Category: Marketing

27
Apr

The Best Product Marketing Advice I Can Give You

Two of my favorite books on communication are Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple Squeeze This – A Guide to Creating Great Ads and Al Ries’s Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Although I describe them as “communications” books, they’re really advertising books. Or rather, books that study communication through the lens of advertising. I’ll come back to why this is important in just a moment (and yes, I owe you a great piece of advice about product marketing — bear with me just a few more sentences; it’s coming, I promise).

Both books also pre-date the spectacular rise of the internet. Positioning was published in 1981. Hey Whipple‘s first edition is from 1998. And whereas most digital era marketing books get distracted by the latest “shiny object” industry fad, tactic, or technology trend, Positioning and Hey Whipple shine through with clarity on the long-term principles of effective communication:Continue Reading..

30
Mar

Why I Think Zuckerberg is Trying to Kill Influencer Marketing

I have a new theory — call it a prediction — about the future of influencer marketing.

Recently, Instagram has been meeting with some of its latest advertisers and media partners to council them on the social platform’s latest algorithm update — a transition that will rank newsfeed content by relevance, rather than chronology, similar to its parent Facebook’s own newsfeed algorithm. Instagram’s advice to marketers, succinctly summarized, boils down to this: “Make better content to keep up with the aesthetic expectations of users, and get ready to advertise [even more] to distribute it, because Instagram organic reach will ultimately follow the downward trend as Facebook’s.”

While any marketer caught off guard by this shift couldn’t have been paying attention to the last few years of social media history, what’s interesting to me is how the organic reach race-to-the-bottom keeps reaffirming the same, cyclical social advertising sequence:Continue Reading..

06
Sep

How to Build a Brand the World Will Remember Tomorrow

This essay originally appeared on Percolate.

Brands want to be chosen by customers, and marketing as a discipline is aimed at increasing that likelihood. As a growing body of academic research shows, almost all customer purchases are at least partially memory-based. This means a critical priority in marketing and advertising is creating and reinforcing positive brand memories, associations that lead customers to buy. Multiple studies(1,2) show brand recall strongly correlates with brand selection, and is often triggered by in-the-moment needs. Strong brand and product memories translate to sales.

But how do executives ensure their teams are effectively marketing for memory? Here, a four step approach is recommended:Continue Reading..

02
Apr

The Year Social Media Moves Beyond Social

This essay originally appeared on the Percolate Blog.

Social is entering a new era in the history of its communications potential. In doing so, ‘social media’ companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are briskly redefining their identities, business models and the boundaries they are able to connect people — or brands to people — within. All told, 2015 looks more and more like the year social will formally move beyond social, and the time when advertisers and technologists stop talking about a company, marketing channel, event or job title as ’social,’ and, instead, simply describe it as something that is.

After all, what is or isn’t social anymore? Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now closely interwoven throughout all modern media — from live event and TV experiences to journalism to federal government policy awareness — and thanks to mobile are now first screen centers of attention.

How do you define a social company? Today, Facebook generates more annual advertising revenue than Fox News, CNN or MSNBC, with a much faster underlying growth rate fueled by mobile device adoption and budget reallocation to digital.

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As we’ve talked about in the past, Facebook is also distancing itself from its own company pages and contest tabs, becoming a modern media company that connects people and serves ads across a network that extends well beyond Facebook.com. And if the definition of a social company is as open-ended as one that creates or facilitates interactive communities, brands as diverse as Amazon, eBay, Uber, Github, Kickstarter, Venmo, Medium, Pandora, Spotify and a litany of other companies are also intrinsically social businesses. ‘Social’ is where people spend time on the internet, it’s what people intrinsically want to do in their lives and with their phones, and it’s been a central element of human behavior for thousands of years.

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23
Dec

How the Human Brain Experiences Your Brand

This article originally appeared on the Percolate Blog.

The best brands are built to last a lifetime. GE’s existed for over 118 years, IBM recently celebrated it’s 103rd birthday and even innovative Apple is steadily approaching 40.

But while the best brands are complex, multi-dimensional and designed for longevity, a brand’s visual identity — its logo, colors, fonts and style guides — can be analyzed and understood by the human brain in less than half a second, according to researchers. Moreover, how our brains process branding and a business’ visual identity carries important lessons for marketers, entrepreneurs and designers.Continue Reading..

28
Sep

How to Win Anyone’s Attention

The average person now consumes twelve hours of media, checks their phone close to 110 times and sees an estimated 5,000 marketing messages each day. When most of us also regularly put in 8+ hours on the job, it’s no wonder our collective attention span is more taxed than ever.

Data overwhelmingly confirms it too. According to MailChimp 80-85% of marketing emails are never opened, and even in digital video — one of the most promising frontiers for marketers — 56% of viewers regularly skip pre-roll and vocally prefer ads that are fifteen seconds or less. The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine finds average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, no doubt influenced by the influx of real-time content streams available to us 24/7/365 on social at a moments’ notice.

As a marketer or advertiser, all this is also a reality check and constant reminder about how precious attention has become. If you’re thinking about what this means for your marketing efforts, or you’re producing a lot of quality content but struggling to get noticed, here are four principles you can apply to win anyone’s attention.

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15
Mar

Does Honesty Create Better Marketing?

[This post originally appeared on the Percolate Content Marketing Blog]

Over the summer of 2013, David Byttow, a former Google software developer, started building a mobile app to solve a problem he had. Byttow noticed he and the engineers he worked with were bad at giving each other feedback, and he wanted a way they could comment honestly on each other’s work without professional or personal backlash for saying something negative. Byttow wanted a way to tell the truth, without revealing who said it.

Eight months later, the most talked about content at SXSW 2014 wasn’t a flashy new tech launch, sharing economy roll-out or big-budget event activation: it was a SXSW feed from Byttow and co-founder Chrys Bader‘s two month old app, Secret, that aggregated and shared honest, anonymous feedback about the conference. The feed, coming on the back of Secret’s $10 million fundraising announcement, caused the app to jump more than 500 spots in the Apple app store rankings over the weekend, making Secret one of the fifty most downloaded social media apps, ahead of Foursquare and Facebook’s new Paper.

By itself, Secret is a noteworthy example of product design and community-building in an identity-conscious, mobile feature-unbundling world. But Secret isn’t alone. Its largest competitor Whisper also just raised venture funding, another addition to a Snapchat-led ecosystem of apps that help users create, share and consume content that’s genuine, unedited and in the moment. In fact, I see Secret, Whisper and Snapchat as part of a larger content and cultural trend centered around a key brand pillar: honesty.Continue Reading..

01
Mar

What Hubspot’s IPO Announcement Says About the Future of Marketing

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported marketing software company Hubspot has started IPO discussions with Morgan Stanley after achieving 50% year-over-year revenue growth in 2013 to $77 million. As most already know, Hubspot’s central offering is a suite of software that helps companies manage their inbound marketing, a strategy focused on creating quality content to pull people toward your company’s website and products.

At its core, inbound marketing is a structured marriage between content marketing and analytics, centered around an owned content hub: your brand’s website. Hubspot’s own value creation in this space has come from providing agencies and brands — primarily SMBs — with a system of record for website-based marketing content to drive business leads. Although Hubspot and similar SaaS vendors like Marketo are often designated “marketing automation” software, their true focus is about influencing the customer lifecycle with content, then tracking their progress from prospect to customer.

To me, Hubspot’s recent success — and their decision to now go public — highlights three important trends currently happening in marketing, ones that will have significant influence on what inbound becomes.

1. The marketing funnel now extends well beyond the website. Originally, inbound was a marketing system with the website (and its blog) at the center. But several of Hubspot’s recent product releases — in particular social inbox — tie into a broader theme that social (largely due to mobile) has massively broadened the outer reaches of the marketing funnel. Buyers don’t contact brands until the majority of their purchasing decision process is already complete, and 78% of consumer purchasing decisions are influenced by social. Social platforms are the first place buyers learn about and interact with brands, and its not an owned part of the funnel. The shape and size of the content marketing landscape is changing, and it’s driven by social.

Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing Usage Trend Growth

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23
Jan

The Five Cornerstones of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is currently going through a turbulent adolescence. After being thrust into the public spotlight by opportunistic media pundits and loosely-correlated startup success stories, the innovation community has struggled to define and defend growth hacking as a practice or designation with substance.  To borrow from a thoughtful, recent article by Lincoln Murphy, the growth hacker community has been heavily compromised and co-opted by “…linkbait [name-dropping] people use to get traffic while they rehash the Hotmail and AirBnB ‘hacks’ or talk about SEO or Copywriting or [any generic marketing tactic] and tag it #growthhacking.”

Today, we seem to be past the point of no return, and stuck at two opposite extremes. At one end, doing anything successful at a startup that required more technical acumen than opening a web browser is heralded as “growth hacking.” Yet, at the same time, growth hacking is being increasingly lumped in with spammy, smarmy and coercive promotional tactics used by over-eager startup marketers to try to get an edge.

Can growth hacking rise above all this self-induced backlash? Does growth hacking still have a reputable professional identity that gives it legs to stand on? Am I a growth hacker? Are you? Growth hacking feels like it needs a clearer, nobler definition, and here’s my first attempt to suggest one. Growth hacking achieves a business vision using digital resources (code, content, data) to capitalize on economic or technical opportunities in order to produce sustainable yet rapid growth for a company or cause. If a strategy or tactic doesn’t have a technology-enabled vision, doesn’t identify and expose a market opportunity, isn’t sustainable and/or secure and doesn’t result in helping a company grow faster, bigger or both, it’s not growth hacking.

How is this different from, well, digital marketing? Let’s take search engine optimization (SEO) as an example and break it down:Continue Reading..

12
Jan

Defining Content Marketing in 2014

There’s no question content marketing is evolving rapidly. In 2009, content marketing meant blogging and writing SEO articles for your website. Fast forward five years, and content marketing is simultaneously both more omnipresent and more challenging to concretely define.  If a brand’s presences across social, mobile and web are defined by the reach and discoverability of their digital assets (apps, photos, videos, etc.), isn’t all marketing technically “content marketing?”Continue Reading..

27
Nov

Re-Creating My Favorite Growth Hack from Dropbox – Part 1

If you scan the volumes of growth hacking literature on the web, there’s a lot of good data and post-mortem analysis on how startups like DropboxPaypal and Uber used referral marketing programs to accelerate early user adoption and brand-building. As a result, I’m assuming if you’re here reading this, as a baseline, you agree: IF you have a good product, a customer referral program is an effective way to incentivize your existing user community to do some of your marketing for you.

But this post isn’t about repeating why customer referral programs are a tasty growth hacking recipe: instead, we’re going to walk through how to bake the cake, structure and implement one.Continue Reading..

15
Sep

Growth Hacks: Website Traffic Generation Tips

A common question I see asked a lot by first-time startup founders and marketers on sites like Quora and Reddit Startups is “How do I drive traffic to my startup’s new website or landing page?”

In the interest of sharing some of my favorites, here’s a quick list of some of the channels I’ve found to be most effective for growth-hacking (particularly when you’re working with a limited marketing budget):Continue Reading..

19
Aug

Quibb: The 10 Right Ways to Launch a Modern Web App

Quibb is a startup-centric web community for reading and sharing links, created at a time when the last thing the internet needs is another place to read and share startup links. Or, rather, you might think that, right up until the point where it becomes clear that Quibb got its launch strategy exactly right. Unwilling to be overshadowed by Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Quora’s titanic content feeds (as well as the lively, focused dialogue emanating from incumbent communities like Hacker News), Quibb is consistently carving out enviable bandwidth among entrepreneurs and the early-adopter technorati.

What did Quibb do that was so spot on? In my view there are at least ten things, and they’re a textbook case study about the right ways to launch a modern web application:Continue Reading..

22
Feb

Virool: The Viral Video Black Box

Self-serve YouTube video ad network Virool seems to be on a tear, raising a $6.6M seed round in February from investors that include Thomvest Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurveston, 500 Startups, Phenomen Ventures, TMT Investments, DominateFund, FundersClub and a cadre of well-known individual investors. Virool also boasts some solid traction, including 30,000 registered advertisers and a network said to be capable of reaching 22 million viewers.

I first experimented with Virool in August 2012, and, even back then can say simply: Alex and Vlad built an intuitive product that works. Enter the URL of your YouTube video, pay money and it gets views through their embed network. The team has also clearly done a good job scaling their affiliate network, making the product an interesting alternative to AdWords for Video. As a result, since mid-last year, I’ve run several different Virool campaign split and A/B tests, with frequently interesting results.

However, once you get past its basic product efficacy, Virool is, at its core, a bit of a black box that leaves some important questions unanswered about it’s ad network. Specifically:

1. Who’s watching?Virool currently allows you to “target” your demographic (demo) by age, gender, placement, geography and keyword. However, the results have yet to inspire full confidence. Geographic demo-targeting at a basic level seems to work: Virool maps your views in the dashboard and assuming the views aren’t being run through proxies if you select United States only you’ll get United States-based view views. However, after that, the system offers very little transparency. If I select “Blogs/Sites” only for my view placements, what blogs and sites are these? And how is a blog or website segmenting its traffic by keyword or visitor age/gender? I can say that video campaigns targeted at a very specific demo (say, 18-24 year old male baed on a small set of keywords) doesn’t produce results consistent with YouTube’s demo analytics on the back end.

2. Where are they watching? I’ll give Virool some credit here because in a lot of cases Google/YouTube hasn’t been able to do any better, but going to the digital team at a sophisticated consumer brand or agency and presenting campaign results as “5,000 people from Brooklyn watched your video on some blog or website” is going to invite a lot of hard follow-up questions. What website(s)? News sites? Tech blogs? Are videos ever run through gates or video view exchanges? Currently with Virool it’s impossible to tell.

3. Do Virool viewers care or pay attention? Beyond the question of who’s watching where, an additional open question is how engaged are they? Specifically, when split-testing the same video across different distribution “channels,” I’ve found in particular that Games and Virtual Currency API’s can rapidly chew up ad spend and generate views that seem to have near-zero content engagement, even it it’s something like a Gamer Walkthrough or Live-Action Shooter clip. Why is that? My hypothesis is simply that audience-members want to play their game or build their currency base, not necessarily actually watch your content (some of these services you can even bot and run through video after video on mute in the background while you do something on a different browser). Trading virtual currency for YouTube views is hardly a new model, and if Virool is plugging into virtual currency view exchanges or gated ad networks to run through inventory it’s generating non-engaged shadow views at the expense of the advertiser.

4. So engagement is really a total dice roll (Do Virool viewers care or pay attention – Part 2)? For those who haven’t noticed, YouTube’s focus is on subscriptions and minutes watched, not views. Yes, there’s still a huge psychological reinforcement mechanism when you see a video with 4 million views, and at scale video virality can in some cases become a self-fulfilling prophecy (see: the Harlem Shake), but YouTube’s algorithm heavily weights audience retention, minutes watched and click-throughs at the expense of views. Here again, Virool’s view service is awfully sexy (particularly because it can be achieved quickly at lower CPV levels than Google’s PPC networks), but it doesn’t build audiences and it doesn’t give video marketers actionable data and insights about their viewership.

In order for me to really see Virool as the next generation of video ad exchange, Alex, Vlad and the rest of the team really need to develop the product to make it more transparent and address these unanswered questions. I’ve followed Alex on Quora for a while, even pre-Virool, and it’s clear to me he has significant expertise in the video space, the arbitrage he’s put together is really clever, and it would be awesome if Virool can apply its big raise to bring a lot more transparency to its viral video black box. Without it, it’s hard for a knowledgeable video marketer to really trust the product, because I know the shortcuts that can be taken and need conviction to know that Virool is taking the high ground.

12
Nov

What Dharmesh from Hubspot Taught Me About Google+

Right or wrong, I consider myself a fairly tech-savvy marketer. I’ve built close to a dozen websites, advised companies ranging from Fortune 100’s to two-person team startups on how to optimize aspects of their digital strategy and gotten hundreds of thousands of views and clicks on an assortment of content and conversion destinations. And, given my background, I’ve been well aware of Hubspot for some time. I first got a demo of Hubspot’s lead gen analysis tools in 2010 and recall immediately thinking “Wow. This much knowledge about your inbound traffic is powerful.”  Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking that by a long shot. And as an active member of the Boston-Kendall-Cambridge tech scene, I’m even more aware of Hubspot’s dramatic rise to prominence in the Boston startup scene, as well as the reverence the entire entrepreneurial community holds for Hubspot Founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah.

“He’s so impressive,” a friend and Hubspot colleague once told me; “still highly active in the code base – an incredible analyst and tireless innovator.”

So when I caught on Twitter that Dharmesh was speaking at an Intelligent.ly event (aside: in the very cool 500 Harrison BzzAgent South End co-working space, right above Cincocento, the Aquitaine Group’s elegant new restaurant loft), I made the trip over from Kendall to see what I could learn from the Hubspot luminary.Continue Reading..