…whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, “What is essential?” Eliminate everything else.

Greg Mckeown, Essentialism

How to Drive Growth by Making Your Product More Addictive

“If you don’t understand your retention, then nothing else matters.”Brian Balfour (VP Growth, HubSpot)

How do you improve retention? Well, you need to keep bringing users back. The problem is, users don’t do this by themselves. Human behaviour is incredibly hard to change, and we need to rewire brains. We need to create habits.

In the following post, I’ll show you how to build habits around your product by critiquing a real-life startup. On the way, I’ll introduce you to a proven habits model and reveal a handful of tactics that can be applied to any product. See the full post on Medium.

The 6 ‘Number One’ Reasons Why Startups Fail

I swear I’ve heard the statement, “The number one reason startups fail is…” about a million times. Every expert seems to have their own opinion on that one singular cause of startup failure.

So what is the #1 reason? See all six of them in my article for Startup Grind.

All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.

Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

7 Modern Marketing Frameworks

Marketing is evolving incredibly fast these days and it’s time we set down old frameworks like the “4 P’s” in favour of some modern ones. In this post I outline 7 modern marketing frameworks that every startup should be using right now to grow their business.

Modernize Your Marketing Degree: 6 Tips from a Grad Who Learned the Hard Way

If you’re a marketing student in 2014, you should be stoked. Marketing is one of the most exciting fields to work in right now, and it’s rapidly evolving. So rapidly in fact, that your school’s curriculum can’t even keep up.

The sad truth is that even top university marketing programs will leave you ill-prepared for the real world. A degree in marketing doesn’t cut it anymore—at least not without a little modernization.

Shopify: We Don’t Hire Marketing Grads

It all dawned on me in my final year of university. With graduation on the horizon, like many seniors I began putting my feelers out for a job. And, like many Ottawa students, one of the first companies I had my eye on was Shopify. Rapid growth, a great product, and a world-class company culture aside—they’ve got a freaking slide in their office alright?

So I eagerly went to one of their job fairs, an open-bar, ugly Christmas sweater party at their office (lol yep) and chatted up some Shopifolk about marketing roles. The shocking truth followed: Shopify doesn’t hire marketing grads.

“We don’t typically hire marketing grads,” I was told. Huh? “Most of our marketing team have more of an engineering background.” Alrighty then.

Like a frying pan to the face, I realized good grades weren’t going to get me the exciting career I wanted. After all, the companies I was interested in weren’t running TV or billboard campaigns like we learned about in school.

Wait a minute—what the hell do these marketing teams do all day (besides, you know, taking turns on the slide)? I really didn’t know.

And thus, the journey began: I set out to modernize my marketing degree.

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The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. He takes on the assignment that will bear him into unchartered waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself.

Is he scared? Hell, yes. He’s petrified.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The MOOC Revolution is Just Getting Started

There’s been a lot of debate over whether MOOCs are simply a passing craze or whether they’ll change higher education for good. While I won’t go so far as to say we’re looking at the end of class in the traditional sense, I think we’ve got some exciting stuff to look forward to.

With a deep interest in this industry, and having pretty much become an online learning junkie since grabbing my brick-and-mortar university degree in May, I’ve come to realize that MOOCs have a lot of potential—just maybe not in the way many had predicted.

Capitalism 101: Competition Breeds Quality

As any commerce student will tell you after their first semester: competition is a great thing for consumers. It drives prices down and quality up. It’s why you can get a burger for a buck, and why cell phone rates in Canada suck.

Sure, there’s plenty of competing schools, but once you’ve chosen one, the train has pretty much left the station. You’ll have some great courses and some really bad ones. Some kickass professors and some snore-worthy ones. Powerless, you think, “oh man am I ever gonna give it to them in the post-course evaluation.” Meanwhile, your learning is suffering as you trudge along a low-quality course, unengaged and bored as hell.

Online course platforms have the potential to give the world top-tier courses because competition in the industry demands it. Take Udemy for example. I wanted to expand my technical skills, so I sought out an HTML/CSS course. I simply took one with rave reviews—and guess what—it was awesome. Quality products are rewarded too, which is great. It’s why a talented instructor like Brad Hussey (creator of the aforementioned course) has roughly 50,000 students and counting. If someone wants to take a piece of that pie and compete with Brad, they’d have to make a course that’s even better. Cool.

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Back On Track

It’s hard to describe how challenging the last week was for memostly because I can’t talk. I mean this quite literally.

A week ago I was rolled into the operating room for some long overdue orthognathic surgery, otherwise known as corrective jaw surgery, or slicing and dicing up the bottom half of my head.

“It’s just carpentry.”

My surgeon

While this procedure was necessary for me, and I’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come, recovery ain’t a walk in the park. The first week involved me eating food through a syringe, poppin’ plenty of pain meds, communicating via whiteboard, and wearing a jaw bra (ja, brah).

Although I’m sure the worst is behind me, I’m not out of the woods yet. All told, it’ll be 8-ish weeks until I’m back to my old talkative, steak chomping, gotta-be-active self. That’s a pretty scary length of time for me, and the thought of adjusting my lifestyle for that long is a seriously daunting thought.

During some of my toughest moments last week, I reminded myself of a man who’s been through challenges I can’t even begin to imagine:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

All right, cool, I thought. Just stay positive and push through this thing. It’s just 2 months.

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Getting Technical: A Review of Growth Hacker Marketing

If you’re struggling with exactly why you should improve your technical chops as a marketer, then this book is for you.

Coming from a traditional marketing background himself, Ryan Holiday tells his story of how one day he realized the tides of marketing were changing. Engineers by discipline, so called growth hackers were behind the growth of now billion dollar companies such as Facebook, Twitter, AirBnb, and DropBoxall without using any of the classic marketing methods he’d been using for years.

This book is Ryan’s case for a new marketing mindset. While this book doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of what technical tools modern marketers should be using, that’s not the point.

As Ryan says, growth hackers may not share the same methods, but “…for all the technical differences, the strategic goal was the same: to reach people in an effective, scalable, and data-driven way.”


Ditch the old mindset

  • Stop thinking there has to be a big launch, major media coverage, and a huge advertising budget.
  • Gambling on these methods is no longer necessary; the tools we have available to us today (if we know what they are and how to use them) allow us to track, test, iterate, and improve how we attract and retain customers.

Make stuff people want

  • The worst possible marketing decision you can make is simple: starting with a product nobody wants or needs.
  • The best marketing decision you can make is to achieve Product Market Fit: having a product/business that fulfills a need for a well defined group of people. Do this no matter how much tweaking and refining it takes, and back it up with data.

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