Category Archives: Marketing and Sales

Rants and raves about how we do what we do, why and what we could do to improve it.

Let’s all try to remember why the holiday season is important

In a season when our nation’s capital decided to legalize recreational Marijuana, one of our largest Californian corporation showcases an ad reminding us all that sometimes, we forget things when at the grocery store.

So far, so good – until you see what they are prompting you to do. Buy more alcohol, when domestic abuse (closely linked with alcohol), violence and more are all closely related. Friends, family members and others – take a read through some stats on how often domestic abuse happens from smoking versus drinking.

Then, imagine a better place. Shouldn’t Google advertise some Zig Zag’s and a blunt, along with George Washington standing on a turkey? He did after all sign our country’s constitution, made from hemp.

Food for thought. But please, fellow marketers, if you’re going to run an advertisement…you have to remember that the culture, the psychology and the people who are going to see the advertisement, ultimately, are the ones who decide if it fails or wins. Not the internal team.


Beyond free services, how do you deliver breakthrough value?

Anyone of us tech obsessed folks can add up, with tools if needed, the amount of time we spend with our various devices. The reason computers, then laptops, now smartphones, play the, “Gigahertz,” marketing game and cite how many cores is because we all know it’s gotta be fast to be good.

What about the oppossite? Can you position around slow, around an experience that takes ten times as long, even if it’s free? Some people will suffer to get the free deal but most of us, if it’s important, if there is real value, are happy to pay.

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s better. It may, in fact, be worse than the paid option. Price, at the end of the day, is only one facet of a multidimensional decision. Value is far, far more important.

Save enough time, at any price, and you’ve unlocked incredible value.

Building up my Twitter following: impressed with week one results of nearly three hundred followers

Of course, I’m following over three hundred now as well on Twitter, but, it’s awesome to see the increase in engagement and traffic. I’ve had a few people visit my blog and since I’m trying to “re-learn,” how to drive traffic and build a presence on social media, things are going fantastic.

Less than two months ago, I started building up a brand new account on both Facebook and Twitter. Between the two platforms, the brand now has a social reach of over 1,600 followers – and sales have increased by more than 10% so far. A few times I mentioned the ad campaign on FB here – life to date CPF is now at $.23 cents. What’s even better, CPF for the past two weeks was only $.15 cents; for the past week, about $.17 cents. In other words, the performance of the ad campaign has increased about 33% month over month.

With such a small social media footprint, it’s hard to say, definitively that it was social and not, “Fluke,” that drove the increase. Still it’s interesting to see and correlate the increase in social footprint with business outcomes. I’ll be watching and analyzing more to see if things scale out the way I expect from here.

Same creative, cost per page like dropping to $.28 – $42 cents #socialmedia #marketing #startupmarketing

Interesting stuff. When I chatted with another social media marketer, they said I should be able to get the cost per like down to where I could pick up 8-15 fans per dollar. In other words, about $.13 cents or even as low as $.07 cents per like. I’m not sure that the campaign will get there, but, it’s fascinating to see the last few days that the cost per like has continued to drop.


  • No extra optimization
  • Same creative as the previous days
  • Only change is dropping daily budget by 50% to save money :)

To get the scoop on the entire campaign history, see my previous post here about basic optimization for a Facebook fan acquisition campaign.

Facebook fan acquisition: $1.50 CPA to less than $.50 in 3 days #socialmedia #optimization

2014-05-10 cpf chartWanted to share a quick anecdote from my latest marketing experiment in social media. I’ve been involved in several fan acquisition campaigns, with varying degrees of success. Like any other marketer, I like to seek out case studies, share data and learn as much as possible. With that in mind, here’s some stats from my fan acquisition on Facebook so far.

  • Campaign goal: drive likes for a new brand at a low cost per acquisition.
  • Secondary goal: drive up engagement and overall awareness for the brand.
  • Measurement tool: Facebook Page Insights and Ads manager.

Naturally, any brand wants to attract fans, followers and engagement organically. However, when you’re first starting out with a blank slate, it’s critical to start to seed the campaign with a combination of paid and earned placements. With Twitter, a blog and zero other social media, I’ve been able to attract 33% organic fans, 67% paid for fans to the brand. Let’s skip to the campaign results, shall we?

Ad unit 1: CTR was abysmal, at about 1%, poor targeting (right rail, non desktop) resulted in overall cost per fan of $1.16 – not terrible, but not great.

Ad unit 2: Fixed up targeting, changed creative from a generic image with no text to a more provacative, category centric image. CTR improved to nearly 2% but the cost per fan, or CPF, was still about $.76. Better, but not ideal, based on the category and chatting with other marketers.

Ad unit 3: Same image as ad unit #2, same targeting, however this time the ad unit had a compelling message. A reason to believe, so to speak, and a reason to click. CTR shot up to over 3% and best of all, CPF dropped to $.46 cents (so far). Even better, one actual, bonafide prospect clicked through to the target website AND completed the marketing funnel. At a $30 CPA for a single conversion, it’s far too expensive a strategy to leverage the fan acquisition as a conversion driver.

However, if you look at the goals above, sales and funnel completion were not part of the campaign. Not even as a primary or secondary metric. The fact that I derived, potentially, enough revenue to justify the fan acquisition campaign based on the LTV of prospects is irrelevant. The main objectives: acquire fans, drive down cost over time and learn, have all been reached.

Hopefully this is of some help to anybody who’s starting out on a fan acquisition campaign or is curious about how early metrics should pan out. Happy Saturday.

Time for me to get off the computer and enjoy some sunshine.

PS: No, the numbers in the chart are not actuals. The trend line is right, but the case study happened over a period of less than five days :) I wanted to show a larger picture and bigger trend to make the changes in fan acquisition results more clear in the visual.

How Microsoft Can Enable Yahoo To Win At Mobile Search & Help Apple

There was a rumor from one of the CEO candidates for Microsoft recently. The idea was floated that, perhaps, they could sell Bing to somebody else and then start to pare down the Microsoft business to enable some growth. To me personally, this is like their strategic decision to invest late into Facebook and forge such a deep relationship. As a company, it was one of their best, long term investments ever. The investment thesis behind grabbing that Facebook stake was the same one that now should prevail them to dislodge the search business.

Yahoo has a history with search (and for a while, I played a tiny role in a much larger play), which Marissa also shares, having been the, “Search girl,” at Google. Microsoft has put their money into the full stack competition on the consumer side and to do that, they’ve made very strategic moves already, from the Barnes & Noble Nook deal to the Surface to the Nokia move, Microsoft is very, very serious about hardware. This ensures that they have a foothold, a front door, to complement their Enterprise position and their other consumer front door, which is the Xbox.

Microsoft has a lot of strong brands and to ensure a better focus on their core business, pushing search back into Yahoo’s hands is a no brainer. Apple would love an alternative that could replace Google, and with that distribution deal plus MIcrosoft, Yahoo would be in a position to own the majority of the mobile search market. The only player without a bone in the hardware game, Samsung, LG and others would have to give the Yahoo deal serious consideration. Firefox OS, too, as well as their desktop business, could follow if the economics were right.

Given so many players would give it real consideration, I predict this is one of the most exciting moves that could happen in the digital space for the next five to ten years. By taking mobile search, Yahoo could fund and fuel the kind of disruptive, future and forward thinking that Google’s, “Ten-x,” projects do. The market has seen this movie a few times, and with better search also comes better logistics.

The future state could see Yahoo algorithms generated from advanced search personalization also enabling, “Same day,” goods transfer for both Craigslist and ebay. This would rival the Amazon, Google, Walmart strategies against the same, “Glue,” between online and offline commerce.

There’s a lot more to write on this topic, but for me personally, I’d love to see the whole corporate theater play out this way. As the only player with search scale that doesn’t have a hardware strategy, Apple, in their, “Thermo-nuclear,” option would certainly want this to succeed. Between those two corporate investments if needed, Yahoo could plow any amount of money, talent and perks to creating the very best discovery engine online. Their China position, coupled with a partnership in Yandex, could give Google a very real, serious global competitor. It might never be that Yahoo owned both mobile and desktop but for any viewing experience, the company would be in a position to own the syntatic glue that put everything together.

After giving this scenario serious thought over the past few weeks, since I first saw the potential Microsoft CEO saying that they’d consider selling Bing, this scenario has been slowly percolating in the back of my mind. I love the ideas and would enjoy seeing a Google competitor for search. Advertisers would also tremendously benefit at the size and scale of the new Yahoo’s reach and return on ad spend.

Offline data, in the form of mobile search, would be a huge asset to the company as they engage in more and more mobile search. After being able to target with such rich meta-data, their capabilities could potentially be first, at least with mobile, of any ad platform.

What I’ve learned over ten years of A/B testing

File:Animal testing 5.jpgThere are a ton of tools that enable A/B and multivariate testing these days. Optimost, Optimizely, SiteSpect, Monetate, Adobe Digital Experience Manager, Web Trends, Google Experiments (formerly Google Website Optimizer) and more. There are generally speaking two classes of A/B testing software:

  • Client side testing tools
    • Optimizely, Monetate and others fall into this category.
  • Server side testing tools
    • Sitespect is the only purely server side testing tool I’m aware of.
  • Hybrid tools that can be used client and or server side
    • Web Trends, Google Experiments

The first time I heard of A/B testing was working at Quinstreet. Being new to digital marketing in the way they approached things, beyond just SEO, paid search, I learned a ton there back in 2002 – 2003. Being the first internal marketing manager on paid and free search was a blast. However, I ended up designing a lot of the websites I promoted myself, which was no fun (aside from the obvious – I love good design, but it’s not in my skill set to produce it).

So after a while, I wanted the sites to get redone. Traffic was flowing, the leads were pouring in…however, because Quinstreet had a testing oriented culture (very, very rare back in those days) they wanted to validate before pouring design resources against something that might have a negative return. However, that was a roadblock as my sites were all hosted externally and the servers were not capable of running java. They were straight laced apache web server, without an extra application server layer to be found.

What was a novice internet marketer to do, when he knew his conversion rates were lower than they should be due to the design and experience quality on the site? Testing to the rescue. I partnered with the engineering team and learned the basic mechanics of A/B testing. Then after about a week, I had a Perl script (yes, I know – remember, PHP wasn’t so popular back then) running which would, depending on cookie, serve either the, “A,” or, “B,” version of the site. After getting everything up and running, we started the test…guess what the results were?

30% higher conversion rate. Same traffic sources, slightly lower CTR on the primary call to action but a massive win in conversion rate. The call to action was a link to an affiliate, lead capture form so the experience of jumping from one site to the next had a big impact on conversion. See, when you have a high quality experience on a site and then move to another site of similarly quality experience, things make sense. But if you jump from a bad site to a good site, you notice the impact and it’s jarring.

Interestingly, when I arrived at Yahoo in 2004, the “launch, learn and tune,” culture was still being rolled out across the company. They had two testing platforms while I was there (guessing they have one now) and many properties had yet to fully embrace testing to improve conversion rates.

So what did I learn from all this testing? A few highlights:

  • User experience, even without a single word of copy changed, can have a massive impact on conversion
  • Sometimes when things are important, you have to roll up your sleeves to get the job done
  • Test what people notice – ignore things that people won’t pay attention to

Years later, I was involved with testing at another company. We did several distinct tests, each one to validate that footer changes wouldn’t have an impact on conversion. The results? Go nuts, do whatever you want in the footer. A prospect who’s in, “Buying mode,” won’t scroll to the bottom of the page and investigate their options. Only somebody in desperate need of help will do that, a journalist or somebody out shopping the competition.

I have a lot more testing experience from my social network, business consulting and of course, Intuit. Their culture was all about A/B/C and multivariate testing, which was fantastic. Some of the insights the team put together which drove big wins were very clever and had nothing to do with design, only prospect insights. Small changes in verbiage, based on a thorough understanding of the problem, can sometimes pay off in a huge way.

Relationships are the treasure every ambitious person should pursue

The last few days, I’ve had the honor and privilege to chat with some of my past business connections. Awesome, amazing people everyone of them. The other side of the coin is that they have skills I can’t replicate. In business, in product, in shaping vision…in getting stuff done, navigating the byzantine layers of a multinational corporation…these people are awe-inspiring. That they appreciate my skills and abilities is humbling like nothing else. I treasure the business relationships which I’ve built over my career; there are some who I would love to work with again that, for one reason or another, are out of reach. That’s totally fine but it won’t change my mind, sometimes when you assemble a team in soccer, you know who you’d have for striker, for mid-field, for defense.

The team I have today is legendary. Every day I work with them, I’m inspired once again to be the kind of leader that they appreciate, they feel who cares (because I do), the one who they would follow anywhere. Tonight, I had a quick chat with one of the team. I shared, candidly, I’ve had one manager in my entire career (Hi, Rob) who I would work for again at the drop of a hat. It’s not that I want to be like him necessarily, but I want to evoke that kind of feeling with the people who I have the honor to manage.

For nearly five years, I co-founded and ran a niche consulting firm. When adding up the value created through acquisition, IPO, merger, etc…it was north of $1.5 billion. I’ve read the stats, I’ve seen the charts and I know the industry. It’s not bragging if it’s true: my firm was the single most successful in the category since the inception of the internet. Do I rest on that accomplishment, feel like I have been fulfilled and then simply dole out advice like somebody who believes their best days are behind them? No.

My best days are ahead of me, the business relationships developed over more than a decade are potential, the team I have built is reality. Together, we will accomplish the stuff of dreams. Of legends.

Treasure your relationships, my friends, my business partners, my team and my managers. Treasure them for they are the fuel that propels your career towards your dreams.

The beauty of life is that there is always a rainbow

The other day I was chatting with one of the engineers at work. Part of the discussion was repetitive, I’d had the same discourse with somebody on my team, but the message was important enough to repeat. Some think I work in the department of redundancy department; they’re not far off. The message was pretty simple, but important. Are you curious yet? Guardrails. Every time you make a decision, you have an entire spectrum of options. However, if you want to achieve specific outcomes, the goal posts have to be closer together than if you have no specific plans. These guardrails are the creative constraints that enable real innovation.

What do goal posts and rainbows have in common?

Not a lot, but they both have a left side, a right side, and a middle. Or an upside, a downside, and a middle. Either way, there is a spectrum, there are edges and there is the core. Innovate at the edges if you can, but real change can only happen once you drive to the middle. The end zone, the touchdown, the goal. Running, kicking or hitting the goal posts at the edges can be painful 😉

People will forget the middle, even if you start weak, finish strong

Years ago, I saw an incredibly inspiring video. The video now has over three million views on youtube and I’ll never forget the ending. Finish strong, the motivational speaker urged. To flip it around, when you consider psychology and the human brain, we are more likely to remember the beginning and ending parts of a situation, a memory or an event. The middle could have been great, but let’s face it. The audience will walk away with a sour taste in their mouth if you finish up like Loopers, the Bruce Willis flick. Not bad, but the ending made you wish you could have spent the two hours doing something more productive, like chopping onions, or squeezing lemon juice into your pupils.

Wait, are you just talking about movies and your exercise routine?

Not at all, though I did finish up the three anaerobic sets this morning with extra repetitions. I’m after muscle stamina, not muscle mass. Endurance, in life or at work, is key because the first time you attempt to push the rock uphill, like Prometheus, might not be the only time. Every day, you can finish strong. Every week, you can finish strong. Quarterly, yearly. Life offers us the opportunity to finish strong in a dazzling array of ways.

When your energy is flagging, the day has drained your emotions like nothing else and all you crave is some downtime away from what became, “the grind,” by 3pm, remember. Legends aren’t born, they’re made.

Finish strong, my friends.