This Gap In Airtable’s Marketing Stategy Is Holding It Back

What is Airtable and why isn’t everyone using it yet?

Airtable combines the power of spreadsheets, databases, project management software, “no-code” apps, and collaboration tools into a very powerful and flexible tool. There are few Airtable alternatives, and six years after launch, it should be have reached mainstream adoption by now.

But it hasn’t.

Instead, it remains a product that’s been loved by early adopter types and enterprise clients but hasn’t reached anywhere near the ubiquity that similarly powerful products like Slack, Trello, and Salesforce have enjoyed.

In this article, we’ll explore why Airtable has failed to grow at a more rapid clip – despite being an amazing product. In particular, we’ll look at why Airtable’s somewhat schizophrenic messaging is holding it back and how a concept called “category creation” may be the solution.

But for context, let’s first take a look at what Airtbable is and what Airtable is used for.

What Is Airtable Anyway?

Indeed.

This is the crux of Airtable’s challenge. But here’s the best way I can describe it succinctly.

A traditional spreadsheet, like the kind you’d make in Excel, is a very powerful way of organizing and analyzing data. But there are some limitations. For example, grouping and sorting rows is cumbersome. Records must be text-based, which limits the kind of data you can work with. And there’s no way to view your spreadsheet in more practical ways, like a calendar or a Kanban view. So at a basic level, Airtable solves those shortcomings by giving you a more flexible way of working with spreadsheet data.

If that was all Airtable did, they wouldn’t have such a challenge. But that’s just the beginning.

Airtable website header
Airtable looks interesting, but its messaging is short on specifics.

Airtable also lets you link spreadsheets together, as a relational database allows. It uses this concept called “Blocks” which are like mini-apps that integrate with your spreadsheets. And to top it off, project management software and collaboration tools could also be considered Airtable alternatives because there is so much feature overlap.

What Is Airtable Used For?

To recap, Airtable pulls together functionality from these existing categories:

  • Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
  • Database (Microsoft Access, Mongo DB)
  • No-code Apps (FileMaker, Zudy)
  • Project Management (Wrike, Basecamp)
  • Task Management (Wunderlist, Todoist)
  • Collaboration (Trello, Slack)

What is Airtbale used for exactly? According to their site, everyone from cattle ranchers, to journalists, to stay-at-home moms.

The fact that Airtable can cover so much ground is great for people who already use the software. But for those who have yet to start using Airtable, such a chameleon-like nature poses a huge barrier to understanding what the software is, who it’s for, and how it’s used.

What is this barrier exactly? It has to do with something called a “category-first buying process”. And until Airtable address it, it will continue to face strong headwinds against growth.

We All Think In Categories, Whether We’re Conscious Of It or Not

When we buy software, most of us look for a tool to fulfill a specific need or solve a specific problem. Take video conferencing software for example. If you want to conduct video-based calls with others on your team, you’d probably head to Google and search for something like “best video conferencing software”. Or, you might head to a review site like Capterra or G2Growd to find the highest rated video conferencing options.

And from there, you’ll probably spend some time on the websites for each of the offerings you’re considering. The better job a site can do of convincing you that its video conferencing offering is the best for your needs, the more likely you are to buy.

In other words, you had a problem in mind and you proceeded to look for a solution using that framework.

Airtable product comparison
It’s difficult to know what category to place Airtable in when it’s compared to so many different types of software.

The process applies to more than just software. Think about business and consumer products you’ve purchased recently – insurance, cars, office chairs, smartphones, daycare, etc. – and chances are you will have used a similar process.

People think of known categories first, and then the look for the most appropriate choice within that category.

But unfortunately, people aren’t sure what framework to use when considering Airtable alternatives. It hasn’t positioned itself to be understood in terms of a specific category.

Why Airtable Is Unnecessarily Confusing

Let’s pick one of these categories above, project management software, and see what the buying experience is like for Airtable.

Using a “category-first” approach, you’re likely to come across Airtable when looking at reviews for project management software. On G2 Crowd, for example, things look promising, as it ranks very highly both in terms of customer satisfaction and market presence.

Airtable ranks well in G2 Crowd's project management rankings.
Airtable ranks well in G2 Crowd’s project management rankings, but there are plenty of alternatives to pick from.

Wrike and Basecamp are two examples that are presented as Airtable alternatives. But when looking closer at these offerings, it starts to become unclear why Airtable would be one’s first choice.

Airtable’s own description about itself creates the first point of confusion. It reads as such:

“Airtable is the all-in-one collaboration platform designed to combine the flexibility of a spreadsheet interface with features like file attachments, kanban card stacks, revision history, calendars, and reporting.”

It sounds interesting, but there’s no mention of “project management”. Contrast that with Basecamp, which reads,

“Trusted by millions, Basecamp is a web-based project management and collaboration tool. To-dos, files, messages, schedules, milestones and more.

Wrike’s pretty clear, too:

“Wrike is all-in-one project management software that helps remote and co-located teams get more things done together.”

Now, if you were going to narrow down your choices based on the information you have so far, you’d probably eliminate Airtable.

You’d do so simply because “an all-in-one collaboration platform” doesn’t line up with the problem you’re trying to solve (finding the best project management software).

Airtable’s reviews don’t help much either.

You’ll see phrases like “Great data management tool for field research”, “Easiest data relation and visualization on the market”, and “perfect solution for multiple spreadsheets”. Meanwhile, Wrike and Basecamp’s reviews consistently talk about project management.

High review scores don’t matter if the reviews themselves don’t describe the solution you’re looking for.

Repeat this exercise for the other alternatives (task-management, team collaboration, no-code apps) and you’ll see that Airtable runs into the same issue.

Understanding Airtable Through Organic Discovery is Equally Challenging

So far, we’ve established that when looking at Airtable on review sites, vague product messaging makes it difficult to see why it would be the ideal solution for a specific application.

But what happens when someone discovers Airtable organically, like through a friend or by stumbling across them in another context? Does Airtable’s own messaging lend itself to easier comprehension?

[elementor-template id=”3348″]

Airtable’s messaging is pretty inconsistent across different platforms and even on its own website.

Let’s take a look at what Airtable says about itself. Depending on where you encounter the company, you’ll find the following statements…

  • “Teams use Airtable to organize their work, their way.”
  • “Organize anything, with anyone, anywhere.”
  • “Create your first database in minutes.”
  • “Spreadsheet, meet database”
  • “Create, your way”
  • “The perfect view for the task at hand”
  • “A modern database created for everyone”
  • “Project management, editorial calendars, flexible CRM, and inventory management”

Unfortunately, these phrases create more questions than answers

  • What exactly is a “modern database” anyway?
  • Does “create” mean that is a software for artists and designers?
  • Does “database” mean this is a tool for researchers?
  • How do “create a database” and “organize a project” happen in the same piece of software?
  • Is Airtable good for solo users, or is it designed more for teams?
  • Is this supposed to replace something I use today?

Airtable has presented a variety of messages designed to cover all possible users and uses cases. It’s an open-ended message that hints more at possibility than practical application.

Unfortunately, this way of describing a product will only resonate with one group: early adopters who are willing to invest the time to see what’s possible with a new type of software.

But for the majority of people who encounter Airtable organically, they’ll file the idea under “interesting, but not for now.”

Since Airtable hasn’t described itself in relation to an existing category that people are already familiar with, most people will have a difficult time knowing just want to make of it.

And when people don’t understand what something is for, they are unlikely to buy it.

Airtable Has An Opportunity Few Companies Enjoy: Category Creation

Does this mean that Airtable should take a step back and focus its messaging solely on an existing category? Perhaps it could, but the Airtable alternatives we looked at above operate in very crowded markets already. If it had a narrower range of features that could serve a particular market niche really well, this would probably be its best bet.

But because Airtable offers a novel tool that’s changing the boundaries of traditional software, it has an even better option for its marketing strategy: it can define an entirely new category of software.

What Does It Mean To Create A New Category?

Creating (and owning) a new product category is one of the most challenging things to do in marketing. It requires that you come up with a new way of describing the concept you’ve developed – usually in just two or three words. And it demands thoughtful use and consistent evangelization of that term over a long period of time.

Category creation isn’t about creating a catchy tagline for your company alone. It’s a marketing strategy that involved putting a stake in the ground about how you and your future competitors will define themselves.

Howevever, research shows that companies who build categories are typically the ones who gain the lion’s share of the market and the profits within that space. In other words, if you think that the concept you’re building is going to become something larger than yourself, then investing in category creation and ownership before one of your competitors does can pay huge dividends.

Research published on Harvard Business review shows that category creators enjoy the majority of profits with a space.

Hubspot is a great example. Instead of trying to compete directly against Eloqua, InfusionSoft, Neolane, Pardot, Silverpop, Act-On, and other marketing automation platforms when they launched in 2008, they defined a new category instead. They called it “Inbound Marketing” software. And instead of just coining a term, Hubspot wove “inbound” into all of its messaging.

10 years later, Hubspot is a $5B company. And if you search for “inbound marketing”, Hubspot still continues to rank at the top. Had Hubspot stayed a “marketing automation” company, they may have only created a business the fraction of that size.

A Glimpse At Putting Category Creation Into Practice

Category creation is a major undertaking. A full outline of what that would look like is outside the scope of this post. But here’s a practical way Airtable could immediately gain the benefits of category creation.

Once Airtable had established a name for its category and a definition for it, the natural next step would be to show people specific examples of what this idea looks in practice. Dropbox did this by showing how it could help someone planning for a trip to Africa. Airtable could do something similar by allowing visitors to identify the problem they were trying to solve and then showing them the product could help.

This wouldn’t even be difficult. By presenting a new concept to a website visitor (by leading with a short description of this new category), Airtable could naturally pique a visitor to ask, “Interesting… what is Airtable used for?”

It could answer that by helping the visitor find use cases that related to the particular problem they might be trying to solve. In the explanations of these use cases, Airtable could reinforce the definition of this new category, helping the user turn an abstract concept into a concrete idea.

Airtable University
Airtable University already has most of the raw material needed to show potential users how the software works, it just needs to be presented sooner in the discovery process.

The beauty of this approach is simple.

By presenting a new concept first, and by quickly following up with tangible examples, Airtable gets to present itself on its own terms. Instead of trying to fit everything into an existing construct (e.g. project management software), Airtable could reframe the conversation and invite visitors to explore. And it would avoid the problem Airtable presently has of using alternating references to existing products – an approach that only creates confusion.

The result? Wrike, Trello, and Excel wouldn’t be seen as Airtable alternatives. Instead, they’d be viewed as different categories of software and thus inappropriate for direct comparison.

The good news for Airtable is that it already has a section on its site dedicated to showing what Airtable is used for. But it lives in a corner of the website, called the “Airtable Universe” where visitors are unlikely to find it. By pairing its new category definition with a more streamlined University section, the company could dramatically reduce barriers to comprehension.

What’s Next For Airtable?

Will Airtable gain mass adoption, or will it remain a tool only for the early-adopting “power users” who are willing to explore new software concepts?

The answer depends on how this unique B2B brand defines itself. If they undertake the task of defining and owning a new category, they can avoid direct comparisons and have conversations with potential customers on their own terms. In doing so, they will be more successful in opening people’s minds to this idea of “spreadsheet meets database meets collaboration tool”.

However, if they retain their chameleon-like messaging approach, they will likely never reach their true potential. Buyers will look at Airtable through the lens of categories they are already familiar with, and as a result will continue to see plenty of other products as Airtable alternatives. And when they find that Airtable doesn’t neatly fit within those bounds, they’re likely to look somewhere else.

Inflation Can Kill B2B Brands. Here’s How To Avoid It.

How is it that the country with the largest oil reserves in the world is nearing economic collapse? The same reason B2B brands in a crowded space find it nearly impossible to survive: inflation.

Inflation is an invisible force, but it can decimate both economies and B2B brands alike. In this article, I’ll explain how an “inflationary” environment can threaten B2B companies. And I’ll lay out two strategies that will help your company survive.

When Inflation Gets Out of Control, It’s Decimating

Just six years ago, the economy looked relatively stable for Venezuela, with its ever-increasing oil reserves. Its currency, the Bolivar, held steady.

But when oil prices weakened, Venezuela had a hard time using oil production to pay off its debts. So it resorted to printing more currency instead. This created just one problem: for every newly minted Bolivar, the currency was worth just a little less.

That would be OK in limited doses, but the government has printed so many Bolivars that the currency is now nearly worthless. Economists at the International Monetary Fund expect its inflation rate to reach 1,000,000% this year, and as you might expect, the Venezuelan economy is in ruins.

Inflation is a major problem for Venezuela at the moment
When a B2B category faces an “inflationary” environment, each company in the space becomes devalued. Source Reuters.

Getting out of this situation will be no easy task. And as we’ll see in a moment, B2B companies can fall into a similar trap, one that can be equally decimating.

How A B2B Brand Becomes Devalued From Inflation

Just like countries with runaway currencies, B2B brands may also find themselves in “inflationary” environments. Here’s how that happens:

  • A “hot” new B2B space emerges, typically one with low barriers to entry
  • The first company in the space has the market all to themselves.
  • Soon, a couple of competitors emerge. The healthy competition helps drive market adoption, and the category is a good place to do business.
  • After a while, though, latecomers join in. A space that was once occupied by a few businesses is now crowded with dozens of similar companies.
  • As potential buyers evaluate their options, they start to perceive these businesses commodities
  • As this trend continues, competitors have to increasingly compete on price, features, or advertising budgets
  • The result is a highly fragmented market with much lower profit margins for competitors in the space

Inflation In A B2B Environment Is Bad For Sellers and Buyers

Everyone loses in this situation.

The downsides for the sellers are pretty obvious. It’s a “red ocean” scenario in which each new entrant causes existing competitors to spend even more resources on winning that next dollar of revenue. Some businesses may even find it impossible to generate profits if their marketing costs are too high.

But buyers miss out too. Yes, they may be paying less, but because the companies they do businesses with have less revenue to pay for R&D and support, they might not find a great solution from anyone in the space. Not only that but trying to find the ideal solution when there are dozens of similar companies can require a bit time investment.

For some real-life examples, just look at how crowded the video conferencing, marketing automation, and live chat categories are right now:

Inflation in the video conferencing space
As the video conferencing space has grown, it’s not an easy place for competing brands to stand out. Source: G2 Crowd.

How B2B Brands Can Exit Situations That Cause Brand Inflation

Fortunately, there are ways of avoiding this trap. And two of the most effective methods involve your company’s brand. There are two solutions that I’ll outline here: one is called the “polish” approach, and the other “reframing”.

Solution #1: Create An Amazing First Impression By Polishing Your Visual Identity

You may have the lowest price or the best features, but unless your brand creates a strong first impression that convinces buyers to give you a closer look, you’re not going to get very far.

This is where polishing your visual identity comes into play. By turning your “decent” logo, website, and marketing collateral into something truly outstanding, you can create the perception that you’re the leader in the space. Or at least that you’re worth talking to. If your brand were a currency, this would be akin to exchanging your $5 bill for a $500 one.

This approach is not without its challenges, though. First of all, it’s hard to measure. You’ll have to be OK with knowing that any improvement in visual identity may be subjective.

Secondly, it’s not cheap. Depending on how extensive your website is and how much marketing collateral you’ll need to update, the exercise could easily cost $100,000 (or even many multiples of that).

Finally, visual identity alone may not be a lasting advantage; your competitors can just as easily hire a top design agency and erode much of what you’ve gained.

I’m not saying these drawbacks mean you shouldn’t invest in a better visual identity; it might be perfectly necessary to keep you from getting overlooked. Just know that another measure might be needed, too.

Solution #2: Carve Out Your Own Market By Reframing The Your Position

The other option for avoiding inflation in a B2B environment is positioning your company differently from your competitors. You’ll describe your company in such a way that you place your brand in an entirely separately category. If your brand were a currency, this would be like exchanging your Bolivars for US dollars.

Let’s look at video conferencing as an example. Instead of trying to compete in the general market, companies competing in this space might be better off by being more creative in the way they describe themselves.

For example, one company might tout its focus on security and recording functionality, positioning itself as “the ideal solution for documenting legal, HR, finance conversations.”

Another might focus on the target market of businesses whose employees have to make video calls without Wi-Fi, and they could position themselves as “the leader for cellular-based video chat.”

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Instead of companies trying to come up with the “best” or the “cheapest” video conferencing software in the board sense, they could stand out much more easily by reframing the way they are positioned.

The beauty about reframing your position is that this maneuver is more difficult for competitors to emulate. Why would they? If you’ve already claimed ownership of a particular niche, then they’d be better off trying to address a different part of the market instead.

Here’s the hard part about this marketing strategy, though: it takes real discipline. It’s easier said than done, especially since a clear position might mean “no” to certain opportunities. But if done right, reframing your position can build a defensible market for your business.

The Good News: You Don’t Have To Pick

Currencies and B2B brands are subject to the same reality: as the number of substitutes grows, the value of each individual entity decreases.

Fortunately, B2B companies have multiple options for avoiding a market with lots of “inflation”. Even with branding, there are two strong options: a strong visual identity that creates a meaningful first impression, and a redefined market position that helps you own a particular market niche.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose just one approach or the other. By creating (and ultimately owning) a new category, and by cementing that new position with an amazing visual identity, you’ll create a strong defense against any potential competitors.


An abbreviated version of this article also appeared in Inc.

Why Internal Evangelism Is More Important Than Ever

Ask a marketer, what comes to mind when you think of branding? I bet you’ll think of phrases like “logo design,” “website building” and “advertising campaigns.” Indeed, marketers typically invest most of their time in the outward-facing elements of their brand.

However, there is another, often overlooked aspect of branding that marketers don’t think about enough. It’s called internal evangelism, and without it, your company is more likely to underperform.

Read moreWhy Internal Evangelism Is More Important Than Ever

Does a Great Brand Name Even Matter?

What does every (good) marketer do to develop a new brand? They spend time (and lots of it) trying to come up with a brilliant and unforgettable brand name. But despite all that hard work, great brands often die. Meanwhile, some brands that eschewed the traditional naming process manage to last decades. Is that fair? Not really.

But it raises an important question: Why are some brands so successful even though they didn’t go through a rigorous naming process?

Read moreDoes a Great Brand Name Even Matter?

How to Sharpen Your Marketing Message by Creating Personas

We see and hear as many as 5,000 marketing and advertisement messages a day. From what we read in magazines to what we hear on the radio, we are bombarded with advertisements. But how many of those do you think we pay attention to? Probably very few. We’re so overwhelmed with marketing messages we tune most of them out.

How Personas Get Your Message Heard

Unfortunately, the large majority of your marketing messages get tuned out too.

To cut through this message clutter and reach your prospective customers, you need to create marketing personas. “Personas” may sound odd if you’ve never heard about them, but they’re easy and fun to create.

A persona is a thorough and detailed description of your ideal buyer or customer. Personas tell the story of your customers’ behaviors, needs, and concerns. They help you understand your prospects better so you can speak to them clearly and directly in your advertising messages.

While creating personas might seem like an unnecessary step, the work is invaluable. Without them, your marketing messages will be less effective at cutting through the clutter, and less effective means fewer new members at a higher cost to acquire them.

So now that you know why you need personas, you’re probably starting to wonder how to create them. Well, just read on.

Steps For Creating Personas

Do Research

Your goal is to thoroughly understand your prospective customers. To do this, you need to do some research. You can conduct interviews with your customers, send surveys to your community, or talk to people in your network.

Go into the research process methodically and with an open mind. It’s easy to think you know your people, but you’ll be a bit surprised with what else you can learn. You should also start with a set of basic questions or a template for what you want to find out. But be sure to ask open-ended questions to generate conversations.

Here are some common things you’ll want to find out:

  • Personal details like age, gender, goals, motivation, challenges, education, spouses/children
  • Professional or career background, skills needed for their work, approximate household income (if willing to share)
  • Where and how they like to find information (ex: social media, books, magazines, the news, etc.)
  • Where and how they like to shop, and where they buy nutrition items and supplements
  • Things specific to your business (ex: what programs they like, how far would they drive to get to you, ideal hours of operation, etc.)
  • Why (and how) they were attracted to your business.

Identify the Traits of Your Ideal Customer

Now you’ll need to take the information you collected and start to make sense of it. You’ll want to look for patterns and common characteristics to tell the story, or stories, of your prospects and members.

For instance, do you have a customer base that’s mostly female and professionally-minded? Or is your community young men who are family-focused? Try to find the commonalities in the stories you’ve collected. It’s normal to have a couple of different stories emerge, and you can have as many personas as you need to account for the generalities in your community.

Document Your Persona(s)

Here’s where you can be creative. There’s no right way to document your personas. You can use poster board, PowerPoint, a whiteboard, or any other medium that captures the nuances of your personas. Some people like to name their personas so they are easy to remember, and assigning an image to your persona is also helpful. You will want to keep and use your personas for the foreseeable future, so be sure they will be savable.

After you’ve created your personas, share them with your team. Ask for their feedback on what you’ve created. Your team will have ideas to help you refine your personas. 

Using Your Personas to Reach Prospects

Now it’s time to be heard above all the marketing noise, or cut through it with a well-sharpened knife, if you will. You can use your personas to create targeted advertisements and marketing messages, using words and ideas that will resonate with your ideal prospect. For instance, let’s use the examples we gave above.

An advertisement for working professional females building their career will differ significantly from an advertisement for ex-corporate, entrepreneurial males.  Not only will the words you’d want to use be different, but the colors, images, and the main point of your message will be as well. Your personas will also give you insight for promotions and seasonal attendance drivers, as well as clarity on where to post your advertisements. 

Another thing that makes personas helpful is the ability to address a person’s reasons for wanting your product, or conversely, not wanting your product. If you speak to these issues in your marketing messages, they will be compelling and powerful.

Personas Are a Powerful (And Necessary) Tool

Personas must be a part of your marketing strategy, and they’re essential for building a strong brand. They will make your marketing messages targeted, specific, and effective for your intended audience. Although they take a little time to create, they are invaluable and will help you grow your business.


The post was originally published on Causely, where I was co-founder and CMO.

Your Growth Will Fall Short Without A Brand Promise. Here’s Why.

“Come on,” my dad quipped, pretending not to notice the look of sheer horror pasted on my face. “It’ll be fun. I promise.

I was just a 9-year old kid, getting ready to ride a roller coaster called the Loch Ness Monster: 3,240 feet of bright yellow steel tubing wrapped around itself like a two contortionists playing a game of Twister in the middle of tornado. I nearly crapped my pants when I saw it.

Read moreYour Growth Will Fall Short Without A Brand Promise. Here’s Why.

Learn These 5 Tips For Building A Strong Brand

Most businesses wonder what it takes to build a brand that reaches to the ends of the earth (think Coca-Cola, Apple, Kleenex). Everyone knows these brands, and if you don’t, you probably need to get out more. But what makes them so successful?

Good branding is not just about a name or a logo. Branding is far more psychological — it’s what people think of when they hear your name, see your logo, or use your product. Do you ever call it a “tissue?” No, you call it a Kleenex. Boom. Brand brainwash.

So how do you get there?

Well, we’ve mapped out five tips we think are essential for building a strong brand. We can’t promise that your brand will spread to China, but we can promise that spending a little brain power on each tip will help you solidify your brand and grow your business.

Let’s get started.

1.  Know Yourself

Cat Stevens said it best, “If you want to be me, be me. And If you want to be you, be you.

It sounds simple, but this might be the hardest part of building a brand. Nearly every business struggles with pinpointing its personality and vision. Often, in hopes of nailing down a specific niche, businesses take on more than one personality. This is called “mission creep” and it can be detrimental in the long run. Instead, focus on what your business offers.

If you’re a yoga studio, don’t try to be a CrossFit. If you’re a chiropractor, don’t try to be a dentist (obviously). Losing focus can result in losing customers. After you establish your purpose, your brand will have legs to stand on.

To begin this process, try brainstorming words that represent your company’s product or values. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you might start with words like health, entertainment, enjoyment. These words will help guide the language you use to communicate your vision and develop a mission statement.

2. Know Your People

You can’t build a brand without knowing whom you’re building it for — your customers. And to reach your customers effectively, you must cater to their communication preferences. What does that mean? Find out what they like, how they talk, when they’re listening, and where they hang out online. Make sure you offer something that your customers actually want (not what you think they want).

Your priority is to make a connection that hooks your customer’s brain and heart. If you can do that, you’ll have customers for life, AKA “brand loyalty” (think Harley Davidson and men with bushy beards, leather jackets, and plenty of tattoos).

To really know your customers, you’ll need to create customer personas. Don’t know what that means? Here’s a quick walk-through to get you started.

3. Be Honest

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
— Albert Einstein.

Being honest reinforces who you are and how you do business. Be completely honest about everything — your successes, your failures, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Evaluating your weaknesses can be tough and requires a great deal of humility and courage. But demonstrating honesty shows that you’re business is run by real people. When your customers feel like they know the people running the business, they’re more likely to develop trust.

As much as being honest will help build your brand, it will also build your customer base. People are attracted to honest brands because they are more trustworthy. If your members trust you, they will be more likely to recommend you to friends (hello, word-of-mouth referral).

4. Be Passionate

You love your business — it’s your passion. And your passion can be contagious if you let it be. As much as people cling to honest brands, they also cling to passionate ones. The passion starts with you and your employees. Together, you are the face of your organization and its biggest advocates. Communicate your passion in the way you relate to your customers. Before long, they’ll share your enthusiasm.

Here’s an example. When you think of Apple, what do you think of? For many people, Steve Jobs immediately comes to mind. After all, he developed some of the most loyal brand followers on Earth. It’s real. You could feel his passion every time he spoke about Apple. Your passion has the power to inspire your customers to tattoo your logo on their chests.

Just kidding, but you get the idea. Passion attracts people. When others see your passion, they will likely  be more receptive to what you’re communicating.

5. Be Consistent

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of a good brand is consistency. Coca-Cola didn’t get into 200 countries by changing its mission statement or logo for each country. Once you know your brand, stick with it! If you’ve grown so much and need to reevaluate, you can. Just don’t do it every week.

Oh, and remember how we talked about honesty? Well, consistency and honesty are kind of the same thing. Really, really important. Without a consistent brand, your customers will get confused, lose interest, and gravitate toward other brands that provide the trust they are seeking.

Consistency in logos can be especially tricky because your logo is the easiest piece of information for people to remember about your brand. Make sure your customers support your re-brand if you choose to go down that route. Avoid re-branding pitfalls by taking a look at these logo redesigns gone bad. 


The post was originally published on Causely, where I was co-founder and CMO.

How to Build a Social Media Content Plan with Trello

Here’s a dead-simple way to build a social media content plan with Trello.

Without a Plan, Your Social Media Will Be A Mess

Managing your company’s social media presence can be a mess if you’re not intentional about it. It’s like that guy who’s sat on the couch all year and decides that on January 1, he’s going to go to the gym “like all the time.” Week one, he’s there every day. Week two… well, you know what happens. Without a solid plan that you can stick to, your social media content won’t be consistent or effective.

That’s why I’m going to show you how to build a social media content plan with Trello in 30 minutes or less.

For the sake of simplicity, this post will focus just on marketing content for Facebook. However, the methodology can be used for any content calendar, and even for multiple social networks if you’re creative. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Ask What You Want To Accomplish

Why do you even have a social media presence in the first place? Do you want to keep customers talking about your brand? Announce new products? Set the tone for your brand’s voice? Make a list of key objectives. Keep it short, not more than three or four. Just like the guy planning to hit Gold’s Gym every day, not knowing why you’re doing something is a sure path to quitting. Here’s an example:

  • Keep customers informed of new product features
  • Foster engagement by highlighting outstanding customers
  • Reinforce our values through human-interest and humorous content
  • Improve company image vignettes of employees

2. Identify The Type Of Content That Will Best Serve Each Of Those Objectives

For example:

  • Keep customers informed… via events announcements and company news (Update)
  • Foster engagement… by highlighting outstanding customers (Community)
  • Reinforce our values… through human-interest and humorous content (Voice)
  • Improve company image… by featuring profiles of employees (Personality)

3. Prioritize Your Categories

Don’t just say, “they’re all important!”; prioritizing will help you decide how much content is devoted to each. Try this: give yourself 10 “points” to hand out. Give more points to the most important objectives, and fewer to secondary ones. So much math!!

  • Update: 3
  • Community: 3
  • Voice: 2
  • Image: 2

4. Calculate Your Output Capacity

How many posts per month can you consistently commit to? Don’t bite off more than you can chew and burn out after a month. At our company, we are planning to ramp up our volume to about 20 posts a month. That’s on the aggressive side, but we generate a lot of growth through Facebook and our followers have been very engaged with our content. Having videos with lots of gratuitous explosions always helps.

5. Do Some Math

With you ideal volume in hand, it’s time to match that against the priorities you outlined earlier. Apply the formula below to

Number of posts/month = (points assigned to category / total points) x total posts/month

For our first category, Updates, the formula would look like this:

(3 points / 10 total points) x 20 posts/month = 6 Update posts per month

Easy! You didn’t even need a calculator. Right? Right????…..  Don’t worry I won’t tell your 4th grade math teacher. Just repeat for the remaining categories and you’ll have a baseline plan for how many posts of each type to publish each month. Here’s what you’d end up with for all four categories:

  • Update – 6 posts/month
  • Community – 6 posts/month
  • Voice – 4 posts/month
  • Personality – 4 posts/month

6. Time To Build Your Social Media Content Plan With Trello

We use a 4-step workflow to manage content throughout the month. Every piece of content starts out in a Planned list, and moves through the following steps:

  1. Planned
  2. Being worked on
  3. Pending approval
  4. Scheduled

You may need fewer or more depending on the structure of your team. We have multiple content contributors, but only a couple people assigned to approve content, so this process helps us hand off content to the right people.

Now… create a Trello card in the Planned for each post you outlined above. The result will look something like this. Look at all those beautiful posts just waiting to be written. So many Likes and Shares lie ahead:

Building a social media content plan with Trello is easy.

7. Assign Owners

Whether you have one person or a team of ten managing content, make sure that every single card on your social media content plan with Trello has an owner. This is the person who will make sure that a piece of content is drafted, edited, and published on time, and by the right people. Give your team the gift of clear ownership and it will greatly streamline your process. Don’t assign owners and watch you best intentions disintegrate into pure and unrelenting madness. Your Facebook fans deserve better, don’t they?

8. Set Due Dates

Since you’re building your social media content plan with Trello, it’s time to figure out what to post when. Trello gives you a great calendar view, which makes it super-simple to get a bird’s eye view of the month. We use also labels to designate content categories, making it  easy to see what type of content will go out when. Here’s a possible result that will satisfy any obsessive compulsive disorder sufferer, with it’s neatly-spaced scheduling.

Your social media content plan with Trello never looked so neat.

9. Get Writing

Now that you’ve built your social media content plan with Trello, you have all your work cut out for you for the month. No more planning, go write!

At the end of the month, sit down with your content team and examine the results. Which types of social media content performed the best? Were there days of the week when you saw better results? Was your team able to handle the load?

You’ll want to make some tweaks to make next month even more effective. Now you’ve established a baseline, though, your process will be much more effective and well-informed.


This post was originally published on Flag and Frontier, my marketing consulting business for B2B technology companies.