90% of The Daily Beast’s Advertiser Revenue Comes from Content Marketing, Not Banners

Smart publishers understand that the customer experience reigns supreme. There is much you can learn from experts who are turning away from banner ads.

One of the themes at this year’s Collision conference was the continued rise of sponsored content alongside some rather overt banner ad bashing. Of particular note was the cautionary tail of publishers who put their own monetization needs over the customer experience. There’s a lot that entrepreneurs can learn from these lessons; especially as not to contribute to the growing problem.

A few years ago, one publisher recognized the downside risk of annoying its audience with aggressive banner ads, pop-ups and roadblocks. Last year there was even an article about Why The Daily Beast Wants to Save Journalism Through Content Marketing. At Collision, however, we got a little more to the story.

Why The Daily Beast Pivoted Away from Banner Ads
During his panel discussion, Mike Dyer, President of The Daily Beast, explained why his publication began pivoting away from banner ads, which were, at the time, the most common currency of the publishing world.

“Creating a positive experience for our readers is the most important thing we can do. When you put your own monetization needs above your readers, you risk driving them away” he explained. “Banner ads, by their very nature, are designed to interrupt the consumption of content that the reader was there for in the first place.”

Another point that was brought up on the panel was with regards to roadblocks. Why would you force your readers to “pay a toll” before they can access the very content they came to consume?

“If we don’t change the nature of the experience, we’re simply going to drive our readers away” says Mr. Dyer. “Facebook’s Instant Articles is already providing an alternative to the rest of the publishing world. If publishers annoy their audience, their audience will simply get their news another way.”

Content Marketing as a Viable Alternative to Banner Ads
So a few years ago, Mike Dyer and his team at The Daily Beast sat down and looked at viable alternatives to banner ads. Content Marketing, also referred to as native advertising, seemed to fit the needs of its readers, its advertisers and their own revenue growth requirements.

“Content Marketing, when done well, adds value to the reader’s experience”, Mr. Dyer explains. “We can see that by judging its success the same way we judge editorial content’s success: is it connecting with readers’ natural interests. On average, our stories by and for brands perform as well as our editorial.”

Even if you could, when is the last time you were so impressed with a banner ad that you shared it via social media? That’s the power of sponsored content. When you add real value to your customers, they share that content with their peers. This further increases the impact of your message.

“When it comes to content marketing, shares stand out among all the engagement metrics we track,” explains Mr. Dyer. “When someone shares a piece of content marketing, they are essentially endorsing what has been created and that’s powerful.”

Agreed. As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly looking for ways to get your message into the hands of your customers. If you’re currently spending money on banner ads, I highly encourage you to think twice and consider the 3 exponentially better alternatives to banner advertising.

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Former Facebook Data Scientist Explains How to Wrangle Your Data

While the deep technical expertise of a data scientist is necessary on some projects, you don’t need one to build a culture of data-driven decision making. Here’s how to empower your team.

Please allow me to geek out for a minute and I promise I’m going to empower you with the tools you need to put Big Data to work for you and your business. This week I got the chance to meet Tye Rattenbury, a veteran of Facebook’s core data science team. For a nerd like me, that’s more exciting than meeting Mark Zuckerberg himself. Sure Mark Zuckerberg is the celebrity, but Tye was the data guy in the trenches who built the data pipelines and analyses that fuel Facebook’s data-driven culture.

So you can imagine how awesome it was to meet a Silicon Valley legend who’s joined an incredible company called Trifacta–whose mission is to democratize Big Data for people like you. For far too long Big Data has been the exclusive tool of elite enterprises with deep pockets. So this article is going to show you how you can get started FOR FREE with incredibly easy to use tools like Trifacta Wrangler.

Pepsi Eliminated 90% of Their Big Data Wrangling Time And So Can You!
If you talk to any data scientist worth their salt, they will tell you that the first challenge of putting data to work for your business is getting it into a structured format so that you can analyze, interpret and make decisions around your data. This is lovingly referred to as “Data Wrangling” and it’s what sucks up the bulk of the unproductive (wasteful) time (4 out of 5 days, by most accounts). That’s because instead of spending time understanding the data, you’re wasting time trying to pull it all together in a useable format. This is what usually creates the bottleneck in any organization.

Think about it. You want to combine your customer data from your CRM (think Salesforce.com) and your Marketing Automation (think Marketo or Hubspot) with your social data (think Facebook and Twitter) and ideally your point of sale and/or ecommerce sales data (think Magento). Then you want to pull in 3rd party data (think Experian and Infosys) to round out your insights. Each of these data sets have a different format and therefore the first order of business is to combine them into a single source where you can begin to query the data.

“Trifacta was founded on the principle of enabling analysts to simply and easily pull in disparate data sources and to structure and cleanse them,” explains Joe Scheuermann, Vice President of Marketing for Trifacta. “We launched Trifacta for just this purpose and have even distributed a free version so that everyone can take advantage of our technology.”

“Pepsi uses our paid version of Trifacta Wrangler Enterprise ,” says Will Davis, Director of Product Marketing, “and in doing so they have cut their data wrangling time by 90%. You can imagine what their team of data scientists and analysts can do now that they don’t have to waste their time wrangling the data they want to analyze.”

Learn From Facebook: Build a Culture of Data-Driven Decision Making
“Facebook has a culture that demands data driven decisions at every turn” explains Tye Rattenbury, Director of Data Science at Trifacta. “Most of those decisions were fueled by on-demand analyses queued up by product managers and answered by a huge variety of people–analysts, engineers and even the product managers themselves. They were fast and rough, but had enough validity to stand on. To support the breadth of speed of these analyses, Facebook built a wide array of home-grown tools (some built from scratch, others extended from open source projects). Today, forward looking companies are finding off-the-shelf tools that give them the necessary breadth and speed to be data driven.”

Said another way, while the deep technical expertise of a data scientist is necessary on some projects, you don’t need them to build a culture of data-driven decision-making. Masking the complexity is what companies like Trifacta are doing so that the business analysts and strategic thinkers are empowered to ask better questions and probe for insights derived from their (near) real-time data sets.

Once you have used a tool like Trifacta to get all of your data into one location and in a usable format, you now have a plethora of other free or cheap tools you can use to empower your team to make data-driven decisions. These include:

  1. Data Robot: An invaluable website that is chalked full of incredibly powerful algorithms. You no longer need to even decide which algorithm to use. Simply import your data and the machine learning takes over. Specifically, it suggests what algorithms might work best to analyze the data you have.
  2. Qlik: If you simply want to visualize your data, this is the best place to start. Data visualization tools such as Qlik help you create charts and graphs so that you can see what you might have otherwise missed buried deep in your data.
  3. RapidMiner and H2O: More “off the shelf” machine learning models and algorithms in a box you can use to dig into your data–without being a data scientist.

The Cost of NOT Making Data-Driven Decisions
“Statistically minded data scientists often argue that the data outputs in many of these quick analyses are wrong because the data is low quality or your assumptions about the data are faulty,” says Dr. Rattenbury. “The key is to wrangle your data to improve its quality, and, in the process, improve your working assumptions. That’s what data scientists do.”

And here’s the thing. If you’re not using data to drive your decisions today, these insights are a quantum leap forward than the gut check that most entrepreneurs use to guide their businesses today. Can you get better insights with the help of those highly sought after data scientists? Absolutely. But if you wait until you can afford a data scientist, you will be losing opportunities and market share to all of your competitors who decide to dive in and begin experimenting immediately.

Therefore the cost of NOT making data-driven decisions is that you are flying blind and eventually will either hit a wall or simply crash and burn. On the contrary, the ROI of making data-driven decisions is that you are well informed and are empowered to know rather than guess what’s happening in your business. This, in turn, leads you to actually stay in business. Today, there simply is no excuse for making uninformed decisions. The tools are freely available to you and your team and you no longer have to be a data scientist to take advantage of them.

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4 Ways to Boost Your Social Selling Profile (Courtesy of LinkedIn)

Mike Derezin is the vice president of LinkedIn Sales Solutions. Here are the 4 things you should be doing on LinkedIn, but statistically are not doing on LinkedIn, to drive B2B Social Selling.

Before we begin, I realize it’s a bold statement to say there are four secrets of social selling (as in things you’re most likely not doing on LinkedIn, but should be doing to drive social sales). So let me prove it to you with a single click. Go to thisLinkedIn site and, assuming you have a LinkedIn profile, you will immediately see how you rank on LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI). While I have a score of 75 (out of 100), most of my peers rank around 25.

If you have a score of 50 or less, this article will arm you with the four things you can do to immediately improve your score and dramatically increase your social selling effectiveness.

According to a recent case study with SAP, the sales pipeline increased by more than 40 percent when SAP’s Inside Sales team implemented LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. In other words, social selling has crossed the proverbial chasm. We know that social improves the selling and buying process for all parties. Companies such as SAP, Microsoft, and EY are going all in on social selling. Mike Derezin, vice president of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, is seeing this first-hand with salespeople signing up for its Sales Navigator product.

And while Derezin would love you to sign up for his team’s platform, he was kind enough to share several things you can do right now today (for free) to boost your social selling game. Think of these steps as training wheels (or a “gateway”) to taking full advantage of the 400 million members in the public domain that the world’s largest B2B network, LinkedIn, can help you attract into your business.

Put another way, if you’re not leveraging social to expand your relationships and engage your customers, someone else will. And, eventually, your competitor(s) will build a rapport using the Know, Like and Trust model of doing business online today, which will inevitably take business away from you and your company. So here’s what you need to do to turn it around.

1. Build a professional profile and establish your personal brand (25 percent).

Sounds obvious, but chances are your profile needs significant improvement. If you set up your LinkedIn profile to get a job, then I can tell you it’s woefully out of date. “Buyers today are doing research on you and your company on LinkedIn,” says Derezin. “Most sellers still have a bullet-point resume format and that’s not helping them win business.”

Instead, think about your ideal customer reviewing your LinkedIn profile. What problems do they have that you not merely solve, but eat for breakfast? Remember my previous article when I asked you “What’s Your Superpower?” — perhaps it’s time to go back and update your LinkedIn profile to really speak to the incredible power you have and how you can unleash that power to solve the most difficult problems your ideal customer is looking to solve.

This is by far the easiest place to start and will have an immediate impact. Add photos, videos, links to presentations, and white papers. Anything that makes you stand out like the badass you are should be front and center for your ideal prospect to quickly learn about you. Because, let’s face it, nobody agrees to have a meeting with you without first Googling you and checking out your LinkedIn profile. So do you like what they see before they meet with you? If not, spend an hour spicing up your profile and track the immediate impact it has on your sales.

2. Find the right people and prospects (25 percent).

“The days of having a single buyer are over,” says Derezin. “Today there are, on average, 5.4 buyers in the B2B sales process. And when you include the key influencers, there are probably closer to 10 people influencing the buying decision.”

So if you’ve got a buddy inside a company and you’re relying on that one person to help you close a deal, you’re betting your sale on an incredibly outdated system and chances are you’re losing deals to a more savvy social seller who’s using LinkedIn more effectively than you are.

How? By mapping out the different buyers (and influencers) in the organization. You can start with a basic (free) company search on LinkedIn. As you become an expert, you’re going to want the more refined search filters and look-alike modeling that are available via LinkedIn’s paid (Sales Navigator) version. But if you’re not doing this at all, get started immediately with the free basic search.

Most sales people aren’t even doing the most basic research on their buyers. Start by looking up the titles of director and above and immediately identify the 10 other people who are likely to be in the sphere of influence. You can ask about them by name when you speak with your primary contact and strategize with them on how to build consensus among all influencers and decision makers. Knowing the names and titles of the people you need to influence makes your job a lot easier than relying on one buyer to do the heavy lifting for you.

3. Engaging with insights (25 percent).

Cold calling sucks and you shouldn’t do it. How many times has someone called you out of the blue and tried to close you on something over the phone. Sure, you can get deals done that way, but you’d better be prepared for 80 to 90 percent rejection rate and be able to not take all that rejection personally.

Instead, why not be the thought leader that you actually are? “Start simply by sharing, liking, and curating content relevant to your audience,” suggests Derezin. “Not everyone is a prolific writer, and you don’t have to be. A single one-line comment on an article you found to be relevant is more than enough to keep you top of mind.”

The point is that you can’t just reach out when you’re ready to sell someone something. Wouldn’t you much rather receive an email or phone call from your ideal prospect that starts like this: “Hey, Bill, I saw the article you shared and I’ve been meaning to reach out to you. I have a question that I know you have the answer to …” I’ll take that call all day long, wouldn’t you?

Have a top 10 or 20 key prospect list? Then pay attention to when theses prospects: (1) change jobs, (2) get promoted, (3) are mentioned in the news, (4) have a birthday, or (5) celebrate a work anniversary. LinkedIn keeps track of what’s going on in your network and serves up reminders you can review each morning before you start your day. A simple “Congratulations” or “You deserve it” may not seem like much, but it’s way better than trying to force a sale on an unqualified non-sales-ready prospect.

4. Building strong relationships (25 percent).

Having a strong first-degree network is important. These are the people whom you’ve done business with or have a strong relationship with who can help you grow in your industry. A strong first-degree network means having a couple hundred or more people who support what you’re doing and think you’re a good person to know. Most people either invite too many or too few people into their network and both are a problem.

Those who invite too many people are going after anyone and everyone who has the title they want to connect with — even when they don’t know this person personally. This is a mistake. Not only is it discouraged on LinkedIn, but it also dilutes the true value of having a strong first-degree network. People who are not interested in you and what you have to say will not support your engagements or requests to connect with more of the people you want to do business with.

For those with too few connections, these people tend not to reach out before or after a meeting to establish a social connection. These are the road warriors who believe that face-to-face is the only way to get business done. That may have been true in the past, but not today. Only a combination of social and real-world engagements delivers the results you seek. So go ahead and invite the people you have established meetings with. It will remind them to take a look at your awesome profile (which you’ve already cleaned up in Step 1) and give you permission to show up in their news feed.

More on social selling.

When you go to https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi you will find links to short slide shows on each of the areas we’ve covered in this article. But if you’re really digging this content, you can see Mike Derezin and his team live at their annual Sales Connect (LinkedIn’s Social Selling conference) or sign up for Sales Navigator. What you can’t do is ignore the power of social selling. Otherwise, you’re likely going to be fighting an increasingly unwinnable sales battle in the future.

You simply can’t bring a knife to a gunfight, and without leveraging the power of LinkedIn, you’re not connecting with or influencing the right decision makers. Now that you know what to do differently, it’s time to take massive action against the four steps outlined in this article. Let this year be the year you crush your stretch sales goals by leveraging the power of social selling.

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Don’t Follow Me: A Contrarian Guide to Social Media Success

If you want to grow your business through social media engagement, the very first step is to be yourself, your whole self and nothing but yourself. Don’t copy anyone. Be the best person you can be and live your passions. The rest will work itself out.

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes of all time and show you how it applies to social media marketing personally and professionally:

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the masters. Seek what they sought.”

This ancient Japanese proverb has guided me throughout my 20-year digital marketing career and has challenged me to seek alternatives–to look left when everyone is going right. A brilliant teacher of mine, Shirzad Chamine (Stanford University professor and author of Positive Intelligence) put it another way. “If you are an apple tree, why do you wish to be an orange tree? Rather than trying to be something you are not, just be the most amazing apple tree you can be.”

It stuck with me. In fact, once I saw this simple fact, it was screaming at me from every direction I looked. Seth Godin’s Purple Cow pointed out that “Being risky is safe. Being safe is risky.” Among the many insightful pearls of wisdom in that book, the idea of “standing out” was what truly mattered (hence a “purple cow”).

So much of digital marketing today feels like a “follow the herd” mentality. One company creates a breakthrough and suddenly everyone is jumping on the bandwagon with “me too” innovation. The wisdom of crowds may well provide thoughtful insights on where the world is going, but it does little to help you stand out and grow your business. Terms like “thought leader” and “influencer” don’t do justice to the originality that most people crave.

Here’s the funny part: You already are original. You were born unique and one of a kind. Originality is your default position. It took years of social pressure at school, home and social circles to beat the notion of originality out of you. Group think eventually replaced that special part of you that is, paradoxically, both vulnerable and powerful.

It’s time to be brave, find your true self and let it shine. That which makes you special is that which makes you wholly unique. And that is what we want to see. You, the whole you and nothing but you. The problem is, somewhere along the way, we have this tendency to be who we think others want us to be rather than who we truly are.

Now think about that as it pertains to your company, its brand personality and what you are currently willing to expose about your company when it comes to social media. Are you being as transparent as you could be? Are you bringing your whole self to your social media channels or just the few parts you want people to pay attention to? The less “real” your company is, the less people care about it.

So when it comes to social media, I say, “Don’t follow me” because the concept of being a “Fast Follower” is antiquated. I don’t want you to follow me–even when what I’m doing is working. Learn from my failures and my success, and incorporate those lessons into your own unique thinking and approach. Only by blazing your own trail will anyone care about what you’re doing.

If you need any more evidence, look no further than my favorite Apple television ad, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones“:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I’m man enough to admit that often times when I read this (or watch the ad) I choke up a bit. My eyes water because of the raw truth so eloquently displayed by a “simple” ad by Apple.

If you want to grow your business through social media engagement, the very first step is to be yourself, your whole self and nothing but yourself. Or as Brené Brown puts it in her TED Talk, “Be vulnerable“. Be brave enough to put yourself out there and others will seek to understand who you are and what you stand for. If you can then, authentically and transparently, connect all of that into helping make the world a better place, you (and your company) will be unstoppable. So don’t seek to follow or copy anyone. Be the best person you can be and live your passions. The rest will work itself out.