Data & Art

I believe in the power of storytelling and the insight of data.

The Surprisingly Interesting Marketing History of Potatoes (Abridged)

From dark chocolate to pomegranate to acai berry, adventurous modern palettes drift from one super-food craze to the next – thanks to quite a bit of clever marketing. We love them for their uniqueness, their exoticness, their nutritional promise. –Not-so-much for 18th century Europe. This the (abridged) story of the ‘spud’ to from dud to European staple.

In the 17th century, an Incan super-food packed with vitamins and energy (starch) began popping up in Europe- where the tuber which fueled an empire was relegated to livestock feed filler. Our lowly potato, with its toxic leaves, heathen origin and admittedly unpleasant appearance, was met with strong distaste throughout Europe. European governments, realizing the importance of the potato, each launched their own programs for promoting the nutritious spud.

Cranes Don’t Build Patios – It’s Only The Right Solution If It Solves The Right Problem

Every task has a set of tools that can best accomplish the goal. For each task, there are usually multiple tools offering a solution -and each tool has a few intended uses.

Be wary of the contractor who brings a crane to every job. Don’t be the contractor bringing a crane to every job. For tofu’s sake, don’t ask for a crane for every job.

A contractor that insists you need a crane from the start without knowing the project is either (a) a crane-loving nutjob, (b) a crane salesman and/or (c) willing to waste your money.

“Are you a contractor?” You would say.

“I am! You need a crane. I have a crane! Let me help you with my crane experience.” would be a likely reply.

He didn’t even really ask about your need, a patio. He had you pegged for a crane at ‘home improvement.’

A trusted advisor, something every modern salesperson should strive to become, will be more interested in making you, your company, or your project a success. This is the person who will tell you that based on your love of BBQ, a spacious prep area should be included in your patio plans. While he might have a crane at his disposal, he’s not trying to sell you add-on crane services, he’s offering you the perfect patio.

The same rules apply to business solutions. From landscaping to digital marketing, it should be as unsettling to hear an uneducated recommendation for your business as it would be to see a two-story crane crawl across your lawn to your ground-level patio.

As an expert, it’s their job to guide you to the absolute best fit, the best strategy, the best solution, the best patio.

As a client or client-to-be, it’s your job not to ask for the crane. You chose an expert for their expertise, and it’s your job to take advantage of that brain power while you can! Frontload the conversation with your current position and your desired goals. Through conversation, you can explore the countless paths available to you. It may be that you need a crane, or it may be that it would be the worst possible thing for you.

Not every company needs social media. It’s a medium, a tool for the job of communicating -it may be nothing but a waste of your resources and there may be something better. In fact, this specific example may be the industry’s biggest offender as both most-oversold and most over requested.

Be wary of the contractor who brings a crane to every job. Don’t be the contractor bringing a crane to every job. For tofu’s sake, don’t ask for a crane for every job.

Whether you’re seeking experts or are an expert yourself, keep the conversation focused on moving from status-quo to status-wow and which tools, tactics and strategies are right for the job.

What product or service do you see flung with a one-size-fits-all mentality? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Amazing Marketing Superpowers: (Brutal) Objective Honesty

The marketing landscape, and expectations of marketers, has changed dramatically over the past decade. A combination of a ‘prove-it or lose-it’ economy with the in-depth trackability of digital media has brought more emphasis to the science of marketing than ever before. While the ‘Four ‘P’s‘ haven’t yet lost their edge to PPC in academia’s chapter one, online is quickly becoming the primary focus –eclipsing more traditional channels.

As with any sudden influx of technology, the collective knowledge of the marketing community struggles to keep up. With each lead forward in the art and science of marketing -out of the fray of snake-oil, misunderstanding, misuse and the lucky- rises a hero with an amazing ability. These heroes can identify, measure, research and report on nearly any combination of data points. The resulting cold-hard truth isn’t always pretty for marketers, but it’s something that moves the science (and success) forward.

Marketing Hero: Dr. Flint McGlaughlin

Superpower: Brutal Objective Honesty

“This is not a website you optimize, this is a website you soak in gasoline and burn.”

I’m paraphrasing this key quote from a recent webinar hosted by MECLABS (Marketing Experiments) and HubSpot, but not by much. The Director of MECLABS, a sort of web optimization R&D lab, Dr. McGlaughlin’s dedication to data reminds us that the best case scenario in sugar-coated findings is that your company may be able to maintain the status-quo.

Backed by collected data and purposeful research, Dr. McGlaughlin brings to light that the same test used for spaghetti has no place in marketing – you can’t simply throw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks. From copywriting to user experience design, there is an art and science behind web interaction. Nearly every facet can be measured, studied and analyzed if the marketer asks the right question to ascertain the right thesis.

As tempting as it is to load a few dozen variants into a multivariate test with Google’s Website Optimizer, you’ll miss out on a key learning that could have been implemented site-wide and across all marketing channels.

It seems like Flint hosts a new webinar each week with a generous sponsorship from HubSpot, and each is worth checking out. While the webinars are a great balance of theory and practice (with data!), the real gem of each webinar is in the live optimization. During the live optimization, you’ll find Flint’s powers truly shine.

Modern marketing isn’t for the weak of heart. Every move is explicitly tracked back as closely to ROI as possible, creating an unprecedented level of accountability in strategy, execution and performance.

For those who live by data, strive for optimal results and settle for nothing less than constant informed improvement, brutal objective honesty is your greatest weapon. You must be honest and objective with yourself, your performance and your practice. It’s ok to fail, so long as you were able to take measurements and gain a learning.

Notable Heroes

Dan Zarella, Social, Search and Viral Marketing Scientist – HubSpot

HubSpot has become an all-star marketing cast with the likes of Mike Volpe (@MVolpe) and Rebecca Corliss (@RepCor), but for the data inclined, Dan is your man. While it’s become fairly unremarkable for HubSpot to produce absolutely remarkable content, it’s worth noting that Dan’s inbound marketing research tends to be flat-out surprising. A few personal favorite ‘myth busters’ include:

If you’re looking to make the most of the brainpower of a social media scientist, check out Dan Zarella’s books on Affiliate Link

With Great Power…

Harness the brutal objective truth from your current marketing efforts and ensure that your future endeavors are designed to learn something more about your customers –not just what creates more conversions. Revel and build from each marketing success. Glean as much from your marketing failures as superhumanly possible.

(Photo credit – Flickr | B.K. Dewey)

Talk to Your Website about CRO

Like every other employee, your website should be striving to better its ability to serve customers and increase revenue.

As the only member of your sales department working around-the-clock seven days a week, it’s expected to continually hone its pitch and presentation.

As the first-line member of your customer service team, it’s expected to continually better its ability to educate and guide customers to the answers they need in a direct and pleasant manner.

As the most vocal and visible member of your PR staff, it needs to dress-to-impress, and always place your brand’s best foot forward.

Your website is a valuable member of your business and one of the few that touches nearly every aspect of sales, customer and investor relations. When is the last time you sat down with it to ask it the important question that only it knows.

“What’s stopping our web traffic from becoming web business?”

Five simple rules for SEO title tags

Your title tag is a chunk of code nestled in your web pages that helps humans and search engines alike figure out what’s on it. You can see in the title bar of a browser and – more importantly – as the headline for most search result snippets. It’s the entrée into your content, and one of the components that search engines use when evaluating whether you’re a good result or a non-relevant one. 

Rule #5: Do Not Keyword Stuff – Google looks for that
‘Stuffing’ keywords, or the practice of force-feeding keywords, often site wide, into the title tag, has fallen out of favor in the past half-decade of search engine optimization.

While keyword rich titles are still important, this ‘stuffing’ is as obvious to visitors as it is to Google –and neither enjoy it much.

Search engines prefer that you don’t attempt to cheat their algorithms, and have adapted accordingly. In a recent search optimization for a client, the sole act of removing extraneous, stuffed keywords from the titles led to a near 20 point increase across their desired keywords.

Not only does keyword stuffing not work, it might even work against you.

Rule #4: Do Not Cannibalize Keywords across the Website
You want a customer to land on your product page, and you’ve spent a good amount of effort optimizing it. Why would you risk pulling them anywhere else?

Keyword Cannibalization occurs when otherwise unrelated content on your site is ‘force optimized’ for the goals of other pages on your site.

While it used to be considered best practice to make your entire website focused on SEO, optimizing dramatically unrelated pages can lead to bad habits such as keyword stuffing.
In rare cases, the page you don’t want potential customers to actually land on may outrank your target content!

Rule #3: Simpler is Safer
It’s ok to have a short, focused title tag. In fact, it’s typically preferable to overstuffed tags. This is especially true for non-SEO landing page content such as contact forms and disclaimers.

Keep It Simple SEO.

Rule #2: Build for People THEN Optimize for Robots
If you could rank number one with an unreadable title, would anybody click it?

And here’s the little secret of search algorithms. More and more, they’re being refined to look at your website as a human being would, and less like a robot. More to the point, most of the factors for your site ranking well rely on human power and human sharing. A ‘perfectly’ optimized website can be far outranked by its less-optimized, better-shared (and better-referenced), competitor.

If possible, titles should be interesting enough to earn attention. This is your headline, the cover of your book, the first thing a potential visitor may see when deciding if you’ve earned their click and their time for consideration.

Rule #1: ‘Blend’ Keywords In
Keywords are hugely important for your website to rank well, but they’ll work best when they’re in context with your content. Like an inclusion in beautiful fine art, your keyword ‘features’ must be well blended and essential to the piece. If your keyword efforts are just duct-taped on, you’ve likely lost the value of the entire thing.

There are constantly-evolving, hard-fact stats about what makes a great title tag. There are real technological and tactical recommendations for title tags, such as length, keyword positioning and others, that constitute best practices. That said, even those laws fit in with the framework of these five rules. As best practices continue to evolve, these rules will become even more important than they are now.

Following these, instead of the latest trend, helps ensure a long-lasting success without fear of the next Google update.

YOUR Optimization Examples
I’ve always hated when I read an article and am presented with Acme Widget Co. as a sample. Help expand your knowledge and the experience of our subscribers, leave your website URL and a little info in the comments, and we’ll use it as an example for this post!

You’ll get some free optimization insights, and our readers will get to see some great real-world examples.

Leave your URL and some introductory information or questions below.

Time for a digital marketing spring cleaning

Spring cleaning is a lot of hard work. Even the people who are organized and tidy year-round find that it’s a time for elbow grease, heavy lifting and lots (lots) of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

Of course, the hardest part isn’t always the couch moving, refrigerator dragging or wall scrubbing action. The hardest part is knowing where to start. The same is true when it’s time for spring cleaning for your marketing efforts. And it is time to clean up your marketing.

First, I want to acknowledge that I’m not a home cleaning expert. This is, after all, a marketing blog, but this mention is here mostly to keep my wife from putting me in charge of spring cleaning in our home this year.

Light dusting – the easy stuff

Show me one person who starts cleaning the house by moving the refrigerator, and I’ll show you somebody who works out a little too much. The rest of us start with the light work that has the biggest effect. Why? It’s easy work and we can see the results. Here’s how to get started.

Clean your email marketing lists

Most email marketing platforms will remove ‘bad’ emails automatically, but there’s more to list health than removing broken addresses.

If you measure the quality of your email lists by engagement, consider a campaign to separate those who are actively participating and paying attention from those who drag your mail to the trash. If your platform allows, send an email to those not opening emails or clicking, and invite them to re-subscribe to your content. Remind them why then signed up in the first place, and the kind of content they’ll be missing out on if they don’t.

Removing or segregating those users who are emotionally unsubscribed is a great way to see the actual engagement of your email marketing efforts.

Polish your metrics windows

Your social media channels, email marketing program, website, mobile site, microsites and CRM all have at least one form of marketing intelligence or analytics built into them. Have your charts been collecting cobwebs over the past year?

Check the condition of your marketing measurement tools to ensure they’re set up and functioning correctly. Take some time to re-explore the interface and be on the lookout for interesting updates or additions that have been added over the past year.

Did your email provider add social media tools? Or take a look at the new ways you can measure participation on Pinterest. And have you checked out Google’s new(ish) multi-channel reporting?

Just like that drawer in your kitchen (you know the one) you may be the owner of a lot more useful tools and gadgets than you know! Take a moment to inventory what you have.

Move the fridge and get the broom!

Now it’s time to really clean up your marketing efforts. Are you ready?

Download our free guide, 5 Things Every Marketer Should be Doing (But Isn’t) and learn how you can get more shine from your online and traditional marketing without a whole lot of hard scrubbing.

In the free download for marketers, there’s even an offer for a free consultation if you want help finding the best start point for your company… or need a hand moving that refrigerator.