2019 NorthIQ Goals in Review

2019 NorthIQ Goals in Review

At the beginning of 2019, we set out our “NorthIQ Goals for 2019”, which we work on during the January 1 – December 31 Calendar year, we’ve been doing this for the last three years, and in the next few days we’ll start in on our 2020 goals. Before we start with new goals though, it’s important to look at where we’ve been, and what we’ve done.

This year we worked on creating meaningful and measurable goals that would get us where we wanted to be. We didn’t put out a bunch of unrealistic “Grow the business by Eleventy Eight Billion Percentage Points”, instead we found some specific key metrics, and we worked on improving those.

Our main goals were to find more clients, use our own tools, invest in the business, and refine our tools.

Each one of these goals would create a number of add-on results, and overall we did really well with those goals. Some of our goals changed over the course of the year as we learned new things. While we planned on releasing 26 blog posts on NorthIQ, we pivoted instead to create content on pillar pages that would help us get found by people looking for what we do.  Conversely we created even more content on Manage Comics, and we’ve positioned ourselves for some very cool things this year.

Here is a review of our goals from 2018.

Find more clients

Our goal was to find more clients, specifically in London and the surrounding area. Working with new clients exposes us to new things every time, and we’ve become better because of the unique challenges that each new client has.

  • Manage Comics added 18 new stores in 2019.
  • NorthIQ worked with 5 new companies in 2020

We decided against more micro-sites in 2019, and we’ll likely look at some different content for 2020.

Overall, finding more clients was a great success, and it is something that we’ll focus even more on in 2020.

Use our own tools

We wanted to start using our own tools in 2019, specifically we wanted to get better with how we use Sharpspring for NorthIQ and Manage Comics.

We really started using Sharpspring in 2019, we’ve created a series of different nurturing systems, and we’ve got something really cool on deck that we want to start marketing which will be integral to our plans in 2020.

Continue content marketing

Our goal in 2019 was to create 26 blog posts on both NorthIQ and Manage Comics (52 blog posts in total).

We did much less content marketing for NorthIQ in 2019, with only 10 new posts created. However we went really deep on pillar pages for specific aspects of our business. We have five significant pillar pages (plus a capstone page about all of our Digital Marketing services), these pages were 1500-4000 words each, and they’ve helped us significantly with our SEO efforts. We’ll be continuing on in this vein, with 10-12 blog posts over the year, and a few more significant pieces like these.  I would also like to do some guest posting on other sites, such as Tech Alliance locally, and other sites that will get our name out there.

Over on Manage Comics, we posted 48 blog posts (which includes 12 product updates). We created a new series called “Managing Your Shop”, which was picked up by Bleeding Cool, where four different articles were posted.

This was great, and we’ll be sending things to Bleeding Cool as well as a few other industry specific blogs/websites in the new year.

Invest in the business

Our goal here was to move Manage Comics forward significantly by building out the Point of Sale system. We created the specs, and got some ideas behind what would make it better, but we didn’t execute on this.

The goal was kind of vague, and while we invested in the business in other ways (paying for some content marketing, buying different courses for ourselves, and even investing in an SEO Audit to find out opportunities to improve), we failed in the big picture.

While we invested in Manage Comics in 2019, we need to do a better job of this in 2020.

We have a couple of projects in mind for this coming year, and we’ll be investing in both Manage Comics and our special NorthIQ project in 2020.

Refine our Tools

Our goal was to improve our communication with clients, and make our own work loads more manageable by leveraging better tools and creating new workflows for our incoming work.

We totally revamped how we manage incoming requests, and things are much better than they were before. We now have a dedicated help desk account, and project management software currently accounts for 20% of our monthly non-payroll expenses (mind you, we keep our monthly expenses pretty low). Since we changed over to Help Scout, we’ve found managing day-to-day requests is so much easier, and we don’t lose requests anymore.

The Look Back on 2019

In some ways 2019 was very successful, but we still want more. While we got some processes nailed down this year, it still feels like a lot of the things we do require manual effort, and usually significantly more than we expect. In the first week of January we’ll be doing a deep dive into 2020 to figure out exactly where we want to go, and exactly how we want to get there.

2020 will be the 3rd anniversary of NorthIQ as a corporation, but I’ve been at it for 5 years in 2020. I’m always simultaneously amazed at where we are, and anxious about where we should be whenever I look at the company as a whole.

The NorthIQ Look Ahead at 2019

The NorthIQ Look Ahead at 2019

Wow, we’re six weeks into 2019 and we still haven’t posted our annual “goals post”.  We started this tradition in 2017, and we doubled down in 2018. We think it’s important to set goals, and to reflect on those goals.

The problem with goals is that they’re not rooted in the reality of the moment, they’re rooted in the perfect future that lies ahead. We’ve done a lot to mitigate this by setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals, and we check in on them four times a year (every quarter).

These are the goals that will define the next six months (through the end of June 2019) for NorthIQ.

Find more clients

We have figured out three niches that we can help significantly. Home builders, solar companies and technology companies. Through Manage Comics we can also significantly help Comic Stores. We should focus on those companies that we can best help.

Home Builders are being addressed with our Home Builder Demo website, our Solar Companies clients need a Demo Website, as do the Technology companies that we are targeting.  We also have demo websites created for Comic Stores, and we need to link these to the current Manage Comics pages.

  • Link Comics Microsites to Manage Comics by February 22, 2019 – COMPLETE
  • Create Solar Company micro-site by March 8, 2019
  • Create Technology Company micro-site by March 15, 2019

Use our own tools

We’ve been selling Sharpspring for about 6 months now, and we’ve done some great things with it, but we haven’t fully set up our own automation pages. We need to solve that problem quickly.  Our goal right now is to get an Onboarding system in place for Manage Comics stores when they sign up, and put all existing stores through it over the next month.

  • Build demo campaign for Homes contacts by February 22, 2019 – COMPLETE
  • Build onboarding for Manage Comics stores by February 28, 2019
  • Build demo campaign for Solar contacts by March 15, 2019
  • Build demo campaign for Technology contacts by March 22, 2019

Continue content marketing

Content Marketing was the best thing we did in 2017, and we continued with it in 2018. Being seen as “thought leaders” is really important in our space, and showing the smart things that we do helps to explain to others what it is we do, and more importantly HOW we do what we do.


  • 26 blog posts in 2019 (2 posts a month) for NorthIQ
  • 26 blog posts in 2019 (2 posts a month) for Manage Comics

Invest in the business

We need to put some money into Manage Comics and help it to really pull ahead of the competition. We’re planning some POS incorporation with Square – which will put us in league with other players, but that will take a significant investment.

  • Have POS specs completed by March 29 2019
  • Have funding in place for POS work by April 19, 2019
  • Begin working on POS project by May 1, 2019

Refine our Tools

We started out with just Basecamp for project management, but we’ve added some Jira tools to the arsenal. We need to refine, and revise what tools we use and how we use them.  Basecamp is incredibly simple, but we may need some extra tools in order to hit our next milestones.

  • Get Help desk running by March 30.
  • Determine triage and routing rules for new requests by March 30.
  • Service Level Agreements for all new work that is incoming. New work should not take priority over already prioritized and planned work by March 30.


How losing a promotion was the best thing that happened to me

How losing a promotion was the best thing that happened to me

I’m going to give you the secret sauce on how to make a marketing automation system for free. It has all the bells, though none of the whistles of the ridiculously expensive services where you can pay $2500 a month just for the software to run this plan. Most small businesses won’t need the whistles anyhow.

First, let me tell you a quick story.

3 years ago I had the unfortunate experience of getting passed over for a promotion to a marketing director role at the company I worked for. A role that at the time I really believed was what I wanted. It was not a great experience, and was the second time this had happened at this company. Obviously, that particular goal wasn’t ever going to happen.

It was a wake up call.

I didn’t respond how most people do in this circumstance. I did something unusual which looking back on it three years later was a bounce pad for where NorthIQ is at now – a successful and growing business.

I took an entire week off and spent it working with a former colleague (my now-NorthIQ partner Brian Garside) to begin building what is now NorthIQ.

Only we didn’t know it at the time.

That week was exciting because we launched an ebook and sold several copies within the 5 day window we gave ourselves. We hit our goal of building a database of 50, and we also landed a customer who ended up being a significant partner in our growth as an organization.

It was crazy. We barely slept. It was interesting and engaging and unlike anything I did in my 9-5.

If you’re sitting there right now unsure about how a very small change in your life can lead to huge things I will tell you right now it can be astronomical. Life changing. It can be the difference between you hitting your goals and just continuing along where you’re at now.

At the time I’d have loved to be where I am now. It was such an elephant to eat I didn’t really see how it was possible. 


If you just want the How to Create a Free Marketing Automation System go ahead and grab it, but we’d love if you would continue on the story (don’t worry, we’ll remind you about the download below as well).

Back to the story.

We decided let’s just do one small thing at a time. Set the bar so damn low we’d have things to accomplish, over and over.

Brian had already done the brave thing and taken the plunge – he quit his day job to start NorthIQ. He had provided what would be the foundation for what we’d build. I always joke “What took you so long to quit.” but that’s a very brave move to take. We didn’t have the dollars or customers to pay for both our salaries so I went back to work and patiently supported NorthIQ as an evening job.

Another big game changer for us occurred that week, and thinking back on it it’s a funny story.

During day 1 Brian had mentioned to me that he had a prospect who was wanting a new website but also more – a lot of marketing work. At the time it wasn’t his area of expertise but I talked him into providing a proposal. We barely knew how to make proposals of this kind. We weren’t sure how we’d get the work done, since I had a full time job and he was still learning the marketing side.

They accepted. To this day they are a top customer. The impact this company has had on NorthIQ, and the relationships we built from this is vast.

Two seemingly minor things in the space of 2 days that changed our lives.

The simple fact is that just getting out there, doing, executing  is so valuable. You can accomplish anything if you just get in and try.

A lot has happened between now and then. We moved into an office. We have awesome staff. Great customers. During the ride we’ve accomplished so many things that seemed outside my safety zone. I dare say it…we’ve even become (uggghhh) sales people.

No road is too steep for somebody who is determined and patient.

Let’s get back to marketing automation…

I learned marketing automation on Marketo, then Pardot, then Hubspot, then I built my own free version and NorthIQ used that for awhile. Finally, last month we  partnered with Sharpspring and I implemented a full system for us. I have thousands of hours of experience in all the platforms combined.

Automating your marketing is incredibly powerful. Even a simple automated email nurture when somebody fills out your form can prove extremely useful. Add in lead capture forms, lead magnet, lead scoring, lead routing, CRM, sales pipelines, reporting and you get a tool that most companies should really invest in at some point.

When I see the reasons for saying no to using this type of service I am frustrated.

Don’t I need to be a marketer?

The honest truth is that any small or medium business owner needs to wear…not just a lot of hats but every hat. All of the hats need to be worn. Chair falls apart? Fix-it hat. Somebody didn’t get paid? Finance hat. Need more friends (customers)… yeah… marketing hat.

You don’t need to BE a marketer, you just need to act like one long enough.

My company is too small.

Too small to engage and delight future customers so they love you before they even spent a cent?

Isn’t it expensive?

You can build a solid system for free. NorthIQ used it for a couple of years. There are even paid options that fit inside the budgets of small companies. It’s no longer just for big companies. That has ended. The industry has changed and nobody has told the small businesses.

Don’t let the big boys snap up every prospect while you rail against the unfairness of it! You can compete! If anything automation just evens the playing field. It’s enabling David’s everywhere.

We’re already doing good business.

Yeah, that’s awesome. What if you could be doing even better? When you are doing well you likely have more money to invest in ways to make your sales more predictable and take less effort.

It’s complicated! We’ll never be able to take advantage of all the features.

Implement a piece at a time and before you know your system will be humming along.

I don’t have the time.

Of all of the excuses, this one I understand the most. Time is the one resource that none of us seem to have enough of. The thing is, you can start today with a little bit of time, and build it small, piece by piece. Each piece will add incremental improvements, which multiply exponentially. It is amazing how a series of small changes can have major impacts.

The NorthIQ Free Marketing Automation System

I initially figured this out because NorthIQ needed a budget solution for our own business. Then we ran across other companies who also needed a budget system. They were all at a point in growing their business where it would help them grow but the dollars and internal knowledge were not there. They could not afford to pay NorthIQ to implement for them, but we’re really passionate about seeing other companies succeed. That’s why I built this as a free download.


The “How to Build a Free Marketing Automation System” does not give you all the advanced features that a fully paid program gives you but it does give you the most basic ones that a small or medium business will need.

The more important features for a small business:

  • Collect prospect data via forms
  • Automate nurturing emails to those prospects
  • Store prospects in a CRM for optimizing sales funnels

So from very small organizations (I’ve implemented this easily with 1-2 person companies) to medium organizations with limited budget and limited experience this is actually a really good solution. It gives you the basics of a marketing automation platform and is easy to learn.

You’ll get:

  • A free CRM that is actually really good for both sales and marketing
  • An email tool that is as good as the pro tools
  • Automation that is just limited enough to make it easy
  • Forms to collect your leads
  • Simple behavioural based triggers
  • Flexibility in terms of customized properties and values that your
    internal team might require
  • Real time web tracking
  • Reporting for you to understand what’s going on
  • And it’s all free, if you’re smart and careful about the whole thing.

You won’t get:

  • Extremely detailed workflow capabilities
  • Advanced behavioural based triggers
  • A content strategy
  • A large database (if you’re working with more than 2500 leads, this becomes cumbersome)
  • An all-in-one tool
  • Support

Last Paragraph: Let me Put on my Sales Hat

NorthIQ has implemented professional Marketing Automation solutions across many organizations, and works with most of them monthly to generate leads and boost revenue. We’re proud of the work we do and the companies we get to do it with. The companies that we work with have doubled, triple, and even quadruple their revenue in one year of working with us.

If you want to explore having NorthIQ implement this free version for you or a service with more functionality (we offer this at surprisingly reasonable rates) you can book a time to talk to us here. No pressure, no pushy sales promotions, just a chat where we’ll find out a bunch of things about you and tell you if we can help you out.

The NorthIQ Free Marketing Automation System

NorthIQ Values – Revised

NorthIQ Values – Revised

Back in April as we started thinking about what we wanted our company to become, we set out to create values. We asked the question “What do you Value?“. We knew that these were going to be aspirational, and that we’d revise them over the next little while as we put them into place. What became immediately obvious to us though was that there were too many, that they weren’t specific enough, and that the only two we could remember were “Provide Ludicrous Value” and “Have Fun”.

We knew we had some work to do.

Then an interesting thing happened. We ended up working with a few companies that didn’t align with what we wanted to do. Those projects didn’t fit our vision of what we wanted to become, and many of them were “one and done” type jobs where we did something, but didn’t have a long term vision on how to work with the client. (more…)

5 Things I’ve Learned Since Quitting my Job a Year Ago

5 Things I’ve Learned Since Quitting my Job a Year Ago

A year ago I quit a job that was comfortable to join a partner in building a business of our own – NorthIQ.

He had been doing it for some time prior, but it had gotten to a tipping point – he needed help that was greater than me pitching in during the evenings. If we were going to make this happen it had to be right then.

There were other benefits, we could change our positioning, offer more breadth of digital services, and change the company significantly from “just another web development firm” into a true digital marketing company that could bring something entirely different to the table.

My family had understood this was an eventuality but the sudden decision to quit happened over the span of Easter weekend, and I started my first full day at NorthIQ on May 15, 2018 and everything changed. (more…)