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

That about sums me up.
See Me Speak
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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 like the luckiest person in the world 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.

About 6 months ago, I received a LinkedIn message from a woman named Asha Sharma, asking if I wanted to get together and jam on what “growth marketing” really means. I receive messages like this often, so I honestly didn’t think much of it.  After sitting down with Asha, the twenty-something CMO of Porch, I was blown away. She was data-driven, revenue-focused, high on life, and laser focused on building something really special.  Like once in a lifetime type special.

We met up a few times over the coming months over martinis or coffee, and formed a friendship. A previous board member once told me “when you meet someone you are going to build something with you’ll just know.” I had never felt that before Asha, but I just knew we’d do something together someday. Come to find out that something is Porch and that time is now, and I’m honored to be working for her and helping her build this company.

This team is special and our CEO, Matt Ehrlichman, has the heart and drive to build Porch into a household brand that brings value to millions. I can’t wait to help make that a reality.

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 lead a great team (and looking for a bunch of others to join us…just sayin [wink] [wink]!) and we have the data infrastructure and engineering/design/PR support that most marketers can only dream of. I get to lead the roll out of a product that will combine beautiful images, profiles, valuable features, and community. So.darn.excited.

I think this new challenge will be humbling in many ways as I join the biggest team I’ve ever been a part of and help steer a company through a new stage of growth. I’m not abandoning my startup roots, because Porch is still most certainly a startup in many ways, but it will be exciting to push myself so far out of my comfort zone.

Here We Go

So there you have it. If you haven’t checked out Porch.com, definitely go give it a look through. And seriously – if you are a great growth marketer (specifically in social, email, performance, or content) and feel like joining an amazing company building something really special – be sure to ping me. We’re growing fast and looking for amazing marketers to join us.

First official day is still about a week away. Until then I’ll be finishing up a few projects, sleeping in a bit, and taking in the Seattle sunshine. Iced americanos down at the waterfront anyone?

Before I wrap up, I also just wanted to say thanks to all you crazy cats who have been so darn supportive over the years. The best thing about having a blog and loving social is that I do very much feel like we are going through all of these changes together. Not like fake “together” but like…really together. So thank you.

#letsdothis

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 →

Nov 10

PubCon & All of Us…A Story

Disclaimer: This post has less to do with the information I learned at PubCon and more to do with a few important lessons I learned.

I should kick it off by saying this past PubCon Las Vegas was my 7th PubCon. Between Vegas, Austin, Dallas, and soon to be Hawaii I have literally wandered the U.S. to make sure I didn’t miss this show. I’ve spoken over ten times on topics like PPC, landing pages, retargeting, the state of our industries job landscape, PR and social media marketing. Not to mention I’ve been lucky enough to moderate panels around analytics, affiliate marketing, SEO, and more.

Like many of you I paid for my first PubCon out of pocket. I still remember tweeting out “should I go to PubCon if my company won’t pay?” and @Sugarrae responded with something along the lines of a “hell yes” and carried on to tell me that this is THE show that is worth attending.

Jesus was she right.

There is something inexplicably special about this show. It likely has something to do with the amazing people behind it, the story of how it came about, the way its grown, and the people that attend it every year. Then there is the hugs, and the sincere “how are you doing friend?” and of course the drinks, and the gambling, and the laughing. Wow has there been some really spectacular laughing.

Because of PubCon we have had secret jokes shared between thousands of friends, a face-to-face with Matt Cutts every year of our careers, we have had something to call “ours” and something to compare every other show to.

Some of us have gotten jobs, some of us have fallen in love, some of us have gotten raises, or started companies…all from a PubCon. We have left PubCon both proud of what we have learned over the past year and humbled by how much left there is to learn.

The crazy reality of all this is that all I’ve listed above isn’t even the half of it. I’ve heard stories of late night brainstorms that led to agency collaborations, new tools, revolutionary ideas and philosophical shifts in how we approach the industry we have all jumped into whole-heartedly.

At PubCons I have seen assholes apologize for being assholes, and quiet wallflowers take a stand (usually over a few cocktails funded by {fill in awesome company here}. This conference gives us a place to rethink things, to validate our gut feelings, and to catch glimpses of what is to come.

Dare I say that PubCon has always been my favorite show over the years? Closely followed by SearchFest up in Portland, and our own MozCon. What can I say? I’m a sucker for shows that truly are just a gathering of friends at some random place usually surrounded by bars. The bigger shows out there have their place and I would never take away what shows like SMX, SES, Dreamforce, etc. have done for me, but something about PubCon keeps it on a very special pedestal for me.

I thought it would be worth writing up a few things I took away from this particular PubCon (since I always say I am going to do it and never do)…

  • I need to get over my issues with it and participate more on Google + … FINE! Geeeshhh.
  • I need to start saying thank you more to the people in this industry who have supported me for years. Thank you so very much– Marty, Topher, Brad, David, Brett, Steve, and Steve and so many others.
  • I must stop making jokes about not being able to see over the podium when I talk, no one has ever really laughed
  • I took away I should push myself to do better things with Facebook advertising for SEOmoz, I’m slacking there – ask Brian Carter and Kate Buck Jr. about what they are doing.
  • I realized I’m really happy with my job and finally at the place we all hope to get to – a place where I can hear about a new opportunity but not want to explore it
  • I’ve realized I will forever be thankful to the veterans of this industry that continue to push out epic ideas that get me thinking– Loren, Streko, Tim, Greg, Chris, Lisa, Rhea, Andy, Tony and so many more.
  • I learned that duplicate content issues really piss people off, I’m going to suggest to our bloggers list that we should write more on this
  • I took away a whole lot of great information around social and its convergence with our current digital strategies – ask Joe Hall about the data battle out there, it will tell you a lot about where we are going.
  • I realized there is not so much a revolving door in this industry (like many other industries) but instead a constantly open one and I am excited to see where all the newcomers will take us in the future, cuz they are freaking smart yo.
  • I’m reminded again and again that the amazing women I know in this industry have become true friends and I am a better person for it – Kate, Ruth, Kristy, Monica, Dana, Pam, Carolyn, ShannonVanessaJanet, Lauren, Melanie, Merry, Michelle and so many more.

Okay that’s enough rambling for me, but I will say one last thing that any future PubCon-er should know – this all started from a group of people that literally built this industry on questions and through connecting in forums…where we all tried to help each other move an industry forward.

Sometimes I think we have forgotten that. I only hope that as Brett and his team continue to put together these shows every year we somehow find our way back there – to a point of conversation, and questions, and curiosity…and collaboration.

That’s where I want to be. Sitting around a table with you crazy freaking braniacs, trying to share what little experience I have, and absorb all of yours. Thanks again to the brilliant team behind PubCon… once again you’ve managed to remind us how amazing, ambitious, and special this industry really is.

See you in Hawaii!

Jun 01

5 Ways to Improve Your Top Landing Page Right Now

I get asked this a lot. Not like “a lot” but like “a looottttt.” Perhaps its our quest for the quick fix, but as marketers we are always looking for the immediate fixes we can roll out to increase our conversions. While most marketing pieces don’t work that way, conversion rate optimization is an exception. There is always room for improvement….

Improvement constant comic

There is always room for improvement

I truly believe there is always a few things you could do to your top landing page right now that would get you more signups, better engagement, or higher quality scores. The hard part is knowing which one is going to work for you.

The process usually looks a little like this;

Step 1: You see your competitor roll something out and you think, “hmmm would that work for us?”

Step 2: You tell yourself you are going to test, like a good marketer should! You create 3 to 4 tests in your head, spec’ing them out in mockups, and put together the prettiest little testing plan you’ve ever seen.

Step 3: Realize your design team is too busy.

Step 4: Realize your development team is too busy.

Step 5: Freak out that you aren’t making any moves, and roll out the exact change your competitor made to their site.

Step 6: Continue to panic since you know this is bad practice.

Oy. It’s true right? I know I am personally responsible for this way too often. The sad reality (we all know way too well) is that we don’t always have the resources available to get up solid tests. So what can you do to your top landing pages immediately, without feeling a huge panic? The usual suspects are things like best practices for landing pages. This includes things like;

• More white space/clear out clutter

• Above the fold call to action

• Larger call to action, surrounded by more white space

• A trustworthy looking layout/make sure your site looks trustworthy

And so on, and so forth.

Okay that’s all great, but what about the not so obvious improvements out there? That’s what I’d like to tackle today. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve been screwing up landing pages for close to 7 years now. It’s true. I’ve tested all sorts of things on all sorts of sites in all sorts of industries, and whether the usual experts want to admit it or not, there are things beyond best practices that can increase conversions almost universally.

*Note the “almost” okay? So don’t go bitching in the comments when you tested and concluded something different

All right, now that disclaimers are out of the way, let’s talk about 5 other ways to improve your top lander right now.

Other Idea #1: Social signals galore
We all know that adding social buttons to your site increases engagement, but did you also know that it often increases conversions? Just knowing they can reach you through a variety of social channels triggers an added trust response when a visitor is trying to choose between buying and leaving. So if you are social (which for those of you who aren’t by now…you are just being foolish) make sure to add those social buttons front and center.

Other idea #2: Numbers make people smile
Okay maybe not smile, but they are more likely to convert! It’s true! I’m not just saying this because I love calculators. If you can add numbers to your landers, often your conversions will increase. This covers things like, adding your member count, adding the total number of community members, or adding how many people are online now, etc. Remember those ghetto visitor tickers from back in the day? Yeah, don’t use those. Instead show off how much money your software tracks, or how many shoes your site sold. Show off your awesomeness in real, tangible numbers. It works, I swear.

Other Idea #3: Quotes, quotes, and funny quotes?
While we all know a testimonial helps conversions, did you know that it’s almost impossible to have TOO many testimonials on your lander? It’s true. Get them up there! Rotate through a dozen, or link to a full page of them. Also (and this surprised me!) don’t weed out informal or funny quotes. People like to see the candid nature of a true reaction to a product or service. If someone said “You da bomb!,” you go ahead, bold it, and get it up there. Word.

Other Idea #4: Logos are pretty, but faces are prettier
So you know that best practice about getting up a logo for each person that reviews you? Yeah you can kind of ignore that…as long as you get up their face instead. I’ve tested this a bunch and almost always, the face of a testimonial giver out performed the logo of their company. It seems obvious; yet way too many sites are rocking a testimonial, with a name (in text) and the logo of the company next to it. So say cheese, and get those pictures up!

Other idea #5: You want the money? Give out your number!
Whoa that sounds weird, but alas its true. In a world that is increasingly moving to the cloud, more and more sites are dropping the physical address and phone number for more scalable solutions to customer service. #hugefail The truth is you need to have a number they can call, you need an email front and center, and if you have a physical address…throw it in their face! The placement I’ve tested that wins the most is still (believe it or not) top, right corner, usually followed by a site search box. I guess not all throwbacks are lost in the hustle. So grab your digits and get them up there.

So there you have it. Hopefully some of them surprised you, or at the very least reminded you that you should always be tweaking those top landers. I’ve always believed that every page on our site can be a lander, but that us marketers need to know the big winners as they win. These are the pages you constantly tweak.

Once you nail the best practices, you owe it to your inner CRO self, to really push the envelope on what you know. And just remember…if you find yourself simply copying your competitor’s landing page changes, you should probably smack yourself. No really, that is not doing your beautiful pages justice.

So best of luck on the optimizing front friends! I’d love to hear what sort of tests you have run, and the surprising results they delivered!