Edition 13: Standardized Marketing

Are best practices actuallly - best?

This is Edition 13 of Overdraft. The infrequent newsletter I write occasionally.

Marketing is full of best practices & definitions. But are those best practices actually - best?

Today this Twitter thread caught my eye:

Peter Caputa IV@pc4media

As we survey marketers about how they determine their specific strategies, it is clear that there are not many standards everyone agrees upon. And little data to back up the strategies marketers use.

Nonetheless, marketers exhibit a lot of confidence in their strategies.

July 23, 2018

On Definitions

Marketers talk about best practices all the time. But are best practices really ‘best practices for all business of all sizes and markets?” Perhaps not.

But certain things should be defined & accepted. For instance, making sure you don’t have duplicate Google Analytics code in the site - otherwise you are sending ‘ghost’ events to GA & nullifying your bounce rate:

Carol Forden@CarolForden

Absolutely. Saw something yesterday where a client added their GA tracking code twice to their website....

"To reduce the bounce rate"

July 24, 2018
But here’s the rub - bounce rate is something defined by Google Analytics - a tool used by the entire universe of websites that exist on the internet. So are definitions only valuable when they are forced upon us by tools we use?

I think so, in most cases. If you look at the standard B2B Funnel - Lead/MQL/SQL/ there are no definitions or best practices for how to define these stages. For each business, it’s different. A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is usually defined by lead score thresholds, but its not always the case. The important thing for standards is that the team and the wider organization understands and agrees on these.

On Best Practices:

Have you been following the Search Engine Optimization world closely? There’s been a debate for ages if hosting a blog on a sub-domain is better then having it on the directory:

blog.kamilrextin.com vs kamilrextin.com/blog.

There’s passionate arguments on both sides. Google crawls both the same way but folks like Rand (Moz/Sparktoro) are in favor of having it in a folder like /blog. That’s the accepted best practice. I was having a chat with a friend of mine who works in a large telecom co. in Toronto, the team wanted a site page (for one time event registrations) on a folder structure because ‘its better for SEO’ but they did not have either a good strategy for the SEO and nor the need to ‘SEO’ the page.

But is it true? No one REALLY knows.

Certain tools/frameworks force you one way or another. If you use a tool like Hubspot, you’ll have to have the blog on a sub-domain because you need to point your DNS the Hubspot IP. You cannot do that with a folder structure. It’s a architecture limitation. On the other hand, if you built your site with WordPress you can easily create a blog within the WordPress directory on your hosting server.

Is one better then the other? For the average business - no. You need to understand if SEO is worth investing in and have a great strategy in place and not debate about domain vs directory structures.

The thing about best practices in marketing is that once it becomes widely known, everyone will use that tactic/strategy till it loses its novelty. Take plain text emails as an example, there’s folks who setup & sent plain text emails from their marketing automation systems because they perform better then ‘designed’ emails. But they don’t always. It depends on the context of the email. If everyone starts sending out plain text emails, all the time - do they still retain their 'personalized’ factor? Or email subject lines that get the most opens - and eventually every email has some variation of the same subject line.

It always comes down to understand who your customers are and what they care about. The rest falls into place.

I’ll leave with this:

Joseph Jerome@WebInbound

No surprise. Half are full of shit and when they're not making something up they're copying something based on the assumption that it worked for the other person.

July 24, 2018

Till next time,


Marketing Twitter

This weekend in Marketing Technology

Hey there,

House keeping note: I have switched from Tinyletter to Substack and I imported everyone in. If you are seeing any issues with this letter, please let me know. It’s meant for paid newsletter and publishing but I have no plans on putting this behind a paywall (yet) >:)

If you have been on Twitter this weekend, you might have noticed some interesting conversations happening.

I think they were two distinct events but both centered around Drift - the live chat tool that recently raised 60 million from notable folks. It was subject of some questions by folks like Pete from Databox and Dharmesh from Hubspot.

It’s interesting to note that Hubspot was the previous employer of the Drift co-founders and Pete (CEO of Databox).

What exactly happened? Here are the tweets:

Mike Volpe@mvolpe

When two competitors chat on Twitter about how their market is not a zero sum game and they should focus on the customer and just solve problems.

(PS - then they go back to making their competitive battle cards to sell against each other.) pic.twitter.com/MHyDkCRdd6

July 15, 2018
What Mike (ex CMO of Hubspot) is referring to is a brief spar between Dharmesh and Elias (CTO at Drift) - someone from Drift tweeted about ‘haters gonna hate’ or something along the lines to which Elias brought up a ‘winners take all methodology’.

Dharmesh Shah@dharmesh

Politely disagree. Most markets are not zero-sum games, they're positive-sum games. Lots of potential customer value to be created. Customers don't want "winner takes all". They want many people working to help solve their problems. #CustomerFirst ☮️ https://t.co/FhenJ0jKWr

July 15, 2018
I am with Hubspot on this one. There’s a ALOT of marketing automation tools out there. Each serve a customer and solve a problem, business has never been a winner take all market because there’s niches and edge cases you can’t solve for. Otherwise you risk your product becoming a bloated monsters of features that don’t make any sense.

Hubspot was the previous employer for alot of Drift folks and Hubspot has recently been rolling out a ‘conversations’ tool aka live chat for your site. So the whole product competition angle made this all the more interesting.

What else.

If you’ve been following Drift they’ve been pretty loud and proud about how live chat converts better then forms.

Pete CEO @Databox has been running some content programs where they do a survey of practitioners and publish their findings. One of their more recent ones is around ‘Do forms actually under perform compared to live chat’ - to be clear there’s alot of live chat platform out there, from Olark to Zendesk and ofcourse Intercom (which does more then just chat though).

Pete tweeted that the early results of the survey indicated forms actually perform better - not entirely surprising, different use cases perhaps (a longer essay for another time) which kicked off an interesting twitter thread:

Peter Caputa IV@pc4media

Forms vs live chat -- which gets you better/more leads? https://t.co/4UUTfc028E

Responses are pouring in & so far, forms are crushing live chat.

Where are all the live chat 'conversational marketing' converts to tell us what's up?

cc: @handythinks @WebInbound @davegerhardt

July 13, 2018
Lots of comments. Some questioning the survey methodology, others wondering when does chat actually perform better?

My take: if your ‘bot’ is going to have 5 options for me to pick from, just use a form. Chat isn’t about bots (which aren’t actually bots) it should be about conversations. While we’re on the subject - lets not call marketing tech run on decision trees and if/else statements - AI.

Because it leads to situations like this:

All for today. I am trying to be more regular on this newsletter. If you (other then my dad who replies to every single one) enjoyed this let me know.




Podcast Commentary: Rachel Hepworth – Growth at Slack on Inside Intercom

I am trying something new – writing up quick notes and commentary on a podcast episode.


For this episode it’s  Rachel Hepworth from Slack on Inside Intercom. All notes were jolted town on my Evernote while riding a crowded TTC during rush hour. These are not direct quotes but a commentary on my own thoughts as I listened to the episode.

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact they call it Growth Marketing vs Growth (which can bleed heavily into the product side) or marketing or Demand Generation. The way Slack defines Growth Marketing is team acquisition. Team being an active team ( > 1 user) on Slack. The unit of value for Slack is active teams. One person on Slack is not a great experience and doesn’t lead to product stickiness.

Performance marketing, Growth & Demand Generation is  used interchangeably in many discussions around marketing . As someone who’s been uneasy about how the industry definitions change every few months and more and more folks are trying to create a personal niche for themselves, this was interesting observation. Demand Generation is often seen as getting someones email // phone // name and then working them through a series of nurtures before being passed to sales for a more direct calling // emailing sequence. Slack looks at it more of a segmented approach where they determine which cohort will need more hand holding and on-boarding, especially as they move to industries outside of engineering & developer communities and early adopter groups. Think Outlook and Microsoft enterprise shops with huge IT departments and getting adoption across massive orgs.

As Slack tries to grow beyond their early adopter base, it involves alot of education and nurturing on what is Slack and what is the value of it. In this case, a home page with box to enter your email and get started doesn’t work as well. On the subject of the home page, I was surprised they don’t have a multi-variant testing infrastructure built out to test home page variations. This is something Rachel and her team are going to be focusing on in 2018, as they move to different industries, they’ll need to provide more traditional marketing copy and context for Slack to try get them to start and onboard teams. This also ties into their traditional demand generation focus in 2018 – to provide hand holding and value to potential teams on how and why to use Slack rather then having a box with an email. *the box with the team struck with me a lot*

The biggest challenge for Slack is building demand on top of a product with a super high organic growth curve. How do you take that early adopter momentum and translate that into the late adopter communities and industries where they are so entrenched in their current way of working? This made me think of the time when I tried to get the Organimi team on-board Slack – it didn’t work since everyone was more comfortable with exchanging email threads and didn’t want to break the existing workflow of communication. Slack or other tools only work if everyone is using them.

On the convergence of marketing // product – Rachel mentioned shared channels feature that Slack released. The product feature has huge potential virality as you a light weight way of introducing new users to Slack because existing teams can invite them to shared channels for collaboration. But the marketing question becomes how do we build flows to ensure the person/team being invited to a shared channel understands what it is, how it works and how it provides value. How do you take someone who joined a shared channel and get them to start their own Slack team. This is often the case with fremium models – having strong product and marketing convergence to convert someone to a paying user.

Slack is using multi touch attribution with credit for advertising impressions so they can really tie in the effectiveness of their paid media spend. This makes me think of view through conversions of Facebook but also how most of marketing these days is so tightly wound up around direct response advertising and programs that we tend to overlook the brand affinity aspect. Rachel did mention that this only works on massive budgets, so if budget is smaller , first or last touch attribution works – as long as there is some attribution in place. Slack spent a lot of time building the foundation before hand.

Key learning – spend some time building the foundational systems before hand. There’s alot of companies that attempt to build or fix the systems once they reach a certain size but it creates a ton of debt and legacy processes and data to fix.

Sales operates on a different model. Since Slack already existing user base, the sales team focuses on looking at teams with potential to be paying customers and engages with them. It’s almost NOT like a Sales team but more like a Customer Success/ Upsell team – the users are already on Slack. Its about education and upsell to paying users vs them staying on the free tier.


Right on the money here as a case for more freemium models in B2B // Enterprise Saas:

Would you rather go after somebody who’s actively using the product and you know is getting value, or somebody who downloaded a white paper and may be vaguely interested? We need to take advantage of that freemium funnel where there’s no barrier to getting in the door, and use that to help the sales team be really efficient. — Source

I am honestly surprised more enterprise // B2B companies don’t adopt the freemium // trial model. Databox has written alot about it and I am a huge user of Databox for myself and some client reporting dashboards.

But even in this case – Slacks Growth // Marketing team does not focus on retention. Their work stops when a team either upgrades via self serve or flagged as a great prospect for Sales. Surprised that they don’t have robust an account // team scoring model or even a marketing automation system in place but it is something the team is working on – combining demographic // firmographic // product usage data into a scoring model that flags teams as a good potential for upgrade to the Sales team and sending communication to the team based on score // usage // profile. Even though Rachel mentioned they are different from the typical demand process in terms of creating MQL’s – this to me was very simillar to the MQL model (call it PQL) in that marketing is qualifying teams for sales via a mix of data inputs.  Side note: because starting a team is relativel friction less, Slack’s challenge is identify a good fit for a paid team subscription especially at their scale. Everyone has Slack teams for hobby groups, communities, causes etc so the numbers flowing through the funnel are really high.

Her philosophy with growth really struck with me –  Only know enough to be dangerous but hire people to do their best work.


Interesting note: Look at all your growth // marketing tactics holistically vs in a silo. An example of LinkedIn’s infamous invite emails – where the email invites by hijacking email address books would show great top of line growth but as a user – getting bombarded with emails isn’t a good experience. Key learning for me – look at the entire lifecycle and audit all the comms – but if you need to push the limits, do so with knowledge that your experience might not be great.


Starting Backwards

On starting 42+ Agency

I always wanted to start something but my focus had been a product company. So without any great ideas to go by and a couple of failed ones in the past, I ultimately shelved the whole concept.

Until Nov 8th 2017.

Felix was born at 6:28am.

I realized something when I held him in my arms for the first time. I want him to grow up with options. Options about how he wants to make a living. An option I could show him by doing it myself.

Secondly, I realized to start my own business, I didn’t have to have a software product. I am the product that I can sell. My time and expertise in marketing.

So here I am today. Starting up what I call a micro agency, 42+

Micro because it’s just me, for now and I also want to stay away from full-service agencies that already exist. The idea is to focus on a handful of core service offerings and build it from there. Here’s what I have for now:

  • Drift Package: Because Drift is doing fantastic marketing and I have learned alot from my experience using the product.

  • Intercom Package: After doing it for a bunch of people, admiring the product & company + the platform approach they have, I am thinking about offering it as a service.

  • Databox: Admire the company, use it for current clients and I am exploring how I can package it into a service offering around analytics. Or would it be part of the other work, in the background.

  • Hubspot + Marketo + Pardot (Marketing Automation) Strategy + Implementation: This is what I’ve been doing alot.

  • Performance Advertising: Focusing on Facebook for now, I see it as a massive under-utilized channel for B2B SaaS companies and I’ve seen success doing it for a bunch of folks (B2B + B2C)

So why did I name this post starting backwards?

I started without a website, a logo or even a plan. I had clients though.

The website is a work in progress based off a simple WP template the logo isn’t a priority. Pipeline & cashflow is, so that’s where my focus is.

In the past when I tried something new, I had to get the logo just right, I had to tweak the CSS to make the aligment perfect. What I never realized back then was none of that matters if no-one gives a shit. Find some people who give a shit and then build from there. This isn’t news, but it is a personal realization.

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