The future of Brand Experience (BX)

1. How do direct-to-consumer businesses grow today? They build remarkable brands.

2. If you ask leaders at some of the biggest DTC businesses in the world for their keys to success, they will invariably start with brand. Brand is the native language of the new DNVB industry. It is the single biggest differentiator in the fight against entrenched, behemoth companies. Brand is everything for these companies.

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Principles of strategy

Last year, I had the chance to read the book Principles by Ray Dalio, which covered many of the lessons Ray learned throughout his career of investing and business-building.

(Kindle version here.)

What I loved about the book was his approach to decision-making and how it centered on this idea of principles. Here’s a brief explanation of how he thinks about principles:

1. Slow down your thinking so you can note the criteria you are using to make your decision.

2. Write the criteria down as a principle.

3. Think about those criteria when you have an outcome to assess, and refine them before the next “one of those” comes along.

This way, whenever a new decision comes your way, you may be able to recognize its similarity to a decision you’ve made in the past, and then you can apply the same principles you used successfully before.

Voila! A shortcut to better decision-making. :)

The book is a #longread, and there are many, many different categories of principles that Ray talks about. One particular category that has stuck with me is his principles for strategy.

Here they are:

Principles for strategy

Don’t put the expedient ahead of the strategic.

Consider second-and third-order consequences, not just first-order ones.

Beware of paying too much attention to what is coming at you and not enough attention to your machine.

Remember that the WHO is more important than the WHAT

All of your “must-dos” must be above the bar before you do your “like-to-dos.”

These have been useful for me as I’ve weighed strategic decisions at Buffer recently.

Hope they can be helpful for you as well.

Smart goal-setting in action: How to make progress on a giant goal

When it comes to breaking down a gigantic goal into actionable, measurable steps, things can feel a bit daunting. To quote Carl Sagan:

If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

No pressure, right!

Similarly, what if you have one of these goals:

  • Grow Monthly Active Users (MAUs) by 10x
  • Increase Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) 50% year-over-year
  • Dominate the customer service market
  • Reposition your brand to serve the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) space

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How to make a marketing roadmap

One of my favorite marketing articles from 2019 – you can see the full list of favorites here – was a post on Tom Tunguz’s blog about marketing roadmaps.

You can check out the full post here.

The gist is this:

A solid marketing roadmap contains a clear picture of how your product makes life better for your customers. Then you take that vision, turn it into messages, and distribute the messages far and wide.

I went through the full exercise recently, armed with the knowledge of our target customers and our recent conversations about brand beliefs, mission, and taglines. Here’s what I came up with.

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Freebie: Marketing budget spreadsheet

Free marketing budget template (screenshot)

Get the free budget spreadsheet

This is the marketing spreadsheet I use for my 10-person team at Buffer. Feel free to grab a copy and use however you see fit.

A couple words of explanation:

  • The main sheet pulls some numbers from the Software and Advertising sheets. If you’d prefer not to track things so granularly, you’re welcome to remove those sheets and formulas and enter everything into the main Overview sheet.
  • The Line Items sheet is intended to hold all the individual expenses that come through on a given month. For instance, I’ll track Continuing Education and Travel/Lodging there, but I won’t track salaries and payroll.

Other than that, you should be good to go!

If you have any questions or want to chat about this, send me an email or find me on Twitter / LinkedIn!

How to Dogfood

Recently, whenever I’m using one of our Buffer social media tools — Buffer Publish (the original Buffer) and Buffer Reply —  I’ll add fixes and ideas to a running Paper doc that I share with the product managers, both of whom are always very nice to respond, sometimes even to fix the things I find or give me the features I want. Sometimes.

That being said, should I be sharing my ideas with them? After all, I am not our target customer.

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A Delightfully Simple Exercise to Create a Marketing Vision

For better or worse, I tend to be a short-term thinker. Marketing vision does not come naturally to me.

I prefer doing the work rather than dreaming about the work.

You need both, of course: dreaming and doing. When it comes to the dreaming, I hacked my way there by turning it into “doing,” and finding a clear and obvious blueprint to follow in order to come up with the dream.

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If you were building a marketing program from scratch …

One of my favorite ways to level up my marketing is by checking out AMAs at sites like GrowthHackers and Inbound. I read as many as I can, and I save the highlights to a Trello board so I can go back and reference my favorites.

Several of the AMAs end up touching on early marketing strategy and how to choose channels, like this one from Anne Fleshman of Autopilot.

I find these to be fascinating thought exercises:

If you were to build a marketing program today, from scratch, what might it look like?

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