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  • bob@smsrd.com
  • 800-272-0887

We are hiring: Digital Marketing Agency Sales Rep

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We are hiring: Digital Marketing Agency Sales Rep

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We are seeking a person to represent us in the Los Angles market. We will expect you to learn enough about Google AdWords that you can serve as the conduit between our analysists and the small business customer. We are willing to train the right individual that has the fundamental personal interaction and management skills required to build strong business relationships with Clients. If you want an entry level opportunity into the world of Digital Marketing and you are a smart outgoing personable individual then you should talk to us.

Our sales process is a low pressure approach that is best started part-time growing into full-time as your skills and territory improve. We start by opening a conversation with the client typically by getting permission to send them free email information about digital marketing for small businesses. This is followed by a regular email newsletter to educate the client about the value of online marketing in their business strategy. Next we open up more phone or in-person communication on a regular schedule to build a positive relationship. The sales transaction happens when the customer has a need and they see us as part of the solution.

As a sales rep within a territory you will need to reach out and network with the business community so you need to be comfortable with that. This includes attending business events and belonging to the key groups within your community.

As you build your territory you will be part of the continuing communications with the client to keep them informed of the results from their marketing investment. On a monthly basis our analysts review the data and report to the client what just happened and what’s next to advance their online marketing.  Part of your role in this will be to deliver and communicate this to the client.

We are a 20 year old Digital Marketing agency with hundreds of clients and tens of millions of ad spend under management in Google AdWords alone. We provide clients with a full range of Online Marketing services but 100% of our clients have us manage their AdWords and that is where our services almost always start. Beyond AdWords that we provide Social Media Management, Search Engine Optimization, Crowdfunding, Website Design, Analytics, Graphic Design, Video editing, Photography, Content creation, and other digital marketing services.

To apply send your resume to bob@smsrd.com along with three times (8am – 3pm) in the next week for an online interview. You need online access with a video camera for the online interview. If you do not have this check with your local library because most of them have this available.

Compensation commission only with credit for on-going revenue. In this way you can build recurring revenue with no cap on your income. Our target income for a successful Sales Rep is $70k – $100k. We expect it will take 2-3 years for a rep to reach that level.

In the LA territory we have 200+ qualified leads with emails that have been on our email list for months to years. We believe that a person in the LA market will be able to do much more than we can do remotely.

Learn more about us at www.smsdesignlab.com and www.smsrd.com

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Infographics for Busy Executives

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According to Wikipedia “Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.” I propose to you that that is a horribly simplified description; especially if the Infographic is for marketing purposes. In reality an Infographic is a visual object that tells a story, engages viewer emotion and moves an audience to take action. Let’s look at how we go through the creative process of creating an Infographic.

Infographics Plans Contain:

1. Visual Concept
2. Data-Points
3. Call to Action
4. Data-Point Presentation Styles
5. Story Path

Why tell a story?
First let’s be clear that infographics are non-fictional stories that represent real data found by real research. The reason for a story line dates back to the beginning of time when our ancestors used stories to teach younger generations’ lessons, values, morals, etc simply because most people remember stories and forget data. In this context the story is the path through the data that justifies some call to action. These data based story lines engage the emotions of the audience and as we all know, the more emotion evoked the better.

Infographics are truthful but not 100% accurate
If you ever do the research involved in creating data points for an infographic story line you will quickly realize that the “most important” facts are almost always accompanied by small print documenting exceptions or conditions to the data. Infographics cut through the small print in order to reduce 100 pages of research to 5-7 clear charts on one page. That being said, the small print of exceptions and conditions hardly ever make the cut.

Never have a researcher do the infographic
Often reports hold so much detail that readers are drowned in information. Because of this, the readers are more focused on the deep breath they will take at the end of the report than they are on the treasures of the sea of information around them.
Researchers are, by nature, detailed technical experts far too engaged with details to give them up. They represent .01% of the audience for the information with a personal agenda related to the details. Because Infographics contain highlighted points often without the details they are for the other 99.99% of the audience. If you are interested in outliers or the small print you will have to join the .01% and read the full report.
While researchers are great resources, they are almost never the infographic decision makers. They collect the information and pass it along to somebody who can highlight what’s “most important” and cut out the fat.

Visual Concept
Like all stories, visual stories must have a plot that will associate the facts into a story line to create your visual concept. The visual concept will set the style and approach to the infographic and give the audience of your story a foundation to follow. In simple terms, your visual concept is the theme of the entire infographic. It is important that your visual concept is highly relevant to the experiences of your research and of your audience so be sure to pick it wisely.

Data Points
This is where most people start and it is okay to do that but you have to remember that you are building a story so your data points have to fit on the story path. If you start with data points then you need to select twice as many as you need so you can throw some out in the latter stages of the design. In most cases the data points will have textual support but this needs to be kept to a minimum and you have to avoid the trap of rewriting the report. Data points will need to be reduced to a graphic or iconic image with minimal textual support. What textual support you do have will ultimately be reduced to bullet points not narratives.

Data points come in various flavors and they need to be organized on the story path in the proper order. Here is our recommendation:

1. Need
2. Outcome
3. Solution
4. Evidence
5. Call to Action

You always start with the need of the audience followed by the solution that serves that need. This is followed by evidence that the solution will work and a call to action. In many infographics we see either weak or entirely missing calls to action and we wonder why someone would do that. You identified the challenge proposed a solution and then failed to ask for the action you want taken.

Call to Action
I may be Ms. Obvious here but this is the reason that you did all this work; don’t make it weak! Your call to action needs to be direct, simple, and to the point. Never assume that your audience knows what to do with the information you give them. Give them the action you want them to take because leaving it to their imaginations is a very dangerous business practice.

Data-Point Presentation Styles
For each data point you need to decide on how that that will be presented and how that style will fit with the other data points so the document feels like a cohesive story. After you do a number of these you will start to realize there are a limited number of styles that fit with your dataset. Once the style of presentation is selected the data points should be roughed into the style so you can start to visualize what the story will look like.

Design Process
Like any other project an infographic will go through design process steps. Here are the typical steps:

1. Goals & Objectives
2. Audience Persona
3. Business Data
4. Pencil Drafts
5. Concept Roughs
6. Revisions
7. Final Art

Goals & Objectives
This is the first step in the process and it is best if it comes from the highest levels within the business. If you cannot get the CEO to champion the idea, in most cases, it is best to not attempt the project. Goals and objectives typically communicate the value of the research to your customers and should be very broad.

Audience Persona
This is a critical and often overlooked part of project specifications. Lacking in this area is setting the project up for failure. It is nearly impossible to create a communication for an audience that you do not have a profile for. Often times this is passed down as “All Customers” or the “Whole Market” and those have to be pushed back because the broader the persona the more difficult it is to put real power in an infographic. You have to understand the experience set of the audience so you know where the conversation starts. The stronger the shared experiences the better the design can talk like the audience and the stronger the message will be. On the other hand, you do not want an audience so tightly defined that the number of people in the audience approaches zero.

Business Data
This is what created the need to communicate something of value to someone important and normally it is TMI (Too Much Information). The mission of the infographic is to create a visual that communicates key metrics to the audience. Step one in this phase is to collect lots of data and isolate the key metrics that hold the most value for the audience. This phase is all about finding and summarizing raw data in databases and long winded narratives and using it to create charts and bullet points containing the most important or relevant pieces of information.

The Value of a Pencil Draft
In this day and age you have to wonder why we would recommend going through pencil drafts. The reason is that you need to get the design outlined with maximum engagement from the stakeholders in the project. Programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop inhibit input because of the technical operation barrier. Input in the earliest stages is critical to the creative process and the engagement of your key staff. Pencil drafts do this better than any other form we have found. If you are like me and do not have God given artistic skills that is fine. You can print out pictures, cut them up with scissors, and then use a pencil to fill in the blanks between the printed images. This can also be done with post it notes on a white board. The value here is to get all of the stakeholders engaged as early as possible so when the finished product emerges you have buy-in.

Before you engage outsiders
There is a certain amount of magic involved in transforming data into infographics and it requires skills that many businesses do not have internally. This does not mean that you should not engage in the process. In most cases you should complete items 1-3 before turning to external experts. There are plenty of experts that can guide you through the creative process but the strategy of your business should always start and be owned internally.

Clearly Infographics are a broad topic and cannot be covered in a single book never mind a blog article. Our intent here was to isolate marketing infographics and provide the reader with a short teaser on this subject. Infographics are creative endeavors and as such you will get many different opinions so as they say your mileage on these ideas many vary.

The (NOSE) organization of the infographic is based on work done by Dr. Tom Sant from Hyde Park Partners. For our purposes we added a call to action although it would be reasonable to put that into the evidence part of his concept. Dr. Sant is an excellent author and speaker.

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White House Petition – Service Dogs as a Therapy Option for Disabled Service-Connected Combat Veterans suffering from PTSD

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smiley-dogWe respectfully petition the President and Commander in Chief on behalf of the Disabled Combat Veterans suffering from PTSD related to their service to our country.
Congress and the Executive Branch Acted:

“The Service Dogs for Veterans Act, cosponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a pilot program working in partnership with non-profit service dog agencies to pair service dogs with veterans with physical and mental injuries and disabilities, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Senator Franken’s bill was included as an amendment to the National Defense and Authorization Act that passed the Senate on July 23, 2009, and was subsequently signed into law by the President.”

Reference: https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=84

The Veterans Administration has fought this therapy and here is their argument:


Our Argument:

This law only provided $2 million in funding, which is completely inadequate. Even at that level the VA resisted the pilot test and buried the program. When Congress acts and the President signs a bill an agency like the VA should simply say “Yes Sir” and do what they are told. This is a case of an agency that has gone rouge causing harm to the treatment of our veterans. Granted they have done this with bureaucratic expertise but it is time for them to step up to their mission and serve the therapy needs of the service connected combat veterans.
Our argument is that dogs are better than drugs.

Service Dogs that are specially trained to assist veterans with PTSD have wide spread support from many experts but the VA does not agree. The VA appears to be a minority of one with a position that this is a poor therapy strategy. They are using all their skills as bureaucrats to wrap this in red tape and stop this therapy while at the same time embracing drugs. There are within the nation organizations that are willing to step up and provide trained dogs but we have to provide support for the expenses they incur. Our recommendation is to set a fair market value in the range of $20,000 – $40,000 based on cost to train the dog plus a reasonable profit margin and then index this to the cost of living. Assuming a reasonable life span of the dog this benefit should be limited to one dog. We would argue that the cost of the dog could be recovered from the lower drug cost by shifting the therapy from drugs to dogs.

Within the Service Dog Training industry there are practices that include the use of prison labor for part of the dog training and an incentive should exist for this. Early studies show that it improves prisoner rehabilitation and lowers the cost of raising the service dog. Organizations that utilize this method or other methods that create other social value should be paid more for their dogs.

To insure the quality of the dogs in the program the VA should have an inspection and certification process for trainers and/or training organizations. Because the VA has been resistant to this therapy, for a reason we do not understand, a provisional certification for the year should be issued to any organization with a mission to train service dogs. The VA will then have one year to inspect the organization and issue or deny a for cause permanent certification. An organization with a provisional certification shall only be allowed to sell 5 dogs per year into the system.
We fully understand the need to maintain control and fair administration and realize that demand for Service Dogs will exceed supply. We propose that the VA maintain a priority list just like the medical profession does for organ donations. The priority should be based on the urgency of need (Doctors recommendation) disability rating of the veteran, valor of service (Medals in DD214), and income (lower income higher priority).

What we request

We request that the President direct the Veterans Administration to provide this option to veterans suffering from PTSD as determined by mental therapy experts with an appeal process that uses Doctors from outside the VA direct control or compensation.

We request that the program be fully funded based on the needs of our Veterans suffering from PTSD related to combat service on behalf of our nation. This should not be a pilot program but a fully funded therapy provided to veterans where therapy is a reasonable course of treatment.

How you can help

For the short term we have a crowdfunding project for a non-profit that trains service dogs and then donates them to our Veterans.



In the long term you can lend your voice to our petition to the White House to direct the VA to do their job and find a way to provide this treatment option to our Disabled Service Connected Veterans suffering from PTSD.


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Business Personas Types

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Marketing-Strategy-TeamMany people want marketing to be simple but the reality is that marketing is where; people, systems, and language collide. The process is messy making content planning complicated with issues that are not right or wrong but simply different. In this article we propose that we have Worker Bees, Technicians, Managers, Connectors, and Entrepreneurs. Each of these personas looks, acts, and reacts differently to marketing messages and what turns one on may turn another off. In this article we are going to explore the people part of the challenge and to keep the scope somewhat manageable we are going to discuss the business to business market. These concepts apply to the consumer market as well but the number of segments is much larger.
In prior articles we talked stages of the audiences with discussion of Suspects, Prospects, Customers, Clients, and Evangelists. Within each of these audiences we have personas that have to be the center of our content creation strategy.

Worker Bees
Worker Bees are about following the rules and filling in the blanks. They are people within the organization that execute the plans and follow the direction of leadership and they are often the first contact in a sales cycle. Because of their role in the organization they follow rules and look for easy to implement guidelines but they are almost never the decision maker however they often control who gets on the short list. So while their decision ability is close to zero they can influence the procurement process. They are often overly concerned with things like price and that tends to be one of the first things they look for. A first contact that is looking for the cost in the first question is often a worker bee. A typical answer to the price first question is to ask “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” I will often equate this to a common or shared purchase decision like buying a car. A worker bee would call a dealer and ask “How much is a car?” Since this question is broad, the dealer would respond with a very wide range of prices and ask for more details. The thing to remember here is that this is not the decision maker but they may control if you get on the list that the decision maker will consider.

Technicians are about the work and their perspective is driven by the quality of the product creation. They are often the business founder and hold the leadership role in the early stages of the business development. They are motivated by improvements in production, new tools & gadgets, and other things that they see as improving the product or service provided. They are about making products and production bigger, better, faster, and cheaper.

Managers are about consistency and they value dependability and repeatability. They are the reason that large business are great at consistent delivery and they tend to be driven by facts that can be validated. If you ever walk into the office of a manager you will see it immediately. Everything has a place and everything is in its place. The files are organized and probably color coded. They have a system for everything and they bring organization to the business.

Connectors are about relationships they are often the rainmakers that bring transactions into the business through referrals. They are commonly found in the marketing, sales, and executive staff. Because they value relationships they are often very brand loyal and they create referrals as a reciprocal act because that is how they think. They are typically very easy to discover within the group because they are the first to greet you and find ways to personally connect with you. Connectors in most cases will influence the purchase decision but they rarely make the decision. Connectors belong to lots of networking groups and they are engaged with the community of the business.

Entrepreneurs are about innovation, creativity, vision, and brand advocacy. They know where they are going and how they want to get there but they need a help from Technicians and Managers make the magic happen. They often serve as the communication bridge the Technicians and Managers. They do not exist in all organizations and the larger the business the less likely there will be an entrepreneur because they require lots of freedom to operate.

Why We Care?
With all of this discussion the big question here is why do we care? Then answer is because each of these types is motivated to a decision based on a different set of values. If you want to sell to the Entrepreneur you need to talk about the future and the next version because they will be bored by what is already in market because they want new and exciting. The Manager on the other hand wants dependability and sees new as risky and not inside the system after all change brings chaos to their orderly world. The Technician is excited by new tools and methods but like the Manager they want to see proof that they are going to make their work better, faster, and cheaper. During this value communication process the Worker Bees will bring coffee to the conference room, fill out forms, and return RFP’s with additional questions that no decision maker will ever see.

This is an opinion article based on my experiences over far too many years working with lots of organizations. My experience is that if you break messaging down and find ways to communicate value to these personas great things can happen. We would love to have you share your perspective on this article.

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Do you speak Icon?

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Hover over the paragraph above to translate icons to text


How does one choose the perfect icon?

Properly used icons are a powerful part of any visual experience but just like any other language they have to fit your audience. The experiences and preferences of your audience will drive the icon selection process in your design. The essential icon concepts are message, theme, and testing.


For icons to work the audience has to understand the concept they represent and this is based on the life experiences of the audience. While a person accustomed to an iPhone might understand certain icons an Android user may have a different experience with icons and therefor differ in understanding. This is no different than any other language in that icons can be misunderstood. For functionality you need to look at other interfaces that your audience is likely to have routine contact with. Like any writing you must become one with your audience if you want to create effective communication.


Icons need to fit together in a theme so they have the same look and feel within the interface. You have to consider them individually but you also have to consider them as a collection and in contrast to each other. If the theme is not consistent your icons can confuse the users. Remember to that color is one important component of icon design and often certain colors denote certain meanings. For example, the color red tends to be associated with warning signs, the color green with the environment, and the color blue with water.


Rule 1 of icons is test, test, and retest. Make sure that in setting up your test that you get a good random sample of the targeted users and avoid testing with friends and family. A user group of your friends and family are almost never a good representation of the users of your design, even if they are they tend to be nice to you rather than brutally honest. You need people that represent your audience and will be honest in the evaluation. When we conduct user testing on icons we like to get 3-4 icons competing for one function within the interface and then we ask our users to vote for the icon they like best. Asking question like do you like this icon will get you a very different result. When you conduct a user test of your icons give them just the icon and ask them to write down what they think the icon means and avoid leading them to the meaning.


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Conversational Design

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Next Gen Web Design

Engineering a web experience is about establishing and conducting a conversation with your audience. By this standard most business sites are either rude or inconsiderate because they are based on a presentation model. In the physical world a good conversation has a “Hello” – Dialog – “Goodbye” flow and the same should be true digitally. A digital conversation has the same flow although the delivery does have to be slightly different. If your marketing model is based on building relationships then an exploration of the conversation model is critical.


This Hello phase in the digital world often starts with a query at a search engine and you can think about this as a “Tell me about X” question. Your response to this would typically be “Hello my name is Bob. Let me tell you about X”. This is followed by an acceptance of the offer, which moves the conversation to the dialog phase.


The dialog section of the conversation is a point and counterpoint cycle that passes between the parties. In the physical world we have clues that cause us to pause and invite others in. In the digital design you need to engineer for the same process. A good conversation has balance and flow in the dialog and sometimes you need to take a breath and let the other person react to your comments. One common way to do this is to ask a question and get direction to the next issue in the conversation. Conversations by their nature can go in just about any direction.
In good conversations there is a refining process that helps the members of the conversation learn from each other. If you are on the provider side of the conversation your goal is to communicate the value of what you offer to the other party. If you are the purchaser, your goal is to gain the information you need to justify the decisions you need to make. Identifying with your audience is a key element in creating a relationship and that is ultimately what drives the actions of that audience. Get them to like you and you will find that people do business with those they like and they like those that help them understand.


The goodbye phase of the conversation is where you bring the conversation to a conclusion and often there is a “Call to Action” in this point. If you are selling something, then by all means ask for the order at this point. If this conversation is part of a larger relationship with the customer then invite them back.


Most sites today are modeled on a presentation not a conversation and the goal of the presentation is to move the relationship to a conversation that ultimately gets to the results your business needs. Simply stated we need to get off our soapboxes and talk with our audience. Our prediction is that the next generation of websites will be conversational and they will allow businesses to reach the scale that they struggle with today. This topic is evolutionary not revolutionary and so our advice is to move toward this model in manageable steps.

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Marketing Teams & Operations

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Business success or failure is tightly related to the strength of its teams and the marketing team is often on the front edge of that sword. To build an effective marketing team you need a variety of experts that work effectively together. An effective digital marketing team will need at least 5 different skillsets to make the magic happen. So here they are:

  • Strategy
  • Content
  • Advertising
  • Conversation
  • Analytics

Each of these teams requires a different skillset and a person that is great in one might be a failure in another. Let’s explore the roles of these teams and the skills they need.


This team needs to start with a representative from the Executive Management Group and the higher up the better. In a small business, this is typically the CEO or Owner and even if they know nothing about marketing they HAVE to be on the team. A strategy team without a representative from the executive group is very likely to fail. This does not mean that the executive has to become a marketing expert but they have to engage in the process. Many small businesses are owned and run by technical experts that lack the marketing skills. However, they bring to the team an understanding of and unquestioned loyalty to the business. This team can be subdivided into committees to deal with the detailed planning of specifics.
The strategy needs to answer these broad questions:

  • Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with?
  • Messages – What are we going to say?
  • Campaigns – When are we going to be in market?
  • Channels – Where are we going to be?
  • Performance – Why are we doing this?
  • Budget – How much are we going to invest?

I am sure most will instantly see the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How structure used for building a strategy. The challenge here is that these stages have many relationships that can be very difficult to document and think through.

Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with? This is a more complex question than many think. The simple answer is that you want to talk to customers and prospective customers but it is way more involved. The challenges are that communication is sloppy, messages between audiences can work against each other and channels overlap. Audiences evolve through stages of suspect, prospect, customer, client, and evangelist (aka Brand Advocate) and the communication evolves as the relationship does. The key thing is to know who we are talking to so we know how to talk. For each audience, we recommend building a persona that the planning groups can refer to in the later planning processes. It is much easier to remember a persona if you give them a name, image, and profile. At this stage, you need to gather some basic data on these audiences. At a minimum, get the number of people at each stage because one truth that will shortly be in front of you is that there is always more market to reach than there is budget to reach that market. This means that you are going to have to make priority decisions and the potential of each audience is a critical item in the thought process.

One sign that you have an audience problem is when someone says “Everyone is our customer” and even if this were true – and it never is – you still have to develop messaging that moves the person to action and that requires a defined audience.

Messages – What are we going to say? The marketing messages are independent of the audiences but they are assigned to the audiences. Over the years, we have discovered that many planning groups work better if they focus on an audience and then develop messages for that persona. As you move to subsequent audiences, the pace will pick up because you can assign already developed messages to the new group and discuss only what is different about messaging to that group.
In the old days, messages were largely one direction but social media changed that in a big way. Today messages are part of a two way conversation with the market and that means that all customer facing staff have to know these messages and who they are intended for.

Campaigns – When are we going to be in market? Armed with the audiences we want to communicate with and the messages we want to deliver, the next phase is putting them into campaigns and detailing out the specifics of budgets, content, specific performance goals, and other channel specific details. Campaigns ultimately are what bring audiences, messages, and channels together with performance goals.

Channels – Where are we going to be? This is a simple inventory of the channels that the strategy intends to use and every possible channel needs to be explored. There is no reason to be in every channel or every placement within the channel but you do have to consider it. Much of the research here is use by competitors, audience match to your audiences, and effectiveness of the placements. At a minimum, you need to consider search, display, remarketing, and social placements.

Performance – Why are we doing this? Performance is the reason we do all of this and it is what brings us back to the strategy. Within the strategy, we established goals for the various campaigns and in the performance we are checking to see what really happened and make adjustments as needed. Performance is not without its challenges and the first is that measurements in marketing are never perfect nor are they simple linear processes. We would all like to have an action to reaction relationship but the reality is that there are multiple actions to a reaction and the number of these varies greatly. There are many, including myself, that believe that action to reaction can be as high as 20. This means that for any one specific reaction, there could be 20 contributing actions that were taken.

Budget – How much are we going to invest? This is always one of the tough items in any plan. The answer to this is almost always the same. You want to spend as little as possible but as much as necessary.


Content is king and creating it is magic or so many would like you to think. There is no question that the team in this area has to be insanely creative with the ability to create visual and textual content that communicates the messages to the audience. While this has never been my strength, it is certainly one that I appreciate; when it is done right. The challenge sometimes is keeping the creative in-line with the strategy. One item that is very different in digital marketing (as opposed to print) is that the creative can be tested in the market to see if the message resonates with the audience.


Advertising is the blocking and tackling of the process. With the channels and budgets decided on, the goal of this team is to take care of the details. Digital advertising is very different than conventional placement in that the key is to run the system properly and keep the audience on target. This task is about running a fairly complex computer system to get maximum output from it. The team here tends to be strong on math and system process mechanics.


Conversations have always been part of marketing but social media has made them much more important and have changed the nature of these conversations. No longer is a conversation between the parties involved in the dialog because it now includes the thousands or even millions that will observe the conversation. An exchange with a prospect on Facebook can easily go viral resulting in millions of impressions for an offhand remark. This part of the team normally will fall to the customer service and sales department, which means getting them on board with the audiences and messages is now critical. Social media can be thought of as the dinner networking meeting of today only with an unlimited audience attending.


Analytics is an area that has existed in marketing since the first ad was run and someone wanted to know what it did. What has changed is that the depth of the data has increased and with that came some good things and some new challenges.

  • On the positive side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.
  • On the negative side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.

It is very easy today to bury decision makers in data while they starve for actionable information. The real magic in Analytics is reading the tea leaves and transforming data into information. You have to be very careful today with what you think you know and what specific data actually means. The Analytics team is responsible for transforming this data and feed the information back to the strategy team that can make adjustments in the direction of the business. This is typically done on a regular schedule and we recommend no more than one month between these cycles.


In closing, you need smart people with different perspectives to the challenges that your business will face. In strategy, you need broad thinkers with a handle on the mission and goals of the organization. In content, you need creative people that can transform detailed messaging into easily understood visual and textual elements. In advertising, you need smart math skills with the discipline to execute. In conversations, you need people that understand how to relate to others using new means of communication like social media. In analytics, you need people that took Stats 450 for the easy A and that can communicate with the strategic thinkers, creatives, advertisers, and customer service.

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The Marketing Ecosystem

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“A referral happens when the evangelist’s friend has a need that the evangelist believes that your product or service will service their friend’s need.”

This article might not be for you!

If your business model leans more towards the transactional side, clients and evangelists are not in your model and all your resources should be focused on the prospect to customer action. If your business model is transactional, this article does not fit your business. Transactional businesses normally have a product or service that is only sold once. Things like debt relief or diet pills lean toward this model.

A good marketing ecosystem moves people or businesses through various stages of relationship with the business. People flow in both directions based on the on-going experience they have with the business. The job of a marketer is to move the most people in a positive direction in the flow. While often represented as a pyramid, the shape of the data is actually more like the form above. It has a steep angle as it moves up the statuses with a bubble at the end in the most mature companies. Time is like gravity in this process as the status tends to drop if the relationship is not constantly refreshed.

Many business executives will tell you that most of their business comes from referrals. The challenge is that the executive is only looking at one point along the path and typically that is when the order is registered and the prospect becomes a customer. If you follow this farther back, you will find that all business ultimately came from prospects or suspects.

Please note that nowhere in that statement is there anything about the vendor (that’s you) in the process. That’s because while you have to earn the referral, you do not cause the event. It is the need of the friend that starts the process. There are things you can do to influence that but it is very difficult to create need.

It’s about moving people through the communication system

Each stage in the process can be thought of as a segment classification with a barrier to the next class. That barrier is the customer experience and that is within your control. So let’s take this problem apart and discuss the barrier between each classification.

Suspects – People that might do business with you

The first class, and by far the largest, are the suspects. These are people that we suspect could do business with us but so far that’s it. Many times, the problem with this class is the size and the related expense of communicating with that class. The first thing a business has to consider is do they have the budget they need to talk to this class. If they do, the primary barrier to being a prospect is awareness of the product or service. This is especially difficult when you are dealing with a new innovation where people are not aware of the problem or the product. With a well-defined product or service, creating awareness is largely an educational process to a very large group of people. As awareness becomes interest, the person morphs from a suspect to a prospect. So this barrier is the combination of awareness and interest.

Prospects – People who have some indication they might do business with you

Prospects are created by data that indicates that the person is more likely to be a good fit for your product or service.  Creating prospects using data is quick and easy but moving them from prospects to customers is not. This is because as a marketer, you need to transform the qualification of interest into desire and ultimately action. This is where most businesses spend the majority of their marketing resources and their measurement of choice is the ever popular first sale.

Leads aka Sales Pipeline – People that have proactively indicated an interest in your product or service

A prospect or suspect that has proactively reached out to the business is a lead for the time period that it is being followed up on by the sales team. The proactive outreach normally takes the form of a sales lead form completion, phone call inquiry, or other valued event. If the lead goes cold, then the person returns to be a prospect with special history.

The subsystem of leads is often called the “Sales Pipeline” but our position is that the pipeline runs from suspect to evangelist.  Thinking only of this one section of the system results in a myopic view of the process. Since this status starts with expression of interest and ends with a sale, it is an area of focus for many plans but it is no more or less important than the management of the other stages.

Customers – People that have done business with you within one business cycle

Customers happen when a suspect or prospect purchases a product or service. Sounds simple enough but trust me when I tell you it only looks simple.  A customer is not a lifetime status and the customer can easily drop back to being a prospect if they fail to reorder when expected. This is also the time when many organizations stop marketing and that is a huge mistake. The other big mistake made with this classification is thinking of customer as a permanent status. While you can establish any rule you want for the classification, the typical customer status should only hold until the next expected purchase and this is driven by the normal sales cycle of the product or service. If you are not aging the customers out of this status, then you will not see what is truly happening in the business.

Clients – Customers who will continue to do business with you even if you do something wrong

Clients are someone who will continue to do business with you even when you are not the low cost provider. They will also forgive you when you do something stupid because they trust you. Moving a customer to a client requires that you build trust and loyalty.  Normally this transformation happens over time and can be difficult to observe. Most businesses that measure this do so a few times a year.

Evangelists aka Brand Advocates – Customers, Clients, or trusted advisers that recommend your business when their friend has a need

Evangelists are the very lofty goal of the ecosystem but they are exceptionally difficult to create because it requires a client with a specific set of social skills and experiences. I subscribe to the concept of the social connector as described in the book, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In every social network, there are people that value the process of connecting others and it is this trait that turns a client into an evangelist. To some degree, there are clues in social media as to who these people might be but there are also lots of posers. The data you want to look at is their connection level and the activity of those connections. Evangelists are a temporary status and can change from product to product. This means that an Evangelist for product A may be a silent client for product B. Mavens (trusted expert) can also become Evangelists if the need of the person is a very specific product. These evangelists are driven by their desire to pass technical information.

It is important to note that not all evangelists are customers or clients. It is entirely possible to create an evangelist that is a trusted adviser to the prospect. Common examples of this are CPA’s or Attorneys that often recommend items to their clients when they see a need. In some cases, campaigns with the goal of communicating to potential evangelist segments make good business sense.

Negative Flow

Referrals can be positive or negative based on the experience they are communicating.  Negative flow can happen when you create an evangelist with a negative experience and they distribute that. Many studies show that the typical negative experience will get distributed to 12 people, while a positive experience will reach one. This is not what you want to hear but referrals do work both ways. If the person involved is an evangelist, great care should be taken.

Time is Like Gravity

Time pulls the person to lower levels within the classification. An example of this is a customer that does not repurchase and drops back to prospect status.  The reason this is important to understand is that while we might want to earn a level and stay there, that is not how it works.

Paying for Referrals

One common idea about referrals is to pay for more of them. This idea almost never works but it often looks like it does. The reason it can look like it works is that when the referral happens and an incentive is available, it is often claimed. It is likely that an incentive to some customers will result in an action but you have to ask yourself how powerful the referral will be if it was motivated by money. Are you in fact paying for what will happen naturally? I would contend that in many cases, paying for referrals does not create a referral but they do create a marketplace for them.

Moving People through the System

From ToHow
SuspectProspectActive: Create awareness that serves a want or need
Passive: Find data that indicates a product want or need fit
ProspectCustomerCreate desire to service a want or need
CustomerClientCreate a trust relationship
ClientEvangelistHave a trust relationship with social connector and get lucky enough that they become aware of a friend’s want or need that is served by your product or service
Customer Client EvangelistProspectMore than one business cycle without a business interaction.

In the marketing plan for the business, each of these areas needs a campaign to serve these movements.


The Market: Everyone
Suspects: Someone who could do business with you
Prospects: Someone who has demonstrated some interest in your product/service
Customers: Someone who has purchased your product or service
Clients: A customer that will continue to do business even if you do something wrong
Evangelist: A person that tells others about you. Can be a customer, client, or other trusted adviser. This is also known as a Brand Advocate in some circles.
Mavens: a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others
Social Connectors: people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions

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Mobile Friendly Test

Now is the Time for a Mobile Friendly Site

Google’s updated mobile ranking system, taking effect April 21, 2015, will affect your website’s ranking in mobile search results. If your website is mobile-friendly, your organic ranking in mobile search results could improve. What isn’t clear is if and how this will affect a website’s ranking for desktop searches.

This change could also affect your business if you run AdWords advertising because your organic ranking is similar to your quality score in AdWords. Quality score is driven by ad quality, click through rate, and landing page quality so it can have a big impact on your account. If your page is ranked as not-mobile friendly this could push your quality score down in a hurry. None of us will know for some time but this is a time to watch your quality scores very closely.

If you’re not sure that your website is mobile friendly, Google has provided a tool – the Mobile Friendly Test. To use the test tool, just paste your website URL and click “Analyze”. You’ll either get a green notification that your site is fine or a red warning with recommendations on what you can do to fix it.

A mobile friendly website can be accomplished in 3 ways:

  1. Responsive Web Design (RWD) – recommended by Google, one site that adjusts for different sized devices
  2. Separate Mobile Website – different site/code for mobile, desktop, tablet with different URL’s
  3. Dynamic Serving – different code for device type, same URL

If you do already have a mobile site, you can use Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability to see where your mobile experience can be improved.

Only time will tell the extent of the effects that this will have on your website’s ranking. If you haven’t updated your site for mobile, we highly recommend you start that process as soon as possible – for the sake of both your organic and paid results. If you have any questions about the status of your site, give us a call.

Original announcement from Google on February 26, 2015

Call us to see what's next for your marketing.