Running & Marketing, One and the Same?

Photo from Flickr. Uphill - Explored by Don McCullough 

Photo from Flickr. Uphill - Explored by Don McCullough 

While, ironically, out on a run, I started thinking about work and started to realize some similarities in the work we as marketers are doing on a regular basis and running. Here are the top 5:

  1. Setting Goals = Running Objective
    In marketing you are typically setting goals to achieve throughout the year. This can include the obvious grow revenue over last year or to more tactical like increase email address capture rate from the website. Whatever those goals may be, you set out to achieve those goals in the upcoming year. Just like in marketing, when running you set goals as well. I want to run a marathon or qualify for the Boston Marathon, to even more tactical ones as well like wanting to run a 5 minute mile (no idea how elite runners can keep that pace!). Having these set upfront allows you to properly plan whether it's your training schedule or marketing efforts.
  2. Budgets = Energy
    Every marketer is given a budget (now whether it is as much as they want is another topic). Budgets can be similar to your energy to complete your runs. There will be days where maybe you don't have the energy you needed or wanted but you continue to make the most of what your given to ensure you meet your partciular goals. Either way, you want to ensure you spend the budget your given so that you can make the most of your efforts. In running you want to make sure that you literally run out of energy by the end. This way you gave your best shot to hit those goals.
  3. Analytics = Body Scan
    In today's digital marketing, data points are easy to come by but it's understanding which ones to pay attention to in order to better understand what is going on and make adjustments. Visits, pageviews, conversions, clicks, and the list goes on at the metrics you can monitor. In running these can be your breathing (are your lungs burning), soreness in legs or knees, body temperature, feet (I won't mention toe nails...) and so on. Constantly monitoring these efforts over time will help you understand what is going on and what you might need to do to improve.
  4. Optimization = Speed Up or Slow Down
    As you start to learn what is going on based on your analytics insights, you can start to optimize those efforts. In marketing this is a constant fine tuning and tweaking to increase that revenue per email or cost per click. Runners do this all the time to determine if you need to slow down or speed up. Let the data inform you of what is happening, and use your insights to adjust and optimize.
  5. It takes a team
    In order to achieve great success, it takes more than just you. It's the support of the Ecommerce director, your data analyst, the content marketing manager and so on. With out them, you can't fire on all cylinders to exceed those goals and you don't have anyone to celebrate in your combined successes! Running is not for loners either. It's the support of your family and friends that can keep you motivated and are the first to be there and celebrate the goals you achieve like running your first race!

While this focused just on running, I'm sure there are other sports or activities that share very similar commonalities. Let us know in the comments.

Posted on May 1, 2014 and filed under Strategy.

Facebook Reach Got You Down? Make the Most of Your Paid Efforts

Pulled from eMarketer article Are You Seeing A Change In Your Organic Reach on Facebook:

Pulled from eMarketer article Are You Seeing A Change In Your Organic Reach on Facebook:

As many have heard by now, Facebook is reducing the amount of reach your posts receive ongoing. Our friends over at Convince and Convert in fact have a great graph showing why this may not change (see reachpocalypse) and if you read the top 4 things you can do, this post plans on covering the second one, paying.

Lets step back for a minute and ask: is this a bad thing? How many brands started hoarding collecting fans? Think about this from an email perspective. At some point I'm interested in a brand and I sign up for email. Overtime, for some reason or another, I start to lose interest and either Gmail starts to move this email to junk folder or I unsubscribe. For Facebook though, when was the last time you cleaned out or unsubscribed from the brands and pages that you 'liked?' Most likely the answer is never, so Facebook is trying to do some clean up. This is where the Facebook news feed ads can help. 

With this change, the news feed ad space becomes an important channel, but only valuable if you can make the most of those advertisements. Enter Facebook's Custom Audiences. The best way to reach current customers and prospects. Facebook wins because smart marketers will not waste money trying to get in front of everyone and their Facebook's customers are happy because the ads they will see should be more inline with their interests.

The other advantage with these ads, you can now start to connect the dots from social to actual revenue driven offline and/or online as a result of these efforts. We'll save this for another post, but here are some opportunities to start thinking about as it relates to managed custom audiences today:

  • Customers (Your CRM file)
    • Lapsed (13+ month buyers)
    • Active (0-12 month buyers)
    • Email Inactive (customers you are suppressing from your email program)
    • Un-promotable (customers you can't reach in email channel maybe as a result of unsubscribing, spam complaint, etc)
  • Prospecting (All net new customers)
    • Facebook interest based look-a-likes
    • Retail based partner categories (basically lifestyle segments)
    • Spend-a-like model based on customers (this is one of the highest performing prospecting tactics at driving revenue for your business)

With the ability to connect the dots from social efforts back to real world dollars, you can continue to fine tune and optimize these audiences and prove their value to the business. Clients of mine are doing this today and seeing incredible results. It's early, but proving to be a very valuable effort nonetheless. Are you using Managed Custom Audiences today? How are your results?

Posted on April 21, 2014 and filed under Strategy.

Banner Ad Best Practices

Most people don’t go looking for banner ads, take out marketers, and NO ONE goes looking for banner ads. It is a very passive but still powerful medium. You can reach current customers and prospects to drive new and repeat business. A good display advertisement targeted to the right audience can drive fantastic incremental lift to any campaign. Outside of developing the right audience, banner creative is the next most important piece to your campaign. Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re creating your banners:

1. Message should be aimed at your target audience

  • For example, targeting lapsed customers with a we miss you message is very appropriate. Targeting a group of prospects with the same message is a little weird.

2. Keep it simple, then make it simpler

  • If you are using a banner to educate customers, you are picking the wrong medium. You have only a couple of seconds, if you are lucky, to get you message across and one of those MUST be you brand

Opportunity for improvement

Bank of America digital display ad. 1 - 2 - 3 is a nice touch, but there is a lot to get across on this message that would require the viewer to invest "effort & time" to read. Cash back, rewards, bonus, etc

Bank of America digital display ad. 1 - 2 - 3 is a nice touch, but there is a lot to get across on this message that would require the viewer to invest "effort & time" to read. Cash back, rewards, bonus, etc


Nest Thermostat digital display ad. One message that the viewer can easily digest.

Nest Thermostat digital display ad. One message that the viewer can easily digest.

iTunes Radio display ad. Couple messages, but clearly translates in the hierarchal format. What, who, how

iTunes Radio display ad. Couple messages, but clearly translates in the hierarchal format. What, who, how

3. Don’t overdo the interactive elements

  • Any of the animated or interactive elements should add to the message, not distract

4. Use white backgrounds to emphasis an element and stay away from small fonts

  • Most web pages use a white background, so using this as your banner background can increase the chance of people missing it, but if it is used to emphasize an element it can work very well (unique looking product image)
Nest Protect digital display ad. Draws attention to the interesting image which also includes the brand name.

Nest Protect digital display ad. Draws attention to the interesting image which also includes the brand name.

  • Fonts should be 16px or larger, people will not work to read a message they weren’t seeking out to begin with, so make it bold and big

Opportunity for improvement

Disney Cruise Line display ad. Other than a 20% offer, there is a lot to understand in this ad. Would be interesting to see if instead of the tiny print they included more pictures of either the cruise ship or locations.

Disney Cruise Line display ad. Other than a 20% offer, there is a lot to understand in this ad. Would be interesting to see if instead of the tiny print they included more pictures of either the cruise ship or locations.


Forever 21 digital display ad. Pretty straight forward offer message and sense of urgency with end date.

Forever 21 digital display ad. Pretty straight forward offer message and sense of urgency with end date.

5. Don’t forget your logo, and yes, make it bigger

  • Don’t let your logo get drowned out from the rest of the message. A majority of people won’t click on the ad itself, but they may go searching, but if they don’t know who to search for, you’ve missed an opportunity
  • Also, for those with animated banners, make sure to keep your logo ever-present 

Opportunity for improvement

American Eagle display ad. Did you spot the brand logo? Probably not at first glance.

American Eagle display ad. Did you spot the brand logo? Probably not at first glance.


American Eagle display ad. This one is very clear on the brand!

American Eagle display ad. This one is very clear on the brand!

Sports Authority digital display ad. Very clear brand and message to get your winter gear.

Sports Authority digital display ad. Very clear brand and message to get your winter gear.

Follow these guidelines and you should be in great shape to have a successful campaign. Once last piece most advertisers forget about is the post-click or for most the post-exposure experience. Where can you land customers so the experience is consistent? In the example of we miss you campaign, does the landing page include that same message? If you are promoting an offer, how can customers find that offer they saw in the ad?

Samples taken from, a great place to view digital display ads from various brands.

Posted on April 7, 2014 and filed under Strategy.

Look-A-Likes, an Underutilized Tactic

Getty Images. Flickr. Lana Isabella

Getty Images. Flickr. Lana Isabella

There are two main groups in marketing. The acquisition marketing, and relationship marketing folks. Here is a quick definition of each group:

Acquisition Team = Focused on driving anonymous people to known individuals (sign up, purchase, etc)

Relationship Team = Focused on driving known individuals to take action (purchase, repurchase, etc)

It is important to distinguish the two audiences, as marketing moves to an orchestrated individualized experience, we need to be able to create experiences for individuals across all the digital channels based on what data we know about them. 

Some individuals are anonymous (we don't have any data on them) and are limited to certain digital channels to communicate to them (for example, email needs permission first but display retargeting does not). 

Known individuals come with a greater set of data and opportunities to reach out through other channels (following the same example as above, they have opted-in to email, mobile, etc). Hopefully you also have purchase and behavioral data to now use for better communications to these customers.

As we look to grow our customer base, we need to be smarter about who we attempt to acquire. It's time to optimize the acquisition budget. Optimizing our acquisition efforts to grow the right kind of customers can help grow revenue quickly instead of a one size fits all mentality. This is where the acquisition team can learn from the relationship team.

1. Identify current high value customers based on purchase & engagement data. Who buys often? Engages regularly? Who doesn't?

2. Using your data (first party) what values are in common amongst these audiences? Interests, source, etc?

3. Using third party data, what other attributes bubble up for these groups? Age, demographics, lifestyle, etc?

Now that you have a good snapshot of what makes up a high value customer, you can use this information to be much smarter and strategic with your acquisition dollars. This new data can now be used for retargeting efforts in display to drive awareness from similar non-current customers. You can also use this data for social targeting as well. Use this information to target similar customers on Twitter and Facebook. Don't stop there though, there is more to be done.

There is another critical hand-off that most miss, and thats the period between acquisition target to opted-in customer. Use the information you have been using to acquire these customers / leads to better inform your welcome and nurture programs. Can you take the same data elements and inform your content in your first communication streams to customers? Also, use these communications to fill the gaps in your data to better inform these communications. Are there certain data points you need to help increase conversion? Tactics like progressive profiling, web & click behavioral targeting are all good ways to fill in the missing data points.

Are you doing this already? What kind of results are you seeing? How targeted are you getting with your acquisition efforts?

Why Challenger Brands Are Well Suited To Compete in Digital

Earlier this week I had the wonderful experience of being interviewed via twitter!  No, not for a job, but to participate in ExactTarget's ET Café twitter chat interview series featured on their blog, a true honor.

The ET Café twitter interview series brings thought leaders together with digital marketers to talk about subjects of interest, and engage on the fly through the questions and answer - a really fun and fluid experience.

At my place of employment, ethology, we concentrate on working with “challenger brands” – those who are challenging leaders in their space for market share. In this interview, we discussed the concept, and explored opportunities for challenger brands today in digital.  The following is a transcript of the questions and answer portion.  ExactTarget did a great write-up of the session and created a Storify of the entire session including the live interaction with digital marketers (thank you Candice!).  Please enjoy!

1.     Q - What is a challenger brand? #ETCafe

a.      @ethology defines challenger brands as those in position, and with the desire, to give category leaders a run for their money online #ETCafe


2.     Q - What advantages do challenger brands have in digital? #ETCafe

a.      A1 While seemingly illogical, success in digital, especially in earned & owned, is more dependent on relevance & effort than cache #ETCafe

b.     A2 In many verticals, we still see lackadaisical leaders who rely on brand popularity and media because it's easy and has worked #ETCafe

c.     A3 Challenger brands can out hustle leaders in areas where time and participation matter to create a competitive advantage #ETCafe


3.     Can’t category leaders simply outspend challengers?  Especially in media? #ETCafe

a.      A1–Absolutely, BUT media contributes to awareness & amplification, & if content/context lacks, so does loyalty & media ROI #ETCafe

b.     A2–Further, successful digital programs require time: planning, participation, testing & real desire, things you must build v. buy #ETCafe


4.     Where specifically are leading brands exposed? Where should challengers start? #ETCafe

a.     A1–A few themes are important in this discussion:  relevance, community, effort & desire. #ETCafe

b.     A2-If a challenger brand can beat a leader in any combination of these, it typically translates to shifts in market share #ETCafe

c.     A3–First, do comprehensive research to make sure you truly understand your target audiences’ behavior, interest points, and needs #ETCafe

d.     A4–Search, social, & your analytics provide deep data that will allow you to be contextually relevant as a community member #ETCafe

e.     A5–These sources can tell you a lot about common interest points, vernacular, media types, & content demand  #ETCafe

f.      A6-Often, you can out customer service leaders by owning the content/conversation around all FAQs. Create #Youtility per @JayBaer #ETCafe

g.     A7-Pro-tip, if you don’t have a centralized content strategy, now is the time. Goal: improve user experience & tactical integration #ETCafe

h.     A8-We audit hundreds of company’s digital executions annually, & few, even leaders, have taken this step #ETCafe

i.      A9–Tactically, it’s best to look for earned & owned opportunities first: content, search, social, local, mobile & email #ETCafe

j.      A10–Honestly audit your efforts in terms of best practice & alignment with audience needs. Are you best in class? #ETCafe

k.      A11-Then stack rank your opportunities based on potential ROI & create a realistic plan: resources, timing, process, accountability #ETCafe

l.      A12–A big deal, make sure your plan & ops integrate around content & like tactics. Most leaders suffer from silos in execution #ETCafe

m.   A13-Finally, with media, you can’t outspend leaders, but you can be more efficient & create better ROI #ETCafe

n.     A14-If you’re promoting more relevant, higher quality, content & user experiences, your media will truly integrate & work harder #ETCafe


5.     What industries do you see the largest opportunities in?  #ETCafe

a.     A1-Retail, hospitality, finance/insurance, & healthcare are verticals where we see opportunity for challengers, but there are many more #ETCafe

b.     A2-All generally have execution silos, & most suffer from old business models with passive online practices ripe for disruption #ETCafe

c.     A3-Regardless of industry, look for areas where leaders are relying on traditional brand promotion & media v. putting in the work #ETCafe

d.     A4-Challengers may not have the biggest budgets, but they can out hustle leaders & the community will reward them for doing so #ETCafe


6.     Where can challenger brands get help? #ETCafe

a.     A1–Absolutely check out @ethology’s webinars and events on our site. We have a great local webinar next week live from #SXSW #ETCafe

b.     A2-Of course, helping challenger brands evolve & disrupt digitally is what @ethology does for a living #ETCafe

c.     A3-We’ve also done related webinars with @JayBaer, @jkrohrs & @GaryVee you can access from our site #ETCafe

d.     A4– @JayBaer philosophies align nicely with standard challenger needs. Read #Youtility if you haven’t #ETCafe

e.     A5- @Jkrohrs new book @AudiencePro is powerful as well. The practice of investing in audience is something few companies are doing #ETCafe

f.      A6- @JayBaer and @jkrohrs can also be heard on the amazing #SocialPros podcast, my industry favorite hands down #ETCafe

g.     A7- @Forrester @SharVanBoskirk has some great research coming out around the process of benchmarking digital prowess & evolving #ETCafe

h.     A8-And if going to #SXSW hit me up for a chat @ethology is sponsoring a few events -OMMA Mar 7-8, & SODA/Econsultancy on Mar 10 #ETCafe

Note that some of the referenced past decks can be found here on Slideshare

The top #SuperBowl digital marketing moments

While the Super Bowl wasn’t as exciting as we all had hoped (congratulations Seattle Seahawks on an excellent win), I loved seeing what brands did differently this year to appeal to the 96.9 million Super Bowl viewers. Some really interesting changes, including:

  • Hashtags ruled as the main CTA with over 60% of the ads using some kind of #hashtag to keep the viewers engaged beyond 30-seconds.
  • Brands aimed more for an emotional connection outside of trying to be funny. For the first time since I can remember, the funny was put aside in favor of tugging at the emotional strings of the viewers.
  • While Shazam was big a few years ago, there were only a couple ads that still used this as an opportunity to extend experience.
  • Website, or URLs in general, were almost non existent this year with only a handful of companies pointing customers to their homepage or social presence with a URL.
  • While social logos were also big last year and the year before, there was only one brand that continued to include the “social buttons” call to action.

This is a big shift! Hashtags have now become the “universal” way people can use the second screen and still partake in the conversation. Even though hashtags are most commonly associated with Twitter, brands now have a way to easily connect with their viewers and customers on their social platform of preference…Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

So what did we see from some of the #hashtags used during last nights game? SocialMediaToday has a nice recap of usage and trends from some of the ones used in last nights game.

One other interesting thing to note was the use of email during and after the game. Here’s three brands that did it well.

Marvel had several new movies they were promoting, one of which was Captain America. If you happen to be checking email during the game, they included an email promoting the new trailer as well. See below:


The Gap decided to use the potential down time during halftime to promote their special “today only” offer. This was a first from any brand I have noticed that used specific timing of an huge event to send out an email



Macy’s was quick to reach the inbox, at least for me, with the first “Congratulations Seahawks” message. Shortly thereafter, there were several more messages flooding in related to this same kind of content but Macy’s was the first (minutes after the end of the game)


I can’t close this out without the biggest surprise of them all, the Esurance post game ad. Since they purchased the not-so-popular first commercial post game, they decided to give away the money they saved to one person who used the #Esurancesave30 hashtag. This was a great ad, as it was highly relevant to the placement within the game and cut through the hashtag clutter by giving the viewer a specific reason ($1.5 Million reasons in fact) to use the hashtag.

It will be interesting to see how this kind of promotional stunt plays out for Esurance as it relates to new customers. It was a great way to get their name out, as my social feeds were flooded and #Esurancesave30 immediately hit the top of the trending charts.

Until next year!

Posted on February 11, 2014 and filed under Integrated Marketing.

8 Must-Dos for Your 2014 Content Marketing Plan

This week I had the privilege of co-presenting with one of my best friends, mentor, and truly all around great guys, Jay Baer, President of Convince and Convert, and 2x author, his latest work Youtility, why smart marketing is about help not hype (grab this if you haven't, one of the best business books you can read this year).    

The subject of our Econsultancy webinar centered around the finer points of content marketing planning in preparation for 2014, something we're actively taking our clients through at ethology now - tis the season.  

As new prospects are on-boarded, and efforts audited, we often find a huge void related to centralized content strategy and planning, seeing efforts focused at the tactic level (search, social, email, etc.), lacking cross-channel unification, and therefore leaving opportunity and ROI on the table.  Given recent studies showing content marketing as a top focus for organizations this year, we pulled out some of the more important topics and tips that companies should focus on when planning a more integrated and fruitful effort for 2014.

In the webinar we discuss:

1. How to refocus your content efforts around help, not hype #YOUTILITY

2. When and how to use social media to promote your content, and vice versa

3. What trends and best practices you should use for staffing your content marketing program

4. Why integrating your content marketing efforts will maximum return

5. How to better understand your customers, and develop insights for content topics

6. How to pick the right content execution for each topic

7. How to measure the impact of your content efforts

8. How much should you be spending on content marketing in 2014    

Please check out the Slideshare presentation below, we'll post the link to the full Econsultancy presentation including audio when available (any day now). 

Visit for the full presentation