How to Avoid Building Something No One Wants By Solving Known Problems


Entrepreneurs have been solving the same problems for ages…and making billions of dollars in doing so. Some of today’s most successful startups are solving age old problems but with 10x improved solutions.

There are some needs that nearly everyone has. Needs that people have been finding ways to meet since the beginning of time.

These are needs that don’t need to be “validated.” We know that people have certain needs. We know this because basic math or biology would prove that it’s true, and/or because people have already made efforts (time, money, or otherwise) to solve these needs.

The hardest and riskiest part of a startup is not building the product, monetizing it, or it’s strategy…the biggest reason why early stage startups fail is building something no one wants.

By starting with a known need, the risk of solving a problem no one has is significantly reduced. There is still a risk that the solution will not be wanted by customers — the solution will still need to be validated. In a separate post, I describe how “Doing What’s Working” (applying validated solutions to solve new or different problems) can reduce that risk. However, starting with one unknown is less risky than starting with two unknowns.

The below quote from esteemed investor and entrepreneur, Dave McClure, while somewhat vulgar, alludes to his preference for companies that solve basic needs.

“Great companies do 1 [or more] of 3 things: Get you laid, get you paid, [or] get you made.” – Dave McClure, 500 Startups

You don’t need to do customer development interviews to learn that people need to eat, have shelter, get paid, get maid, get laid, etc.

Some of the most successful companies in history, like Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, and WalMart, meet known needs.

1. Airbnb: Money + Shelter

For the supply side (homeowners), Airbnb provides a way to earn money for excess capacity by renting out space. For the demand side (renters), Airbnb provides a cheaper solution to the most common alternative, hotels. For the demand side, a place to stay is, at it’s core, shelter. Shelter is something people have wanted (and spent lots of money obtaining) perhaps since the beginning of time. There are many other companies, with combined value probably in the trillions, that provide solutions to shelter.

Airbnb solves these problems by taking advantage of new technology that enables it to provide a 10x better solution. The Internet makes communication (connecting two parties) and providing quality assurance and transparency much easier. In addition, it turns out that many people like the experience of staying at someone else’s house way more than than the experience of staying at a traditional hotel.

2. Uber: Transportation

People have been moving from “point A” to “point B” since the beginning of time. To meet transportation needs, entrepreneurs have created solutions such as horseback riding, the wheel, cars, busses, planes, and trains. There are many multi billion-dollar ideas that help people get from point A to point B.

Now we have Uber, which takes advantage of new technology to solve this age old problem with a 10x improved solution. It wasn’t possible for Uber’s service to be provided before. But now that everyone is walking around with small computers in their pockets, it is. Maybe the next 10x solution to transportation will be self-driving cars.

3. Kraft and WalMart: Food

Eating is a need not just because it tastes good, but because it is essential to survive. I have no idea how much people across the world spend on food, and it is not important to know the exact numbers, but I know that it is an extremely high number. In other words, it is more than just biology and logic that tell us that people need to eat; it is the action that people take daily to solve the need.

Companies like WalMart, WholeFoods, McDonalds, Kraft, and GE (refrigerators) have made billions meeting this age old need. More recent innovation includes Fresh Direct, Blue Apron, and Soylent. each with a different solution to the same core problem. Pre-historic solutions to the need for food that probably made for great businesses might have been selling spears, teaching someone how to hunt, prepared food, etc.

4. Netflix: Entertainment

Entrepreneurs have been successful in providing entertainment for generations. Shakespeare is probably within the top 1% of most well-known and respected people in the history of the world. Now, we have Netflix, which has made it cheaper than ever before to be entertained. Netflix provides an innovative pricing and business model to this age old need.

5. Skype: Communication


Humans have a natural desire and need to communicate with other human beings. Communication is also essential for people to do business (make money/save money).

There has been a tremendous amount of innovation in communication over the years, and several companies have profited massively from solving it. Solutions to the need of communication have included pen and paper, snail mail, telephone, mobile phone (Gordon Gekko style), etc.

Now we have email, Snapchat, Yo! and Skype. I personally consider email to be one of the most valuable innovations of all time. It has massively improved the way business can operate. With it one can communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time…for free! Products like Snapchat and Yo! tap into different means by which people prefer to communicate — photos in the case of Snapchat and binary in the case of Yo!. Skype makes it virtually free to communicate by live video and audio with anyone in the world. This is a massive improvement to quality of life and the ability to make money.

Hard Problems

It’s not enough for people to have a need. It must also be hard for people to satisfy the need. To build a successful business, you’ll need to provide a product or service that makes it easier for people to satisfy a given need, or is better in some way than other options people have for satisfying the need.

The need also needs to be an essential need. A need that is extremely important for them to solve. In an enterprise setting, this would mean helping the individual making the buying decision improve the metric that their compensation is tied to.

Key Takeaways

As you can see from all the above examples, some of the most successful companies in history started by meeting known needs. They didn’t have wildly new business ideas. They just had highly innovative solutions to pre-existing problems. Solving a problem that you know someone has can mitigate the risk of building something no one wants.

Many of the best startup ideas seem obvious. They are massive improvements to pre-existing and widespread problems. They solve problems we know people have. Problems that entrepreneurs have been making billions for solving since the beginning of time.

How can this be applied to your next venture? Think about a problem that people have demanded solutions for, and that companies have made billions solving, for centuries.

Today, my new book “Where Startup Ideas Come From: A Playbook for Generating Business Ideas” is available on Kindle for free. This post is a summary of one of four methodologies on how to get startup ideas included in the book.


To learn more about the book and get the Kindle edition (which can be read on your computer or any other device) for free in exchange for a tweet, click here.


How to Build a WordPress Blog From Scratch in Under 24 Hours



How to Build a WordPress Blog From Scratch in Under 24 Hours is now live! And it’s available at 65% off for the next week! You can learn more about the course below. Check out the course and take advantage of this limited time offer here:

It can cost thousands of dollars to have a blog or website made for you. But if you just take a few hours to learn how to do it yourself, you can get it done for free and in under on day. 

Enroll in this course and go From Zero to Live and Fully Functional WordPress Blogin Under 24 Hours!

Forget paying a developer thousands of dollars. Build your blog yourself!

No Prior Knowledge or Experience Necessary!

This course shows you what to do every step of the way. Just follow along, and build your blog along with the course. No need for any prior knowledge of WordPress, coding, or computer science

Check out this course and get it for 65% off here:

WordPress makes it easy for anyone to build their own blog or website. You don’t need to write a single line of code.

Over 2 Hours of Instructional Video, including:

  • Buying a domain name and hosting
  • Installing WordPress on your own domain
  • How to add Mailchimp to your blog and grow your list
  • Blogging strategy – what to blog about, how to make money blogging, and more
  • How to install and use the best WordPress Plugins
  • How to customize your blog (so it looks way prettier than mine!)

Learn How to Fish – With what you learn in this course you will have functional expertise in WordPress and the ability to build a website, squeeze page, or ecommerce site on WordPress. You will know how to customize the blog to make it look any way you like.

Save Thousands of DollarsTake this course instead of hiring a developer and get your blog started today.

Check out the course and take advantage of this limited time 65% off offer here:

How to Become a Startup College Affiliate Partner and Earn Passive Income Sharing Courses


By becoming a Startup College Affiliate Partner you can earn 50% of the price of courses just for sharing links!. So if a course is priced at $100 you would earn $50 every time someone makes a purchase on Startup College within 30 days of clicking your link. It costs nothing and only takes about 5 minutes to become a Startup College affiliate partner.

How to Become a Startup College Affiliate Partner

After completing the short steps described below, you will be a Startup College Affiliate Partner! You can also get a video demonstration with verbal instruction on how to complete these steps here.

a. Sign up at

If you are not already signed up at Startup College, visit and complete the registration process.

sign up

b. Email [email protected]

Once you are signed up, email [email protected] Click here for a pre-populated email. Otherwise, view the screenshot below for guidance on what to say in the email.


Once you email me, I will make you an affiliate. I will then respond to your email and give you your affiliate code.

c. Create your unique links

Once you’ve been given your affiliate code, you can create your unique links. Your links should look like this:

Replace “XXXX” with your affiliate code. Replace “COURSE-SUBURL” with the course sub-URL of your choice. Here’s an example URL if your affiliate code was XXX and you were sharing the course, How to Start a Blog.

If your affiliate code was XXXX and someone purchases within 30 days after clicking that link you would earn money.

Check out this guide for detailed instructions on how to create your unique URLs.

How to Make More Money

Below are 7 Ways you can get more traffic to your links and earn more money. To learn more about each of these strategies, watch this YouTube video starting at 5:30.

a. Link within your blog posts

If any of your previously published blog posts are on topics related to any topics of Startup College courses, add a link to the course at the end of the post or contextually within the post:

“To learn more about blogging check out How to Start a Blog

You could also write a blog post about a course itself or about a topic related to one of the courses.

b. Link within your Kindle books

Similar to blog posts, add your links at the end of your book, or contextually throughout the book. As a way to get more relevant traffic, you could write a short book on a topic that people would likely be interested in if they were interested in a given Startup College course.

c. Add a “resources” page to your blog

Create a “” page of your blog. Display a link to this page prominently on the front page of your blog. On the page, link to Startup College courses.

d. Email your blog’s mailing list

Write and send an email to your email subscribers telling them about a course and how it can help them.

e. Email friends and family

Think about who you know that’s thought about starting a blog, needs to grow their professional network, or improve some other area of their life that Startup College courses help with. Send them your links. Export your LinkedIn contacts email addresses. Add them to a Mailchimp list, send each of them personalized emails, or Bcc them all on one email.

f. Share on your social networks

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+…you know how to share stuff on social media 🙂

g. A bunch more…

Link to and mention on YouTube videos, video courses, podcasts, and speaking engagements. Use Pretty Link to create easy to pronounce and trackable URLs. Buy Facebook or Twitter ads. Answer questions on Quora. Comment on blogs and in forums. Email distribution lists for groups you’re a member of such as Meetups, work, school, or nonprofits.

Key Takeaways

  • By becoming an affiliate partner you can earn 50% of the price of the course just for sharing links to courses.
  • It costs nothing and only takes about 5 minutes to become a Startup College affiliate partner. Follow the instructions in the above blog post or in this YouTube video to learn how.
  • To get more traffic to your links and make more money, add your links to your blog posts, share them on your social channels, and send them directly to anyone you know who might be interested.

How to Start a Blog


I started blogging as an experiment. All the “cool kids” were doing it so I thought I should it. I thought it would help with my “personal brand” or maybe even turn into a way to make money.

Blogging turned out to be way more than that. 

Blogging has led me to meeting some amazing people, creating passive income streams for myself, self-publishing multiple books which have led to high priced speaking and consulting gigs, and it’s actually become one of my favorite hobbies as well as one of the best marketing channels for my startup.

Which is why I’m excited to announce the launch of my new course, How to Start a Blog, Promote Your Blog & Make Money Blogging!

I talk to people all the time who want to start blogging, don’t know what to blog about, want to grow their audience, or want to earn passive income…This course covers everything I’ve learned over 3 years of blogging along with the most common questions I get asked and the most common challenges beginning bloggers face.

How to Start a Blog covers what to blog about, tactics to increase traffic to your blog posts, basic SEO, blogging to build your brand and grow your professional network, how to make money blogging, and the best free products bloggers can use to accomplish all of the above.

The Internet has democratized communication and blogs are the medium by which anyone with a message can be heard. With unprecedented opportunities to reach hundreds of millions of people within clicks of a mouse there has never been a better time to blog!

Given how much you can gain in terms of customers, passive income, and inbound business opportunities from the lessons learned in this course, I feel like I should be charging a ton of money for this course. Take advantage of this opportunity to enroll in this course while you still can.

If you’re an entrepreneur or young professional looking to build your personal brand, market your business, or earn passive income, I think you’ll get a ton of value from this course. Check it out here.


10 Best Tools and Apps for Bloggers


This blog post contains a list of my favorite tools for promoting a blog and more along with brief explanations of how I use them. Most of these tools are completely free. The below tools can help with things like increasing traffic, building a mailing list, monetizing a blog, and more.


1. Hello Bar


Hello Bar enables you to add a colored bar at the top of your blog with a button that links to your desired page. You can customize the color and text on your Hello Bar. It’s very attention grabbing, so you can use it to drive more traffic to the page of your choosing. Hello Bar can be used to prompt viewers to sign up for your email list or to send traffic to one of your paid products such as your book on Amazon.


2. Exit Monitor


Exit Monitor is a lead generation and conversion optimization tool. Exit Monitor tracks the mouse location and velocity of every visitor of a page. It uses that data to detect when a visitor is about to exit your page. Once a potential exit has been detected, Exit Monitor displays a pop up screen offer to the web visitor. This allows for an extra pageview to be displayed for a visitor that would have normally been lost. You can use the pop up screen to offer something for free in exchange for their email address, a discount coupon, or simply to prompt them to sign up for your email list.


3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is my preferred email marketing solution. It allows you to collect and manage email addresses, send emails, and track results. It easily integrates with WordPress and other blogging platforms and is free to use the basic version. Mailchimp makes it easy to create well designed emails to send to your email list. It’s easy for viewers to sign up for your list and to un-subscribe. Mailchimp also provides analytics on the open and click through rates of your campaigns.


4. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is essential for any online business. It’s a product offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources. It also measures and provides analytics on conversions and sales. Using Google Analytics you can gain valuable insights such as how much traffic a given post is generating, how much traffic your site is getting, where your traffic is coming from, and more.


5. Codementor

While most blogging platforms require little or no coding, you may at some point need help doing customizations or integrations. When I need help modifying my WordPress blog or editing the theme in any way, I use Codementor. Codementor is an online marketplace where you can connect with expert developers via live video calls. You simply enter what you need help with and you get matched with a developer who can help. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to find some. Many of the developers charge very low hourly rates. I have saved a lot of time and anguish using Codementor. If you use this link, you will get $10 off.


6. Fedora

If you’re looking for a way to monetize your blog traffic, Fedora is a great solution. Fedora can provide you with a fully functional online school within hours and at no upfront cost. Using Fedora you can host, and charge for, video courses. You can hose your online school on a custom domain or as a subdomain, such as Check out Fedora here.


7. Buffer

If you’re promoting your blog, you’re probably using social media. Buffer is an outstanding social media management tool. Buffer’s browser plug in enables you to share any page on the web that you’re viewing across any or all of your social networks within clicks. It also enable you to schedule your social shares. Buffer is very helpful in ensuring that you are consistently sharing content and helps save a lot of time in doing so.


8. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner can be used to learn about what words and phrases to use in blog posts and titles. Google Keyword Planner will show you how many searches for given terms occur each month. It will also give you suggestions for other related keywords and phrases that users are searching. For example, to generate the title of my book on blogging, I used this tool to see what kinds of keywords and phrases people were using as it pertains to blogging. I then used those words and phrases in my title, subtitle, and Amazon description. It’s important to make sure you’re using the words that your customers are using so that they can find you.


9. Sniply

sniply is a great way to turn your Twitter followers and other connections in to followers of your blog. Sniply allows you to put a “hello bar like” CTA button at the bottom of any page on the web that you share. So, if you are sharing someone else’s blog post about marketing and your blog is about marketing, use Sniply to display a CTA bar at the bottom of the page linking to your blog. Anyone who clicks on the Sniply link that you share will see this CTA bar and have the option to click to your blog.

Sniply integrates with Buffer, and has a great Chrome plug in, so I’m adding CTAs to pretty much every link I share. Most of the links within this blog post are Sniply links. Click any of them to see an example of how to use Sniply.


10. Quora

Quora can be an incredibly valuable platform for bloggers. Browsing questions within your topic can give you an idea of what kind of information people want. By understanding what people want you can create more valuable blog posts. Answering questions with detailed valuable information will help you get exposure to Quora users. To learn more about how bloggers can use Quora, check out 6 Ways Bloggers Can Use Quora to Build an Audience.

How to Promote Your Blog


If you’re blogging to market a product or service, you will of course need people to read it. If no one sees your blog, it has no value. Below are some blog promotion ideas that can help grow a blog following:

1. Produce for Different Platforms

Create content in different formats to tap into new networks. Each of the below networks are like miniature search engines. People go there to search for, browse, and consume content. By producing content for the below platforms you can reach their different audiences.

a. Youtube

YouTube is the second largest search engine, and the third most visited site globally. To get results with YouTube, produce content that’s valuable to your target audience. Use the right keywords so they can find it. To get traffic from YouTube to your blog, mention your blog’s URL in your video, and include a link to your blog in the video’s description.

b. SlideShare

On SlideShare, users can upload PowerPoint, Keynote, PDF or OpenDocument presentations. You can think of SlideShare as “YouTube for presentations.” To increase the chances of viewers navigating to your blog, make a link to your website accessible to viewers. Include a link in your profile, in your presentation’s description and within your presentation.

c. Udemy

Udemy is an online marketplace for video courses. Anyone can produce a course on any topic and publish it to Udemy. Over 2 million students use Udemy to search for and consume educational content. Create video courses on topics related your blog’s topic and relevant to your target audience. Mention your blog in all of your lectures and include links to relevant blog posts within the notes for each lecture. You can also make announcements and send promotional emails to your students with links to your blog posts.

d. Podcast

A podcast is like a radio show for the Internet. The Podcast marketplace is like it’s own search engine. Podcasts can be subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. Start a Podcast on your niche. Mention relevant blog posts through the show and include links in the show notes.

e. Quora

Quora is a question and answer site with a lot of active viewers. Answer questions that are relevant to and followed by your target audience. Provide strong, detailed answers that provide value to your target audience. Link to your blog in your Quora profile, in your bio line for the answer, and within the answer if appropriate.

f. Amazon

Amazon has a massive network of users that search Amazon for products. By self-publishing a book on Amazon you can tap into a proverbial fire house of traffic. The book can be as short as long as you’d like and you can set the price as you’d like. Self-publish a book on the topic of your blog. Link to blog posts and your primary blog domain within the book.

2. Social Media

a. Twitter

i. Share

My typical tweet structure when sharing a blog post is “[post title] [link] [relevant hashtags].” For example, “How to Use a Blog to Market Your Business #blogging #contentmarketing”. I will also quote key points from the blog post and include a link. I typically tweet each blog post about 3 times after publishing it and sporadically after that.

Do some searching on Twitter to determine which hashtags to use. Some hashtags have active conversation and many people following or engaging.

If you mentioned anybody in the blog, or if there is anybody in particular you think would benefit from reading the post, mention them in the Tweet by including their @handle. By mentioning them, they may be more likely to respond or retweet, giving you more exposure.

ii. Find People Expressing a Need

Use Twitter’s search functionality to find people using keywords relevant to your blog. Engage with people who fit your target demographic. When appropriate, reply to their tweets with blog posts that might be helpful. For example, if someone tweets that their building a landing page, reply with a blog post your wrote on landing page design. There are a few great apps you can use to search Twitter for relevant conversations quickly and easily. Check out this video course to learn more about them: 13 Twitter Apps: Automate and Optimize Your Twitter Marketing.

b. LinkedIn  

There are great two ways to get more views from LinkedIn: status updates and groups.

Status updates will be seen by your connections and the connections of anyone who “likes” your update.

Groups are great regardless of how many connections you have. Search for groups related to your industry, your target audience, or the topic of your blog post. Join them. Share your posts in those groups. Add some personalized commentary.

c. Google+

Share your posts as a status updates. People who have you in their circles will see them.

Post to communities. Start by finding relevant communities (similar to LinkedIn, above). You can post directly to communities from the share container on your home screen.

You can add hashtags to your status according to the topic of the blog to increase the chances of someone finding it when searching.

Also…and this is a big one…per Moz’s Search Ranking Factors, the number of Google +1’s a page has is the second most influential factor for how it will rank on search engines!

d. Facebook  

Share your posts on your personal profile or business page. Posts that have a picture will stand out a lot more.

Also check out Facebook groups that pertain to the interests of your audience. For example, if I were to distribute a blog post about promoting a blog post, I would think about who would want to get views on their blog posts. Who uses blog posts to promote their product/service? Many do, but I would focus on some the Facebook groups I’m most interested in and already a part of — i.e. authors/book marketers, Udemy instructors/course marketers, etc.

3. Niche Social Networks

Who is your target customer segment? Who are you trying to reach? Where do they hang out? Go where your customers go.

For example, photographers might be hanging out on Instagram. People who travel a lot might be on Airbnb.

Many industries and interest groups have online forums or discussion boards. Think about what social networks your target audience is likely to be active on, especially the networks that pertain to your product area.

4. Content Distribution Networks

Reddit is a “social news” site where registered users can submit links and users promote the articles they like. The most voted articles get promoted on the front page of Reddit, which can lead to massive exposure.

There are a few other article distribution/link sharing networks that I use that pertain to startups: Hacker News, Quibb, and Growth Hackers. There are probably others for different industries that you’ll want to search for.

5. Direct Outreach

While sending specific people blog posts one by one may not be a scalable traffic acquisition strategy, it can have big payoffs over time, and is often needed when first starting. Sending blog posts to people directly can ensure that your target audience sees it. Below are a few types of people who may benefit from your blog posts:

i. Audience

Email your blog posts directly to your target audience. If you blogging about marketing for small businesses, email your blog post directly to a small business owner. You’re not being annoying if the post is truly valuable.

ii. Influencers

Email your blog posts directly to influential people who could help share your blog. For example, I wrote a blog post about the higher education bubble and sent it to a popular economist who hosts a radio show/podcast and often speaks on CNBC. He then shared it on Twitter to all of his followers.

iii. Curators

Email your blog posts directly to people who curate content and share it with their audience, such as newsletter editors and bloggers with “resources pages.”

6. Guest Blog

Guest blogging is when you write a blog post and have it published by another blogger. Most blogs who accept guest posts will allow you to include a link to your blog in your profile line of the blog post, or to link to other relevant blog posts within the guest blog post. Guest blogging can help you in two ways: a) When your article is published on someone else’s blog, that blog’s audience sees it. b) Having your domain linked to by another domain (link building), improves search ranking on Google.

7. Search Engine Optimization

Many, many people go to Google to find stuff, blog posts included. Therefore, you want to make sure your posts appear when someone enters a search term that you have a blog post in. Check out SEO 101 via Slideshare to learn more about SEO.

8. Blog Commenting

Search for blogs and blog posts related to your blog and blog posts. Write value added comments on the blog posts you find. For example, if you wrote a post titled “How to Promote Your Blog” search for blog posts about blogging. Add tips or your opinion about the blog posts you find and then offer your blog post to help the author and the readers with what was recommended in the blog post.

9. Build an Email List

By allowing people to opt in to receiving your blog posts by email, you increase your potential to get traffic on your posts. Every time you publish a post you will have a list of people to email. Mailchimp or Aweber are some of the most popular email marketing products. I use Mailchimp.

To learn more about blogging, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Blogging.

Twitter Marketing: 13 Twitter Apps to Automate and Optimize Campaigns


With over 200 million monthly active users, Twitter can not be ignored by marketers. Whether you’re looking to grow your professional network, find customers for cust dev interviews, or drive traffic to your landing page, Twitter can be an incredibly valuable channel.

Twitter makes it easy for you to find customers and for your customers to find you. It’s a great channel to engage and build rapport with your customers. And it’s free to use! This post covers basic Twitter marketing strategies and tactics and 13 Twitter apps you can use to automate and optimize your twitter campaigns.


5 Step Twitter Marketing Strategy

I break down marketing into a five step process. The five steps break down into two parts: before initiating the campaign, and executing the campaign.

Promo-Intro Twitter Marketing Apps

Twitter Marketing Part 1

Before you start acquiring customers, you must first identify who your customers are and where they “hang out.”

1. WhoWho is your target customer segment? Who would most passionately love your product? Who is most strongly affected by the problem you’re solving?

Create a “customer persona.” Describe as much as you can about your target customer: location, lifestyle, profession, age, gender, hobbies, etc. Your customers may have some of these keywords on their Twitter profile. Using the tools below, we can search bios and target accordingly.

2. Where – Where do someone like the person you described above hang out both online and offline? Where do they go for work? Where do they go for recreation? Where else do they go to solve the problem you’re solving?

Locations might include industry conferences, Meetup groups, niche social networks, certain neighborhoods, certain stores, Facebook groups, etc.

On Twitter, your customers might be following certain people (like your competitors), or talking about certain topics or using certain keywords. Using the tools below we can monitor and search Twitter to find these people.


Twitter Marketing Part 2

Once you know who your customers are and where they are, go there to attract them, engage with them, and eventually acquire them as a customer.

3. Attract – customer sees you

On Twitter, you can attract a customer by following them, favoriting one of their tweets, getting retweeted/mentioned/replied to by someone they’re following, or appearing on a hashtag or search term they’re browsing.

4. Engage – customer likes you

Effective ways to engage a customer and get them to like you is by being helpful, displaying value, and/or building rapport and being friendly.

To be helpful on Twitter, you could find people tweeting a need or about a problem, and reply by offering advice or sending a relevant blog post. This can also be a great way to drive targeted traffic to your blog. You can build rapport with people by engaging them in conversation and/or replying to their tweets with interesting or friendly comments.

You can display value on Twitter by having a lot of followers or engaging influencers in conversation. You can be helpful to people by retweeting them or promoting their work.

5. Acquire – customer buys from you (or completes other desired action)

Customers can’t buy from you until they’ve seen/heard of you (“attract”), and, for many products, gotten to know you (“engage”). Effective acquisition at this point comes down to landing page design, pricing, having a product that people want, etc.


13 Twitter Apps for Marketing Your Business

The below tools are great ways to optimize and automate part 2 of the marketing strategy, attracting, engaging, and acquiring customers. They can help you find customers, engage with them, improve your brand, get more Twitter followers, and drive traffic to your website.

1. Needtagger – find customers expressing needs for your content or product

2. Colabo – analyze, sort and monitor Twitter data

3. Twitfox – automatically favorite relevant tweets

4. Followerwonk – analyze your social graph and your competitors’

5. ManageFlitter – identify the best time to tweet and find customers

6. Qwitter – unfollow people who unfollow you

7. SocialBro – targeting, analytics, and more

8. Socialoomph – schedule, find, and monitor

9. Tweetchup – find customers and conversations, and analyze competitors

10. Hashtracking – insights on hashtags

11. Twitonomy – insights on customers and competitors

12. Untweeps – unfollow inactive accounts

13. Buffer – automate and improve sharing


Bottom Line

There are many demographics of customers on Twitter waiting to see you, get to know you, and buy your product! The above tools make it easier to identify, find, attract, engage, and acquire customers on Twitter. To learn more about Twitter marketing strategies and tactics, and how to use the above tools to drive traffic to your site and acquire customers, check out “13 Twitter Apps: How to Automate and Optimize Your Twitter Marketing.”

How to Generate Business Ideas


An entrepreneur’s job is to serve it’s customers by solving a problem or delivering value. In a free market, entrepreneurs who don’t serve customers fail. To execute, an entrepreneur must identify customer demands and how to meet them. Many of the best startup ideas come from solving problems or inefficient processes that customers have an urgent need to solve. This post covers four strategies for gaining customer insights about problems and demands.


1. Scratch Your Own Itch

“Why is it so important to work on a problem you have? Among other things, it ensures the problem really exists. It sounds obvious to say you should only work on problems that exist. And yet by far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.” – Paul Graham, Y-Combinator


What unmet needs do you have?, What challenges do you face throughout the day?, What product do you wish you had that doesn’t exist yet?, etc.

Make sure you’re not the only one that has that problem or wants that product. Do some customer development to see if they also have that problem or want that product.


2. Interview Customers

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems…” – Paul Graham


a. Pick a customer segment

Based on your relationships, access, propensity to buy, passion, etc.


b. Ask them what their problems are

What’s the hardest part of your day?, What unmet needs do you have?, What product do you wish you had that doesn’t exist yet?, etc.


3. Meet Known Needs

“Great companies do 1+ of 3 things: Get you laid, get you paid, get you made” – Dave McClure, 500 Startups

Paid = Salesforce, banks, Airbnb

Made = Twitter, college

Laid = Cars, clothes, Tinder

Transportation = Uber

Surviving = Food

Save Time = Buffer, oDesk

Entertainment = Movies, video games

4. Do What’s Working

“At a time when so many internet entrepreneurs are running around Silicon Valley trying to do something no one else has ever done, [Evan] Williams believes that the real trick is to find something that’s tried and true” – Twitter co-founder via Wired

a. Second Mover Advantages

i. Validate customer demand – seeing that your competitor is selling products shows that there are people who want to buy it

ii. Learn about your competitor’s customer acquisition strategy – skip the experiments, know what channels work

iii. Observe product management and marketing – copywriting, conversion funnels, UX, etc.


b. Examples of Second Movers

Facebook, Simple (bank), 5 Hour Energy knockoffs, countless ecommerce companies, Social media consultants


What’s Next?

Next you will want to conduct some customer development interviews to validate that the startup idea is something that people actually want. You may also want to put up a landing page to start building an audience before you launch, to pre-sell your product, and/or to test whether you can acquire traffic effectively. Here’s the list of 9 startup ideas that I shared via the Startup College Newsletter if you want to steal one of those 😉



Content Marketing 101: What, Why and How


Traditional marketing and advertising is broken. Traditional advertising methods like billboards, tv and radio advertising, paper mail advertising, and cold calling, are expensive, hard to measure, and are inefficiently targeted. In addition, people usually find them really annoying, which is not good for branding. People don’t get sold anymore, they buy. Enter content marketing, a more efficient and effective way to attract, engage, and acquire customers.

What is Content Marketing?

I’m going to give you a rather “dense” definition of content marketing and then I’ll break down each component of it. Content marketing is a strategy for attracting, engaging and acquiring customers. It entails creating and/or curating relevant and valuable content.

2 Forms of Value

Per the above definition, content must be valuable to the target audience. What does it mean to be valuable? Value, as it pertains to content marketing, comes in two primary forms:

a. Entertainment value 

The audience finds the content funny, interesting, or otherwise entertaining. The best example of content marketing that has entertainment value is Dollar Shave Club’s video that now has over 13 million views. People watched it, even multiple times, and shared it, because they enjoyed watching it. The fact that it’s an advertisement is an afterthought. In addition, it improves Dollar Shave Club’s brand by making them look “cool.”

b. Educational value

The audience finds the content helpful. It answers their questions or gives them information that they can use to solve their problems or in some way improve themselves. The best example of content marketing that I can think of that has educational value is Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO. It’s become like the bible on beginning SEO. It is the go to source for anyone that wants to learn SEO. The fact that Moz did it to attract it’s target audience, marketers, is not even recognized at first glance. In addition, it improves Moz’s brand by displaying their expertise, and building a perception of being helpful.

9 Benefits of Content Marketing

Content marketing can help companies with several aspects of the customer acquisition funnel. I’ve grouped them into three buckets:

attract – customers see you, find you and/or become aware that you exist

engage – customers get to know you and start to like you

acquire – customers pay for your product or service

Here are 9 ways content marketing can help companies attract people, engage with them, and convert them into customers.

1. Establish authority

Producing content that displays expertise instantly improves people’s perception of the author’s authority on the topic. A book is probably the form of content that improves authority the most, but several other forms, including a blog, can help. Improving your image of authority should improve conversion rates.

2. Increase engagement, rapport, and trust

When a customer sees your billboard, they see it for a few seconds and then probably forget about it. When someone reads your blog, they’re on your website, listening to what you’re saying, potentially for extended periods of time. This enables them to get to know you. I’ve met people who had been following my blog and as a result know a lot about me and feel like they know me. People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust.

The most extreme example of content that builds rapport that I can think of is James Altucher’s blog. He shares his deepest emotions and personal stories. You don’t have to go that far to build rapport with your audience though. Simply sharing your opinions on industry topics or adding some character to your writing can help. Don’t be afraid to take a controversial stance if appropriate or use less than perfect grammar if it adds character.

3. Reach a wider audience 

People don’t always search for a specific product or service, they often look for information or solutions to problems. For example, “productivity consultant” gets just 70 average monthly research, while “how to be more productive” gets 1,300. Keyword research is a proxy for people’s actual interests and buying behaviors.

Content marketing can enable you to reach an audience that might not have had you been relying on cold calling or advertising. They could also find you if one of their Facebook friends shares a piece of your content. People post about specific products far less than they share content that’s entertaining or educational. After building rapport, establishing yourself as an expert, and adding value, a customer may be more interested in your product or service.

4. Improve search engine ranking 

A company’s search ranking is driven by two primary categories: onsite and offsite. Content marketing helps with both. Content marketing helps with onsite in two ways. First, Google prefers sites with recently updated content. If you are actively creating new content, Google will better index you. Content marketing helps with offsite SEO by improving your chances of being linked to. Google interprets someone else linking to you as a sign that your site is of value. People are far more likely to link to a valuable blog post you wrote than simply your sales page. Better search ranking means more traffic.

5. Boost sales

At the end of the day sales are what everyone really wants right? After all, it’s a business not a charity. Content marketing can directly help with that. As discussed above, someone is more likely to want to click on something of value to them, than a sales page. However, viewing the content that is of value to them increases their chances of viewing your “sales page.”

This could play itself on in many different ways, but let me give you two quick examples. First example: viewer searches for a topic you’ve been blogging about…finds your blog post…signs up for your email newsletter…reads your emails each week, gets value from them, and thinks you’re awesome…two months later when you send out an email about your new product launch they buy because they’ve “known” you for two months and know that you’re “legit.” Second example: someone searches itunes for a podcast related to their interest…finds you and listens to one…you mention one of your products and tell listeners where they can find it…listener finds it and becomes a customer.

6. Social shares

When people share your content, you get more exposure. Exposure leads to traffic. This is the “attract” bucket per above. It also improves your brand in that if people see their friends talking about you they may think more highly of you. This is the “engage” bucket per above. How do you get most of your restaurant, movie, product, etc. recommendations? A lot of people rely on their friends.

People are more likely to share content they find valuable than your sales page.

7. It’s free or cheap 

Blogging, for example, costs basically nothing. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection, which you probably already have. It does however take time. If you get into more advanced content production, such as research reports, or even podcasts, you may need some special equipment that costs money.

However, many forms of content marketing have almost no up-front costs, which make it great for startups, self-published authors, or anyone on a budget.

8. More targeted 

With content marketing, you can be more sure you’re reaching your target audience then, for example, billboards or tv ads. Yes, you can get demographic data who drives on the road, who watches the show, etc. But with content you can be even more precise. For example, you can use Google’s keyword planner to get data on the number of times a given search term is being made and who is actually making the searches. You can write blog posts to to match those terms. Or you can write a post like “marketing for startups” to be sure your audience knows it’s for them.

9. Build an audience

People are very attentive to their inboxes. As a marketer, you want to be where their attention is. You don’t need to pay for a list if you’re doing content marketing. Offer something of value in exchange for signing up for your email newsletter, to increase your email signups. It could be as simple as receiving your blog posts by email. Offering an ebook or white paper is even better.

10 Types of Content to Produce

Content can come in many shapes and sizes. Most people think of blogs when they think of content marketing. Blogging is a good one, however there are many, many formats in which you can produce content marketing. Below are several formats/platforms to produce content on. Each of these platforms has slightly different users bases, enabling you to reach wider audiences.

  • Video courses on Udemy
  • Answers on Quora
  • Blog posts
  • Curated content as an email newsletter
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations on SlideShare 
  • Videos on YouTube
  • Self-published books on Amazon
  • Microcontent on social networks – tweets, status updated, instagram photos, etc.
  • Public speaking, webinars, workshops, etc.

Our Growth Hacking with Content Marketing course details how to use each of these networks effectively, which are best for different kinds of businesses, pros and cons of each, and more.

My #1 Piece of Content Marketing Advice 

Create content that’s valuable to your audience! If you do that, people will find you, share you, engage with you, return to you, etc.

6 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Learn to Code


The decision of whether or not to learn how to code is a tough one for many non-technical entrepreneurs to make. It may seem like a major time commitment on top of non-technical responsibilities. However, learning even some very basics can be extremely beneficial. You don’t need to be an expert in coding to get value from it. Below are six ways learning to code can help your business.

Save Time and Money Recruiting a Technical Co-Founder or Hire

You don’t find co-founders in one day. It takes a long time. In that same amount of time, or less, you could easily be learning how to code. A month is enough to learn the basics. It can be challenging for many non-technical founders to find a committed technical co-founder that shares their vision. Learning to code will make you less dependent on outside forces and help you get your company off the ground. There’s also a risk that your technical co-founder could leave the company after joining, which could leave you in a tough position if you don’t know anything about coding.

Evaluate Technical Hires or Co-founders More Effectively

If you don’t know much about programming, it will be hard to tell whether someone can effectively program. Therefore hiring will be a major challenge. You will need to rely on others to help you evaluate technical hires. This could be a burden of time and/or money. Learning even basic coding skills will help you to more effectively evaluate potential hires or partners.

Build a Prototype to Test your Idea

Being able to at least build a prototype or “minimum viable product” of your idea will help you to test the demand for your product and business viability before you spend a lot of time and money finding and hiring developers. A prototype will enable you to see how users interact with your product and if it’s even providing them with something they perceive as being valuable in the first place. Interacting and testing with mock ups or just verbal descriptions is much different then a product.

Sometimes customers don’t know if they want something until you put it in front of them and let them use it. A prototype doesn’t have to be perfect, or even scalable, for you to learn, and save time and money. And you don’t need to be an expert to build a prototype. You could even build a landing page to test whether people will buy your product, that you can drive traffic to it, and to build an audience pre-launch.

Communicate With Your Development Team More Effectively

For business people who manage or work with coders, understand ingcoding can be extremely beneficial. Business people will need to know what sorts of things are easy or hard to code, what sorts of problems arise, how long a certain task should take, how hard it is to maintain code, etc.

Programming languages are called languages because they are a mode of communication. If you’re in Spain, you need to learn Spain in order to communicate effectively with people around you. If you’re in a technology startup, learning basics of coding and computer science will enable you to communicate effectively with your technical team members.

You don’t necessarily need to be an expert at coding to be able to communicate effectively with coders. Basic understanding can be helpful in determining what is a reasonable or unreasonable request, or how much effort a particular piece of code would take to produce.

Contribute More to Developing your Product and Company

One of the biggest time commitments in starting a new technology company is product development. While business activities such as customer acquisition and fundraising to take considerable amount of time, being able to contribute to building product can be tremendously beneficial to your company. Different products and companies will have different proportions of business and product development time needed, however in most situations, being able to build product will at least be helpful.

Better Understand your Product and Technology

As a non-technical co-founders some of your biggest responsibilities will be sales and marketing, recruiting and fundraising. You will need sufficient knowledge of your product to be able to effectively communicate with customers, investors, and technical hires. If you’re starting a technology company, you should know enough about technology to be able to run your business.

Conclusion: You don’t need to be the best coder in the world to benefit from learning. It’s not an all or nothing decision. Understanding a little about coding will help you to be better leader. You should still be recruiting technical partners, however learning enough to get your company off the ground and work with those partners will be extremely beneficial to your company. Learning to code will empower you — “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to code and  robotic minions shall fish for him forever.”

Check out How to Build a Landing Page for a beginner step by step tutorial.