Month: August 2014


Your Ultimate “Back-to-School” Class Schedule, Part I


New & Trending Digital Marketing Classes for your eLearning Education

What’s all this hype about going “back-to-school”? Here at OMI, we like to think we are always in school and we’re lucky enough to have access to the latest on digital marketing trends and best practices from the best and the brightest teachers in the industry. We’ve identified the top trending classes in OMI’s eLearning library to help you prep your Fall class schedule.

4 Must-Take Digital Marketing Classes

Class #1: Building Your Mobile Strategy

Teacher: Joseph Kershcbaum, 3Q Digital @JoeKerschbaum

Overview: There’s no doubt that mobile is where it's at. How many of you are even reading this post off of your smart phone right now? It’s time marketers of all shapes and sizes – small businesses and start-ups, B2B, agencies and big consumer brands – think in all shapes and sizes. Mobile is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. This Building Your Mobile Strategy class will give you the know-how to stand out in the most coveted location of all – your customer’s smart phone devices.


  1.       How to utilize Google Adwords to effectively run PPC ads via mobile devices and grow your business
  2.        How to set up mobile ads via AdWords
  3.        How to approach mobile bid modifiers
  4.        How to create a mobile-friendly web experience

Level: Intermediate

Class #2: How To Use Big Data to Predict Sales and Forecast Revenue

Teacher: Amanda Kahlow, CEO & Founder, 6 Sense @AmandaKahlow

Overview: No, this is not a magic class. It’s a math class. By predicting when leads are ready to buy, you can leverage that information to deliver the most relevant and effective marketing, alert sales of leads and opportunities, and better measure marketing effectiveness. You’ll get hands-on experience to start to develop your own predictive analytics program by learning a proven model that works. Think of it as your very own “cheat sheet” for maximizing sales!


  1.        How Cisco predicted $300M net new opportunities last year and how you can too
  2.        How to use data to optimize and predict the success of your marketing spend, deliver more relevant marketing, and alert sales with leads and opportunities
  3.        A proven formula for identifying purchase intent
  4.        How to put your data to work for you without relying heavily on IT resources

Level: Advanced

Class #3: An Introduction to Social TV

Teacher: Carri Bugbee, Social TV Strategist, Big Deal Digital @CarriBugbee

Overview: This class is one of those classes that will get you out of bed in the morning as it uncovers the exciting ways brands that don’t technically advertise on TV can begin marketing to TV viewers. So, sit back and relax, because in under an hour, you will learn how connected devices, T-commerce, TV-centric social networks, interactive TV, transmedia storytelling, TV ad retargeting, and new ratings methods are changing how marketers can find and interact with consumers and prospects. Prepare to be “wow-ed”!


  1.        What social TV is and how it got started
  2.        Consumer trends and user behaviors driving social TV opportunities
  3.        Technologies that open up new venues for advertising, sponsorships and storytelling
  4.        Examples of social TV initiatives
  5.        How to get started in social TV marketing

Introduction to Social TV: Class Preview

Level: Basic

Class #4: The How-To’s of Using Google+

Teacher: Martin Shervington, Community Manager, Plus Your Business @MartinSherv

Overview: For those on the forefront of social media, Google + has by far changed the way we think about Search Engine Optimization. With the combination of Social and Search, you can now build a loyal community who will engage on your content, signaling to Google it deserves to surface in Search. In this class, you will learn the best practices for building a strong community on Google+ to improve your organization's search rankings. You’ll definitely want to be a part of this club!


  1.        How to build trust, reputation and authority in your niche
  2.        How to distribute structure posts for your content when distributed on Google+
  3.        How to increase engagement you receive for your on content, and in turn give HUGE uplifts to your web traffic
  4.        How to find, and build up relationships with key influencers (who will help to distribute your content)
  5.        How to build 'opt in' lists that will help with campaigns for key content

Level: Basic

Ready to take these classes on and learn more to stay ahead of the class? Enroll today in the Online Marketing Institute and you'll have access to hundreds of e-Learning classes.


4 Great Tips for Putting Together a Social Strategy for Your Business


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that businesses that invest time, resources and, in some cases, money in social media want to see a measurable ROI. In theory, social selling seems like an easy concept to master. After all, you just need to promote your products or services on a social network and then sit back as the sales flow in, right? Wrong.

While it's essential for today's businesses to engage in digital sales activities, it’s useless without first understanding how to use social media channels to generate leads. The very first step in this process is crafting an effective social media strategy.


 (Image Courtesy of Shutterstock)

36% of people trust brands more when they have a social presence, according to statistics collected by cloud-based marketing and public relations software company Vocus. If you want to turn these social media-oriented people into customers, you'll need to create a social strategy that leads them through your sales funnel. And the strategy doesn't end when you make a sale. Related Class: Social Media Strategy for Business

In today's digital world, you need to delight current customers just as much as you do potential customers, not only to keep them coming back, but also to turn them into brand advocates. After all, 81% of customers seek out the advice of friends and family members on social media sites before they make a purchase. A solid social strategy can help you become a recommended business.

Here are a few tips for developing a social strategy that’s right for your brand, your target audience, and eventually, your sales.

Be Proactive

A purely reactive strategy will leave you at the whims of your customers and their social media habits. Your customers will choose where conversations about your brand take place, and you'll be left to monitor keywords and perform sentiment analysis. Instead, switch it up and add proactive elements to your social strategy.

Use your own content to start and lead conversations, and influence what your customers are saying about your brand. By controlling conversations you'll be better positioned to impact consumers and persuade them to purchase your products. It will certainly take more effort than a more passive social media strategy, but it will be worth it when you’re improving the impressions social media users get from your business. Related Class: Creating Content That Converts

Be Sales-Minded (But Don’t Overdo It!)

You should be selling when and where appropriate. In the majority of cases, your social strategy should follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of what you post on social media should be about something other than your business (and interesting to your audience), whereas 20% of what you post should be purely about your brand.

What portion of that 20% is devoted to sales activities is up to you – try different styles of posts, different content, different products or services. To determine the best strategy for you (in terms of your brand and your social media followers), take a look at past analytics and see what has successfully led to sales in the past. You can even use A/B testing to try out new tactics and review the results. Related Post: How A/B Testing Strategies Can Help You Make Better Decisions

 (Image Courtesy of Shutterstock)


Social media monitoring is useful in sales activities, just as it is in marketing or promotional activities. You’ll want to keep an eye on all things related to your brand (including competitors), so that you can jump in where needed, react to comments or questions, and get a feel for how customers are feeling. Monitor your streams and timelines to keep tabs on your important contacts, and track (and participate in) conversations relevant to your brand. This will help keep you in contact with leads and potential customers, and keep your products at the top of their minds.

Choose the Right Channels

Think about what social media networks your business is currently active on. Now ask yourself, do these channels really make sense for the brand? If your target customers aren’t likely to be on the platform you’re using, that’s time and energy wasted. Compare Instagram and Facebook – the first is great for visuals, and for a younger crowd, while the second is great for reaching a huge range of ages, and for sharing a variety of content. What fits your needs and your audience?

The sales campaigns you run on social media should be tailored to each network and the audience that frequents it. The networks you engage and sell on should line up with your company's goals, industry, and audience. The ROI on your campaigns will be much greater if you have properly targeted your strategy to the best channels. For instance, 68% of Twitter followers are likely to make a purchase while 51% of Facebook fans are likely to buy. Decide what networks give your brand the best chance for success.

In order to succeed with social selling, you'll need a stellar social media strategy; they go hand-in-hand. Using social media platforms without a cohesive strategy simply isn’t going to pay off with the conversions and sales you’re looking for. Social media can't replace the more traditional sales process, but it can be a great accessory that helps drive additional revenue for your business, with a well thought-out strategy behind it.

Now that you know what it takes to put together a social strategy for your business, it's prime time to take the next step through the process! This Social Media Fast Track makes it easy for digital marketers to understand the foundations of social media marketing and the implications of each of its discipline and platform. Following and completing this track will give you the quickest and most direct route to understanding the benefits each area in social media marketing can provide and what will drive business results. While you can take the classes in any order you wish, we recommend you watch them in sequence to get the most from your learning experience.


How to Build a Modern Marketing Team


Q&A with Paul Roetzer, Author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint

The marketing talent gap is very real. As we found in our State of Digital Marketing Talent study, “only 8% of those surveyed believe their employees are strong in all areas of digital marketing.” As a result, there are tremendous opportunities for those organizations that are able to differentiate through talent acquisition and retention, digital marketing training programs and solid agency partners.

In this interview, Paul Roetzer, author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Wiley, August 2014), discusses the future of marketing talent, including core challenges and opportunities for organizations to achieve competitive gains.

Q: What does a modern marketing professional look like?

A: Modern marketers are tech-savvy, hybrid professionals who are capable of building, managing, and executing fully integrated campaigns that produce measurable results. They are able to deliver services across multiple marketing disciplines, including analytics, content, email, mobile, search, social, PR, and web.

These marketers also understand that marketing is half art, half science. Because of this, they blend creativity with data and automation to drive true performance.

Q: What challenges exist for CMOs looking to recruit and retain top marketers?

A: The biggest challenge is that top marketing talent is in high demand with everybody (agencies, corporations, technology providers, publishers) vying for the same skill sets. Much of this is due to the rate of change within the industry, which is making it hard for individuals and universities to keep pace.

For example, in the book, we looked at the top 10 undergraduate marketing programs in the U.S. according to the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings and found that only one has a required digital marketing course.

Because of this talent gap, businesses are forced to compete for the limited number of pre-qualified professionals and/or train those with potential through their own internal academies. The positive is that there are a lot of free and paid resources online (like Online Marketing Institute) that can be leveraged for this purpose.

Q: What tips do you have for building an internal academy?

A:  My biggest recommendation is to not reinvent the wheel. As mentioned, there is an endless array of secondary resources that already exist, which could potentially fit your team’s educational needs.

When building your internal academy, start first with a point person who will champion the program, goals of what you hope to achieve and an assessment of your team’s current capabilities. These items will help shape your curriculum, which could include industry certifications, conferences, books, webinars, internal topic experts, guest lecturers and exercises.

With a curriculum in place, map standard paths by career stage, skill set and performance goals. These can then be customized based for personalized advancement plans by individual. You’ll also want to consider feedback loops and support systems to ensure that the academy continues to deliver value to employees over time.

Q: Where do agencies fit into the marketing talent conversation? 

A: For some organizations, it may make sense to outsource certain marketing functions instead of training professionals in-house. If that’s the case, it’s important to make sure you’re partnering with the right marketing agency or freelancer.

Look for those that are performance-driven, tech- and digital-savvy, and who have strong systems and processes in place. It’s also a good idea to assess partners on culture and talent. When all else is equal, that’s what will determine whether they will be able to positively impact your business.

What challenges and opportunities exist in regard to marketing talent? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Or, for more on the intersection of marketing talent, technology and strategy, purchase Paul’s new book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint, on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 

Designed to help you strategically approach digital and successfully relay its value to clients, the Agency Digital Strategy and Planning Certification will help you capitalize on opportunities to grow and retain your accounts. Enroll today!


Top 5 Findings of Digital Life and Learning Study: A Fall Preview


Study uncovers revealing correlation between great companies and their culture of learning with individual happiness and its impact on job satisfaction.

In the not too distant fall, the Online Marketing Institute will release its new Digital Life and Learning Study, an evolution from last year’s Digital Skills and Talent Gap Study. This year we will go further and address the three critical areas of:

1) Identifying individual needs, desires, and personal job satisfaction drivers

2) Addressing corporate talent, culture, and learning program gaps

3) Solving the problem of the eLearning and training solutions landscape

And, of course, we will quantify the gaps between individual needs and perceptions as well as corporate investment and programs. Here’s a sneak peek at some early findings and a chance to get a copy for participating in the ever-revealing study.

Finding #1: Direct relation between personal happiness and job satisfaction.

Finding #2: Huge gap between execs/HR and employee priorities and perspective.

Finding #3: Culture of learning grossly underserved by check-the-box programs.

Finding #4: Old-school in-person training and cookie cutter content licensing is still the norm. Customized eLearning programs are the trend to watch.

Finding #5: Digital skills of agencies and in-house are way below brand expectations – especially in mobile, analytics, and big data.

Here are a few quotes from the study to further illuminate each finding.

Individual: “When I am motivated and excited about the work in front of me this week, and (have) new ideas to tackle the challenge, I just wake up each morning feeling more energetic and ready to tackle the day. I just wish we could find more ways to help me maintain that focus. 

HR: “We are very generous on learning. Our company gives employees a budget of $1,000 to attend events or buy learning programs; we are deeply committed to education…” 

Same Company Employee: “I really wish the company would invest in me (and) help me develop the skills and career path to show me the way to succeed. I think the last time I used my education budget was three years ago. And that was a great event, with great parties; I met great people, but did it help my career? I don’t think so.” 

Company Executive: “I know my team has had industry trainers and thought leaders come in and inspire the team around new trends and areas of importance, but truthfully, I don’t think much happens two days later after that training is done. And I always walk away wondering aloud, ‘how much did we pay for that?’ But alas, I don’t spend much time drilling deeper.” 

Fortune 100 Marketer: “Ugh, my agency just doesn’t get it. I keep asking “Why do we invite them to our strategic meetings?” They just don’t get it: data, digital, or even social media for that matter…and if I wasn’t overwhelmed with getting things done, I’d probably get rid of them.”

In summary, I think we have a long way to go on really implementing top notch learning programs that fulfill on the promise of true education, professional development and the career path there in. The good news is, the trend is heading in the right direction with execs and individuals becoming more and more aware of the challenge and seeking new ways (aka custom eLearning programs) to fix it.

If you’d like to participate or request a copy of the study upon release, just email


5 Effective Ways to Market Your Event Online


In the past, preparing for an event meant pulling together your best promotional materials and setting up shop. Although having a healthy stock of customized mugs, drinkware, pens, and giveaways is still a vital aspect of making your event a raging success and making a lasting impression, many companies fail to harness the power of the Internet before the event even starts.

While in attendance, you’ll undoubtedly notice that there is a wealth of people walking around checking their laptops, cellphones, and tablets. These days, people are more plugged in and tuned in to social media and email than ever. Search engines have quickly overtaken our lives as the go-to directory to find others to meet, mingle, and work with.

As you set up shop at your next event, you’ll want a flood of traffic coming your way. Getting people through the doors and to your table is not easy. Here are a few tips to market your event online so your hard work, planning, and executing pay off.

Get people talking on social media.

People follow what others do in their network. To encourage attendance, you want those who have signed up to spread the word about your event. Make this as easy as possible. Get people talking by creating a promotional video they can share, or host a contest. The more content you have for people to share and engage with, the easier it is to create a buzz before your event begins. Related Class: How to Find and Engage Social Influencers

Land an exclusive interview.

Give attendants a taste of what they can expect when they show up at your event. Land an exclusive interview with a speaker, the event promoter, or a sponsor giving away an incredibly valuable prize. Use audio and video to make your interview come to life. Then, create a blog post on your website to drive traffic to your pages and promote your event to your audience.

Start a hashtag conversation.

Events are overwhelming for many people. If an attendant does not know anyone there, make it easy for him or her to connect with others. Create a hashtag for the event to get people connecting online first, so that they can connect offline at your event later. By using a hashtag specific to your event in your marketing, you spark conversation and encourage natural engagement online and offline. Related Class: Twitter Marketing 101

Be smart about your advertising methods.

There is a sea of content, promotions, and advertisements out there. In order for your advertising to stick and make an impact on your event’s success, you have to be strategic about how you go about it. With targeted advertising on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other channels you can reach the right people — the ones who are most likely to attend and engage with you at your event. Be strategic about who sees your advertising and how you promote to the online audience for the maximum impact. Related Class: Facebook & Social Media Advertising

Use specific landing pages.

Treat your event like a product. Whether you’re the one throwing the event or participating at the event with a booth, create a specific landing page for your presence. Get people engaged on the landing page by using the above tips — videos, social media connections, hashtags and more. Add a “register” button if you’re hosting the event, or offer exclusive updates by signing up for an email list. Use your website to get found and get people more involved.

Make connections effortless by creating a stir online and sparking conversation on the platforms your audience already uses to connect. With online marketing, you get people talking in cyberspace and then engaging offline face to face.


5 Sure-Fire Ways to Impress Your CMO


One of the most elusive and challenging executive roles in larger corporations is that of the chief marketing officer (CMO). Typically responsible for all aspects of marketing, from initial product and sales pipeline development to customer retention, the CMO's role is both broad and significant. In fact, the pressure on most CMOs is so tremendous that the average tenure of a consumer brand CMO was 45 months in 2012. With such relatively high turnover, job security can be tenuous. Corporate marketers, agencies, and vendors looking for a long-term relationship with their CMOs must be able to make a positive and lasting impression on them. The following article outlines five key areas offering the greatest opportunity to impress your CMO.

5 ways to impress your CMO

1. Apply your understanding of roles and responsibilities

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned as a lifelong agency account manager and owner is the importance of developing a deep understanding of your client in order to have a productive and lasting relationship. Possessing working knowledge of the CMO's current roles and responsibilities is the essential starting point for a successful relationship. Beyond the standard CMO job description, each company has unique perspectives and expectations for this role. Make sure you know how your CMO differs from others.

A relatively new addition to the C-level executive suite, the CMO role has evolved beyond oversight of brand and marketing initiatives over the years. The modern CMO is being asked to own the customer experience through the entire product lifecycle, not just the top of the sales funnel. This requires breaking down internal silos and mapping marketing to the customer experience, rather than internal infrastructure. The modern CMO must rely heavily on technology vendors, data aggregators, and multiple agencies to measure marketing efforts, gain insights, and generate results.

Above all else, a CMO's survival is based on his or her ability to demonstrate a measurable return on investment (ROI) on any and all marketing efforts to the CEO and the rest of the C-suite. In some cases, the C-suite must first be educated on the value of marketing and the value of a CMO overseeing marketing efforts. Most CEOs, however, see the value of someone overseeing the "big picture" for the brand and understand that the role requires agile, creative thinking. Unfortunately, technology, social media, and changes in the way our culture consumes media makes the CMO's success a moving mark.

Experts within the marketing community believe the evolving CMO role will become more of a "project manager" who understands fully integrated issues, bringing together concepts of data, design, public relations, marketing, and advertising. The previous path from VP sales to CMO will become extinct in the near future, as a broader set of skills, knowledge, and experience will be required. In other words, the modern CMO's role will be all-encompassing, as the CMO will be playing the roles of collaborator and coordinator across the organization. Other experts believe the CMO title may someday be replaced by the chief customer officer (CCO), as a deeper understanding of the customer will ultimately lead to smarter marketing.

2. Demonstrate an ability to support overall business and marketing objectives

Armed with an intimate understanding of your CMO's current (and future) roles and responsibilities, the next step is to tackle the organization's key marketing objectives for the year. While always looking for innovative "big ideas," CMOs need to see creative concepts tied to an overall strategy that supports the organization's objectives. The lengthening tenure of CMOs is allowing them to think more long-term than in the past. As such, CMOs may put less emphasis on one big idea and more emphasis on delivering on the brand promise over time.

While non-marketing executives (CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs) typically prioritize driving revenue over acquiring new customers, the top three most common CMO priorities include developing new products or services, customer acquisition, and driving revenue. Additional CMO objectives may include profitable growth, increased operational efficiency, correlating advertising to sales, and measuring media buying effectiveness. Technology-centric objectives may focus on measurement, particularly of multi-channel attribution. The CMO's relationship with the C-suite, as well as technology companies and agencies, will ultimately define how successful the CMO will be in the digital world.

3. Embrace technology and measurement

The primary directive of every CMO is to move the needle and prove a positive ROI. A heavy reliance on measurement to justify marketing initiatives means a heavy reliance on technology. In fact, CMOs are predicted to outspend CIOs when it comes to investment in technology in the near future. According to recent research, only 12 percent of 200 CMOs surveyed said they had a real-time, well-integrated view of customer interactions across their enterprises, and 45 percent said they felt they had underinvested in information and intelligence systems. As a result, only 16 percent said they trusted the accuracy, depth, and reliability of their customer data.

While there is clearly a need for improved data collection, measurement, and reporting, there is also a talent gap forming. According to another study, internal marketing talent is not evolving as fast as the technology. That means there are opportunities for consultants and agencies to fill the gap in the near-term. Improvements with data-driven marketing platforms will allow greater personalization, "mass customization," or "narrowcasting" of content delivery. As the promise of big data materializes, however, security will become an increasingly larger issue. CMOs will be responsible (and liable) for customer database breaches, which will require greater integration and collaboration with CTO/CIOs. Related Class: Big Data Driven Strategies 

4. Anticipate and leverage trends

One trend we at Anvil have capitalized on in the past year or two with our "Cheat Sheets" is time-compression. Even with significant delegation and support, there is simply not enough time in the day for CMOs to stay on top of changes in consumer behavior, marketing strategy, and technology platforms. CMOs need thoughtful yet succinct briefs on the latest technology, tools, and trends. In your briefs, outline the issue or opportunity, why they should care, and how they might best take action (download a copy of one of our "Cheat Sheets" for an idea of how to lay out a CMO brief).

Beyond the need to communicate effectively, however, is the need to understand how specific trends will impact CMOs down the road. One of the most intriguing trends you can look forward to seeing in marketing departments is an annual "marketing framework" replacing the traditional "marketing plan," which will be periodically reviewed throughout the year and revised based on market conditions and opportunities. One of the key factors influencing the need for a marketing framework is the evolution to a market-driven economy, where customers help create and define messaging. A related trend will be a more pronounced reliance on brand advocates and influencers fostering peer pressure and less reliance on traditional advertising and PR-driven persuasion strategies. Related Class: Inside the Mind of a Social Influencer

As referenced earlier, the traditional career path to CMO is changing. Progressive organizations will look to "whole-brained," multi-dimensional CMOs who are as comfortable with data analytics as groundbreaking creative. In a similar vein, these modern CMOs will be channel and technology agnostic, breaking down internal and external silos to better understand and leverage knowledge of the buying process. Lastly, the teams supporting these CMOs will be dominated by "marketing immigrants." The new interdisciplinary team may consist of cognitive psychologists, nano-mathematicians, data scientists, sociologists, and software developers. Although not a new trend, the concept of a single agency of record (AOR) will be replaced by a host of specialist boutique agencies with an intimate understanding of the complex and dynamic digital marketing landscape.

5. Prepare and present your case

Fully armed with a clear understanding of the CMO's job description, measurable objectives, reliance on technology, and evolving trends impacting success, it is now time to act. Develop measurable strategies and supporting tactics that clearly align with organizational objectives. Before you present your ideas to the CMO, however, it is important to do a bit more homework and keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand what makes a CMO tick by reading related articles and following the most influential CMOs.
  • When preparing documents or presenting information, demonstrate your new-found knowledge of the CMO mindset.
  • Properly frame every discussion: What is it (at a high level)? Why should I care? How can it help me be successful as a CMO?
  • Always back your ideas with research and data, and always back your objectives with metrics and goals.
  • Help the CMO become a star to the CEO (and board) by arming the CMO with pertinent information and measurable results. (Fifty-three percent of business executives indicate their current CMO could one day become CEO.)
  • Regardless of your role or relationship with the CMO, speak the language (e.g., measurable results, ROI, improved performance, proactive, innovation, integrated, cross-channel, connectivity, long-term, big picture).

Your success is directly correlated to the success of the CMO you support. Understand what keeps your CMO up at night, solve those problems, and become a trusted advisor. Anticipate your CMO's future challenges, and turn them into opportunities for greater job security that may result in you outlasting the CMO. If you do your job well, your CMO may be your future CEO. You have 3.75 years to make your case as a trusted advisor, so get started.

This fast track, Trending Best Practices Learning Path, makes it easy for anyone in the digital space to understand the big trends impacting digital marketing and the implications of each area, such as content marketing, social media and email marketing. Following and completing this track will give you the quickest and most direct route to understand the benefits each trend and how it will drive business results.


How A/B Testing Strategies Can Help You Make Better Decisions


A Q&A with Chris Goward, Author of "You Should Test That!"

This week, we are sitting down with Chris Goward, the author of "You Should Test That!", a book that teaches the processes, frameworks and techniques of scientific marketing to make better decisions and achieve industry-leading results. Featuring case studies of real tests plus many more examples of how companies are succeeding and failing in their websites and their marketing, we're eager to learn more.

What’s the premise behind your book, “You Should Test That!” ?

Too many businesses still use antiquated methods for decision-making with their marketing. They seek out so-called “best practices”, copy competitors tactics, and redesign their websites without A/B testing, to name just a few examples. I wanted to write a book that would provide a dose of inspiration in the new scientific marketing discipline as well as practical processes and frameworks marketers can apply directly to their marketing strategy. It really does contain detail on a lot of the methods WiderFunnel uses to consistently achieve winning results for our clients.

You’ve become a regular speaker at the top online marketing conferences. How did you get into conversion optimization?

I’ve always questioned current ways of doing things. In the early to mid 2000’s, I wondered why marketers accepted the status quo where ad agencies used their clients’ budgets to create self-serving campaigns aimed solely at winning awards for cleverness. I couldn’t understand why digital agencies were creating websites that ignored direct response principles and really couldn’t be more than poor copies of the old TV world.

I left the agency world in 2007 to create WiderFunnel based on the belief that agencies should prove their value. Since then, we’ve been running thousands of A/B tests on hundreds of websites across all industries to discover consistent persuasion and user experience principles that maximize companies’ online profits.

Related Class: Integrating SEM, Testing, and Analytics for Improved ROI

What are the biggest mistakes you see marketers making today?

There are so many!

  • Implementing the latest “tips & tricks” they see on blog posts. I’ve already said many times why tactical marketing tips and “best practices” don’t work. The problem is that they ignore your unique business context.
  • Consensus decision-making.
  • Getting stuck behind organizational barriers. I’ve seen turf battles, silos and competing priorities hamstring some very promising potential A/B tests.
  • Acting on usability testing or other qualitative methods to make website changes without testing those insights. I’ve covered before, the many reasons that usability testing alone is not reliable.
  • Testing too conservatively.
  • Not prioritizing effort correctly and wasting time optimizing inconsequential areas.
  • Using “before & after” testing rather than correct controlled test methods.
  • Drawing conclusions from inconclusive data. Often, it’s difficult for the conversion champion to hold off the pressure to make decisions without enough data.
  • Taking advice from “experts” who don’t do a ton of testing. If their primary business isn’t testing, testing and more testing, where is their advice coming from? You might be surprised at how little testing some of the industry’s pre-eminent figures actually do.
  • Over-emphasizing optimization tool selection before developing a strategy and process for optimization. Tools don’t solve marketing problems. Smart marketers with great strategy and ideas do.

What are the biggest challenges businesses face in adopting marketing optimization as a strategy?

I’ve been running an ongoing poll of marketers asking a similar question since 2012.

Interestingly, in 2012, most respondents said they faced resistance within their organization for conducting testing. This year, that’s the least likely challenge. Companies now know conversion optimization needs to be prioritized and there’s senior-level support for the strategy.

The biggest challenges marketers face in 2014 are in getting great results from their program. They either don’t have staff with deep testing experience, don’t have a reliable process, or face technical barriers. So, it’s good to see the market evolving to having support for the strategy. Now, the challenges are more about how to get consistent results.

eConsultancy did their own survey of companies doing conversion optimization and found that those who reported having a “structured approach” to their program were twice as likely to see large increases in sales. The disciplined, rigorous process alone determines a great deal of the success.

Related Class: eCommerce Testing to Dramatically Lift Sales 

What are your favorite website elements to test?

Really, I like any testing any area that gets results. And, that can be different for every website depending on where the conversion barriers are. Every website design, structure and target audience is slightly different. Some companies are adopting WiderFunnel’s PIE Framework for prioritizing tests to answer this question based on their unique context.

That being said, however, we’re having a lot of success this year adding the “Evolutionary Site Redesign” strategy to conversion optimization for our clients.

It’s a strategy any (and I believe every) company should use. Essentially, it means we’re testing the site-wide website templates in a methodical way. It results in a redesigned website without the risks of traditional “flip the switch” epic redesign. Using A/B testing of the overall design elements, companies are finding sometimes huge revenue improvements from improved navigation, information architecture, design credibility, merchandising, etc. and the resulting design changes can be just as dramatic.

In this class, 10 A/B Test Studies, you’ll encounter 10 such tests and can guess which page won. The answers will surprise you and the knowledge you’ll gain about how to conduct these tests and what makes some pages better than others will make you a more effective marketer.   


How to Optimize Campaigns While Respecting “Do Not Track” Policies


The Internet isn’t the uncharted frontier it once was. Brands are utilizing the wealth of data at their fingertips to target consumers with hyper-relevant ads, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to avoid having their Internet activity tracked.

However, due to a surge in online privacy concerns, many consumers are beginning to use “do not track” policies and technology to stay anonymous on the Internet and avoid advertising. (You can think of DNT as the online equivalent of the National Do Not Call Registry for telemarketers.)

Here’s how DNT works: let’s say a consumer visits a website while shopping for sunglasses. Then she leaves the retail site to browse news stories on another site, where she spots an ad with the sunglasses she was just shopping for. If that advertiser is compliant with DNT and she doesn’t want to see ads for sunglasses, she can opt out and prevent that marketer from targeting her.

While this technology puts some consumers’ minds at ease, it affects advertisers’ and brands’ ability to reach their qualified audience or interested prospects. After all, how can you target people with relevant online ads when they aren’t letting you track their activity? The answer, while not insurmountable, is a bit more complicated than most companies think.

Rule of Thumb: Work With DNT, Not Around It

Advertisers often try to work around DNT by buying behavioral targeting segments from third parties. Or they retarget clients using cookies or unique device identifications and hope for few opt-outs from customers using DNT.

This isn’t truly effective. You can’t simply work around someone who opts out of receiving ads. This can put a snag in your strategy, decreasing your ability to target qualified leads, but it doesn’t have to.

To create an accurate, optimized campaign while respecting your customers’ web privacy preferences, start by on-boarding your customer relationship management data with a data management company that does a one-to-one match, not probability modeling. Related Class: Social CRM lead with your strategy

That means taking your current CRM database and following these steps:

1.     Contact your current trading desk or data management vendor directly. These solution providers create data warehouses to store, sort, and manage information and can serve it up in a way that’s useful for marketers, publishers, and other businesses.

2.     Negotiate rates, and sign an agreement to onboard your data into a real-time bidding solution through trading desks or a demand-side platform. Negotiation is key to optimize your data collection for the best results.

3.     Define the segments you want to target, track, or anti-target, and share this with your agency partners to make sure everyone is on the same page.

4.     Begin the syncing process across your marketing ecosystem. This usually takes one to two weeks.

5.     Buy the right data to match your needs. If you have to use behavioral targeting segments, make sure they’re custom-built for your client. Cookie-cutter solutions don’t help anyone, so only buy data that’s based on responder or purchase data. (This means vetting your data partners thoroughly.)

Attempting to work around DNT isn’t a smart approach for any client. But with the right data and a tailored approach, you’ll be able to target and serve ads successfully while respecting your consumers’ DNT preferences.

This retargeting marketing class, Harnessing the Power of Social Media Advertising & Retargeting, instructed by Janet Driscoll Miller, helps businesses utilize social consumer data correctly to improve retargeting, increase conversion rates, and attain a high social ROI.


Charles Cantu started with nothing more than an associate’s degree and a passion for technology. Over the past 15 years, he’s transformed that knowledge and passion into numerous multimillion-dollar organizations, ensuring the success of multiple sales teams and businesses. He founded Huddled Masses in 2012 as a boutique-trading desk that offered smaller organizations and agencies programmatic optimization of highly targeted digital campaigns at scale. Today, Huddled Masses is in the top tier of media buying and digital marketing strategy companies in the country.



Digital Direct Response, Big Data & Mobile: The Trifecta of Digital Ad Success


Digital direct response is big news these days, no matter what business you’re in. Direct response is making huge gains in ad spending and marketing ROI, and with good reason. By leveraging big data, direct response advertisements for mobile can now be better designed to produce higher and higher returns.

The numbers don’t lie – more than $8 billion will be spent on direct response online ads, with over $17 billion to be spent on mobile advertising campaigns overall. These are big increases year over year. If you’re not focusing your efforts on mobile direct response ads driven by big data, you could be missing out on a valuable trend and marketing strategy for your business.

Getting Started

This is a good starting point for brand, agency and digital marketers looking to take advantage of these three components. If you’re a small business just getting your digital direct response off the ground, we recommend this Digital Marketing Strategy 101 post as a good place to start for your online endeavors.

But first, a simple glossary of terms, from a marketer’s perspective:

Digital Direct Response is any advertisement that is designed to drive an immediate action from the consumer, like the sale of an app, a purchase from an online store, or lead capture through a form. This type of ad is best practice when it comes to most Facebook advertising for Ecommerce.

Big Data is the umbrella term for the use of multiple data sets, large or small, to draw more helpful conclusions and engineer better outcomes for a business. Examples of this include matching your CRM collected data with 3rd party reverse IP lookup, or mapping customer behavior to identify those ready to buy (see these predictive analytics case studies for details).

Mobile essentially refers to the growing trend of accessing and consuming content on a mobile device. A combined strategy of social and mobile marketing is the most effective way to reach mobile users.

Big Data in Action

Pulling all three of these marketing elements together into one highly-effective strategy can help you see the huge ROI that others are already seeing for their businesses. To demonstrate how, the following is a relatively simple example based on retargeting – in this case, a mobile-based direct response campaign primed with big data.

Phase 1:  Asking the right questions.

A small business marketer looks over her analytics and notices only 12% of users are accessing the company site via mobile. Yet, she knows that their customers access the web on mobile devices all the time (just like she does). She asks, “How can I get in front of mobile users who are killing time on their smart phones?”  This is the right question to ask; juxtapose it with the wrong question – “Why should I worry about mobile marketing when only 12% are accessing our site via mobile?” Smart marketing is spotting the best areas for improvement, like integrating mobile and social, and not just sticking to the status quo.

Phase 2:  Testing out a social ad strategy.

Our small business marketer thinks of how she uses Facebook on her phone – waiting in line at the airport, killing time at a boring company function, or just checking in to see what friends are up to. Logically, she assumes that others are using their phones in this way as well. Considering that Facebook gets over 60% of its revenue from mobile devices, she’s not too far off. She decides that the best way to get in front of mobile users is to meet them where they spend the most time – on Facebook. So, she sets up a Facebook Ad campaign to test out her theory.

Phase 3: Retargeting for better results.

After a few weeks, our marketer realizes that she doesn’t have much to show for her efforts, other than a decent number of impressions. With no direct response or leap in conversions, she looks at what went wrong.

The missing key in her strategy is the big data element. By tying website visits to her Facebook Ads, she can serve ads specifically to Facebook users who have viewed her site. This means she can retarget website visitors to remind them to download the new app, or return and make a purchase. Retargeting through Facebook Ads is simple – setting up a cookie is as easy as inserting a single line of invisible java script on the backend of her site.

Phase 4: Leveraging big data for increased conversions.

Results at last! Our marketer is seeing response rates many times higher than any of her previous ads. Flushed with victory, she pauses to consider how she could make her Facebook Ad campaign even more effective. Wisely, she turns again to big data, to leverage it for more specific ads that can increase her conversion rate further.

Using big data’s behavioral targeting derivative, she starts to serve webpages to mobile users dynamically, based on the dynamic Facebook Ads that lead them back to her site. By retargeting specific ads to those who visited certain product pages, she can get the right ad in front of the right mobile users. Then when they respond to the ad directly, she can present them with the custom page that will most tempt them to convert.

Strength in Numbers

Our example marketer is using big data in three ways here – to match the mobile user with the product or page they liked, to target them (with help from cookies) with relevant Facebook Ads, and then to match IP addresses to serve the right final page to that mobile user. With all that leverage, it’s no surprise that her conversions are soon up 200%.

Digital direct response marketing can certainly be an effective way to reach mobile users. But without the specificity that marketers can gain from big data, response and conversion rates will never be truly optimized. With all three elements in one strategic ad campaign, your return on ad investment will increase dramatically.

Questions about leveraging big data and retargeting as part of your marketing strategy? Find out more in this class from Dax Hamman, CRO of top search retargeting company Chango.