunch of online courses promising “certification for google adwords” or “certification for social media” or “certification for being xyz schmuck.” Ignore them.  Certifications provide little to no value and you are going to end up paying a premium.  I have also found that those courses are often worse than other material out there.  

The best employers in todays market don’t give a crap about these certifications.  They want to see examples of what you have done which is why my point below about getting something to experiment with is so important. 

Learning Plan - Shape Yourself Like A “T”

The world of digital marketing is HUGE today.  It is easy to get overwhelmed.  Having a plan and path is the most important part.  I have tried to simplify the path as much as possible.  There are three layers:

1.  Base Layer

These are non-marketing specific subjects that provide a base to build from.  Subjects in the base layer are used throughout the subjects in the next two layers. 

2.  Marketing Foundation

These are marketing subjects you should know that are used across almost any channel you use.  

3.  Channel Expertise 

The third layer is where you will need to make some choices.  Channels are all the different ways you can reach your audience.  It is near impossible to become an expert in all of the online marketing channels AND stay up to date on the latest changes.  Each channel is changing unbelievably fast in addition to new channels emerging.  

That is why I recommend a learning plan that will shape yourself like a “T” [See picture below].  Go broad by knowing the basics including pros/cons of most channels.  Then choose to go really deep on a couple channels.  Generalists are useless in most work environments.  As an expert in certain areas you will be able to build a brand around yourself and stand out from the crowd.  


Which Channels Should You Go Deep On?

Ultimately this is up to you.  The key is to just choose.  But I’ll give you two things to consider as you are deciding.    

1.  Your Preference and Skills

Think about the type of person you are and where you are strongest.  Some channels orient more towards creative skills (i.e. Content Marketing, Social, etc).  Some are more quant focused (i.e. viral growth, paid acquisition, etc).  The closer the channel is to your strengths and passions, the better chance you have at becoming an expert in that channel.  Personally I am more of a quant person.  So I have tended to go deep on paid acquisition and viral mechanism.  

2.  Take A Bet On On An Emerging Channel

If you are just starting your digital marketing career and have many years ahead of you, I highly suggest leaning towards emerging channels.  Four years ago the emerging channels would have been Facebook and content marketing.  

If you are one of the early players in a new channel that becomes popular, it will accelerate your career.  Being early positions yourself as an “expert.”  For a period of time while the industry catches up, there will be low supply, but high demand of people like you.  This puts you in a position of many options with negotiating leverage.  

The safest bet would be to choose two channels to go deep on.  A proven channel that you know will be around for awhile (Search, Content Marketing, etc) plus one emerging channel.  

Some General Tips

Before I dive into all the different pieces, here are some general tips as you begin your learning.  

Get Something To Experiment With

In learning digital marketing, nothing is more valuable than hands on experience.  The courses I will list are useful.  But I really really urge you to find a product/company to try out what you learn as you take the courses.  Maybe you are already in a company.  If not, volunteer as an intern somewhere.  Or use yourself (via a blog, mini website, etc) as the experiment.  

Learn From Others

One of the best things you can do is follow other awesome marketers who produce content online.  Here is a list of just some of the guys that I follow:

Andy Johns, Noah Kagan, Andrew Chen, Rand Fishkin, Avinash Kaushik, Dave McClure, Hiten Shah

Oh yeah, don’t forget to follow me as well :)

Learn From Other Companies

Once you have chosen the channels you want to go deep on, identify a few companies that are executing in those channels really well.  Follow their tactics like a hawk.  For example, in content marketing I would pay attention to companies such as Moz, Hubspot, KissMetrics, and Buffer.  Use tools to research and follow their strategies such as Moz Research Tools, Followerwonk, SEMrush, WhatRunsWhere, and SocialCrawlytics.  

Keep A Scrap Book

No, not like the one that your mom has with naked pictures of you as a baby.  Keep a digital collection of examples and resources from other companies that provide inspiration and ideas.  I use evernote and every time I come across a great marketing email, landing page, ad creative, info graphic, on boarding technique, etc, etc I store it and organize it in Evernote.  That way when I’m designing a new email campaign down the road, I have numerous ideas and examples to refer back to.  

The Base Layer

The base layer are topics that aren’t marketing specific, but provide an essential foundation of knowledge to build from.    In no particular order…

Basic Statistics

All of digital marketing is going to have a quantative element.  It is important to understand the basics of statistics so you can make sense of the numbers.  At a minimum I recommend being familiar with, statistical significance, distribution analysis, confidence intervals, regression, and mean/median/mode. 

Introduction to Statistics via Udacity (course) 

Statistics One via Coursera (course) 

Basic Programming

Programming should be required for anyone who is going to work in a technology company.  But specifically for a role in marketing you will find that the biggest resource constraint for any company is engineering.  So the more you know how to do on your own, the faster you can move and the more value you can add.   You don’t need to be a master programmer but it is very useful if you understand code and know how to hack specifically on front end technologies including HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.  Bonus for learning a language like Ruby on Rails or Python.  Courses I recommend:

Intro to Programming (base concepts)

Learn HTML and CSS via Treehouse

Javascript and JQuery via Treehouse

Simple Ruby on Rails via Treehouse 

Intro to Computer Science (for Python) via Udacity

Product Design & UX Principles

The past few years we have seen a greater movement towards design as a critical piece of communicating marketing efforts on the web.  So much so that in some cases design can be a competitive advantage (link).  You don’t need to become a designer, but you need to understand how elements of design interact with marketing.  

Design For Hackers (Book)

Lean UX (Book)

Dribbble (Resource for Inspiration)


Online marketing has become more and more analytics driven the past five years, and I believe we are just getting started.  Understanding the principles of analytics and how to use analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, KissMetrics is vital.  

Web Analytics (Course) 

Lean Analytics (Book)

Web Analytics 2.0 (Book)

Avinash Kaushik Blog (Blog)

Google Analytics Learn (Resource)

Behavioral Psychology

Statistics, analytics, and excel will help you understand what users are doing.   But a key to marketing is understanding why users are doing what they are doing.  To understand why, behavioral psychology comes in handy.  

Nir Eyal (Blog)

Influence (Book)

The Power of Habit (Book) 

Paradox of Choice (Book) 

Drive (Book)

Thinking Fast and Slow (Book) 

Predictably Irrational (Book) 


Most users/customers don’t respond to you selling features.  They respond to you selling a story.  Telling that story through branding and positioning is critical to standing out of the crowd in todays noisy market.  

Why, How, What Framework (Video)

Why, How, What (Resource Site)

Positioning (book)

Marketing Foundation Layer

Building on the base knowledge, the marketing foundation layer are marketing specific topics used across almost any marketing channel you choose to become an expert in.  

Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process and tactics used to uncover why your users aren’t converting to a particular action, and the things you can change to improve.  A lot of the use cases will talk about Landing Page CRO, but a lot of these same techniques can be used to optimize other actions within products.  

The Big Picture of CRO by Rand Fishkin (Video) 

CRO Basics (Resource)

50 Posts on Conversions (Resource)

Unbounce (Blog)

Conversion Rate Experts (Blog)

Optimizely (Blog)


Whether you are writing full blog posts, or just two line Google Ads, copywriting and the consumer psychology behind copywriting is an essential skill.  A couple suggestions on courses

The Web Copywriting Bible (eBook)

The Only Copywriting Course You’ll Ever Need (Video)

Copyblogger (Blog)

Gary Halbert Boron Letters

Funnel Marketing

Funnel marketing is framework in how to map out journey from awareness to purchase/conversion of your customer and user.  Understanding this framework is vital for any online marketer.  

Startup Metrics For Pirates by Dave McClure’s (Presentation)

Startup Metrics For Pirates (Video)

See - Think - Do Framework (Resource)

A/B & Multivariate Testing

A/B testing teaches you how to properly test new ideas for copy, features, calls to action, everything.  You will start to understand why one of the base layer pillars is statistics :)

Always Be Testing (Book) 

Optimization and A/B Testing (Course)

A/B Testing Ideas (Blog)

Basic Photoshop & Wireframing Skills

I commonly find myself in photoshop/wireframing tools tweaking landing pages, calls to action, ad creative, etc.  This is similar to Programming and Database skills.  You can either wait around for someone else to do it, or know some basic skills and jump in yourself.  Bottom line recommendation, get familiar with Photoshop. 

Photoshop Foundations (Course) 

Note…There are TONS of photoshop courses online.  Here are some more on  You do not need to become a photoshop expert.  Take the first course I listed, and go further depending on your interest.   

Database Querying 

There will always be a set of data you want to look at that isn’t available through your analytics or in house tools.  Especially in the early days when you probably don’t have the resources to invest in in-house tools.  You can either wait for engineers to pull the data for you, or learn a little SQL and jump in yourself.  

SQL Database for Beginners (Course)

Excel & Modeling 

No matter how many analytics tools you have within a company you will always resort to excel at some point to analyze data.  Knowing your way around excel will become very valuable. Course I recommend:

Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Excel via Udemy (course)  

Channel Expertise Layer

Now that we have some foundational skills we can talk about diving into certain channels.  Once again, shape yourself like a “T.”  Know the basics of each channel, but go deep on 1-2.  The materials listed below should cover the basics of each channel.  These channels are listed in no particular order.


Virality and WOM is core growth component to most online B2C companies.  While there are few resources on the topic, you should understand two things.  

1.  The different types of viral distribution.  

2.  How to measure, model, and analyze viral distribution.  

Viral Marketing Is Not A Strategy by Andrew Chen

What’s Your Viral Loop 

The Science Behind Viral Marketing 

How To Model Viral Growth Part 1(Blog Series) 

How To Model Viral Growth Part 2

How To Model Viral Growth Part 3

Search PPC

Search PPC is a very crowded channel, but can still be one of the most effective due to its high intent.  

PPC Training (Course) 

Learning Adwords (Course)

Google Adwords Essential Training (Course)

Wordstream Blog (Resource)

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads is becoming one of my favorite channels due to the unique targeting.  The channel is still changing quickly as Facebook tweaks their optimization algorithm and launches new ad formats.  

Starters Guide to Facebook Ads (Resource) 

Profitability With Facebook Ads (Course) 

Traffic Black Book 2.0 Facebook Section (Course)


While SEO is another crowded channel, it is still driving growth for many recent high growth startups such as Quora and AirBnB.  SEO is a very valuable channel to learn and harness. SEO Learning Center (Resource) Blog

SEO Training (Course)

The ClickMinded SEO Optimization (Course) 

Distilled Training (Resource)


Social is an extension of almost all marketing strategies today.  There is a growing list of social publishers (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, Vine, the list goest on).  Understand which publishers and tools to use for which strategies.    

Social Media Marketing w/ Facebook and Twitter (Course)

Social Media Market Training (Course)

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the latest rage especially among B2B startups.  Content marketing paired with a high powered social or SEO strategy is extremely effective.  If you think it just involves blogging and info graphics, then I highly recommend digging deeper into the resources below.  

Inbound Marketing University (Resource) 

Content Marketing Institute (Resource) (Community)

52 Content Marketing Lessons

Display & Retargeting

While most marketers turn their nose up at display ads, it is still one of the highest volume channels available.  The display world can be massively complicated ( , so take the time to learn the details.  

Media Buy Academy (Course)

Traffic Black Book 2.0 (Course)


Mobile is an emerging channel still.  The number of resources is slim, and the ones that exist don’t go very deep.  Many of the other channels I have listed here (Facebook, Display, Google) have mobile components.  The best way to learn is to dive in.  

Market Motive Mobile Marketing (Course)

Mobile Marketing by (Course)

Hacking App Store Growth (Course) 


Efficient sales models are still a leading path to growth especially for anyone focusing on B2B companies.  

Building A Sales & Marketing Machine by David Skok (Blog Series)

Ultimate Sales Machine (Book)


I have to admit, PR is probably one of my least favorite marketing initiatives.  It is not a marketing strategy in itself, but it is an extension of a strategy with another channel at its core.  My personal recommendation is to become an expert in one of the other channels I have listed here.  

How To Get Media Coverage For Your Startup (Blog Post)

Jason Calacanis On Startup PR (Blog Post)

Media Training Starter Series (Course)

Startup PR (Course)  

Email Marketing

Email is still one of the most (if not the most) effective communication channel with customers and users.  Mobile and the use of data is changing how companies do email marketing.  Here are some suggested resources to get started:

Mailchimp Blog 

50 Posts About Email Marketing

Email Marketing Statistics and Benchmarks

Advanced Email Marketing 


See my post - From 0 to 2 Million DAU: A Guide To Growing Your Startup via Partnerships where I cover this channel at length.  

Please direct any comments/questions here on Quibb.  Follow me on twitter for more reading on growth.  Subscribe to my email list for exclusive essays on growth.  Interested in how other professionals became experts in their craft?  Subscribe to Startup Edition #23


6 suggestions for an aspiring founder


This article is inspired by Startup Edition in response to “What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?”

I feel incredibly lucky that I managed to jump on board the path of building a startup. Having hit upon a product that solved a key pain for many people, Buffer has grown rather fast. We now have over 850,000 users and the team is 12 people.

When I reflect on how quickly things happened and what it has required of me, the first thing that comes to mind is Paul Graham's essay entitled How to Make Wealth. In particular, this part resonates with me:

You can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years.

There’s a lot to learn if you aspire to build a startup. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and I can only recommend it to others. I can’t think of a better way to lead a fulfilling life. Here are 6 suggestions I have if you happen to be getting started along this road:

1. Experiment. Lots.

"If you’re not already doing a side project, I’d recommend starting one. Although they can complicate your schedule and make life busier, they are one of the few consistent keys I’ve observed in almost anyone who has impressive accomplishments." - Scott Young

I’ve mentioned previously that the Internet is littered with my past attempts to create a successful startup. Even before I knew I truly wanted to build a startup, I played around with countless side projects and they are spread across the web, too.

I think there is often a misconception that to be successful you need to focus and put all your eggs in one basket. That’s not how it happened for me. I tried a ton of different things, and I started Buffer on the side while working full-time as a freelance developer. The key is to focus once you have something that works, that gains traction and people love. Until then, I say experiment away.

2. Stay inspired.

"People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

Looking back to the early days of my first startup attempt, I think something that kept me going was that I continually read books about startups and entrepreneurs and watched as many interviews of founders as I could find. In fact, I was especially humbled to be invited to share my story on Mixergy precisely because I have watched tens of interviews by Andrew Warner and they always inspired me to keep pushing forward.

It’s true that at some point you have to stop soaking up the motivation and actually get to work. However, I think a lot of people underestimate how powerful it can be to be take in the learnings of others. Especially in the early days when you might not necessarily be surrounded by others trying to do startups, I think staying inspired in this way can plant that spark inside to help you make it happen.

3. Travel the world and move.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." – Mark Twain

Travel is something that I always thought would be fun, and I never imagined the impact it could have for me. From simply moving a hundred miles from my hometown of Sheffield to Birmingham in the UK, to then traveling several continents and living in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv, I’ve been extremely lucky to have experienced completely different cultures and meet great people.

I truly believe that if you choose to travel you’re immediately much more likely to succeed with whatever you are trying to do. Leaving what you know and stepping into uncertainty, you naturally become more open-minded and create new opportunities for yourself.

Interestingly, many have an attachment to their hometown and want to be there in order to help their town and others who live there. My belief is that you can do a lot more to help your hometown if you make the decision to leave. I’ve never once heard someone regretting their decision to travel.

4. Choose your friends wisely.

"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." - Jim Rohn

One of the most interesting side-effects of moving and traveling a lot has been that in every new place I have settled in, I have had the chance to rethink every part of my life. I reflect on what kind of place I want to live, how close I want to be to all amenities, what routine I want to adopt and even who I want to hang out around.

The clear example of the power of adjusting your group of friends is that your school friends probably aren’t all entrepreneurs. The thing with doing a startup is that it’s an unusual path and one where there are far more reasons it can go wrong than can go right. If you truly want to succeed, surrounding yourself with other optimists is one sure way to have much better odds. The cool thing is, these are really fun people to be around.

I strive every day to meet (and hire) more people I can learn from.

5. Stay laser focused on building something people want.

"In nearly every failed startup, the real problem was that customers didn’t want the product." - Paul Graham

It’s easy to get distracted when you begin your startup endeavors. You might take a look around and assume you need to incorporate, or raise funding, or countless other things that everyone seems to do.

In my experience, all that really matters is to try and find a real problem to solve. What it comes down to is whether you have hit product/market fit. If you have, you’ll know it, and you’ll start to get traction.

If what you’ve built isn’t working, keep experimenting with new ideas.

6. Be open and vocal

"If you have an apple, and I have an apple, and we swap, we each still only have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we swap, we each have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw

Before Buffer, I had a few previous startup ideas that weren’t too successful. One of the things that is easier to reflect on in hindsight is that luckily during that time I was Tweeting, blogging, going along to events and generally getting to know a lot of people.

When people ask me what my initial marketing was to get Buffer started, the truth I have to share is that my marketing consisted of sharing the idea with the 1,700 Twitter followers I had at the time. I attribute my previous openness to the fact that I had these followers to help me get Buffer started. As a result, I completely agree with Leah Bursque’s advice:

"Talk to every single person you meet about your idea. Talk until they tell you to shut up. Discover new questions and patterns so you can test and refine your idea. Then find more people to talk to."

What advice would you give to an aspiring startup founder? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Read more on this topic from an awesome group of entrepreneurs at Startup Edition.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble


5 Rules to Land Your Dream Startup Job


In my experience as both an operator and an investor, I’ve found that there are 5 common rules of thumb to land your dream startup job.

This isn’t a step-by-step guide to finding a startup job because you will find from talking to people that there is no standard path to get a startup job. However, these rules of thumb are a strategic framework that you can use to determine the tactics by which you can find your dream job.

1. The Best Jobs Aren’t Posted

In my entire career, I’ve never had a job that I got through a job posting. This is probably an extreme case, but my main point is that you should be thinking about what you would want in an ideal situation first, rather than be confined by what jobs are posted. In many cases, jobs are filled without any posting because many entrepreneurs tend to hire opportunistically. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

In my experience, job descriptions are general guidelines to narrow the flood of applicants they get. Go above and beyond the job description to demonstrate your vision of what you can do for the company.

2. Quality, not Quantity

Pick 5 startups. Only 5. If you’re not passionate about the startup you’re talking to, it will be very obvious. Don’t be “that guy” who desperately wants to “work in startups” but has no passion for the people who run the startups you want to work for, or what the specific startup does. Do your homework.

Share the same vision and passion for the startup you want to work for. The onus is on you to show that you and the startup “coincidentally” have the same vision for the future. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to authentically achieve this.

3. Verify Your Authenticity

There are two ways to do this: externally and internally. External authenticity is how other people vouch for you. Internal authenticity is what you can do yourself to demonstrate your skills to your potential employer.

Examples of external authenticity are: getting a warm introduction from someone they trust; and building your “personal brand” by building thought leadership around a blog and Twitter interactions. For example, I got an interview at RRE Ventures because I had gotten to know Jim Robinson IV over Twitter.

Internal authenticity is about being the thought leader in a space that the startup is lacking in. This brings us to the fourth point:

4. Do the Job You Want and the Job Will Come to You

Once you’ve identified what your dream job is, don’t wait for that job to appear. Start doing that job and prove that you can do it, not only to your future employer, but also to yourself. Once you focus on just doing, you’ll find that opportunities will come to you.

This advice is applicable regardless of skill set.

  • If you are an engineer, hack on your favorite startup’s API, regardless of whether they host a hackathon.

  • If you’re in business development, reach out to your corporate strategic connections and pitch your favorite startup. As my friend Steve Schlafman said, "come bearing gifts."

  • If you’re a designer, do an unsolicited redesign of your favorite startup’s iPhone app UX. Be thoughtful about your thought process for the redesign.

5. People are Afraid of Micromanagement

One of the biggest fears of a startup CEO is that their new hire creates more work and micromanagement than they are supposed to solve. Everyone knows and expects that there will be some time needed to onboard and train a new employee, but because startups have such few employees, the marginal effect (both positive AND negative) of an employee is amplified. If you are 1 of only 7 employees in an early stage startup, everything you do has a strong effect on the startup’s trajectory. Contrast this with a big company, where, if a single employee slacks, the marginal effect on the momentum of that company is less easily noticed.

This point is related to the previous point. If you can demonstrate to your desired employer that you are not only capable of doing the job, but also that you are already doing the job that you are being hired for, they will feel much less anxiety because they have de-risked that aspect of potential micromanagement.

The act of hiring you should be a formality. You should make it obvious to a startup that, in order to achieve their vision, they need to hire you.

Note: This post also appeared in Edition 19 of Startup Edition, a curated gathering of bloggers in the startup community, sharing their wisdom and response to a single question each week.

Measuring to Get More Users

Do you think your good intuition and maybe some user testing is all you’ll need to grow your product online? Or do you believe you know how to convert users given some of the strong progress you’ve already made?

Not so fast, you’re probably missing out on really understanding what’s driving use of your product or app. And then, your chances of scaling online? Very low.

The great thing about the web, is it’s fairly simple to get valuable insight and measure every step to acquire a new user. Let’s go through some basics with how to set up your funnel.

To start, check out the free option of Google Analytics. Paid options such as KISSmetrics and MixPanel (funnel image below) can be easier to set up, and allow you to track events not just page views.

Choose your Metrics
No matter what type of product you’re selling, there are two parts of the funnel that will always need to measure: (1) acquisition which is the broadest measure at the top of your funnel and (2) an end goal.

One useful measurement of customer acquisition to begin with is daily unique visits (UVs). It’s analogous to the number of people who visit a brick-and-mortar store. This broader measure is the number of people you’re going to have a chance to sell to each day.

The next step would be establishing a goal. This could be sales if you’re distributing a product. With an online sale, you can track how many people hit the completed order confirmation page. Starting from visits, you now know the percentage of users that view your site to purchase.

For engagement focused websites, your goal will likely vary but revolve around a core use of your product. Along these lines, Fred Wilson talks about the atomic unit of unit of a product. For example, on Twitter the atomic unit would be a Tweet, and something to measure could be Tweets sent per day, or number of users followed. For your product, think about what your goal is and then determine a metric to optimize for.

Implementing Tracking
At this point, we now we know how many people convert to a transaction from visiting your site, but not where those who don’t make it drop off. Knowing where potential users are leaking out of your funnel is critical in understanding where you need to focus to increase conversion rates to your end goal.

On an eCommerce website, a critical part of the funnel is tracking when a customer adds an item to their cart. Here, the funnel should track how many people convert from the cart page, to billing page, to payment page, to the review order page, to the confirmation page.

Using Google Analytics page (as shown above) each step should be built with a unique URL. Once implemented, you’ll now be able to see where any significant drop offs occur from the cart page to the billing page, and you’ll know where to focus your resources on improving conversions.

The process is similar when focused on a non-revenue metric. Returning to our Twitter example, acquisition tracking happens first upon a unique visit on the Twitter homepage.

If the core activity and goal initially is daily use, one metric to first track and optimize for could be “number of follows.” After all, users are more likely to use the product once they understand how the product works which comes through following other relevant users.

In the sign up process, after seeing the homepage, a new user is directed to a one-page signup with preselected options such as staying signed in and tailoring Twitter based on recent website visits.

Allowing Twitter to use website history from the browser helps the app tailor its recommendation of Twitter users to follow. After first landing on a “welcome/intro” page, the below onboarding process begins with providing suggestions for users to follow. Using Conrad Wadowski from GrowHack’s web history, Loius CK, Keven Hart, and Wall Street Journal start this process off, and help train the new potential user to follow others.

After following a few users, a new user is then directed to find other users given a from a few popular categories.

Once you track this onboarding process for the new user, you can begin to see where they fall out, and optimize for conversions. When you’re satisfied with the results, you can shift efforts towards other metrics which help define an active user, such as times logged in, or number of Tweets. You can then experiment with adding other steps into this initial onboarding process (and measuring along the way!) to better ensure a user is primed to be active in the long term, while keeping an eye out to make sure your onboarding is still working. Some additions in Twitter’s case for example could include adding a step to import contacts and create a new user profile.

This should be a start to get you thinking about converting customers in your own funnel. No matter what your goal is, it’s important to make sure each of these steps are defined and measured. This will allow you to best understand where the bottlenecks are, and begin hacking growth.

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The State of Inbound Traffic in 2014

Do you know where your visitors are coming from? Go ahead and take a second to pop open your Google Analytics page and take a look.

My guess is it looks something like this: October 2012 Inbound Traffic Sources

Everyone talks about social, but as of this time last year, social referrals were less than 15% of all inbound traffic. The truth is Google is still Goliath and social platforms are a bunch of Davids. This will remain true in 2014 just as it did in 2013.

It will take time to dethrone a source that currently accounts for over 40% of all inbound traffic. That’s one source out of millions of websites, with a 40% market share! Organic Search Engine Traffic October 2012-2013

But let’s not dismiss social as just a fad. The long-term trends are promising as more people use and share via social platforms.

Search and Social Traffic October 2012-2013

Just look at how Facebook has increased it’s referral traffic 170% in the last year! Facebook Share of Visits November 2012-2013

What caused this growth? Likely growth in active users, new like and share buttons, and tweaks to edge rank and the newsfeed.

I expect this to even grow further with Zuckerberg’s product vision for the newsfeed to become your personalized newspaper.

Social media is already very important and that importance is growing. You want to be have a presence there because that’s where your customers spend a large amount of time. Getting any share of their attention is incredibly valuable. And getting to social and emerging platforms early to establish a presence makes it easier. You’ll gain outsized credit.

But do not neglect Google and organic search for social. It carries intent driven traffic to your site that is often easier to monitize than social sharing. For as much as Google diversifies with Android, Chrome, and self-driving cars, Google search and adwords are the core product and bring in over 90% of the revenue.

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