June 4, 2018
3 Success Factors of World-Class Marketers

How to be the best marketer ever

Questions that ask for a specific number of answers or bullet points are always harder for me to answer because at times it can be quite difficult to narrow down a veritable multitude of possibilities into whatever random discrete number of points is required. However, at the same time I appreciate the somewhat “forcing” nature of the question as it requires thought and intentionality over which factors (in this case) are of ultimate and penultimate importance. This style of question requires a greatest to least measure of success and in theory this isn’t all bad. (Just keep in mind that in practice there are many more criteria which may prove to be required for a world-class title!).

Understanding what makes a marketer world-class

As always when beginning a response like this it is important to consider what criteria we are using by which we measure success. There are certainly a variety of metrics that marketers are held to depending on their position, industry, and audience. It would be unfair in one instance to judge a marketer’s success on adoption rate of a product if the product has a free level offering as the barrier to entry is relatively low. On the flip side it’s also unfair to judge a marketer’s success on public visibility of a product if that product maintains a very niche market (such as government customers).

Understanding therefore the criteria by which success is measured requires a bit of case-by-case recognition and evaluation. As such, in this response I’ll highlight instead what I believe are 3 common success factors which can be seen predominantly across all marketing professionals and which are clearly evident in the marketers that many consider to be capital marketers.

1. The ability to listen to the audience

Okay, I’ll probably ruffle feathers with my first suggestion here due in part to the recent tweet storms that have been brewing around this individual. And although many would not immediately consider Elon Musk to be a world-class marketer I would suggest that in fact he exhibits many of the traits of one. This includes his ability to listen to the audience.

Almost everyone is aware of Elon’s proclivity to tweeting and his often rapid-fire responses to customer questions and suggestions. While his primary role may not be one of a marketer, his ability to listen to the audience and tailor his marketing message (or company direction) as a result is easy to spot and hard to deny its success.

I could go on here but I think you get the point. Regardless of your current opinion of Musk’s tweeting, there is no denying he listens to his audience.

Reasoning: When a marketer listens to their audience they are better able to tune their messages and improve their marketing strategies.

2. The ability to empathize with the audience

The second aspect of a world-class marketer involves their innate ability to connect with and subsequently empathize with their audience. Now, you may notice I called this an “innate” ability but that’s not really the complete truth. This is not so much a natural gift as it is a finely-tuned by-product from successfully listening to their audience as described in the initial success factor.

Notice though, the act of listening, while valuable, is more than just “hearing”, this second success factor implies that the listening results in action. The ability to understand the thinking behind the voice of the audience. This discerning nature is the second characteristic of a world-class, top-shelf marketer. We’ll talk about the specifics of that action in the final factor below.

The example I would share with you for this point is the Ogilvy marketing campaign for Dove, entitled, “Real Beauty”. This decade-old campaign only grew more powerful in time and in less than a single month after launching the Dove Real Beauty Sketches it became the number one viewed online video ad of all time. There’s a whole host of blogs, publications, and write-ups on analyzing this campaign, why it was successful and the marketing genius behind it. I’ll leave that for you to explore later.

Reasoning: When a marketer empathizes with their audience and speaks to them in their “language” or otherwise tells “their story” they are able to truly connect with the audience in a meaningful way.

3. The ability to offer value to the audience

The final point in this top three list for cream-of-the-crop marketers I have to give to the ability of the marketer to add value to the audience. This in essence is the culmination of the previous two factors and a host of others not mentioned here. Adding value means you have listened to your audience, you have empathized with them, and you have strategically determined the appropriate time and method to share your message with them in a way that provides real value.

Too often in marketing their is a semi-prevailing (frequently denied) practice of automated bulk messaging to entire audience segments without regard for proper understanding and intelligent messaging. Unfortunately the advent of marketing automation tools has only caused this abuse to grow more evident.

The final real-world example of marketing done superbly well relevant to this point I’ll suggest is Jony Ive from Apple. Although, as with our first example, some may consider Jony a polarizing character, his style getting frequently parodied due to overuse — it’s hard to fault him for remaining consistent in his work and subsequent marketing. Jony consistently draws the audience to more than just another product. He focuses on the message surrounding a product, he emphasizes the value of what he’s doing as it relates to the audience!

The notion of how Apple markets their products is certainly one you will find discussed incessantly on marketing and product blogs the world over. I’d recommend researching the ethos behind their messaging if you haven’t done so already. They don’t focus on features they focus on the customer’s experience and how their product adds true value to a person’s life.

“It’s a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people that you are making these products for. I think we see ourselves as having a civic responsibility to do that. It’s important. It’s right. It’s very hard to explain why.” — Jony Ive

I recognize this is by no means a comprehensive list (I was forced to choose only 3) and I’m also aware that there may be disagreement on the top 3. As I stated in the beginning there is an almost innumerable set of factors which when all working together complementary create a world-class marketer. However, regardless of the exact ordering, I think you will find it difficult to create a case where these three factors are not present in the world’s best marketers.

This post originally written as a response to a Quora question.

Marketing Automation MIcroservices

May 30, 2018
Filling In The Marketing Gaps

One of the biggest features and benefits of an open source platform like Mautic is the extreme amount of flexibility and customization that is possible. Open source gives incredible power to each business to create a tool that works for them (rather than the business working to fit the tool). Marketing automation historically never had this level of flexibility before Mautic was created and so in that sense I’m excited to see how quickly the marketing landscape has been improved by Mautic.

The crazy part of this Mautic journey personally is the feeling that this has been both instantaneous and interminably long at the same time in achieving this milestone. In reality we’re probably somewhere in between. Mautic has progressed from an alpha release, beta, a stable 1.0, and then a number of releases to the Mautic 2.x series. Along the way we have educated the world about the powers of open source marketing automation and learned a great deal about how to create a world-class marketing automation platform.

Current Status of the Mautic Platform

Today, I am excited to see the widespread acceptance of open source marketing automation as a natural and significant advancement for the MarTech “Forest” (a concept I’ve written about previously). Open source uniquely allows businesses to create campaigns, workflows, integrations, and processes that match their unique requirements. I’ve had the privilege of hearing story after story from those who have found success in a software tool that fits their needs. It’s extremely rewarding to know Mautic is empowering these individuals to do things the way the want to.

Looking Ahead at Marketing Technology

As I consider the landscape today and look ahead at what the future of MarTech looks like I realize there are still ways we can help marketers do even more. What we have done so far is the first step in my opinion. We cannot stop at this point and rest in our success. We cannot pause our forward momentum and progress and consider ourselves to have achieved our goals. This is the beginning. And we must always be looking at what comes next.

The Next Step in the Mautic Journey

I’ve shared the next step recently when I discussed, announcing Mautic 3, and then I shared both technical advancements (yes, I’ve heard this is a highly technical post), and business benefits, timeframes, and even more suggestions based on what I believe is coming next in the marketing space.

There is one particular aspect though which I inherently feel we should focus in on as we discuss marketing technologies, and what moving forward actually looks like. I believe Mautic changed everything by offering an open source flexible platform. I believe being flexible, integrating, and supporting marketers in whatever tools they choose to use from the “MarTech 5000”. This belief compels me to continue to refine and improve what open source marketing automation means. This is some of the reasoning behind my thoughts on Mautic 3. Let me explain with a graphic. This is a sneak peek from an upcoming blog post but I think it perfectly outlines my point.

The future of martech microservices

I love this graphic because it provides a visual representation for a rather abstract concept. In fact, it also provides a picture for the title of this post as well. Mautic fills the gaps between the various and disparate systems in use by a marketer. Mautic does this with the ultimate in flexibility. By no longer existing as only a monolithic platform Mautic is able to fill in the space, adding value, and connecting marketing tools and more across the organization.

Flexibly Adding Value

I highlighted the key phrase in that last paragraph. Adding value. You see, by focusing on filling the gaps Mautic does far more than just connecting various tools in a blind or “dumb” connection. Rather, Mautic enriches the data, adds value, creates additional knowledge, simplifies processes, and improves the marketer’s intelligence into their audience.

Open source gives Mautic the uniquely powerful position in being able to offer this level of customization and separation. Separation in the sense that you can use some of those services without others. I referred to this in previous posts with a term, microservices, and this leads me to the eventual concept and drive behind some of my philosophies for Mautic 3 and marketing automation microservices.

Important: While Mautic 3 has the ability to provide various functionalities as microservices, there is also a full Mautic 3 marketing automation platform as well. (Not to mention an independent robust API platform and an incredible independent UI as well)

Even as I write that I realize there is so many more things I want to share with you on this topic. But I hope this post at least whets your appetite for learning more about Mautic 3 and the reasons behind why what is being proposed for this release is so important. I’ll be writing much more on this topic as well as sharing a full slide deck that highlights the various relationships in more detail. The image above is only one slide in this forthcoming post and I’m very excited to share it with you. Mautic is once again improving the way marketers work and interact with their tools. Stay with me, things are about to get good.

Finding the power in microcopy

May 24, 2018
The Power of Small Words

First, small words doesn't necessarily refer to size, or even length. Consider a different interpretation, eg. brevity, or conciseness. Second, I have a very strong affinity for all things user-experience related; in fact I consider the ability to make a beautiful user-experience paramount to a successful product. I have always considered the UX (user-experience) to be solely-focused on the design and the process flow of the app, product, or website. This week I believe I was corrected in that somewhat erroneous thinking.

I recognize that normally Friday is the day of the week I usually share what I’ve been reading and this week will be no different, but today (Thursday) I simply have to jump into a topic on which I have been reading a significant number of articles recently. A topic which has not only held me captive but also caused me to return to the concept repeatedly throughout the week. Curious? Let me give you a few more hints before we talk more about this particular topic (no peeking ahead!).

First, small words doesn’t necessarily refer to size, or even length. Consider a different interpretation, eg. brevity, or conciseness. Second, I have a very strong affinity for all things user-experience related; in fact I consider the ability to make a beautiful user-experience paramount to a successful product. I have always considered the UX (user-experience) to be solely-focused on the design and the process flow of the app, product, or website. This week I believe I was corrected in that somewhat erroneous thinking. Or better said, not that this thinking was wrong, but it was incomplete.

You’ve got to be at least slightly inquisitive now as to what I may be referring, have you gotten any ideas? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This week I have been thoroughly overtaken with the concept of UX Writing.

This idea of UX writing as an area of expertise was something I may have inherently understood and recognized at some level, but this week it was defined, exemplified and emphasized in a whole new way. This mental awakening was both eye-opening and thought-provoking and I simply had to share my thoughts on the subject with you. I hope if this is something you haven’t heard of that you find it equally compelling. if you are already aware of (or better yet implementing) UX writing in your business then I commend you for your forward thinking. Regardless, I hope you’ll find value in my highlights below.

Google Gets UX Writing

The first example I want to share with you was from a Medium article I read which gave several great real-life use-cases for UX writing. I would encourage you to read the full article if you find this topic interesting (and honestly, by the time we’re done — you should). In my opinion whenever I think about good end-user documentation I think of the work Google has done.

Google has come to realize the best way to see something adopted is to provide documentation and guidelines for what they believe to be best practices. This is what they have done in the past with Material Design, Android UI, and a wide variety of other projects. As a result their documentation is rich with examples and real-life implementations (including specific do’s and don’ts) . The best way to explore UX writing then is a specific example as Google defines the topic

Google Uses UX Writing and Microcopy

This single example perfectly outlines what Google believes is at the heart of good UX writing. Good UX writing is clear, concise, and useful.

Wait, back up, what is UX writing

I gave you the Google example at the start of the post for two reasons, first I thought this was so informative and useful regarding a practical application I simply had to share it first; second, I believe learning by example is one of the best ways to understand a difficult topic.

Here’s a good definition of what UX writing involves:
The topic of UX writing consists of three major components: the UX design & usability, wire-framing, and user interfaces. But this isn’t the only three specific areas. Influencing each of these areas and critical to UX writing as a whole is the ability to relate these concepts with the essentials of behavioral psychology and human decision-making. (Remember my post from last week? Interesting tie-in here).

The core principle is similar to what you’ll find in the work of UX design. The goal is to enhance the user experience, to make them feel delighted, and ultimately, to make them feel knowledgeable about your product (even if they’ve never used it before!) Anything that distracts from that goal is a problem to be addressed.

Microcopy: The concept of microcopy is at the heart of much UX writing, it refers to the short multi-word phrases or sentences that appear throughout a website, app, or product. Button text and links are the most common types of microcopy and the types most marketers typically focus on in A/B testing. But there are many, many more usages of microcopy all around us. And these little words are incredibly important.

Another example of UX writing, in the form of microcopy comes from Airbnb, who does the following on their homepage:

Airbnb Microcopy and ux writing example

The search bar prompts users to “Try Boston.”  This addresses 4 key concepts of microcopy as defined by Adobe XD. It is short (brevity), provides an example (context), encourages a search (action), and speaks to Airbnb’s brand (authenticity).

But, should I really care

I know you’re thinking to yourself, but is this something that really matters. Let’s be real, how big of a deal can something like this really make in the scheme of things? I’m glad you asked. I have read post after post throughout this week highlighting specific conversion increases as a result of proper UX writing. Examples like:

  • Changing Book Room to Check Availability lead to a 17% increased CTR
  • Changing Request a Quote to Request Pricing lead to a 161.66% increased CTR
  • Changing button text from Almost done to Review Order lead to a 39.4% increased CTR

Each of these two-word changes lead to massive increases in the Click-Through-Rate and eventual conversion of a site visitor to a sale. What a massive difference can be made by simply paying attention to the words we use. As I believe Google so aptly stated, clear, concise and useful.

Very quickly, let me add that these specific examples are not prescriptive (don’t go changing every “request a quote” button to “request pricing” and expect to see a CTR spike!) But they are indicative of the value found in good UX writing.

Now what

As I said in the beginning, my objective was to simply share a topic I have been fascinated with over the course of this last week and found resonated deeply with the UX goals I value. I hope if this is a new area for you it has also excited you and maybe encouraged you to dig in a little deeper into the topic and how it may help you. If you are already aware of these benefits, I hope this serves as a refresher for you and you’ll step back and look at ways you can continue to improve.

At the end of the day, I believe the best user experience occurs when all of the extra distractions are removed, the user is empowered, confident, and feeling good about themselves and the product. Just as I want to share things which excite me so businesses can find ways to be better, I want to share an experience with end-users that give them that same sense of power and control. Sometimes, those two little words, as small as they might be, can be the difference between a sale and a visitor.

marketing automation and segmentation

May 22, 2018
When Marketing Automation is Done Wrong: A Case Study

How do you know when marketing automation is missing…or done completely wrong? This is the type of question that many may wonder about. Well, thankfully this week is the absolute perfect week to explore the successes and failures of businesses with their marketing automation.

How do you know when marketing automation is missing…or done completely wrong? This is the type of question that many may wonder about. Well, thankfully this week is the absolute perfect week to explore the successes and failures of businesses with their marketing automation. Why this week? I’m glad you asked. Because this Friday is the Y2K of the digital marketing era. What we are about to experience is potentially one of the most calamitous or greatest non-events in digital marketing history. I am of course referring to the GDPR legislation which goes into effect this Friday, May 25.

Not what you think

But what does this have to do with marketing automation? Contrary to your first thought I am not discussing the reasons why marketing automation is adversely affected (or even positively affected as some companies attempt to put a positive spin on losing their precious data). Instead, I’d like to focus on a different aspect of GDPR and how you can use this week in particular to determine if the companies you know and love are, first, using marketing automation, and second, using marketing automation correctly. Let’s go exploring.

What is GDPR


Okay, I’ve written about this previously on my own blog, and there are approximately 1 billion additional articles written on this topic from every major (and minor) company on the planet. I am absolutely not going to get into that defining and discussing aspect in this post. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t handle yet another post on the topic. Here’s the shortest definition I can find:

GDPR gives residents broad rights over how data is handled, including the right to ensure that data is collected in a manner that’s accurate and secure with appropriate levels of consent. Individuals also reserve the right to have data erased, a.k.a. “the right to be forgotten”, and the right to data portability – meaning that data subjects can request their personal data in a commonly used and machine-readable format in order to give it to another data controller, and where feasible can require you to transmit it directly to the new data controller – Source

If you handle European Union residents’ personal data, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements apply to you.

Okay, make it through that? Or better yet, did you skip it because you already read it somewhere else? I’m okay with either answer, to be honest, and I don’t blame you. But read the bold text. That’s what we care about. In fact two words in there jump out: European Union.

My Exemption Clause & Personal Indemnity

Before I go much further I just need to put this little aside in here. I’m not claiming this to be an adamant statement or even that all companies are misapplying things in this way. There are of course some nuances, various circumstances, and reasons for these emails. That is not within the scope of this post and I absolve myself from blame in those cases.

My supposition is that in spite of all the possible excuses there are many companies misusing or inadequately implementing marketing automation due to either their interpretation/understanding of GDPR, their marketing system shortcomings, or their incorrect usage of this software.

The Error in Marketing Automation

There are two types of GDPR emails that people are receiving as I hear about them. First, I hear quite a bit of noise from people getting notifications of Privacy Policy updates, and second is the ugly one, the email that lies at the heart of a major problem in marketing automation.

PSA, We’ve Updated our policies

Privacy Policy emails are system-wide and affect everyone, regardless of location, citizenship, residency, or any particular legislation. Of course these updates are occurring due in part to GDPR implications, but that’s beside the point in this instance. Privacy Policies for the most part are defined once for everyone and thus everyone should be updated when they are changed. If this is the email you receive, it gets a free pass, not a problem (although the sheer volume of them is a bit of a nuisance).

The Bad Breakup

The second type of email is the real problem, by now you probably have seen one (or a dozen) and you will quickly recognize it based on the subject lines that read as follows:

“Let’s Stay Connected!”

“We need to talk, let’s not lose each other.”

“Are we breaking up?”

“The clock is ticking”

“Make sure you’re on the list”

“Can we keep in touch?”

Okay, I just can’t handle writing any more out. Needless to say they run the gamut from pleading to threatening in their tone. Tongue-in-cheek, they sound almost like a bad breakup with an unstable ex. This second type of email is where there’s a problem.

If the business is effectively using their marketing automation software then there is tremendous value in the concept of segmentation. This is a feature which lies at the heart of many aspects of marketing automation and demonstrates the true value of the software in the sense of automating personalized marketing messages. If a business is not properly using segmentation and personalization of their marketing messages…well, they’re doing it wrong. And when they do it wrong, the result is email spam. Lots and lots of email spam.

SPAM: unsolicited usually commercial messages (such as e-mails, text messages, or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places
– Merriam-Webster

You know what this means? Marketing automation is not being done right. Businesses should be segmenting, personalizing, and sending appropriate messages to their audiences.

Please, again, read my caveat, there are valid reasons for mass-sending of the now infamous GDPR email; but there’s also mass abuse of this as well and the result is SPAM. If a business has the capabilities and the right marketing automation software to properly segment their customers and contacts, the result is targeted messages with relevant information for interested audiences.

And that’s the real solution here: proper segmentation should allow a business to send the correct GDPR message to the part of their customer and contact base that is most affected by the regulations and changes. Not everyone needs to get blasted with the same email — particularly when it doesn’t affect them.

The unfortunate results

There’s a couple of unfortunate results which come from this behavior. First, the business is far less likely to get people to click on their email and as a result there is a higher likelihood of removing completely unrelated contacts from their database (unrelated = untouched by GDPR regulations). But perhaps second, and even more important, this SPAM messaging approach gives a less than ideal customer experience and makes the recipient think less favorably about the business. I don’t know about you but each time I get one of those emails now I look twice at who sent it. In many cases my view of the business is diminished as well.

Marketing automation is powerful stuff. Used correctly marketing automation can make the marketer’s life easier and the customer’s life better. However, if used wrong it has the exact opposite effect. And that’s not good for anyone. If you use marketing automation, use it wisely, if you don’t use marketing automation, consider this a strong reason why you should.