Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Dec 09

What is Branding Due Diligence & Why Should You Care?

Branding. Brand marketing. Soft, squishy, conceptual, and so on and so forth. I beg to differ. It’s taken me a few years to really embrace the power of branding but here we are…sitting in the middle of the noisiest ecosystem of all time and perhaps our most powerful tool is, and continues to be, our ability to position ourselves beautifully.

This, my friends, is branding, and whether you want to own it or not – every marketer is now expected to be a brand marketer. We have to understand how to position our products, how to differentiate our experiences, how to get them in front of the right people and leave them with a lasting impression. We must do all of this through our content, our interfaces, our design and our communities. I for one…am freaking stoked. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

With that said, before you jump in, you need to set yourself up for success. I’ve noticed, through my experiences leading brand, that the most skipped step in brand marketing is doing your branding due diligence. Sadly, it is also the most important step. Without it, you could be setting yourself up for failure and a huge investment loss. Let’s not do that. No one likes losing money.

So what is branding due diligence? It’s a deep analysis of legal, industry, competitive, operational and product brand risks that will affect your ability to build a successful brand and set it up for advantageous differentiation.

 

Sounds complicated? Meh, not so much. All that really means is, you vet the potential of your brand concepts before you start to design them. Think of this as brand agile development – build a little, get some feedback (like talk to real people…WHAT?!), iterate, ship, repeat. It’s easy for marketers to see “branding” as a creative step, and therefore somehow it sits squarely in the creative camp (which traditionally is done with little diligence, as it’s considered an intrinsic skill/trade, i.e. you are either good at it or you aren’t).

That is dangerous, like performing on a balance beam after a night of margaritas dangerous…don’t do it. You’re gonna crash.

Branding due diligence sets you up to launch a brand your market will love. So how do we do that? Historically, there are five areas you’ll want to explore. They are well outlined in this pretty boring article, but the gist is below (and more fun to read if I do say so myself);

Area 1: Legal
Have you sat down with legal and talked through the legal risks, concerns, opportunities? This can include trademarks of slogans, imagery, verbiage, etc. Is everything registered that needs to be? Are you infringing on existing trademarks? Cover yourself on this. Nothing is worse then creating something beautiful, shipping it, seeing it succeed only to learn – yeah, someone else owns that. #sadsadsad

Area 2: Industry
Have you sat down with your product and business development teams to understand industry trends, concerns, opportunities? I can’t stress this enough. As a brand marketer, we are asked to build for the future. We are building a beacon that we are then going to ask our acquisition and development teams to build demand and direct that demand toward. This could include economic trends, technological trends, political trends, etc. Brand marketers hold a lot of responsibility here. We are building the lighthouse, that other teams (product, BD, growth) will use as a finish line. Know if you’re building in the right place.

Area 3: Competitive
Have you sat down and truly understood your competitor brands, do you understand what arena they have won, are playing in, are entering? Some of this may have been covered when you did that bi-annual competitive analysis (wink, wink…you did that right?). Companies over focus on what features their products are shipping and underestimate the power of their competitor brand teams. They say the best brands in the world end up owning a word. That’s one word. Volvo = safety. Apple = design. Zappos = service. If that is true, you better understand where your competitors are placing their bet, it should/will impact your ability to own yours.

Area 4: Operational
Have you sat down and mapped out how this brand will be managed, what internal risks, concerns, opportunities exist? Your brand is a thing. Like a real thing. That will need investment, budget, and support. Do you know who and how it will be supported? Inevitably, after you launch your brand you will need to manage brand risk and problems. It could be bad press or a product malfunction or a community mistake. Whatever the issue, so much of you brand success will depend on how (a) quickly and (b) authentically you respond. This includes legal, design, product, tech and often operations support. What is the operational process for shipping quick updates and responses? You and your teams should know this and be ready to react.

Area 5: Product
Have you sat down and documented the proprietary product and feature arenas you want to own? Understood the risks and opportunities that exist? This is what most marketers think of when they think about “building a brand.” This is what is largely known these days as your What, How & Why (Thanks Sinek!) and marketers obsess over this, which is great. It’s only one piece of the diligence process though. You should spend many cycles digging in here – what makes you great, how do you do it better than anyone else, why should people care? I think brand marketers have a huge opportunity to contribute to the culture with this analysis and it’s findings. In many ways, this should set the rally point for the entire company.

Okay. I know that was a lot, but it’s super important. The world is growing restless and noisy and shiny. Millennials and centennials are increasingly defined as the generation that is obsessed with self-identification, which means they want to find the brands that are them. Today’s brands need to know who they are and how to stand out, which requires more than a great idea for a brand. It requires diligence, process, and support.

Go forth and brand…I can’t wait to see what you build. #buildallthebeautifulthings

 

Dec 01

Attribution Isn’t a Marketing Problem

I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with CEOs and VCs around the nation these past few weeks. I’ve, luckily, had the chance to get to know companies of all sizes and shapes. I’ve talked to leaders of companies that are B2B, B2C, e-commerce, SaaS, marketplace, so on and so forth. It’s been fascinating to hear what keeps them up at night and, most relevant for our conversations — what do they need from a marketing executive?

While you would imagine that the conversations would be quite unique, especially since I’ve talked to companies ranging from idea stage to post-IPO, but surprisingly a few things seem most important – no matter your stage, size, or product. One of them, perhaps not as surprisingly, is attribution. I must have been asked over two dozen times in the last 30 days – what’s my philosophy on attribution?

You can actually sense the frustration in their voice as they ask. It’s as though they’ve been burned – likely by a marketer who promised they were tracking everything well and spending accordingly. Or perhaps by an agency that created dependency through attribution models that were “just hard to explain.” Ugh. Shoot me.

Whatever happened – the situations, as I dig in, are eerily similar – they haven’t invested much into attribution infrastructure, they aren’t sure where to start, they are pretty sure they are misspending, and they need a marketing leader to come in and fix it.

But here is the real deal – it’s not a marketing problem. It’s a company problem.

I can sit down and audit everything from here to Tuesday. I could introduce the leadership team to our options from first touch, to last touch, to linear, to time decay, to U-shaped, to custom. I could hold brown bag learning sessions on our free options and bring in paid vendors to pitch us on their latest feature releases. I could do allll of that…and you might feel better.

But if the entire company doesn’t understand attribution, and if the top leadership isn’t invested in building touchpoints into every customer system – it still won’t work. We’ll still lose in market. We’ll still overspend. It’s still a hot mess, and no one is going to be better for it.

Almost all of my conversations this past month have quickly turned around to me asking the CTOs and VP of Engineering – how do you work with a marketing leader and the marketing team to set us up for success? Then I call in the CFO and VP of Finance – how do you guys work with the marketing leader and the marketing team to set us up for success? What are our cross-team rhythms? How are “we” (NOTE THE WORD WE!) going to build the best attribution infrastructure for our business?

Attribution isn’t just about models or the latest approaches to funnel mapping. Attribution is about to being able to assign the right value or credit to each marketing touchpoint. It’s no bigger than that. Let’s not get caught up fighting paper tigers on this one. Continue reading →

Jul 15

Joining Porch.com!

Two weeks ago I announced that I had wrapped up my time at BigDoor, a leading loyalty software provider here in Seattle. It was a day of many emotions. I feel so lucky to have spent the past year working with such a scrappy, dedicated team. I was able to jump head first into the world of loyalty and retention and growth work with some of the top brands in the world. I am just so damn thankful for all the lessons I learned and what we built together.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I am so excited about my new opportunity. In a lot of ways it’s the type of opportunity I’ve been waiting for Seattle to have – a big consumer play backed by a brilliant team that truly believes in data and growth hacking. Throw in that it involves the visual web, online communities and actually has real-life value for those that use the service and I honestly couldn’t help but jump all in.

And that is exactly what I’m doing. In a week I’ll be jumping in as VP of Consumer Marketing at Porch.com, the home improvement network, and fastest-growing startup in Seattle. And frankly I’m over the moon excited.

Why Porch?

For about a million reasons to be honest, but let’s start with the big ones.

The Team

If you live in Seattle (or any of the tech cities to be honest) you’ve probably noticed that Porch.com has been snagging up top talent from some of the best companies out there to join in their mission of helping people love their home. I feel very lucky to collaborate with them and learn from them. After sitting down for just one day with their team I could tell this team was rare…passion, kindness and smarts all over the place.

The Mission

The past few years I was fortunate to spend a lot of time honing on what really matters to me and what I really want from my career and life. Recently I wrote about how I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. This to me means I pour my heart and soul and the hours of my day into a product I can get behind, design, share and one that truly makes life better.

Porch.com is that already, in many ways, and will continue to grow into it even more as we share it with the world. It solves a real problem, one that our CEO has talked at lengths about solving. We are helping home professionals do what they love, and homeowners love their home. I mean wow.

Funny enough, I spent a lot of time on my porch as a child. It was the place my family celebrated everything – from birthdays to “ice cream sundaes for dinner” nights, to graduations. My childhood is peppered with family memories on the porch. In fact, before my mom passed away we spent many afternoons on that porch talking about how much she loved it out there. Dad had it built for her so they could watch us grow up in the backyard and play in the pool.

A porch to me represents everything good…family, traditions, laughter, safety, comfort, peace of mind, and spending time together in something you’ve built as a family. Hell I get teared up just think about it.

I am 100% behind spending my days sharing the mission of Porch - love your home. We have very big plans for Porch and the value it will have for homeowners…more on that later, but get excited friends. I know I am.

The Challenge

My journey in marketing has been, unexpectedly, quite funnel like. So meta, huh? I started in performance, moved into engagement, ended up in retention, and fell in love with brand. I’ve gone from running campaigns to launching integrated customer journeys. I went from selling keywords to becoming obsessed with the visual web and what it has to offer.

I am a growth marketer, driven by solving the hardest problems with testing and data. I believe in viral marketing as a practice not a fluke. I believe in using our channels to activate and unlock growth at every turn. I believe that today’s best marketers have the platforms, and the guts required to build bold, beautiful experiences that catch fire and add real value to the consumer.

Porch.com combines so much of what I love. I’m coming on to Continue reading →

Jan 06

The Difference Between Brand Consistency and Brand Coherence

Designing a brand’s identity is one of my favorite things. I’ve grown to love it.

Every brand has a vibe, a form, an experience that is just waiting to come out and be shared with the world. The problem is most marketers aren’t sure where to start when it comes to brand marketing. It combines a number of skills, some of which are less familiar to a traditional digital marketer – things like – storytelling, visual theory, event management, offline experience, and consumer psychology.

One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is obsession over “brand consistency.” I bet, you hear this all the time in meetings  - “but there needs to be a consistent brand experience.” It’s an effective way to shut down a number of conversations. Some of those conversations, by the way, are likely to be the most innovative, disruptive ones on the table.

The irony of it is those are the ideas that are at the heart of brand marketing. Those are the ones that keep a brand evolving and growing with it’s consumers.

Instead of aiming for brand consistency, todays’ marketers should be aiming for brand coherence. They might sound similar, but the difference is critical. Brand consistency is when the elements of a brand go unchanged over time. Brand coherence is when all the elements of a brand feel familiar and are effective. Coherence is when all the pieces come together and are intuitive to those experiencing them.

Brand coherence and brand consistency

Brands that center their conversations around “consistency” are committing to a stagnant strategy. I’ve seen this approach used as a weapon to stunt big conversations, big gambles, big ideas.

“We can’t launch that new campaign it’s not consistent with our brand.”
“We can’t explore that design as our social account cover, it’s not consistent with our brand.”
“We can’t test that new mailer voice, it’s not consistent with our brand.”

Oy. The goal is not consistency. It’s coherence.

Continue reading →

Sep 18

Marketers as Creatives

I scored better on the math part of the SAT than I did on my verbal. I love analytics. The first third of my career in marketing was spent only in paid search, conversion rate testing and Excel. I am a counter. A calculator. I have been in charge of the budget for most of my career, magnetically pulled to the numbers that make or break companies. On paper (or on LinkedIn, because who really uses paper anymore) I am a numbers woman.

But I’m not. I’m a creative. And, much to my own surprise, the past few years I have found myself identifying more and more with this role of creative. 

There are probably a million reasons for this. The web has steadily become more visual. It’s now a marketplace of ideas, an ecosystem of creative conversation, and an eruption of bold promises in beautiful colors. Or at least that is what it feels like to me. There are classes now to help us marketers learn design, and branding, and typography. Our teams are now heavily dependent on the bar to which we hold our design standards. Brands are built on beautiful foundations, and marketers’ campaigns are expected to deliver more than leads…they are expected to deliver experiences.

If you asked me 8 years ago what an ideal marketing team looked like, I may not have included a top-notch designer. I believed then the design team could live independent of marketing. But no more. Today, when I grab coffees with startup founders they ask who they should hire first on their teams and I say one of two roles – an amazing web designer, or a brand marketer that appreciates design theory. Every single marketing channel now requires a level of creativity that historically was not required for success.

It’s the new norm…marketers as creatives.

I know the school of thought out there around technical marketing. I adhere to it on many levels. I’ve taken Team Treehouse classes, MarketingMotive courses, and learned SQL just so I could hang with the technical cats around me. There is no denying that technical marketers are valuable. But I hope we don’t forget how hard it is to find a true creative. I also hope we don’t shut off our creative sides in hopes of fine tuning our technical skills. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but given how much there is to learn, it often ends up being the case.

Tomorrow’s marketing will be driven by creativity. We will all be playing in new mediums to a new generation on new devices with new expectations hoping for new outcomes. We will literally all be flailing in a sea of creative marketing campaigns, and the ones that stand out will have put in the time to understand design theory, conversation marketing, psychological theory, and the power of persuasion.

Continue reading →

May 01

What is Product Marketing & Where Should It Live?

A friend of mine reached out and asked me my thoughts on product marketing the other day. Little did he know that question would send me off on a tangent. Because it did (and I thought I would piece together that tangent for this post).

For one reason or ten, I am insanely passionate about product marketing. I think it’s because I have seen the shift over the years from “two teams” to “one team”, from “hands off marketers” to “all in marketers”, and I couldn’t be more stoked about it. Today product and marketing need to be so closely tied, you can barely separate them. I believe that with my whole heart.

But alas there is a problem. The intersection of  the two functions often causes more friction and deeper silos than we could imagine. There is a turf war happening at a number of companies, and it’s too damn bad. The companies that solve for how these two teams can work together are going to win. They are going to win every time. Luckily for us there is a traditional function that helps lace us together for a common goal — product marketing.

Enter the second problem — most marketers don’t know what the hell that means. [facepalm] So let’s run through it shall we?

What is Product Marketing?

Product marketing as it traditionally exists solves for – what to build, who to sell it to, how to sell it, and what to price it at. Its a four cornered web of awesome that helps companies build something valuable for the right people, sell it well and make money. Wait a minute — that sounds super important? Why yes, yes it is. I have put together a magical picture (ridiculous attempt at a pun intended) to stress its importance…

what is product marketing

So how come so many companies screw this up? Enter the where should it live dilemma.

Where Should Product Marketing Live?

You know what I love? Cold, hard truths. So here are a few of them: Most of today’s marketers suck at what to build and how to price it. While most product managers today suck at who to sell it to and how to sell it. Don’t hate the messenger. It’s true. FWIW it’s not their/our fault, marketers weren’t trained in product planning, and product managers weren’t trained in market research and acquisition/take to market strategy. Let’s all just blame the system and move on.

So if it shouldn’t live on either team, then what? This is where it get’s interesting. I think you’ll see the rise of growth teams, or product planning teams that try to really drive those core functions (this is a lot of what growth marketing was at Moz for me and what you see growth teams do at other companies – FB, Dropbox, Pinterest, etc.). I think these hybrid teams will hire in curious cats that don’t want to do one or the other. And I truly believe that in a few years we may just see the structured “two team system” as we know it — be uprooted altogether.

With today’s companies being more product driven than ever and offering more products than before on more channels than ever before, the cornerstone that is product marketing has become the inflection point between success and failure. I’m seeing it. You’re seeing it. It’s happening.

Continue reading →

Mar 25

Shutterstock’s Spectrum: The Future of Search is Visual

I love beautiful things. I mean all of them. I love anything visually striking. It can be a photo, a painting, a splash of color on a wall, or a bright red lip on a confident woman — I love visual moments that shake me at the core.

To me “visual moments” are at the center of everything really meaningful on the web. We could talk all day and share the hell out of the words — but nothing stretches as far as a photo…a visual moment we can all relate to on some primal level.

So the other day when I saw Shutterstock released Spectrum, its new Labs tool that allows you to search their photo archives by color, I all but jumped out of my chair. Well done Shutterstock, well done.

For years I’ve used Shutterstock to discover beautiful photos for presentations, backdrops, cover shots, and more. I have lost hours of my life to that site. They have done some good things over the years — improved their drop down suggestions, improved the customer feedback capabilities and allowed me to suggest alternatives. I’ve thought many times — “they are really nailing this photo search experience.”

Then they jumped on up there and introduced color based search. #yesssss

Why Is This Such a Big Deal?

I truly believe we’ve seen a shift over the past 18 months. Social platforms are investing more in the visual experience then ever before. From the expansion of our Twitter backgrounds, to the increasing of our Google + cover shots, to the rise of sites like Pinterest — the big players know that we want more room to visually represent ourselves.

I believe this shift in empowering us to better visualize who we are and what we love is leading to a fundamental shift in how we are looking for information on the web. It won’t be just a search or even a discovery – consumers and users are turning to the web to simply be inspired. Continue reading →

May 22

Rethinking “Personalization” – Today’s UX Golden Goose

“Personalize. Personalize. Personalize!” If there is any doubt, 2012 is certainly the year of personalization. For the past few years we have seen a growing focus on personalization. Whether it be in the message, the experience, the product, or even the reach out – making sure you personalize every step of the way is crucial.

personalization marketing

I think the recent upgrades to our common advertising options (Adwords, FB editor, etc.) as well as our traditional standards (funnels, UX, etc.) have brought the customized experience to the forefront. I, for one, love it. It may take more work upfront but the rewards on customer sentiment and lifetime value are obvious.

Focusing on personalization is always the better option. Except for when it’s not.

Continue reading →

May 15

What is Retention Marketing & How Can You Do It Better

Loyalty…what a loaded word. It’s one I’ve explored a lot on a personal level over the years, but not one that rings as true in my marketing experience or professional portfolio. For almost a decade now I have been focused on “acquisition” marketing, which itself has changed a great deal over the years.

Only recently, as in the past 6 months, have I turned my attention to retention marketing. For those unfamiliar with the term it refers to “marketing programs that are aimed at increasing engagement, brand support, and loyalty to one company or product.”

You may have heard it surface in conversations as lifecycle marketing, loyalty marketing, customer success marketing, customer happiness marketing, etc. There are a lot of ways to say it but it all boils down to – programs that help keep customers happy.

Continue reading →

Mar 25

Acquisition Marketing: Then & Now

What the hell is “acquisition marketing?” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that, I’d be able to buy myself a few pairs of these (since one is clearly not enough). When we say “acquisition” what do we mean? Do we mean acquisition and mergers? Do we mean partners? Do we mean acquiring traffic? leads? conversions? Do we mean only performance marketing? Do we mean inbound marketing?

The short answer is – yes.

If you had asked me this question a few years ago I might have corrected you and called it “customer acquisition” because that’s where its roots lie. Years ago if you were in customer acquisition you used marketing channels to acquire customers. Often “paid” marketing channels were your weapons of choice, but you worked also on partnerships that would help strengthen your customer counts.

Continue reading →