How to Balance Marketing Automation and Personalization

For any strategy to be effective, it’s important to find a balance.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Brands have embraced automation to help them carry out a spectrum of everyday tasks. According to a recent survey published by Social Media Today, 75 percent of marketing teams use some form of an automation tool. However, with growing popularity, there are growing concerns. The same survey reports that 61 percent of marketers are concerned about the lack of personalization due to automation. Likewise, a global study by PWC found that as technology advances, most consumers want brands to use technology as a tool for increasing personalized support. Put simply, customers want more human interaction, not less.

That’s why it’s vital that today’s businesses find the right balance between automation and personalization. Companies that go overboard on automation can come across as detached and generic. On the other hand, those that get too personal with customers can come off as intrusive and creepy. Brands need to get it right to maintain a trusting relationship with their customers. 

Here are ways marketers can successfully balance automation and personalization.

Related: 5 Ways Marketing Automation Helps Startups Succeed

Offer Timely, Valuable Content

Email campaigns are an effective, low-cost way to leverage automation and personalization, but marketers need to be careful not to clog consumer inboxes. Instead, they should focus on offering relevant and valuable content that doesn’t involve using intrusive data.

Most consumers are familiar with receiving personalized content based on an action, such as an online purchase, that features a related product or service. Using transactional data to send automated, personalized emails can be less intrusive since it’s a natural, and at this point expected, component of the relationship.

Marketers can also use geographical data, such as a customer’s zip code or address, to deliver personalized content, like creating a segmented list of customers and offering them discounts to nearby events. Although consumers dislike when brands bombard them with irrelevant, generic messaging, they also don’t like overly personal messages that infringe on their privacy.  

Respect Consumer Privacy

Research shows that 81 percent of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them, but not at the expense of their privacy. There is a fine line between highly relevant content and tactics that take marketing personalization too far. 

For example, sending mass emails to consumers with the same promotions or offers isn’t an effective strategy. Consumer interests vary significantly. Marketers should pay attention to their target audience and consider whether the interaction will make them feel special or unsettled. Customer data can be used effectively, but content that’s too personalized can disturb customers, thus putting them off the brand. 

Enhance the Customer Experience

It’s crucial that marketers use technology to improve the consumer experience, rather than eliminate the human touch. For instance, British grocery chain Sainsbury’s delivered an exceptional customer experience with its “This Time It’s Ultra Personalized!” campaign. The store used smartphone location data to provide personalized offers to customers through their mobile devices as they walked around the store. Not only did the campaign promote in-store offers, but it helped the company gain insights about how people navigated the aisles. As a result, Sainsbury’s was able to make better merchandising decisions and improve its in-store customer experience. Marketers must remember that relationships are crucial in business and that automation tools provide additional support.

Related: How AI Is Driving Marketing Automation

Combine Automation and Human Touch

There are many ways marketers can mix automation and personalization, such as inserting tags to add customers’s names in emails to make them feel like the message addresses them individually. Going a step further, marketers can encourage team members to interact with potential customers by making calls, sending emails or requesting a connection on social media.      

For example, if a visitor downloads content from the brand’s website, it’s a good idea to have someone on the team reach out personally, immediately. According to an oft-cited Lead Response Management Study, waiting more than 10 minutes to follow up decreased the odds of securing a lead by as much as 400 percent.

If automation and personalization are going to be effective, it’s important to find a way to balance the two. Overdoing automation can make brand messages seem robotic and irrelevant. Likewise, getting too personal can overwhelm consumers. A successful relationship between consumers and brands ultimately relies on the right blend.

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Was This the Worst Sales Promotion in the History of Sales Promotions?

Hoover made a whopping mistake back in the ’90s. Would you do the same now?

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Want a great idea to increase your sales? Go no further than the promotional idea dreamed up by Hoover in the late 1990s. Then do the exact opposite.

You know Hoover right? British people, even today, certainly do. In fact, they don’t “vacuum” their rugs. They still “hoover” them. That’s how successful the company became in the 20th century. But by the early ’90s, beset by competition and recession, the iconic brand was in the midst of a sales decline. What to do? Marketing executives there came up with an idea. It was a brilliant sales promotion. Ready?

Why not give away two free plane tickets with every purchase of a Hoover vacuum? Bam! Love it! And so did the company’s customers.

Related: Biggest Social Media Fails in Business

The Hustle’s Zachary Crockett tells it all.  The heavily promoted campaign was launched in 1992 and offered two free roundtrip plane tickets anywhere in Europe for customers who spent more than £100 (~$250 USD today according to Crockett) on a Hoover product.  A simple idea with big results. The company saw its sales skyrocket, projections increase and its value grow. The plane ticket idea was clearly a home run.

But then its executives got a little too greedy. They decided to up the ante and offer not only tickets to Europe but two tickets to the U.S.

Two tickets to the U.S. for buying a £119 vacuum cleaner? Now, that was a deal too attractive to pass up. And, despite an ingeniously designed process that marketers thought was complicated enough to keep the number of ticket-seekers at a minimum, the idea just proved too popular. Lots of people bought lots of Hoovers. Too many. According to Crockett, sales outpaced projections by ten times and the campaign generated a whopping £70 million in losses. Yikes.

Related: Microsoft Lost $400 Billion Because Of Bill Gates’s One Great Mistake

To make matters worse, the company attempted to backtrack out of the promotion. That produced a public relations nightmare, so much so that “pressure groups” of as many as 4,000 angry customers were created to hold the company accountable for what they promised. “We don’t want blood,” one angry buyer said. “We want tickets.” The company’s once-trusted brand was ruined and its market share fell by almost 90 percent. In 1995 — less than three years after the launch of its ill-fated campaign — it was sold off at an enormous loss.

So what happened? Everyone points to a simple reason: bad math and yes, the math was awful. Just one £119 vacuum cleaner (the minimum purchase allowed by the promotion) earned Hoover a profit of £30. But the free flights cost at least £600. What were they thinking?

As devastating as this loss was to Hoover, it’s not an unfamiliar story to many small business owners like myself. Our eagerness to drive more sales sometimes clouds our better judgment. It’s why we need other people around us: accountants, attorneys, insurance advisors and even outside consultants to temper the enthusiasm of our sales and marketing people and to weigh in and help us consider all the risks. It’s also why we never bet the farm on just one marketing idea. It’s why we do test marketing and evaluate the results not on sales, but on profits generated.

Related: The 10 Biggest Mistakes in Sales

We’ve learned that marketing is best when driven by data, not emotions.

Let’s admit it: we’re all like Hoover. Yes, their sales promotion was the worst sales promotion in the history of sales promotions. But we understand their excitement about a potential home-run marketing idea. We love it when people come up with innovative ways to expand their businesses. We live for more sales! Yet we’ve also experienced failure. Hopefully, not as spectacularly as Hoover.  But enough to have learned the right way to handle a marketing campaign.

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Get Your Business Seen on Google Search Results with This $13 Course

Learn how to rank in all 10 Google search results in less than an hour.

2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s true for many things, but especially the internet. Regardless of how advanced algorithms have become, there’s still one main way to see and be seen: Google search results. If your business doesn’t rank high on the Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERP), then you’re practically invisible.

Fortunately, even if your website is currently unseen, there are ways to boost it to the top of the search pages. One simple way is with this 47-minute Advanced SEO: Rank in All 10 Google Search Results course.

Taught by Alex Genadinik, business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and SEO coach, as well as best-selling Amazon author, this course will show you how to drown out competitors and rank in all 10 Google search results.

You’ll start with a free 15-minute Google Hangout coaching call for you to ask any questions you may have. Then, in less than an hour, you’ll uncover ways to dominate your search keywords. The content will cover how to gauge your competitors, how to use authoritative sites to rank in Google where your website can’t, and how to use webmaster tools to check search performance as well as crawling and indexing status. By the end of the course, you’ll have all ten, or at least a few of the top ten search results of Google search be about your business.

This course usually goes for $200, but you can save 93 percent and sign up for just $12.99 right now.

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Here’s Why This Bedding Company Expanded Into the Hyper-Competitive World of Online Mattresses (Podcast)

Boll & Branch’s married co-founders, Scott and Missy Tannen, didn’t pay attention to the naysayers.

1 min read

Every day, it seems a new direct-to-consumer mattress brand pops up. In fact, the number of online mattress-in-a-box companies is currently upwards of 150 and climbing. Most offer low prices — following the cheap-to-produce blueprint made popular by O.G. market disruptor Casper — but Boll & Branch goes the other direction. Their mattress is more expensive than most, but the company isn’t so much trying to compete in the current space, as they are trying to re-disrupt it altogether.

Related: Here’s What Bob Saget Has Learned After Decades of Making People Laugh (Podcast)

On this episode of How Success Happens, we talk with Boll & Branch’s married co-founders Scott and Missy Tannen. We discuss how their brand thrives in an extremely competitive market, not only due to their obsession with quality, but also by placing a real emphasis on product transparency. As it turns out, customers really do care where their mattresses come from.

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The Cognitive Tactics That Will Help Your Website Convert

It’s time to go beyond traffic and understand your customer’s frame of mind.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Huge online conversion numbers drive great sales, and although it’s not a simple task, it’s possible with the right push. For your company’s website to achieve great ROI, you need more than just traffic; you need visitors who are ready to take action. One of the proven ways to effect that is by connecting with customer emotions. Noted Harvard Business School professor and author Gerald Zaltman, for one, has asserted that 95 percent of an average customer’s thought process before purchasing takes place in their subconscious mind. 

If that is indeed the case, then cognitive neuroscience could be the golden solution to your site’s conversion deficiency, enabling you to understand how to your target customers’s emotions, thoughts, memories and overall frame of mind when shopping online. Here, we’ll discuss four of the principles that govern the art and science of conversion optimization using cognitive neuroscience, and how each one can be best applied to your marketing strategy.

Tactic #1: Create cognitive ease.

Cognitive ease is the measure of how effectively our brain processes information. If potential customers find your website confusing, they’re more likely to switch to your competitors. But how do you know if your website’s fluency (both the design and content) is top-notch? Task someone who’s new to it with finding and buying a specific product of interest. If they hit a snag in the process, then something needs to be fixed ASAP.

Psychologically speaking, customers hate expending their mental energy while making a purchase; however, if your site subtly and precisely integrates cognitive fluency, customers will find it easier to make decisions, positively influencing your conversion rate. Some ways to do that include using simple, direct language; providing visual product descriptions where possible; and opting for an easy-to-read font.

Related: The 4 Cognitive Biases Entrepreneurs Should Avoid

Tactic 2#: Implement the Von Restorff Effect.

The Von Restorff Effect, also known as the isolation effect, proves that an item’s apparent distinctiveness amongst similar items increases the probability that it will be more readily recalled. To seize visitors’s attention using this principle, try strategically placing your Call-to-Action (CTA) or “Buy” buttons. In addition, use visual contrasts and cues that guide people to the proper CTA buttons, and make sure your CTAs stand out fom other actionable links.

Tactic 3#: Leverage the power of social similarity.

Humans are by nature social creatures, and majority affirmation is key in influencing the formation of our cognitive biases. You’re more likely to secure  customer compliance when you can illustrate that past users with similar profiles have generally taken comparable action. Ways to go about this including using social pressure in your copy to keep customers glued to your message, narrowing down your demographic scope and evidencing social proof with images at strategic points on your site.

Related: Why ‘Cognitive Computing’ Is the Next Big Thing for Business Growth

Tactic 4#: Employ the Anchoring Effect.

An anchoring effect occurs when people rely too heavily on an initial piece of information as the point of reference from which to form their own opinions. Psychologically, the human mind does not contemplate the value of something based on its isolated, intrinsic worth, but rather it makes decisions based on comparative values. That being the case, you can smartly influence your visitors’s frame of mind by making sure they encounter a striking initial stimulus anytime they visit your site. Strategically, this can be achieved when you subconsciously influence the prices customers consider to be acceptable, perhaps by displaying a higher price first. 

As a business owner, are you engaging with your customers on this level? If not, you’re missing out. If you want to see huge conversions, you need to keep your target consumers’s emotions in mind when designing and crafting copy for your company’s site.




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How to Increase the Conversion Rate on Your Ads

Make your advertising dollars count.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Eric Siu discusses five rules that can lead to more conversions on your social media advertisements. 

To start, Siu emphasizes the importance of a good headline on your ads. Once you publish the headline, you should already have used half your marketing budget. When people visit Facebook, one of the first pieces of advertising copy they see is the headline. 

Next, your customers need to see how your product can improve their lives. For instance, when you offer a cure for skin problems — you are not just offering a respite from troublesome blemishes, but also added confidence. 

Furthermore, Siu recommends offering unique features alongside solutions that solve customer problems. This solution, ideally, should come attached with a deal.

To hear all of Siu’s tips for improving your advertisement conversion rate, click the video. 

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Your Facebook Ads

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How Brands Connect Emotionally With Consumers

Rich Krause, CEO of Capital Brands, shares his thoughts on how to deliver the best products to consumers.

1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Rich Krause, CEO of Capital Brands LLC Parent Company of NutriBullet, discusses how consumer brands are able to adjust to the dynamic nature of modern marketing. He also breaks down strategies for creating sustainable growth and the importance of understanding your customer in order to serve them.

Krause and The Playbook host David Meltzer talk about establishing emotional connections with the people who use your products, why you should always seek the advice of mentors with experience and how today’s digital landscape has changed how products are marketed to the masses. The pair talk about the optimal approach to leading a company with a focus on growth and innovation, as well as how they determine when to pivot.

Related: The Best Entrepreneurs See Problems and Solve Them

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How to Form a Corporation

how to form a corporation

If you’ve decided to incorporate as a C corporation, S corporation, or B corporation entity, this article will outline all the steps you’ll need to take.

It’s common to feel a bit lost or overwhelmed at this stage, but with this guide, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to create your new business entity and get back to the work you love. We’ll review some new language and concepts in this process, but once you’re done, you may never need to think about this stuff again. 

A corporate business entity is like a whole and unique person that you get to create and control. 

It has its own tax life, laws, lifecycle, and care instructions. It absolutely is a responsibility, but the ability to incorporate is also the right of any U.S. citizen, so be sure to take advantage of it when it’s best for you. 

Think of the entity formation process like doing your personal taxes—you must submit everything correctly, but you don’t need to understand every detail of the laws and codes surrounding the process. Plus, there are tools that can help you get it right.

Here’s a checklist of the steps we’ll cover:

  1. Pick your home state (probably the state you’re in now) 
  2. Give your company a name
  3. Name your trusted inner circle of company leaders (or just yourself)
  4. Tell your state whom they can contact about legal matters
  5. Fill out some forms—your “articles of incorporation”—and pay between $100 and $800 to submit them
  6. Decide what the company should do and what it shouldn’t do
  7. Write that stuff down in a special book
  8. Hold your first board meeting
  9. Agree upon how much of this business each of your leaders owns, and write that down on slips of paper called “stock certificates”
  10. Follow the rules that your state lays out for you

Once that’s done, you’re free to get to work running and growing your new business!

Before we get started, you’ll want to prepare just a few things:

Let’s avoid getting caught off-guard during this process. Even if you’re chomping at the bit to get started, read through these initial ideas before diving in. 

Consider finding and working with a CPA and a lawyer. Having both will add cost, but they should also add significant peace of mind to your work throughout this process. Ideally, you will interview a few candidates and pick the partners you feel comfortable working with for a long time.

Also, creating a quick lean financial forecast will help ensure your business idea is viable and financially sound. An accountant with a mind for Strategic Advisory services can help with that, too. 

In addition to those two types of hired help, you can get free guidance and support from a local SBDC consultant. Having these experienced brains reviewing your business plan can help ensure you don’t waste time and money on what is really a cool hobby or rewarding social venture masquerading as a great business idea.

1. Decide on your business location

This fact may surprise you: Different states have very different rules for their corporations. As long as you follow their unique rules, it’s your right to create your new business in any U.S. state that you want. 

To keep it simple, I’ll recommend that you incorporate in the state that you are physically located in, and that you’ll do most of your business in. 

This option takes greatest advantage of your knowledge of your state and its laws, the helpful local people you know, and the ability to physically visit government offices if needed. Whatever you decide, take a moment to review the reasons the following states are popular choices for incorporation: 

Delaware is a very popular state to incorporate in, and boasts the highest number of incorporated entities in America. It appears extremely friendly to businesses, it has easily-understood legal processes, has well-developed corporate statuses, and some call it a “tax haven” because it doesn’t collect taxes from out-of-state businesses. 

Because of its popularity, Delaware is also statistically a popular state for investors to finance businesses. This sounds great, but doing business in another state means additional paperwork. You’ll need to pay “foreign qualification” fees when you register, name a “registered agent,” pay “franchise taxes,” and make required annual reports to Delaware. 

Nevada is also very popular because it boasts zero state corporate income tax, franchise tax, and personal income tax. While those sound like strict benefits, the reality is that many businesses still pay their local taxes and thus save nothing, and might even pay more, in total. Increased privacy is often promoted as a benefit, but you may be disappointed—feel free to test that idea by searching for corporate directors on Nevada’s website.

After those two, out-of-state popularity declines, though some other states are worth noting. Utah is often cited as having excellent online applications and forms. Wyoming offers no state income taxes and good asset protection. California can be appealing to California-based investors (particularly fast-growth tech companies) despite high income and corporate taxes, and franchise fees for all businesses regardless of size.

If those last three paragraphs muddied the waters, I’ll reassure you that most businesses that exist and do business in their own state should also incorporate there. You’ll avoid the potential extra headaches, paperwork, registration, fees, and legal compliance. Historically, the advantages that Delaware and Nevada offer tend to only benefit the very largest companies, or those with investors or buyers who specifically prefer those states for legal reasons. 
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2. Give your business a name

When you’re naming your business, your goal is to pick one that:

  •  Describes your business
  • Will be remembered by your customers
  • Will not be rejected by your state
  • Will not cause legal issues later on

For some, the dream of starting a business starts with the name they’ll hang on their shingle. Others might care less whether their bar is “Joe’s Pub” or “Joe’s Tavern,” as long as they’re doing what they love.

While you invent your business name, consider the following quick tips:

  • Be descriptive: Yes, some popular companies have names like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but most companies should indicate what the customers can expect from you. 
  • Be flexible: Think about your future. Don’t let an overly-specific name restrict your product offerings later. 
  • Be online: Consider your online domain name, especially if being found online is a key part of your business model.
  • Be yourself: Even if you are legally allowed to use a name, be sure you can’t be confused with others. Also avoid misleading terms like “bank” or “insurance,” which some states outright prohibit if not applicable to your type of business. 

Your business name must not be currently used by another corporation, particularly in your industry. An easy first step is to find the online search tool that your state provides online, sometimes called “Business Name Availability Check” or “Business Registry Database.” Search for it on your state’s Corporate Filing Office or Secretary of State webpage.

If you are working with a lawyer, you should get their feedback on the name you choose. If not, you can send a name availability inquiry letter to your state’s Secretary of State office yourself. Once you are confident that your name is unique and acceptable, you’re ready to file it as part of the incorporation papers.  

3. Appoint your board of directors

It sure sounds official, but your board of directors is just a group of people who are legally required to act in your company’s best interest. Oh, and one of those people can be you! Check with your state on the minimum number of board members, but assume you might want three people serving in this capacity. 

Most states also require individual board members to hold positions of president, secretary, and treasurer. It is certainly typical to include initial investors and mentors on the board of a new company, so pick your friends wisely, and consider their long-term commitment to your company’s success. 

The owner of the business is usually also a member of the board. For board members who don’t serve in other roles, the only requirement is attending board meetings in their assigned capacity. 

Note that if you are working with a lawyer or online incorporation service, you might name an “incorporator,” who is responsible for managing the articles of incorporation. This is typically a temporary role and ends once the incorporation process is complete. 

4. Name your registered agent

Your choice here is to either hire an agent or be your own. A registered agent is a person who is assigned to accept official mail and service of process in case of a lawsuit. This role must have a physical address in the state of incorporation, and also be available during business hours. In short, if someone is suing your business, this role ensures you can be found and contacted properly. 

If you’re working with a lawyer, they should have firm advice. If your business has a storefront that is open during normal hours, it is totally fine for you or your business itself to be your own registered agent. Anyone serving you can simply walk in your front door. 

Some businesses might prefer to outsource this role. If that seems appealing, the good news is that a registered agent can be hired inexpensively ($300 or less) and cover all your needs. This is particularly appealing for businesses with no physical address or irregular hours. 

5. Complete and file your articles of incorporation

Finally, you can actually create your corporation! Your decision here is whether to file yourself or hire a service. Either choice is good, and the online services are reliable and inexpensive. If you’re working with a lawyer, they might offer to file for you. 

With everything you’ve prepared so far, you shouldn’t worry much about this step—the documents are easy to complete and usually only a couple pages. 

The articles of incorporation are the official documents that you will file to legally establish your new corporation, including the name you’ve chosen, your registered agent, and your board of directors. If you’d like to file yourself, you’ll find the documents you need on your state’s Secretary of State website, and possibly at the physical location of the filing agency office. The cost of filing ranges between $100 up to $800 or so, depending on your state and type of entity. 

So, why use a service? 

Simply put, some people prefer the peace of mind, and others might find their state-issued forms a bit daunting. You’ll still need to gather all the same information either way, but if you prefer the extra guidance, you’re not alone. 

Extremely popular services like LegalZoom and Incorporate provide a step-by-step process and guarantee your forms are filed quickly, correctly, and completely. The cost of their services range from $80 to $400 (in addition to your state’s filing fees), which many find affordable. LegalZoom also provides many related services and products that might help guide your new business in the right direction. 

I’d recommend you find the correct forms yourself, and take a look at the process. If it seems simple enough, go ahead and file. If you feel there are a couple hundred dollars of value to getting help, go for it, and know that thousands of people make the same choice every month. 

6. Create your corporation’s bylaws

This is an easier step than it might seem. In fact, I recommend you keep your new corporation’s bylaws as simple as legally possible. It takes more effort to edit bylaws than day-to-day company policy or employment contracts, so this is a great time to write the minimum amount to comply with your state’s requirements. This is so common that many states (or your incorporation service) will even provide you a “fill in the blank” style template. In that case, use it!

The purpose of the bylaws is to outline the basic procedures and operations of your business. This will include many data points we’ve already covered, including the company’s name and location, the responsibilities and members of the board of directors. The bylaws will outline the rules to edit bylaws in the future. Finally, they will outline the next two steps we’ll discuss below: board meetings and distribution of shares. 

Again, resist any temptation to over-complicate or embellish your bylaws. Stick to the basic requirements and save your unique flourishes for your mission statement and marketing materials.

7. Create a corporate record book

If you used an incorporation service, they might have sent you a nice binder with your bylaws template, stock certificates, and maybe even a nifty corporate seal embosser (neat!). If so, this step is complete. 

If you’ve done these steps on your own, you’re going to need to find a retail location that will sell you a binder. I recommend the three-ring style with pockets. This binder is a legally required step and is the home for all your board meeting minutes, so make sure you actually do it.  Oh, and keep this binder in a nice safe place! To be safe, it’s optimal to keep seven years’ worth of these paper records on file, because, in a worst-case scenario, they can be requested in a legal proceeding.  

8. Hold your first board meeting

Your first board meeting is a critical step, but I recommend that you focus on the minimum required steps to fully comply, and save deeper discussions for other venues.

Here’s a reasonable step-by-step guide:

  • Set a meeting time and location that 100 percent ensures all board members will attend
  • Complete the bylaws and send them in advance to all board members
  • Call the meeting to order and your board secretary records the minutes of the meeting
  • The minutes name all the board members and their roles
  • Present documents including the articles of incorporation, bylaws, stock shares, and anything else required by your state 
  • You move and vote to accept the bylaws which everyone has read in advance
  • You put all that stuff into that nifty binder from the previous step
  • The current board (known as the initial board) appoints the board of directors, their roles, and their salaries (which can be zero dollars)—in most cases, these are the same people and roles as they were initially 
  • If you’d like, you can name corporate officers like your CEO, CFO, etc.

Again, the most critical step is to record the minutes of this meeting and put them in that record book (binder) from step six. There are templates online for this meeting, and I’ll just reiterate that most companies are best off following those templates, keeping this meeting simple and streamlined, and discussing all other business matters in separate meetings.   

9. Issue stock

Put simply, you’ll issue stock to formalize which people have what amount of ownership stake in your new company. 

The cash from each share issued can help the company start, run, and grow operations. For example, if your company begins with four stakeholders who own equal amounts of the venture, you might issue 1,000 shares of stock to each person, resulting in a 25 percent ownership for each of the four people. In fact, nobody technically owns the company itself, but rather people own shares of the company’s stock. 

The other aspect of the stocks you issue is the dollar value of each share you issue, known as par value. In the above example, if 4,000 shares are issued at $2 par value, each stakeholder pays the company $2,000 for a total of $8,000 starting cash in the company’s account. The company can then use these funds to operate the business.  

A fun (and useful) fact is that the lowest value a new share can have is zero dollars. It may seem odd, but this can be the simplest option for a company that doesn’t need cash to start. Using this approach, you could issue 1,000 shares each to four stakeholders at a value of zero dollars (or “no par”), and no money will need to be exchanged. Whatever the initial value of the stock, it is always possible to sell it for more—whatever an investor is willing to pay—at a later date, so don’t feel locked-in to this early decision.  

This process may seem daunting. There are conceptions of ownership, money moving into new accounts, sometimes even fancy paper. Indeed if you are working with a lawyer, they should make this process feel comfortable for your company’s needs.  

This article will not delve into the more complex options and requirements for a corporation’s stock. You can read further about the details of preferred stock versus common stock Classes A and B

Most small businesses will be fine sticking to small numbers of common stock only. Some corporations also need to register with the SEC, so be sure to research whether that is required for your company. Most small businesses are exempt from the SEC requirement, particularly if you are issuing small numbers of shares (5,000 is typical) to only a few people. 

10. Go run your new business and keep following the rules!

At this point, you’re probably relieved that you can get back to the work you love! Some important items to keep on your radar include:

  • Comply with the state requirements and regulations. For example, companies selling alcohol, firearms, or fish all must maintain licenses to conduct business. Each state will have its own business licenses and requirements, so this is another great area to rely on your lawyer to help ensure you are complying with all regulatory requirements. 
  • If you want to become an S corporation instead of a C corp, you have 75 days to file a simple form with the IRS. Form 8825 is not complicated, so if you want to go this route, get this form filled quickly and mail or fax it to the IRS. 
  • Alternatively, if you’d like your business to be a benefit corporation or B corp, you’ll have a few more steps you’ll need to complete. An excellent guide to the remaining considerations and steps you’ll need to take is here.
  • Get back to work, and good luck!

Primary sources

U.S. Small Business Administration:


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Peter Thorsson

Peter Thorsson leads business development, sales, and strategic partnership work for Palo Alto Software, makers of LivePlan, where he creates relationships and programs that help entrepreneurs succeed. Peter has also started and sold a successful business with revenues over $1MM, directed Strategic Partnerships for Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, organized local Startup Weekend events, and judged business competitions for Rice, Princeton, Notre Dame, and others. Peter has taught contemporary business planning—from concept to execution—for many years in venues including Lane Community College, University of Oregon, Oregon SBDC, and Oregon SCORE. As a volunteer, Peter is the past president of the Board of Directors for Committed Partners for Youth in Lane County, formerly Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and Board Director for Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley. He has also mentored individual local youth and local small businesses.

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The Complicated Business Of Advertising And Marketing In Cannabis

With restrictive regulations, cannabis entrepreneurs have to be creative and strategic in successfully marketing a brand.

7 min read

Brought to you by Benzinga

New companies tend to cultivate similarly. Build a winning team and culture. Plan and establish your vision of success – but maintain flexibility. Structure an advisory board or shadow cabinet full of successful professionals, both inside and outside your industry. Stay lean and nimble, but hungry. Think like a customer. Find a problem, hire a solution.

Any start-up business can be riddled with challenges. Launching a start-up business in an undeveloped industry can be nearly impossible. The cannabis industry is one of those spaces. Applications that could assist in getting your company off the ground simply don’t exist. Anticipating solutions for problems that have yet to arise can be arduous at best.

Days are filled with grueling work and endless hours, makeshift solutions to new problems and thinking of ideas that put you yet another step ahead of the competition. Ultimately, advertising comes into play. Without proper marketing and advertising strategies, progress will stall. In the cannabis industry, advertising has become one of the bigger challenges facing businesses. Cannabis is a highly restricted and exceedingly regulated industry, and as a result, brands must align themselves with experts who can help to navigate marketing tactics with stealth precision.

You don’t know what you don’t know

It is paramount for businesses to understand the resources and components needed to survive in this complicated space. Many companies don’t have enough capital and don’t recognize why they need it or how to apply it, while others have huge infusion of capital and may not understand exactly where to allocate it. Couple this with the restrictions that have been put in place pertaining to how a company can express their brand via creative and messaging, and options become increasingly limited. How can a company operating in a very tenuous space reach their target consumer? Not having enough channels to share your brand messaging is frustrating enough, but not being able to reach much of your target audience can be devastating to a brand.

Related: 4 Leadership Lessons From A Female Extraction Expert

Navigating the cannabis advertising landscape

Sometimes it is hard to see the green through all the red tape. Cannabis remains federally illegal and advertising restrictions vary by state. Limited access to inventory, creative restrictions and distribution limitations are just a few of the challenges faced by brands looking to advertise.

Platforms like Twitter Inc TWTR 1.1%, Google and Facebook Inc FB 1.47% have banned all ads for the plant. In California, for example, radio, cable, print, and digital ads can only be shown where at least 71.6% of the audience is expected to be over the age of 21. Colorado maintains similar rules. However, in Delaware, no person may advertise medical cannabis sales in print, broadcast, or by paid in-person solicitation of customers.

As a result, many brands have taken to advertising on billboards. This is currently a preferred method, but there will soon come a time when consumers experience billboard fatigue and begin tuning out. Another big drawback to billboard advertising is the lack of ability to track customer conversions.

This begs to ask, how can brands cut through the noise of competitors and create meaningful campaigns to project to their target consumer?

Related: How to Start a Cannabis Business On a Budget

  1. Find your voice. What is your “why”? Make sure that you have a story to tell and that you are telling that story through the proper channels to reach the intended audience.
  2. Be creative. Find the appropriate channels for your brand. Publishers are becoming increasingly open to running cannabis ads both in print and online. Align yourself with an advertising and marketing company well-versed in the cannabis space, adept at utilizing data and technology solutions to help boost your brand recognition.
  3. Be selective. Use good, clean data to make sound decisions. Try creative solutions like geo-targeting and making use of data analytics to gain deep perspective on your marketing campaigns and their effectiveness.
  4. Be realistic. Create realistic expectations and allot adequate marketing budgets to achieve expectations around sales and other KPI’s. Understand that there is an entire journey and process that you must endure to get to the heart of your brand.
  5. Stay humble and remain focused. Stay resolute in promoting yourself and your brand. Don’t waste time, energy and money on “taking out competition”. Use your efforts and resources to elevate your brand and proliferate your story. There is tremendous opportunity in the cannabis space coupled with few true competitors. Focus on yourself.

Digital marketing is a must

Digital marketing includes all web-based or electronic communication stemming from the brand, reaching directly to the intended consumer. The creation of blog posts, contributed content to partner sites or web-based publishers, compelling videos and engaging infographics will all help to grow your brand while touching new audiences.

SEO (search engine optimization) is another critical tactic intended to position your company at the top of the search engine crawlers. By using keywords to rank your webpages, your brand will rise to the top on Google search platform and other search engines. Providing links to other reputable sites within your copy will help to further increase your authority.

Related: 3 Tips for Creating Unique Product Packaging That Turns People’s Heads

Cutting through the conference clutter

There are hundreds of cannabis conferences and events being hosted around the world. While it is important to actively participate in these events, it is equally critical to understand which will be best suited for your brand and goals.

It will never be enough to simply set up a 10×10 booth at a show and hand out business cards. As the industry has evolved, so must our marketing strategies. Creating a memorable experience for your target is invaluable. Place your brand in a premiere location, employ brand ambassadors, and generate meaningful engagement with those around you throughout the event. Follow-up is key as well. Reach out to those you engaged with during the event, give a subtle reminder as to where or how you met, and initiate a conversation for moving forward.

If your brand is looking to engage with consumers, consider staging an activation at events like the Emerald Cup or HempCon. For B2B engagement, there are countless reputable events that consistently draw the best and the brightest in the space. New West Summit, MJBizCon, and Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo are all good options when looking to generate business while digging deeper into specific verticals.

Pay keen attention to up-and-coming events, like Green Market Summit. The two-day conference will take an introspective look into the economics of cannabis brands. MJMicro is an invitational networking forum that joins publicly traded cannabis companies with next-level, high-net-worth investors.

Related: 3 Big Product Liability Risks Cannabis Companies Need to Know About

Continually position yourself and your brand amongst key leaders in the space, always keeping in line with your business model and goals.

Where are we now, and where are we going

There are many effective marketing channels for cannabis brands to explore in this moment in time. It remains equally important, however, to not only capitalize on those experiences but to keep looking ahead.

A year from now we will see a much higher level of understanding and much of the frustrations surrounding advertising and marketing in the industry should be alleviated. While we may not get to a free open place in terms of where we want to be with digital advertising, at least potential partners will be open to the discussion. We are witnessing increased appetite for data related to the cannabis industry from household brands like Dominos, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s. This is highly encouraging and should serve to move the industry forward.

Regardless of what marketing strategies you plan to adopt, make certain you are working with people who know what they are doing. It can be a very expensive lesson to learn, in terms of time and money lost, if you enter partnerships without a full understanding of the journey.


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7 Reasons People Hate Your Ads — and What to Do About It

Accepting these hard truths will help you create better, more effective ad campaigns.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Working in marketing can feel a bit like being an embarrassed teenager: You think everyone’s looking at you, but in truth, nobody cares. Marketers spend their entire lives crafting advertisements, while average consumers spend theirs trying to avoid them. There’s a clear disconnect regarding the whole enterprise’s assumed worth, but before you lament, it’s not all bad news. By accepting this reality, i.e. people hate ads, we can begin to make better, more effective campaigns. Here’s a list of reasons why people hate typical ad campaigns, in the hopes that it will help you cut through the noise and connect with potential customers in a more meaningful way.

1. Lack of trust

In general, people don’t believe what brands have to say. This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the advertising industry today. After all, trust is the cornerstone of any healthy, long-term relationship. To quote former Unilever CMO Keith Weed, “A brand without trust is just a product, and advertising without trust is just noise.” Consumers have always been mistrusting of advertising and brands — that’s their default position. But now, skepticism has given way to full-blown disbelief and a crisis of trust. Against this backdrop, brands can no longer buy attention as they used to in the old advertising model. They must earn it. This can be done by being honest, transparent and reliable, first as a company and then in their messaging.

2. Ad fatigue

One recent study concluded that the average American, for example, is exposed to anywhere between 4,000-10,000 ads per day. But volume isn’t the only problem, as ads are becoming ever more intrusive, inescapable and noisy due to advances in technology and data science. People are constantly bombarded with digital junk, triggering ad fatigue and banner blindness. Everywhere we go, we’re greeted by unwarranted ads — tags and cookies follow us from place to place — insisting we buy things we’ve already bought or have no intention of buying. A surplus of bad advertising is overpopulating people’s screens and feeds. It’s no coincidence that people are turning towards ad-blockers and premium, ad-free platforms. Blasting people with targeted advertising can lead to short-term results, but often at the expense of long-term brand building. A good rule of thumb is Les Binet and Peter Field’s 60:40 brand-building to sales-activation ratio.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Plan on Advertising This Holiday Season

3. Quality of the creative

Online advertising is also responsible for the decline of creative output. The 1960s-’80s represented the golden age of advertising. You only have to look at “Think Small” by DDB, “Just do it”, by Wieden+Kennedy or “Buy the World a Coke” by McCann Erickson to understand the true power of creative advertising. What these ads had in common was a big idea, and in today’s world, big ideas are far and few between. The Google-Facebook duopoly is forecasted to control 70 percent of the UK digital ad market by next year. Most, if not all, ads on these platforms prioritize reach over relevance, channel over creative and data over gut feeling. We could probably learn a thing or two from the golden age.

4. People power

At the same time, we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in the power relations between brands and people. In the past, consumers had no choice but to pay attention to what brands had to say across a handful of radio or television channels. Today, every single Instagram page or Twitter account is a media outlet in its own right. Social media has democratized share of voice; people are no longer passive consumers, but creators in their own right. Consumers are now dictating when, where and how they engage with brands, and they are beginning to use this newfound power to voice their concerns and boycott brands that don’t share their values and belief. With that in mind, marketers should place greater emphasis on creating brand advocates who amplify its message to friends, family, colleagues and even strangers.

Related: Should You Use Paid Ads to Promote Your Small Business?

5. Poor customer experience

Creating an epic ad campaign is pointless if you’re promoting a bad product or poor customer experience. Nowadays, the vast majority of consumers will read a review before making a purchasing decision. Having a seamless customer experience can be a powerful point of differentiation in a digital world where services constitute 69 percent of global GDP. T-Mobile illustrated this through its “Un-carrier” strategy, which ensures customers talk to real people, as opposed to insentient chatbots. As a reward, T-Mobile’s apology credits went down by 31 percent, lost customers went down by 25 percent and net promoter score went up by a whopping 56 percent. The definition of marketing has changed, and an ad is more than just a slick promotional video. It’s the sum of each and every consumer touchpoint. Therefore, creating a satisfying customer experience should be seen as a marketing investment and not a business cost to be minimized.

Related: The 6 Best Advertising Strategies for Small Businesses 

6. No value add

The majority of advertisements prioritize the needs of the business above that of the consumer. That’s understandable, to a certain extent, since marketers have to meet strict KPI quotas. The easiest way to achieve these targets is by spending the marketing budget on a call to action tied to the objectives in question, although that can also be short-sighted. Before activating any future campaigns, it’s worth putting yourself in the customer’s shoes by asking: What do I get from this? Too often, the answer is zilch. Marketers can add value in a variety of ways. First, by informing people of a need that can be met or a problem that can be solved by the brand. Second, by providing a source of entertainment. Don’t forget, ads can be fun or funny. Third, by taking action to ease the social and environmental issues facing people and the planet.

7. Woke-washing

The latest addition to the list is woke-washing: ad campaigns that promise to improve the world without taking any real action. Today, a growing number of companies are jumping at the chance to signal their social and environmental credentials. And for good reason, as purposeful brands have been reported to grow twice as fast as their competitors. The allure of economic gain is making purpose the new marketing tactic of choice through campaigns that are long on talk, but short on action. Woke-washing is already making consumers wary of brand purpose. Recent examples include SSGA’s Fearless Girl, Burger King’s “Blue Meal” and Boohoo’s recycled range. In a time when consumers can Google what your brand stands for in a matter of seconds, making false claims just doesn’t cut it anymore. It only serves to erode trust in marketing, when it’s already in short supply.

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