Month: March 2015

Should You Be Reshaping Your Social Media Strategy?


There are so many do’s and don’ts in the social media marketing handbook these days, it’s hard to know how to get the most out of your channels. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about brands that treat their social platforms as extended sales funnels, with a closer eye on their ROI than their brand marketing. That’s a shame and a waste, since social media is the ideal platform for humanizing your brand and sharing your awesome branding with new people. It’s really not the ideal platform for selling, although it can absolutely serve that purpose as well.

brand marketing

There will always be other channels for very salesy content (and email marketing is almost always going to be a better bet for ROI), but social media specifically has a huge capacity for friendly branding that many are ignoring for the most part. One social media expert who is not ignoring this, however, is Jason Falls – which is why he caught my eye online.

Social Media for Business: Are You Missing the Point?

Jason is a digital strategist who has co-authored two books on marketing; the most recent focuses on taking the BS (my euphemism) out of social media marketing. Below you’ll find my questions for Jason and his thoughts on what makes for great social media that doesn’t feel forced or over the top – social media that focuses on and takes advantage of direct communication with fans, as opposed to direct marketing to potential buyers.

What is the worst mistake that small businesses make using social media?

Assuming that it's free and easy. This is a marketing channel. It may or may not be one that works well for every business, but it's a path to your customer. If you don't invest the time, money and energy into it, then you're failing your customers there. They are valuable – don't shrug them off to some intern or refuse to invest any money because you don't see a direct response return. If anything, use it as a place for customer service and feedback so you can see intrinsic value.

How can brands strike a balance between brand marketing and direct marketing when using social media?

Just genuinely participating, sharing content, engaging in conversations and showing your human side is brand marketing in and of itself. That’s what makes me want to engage with you, trust you and perhaps even predisposes me to purchase from you. I buy Charmin because their social content cracks me up: it’s not about selling toilet paper, it's about offering a humorous aside for people during the day. That's great brand marketing. If they dropped a coupon every now and then, I wouldn't mind. But that's not why I follow them.

brand marketing


What are your thoughts on sharing the same content across different social channels?

Each audience and platform is slightly different, so the logic is that you should prepare content specifically for that audience. Obviously Twitter is shorter, and not as image or video friendly (yet). So if you post the same thing on Facebook, you're missing an opportunity to add images, video, longer text and so on. That doesn't mean you have to invest a great deal of time in creating separate content, but massaging it a bit for the type of responses and user you have on each platform makes sense. In the case of LinkedIn, for instance, you might have a B2B focus there, while focusing on a consumer audience on Facebook – so the messages should be different. 

What do you think about the 80/20 rule (80% other content, 20% self promotional content) for social media marketing?

That's a good rule of thumb, but it's not such a hard number for everyone. Every audience is different, and some will tolerate more direct calls to action than others. You certainly want to engage and keep people's attention – and spamming isn't a great way to do that. But many B2B followers are actually looking for product information and company expertise, and don't really care about some trade article that doesn't have anything to do with you. You have to test the ratio with your own audience to find the right mix.

Related Class: B2B Social Media Strategy

What is the biggest missed opportunity that most businesses aren't taking advantage of on social media?

Most business simply aren't seeing this as a human communications channel. They're too busy trying to monetize it and spam audiences with ads and offers. There are channels for that. Social media can be one, but it's inherently more useful if you just have someone there to answer questions, serve the customers and show you have a human side to what you do.

Jason Falls is a digital strategist, author and public speaker. His work has touched a number of large brands including Maker’s Mark, AT&T, Cafepress and Humana. To find out more about Jason visit his website.

To learn more about boosting your brand through smart social media use and well-tailored content, check out this class: How To Manage a Brand in a Social Media World.


4 Steps to an Airtight Partnership With Your Content Firm


Content marketing is no small undertaking. You need multiple people to orchestrate content tactics for strategy, execution, publishing and distribution. And if you’re tackling this in-house, it requires more time, money and emotional bandwidth to get the right team in place.

content agency

So it’s understandable that content writing and design are the two most commonly outsourced content marketing activities. Companies of all shapes and sizes are forking over more dollars to regularly get content placed in front of their audiences. And partnering with a team of experts is an efficient way to grow your online presence.

But before handing over the reins to a content firm, there are a few things you need to know in order to make the relationship — and your investment — worthwhile.

1.  Find the Right Fit.

To set the stage for a healthy partnership, you need to do some self-exploration first. Dig deep into your company’s core competencies, and address your strengths and weaknesses so you can identify a firm that complements them.

The firm you hire should have a history of helping companies with similar competencies and a plan for preserving your company’s voice, tone, message and expertise.

2.  Set Clear Expectations for Both Parties.

Finding a firm that can execute your content marketing needs is exciting, but too often, marketers move forward without setting clear expectations from the start. After a few months, they realize it’s either not a good fit or the execution plan has a hole or two.

Related Class: Justifying the Budget: Why Content is Gold

Instead of diving right in, establish an agreement upfront that clearly communicates your and the firm’s expectations. You need to be on the same page about goals, expectations and deliverables to properly execute your strategy and see results.

3.  Communicate Openly and Frequently.

In the outsourcing dynamic, communication is often steady in the beginning. Then, as marketers get comfortable in the relationship, it trails off.

Related Class: The Content Marketing Landscape

You don’t need to chat daily, but you should regularly update the firm on what’s going on internally and vice versa. Otherwise, the firm can’t fine-tune your strategy and execution plan to meet your ongoing needs, and you can’t be as responsive to theirs. Schedule regular meetings to discuss any changes in target markets and obstacles, and key wins on both sides.

 4.  Go the Extra Mile.

Your content firm is essentially an extension of your team; don’t be passive with the relationship. Ask, “What’s going to make me a great client?” and counter that with the question, “What’s going to make me a bad one?” Understanding the difference will help you maximize the relationship and give the firm what it needs to produce results. Expressing genuine interest in making the relationship run smoothly will make the firm want to work harder for your business. While you may be paying someone to do a job, going the extra mile will always yield higher results.

content agency

By outsourcing your content marketing, you can continue to focus on what you do best. You also gain access to teams that understand each phase of the content marketing process, which is often much cheaper (and less time intensive) than building your own in-house team.

Although you’re hiring an outside company, you should view your external team as an arm of your marketing team. The more seamless you can make the partnership, the more authentic your content will come across and the more your audience will trust what you have to say.


How to Use Online Marketing to Drive Local Sales


In the huge community that deals with digital marketing, there is no shortage of advice for business owners and marketers: a million and one ways to engage on social media, 25 things you must do right now to improve your site’s SEO, etc., etc. Heck, that’s what I do! But often when I read marketing tips and how-to’s, I think of those businesses that plenty of online marketing advice just doesn’t apply to – those that operate only within a local community, only in brick-and-mortar spaces, and primarily offline.

But an offline point-of-sale certainly does not make online marketing pointless; brick-and-mortar businesses still need to participate in our online sphere of websites, maps, reviews, social media and networking. That’s because even if you’re offline when you interact with your customers, they could still very well be finding you through social media, searching for your locations, and deciding to visit you based on online reviews. If you haven’t crafted an online presence that checks all the marketing boxes, you’re missing out on a big group of customers who might otherwise be browsing your shop, sitting down at your café counter, or visiting your space. Here’s how to start off your online presence right.

Be Super Findable with Google+

Most people would agree that Google+ has not become the social media Facebook rival we were warned of – but it has absolutely become one of the most important platforms for brick-and-mortar businesses. That’s because the vast majority of people search using Google (just under 70%), and Google uses your business’s Google+ page (essentially a Place page) to populate a preview of sorts at the top of search engine results. Below is an example of the Google search results for a local café/bar I love:


The box on the right of the screen is generated automatically by Google, using the map listing (address), photos, information and hours the business owner has added to The Foundry’s Google+ page. If you’re the type of marketer who cares about standing out in search results (that’s everyone, right?), this eye-catching box is valuable SERP real estate.

Improve Your Google+ Business Page

This box will be there even if you haven’t created a Google+ page for your business, but it won’t be much: a map showing your location, your address, and a phone number if you’re publicly listed. If you claim your Google+ page, you can upload photos (how tempting does that latte look?), list your business hours, and even link to your menu if you have one – and all of those things will show up in this preview box. Even reviews are previewed in this space!

Related Class: Social Media Strategies & Tactics to Drive Local Digital Marketing

If I’m searching for a place, this little box will give me everything I need to know about your business – if you set it up! Or if I’m searching on my mobile device (which is how we’re all doing it these days), this summary box is the very first thing I see in my results:


Claim and Customize Your Review Sites

Most review sites function a lot like the above Google search preview – your listing will be there whether or not you claim it, but you really, really should. An unclaimed listing on Yelp or TripAdvisor will still show user reviews and include basic info (address, phone number), but it won’t have much else. Once you claim your business’s page, you can link to your website, list your hours, upload photos (though reviewers can also upload their own), and even write a summary of your business and (on Yelp) a profile of the business owner or manager. People really do make decisions based on what they see here on a review page, so make it as tempting as you can. Here’s the Yelp page of a local market/bakery in my area:


Between the reviews and the photos, I’m ready to head there now! Think how much more compelling this listing is than a barebones list of reviews with no images, no background info, and no hours to help me plan my visit. Plus, you can respond to reviews, track click-throughs, and much more! It’s quick and easy to claim your review pages, because these sites want you to do it – Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s List all have step-by-step instructions.

Obviously this is just the beginning of what should be a comprehensive online presence – social media, local listings, and a lot more. But for small businesses and brick-and-mortar companies in search of new customers, these steps will make it easier for those fresh faces to find you, and more favorable for your business when they do.

To find out more about driving local search traffic to your business, check out this class: Google Places and Local Business Marketing Best Practices.


What the Acquisition Means for OMI (and popexpert)



In a single word, More.

Just like the famous scene in the Matrix when the villain, Agent Smith, confronts our hero Neo and asks for “More, more, more!!” of his clones to come out and attack (but without the nefarious tone or intentSmile).

More of Everything

The Online Marketing Institute will have more resources, more video capabilities with a new video production team, and more cool learning experiences with a broader technology platform. Translation – we will have more of the following:

  • Great eLearning classes like Twitter 101, Blogging for Dummies, Digital Advertising, Personal Branding, Facebook Marketing, Email for Mobile and hundreds more.
  • Studio quality video workshops from the absolute top educators and authors, with experts like Rohit Bhargava, Neal Schaeffer, Thom Craver, Kevin Popivic.
  • NEW 1 to 1 Live Video Coaching to get affordable advice directly from the experts – it’s easy to schedule, pay and connect in just a few clicks of the mouse.
  • Awesome Expert Marketplace with the ability to find, filter and engage over 3,100 top rated/reviewed consultants and coaches that fit your particular need.
popexpert OMI acquisition

Pretty cool, eh?

Finally, you’ll see continued industry-wide leadership in digital marketing education industry like our annual Digital Talent Gap study, Digital IQ Scorecard and the industry’s most recognized career building credential through our 23+ certification programs.

OMI’s ability to advance our mission to “help the world learn digital” only gets stronger with this acquisition. And now with even more resources, too help individuals who want to improve their careers, small business and marketing teams who want to drive better ROI and large enterprises (and agencies) that want to up-skill and engage their staff around the world with industry’s only fully custom eLearning programs.

In short, OMI simply get’s better with MORE!

– Aaron

P.S.  Did you really think I’d let anything happen to my life’s passion project for the past 8 years? No way!


Gaps and Trends: Where eLearning Fits Into the Social Media Landscape


All of us in the marketing world like to think of ourselves as experts, but the truth is that we all have gaps in our knowledge. Many of us (myself included) learned by doing when a job required it, or by watching a coworker when the task was handed down. Last year, I walked a coworker through the basics of social media marketing, and she asked me if I studied it in college. Ha! When I was in college Facebook was still only for college students, and there wasn’t any Facebook marketing to be taught.

eLearning For Social Media Trends and Cohesion

There’s nothing wrong with knowledge gained on the fly, and there are certainly advantages to learning by doing. But the downside is that you do end up with holes to fill in later, and many haven’t found a way to do that yet. We’re busy folks without time for night classes or weeklong training courses. And we’re also busy trying to stay on top of the new trends and technology in social media, advertising and digital marketing!

That space is really where eLearning fits in, to fill in the gaps and keep us current. I, for example, manage social media as part of my arts marketing job. But when the interns who work in my office started talking about SnapChat, I didn’t even know where to start. And shortly after the kids had it, businesses started buzzing about SnapChat as part of a social marketing strategy.

Keep Up with the Kids on Social Media

OMI has their vast library of eLearning videos sorted in several different ways – by topics, levels (basic, intermediate, advanced), marketing role, business type, etc. – so it’s easy to navigate straight to what you need to fill in the gaps. For me, that meant the Trends section.

eLearning social media classes

The Trending Best Practices section is a fast track to updating your marketing know-how, divided simply into areas of focus: social, mobile, tech, search and more. I found exactly what I was looking for there – this class: Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine & SnapChat. Led by search and social consultant Kelsey Jones, the class is a precise and detailed look at the new visual wave of social media marketing platforms. It’s perfect because it’s focused: it doesn’t have anything I don’t need, which is a problem with many other types of development learning, which end up vague and bland by trying to do too much.

Teach Your Team to Pull Together on Social Media

Level-setting your staff is always going to be a positive, but in social media it feels essential. Often channels are maintained by many different people at once – managers, team leaders, interns – and everyone thinks differently about best practices and new strategies. Some businesses assign each social channel to a different member of staff, so cohesion is only possible if everyone is on the same page.

The intern or entry-level staff member who updates your Facebook page and Twitter account should have the same fundamental knowledge base as the social media manager pulling the strings behind the scenes, or there will be a disconnect in day-to-day content and strategy.

OMI social media eLearning class

So what did I learn about SnapChat and all the rest? Quite a bit. Classes like this are helpful because they start with the specific fundamentals, but also include plenty of real life examples of what brands are doing and which brands are succeeding.

Related class: Visuals Storytelling on Social Media

If you’re exploring the possibility of adding a new social media channel to your list, those details and examples are essential for imagining how your brand could fit in and participate. It’s just one class, but it works at any level: a social media manager could pull together a strategic plan for using the platform, while an intern could gather examples to use for their visual content when the channel gets up and running.

Social media isn’t the only field of marketing that can benefit from eLearning to level-set team knowledge – it’s an advantage no matter where you’re working. Beyond the obvious day-to-day benefits of having everyone speaking the same language in the office, this sort of across the board learning helps create cohesive, consistent content, social media and advertising by filling in knowledge gaps within your team.

Not sure where your team stands when it comes to digital and social marketing? You can use OMI's Digital IQ assessment to test their knowledge - and see where improvements can be made. Find out more and request the assessment here.


How To Reach New Social Audiences Through Networking


No business, whether small and local or huge and international, can skip social media these days. But take heart – engaging in social media does not necessarily mean that your business needs to get Pinterest/LinkedIn/Instagram/Snapchat/Tumblr, or whatever the kids are doing these days. As far as we’re concerned, keeping your social media streamlined and effective is the new black.

It can be tempting to expand your online reach by adding new social platforms to your list, but most businesses simply don’t have the time and staff to maintain fresh content on multiple channels. Spreading your content too thin or reproducing it identically on 10 different platforms isn’t a recipe for success, whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness or boost sales. For small businesses, I’d personally suggest Facebook as a starting point, and Twitter if you’re up for a few tweets a day.

The good news is that there are better ways to expand your reach and impressions online than picking up more social media channels. No doubt you already know that networking with industry leaders, organizations and other companies is good business, but have you tried leveraging it to improve your social media strategy? It’s an opportunity worth exploring for a huge range of businesses, from brick-and-mortar retailers to online service providers.

Connecting The Dots Online

Generally speaking, networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships and connections. Building these connections through social media, and with an eye to specific social media benefits, can be as simple as a retweet or Facebook share. Connecting with businesses that share an audience with you (in terms of locality, personal interests, buyer profiles, etc.) can help you introduce new people to your brand, and do the same for those brands or organizations you connect with. It’s a win-win.

Related Class: Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media

The first step in this process is making sure that you’re socially connected to those businesses and organizations that you already have relationships with. Are you following all of them on Twitter? Have you Liked their Facebook Page (as your Page, of course)? Because those actions come with notifications for the recipient, they’ll likely notice your activity and Like or follow you in return.

Explore Community Resources

The next step is building relationships that are purely social, by connecting with social media accounts that relate to your industry, your audience’s interests, your community, etc. Don’t just consider businesses in this category – there are often Pages that serve topical content based on specific audiences or interests.

In real life (i.e. not just on social media), organizations exist that promote and share businesses like yours – are you networking with them? Does your city’s Chamber of Commerce have a Facebook Page? Is your local small business organization on Twitter? Where I live, there’s a countywide tourism council that generates high-quality content based on what local businesses and non-profits are doing in the area, like seasonal events or restaurant renovations. The tourism council also shares posts, photos and videos from local businesses on their Facebook Page. Networking with an organization like that can help you reach a brand new audience of interested locals and out-of-towners.

social media reach

Make Yourself Share-Worthy

Since most marketers who operate social media channels are at least aware of the 80/20 rule – even if we don’t always stick to it – there are a lot of brands looking for content to share socially that isn’t their own. Their audiences want to see more than self-promotion, and your content could be something that fits in to fill that need. Connecting socially and generating great content is the one-two punch for getting your business out in front of new eyeballs.

But getting shared across social media platforms doesn’t just have to be about content; there are many reasons your posts, tweets, or business news might be relevant to other audiences. The easiest way to get started is to share the posts or tweets of others you’ve connected with, if it’s relevant to your fans or followers based on interests, location, etc. Social media networking often has a strong you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours ethos, so sharing proactively (only interesting, relevant things, of course) can really pay off down the road.

Be a Social (Media) Member of the Community

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, or even an online business that offers services to a specific area, you are automatically part of a local community, with all the built-in networks and neighbors that entails. If you establish them, your relationships with organizations, other businesses and people in your area can be mutually beneficial to you on any social platform.

Related Class: Social Media Marketing Best Practices for SMBs

How this works in practice depends a lot on the community your business is a part of. The type of community varies a lot from place to place – I’m personally in a kale-centric liberal college town area – and the feel of your community will dictate what sort of events, topics and content are sharable. Family friendly local events are a great place to start when you want to expand your social media posts beyond self-promotion, since almost any type of business can expect to have some parents in their audience.

social media reach

The above post is by a bank in my area that really brands itself as super-local and community oriented, so promoting a free town event is a no-brainer for them. And since they actually posted that event by sharing it from another local business’s Page (a radio station in town), they’re building up some local networking currency as well. Perhaps the next time the bank holds a community event (most recently a pet adoption drive!), the radio station might share it with their fans.

Building new relationships and relying on the ones you already have in your community – whether that’s your industry, your online niche, or a geographic location – is always going to be a smart business practice. If you then optimize that networking in the social media sphere as well, you can reap more quantifiable benefits (new eyeballs on your stuff) online. Both purely digital companies and brick-and-mortar businesses can take advantage of this. It’s not an overnight process – but reach out and connect, and somewhere down the road social media cross-pollination could be a big boost to your reach and reputation.

Want to learn more about how to grow your social media audience? Check out this class about activating brand advocates to help you out: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach


3 Pioneering Lessons for Every Agency from JWT: Creative Agency Digital Convergence


Three things every agency can learn from the story of how the world’s most iconic creative brand agency is pioneering digitally once again.

Among marketers dragging their feet and ignoring their digital problem, one agency of global repute started along the path to accelerating the digital-creative convergence. The agency goes by the name of J. Walter Thompson, or JWT. These are the big 3 learnings for any agency at the crossroads of convergence.

digital strategy

But first, the backstory in short: JWT is the world’s oldest brand advertising agency. In fact, James Walter Thompson, known as the “Commodore” for his pioneering leadership, is widely credited with inventing advertising in 1866. Now a subsidiary of WPP with over 10,000 employees, and clients ranging from Coca-Cola to Johnson & Johnson, they control much of the future of advertising themselves – but they also have a legacy that holds them back in digital. To sum it up, they have, or had, a company culture in which the creative genius ruled the roost, account management was all about three-martini lunches, and TV and print were where the big dollars were at. The challenge for JWT was obvious: how do we transform and pioneer once again in the age of digital?

1.  Level-setting starts by admitting you have a problem.

As an outsider, there to discuss education and digital acumen with hundreds of agencies like JWT, what I found most refreshing was the pure candor of admission that digital knowledge could be hugely improved across the board. So often, agency leaders talk about a recent training they did, or the lunch-and-learns conducted in order to “check the box” of staying up to speed on digital. Rarely do they frankly say, “We need to improve this, or it will cost us a lot of business.”

But that’s exactly what the global HR leaders and digital heads around the world said at JWT. “We knew we needed a platform to provide JWT specific courses, but also knew we needed a depth of content for people who were looking for specific subjects,” explained Global Digital Team head John Baker. “And we needed to provide it globally.”

And JWT tackled this issue head on. Now they have what is called “Digital Essentials Training,” an eLearning program that is provided to all 10,000 employees, in multiple languages (from Chinese to Spanish), with great fanfare and engagement across the globe. Now every single JWT account manager can be fluent in digital, speak confidently about integrated strategy, and level-set the knowledge base for all to grow from. No more lost opportunity, missed upsell recognition, or looking surprised when subjects like mobile responsive design or Facebook amplification strategies arise in client meetings. A simple, clear solution to the digital knowledge problem.

2.  Integrate education into current reviews and rewards systems.

One element that is critical in any education initiative is that it must tie back in to the core financial and promotional recognition and rewards systems already in place at the company. In short, don’t create an entirely new reward system. Allow an employee’s participation and proclivity to improve their skills and digital knowledge tie back to things like their personal professional development goals, and any existing recognition system in place.

For JWT, this meant using an API to pass on information, such as time spent watching classes, or who passed the exam for the Essentials Certificate Program. Then they could provide points and badges in their existing HR management system, so staff could show off their achievements and incorporate this information into their 360 reviews every quarter with management. Simple, easy, and effective. Make this a part of what you do and what is already valued, not a separate one-off project or a la carte training.

3.  Continue to drive a culture of learning for talent retention.

When humans learn something new, we get energized. This leads to stories like, “Wow, I emailed my entire team about the case study I watched, and we used that in our pitch the next day to win the business,” and “I had a million great ideas after watching that class, and love the energy I get from learning this stuff.” When we put that energized learning to use and see real results, we have intrinsic feelings of happiness that cannot be replicated by beer and pizza outings.


It is key to instill this feeling into our company cultures, and then provide an outlet for that energy. It’s the one big part of the JWT eLearning journey that bears fruit immediately. Having access to an eLearning library of over 300 video tutorials that’s updated monthly is invaluable. Shout-outs like this are an everyday occurrence: “That primer on Instagram saved my butt. I had a meeting on Monday, but on Sunday night the client emailed to say, ‘Hey, we want to hear more. How can you get us into the social stream of Instagram?’ Watching that class really gave me the confidence to have a thoughtful conversation about it on Monday.”

JWT is now moving into the digital IQ assessment phase to see how much knowledge has been imparted and to get a baseline of strengths and weaknesses, which can then be used to create new categories of learning. Thus, the journey of digital pioneering actively continues with the world’s oldest ad agency. Makes me wonder aloud, why are so many agencies still only talking about this?


An Open Letter: Why I Sold the Business


From Aaron Kahlow, CEO and Founder, Online Marketing Institute:

The age old story of swinging big vs. living easy.

By now, most of you have heard the news that OMI was acquired by popexpert. If not, I’ve added the press release to the bottom of this post.

As a result of this change, I’ve been asked a lot, “Why sell when so successful, at this stage?”. Here’s why:

The first question I hear is… “Was it the money?”

Answer: No. There is a very nice upside on both the short-term cash and long-term equity basis, but after selling OMS 3 years ago, this was not the primary motivator. Although OMI is nicely profitable and making very good money, cashing out was not what created the deal. Let me tell you what was.

Help the Expert, Help the World

Personally, I have spent the past decade educating and helping others through my own personal means in the areas of digital marketing. But it was just me, my personal time and effort, and the Institute’s platform to do this. And while a noble cause, I could see its limitations on two fronts. First, there are thousands of people that have the knowledge to help others, and their impact would be exponentially bigger if I could help those knowledgeable folks make a difference, rather than just working on my own. So really it was popexpert’s platform, built to enable the experts to unlock their knowledge to help the world live (and work) better, that was so appealing. The B2BC model alone gets my juices flowing - a model a la Uber, Amazon, eBay. This platform has the ability to help power the collaborative economy, a business that greatly usurps publishing great eLearning content alone, though that will still be a part of the big picture going forward.

The second limitation was that digital, a deep place of personal knowledge, is not where life begins and ends for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of creating the world’s largest eLearning library dedicated to digital and social media marketing, and I’ll always love how we help businesses of all types, sizes and geographies (91 countries!) see great gains from digital marketing. But that alone is only a part of the puzzle of life - which takes me right to my #2 reason.

Mindful, Entrepreneur Passion

Even if you are a long-time friend, you may not know how deep my belief system goes concerning the concept of mindfulness and related practices of Zen Buddhism. It is deeply ingrained into my being, and has helped me immensely in getting perspective, purpose and meaning in my life. I have felt a deep need to share this practice with others, to help them understand what is possible when truly taking control of one’s mind (or letting go of control would be the Zen way of saying it), and allowing for deep peace and enjoyment in one’s life.

And then there is the passion for building a business, more commonly referred to as being an entrepreneur. With this being business #4, I have learned some very hard lessons about what makes for success and what does not. Although I too still have a lot to learn, I know that I can help a plenty of folks just starting out to better understand the reality of creating a valuable, sustainable business.

And therein lies the connection: popexpert’s platform and brand goes wide and deep in these and other important areas. So, we go from helping the world make the digital transformation at OMI, to now helping the world address all of life’s BIG challenges - it really makes getting out of bed in the morning a true joy.

Already, I see the results of how we are helping people live more balanced and meaningful lives: helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and of course continuing to help thousands to learn digital through the even greater proliferation of the combined OMI/popexpert entity. Check out the platform and you’ll see why.

Resource to Change the World

Finally, the one reason that was actually the most challenging to reconcile, but the easiest to understand.  Changing the world takes resources. It takes many people, partners and plenty of capital to finance it. I was used to running my own business, and although I will be taking over as CEO for popexpert, I have a great partner in Ingrid Sanders, founder and President. The passionate investors she brings to the table, and the team needed to really catalyze this much bigger effort, together create a shared effort that’s really a big leap from running your own show - and one I embrace wholeheartedly.

I have found that 1 plus 1 can equal a billion with the right combination. By pooling resources, knowledge and complementary skills, the speed and potential for success is exponentially greater than going it alone.

And that doesn’t even take into account the absolutely wonderful, smart-minded, compassionate partner I now have in Ingrid herself. The trust, shared values and friendship this acquisition has culminated in go beyond words.

In summary, one of my advisors once asked me, “Why would you risk a sure bet on putting millions in your own pocket to do this deal?”. My answer is simple: money is not what motivates - it’s the “chance to positively impact the world in a deep and meaningful way that makes life worth living.”

I hope, one day, we can make a positive impact on you.

Aaron Kahlow

CEO, popexpert


SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--popexpert, an online marketplace that makes it easy to learn from experts, today announced the acquisition of the Online Marketing Institute, a leader in eLearning for individuals, SMBs and corporations that need to keep up with the accelerating pace of digital transformation.

“Joining forces with popexpert allows us to combine the personalization of live coaching with the scalability of eLearning to deliver high quality experiences that address the ever increasing need to ‘keep up’,” says Aaron Kahlow, founder of the Online Marketing Institute.

popexpert is backed by top Silicon Valley investors including Jeff Skoll, Ken Howery and Learn Capital. Together the companies offer live video coaching with thousands of experts and high quality original classes designed to help anyone excel at life and work.

The acquisition will accelerate growth for popexpert in delivering corporate training programs, a $200B industry where the Online Marketing Institute has a strong foothold. Employee development is quickly moving online and encompassing newer categories of learning like stress reduction and performance acceleration where popexpert already features many of the leading experts.

“popexpert identified a number of important emerging trends early on and has leveraged that insight to build a two year lead on other companies that are just beginning to think about offering better access to experts and expertise in key categories of personal and professional development,” says Ken Howery, PayPal co-founder and Chairman of popexpert.

As part of the acquisition Kahlow will take the reins as CEO, bringing his proven experience operating and scaling multiple companies to profitability and exit. Sanders will remain President.

“Aaron Kahlow is a 3x successful entrepreneur with a passion for creating transformative learning experiences. I look forward to having him as a partner as we continue to scale popexpert and unlock access to experts from around the world,” says Ingrid Sanders, founder of popexpert.

The acquisition was made under a cash and equity deal with exact terms undisclosed.

About popexpert:

popexpert is the leading destination to access and offer expertise for life, work & play. Headquartered in San Francisco, popexpert has raised $2M+ in seed financing from top investors including Learn Capital, Jeff Skoll, and Ken Howery.


Ingrid Sanders