FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.

EPISODE INFO

  • Topic: Multichannel search and content marketing strategies
  • Speakers:
    Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
    Erik Ford, VP of Business Development at BoostCTR

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FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Ray:  Thanks for joining FOUND Friday today. I’m happy to be here today with our guest, Erik Ford. He is VP of Business Development and leads a lot of marketing and partnership relationships at BoostCTR. Erik and I have known each other for probably about six or seven months now and we’ve had quite a few good conversations over coffee in the [00:25 inaudible]. I’ve always really been impressed by his background. I’d love to start off by just hearing a little bit about BoostCTR, his business, and how you guys help customers. But some of the things I’ve always been impressed by have just been your breadth of knowledge about both paid and organic optimization and a lot of cross channel marketing optimization, attribution, and so forth. I’d love to just start off by hearing about your background and what you guys do at Boost. We’ll take it from there.

Erik:  Thanks, Ray. I appreciate it. And the coffee has been good. We’re certainly spoiled in San Francisco.

Erik:  I’ve been in the business professionally for about a decade plus at this point in time. I would say it goes even further back than that. I spent my childhood and adolescent years living overseas in Johannesburg, South Africa and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The reason why I did that was my dad was in-charge of Chrysler and DaimlerChrysler internationally. The whole concept of marketing and branding and really getting your product or your brand discovered has resonated with me since I was really, really young. The automotive business no question from a sheer number’s perspective is certainly one of the top guys in the advertising field. If you look back to Madison Avenue and some of the original campaigns that came out of the 50s and 60s and 70s, a lot of it was tied to the automotive industry. I was raised with that upbringing of branding and marketing and I loved it ever since. More recently, I’ve run my own digital media shop called Renn Digital. I got that acquired back in 2010 down in Florida. Our main clients were McDonalds and Coldwell Banker. At that time we were doing less paid stuff and more organic stuff, even marketing. We built out a custom CMS marketing – probably a marketing CMS is the best way to put it – for the real estate industry and the quick serve restaurant (QSR) industry specifically for McDonalds. We had partnered up with one of the largest McDonalds franchises in the southeast level of the country, and it just did absolute wonders for our business. I was able to learn a lot very quickly and had to – if you’re marketing for some of the top brands to reach and focus on local marketing. I actually loved it and I really think that for anybody that’s starting in the SMB world or starting out in marketing, the local scene is probably the toughest because you don’t have the dollars. You have to reach the consumer segment which is a very, very fickle behaviorally driven segment. I would say that if you can top the local market, then you can top just about anything in marketing. From there I joined the company called Triad Retail Media and I headed up analytics and strategy. What Triad does is it monetizes top retail publisher sites across the web. Their number one and number two clients were Walmart and eBay. If you go on to Walmart.com or eBay.com and see display banner ads, contextual site search, some sort of customized brand experience, then that’s Triad. At Triad – I was there for just under two years – I ran analytics and strategy. All the advertiser campaigns that were going on at Triad to the tune of $150 million in monetization annually were kind of my babies. So towards the end of my tenure there, I would focus on key accounts, top CPGs, automotive retailers, that sort of thing to really direct strategy for some of the biggest direct buys on the Internet. When people talk about going to the Harvard or the Yale, Yale’s the Ivy League, in the same with advertising in the 80s and 90s like the Chiat/Day. I would say that Triad is certainly one of those types of organizations for the 2000 plus. You definitely get your black belt on digital media. There were days where I was spending 14 hours a day plus in just amateur site capitalist. The neat thing was to go from a localized marketing perspective to a completely ingrained into enterprise tool sets and learn a whole new world of marketing tools. I think that was really neat because I saw both sides of the spectrum. And so I went from one end of small business, local startup e-type of thing, small agency to the big leagues overnight, so to speak. It certainly wasn’t overnight, but the switch was instant and you had to build that for years. From there I reached out to our co-founder, David Greenbaum with Boost about two years ago on LinkedIn. I wasn’t looking for a job. I was really happy at Triad. We were rocking and rolling. I had a great career path there. But I was in Tampa, Florida at that time so I said, “Hey, David. I know you guys are in search. I’m more on the display side. I did local in search before. I would be happy to share any types of learnings or trends that we’re seeing in the industry.” He took the opportunity to turn that into a call which turned into a few more calls and the next thing you know, I was on a plane to San Francisco. I guess the rest as they say is history. I’ve been with Boost building the company since the very, very early days. I was technically employee number seven and now we’re over 50 employees total worldwide, and it’s been a hell of a ride so far. We’re venture backed and we specifically focus on what we believe to be the last kind of key component or last frontier for paid search in digital advertising, which is the creative.

Ray:  Awesome. On the creative side, could you define exactly what that means? What sort of things you guys do in helping your customers optimize creative? Is there any integration or interaction with other channels or is it primarily paid search? Then on the paid search side of things, is it literally things like optimizing the copy and the title and that sort of thing?

Erik:  That’s a really good question. When we started out, we focused on the SMB side only. We thought this thing would be a tool where it could live in Acquisio or WordStream, and people could click a button and get a new ad and pay $1 or $2 for a new ad, something along those lines. Almost like the App store for apps. In 2011 what we quickly found was that there are a lot of turnovers, there’s a lot of churn in SMB advertising. It’s very, very difficult because they don’t have the right structure and the right strategy in place to hit the ground running and be committed to ongoing budgets and not necessarily seeing direct ROI immediately. We pivoted our business from beginning in 2011 and that’s been very, very strong for us ever since. The business started on the paid search side only and we’ve been focusing on and perfected that product in paid search for definitely the last two years now. At this point in time, about a year ago, November of 2012, we started to test display in social. So we started to work on the image side. The way that the Boost platform works is there’s a software component, there’s a human component that produces the creative. We have a curated network of people of 1400 that are expert copywriters and designers that we’ve curated and scored internally specifically for creative testing and creative optimization. So the way that it started was text-only and then we built the product to be flexible in terms of putting in a request to that network. So it didn’t have to just be text. It could be an image, it could be text and an image like what you see in the early Facebook ad unit was a hybrid between text and image. As we built that out and tested that over the last year, we got some really good traction with top advertisers such as Zynga and SuperCell on more of the performance and gaming side of things. We work with those guys today to optimize their creative for app installs on mobile display media and Facebook media. So, not just search.

Ray:  Very cool. Do you guys do a whole lot of optimization across multiple channels for the creative? If a customer comes to you and said they want to run a new campaign, are they doing things that are going to be consistent across multiple channels or the same source of creative or are you frequently dealing with lots of different competing creative visions in trying to optimize within that?

Erik:  That’s a really good question. At the enterprise level, these teams become really large. What we’ve found is one of the biggest challenges in 2012 and really 2013 because the proliferation of paid media through different channels is that there exist silos on digital media teams. So you have a paid social guy, you’ll have an organic guy, you’ll have a paid search guy or gal, and you’ll have a display guy. So the chances of them all communicating and staying integrated on strategy and their creative completely varies. I don’t say it’s missing by any means, but it really depends on the leadership and the management of that team. What we found is that there are certainly disparate instances from a creative standpoint and what we try to do is we try to penetrate it enough. Because we’ve tested and we have performance and insights behind what we’ve tested, they can go back to their team, they can go back to their boss and they can say, “Hey, here’s what we’ve learned. This brand messaging works better than this.” I can give you actually a very specific example as of two weeks ago. We worked with Intuit mainly on the QuickBooks side and the payment side. They’ve introduced us to the TurboTax side because of how well we’ve done with them in terms of testing, but the key example out of this or the key win was that if you look back a month ago for their Intuit GoPayment product, their competitive product against Square and PayPal. What they found was that the brand messaging or the brand recognition for Intuit alone wasn’t as strong as QuickBooks, which has been a household name for accounting software for over a decade. What we did was we tested Intuit GoPayments versus QuickBooks bill payments. What we found was there was nearly or just over 600% lift in engagement for what they were looking for targeted metric-wise because we used that familiar QuickBooks name. And so now what they’re doing is they’re literally reshaping all the creative messaging in their campaign and the branding in their campaigns to use QuickBooks payments instead of Intuit payments.

Ray:  We got a little bit of technical difficulty there I think. I missed the last couple of sentences there, but it sounds like a lot of what it comes down to is organizational and selling the initial success to maybe one group and then expanding it up from there and trying to really use that as a basis in building campaigns that are across multiple paid channels. One of the long-term dreams of marketers has been to really integrate paid and organic channels in a meaningful way and it’s always been a struggle for people for a lot of different reasons. There’s been technology reasons obviously underlying a lot of different things, but also organizationally is a challenge and I think politically is probably another one. Where do you think things are right now? Where do you think things are going? I think that the two biggest things that I keep hearing about in my job when we talk to people are they’re interested in content marketing on the organic side obviously based on who we work with and types of job titles we work with, but doing so in a way that’s meaningful across multiple channels which include the paid and organic. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you guys are seeing and what you think things are going to look like over the next year or two.

Erik:  Sure. You had quite a few different things in that question. I’ll answer it in steps.

Ray:  I tend to do that.

Erik:  It’s good. In terms of trends of what we’re seeing with teams, the biggest thing has been an attribution for the last 12, 18 months or so, and I think finally people are starting to move away from this attribution paralysis to more of a customer-centric view. And if they’re not, then they’re behind. At the end of the day, I think a large reason as to why you’re seeing content marketing is so hot right now is because it’s customer-centric. Sales and marketing are different these days and marketers really need to catch up. They need to understand. But the problem is what they’re taught in school, what they can read online with a universe of knowledge in terms of marketing best practices, how-to guide, strategy playbooks, etc. is very dangerous because some of the stuff is dated, some of the stuff works really well for specific niches but it may not work for you. You need to really understand the industry and your customers as a whole first. As you take a step back I think the bottom line is regardless of the best tactics network – and I will agree with you and what I’ve read from a data perspective is – good B2B marketers are spending a minimum of 30% of their budget on content marketing these days. They’re realizing that a third of their budget should be going to producing good, solid, quality content. But taking a step back at a higher level, the customer is a very important customer these days. This isn’t the customer a couple of decades ago where you have to push messaging to get on the radar. They’re very, very discerning and they’re very intuitive. These days, customers don’t want to be interrupted. They don’t want to be cold called. They’re going to have a need and from that need they’re going to seek out the solution. As they seek out the solution, they’re going to educate themselves every step of the way until – honest to God – they are as knowledgeable as the sales person. They have the right leverage, they have the right understanding, and they know that they’re confident about the choice that they want to make from a product perspective. I think that’s a huge opportunity because you see the proliferation of marketing automation. It went from e-mail systems to guys like Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, and Pardot where it’s not just e-mail and drip-and-nurture campaigns anymore. What are they doing? How are they interacting with your brand on social, on your site? What content are they consuming? How do you map out that customer journey? It’s funny because marketers are doing it more organically which was like this. Google has been doing it for years with publications like ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) that they released back in 2011. Everybody’s trying to map this customer’s path to purchase through this journey. Mapping it’s great. You’ll become a very, very intelligent marketer but, at the end of the day, what this all points to is being customer-centric. That should be the overarching theme, not content marketing as this thing that you got to be doing or it’s this craze because I’ll tell you what, looking forward over the next year or two, Ray, there’s going to be a hell lot of content out there. So now how are people going to differentiate themselves with all those content noise that has been created in the ether? You have to be differentiated.

Ray:  We broke up again at the last 30 seconds there. But what I’m hearing is that trends, fads, thing like content marketing are going to come and go. Content marketing is something that carries a lot of impact because it is a return to thinking about the customer in the first place but even bigger than that, each individual organization needs to be focused on the needs of their individual users. It’s not like you can just start creating a bunch of content and expect that to be a winning strategy for you. You need to understand what the needs of your individual customers are. Respond to that and that’s going to include things like content marketing but it’s also going to include many other things and accomplish a lot of different things. A good part of that will probably be optimizing your creative on the paid side,  on the advertising side for reaching your customers as well.

Erik:  That’s the solid point. When we got cut off there, the final thought that I had was now people are looking at content marketing as a best practice. I would say it’s not a best practice, it’s a minimum practice and you have to do it right. You shouldn’t just be doing it to do it. You should be doing it, like you said, where you understand your customer and you’re giving them what they want. What marketers should always be doing is they should be figuring out what is that next step or what’s that next stop because with content marketing being hot right now, there’s going to be a proliferation of content in the ether. So there’s going to be a lot of noise. And how do you differentiate yourself with all that noise? Maintain that customer-centric approach and don’t be afraid to be different or to be bold and to offer them something that’s unique, not just content. Maybe it’s a marketing product, maybe it’s a handwritten note. Maybe it’s something that differentiates you. It looked like a bit of a leap but it makes all the difference.

Ray:  Be unique. I think you’re going to say something really good there. What was the last point you made there? Erik:  Dare to be different and dare to do something great for your customer. And it doesn’t have to be just a content piece. Because people are quickly getting buried under [22:02 inaudible] and how-tos. Write a handwritten note, create a marketing product. WordStream has this PPC grader for the SMB search side. A product that I’ve developed and Boost over the last year and a half is this thing called the Boost Relevance Report. It lets you sign in and sync your AdWords or your Yahoo Bing account and get a free account analysis on it. That’s stuff that’s actionable for people. It’s serious value where if they follow your recommendations, they can start saving money or getting more profitability today. So be different. Offer them more value. Don’t think you just need to provide content. Content is the baseline, not the best practice. In a world of noise, you have an opportunity to do more. A lot of marketers I think usually want to play it safe. They have the direction from their boss to do content marketing because everybody else is doing content marketing. That’s great, but how are you going to differentiate yourself? What’s your referral program look like? Are you encouraging your customers to refer you to other customers? There’s this concept called the Net Promoter Score that you’re going to be converting big a couple of years ago. And there’s a reason for it. It’s extremely simple. On the scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend GinzaMetrics to your friend? 10. Why? Because they’re exceptional. Ray reaches out to me on a monthly basis. He checks in to see how we’re doing with the product. It never goes down. Everything is very predictable and it gives us what we need in a clean, manageable interface to do my job and move through it. You want to focus on that stuff. You want to build those relationships with the customer personally.

It looks like we lost Ray there for a second. I’d be happy to answer any questions that come in through chat as well. For those of you that know Ray, he’s a globetrotter. There’s no wonder where he is in the world today. I was just talking to him prior to our hang out and he said he was in Singapore and Tokyo, I believe, for the last two, two-and-a-half weeks. No doubt, maybe some Internet connections. A question just came in about the metric stuff that we’re talking about earlier on and I think it’s a really good point. Today there are a lot of best practices and guides about how to test the right way. There are specifically the ten steps to ultimate creative optimization which is what Boost focuses on and provides a platform for. It might be controversial but I think we’re going to challenge that. One of our lead team members, Karen, will be publishing a blog post about this pretty soon. Essentially, what it focuses on is that you don’t need to have a crazy ten-step process to test your stuff, to test your creative. You don’t need to test A versus B. You don’t need to at least initially come up with hypothesis test that take quite a bit of time because what you’ll do is you’ll bog yourself down in the minutia of structuring the test and you won’t get to what really matters which is running the test. On the Boost side, we allow advertisers to test A versus B or multi-variant testing. I would say that the multi-variant stuff is very fascinating because at the end of the day, there’s an inherent element of ambiguity with regards to testing. Going into a test assuming that you’re going to win this, like going into the lottery with the right numbers, you just don’t know. You can guess, you can randomize things and see how it plays out, but you don’t know. If you spend hours trying to structure specific tests for 100 different ad groups, you may get a dozen or so deployed. Whereas if you spend a very short amount of time basically requesting new ads through the Boost platform and just seeing what people suggest obviously within your brand guidelines, you’d be very, very surprised. You may come back with things that you didn’t even know. Hey, Ray. Ray:  Hey, I’m back. Sorry about that. My connection completely died there. I see Laura was able to jump in there. Erik:  Yeah. We had a question in about metrics and testing best practices and what we had talked about before the call which was – we’re seeing a lot of recommendations on how to test and following these steps and process and how that might be a little bit of faux pas or something that you don’t need to do. You can just jump into a test and see what you get back. And if you structure it the right way or if you use the Boost platform, then it will automatically kill off the lower performers and you’ll be able to quickly learn what’s working and what isn’t working. Ray:  Yeah. It ties into something you’re saying earlier actually. You’re talking about this paralysis that occurs when people think about attribution. We see that a lot too where people will spend their entire quarter considering your options on something, and obviously when you’re dealing with large budgets, you need to do that. But a lot can be said for trying new things and making decisions [29:25 inaudible]. You’re going to make mistakes along the way but you can fully get a lot more intelligence as a result of that direct experience versus [29:39 inaudible]. Is that something you would’ve been seeing quite a bit in your [29:47 inaudible]? Erik:  When we start working with an advertiser, they just don’t know. They’ve been paralyzed by all the data that they have access to, that if they don’t have well built framework or methodology in place ahead of time then they don’t know where to start, they don’t know what to measure, they often don’t even have objectives in terms of where they want to go. All they know is their order is more top line revenue, better cost for acquisition. They know the metric objectives but they don’t necessarily know the objectives in terms of what they want to test, how they want a better guide or create a journey for the customer. So I think that there’s a huge opportunity there. What are you learning, whether it’s from a content and organic side or a paid search or paid media side, in terms of how the customers are responding? What creative are they responding to? What content are they responding to? What do they spend time engaging with? Are they commenting on things? Are they providing you feedback that you should be taking action building on? Because you have a world of data that you can dig into from an insights perspective but there is nothing better than a direct response or direct feedback from your customer. Tune in to that stuff and use it. Another trend that we’ve seen is in 2014, not just from the optimization and bringing them together perspective, but overall the content and the creative is informing other channels. We’re seeing certain things that are coming in from social and it’s not just Facebook. It can also be products that people are pinning that are the ideal customer-audience segment for like a Williams-Sonoma that make complete sense to try testing in an ad creative or should definitely turn into a formal recipe from a content standpoint on the recipe site for cultivating their follower. Use different channels. This is a huge opportunity for marketers to work together with their team more. They are the people that you spend a ton of time with in the trenches and now you can have fun and elevate the value of what you’re discovering or what you’re learning and put it to good use by just sharing things with each other, having those sync ups and setting up those weekly or bi-weekly sync ups saying, “Hey, here are the top five insights that we learned this week.” Social will say, “Oh man, that’s crazy. I didn’t think of that. I didn’t know that they would respond to that,” or “I didn’t know they were talking about that,” or “I wouldn’t expect to see that on the search,” or “I wouldn’t have expected to see that on organic.” But it happens. Customer-centric in terms of your focus or your objective and then aligning and bringing yourselves together in terms of a marketing team to synergize – buzz word of the day – to bring all that stuff back together and create more value for your team, help each other out. Ray:  It makes a lot of sense. So what are we looking forward for this year? This is a very broad question and obviously will depend on individual companies in question, but what would you say are some of the major things people should be planning for this year, maybe touch on any sort of tools and technology people should be aware of versus overall initiatives or best practices they should be taking advantage of? Erik:  I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Ginza and Boost first and foremost. You have to have the right tools in place both paid and the organic side. These things aren’t tools. In yesteryear they were tools, today these things are money senders. They’re [34:10 inaudible] senders. These are opportunities where you can learn more about your customers. You can save time. Our three value props at Boost are increased profitability, save time, and learn more about your customers. What is that worth to you? Calculate on average, we’re saving 60 hours a month on writing ads, testing ads, and reporting on ads. That’s full time of course. The service pays for itself. I would imagine it’s certainly in the same on your end. Ray:  That’s right. Erik:  Make sure that you find the right tools that will help you get to where you’re going. I guess before that, know where you’re going. Set you objective, figure out your strategy and then map out your tactics and you need to be thinking, of your key pillars in terms of marketing. So if it’s online, then map out the channels that make most sense for you. If it’s local, then maybe it’s more referral, word of mouth, content oriented, that type of thing. Maybe some local buys to a certain extent. If it’s a national type of play, then you have scale. You have to get tools that can help you scale from the metrics perspective, from a testing perspective, and from a buying perspective. So the more that you can centralize what you’re trying to go after and create a hub where you have functional roles on your team and dedicated tools underneath those functional roles to help you get there, I think you’ll be able to create this leverage scenario where you’re going to get four times more out of the resource that you hired just by equipping them or enabling them with the right tools. Ray:  That makes a lot of sense. Awesome. I just want to spring one final question on people, which is: what’s the most exciting thing to you in the last [36:12 inaudible] or so whether it’s in the news, in marketing industry, things that you’ve talked about with your customers? Erik:  In the last month or so you said? Ray:  Yeah. Sure last week, last month. Erik:  This is non-customer related. I think the Intuit example earlier about how they’re taking learnings from a test of ours to use QuickBooks throughout all their brand messaging versus Intuit because of brand recognition was a big win for us. The other thing that I thought was just absolutely off the wall in the news was some patent trolls basically found Lycos’ old patents with regards to serving display ads and they took over the patent in 2011. And now Google’s being court ordered to pay like 1.3% of their revenues to this new company just by acquiring the patent. So it’s to the tune of like $600 million a year. It’s unbelievable and I’m not saying, “Hey, go out there and do patents and register trademarks and stuff like that.” But it’s just that it’s an interesting world that we live in and it’s always dynamic and it’s always changing, so keep an eye on your competition, your customers, and most importantly your team. There’s a book that I read in an executive business course called “Peak” by Chip Conley. He’s a famous hospitality business guy. When he went through the crash right after 9/11, the hospitality industry just plummeted. And so he found himself damn near broke with his boutique line of hotels called Joie de Vivre based on San Francisco here, actually. So he ended up in the library and he somehow started looking at Maslow’s book, “Hierarchy of Needs.” He essentially said, “You want to look at that ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ and apply that to every experience that you have from a business standpoint. You have your customers, your employees, and your stakeholders. You need to map out exactly how you’re going to get them to the top, each of those three audiences. If you do, you have an extraordinary business on your hands.” Ray:  Sounds like a great book. We’ll be sure to add that to the notes as well. Erik:  Cool. Ray:  Thanks so much for being with us today. It was great to talk with you again. I think it was a really interesting time spent seeing things from the paid side of things. We spend a lot of time here obviously looking at organic marketing, but I’ve been a long-time believer in the idea that really you should be meeting your customer’s needs wherever they happen to be. I think that your background on both sides has really been a great a thing to add to our discussion here today, so I appreciate you taking the time to do this and we look forward to talking to you again soon. Erik:  Thanks very much, Ray. Ray:  Alright. Thanks, Erik.