Launching a Growth-Ready Business

Launching a Growth-Ready Business

by Kyle Nations

Bill Leake, founder and CEO of Apogee Results, joins the conversation on the Angel Investor’s Network podcast with host Laura Rubinstein, of Social Buzz Club. During this episode of the podcast, Bill shares his personal insights and experiences as an entrepreneur, business founder, and digital marketer. He also explains how his marketing agency is becoming an incubator for start-ups in their Venture Studio. The full interview is embedded here and show highlights follow.

Some early marketing lessons from Bill’s career as a McKinsey Consultant were: 1) the power of brand, and 2) the value of pattern recognition.

Brand

Brand is meaningful, always. Direct response marketers underestimate the power of brand, sometimes thinking anything can be sold if it is sold effectively. However, building a brand, (particularly if you are a small business) is not just helpful, it’s critical. Brand is very powerful, and if you can articulate your brand identity from Day 1, it can be extremely helpful in opening doors and helping achieving scale. People will call you back if they recognize your brand. People will respond favorably to you if they like your brand. People are more inclined to do business with a brand that has invested in building trust and relationships.

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition is a helpful tool as well. If you are talking to someone about their business and trying to learn more, you can take shortcuts to understanding their assumptions and how their business model works, by drawing from your own experience and looking for the similarities and patterns you have seen before, perhaps in different or unrelated businesses. Essentially it is applying your collective experience to a business problem by looking for similarities and patterns in operating assumptions, models and outcomes, from other businesses. It allows you to test hypotheses much faster – it saves time, and time can be more valuable than money.

Love What You Do

Bill says, that at this point in his professional life, what he loves most is the ability to gather the top marketing talent not just in Austin or Texas, but in the US to work with every day. The team of people at Apogee consistently cultivate a good mix of creative and communications skills, and quantitative ability. For example, our strategists need to know “how to test” and “what to test.” Top shelf digital marketing talent does not have just an agency profile, nor are they purely engineers. They are a hybrid.

Building Business for Our Clients

Although the details of building business through digital marketing vary by market segment, it all starts with “who is the customer?” It’s imperative to understand your customer and how digital helps that customer along the journey. To do this, it is critical to be voracious about data collection and leveraging that data. Marrying customer/audience data with advertising creative and content messaging is the “secret sauce” of digital marketing. That “secret sauce” impacts the types of human behavior you can initiate. Be intentional, not just getting the right message for the right customer, but also knowing the right message for each customer in terms of where they are in the journey. Account based marketing, retargeting ads to a list, is a specific example of that “secret sauce.” In this use case, we are targeting those who have expressed interest and are already having conversations with sales to get customers all the way to the finish line. Influencer marketing is another flavor, so to speak, of account based marketing. If you are trying to reach the masses with your message, it is important to reach the press, online publications. and niche bloggers too. Influencer marketing is the cheapest and best way to do this in the digital world. But whether you’re encouraging potential customers along the path to a sale or engaging the help of influencers, segmentation and targeting are the most important activities in digital marketing.

Venture Studio

Rather than focusing on growth at Apogee Results, Bill is more interested in optimizing his business to help launch more successful growth-ready businesses. When we look at the Austin based start-up community, we see a lot of companies that are great at developing products and services, but counting on inexpensive and inexperienced marketing and sales teams to take those products and services to new customers. Building a product is not as expensive as it once was, especially in the digital world. What once took 7 figures to create, can now be done in the range of $50k to $250K. Where most companies fail is not product development but getting that product to market. The knowledge base and experienced marketing talent cultivated at Apogee Results in many cases is more valuable that additional venture capital funds.

What Should Be Invested in Marketing

If you are a start-up what should you be spending on marketing? It is not the traditional 8-10% of revenue – that is an old-school rule of thumb. It’s more like 40% of revenue or more for early stage companies. If you are a start-up, and if you are trying to get the word out and you don’t have channels and don’t have viral you need to be prepared to lose money for a couple of years. Ad agencies understand and focus on paid media. PR firms focus on earned media. If your content/product/service is good, you should do both. You can increase the odds of success and get more people to link back to your business using paid media and realize a good return. If you do well with the earned visibility, pour some paid on it.

Your Baby Is Ugly

For new ventures, it is important to know if “your baby is ugly.” Don’t just evaluate the product and the market for it, also evaluate the process necessary to complete a sale and get it into the hands of customers. Consider the following:

  • Is there a market need of more than ‘one’ for your product?
  • Is the market large enough to sustain growth?
  • Have you tested your product – not just the idea of your product, but have you tested adoption at all levels?
  • Do you have the right skills, but also the passion for it?
  • Do you know what you don’t know?
  • Do you know how to find out what you don’t know?
  • Do you have the right investment partners and plan?
  • Do you understand the competition?

If you would like to learn more about Apogee Results can help you build your business, please visit our Marketing Consulting page or fill out the contact form here in the blog post.

Kyle Nations has a long career in business development and marketing, He brings both big and small company experience to Apogee Results and our clients.  Kyle has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and two college-age sons he loves to brag about. A lover of sports, he is both participant and spectator and is particularly fond of the water, hiking, and snow skiing. To get updated information about the team at Apogee Results, please follow us on your favorite social media channels.

Splashing Outside the Digital Box

Legends of Marketing Series by Gary Hoover

 

Splashing Outside the Digital Box

Today’s marketers and retailers, online and off, face more competition for the customer’s attention than at any time in history.

Those customers may spend record amounts of time on their smartphones, tablets, and laptop screens, but they also still live most of their lives in a real, three-dimensional, non-digital, non-virtual world.  They walk, bike, or drive streets, they visit bricks-and-mortar stores for 90% of their spending, they go to concerts, festivals, churches, schools, dinners, and parties.  Above all else, they talk to their friends about products, services, and what is in the news, what is cool.

And in this world of competition for attention and engagement, those smartphones and other devices are distinctly flat and two-dimensional, no matter how imaginative you may be in their use.  We all recently witnessed the record sales day of Cyber Monday 2018.  But even Cyber Monday is flat, the same old thing, essentially boring.  Its excitement is entirely price-driven, not exactly how you build a unique and durable brand.  Cyber Monday is not about customer experience or engagement.

In this environment, how does one make a splash?  Perhaps we can get some inspiration from the “splash-makers” of the past.  Perhaps there are opportunities to make a splash in the three-dimensional world, even for online-based marketers.

“Mr. Stanley” Marcus was the man most responsible for making Neiman Marcus a globally known luxury brand, even though during his years as company chief, they only had stores in one state, Texas.  He explained to his publicists that every media outlet received hundreds of corporate press releases each day, most going unread and into the trash.  He said the only press releases his company wanted to send out were items that were truly news, that would be worthy of making the front page.  His specific tactics included a Christmas catalog which included such items and “his and hers aircraft” and in-store two-week-long “fortnights” which celebrated the culture, art, and fashion of a different country each year.  These attracted international attention.  Today the company generates about 100 times the revenue that it did when Mr. Stanley built its reputation for fashion innovation.

H. J. Heinz built one of the most recognizable global consumer brands. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) in Chicago, he had a display booth, but it was relegated to an upper level gallery that was rarely visited. So he dropped coupons across the fairgrounds, offering a gift to anyone who came by his booth.  The gift was a small pickle lapel pin; the result was that the fair authorities had to reinforce the floor of the upstairs gallery due to the heavy foot traffic.  At the close of the fair, the other upstairs exhibitors gave him an award because of all the attention he brought to them.  In 1898, Heinz bought the big Ocean Pier along the popular Atlantic City Boardwalk, where he held concerts, art shows, and demonstrated Heinz products.  Operating for 46 years, the Heinz Pier drew 15,000 people a day in the peak summer season.  His competitors were left in the dust – and not just in Atlantic City!

At the same Chicago World’s Fair where Heinz passed out pickles, George Westinghouse substantially underbid larger and better-known competitor Thomas Edison’s General Electric to power the Fair’s remarkable and unprecedented lighting system.  The Westinghouse name soon became a household word.

A few years later, Westinghouse also got the contract for the giant turbines to power the Niagara Falls Power Plant, one of the largest in the world.

The power company encouraged manufacturers to move to Niagara Falls to avail themselves of the cheap, plentiful electricity.  One who did was Henry Perky of the Shredded Wheat Company.  Though a national brand, he like Heinz understood the power of attracting tourists:

From 1901 until discontinued sometime around 1946, tours of the shredded wheat factory were part of the marketing of Niagara Falls. Honeymooners saw the falls and then toured the factory. The company estimated that around 100,000 visitors took the tour annually. Perky had designed the factory with balconies and aisles that permitted visitors to see the machinery in operation. They were welcomed every day of the week all year except Sundays, in the lobby above, fitted to resemble that of a hotel. Off to one side was a demonstration area where free lunches were served to visitors that used shredded wheat products in various ways. Tour guides led the visitors through the 5.5 acre factory and up to the roof garden and auditorium where they heard lectures on diet, cooking and good living.

In this same era, in 1896 small-town (Chattanooga) newspaper publisher Adolph Ochs bought the struggling 13th-best-read newspaper in New York City.  While his primary tactic was to improve the reporting in the paper, to be fair to both sides of each discussion, and to skip sensational, bloody stories, he also had a knack for promotion.  He put a big lighted advertising sign near Madison Square, and later built the city’s second tallest building as the newspaper’s headquarters.  At the base of the building, he put the day’s news in a running electric banner.  Each New Years’ Eve, he had a lighted ball drop from the top of the building.  The city renamed the square next to the building from Longacre Square to Times Square, after Adolph Ochs’s newspaper, The New York Times.  The Times also sponsored risky ventures like Admiral Peary’s search for the North Pole and Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic.  Thus “the world’s greatest newspaper” was built.

When radio (“wireless”) came along a few years later, John Wanamaker’s New York department store put a radio receiving office on the top floor, to draw attention and publicity to the store.  Young radio operator David Sarnoff was the first to hear of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, gaining Sarnoff (and Wanamaker’s) attention and fame.

None of these promotional ideas were the norm, none were expected.  Competitors were shocked, and often thought the ideas stupid.  Bold ideas  require imagination and courage, thinking “outside the box.”

These stories may seem old and irrelevant, but surely there are modern parallels that imaginative marketers could develop.  In more recent years, we’ve seen Red Bull gain global attention with unusual sports and events, and Richard Branson spread the Virgin brand by attempting unrivaled flights.

  • Is there an opportunity for your company to leverage concerts, fairs, events, marathons, or festivals, especially in geographical areas where you have a lot of customers?
  • Is there a way to reach out to your ever-moving customers, whether that be through wrapping some cars (or trucks or scooters) with your logo?  Or running a tour bus across America, stopping in key cities across the way to demonstrate your products?
  • What can your company or brand do that no one else is thinking about?  What would really make a splash?  Even if it requires leaving the comfortable world of the flat screen where your competitors are stuck.

Gary Hoover is a serial entrepreneur.  He and his friends founded of the first book superstore chain Bookstop (purchased by Barnes & Noble) and the business information company that became Hoovers.com (bought by Dun & Bradstreet).  Gary served as the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.  He has been a business enthusiast and historian since he began subscribing to Fortune Magazine at the age of 12, in 1963.  His books, posts, and videos can be found online, especially at www.hooversworld.com. He lives in Flatonia, Texas, with his 57,000-book personal library.

To get updated information about the team at Apogee Results, please follow us on your favorite social media channels.

 

AdWords Overdelivery? More Like AdWords Overreach

Is Google Riding OverDelivery All the Way to the Bank?The latest notice in a series of troubling announcements that form a trend of control over our AdWords accounts being wrested away in favor of automation popped up in our MCC today.

AdWords Overdelivery Notice

Before, AdWords could potentially spend up to 20% past your daily budget cap (traditionally set by that magic monthly budget divided by 30.4) based on the amount of available traffic on a given day. Now, depending on the criteria the system bases “high quality traffic” on, your daily budget is effectively moot (granted, you should theoretically never be charged more than the defined monthly limit – 30.4 x your average daily budget, otherwise you’ll be issued an overdelivery credit per AdWords’ documentation

In theory, this should be great  – capturing all of that valuable traffic out there while still staying within the constraints of a monthly budget is a no-brainer. In practice, this has a high potential of going poorly. Suppose you’re a small business, or otherwise don’t have a strictly defined monthly budget (perhaps you’re testing a specific initiative outside your ordinary ad spend, or you’re just starting to dip your toes into the AdWords ecosystem) , or you’re in a highly saturated, high competition vertical – hopefully, the overdelivery has a great ROI for you and therefore justifies the practice. Otherwise, even the overdelivery credit you get can become a potentially futile case of throwing good money after bad. If overdelivery is as functional as Smart Goals or Optimized Ad Rotation (the system heavily favors older ads, even with lower conversion rates & engagement), this spells trouble for account performance, not to mention effectively pacing budgets throughout the month. At very least, the new AdWords overdelivery policy merits heavy observation until we can get a collective sense of how well it functions. 

In order for automation to be effective, it must be introduced with clearly defined strategy & rules in place, along with a solid foundation. When automated strategies are effective, they are a boon to ROI – unfortunately, the relentless creep towards automation in the AdWords platform has yet to provide stable, dependable success. Even industry leading automation platforms like Marin and Kenshoo can quickly lead to mediocre (at best) results in a case of Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Rather than being worried about automation putting me out of a job, I’m optimistic – now, more than ever, successful pay per click efforts will need experienced human eyes on them in order to drive the best possible results.

To ensure you’re getting the best ROI from your paid media campaigns, schedule a comprehensive audit.  

 

iOS 11: Bing vs. Google

The Newest iOS Update – Why do marketers care?

 

Earlier this week, Apple released the iOS 11 update. Following their recent keynote and the corresponding hullabaloo around the new Apple watch, iPhone 8, and iPhone X releases – this software update largely went unnoticed by consumers and techies alike.

Per usual, the iOS 11 changes are largely security patches, slight design modifications, and user ‘feature improvements’.  One change with the iOS update that has interesting implications for Google search advertising and consumers alike is the switch from Bing to Google for Siri web and Spotlight searches. Historically both Siri and Mac Spotlight searches have been powered by Bing. This has hopefully encouraged marketers to emphasize ad spend for Bing correspondingly–especially in the realm of mobile ads, and encouraged users to yell and curse at Siri when queries return unhelpful jargon (mostly kidding).

Realistically, Bing has been grossly underutilized by digital marketers since the beginning – even with the knowledge that Siri and Spotlight searches relied heavily on the platform. Marketers seemingly rationalize this de-prioritization by citing the relatively low percentage of mobile/tablet searches conducted on the network:

Mobile and Tablet Search Data Statistics

https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=1

It absolutely makes sense to focus primary efforts in a bucket accounting for anywhere from 80% to 97% of search traffic (depending on device). The recent iOS 11 update, should then shift even more focus to Google as the primary ad platform moving forward for digital advertisers.

Or should it?

At a time when other marketers are liable to further neglect the second largest platform globally, it makes sense to emphasize Bing efforts more than ever following this iOS update. The great debate for both users and marketers has historically been ‘Bing vs. Google’, instead of the more effective – ‘Bing AND Google’.

In August of 2017, Bing accounted for 7% of total market share for searches on all devices.

Top Search Engines 2017

Search Engine Market Share 2017

Though this is a meager piece of the pie compared to the 81% that Google occupies, the sheer volume of searches daily (currently estimated at ~6.6 billion) makes advertising on even the comparably humble platforms well worth the time and effort. That gives Bing almost 465 million daily searches across devices.

Beyond the volume itself, continuing to advertise on Bing has a host of advantages for digital advertisers:
  1.    Company Differentiator
    Since so few digital agencies utilize the platform (and fewer do so well), it is an EASY differentiator and way to ensure clients are outperforming their competitors.
  2.    Simple to Use
    Bing synchronicity with the Adwords platform makes it easy to replicate performing campaigns with very little extra effort.
  3.    Low competition
    Fewer competitors advertise on the platform which lowers costs per acquisition compared to Google– the same high intent traffic and conversions can be gained at lower costs overall.

At the end of the day, the recent iOS update may serve to shift slightly more of the market share of searches to Google’s backyard. As we continue to see changes in the landscape of mobile and voice search, it is important to remember that “the little guy” when it comes to search engines is still a behemoth in terms of visibility and scale.

TLDR; The iOS 11 update may encourage most marketers to further exclude Bing from Paid and Organic campaigns. If the update even creates a ripple large enough to shift more of the market share to Google (which it may not) Bing is still the number two search engine globally and is deserving of our focus and attention.

Think Google’s market share will increase? Have questions on how to optimize for Bing and Google? Let us know in the comments below!

Top 5 Ways To Win in Voice Search

 

OK, Google: What are the top five ways digital marketers can prepare for the voice search takeover?

For years now one of the trendiest, and simultaneously most inconclusive, topics among digital marketers has been the ground-breaking shift from traditional to voice search. With mobile usage statistics continually rising, this is not anticipated to be one of those changes that gets lost in the minutiae (even though we may like to pretend that no change does). Though few of us in marketing have felt the ground rumble just yet – there is a reason we have been trying to stay ahead of this shift. So, what can digital marketers do to stay ahead of the transition to voice search – this ominous “voice search takeover”? Will there even be a noticeable change from the marketer-side?

At Google’s I/O conference in May, AI was the primary theme. No surprise there—with Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Fire, soon to be Google Lens, and other personal travel-sized iRobots running around, AI is now and will continue to be a buzzword. Google is no exception to that rule. A parallel focal point of the keynote (which, if you missed it is summed up nicely here by Forbes) was the huge emphasis on Google Assistant becoming more conversational. Google’s Scott Huffman said that now over 70% of Google Assistant requests are in natural language and not in traditional keyword lingo.

 

This means that increasingly (assuming more people hop on board with robot assistants, which are currently trending up and to the right) searches will be more grammatically correct, longer-tailed, and semantically driven. Maybe. All the on-page SEO and content people out there are already popping champagne bottles over the fact that they won’t have to try and naturally incorporate some high-volume, low-competition jargon six times in one paragraph of content.

But hold on…

Since Google’s release of the Hummingbird update in 2013, the idea of semantic-search has already been a priority for content-driven folks. So, is this change really going to affect what we are doing?

It’s becoming clear (better late than never) that this radical shift to voice may not be radical if we continue to focus on the right things as marketers. We can hypothesize all day that the transition to voice search will bring local SEO to the forefront, that queries themselves will be longer-tailed and more diverse, or that voice search is going to change {insert your favorite hypothesis here!} about digital marketing. But realistically, we won’t know until we get there – the only data we have is retroactive. Disappointingly (or not), our task as marketers is to make the absolute best using the data that we have. For now, much of that is laying a solid foundation both technically on-site and in the overall marketing methodologies we employ.

Here is a list of the five absolute best ways digital marketers can prepare for the Voice Search Takeover:

  1. Good UX is key

This has a million sub-parts but has been a Google priority since day one. Here are some of the ways to ensure that your site is performing for users:

·        Use structured data markup – since it is still grossly underutilized, having good markup makes it easier for sites to rise to the top of the SERP’s and be featured as rich snippets. Though this part is often not considered as UX (because it is not technically on-site), it is still a part of the user journey that needs to be simplified and improved as much as possible.

·        Implement a tag management system like GTM now (migrating is not going to get easier down the road – start now and get ahead). Tag management will reduce page load speed making your site faster, easier to navigate, and overall more user-friendly. As an added bonus, tag management simplifies life for marketers and developers alike. Win, win!

·        Use a secure site protocol – though this has been a known ranking factor since 2014, most sites still haven’t made the shift to https://. Besides being a direct-ranking factor, having a secure site also impacts user trust which is arguably just as (or more) important for long-term website success.

·        Continuously improve site speed.

·        Improve mobile sites – The rule here is quit making them if you are going to make them poorly! With the recent mobile-first index update, improving and optimizing mobile sites should be a number one business priority.

 

2) Content is king

With voice searches potentially lengthening search queries overall -minimizing marketers’ ability to as successfully keyword inflate content- actually good content needs to be a priority. Since day one, Google has been telling us to provide relevant, user-friendly content. Now it makes more sense than ever to do that.

 

3) Clean Your Data

Though Analytics may not directly affect your SERP rankings, it (hopefully) affects overall business decisions and should ALWAYS be a primary focus for marketers and businesses alike. Make sure that the reports you are generating are providing good, high-integrity data or the decisions that you are making may have a fundamentally unsound basis. Without clean data, how can we ever know if what we are doing is working?! If you haven’t set up Analytics yet, or done an audit recently, Avinash Kaushik is an amazing Analytics resource to learn from or you can request a free Analytics audit here:

 

4) Minimize segmentation in your marketing approach

I want to put this one chronologically first because it is arguably the number one sin of most marketers – both for in-house and agency folks alike. We humans like to think in organized, neat, compartmentalized buckets. To stay ahead and to really be well-equipped for the “Voice takeover” or ANY other changes in the digital realm moving forward, the trick is to think holistically about the user-journey and what the business needs to do to accommodate continuous improvement of that journey (cross-departmental communication required–gasp!).

 

5. Refine your overall marketing methodology

At its core, marketing is the practice of understanding the business in such a way that you can articulate its value to customers and potential customers effectively. This means fully understanding the customer journey and refining your marketing and business strategies iteratively to accommodate shifting customer priorities.

The challenge here is that good marketing takes one step further than just “good sales” or “good account management”. For successful sales and account management it is imperative to understand your client’s needs. Good marketing, however, requires not only that you understand your client well, but that you understand your client’s customer well. This one degree of separation, though it seems small, is often the reason why marketers (even great ones!) can fall flat. Customer-centric marketing is critical to getting ahead and staying ahead, independent of industry changes.

Good, technically sound, user-friendly sites with great content are not going to be cataclysmically affected if/when the great Voice Takeover does in fact occur. Build a sturdy foundation now, and we will all make it through hunky dory to the other side.