Why is Everyone so Confused? (An opinionated analysis of millennials and bay area career culture.)

I love sitting in coffee shops in San Francisco and people watching, the city has a craziness about it that I can watch comfortably behind the window of a hipster infested, specialty coffee store. San Francisco has a lively beat and rhythm that seems non-stop during waking hours; This is something that I struggle to find in my suburban town, and love about the city. Despite my affection for this bustling city and tech hub, I somehow find myself very happy in my sleepy suburban town with people who are easily twice my age. The city is a day trip, or a weekend escape, but, even if I could afford it, I am not sure it’s a place I want to be in day in, and day out.  The startup central, millennial centric culture of San Francisco has slowly come to represent, in my mind, a peculiar similarity to a cultural phenomenon of confusion that I cannot relate to. ( Let me add a disclaimer here, early on that I don’t think every single person in our culture is confused, I know many very satisfied and focused individuals, however I want to explore what I am seeing as a widespread trend that seems to be affecting more people than not.)

Like San Francisco, people today have an eclectic, unsettled, always in a rush feeling about them. They like craft beer, and yoga, gluten-free pastries and sustainable living alongside expensive coffee (blue-bottle anyone?), and hiking. Linked-in profiles describe job titles as “Hacking Princess” or “Analytics Ninja.” It seems like no one wants to be doing the same thing in ten years. I run into developers who would like to own a bar in ten years, medical students who might want to switch careers and try patent law, marketing professionals who are thinking about becoming monks, and sales guys who would rather be known for climbing Mount Everest.

It’s not that I didn’t experience a healthy dose of identity crisis, I just experienced it in college, which, I’ve always thought, is when you’re supposed to figure it out. In the sixth grade I  decided I wanted to be a therapist, and it wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year that it became abundantly clear to me that I was not willing to make the sacrifices to do that. At age 20, I came to the painful realization that I was becoming too old to contemplate career paths like a ballerina, model, or astronaut.  Eventually, I bucked up and pursued several business internships and finally ended up at my current job as a marketing coordinator for a tech startup. There are days, nay moments, that I wonder what it would be like to be a professional model, or famous writer, but then I remind myself models can’t eat copious amounts of bacon and ice cream without the risk of losing their jobs, and writers have to write for a paycheck, and I wouldn’t want to turn a hobby I love into my only means of a paycheck.

It turns out that I am not the only one exasperated by the confusion that envelops people today. A recent article titled “Why Millenials Can’t Grow Up” in Slate magazine described in depth the confusion faced by Amy ( not a real name) who was contemplating getting a PH.D simply because she could  not figure out what she wanted to do with her life. The author Brooke Donaton, is a psychotherapist and she examines Amy in light of a generation of people who have grown up with the concept of “emerging adulthood” and describes this generation as one plagued by depression and guilty of being unable to make decisions themselves, a situation she blames on helicopter parents. Donaton describes Amy’s struggle to manage her time without the guidance of her parents in college. While such behavior may be accepted, and even normal, in a 21 year old, the woman described in Slate’s article is 30 years old.

Donatan describes the change in the coping mechanisms of youth today by comparing the way a breakup was dealt with in the past and the way she perceives some people deal with it today.“A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot of peach schnapps (or two) to process a breakup. Now some college students feel suicidal after the breakup of a four-month relationship. Either ice cream no longer has the same magical healing properties, or the ability to address hardships is lacking in many members of this generation. “Millennials are often blamed for thinking too highly of themselves, and being labeled as narcissitic. Donatan contemplates effect of this narcissism  “ Maybe millennials are narcissistic, like most 14-year-olds are.”And feels that perhaps narcissim has led to a lack of what she calls “frusteration tolerance” or an inability to cope with tough situations. Donatan, unlike me, has hope for this generation and states that “Maybe they will outgrow their narcissism later in life if 30 is the new 18. We don’t have the data on what millennials will be like when they are 40. But more importantly, they need to learn how to cope.”

While the Slate article focused on an individual’s confusion, another article in the Atlantic, titled “Study: Millenials Deeply Confused About Their Politics, Finances and Culture” examines the findings of  a study which pointed out exactly how contradictory many millennials beliefs are. For example, most millennials like Obama, but not Obamacare. Many believe social security benefits will not last to benefit them, but oppose cuts to social security. Perhaps the most chilling contradiction for me was regarding our willingness to connect with strangers through multiple channels, while simultaneously claiming that few people could be trusted.”Here is a generation that trusts peers enough to meet random strangers in bars on Tinder, ride in cars with strangers on Uber X and Lyft, visit strangers’ apartments through Craigslist, sleep on their beds through Airbnb, and we’re also the least likely to say “most people can be trusted?”

Another shocking finding discussed in the Atlantic article was regarding millennial stance on social policies. While most of the millennial generation is for legalizing gay marriage and marijuana, we have the same division of views on abortion and gun control as generations before us. This finding actually made me question the validity of the study, or perhaps the finding is just a shock to my West Coast and liberal upbringing. After reading all this conflicting data on millennials, I question if lumping people into groups by age is really a good idea. Perhaps confusion isn’t a generational issue, but rather one more segmented by location. I know many a 40 year old that seems just as confused as my 20 something peers.

I don’t think my view is unwarranted, in fact, I feel than many feel that the bay area is a confusing place to live. One woman aptly describes her own experience as a 36 year old in the bay area in this  article for The Bold Italic. She states that at 36 it has hit her that she is now in her 30s and that the only adult milestone she has achieved in her life consists of buying a condo, and laments that she still has not figured out her career at 36. Her situation doesn’t strike me as unique, but rather telling of at least one of the issues many people in the bay area face. Some may have a career figured out, but not a partner or children. Others have a partner, and a job, but not enough income to afford a house or kids. It makes me wonder if it is not that the bay area has a culture that dismisses traditional milestones, but rather it’s a place where they may not be achievable for many.

In fact going back to the window of my hipster coffee shop in San Francisco, it is not uncommon for protestors to vehemently chant about the gentrification of their city. This gentrification may at least be partially to blame for the inability of several people in the bay area to be able to achieve what were once considered typical life goals. Some have begun to describe this phenomenon as the Silicon Valley Class war. An article titled “In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War We’re fighting About The Wrong Things” on Wired described the impact of the tech boom on the working class of San Francisco, majority of these incidents such as the BART workers strike and the Google Shuttle protest took place in 2013. Two years later, I only see tech companies and their workers living and thriving in the city, the locals have become out of date, gentrification is in many way’s winning. The Civic Center Bart Stop in SF, which was once considered the sketchiest stop of all, is now home to Twitter and NEMA, an expensive apartment complex, no doubt home to many a tech worker. 

Perhaps confusion, and uncertainty is the new normal, and I am the one who is out of date. Today, old monumental establishments such as the Buena Vista Café in Fisherman’s Warf founded in 1912, famous for bringing Irish Coffee to our shores in 1952, coexist with new, hot, happening restaurants such as the highly anticipated Liholiho Yatch Club, which will feature Hawaiian-Indian Cusine.  When I finally leave the comfort of my coffee shop, and face the cold, usually foggy streets of the city I encounter millennials, particularly in SOMA, Haight and the Mission, however I also run into homeless people, working class construction workers, and elderly couples, roaming the streets of Nob Hill, and enjoying the view from their rent controlled apartments in the Embarcadero. One trip to China Town or  a run into the masses of professionals of all ages and social classes rushing to catch BART, or the Muni reminds me that this city is growing, adapting, and changing, albeit at its own pace, and not without a fight.

Startup Marketing Budgets

A simple google search on the “purpose of a marketing budget” or “how to build a results-driven marketing budget” yields a number of different views on budgets for marketing; All, okay, nearly all, of these articles  suggest that one take a hard look at the revenue generated by previous marketing efforts. While this advice is well and good for a company that has years of revenue data, how does one create a budget for a startup that is in its first year of sales, or has not yet been able to build a clear system that links previous sales to marketing activities?

Is building a marketing budget for a startup inherently different from building an enterprise marketing budget, or are all marketing budgets based on the same principles? Perhaps there isn’t a single answer to this question. In fact some may argue that each marketing budget differs based on industry, company size, company goals, and the target audience.  I don’t really want to spend time getting into these arguments, but I do want to acknowledge that these issues exist.  Articles that are titled “ 5 steps to a __________ “ are rarely applicable to every situation.  My goal was to understand “How to Set up a Marketing Budget for a Startup” which is something that I am watching happen before me.  I manage budget for events (which eats up a large chunk of budget), due to this costly part of the business, I am constantly under pressure to optimize the budget.

I found several interesting articles on this topic, surprisingly none of them from my usual top sources such as Forbes or Business Insider, all of these articles happened to be written by people I imagine have created their own startup budgets or watched it happen.

How to Set Up a Marketing Budget

By John Webb of Get2 Growth

Discusses the different steps involved in setting up a budget.

  • Start By Defining Your Goals
  • Test, track, measure, optimize
  • Expect the Unexpected
  • Be Disciplined

I found all of his steps applicable particularly to my event budget. I think his steps are useful in terms of event budget for a few reasons: first, I have a clear goal at events, to reach a certain number of “Market Qualified Leads” I can test, track and measure each event by the spend and MQL. Hence, the first two steps are extremely applicable. In terms of expecting the unexpected and being disciplined, I really think it depends on the way you view your budget. For myself, I always try to expect the unexpected by leaving a buffer cost for shipping issues, cabs, etc , but you cannot really plan around flight delays, or shipment mishaps, you simply have to roll with it. When it comes to  being disciplined, as the author mentions, your budget should be “flexible.” For example, when a VC who is investing in your company asks for a last minute $1000 dollar ticket to an event, a flexible budget allows  you to give them that ticket ( and*hopefully* contributes to convincing them to keep investing in your company J)

5 Smart Ways for Startups to Spend Marketing Budget

By John Adam of Inc.com

Discusses 5 tips for Startups

  1. Pay for Social Media
  2. Invest in Media Gimmicks
  3. Google ads and content Marketing
  4. Conferences and Expos
  5. Hire a Publicists or Media Relations Pro

I was pleased to see Conferences and Expos were on the list. Adam presses that despite the relatively expensive cost of attending these events it is still important for startups to participate. He claims that “The access to experts, insiders and, yes, press can be a great investment.”

A few other interesting articles caught my attention, although they weren’t targeted specifically to startup marketing. One, from the Small Business Association discussed budgets specific to your business and how they could provide a high value ROI. Another, from KickOffLabs talked about working on zero budget. Link to the Small business article here, and link to the low budget option here.

How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits Your Business Goals and Provides High Return Investment

Guide to Startup Marketing Without a Big Budget

Happy Budgeting! Up Next: Why is Everyone so Confused?:  An opinionated analysis of millennials and bay area career culture.

Business 101: Marketing Funnel and Sales Pipeline ( What I wish I learned in Marketing 101)

Attending a private school that offers a fully liberal arts education has its pros and cons. A huge pro is that you get to experience a holistic curriculum, writing is valued in practically every subject, and  classes tend to be small enough that you actually know the names of everyone in class and so does your professor. I enjoyed each minute of my undergrad and miss it dearly.

However, this education came at a high price, and for those students who don’t receive substantial scholarships and help from parents I am not sure it is worth the cost from a career standpoint. I was lucky to have had both a scholarship and full parental support for my education, I am grateful that student loans are not something I have to worry about unless I pursue grad school. In my opinion, however, I wonder about the value of my education and it’s application to the real world. Much of the real world experience and career building I got from school, was built out of my own ambition to seek lots of internships and publication opportunities.

Moreover as I entered the world of Sales and Marketing I felt that my business program had not adequately prepared me with the common terms used in the industry. Something as basic as the Marketing Funnel and Sales Pipeline were not covered in what was considered an “honors” business program.

Marketing Funnel

Sales Pipeline 

Tools to Fill Your Sales Pipeline

Why is it important to know these basics? Why do I think schools should teach them?

Most students pursue a college degree to increase their chances of employment after graduation. Research supportsthat those with a college degree are less likely to be unemployed than those without a degree, one study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that in 2014, the unemployment rate for those with a college degree was 7%, whereas the unemployment rate for those with only a high school education was at nearly 20%. Since college is viewed and meant to indicate skills that are more worthy to employers, education institutions, particularly the most expensive private institutions ought to prepare students for employment. Universities and colleges can do this by having a heavy application based curriculum.

Some may argue that those attending a school like mine, which specializes in liberal arts, are attending college for the experience and not to gain workplace skills. My response to this would be that, although students choosing to major in more traditionally liberal arts fields may be looking to read and discuss great literature and write deep philosophy papers as opposed to gaining knowledge pertinent to future careers, someone enrolled in a business program is seeking to gain applicable skills.

Understanding the basics of any profession can empower students to be less confused and have an edge into the business world and in internships. An understanding of the big picture and basic concepts will help make the specifics more simple. In school you learn about numbers, then, basic math functions, then algebra, then calculus, and then multivariable calculus, and so on. The least colleges can do is take students through the basics of business concepts, for example a basic understanding of the funnels and pipelines clearly allows students to see more intricate details. For example with a simple glance at the funnel and pipeline explains to students the difference between sales and marketing, sets the foundation for an understanding of lead generation and conversion.

One year out of college, and much of the concepts I have learned and held on to about marketing conceptually were not taught to me in school. Instead, I learned about SWOT analysis and the Marketing Mix, much of which is outdated in the world I am part of now, or meant for strategic marketing and sales analysis, which at least in the tech industry is something only high level executives play an active role in defining. Maybe companies need to provide training when they hire recent grads, however I do think that most companies, particularly start-ups do not have the bandwidth for such efforts. As such, I believe that colleges, universities and industry ought to keep in sync and up-to date about the latest concepts related to real world jobs for students. Higher education should strive to provide both intellectual exploration and serious real world application and skills to those who pursue it.

How to Calculate the ROI of Hard to Measure Marketing Activities

A friend recently referred to marketing as “magic” he wasn’t referring to it’s enchantment however, instead we were discussing how marketing is one of the first departments to be affected when a company goes under. We felt that this was primarily because it was hard to measure its ROI on the the bottom line.

I’ve encountered the ROI problem more than once in my current marketing role. How does one measure the impact of attending an event, having a webinar, or a speaking session. What is the impact of daily blog posts? White papers? A facebook or twitter campaign? Marketo addresses some of these challenges in this article. I think Marketo captures the way we measure webinar ROI pretty well, and the way I imagine most companies do as well.

I’ve learned that with events you can build out a campaign in Salesforce and measure the total leads, the market qualified leads, the sales qualified leads and the final revenue generated by an event and compare that against the total event cost to see what the ROI was.

Formula for that would be simply

 total revenue generated by sales gained from event/ total  event cost 

Similarly if I wanted to measure the ROI of events versus webinars I could do

Webinars

Total sales generated by leads from webinars/ total cost of webinars

Events

Total sales generated by leads from events/ total cost of webinars

Seems pretty simple right? Unfortunately it isn’t. Some leads that eventually end up as customers are touched ny a number of different marketing activities. For example we initially meet the leadat an event, then we send them a webinar, then they maybe see us at another event and attend a speaking session. Finally, they decide to buy. Do I attribute the revenue from this final sale to  each different marketing activity evenly? Do I allocate the entire sale amount to the first marketing activity? Or perhaps I allocated the total to the last marketing activity? In the end, I  proposed an even split, but that was just a hunch. How do I know the specific instance that led this person to make a decision without asking them? Did they really get affected by each event or did one particular event convince them more than the rest? It is not a black and white, yes or no answer.

I think that making an effort to understand marketing and its effect on the bottom line is critical to ensuring that a company continuously allocates funds into the department. McKinsey& Company has specialized methods and techniques to do this, check them out here. However, I am not entirely convinced there is one correct way to measure ROI or that it is the only factor that one needs to consider when thinking about the effectiveness of marketing, Forbes contributor and VP of Marketing at MarketShare Daniel Kehrer explains why ROI may be wrong for marketing here

In conclusion, I’m all about the numbers in most cases, but I’m starting to question if one has to look at numbers, and ROI differently when it comes to marketing. Perhaps evaluating the effectiveness of different marketing efforts requires a different system than the traditional ROI model.

The Sales and Marketing Debate

How are they different? How are they alike? Which is more important? 

These questions are often addressed in articles which attempt to stake a claim in the hotly debated topic: Sales versus Marketing.

I’m a Marketing Coordinator, so I cannot really claim to have neutral stance on the topic, I will say however the argument itself is flawed. The article that most accurately reflects my own perspective on the topic is one by Linkx link here.

How are Marketing and Sales Different

Sales and Marketing are not the same thing. Sales, in my opinion is significantly harder. Sales is about selling. It requires a competitive nature, and the type of person that can consistently hit quota and get a thrill out of achieving it. I am not convinced that one needs sales experience to be in marketing, although it can’t hurt either. I have to say I was shocked to read this article here. The summer internship I did involving vigorous cold call sales, about two years ago, did nothing to prepare me for the kind of marketing role I have today.

As the article on Linx mentions, marketing is about positioning and sales is about selling.

How are Marketing and Sales Alike?

Both marketing and sales require knowledge about the product. Both require an understanding of the product(s) value add to the end user. Finally, the end goal of each is to create revenue for the company, albeit in different ways. This article here best captures the commonalities, in my opinion.

Which is more important?

For a long time I idolized Apple. I felt that their marketing was on par, they created so much demand through marketing that customers came to them. People stood outside hours before the launch of a new product, if you have good marketing, I believed sales was less important.

With time I realized that consumer product industries are different, they utilize marketing differently, and not every organization and industry can rely solely on good marketing. Neither is more important. And in a start-up, marketing is less important than sales, at least initially. As the company grows and progresses, marketing comes in, at that point it is not about which is more important, it’s about how sales and marketing can work together to meet the needs of the customer.

Check out this Act-On white paper that touches on the idea that alignment of sales and marketing can correlate to higher revenue.

Next Goal: Find some metrics on this debate and the function of marketing at a startup 🙂

How to Survive Tradeshow Planning 101

A few months ago I found myself starting my first “real” job. The first week was unlike any internship I had ever experienced. I found myself in San Francisco attending three different events in one week. Totally not a desk job, I thought.

A little over two months out and I’ve fast realized that event coordination is very much a desk job. My main responsibility is to manage end-to-end event processes. This means everything from planning months in advance to make sure we are able to secure the sponsorship level we desire, secure a good booth location  to making sure the minute the show ends that I will have access to my leads from the show and a plan set on how to nurture those leads into valuable sales.

I think responsibilities and processes for a Marketing/Event coordinator vary very much from company to company. So I won’t get too into specifics here. Moreover I am going to talk very specifically about the trade show process as I understand it, I’m not an expert and I don’t claim to be one…yet. So I’ll add the disclaimer that this is simply how I define the steps for myself.

Pre-Event

  • Register
  • Select a Booth
  • Order Booth supplies: ie. electrical, artwork, swag, lead scanners ( make sure you ship everything well in advance in case of screw ups)
  • Ensure the staff has tickets and hotels booked
  • Advertise that the company will be at the event through various social media channels
  • Double check on everything a few days before the event
  • Set a lead goal for the event, how much business do you think this event will generate for you? At what cost

During Event

  • Arrive earlier than all staff for booth setup, usually these times for booth setup are provided to you
  • Ensure that your swag, artwork, electrical and lead scanners have arrived
  • Tweet and post on social media channels, take pictures and post those
  • Ensure that the booth is always staffed and space out lunch breaks
  • Keep water at the booth but hidden
  • Make your booth trash free

Post Event 

  • Make sure you have access to your leads and follow the process for your company to convert leads
  • Make sure you have accounted for all invoices
  • Return all materials to avoid fees
  • Send out emails to your leads shortly after the event to follow up
  • See how your actual lead count compares to your lead goal

I completed managing my very first event just a few days ago and everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong. I forgot a few steps, there were some issues at the event, and I learned to make an event checklist that would help me stay on top of it for the gazillion upcoming events.

Here are some helpful links

  1. Exhibitor Magazine
  2. Biztree
  3. PlexKits

Another disclaimer here…for my own use I just drew up a template on excel that works best for me and my needs.

Being Non-Tech in a Tech World; You Still Need to Learn to Code.

When I started college I was vehemently against learning to code. I wanted to be as far away as possible from sitting at a desk and writing in a language where one tiny mistake could cause an entire program not to function. A high school java class only served to further confirm my distaste for the language. I spent my valuable breaks and lunch inside the classroom waiting for a code to compile, so that my robot could jump over a fence.

Perhaps not wanting to code is normal for most people. For me, this was not the case.  I mean, I live in the Silicon Valley, and as though living in a place where there are billboards advertising summer camps that teach Python to 8 year olds isn’t enough, both my parents who are engineers who spent their lives constantly bombarding me with the importance of learning to program. But, as all young people do, I dismissed this advice and pursued studying psychology and marketing; fields where I figured I wouldn’t need to code at all to be successful.

Boy, was I wrong. It’s been one year since graduation.  I chose the marketing route as opposed to therapy, I work in an area that thrives on technology. Technology thrives on programming. Over this past year I have regretted my decision not to learn to code. In fact, much to the delight of my parents, I have  been taking an online class in java programming.

When I tell people in my field that I am learning to code, I get one, of two reactions. The first is usually something along the lines of “That’s a really good idea! That’s really smart” the second is “Why not focus on something more related to your field?”I suppose the first group of people has come to the same conclusion that I begrudgingly have, that coding is relevant in marketing and actually in a wide array of business positions, particularly here. How can I market a product, when I cannot really have a grasp on what it is that I am selling?

Check out these articles who really explain why marketing professionals should code

I am not arguing that I need to learn to be an awesome java programmer to excel in a marketing career. I’m saying that knowledge doesn’t hurt. On a side note, I do think learning HTML, Google Adwords, Google Analytics, and SQL are actually technical languages that can directly lead to success in a marketing. More on that in a later post 🙂

Hometown Event Curation

Because I basically manage events for a living, I often find myself avoiding traveling to events or even concerts outside of business hours. I politely decline invitations to places like Vegas, thrice in one year, is more than enough. What I do love, and make time for though, is finding small community gatherings in my own town.

I am a local event curator at HerAgenda and I enjoy finding local events for young women to network and socialize. (Although, Nesha, the founder would probably complain that I do not post nearly enough) It can be tough moving to another city, and being a San Jose local I like to think of this as my way of giving back.

Although I’ve moved home since graduation, I can understand the tough issues people who move away from their hometown face. My best friend recently moved to Colorado, and Meetups have been her biggest savior.

While I sit perfectly satisfied in my hometown I hope to travel to another city if not country, at least briefly, and when I do I will certainly follow the advice listed here.

But until then I plan to frequent my most favorite hometown spots like the Cocola Bakery in Santana Row and the  Secret Oasis Day Spa minutes away from my house. Both places I highly recommend for the 20-something crowd, particularly if you enjoy massages and macaroons. For other really cool local spots in San Jose check out this article

Launching the first webinar for Redis Labs

As I mentioned in my previous post, I work in marketing for a really cool startup called Redis Labs. Today we launched our first webinar  featuring our Chief Developer Advocate,  and Redis expert Itamar Haber

You can check it out here

Here is a breakdown of the pre, during, and post webinar process

Pre-Webinar

  • Email Drip-Campaign Inviting our House List and reminding Registrants of the upcoming webinar
  • Paid Social Media Promotion, we hired a Social Media Consultant to help us with this, and it was a great learning experience for me
  • Organic Social Media Promotion

Webinar

  • The webinar itself was formatted to be a lecture
  • A combination of slides and live demo with a Q/A session at the end
  • Our Q/A was very engaged and lively

Post Webinar

  • We will be sending out an email to all registrants, both those who attended and who did not attend
  • I have set up a drip campaign to promote the recorded content from the webinar
  • Our sales team will be contacting those registrants who indicated they were interested in talking to a sales rep

Overall, besides a few hiccups as to be expected with one’s first attempt at anything I was super excited by the results of our webinar and am looking forward to coordinating more of them.

Meet Vish!

P1010033

 

  • I am living, eating, breathing, and working in the #Silicon Valley
  • I am a Marketing Coordinator at   Redis Labs
  • I wrote and published a paper on   person-organization fit
  • I am fascinated by data analytics 
  • I am attempting to System.out.println (“learn java”);
  • I like to   tumbl   and   tweet
  • I have an unhealthy obsession with Fitzgerald novels.
  • I bake gluten-free peanut butter cookies, and make  mouth-watering avocado pound cakes
  • I live with my adopted stray cat, who responds to Sir Blake