• The Ultimate Guide To Getting Press

    We could all use a little more press, right? We can pretend like press doesn’t matter after we have it, but until then it brings in traffic, users, social validation and legitimacy all at the same time. Those are things it’s hard to get enough of.

    It’s taken me years of trial and error, the help of a lot of other really smart marketers, and tons of time tweaking language and strategy to figure out what works across the board repeatable process. that has helped my clients get published in:

    Time Magazine


    The Guardian






    The Wall Street Journal

    The New York Times




    And hundreds of smaller blogs/websites.

    This process, if followed the way I spell it out below, should work well for you. I can’t imagine anyone following it and not getting published in a half-dozen major publications.


    On the surface, the process of getting press seems reasonably simple. All you need to do is find a reporter or blogger that might like to write about you and email them your pitch. But doing that well and making it scale can become very complex very quickly.

    We’ll take you through step by step, and by the end of this guide it should take you less than a day to email up to 1,000 relevant press contacts with all the right information and messaging that would make them want to write about you. Even the crappiest companies should get a half dozen or so mentions in the press when doing so.

    We’ll cover:

    The overall strategy and approach

    Finding the publications that would be likely to write about you (and programmatically break them down into manageable lists)

    Finding the angle to pitch

    Creating a press kit

    Writing the perfect, personalized email (at scale)

    Sending large amounts of email, pre-populating fields and allowing for personalization.

    Now, let’s go get you some press.

    Strategy and Approach

    Customer Profiling

    Whenever I begin a marketing effort, I like to really try and get into the mind of the person I’m “selling” to, regardless of what it is I may be “selling.” In this case, we’re selling to the reporter, and what we’re selling is that we’re legitimate and interesting enough that their audience will want to hear about us.

    There’s also a pecking order among reporters. The high-profile bloggers and reporters can spend most of their time on analysis and covering their favorite companies, while some of the lower/younger reporters have a large quota they have to meet and can barely rephrase press releases before they throw them on their blog. It takes a unique strategy to reach the different places on the totem pole.

    Though there may be some exception due to pet interests, it rarely makes sense to pitch the highest tier first when we’re looking for press coverage.They’re big enough that if what you’re doing isn’t shaking up Silicon Valley they probably don’t care. Our strategy will actually be quite the reverse.

    One of the first things reporters do when your pitch lands in their inbox is see what other reporters are saying about you (or if anyone has written about you at all). Reporters, naturally, like to see some level of social proof before they make a move. If other people are writing about you that signals that you’re worth writing about. We’re going to use that to our advantage.

    (The time this doesn’t apply is if you know people will write about you and you’re giving an exclusive. If you’re that type of company you don’t need this, but you probably know that and won’t be reading this.)

    The Press Pyramid

    To solve the “What do I find if I Google you” problem, we will build a pyramid of press mentions, starting with the blogs and sites that are small and hungry for content, and work our way up to the 800-pound gorillas.

    Imagine a pyramid, with stuff like the New York Times at the top, and some blog you’ve never heard of at the bottom.

    If we don’t know we can get written up by the Wall Street Journal, we may want to start at the bottom rung; the hobbyist with a decent following, the small tech blog just getting started, the small companies doing what they can to pay the bills with a little traffic and some well-placed Adsense ads, etc. But most of them are blogs you don’t read often and may not have even heard of, so how do we find them? (This is where it gets fun.)

    List Building

    The first thing we need to do, before we can separate the websites out into their separate tiers, is generate a mammoth list of blogs that we can easily import into tools that we’ll be using later.

    All we’ll need in the beginning are URLs of publications that write about companies like ours. We have tools to find contact information within those blogs, but the tools have to know where to start.

    A word of caution: Blogs that are “vaguely related” and reporters who write about things “kind of like” your company will not write about you. If I make iPad cases, a blog that writes about iPad apps isn’t even worth approaching. So when we build the list, let’s make sure to narrow our searches as closely as we can.

    Now let’s go build our list of URLs.

    List-Building Method 1: Blog Rankings

    We’re going to use a couple of sites that rank blogs within their categories, and scrape for the URLs blogs in the categories that apply to us.

    First, download the Scraper Chrome Extension (or its equivalent in the browser of your choice).

    Now we go to our blog ranking website. Let’s start with Alltop. Go to Alltopand find your category, remembering to be as narrow as possible.

    We’ll use my past startup, Grasswire as an example. Grasswire is a newsroom for the Internet; it lets everyday people come together to geek out about and write the news, usually by finding and verifying social media posts. So we’re going to find all of the blogs related to “social media” and “journalism.”

    Alltop Go to the social media section of Alltop and we see the classic suspects: TechCrunch and Mashable, but also some sites you might not be familiar with: Smartbrief on Social Media and Social Media Examiner. We need to add them to our list (which will basically be a huge Google Doc to begin with).

    Right-click on one of the sites in red, and click on the scraper tool.

    Then click “export to Google Docs.”

    Now we have a a fairly decent list of sites with their URLs that might write about us.

    Repeat the process in as many categories as exactly match your company (I would do journalism as well), and then we’ll switch over to BlogRank.

    BlogRank is a bit more complicated to scrape from. First, search for your category using the search bar. It will ask you to select a “view,” but it doesn’t really matter what view you choose, since we’ll be scraping them all anyway.

    Again, we’re going to right click on the name of a blog, and say “scrape.” You’ll see the scraper tool pop up just as it did with AllTop, but this time it only appears to pull in one blog. It’s not scraping all of the content we want it to, because BlogRank is set up in HTML tables. We need to modify what the scraper is looking for.

    With the scraper window still open, we’re going to edit the XPath reference at the top-left of the tool.

    The XPath probably says something like//div[3]/table[2]/tbody/tr[2]/td/a. All we have to do to make it scrape everything is to change the final number in tr[2] (which stands for “table row 2”) to tr[*], which tells the scraper to gather every row.

    So change our XPath reference should now be //div[3]/table[2]/tbody/tr[*]/td/a. Click “scrape” at the bottom of the tool, and your results on the right side should look like they did for Alltop. We’re ready to export to Google Docs.

    Repeat the process for any other categories in BlogRank, and we should have a list of hundreds of blogs relevant to what we want to target.

    We’ll expand the list with one more hack later, but we’ll treat that separately, so we’ll just work with this for now.

    There are some duplicates, and scraping BlogRank brought in the URLs for the RSS feeds as well (which we don’t want), so we need to clean this list up before we can manipulate and import it.

    Scrubbing the List

    If we take the BlogRank Google Docs we just created, we can see that the odd rows from row 3 on only contain the RSS URLs we don’t want. Let’s get rid of those.

    This is a bit hack-y and I’m sure there’s a better way, but it works for me. In cell C1, enter the following =MOD(ROW(),2), then copy that formula down (once your cursor turns into the cross when hovering over the bottom-right corner of the cell) to the rest of the spreadsheet. The result should be every odd C cell (C1, C3, C5, etc.) containing a “1” and every even C cell (C2, C4, C6) containing a “0”.

    Now select the entire C column, click on “Data” and select “Sort sheet by column C A ->Z”

    The numbers in column C won’t change, but the rest of your sheet will be nicely separated out for easy deletion. Find anything that’s empty in column A and delete its row. Once you’ve done this, you should have a column that is strictly blog URLs that we can import into the tools we’ll use later.

    Do this for each Google Doc spreadsheet you created, and then combine them into one giant list — hopefully it’s over 700 total sites at this point.

    We will inevitably have some duplicates, so once we have everything combined let’s get rid of them.

    In the new cell C1, enter =UNIQUE(A:B) and hit “enter.” This should create a list with only the unique entries in columns C and D. You can’t yet delete columns A and B, since they’re linked to columns C and D using a formula, so copy and paste the values from columns C and D and paste them in a fresh Google Doc.

    What you just created is an enormous list of all of the top blog URLs in the categories and industries that would be most likely to write about you. Give yourself a pat on the back; that’s pretty awesome. But we’re only getting started — before we start building a press kit and sending out emails, there’s yet another way to generate a list. This list takes a lot less time to create, so don’t worry.

    Method 2: Google News

    Getting a list of blogs in our categories may not cover all the bases. The next method to build our list will be scraping the results from the Google News API.

    Thankfully the good folks over at Customer Development Labs have already built a tool that will scrape and download Google News for us. (Edit: It goes down a lot because Google News abandoned their API. You can also use this tool

    that requires firefox. Otherwise you’re writing your own scraper :)

    All we have to do is go to the tool, enter a keyword (it could be a competitor, a keyword, a problem you’re trying to solve, etc.) and it will spit out a nicely formatted .CSV file of all the articles that have been written about that keyword in the past few days.

    This is, of course, much easier to use and manipulate than our other list. I haven’t found anything of a particular region to be of any value, so I would delete those (unless you’re from that region or your product is specifically relevant there), but other than that I would leave the .CSV file as is, or copy and paste the information into your Google Doc.

    The entire process can be a bit annoying, but if you combined the two methods you should have over 1,000 URLs, and it should have only taken you a few minutes.

    It will be easy to go from URL to email address later (I promise), so let’s put together something to send the reporters.

    Creating Your Angle

    News isn’t worthy of publishing just because it exists. Part of the job of any journalist or reporter is curation — deciding what is worthy of being published in their publication, whether that be a blog or the New York Times. Your job as someone looking for press is to show them how you meet their standards and/or would be interesting to their audience.

    We could go into all sorts of journalistic principles that determine why something makes it into a publication and what principles they use, but really it’s just common sense.

    Is it timely? Is it relevant? Is it interesting? Why would someone like you be interested in reading this?

    Again, we’ll take my startup, Grasswire, for example. Grasswire is an Internet newsroom that lets everyone fact-check and sort social media content in real-time. But what does that mean?

    That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails. That’s what a ship needs. But what a ship is…what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.” — Jack Sparrow

    What Grasswire needs is an Internet newsroom. But what grasswire is isdemocratization of journalism and information. It’s turning over the power of governments and corporations to everyday people. It’s letting ordinary people control the information that determines how they see the world.

    Not many people want to read about yet another social media tool. People love to read about freedom.

    So in the initial pitch we won’t go deep into detail about how the technology works, what APIs we pull from, why the UI/UX look like they do, etc. We talk about the story of Grasswire. What we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why it needs to be done. Reporters don’t like products very often, but they always love missions.

    Grasswire also had the benefit of the angle that I lived in my car for three months to get it off the ground; that’s interesting to anyone, if only to understand how I lived in a car, where I slept, where I showered, etc. That also goes in the arsenal, and should be mentioned when we’re sending our email, and kept in mind as we develop our press kit, which it is now time to do.

    The Press Kit

    Now we have an even bigger list of sites that would potentially write about our startup; I usually start working with a list of 1,000 or so URLs. We’ll create a semi-automated way of sending the emails in a minute, what we have to do now is create something to send them.

    The Press Kit, basically a .zip file of all of the content for the reporter to use, will vary from startup to startup. Grasswire‘s original press kit was honestly mediocre. But that press kit combined with a few emails got us our first press (BBC, The Guardian, Slate, Yahoo Finance, etc.) before we even had a product. Let’s look over the basic structure of a press kit.

    A press kit should include the following:

    Company Overview

    Founder Photos


    Press Mentions

    Product Screenshots (or photographs)

    The Grasswire press kit included another document we called the “Grasswire Story,” because the idea that I lived in my car for a few months to get it off the ground was quite compelling. If you can think of anything else specific to your company that would make for an interesting story, include it in a separate document.

    *Company Overview *

    The company overview is a very simple document that explains who you are and what you do. Think of it as an elevator pitch for newspapers.

    For Grasswire we included a tagline, a one-sentence description, three “how it works” paragraphs, and a bit of a call to action. An example might look something like this (note: this is a press kit for a real company we did work for, and it got them more than a little bit of press, from AllThingsD to the Wall Street Journal).

    Underwater Audio Overview

    Tagline: Waterproof iPods and headphones for swimmers

    Description: Underwater Audio has developed technology that allows us to waterproof ipods, headphones, and other electronic devices for swimmers.

    How it works: Underwater Audio music players come waterproofed from the inside out. They look, feel, and smell like any other 2GB iPod Shuffle — but they work underwater.

    Underwater Audio seals the iPod from the inside out using a proprietary process, and we have tested it at a depth of 200 feet (though we don’t recommend Underwater Audio for diving). Dunk it in water, leave it there, it still works.

    The Underwater Audio player will work with any headphones, though under the water you’ll need waterproof headphones to create a watertight seal with your ear to have good audio. Our recommended picks are available along with your iPod on UnderwaterAudio.com

    Underwater Audio iPods and bundles are available at UnderwaterAudio.com starting at $149.

    Of course, Underwater Audio is fairly easy to describe — they sell waterpoofiPods. Your company might be a little bit more nebulous, but you should be able to nail it down to both a one-sentence description and a short explanation that’s not more than a couple paragraphs.

    I like to start out pretending like I’m explaining a company to a five-year-old, then making my explanation more technical and detailed from there if necessary.

    Founder Photos

    Yes, this can be a bit weird, but some publications really like them. Send headshots if you have to, but really if there’s an interesting angle to your story you can tell them through your founder photos as well. Most of the Grasswire team photos were published because my co-founder and I were standing in front of the car where I lived while we got Grasswire off the ground. Underwater Audio’s might be something underwater with a waterproof iPod demoing the product. These are rarely used, so you can go out on a limb. Put them all in a folder.


    I’ve had some reporters ask for .ai or .psd folders that will scale better, while most prefer simple .png logos. It’s not difficult to throw them all in a folder, send them off, and let the reporters decide.

    Press Mentions

    This is basically to show some social proof; it’s just a document with links to other articles that have been written about you.

    Product Screenshots/Videos/Photographs

    The most important of these three are screenshots. It’s really difficult to explain how a product works without a visual; everything seems incredibly abstract. Include any other product demo videos or photographs that a reporter may want to include. Remember the strategy here is to give them every piece of content they could possibly use, and let them decide what is relevant for their type of media.

    The Email

    We’re almost ready to start systematically gathering reporters’ emails and sending them our press kit, but first we need some text to populate the email.

    Ask 10 reporters what they would like to see in press pitches, and all 10 of them will say “keep it short.” And when they say short, they mean it — looking through our press pitches, anything that was longer than two really short paragraphs cut our response rates in half. So I like to boil my pitches down to three really easy parts.


    One-sentence pitch

    Offer/ask (sample or press kit)

    Here’s the general framework for an email that works really well.

    Hey [name],

    My name is Austen from Underwater Audio. We developed a technology that makes iPods completely waterproof — it’s some pretty cool technology you (and your readers) might be interested in. We’re at underwateraudio.com, and I have a [press kit/sample/demo] I’d like to send your way to [review/check out] if you’d be interested. Let me know!

    Thanks, Austen Allred [contact info]

    The most important part of that email, to wax Steve Jobs-like, is what isn’t there. No long introductions, no links, no videos, no demos, just “We’re here, are you interested?” I’ve also gone back and forth with varying levels of personalization, a la “I read your article about x and I really liked y” or “I’m a huge fan of your work” enough to make it clear that an email is really personalized, but the difference in results has been negligible, especially if you don’t put in the research to understand writer or his publication. (I accidentally told a TechCrunch writer I like his work in PandoDaily once. That is the only angry response I’ve ever received.)

    It’s really easy for a reporter to hit reply and say “Yeah, send me what you’ve got,” and then you’re introduced and talking. It can be tempting to send 1,000 press kits out or tons of links on the initial email, but trust me: This gets much better results.

    Also note that you’ll want to avoid links, especially considering you’ll be sending about emails in bulk. 1,000 similar emails with the same link will look really spammy to email providers, and you will probably start hitting spam folders.

    Sending the Emails

    So we’ve got a press kit ready, some email text to send, and list of sites to send them to. It’s time to start gathering some email addresses and sending some emails (this is, surprisingly enough, the same step).

    To save us hours of time we’re going to use Buzzstream. Buzzstream lets you navigate to sites, automatically pulls contact information, lets you send pre-populated but personalized emails, and helps you follow up on those emails.The starter pack, which will be enough to meet our needs, is $29/month (with a 14-day free trial!), so it’s well worth our time to not have to do all of this manually.

    Open up your BuzzStream account, and you’ll see the intro page.

    Hit “paste URLs” and paste the URLs from your Google Docs (you still have them, right?)

    Click “add websites,” and wait a minute for BuzzStream to do its job. It usually takes somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes for it to process 1,000 websites.

    What you have now is a giant list of websites with email addresses, Twitter handles, etc.

    I use “domain authority” as the best sort method to decide how legitimate a blog or website is. Generally the biggest (TechCrunch, Wired, etc.) will be 90+; really, really good blogs will be 80+. Anything 40–70 is either a smaller blog or a mommy/amateur blog.

    If you’re looking to go straight to the top, look at 80–100. If you’re looking to start at the bottom and build your way up in legitimacy, go for the 40–70. I don’t even bother with anything that has a domain authority lower than 30.

    Now we have our list; let’s go to work.

    Reaching Out

    The temptation here is going to be to send a mass email blast. Fight that temptation.

    Even if it takes us a couple days to pore through and send out 500 really good emails, it will be worth it. I promise.

    Buzzstream makes it easy for you to take an email template and fill it in with variables (e.g. “[firstname]” or “[sitename]”. Once it finds the right contact info it will automatically plug that information in, so you could be pretty close to simply hitting “send” for every email you write and moving on to the next site.

    It’s also possible to reach out on Twitter; but this doesn’t scale very well.

    First, if there are one or two blogs that would be your ideal publications. Find the ideal person there, and reach out to them on Twitter. Try sending a message somewhat like this:

    @username hey I have something to send you about [your angle]. What’s a good email?

    This creates a bit of a personal relationship, and if you’re vague enough and your angle is interesting enough, few will refuse to give you their email address.

    I like to send two tweets, but of course refrain from tweeting at 50 people. First because that’s annoying, second because the other reporters will see you blindly reaching out, and third because you’ll be suspended from Twitter for spamming.

    Some reporters’ contact info won’t be brought up as well as some others, but make sure to find the right person to contact. If you’re Grasswire, don’t email the person who writes about The Internet of Things. It’s worth spending twice as much time to find the right person.

    Now we’re going to open up the “BuzzBar,” which will let us go through our list of websites, open them up, and pull and send information to contacts. It will track the emails we’ve sent, remind us to send follow-ups, and let us get rid of the sites we don’t like.

    I try to send 500/day if I’m working a full day (yes, it’s a full day’s work to send 500 emails). That’s because you should try to understand who the person receiving the pitch is and speak specifically to them. If you’re copying and pasting or just hitting “send” you’re doing it wrong.

    Follow Up

    If you don’t receive a response after a couple days, you can use BuzzStream to follow up. But don’t be annoying.

    Remember that running a company is a marathon, not a sprint (a startup is kind of a sprint then a marathon), and you may want to get coverage from these reporters again. So be cordial, don’t burn any bridges, and be grateful if anyone writes about you.

    Need Help?

    Of course many companies or individuals don’t have time to do this themselves. If you need someone to handle your PR strategy for you, contact me!


    SOURCE: http://austenallred.com/press

  • What exactly is ‘digital marketing’? (Part 2)

    The purpose of this article is to serve as the definitive basic guide to, and overview of, digital marketing tools for small and medium businesses in 2015. Consider digital marketing explained!

    Some may be surprised to learn that the term “digital marketing” has been around since the 1990’s – many small and medium business owners are just now learning more about it, as it gains more momentum in the contemporary marketing environment.

    Simply defined, digital marketing is a discipline of marketing which focuses on the use of technology to: reach an audience, sell a product or service, grow the awareness of a business or a brand, communicate effectively with customers, and bring more customers to a business.

    The concept of digital marketing has evolved significantly over the years, and continues to evolve. As technology changes and advances, so does digital marketing – with new ways to reach customers becoming available every day. Online, or internet, marketing is a major component of digital marketing – the terms are often erroneously used interchangeably.

    The following practices comprise digital marketing, as it exists today – with a brief description of how each applies to the small and medium business owner.

    What Constitutes a Good Business Website And Does My Business Need It?

    Websites are nothing new – they are workhorse of any small or medium business owner and have been for decades. A website should serve as a business’ central hub, to where all other marketing efforts lead a potential customer.The main advantage of having your own business website, using an open source content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal, is that you will always have full control over how your website looks and what information is on it.

    When a business depends on customers being able to find it, a business owner cannot afford to have a website hosted by a service which can change or disappear at any time. Like your business, if properly “watered”, your website will grow and bring more customers to your doorstep over time.

    A well-designed website is not only the face of a business but also a way for people looking for your product or service, or even products and services like yours to find you. Making sure your website is designed with your audience in mind is imperative to making a good impression on a potential customer and can make or break a sale.

    The cost of having and maintaining your own business website is generally low compared to most other marketing initiatives. With a user-friendly CMS like WordPress and Drupal, and a few hours per month, technically managing your own website has never been easier. Unless your business requires advanced features, hiring someone to set it up for you and show you the ropes is enough to last you for a long time.

    There is simply no reason to not have at least a basic, mobile-friendly, fast, responsive website for your business.

    37% of consumers are more likely to purchase on a mobile-optimized site. (ExactTarget, 2014 Mobile Behavior Report)

    Having a website opens up many new possibilities for creative ways of reaching your customer online. One such possibility is: you can easily set up landing pages, which will serve as the first thing a potential customer sees when they visit your website, with special offers and interesting information which a potential customer may find useful. Another possibility is hosting a blog, which is – for many businesses – an undervalued marketing tool. You might have a writer in you dying to come out, and there is no better place to blog about topics which interest your potential customer than on your business website.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: every type of business can benefit from having an attractive, informative, fast, responsive, mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate website

    What is Display Advertising?

    Another “old school” tool for online advertising that’s been around for a long time, display ads generally involve the placement of an image ad on another website or network of websites. If you have a visually stunning consumer product, display ads can serve as a good tool to drive traffic to your website or landing page.

    Many small businesses rely on display advertising to drive traffic to the website or landing page – these are often effective with an offer, such as a discount or promotion.

    There are now newer iterations of “display advertising” available, such as the placement of sponsored articles in relevant places on news websites or other websites relevant to your industry.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: car dealerships, travel agencies, retail, banking, tourist destinations, attorneys, realtors, home improvement, entertainment

    What is Social Media Marketing?

    Social media marketing is the utilization of various social networks to promote your business. Different types of  businesses see success on different social networks.Retail and travel businesses often see success via visual ads – amazing product or destination imagery which draws in potential customers through aesthetic appeal. For such an approach: Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook may be a good avenue.

    Businesses focused on business to business products and services often see success on LinkedIn.

    Over time, social media marketing is evolving from an organic, content-based approach to more of a PPC approach, where your main focus is on creating ads and targeting them to hit your audience. Organic reach continues to decrease across the board, as social networks battle for revenue.

    The number of businesses that say Facebook is critical or important to their business has increased by 75%. (State of Inbound Marketing)

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: entertainment, pet services, recreational, grocery chains, attorneys, restaurants, health & beauty, HVAC

    What is Email Marketing?

    Email marketing is another long-standing staple of digital marketing and, when done the right way, can be an amazing tool for your small business.

    In 2014, email marketing was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States. (eMarketer)

    There are two approaches to email marketing:

    The first approach is to utilize email marketing as an integral component of a well-rounded inbound marketing approach. In this approach, the focus is on building opt-in – also called permission – email lists by using original interesting content on the website or landing page to entice potential customers to sign up to receive more content like this in the future. Businesses which build their own email lists tend to see open rates and click-through-rates much higher than those who “rent” or purchase email lists. However, this process involves quite a bit of work, so many businesses choose to outsource their list building to companies with a significant amount of resources dedicated to this, such as a digital marketing agency.

    The second option is to work with an agency and use the agency’s email lists or email vendor resources to reach out to a significant list of potential customers in their area. This approach tends to require much less effort from the business owner, but also may not provide results as significant as those seen through organic email list growth.

    Email marketing can be content based or promotion based, or a mix of both. Which you choose will depend on multiple variables, one of which is the type of business you have, another is your marketing goals.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: almost every type of business can benefit from email marketing

    What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

    Search Engine Optimization is a mix of techniques used best in conjunction with your own business website, as opposed to a webpage hosted for your business by a service like Wix or one of many others like it. The purpose of SEO is to get your business website to appear when people search for certain keywords on search engines, putting your service or product in front of them organically.

    50% of all mobile searches are conducted in hopes of finding local results, and 61% of those searches result in a purchase. (Search Engine Watch)

    There are two types of SEO – onsite and offsite.

    Onsite SEO focuses on using keywords, internal links, creating original content, and structuring your website in specific ways to help search engines identify the content your website offers and serve it up to people searching for such content.

    Offsite SEO focuses on building the strength of your website by doing things outside of your website. A common way to build off-site SEO is to provide content creators of respected websites with links to research you’ve conducted, so when they publish content you get traffic back to your site and build link strength.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: any client with their own hosted website

    What is Reputation Management?

    Reputation management is an activity which involves the tracking of online reviews of your business and your business listings on the internet. It’s defined  as “the influencing and/or control of an individual’s or business’s reputation.” Even back in 2010 an article in the Guardian suggested that, in the future, millions will employ reputation managers — well, that future is now.

    Many businesses, especially smaller businesses or ones with an unknown brand name, can be made or broken by reviews. With reviews now on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and a plethora of other popular websites, businesses often rely on professionals to alert them when a bad review pops up, or when they want to make sure their listing appears correctly in various directories so potential customers can find them quickly.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: every client

    What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM)?

    Search Engine Marketing is a marketing tool which allows advertisers to appear higher in search rankings. As opposed to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEM relies on paid advertisements, rather than organic reach, to push a link to the top of the search results.

    SEM is a numbers game, and it can be a difficult one to play for many business owners. A main component of SEM is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which is usually done on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, where an advertiser bids on keywords to appear higher in search results and then pays for each click.

    Due to the numerous technical challenges, SEM can be a time-consuming activity and if done incorrectly can be a major drain of time and resources.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: clients which offer promotions or offers often benefit from this product

    What is Retargeting?

    Retargeting is a form of display advertising which kicks in when a person visits your website through an SEM campaign, or other means. A piece of code is then stored on their device which then ques up display ads for your business across a network of other websites, making a potential customer more likely to come back and complete an action or purchase on your website.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: clients with a website and/or running an SEM campaign

    What is Lead Generation?

    Lead generation is a marketing approach primarily used in business to business marketing but sometimes in consumer marketing initiatives. Simply explained, this approach focuses on identifying candidates who are most likely to make a purchasing decision and reaching out to them through various marketing channels and offers.

    A business focused on lead generation techniques may use a mix of inbound and outbound marketing strategies to generate leads.

    71% of B2B marketers use content marketing to generate leads. (MarketingProfs)

    A lead generation marketing approach often focuses heavily on the use of excellent landing pages, great conversion forms and awesome calls-to-action to generate interest in a product or service.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: mainly b2b clients, but consumer clients with high ticket items often benefit from lead generation.

    What is Inbound Marketing?

    Inbound marketing is a form of marketing focused on building a lead or customer base by providing interesting, relevant information, at the right place at the right time. This is a “softer” approach than Outbound Marketing, and generally relies heavily on blogging and content, as well as webinars and other educational tools to reach the desired audience.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: any client can benefit from effective inbound marketing

    What is Outbound Marketing?

    Outbound marketing is the exact opposite of inbound, where the tactics often involve “yelling” at potential customers to get them to check out your offer. Outbound practices can include cold emails, cold calls, display advertising, SEM. Typically, outbound marketing is a viable strategy when your business is looking for a quick win – getting a really nice offer out there for a large chunk of people to see quickly.

    Some forms of outbound marketing, such as cold or spam emailing, are largely frowned upon and can really damage your business’ credibility. When taking an outbound approach, be absolutely 100% sure that the content or offer you’re promoting is interesting to your audience and very well targeted.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: temporary or seasonal businesses tend to do well with outbound efforts, as they often do not have the time to build an effective inbound campaign

    What is Content Marketing?

    Content marketing is a discipline of marketing, most often used within the inbound marketing framework, which relies heavily on creating and disseminating original content, such as articles, tips, videos, images, webinars, podcasts, and other assets which a potential customer may find interesting.

    Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less. (Demand Metric)

    Blogging is, perhaps, the most common form of content marketing. Businesses owners who generate interesting, relevant content on their blogs are often able to engage their website visitors, create opportunities for more traffic to their website via social sharing and do onsite-SEO with just one simple tool.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: clients who have the resources to dedicate to quality original content creation – often those implementing an inbound marketing strategy

    What is Marketing Automation?

    Much as the term implies, marketing automation is a system to nurture leads and turn them into customers through a pre-determined set of processes. HubSpot describes marketing automation at its best as: “software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon — that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers” but warns that “companies that implement complicated automation programs without a reliable source of organic leads find that their investment has little impact on revenue.”

    Even though marketing automation is a tool which many business owners struggle to understand the ROI of, or implement effectively, many businesses large and small benefit from its use — however, this tool likely requires additional education to manage effectively and can often take up significant time. If poorly managed, marketing automation will: at best, be ineffective — and at the worst, can actually hurt your brand.

    Examples of the types of clients which often see success with this digital marketing tool: most businesses large and small can benefit from properly managed marketing automation

    The Takeaway

    While your business certainly doesn’t need to use all of these tools to succeed, to run a business today without implementing at least some form of digital marketing, or using some sort of digital marketing tool, is to be losing customers to your competitors. This statistic speaks volumes:

    “Two-thirds of consumers say it is somewhat or very important that companies they interact with are seen as a technology leader.” (2014 Mobile Behavior Report)

    Now is the time of rapid evolution in the small business marketing space. Digital marketing is not a fad – mobile phones and the internet will not go away anytime soon. Just managing the day-to-day of a business and providing great customer service is often no longer enough to succeed in the contemporary consumer environment. Customers expect more than ever from businesses. Having an effective digital marketing strategy is essential to the success of your business, in the long run. The good news is: now is the best time to jump in with both feet and take your business to the next level with a mix of any, or all, of the above-mentioned tools.

    If you’re unsure where or how to get started with digital marketing for your business, reach out to us for a free digital marketing analysis of your business – and let’s grow your business together, today!


  • What exactly is ‘digital marketing’? (Part 1)

    This is a question we get a lot! Here’s a great info-graphic explaining it:

  • By Tracking “Exposure” Over Pageviews, One Startup Could Change How Ads Are Sold Online

    Chartbeat, a startup best known for live readings of how many people are visiting something on the web, said today it had been accredited by the Media Ratings Council.

    Chartbeat joins other audience-tracking services like Nielsen and Google in being accredited by the MRC, an independent body that sets standards for audience measurement. The company has also been accredited for two measures not often cited: “active exposure” and “lifetime exposure.” While much of the web settles on other measures of engagement, Chartbeat is essentially tracking how long someone is actually reading the site.

    The idea is that instead of relying on traditional advertising models — such as selling ads in batches based on the cost per impression (how many people visit the site) or cost per click (how many people click on the ad) — advertisers can begin buying blocks of time where visitors are actively looking at a site. Targeting and tracking data has improved dramatically over time, which has led advertisers to become stricter about the metrics they focus on in terms of delivering advertising performance, and this may represent another new vector to explore.

    “What is ultimately true is there is a clear relationship with attention and recall and general advertising performance,” Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile said. “That’s been shown by Google, to Microsoft, to Chartbeat. If you’re an ad agency who is ignoring this kind of attention data, you are misallocating your client’s capital. You’re spending money on ads that don’t work on ads that do work, now you can tell the difference.”

    Companies like Facebook have already begun selling advertisements based on “objective,” where the company tries to rank ads in order to maximize the chance that objective is met without dramatically impacting a user’s experience. Sharing, commenting, and liking are all used as metrics for determining engagement, and being able to track someone viewing an ad in real time could prove to be a more effective measurement.

    Much of the publishing industry is still searching for life after the pageview, the resilient standard for audience measurement for the past several decades. In a hypothetical future where Chartbeat’s metrics are standard, advertisements would be priced according to how engaged users are on a site, leading to more accurate ad pricing and better targeting.


  • The Urban Legend of Free Social Marketing

    When I give advice to CMOs about new social marketing strategies, I often hear the same initial response: But nobody wants to come to my website. While that’s probably true today, cultivating an audience is just like growing your audience on social media: it takes investment.

    Brands have spent a decade investing time, talent and billions of dollars in growing their audiences on social media, only to discover that suddenly they can no longer effectively reach them…unless they’re willing to pay for it.

    Initially, Facebook took much of the heat, after changes to its algorithm sent organic reach (the percentage of your audience who sees non-promoted content) plunging to less than two percent of the average brand’s audience. Critics speculated that Facebook was using its algorithm to bully brands into spending more money on ads. Facebook argued the changes were crucial to sustaining a positive user experience, noting that as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear in any of our News Feeds every time we log on. But marketers remained skeptical, and many talked of shifting their focus to Twitter, where organic reach doesn’t lie at the mercy of an enigmatic algorithm.

    Then Twitter announced organic Tweet analytics. The new insights were meant to help users maximize their organic Twitter impressions, but they also revealed something pretty damning: despite the fact that Twitter’s firehose model gives equal treatment to every organic Tweet that crosses the platform, organic reach on Twitter remains eerily similar to Facebook. So while the volume of brand-related content being created — across platforms, by both brands and consumers — has skyrocketed, the volume of content actually being seen has plummeted because of three irreversible trends.

    Feed Frenzy: There are 7x as many users on social media than there were five years ago. Each of those brands and individuals is creating and sharing more content than ever before, and (thanks to content marketing) we’re also talking more about brands. But brands aren’t just competing with each other — they’re going up against everything from wedding photos to breaking news to (viral-optimized) cat videos.

    Monetization: As media channels, social networks are endemically flawed. The bulk of their revenue eventually needs to come from advertising, and the combination of increased demand for advertising, limited supply of inventory (especially on mobile) and shrinking reach guarantees that the price of getting your content in front of your audience will only go up from here.

    Fragmentation: New social networks are born (and die) every year, and they’re only a small fraction of the fragmentation problem. Chartbeat references “dark social” — things like messaging apps, IMs and email that marketing software can’t track — as the number one traffic driver for content. Buzzfeed sees more shares to WhatsApp than to Twitter. Consumers have more ways to share and connect than ever before, and it’s virtually impossible to measure them all.

    In an ironic twist of fate, marketers have been very successful at getting their audiences talking, but their ability to amplify any of the resulting buzz has been eclipsed. The sheer volume of content flowing through social networks at any given moment has rendered brand messages all but invisible unless they’re promoted. Social networks are no longer an effective way for brands to reach their audiences — at least not in the same way.

    Many marketers have traditionally looked at social marketing as something that lives on social media, often driving campaign traffic to a Facebook page or app, for example. But as social networks increasingly position themselves as paid advertising channels, it’s  time for marketers to start treating them as such. This shift means using social networks to drive traffic to your own properties. You can continue to use social media for acquisition, awareness and viral marketing through advertising and/or encouraging fans to create and share content about your brand. That’s what those social networks want anyway.

    The difference is that instead of treating them like destinations in and of themselves, you think of them like a highly targeted media channel to drive traffic to your own properties. Unlike social media (where you’re basically renting the space and the audience), when you shift your audience onto your properties, you own the entire experience — the data and the audience. In fact, your social experiences can better reflect your brand with a content creation and distribution strategy that you construct.

    Give people content experiences they actually care about and want to engage with, and in turn you’ll create your own distribution channel for future content. Return visits increase organically as audiences begin to see you as the central hub for your brand, but great content also gives them an incentive to register. And from there, your content storm shifts to more personal, direct conversations with your fans.

    Earned media may be headed for extinction, but a brand’s reach shouldn’t have to die along with it. By re-balancing content distribution, brands can turn distant followers into die-hard fans.

  • How Brands Can Take the Word “Automated” Out of Automated Marketing

    In Apple’s famed 1984 commercial, creative vision and the freedom to access a trove of information destroyed a dystopian society on the verge of chaos.

    At the time, Apple was making the point that people should feel liberated by technology, not confined to one solution dictated by a single set of rules. Since the introduction of the first personal computer, technology has advanced at a rapid pace. Today, that new tech poses a whole other set of unique threats to humankind—or, at least, marketers’ livelihoods—by way of entirely automated marketing.

    Apple Computer 1984

    Are we at another point in technology’s history where human innovation may be on the line?

    Automated Marketing Possible with New Tech Boom

    It hasn’t been long since Gartner analyst Laura McLellan first claimed that CMOs would spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017. Her predictions, which came in January 2012, outlined three core reasons the industry was moving in this direction:

    1. Marketing is becoming increasingly tech based.
    2. “Big Data” creates a significant competitive advantage.
    3. Marketing budgets are growing quicker than IT budgets—and that has been the case for several years now.

    While those statements were aggressive in 2012, today we all know them to be fact. New marketing-solution platforms enter the market every day, creating new challenges like integration errors, risk-management issues, lack of digital talent, and compliance.

    For creative marketers, mismanaged tech investments come with much bigger consequences. Automated marketing, by way of new technology, aims to abandon all creative process rather than supporting it long term.

    For example, marketing departments can forecast buyer behavior through predictive modeling, use site analytics to verify hypotheses with historic trends, turn to a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to find a list of prospects to market toward, automate marketing through Marketo, and personalize each Web experience based on tracking tags, all with the pull of a few technology levers.

    This is where marketing begins to look a lot more like science than art—a trend that has already started to affect career development for digital marketers.

    The Changing Role of Marketers

    With data and technology playing bigger roles in marketing, the way professionals go about their daily responsibilities has changed. In Adobe’s study, Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves, 64 percent said they expect their marketing roles to change in the next year; 81 percent said over the next three years.

    Of those surveyed, 30 percent of respondents said that lack of training in new marketing skills has stunted the growth of their careers—perhaps mainly because companies are adopting technologies at an alarming rate without first establishing the appropriate training sessions to help employees adapt. In addition, another 30 percent of marketers said their organizations’ inabilities to adapt to new technologies and trends has prevented them from becoming the professionals they aspire to be.

    Digital Roles Changing

    Why Are Brands Investing More in Tech but Not Educating Staff on How to Use It?

    It’s clear that enterprise brands are pressured to measure and prove return on investment (ROI) from everything they do, a process which is made easier through emerging tech solutions. Having a wealth of data available to act on does open new creative doors, but without the skills to fully pull information from these automated marketing solutions, brands are essentially flipping a switch and activating autopilot. They’re attempting to engage with audiences without really being present.

    This not only dilutes the value technology brings to the table, but it also reduces the level of creativity that goes into every digital campaign. It diminishes the brand marketer’s role to one that simply pushes a few buttons and crosses his fingers.

    In an era where marketers have the potential to reach consumers across new channels, little is being done at the enterprise level to educate employees on how to leverage new tech for increased business value. Despite that, investments in these services continue to climb, as a way to keep up with the masses and look more integrated in what they do.

    It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

    Technology still has the potential to liberate marketers from worn-out practices. However, in order to invest in solutions at scale, a solid framework for training, integration, use, and ROI measurement must also be in place. This is where CMOs can thrive in this new tech-driven, automated-marketing world. By taking processes and systems developed to test communications practices in the past and applying them to tech investments and staff training in the future, enterprise brands can better plan for this new environment, maintaining creative control over what they say (and how they say it) to a connected audience.

    Otherwise, marketers are left to work with what they’re given—and innovation becomes harder to come by when everyone has access to, and only uses, the same data sets in communications.

  • A peek at the marketing technology stack of the future

    A recent report on the marketing technology landscape from Scott Brinker, Co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive and author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, catalogued the stack of technology solutions built for the marketing department. A landscape that was crowded with over 100 solutions in 2011 has grown to include 947 solutions in 2014. Forrester’s Laura Ramos predicts that by 2017, marketing will spend more than IT on technology, and we can safely say that by the time 2017 rolls around, marketers will have no trouble finding a plethora of technology tools to manage and automate every area of marketing.

    The stack of technology solutions marketers use to streamline marketing processes is in a constant state of evolution, and we’re on the brink of a major shift in the way marketers use technology. Two main factors account for this shift: the explosion of data and the development of disparate tools to help marketers make sense of big data. As marketers become more data-driven and hordes of technology solutions emerge to help marketers become even more so, in which solutions should marketers invest their time and their budgets?

    Today’s marketing stack contains four essential technology platforms: Cloud CRM, Marketing Automation, Business Intelligence, and Marketing Intelligence.

    marketing stack

    Each of these solutions has developed in response to shifting customer expectations and explosions of disconnected tools.

    The era of cloud CRM and automated marketing

    Before Salesforce.com revolutionized the marketing stack with Cloud CRM, marketers were managing multi-channel customer communication through spreadsheets and disconnected e-business applications. CRM ushered in the first phases of relationship marketing with a single platform providing customer-facing employees with 360-degree views of their customers.

    Before Eloqua, Marketo, and Hubspot automated marketing campaign administration, marketers grappled with separate technology solutions to manage each marketing channel — none of which could deliver holistic data about buyers. Marketing Automation merged email, SEO and inbound marketing onto a single platform so marketers could test campaigns as well as score and nurture leads as they moved throughout the entire buying cycle.

    The evolution of CRM and Marketing Automation created the development of a new marketing platform designed to bring disconnected data management tools together.

    In March 2014, Forrester Analyst Laura Ramos released a report that explores new ways B2B marketers should evaluate large quantities of data to understand customers and identify new prospects:

    “A wealth of insights is available to B2B marketers if they are willing to dig in. Internet exploration, search, smart device usage, content browsing, and business community social activity reveals the twists and turns customers take throughout their lifetime.”

    The concept is attractive in theory, but idealistic in practice; most marketing teams don’t have the capability to merge and analyze the increasingly large amounts of data they now collect.

    Today, marketers face overwhelming access to customer data, but cannot extract useful insights. According to Bizo’s survey of 800 marketers, less than 20 percent of marketers believe they are using data well.

    The evolution to Marketing Intelligence

    To solve this problem, marketers invest in a collection of disparate tools – each one designed to address a single area of the marketing and sales funnel: lead scoring, segmentation, marketing ops, web personalization, predictive analytics, customer success, and sales intelligence.

    Marketing Intelligence incorporates all of these functions to help marketers incorporate data into every aspect of the marketing funnel.

    Marketing Intelligence is the layer connected to other platforms like CRM, Marketing Automation, and Web Content Management Systems that leverages data and machine learning to deliver insights on customers and market opportunities, and reduces operational overhead.

    The era of Marketing Intelligence is upon us. The nexus of data with the connection of rich external sources to your CRM, advanced segmentation, and predictive modeling allows marketers to be scientific about the ways they communicate with customers. The question ultimately is not how will all these disparate solutions fit together with large quantities of data, but rather, how can I take advantage of an end-to-end solution to reveal my best market segments and engage most effectively with my best prospects.

    To gain a better understanding of the marketing intelligence layer, download the new guide to marketing intelligence.

  • Three Essential Stats for Marketing to Women

    Quick, when was the last time you visited the website for the U.S. Census Bureau?  How about the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site?  Bonus points if you’ve stamped your passport (euphemistically speaking) over at the United Nations website recently.

    These and other government, civic and not-for-profit organizations provide an important and often overlooked source of demographic information for marketers.  The stats they provide can serve as a meaningful anchor in a sea of fast-moving marketing trends.  Here are three statistics, and the sources behind them, that are important for marketers to pay attention to right now:

    Stat #1: 70% of women with children age 18 and under participate in the U.S. labor force. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    What this means to you: Every time a woman takes a job outside the home, her spending patterns are altered.  Not only does she increase her household income, she wears different clothes, eats different foods, travels a different direction on the roadways, involves different people in caring for her children and has a different relationship with money. How does this change the way you capture women’s attention? How does this impact the way you innovate?

    Consider Fitbit.  The company has achieved success in a crowded industry by helping time-compressed people track their physical activity while on the move. Sleek form factors like Fitbit Flex wristbands are now available with designer accessories from Tory Burch, which gives them a style aspect that is especially workplace-friendly for women.  How can you take your own product to the next level and provide this kind of “triple crown” mix of usefulness, convenience and style for women who are balancing two jobs: one inside the home and one outside the home?

    Stat #2: 40% of all U.S. households with children under 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. (Source: Pew Research)

    What this means to you:  This stat made headlines when it was released, but how deeply have you studied what it means to your business?  Attitude shifts have emerged around earning and spending.  For instance, products and services that were once considered luxuries are now often viewed as necessities.  The attitude is, “I work hard, I need to be at my best and I’ve earned nice things.”

    From hotel programs with women-centric amenities for business travelers (see Kimpton and Hyatt) to the resurgence of direct selling firms that enable women to perform double-duty by seeing friends while they shop, there is an enormous opportunity to study the needs of bread-winning women.   Working women will often say they need services, not just products.  What kind of complementary service could you build around the products you offer?

    Stat #3: The average wages of 22-30 year-old single, childless women are higher than same age men in many of the largest U.S. metropolitan cities. (Source: Reach Advisors study citing U.S. Census data, reported in the Wall Street Journal)

    What this means to you:  This stat was another headline maker, and it’s taking some time for its implications to be seen in marketing.   All over the world, women are getting married later in life. Many young women have the kind of disposable income that their mothers and grandmothers could not have imagined at the same age.  This is driven in large part by higher education: in the U.S., women earn 57% of bachelor degrees, as well as the majority of master’s and doctoral degrees, and many are working for several years before considering marriage.  These single, young women are often buying consumer goods that were once primarily the domain of married couples.

    This creates a new urgency for marketers to showcase a broad representation of women in marketing materials, and not only women in the married-with-children life stage.  For inspiration, take a look at the way IKEA showcases a variety of female-friendly imagery and copy in its marketing materials.  Then take an inventory of your own images: are they up to date in how they depict today’s younger women consumers?

  • Cash, Lies and ROI, Redux: 3 Signs Your Marketing Budget Is A Flight Risk

    In my previous post, I discussed the reasons why marketing budgets are growing and what marketing leaders need to consider as they build their 2014 marketing “flight plan.” As the new year approaches, my intention is to showcase the framework, skills, and expertise needed to build a financially sound marketing powerhouse.

    Once marketing leaders recognize these growth opportunities, support an increasing number of strategic programs, and measure marketing on a much broader scale, what happens next? Most leaders will typically forge ahead, confidently navigating across departmental lines and engaging customers in their new initiatives. Yet expanded authority does not give marketing leaders license to fly at unsafe speeds or altitudes.

    Strategic, mindful leaders need to first anticipate what obstacles they may encounter in their flight path and create a strategy to address them swiftly. Here are the most common obstacles I have seen with my clients:

    1. Underestimating potential turf battles. Recently, the CEO of a fast-growth technology company told me that she has repeatedly witnessed the growing tensions between CMOs and IT within her customer accounts. The CEO shared that “we are seeing increasingly where Marketing owns the budget . . . many IT departments are feeling left out, and less influential.”

    She then explained how this tension plays out in their customer accounts. “In one of our largest accounts, a multibillion-dollar industrial company, our primary buyer is the VP of Marketing. The IT department was never consulted during the evaluation and selection processes. Now, they are behaving badly.

    Marketing originally paid for our product. My account team participated on a call with both IT and Marketing, and the IT deptment said: ‘You are not allowed to install the tool, because it has not yet been vetted.’ In other words, Marketing had not performed the proper security checks. The customer’s IT manager said this in front of my team. We were just polite and said, ‘We will do what you want us to do.’ ”

    Imagine how many weeks of productivity were forever lost due to this turf battle within the customer’s own business!

    2. Lack of clear attribution. Some companies lack clear metrics attribution, especially between Sales and Marketing. In a recent Forbes article, Dominique Hanssens, professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, posits that “attribution can sometimes cause double accounting, particularly with TV ads and follow-up sales.”

    3. Short-term mind-sets. In the United States, Accounting’s standards do not allow Marketing to be put on the balance sheet as an asset. Marketing is usually treated as an expense, even though some Marketing initiatives impact long-term brand repute, a customer’s propensity to buy more products from you, and a company’s cultural and community clout. Forbes columnist and MarketShare Director that “marketing expenditures are technically an expense, as opposed to an investment, and that’s an issue here. In finance speak, marketing costs are a P&L item, not a balance sheet item.”

    Hanssens also reveals that most companies focus too much on flow metrics, which can include weekly sales and comparisons of revenues over time and lead conversion rates. He recommends companies also consider stock metrics in their performance management systems. These can include future income streams such as brand repute and value, the value of inventory, and the quality of the customers you are attracting.

    What about your company? Are you selling to buyers who are going to be loyal, long-term customers, or to transactional buyers who, as Groupon and LivingSocial have demonstrated, chase daily deals? These online discount sites exemplify an obsession with flow metrics.

    It’s time to create marketing budgeting models that will not only boost your credibility in the boardroom, but will also expand your value vocabulary (hint: It’s time to think beyond number of leads required to drive X dollars in sales). My future posts will explore ways to achieve that. This expanded view will help you define your organization’s value in a new whole–and holistic–light. Every captain needs a 360-degree view of his or her surroundings before enjoying a smooth landing.

    Source: http://www.fastcompany.com/3018536/leadership-now/cash-lies-and-roi-redux-3-signs-your-marketing-budget-is-a-flight-risk

  • Cash, Lies, And ROI: Are Your Marketing Budgets A Flight Risk?

    If your company’s marketing leader relies too heavily on analytics, business use cases, and spreadsheets, they could be grounding business.

    On a sunny July 6, 2013, morning, Asiana Airlines flight 214 entered its final approach at San Francisco Airport. With four pilots in the cockpit, the jet was cleared to land with visual approach on runway 28L. At the time, the Instrument Landing System (glide slope) on 28L was out of service.

    Sadly, things went terribly wrong, terribly fast. Asiana’s pilots approached the runway 40 knots slower than the recommended landing speed, resulting in the tail falling off, a cabin fire, and the loss of three lives.

    In the days that followed, some experts and authorities speculated that Asiana’s pilots have a reputation of being overly reliant on instrument-guided landings and inferred that the faulty ILS may have caused the calamity.

    How many marketing leaders rely heavily on analytics, business use cases, and spreadsheets to guide their organization’s customer and demand generation initiatives? In my experience, over-reliance on these analytical instruments is a recipe for too many go arounds—some of which can be extremely costly.

    First, it’s important to understand why budgets are growing. In my CMO peer groups, I’m seeing four main reasons:

    • Explosive growth in reliable marketing technology solutions. The advent of marketing analytics and big data to make informed strategic decisions, profile customers more accurately, and track campaign results now provides marketing leaders with powerful decision-making ammunition. Companies such as HubSpot, Oracle/Eloqua, and Marketo are industry darlings. Boards of directors love these products. So do CEOs and CFOs.
    • Increased receptivity to fuel integrated marketing efforts that blend online and offline elements. While digital budgets are growing, marketing department leaders also continue to invest a healthy portion of their budgets in offline events. These may include exclusive breakfast seminars, customer appreciation events, and awards programs.
    • Reduced reliance on IT for day-to-day direction and support. Most of today’s marketing operations, lead generation, and data analytics tools are cloud based, so IT is not needed to install and support them. Marc Benioff, CEO and Founder of Salesforce.com, is known for coining the company mission “The End of Software.” This moniker resonates within his company as well as within Salesforce’s monolithic partner ecosystem. According to Penny Herscher, CEO of big data solutions provider FirstRain, “We are seeing increasingly where Marketing is in the (budget) lead. They have to be the arbiters of the decision. Many IT departments are feeling left out, and less influential.”
    • A mind-set shift from managing costs to driving top-line growth. Companies are emerging from a cautious investment spell fueled by the Great Recession. While this is a refreshing transition, it requires marketing leaders to choose from a broader spectrum of investments. Many, such as predictive analytics, are not yet proven and require a “big bet” mind-set. Not all leaders are accustomed to embracing this level of risk. But those who are willing to create a “marketing innovation slush fund” are reaping rewards.

    Marketing leaders face many opportunities to grow their budgets and support an increasing number of strategic programs. Yet expanded authority does not give marketing leaders license to fly at unsafe speeds or altitudes. In fact, the biggest obstacle on the runway is their organization’s resistance to change and turf battles.

    My next post will address the greatest causes of CMO budgeting resistance. In the meantime, don’t let these high-speed trends run your marketing organization aground.

    Source: http://www.fastcompany.com/3016128/leadership-now/cash-lies-and-roi-are-your-marketing-budgets-a-flight-risk