Associate With Great People

Aug. 17

Who do you associate with? Is your inner circle uplifting your life and career? Are they pushing you forward and challenging your mind? If your answer is “yes”, you are on a great path. Associating with great people, and great digital marketers, will push your own potential to the maximum.

However, what if that is not the case? What if you’ve got a few bad apples around? They could be in your business/professional life or personal life. If you’re not associating with great people, your progress could be stagnated or, even worse, reversed. While most professionals in digital marketing are great, I have run across a few bad apples over the years.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some tips on how to Associate With Great Digital Marketers. To read my tips, you’ll want to click the previous link and head on over to my friends at 3Q Digital, one of the top digital marketing agencies around. If you’ve been a PPC Ian reader for a while, you may know that I have the honor of guest posting over at 3Q Digital from time-to-time. I’m a tremendous fan of 3Q Digital and hope you enjoy reading today’s guest post. Above and beyond the world of digital marketing, I hope today’s tips help provide food for thought around your overall business and life strategy!

3Q Digital Guest Post Associate Great People

Image in this post © 3Q Digital

Don’t Own Stocks? You Should (With Loyal3)

Aug. 04

This blog is all about careers in marketing. Why then, do I spend so much time on personal finance? First and foremost, I love personal finance. Second, I believe personal finance is key to your career (it’s a great topic to discuss with executives) and your longevity (invest wisely now and you could retire while still a relatively young marketing professional). I’m truly excited to introduce Loyal3 today, a disruptive game-changer.

What is Loyal3?

Invest

Loyal3 is an SIPC member stock broker that makes investing accessible to everyone (including you). Ever want to buy an individual stock but don’t want to pay commissions? Loyal3 charges no commissions by batching your order with others (they execute fewer trades this way), and receiving compensation from companies. Brands pay Loyal3 because smaller, loyal shareholders mean less volatility in share price and consumer brand loyalty. (Hmmm… Wait a minute, I think I have been drinking more Starbucks since I started purchasing SBUX via Loyal3. Loyal3, you got me!)

Ever want to buy stock but don’t have enough money to buy a single share (especially for more expensive issues like GOOG and AAPL)? Loyal3 allows you to buy fractional shares, starting at a minimum investment of $10 per trade. Ever want to buy stocks, but don’t know where to start? Loyal3 offers only the biggest and best brands (about 50 stocks are offered for purchase. (While some may see this as limiting, I see it as pure clarity. I’m personally all about the big brands that pay big, growing dividends. Maybe it’s because I’m a marketer and truly admire a great brand…)

In other words, Loyal3 removes all barriers that have ever kept you from owning individual stocks. In my opinion, no business professional should say, "I don’t own individual stocks", with this cool new invention called Loyal3.

Loyal3 also offers the ability for small investors to participate in IPOs. I wanted to call this out because it’s incredibly cool, but didn’t want it to be the focus of today’s post because I prefer a brand-driven, long-term strategy. (Many are in IPOs for a quick gain, only to sell the issue later.)

PPC Ian’s Personal Loyal3 Strategy

So how am I personally leveraging Loyal3? As a long-time investor and finance enthusiast, you may be thinking, "PPC Ian probably already has a broker. Does he really need another one?" My answer is, "Yes and yes!" Here’s why:

I can buy via credit card and earn rewards points. You read that correctly: Loyal3 allows investors to purchase stock commission-free via credit card. Due to the rewards points, not only am I avoiding commissions, but I’m essentially being compensated to buy stock in my favorite brands. Loyal3 limits credit card-based trades to $50, however you can execute as many as you like. I’m actually in the platform buying stock almost every single day, sometimes multiple times in one day. (I see this transaction size limit as another benefit, see my later point about dollar cost averaging.)

Before we move on, two incredibly important points about credit cards. First, always pay your balance in full each and every month. Leverage your card for points, but do it responsibly. You don’t want to go into debt to buy stock. If you’re in debt already, pay your debt off first.

Second, please don’t use Loyal3 as a churn-and-burn platform. I have read some blog posts about how some individuals are buying stock via credit card and then selling as quickly as possible. They are using Loyal3 to hit their spend thresholds to achieve sign-on bonuses for credit cards. I feel like this type of activity is against the charter of Loyal3 (creating loyal shareholders) and is a deceptive practice that could hurt this cool, little brokerage. Get those points, but only do it if you’re a real, long-term investor and plan on holding your stock. Let’s do the right thing here so this credit card option is around for a long, long time (for those of us who use it responsibly).

As hinted at above, another big aspect of my Loyal3 strategy is dollar cost averaging. It’s difficult (impossible perhaps) to accurately predict the future of the overall stock market, and individual stocks too. Dollar cost averaging is all about risk mitigation. With no commissions to hold you back, I like to buy many smaller lots on a very frequent, recurring basis. Odds are, I will be buying when prices are high, medium, and low (my favorite scenario). It’s the average that matters, and I’m not going to buy the absolute market top in one big lot this way. Moreover, dollar cost averaging creates discipline. I’m buying rain or shine. This is possible with traditional Internet-based discount brokerages on perhaps a weekly or monthly basis, but definitely not a daily basis, at least given the size of my investing budget. (The fees would be way too high Asa percentage of my dollars invested.)

The final pillar of my Loyal3 strategy is one of simplicity and record keeping. In other accounts, I already own some of the stocks that Loyal3 offers. I was very close doubling down and setting up some recurring buys in Loyal3 as well. However, I then realized the record keeping would get too intense: (Recurring) buys of the same stock across different brokerage accounts. I concluded to simply focus on stocks I wanted to own anyway, but didn’t already have in other accounts. Why not keep things easy on myself? While I don’t plan on selling, I’m very much an advocate of impeccable records.

In sum, I’m really excited about Loyal3. I guess I’m a finance geek at heart, with new innovations like Lending Club and Loyal3 topping my list of favorite inventions in the last few years. Now, combine a Loyal3 strategy (stocks) with a Lending Club strategy (loans), and you’ve got a really rockin’ portfolio strategy!

Disclaimer: Long SBUX
Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor. This is not investment advice. This is for entertainment purposes only. Please contact your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Image of invest © iStockPhoto – frankpeters

Acquisio Bing Ads Promotion Ends Soon (7/31)

Jul. 27

I’m a huge fan of diversification. Whether we’re talking about investments, digital marketing, or life in general, it’s all about diversifying away risk. Are you newer to digital marketing? Do you allocate all of your digital marketing budget to Google AdWords? This is how most people start, and makes total sense. However, as your business grows (or even if you’re in a happy steady state and are looking to lower risk), you may want to consider branching out beyond Google. The best place to start, in my opinion: Bing Ads, the platform that powers Yahoo! and Bing.

Today, I want to feature a special promotion from my good friends at Acquisio, a leading performance marketing platform. I have been great friends with the Acquisio team for a number of years. They are amazing and offer one of the best digital marketing technologies around. Acquisio is leveraged by advanced marketing operations, and is the platform of choice for digital marketing agencies. Also, they offer client services from industry experts. Combining a solid technology platform plus seasoned digital marketing client services support is the winning combination for success in today’s complex online marketing landscape.

Like yours truly, Acquisio believes in the power of diversification. They are confident that Bing Ads is a great opportunity for digital marketers. In fact, they are so confident that they are offering up to $2,500 Bing Ads free advertising. Make sure to head on over to Acqusio to learn more and, if interested, move quickly. This particular opportunity ends July 31, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST.

Here’s why I’m such a fan of this particular promotion:

  • Bing Ads works! I have been a long-time advertiser on Bing Ads and its predecessors (such as Microsoft adCenter, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Overture) since the early 2000s.
  • In many verticals, Bing Ads tends to be less competitive than Google. (True, search volume is lower on Bing Ads, however the lower level of competition makes it easy to drive high quality traffic to your business.)
  • Just like Google, Bing Ads offers world-class technology and support. They have a great desktop editor application, cutting-edge features, and a super support team (powered by Yahoo!).
  • Acquisio is an amazing technology platform and company. I have learned so much from them over the years (via their speaking at industry conferences, personal friendships, and their industry-leading whitepapers and eBooks). Aside from the free money, this is simply a great opportunity to work with very smart people in building your Bing strategy. The value you extract from this opportunity should far exceed the simple monetary benefit.
  • Have you been considering Acquisio as the platform of choice to power your digital marketing operations? This is a great time to audition their platform while taking advantage of a sweet deal.
  • Every dollar helps. I’m a very frugal digital marketer. I drive the best possible results with the lowest possible spend. I’m scrappy. I have found that the scrappy, frugal approach works wonders for any business. I very rarely pass by free money, and here’s your opportunity to get some free money. You have to spend money to get the free credit (check out Acquisio for more info on the details), but free money is free money. And, if you wanted to test Bing anyways, why not get free money and special support from an incredibly successful platform and client services team?
  • It’s all about testing and diversification. If you’re not on Bing Ads, you really should be, in my opinion. Leverage this opportunity to diversify your digital marketing mix.

Thanks, Acquisio, for sharing such a special deal!

Acquisio Bing Promotion

This promotion is being run by Acquisio. Restrictions may apply. Please make sure you check out Acquisio’s website (and contact them) to learn the full details.
Image in this post © Acquisio

Travel Tips For Marketing Professionals (Long Post)

Jul. 21

If you’re a digital marketing professional, it’s likely you have opportunities to travel. A few years back, I wrote a post about how PPC Jobs Are great For Travel. Fast forward a few more years, and I’ve learned a lot more about travel, tips which I’m thrilled to share in today’s post. Today’s post is a long one, with lots of tips, grab a cup of coffee and read on!

Tip 1: Take Advantage of Travel Loyalty Programs

Business Travel

In the world of business travel, it’s all about frequent flyer miles and hotel points. Make sure you sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. If you’re going to be traveling anyway, why not accumulate some miles and points? You’d be surprised: I’ve been super inconsistent about this in the past. There are certain trips where I wasn’t diligent to enter my loyalty program ids, and those points are lost forever! That said, going forward, I’m all about the points. (Side note: If you have good records/receipts, you may be able to get credited points and miles for trips taken in the last year, even if you didn’t enter your loyalty program id at the time of the trip. I recently did this with Marriott, for example, and they made it super easy.)

Most of us will not travel enough to qualify for the top tiers of these loyalty programs ("status"), that is unless you are a global client services professional, an agency professional that works with a geo-diversified portfolio of clients, or on the sales/business development side of things. That said, most of us manage to attend at least a few conferences/events each year. Don’t worry about having more miles and points than others. It’s not a race! Just focus on yourself. Don’t avoid signing up because you think your points are inconsequential.

Some of my favorite loyalty programs:

You’d be surprised how they add up over the years. As long as you remain loyal to a focused portfolio of airlines and hotels, your points will add up over time. Case in point: I recently leveraged 15,000 United MileagePlus award miles to upgrade to first class on a business trip from SFO (San Francisco) to ORD (Chicago). I was only able to upgrade on the way there, and not the way back. However, I didn’t really care about the way back, because at that point (pun intended) my presentation was done. I cared about sleeping, eating well, and preparing for my presentation on the way there. First class upgrades, in my opinion, drive great business results for someone who has a big presentation or business deal on the line.

Some helpful tips:

  • Sign up for the loyalty programs now. It’s never too late, even if you missed out in the past like me.
  • When booking your travel, always enter your ids. If someone else is booking your travel, share your ids with them ahead of time. You can log into your loyalty accounts to see your upcoming trips, that’s a super way to confirm everything has been entered correctly.
  • Keep great records of your travel (receipts and tickets), in case you need to retroactively add those to your frequent flyer and hotel accounts later.
  • Make sure you keep your points active, so they don’t expire. Check out these posts about Airline Miles Expiration and Hotel Points Expiration on Million Mile Secrets, one of my favorite travel hacking blogs. You can keep your points active, even if you aren’t traveling!
  • Remember that it doesn’t matter how many points and miles you accumulate. I want to underscore this tip for digital marketing professionals especially since we won’t be the most traveled business professionals. That said, you aren’t in a race. Even the infrequent traveler should take advantage of these programs because points add up fast!

Tip 2: Open Airline and Hotel Credit Cards

If you’re a customer acquisition marketing professional, it’s likely you’ve got some bills each month. If you’re like me (living the SF Bay Area), the cost of living can be high. Also, if you’re a successful business professional, odds are you have good (and probably excellent) credit. Take advantage of these dynamics to open and leverage airline and hotel credit cards. Leverage your credit to get the cards, and leverage your expenses to earn free miles and points. That said, make sure you don’t spend more than you would have anyway. It’s all about getting value for what you’re already doing, but not changing your existing spending habits to earn more points (that is a losing proposition).

Very important tips when it comes to these credit cards:

  • Only open the cards if you’re going to get a big miles/points bonus for opening. These deals change by the month, but I have been very lucky following the deals and earning some sizable sign-on bonuses. Example: Chase Sapphire is now offering 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for opening a card. These points are super valuable and can be used for many purposes, including transferring in a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United.
  • Only open cards if you can actually hit the amount of spend required to get the sign-on bonus. Don’t spend extra. Be realistic and don’t alter your normal expenses just to get the bonus.
  • Use the right card in the right place. For example, you’ve got the Starwood card, make sure to use it to pay for your Starwood hotel stays. You can earn up to 5x points in those scenarios, depending on your level of status (most of us infrequent business travelers will receive 4x points). If you’ve got Chase Sapphire, leverage it when dining out for 2x points (and 3x points on the first Friday of every month). That said, break these rules when trying to hit spend for sign-on bonuses. Just use the same card for most/all of your expenses regardless of situation if that’s what you’ve got to do to hit the sign-on threshold (so you don’t have to take on extra expenses).
  • Be very careful about fees. Most of these cards carry annual fees, typically waived for the first year. Rationalize to yourself whether the fees are worth it or not. Being able to board in group 1 on United is worth the annual fees for United’s card (and then some), in my opinion. (When traveling for business, overhead space is important since you won’t be checking bags, and you need that group 1 to get optimal overhead space.) Also, Marriott’s free night at a category 1-4 hotel each year is worth the annual fees, in my opinion. That said, everyone’s situation is unique. Get too many of these cards and the annual fees can truly add up. It’s ok to cancel cards, if that makes financial sense in your situation. Understand the fees and incorporate them in to your overall strategy.
  • Always pay your card balance in full each month. Don’t carry debt to get points, that’s not worth it!

Tip 3: Upgrade At The Right Time, and Right Place

Traveling with your boss on a big business trip? Thinking of using your awards points to upgrade to first class? I discourage this for obvious reasons, it would just be strange. Traveling alone or with a colleague who wouldn’t really care about your upgrade? By all means, go for it if you feel comfortable (this was my situation in the example above)! It’s a judgement call. Just be smart about it.

Want to play it safe? Don’t upgrade for business trips at all. Save all of your points. Leverage them for an amazing family vacation. That way, you don’t have to explain to others why you’re flying so luxuriously for business.

This one really depends on your company culture, who you’re flying with, and your role. If you fly for a living and have status, it’s likely you’ll often be in first class and that’s no big deal since people know you fly for a living. However, if you’re like me (the occasional business traveler), then you’ve got to leverage your judgement when using award miles.

In the world of business, it’s all about being humble.

Tip 4: Cater Your Career Development To Your Travel Preferences

Do you like to travel a lot? There are certain jobs that offer a lot of travel. For example, one of my friends used to do all of the global client onboarding for a big digital marketing platform. I’m sure he racked up an amazing number of airline miles while seeing some amazing cities and sights around the world.

Within digital marketing, here are a few jobs that may involve more travel than others:

  • Client services
  • Client onboarding
  • Professional Services
  • Business Development
  • Executive Management (Multiple Office Company)

However, maybe you’re like me and enjoy traveling occasionally. Maybe you want to travel really well when you go, but you don’t want to be away from home all the time. There are jobs for that too (in fact most of the jobs are like this within digital marketing).

Just be strategic about it, and do what’s best for your personal situation.

Tip 5: Read Great Blogs About Travel Hacking

The world of travel is exciting. Those of us in digital marketing thrive on data and optimization. It’s amazing how the parallels exist between digital marketing and travel hacking. Want to stay up-to-date and learn more? I personally enjoy following several blogs about travel miles, points, and strategy. Two of my favorites: Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on credit cards. I’m not a financial advisor. This post is just for entertainment. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decisions.
Image of Airplane Business Travel © iStockPhoto – felix140800

Lending Club and Digital Marketing Professionals

Jul. 14

For those who have been reading PPC Ian for a while, you know that I’m a fan of investing. Investing is a passion of mine, and it makes sense, it’s all about the numbers (just like customer acquisition marketing). Today, I wanted to write about Lending Club (affiliate link, I earn a commission and would be very grateful if you open a Lending Club account via my links), and why Lending Club is especially relevant to those of us in the digital marketing field. Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor and this is not financial advice. Please consult your own financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

First, an update…

I started writing about Lending Club back on February 26, 2012. Some of my historical Lending Club Posts:

Lending Club Net Annualized Return

When you look at my historical posts, I like to include a screenshot in each that shows my account stats, especially my net annualized return. Here’s how it’s trended:

  • Feb 26, 2012 Net Annualized Return: 13.16%
  • Apr 23, 2012 Net Annualized Return: 12.99%
  • July 3, 2012 Net Annualized Return: 10.76%

So what’s my current net annualized return after several years of investing via Lending Club? I’m at 7.64% as of July 13, 2014. This isn’t as good at the 13.16% from my first post over 2 years ago, but certainly isn’t bad given current interest rates available via other alternatives. Moreover, my net annualized return has been trending in the 7% range for a while now (I feel like it’s somewhat steady in its current range). I’m happy with my performance and expected it would even out in its current range for a few reasons:

  • New accounts have very few defaults because they are new. Over two years later, I have experienced a handful of defaults. These are to be expected and have lowered my overall return. We’re comparing a mature account to a brand new one.
  • My principal and interest reinvestments have largely been focused on lower-risk loans. These carry lower interest rates. I wanted to start building my portfolio with a low-risk base, and layer in higher risk loans once the base is established.
  • In today’s market (more on this later), 7.64% net annualized return is no joke, that’s a great number, one that can generate some serious returns when compounded over time for a number of years. I’m hoping it holds in this range for the long-term!

I’m adding to my Lending Club portfolio, and it complements my digital marketing career

These days, I’m focused on building my Lending Club portfolio for a multitude of reasons. I wanted to share why I think it’s great for digital marketing professionals and why I’m so focused on Lending Club.

  • Did you know that Google Invested In Lending Club? As a digital marketing professional, I watch Google very closely, not only their core Search business, but their investments across-the-board. Google’s investment in Lending Club makes Lending Club even more relevant for those in the digital marketing career, from the simple perspective that Lending Club is now partially Google-backed. Become a Lending Club investor and you have one more lunch/dinner conversation topic for your Google meetings as well. I’m a big fan of finding common topics of interest in networking and building one’s career. Lending Club is a great topic!
  • Did you know that one of my old bosses is on the management team Lending Club? As someone who was a really super boss (and someone who gets digital marketing), I put a lot of faith in the Lending Club platform for this reason. Lending Club has a solid management team. It’s all about the people, and I like to invest in great people and great management teams.
  • Lending Club offers financial flexibility via massive cashflow, more than most other investments I have experienced. Do you live in the SF Bay Area or another expensive area? Chances are “yes” if you work in enterprise-level customer acquisition. As someone who knows first-hand how expensive it is to live around here, I like investments that offer flexibility. Lending Club is just that. On a regular basis, you receive cash flow from Lending Club, both principal and interest. It’s up to you whether you want to reinvest that money or withdraw. If it’s a time where you need some extra cash, you can just withdraw the principal and interest as it’s paid out. The coolest part: You don’t have to sell any loans to access the cash flow. There have been times when I have needed some extra money and I have withdrawn from my cash flow. There are other times (like recently) where I have reinvested. For this reason, I view LendingClub as a very flexible vehicle.
  • There are not a lot of investment opportunities right now that offer superior levels of return. In the Bay Area, real estate prices are sky high. The stock market is at all time highs (although there are pockets of opportunity for savvy investors). By disintermediating the middle man, Lending Club has carved out a niche where you can still receive some great returns on your invested capital.
  • It’s really fun. I like to mine through data, as a data-driven digital marketer. Lending Club offers a ton of data and opportunity to get as detail-oriented as you want when choosing your strategy.
  • I like helping others! Each time I invest $25 in a Lending Club loan, I can sleep at night that I’m helping someone out. Lending Club offers great interest rates to borrowers and helps people in their time of need: Credit card debt consolidation, financing work on their home, funding medical expenses, and so many other scenarios. I feel like I’m investing in people. On the flip side, I feel like the borrowers know that and do their best to pay back the loans since their fellow peer is helping them out. Great returns come to those that help others.

As always, it makes sense to be financially prudent, and only invest what you can afford to lose. Why not start small and then add a little bit over time? I personally take advantage of recurring auto-deposits to my Lending Club account so I’m able to invest in a few new loans at a time, on a recurring basis. This spreads my risk (in case a group of bad loans are clumped together) and also since I’m only risking a little bit of money at a time.

Interested in trying it out? If you don’t already have an account, here’s my affiliate link: Sign Up For Lending Club Today (affiliate link). I will receive a commission if you sign up via my link and would be grateful because it helps support the costs of running PPC Ian. That said, no worries either way, and I thank you for reading!

Important Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor and this is not financial advice. This post is just for entertainment purposes. Please consult your own financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Image in this post © PPCIan.com