What martech challenges are keeping you up at night?

What martech challenges are keeping you up at night?

Ask a digital marketer what their biggest challenges are tied to marketing technology, and it may change given the time of day (or your last conference call). But we’re asking you to help us compile the mother of all lists.

The survey below should take just a few minutes. Just list the big challenges you face, and we’ll come back later to share the full list of what you and your peers had to say.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

https://martechtoday.com/what-martech-challenges-are-keeping-you-up-at-night-231869


About The Author

Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than a decade in editorial leadership positions, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.

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Mutual funds start to put their mouth where their money is

Mutual funds start to put their mouth where their money is

(Reuters) – Corporate America’s biggest shareholders have traditionally been content with sharing their views on a company’s strategy privately with management.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of global biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb is pictured at the headquarters in Le Passage, near Agen, France March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

But now some mutual funds are beginning to rethink their stance, amid pressure from investors for them to justify the fees they charge and a push to boost the performance of their holdings.

Wellington Management Company LLP’s decision last month to speak out against drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s proposed $74 billion acquisition of Celgene Corp, calling what would be the largest-ever pharmaceutical takeover too risky and expensive, sent ripples across the investment world.

This is because these tactics have typically been the purview of activist hedge funds like Starboard Value LP and Elliott Management Corp, not a large institutional money manager like Wellington, with $1 trillion in assets under management.

But in the case of Bristol-Myers, Starboard spoke out publicly against the deal one day after Wellington unveiled its stance publicly.

Wellington’s vocal opposition to the deal is the culmination of some mutual funds gradually feeling more emboldened to publicly challenge a company’s strategy, asset management executives and corporate governance experts say.

“There has been a growing chorus among investors who want these firms to speak up. With Wellington speaking up, it is going to put pressure on the others to do the same,” said Lawrence Glazer, managing partner at Mayflower Advisors, which invests with Wellington funds.

In January, chemicals company Ashland Global Holdings Inc agreed to changes to its board after pressure from asset manager Neuberger Berman Group LLC, which has about $300 billion in assets under management.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc, which manages close to $1 trillion in assets, has opposed several acquisitions, including Michael Dell’s offer to take his eponymous computer maker private, because it felt the proposed deal undervalued the company.

Spurring on these funds to challenge companies publicly is the need to show their worth as so-called active money managers, picking stocks rather than just betting on indexes.

At a time their performance has been lackluster and many have struggled to keep up with their benchmark index, they are under pressure from index-tracking funds who are gaining more market share in asset management. These “passive” money managers charge investors far less, in part because they do not need the army of analysts and portfolio managers to make investments.

“More funds are willing to agitate in search of returns,” Mark Shafir, Citigroup Inc’s co-head of global mergers and acquisitions, said on Thursday at the corporate law institute conference organized in New Orleans by the Tulane School of Law.

RAMPING UP PRESSURE

Despite their deep pockets, taking a public stance on corporate strategy does not come easily to many of these funds, in part because they are unaccustomed to readying the kind of presentations aimed at swaying other shareholders.

For example, Wellington’s statement on Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Celgene deal was just four sentences long. By contrast, Bristol-Myers published a 46-page document defending its deal.

The world’s biggest active mutual fund managers, including Fidelity Investments and Capital Group, have preferred to use their influence discretely, taking advantage of their access to management to gain insight into a company’s strategy and offer feedback behind closed doors.

To stay on good terms with corporate management, large mutual funds have often been happy letting activist hedge funds agitate over a company’s perceived problems.

To be sure, even passive investors have started to pressure companies behind the scenes, especially on social, governance or climate change issues that a younger generation of investors cares more about.

For example, BlackRock Inc and Vanguard Group voted against management at oil major Exxon Mobil Corp in 2017 over its reluctance to disclose the risks it faced from climate change, and pressured weapons manufacturer Sturm Ruger last year over its refusal to publish a report about the safety of its products.

“Corporate America had better take note because the folks who actually pick stocks have finally decided to flex their muscles,” wrote Don Bilson, head of Event Driven Research at Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in New Orleans; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Mike Erman in New York; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Matthew Lewis

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Kelowna SEO Company

Kelowna BC SEO Experts

Get your Kelowna business ranked on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

This will Increase local targeted traffic and increase sales.

We are SEO and web design experts.

Local Kelowna SEO Rankings

We are very confident that our local SEO team can rank your Kelowna business for the most valuable keywords that relate to your industry.

This will bring a solid return on investment for your company and more revenue, so you can keep growing for years to come.

SEO management is essentially the art of using search engine algorithms to attract customers. The strategic use of keywords or keyword phrases can place your website on the first page of popular search engines, which in turn increases your visibility. Our search engine marketing service first identifies the popular keywords that are relevant to your market and then using them in your marketing strategy in order to help you reach the right audience and to increase the return on your marketing invest

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We are SEO experts Brampton Ontario, please call us today at 587 200 3372

Brampton Ontario SEO Company-Digital Advertising-Web Design-SEO-Social Media Marketing-Photography and Video.

Local Brampton SEO Rankings

We are very confident that our local SEO team can rank your Brampton business for the most valuable keywords that relate to your industry.

This will bring a solid return on investment for your company and more revenue, so you can keep growing for years to come.

Brampton Ontario SEO Experts

Get your Brampton business ranked on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

This will Increase local targeted traffic and increase sales.

We are SEO and web design experts.

As a Business in Brampton, your time and your capital are your two greatest assets. Brampton is a very competitive market, and to stand out above your competition in such a competitive Market may prove to be very difficult. That is where Social Hero Media comes in.

Our mission is to help you to maximize both

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What are you seeing? Help us analyze Google’s March 2019 core algorithm update

What are you seeing? Help us analyze Google's March 2019 core algorithm update

The March 12 2019 Google core update is still very fresh for most of us right now. It is still too early to tell exactly if there are any patterns or areas that this specific update hit harder than other areas.

What are you seeing? Please take our survey to let us know how this specific update impacted your web sites. Please fill it out for each site that you think was impacted on March 12th and ask your colleagues to do so as well.

If you’d like to wait for Search Console or other analytics tool to update before you submit the survey, feel free to wait a few days.

What’s next? After we collect enough data, we will review the data for any patterns or similarities. We will report back with any details or insights we find from the data.

So stay tuned. So make sure to stay tuned because we will be providing a more detailed analysis of the 3/12 Google core update in the upcoming week or so.

What can I do now? For now, sit tight, and look at our previous advice in our original story from Google.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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Common technical SEO issues and fixes for aggregators and finance brands Search Engine Watch

Common technical SEO issues and fixes, for aggregators and finance brands

Common technical SEO issues and fixes, for aggregators and finance brands

As most of you know the aggregator market is a competitive one, with the popularity in comparison sites rising.

Comparison companies are some of the most well-known and commonly used brands today. With external marketing and advertising efforts at an all-time high, people turn to the world wide web for these services. So, who is championing the online market?

In an investigation we carried out, we found brands such as MoneySuperMarket and MoneySavingExpert are the kings of the organic market.

graph on comparison websites

It’s hard to remember a world without comparison sites. It turns out that comparison websites have been around for quite some time. In fact, some of the most popular aggregator domain names have been available since 1999.

Yes 1999, two years after Google launched.

Think back to 1999 and how SEO has adapted. Now think about what websites have had to consider, keeping up with high customer demands, new functionality, site migrations, introduction to JavaScript, site speed, the list is endless.

The lifespan and longevity of these sites mean that over time issues start to build up, especially in the technical SEO department. Many of us SEOs are aware of the benefits that come with spending time on technical SEO issues — not to mention the great return on investment.

As comparison sites are so popular and relied upon by users, simple technical issues can result in a poor user experience damaging customer relationships. Or worse, users seeking assistance elsewhere.

Running comparison crawls have identified the common technical SEO issues across the market leaders. Find out what these issues are and how they will be harming their SEO — and see if they correlate with your own website.

1. Keyword cannibalization

When developing and creating new pages it is easy to forget about keyword cannibalization. Duplicating templates can easily leave metadata and headings unchanged, all confusing search engines on which page to rank for that keyword.

Here is an example from GoCompare.

Example of Keyword cannibalization in the h1 and h2 tags

The page on the left has the cannibalizing first heading. This is because the page’s h1 is situated in the top banner. This should target the long-tail opportunity “how to make your own electricity at home” which has been placed in an h2 tag directly under the banner.

The best course of action here would be to tweak the template, removing the banner and placing the call to action in the article body and placing the targeted keyword in a first heading tag.

Comparison sites are prime candidates for keyword cannibalization with the duplication of templates, services, and offers which results in cannibalization issues sitewide.

The fix

Run a crawl of your domain, gathering all the duplicated first headings tags, you can use tools such as Sitebulb for this. Decipher between which is the original page and which is the duplicate, then gather your keyword data to find a better keyword alternative for that duplicate page.

Top tip

Talk to your SEO expert when creating new pages, they will be able to provide recommendations on URL structure, first headings, and titles. It is worth having an SEO at the start of the planning process when rolling out new pages.

2. Internal redirects

Numerous changes can result in internal redirects, primary causes are redundant pages, upgrades to a site’s functionality, and furthermore, the dreaded site migration.

When Google urged sites to accelerate to HTTPs in January 2017, with the ideal methodology to 301 redirect HTTP pages to HTTPs, it’s painful to think about the mass number of internal redirects.

Here’s an example.

Example of internal redirects

Comparison sites specifically need to be aware of this. Just like ecommerce sites, products and services become unavailable. The normal behavior seems to be to then to redirect that product either to an alternative page or, in most cases, back to the parent directory.

This can then cause internal redirects across the site that need immediate attention.

The fix

To tackle this issue, gather all the internal redirected URLs from your crawler.

Once you’ve done this find the link on the parent page by inspecting the page on Google Developer tools.

Find where the link is and recommend to your development team that it changes the href attribute target within the link anchor to the final destination of the redirect.

3. Cleaning up the sitemap

With loads of changes happening across aggregator sites all the time, it is likely that the sitemap gets neglected.

However, it’s imperative you don’t allow this to happen! Search engines such as Google might ignore sitemaps that return “invalid” URLs.

Here’s an example.

Snapshot of the 404 error

Usually, a site’s 400/500 status code pages are on the development teams’ radar to fix. However, it isn’t always best practice as that these pages still sit in the sitemap. As they might be set live, orphaned and no indexed, or redirected elsewhere, that leaves some less severe issues within the Sitemap file.

Aggregators currently have to deal with sites changing product ranges, releasing new and, even, discontinuing services on a regular basis. New pages, therefore, have to be set up, redirects are then applied and sometimes issues are missed.

The fix

First, you need to identify errors within the sitemap. Search Console is perfect for this. Go to the coverage section, and filter with the drop down. Select your sitemaps with “Filter to Sitemaps” to inspect the errors that are within these.

Snapshot of canonical errors and redirects

If your sitemap has 400 or 500 status code pages, then this is more of a priority, if it has the odd redirect or canonical issue, focus on sorting these out first.

Top tip

Check your sitemap weekly or even more frequently. It is also a great way of checking your broken pages across the site.

4. Subdomains are causing index bloat

Behind any great comparison site is a quotation functionality. This allows users to place personal information about a quote and being able to revisit previously saved data kind of like a shopping cart on most ecommerce websites.

However, these are usually hosted on subdomains and can get indexed, which you don’t really want. These are mostly thin content pages, a useless page in Google index equaling index bloat.

Here’s an example.

Example of subdomains

The fix

The solution is to add the “noindex” meta attribute to the quotation domains to stop them from being indexed. You can also include the subdomains in your robots.txt file to stop them from being crawled. Just make sure they aren’t in the search engines’ index before you place them in the file as they won’t drop out of the SERPs.

5. Spreading link equity to irrelevant pages

Internal linking is important. However, passing link equity thinly across pages can cause a loss in value. Think of a pyramid, and how the homepage spreads equity to the directory and then down to the subdirectories through keyword targeted anchor text.

Example of how authority pages spread link equity across a website

These pages where equity is passed should hold the value and only link out to relevant pages that might be of relevance.

As comparison sites target a range of products and opportunities it is important to include them within the site architecture, but not spread the equity thinly.

How do we do this?

1. Consider the architecture of your site. For example:

“Fixed rate mortgages” has different yearly offerings, most sites sit these under a mortgage subdirectory, but this could easily have its own directory. This would benefit the site architecture as it lowers the click depth for those important pages and stops the thin spread of equity.

2. Only link to what is relevant.

Let’s take the below example. The targeted keyword here is “bad credit mortgages.” Money.co.uk then supplies a load of internal links at the bottom of the page that aren’t relevant to the keyword intent. Therefore, the equity is spread to these pages resulting in the page losing value.

Example of linking to relevant pages for link equity

 

The fix

Review the internal linking structure. You can do this by running pages through Screaming Frog, which identifies pages that have a click depth greater than two and evaluates the outgoing links. If there are a lot, this could be a good indicator that pages might be spreading the equity thinly. Manually evaluate the pages to find there the links are going to and remove any that might be irrelevant spreading equity unnecessarily.

6. Orphaned pages

Following on from the above point, pages that are orphaned, or poorly linked to, will receive low equity. Comparison sites are prime candidates for this.

MoneySuperMarket has several orphaned pages, especially located in the blog section of the site.

Example of orphaned pages

The fix

Use Sitebulb to crawl the site and discover orphaned pages. Spend time evaluating these, it might be that these pages should be orphaned. However, if they are present in the sitemap that indicates either one of two problems given below.

  • The pages should be linked to through the internal architecture
    or
  • The page shouldn’t be indexable or in the sitemap

If the pages are redundant, make them “no indexable.” However, if they should be linked to, evaluate your site’s internal architecture to work out a perfect linking strategy for these pages.

Top tip

It is very easy for blog posts to get orphaned, using methods such as topic clustering can help benefit your content marketing efforts while making sure your pages aren’t being orphaned.

Last ditch tips

A lot of these issues occur across a range of different sites and many sectors, as comparison sites undergo a lot of changes and development work with a vast product range and loads to aggregate. It is very hard to keep up-to-date with SEO tech issues.

Be vigilant and delegate resources sensibly. SEO tech issues shouldn’t be ignored, actively monitor and run crawls and checks after any site development work has been rolled out, this can save your organic performance and keep your technical SEO game strong.

Tom Wilkinson is Search & Data Lead at Zazzle Media.

Related reading

How can brands utilize SEO to capture new users and markets
A quick guide to SEO in 2019
luxury marketing search strategy, part one: consumer mindset
Google's RankBrain: Clearing up myths and misconceptions

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Ethiopia crash probe starting in France, families grieve

Ethiopia crash probe starting in France, families grieve

PARIS/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Investigators in France will begin analyzing the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet’s black boxes on Friday, seeking clues into a disaster that has angered scores of mourning families and grounded Boeing’s global 737 MAX fleet.

Sunday’s crash after take-off from Addis Ababa killed 157 people from 35 nations in the second such calamity involving Boeing’s flagship new model in six months.

Possible links between the accidents have rocked the aviation industry, scared passengers worldwide, and left the world’s biggest planemaker scrambling to prove the safety of a money-spinning model intended to be the standard for decades.

Relatives of the dead stormed out of a meeting with Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday, decrying a lack of transparency, while others made the painful trip to the crash scene.

“I can’t find you! Where are you?” said one Ethiopian woman, draped in traditional white mourning shawl, as she held a framed portrait of her brother in the charred and debris-strewn field.

Nations around the world, including an initially reluctant United States, have suspended the 371 MAX models in operation, though airlines are largely coping by switching planes.

Another nearly 5,000 MAXs are on order, meaning the financial implications are huge for the industry.

After an apparent tussle over where the investigation should be held, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders arrived in Paris and were handed over to France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) agency.

(graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

CONNECTION WITH INDONESIA CRASH?

Technical analysis would begin on Friday and the first conclusions could take several days, the BEA said, posting a picture of the partly crumpled, orange-cased box.

The investigation has added urgency since the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday grounded the 737 MAX aircraft citing satellite data and evidence from the scene indicating some similarities and “the possibility of a shared cause” with October’s crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

Though it maintains the planes are safe, Boeing has supported the FAA move. Its stock is down about 11 percent since the crash, wiping more than $26 billion off its market value.

It is unclear how long the Boeing aircraft will be grounded.

U.S. President Donald Trump, an aviation enthusiast with deep ties to Boeing, said he hoped the suspensions would be short. “It’s a great company,” he told reporters at the White House. “They have to figure it out fast. They know that. They’re under great pressure.”

A software fix for the 737 MAX that Boeing has been working on since the Lion Air crash in October in Indonesia will take months to complete, the FAA said on Wednesday.

A relative puts soil on her face as she mourns at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Deliveries of Boeing’s best-selling jets have been effectively frozen, though production continues.

And in what may presage a raft of claims, Norwegian Air has said it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX. Japan became the latest nation to suspend the 737 MAX planes on Thursday. And airline Garuda Indonesia said there was a possibility it would cancel its 20-strong order of 737 MAXs, depending on what the FAA does.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Under international rules, the Ethiopians are leading the investigation but France’s BEA will conduct black box analysis as an advisor. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was also sending three investigators to assist.

The choice of the BEA followed what experts say appears to have been a tug-of-war between national agencies, with Germany initially invited to do the analysis.

Ethiopian Airlines criticized a French-backed investigation into a crash in Lebanon in 2010, when an Ethiopian plane crashed into the sea after take-off. It said the investigation was biased against the pilots, who were blamed for the crash.

There is a small pool of countries including Britain, France, the United States, Canada and Australia that are seen as leading investigators. But only France and the United States have the experience gleaned from being present at almost every crash involving an Airbus or Boeing respectively.

The cause of the Indonesian crash is still being investigated. A November preliminary report, before the retrieval of the cockpit voice recorder, focused on maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but gave no reason for the crash.

The pilot of Flight 302 had reported internal control problems and received permission to return, before the plane came down and burst into a fireball on arid farmland.

Slideshow (15 Images)

Relatives are desperate to know what happened and to receive fragments if not corpses, given the fire and destruction at the site. They were at least able to vent their grief.

“We saw where he died and touched the earth,” said Sultan Al-Mutairi, who came from Riyadh to say goodbye to his brother Saad, who ran a recruitment agency in Kenya.

Reporting by Richard Lough, Tim Hepher and John Irish in Paris, Duncan Miriri and Aaron Masho in Addis Ababa, Jeff Mason and David Shepardson in Washington, Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Danilo Masoni in Milan; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jon Boyle

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How to Create an Exceptional Email Newsletter

How to Create an Exceptional Email Newsletter

Most B2B newsletters seem confused as to why they exist.

We studied 100 of them over three months, and the results weren’t heartening.

Most were difficult to read, visually confusing, and didn’t provide much utility to the reader. It seemed that the marketers behind them were more interested in promoting articles and earning blog impressions than in creating an experience worth subscribing to. But the top 10 percent were completely different.

The top 10% of newsletters were beautiful to look at and minimal in their design; they included funny, concise, and thought-provoking remarks; and they seemed determined to offer an elevated experience that a reader couldn’t get just by visiting their blog.


So we asked the people behind a few of those top newsletters: “What’s your secret?”

Be consistent

Tallie Gabriel, writer and social media editor, Contently

Contently is a content marketing software, and the team writes a blog for marketers called The Strategist, so writing well is their forte. But what sets them apart is their consistency: Contently’s newsletter uses the same cerulean blue header and sans-serif font as its website, and it features the site’s signature humorously skeptical tone.

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The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

You are the catalyst for future growth.

This past September, hundreds of specialists at organizations across industry verticals flocked to #Opticon18, the largest experimentation conference in North America; and it was clear; the driving force is you—the Optimization Champion.

Experimentation as a strategy for future business evolution and innovation is happening now.

The most successful organizations are experimenting (or at least planning to!) across all customer touchpoints. Because customer experience is king.

To keep pace, you’ll need to stay on the pulse of what’s happening with experimentation: new tech and tool developments, the latest strategies for scaling experimentation, and the emerging trends that will define your business in the future.

Because your ability to adapt will lay the foundation for the radical change that is set to happen in the business world:

The next 10 years will generate an order of magnitude more change than we have seen in the last 10 years.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

In 2019, you will want to accelerate your strategy with these six experimentation trends that will pave the future of your digital customer experience:

Trend 1: The currency of business insights

Customer data, machine learning algorithms, the latest technology stack—no technological development is worth implementing if you can’t leverage that data into business insights.

Business insights are the valuable intel that allows you to experiment and evolve. To innovate and proliferate your learnings across your entire organization.

Data is the red blood of an insights-driven business—there can never be enough flowing in the veins. Look always to tap more—and more relevant—data.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

Your ability to accelerate the speed and transmission of insights across different teams is the currency of the future. Business insights will underpin the radical change we will see in the next 10 years.

Data analytics and software enable insights-driven organizations to sift through an immense amount of information to glean transferable insights.

Because this trend hinges on human intelligence: the ability to accumulate a large quantity of quality data sources and to be able to glean actionable insights. Insights that reveal something about your systems and processes, your product or services, and especially your customer:

Insights-driven businesses bring insight, not just data, into every decision, and they know exactly how to use them for greatest advantage across the entire customer life cycle. For these firms, digital insights and what they do with them are their secret weapons to disrupt your market and steal your customers.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

But more importantly, the most successful organizations will find ways to close the loop—bring insights forward and experiment with them at different touchpoints.

Insights-Driven Experimentation

The flow of insights drives your experimentation program, maximizing your organizational learning capacity.

Share the insight:

You must democratize your data and insights so anyone in the organization can harness them for an improved customer experience.

At Uber, for instance, 50% of their employees have access to an insights database which helps to inform their decision making on a daily basis, according to the Forrester report.

Because information is power.

There are many things that you need to get right to create internal alignment and scale insights across the enterprise. However the most important is having the executive team demanding this approach and a top-down strategy guiding the synchronization of teams around a common practice.

But this is a challenge for any traditional, non-agile organization.

In fact, Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler and James McCormick predict that insights-driven businesses will grow eight times faster than the projected 3.5% global GDP Growth. More granularly, their predictions include that insights-driven public companies will grow 27% annually and startups will grow 40%.

But this might not be possible without the top-level support of changed processes and systems.

What processes and protocol can you document to ensure that business insights are spread throughout your organization?

A Marketer’s take on this trend

The dissemination of insights is crucial if you really want to move your organization forward. The learnings you generate from experimentation can’t live in a single team – particularly those insights about your customer’s emotional states and contexts. Because these insights can most likely be applied and tested at many touch points throughout your business.

Now is the time to figure out what systems you need in place to ensure the right people have access to insights from data, experimentation, and customer research. This may be as simple as an experiment insights archive, or it may require a more intentional dissemination effort.

Natasha Wahid

Marketing Lead

Resources to get you started…

Trend 2: The cross-organizational experimentation mindset

Thomas Edison would be thrilled to be alive today, if he could see the stuff that is really going on, the stuff that you are all doing.

It’s not a surprise that Forrester analysts predict unprecedented growth for insights-driven businesses in the next decade. Experimentation refines ideas into validated insights, evolving the digital customer experience.

And with more organizations adopting the experimentation mindset of testing and learning across every department, the ability to generate and leverage business insights increases exponentially.

In the next 10 years, we will see widespread adoption of experimentation across all touch points to validate all marketing activity and focus our limited time and resources on the high-impact areas.

Nick So

Director of Strategy

The future of the digital customer experience is through experimentation. In the next 10 years, you will see more and more organizations experimenting across every customer touchpoint, in order to optimize their entire journey.

Your first step is to de-silo experimentation in your organization. Instead of relegating experimentation as a side-strategy, organizations will need to implement the structures and processes to enable experimentation in every team.

To become a true experimentation organization, you need scale and scope. Scale is about running many experiments and scope is about getting all groups across an organization to participate in experiments.

The most successful organizations are already on board with cross-organizational experimentation. According to Stefan Thomke, at organizations like P&G, Uber, Airbnb, or Bing, experimentation is going on at all times.

[At Bing, at] any point in time, there’s billions and trillions of variations,” explains Stefan Thomke. “And by the way, the success rate at Bing, alone, is only 10-20% of what they try.

WiderFunnel High Velocity Experimentation Examples

Real-world examples of experimentation at scale

The most successful organizations are experimenting at a high velocity, gathering insights from both winning and losing variations.

Share the insight:

And despite a low win-rate, these organizations are investing in experimentation as their cross-organizational strategy. Because it’s not about winning or losing — that’s thinking too small, too immediate.

That’s because experimentation competency across their organization is their competitive advantage. They are testing large-scale and high-velocity because they involve every team, every department. Experimentation is all about gathering business insights.

At its peak maturity, experimentation is a cultural mindset that spans across organizational departments, marketing channels, and throughout executive management.

So where do you get started? We’ve got it figured out.

The 5 pillars of an effective experimentation program

Cross-organization experimentation requires a scaling strategy. It requires focused intention, a multi-pronged approach to your process, your metrics, your culture, your expertise, and your tech stack.

Based on years of analysis of experimentation programs, and through surveying Optimization Champions at organizations all over North America in “State of Experimentation Maturity 2018” report, we’ve identified what makes the most successful programs gain traction across departments, across activities.

And it’s called the PACET framework.

The PACET Framework

WiderFunnel PACET framework for scaling experimentation

WiderFunnel’s PACET Framework

By focusing on the five core pillars of process, accountability, culture, expertise, and technology, you can scale and mature your experimentation program.

Share the insight:

Our findings informed WiderFunnel’s framework: PACET. And it includes these five pillars:

Process

This pillar includes an organization’s experimentation protocol and methodology, process for ideation and prioritization, experiment design, and measurement of success.

Accountability

The most mature organizations keep process and accountability at the core of their experimentation strategy, fuelling how experiments are developed, and results are analyzed, understood, and leveraged.

Culture

Culture is crucial when defining experimentation maturity: Does your organization celebrate testing and learning? Are people encouraged to try (and fail) and try again?

This pillar includes organizational buy-in for experimentation, program support from the C-level, and cross-team participation in an experimentation program.

Expertise

An experimentation program needs expertise and resources. The amount of time and full-time team members dedicated to experimentation is reflective of an organization’s maturity.

This pillar includes people and skill sets: strategists, analysts, designers, developers, project managers, product owners, third-party partners, as well as hours dedicated to experimentation.

Technology

Experimentation maturity requires a well-rounded technology stack. Experimentation and personalization tools, visitor engagement tools, customer data tools, project management tools. Mature organizations have the right tools in place to ensure they can develop the best possible hypotheses and have reliable data.

Your first step is to evaluate how developed each of these core pillars are within your organization, so you can set your sights on your future growth.

Trend 3: Empowered product experimentation

Experimentation has become the product. Your product is the culmination of user feedback and quantitative data tied to your business goals. And experimentation is the engine that brings it all together to validate the way forward.

Just as Stefan Thomke mentioned, your experimentation program’s scale and scope are essential for driving your future growth. If you are considering how to grow your program, empowered product experimentation should be your next step.

There are numerous untapped opportunities:

Server-side experimentation has really opened up what is possible with product experimentation. Allowing development teams to build experimentation directly into their sprints and workflows,” clarifies Thomas Davis, Senior Web Developer at WiderFunnel.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in Product Development Cycle

The product lifecycle

You can experiment deeper into your stack with product experimentation, including with machine learning algorithms, log-in states, and more.

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But besides the ability to experiment throughout the development lifecycle, you also have the opportunity to maximize your digital customer experience by building off the value that is already created.

Successful product managers create an experience that delights, an experience that meets the customer’s emotional needs and states in the context of your product. And continuous and iterative experimentation makes certain that you are moving toward this end goal.

You can heighten the positive emotions that your customer experiences, and minimize the friction points to make it more sticky.

And that experimentation mindset will be critical to ensuring the longevity of your product in the marketplace.

A Developer’s take on the trend

Nothing is more frustrating than building out a fully integrated feature that has a negative effect on the business. Product experimentation stops developers wasting time building out fully polished features that will just be rolled back.

Thomas Davis

Senior Web Developer

Trend 4: The evolution of the Digital Experience Stack

Delivering exceptional customer experiences at scale is high-pressure for the disruptive business leader. It’s a fast-paced market and they know they have to keep up.

Marketing is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ discipline,” explains Sergiy Bondarenko, Marketing Operations Analyst at WiderFunnel.

Marketers have to be experts in copywriting, sales, design, psychology, web technology, app technology, SEO, paid traffic acquisition and demand generation, social media, public relations, etc.

Naturally, there isn’t a single person who can excel in all these disciplines. This is where many tool vendors come in, promising to ‘fill gaps’, and marketers fall into the trap of thinking a tool can replace skills.

When it comes to technology, gone are the days of finding that traditional one-tool solution. These legacy suites evolve slowly, delivering mediocre results across the board. At that pace, how could you ever stand out amongst your competitors?

Insights-driven businesses are 137% more likely to differentiate with data and analytics.

But implementing new tools and technologies without an overarching martech strategy will lead to poor results as well.

Since 2007, we have gone from ~150 martech vendors to over ~7,000 in 2018. Unsurprisingly, marketers are now suffering from the ‘shiny object’ syndrome—every new tool promises to solve every problem there is, and if it’s trendy, then it’s almost an obligation to work it into the existing workflow—or risk being seen as a laggard.

Sergiy Bondarenko

Marketing Operations Analyst

The new Digital Experience Stack is an innovative solution, particularly for those disruptive businesses that want the best of the tech worlds.

WiderFunnel The Digital Experience Stack DXS
Some of the best-in-class tools have partnered to create The Digital Experience Stack (DXS). Source: Optimizely.

And it ensures you have the well-rounded technology stack to empower your organization’s experimentation at scale.

If you have 100 tools that are fragmented, don’t have an open API, and are sparsely used, then you have a problem on your hands,” states Sergiy Bondarenko.

Firstly, team productivity and happiness will suffer. This will eventually trickle down into underperforming operational metrics and will have a negative impact on the KPIs.

A bloated martech stack also means a bloated budget, and you never want to have a bloated marketing budget—it creates tension and a lack of trust with organizational leaders like the CEO and CFO.

And no organization wants that.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

The digital experience stack is a great approach that enables businesses to work with a diverse range of best-in-class technologies, and enables technology companies to continue to focus on their area of expertise. Collaboration, not competition, to better support the industry as a whole.

James Flory

Senior Experimentation Strategist

Trend 5: The re-framing of personalization

Experimentation ensures that businesses are innovating and evolving. But, it doesn’t mean that it is a separate strategy. It is the underpinning methodology of getting any and every strategy right.

Personalization is just one technique within the methodology of experimentation.

It’s not one or the other.

So, your experimentation team shouldn’t be siloed from your personalization efforts.

We’ve seen a lot of hype around personalization in recent years, but many organizations are only aspiring to the level where they can deliver individualized experiences to their customers. That’s the 1:1 experiences that many tools claim to provide.

WiderFunnel Marketing Personalization
Providing a more customized user experience often starts with segmenting your audience, but any personalization tactic needs to be validated through experimentation.

But, as Mike St. Laurent, Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead points out: “Most companies do not have the necessary data collection and segmentation capabilities in place to even be thinking about personalization as a strategy.

2019 will be the year of laying the technical groundwork so that companies have the tools they need to test relevant customer experiences effectively.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

You also need to keep in mind that any tactic needs to be proven; not every implementation of personalization will deliver results.

If you have an idea on how to leverage personalization in your strategy, validate your hypotheses through experimentation.

The end goal is to create digital experiences that are highly relevant to the customer in your business context. But you should only want that as a means of generating a higher customer lifetime value.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

Creating relevant experiences can be an effective way to improve conversions, but companies are realizing they shouldn’t be personalizing just to say they are doing it.

Companies are starting to understand that just because something is “personalized” doesn’t mean it’s more effective. A personalized experience needs to be tested the same as any other change to a digital experience.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

Get well-versed on this topic…

Trend 6: True customer empathy

Businesses have long been trying to solve their customer’s pain points. But what has been missing from the conversation is true customer empathy.

Because you don’t want your customer to only have their problem solved. You want them to feel an affiliation with your brand and with your experience. You want them to be delighted.

widerfunnel customer delight
Are you creating delight for the individuals who are your customers?

True customer empathy means understanding your customer’s full spectrum of emotions within your experience: knowing what emotions they feel when their expectations are met and how they feel when their expectations are not met.

In the digital world, customers can access your brand on many touch points: social media, email newsletters, your website. All of which offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your customers.

Where are the points of friction and where are the points of delight in your experience?

Unfortunately, at least one unintended bad customer experience is part and parcel of any new launch; companies simply can’t predetermine how every part of their customers’ experience is impacted by design or development decisions made during the feature development process.

A crucial post-launch practice at FullStory is something we call ‘game film‘—a process where we auto-play sessions of users interacting with the new feature and note down how many bad experiences they encounter.

Whether through game film or some other practice, the point is that everyone should have a built-in mechanism to monitor these empathy-inducing moments of frustration for customers.

Jordan Woods

Marketing at FullStory

True customer empathy leads to an understanding of how you can maximize and minimize the feelings your customer experiences at these different points within your experience, so that your brand can align more closely with your customer’s emotional needs and states.

In 2005, when Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, 80% of companies stated that they were customer centric. That sounds promising until you consider their customers’ response: Only 8% of customers agreed.

Clearly, there is a disconnect.

So, how can you get deeper than demographics to not only understand your customer, but to anticipate their emotional response? How can your organization become genuinely empathetic to their customers?

Start by listening to your customers at every touchpoint.

Marketing Trends Customer Journey
The customer experience is a holistic journey across multiple touchpoints. Having empathy for your customer’s emotional needs and states is crucial for making their experience delightful.

Live chat. Social media listening. Customer surveys. These methods are a starting point. But true customer empathy only comes from deep inquiry and the thick data that results:

Research techniques — such as contextual inquiry, diary studies, ethnographic research and others — can generate thick data that allows you to understand your customer’s emotional needs.

True customer empathy is also a rich source of hypothesis ideation. You can validate this deep understanding of your customer through experimentation to see if your hypotheses stand true.

A UX Researcher’s take on the trend

People will always be the centre of any business. Understanding those people — your users — and their circumstances will help you generate powerful hypotheses. But the key is to take these insights forward through each of your experiments to drive and scale a sophisticated experimentation program.

Kim Quach

UX Research Specialist

Remember what you do now counts.

Your leadership, your strategies, your experiments are driving your organization into the future. What you do now accelerates the growth of your company.

It takes just one person to lead the change. The more you embrace the trends and technologies of the future, the more ready you are to embrace the pace of change.

But know that you don’t have to bear the burden alone.

Build the right insights partnerships – don’t go it alone. You probably won’t own all the data, expertise, or technology. We expect most companies to work with a wide variety of insights services partners.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

You can still lead the charge.

As the more determined you are to push the boundaries of how your organization operates, the more likely you can evolve with the rapid growth that your organization can facilitate through experimentation.

But it’s not just about you and your organization—it’s about your organization’s purpose, your vision—the reason why behind your work.

And that is your customers.

Because a delightful digital experience is how your brand stays relevant—now and in the next decade.

What trends stand out as most important to your future growth? Let’s start a conversation in the comment section below.

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Lindsay Kwan

Marketing Communications Specialist

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Your Money: Pay yourself first? Last is how small biz often works

Your Money: Pay yourself first? Last is how small biz often works

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Everyone knows the Golden Rule of business is to pay yourself first. But more than half of small business owners are going months without pay – if they are taking any at all.

FILE PHOTO – An employee of a bank counts US dollar notes at a branch in Hanoi, Vietnam May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

About a quarter of these entrepreneurs go two to six months without pay, and another quarter have gone more than six months without salary, according to a recent survey from Kabbage (kabbage.com), a cash flow optimization platform.

The small business payroll servicer Gusto (gusto.com) finds even more ups and down for its clients. Data on 449 owners shared exclusively with Reuters show that only a handful pulled any paycheck at all in 2018, and the size of the checks varied greatly, with the highest amounts taken in summer.

Average pay chart: tmsnrt.rs/2NWSnsR

The biggest month for an owner’s draw in 2018 was December, with 73 business owners taking checks, and a median check of $5,944, according to Gusto spokesman Rick Chen. The lowest draws were in January, with just 26 owners taking pay, for an average of just $1,991.

“It’s tough. People have to budget,” said Mike Savage, a certified public accountant (CPA) and chief executive officer of 1-800Accountant (1800accountant.com), which offers financial services to small business owners. “We encourage people to budget accordingly – plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

GETTING BY

Tony Hernandez, owner of Cienfuegos Cuban Cafe in Simi Valley, California, is among those who have not taken a paycheck at all.

Since he started his food business over three years ago, he has earned tips, but otherwise it all goes back into the business. Some expenses, like his car and gas, get billed through the company. His wife’s job covers living costs and provides health insurance for them and their two kids.

“I don’t know how else I would be able to do something like this without my wife,” said Hernandez, 46.

For Hernandez, long-term planning is less about retirement than about expanding to a second location, with the ultimate dream of a stall at the Los Angeles airport.

“The way I look at my business is: I’m fully invested in this to make it work. That’s investing in my retirement,” said Hernandez.

What keeps Joanne Sonenshine up at night has been the inability to plan. The 42-year-old runs a partnership advisory company in Washington called Connective Impact that helps connect companies to investments with social impact. She regularly takes a salary, but often has to pause it, depending on when clients pay.

The partial U.S. government shutdown at the beginning of the year was particularly crippling, because many of her clients depend on federal funding. Two big contracts disappeared suddenly.

“A huge amount of money went up in smoke. I can’t catch up with that,” said Sonenshine. “You start to worry if you can make it. There’s the fear of failure, the fear of letting your family down. What happens if I can’t pay my taxes? Will the IRS come after me?”

NEW TAX LAW

This is, indeed, a daunting year for small business taxes. The Tax Cuts & Job Acts passed in 2017 created a new 20 percent deduction for individuals earning business income – but the fine print is complicated. Those paying quarterly taxes in 2018 before all the rules were sorted out may have to make adjustments. That is on top of the difficulty of figuring out quarterly tax payments on fluctuating income.

“With the new tax law, there’s even more incentive for the self-employed entrepreneur to pay themselves less,” said Savage, because they will avoid payroll taxes and other withholdings and boost their deduction.

While more careful cash management may help control the symptoms, this may be one problem for which there is no cure. Most businesses run on small margins, and they are always expanding so as not to stagnate.

“We’ll always been chasing our tails, in effect,” said Rich Patterson, who runs his own marketing company that makes custom products in Vancouver, Canada.

Patterson, 48, had to pause his pay over the summer, when there was a worrisome lag. “I watch the sales figure really closely, and I knew we were having a good year. It didn’t seem to match up why we were having cash flow problems,” Patterson said.

The choice became paying himself and contributing to retirement or paying his staff. “Honestly, it’s just not possible to pay yourself first,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if other people are losing out.”

Editing by Lauren Young and Jonathan Oatis

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