As an experienced marketer, I'm guilty of complaining about how 'the rest of the business' doesn't understand the rigor behind what I do, and thinks marketing is just the tactical activities they see…Read More
It was really hard to name this episode. Andy Crestodina, Co-founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios, sat down with me at MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum to discuss just about every topic when it comes to digital marketing. We talk about the history of the Internet, his book Content Chemistry, how marketers should be using analytics, and many other topics. Andy also describes his experience keynoting Content Marketing World in September of 2016.
I have a few favorite quotes from this podcast with Andy. One of them is “fear of public failure is a huge motivator.” When I think back to each stage of my journey into public presentations, I cannot think of a time that I was completely confident. There is always a comfort in the presentations you have given, but a fear of the next experiences as the audience gets bigger and the topics get deeper. Andy describes his experience of the change in audience size from 100s to 1000s at #CMWorld.
At the core of this conversation is the need for analytics, not reports. “The real way to use analytics is a decision support tool.” I love this philosophy because many of us use our analytics and metrics of success and to get a gold star of achievement when we reach a number. In this episode, we both share examples of times we received some amazing numbers from traffic, but instead of improving our measurement, they added noise. If we look at the why behind the numbers, we will always find more areas of improvement and learn more about our audiences.
This is definitely one of those shows I will listen to a few times to capture each area of the conversation we get to and I hope you do the same.
If you liked this show and the others, I would encourage you to give us a review and a 5-star rating on iTunes. It helps us in the podcast rankings. Even though it is a huge pain to get to the rating screen in the podcast app, we would very much appreciate your effort.
Listen to the show
- We're here at B2B Forum, and finally I get to sit down with Andy. I've been watching you for a while, because you are one of my favorite marketers. - Thanks, Jeff. - I've been designing web pages for, I did the math, 23 years now. I used to go to the library in the early '90s and get on and open up the WorldWideWeb browser and use WebCrawler. So I've been around since frames and before CSS and then saw this transition and when I see other people who are doing visual agency and doing web work well I always get interested. And then you do the analytics so well. So, thanks for joining the show. - Honored to be here. That makes you first generation, that was the beginning right? - Yeah, oh absolutely. - I started doing multimedia and interactive work using Flash 3 in '97. - Yeah, so Macromedia Flash. - Macromedia Flash, but never built websites until 2000, which makes me I think that's like second generation. I have a few friends, I know maybe five people like you who were actually doing it in the mid '90s. And we live on a different planet today. Totally different. - Absolutely. My senior project in 2001 was a mobile ticket buying website with the Nokia and the six signs of techs. And people were like, "what's a web service? "Why would anybody buy anything on their phone? "And what is this .NET thing that you use Beta 1 for?" And it's like... - Yeah. - And so now that you get to see all this stuff come to fruition, it's fun to see what plane we're on. - Yep, I love it. I love what we do, I wouldn't wanna do anything else. - And so, your company, you guys focus on helping people with their online digital experiences, right? - Yep, it's a web design and development company. We're actually not even a marketing company, we're really not an agency. We're here at a marketing conference and I love to speak in conferences and to teach marketing and my blog and then I've wrote a book about this stuff. But if you looked at a position statement for us, it would be something like we build cars and we teach driver's ed. So, the book, the podcast, all the events, everything we do is about helping people get more from what they have, get more from their platform. But yeah, we're really a web design and development firm. - And that's a bold move because a lot of us firms when we started, we were software consulting firms and all of a sudden they said you can't be that anymore. And it's like well what are we? Well you're an agency. I don't agent anything, I'm not an agent of anything. I build websites for people. - Right, and it takes discipline to not give in to all the millions of things that people also want you to do. It's actually a really tough thing and a really important thing for anybody in any career, in any field, in any company to say no, that's not what we do, to decide where to draw that line. So, for us it's a lot of fun to be consulting about marketing while building the platform. It turns out that's kind of our perfect niche. Although, I see people just getting amazing results doing so much more, I'm happy in this spot we're in now. - And so about a month ago, you were at Content Marketing World and you got the main stage, right? You were able to keynote. How was that experience? - It was good, it was a relief when it was done. It was a lot of prep work. I mean, it's a big stage and there's thousands of people who go to that conference. So, I was told in like January or February that I was gonna be doing that or given the opportunity. And so I spent most of this year worried about that moment. It was like a lot of stress. So, very glad that we made it past that. And I did well enough that I'm proud of it or that I didn't disappoint Joe. But it was fun, it was really fun. It was like, fear of failure, fear of public failure is a powerful motivator. So, if you ever wanna learn something just commit to teaching it in front of a group of people in a month and you'll spend the next month cramming on that topic and you're gonna learn so much so fast. I recommend teaching as a fantastic driver for anyone who wants to learn. - I love that topic and I wanna kinda spend there as there's so many smaller marketing organizations that are in your town, right? The AMAs, the BMAs and then much smaller ones like SMCs and some of these spunky start-ups. Those are great places for marketers to get involved, become part of the leadership, but to also go out and speak. I think more practitioners need to become involved in this field. Is that what you see too? - Yeah, I mean just off mic before we started talking, we were talking about upgrading format from text to photos, visuals, video, AR and VR being the highest end of media. But live is actually always the alternate, in person, face-to-face. It's a great way to learn, it's a great way to connect, it's a great way to make friends and build relationships. Any of those, AMA, BMA, ANA, SMC, pick your alphabet soup of events. Volunteer if that gets you in the door. Do whatever you can to be there and learn everything you can while you're there. Build all the relationships and connections and friendships you can while you're there. Really, anyone at any level is going to push themselves farther faster by getting out of their office, getting offline and doing things in person. - So, you're a Midwest guy right? - I am. - You're in Chicago, is that where you grew up? - I was born in Milwaukee, both my parents are from Iowa. I grew up mostly in the Chicago suburbs, but went to college at University of Iowa. Definitely Midwest, I've lived in the city of Chicago since '99. - Oh wow, so that town has changed a lot and you've seen the growth and expansion, but the rest of the Midwest has kinda stayed the same. Do you find that Chicago, it gives you more inspiration or it just makes you feel more creative? - Yeah, I mean Chicago benefits from the Midwest brain drain because it's the largest city in the region. A lot of people who want challenges or opportunity from all the little towns all around in neighboring states move to Chicago, so it's an ideal thing for business. Someone like me who draws from that talent pool for my team, I have 38 employees, a lot of them are from small Midwestern towns. So it's a been a great thing for us. Super diverse business community, every industry is there and they literally call it the Chicagoland Area. In Chicagoland area, the trend has flipped where companies were moving out to big corporate castles in the suburbs, now they're coming back downtown. McDonalds just announced that they're moving back into the West Loop, they're moving in the city. - Wow. - Motorola is now back in the city from the suburbs, what's left of Motorola. The reverse commute is now the busier commute. There's just a ton of cranes and high rises and residential and new office buildings going up in the middle of the city. - Awesome, well I mean, I love the town. The first big experience I got to travel for business was to Chicago and I still remember being scared as hell getting off the plane and getting in a cab and by myself at 19 years old, and it's definitely got a strong spot in my heart. - Well don't visit without letting me know. Yeah, we'll run around and hang out and see the sights. - Oh, absolutely, yeah. So you talk a lot about analytics in your book which you're, it's coming out again in the new edition, discusses some of the chemistry behind content. What can people expect from the book? And what was the driving factor behind it? - Sure, well the tactic of writing a book actually is not that far away from what a lotta people do. It's just a matter of forethought and then being structured in what you create. So, let's say two marketers, they're both gonna produce 100 pieces of content over the next two years. If marketer A thinks in advance about how that fits into a bigger picture, and thinks about it as a curriculum or thinks about it as a process, or thinks about it as an outline, they are more likely to be able to easily repurpose that into a larger format and make what we call big content. That was pretty much how it started was just blogging into a book. It's gone way past that 'cause now it's the fourth edition and I have to fill in blanks and update things and there's things in the book that I've never written about anywhere else. But yeah, it's really all about the science of marketing. It's the illustrated handbook for content marketing. So there's lots of diagrams, lots of step-by-step instructions, lots of checklists. But the whole point is that it's not as much about opinion these days, it's really about the practical, actionable things you do that lead to an outcome that's measurable. I'm an analytics driven marketer and I want, it's like a sport. You take an action, you wanna see that outcome. It's not just a feel good thing, it's a number, it's a trend line, it's an impact that I can see in my results. I can tell you I have 68% more traffic than last year. It's not a gut feeling. I can look at my phone and tell you that because I have the app on my phone, like I know that number, yeah. - Yeah, and I think that's one of the things, that people mistreat analytics. They're either way too focused and they're in it all the time, it's like on the hour. Like, "How many live visitors do I have?" And then other ones that are like, "Oh yeah, "we installed it a while back, but I never looked at it." What are some of those techniques that you think people should, or those rhythms people should get into? What are some of the basic things they should absolutely do, get into it? - Yeah, well to bust myself on this, a minute ago I said, oh I had more visitors than before, that's just a number, that's just a report. And that's not an insight per se. The real way to use analytics, and this is one of my main messages, what we all need to do is to use it as a decision support tool. To use it to actually guide an action. So, should I try this, yes or no? Just now, I was on a call an hour ago, when we're looking at a website that had a grid of clickable things and they were all little images. And when you rolled over them, you saw the text that told you where it would take you. The rollover is great if the person has a mouse in their hand. It doesn't work if the person is on a phone or a tablet. - I know. - What percentage of people can't use that little interactive thing? - You just see a picture. - It was 32%. The answer to that question, what is the usability cost for people who are on mobile devices for having information displayed on rollovers? The answer was 32% of their visitors. So, ask a question and then go find the answer to support or reject the decision that you're considering. Or take an action and then go measure the impact. If you're not doing that, you're not doing analysis. You're just doing reporting. Reporting is not analysis. Analytics is called that because it's meant to use, it's a decision support tool, if you're not using it that way then you really aren't getting... I don't know what you're doing, you're not doing marketing. - You're getting higher speed reports, but that's about it. - Exactly, right, exactly. - And I think a lot of BI and a lot of big data is that, right? There was a report that stemmed the project. And then the data was brought in and the developers or whoever created it, they always see the big picture. And they're like, "Look, we've got 18 dimensions of data, "we can scrape through the world." And people are like, "Yeah, but I want that report." And it's unfortunate. And like you said, when you say, "I've got more traffic this year," I know it's qualified because of who you are and what you're looking for and you wouldn't be saying, "I got 200 more visitors, "but they were college kids and I don't even care." - Yeah, and if you ask me and we go deeper, and I showed you those visitors, I could tell you what kind of visitors they are, what pages they're visiting, what the bounce rate is for those visitors, how those visitors do or don't support my other goals. Because that number that I gave you is a little bit of a vanity metric, there are reasons why that is less of a business impact than it might sound. If we actually pulled it up and looked at it together, you'd be like, "Yeah, Andy, great, except for that." And I'd be like yeah, I know, a lot of those visitors aren't qualified, they're here because of those six things that rank high for that phrase. And those people are only tangent kind of related to my ultimate business goal of driving leads, I measure in direct benefits, blah blah blah. So yeah, we have to be honest about the whole point here and realize that not every impact has an action that directly affects revenue. But there's tons of indirect benefits that are worth a lot and that goes outside of analytics. This conversation, neither of us will measure dollars off of this, but there's a million things aren't in your analytics that are beautiful too. - Yeah. - Friendship, karma,networking. - Yeah. - Actually, my favorite things in marketing, I'll admit, I can't actually measure because it's about interpersonal relationships. - Yeah, oh I know, back in the day, when we were running Geeks With Blogs, Janet Jackson was in the Super Bowl and something Justin Timberlake did caused a wardrobe malfunction. One of our Australian bloggers took a clip of it and wrote a post within 10 minutes of it happening. She's putting the picture up and saying Janet Jackson slips on TV, we were number two when you searched Janet Jackson. - Whoa. - So, imagine this little server that's made for geeks and developers all of a sudden gets millions of visitors because we landed on the wrong keyword. Now, I could go and say, yeah, look, we handled it. I could brag about saying, I'm a geek enough to make that happen, but that was not the right kind of traffic. - Yeah, you can't connect that to even an indirect benefit probably in that case. - Yeah, I know, it's a go away, right? Stop it. - I found some interesting research on OkCupid's website very randomly, probably on social media that showed what kinds of interactions on dating websites get responses or don't. Does talking about religion help, or music help, or these different things, and I ended up writing a post about online networking, like for digital PR or blogger relations or influencer marketing, important relevant topics about starting conversations online. It ranks for weird stuff like how to talk to a girl. Okay, that posted like a 99% bounce rate and a 0% conversion rate from visitor to subscriber. It wouldn't hurt at all if I took it down. It doesn't help to leave it up, it doesn't really matter. There are things in all of our analytics. There are visitors to all of our websites that really don't have almost anything to do at all. The chance of that really supporting your business objectives is kind of ridiculously low. And we have to acknowledge that when we say things like I've got more traffic than before. - Exactly, yeah. But then there's also those added benefits. When I blogged about the 2006 Lexus GS because I had an '02 and I go into the dealership and they say, "We're not gonna do "this warranty work for ya." And I say google Lexus GS, you see Lexus.com? It's underneath me. Do you want that say the experience? And all of a sudden everything's getting fixed for free. So there are some fun benefits, but at the same time. - That's actually kind of relevant and interesting and people rarely talk about that. But there are examples where if you have a page on your site that is ranking for one of these phrases, how can you get value from it? I've never written about this and you never hear people talk about it. Everybody's got one of these weird like-- - Yeah, random pages. - Yeah, and it serves you no benefit. One way that you actually can get value from that is to reach out to someone who would get benefit from it. Use that page as a networking opportunity. Say yeah, I rank for competitive analysis tools. I don't do competitive analysis tools, but it's a roundup I wrote years ago. Would you be interested in sponsoring my event? I can make your listing here more prominent. Or would you like to collaborate on a piece of content? Or just so you know you're probably seeing me in your analytics and I'm sending you tons of referral traffic because I'm outranking you for your brand category. - Yeah. - There probably are weird little ways to get some value from those things if you were to do a little outreach. - And I think marketers need to understand how the internet works because I don't believe with the age of social and everyone sharing everything through social media, but not on their webpages. Not understanding inbound and outbound links. It's like, come on, just throw a link up there, right? - Right. - They just don't get it and I think you have to truly understand how the web works, why we call it a web. And how those bots work, how search engines work because it is very karmatic to say I'm gonna start giving links to friends and they're gonna give links back and that matters. - Right, build relationships not links. I love something you just said and I haven't heard this in a long time. Why is it called a web? It's a good point, we're supposed to be interconnected. - Yeah. - That's an awesome theme to bring up and I love that you said that. - Well back you ran it with a console, you couldn't find anything but links. It was always like it was a web because you'd start with the Library of Congress and you're like how do I? I still remember the first time I went to an international webpage, I felt like I actually traveled overseas. It's like this came from London, how cool is that? Where am I? - Exactly. - Oh my god, I just went somewhere. - Do you remember the joy, the thrill the first time you made a page or uploaded or updated a page? - Oh, yeah. - I just changed the internet. - Yeah, I would go tell people about my first email address it was email@example.com. And they're like, "What's an email address?" I'm like, it's the coolest thing ever, right? And then chat lines, I used to have like 200 chat lines on my webpage. Just because you had to actually go to a webpage and hit refresh, you submit it in a text box it went to some sort of CGI Bin app and then it would show on there, that was as dynamic as the webpage got. And so you would just hit refresh, refresh. And then ICQ came out and it resolved everything. - You're like an internet historian. And I love this about Gen X, it's like people our age who were there and who experienced it. We remember a time before cell phones and before browsers and email and all that stuff. It's amazing, it's really incredible what we've seen. Sonia Simone talks about this too. She was part of an online community back when it was all, like pre-BBS. Something called The Well or something. I interviewed her recently. She's the Chief Marketing Officer for Copyblogger and was like pioneer in these early, early chat rooms. And some of which I think are still alive. - When I was 19 years old, I was a cigarette smoker, it was cool at the time. Now I'm 35, Dave Winer was outside smoking at a conference I had paid myself to go to. I smoked so many cigarettes because it was the guy who created SOAP and RSS and I was like, tell me more about this blog thing. And people just don't see the origin story. And Robert Scoble was working the conference because he still worked at Fawcette before Microsoft, before he became this prolific blogger he was a friend of Dave Winers, he was working at a conference and you get to see that stuff originate and be a part of that original story. But then, things like Snapchat, they're originating now. You can still be a part of that story. You can still be the one that solves the B2B on Snapchat lessons. But you gotta dig in and you gotta learn. You gotta learn from the past. - Yeah, and without hesitation. We come to these conferences and we meet people and there's people who want the information and we try to teach and share and we write things. A lot of people are asking for prescriptive advice on how they can get a result doing video marketing, podcasting, Snapchat, fill in the blank, but what should be obvious is that the people who know these things best are the ones who no one taught, experimenters. I think there are two great skills in marketing. One is resourcefulness, people who just roll their sleeves up and just do stuff. Just make it, just try it, just figure it out. You can get a list of step-by-step instructions, but you're waiting for someone else to make that first. The other great skill of course is empathy. These are the two main things, resourcefulness and empathy, which are the two people that are at every start-up. It's the hacker and the hustler. Pick a start-up. - Yeah, exactly. - Apple, there's always a hacker, there's always a hustler. These people always have, the hacker always is an expert at resourcefulness and solving the big problem. And the hustler, getting into the minds and hearts of people even before they know what they want, and helping understand what best solves their problem and how to connect that market with that product or service. - Well on that cue, and the fact that they're gonna start running this thing up and down, we'll wrap up, but thank you for your time and I hope we get to do this more. - This was great, anytime. Sorry I missed the last one. - We had a great conversation. Yeah, no worries, man. - This was great. - Awesome, thanks.