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 ©

SEO Networking Lunch With AdLift

Jul. 12

I wrote a post a while back about my Lunch With Top SEO Agency AdLift. I’m a huge fan of tradition in networking. It’s important to build friendships with the best-of-the-best, and AdLift is just that. Our tradition: Networking lunches at Chef Chu’s in Los Altos. (Side note: Looking for an SEO agency? I highly recommend contacting AdLift today.)

PPC Ian AdLift Lunch

Networking With Johnny From AdLift At Chef Chu’s

I originally met Prashant Puri (CEO & Co-Founder) and Johnny Shami (VP, Business Development) at Search Insider Summit. I was immediately impressed and have stayed in close contact with these guys ever since. They are true experts in SEO (search engine optimization), based here in Silicon Valley.

Last week, Johnny and I went to Chef Chu’s in Los Altos, a tradition for our PPC Ian : AdLift networking lunches. I’m a big fan of Chef Chu’s, some of the best Chinese food around, with a truly healthy and fresh perspective. I ordered the cashew chicken lunch special, and will be going back again very soon (it’s delicious and healthy).

Do you work long hours? Are you busy? Prashant, Johnny, and I are for sure. Prashant is busy traveling the globe, growing AdLift’s business at warp speed. Johnny and I worked for weeks (actually months) trying to find a date that would work. I think we had to reschedule at least 5 times. However, we made it happen! (It’s all about determination and not giving up, especially when it comes to something as important as networking.) I cannot say enough about the power of important friendships with the best-of-the-best in digital marketing (or your profession of choice). It’s all about the people.

My career advice for the week: Build out your network and make these types of lunches happen! See how you can add value. Help your friends out as much as possible, and make a positive impact. It’s all about building great friendships and seeing how you can add value! I have personally built my career with a friendship and service-oriented perspective. I am amazed every single day at the opportunities that come my way thanks to hard work, giving back, and collaborating with great people.

Image from SEO Lunch ©

Tips For Brainstorming At Work

Jul. 01

When brainstorming ideas for business and life on my own, I often enjoy Taking A Hike (or a run for that matter). What about brainstorming as a team at work? What are the best ways to approach a collaborative group brainstorming session at your job? Today, I wanted to share a few insights and tips:


  1. Approach your brainstorm with a positive, collaborative mindset. All ideas are valid. All ideas are worth consideration. Even if you don’t like a particular idea, please be open and encouraging to your teammates.
  2. Bring plenty of sticky notes and pens. Brainstorming is so much easier when everyone can write down their ideas and then stick them on the wall.
  3. Think outside the box. Bring crazy, big ideas. No idea is too large. Big ideas get the team thinking, even if they are not immediately possible.
  4. Start off the brainstorm with a fun, team activity. For example, go around the table and share your favorite music artist and how their music relates to your company. Anything that gets the team thinking in new ways is valuable. Brainstorming requires unique, new ways of thinking.
  5. Consider involving a variety of contributors from teams across your company, and partners too. The more diverse the viewpoints at the table, the greater opportunity for big ideas.
  6. Be incredibly careful with your words. Do not say anything that could remotely be considered as negative or putting an idea down. Brainstorms thrive in a supportive environment.
  7. Arrive on-time with an energetic attitude. Get a good night’s sleep before the brainstorm, and arrive on a full stomach. Consider bringing snacks too, for the entire team. Brainstorms require energy.
  8. Prepare for the brainstorm. Do a little brainstorming on your own before the big event. Also, prepare background materials that may be of help to the group. That said, also think in the moment and don’t be closed to new ideas. The best ideas come in a team environment.
  9. Be considerate of everyone at the table. Try not to be the only one contributing ideas. Don’t overpower the discussion. That said, make sure you are heard too, and don’t be afraid to speak up. The best brainstorms are all about equality and fairness to everyone in the group.
  10. Take really great notes. Take photos of the board and collaborative notes. Don’t let any of the the great ideas go to waste.

Image of Lightbulbs Brainstorm © iStockPhoto – hjalmeida

I Ran In the 20th Annual Lupus 5K

Jun. 16

Just over a week ago, Nicole and I participated in the 20th Annual 5K Run and Walk For Lupus. Benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, this great event made an impact on those in need. It was our honor to participate in this particular event for the third time! Here’s a fun photo of PPC Ian after completing the 5K race:

PPC Ian Lupus 5K Run

Each year, the Lupus 5K is held West Valley College in Saratoga, CA. I particularly enjoy this event because of the beautiful setting, in the foothills of Saratoga. It’s a great course with rolling hills and plenty of nature/scenery.

For those who have been following me for a while, you may know that I’m into running quite a bit these days. I’m not a particularly fast runner, but I’m great with long distance and consistency. It’s such a great way to get in shape, clear your mind, and have some time to think. I have found that my running has increased my overall focus and energy. It’s amazing the business and life insights that hit you while running!

It’s equally fun to leverage running as a way to rally behind an important cause. These events are so much fun because they always bring together a top-notch community of winners. Busy professional who’s also looking to stay in shape and give back? Definitely consider some local charity runs this summer! Just remember to stay hydrated and practice.

Image in this post ©

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