5 Things All Unicorn Marketers Have in Common

Unicorn marketers are rare — so rare that I’ve only come across a few in the wild.
Some of these unicorn marketers were consultants.
Some were part of an in-house marketing team.
A few of them were marketing executives.
All of them had five things in common.
I’ve explained before that modern unicorn marketers have a blend of hard skills and soft skills.

But what do they do with that colorful cocktail of unicorn marketing skills?
These five things.
1. Unicorn marketers expect explosive results.
When I talk about unicorns people think I’m talking about magic.
Let me be clear about something. Marketing is not magic.
But unicorn marketers do expect to get insane results (borderline magic) from their marketing efforts.
Some might call it delusional, but these marketers truly believe that they will win the marketing lottery.
In 2008, I was hogging Panera Bread bandwidth and inhaling way too many diet Cokes, while coming up with a business plan.
It looked like this:

While the 2008 economy was imploding, I was devising plans to skyrocket my not-yet-created business from $240k to $26 million in revenue in three years.
I was talented at drinking diet cokes and mooching Wifi, not at pioneering startups, let alone startups with a multi-million dollar annual revenue.
But explosive results often come when you believe that they will.
The whole theory behind unicorn marketing is pretty simple.
It holds that 98% of marketing efforts fall flat.
Only 2% of efforts get results — and that 2% of results drives most of a company’s clickthroughs, views, shares, conversion rates, and revenue.
This 98% and 2% data isn’t arbitrary, by the way.
It’s the result of relentless content testing that I did at my previous company.
That 2% — that’s unicorn stuff.
And that’s what unicorn marketers believe is going to happen.
But it’s not magic.
It stems from something else.
2. Unicorn marketers will try anything and everything.
Donkey marketers — creatures that are content to hoe their row — get siloed about their marketing.
They think, “Okay, I’m an SEO. So I’ll do SEO stuff. I’ll optimize the metadata and alt-tag the images, that’s what I’ll do.”
But a unicorn marketer — creatures that prance in fields and poop rainbows — they don’t see boundaries, don’t hoe rows, and don’t believe in silos.
They try anything and everything they can conceive of.
The donkey thinks, “But, wait, you can’t do that. That’s not really a thing, and I don’t think …”
The unicorn replies, “I’m going to try it anyway.”
The more things they try, the greater chance they have of discovering that 2% sweet spot where unicorn results bloom.
I’ve seen unicorns do things that seemed absolutely stupid. But as you can probably guess, those were the things that got genius results.
Heck, I’m personally taking a major gamble on Facebook messenger marketing right now, a marketing channel that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago.
Some unicorns have done things that could hardly be described as marketing. But results don’t care about labels.
And the not-sure-it’s-even-marketing moves turned into millions of dollars in revenue for their companies.
And, that’s what really matters — results.
3. Unicorn marketers obsess over results.
Unicorn marketers can be hard-headed. They’re not into following rules or abiding by some playbook.
All they truly care about?
Donkey marketers dot every i and cross every t, hoping that by following someone’s rules, they will achieve marketing success.
They measure success in terms of quantitative output — 3 blogs per week.
But unicorns?
They run roughshod over these arbitrary rules.
They think outside the box, color outside the lines, toss the manual (pick your metaphor) they do random stuff.
I don’t care how smart you are.
I care about whether or not your relentless efforts produced big results.
In this game, the only thing that matters are outcomes.
Eventually, something works. And that’s the unicorn moment.
It’s the results that they’ve been angling for all this time.
If following the rules isn’t giving you results, write some new rules.
Anyone who parrots some marketing method is anti-unicorn.
It’s not that unicorns spit on rulebooks and disparage boundaries.
Instead, unicorns believe that a method is only justified when it returns results.
And when it does, they know exactly what to do about it.
4. Unicorn marketers repeat their unicorn moves until they stop working.
If you’re expecting results, trying everything, and addicted to results, then you will find your unicorn growth hack — something that will blow up with eye-popping results.
When you find that one thing, do it again.
And again.
And yet again.
Until it stops working.
This is the way of the unicorn. Unicorns make unicorn babies.
If a donkey marketer does something remarkable, there will be a round of high-fives and back-slaps, and then it’s onto the next thing on the content calendar.
Unicorn marketers, on the other hand, know they’ve unlocked a unicorn hack. And when they do, they double down on it.
Repurpose the content.
Keep promoting the asset.
Maintain the ad configuration.
Launch a webinar.
Turn it into an infographic.
Make a video about it.
Produce deep content on that single subject.
Replicate the heck out of your unicorn hack as long as it keeps delivering results.
5. Unicorn marketers are just donkey marketers pretending to be unicorns.
Here’s the dirty secret that most unicorn marketers won’t tell you.
They’re actually donkeys. And they’re pretending to be unicorns.
If you strap a unicorn horn onto a donkey, it sort of looks like a unicorn, right?
A lot of unicorn marketers are strapping on their proverbial unicorn horns because it makes them look like a unicorn.
Once they look the part, they act the part.
What does this mean in real life?
It sounds cliche: Fake it till you make it.
I did this in the early days of my first startup with a few simple and inexpensive hacks.
Sure, my company didn’t have the legacy of an IBM or the reputation of a Microsoft, but I knew how to read social media algorithms and generate real traffic to my company’s content so we looked big.
I pretended that my company was a unicorn by promoting our content to audiences in the millions.
The massive awareness I achieved was the catalyst. It transmogrified a donkey into an actual unicorn.
Real people, real clickthroughs, real conversions, and real revenue started pouring in, and I knew that the donkey act had produced a unicorn reality.
Sometimes, acting like you are a unicorn is the best way to become one.
Unicorn marketers are made, not born.
The characteristics I described here can be learned, built, and formed through diligence, hard work, and time.
Granted, this article is not about the tactical methods that unicorns use. It’s about the mindset of a unicorn — what they expect, how they try, why they obsess, and what they do to achieve unicorn status.
I write it, think it, read it, or say it every day — be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.
My hope is that I’ll find more and more marketing unicorns in the wild.
Originally Published on

Solving the Bad Data Problem in Marketing

Marketers are always on the lookout for the latest low-hanging fruit that can help them capture attention. Low-priced attention with high-value engagement is the holy grail of marketing ROI. But marketing success doesn’t just hinge on your ability to recognize shifts in B2B buyer attention faster than your competitors.
All of your marketing tactics, channels, and strategies are meaningless if you continually fall victim to one of the biggest issues plaguing our profession—bad data.
It’s easy to mask bad data problems by going through the motions in marketing and sales. But when it comes down to results, seeing a return on marketing investments and driving sales success requires a foundation of strong data. The right approach to intent data can get you the results you need.
Summing Up Marketing’s Bad Data Problem
When big data analytics solutions went mainstream, marketers rejoiced. Finally, a means to putting all of the data you collect to good use. But the realization of “garbage in, garbage out” keeps many marketing and sales teams from unlocking the benefits.
One study from IBM found that poor data quality costs U.S. businesses over $3.1 trillion per year. According to the Data Doc, Thomas C. Redman, “the reason bad data costs so much is that decision makers, mangers, knowledge works, data scientists, and others must accommodate it in their everyday work. And doing so is both time-consuming and expensive.”
When you supply sales with bad prospect data, they inevitably waste time trying to hunt down deals that will never close instead of focusing on high-value opportunities.
But what exactly is bad data in marketing? Generally speaking, bad marketing data means that it’s inaccurate. Whether it’s duplicate data complicating your CRM, data missing from contact profiles, data that was incorrectly entered in your CRM, or data that’s just plain inaccurate, bad data will hold your business back.
There are multiple contributing factors to bad data. However, many of these issues stem from an over-reliance on the data you generate with traditional lead generation tactics. While first-party data gives you a strong foundation for marketing strategies, solving bad data problems requires verified intent data that gives you deep insight into the contacts you’re trying to reach.
Solving Bad Data Issues with Intent Data
Third-party intent data is the key to overcoming marketing’s bad data problem. By working with a trusted provider, you can ensure the accuracy of data that indicates where your target accounts are in the buyer’s journey. Not only that, but third-party intent data gives you a reference point to compare your databases to so that you can minimize inaccuracies that may have existed in your CRM for years.
Unlike first-party intent data, working with a third-party provider helps you understand the behavior of target prospects outside of your own website. It’s great to know when a prospect downloads your content or requests a sales demo—but how are they interacting with your competitors? The right provider will give you accurate insights into all prospect behavior so that you can make the best data-driven decisions possible.
Focusing solely on the bad data problems in your own CRM might lead you down the costly path of building out a data science team to overcome “garbage in, garbage out” problems. And while that’s a valuable task, you’ll see greater marketing ROI by striking a balance between third-party intent and first-party data collection.
To help you overcome bad data problems and maximize sales performance, we make sure our intent data is:

Most Accurate: We can deliver up to 91% accuracy in predicting purchase intent.
Most Actionable: We drive in-market, target company web visits at a quarter of the cost of paid search.
Most Targeted: We calibrate intent data to your unique business with nearly half a million keywords to choose from.

If you want to learn more about how third-party intent data can improve your marketing activities and sales performance, download our report, Demystifying B2B Purchase Intent.

How Automation Helps [Small] Businesses Increase Agility

Rapid change and technology have made organizational agility an absolute must for businesses in the 21st century. If efficiency was the key to success in the industrial age, agility is the new determining factor for success in the age of technology.
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.”– Bill Gates
A business can be agile by setting systems in place that allow its decision-makers to react rapidly to changes with minimal disruption. It must be fully prepared to adapt and remain flexible for long-term success.
A survey by McKinsey found a correlation between high volatility and unpredictability in an industry and the degree of agility companies adopt to combat this instability.

According to McKinsey, the need for agility arises from four trends disrupting the current paradigm:

Quickly evolving environment
Constant introduction of disruptive technology
Accelerating digitization and democratization of information
The new war for talent

The idea is that agility is the key to stability. Because of these new factors that change from day to day, businesses that can’t evolve and change quickly will fall behind. Agility isn’t just about efficiency anymore, it’s about staying competitive.
New technologies like machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) disrupt processes by democratizing information and necessitate highly-skilled talent well-versed in the technologies. The systems are data-intensive and rely on rapidly processing high volumes of digital data that can’t be done by humans alone.
In a world awash in data, becoming a data-first organization is crucial for small and large businesses alike. Data-based automation will, therefore, form a necessary part of agility.
Here are three ways your business can increase agility through automation.
Within healthcare, remaining agile isn’t just about business. It’s about saving lives. In the case of the UK National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), moving from their internal IT system to a cloud-based automation platform radically transformed their incredibly complex organ allocation process. By having the platform automate 40% of its 96-step allocation process, NHSBT sped up the organ transplant backlog so that patients could receive faster care, saving lives.
Complex internal systems can be very difficult and costly to navigate, especially as IT engineers must manually maintain and upgrade the software. Those who might need access to the system have to constantly rely on IT support, slowing down the process. Switching to cloud-based automation software gets rid of this problem by saving IT costs as well as providing a user-friendly platform that’s easy for all parties to use and update.
Following the economic downturn in 2008, almost 90% of businesses surveyed by The Economist Intelligence Unit stated agility as one of the most critical factors for success. Within that context, 38% stated that improving process efficiency was their priority for improving agility, while another 33% said improving knowledge management and sharing of information was their priority.
With research from MIT showing that agile organizations see 30% higher profits than non-agile ones, automating processes and workflows to achieve agility remains the key to business success at scale.
One of the side effects of data digitization is the increased security risk. Breaches and hacks are becoming all too common and businesses must take steps to guard sensitive information. In the 2017 State of Network report, protecting data against breaches and leaks was the top priority for Small to Midsize Enterprises (SMEs) and large enterprises alike.
It may seem like the philosophy of business agility––rapid decision-making, quick changes to processes, etc––might be in conflict with security since you need time to implement security measures while making those quick changes. Using a platform built to stay open to frequent updates also invites cyber attackers with many vulnerable points. But automating at least parts of cybersecurity is now more important than ever, due to growing cyber threats.
Security automation seeks to relieve some of the pressure off of IT engineers working in an increasingly overwhelming cybersecurity environment. For example, in Illinois’ West Aurora School District 129, there are just two network engineers securing data for 12,700 students, 1,900 staff and over 10,000 connected devices. So when a DDoS attack took down the network for six weeks, they struggled to identify the source of the problem. There simply aren’t enough engineers to combat the constant attacks and threats, especially for smaller businesses that are stretched for resources.
A recent report by Skybox shows that the security industry is increasingly adopting automation for some of their core processes, including collecting/gathering data for attack surface visibility and modeling, network change management, and rule life cycle management: “There are many areas … where it is absolutely essential to implement automation … Networks are simply becoming too large and complex to manage manually. If you’re not already working with a vendor in these areas, you should start looking for one.”
The large volume of data vulnerable to security breaches, along with the ever-increasing pace of cyberattacks, make it inevitable for businesses to adopt security automation to remain agile in the face of this changing environment.
Data Analytics
One of the biggest benefits of process automation for businesses is data analytics. Simply put, advanced data analytics can help key decision makers uncover bottlenecks, improve efficiency, and identify areas for optimization. Digitized operations generate this kind of data for analysis.
By 2020, the total volume of data is expected to reach 44 trillion GB, or 1.7 megabytes of new information generated per second per human. Business investments are moving in the direction of big data services, primarily provided by companies like IBM, Dell, and Oracle. A new survey by NewVantage Partners revealed that 55% of companies invested over $50 million in big data and AI, up from 40% last year.
Though large enterprises are leading the charge, research shows that SMEs are also ready for big data.

After analyzing the data from their operations, the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington was able to predict how many guests would visit the location depending on the weather. This helped them deploy the right number of employees onto the site. Likewise, the data also analyzed customer behavior for online ticket purchases, leading to a whopping 771% increase in online sales in two years.
The zoo’s business and administration service manager, Donna Powell, summarized the benefit: “For a minimal investment of less than $4,000, we sold $60,000 worth of memberships.”
A Kofax case study report shows other instances of businesses implementing process automation to achieve results, including:

A European bank that saved thousands of hours a week on Know Your Customer checks
A business that automated special quotes and invoices, saving hundreds of hours per month
An insurer that adjudicated claims 75% faster with RPA

Businesses both big and small can adopt process automation and data analysis to increase operational efficiency and generate higher revenue. But focusing on shaping a data-driven culture will produce even better results than chasing short-term ROI.
Automation and Agility Are Two Sides of the Same Coin
Lean, agile processes focused on flexibility and productivity are on the rise for both big and small businesses. Agile organizations tend to be healthier, more profitable, and innovative. But in order to achieve an agile business culture, automation plays a pivotal role.
Without the benefit of automation and data analytics, businesses will struggle to remain agile. The speed of technological growth and the exploding volume of data simply make it impossible to work efficiently without automated processes. SMEs and enterprises need to make investments in automation and digital data as a core differentiator for business success.

How to Increase Online Sales: The Complete Checklist

What if there were a method—even a process—that you could apply to increase website sales? Wouldn’t that be swell? Well, there is.
I’ve turned it into a checklist.
This method works across all categories; it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Take your website, assess it for any item on the list, make improvements, and your online sales will increase.
Start with measurable goals
Before we get started on the checklist, make sure you have actual, measurable goals in place (e.g. sell boots, get subscribers).

If you don’t have a single focus for your site, it’s very difficult to achieve results.
You cannot systematically improve what you cannot measure (or won’t notice it when it happens).

Start with specific goals and make sure your web analytics software is tracking those goals.
Personal opinions do not matter (much)
There’s no shortage of opinions in the world. Sadly, most are misguided, even incompetent. People see the world from where they are and think everybody else is like them—”But I never click on ads!”; “Nobody shares their email!”; “I think it should be blue!”; and so on.
You are not the world. You are not your customer. Hence, you can’t draw conclusions about user behavior based on your personal preferences. It’s natural to want to, but try to resist. Instead, focus on evidence-based marketing.
The internet is not in its infancy anymore. We’ve had many, many years to test, try, and see what works online. There are entire frameworks for testing programs, reams of academic research, and mountains of data.
The following checklist is a summary of key elements that will help you get more online sales (or whatever conversion you’re after).
Increasing sales online: the checklist
Here it is:

Create buyer personas.
Drive relevant traffic.
Design a great site.
Create compelling value propositions.
Understand buying phases.
Reduce friction.
Focus on clarity.
Eliminate noise and distraction.
Engage visitors.
Add urgency.
Follow usability standards.

Now let’s look at each item individually.
1. Create buyer personas.
The more people feel that an offer is right for them, the more likely they are to take it.
Let me prove it to you. Let’s say you want to buy new running shoes. First, list:

Your gender;
Where you normally run.

Now, would you rather buy running shoes that are suitable for all runners, or ones specifically designed for your gender, age group, weight, and type of use? That’s a no-brainer.
Your goal is to identify customer groups—their needs, wants, requirements and use cases. Buyer personas are essentially a specific group of potential customers, an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach.

Buyer personas help you better target your offers, making them more likely to resonate—and helping you win more online sales. (Image credit)
Optimizing your site for buyer personas diminishes the egotistical point of view and gets you to talk to users about their wants and needs. People care about themselves and answers to their problems, which is why buyer personas are so critical for marketing success.
Essentially, it’s about knowing whom you’re selling to, their situation, what they’re thinking, their needs, and their hesitations. If you know the exact person you’re selling to and the problems they have, you’re in a much better position to sell to them.
How to build a buyer persona
The truth is that most companies have only the faintest idea what lies behind the buying decision. We presume an awful lot. The buyer persona is a tool to help you see deeper into the buyer’s thinking.
Use customer interviews to map out different personas. Your personas will dictate every word and every image on your site. Your website layout, navigation, and general user flow should all come from personas.
2. Drive relevant traffic.
This is about two things:

Targeting the right people;
Communicating the right message.

It’s almost impossible to sell people things they don’t need or want. If you sell laptops and somehow get me to your site, I won’t buy one. I already have one. What you offer is not relevant to me at that moment.
A key ingredient of high conversions is relevant traffic. If you stop wasting resources that drive irrelevant traffic to your site, you will increase sales. As a marketer, one of your constant jobs is finding the right marketing mix:

The right media. Where to advertise/promote, free or paid;
The right message. What to say;
The right offer. How much money for what.

If you get the media right and the traffic is relevant (i.e. people are genuinely interested in what you have to offer), you’re instantly doing better.
Next, you have to figure out which value proposition works best for this audience. This is when you go back to Item 1 and customer personas.
Learn why people need your product, which problems it solves, and reflect it back to them. When your target group feels understood, magic happens.
3. Design a great site.
In a nutshell: Beautiful design sells better than ugly design. Beautiful does not mean laden with bells and whistles—often, it’s quite simple. Beautiful design looks great and works well.
BMW, Apple, and Nike don’t throw millions at design for fun. They know it sells better. In fact, design (how it looks and how it works) is a key reason people buy from them.
How do you know if your site is ugly?
If you built your site yourself—and you’re not a designer—it sucks. Get a new one.
If you use cheesy stock photography—like customer service people with headsets or suits shaking hands—the rest of your site probably sucks, too. Don’t use the “women laughing alone with salad” style:

If you had a freelancer build it who charged you $2 per hour, it sucks. Quality craftsmanship always comes at a fair price—no matter what country they’re from.
The more you know about something, the better you’re able to tell the difference. Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? There’s this scene where Anne Hathaway’s character mocks the fashion people who think two identical belts look “so different.”
Be it dogs, fashion, or web design, you have to spend years analyzing them to separate the good from the bad, and know exactly why. (If you want to commit to a feature-length explanation of this concept, watch Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?)
I’ve seen too many butt-ugly websites that their respective owners thought looked great. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder—to an extent. But, mostly, it’s not. Your site either is ugly or it isn’t.
There are exceptions, like Craigslist, but those are outliers. Craigslist started when butt-ugly was the standard, and later made bare-bones design its “thing.” If they started that way today, nobody would use it.
Visual hierarchy and user guidance
Your website design has another important role—it communicates what’s important and what the user should do next.
Every page on your site should have a most-wanted action, the number-one thing you want people to do on that page. This is where visual hierarchy comes in.
Look at this screenshot:

Now, what was the order of your eye movements? What did you notice first, second, last? The first two were probably the headline (“It’s all coming together”) and the image, followed by the explanatory paragraph and call to action (“Sign up Free”).
It’s not a coincidence. They wanted you to see those thing in that order. And what’s equally important is what you didn’t notice—the navigation and other secondary information that’s less important.
4. Create compelling value propositions.
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the main reason a prospect should buy from you (and not from the competition).
In a nutshell, a value proposition is a clear statement that:

Explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevance);
Delivers specific benefits (value);
Tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not the competition (differentiation).

Your value proposition should be the first thing that visitors see on your homepage, but it should also be visible at all major entry points to the site.
If your main landing pages (homepage, product pages, etc.) don’t have a value proposition or users don’t understand it (see Item 7), you’re losing sales.
I’ve written an extensive post on creating value propositions along with a bunch of examples. You should read it.
Optimizely does it well:

What is it? A website experimentation platform.
What’s the benefit? Outperform competitors.
Who’s it for? Marketing and product teams.

5. Understand buying phases.
Let’s say you surf the web and come across this site:

What stands out is that they go straight for the sale—asking you to register right away. But they’ve give you zero information about who they are or why you should register.
Understanding buying phases is all about understanding how people work. Largely, customers fall into three groups:

People who have a problem or need but don’t know it;
People who are researching different options, comparison shopping;
People who have made a decision to buy.

Depending on your industry, there may be a few additional groups. Use customer interviews to learn about the different phases your buyers are in.
You have to sell differently to each group. The first group is pretty much hopeless. It’s difficult to sell them anything since you need to sell the problem first.
The other two groups—those researching and those who have made a decision—warrant added attention.
People who are researching
In most niches, these people form the majority. The main question you need to answer is “Why should I buy from you?”
If you don’t have a compelling value proposition, you’re going to lose. If you don’t make it clear how you’re better or different from the competition, you’re going to lose—especially if you’re not the cheapest.
Humans don’t like to think. They like to compare products by looking at a couple of simple parameters, like price and maybe something else (e.g. for web hosting, server space).
If people can’t understand the differences between your product and that of your competitor, they’re going to choose based on price: “If it’s all the same, why pay more?!”
Do this:

State your advantages and differences on your homepage and product pages.
If you sell mass-market products (e.g. Sony TVs, Dell laptops, Gucci perfumes) and you’re not the cheapest, clearly communicate the added value of your higher price.

Researchers are looking for information to help them decide. Your job is to give them what they need to feel good about buying. If you rush the sale—ask for a sign-up before they have enough information, you will scare them away.
Here’s a good case study for burying your sign-up or buy button. One company removed the sign-up call to action from the top of their homepage, and signups increased 350%.
People who have decided
After conducting their research, some people will come back for the transaction. They’re looking for clearly visible call-to-action buttons (e.g. “Add to cart”) or links with trigger words (“Sign up”).
Your job is to make sure those are easy to find. Conduct “think out loud” usability testing to test it.
6. Reduce friction.
Whenever you ask people to commit to something, there’s friction. It’s impossible to remove all friction from a business transaction. You can only minimize it.
Friction includes all the doubts, hesitations, and second thoughts people have about giving you money for a product.
Is it really worth the money? Will it break? Can I trust this site? Will it work? What if it doesn’t fit? Is this a scam? Is it the right choice for me? Will she like it?
The way to convert an infidel to a believer is to address all doubts and give them full information—so they can convince themselves.
Elements that add friction:

Long and/or complicated process. These are “get a quote” forms with 10 fields, 3-page applications, etc.
Websites with horrible usability. People don’t understand how to buy or can’t find any contact info.
Anonymous site. No names, photos, phone numbers, or physical address is visible. If you’re trying to hide, you must have something to hide.
Ugly, amateur website. See Item 3!
Insufficient evidence. You make a bunch of claims but don’t back them up.
Insufficient information. A chair: 2 feet tall, black, $5,000. There are thousands of sites provide hardly any information about the products they sell. Research says 50% of purchases are not completed due to lack of information.
FUDs. Fears, uncertainties, doubts. The way to overcome these is to address those FUDs in your sales copy. Interview your customers to find out what they are.

One classic way to boost credibility is to use testimonials:

Credible testimonials are with full name and photo, from celebrities and people like your buyers. Anonymous testimonials are not believable.
Fitness sites are easy examples. People are skeptical that any fitness program actually works. “No one can achieve those results in three months,” you can imagine everyone saying.
So, programs like Beachbody (which includes P90X) add tons of testimonials with real people and plenty of visual evidence. They make a point on their homepage to highlight that customers’ results are legitimate:

Make a list of all the FUDs that your target group have, then address them with evidence.
Social proof is powerful. Show impressive numbers, like how many happy customers you’ve got. Nobody wants to be the only idiot buying your stupid product.
Basecamp doubles down on this concept, offering a weekly counter with testimonials and a multi-year growth chart on their homepage:

7. Focus on clarity.
People won’t buy what they don’t understand. In fact, people fear what they don’t understand. Racism and xenophobia come from the fear of the unknown.
Whatever you’re selling, the buyer is a human. It doesn’t matter if it’s your granny or a top executive from IBM. They’re all humans. If the text (or video) on your site is easy to understand and written compellingly, your conversions will go up.
Years ago, a friend of mine blogged about an email he received. I think it’s a good example of what NOT to do.
Hi Deniss,
My name is […], Senior Director of Feedback Management at [..]. I wanted to let you know about some information that could impact on your role at […]. A recent […] study, “Customer Feedback Management: Leveraging the Voice of the Customer to Amplify Business Results,” revealed that companies successfully leveraging Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs accomplish quantifiable year-over-year performance gains including increased annual revenue and higher customer satisfaction ratings.
[…] I will be hosting a webinar, based on the study’s findings […]
I hope you’ll be able to join us for what is sure to be an informative webinar that will yield valuable take-aways for your organization!
You can avoid jargon by using the “friend test.” Read the text on your website out loud and imagine it’s a conversation with your friend. If there’s a word or a sentence you wouldn’t use, re-write it.
What does this company do?

Pretty clear, isn’t it. No fancy-schmancy stuff. You don’t need big words. You need to be clear. If the text on your website isn’t fun to read and takes effort to understand, you’re doing it wrong.
Same goes for video. Here’s a good example of a clear presentation by Nest:
It’s a thermostat! This could be the most boring technical video of all time. But it’s not. And it worked. Nest became so popular that Google bought it in 2014 for $3.2 billion.
8. Eliminate noise and distraction.
There’s an adage for outdoor billboard design—it’s ready when there’s nothing left to remove. In a way, this also applies to websites.
The more choice you give people, the harder it is to choose anything. When there are too many options, it’s easiest to choose nothing at all. There’s tons of research to confirm this. In addition, more choices make us unhappy.
If you have a ton of products, you have to provide great filters to help people narrow down their options.
Noise and distraction aren’t just about how many products you have. It’s about how busy your layout is, how many competing design elements there are, how many things—in total—ask for user attention.
The “rule of noise“
The closer you get to closing the sale, the fewer things you should have on your screen. Once users get to the checkout, you shouldn’t have anything on the page that doesn’t directly contribute to the conversion.
Look at the Amazon checkout screen. No sidebar, no menu, no related products. They just really want you to click the “Place your order” button:

Identify a single-most wanted action for each screen, then make sure the important stuff stands out. Don’t have anything in the layout that isn’t absolutely necessary. Simple works.
9. Engage visitors.
What’s your conversion rate? 1%? 3%? Even if it’s as high as 5%, that means that 95% of visitors don’t buy anything. They came to your site—maybe even through paid advertising—bought nothing, and left.
Now what? Have you lost them for good? Not necessarily. In many cases, the best way to increase online sales is to avoid one at first. Remember buying phases? Instead of asking for money right away, engage users and, ideally, collect their email address so that you can keep talking to them.
As a general rule, the more expensive and/or complicated the product, the more time people need to make a decision. If you’re selling cars or computers, it’s unlikely that someone will buy one online on their first visit. This is why you should get their email first, add value, prove your expertise, get them to like you, etc.—all before you ask for the sale.
Beardbrand wants to sell you products to manage your facial hair. Even with an inexpensive product, they still go for an email first, asking users to go through a quiz funnel on their homepage:

While email is the best way to go, you might also go for

Social media follow (Twitter, Facebook etc.);
Immediate product trial;
Sweepstakes (“Enter to win!”).

Buzzsumo lets you just enter any topic or domain to see their product in action:

10. Add urgency.
Urgency is a powerful motivator—if done well. All of us have seen something like this:

There are three ways to create urgency:

Quantity limitations. “Only 2 tickets left at this price!”
Time limitations. “Early-bird pricing ends July 1!”
Contextual limitations. “Get a gift now for Father’s Day!”

As long as the reason for the urgency is believable, it will work. Too many marketers abuse it and add urgency to everything. OpinMonster, for example, suggests that there’s a time-limited offer any time you visit their pricing page:

When it makes sense to use it, it will produce a ton of results.
11. Follow usability standards.
If your site is difficult to use, people won’t use it. Nobody will bother to figure out stuff. The best websites provide a seamless experience—everything is intuitive; people don’t have to think.
Luckily, it’s not the 1990s or early 2000s anymore, when usability was awful. Check out these fantastic usability checklists for different sections of your website.
Compare your site against all of them and make necessary corrections.
More than a decade ago, Jakob Nielsen proposed a formula based on four variables:

Business results;

Business results, the formula suggested, were the product of the other three variables: B = V × C × L.
If you want to double your results, you can either double the number of unique visitors (very expensive), double the conversion rate (possible, but increasingly harder), or double repeat purchases.
As Nielsen foresaw:
Whereas we might aptly call the period 2000–10 the conversion decade for website usability professionals, 2010–20 will be the loyalty decade.
That prediction has held up. If you want to increase website sales right now, focus on conversions or driving traffic. If you want to increase sales online in the long run—well past 2020—focus on loyalty.

5 of the Hottest Places for Startups

When you think of tech startups, you think of sprawling campuses in Silicon Valley fed by venture capitalists from across the bay.
San Francisco is synonymous with fresh faced programmers with a penchant for disruptive technology. But rising costs has made San Fran a less than desirable place to get going unless you’ve recently seen an injection of a few million dollars.
Having high-profile neighbors does not make a city the best place to launch your technology career. In fact, the competitive nature of the area makes it a more difficult place to be. Instead, check out these five places that aren’t Silicon Valley that foster creative culture and add fuel to the startup fire.
1. Denver, CO and Boulder, CO
You might be surprised at the most consistent places to launch your career. Colorado is consistently ranked as one of the best places to launch a tech startup. In fact, Denver and Boulder can be found at the top of almost every list.
Colorado features affordable real estate and a relaxed lifestyle. Education is a high priority in this state and creatives make up around 29.3 percent of the area’s population. The area is also home to tech giants like Oracle, SAP and HP as well as a large number of government research groups.
Boulder itself is known for its productivity and the city has an impressive tech startup density sitting at six times the national average per capita.
2. Austin, TX
Fly a few hours south to Austin in the heart of Texas and you discover another surprising city that is full of hot startups.
Austin sits at the top of several lists. From its food scene to its creative capital, the city offers plenty of resources to entrepreneurs at lower prices than its coastal compatriots. The stable cost of living combined with no state income taxes makes Austin a great place to get started.
3. Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton – located near other Florida startup hub, Miami – is known mostly for its white beaches and the white hair of the swarms of retirees that flock to the area. But this all quietly began to change when IBM opened its doors in the city in 1970.
Lately, IBM vets have started opening their own tech firms. The number of creative professionals currently sits at around 14.2% of the population.
4. Seattle, WA
Seattle is the home of tech behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon. This is great news for new startups because these giants attract world-class talent to the city. With Microsoft’s increasing layoffs and Amazon’s high staff turnover, there is plenty of talent to go around.
5. Global
The tech startup scene extends far beyond the borders of the United States. There are countries around the world exploding with highly innovative technology companies. Some well known companies like TransferWise, a disruptive service endorsed by Richard Branson, have surprising origins.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, you might considered the European Union. The Netherlands was recently ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and is home to many of the global tech campuses.
If the high prices of Amsterdam are a bit much, you can check out countries like Lithuania and Estonia. These countries have high levels of creativity and incredibly low costs of living. The number of creatives enjoying new found freedom have made these places attractive for getting your startup off the ground.
If you travel a little further afield to Tel Aviv, you will find yourself in a thriving beach technology culture. The country spends more money on research and development than many other countries in the world.
Whether you want to stay close to home or go far away, remember that San Francisco may be at the center of everything but the tech world is a big one and it is worth exploring.

Customized MarTech Stacks Are A Winning Approach: Here’s Why

Just a year ago, there was wide industry debate regarding whether all-inclusive marketing clouds (such as those offered by Adobe, Oracle, IBM and Salesforce) or best-of-breed marketing technology stacks would become the marketing organization norm.
In fact, the discourse was so rampant in 2014 that it provided me with enough fodder to write a three-part series on the topic, which I somewhat regrettably titled “The Platform Wars.”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that this debate wasn’t only about marketing tech strategy or vendor prowess in the martech space. No, it was about something much more significant: Would marketers and their organizations own new tech responsibilities, embrace innovation and learn new skills, or would the shy away from the challenge and leave the innovation to the tech vendors?
Marketers are clearly owning the opportunity to innovate with technology.
The Industry Isn’t Buying Into Out-of-Box Solutions
If the Stackie Awards weren’t enough to show this, numerous “tweet chat” sessions and industry articles on martech stack integrations are.
Two weeks ago, CMSWire hosted a “Tweet Jam” that focused on the current and future state of marketing technology. While the event’s topic, “MarTech Convergence,” implied a rise of the holistic “marketing cloud,” the Jam’s discussion did everything short of refuting the idea of martech consolidation.
Just a few tweets that drove this point home:
“I have a challenge w/ letting one co. own my all my MKTG Cloud. One point of failure, less innovation & and could hold data hostage.” –Travis Wright
“If the qualifier is that they’re large vendors than no. Elephants are not nimble, and they can fit only into elephant size spaces. –Karo Kilfeather
“Consumer needs are changing so fast, consolidation far slower than diversification. Focus on open standards, integration.” –Mayur Gupta
Such sentiments aren’t the opinions of just tech-industry influencers either. While attending a local Arizona MarTech Meetup hosted by Infusionsoft last week, I was somewhat surprised to see that the multi-vendor, best-of-breed tech stack approach was widely advocated by everyday practitioners.
Attendees weren’t looking for easy, all-inclusive tools to simplify their jobs – they were looking for insightful ways to leverage multiple systems to their advantage.
Now, I’m in no way disparaging the big marketing cloud vendors – they have great products and typically act as the hubs of complex stacks. All I’m saying is that the industry doesn’t want the out-of-box solutions these vendors WERE promising a year or two ago.
And that’s fine – all the big cloud vendors have taken notice and have made great strides to open their systems for easier integration with independent tech solutions. This is key, because customization has become pivotal in the marketing space.
Customized Configuration Stokes Innovation
As the marketing tech vendor space has proliferated over the past few years, marketers have had to take it upon themselves to ensure working integrations between systems and tools. Such DIY efforts and the resulting expertise spurred innovative solutions that unlikely would’ve occurred otherwise.
This has given marketers – especially those in marketing ops roles – a taste for control and customization. And they’re less willing to give it up lest they lose the innovative edge they’ve been enjoying.
Why is control and customization so important?
The “one size fits all” mindset doesn’t fit a customer-centric strategy – customer needs, demographics, behaviors, etc., are often ephemeral. Marketers must be able to quickly adapt to these changes, rather than rely on vendors to do it for them. That’s why we’ve been seeing a growing trend of teams bringing tech (including adtech) in house.
MarTech Stack Complexity Will Continue to Grow
There will surely be more consolidation in the industry. But as Scott Brinker convincingly argued a year ago (and has since proven), the growth of startups will outpace the number of acquisitions.
Marketers have tasted freedom and they like the innovation it has afforded. Moreover, they’re very proud of their martech creations (see the Stackie Awards).
Customized stacks based on innovative integrations is becoming a large part of marketing culture. That’s not going anywhere. And the big cloud vendors aren’t fighting against the current – they’re embracing it, as should all marketers.
Steps to Developing a Competitive MarTech Stack
1. Take inventory of the marketing systems and tools you’re currently using. Creating a table such as this one helps.
2. Research what other marketing teams in your space are doing regarding tech, process automation and data acquisition. One of the best ways to do this is to go to the MarTech Conference.
3. Outline your marketing processes to identify roadblocks and areas for improvement. Again, we like to use tables for this.
4. Gather the information you obtained during the previous three steps and construct two blueprints: a current stack blueprint and a roadmap stack blueprint. Here’s a link to a workbook that can help you create your own.
5. Once you’ve identified the tech investments that make sense for your organization, it’s time to research vendors. Here’s a blog post that outlines how I approach this process.
6. Start building.