Stop Counting Ladybugs: Creativity, Science and the New Marketing

If you follow marketing and startup people on Twitter, you’ve seen it before: the vague tweet about the importance of creativity in our ever-more-quantified, tested and optimized world. It can seem like a simple attempt to humanize the daily grind of acquiring customers and growing a business, but it’s a sentiment with much deeper roots, and exploring it can teach us a lot about modern marketing and related disciplines like growth hacking. I’m going to put a framework around something most of us feel intuitively and in it, we’ll find implications for how we approach our work, how we build our teams, and how we develop ourselves.

Meet Henri Poincaré

Photo of Henri Poincaré

Henri Poincaré

We’ll start with the assumption that marketing, while not pure science, is starting to look a lot like it. In the age of A/B/n testing, big data, marketing automation and the like, to me it’s beyond argument that marketing is at least part, and perhaps mostly, science.

And as long as there has been science, there have been people thinking about what it means to do science, including a Frenchman named Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912). Poincaré was the kind of polymath that 21st century lifehackers would give a limb to be: when he wasn’t working on advanced math and theoretical physics (including major contributions to the theory of relativity), he was publishing books and refining philosophical positions on various topics, including the nature of science. Read more ›

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Marketing Technology and the Future of Small Business

Dark Clouds

Do you agree with the following statement?

Marketing is becoming more technical.

How about this one?

Small businesses are not very good at technology.

If you agree with those statements, then it follows that:

Small businesses are becoming not very good at marketing.

If you like having thriving local businesses in your community, it’s kind of a scary thing to consider. Peter Drucker famously said, “the business enterprise has two—and only these two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.” If a business fails at marketing, it fails at one of its primary functions.

Admittedly, I started with a couple of pretty broad generalizations. Let’s pick them apart and see if we can find some nuance. Read more ›

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Help Me Interpret This A/B Test

I’m running a split test on a lead capture form using Visual Website Optimizer and seeing something strange. The test has been running since 3/7, and the results are below. The issue is that on 3/7 (day 1), the test for some reason had zero conversions, yet since 3/8, it has substantially outperformed the control. My question: is it appropriate to exclude the results from 3/7?

If you look at the full data set (3/7 – 3/20), you can see that the test is showing a lift of 12% at 74% confidence:

 Form Test 7-20

But, if you exclude 3/7, you get a 26% lift at 90% confidence (this has actually increased since I created the image):

Form Test 8-20

I normally don’t exclude outliers out of convenience, but the fact that there were literally zero conversions for the test on 3/7 is so strange that I can’t help but think something was broken. 67% of conversions on this site happen on the first visit, so while we might expect a lower conversion rate on day 1, it shouldn’t be zero. Additionally, the conversion rate for the control on 3/7 is 2x its normal average. In other words, for that one day, the test is 100% worse than average and the control is 100% better…seems suspicious.

So, what do you think? Do you exclude day 1? Am I missing something? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @AndrewSzatan.

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Conversion Rate Optimization: Marketing’s School of Hard Knocks

conversion rate optimization tuning the engineConversion rate optimization (CRO) is a beautiful thing. You’re already spending time and money to drive traffic, so improving your conversion rate means that you’re making your existing efforts more efficient. It creates a multiplier effect, making every visitor more valuable to you. And, with a variety of tools on the market, it can be done quickly, by anyone, limited only by your imagination and available traffic.

But while there are plenty of studies that can show you how well conversion optimization works, what they don’t show you is how differently it works for everyone. The recipe for CRO success is highly variable among industries, companies, and customer segments. No matter how smart you think you are, you’re in for an education. This is a recap of my own recent CRO education (complete with fancy graph). Read more ›

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In Defense Of “About Us”

Is it ever OK to talk about yourself?

When you first start out in direct response marketing, you’re quickly taught to address your audience a certain way. You learn that the best copy speaks directly to them with action-oriented language, explicitly connecting their need to your product:


The new GymBlaster5000 has over 100 new features! Try it for 30 days, risk free.


Start hitting your fitness goals today. Try the new Gymblaster5000, with over 100 new features, in your home. Get results in 30 days or your money back.

This isn’t mere dogma. These principles have been tested and refined over the years and they’re still applied today because they usually work.

It’s through this lens that I approach the ubiquitous “About Us” page. If a business owner is leading content development for their site, “About Us” is probably the first part of the copy deck to get done. It’s understandable! In the uncertain world of a new business, “Us” may be the only thing you know anything about. It’s easy, it’s comforting, and it feeds our egos. As far as direct response theory goes, however, “About Us” is a terrible concept. It doesn’t speak to the customer and their needs. It’s not action-oriented. It’s a waste of time. Read more ›

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Do You Have A Technical Marketing Mindset?

Technical Marketing, or Growth Hacking, or Whatever…The Mindset Comes First

technical marketing unicorn

Photo via Rob Boudon on Flickr

Last month, a post went up on the SEOMoz blog discussing what it takes to be a great technical marketer, or growth hacker, or whatever you want to call the kind of person who does customer acquisition via design, testing and data. There was a lot I liked about that post, including an excellent list of resources. But, its main argument that “a great technical marketer can devise, develop, launch, and analyze their marketing campaigns with little or no assistance” is something I take issue with. Read more ›

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Knowing Your Audience

Give them incentives, not orders

The apartment complex where I live is having some roofing work done. I’m happy to put up with it–I enjoy not getting wet when it rains. But, the management company did a terrible job communicating what was going on. First, precious parking spaces were suddenly filled with dumpsters and pallets of roofing materials. Then, they started putting up these crappy signs EVERYWHERE–I couldn’t find a parking spot without one: Read more ›

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When Is Failure The Right Option?


You must let people fail. Help them do it right.

Everyone’s big on failure these days. Failed entrepreneurs are “experienced.” Savvy digital marketing people launch hundreds of tests every year, fully expecting that most will fail. “Validated learning,” which entails plenty of failures, is an important currency in the startup world. That’s created a quandary for me: if I know I can probably stop someone from failing (i.e. I possess validated learning), is it always appropriate to step in, or are there times when you should let someone fail anyway? Read more ›

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The Marketing Technology Gray Area

Let me start by saying that I’m a disciple of Scott Brinker’s vision for how marketing teams should structure their relationship with technology. The rise of the marketing technologist is a thing. I’m also a big fan of Andrew Chen’s ideas. Growth hacking is a thing. But hidden behind all of the enthusiasm for experimentation, agility and customer centricity lies something that kind of scares me. Read more ›

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Monetizing the Online Education Revolution

I’ve written that online education is going to start looking a lot like the broader consumer internet industry, with an intense focus on product, user growth and, eventually, monetization. The New York Times ran a nice article this morning about some of the ways Coursera, Udacity, et al. are looking to start generating revenue. It’s pretty familiar stuff, including:

  • Charging employers to connect with successful students
  • Licensing content to universities who want to use it to teach credit-earning, tuition-paying, students
  • Asking students to pay for a certificate showing that they’ve completed the program
  • Ads, Amazon’s affiliate program, and other traditional revenue streams for web publishers

The thing that struck me about the article was the numbers. Specifically: Read more ›

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