Category Archives: online marketing

Digital Marketing Robots won’t do the job for us…

… they will just make it easier, (or debating data vs. intuition to drive your digital marketing)

Are our robots are the new superheros?

Our marketing robots, the new superheros?

I read this blog from Noah Kagan recently that, among other things, raises this very catchy fact that says that “only 1 out of 8 A/B tests have driven significant change” (in their case).

Quite an interesting read even if on an online marketing vendor blog. Not a revolution, but good factual feedback from the ground. It tells me something I already know, but that is always good to hear from others.

In these time where we are all about Big Data, strongly believing in Metric-driven online marketing; more and more thinking data scientist is the new specie that will save the world, or at least our online businesses; it’s good to remember these are not the drivers. There is indeed a big tendency to praise analysis now, analyzing all and every single thing, diving into numbers, KPIs, analytics, metrics, reports; a tendency to think these will not only support but lead the marketing discipline. We could even see a tendency for discouraging people to believe in their good sense and their intuition first, to push them to a more “scientific approach” by trying all possibilities. I think this is a very dangerous direction.

Yes, Digital Marketing is nothing without measurement

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer that online marketing can not work without measurement. “If you’re not measuring marketing, you’re not marketing” as my colleague Nico likes to say. In some areas (like inbound marketing, demand and lead generation), the only way to know and validate the efficiency of your marketing effort is using measurements and numbers and I’m the first to think any thing you do in that field should be measured.

This being said, while measurements can turn into analysis, or potentially into prescription or recommendation, they can certainly not be in the driver’s seat! It cannot take over our marketer’s brains, ideas and intuition.  It can only help or influence them.

Still, analytics can not replace ideas and intuition (but it can kill them…)

At eZ, I am working a lot on tools that can help optimize digital experiences (aka CXM – customer experience management). There is a big engineering and scientific effort to make tools that will always be better and smarter in order to measure and recommend changes. Technology can be extremely powerful and I am very impressed to see up to where we can take the optimization and recommendation effort!

Still, what Noah Kagan reminds us is that the kinds of tools we build here are nothing without the brain that uses them. One of the biggest risks is to rely too much on optimization tools, up to a point where you could ask your editors to simply write as much content as they can (or even emulate them with robots), letting the platform running a/b or multivariate to pick against the combinations of as many variations the ones that bring the best results. Yes we can do that, but, without the brain picking the right variations, it will go nowhere. It will only generate ever increasing big data and consume computing time as well as human data-scientist time!

Marketing  can only work when you first have well-inspired choices

This approach is dangerous and this might hurt our industry. The risk is that we might not deliver on the promises we generate. Tools and methods like A/B testing or even Marketing Automation can only work when you first have well-inspired choices that you consider interesting, but different, and you want to test them. There might be no need to compare in too much detail small variations, and the game is certainly not to compare all possible variations.

 By giving too much credit to machines, we might put ourselves, web professionals, in danger. If we want our tools to bring value we should clearly say how, and the very important prerequisite is to have digital marketers, creative people and writers crafting content and campaigns with inspiration and intuition. No, the Data-scientists and their robots certainly have not taken over the online marketing arena.

As long as we are always conscious of that, and keep room for it, the technology we will craft will deliver very high value that really helps businesses.

And to conclude on this topic, here is a fresh look at Singularity,

Time to Ban SEO?

I think I should eventually ban these three letters from my vocabulary and make the effort not to use the term, or way more carefully. I think, eventually, we should all make the effort. I realize more and more the term is a source of confusion and one of the least understood disciplines of online marketing. In almost 3 out of 4 discussions where I would use the term, the person I am talking to has a different understanding of what SEO means compared to mine. More than that, there is a real sentiment about the term.  People are really opinionated about it in all directions, without always knowing what it is about in more detail. Maybe I should call it “Natural Traffic Generation” or something of the like. A natural first step taking to demand and lead generation.

One evening not long ago for instance, I  had dinner with a fellow content management consultant and we were talking about the relaunch of the online marketing activity for a company he works for (including website, email marketing, etc.) to transform it into a demand generation machine. When I mentioned  that the current SEO was terrible and an important thing to do was to focus on it, my fellow partner tended to depreciate this view as if it was not what really mattered, which I found in the moment a bit annoying, especially in regard to the potential for a minimum of search engine marketing for this case. After giving it a second thought, I think my discussion partner simply didn’t understand what I meant, because SEO was so much something else in his way of thinking, and not what I understood. I think he was obviously thinking of old SEO techniques of cheating search engines and that is all that was associated to the discipline. Most of the people just don’t get what modern SEO is and how SEO has evolved. I had similar confused discussions many times and I am sure they happen every day to plenty of people.

Which serious Online Marketer would skip the opportunity to generate more natural traffic?

Maybe the one who simply doesn’t get the the exact purpose of SEO. Yes, as a start, the name should speak of the goal and not the action! Don’t optimize for the sake of optimizing. It is just a means to an end and the overall goal is clearly to generate concrete real demand or traffic. Search is here and here to stay in users’ habits.  My intention is not to demonstrate this (plenty of resources such as this blog post – 24 eye popping statistics about seo will give you some good hints about the role of search in inbound traffic).  In this period when everybody acknowledges the power of Content Marketing, no doubt we are talking here of something crucial for online marketers.

The wrong KPIs as a proof that SEO is not understood

I have seen marketers happy and satisfied when seeing in their SEO dashboard that their domain name was showing a better authority than its competitors or even that their ranking on their brand was in top position, stopping then any effort and considering the SEO task completed… (don’t ask me why this is not enough, please). This clearly means the purpose of SEO is in many cases not understood.  The only deliverables of the discipline is traffic and how this traffic behaves further on in your funnel.  This is the only thing that can help assess the quantity and quality of the demand generation machine you’re building! That is in the end the only thing an Online Marketing Manager should look at.

More importantly, SEO can be  your way to do information architecture 2.0

Having worked with some good SEO consultants (full disclosure, the folks at Distilled NY; I am not at all an expert myself), I realized SEO could be much more than optimization, but really working hand in hand with the content and information architecture.  Organic Traffic Generation is all about how you plan and organize your content, how you dress it in the different places it will show up, how you plan it on a editorial calendar.  So to speak, it is Information Architecture, but looked at through the lens of the global online world and not simply through the one of a single website.

SEO makes your content behave well online!

SEO will make sure your content behaves well online, and this is key!  If you stick to a site-centric information architecture, you might miss some very important things which won’t make it perform as much as it could.  Things such as basic optimization of  your SERP (Search Engine Result Page) are all about that: look at how your content appears in a search result page, in a twitter feed, on a Facebook wall, etc.  Ironically, today, by having your content well-understood by machines, you will have a good chance to have it well understood by humans. We can now design our content for both humans and machines at the same time, and this is may be the biggest change in what we call SEO.

Time to wrap-up and summarize.  Dear industry experts, Distilled, SEOmoz and company, please come with a solution to change that term for something less confusing!  On my end, I will try to use it less, simply because I realize most of the people I talk to have an unclear understanding of what I mean.  Instead of that, I will talk about Organic Traffic Generation, the first stage of the online marketing rocket (advertising being simply  a booster, in my opinion, but this is a different story).

Are you ToFu, MoFu or LoFu?

Or where shall you place your effort when planning and rolling out your online marketing effort?

I love Tofu

thanks masmad

This started with a funny discussion with one fellow partner who works for an online marketing software company around a glass of wine after a long work day, bringing me to this new terms I didn’t know yet. Acronyms are like TV to me: most of the time they annoy me but sometimes I really like them and this was the case!

So what about this ToFu,  MoFu and LoFu thingy I started with, if you don’t know them? New indie music categories? Yoga disciplines or martial art? None of these…

In the online marketing jargon, these terms are intended to categorize online marketing activities, software, and solutions (at least after a few hours of discussing the topic). ToFu stands for “top of the funnel”, “MoFu” is middle of the funnel and LoFu the bottom of it (From what I saw, people tend to use MoFu but I like LoFu better…). Catchy acronyms, no?

The real question I look at here is about where to put your energy when you are developing an online marketing effort. It is a very common question for online marketers, as it’s impossible to do everything well and everything at once. As a direct result, it is quite legitimate to ask where to start and what to focus on. I am certainly not enough of an expert to provide THE right answers but I still have some ideas…

From a strategical point of view, it’s a no-brainer; you must cover the whole journey of the online customer acquisition!

Indeed, if you are serious about online marketing, it really makes no sense to not invest in all battles! You must have a plan to grow your traffic and broaden your funnel (ToFu).  You must have a plan to better nurture your audience and prepare them to jump to the lower level (MoFu), and finally you must have a plan to efficiently transform the ones from it that qualifies them for the customer profile!

Just like a triathlete cannot bypass one of the disciplines, an online marketer can not think about improving all steps!

I have a good example, based on my own experience, that really goes in that direction:

A year or two ago, I was looking at a collaborative Q&A solution, and I heard about a company that was making some buzz, who was coming up with an innovative solution in that respect. The company was very good at the top and mid level (ToFu and MoFu): I was into their offer, ready to be nurtured, engaged! A few smart blog posts helped me think about my needs and think about what they offer. Result: I clearly positioned them as the best candidate. I was ready for stage 3 – LoFu: look at detailed budget and operational questions and may be engage with a sales person! And here is where they were not good at all! I hope for them that they have improved, but apparently they didn’t want me as a customer… It was impossible to reach their Sales team and get details on pricing despite all my effort to buy.

 Failing at only one touchpoint can have global consequences on the end result and can ruin the experience.

I still don’t understand what happened (my best bet being that the company was not ready to sell and the first stage of the demand generation marketing machine was launched too early.  It should have stayed a buzz and teasing thing). After a bit of patient waiting, I totally changed my mind and categorized this company as a not-serious and opportunistic vendor that I would in no way want to deal with!  I would not change my mind anymore!

Funny enough, a sales rep from this company called me something like 6 months later, but no need to say that my perception was not reversed at all. I guess (and hope for them) that they improved in the meantime but for me, evil was done. Also for the curious (total disclosure here,), I decided in the meantime to implement OSQA, a pure open source solution.

A classic of customer experience management: failing at only one touchpoint can have global consequences on the end result and can ruin the experience. Summary:

The only viable strategy is to care for all the stages of your funnel!

But this is about strategy, and not about tactics. And, especially if you have limited resources and most of us are in that situation, it is also important to be able to focus your effort! So, what can we say when it comes to tactics? Here I wish I would know about it all and was more of an expert, as it can be very tricky. I do have some ideas to share though:

  • No case is like another.  If you look for a pre-made tactic, there are quite some chances your findings will not fit you
  • The first thing is certainly to know about yourself and your organization so you can pick the right tactic and know where to improve. Assess strengths and weakness of your organization, check out risks and opportunities in regards to this, use traditional “good sense” driven SWOT analysis
  • Always have your final goal and KPIS in mind.  It is good to have metrics for all activity but make sure they always connect to the final goal of your online business. As an example, a typical mistake would be to only look at traffic when working on ToFu, and not the final goal (for instance Online Sales)
  • All is connected.  It is certainly good, if you can, to iterate small steps and tackle the 3 levels of your online marketing in an incremental manner
  • Always make your team aware of the 3 layers and make sure they are committed to the final goal, even if some are focused on some specific area of your funnel

And finally, I would say that you should alway think “lean”. The “think big, start small” motto fits perfectly to the online marketing discipline. There is a lot of room for successful, measurable small activities that are really meaningful as long as you keep the global, “big” thought of where you want to go!

About tactics: be lean, think big, start small!

Hopefully, I’ll get some time soon to rant on the topic more, as it is really interesting and so much of a recurring question! In the meantime, I’d take any advice or view on it! For now I’ll stick with these acronyms, and will enjoy a dose of ToFu or MoFu.  Back to my real work!