How Our Mission Impacted Our Rebranding Strategy

In the past two years, we’ve experienced a lot of change at Brandcave. Of course, that’s not an irregular thing for a startup. My mentor tells me to expect at least one big pivot in any venture. We’ve had a few; and I’ve learned to accept that fate will play a significant factor in the growth of a company — no matter how crafty the vision.

So, today, we are formerly acknowledging that Brandcave has become a UX design agency (What is UX?).

The Road to Rebrand

When our small team launched Brandcave in late 2014, we had initially intended on building an inbound marketing agency. For more than a year, that’s what we did. It turned out well and, despite some scalability problems, we became profitable quickly.

However, as our clients began to ask us to take on their UX projects, such as redesigning their software or creating chatbots and mobile apps, we began to hear things like “This is where you guys bring the most value to the table.”

As we began to design more software applications, we began to agree. We really are uniquely suited for UX. We have the right talent, size and energy to build really great applications. It reinvigorated our passion and the projects kept coming.

When we decided to concentrate on UX, however, it hit us. We had to change everything. Our mission was incongruent with our new offerings, our messaging was off and our branding did not communicate the direction we were heading as a company. In other words, we needed a rebranding strategy.

No rebranding strategy is born overnight. It’s a laborious effort that often amounts to countless unused color palettes, tossed sketches and internal arguments. It requires building something fresh without being silly or foolish. It’s more than adding a hat on a mascot. It requires creating some kind of connection to what you do.

Brands are Reflective of Their Mission

We didn’t decide to rebrand Brandcave because we wanted to “refresh” our color palette. Although there was certainly a temptation to do that, it came as a result of this change in our business model.

Because, as important as logos are, a brand is much more than a logo. A brand is an end-to-end experience powered by the company’s mission. A rebranding strategy, therefore, has to be centered around an organization’s mission statement.

Our business pivot (and subsequent rebrand) came with a new, laser-focused mission: we exist to make the web a friendlier place. And now that we have officially started our transition, that mission is most reflective of our offerings.

How does a brand communicate its mission? For us, it meant re-introducing Illo, our Shiner-drinking, jean-shorts-wearing Sasquatch.

Original ImageAfter

Modified ImageBefore

Illo was born at the launch of Brandcave, but he had always taken a backseat in our branding. At the time, perhaps, he didn’t fit our mission as well. And, although I love the Brandcave wordmark and it’s Coca-Cola-esque quality, Illo was always intended to take center stage.

When you see Illo, he is either saying hi, opening the door for you, busy helping someone in need or spending time with his friends. He represents the values of friendship and transparency. He lives in a grown-up universe made of childlike illustrations. It’s understandable by everyone.

He bridges the gap between us and our clients — which are sometimes very complex relationships. When we tell you we want to make the web a friendlier place, Illo is the face you should see.

A Rebranding Strategy for the Future

Brands are fluid creatures. You can’t contain them within a style guide and you can’t keep them from taking on the personality of the human faces behind them. There is no such thing as a timeless brand. They are only as useful as their relevancy to consumers. In an ever-changing environment where customer needs change often, rebranding is a recurring task.

This won’t be the last rebrand for Brandcave but we’re proud of the progress we’ve made. Version 3.0 has been an important step for us in the evolution of our company. It’s like fresh air. It’s something new, flexible and scalable that we can actually use to continue telling our story. It opens up a new world of possibilities for us.

Our company is being built on the idea that the web should be great for everyone. If you are looking for a friend to navigate the complexities of UX, reach out. Illo will be happy to talk to you, and we will too.

Download Our Free Call Sheet Template

Regardless of the size of production, planning a video project is a complex task. The opportunities for misunderstanding are endless. Actors need to know where to show up and at what time, crew members need to know their responsibilities and all internal and external aspects of the production need to be coordinated.

If you work in film, no doubt you are familiar with the call sheet. A call sheet is a detailed schedule that informs your cast and crew of all the basic information on an upcoming shoot. It is essential for a smooth production.

Here are some crucial elements to a useful call sheet template:


The primary information on a call sheet outlines the time, dates, weather information and general call time for the production.


The locations for all scenes, the production office and the nearest hospital requires explicit detail. It is very possible that the majority of your cast and crew are unfamiliar with the area in which you are filming. Driving directions aren’t completely necessary to each location, but it is crucial that your actors and crew know where to go. If there is no professional medical staff on standby, it is imperative that you include the location of the nearest hospital.

Scene Descriptions

Your call sheet should provide clear descriptions for each scene of the day. It should also detail which cast members are required at each scene. Not everyone on your crew will have read the script, so these short descriptions can help them gain an idea of the general story.

Set Requirements

Set requirements detail the props, wardrobe and art required for the day. In the call sheet, the set requirements section should inform all members of the production on the items needed for filming, and who is responsible for them.

Contact Information

There is a chance that your call sheet has minor misunderstandings. Including contact information of the producers and directors provides the rest of the cast an opportunity to ask questions prior to production.

At Brandcave, we create detailed call sheets for every production. This free call sheet template includes every bit of information listed above along with minor details we consider necessary.

An Open Letter to School PR

I recently met with members of the Texas School Public Relation Association to discuss their tactics on improving their education PR, social media campaigns and video production strategy.

From the beginning, it was clear just how unfamiliar I was the struggles of education PR. They live in a different world than I do. Brandcave works in a variety of scenarios, but none of them include superintendents, board meetings, budget committees or demanding parents. Our work helps generate leads and sales; their work is more consistent with politics and pleasing constituents. And, to be honest, I think most of them have a raw deal. My heart truly goes out to them.

They’ve been asked to write, plan and produce compelling video, and they haven’t reached the engagement they hoped for with their social media campaigns. All the while, their real job as a public relations practitioner has become increasingly difficult, not to mention more regulated, so engaging with their target audience is more complicated than they imagined.

After analyzing their issues, I suggested two encouragements:

Begin Videos With Solid Strategies

They asked great questions. Is it important to capture quality footage? How do I know if a video should be produced inhouse or outsourced? What’s worthy of a video? How do I measure the effectiveness of video?

Those questions are resolved by the answers to these questions: 1) What communication goal are you trying to achieve? 2) Who are you trying to reach?

When those questions are answered, details fall in place. That’s because your KPI (key performance indicator) determines the scope of work. It determines the message, quality, length, channel and measurement strategies. Without an intended end result, a video strategy is akin to throwing spaghetti on the wall. If there isn’t a call to action, do we really expect anything to happen?

Video is a great medium for many messages, but the quality of the video should be determined by the priority of the message. Is the focal point promoting a new bond or increasing awareness about a program? Those are two very different kinds of videos. They have different levels of severity. One is better suited for an email campaign; the other probably belongs on Facebook. One could be filmed by students with an iPad in a run-and-gun scenario. The other might require a professional production team using commercial equipment in a staged environment.

I might have oversimplified; I know their situation is much more complicated. The horror stories I heard blew me away.

One person told me their superintendent asked them to only produce viral videos. That’s incredible! Not only is it unattainable, it’s not even desirable. And, while I appreciate the sentiment to make videos that people enjoy, views are not a primary indicator of success. Moreover, virality for the sake of virality is not a solid strategy. It’s the same strategy a 14 year old girl has when she posts cover songs on Youtube.

I encouraged them to look into a video platform called Wistia ( Like Youtube or Vimeo, Wistia is a video hosting and curation platform. Unlike Youtube or Vimeo, Wistia is easier to manage for videos requiring in-depth marketing campaigns. It also allows you to add a custom call to action at the end of your videos (such as linking to another web page or capturing email). It is also easier to control comments.

Focus on Your Target Audience’s Social Networks

I mentioned the importance of understanding communication goals and target audiences earlier, and the same applies to social media campaigns. Their questions applied to improving social networks through public schools, but the management solutions are all the same.

Should schools join Snapchat? If a communication goal is to engage students, absolutely. How do schools engage parents? They might join them on Facebook. Using different platforms allows you to target individual audiences. It’s completely unnecessary, however, to join every social network.

Lastly, I encouraged them to look into a social media management tool called Buffer ( At Brandcave, we use Buffer to manage all of our client’s social media accounts. Besides the ability to schedule posts for all of the major social networks, Buffer allows users to work in teams. Multiple contributors can add and schedule content, and managers have the ability to approve them before they’re sent. In terms of enforcing policies, that’s a godsend. The analytics are phenomenal too.

This is just one example of Brandcave’s ability to improve an association’s social media and video strategy. We would love to do the same for you. Give us a call.

Case Study: Taking ‘Steps’ Forward

How Brandcave web development, video production and inbound marketing helped a successful painter and first-time author promote his new book and find a new audience for his art.

A unique approach for a unique challenge


Lovers in the backseat of a car. Stone-faced men with shotguns. A volley of fire. It’s by no means a typical website video, but Steps is not a typical book and David James is not a typical author.

To help David bring his fictional memoir to life, Brandcave developed the ebook, an e-commerce website on which to sell it, a video that captures its raw power and emotion, and an inbound marketing program that helps David share his story with readers and art lovers.

In just the first week, that atypical video was seen more than 20,000 times, and a brand was born.

‘I am writing about my life’

Austin-based David James has lived all over the world – “mostly out of a backpack,” he says – and has worked as a professional artist for more than 40 years. His art is full of contrasts: vivid but dark, whimsical but thoughtful. His travels, he says, have made him a student of life; and he shares lessons he’s learned in Steps.

Not just a book, a brand

David reached out to Brandcave, as many clients do, to undertake a specific project. In this case it was to format and design an ebook, an electronic version of Steps that could be sold online. But our early discussions made clear David needed help not simply with creating the book, but promoting and selling it as well. He would need branding, a website, and an inbound marketing program employing public relations and social media that would bring readers to him.

An end-to-end solution – with a difference-maker

Asked by a client for a specific set of deliverables, most agencies would have simply created those deliverables, cashed the check, and moved on. But because we so wanted David to succeed, we pushed ourselves to do more.

Web development. With the ebook designed, we moved on to create a website that wasn’t merely optimized for search engines but designed to capture David’s complexity as an artist and author. We not only gave the website e-commerce capability, we helped him set up each of the more than 30 products on it. At, visitors can learn about James, download Steps, and browse among paintings with names like Minotaur Risen, Blue Child, and Road to Heaven II.

Inbound marketing. To bring attention to the website, and to Steps, we employed public relations tactics and social media marketing and advertising in a coordinated way. We created social media presences then managed them to build audiences among media outlets, book reviewers and lovers of fictional memoirs. To make it truly unique, we needed a lever – something that proved that this book was truly deserving of readers’ attention. And right there it was on Page 8.

Video Production. The scene in Steps in which the narrator’s mother and her lover meet a violent end was made breathtakingly real in a short video that takes the viewer back to 1950 and that pasture road and that lime green sedan parked in the dying light. The two-minute period piece produced by Brandcave is so compelling that it has won awards as a short film. More importantly, it alone created a wave interest in Steps and in David James.

New audiences, new channels, new opportunities

So what happened? Plenty:

  • The Steps video trailer was viewed more than 20,000 times in the first week it was available. Because the social media outreach was so targeted, each view came at a cost of only .004 cents.
  • A Twitter following of more than 400 was quickly built, but that channel used most effectively as a vehicle for very specific outreach that leads to two-way conversations.
  • The e-commerce website not only sells Steps, but James’ paintings. We urged David to offer gicleees, framed canvas prints, which made his work accessible to a much larger group of art buyers.

Implications: The power of three

David James came to us with a book. In a matter of months, we made him a brand. With everything in place, we continue to execute and improve a program in which all three Brandcave offerings are leveraged, and in which each bolsters the effectiveness of the others.

Content Marketing: The New Royal Family

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote and published an article titled, “Content is King.”

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting,” wrote Gates. Well, Bill, as per usual, you, sir, were ahead of your time. Today, the ability to produce valuable content is not only a desirable skill; it’s an essential one.

But what does this mean for us as marketers? Well, if content is king then marketing is its queen. It’s a happy marriage but with her keen eye for strategy, marketing rules the roost. So how do these two work so well together? What is this content marketing you’ve been hearing so much about? We’re glad you asked!

Simply put, content marketing is the creation and distribution of content for a targeted audience with the goal of attracting new customers and reaching business goals. It is the use of blog posts, eBooks, slide decks and videos to compete in the new buyer-driven market. Thanks to TiVo and shortening attention spans, gone are they days when intrusive advertisements were effective. Now, it’s up to marketers to meet the consumers right where they are – online.

On top of generating leads, content marketing can help you increase visibility for your organization, aid in SEO, optimize your website or blog with long-tail keywords and create backlinks to your site. With that being said, for content marketing to be successful, the content most be valuable.

To be valuable, content must be three things: relevant, informative and consistent. The goal is never to produce collateral that sells your product or service but instead craft an article that provides applicable knowledge to the reader. Ideally, if you present yourself as a knowledgeable source and continue to deliver this type of content, the prospective customer will reward you with their business. Think of it as a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” agreement.

All of this work will be for naught, however, if you fail to create a solid distribution strategy. Your distribution strategy should not be treated as an after thought but instead be an integral step during your planning phase. Haphazard distribution will only serve to garner less than adequate results. Choosing the appropriate channel to distribute your content is crucial to its success.

The three main categories of channels include:

Owned media: Any channel owned and operated by your organization including social media pages, websites, blogs, email lists and more. This is your bread and butter. The majority of your time and resources will be spent here.

Earned media: Includes any pick up your content gets by media channels, influencers or your social audience. This can also include guest blogging for an influential site in your market. While highly valuable, this is the hardest channel to access.

Paid media: Promoting your content with paid social ads on Twitter and Facebook. This will account for a smaller percentage of your time and resources.

By now you must be wondering how you turn readers into leads. For that, we’ll need to discuss un-gated and gated content. Un-gated content includes any content that you give to your customers and prospects, no-strings-attached. This usually includes your blog and other information on your website pages. This is where you show your expertise and present your self as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source. It gets your readers going down the road towards your gated content.

Gated content is where you can finally gather these leads. Gated content includes anything from videos to white papers. In order to access this higher value content, prospects must provide you with information about themselves – voila, leads! While you should always, at least, require their name and email address, the higher the value of the content, the more information you can ask the prospect to divulge. The more information you have about them, the more you will be able to target your content and nurture your leads thus inching them along in the buying process. Once the lead becomes a customer, you can return to providing them un-gated content to help engage, reaffirm and possibly pave the way to an upsell.

If you have already implemented a content marketing strategy, take some time to evaluate the elements. Is your content providing valuable, insightful information or is it often full of fluff and sales jargon? Are you using the correct legs to disseminate information? Are you giving away valuable content for free? When implemented with strategtic thinking and clear goals, content marketing can be a highly effective tool for your organization. After all, content is king and who wouldn’t want royalty in their corner?

How to Create a Social Media Plan

In 1989, Kevin Costner walked across a cornfield to the sound of a voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.” Today, many businesses have this same Field of Dreams mentality about their social media presence. If we just promote ourselves on social media, they think, prospective customers are bound to find us. This simply isn’t the case. Like any business tool, building a strong social media presence takes time and careful planning.

When harnessed effectively, social media has the power to create strong relationships between companies and their target audiences. However, failing to create a comprehensive plan with clear objectives can result in a bunch of noise with very little return. This blog explores five questions every organization needs to ask when creating a social media plan.

What are your goals?

Start with the end in mind. Social can help you achieve a large range of business goals but it’s best to set a narrow focus early on. Are you primarily using social to raise awareness? Increase sales? Retain top customers? Without a goal in mind, brands often spread themselves too thin and see very little return for their efforts. Setting a clear, measurable objective will help steer your entire strategy.

Who are you trying to reach?

Create buyer personas. Who is your target audience? What is their industry and job title? How old are they? What is their yearly income? Make your personas as detailed as possible. Remember its possible to target more than one group with tailored messaging so creating a couple, specific personas is always best. Knowing who you are trying to reach will help you down the road when determining what networks you should engage on and what kind of content you should share.

What do you want to say?

Find your voice. Decide on the high level, key concepts that you want to get across in your messaging. Often there will be many employees involved in the social media process, so starting with top level messaging can help keep everyone on track. Remember that this is your time to engage. Be creative. Social media gives you freedoms that other, more structured mediums do not. Use a mix of content and graphics. It’s never a bad idea to take a look at your competitors. This can give you a good idea of how customers in your industry respond to certain messaging.

What channels work best for your message?

Don’t just jump on every social network possible. Brands often establish a strong presence on multiple networks in hopes of reaching consumers a variety of ways. However, not every channel fits with every brand. For example, a B2B company might see the most value in LinkedIn and have little use for Instagram.

Study the demographic of the network. Check out where your customers, competitors and influencers are. Who’s most engaged on each channel? What is the style of content on each channel? Does your message fit? Will you be able to effectively display your message? It can be tempting to jump in head first, but it’s important to take time to grow your presence methodically and organically. If you’re just starting your venture into social, begin with a blog and build from there.

How will you measure success?

Set metrics. These should tie directly to your business goals. Make sure the metrics are clear, relevant and achievable. Choose a time frame in which you will measure your success. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, set a goal of generating 80 leads from social over the period of one month. There are a variety of tools to help you track, obtain and analyze this data, many of which are built directly into the network itself. Keeping a close eye on this type of information will help you determine what messaging is working best, who is most engaging and whom you still need to reach. The real-time nature of these tools can also help you adjust your content plan as you move along.

Social media is a fluid medium that requires close attention. There is often a lot of room for change, creativity and personality. However, creating a strong social media plan on the front end will save you from muddied messaging and wasted time.

How to Blog Effectively

Your blog is often the first page of your website that perspective clients stumble upon. It’s the perfect place for you to showcase your expertise and disseminate company news. However, it’s not as simple as just throwing together few haphazard paragraphs and calling it a day. Successful blogs take research, time and careful cultivation. There are a several key elements that can make or break the success of your blog.

If you’ve been following our blog up until now you may be asking, “Hey Brandcave, how do you guys write such awesome posts?” Well, fear not, loyal reader. We’re about to tell you. By the end of this post, you’ll know how to blog effectively!

Choose a Target.

Establishing a target demographic is crucial to the success of your blog. The target audience you choose will shape the topics you cover as well as the voice you use. When deciding on a demographic, ask yourself three questions: who are we wanting to buy our product or service, what are their needs and concerns, and how can we help? Knowing this information can help you form the profile of your ideal reader and ultimately shape the type of topics you will cover.

Make Your Topic Relevant.

As discussed above, topics should be built to serve your target audience. Readers should always walk away from the blog with the feeling that they have learned something. The key here is relevancy and variety. You will want to cover topics that meet a day-to-day need of the potential client as well as topics that show your high-level industry knowledge. For example, including a blog that discusses how to draft an awesome eBook right alongside a post covering the current state of the content marketing industry would give readers a nice range.

Plan Ahead.

There is nothing more dangerous than starting out with an empty word document. A lack of research and preparation can result in a lack of purpose. Creating an editorial calendar can help you keep track of what topics you’ve covered, what research has been done and what keywords have been used. Decide ahead of time what keywords will most effectively serve your purpose. This is also the time to decide on what other content you will link to in your blog. (Pro tip: linking to other articles on and off your site can help you establish your credibility). This will also help you be prepared should a topic fall through. A blog is a constantly evolving item but there should be clear goals set in place to guide you through the changes.

Be Consistent.

Make choices and stick with them. Even if you have several employees drafting posts, make sure each post follows the same format, uses the same voice and stays consistent with your brand. Your posting schedule should remain consistent as well. Readers should be able to count on you to post routinely. Posting erratically can cause visitors to lose interest quickly.

Add a Call-to-Action.

The most effective blogs operate as a two-way street to benefit both you and the visitor. Not only can they provide information to the reader but they can be used a means for you to gather information about the reader. Common call-to-actions include signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form or filling out a form to access a more in-depth asset like an eBook. When relevant, you can also use this space at the bottom of your blog to direct users to other pages in your website like a products, services or solutions page.

Want to learn how to blog effectively? Following these tips. If you’re already blogging, don’t worry! You can easily incorporate these elements into your current practices. Just remember, decide where your audience wants to go, show them how to get there and then direct them forward.

Failing Fast: A Look Inside Four Failed Startups

Earlier this year, HBO wrapped up its second season of Silicon Valley. The comedy series follows a group of engineers through a series of wacky, disappointing and downright cringe-worthy moments as they navigate the ins and outs of founding a startup in the technology hotbed. Whether it is from outside competition, product malfunctions or an unfortunate mishap involving a tequila bottle, more than once you are just sure the young company is on the brink of complete destruction.

Although the show paints an obvious caricature of start-up life, it does serve as a reminder of just how tumultuous it can be to launch a new endeavor. A humbling nine out of every ten startups fail for any number of reasons. So how do you become one of the 10 percent who make it? This blog post takes a look at four failed startups and what we can learn from their mistakes.


First-time entrepreneur Ivaylo Kalburdzhiev thought he’d hit it big when he discovered there was not a product on the market that meshed together the concept of gaming wheels and the iPad. With a few months of research under his belt, he set out to build the first-ever iPad racing wheel. Within a year, Kalburdzhiev had built several prototypes, secured funding and attended major industry conferences. But, he had yet to speak to a single consumer. He had no idea there was no actual demand for his product. Fifty thousand dollars, two crowdfunding campaigns, a few embarrassing reviews and three years down the road, Kalburdzhiev packed up his prototypes and shut down KOLOS for good.

Lesson Learned: Never neglect market research. According to a recent study by CB Insights, 42 percent of startup failure is due to a lack of need in the market. The soul purpose of a company is to create a product or service that people want or need. Without that, you’re dead in the water. Is there a healthy competition for your product or service in the industry? If not, take a good look at both your product potential and the market’s potential. Kalburdzhiev failed to see that the lack of competition was not a sign of his genius but instead a glaring indication that there was not a market for this product in the first place.


In 2008, Springpad sprung onto the scene with their online and app-based platform for saving/sharing web content and managing notes. Despite the company’s six-year run and five million users, the Evernote competitor folded this year due to the founder’s lack of ability to monetize the company. Like with many subscription services, Springpad had a choice between opting for ad support or a premium subscription model. By the time they finally decided on pursuing the ad support route, the company was not built to scale for such a model. In short, they simply did not understand how to make money off their service. “We built a heck of a product,” said Springpad cofounder Jeff Janer, “but we didn’t build the business.”

Lesson Learned: Don’t just understand your product, understand your business. Once you’ve taken time to build a solid product and create a working business model, revenue generation should be your primary focus. Make sure you account for growth when deciding on a revenue model. Being flexible when it comes to scalability is a key element in sustaining the life of a start-up. Even the greatest of products can fail if the business providing them is not well tended.


Jun Loayza, founder of RewardMe, learned first hand that cash is king when it comes to the health of start-up. With a functional product, ample funding and a growing client base, the loyalty platform start-up seemed to have it all. But, rapid growth and overspending drained the company of resources and RewardMe folded in June of this year. The start-up simply got too big too fast, losing their runway in the process.

Lesson Learned: Keep the money in the bank. Loayza suggests that every start-up “stay scrappy.” Instead of spending capital on expensive conferences, early hires and hardware, focus on developing the best business you can while staying lean. This means creating the best team possible with as little people as possible. Start-ups focused on rapid growth, far too often staff up as if the size of a team is equal to the amount of success the business will enjoy. Until you have generated a steady cash flow, invest your funding in your product potential, not your growth potential.


The business world is littered with stories of good friendships going bad over failed startups. The story of NewsTilt is no different. When friends Paul Biggar and Nathan Chong launched NewsTilt in 2010, the goal of the site was to build brands and audiences for independent journalists. Two short months later, NewsTilt went into hibernation. Although the site suffered from a variety of issues, both founders cite a lack of communication and passion as the reason for the failure. Neither Biggar nor Chong was a journalist or had a passion for the journalism industry. Additionally, the two founders continually failed to decide on a shared vision causing internal struggles that ultimately cost the company its life.

Lesson Learned: Build a cohesive, passionate team. While products, funding, business models and marketing messages are all important elements to any business, the people are the glue that holds it all together. Passion is an especially important quality to focus on when hiring for a start-up, which often requires long hours and low pay. This starts from the top down.

Next to stepping in a cage with a live lion, launching a startup is the most terrifying venture anyone can embark on. But, with the right combination of focus, expertise and passion, it’s possible for founders to beat the odds. Or at least that’s what HBO is leading us to believe.

The Weird Relationship Between Startups and Scalability

In the days before electric starters, drivers would need to crank their car’s engine before they were able to drive. Once it was going, it would keep going, but it was a laborious process to get it going. The whole activity of cranking the engine was dirty. It was manual and separated from the automated and efficient activity of running, but it was also a necessary component. Why am I talking about this? Because this relationship is analogous to the relationship between startups and scalability.*

Let me clarify — in the launch phase of any startup, we must do things that do not scale. Nearly all software companies have to recruit users manually in the beginning. That certainly isn’t the ideal growth model. At the same time, we must put the efficient processes in place that make growth scalable. That is, without impediments or bottlenecks. And, eventually, we must ditch these non-scalable activities altogether. It makes for a love/hate relationship with the whole thing.

That’s a strange concept. Our intuition tells us that people will beat a path to your door if you build a better product. If they don’t, it must be because the market doesn’t yet exist. But, this isn’t true. Companies take off because founders make them take off. It usually requires some sort of push to get them going — and it is usually something that is inefficient, not immediately cost effective and requires a huge amount of resources.

Even well-funded startups have this strange relationship with scalability. For example, Airbnb jumpstarted their growth by going door-to-door in New York for 30 days. Today, they boast over 6 million users with more than a 200% growth rate year-after-year. Incredible, isn’t it? For them, those 30 days were the difference between success and failure.

For some of you, that’s a breath of fresh air. You mean those unscalable things I’ve been doing are ok? Yes. For now. But, there comes a point when other areas of your business will require more intense focus. At that point, you need to be honest with yourself. If you’ve come to the point where you can no longer give every task your all and you have the ability to delegate, don’t hesitate. Implement those processes. Scale!

The reason we resist scale is because we are either trying to increase current profit margins or we do not trust others to complete tasks to our standards. Often, it’s both. At the slightest hint of amateur performance from our team, there is a tendency to say, “I’ll just do it.” And, instead of turning those moments into teachable opportunities, we pile on more on ourselves. Ironic.

There is no doubt that any startup founder wears a lot of hats but lack of delegation and process management can create an overwhelming bottleneck for any company. Without it, it can be difficult to focus on the big picture. Instead, our focus shifts to completing tasks and keeping the collective head above water. The result? Unwarranted stress and lack of growth.

At some point, you cannot be both a CEO and a janitor. It’s a necessary function at first, but delay in assigning tasks will hinder your company’s growth. Your role must switch from a doer to a thinker — you must become the strategic manager and the evangelist of your mission. Your team must carry the mission forward.

It is important to delegate. As an entrepreneur, the time you’ve spent wearing multiple hats has trained you for this. Your experience in virtually every department — sales, marketing, product development, engineering, etc. — has given you the experience to recruit the right team. You know what to look for in new team members because you know the skills required already.

We must evolve as leaders. Our inability to scale causes us to see less than the big picture. It keeps us from thinking strategically — for ourselves and our customers. It keeps us buried in work and not in growth.

*This analogy can be first attributed to Paul Graham.

We Totally Misunderstand Analytics: Metrics That Matter

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy that data is like an oil field or untapped gold. The idea is that there is a wealth of it right underneath you, that it is precious and valuable. Like gold or oil, it must all be extracted in order to truly benefit from it.

But, that’s not true.

Unlike oil or gold, not all data is valuable. There are vanity metrics; that is, the data that is not indicative of what’s really happening to your business. These are metrics such as the number of website visits, page views, social media followers, bounce rates or time spent on your website. ‘Dead data’, as it’s called, is the information that gives no tangible benefit or actionable insight. It doesn’t really tell us much about anything.

After all, what would it matter if your social media account had two-thousand followers but zero engagement? How useful is a thousand website visitors and no conversions?

So what is the data that matters? To put it simply, it is the data that takes your business model into account and develops a set of metrics tied to your company’s needs. It is about the who, not the how many, and the visitor behaviors, not the page views. It probably deals more with engagement than numbers. Data that matters is the data that tells us who is converting, what channels are driving them, what their lifetime value is worth and who is coming back for more.

In other words, data is not an oil field or untapped gold. It is wheat. Wheat must be harvested and processed by a skillful baker and made into something of value, such as bread.*

The reason we totally misunderstand analytics is because we confuse it with raw data. In the same way that wheat must become bread before it can be consumed, data does not become analytics until it has been processed, interpreted and, as if it needed to be said, analyzed.

Consider Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Crunching data from point-of-sale systems, marketing promotions, loyalty programs, customer surveys and inventory systems, the restaurant chain has developed an analytics stack (called smoke stack) that provides near real-time feedback on many of their KPIs. It is an unlikely combination, barbecue and big data, but the benefits are obvious:

If a baseline of sales is expected in a region and sales drop, for example, Dickey’s leadership is aware of the change within hours, not weeks or months. The data allows them to course-correct early, deploying resources and training directly to the needing store. Their data has become actionable insight resulting in a strong competitive advantage.

As Ben Harper, Co-Founder of Datify, wrote, “A data-led business is not one that has lots of data. It is one that uses that data based on analysis to make real data-fed, insight-led decisions.”

Data is not difficult to gather but it is difficult to understand. In terms of software, there have been several revolutionary tools that have been developed in recent years. The fact remains, however, that data is useless without the right humans to analyze it and base decisions from it. Michael Schrage from the Harvard Business Review wrote recently, “… too many organizations don’t quite grasp that being ‘big data-driven’ requires more qualified human judgment than cloud-enabled machine learning.”

Don’t let the term ‘big data’ throw you off. Data is still data. Big or not, data is useless without the human element. At the same time, the era of Don Draper and “marketing guts” is over. We must learn to collaborate with machines and make decisions based on the data.

Analytics are only as good as what they help your company do. Metrics that matter understand and identify desired outcomes. For marketers, it requires a centralized management of data; one place where it can gather audience analytics, website management and lead prospecting. To survive in a world of big data, CMOs must continue to adapt and use their data properly.

* Thank you to Ben Harper for this great analogy.