3 Considerations For Marketers When Chasing AI

3 Considerations For Marketers When Chasing AI

By now, every marketer is aware of AI, as it’s the hottest issue in marketing since email marketing debuted nearly 40 years ago, and everyone has been talking about it in depth this year. Most of the content out there to date has been focused on getting the world up to speed on all the interesting tools that marketers have at their disposal and how to use them to ease marketing efforts.

But the question is, just because AI is the shiny new toy for marketers to play with, should you? My quick take is, yes, why not, as long as you dont use a set-it-and-forget-it attitude. In this article, I want to call attention to a few things to consider before you jump into AI head first.

1. Brand & Tone

Let’s be honest, robots sound like robots and if you copy and paste from Chat GPT, your customers will sniff it out. AI is fantastic at writing information based on what it learns about your business, but it doesn’t understand your brand’s complete uniqueness, yet. Human oversight is essential, as AI algorithms lack the contextual understanding required for more complex brand communication. It can however discern patterns and nuances that define a brand’s voice by analyzing vast volumes of consumer interactions and content that already exists about your business.

2. Confidentiality & Privacy

AI-powered analytics let you process vast amounts of consumer data, so you can tailor marketing campaigns. However, this capability raises concerns about the confidentiality of personal medical information — if it’s a concern for your customer, then it should be a concern for you. As AI delves deep into consumer behaviors and preferences, there’s an inherent risk of mishandling sensitive data, potentially leading to breaches of confidentiality and privacy. Striking the right balance between utilizing AI’s insights and safeguarding customer information has become paramount.

3. Differentiation

Back to my brand voice point above… If you just copy and paste what AI creates for you, then how will you maintain differentiation and a competitive edge? You have to be intent and specific in the way that you use AI and make sure that you aren’t doing the same thing that every other business is doing. Through data-driven insights, AI can distill invaluable information about consumer preferences, behaviors, and trends, allowing marketers to craft more targeted and relevant offerings. The key here is never forgetting who you are as a brand and what you believe in and keep it unique.

The Sum

From personalized customer experiences to enhanced engagement, and data-driven insights to predictive analytics, AI is redefining how marketers connect with their audience and operate within their landscapes. The integration of AI not only improves marketing operational efficiency but also enables marketers to provide more personalization and stand out from the competition. Ultimately, AI empowers marketers to embody innovation, customer centricity, and adaptability and ultimately helps them be more human in their approach to marketing.

This post was originally posted in partnership with PCCA on their blog in a pharmacy marketing format.

My New Podcast for Curious Marketers

My New Podcast for Curious Marketers

I am super amped up this week because yesterday, I launched my very first audio show, The Marketing Starter Podcast, with the goal of sharing some tangible tips and career hacks with marketers around the marketing world. 

I actually started recording back in March with the idea of getting a majority of the first season produced before the show even aired – I read that on launch day that one should have three episodes ready to go for new listeners (one of the many tips I gleaned from pro podcasters).

So this week, that is what you will find… The first three episodes of Season One, featuring Beth Carr, Founder of Fortified Branding, social media king, Scott Eddy, and Rebecca Biestman, CMO at Reputation. All available wherever you get your podcasts, at themarketingstarter.buzzsprout.com, and of course, on my website.

From there, I will be publishing two new episodes each month with the hopes of expanding to once a week as time allows – but you know how it goes when you’re trying to balance daytime tasks with moonlighting content, while also moving across the country. It’s a lot! 

I did want to use this post to share my inspiration for the blog and the why behind it, which really stemmed from my last post where I announced that I’m wiring my very first book with the same name, The Marketing Starter. In the book I share personal stories of marketing starter struggles with anecdotes from a few close colleagues, friends, and advisors – but I wanted to go deeper and create something that could go beyond the words in my book while shamelessly plugging it. 

And that’s where the podcast was born. I wanted to find like-minded marketers and business professionals who can expand on the topics that I share in my book with their own personal stories. I wanted to hone in on the expertise of these guests and align their starter journeys to the tips that I shared in my book and really dig into the nuance of wearing an entrepreneurial hat while being a marketer.

So far, I have been blown away by the starter stories that my guests have shared, and I hope that you will be too. It’s so fulfilling and inspirational to actually sit down with these folks for an hour (don’t worry the episodes are only about 30 minutes) and just have real conversations about what makes them tick and what has led to their success. It’s something I have missed deeply since this pandemic sheltering has taken over all our lives.

I miss those coffee meetups and networking events that used to fuel my personal inspiration and help me balze my trails. I’m sure all of that will be back soon, but in the meantime these podcast interviews are filling the void, but also giving me great content to share with you.

I hope that you give the show a listen and subscribe, like, share, comment, blah blah blah. And of course, stay tuned for the book release later this year.


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7 Steps to Get Your Speaking Career Off the Ground

7 Steps to Get Your Speaking Career Off the Ground

My professional speaking story might sound simple, but it’s not without its challenges. In 2013, I was working on my second startup, BTSocial, which was solving a problem in the business travel space using social media. During that time, I was getting very active in the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), attending conferences and participating in my local chapter in Chicago. My eager networking lead to a feature in Hotel Business magazine profiling me and the BTSocial product.

That article was seen by the education chair of the Mid South Area Business Travel Association (a chapter of GBTA), and she took an interest in my take on how social media was impacting the travel industry. Long story short, she reached out and asked If I would come and speak to the MSABTA about social media. At that point, I had for a long time dreamt of being a professional speaker, traveling the world educating and motivating people, so I thought, ‘Why the heck not?’ They flew me down to Memphis one June and the rest is history.

While my professional speaking endeavors came out of earnest networking to support my startup, you might find that you’ll have to work at it a little more to get yours off the ground. I do have some easy steps you can take to get started, now.

1. Pick a subject your good at

I’m sure that you have a lot of tools in your professional toolbox. However, you’ll want to find a few around which you can really build quality speech subject matter. Only you know where your skills lie, but you’d be surprised how simple of a skill you may have that is in high-demand. For me, social media was my starting point as I was working on a startup solution focused on just that. My knowledge on the subject and deep work in it gave me plenty to fall back on when getting started.

2. Find out what your industry needs to learn

Each industry has key gaps in knowledge that can be exploited. The easiest way to determine what people your industry are hungry for is to scope out the industry’s premier conference website. Take a look at the upcoming event’s agenda (last year’s if the next is not available) and see what topics the sessions focused on. There may be a few that you can piggyback on or you be able to create your own spin. You can also see if there are glaring gaps where your angle might fill in.

Another way to do this is to attend industry events to hear other speakers’ topics and network with professionals. You can straight-up ask what attendees would like to hear covered at these events and apply their answers to your plan accordingly.

3. Write your topic

Once you have your subject matter based on your expertise set and know what the industry wants to learn, get to penning your presentation. The first thing you will need is a general outline, then a summary that you can use to share with potential clients. Second, you will create the presentation itself, but that is a big step and will have to be covered in another article. Your summary should also include some key takeaways, or learning points that are actionable for the attendees. Once you have all that set, you can start reaching out to prospective events to get hired.

4. Local outreach and ask to speak (for free)

The ultimate goal is to get paid for your speeches, but to get started, you’ll want to offer your services for free. You do this for a four key reasons: to practice and get feedback, to get testimonials, to gain exposure and to build your speaking resume. You may only need to do a few free gigs before you start to charge. I got lucky and was able to start charging at my second event. If you submit to speak at a conference however, expect to not get paid, but nevertheless conferences offer are great exposure!

5. Build a list and a following

Once you have presented at your first few events for free, you’ll want to build a list of prospects to reach out to and start expanding your schedule. Some industry organizations have speaker databases where you should submit your topics. You can also join speaker bureaus and create profiles on sites like executivespeakers.com and speakerhub.com. At this point, it would be important to create a simple website for your speaking profile where you can host your topics, experience and bio.

6. Start charging

When should you start to charge and how much? That’s the million, well, thousand-dollar question. I would recommend starting to charge once you and your content are deemed valuable, but you want to make sure that you have presented at few successful events before you draft an invoice. Once you have reached this milestone, you can start asking for compensation for your talents.

Trying to figure out how much to charge in another challenge. A good way is to see what organizations are willing to pay by simply asking the question, “what’s your speaker budget for this event.” Another way is to ask what other speakers, whom you feel are at a similar level to you, have charged when they spoke. Only you can decide what your fee should be, but I would recommend to always be willing to flexible. I have spoken for as little as $500 (for non-profits), but when starting out my typical nominal fee was $1000. Depending on the event I have charged nearly 5x that. Obviously, your goal is to make it more than worth your time, but you have to keep in mind that there are hundreds of speakers out there whom you’re competing with. Don’t get greedy!

7. Write a book

Since being on the speaking circuit for nearly five years, I have been looking for ways to level up my career. After much searching, everything pointed towards writing a book. Being a published author immediately gives you the clout to amp up your speaking career. I’m in the early stages of writing my book now, and while completing the book itself is a huge milestone, I see it as a step to lead me to the next level of my speaking career. Writing a book is tough and it can take over a year so before you do this, so make sure that you have the expertise, time and drive to push it across the finish line. Once the book is published, it will be easy to land speaking gigs where you can focus on the books’ subject matter. At this point, you’ll be a published author presenting on a topic where your an expert, engaging thousands of event-goers, then fielding their requests for signatures as you hock your book in the foyer. That’s the dream!

This list may seem long, but it’s actually very easy to get your speaking career off the ground. The key is to start small while you’re building your resume then scale with supportive content and testimonials. Persistence and refinement will always pay off and before you know it, speaking can become a very fun and lucrative part of your life.

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5 Reasons Why Startups Shouldn’t Work In Coffee Shops

5 Reasons Why Startups Shouldn’t Work In Coffee Shops

For many entrepreneurs that are tired of working from home, the corner coffee shop has become a haven for getting plugged-in to get productive with laptops out and headphones on. I can see why many entrepreneurs make coffee joints their place of biz; they’re from open morning til night, offer a warm atmosphere and have plenty of startup fuel  flowing. However, I personally have never been a fan of this work environment and have not fallen under the spell of the cafe mystique. Leaving reeking of the smell of coffee grounds is not all it is cracked up to be. I say its time to realize what the coffee shop is good for: grabbing a cup of coffee, and conversing with friends, or reading a book in leisure. Its not the place to get your startup started and I have five reasons why.

1. It’s Distracting – All entrepreneurs can agree that focus is key to success. How can anyone concentrate for a full work day in an environment of chatting, bean grinding, and brew whooshing? Not to mention the overly-loud music filling the room; most prominent at Starbucks where music labels are forcing music down your ear canals in hopes of a purchase with your latte. If you do plan to work in these distractions, invest in some noise-cancelling headphones and blinders to keep your eyes on your laptop. Just pray no one bumps the back of your chair, asks to sit at your table or spills something on you.

2. It’s Unprofessional – I have never been a fan of taking meetings at coffee shops, mostly because of reason #1 above, but in all seriousness, its just unprofessional. Sure,  it depends on whom you’re meeting with and your relationship with them. I would hope entrepreneurs would never schedule an investor pitch meeting at a Caribou. Coffee shops can be a logistical nightmare for meetings, even if they’re quick. There’s nothing worse than scheduling a meeting, showing up and not having a place to sit to conduct your meeting. Fail.

3. It’s Un-Collaborative – There may be other startup junkies in your vicinity at Intelligentsia, but since they are also desperately trying to stay focused they’re not exactly open to having collaborative discussions. Contrast to the environment at a real co-working space that promotes and breeds collaborative behavior like 1871 or the Inspire Business Club. There, it’s acceptable to join forces with other startup geeks and not have to worry about someone stealing your seat if you need to use the rest room.

4. It’s Expensive – The average latte in Chicago costs $4 and if you buy one a day that adds up to be $120/moth and $1460/year. That’s an expensive habit for bootstrapping entrepreneurs. With that money you’re spending on coffee you could afford most open-seating co-working spaces and those typically include a warm caffeinated beverage. Good luck trying to get away without making a purchase, they’ll toss you out for loitering.

5. It’s Lacking Resources – I have yet to see a barista hand over an entrepreneur mail deliveries with his caramel macchiato. Not gonna happen. You can’t have mail sent to Starbucks; you wouldn’t use their address for your business; and they probably don’t have a fax machine you could borrow. Sure they have free Wi-Fi, but its not and will never be an office. Try reserving group of tables ahead of time to have a group brainstorming session. Nope!

These reasons may be my opinions, but you gotta admit, they have some merit. I’m not saying to not frequent coffee shops, they are local businesses that need our support. I’m just saying to think twice before working there. A coffee shop may be a fine escape every once in a while, but I recommend to find a place that you can be most productive with your startup. Kudos to you for at least getting out of the house.

Business Cards Mean Business – 4 Tips

Business Cards Mean Business – 4 Tips

I heard a wise man once say, “You’re not in business unless you have a business card.” While that may not be entirely true, I did get his point. Business cards are our real-life social badges and our primary branding tool. But in this day and age, do we truly need these 3.5” by 2” pieces of cardboard anymore?

Some networkers think we can enter a contact into our phones faster than digging a card out of our wallet. I’ve had instances where I gave out my card and had the recipient take a picture with an app on their phone then give the card right back. We can now even tap our phones together to exchange contact info just as fast as swapping a card. I personally don’t hang onto the business cards I collect very long. Once I get back home or to the office I connect with these new colleagues on LinkedIn and pop them in my Google contacts list.

With all the alternatives to exchanging contact info, it may lead a business professional to question whether business cards have become outdated and unnecessary. Is it surprising that even in the tech industry we’re still using business cards? I say nay.

While business cards seem as archaic as newspapers, they are still a vital part of networking and the business process. Despite living in a digital world, a business card is a symbol of establishment and credibility. That exact reasoning may be what that wise man was referring to in his statement. Let’s face it, we experience great joy out of getting our order of freshly printed cards in the mail. We have all felt the excitement to have a new card with “Founder”, “President” or “CEO” printed in bold font with our name right beside it. Our business cards serve as a trading card in our industry almost like a professional athlete, but without the bubble gum. I doubt even the great Derrick Rose has business cards that say “Derrick Rose. Point Guard. Chicago Bulls.”

Business cards are a great marketing tool. We can email blast and campaign on social media all we want and it won’t match the power of the personal interaction that took place during the business card exchange. However, before you spend money on your first thousand cards, you’ll need to follow a few tips.

1.     Be Bold

You’re going to want your cards to stand out. Don’t fall victim to the ambiguousness of plain styles like in that scene from American Psycho.

The color, layout, and paper weight all important, but you have some choices to make.

  • Should my card layout be horizontal or vertical? – I say that you can go either way. Depending on your logo, it may look better one way over another, so draft some mockups to see what looks best for you.
  • How much thickness should my card have? – You’ll want some stiffness to your cards, a flimsy card can sometimes just feel cheap, but it doesn’t have to be made out of metal.
  • Should I stick with the traditional 3.5×2 or use a more creative size? – This can be tricky. While a different size can make your card stand out, it could also be annoying to those who like to collect them as they don’t fit in traditional holders.
  • UV coat or no? – If you are going to UV coat your cards like a dance club flyer, I’d recommend only coating one side. UV coats are hard to write on with ball point pens, so leaving one side at least matte allows for easy note-taking.

2.     Follow Brand Guidelines

Your card should be considered an extension of your company’s brand image. Obviously you’ll want to include you logo in some fashion on the card, but I recommend you do not deviate too far from the company branding.

  • Use your company colors, or close variations thereof
  • Use the same fonts that as your site or other marketing materials
  • Include your tag line, if you have one

3.     Make it Readable

This seems to be a growing concern. Black writing on black paper never works well, unless you’re a ninja. Your print should be easy to read and have clear contrast to your background. Sometimes black and white work, but you’re smart and know how to make colors stand out. The font should also be legible and big enough to read without a magnifying glass. Keep in mind that investors are usually more seasoned and want to be able to actually read your card!

4.     Include the Important Stuff

Social media handles, P.O. Boxes, and favorite quotes may seem like fun additions to your cards, but can they sometimes just be clutter. Stick to the basics and think minimalist and about what potential colleagues and connections really want to know. Best bets are first & last name, title, email address, phone number and company website. If you are a brick & mortar company I would suggest including your physical address. Sometimes a Twitter or Facebook handle makes sense (especially in the case if you are a social media company), so include the address in type, but NEVER put the logo on your card. Why would you want to include another company’s image on your most important brand extension? To sum up, make your card simple and all about you.

So, you may be asking, “Tim, where do you get your cards made?” Well, I definitely like to stay local whenever possible. I formerly used M13 Graphics in Schaumburg until a big misprint then I switched to a small shop in Bucktown called QDP Graphics. They do amazing work at a very reasonable price, which is great for a startup budget. You can get 1,000 cards, full color, front and back for $25. VistaPrint can’t even beat that. Plus, I love keeping my business local.

Start collecting cards you like at events and borrow their ideas to make your ideal card then take these tips and run to the printer. You’ll be flashing those freshly printed cards before you know it.