Business and Leadership Lessons From One of America’s Top Turnaround Executives

You may not have heard of Alan Mulally, but he’s led one of the best turnarounds in modern American business history.

As Chief Executive for nearly 8 years at Ford Motor Company, he steered the company through the Great Recession (without taking a bailout), restructured the massive corporation to get the company more focused and streamlined, returned the company to profitability, and doubled the company’s stock price during his 8-year tenure as CEO. And he didn’t do it just by cutting jobs and laying thousands of people off.

Ford stock price performance under Mulally

Ford stock price performance under Mulally

And since his days at Ford, he was rumored to be in the running to replace Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, and later, to be President Trump’s Secretary of State. He currently sits on Board at Google (now Alphabet) and the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees.

Alan Mulally (Image Source)

I’m not here to write his resume or publish a biography or write a blog post about his accomplishments. I mention these accomplishments because it’s the details that led to the turnaround that most people don’t know about.

Mulally came into a bleak situation at Ford, and 2 years later the great recession began. Yet Ford was the only US automaker to not accept a bailout. And he returned the company to record profitability.

Here’s how Mulally turned the company around, and what every manager can learn from him.

From Boeing to Ford

Mulally didn’t have an automotive background before coming to Ford. In fact, he wasn’t even a Ford employee. He was CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines, leading the turnaround in that division and making Boeing more competitive with Airbus.

So without a background in the automotive industry and with no prior work history at Ford, his first job at Ford was CEO.

Starting as CEO

In September 2006, Executive Chairman and CEO Bill Ford called Mulally to ask him to run Ford. Mulally knew that Ford was a great American company, and that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to serve an “American icon”.

He came to Ford on a mission – to save a great American company.

So what was the first day at Ford like for Mulally, who never worked at Ford, and didn’t even drive a Ford car at the time? What situation did he find himself in?

  • He drove into the company garage full of non-Ford vehicles. That’s right – all of the Ford employees that parked in the company garage didn’t even drive Ford cars. In short: they weren’t eating their own dog food.
  • His finance people told him that Ford was projected to lose $ 17 billion in 2006.
  • Ford was regionalized. There were Ford offices around the world, but none of them talked to each other. There was no synergy. None of the intellectual capability of Ford – the engineering, marketing, manufacturing – was shared.
  • And the contracts with the union (known as the United Auto Workers) essentially meant that they couldn’t produce cars in the United States profitably. The workers had a good salary and great pensions, all of which meant that the cost of goods sold increased to the point where already low-margin vehicles were unprofitable.
  • Their cars weren’t “best in class” and consumers knew it. The Ford brand itself was hurting. (Remember the acronym Found On Road Dead?)
  • Ford Motor Company was not focused on, well, Ford. They were a “house of brands” that included Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, Volvo, and owned a 33% equity position in Mazda. Those brands were just “additions” to the Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln line of vehicles. This “family of brands” had 97 different vehicles. As Mulally says, “you can’t be world-class in 97 different things.”

The Ford homepage at the time Alan Mulally began as CEO

The condition sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it? And nothing like the Ford of today.

And so the rebuilding began. Mulally picked apart the business, finding each problem, and fixing each one. In many cases, this simply meant making a process or operation more streamlined and efficient. Bureaucracy was removed, blaming others wasn’t allowed, and team working wasn’t just encouraged, it was the culture.

Regionalized offices that weren’t communicating were now working together. And this new cohesive team looked at the situation honestly – a projected $ 17 billion loss – the biggest loss in its 103-year history. That crisis allowed them to pull together around a new strategy. They developed the strategy together by focusing on the Ford and Lincoln brand (Mercury was later discontinued), and producing the entire family of vehicles (cars, utilities, trucks) to be produced profitably and, as Mulally frequently says, best in class.

Everyone pulled together on this new plan and began executing. And they were going to do it all as one team. That’s what Mulally emphasizes – creating a plan, sticking to it, and working together as a team. Everyone is accountable to each other, and they help each other out when necessary.

The Plan to Turn Around a Company – On Four Bullet Points

The new plan included these four bullet points:

  • Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix
  • Accelerate development of new products our customers want and value
  • Finance our plan and improve our balance sheet
  • Work together effectively as one team

Mulally printed it on wallet cards and distributed them to every Ford employee. Business plan on one side of the card, behaviors they expected on the other side.

The wallet-sized cards that each Ford employee received

He mentioned the bullet points constantly in meetings and with the press. And if you were around him enough, you’d likely be able to recite the four bullet points in your sleep.

Journalists covering the auto industry and Ford were tired of hearing it. But Mulally sticks to plans, even if people are tired of hearing them. If the goals of the plan aren’t achieved, he will continue to bring them up.

Listening to Your Critics

Every prominent company has their fair share of critics. Ford wasn’t any different. The Ford brand was severely damaged. The public viewed Ford vehicles as unreliable, with many referring to Ford with the acronym Fix Or Repair Daily. And Consumer Reports ranked them as one of the most unreliable car brands.

So what did Mulally do?

He met with Ford critics, namely he took his team to meet with Consumer Reports, who were one of the top critics of Ford vehicles.

Mulally and his team traveled and met with Consumer Reports product testers and discussed every Ford model. Product testers were critical. Mulaly didn’t argue with them or try to convince them otherwise. Instead, he used the trip to listen and understand their complaints. Mulally was grateful for the “unvarnished feedback” from the product testers.

A lot of companies live in silos and protect themselves from outside feedback. They make products without consumer input, and don’t talk to customers when they’re improving products or features. They build things nobody wants. Or worse, they’ll build something unreliable. That’s the fastest way to damage your brand.

Instead, take a lesson from Mulally. Find your legitimate critics (the ones who want you to succeed, but will give you a fair assessment) and listen to their criticism. Take it to heart and you’ll end up improving your product and processes.

The Weekly Business Plan Review Meeting

Mulally is an engineer by training. That engineering mentality means that he likes numbers. He likes to say that “the data will set you free”.

Data doesn’t lie and it doesn’t spin. It’s just facts that cannot be argued. And because of this, it’s great for showing progress and holding people accountable. Everything his executives managed could be deciphered down to numbers.

This data was used during the weekly Business Plan Review (BPR) meetings. These meetings, which took place every Thursday morning, brought Ford executives from around the world to discuss their departments and the progress they’re making on the business plan.

Bryce Hoffman, author of American Icon, explains the meetings:

Mulally’s management system, which he developed at Boeing, set clear and measurable goals for every aspect of the business. Each executive was required track their division or department’s progress against those plan goals and present it at a weekly “Business Plan Review” meeting.

The data was presented without explanation or excuses. It was also color-coded. Anything that was on plan was green, anything that was off plan was red and anything that was in danger of becoming red was highlighted in yellow.

Any issues identified in these sessions would be dealt with in a follow-up meeting known as a “Special Attention Review.” Here, discussion was allowed—but not recriminations or personal attacks. Mulally would say, “So-and-so has a problem, but he isn’t the problem. Who can help him fix it?” But this weekly return to the numbers also allowed him to enforce accountability.

The Ford Thunderbird Room, where the BPR meetings took place every Thursday morning at 8AM.

Here’s what every manager can learn from this:

How do you measure progress against your plan? Does your team know the progress? Are they working together and helping each other when necessary? Many companies like Google and Intel like to use the Objectives and Key Results framework to create goals and track them.

Creating a plan is great, but most organizations and teams don’t stick to it over a long enough time period. They hit the first road bump against the plan, and end up leaving the plan altogether.

As Mulally says, “We never give up on the plan. A plan is going to be the innovator for us to find new ways to find more opportunities to meet the plan and mitigate the risk. So it’s the all-time encourager of us to use our innovation to find solutions to allow us to deliver the plan rather than to give up.”

Working Together as One Team

“Working together” sounds pretty trite, doesn’t it?

It’s an overused term for executives, managers, and coaches. And lieutenants of those in management typically roll their eyes when they hear it from their superiors.

Yet Mulally didn’t just say, “we have to work together”. He created a culture of teamwork.

Before he came to Ford, there was infighting and elbowing among executives. Forbes described the culture Mulaly came into as, “Sharp elbows, fierce loyalties, and frequent turf battles were hallmarks of Ford’s management culture: The tough guys won.”

In response to this toxic culture, Mulally created the “One Ford” mantra. The wallet-sized cards were handed to every Ford employee and the weekly BPR meetings got all the executives on onboard and helping each other when they needed it.

During those BPR meetings, each executive brought an employee from his or her department to sit in on the meeting. And they don’t remain silent, sitting like students in a classroom. They are required to listen and give feedback.

Mulally and his executives often ask these employees for their thoughts and reflections on what is being discussed. Mulally says:

“We introduce the guests, who sit behind the team member that invited them, and we ask them for their reflections and thoughts. The guests might be an engineer or someone from down on the factory floor. So, all this data is flowing up, but then all the results are also flowing down. It is going back and forth every week at these meetings. And at the end of the meeting, the comments you hear from the guests make your eyes water. They say, ‘My gosh, this is so big, so vast. We’re in every country. I want to contribute to the plan as soon as I get back.’ I have heard many guests say that.”

Bringing the “lower-level” employees to the executive boardroom probably doesn’t happen at most of the world’s biggest companies. But Mulally understood how valuable these people are – and how the people “working the floor” and meeting one-on-one with customers and being hands on with the product can provide feedback that most executives cannot. This feedback inspires executives and the employees themselves. This sense of teamwork inspires everyone in the company to deliver results.

Understand the Value Proposition of the Company

What are you in business for? How do you make people’s lives better? How is the world better off because of your company? That’s what a value proposition should answer.

Mulally didn’t create a new value proposition for the company. Instead, he found the original one written by the company’s founder, Henry Ford.

When Ford started, owning a car was reserved for the wealthy. Most people couldn’t afford to own a vehicle. Henry Ford’s mission was to change that and to “open the highways to all mankind.”

1925 Ford advertisement

This advertisement appeared in the January 24, 1925 issue of the Saturday Evening Post (Image Source)

Mulally believed in this value proposition so much that he hung it in the hallway of Ford’s headquarters and handed out copies to Ford executives. And all future product development would be weighted against the promise made in this value proposition. It may have been a value proposition created 80 years ago, but Mulally loved its message and what it promised. (If you haven’t caught a theme of this article, it’s that Mulally sticks to a plan).

Mulally with a painting of the advertisement

In keeping this value proposition alive nearly 100 years later, Mulally ensured that Henry Ford’s DNA and original vision would guide the company.

The takeaway here would be to truly understand your company’s value proposition and let it guide your future product development.


Starting a company and building it into a success story is quite a challenge, but taking over a company that’s damaged and returning it to the former glory days is a unique challenge and one that few modern executives have accomplished.

So, what was the method to Mulally’s success?

Was it his 12-hour workdays?

Nope, plenty of executives work hard and don’t deliver results.

Was it luck?

Anything but luck! Entering a company losing billions of dollars every year, then the Great Recession two years later and turning that same company into 19+ consecutive profitable quarters isn’t luck.

Mulally’s ideas weren’t new. Instead, it was sticking to those business fundamentals – teamwork, business plans, and delivering useful products that made Ford successful.

It was Mulally doing extensive research to understand Ford’s issues, and creating a plan (and sticking to it) and delivering results against that plan. It was the brutal honesty of being an outsider and assessing a company with a fresh eye. His inexperience in the auto industry but strong management skills are what made this turnaround special.

And it was Mulally’s commitment to a plan and people. As an engineer, he wasn’t expected to be a people-person. But he was – personable but tough. People who have spoke with Mulally say that he “makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room”. This kindness was paired with toughness. He was a hard-nosed businessman that expected results and delivered. He held his team accountable and created a culture of teamwork.

The end result was turning around an American icon from a battered company on the brink of bankruptcy to a competitive brand that grew the company profitably.


Here are some Mulally quotes that I like:

  • “What does profitable growth look like? There are only two things you have to do – create products that people really do want and value and will actually pay for, and do it more productively than your competition. That means less resources and less time.”
  • “Always go back to that ‘what do we do here? What’s our brand? What do we stand for? And do we have a profitable growth plan? Because if you’re not profitably growing…you’re going out of business.”
  • “Good businesses grow at discounted cash flow, whether it’s cash or profits, by 15% a year. Most good companies grow the top line by 7% a year by making products people want and value, and then they also improve their productivity by 7%. And what’s 1.07 x 1.07? 1.15 – and that’s how you grow 15% a year. That’s what good companies do.”
  • “We never give up on the plan. A plan is going to be the innovator for us to find new ways to find more opportunities to meet the plan and mitigate the risk. So it’s the all-time encourager of us to use our innovation to find solutions to allow us to deliver the plan rather than to give up.”
  • “The first thing a leader does is facilitate connections between the organization and the outside world. You can only grow value and profits by 10 to 12 percent a year, which is what great companies do, if you satisfy customers better than the competition.”
  • “Leadership is having a compelling vision, a comprehensive plan, relentless implementation and talented people working together.”
  • “Communicate, communicate, communicate. Everyone has to know the plan, its status, and areas that need special attention.”
  • “The key became trusting the process—identifying the problems and helping each other find solutions.”
  • “Stress comes when you’re dealing with unknowns. Do what you can do. Then go home, get a good night’s sleep, and come in the next morning and try to turn a red into a yellow. It’s when you’re trying to do things alone, with no vision, that it gets bad.”
  • “Information should never be used as a weapon on a team.”

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

32 Ways Your Ecommerce Company Can Boost Engagement and Sales

The ecommerce customer is a moving target. I mean that in more than one way:

  • Online behaviors and buying preferences evolve constantly.
  • Customers jump around relentlessly from apps, to messaging platforms, to social sites and websites.
  • They’re mobile.

How do you woo these “moving targets” into engaging with your ecommerce promotions, opting into your offers, and buying your products?

Your marketing and media needs to “move” them.

You experiment with a variety of ecommerce promotion ideas available to you now. We’ll run through a heap of them and hopefully offer a few you might want to try to build your audience and boost sales.

1. Offer coupons and discounts

Coupons have always been a staple in retail promotions so we need not question their power.

However, in the digital shopping realm, coupons play a role beyond simply providing a purchase incentive. They act as bait to hook new email subscribers. Of course, you’ll follow-up with subscribers, so consider expanding your portfolio of coupons to create specific subscriber segments that will receive relevant offers.
You can offer coupons explicitly for product purchases, but may also find coupons marry well with offers to receive newsletters and useful downloadable content.

Image Source

Your options for delivering coupons are many. GlassesUSA gets right to it by presenting a huge discount for first time buyers on their home page via a popup that “greys-out” the page until you respond.

2. Offer eBooks and other lead magnets

Image Source

The average online conversion rate for ecommerce shoppers hovers between 2% and 3%. At least 97% bail on you. However, a failed attempt to capture a sale doesn’t mean you can’t capture email addresses.

In a Kissmetrics post that explains how SaaS marketing differs from other types of marketing, Neil Patel writes, “If you are a B2B SaaS marketer, think of yourself in different terms from mere ‘marketer.’ Think of yourself as an industry savant — the one who possesses and dispenses information.”

While blog content helps attract traffic, one of your content marketing goals should be to convert the traffic into subscribers. Offer eBooks and other lead magnets such as checklists, mini-courses, templates, tools, and more to motivate visitors to give you their email addresses.

Think value. Think relevance. What can you offer to help a prospective customer solve a problem? Think of your lead magnet offer as something so valuable it’s worth paying for—then deliver it free.

3. Offer a loyalty program

You not only want customers to buy your products; you want them to keep buying.
Ecommerce brands accomplish this by making their best customers feel valued. Do so by giving them valuable rewards through a customer loyalty program.

Create a loyalty program that offers customers an incentive to buy more often or spend more on their purchases. Loyalty programs can take any number of forms, but generally feature a system whereby points are accumulated that build increased buying power.

You might also consider loyalty programs that reward buyers for doing things beyond buying such as writing reviews, sharing your pages and posts, and submitting photos.

Image Source

The first feature on the Pure Hockey homepage is information about their “Pure Rewards” program that aims to deliver bonus buying power to loyal customers.

4. Host giveaways

People love free stuff. Create buzz about your brand with giveaways.
Promoting giveaways on your website and via social media puts your brand in front of new eyes and grows your email list.

Image Source

A simple giveaway by Ginger Heat Muscle Rub encourages participants to “Like” the brand on Facebook and enter to win free product samples.

Image Source

A holiday giveaway hosted by Mixed Hues offers prizes for 12 days and delivers a discount just for entering to make everyone a winner.

The examples of giveaways shown above were created with templates from ShortStack, a platform that makes it easy to create an immense variety of ecommerce promotions.

5. Conduct contests

Instagram and Facebook contests—or contests you promote on any social network or channel—are one of the best ways for ecommerce brands to generate awareness, build community, drive traffic and boost sales.
Best practices for conducting social media contests include:

  • Create a unique hashtag for the promotion.
  • Create an image or video to announce your contest.
  • Create example posts to inspire users.
  • Use a moderation tool.
  • Secure legal rights to re-use user-generated content.
  • Display the curated posts in a gallery on your website and social channels.
  • Adhere to the rules of the network and publish the policies of the contest.

6. Create a challenge

I stumbled into a fun tactic while researching this article and found it to be a powerful idea: create a challenge. Those that join it share a common cause. They’ll welcome your ideas, are likely to share your content, and may consider purchasing your products.

At the very least, they’ll experience a memorable, personalized experience with your brand.

Image Source

NaturallyCurly invited customers and fans to its “No sugar challenge.” Joining means opting in for email updates. What a great way to create a bond between a brand and its fans.

7. Cross-sell

A post on the SEMRush blog wisely recommends focusing on cross-selling your products to increase sales. They offer as an example, a customer that has purchased a mobile phone being offered a screen guard or case.

It shouldn’t be difficult for you to think of practical cross-selling opportunities to offer your buyers that will add value to their purchase and dollars to your cash register.

8. Up-sell

Upselling works too. In fact, Econsultancy says it works 20X better than cross-selling.

See, buyers often don’t know a superior product is available. Chances are some of the products you offer are closely related to premium versions. Set-up your store to upsell and keep in mind:

  • The suggested product must fit the original needs of the customer.
  • Price sensitivity is bound to be an issue, so be clear about the benefits of upgrading.

9. Showcase top sellers

Ask a food server what their favorite dish is and they’re likely to respond with, “Our most popular pasta dish is the…” or… “If you’re really hungry, everyone really loves the…” — or something like that.

The suggested item might be something they’re known for, can prepare most easily, or profit the most from. Many restaurants spare you from having to ask by highlighting their most popular menu items on the menu.

Ecommerce companies can do the same.

It’s human nature to go with the crowd. Also, buyers value direction. Show them your best sellers, or best sellers in specific categories. You’ll reduce overwhelm, and accelerate sales.

Image Source

Imagine knowing little or nothing about games, but you’re shopping for a gift. You’d welcome suggestions to buy the most popular games. Nutty Squirrel Games gets it and helps with this smart form of suggestive selling.

10. Create interactive assistants

Buyers value when online stores provide insights and advice to help make more informed decisions. Enter the vast array of interactive content tools such as assessments, configurators, chatbots and recommendation engines.

Tools such as these enable you to walk the customer through a series of questions and deliver recommendations based on the answers—like a helpful salesperson would do.

While your online tool helps prospects and customers determine their priorities and preferences, it also helps you gather useful data, which might drive sales in the moment, or later, when the data is used to personalize your subsequent communications.

Image Source

The “Flavour Generator” from Hello Fresh is a great example of a simple assessment tool. It’s designed to inspire cooking ideas, which clearly aligns with the brand’s recipe box products.

Image Source

Help yourself to the quiz offered on the Warby Parker homepage and after answering five quick questions the site suggests frames that fulfill your preferences and offers to send them to you to try-on.

11. Create video demonstrations

Images obviously help sell products, but are merely par for the course. You can boost sales of new, featured, or popular items by creating short promotional or review videos.

Test the idea with just a few items and measure the impact to help establish if the investment in creating video pays. If you discover videos generate sales you can expand the program with more videos and experiment with different approaches to video production and different types of videos.

Image Source

A number of products offered on WatchShop present shoppers with the option to watch short product videos.

12. Highlight risk reducers

Your homepage likely features “risk reducers,” that is, notices that help overcome objections and give buyers greater peace of mind, such as:

  • Free shipping
  • Fast delivery
  • Money back guarantees
  • Free returns
  • Transaction security

However, many visitors will arrive directly on product pages and not see your homepage. Make certain your most important risk reduction messages are also displayed in at least one prominent place on product pages. Test the messaging, design and page layout to determine what works best.

Image Source

A product page on YourSuper reminds would-be buyers of its shopper-friendly policies on a sticky header bar and in another prominent element beside the call to action.

13. Present product plugs (testimonials, reviews, etc.)

I can’t decide whether to say it’s a good idea to include user reviews to boost sales or it’s a bad idea to exclude them. Both are true and it’s probably fair to say, thanks to Amazon, buyers expect to find them.

Standard ecommerce product review systems are useful, however, those that include photos and/or videos that embellish the customer stories are even more convincing.

Image Source

14. Provide wishlists

Ecommerce experts at Big Commerce claim that offering shoppers a wish list is an effective way to reduce shopping cart abandonment and fulfill sales from customers who showed intent but didn’t end up purchasing. They add that wishlists:

  • Give customers who aren’t ready to order an easy reminder system when they return
  • Enable merchants to measure product interest
  • Are helpful to shoppers that are buying gifts
  • Encourage users to sign up for an account

Would-be buyers will often forget about their wishlists, so send friendly reminder emails to inspire customers to complete their purchase.

15. Present trust badges

Customers often dropout of a purchase process when they have concerns about the security of their payment. Address this challenge by including one or more “trust badges” on your checkout page to convince customers the process is safe and secure.

Image Source

16. Present user-generated content

“Hype up engagement,” is a piece of ecommerce promotion advice from a Kissmetrics post. The post featured this insight from of Dan Wang of Shopify:

“User-generated photos are a great way to generate social proof. Prospective customers see that your products are regularly being purchased by people just like them, and feel more comfortable doing something that others are doing.”

Image Source

User-generated content (UGC) can be collected and used in a variety of ways. The GentleFawn store gathers photos via an Instagram hashtag and features them a gallery on their homepage.

17. Use satisfaction surveys

Savvy ecommerce brands cater to new and existing customers by gathering feedback with satisfaction surveys. A survey done well builds goodwill. The data you collect enables you to improve the user experience. Both equate to smart marketing.

Ask questions that will help you learn:

  • How customers found your website
  • How satisfied they were with the shopping experience
  • How your store compares to others they’ve visited
  • How can you serve their needs in the future

Image Source

Though satisfaction surveys are most commonly handled with email, Spartoo is an ecommerce company that takes a proactive approach by offering a survey on its homepage. A discount helps motivate shoppers to comply.

18. Present exit intent popups

Add an exit intent pop-up to your website to capture visitors on the verge of leaving. Give them a reason to join your email list by offering a free guide, discount, or some incentive that aligns with your brand.

19. Send cart abandonment email

Marketing automation platforms enable you to send customized emails to shoppers that have abandoned shopping carts.

If a customer logged in, you can send customized emails with images of the items they shopped for. Tactics you might try with abandonment email include:

  • Put personalized information to use.
  • Send emails promptly.
  • Try more than once.
  • Include social proof such as customer reviews, ratings, etc.
  • Offer viable options such as related items.
  • Send discounts before giving up.

Shortly after I left an item in my cart without completing the purchase, Michael’s sent me an email telling me I have great taste, which showed me the item again and suggested other products I might like.

20. Send automated emails

Prospects and customers are giving you their email addresses. Send them something in return: email. Email marketing allows you to send targeted—and well-timed messages—at various stages of the buying lifecycle.

In a great post detailing ecommerce email strategies, Nadav Dakner shares six potential automated email flows you might want to put in place in addition to the abandoned cart reminders we’ve already covered:

  • Welcome series
  • Purchase follow-up
  • Re-engagement prompts
  • Upsell offers
  • Notices about education content
  • Product and promotion updates

21. Support a charity

Ecommerce brands can take a cue from the shoe company Toms, where “Every purchase has a purpose.” Toms has built a reputation for improving lives and giving back. Their customers understand, appreciate and support the mission. Everyone wins.

Charity programs that come to my mind from ecommerce leaders include Pura Vida Bracelets and Warby Parker eyeglasses.

Image Source

22. Promote around special occasions

While Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries are obvious special occasions, you can promote special occasions year-round.

For instance, in February you can create sales, special offers, promotions, contests, giveaways and even downloadable content around Ground Hog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day and the Super Bowl (to name just a few).

Image Source

Here’s an example of simple voting poll an ecommerce company might do to attach their promotion to the Super Bowl hoopla.

23. Make customers your sales force

Influencer marketing takes many forms beyond celebrity endorsements and paying popular YouTubers to mention your products.

A clever strategy for ecommerce brands is to create a user-driven affiliate network of niche influencers. Your program might extend beyond simple financial incentives or product offers to include:

  • Additional promotional opportunities on your website and social media properties
  • Coaching
  • Access to experts
  • Social media advice and assistance
  • Loyalty program development

Image Source

1st Phorm does a stellar job of promoting its “Legionnaires” program. Copy beneath the image and video above reads, “We interact with our Legionnaires on a constant basis to make sure they are successful in not only promoting 1st Phorm and making money, but also growing their personal brands.”

24. Send Instagrammers to your store

Instagram is for people who love images. It also appears to be for people who love to shop.

  • Instagram reported 60% of its users say they learn about products and services on the platform and 30% have purchased something they discovered.
  • A study by Shopify reported the average order value from Instagram marketing is $ 65.00 (second only to Polyvore).
  • Engagement on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook.

The key to Instagram marketing is engaging users and moving them to your website. How’s it done?

  • Run contests.
  • Show pictures of customers using your products (a.k.a. user-generated content).
  • Carefully select a compelling page on your website to feature in your Instagram bio. This is your one and only link opportunity on the network.

Image Source

Stitch Fix uses the link in their Instagram bio to direct traffic to a style gallery. A “Get Started” call to action atop the page introduces how the shopping service works and a gallery of photos and videos link to various products and promotions.

25. Send shoppers to your Instagram

Next up for your list of ecommerce promotion idea is the opposite of what you just read. That is, in addition to sending Instagrammers to your store, you might also send shoppers to your brand’s Instagram account.

Consider your Instagram account a destination for building your audience and earning sales from prospects that have never seen your Instagram feed or profile. They could discover the credible proof they’re looking for with a branded hashtag or on an Instagram account you’ve populated with authentic user-generated content.

Image Source

ModCloth features its #MarriedinModCloth hashtag on the homepage inviting visitors to Instagram where they find thousands of images created by customers.

26. Publish product landing pages

Ecommerce companies sometimes make the mistake of directing traffic from search, social and digital ads to their home page or shopping cart. Typically, neither is an ideal approach for increasing conversion.

Try directing first-time visitors to information-rich product landing pages. Create pages that step visitors through everything they need to make an informed purchase decision.

Showcase some combination of a benefit-focused headline, value proposition, social proof, risk reducers and relevant images and video.

27. Explore mobile advertising

“Mobile shopping clicks overtook desktop clicks sometime in the summer of 2015 and continue to rise,” claims ROIRevolution. The retail-focused agency makes the case retailers can no longer afford to adopt a laissez faire mentality regarding mobile advertising. In fact, many shopping sites now recognize the importance of a mobile-first strategy.

Mobile advertising combines geolocation and mobile-ready ads to connect shoppers to your store while they’re commuting, sitting in a waiting room, or even shopping.

Recommendations to effectively use mobile advertising for ecommerce include:

  • Optimize the website for mobile users with responsive design.
  • Leverage retargeting display ads.
  • Consider video.
  • Use the Facebook and Instagram ad platform.
  • Appeal to the “in-the-moment” needs of the mobile user with “snackable” content.
  • Utilize Google Analytics to better understand the behavior of your audience by channel.

28. Expand shipping options

Who wants to wait weeks for their product to arrive? Worse yet, who wants to wonder when it will show up? These are clearly rhetorical questions.

Satisfy more customers with predictability, specificity, transparency, details and most of all, choices. Consider:

  • On-demand delivery options
  • Delivery tracking
  • Detailed information regarding shipping expenses
  • Free and fast delivery incentives

29. Create auto-ship options

A good portion of ecommerce companies can borrow a page from various subscription businesses to create incentives that encourage auto-shipping, and automatic renewals.

Image Source

Chewy offers instant savings for customers setting up an autoship option for the first time and sweetens the deal with bonus savings on select brands.

30.Optimize for buyers that are shopping for ideas

SEO and paid search need to be weapons in the ecommerce brand’s marketing arsenal. However, your keyword selection needn’t be limited to targeting buyers shopping for specific products.

An increasing percentage of would-be buyers on mobile devices are looking for ideas. New research from the Think with Google site offers insights about selecting keywords to optimize for shoppers that are idea hunting.

Image Source

Highlights from Google’s data research indicate:
  • Searches for “ideas” on mobile are rising fast.
  • Mobile searches for “shopping lists” are spiking.
  • “Outfits for” is a hot partial search term.
  • Those shopping for a category frequently conduct searches containing the word “brand,” “top,” and “best.”

31. Offer live chat

Online sellers that don’t offer a live chat option lose business to competitors who do. Live chat is a way to assist customers and is becoming the most desired method of contact—especially for millennials.

Econsultancy reports live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.

Image Source

The post cited above features interesting data that reveals why live chat is preferred. Immediacy wins.

32. Bring ace media buyers to the table

In this, my last tip, I was going to get into ecommerce Instagram advertising, but then I thought about all the various types, including the emerging “shoppable ads.” It’s not easy to keep up with Instagram advertising.
The same goes for Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google and any other digital property that sells ads.

I concluded if I were to give you practical advice about this vitally important but terribly complex topic (without cranking out another 3,000 words), it would be this:

  • Learn the basics about the Google AdWords platform and your social media options, then…
  • Experiment, then…
  • Bring a pro to the table.

Advertising can be expensive, but that’s only the case when it doesn’t work. An ace media buyer will show you where to place your chips and perpetually improve your ROI from the digital advertising programs that drive ecommerce sales.

About the Author:
Barry Feldman operates Feldman Creative providing clients content marketing strategy, copywriting and creative direction. Barry’s authored three book including the best-selling personal branding guide, The Road to Recognition. Visit Feldman Creative and his blog, The Point.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Why Sales Reps are the Best Marketers in Your Company

Every marketing playbook begins with “know your target market.”

It’s preached day in and day out by the top marketing pros. Every well-paid exec learns this on their first day on the job.

And for good reason. Knowing your target market is critical to generating traffic or converting sales.

But what does it really mean?

Most playbooks will tell you to fill out the classic buyer persona or demographic template.

What does that tell you, though? Honestly.

BMW sells convertibles to old, white, bald, suburban dudes who make a comfortable six-figures a year.

Ok. Now what?

That doesn’t tell you why they buy. That doesn’t tell you how to reach them, where they hang out, who influences them, or how to upsell them at the right time.

To make matters worse, most companies sell to multiple customer personas. And each one buys for vastly different reasons.

So shoe-horning them into a single box of…


… isn’t going to bring in paying customers.

Many marketers want to jump the gun. They go straight into A/B testing multiple audiences, for example.

You need 1,000 conversions monthly, minimum, to get results with statistical significance. And if you’re testing variables against a single persona, that means you need multiples of 1,000 conversions for each one. Which is one of the many reasons why A/B tests often fall flat.

Sales reps, on the other hand, know your target market inside and out. Even the lowest SDR on the totem pole has your target market down cold.

They deal with annoying sales objections all day long. They know what makes your target customer tick. They know what pushes them off the fence and what turns them into paying customers.

How? Because they’re in the trenches talking, learning, experimenting, and failing on a daily basis.

Image Source

Sales reps spend 41% of their time selling. Dealing with real customers in your target market. Finding out if they’re qualified to buy, or if they aren’t.

Meaning they know major things that marketers struggle with:

Who’s gonna buy from you
Why they’re gonna buy from you
Why they’re picking you instead of competitor A who charges less
Who ain’t gonna buy from you
Why they ain’t

That’s more powerful than any buyer persona template you can come up with. And according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report, leads sourced by the sales department are among the highest quality (outside of unicorn-esque personal referrals).

Image Source

And they also produce the most leads and sales for a given business.

Sales reps understand customer motivations and preferences deeper than marketers do. Because without speaking one-on-one or meeting face to face, you can’t learn everything you need to learn about them.

They know how to sell without selling

You’ve just walked into a car dealership to scout new vehicles. It’s time for an upgrade.

You walk in the door and instantly realize you’ve made a big mistake.

It’s all downhill from here.

Time for a cup of terrible black coffee from the helpful car salesperson grinning from ear to ear. “Another deer in headlights,” they think. Practically licking their lips.

You know exactly what’s coming. But you still can’t avoid it.

You want the damn car. You’re practically foaming at the mouth.

You told yourself to be strong. To fight back. To flee from temptation.

But that smooth-talkin’ sales rep just roped you in.

They sold to you without selling.

90% of the sale happened before you ever stepped on that filthy lot. They built a brand image around the product. They didn’t even tell you to buy the car. They didn’t talk about its features or its wonderful quality.

They didn’t ask you to sign anything, read anything, or even what package you wanted. They simply got you to take a test drive.

See, we buy based on emotions. Ones that never show up on the Customer Persona deck circulating your department’s Slack channel.

They made you feel like a star when you got behind the wheel. That’s selling without selling. And sales reps are king at it.

It’s simply another form of branding that’s unmatched by most online attempts. And branding drives sales:

Image Source

Sales reps don’t know how to leverage branding or deliver an amazing customer experience because they read about it on

They know because they know. Because if they didn’t know, they wouldn’t eat.

Sales reps know how to sell to existing customers

Landed a few new clients from that latest marketing campaign?

“Run another one and double the acquisition! We just need X more traffic to land Y in new leads.”

Except, of course, those are just leads. Not sales.

And most new sales are completely unprofitable at the beginning.

So that’s not where the money’s at. Savvy (and wealthy) salespeople focus instead on where marketers don’t: existing customers.

You know, the customers who already use your product or service. Who already pay you cold hard cash. The ones that cost 5x less to sell to.

Image Source

But marketers aren’t really at fault for this. Our system/current mantra is that marketers exist to drive traffic. New inbound leads.

Content is king, right?

Their sole goal at most companies is to bring in more visitors. Meaning they often get caught up in customer acquisition and acquiring as many new visits as possible.

That leaves almost no room for focusing on marketing messages to existing customers.

Even worse, the deck is stacked against marketers. The mass majority of channels used by marketing departments are better for acquisition than retention:

Image Source

State of Inbound found that marketers’ top priorities consisted of entirely acquisition-focused tactics, too:

Image Source

On top of that, only 42% of companies can measure customer lifetime value with any accuracy. And if we know anything about real data, that data is probably wrong.

If you can’t measure lifetime value, you can’t know the potential of your existing customers.

That leaves you with one option:

To keep turning the wheels to avoid customer churn. To go back to those acquisition-based tactics. Bring in new leads with inbound strategies and make sure the CPA is low enough to allow for profits.

But sales reps are different.

They’ve built real, lasting relationships with the sales they’ve closed.

They don’t get paid based on Twitter followers. They get paid based on new real revenue.

And the money is in the list.

No, no the crappy email one full of unqualified subscribers who aren’t ever going to pay you. (Those influencers are wrong.)

The money is in the existing customer list because the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. Increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by 25% or more.

Selling to existing customers is easier. And more profitable.

But typical marketing gigs don’t allow room for that. Marketers drive the traffic and email signups. Sales maniacally focus on dollars and cents.

Your sales reps actually talk on the phone

I know it sounds crazy. Phone calls? Is this 1973?

But phone calls are extremely important in today’s world.

Here’s why.

According to HubSpot, the most successful channel for sales reps to connect with a prospect is via phone:

Image Source

That means more deals. And more real, tangible sales are landed on the phone than any other channel.

Sitting on social platforms all day doesn’t drive big-ticket sales.

Sure, it can be great for generating brand awareness, but when push comes to shove, phone calls convert best.

Want to reach C-level executives, VPs, and managers? In other words, decision makers? Phone calls are your best bet.

And marketers almost never call customers. They’re too busy running around, managing new marketing campaigns.

Sales reps, on the other hand, are taking advantage of outdated phone calls for one specific reason: personalization. The Holy Grail of conversions.

According to AdAge, most marketers say that personalization will be the most important marketing tactic in years to come. But 60% of marketers struggle to personalize their content in real time.

Marketers love to talk about personalization. However, they don’t like to do it.

Phone calls are arguably the most personalized form of communication (aside from face-to-face interactions).

You’re talking directly with the prospect, for extended periods of time, developing rapport. You’re finding out what they did on the weekend, what ages their kids are, their tone of voice, their frustrations or excitements.

Try getting that on Instagram.

It’s real communication where the customer has a voice, and the sales rep is there to serve.

In fact, customers actually enjoy being contacted by phone:

Image Source

56% of surveyed customers prefer to communicate by phone for business purposes, after email and face-to-face.

When it comes to big fish like C-level executives and VPs, phone calls and real interactions rank high as well:

Image Source

While messaging and social seem fun, it’s not what business communicators or consumers want.

And sales reps are the ones conducting the face-to-face interactions and phone calls, not marketers.

To add to that, the most successful channel for connecting with prospects is via phone:

Image Source

Want to drive more sales?

You need to reach your prospects. And the best way to do it is through conducting a good old-fashioned phone call.

Aligning both departments is critical for success

Marketing and sales are often seen as two different worlds.

One has their heads in the clouds, posting cat gifs on social all day. While the other is a sleazy, money-hungry cesspool. (Marketers words, not mine.)

But that’s not true. The stereotypes simply don’t hold weight anymore.

Marketing and sales departments shouldn’t be seen as competition, but rather, two parts of a well-oiled machine.

When marketing and sales teams are tightly aligned, companies state that their marketing strategy is more effective:

Image Source

If you’re sales and marketing teams aren’t, you’re likely struggling with marketing.

And the cold hard truth is:

The majority of sales and marketing departments aren’t tightly aligned.

Image Source

Some are even rarely or completely misaligned. Meaning most strategies and campaigns are going to have major flaws that hinder revenue.

So your first step is to work on the fundamentals by making sure your messaging is aligned across both departments. Whether you’re cold emailing as part of your outbound marketing or blogging as part of your inbound marketing.


Viral coefficients don’t pay the bills. Neither do 301 redirects or Facebook chatbots.

And therein lies the problem.

Good marketing can’t beat real relationships or high-quality customer service.

Sales reps are actually the best marketers in your company. Even if they don’t want to be.

Experience trumps all, and sales reps almost always have the most customer experience in your company. They know your customers’ ins and outs. Their pain points. Their desires, wants and needs.

Aligning marketing and sales has never been more important according to the latest business data.

Want to become a better marketer? Spend more time selling, first.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Why the Top of Your Funnel is Almost Always More Profitable than the Bottom

Yes. AdWords converts better than most other channels. Anywhere, ever.

But. That doesn’t mean it’s the only option. Or even the best option.

Two reasons why:

First, your cost per lead tends to be higher than other inbound channels. Chiefly because…

Second, AdWords doesn’t scale as well as other options. So you hit a point of diminishing returns. ‘Cause only 3.4% of search queries results in an AdWords click.

That ain’t a lot. ‘Specially on your ~5-10 niche keywords that actually convert.

The trick is to turn your attention from the bottom of the funnel back to the top.

Here’s why the top of your funnel is almost always more profitable than the bottom.

Closing and scaling BOFU deals isn’t sustainable

AdWords has intent. People search, click, and opt-in or buy.

It’s literally trained people to give you money.

It’s the ‘last touch’ so often that it becomes “easy to track ROI.” So like any self-fulfilling prophecy, the more attention it gets, the more “it works.” The more budget and labor and buy-in.

The problem is scale.

Especially when you’re paying $ 25 to $ 50+ per click. (Or more — I see you insurance and law.)

Conversions might be good on AdWords. But in many cases there’s (1) not enough to grow your business past six figures. Or (2) there’s not enough margin to reinvest in other areas.

Bottom-of-the-funnel advertising like this works well because you can throw down a few bucks and see a few more bucks come in not long afterward.

But here’s where more problems crop up.

High-end CPCs dramatically push up your Cost Per Leads. That, in turn, pushes up your minimum monthly ad budget. So it’s not uncommon to see ~$ 30k/month budgets in competitive niches on the low end (I’ve worked on a few myself).

You need so many leads to turn into customers. So you need to cast the net wide enough to convert a few measly percentage points.

Here’s the additional wrinkle, though.

According to a Salesforce B2B benchmark report, it takes an average of 84 days for a lead to become an opportunity:

Image Source

And that’s not even a final sale.

84 long, hard days to transition from a lead to an opportunity, and 18 more days to close the deal.

Now. What are your payment terms? Net 30 or worse?

You’re now looking at not recouping a single dollar from that $ 30k/month budget until the next quarter (at the earliest).

So in reality, you need like four or five times that budget to sustain you. It’s like working capital in finance. You need enough to keep the lights open until the money, eventually, flows back into your bottom line.

Fortunately, all hope isn’t lost.

There’s a powerful antidote to a sluggish, budget-sabotaging funnel. It goes by the name of: Brand Awareness.

The stuff that big, mega enterprises have invested in for years. But most SMBs and tech geeks shy away because it “doesn’t convert.”

Generating brand awareness is a cheap investment

Brand awareness is typically the goal of any top-of-the-funnel campaign.

You want to start positioning your brand favorably within the minds and hearts of consumers.

Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. It’s the Great Brand vs. Performance Marketing debate.

On the one hand, ‘branding’ is like a clichéd buzzword that’s lost all meaning. And on the other, it’s only seen as viable for large companies with massive budgets. It’s a “nice to have,” not a “must have.”

To make matters worse, it’s nearly impossible to draw a direct line from brand building activities to sales. So it gets dismissed by all hardcore data geeks (even when data itself lies).

But here’s the thing.

When done correctly, brand building is an investment in future sales.

Take a look at Facebook ad expert Jon Loomer’s current ad campaigns:

Image Source

What do you notice?

First off, it’s all divided by a typical marketing/sales funnel.

Traffic/reach – TOFU
Lead generation – MOFU
Conversions – BOFU

Now take a look at the daily budgets for each. This is where it gets interesting.

He dedicates the majority of his budget to-top-of-the-funnel marketing activities.

Around $ 1,500 per month goes to top-of-the-funnel campaigns, and he only sets $ 300 aside for MOFU and BOFU tactics.

That’s a massive difference.


Why on earth would he invest $ 1,500 a month into campaigns that have zero chance of converting?

Why not dump that money into MOFU and BOFU campaigns with sale-based offers?

Because he’s making a future investment. You can’t convert sales when there isn’t enough built-in demand in the first place.

Let me explain with some data.

Nielsen conducted a massive study on understanding what drives sales, and they found that 59% of people buy products and services from brands that they recognize.

Image Source

Familiar faces are more likely to get the final deal.

But that’s not all.

SurveyMonkey and Search Engine Land found that 70% of consumers look for a known retailer when deciding which search result to click:

Image Source

That’s not surprising at all, really.

Think about it:

When you searched for “inbound marketing” recently, did you click on HubSpot or

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it wasn’t the latter.

Even if were ranking #1, you’d probably still click HubSpot at #5.

Cuz: Brand awareness = trust.

Brand recognition is a powerful way to drive sales.

And once you develop a brand reputation within your own space, you end up being able to drive traffic without having to take the normal funnel stage route.

Meaning you don’t have to pay to drive traffic anymore.

You don’t have to pay for ads and lead magnets.

You just have to focus on closing. You reduce your costs dramatically.

It’s time for some good news:

Building brand awareness is cheap.

I’m talking dirt freaking cheap. Pennies to the dollar cheap.

Image Source

According to Moz, Facebook Ads have the cheapest CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) of any advertising platform ever.

Except they “don’t work,” right?

Maybe, maybe not. But try comparing that cost to the freaking newspaper, magazine, and radio CPMs then:

Image Source

And guess what?

You only have to spend $ 1 per day on Facebook as the minimum daily budget. That means you can reach 4,000 more people a day with ads based on brand awareness for a single measly dollar.

Image Source

Using expert-level mathematician skills, that’s 120,000 brand impressions each month for only $ 30.

That’s just about the cheapest brand exposure you’ll ever get. Like, ever.

That’s 120,000 more people seeing your brand than last month.

Here’s how to implement cheap branding on Facebook to keep your top of the funnel profitable and growing like never before.

Create a self-sustaining TOFU campaign on Facebook

Self-sustaining campaigns run and run and run.

It only takes three easy steps that you can complete in just minutes today.

Create a new, medium-sized saved audience based on your target market.
Create a remarketing audience based on those engaged users.
Create a new lookalike audience based on leads.

With this, you’ll only be spending a few bucks a day while simultaneously creating a campaign that maintains itself.

You just rinse and repeat each time the cycle completes to replenish your audience.

This way, you’re generating thousands of new visits and impressions to build brand awareness every single month.

More brand awareness = more recognition/trust = more sales in fewer funnel stages = less money out of your pocket.

To get started, fire up the Facebook Business Manager and head to the audiences section:

From here, select the option to create a new saved audience:

The saved audience is a great starting point to generate a big enough list for brand awareness campaigns.

Start by entering the basic demographic data associated with your target customers:

Next, it’s time to narrow it down a bit.

You can’t target 200,000,000 people with brand awareness ads. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many people who care about your company.

Start adding various interests related to your company. For example, if you sell SEO services, add that as an interest:

Are your services B2B? Narrow it down further:

Lastly, finish it off with some exclusions to avoid targeting users who typically don’t respond well to your products or services:

Next, hit save and name your audience so that you can recognize it later.

Now, head to the Ads Manager and create a new campaign based on the brand awareness objective:

Then, scroll down to the audience section and choose the saved audience you just created:

Next, set your budget to just a single dollar per day (or more if you have a larger budget):

Now it’s time for the creative.

For brand awareness ads, you don’t want to focus on converting someone to sales. Offers like that won’t resonate with users who have no clue who you are.

Give them value associated with your brand without asking for anything in return.

For example, take your latest blog post and use that as your creative.

Image Source

You’re done with the first step. Next up, it’s time to set up a remarketing audience based on visits to your brand awareness blog post.

First things first, you need to get your Facebook Pixel setup if you haven’t already. Head to the Events Manager and select the Pixels option.

Click to create your Pixel and give it a recognizable name for your site:

Next, install your Pixel code by selecting any of the listed options:

From there, simply follow the directions for each based on your choice to get your code installed.

Now, go back to the audience section and create a new custom audience based on website traffic:

Make sure that you select “People who visited specific web pages” as your criteria, and then enter the blog post you drive traffic to for your brand awareness ads:

If you want to get even more specific, narrow down the traffic by refining the frequency to two or more visits:

Still with me?

Next, hit save, and you’ve generated your second audience.

With this audience, you can bring back users and narrow your list down even further to the most brand-aware visitors.

Lastly, you’ll want to take that new custom audience and turn it into a lookalike audience.

That will allow Facebook to wrangle up more users for you to target who have similar interests and tendencies as your best performers in these campaigns.

Genius, right?

Head to the audiences section and create a new lookalike audience. Select the second remarketing audience you just saved as the “Source:”

Next, be sure to choose the 1% audience size to keep it targeted and dirt cheap (See: this study).

Hit save, and you’ve just created a self-sustaining top-of-the-funnel campaign to generate tons of brand awareness.

Phew. You made it.

Now it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards of a well-sown crop.


Yes. You should invest in AdWords.

But invest all you’ve got?

No. Probably not.

Not when you’re looking at ~four * $ 30k/month to start getting your first few customers. Not unless you’ve got a rich uncle hiding somewhere. Or a private equity firm cutting the checks.

Instead of following the typical playbook, flip the script. Invest in the stuff that’s going to make future sales easier and less expensive.

Invest in branding activities, that you have no way of tracking today, in pursuit of an easier tomorrow.

Brand awareness has the power to drive faster, funnel-skipping sales, at scale. And when done correctly, it can even be a cheap investment that will pay off dividends for years to come.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Why Inbound Marketing Fails (and How to Guard Against It)

There’s no doubting the power of inbound marketing.

It’s safe to say that inbound has revolutionized the way marketing works in today’s world.

When it works, that is.

Because many times, it doesn’t. Or at least, it takes too long.

Crafting an inbound campaign requires audience targeting, multiple forms of content based on funnel stages, and perfect integration between marketing and sales. Which rarely happens in most companies.

And on top of that, inbound marketing tends to pull in a very specific type of buyer.

Hint: It ain’t the CEO of a Fortune 500.

Inbound is great for driving certain kinds of leads. But again, many of those are unqualified and can take months to convert.

And you can’t risk spending months or years producing content only to see a trickle of unqualified, small deals roll in your door.

Here’s why inbound marketing fails and how you can guard against it.

Why Inbound Marketing Often Brings in the Wrong Clients

Inbound marketing is like a box of chocolates. You never know…

Cheesy movie quotes aside, this one rings true.

You really don’t know what you’re gonna get when you start a new campaign. Especially when it comes to B2B clients.

Think of it this way:

What clients and client types do you want?

Most likely large corporations. The big-time players. The accounts that will take your business to six-figures overnight.

Now… what clients do you usually get through your blog?

Small businesses. Local shops. Cookie-cutter clients.

Sure, your box of chocolates might have one or two big-time clients. But you really don’t know and can’t always control the outcome.

So why does this happen?

It all comes down to the inbound “funnel.”

Look at the standard funnel stages, and which content/lead magnets are usually associated with them:

Image Source

Whitepapers, guides, webinars, and demos.

These are all great. They all work to one degree or another. And there’s no doubt about that.

But when it comes to bringing in top clients, the typical inbound playbook fails miserably.

The only people sitting on hour-long webinars and downloading whitepapers are lower-level employees or a small business’s workers looking to improve their day-to-day, tactical activities.

C-suite executives and decision makers for large corporations aren’t anywhere near this type of content. They’re too busy.

And topics like “XX conversion rate tactics to increase your growth by YY%” don’t appeal to them. Because they don’t do tactics. They hire people to do them.

This leads to a long list of unqualified leads. Ones who aren’t making a final decision to purchase. Or even have a budget worth discussing.

Don’t keep reaching into the chocolate box with your fingers crossed. Unless you have another plan or can supplement it to cover the flaws.

Here’s how to take matters into your own hands and prevent the vicious cycle of poor inbound leads.

How Account-Based Marketing Can Help You Land Better Clients

Scaleable marketing activities work at the top of the funnel. Or for companies with extremely low barriers to purchase (read: low-priced, transactional, or free).

But those very same tactics often fail when you move up the food chain.

They aren’t personalized enough. They’re not customized enough.

And that’s exactly what account-based marketing seeks to achieve.

It focuses on identifying and qualifying ideal prospects first, before trying to get them deep into your funnel.

Before you’ve wasted thousands of dollars A/B testing or sending email campaigns and remarketing ads.

Your typical inbound marketing strategy is like fishing with a net, dragging it across the web and collecting as many leads as possible.

Account-based marketing, on the other hand, is like fishing with spears. You’re carefully selecting a target.

Image Source

A great example comes from WP Engine and Terminus.

Image Source

Their entire funnel was focused on identifying prospects ahead of time, expanding that research, engaging with them, advocating, and finally measuring success.

Conducting all that account research ahead of time wasn’t cheap or easy. But they got engagement from 93% of accounts on their target list.

Open rates jumped from 27% to 43%.

Overall, they increased their sales opportunities by 28%.

And that’s not all. The WP Engine team targeted 87 accounts and closed 32 deals.

Instead of casting a wide net, they honed in on specific accounts that were desirable and compatible with their services.

Through detailed, one-on-one customization, they were able to land clients that otherwise were unreachable.

So, how do you put some account-based marketing tactics into practice? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Conduct a Lead Search and Turn Them into an Audience

The first step in any proper account-based marketing game plan is to identify prospects first.

Creating a target list will allow you to get hyper-specific with your marketing messaging.

And we all know that personalization is critical.

Remember that ABM isn’t about marketing to 1,000 companies. Weed out prospects that aren’t going to convert.

Start by researching companies that could utilize your services and that match your target demographics.

You can do most of this directly on LinkedIn’s advanced lead search:

Once you’ve plugged in your data, you can start to add specific target accounts to your list.

Selecting these accounts will add them to your sales list, giving you constant updates.

Now that you’ve found accounts that fit your business goals, it’s time to do some deep digging.

Locate specific accounts and head to their profiles. Click “See all employees” to generate a list of employees at the company:

You can either scan for gatekeepers or use the keyword search to find them faster:

If you notice any shared connections, you have an even better shot at opening the door to a conversation.

And if you dig even deeper, you can often find the prospect’s email and social media accounts:

Start engaging with their content to get yourself out there. Sometimes, that’s all you need to start a conversation.

Take it a step further by researching these leads on tools like Socedo that allow you to target specific leads on social media:

Simply enter a few target keywords related to your products and services, and you’ll generate a huge list of leads.

Weed through the rest by narrowing your keywords down further.

Then simply repeat the same process of engagement and getting your foot in the door. You’ll quickly see which decision makers and buyers from which accounts are in-market.

Keep adding these accounts to a list or a Google Doc that you can keep track of.

The next step is to utilize LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences feature to target ads directly to your accounts.

These new audience formats are already proving to be extremely successful.

Advertisers see a 32% increase in post-click conversion rates with account-based targeting and a 37% increase in CTR for contact targeting.

To get started with these, fire up your LinkedIn Campaign Manager and head to the account assets section.

Click “Matched Audiences”:

Next, select the “Upload list audiences” tab and upload your own list of leads that you’ve collected through Socedo and LinkedIn:

You can upload lists of accounts or direct email contacts:

Be sure to format each with their own template listed in the upload process.

Now you can target high-quality ads their way, driving tons of brand awareness and getting a front row seat to their daily LinkedIn browsing.

Conferences Can Produce High ROIs

Most people think that conferences and conventions are a huge budget waster.

They cost thousands of dollars just to obtain a few tickets.

On top of that, you’ve gotta pay thousands in hotel and transportation costs.

It seems like an ROI nightmare.

Rand Fishkin from Moz estimates that a typical conference can cost anywhere between $ 4,630–$ 10,230. That could be your entire month’s marketing budget.

But what if that conference leads to you acquiring a new skill, discovering unique and groundbreaking ideas, or building relationships?

What if it nets you one of your best clients to date?

You could easily double, if not triple, your ROI.

Tons of high-level executives and business owners attend conferences every year. Rand himself has attended dozens over the years and believes they are an amazing investment.

Start by scouting conventions and conferences in your niche, specifically looking at the sponsoring companies of these conventions.

This will give you an idea of whether or not your target accounts are going to be attending.

For example, when you look at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference page, you can see the exact companies sponsoring and attending:

Knowing that they’re willing to pay big money to sponsor the event and have their brand featured tells you two things:

  1. They have a large budget
  2. They are heavily invested in your niche

Those two elements are critical when it comes to driving a sale.

Conferences are a great place to engage in genuine conversation with current targets and even find new targets for your business.

Sure, it’s old school and “lame.” But if lame works, let’s all be lame together.

So, what’s next? What do you do after you’ve initiated a relationship?

Go Old School with Direct Mail

Initiating the relationship is the easy part.

The hard part is standing out amongst the dozen other people vying for the same client you are.

Thinking about sending a targeted email offer?

Think again.

Email alone isn’t enough to catch their attention (even if it has en emoji in the subject).

And CMOs don’t have time to read your email offer.

Remarketing? Forget it. They see thousands of ads a month.

The goal in this step isn’t to get them to convert.

They aren’t ready yet. Account-based marketing takes a long time, but it doesn’t produce subpar leads like inbound marketing does.

While both take time and money, ABM produces a consistent quality of leads with a higher response rate.

To get the attention of high-level executives and big companies, you need to reach them through uncommon mediums.

For example, direct mail.

One study found that direct mail had the third highest ROI of any marketing tactic.

Another found that direct mail open rates are 42%. That’s nearly double email open rates.

One Utah-based marketing company found massive success with a direct mail campaign to land high-ticket clients.

97th Floor in Utah sent out a direct mail piece to their top clients, encouraging them to give back to the community:

On the back of the piece, they gave each client $ 20 to use to give back during the holiday season:

They effectively connected their offline efforts with online goals.

On top of that, they connected it to a #20helps hashtag to generate more buzz on social media.

Direct mail is old school, but when combined with online landing pages, it’s massively effective.

Why? Direct mail alone isn’t enough. You have to connect it back to inbound and digital best practices.

According to a study, marketing campaigns that used direct mail in conjunction with digital landing pages experienced a 118% lift in response rates.

Meaning people are much more likely to go to your site if you connect direct mail to online activities.

Want to reach the leads you really need?

Think outside the box and flip the script:

Go old school with direct mail, and tie it back to modern times with a landing page.


Inbound marketing was a game changer when the concept came to life.

And it still is today.

But it’s nowhere near foolproof or all-encompassing.

Results can take months to come to fruition, and the leads you do generate aren’t the ones your business really needs.

High-level executives aren’t sitting on your webinars during their busy schedules.

Decision makers aren’t being swayed by what CTA button color you choose.

In the event that your inbound marketing strategy is failing, you need a backup plan.

Safeguarding by using account-based marketing is a great start.

It can help you reduce the “box of chocolates” effect that you find with typical inbound playbooks.

Seemingly old-school sales methods like direct mail can help you cultivate real, genuine relationships with big-time leads.

The biggest customers don’t sign up after a blog post.

They get referrals. They vet. And they build rapport through personalization before ever signing on the dotted line.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

6 Engagement Marketing Metrics & How to Improve Them

“Engagement.” It’s a term often dismissed as “fluffy” that lacks true value towards primary business goals.

But we live in a world where customers can engage with us in real time. And with this comes an expectation of delivering the best experience possible.

It’s not just about letting your customers feel heard. Engagement metrics, while often seen as “vanity metrics,” are important indicators of how well your marketing is performing.

In this article, I’ll share six engagement metrics you must measure throughout the funnel to ensure your marketing is working. I’ll also share actionable tactics on how to improve them and, as a result, your bottom line.

1. Content Reach

You put in the grind and work hours to create a superb piece of content. You know it will serve your audience, but…


While often considered a vanity metric, Reach is still a great indicator of your content’s performance. If you’re promoting visual media through social platforms or blog posts, Reach dictates how well it will perform.

A simple definition of Reach is: “the total number of people who see your content.” It’s a metric that indicates the unique users and readers who see the content you promote.

There are a few elements to consider when measuring Reach:

  1. Unique users: As explained above, this is the standard method of measuring the reach of your content. Typically, unique users are measured through a 30-day window (thanks to cookies.) Bear in mind that not all views are created equally: a visitor to a landing page for a lead magnet will be more valuable than blog post readership.
  2. Geo: Understanding where in the world people are consuming your content helps you allocate budget and resources effectively.
  3. Device: Are your users reading your content on a desktop or a mobile device? Understanding how people consume your content will help you optimize and format the design experience of your content.

Another metric to keep an eye on is social shares. Calculated as part of your Reach, shares can provide an indicator on how well your content is resonating with your audience.

How to Boost Content Reach

Thanks to algorithm updates, organic reach is now tougher than ever. Last month, we saw the biggest ever drop in Facebook organic reach to date.

So how do you combat this? The most obvious way is through paid promotion. Many brands are allocating budget to boost the reach of their content.

Sponsored posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, are more popular than ever. For example, Barry Feldman invested in sponsored Facebook posts to announce his new eBook. While this post only generated 100 organic views, his paid efforts reached over 2,400 users:

Image Source

Amplifying content using sponsored social posts and other paid media can be an effective way of extending reach, as well as generating a fresh stream of traffic. When it comes to earned media, influencer marketing is more popular than ever. In fact, 84% of marketers planned on running at least one influencer marketing campaign in 2017.

Consider starting by engaging with micro-influencers first. Unlike celebrities or public figures, they’re individuals who operate in specific verticals.

Their follower size is between 1,000 to 100,000 – which makes them more affordable and accessible than traditional influencers with an audience of 1M or over. They also tend to have a much higher rate of engagement.

Stitch Fix uses Instagram as a method of collaborating with micro-influencers. In the example below, they linked to a Q&A post with a fashion blogger to add value to their community while tapping into a wider audience:

Identify the micro-influencers relevant to your brand, and then engage with them via social media before reaching out. Alternatively, get connected with influencers quickly using a platform like Upfluence or Hype Factory.

2. Time on Page vs. Scroll Depth

When you create an awesome piece of content, you want people to read it. However, if it takes ten minutes to read and users are only spending two minutes on the page, this might indicate a deeper issue.

“Average time on page” is a Google Analytics metric that helps you understand how users are engaging with your content. Before we cover this metric, it’s important first to understand average session duration.

Calculate average session duration by dividing total duration of all sessions (in seconds) by the number of sessions:

Total session duration (secs) / Number of sessions

The session duration for an individual user varies by how a user engaged with the last page of a session. For example, if a page contains a video, the session duration is tracked until the moment they hit “play.” Otherwise, the time spent on the page does not count towards the total session duration. Analytics Edge puts it best:

“If you track things like file downloads with events, and if a visitor downloads a file at the end of the last page, then the session duration is calculated to the time of that event (note: This does not happen if the event is a non-interaction type).”

So, why is “average time on page” such a tricky metric to measure?

“Time on page” and “time on site” are measured between timestamps of hits. So, if a user bounces, no time is recorded.

Furthermore, time on page is recorded even when a window or tab is inactive. This means that time on page is an average of users who didn’t bounce from that page.

Many marketers prefer monitoring scroll depth to time on page. It can provide a more accurate engagement metric for content, as the further someone scrolls through content, the more engaged they’re likely to be.

The truth is, you should measure both. Scroll depth alone can be misleading, as many users scroll through a page before deciding whether or not to continue reading.

You can access on-page metrics on Google Analytics using the Chrome extension (In-Page Analytics was removed from the GA interface this year.) Another solution is CrazyEgg or Hotjar’s Scrollmap technology, which shows you where on your page users are most engaged.

How to boost Content Engagement

The more time people spend on your content, the higher the chance they are to convert.

Start treating your content as a marketing asset. Run regular A/B tests on pages with the large opportunities. You can find these opportunities by identifying pages that generate large amounts of traffic with low engagement. Head to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages on Google Analytics to access this data.

When Alex Turnbull wanted to improve engagement on the Groove blog, he ran an A/B test to see what effect storytelling would have on readership:

Image Source

The result? A 300% increase in people scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Look at your content and put yourself in your user’s shoes. Where are you failing to get their attention? At what stages might they get bored of your content?

Identify these potential points of friction, and then experiment with different headlines, introductions, and design layouts to improve engagement.

3. Social Comments & Conversation Rate

Reach is a great indicator of how many eyeballs view your content. Engagement with that content is often neglected and is arguably the most important aspect of social media marketing.

Therefore, comments should be regularly measured. Not only that but the overall sentiment of the conversation (i.e., positive or negative.)

Comment count is an exciting metric but can be meaningless without context. You must also measure the conversation rate. Calculate your conversation rate using this formula:

Total comments / Followers * 100 = Conversation rate

For example, a post that generates 30 comments may not seem like much to some. But for a Facebook page of only 250 likes, this number is significant. Using the formula above, the conversation rate for this post is 12%.

However, not all of your followers may see your post, and the above calculation doesn’t account for “non-followers” who see your content. With this in mind, another way of calculating conversation rate is against total reach:

Total comments / Reach * 100 = Conversation rate

With the above calculation, you’re measuring engagement against the number of users who actually see your post i.e. total impressions.

This metric helps answer the question: is this post interesting enough to initiate a discussion around?

How to Boost Conversation Rate

Using the question above, you can assume that the higher the conversation rate, the more your social content can be considered “interesting.”

Therefore, to increase engagement with your brand on social media, your content must be more interesting!

Ok, great. But “interesting” is subjective. What may be interesting to one audience may be boring to another.

To find out what content to create, look at the data. Look at your social media analytics over the last year and see where the spikes in engagement and reach occurred. Ask yourself:

  • What’s so interesting about this content?
  • Does the caption/headline hook in your users?
  • Is the image funny/inspiring?
  • Was the topic topical, or emotionally driven?

Use Unmetric’s free Discover tool to uncover popular content around specific topics. Search for relevant keywords/hashtags, select “Organic” under Post Type and then sort by “Most Comments:”

Using this approach, you can let the market tell you what it finds interesting. Use the data available to you and do more of what works.

4. Brand Name Search

Many marketers consider “branding” another fluffy term. It’s still important, and can often be the first step towards a sale.

The fastest way to measure your brand awareness is through brand query searches. To uncover this metric, head to Google Search Console and navigate to the Queries page and select the “Impressions” box:

Image Source

This page gives you an accurate estimate of how many people are searching for your brand name.

Other ways of measuring brand awareness include:

  • Social mentions: Search your brand name on Twitter and look at the total number of tweets in contains. Alternatively, use a tool like Mention to monitor social posts that mention your brand.
  • Inbound links: Using Webmaster Tools or Ahrefs can show you which pages link to your website.
  • Reviews: Sites like GetApp and Trustpilot can give you an idea of how people rate your brand’s products and services.

How to Boost Brand Awareness

The more content you produce, the more your brand awareness will grow over time.

Use retargeting ads to maintain top-of-mind awareness. Use Google’s display network and Facebook Ads to serve ads to those who have visited your website.

Retargeting ads can also help increase conversions using the Facebook pixel. For example, Expedia uses Facebook retargeting to capture users who viewed hotels without booking:

Content creation and PR also helps with brand building efforts. If your content is useful, entertaining or insightful, you’ll increase brand awareness over time.

5. Email Marketing Engagement

Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing channels. When it comes to measuring engagement, there are:

  1. Open rate: One of the top metrics measured by all marketers. Put simply; this tells you the total number of people who open your email.
  2. Clickthrough rate: The percentage of recipients who click on one or more links on your email. Calculated by dividing total (or unique) clicks by the number of delivered emails and multiplying that by 100.
  3. Conversion rate: The percentage of email recipients who clicked and completed an action on the landing page.
  4. Forwarding/sharing rate: The percentage of recipients who forward your email or click a “share” call-to-action.

Conversion rate is especially important. This metric is the biggest indicator of email marketing success. The ultimate goal of your email is to make a sale or persuade leads to take the next step in the funnel.

Using a tool like Return Path can help give you further insights into how your recipients are engaging with your emails. It shows you which devices and browser’s users use, as well as insights on when and where they view your emails.

Furthermore, it allows you to segment emails by demographics, mobile use, and custom tags.

How to Boost Email Engagement

The best approach to improving your email marketing results is to optimize each stage of the journey.

Open rates, for example, can be optimized by testing subject lines and which days of the week to send them. It’s also worth segmenting the users who open them most frequently and analyzing their behavior.

Many factors will affect clickthrough rates. For example, if your opening sentence doesn’t hook readers in, they’re less likely to read the rest of the email.

But your main focus should be on conversion rate. Test the following elements to improve conversions and, ultimately, ROI:

  • Opening sentence: Hook the reader in and guide them towards the call-to-action
  • Calls-to-action: Experiment with different text/buttons, e.g., “Click here” vs. “Get your free guide now.”
  • Landing page: Ensure the copy of the landing page compliments the email copy. The journey should flow seamlessly.

The example below from Freshbooks used social proof to reduce anxiety when releasing a new integration. It featured a testimonial from a customer, including a headshot to add an extra layer of personalization:

It’s the same approach you would take when optimizing a landing page. Test every element, from subject lines (headlines) to call-to-action text and buttons. Remove any unnecessary elements to make your emails as clear and persuasive as possible.

6. Net Promoter Score

As marketers, we’re always striving to make our audience happier. Net promoter score (or NPS) allows us to measure how happy they truly are.

Developed by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, NPS is a measure of how likely a customer is to recommend your brand.

Customers are categorized into three different segments: Promoters (score of 9 to 10), Passives (score of 7 to 8) and Detractors (score of 0 to 6.)

NPS can be calculated simply the question “How likely would you be to recommend our product/service?” Use this question within your website, SaaS platform or in an email survey.

How to Boost NPS

To improve NPS is to improve customer satisfaction. It’s a score that indicates how well your entire business is doing. Your goal is to generate more promoters, while converting passives and detractors into promoters.

It all boils down to delivering a delightful experience from the very beginning of the marketing funnel all the way to your product and service delivery.

NPS shows your product and marketing teams what users love about your product and where their pain points are. Use customer development to uncover where these sticking points are for your detractors.

So, then, the question is: what do you do with your promoters?

Referral and ambassador programs can turn happy customers into an entirely new acquisition engine.

Lululemon is a great example of this in action. They empower their ambassadors to lead yoga classes all over the world, and get support directly from the brand in the form of guidelines and content:

The key is to make them feel a part of something. Give your promoters the tools to easily create user-generated content (UGC) around your brand and to spread your message.


While engagement is often associated with “vanity metrics,” they can still be a key indicator for success.

The fact is your audience is active on many different platforms at once. Not just your blog, platform or website. The question is how do you get them onto your own media and into your marketing funnel?

Nurturing your audience on the platforms they’re active is the best way to do this. Improve each touchpoint on every channel you communicate with your audience on. This is how you convert attention into traffic & leads.

How do you currently measure the conversation with your customers? What are you doing to keep them engaged?

About the Author: Juuso Lyytikkä is the Head of Growth at Funnel is a marketing analytics tool for online marketers that collects data from ALL advertising platforms and allows marketers to send and visualize this data anywhere. Book a demo to get a free trial.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

How to Manage Marketing Campaigns like a Financial Currency Trader

KPIs are due EOD.

Profit and loss statements need to be generated.

Budget status updates have been requested.

Juggling multiple marketing campaigns is stressful. But more importantly, it’s also incredibly risky.

Soon enough, you’ve depleted your budget to the last few cents, and you have nothing to show for it.

Or worse, you didn’t spot the right trends in a successful tactic before spending too much on the underperforming ones.

And now you don’t have enough money to re-allocate to top-tier mediums.

Curiously enough, adopting the same methodical mindset of a financial currency trader can help you better manage results.

Here’s how.

Start With a Currency Arbitrage Mindset

Here’s the problem with digital marketing.

It changes every day. Old stuff gives way to new stuff.

And you never really know how a campaign will perform until you try it.

That saying (1) is unhelpful and (2) requires extra money to experiment with potentially budget-draining activities.

But it’s true.

You really don’t know which playbook, game plan, or actionable tip is going to work until you experiment. The stuff that worked last year almost certainly won’t work the same this year.

Not to mention that every business is structured differently. Each caters to diverse audiences. So copying your competitors or that awesome tactic you read about is also out.

What works for Company X might bankrupt Company Z.

If there were set-in-stone tactics that produced million-dollar businesses overnight, every dude on would be rich.

PPC might be amazing for your friend’s business. But that doesn’t mean investing in PPC is instantly going to turn you into the next Zuckerberg.

So where do people turn when they hit this realization? A/B testing.

You all know those case studies that promise a mythical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

I did X and generated a 40000000000% increase in conversions!

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s not that far off.

Most A/B tests fail, though.

They take too long to get results. Plus that whole “bias” thing. And of course, sample size.

You need a minimum of 1,000 conversions monthly for statistical significance.

So what should you do instead?

Implement a currency arbitrage mindset.

Currency arbitrage is a strategy in which the trader takes advantage of different spreads offered by brokers for a particular currency pair by making trades.

Different spreads imply a gap between the bid and ask prices. Meaning, they can buy and sell pairs to make more money.

What does this mean in English?

Place lots of small bets on different tactics, channels, platforms, and mediums so that you can evaluate their effectiveness in real-time.

Once you see specific trends developing (either positive or negative), you double down on the winners and cut your losses on the rest.

This way, you can test multiple experiments at once without the bias and lack of statistical significance that comes with A/B testing.

You get in and out fast. And you come out on the other side with specific campaigns to focus on rather than a mixed bag.

For example, you can’t always control the end result. But you can control the inputs that eventually get you there. And you can monitor, forecast, or predict where those will fall based on just a few days’ worth of performance.

Then, you can fine tune and adjust each ‘level’ accordingly to squeeze out the best results.

Adjusting Your Budget Based on Market Movement

The first banner advertisement ever appeared on HotWired in 1994.

Look at this gem:

Image Source

By today’s standards, it looks like a joke, right?

Is that tie-dye? Yes, yes it is.

But it gets worse:

See that subliminal “YOU WILL” message on the right???

Super subtle. Lord have mercy on us all.

But guess what?

This banner ad debuted with a click-through rate of 78%.

Yes, you read that right. Seventy. Eight. Percent.

If you told any marketer today that your banner ads are getting a 78% CTR, you’d get laughed out of the room.

Why? It’s inconceivable. It’s probably impossible in today’s world.

Today, the average display ad CTR is 0.05%.

Image Source

This all brings me back to one concept coined by Andrew Chen:

The law of shitty click-throughs:

All marketing strategies over time will result in shitty click-through rates.

As more and more people use these tactics, the market becomes saturated.

Users get sick of it, and they don’t click. Or they go banner blind.

You can see trends that follow this concept with almost any marketing activity.

Remember the good old days when Facebook organic reach was insane?

You paid nothing and reached thousands or millions of eager users.

Now, organic reach is almost nothing:

Image Source

As more and more marketers use the concepts put in place, it results in fewer and fewer results.

This is a perfect example of market movement and active management in currency trading.

You can’t hold certain trades forever and expect exponential performance.

Just because something is generating an insane ROI now, doesn’t mean you can ride it off into the sunset.

Markets are constantly shifting, just like marketing tactics.

What was hot one day (banner ads) isn’t now.

If you don’t adjust your strategy based on analytic research and forecasts, you risk declining performances associated with passive management.

Passive management is when you sit idly by and attempt to cruise to the finish line on your current strategy.

Active management relies on analytical performance data over time to spot trends and make informed decisions about what needs to change.

If you notice a decline in organic reach on Facebook, you probably shouldn’t be dumping your campaign dollars into it.

Unfortunately, us marketers (including me) fall into this trap more often than we’d like to admit.

You log in to Google AdWords or Analytics and see some great conversion data:

Your plans are working as you’d hoped.

But that doesn’t mean you can sit back and let the good times roll.

Sure, you can do that for a little bit. But over time, as markets, tactics, and consumers shift, you’ve gotta take an active role in managing campaigns.

Adjust based on trends.

A great way to do this is by analyzing specific topics on Google Trends:

Or even keeping up to date with the latest studies on popular marketing tactics by conducting a basic Google search:

Stay up-to-date with market movement and look at the underlying trends or patterns. Because when people are blogging about it, tweeting it, favoriting it, or liking it, it’s already too late.

Be Cautious in a Bull Market

When everything is running smoothly, it’s referred to as a bull market.

Investor confidence and financial optimism are at an all-time high.

On the surface, everything is running like a well-oiled machine.

Unemployment is low. The economy’s GDP is growing steadily. Stocks are rising.

And your marketing tactics are getting more traction.

But with all of this surface-based optimism comes serious potential side effects:

It now becomes difficult to predict potential shifts and trends or when tactics might change.

Facebook’s organic reach was booming just a few years ago. Until, of course, it didn’t.

Image Source

Now? Good luck. We’ve crapped out.

There is actually a pretty easy explanation for it. Simple supply vs. demand.

User growth is slowing while the number of content pieces has exploded exponentially. Too much supply, not enough demand.

Guess what’s going to repeat now on Instagram?

Right now it’s the place to be for your content. Just give it a minute.

And don’t get swept up by the bull market.

Find your own Big Short

Have you ever seen The Big Short?

If not, I highly recommend it. It’s a great movie.

Not just because it’s an incredible, intense account of the 2005 housing crisis.

Mainly because it features Steve Carell:


Inspirational as always, Prison Mike.

In all seriousness, it’s a great movie that heavily relates to digital marketing.

The main concept of the movie was based on the true story of Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager who shorted the housing crisis of 2005.

He believed there was a housing bubble, leading him to short sell and bet against the banks who thought he was a chump, taking his deals like candy.

The idea of short selling is motivated by the belief that a security’s price will decline, enabling it to be bought back at a lower price point for maximum profit.

And people thought Michael (Burry, not Prison) was insane.

Who in their right mind bets against the housing market when prices are nearly doubling year after year?

But Burry noticed a few troubling trends. He saw that subprime home loans were in danger of defaulting. And many adjustable rate mortgages with balloon payments were all adjusting around the same time.

He decided to throw more than one billion dollars into credit default swaps.

It’s safe to say that the banks weren’t too happy in the end.

Here’s the moral of the story:

Very few people believed him. But Burry discovered the mystical unicorn that most marketers strive to find.

The main point as it relates to marketing campaigns is this:

You need to find your own big short.

Your own diamond in the rough that you can tap into before anyone else.

Your own display ad invention that generates a 78% CTR.

Finding the tactic that brings your conversions up by 10x.

Sounds wonderful. But you know it’s not easy. Because it hasn’t been blogged about or shared at conferences just yet.

But examples of it do already exist in the marketing world today.

For example, Brian Dean of Backlinko raised the link-building bar with his skyscraper technique.

He took a spin on a classic link-building tactic that increased his search traffic by 110% in just two weeks.

Image Source

On top of a massive increase in traffic, he generated countless backlinks from thousands of different referring domains:

referring domains from backlinko blog post
Image Source

He effectively took his link-building strategy to the next level by going against the grain.

He didn’t sit back and ride the wave of guest blogging or other outdated, declining strategies.

He found his own big short.

While small marketing tactics like A/B testing and creating new ads or creative for your campaigns is a step in the right direction, it isn’t the end-all-be-all. Small bets don’t move the needle.

They merely help you figure out if you’re on the right track (or not). And help to show you when it’s time to go all-in.


Managing marketing campaigns is a stressful task.

Big, splashy, high-budget campaigns have high expectations. Bosses and clients expect big, lofty performance to go with it.

Money can get away from you fast if you aren’t careful.

Even worse, you can get so caught up in data that you miss the right trends.

Trends that tell you which aspects of your campaign are winning and which are losing.

Instead of flying blind or crossing your fingers, think like a financial currency trader.

Analyze the data with a currency arbitrage mindset. Keep up with market movement by taking an active management role in your campaigns. Be cautious in a bull market when everyone’s saying the same things.

And don’t be afraid to bet big when the time comes.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog