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What important truth about marketing do very few people agree with you on?
Question inspired by Peter Thiel. Looking forward to your answers and see how we can all learn from them :)
People think it's about tactics and techniques, but it's about repeatable, teachable, systematic processes.
I tend too agree with you but can I ask you why this is the truth?
Why it is like that, why, as marketers we tend to focus on tactics and techniques and how to fix it?
Would love if you could expand on this point
Brian Balfour has a great blogpost about processes over tactics: http://www.coelevate.com/essays/growth-process-first-tactics-second
Also a fun read from the Dilbert author:
I see that all the time. Usually there are short term scorecard goals that have to be achieve. Strategy is long term and mostly people are fed up with their daily business, especially start up managers. For bigger businesses strategy is often allocated way up at board level and nobody in the field cares actually about what those guys are saying. Hence the same focus on daily challenges as mentioned before. That's not how it should be but I've seen this a million times. Also by the way a GH problem as most of us are very focused on singular tests and pilots rather than having a strategic view on things.
Adding: Strategic meaning setting up processes that will repeatedly generate sustainable results..
No to speak for @peeplaja, but I think the point was that most people think marketing is about tactics and technique, when it fact it is about building a repeatable, systematic process that can be evangelized and adopted by an organization. Marketing is too often confused with 'advertising' for example, when the objective of 'advertising' is more important, for example, acquisition or awareness.
+100000 If you aren't working on a way to eliminate the need for role at work, you aren't doing it right. Cannibalize or die.
• A/B tests often show false positive improvement. Most marketers will tell you they trust the result of an A/B test, and it's often a bad idea. Not convinced ? Even Optimizely themselves talk about it : https://help.optimizely.com/hc/en-us/articles/200040355-Run-and-interpret-an-A-A-test
• You need to take a step back before jumping to conclusions based on data analysis. It's common that marketers misinterpret findings in their Google Analytics
• You never track too much. I know segment & co tell you to start with 6-10 events, but each time I've done a full scale app tracking plan, it's been hugely rewarding.
Nobody disagrees with that. And it's not that A/B tests show false positive - it's that people are idiots and don't know enough, call tests early. It's a lack of education that's the problem here.
Interesting 3rd point ! Would you mind sharing a bit more about your experience? ("it’s been hugely rewarding")
Yes, certainly ! So at Mention we not only track the usual SaaS events (signed up, activated, upgraded, downgraded, canceled), but also the product usage in a very detailed way.
This helps us find :
• Correlation between the upgrade and the usage of the app => this means finding your magic spot, or breaking point, which pushes users to upgrade. For slack it's 2,000 messages, whatever the size of the group may be FYI.
• Problems in our product, like "all the people who go through these steps end up deleting there account" => there's a mighty issue here
Don't entirely agree on the first point. While I do understand that there are sometimes false positives and significance is often misunderstood or misused, I think in the larger picture it does not really matter.
Let's assume you really want to make absolutely sure you end up with a winner on your A/B-test. That means you will have to aim for a significance level very close to 100%, which means you'll need to have your test run much longer than if you were satisfied with 90% confidence (I would guess sometimes even up to 10x as long). And that means you won't be able to test that specific page/flow while the current test is running.
Is that additional confidence then actually worth the trouble and time? I think not. That other mantra of testing everything makes that it is much more interesting to test (and decide) rather quickly and move on to the next test. In almost every circumstance I think it is better to have run 10 tests with confidence levels of 90% than 1 test with a confidence level of 100%.
Yes, so it really depends on the volume and the time. I do encourage everyone to check "Regression to the mean effect". This means that the variation effects are strong at the beginning, but then drop and get closer and closer to the mean.
Also, a great paper on statistical significance in AB tests :
Their conclusion is :
"• Use a valid hypothesis - don’t use a scattergun approach
• Do a power calculation first to estimate sample size
• Do not stop the test early if you use ‘classical methods’ of testing
• Perform a second ‘validation’ test repeating your original test to check that the effect is real"
To clarify, I'm not saying I'm against AB tests. I love them, and use them often. It's simply that in most cases, marketers will tend to stop the test and choose a winning variation much, much to early.
Example ? Sure !
I have blue buttons everywhere in my app. Say I test a green button on a desired page. I'm creating what is called as a "novelty effect", which means that for regular users this button is now standing out, and different from the others. It's then very possible that the click rates rise sharply.
Say I wait a few days, the results are still good. So I move all the blue buttons to green. What happens after a month? Well click rates have very, very probably gone back to their usual rate.
Thank you for the clarification. I certainly follow the 'novelty effect' and that you should give a test some time to settle down.
My comment was mainly inspired on this article ( https://blog.kissmetrics.com/your-ab-tests-are-illusory/ ) by the way, which makes the case for not exaggerating the need for certainties.
Focus on distribution before design.
A focus on more testing is generally better than an attempt at fewer high impact tests. By testing I mean everything from new customer acquisition ideas, to optimizing your existing conversion funnel. Too often people are trying to run super high impact tests and end up stalling the process. The only way to truly know if something will be high impact is to test it. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't use qualitative and quantitative data to inform your tests, but it's important to not get caught up in always trying to hit a home run. High tempo testing generally wins.
Sean - Could you expand a bit more about high tempo testing - can you give a good example of the number of tests total or number of tests running concurrently in say a month.
I define testing tempo as the number of things you are going to start in a given week that could move the growth needle in your business. For GrowthHackers we're currently on a tempo of 3 per week. I've been experimenting with this over the last couple of months and have found that weeks where we start more tests have faster growth than weeks where we try to do one home run test. It's still early so I can't say for sure that this is a universal truism, but my gut says that it is. I wouldn't worry about the number of concurrent tests overall. The beauty of A/B testing is that it normalizes for variability upstream from the test (but do worry about concurrent tests on the same page).
The highest testing tempo that I've seen is what @bbalfour says they are doing for Hubspot's Sidekick product. They are doing about 30 tests per week. Again, in my mind it is test "starts" that matters. Each test will run at varying lengths until it has a sufficient sample size. Hope this helps.
I would've picked the same idea. Thanks for typing it out so I didn't have to :)
Thanks, Sean, this was really helpful.
This is really only workable in B2C businesses with sufficient volume though, to Peep's point above most people call test results way too early, and unless you have big volume its hard to do that. e.g to detect a 1% improvement to something that converts at 5% you need 17k samples, which might be fine if you're dealing with your homepage but requires massive amounts of topline traffic if its further down the funnel.
I'm defining test as "anything that moves the needle in the business." For A/B testing I agree, but there are plenty of other tests that can be run that don't require high volume of traffic (such as keyword tests and copy tests in adwords).
I am in eCommerce Marketing and I fight tooth and nail to make the homepage of my ecommerce sites not have add to cart buttons. Every marketer out there will suggest that you remove a click and that you should make it as easy to buy as possible. Most ecommerce marketers, CEOs, CFOs, etc solve this by plastering as many products on the homepage as possible.
The only exception to this that I agree with is customizable product feeds for larger stores, for example what Amazon puts on the homepage which are products that it (eerily accurately) has chosen for me based on past purchases. Another way to do this is to show a social feed of products from friends via social networks. These customizable product feeds work for large stores and are probably my one exception to the rule.
So if I don't put products on the homepage what should you put there instead? You should tell a story. Explain WHY your company matters, not what features are better. The features come later after you make a lasting impression on the customer with your company story, values, and purpose. Sell the company first, and the rest becomes stupidly simple, the products will literally sell themselves.
One last thing:
Carousel sliders are a waste of time and resources. Many other marketers are starting to finally agree with this. Sliders are a distraction, users rarely see anything beyond slide #1, it encourages lazy marketing ("just throw it on the slider" mentality), it hurts user experience (because they are rarely interactive and usually slide by too fast for the user to actually engage with it), and it has significant impact on page loads when compared to a static hero image.
For the point about telling a story on the homepage: have you tested this?
Also, why is it either/or - you could have a section explaining the brand, as well as sections for popular or personalized products.
I neither agree nor disagree, I'm just genuinely curious what you have found.
For the second point, I think most people in CRO would agree that carousels are not effective. It either comes from someone in design who likes it, or as a way to solve some political issue internal to the company, like satisfying multiple people who each want their message displayed in that space.
Good call on sliders. People keep using them despite all the data that shows nobody clicks on any slides except the first one.
Just found this link about why you shouldn't use sliders - http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
Great point about sliders. They're horrible.
One problem that a lot of people struggle with is "when to start Marketing". It'll always depend on the stage of the startup and where is the focus of the company but very few agrees...
As an example, I've recently met 2 very different kind of founders:
- The first one is in his late fifty, already sold his company for millions. They're terrible at Marketing. However, their company already has a thousand customers and show an incredible turnover.
- The second one is younger but it's not his first company. They started doing marketing even before validating their value proposition.
Starting Marketing has everything to do with the execution, which is primary but many people don't agree on that point.
The second point is about whether being Analytical or not. Some people would say "We're too small, it doesn't matter" (although they have 700 customers), while others want to be data-driven when they only have very few customers.
The final point I've been arguing a lot recently is that UI & Design don't matter as much as business goals & value proposition. The first thing you need to focus on is your Value Proposition. With a good VP, you could reach your Business Goals, even with a terrible UI. Many people I've talked to don't really agree with me on that point.
You got my 2 cents!
I totally agree with you. As someone who has been an active Marketing Mentor at a Venture Accelerator for 3 years - I have seen how far too few startups have any Marketing experience on their teams and don't focus on marketing until after they believe that they have achieved Product Market Fit and have completed their Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is WAY TOO LATE and as a result they often spend a much longer time achieving any traction and realizing any significant growth. Worst case basis they end up going back to the drawing board and modifying their MVP.
Startups should be using Agile Marketing techniques right from the get go as they are testing their Customer Development/Business Canvas Model - they should be testing "paths to the customer" and trying to validate traction channels, identifying early adopters and influencers, testing pricing assumptions etc. while working on their MVP. This can be done on the cheap using Landing Pages with appropriate calls to actions, building an email list and testing the various traction channels to understand which will work best.
If "marketing" is "establishing a brand and a message" then you have a point. But if marketing is "researching a problem (a market) and finding a solution" then it's all marketing.
I prefer the second definition because then your branding and message can't be anything but on point at communicating value.
I work with normal small businesses - lawyers, real estate agents, wedding planners, shops, etc. In the real (non-startup) economy, virtually nobody does any testing of any kind whatsoever. No decisions are based on any data at all. Its all just "instinct" and "luck".
The truth about marketing that my type of clients disagree with is that their "instincts" are probably not as good or accurate as they think and "luck" is neither a tactic nor a strategy.
We don't realise just how evolved we are when compared to the normal business owner or manager.
I think this is a valid point that what we see in marketing forums cluttered with tips and tricks that only often work in startup-like environments but are not as practical for other businesses. Of course it's these "other" businesses that make up 99% of the landscape. I would love to see more practical marketing for lawyers, doctors, etc.
I'm sure that lots of the things we read about will work if adapted to a small business, but they actually have to be implemented and most small businesses do zero actual marketing. They refuse to allocate any budget for anything. It amazes me that they stay open.
Considering the % of jobs in the economy that rely on these guys, I cannot believe that governments view teaching marketing and business skills to owners and managers as a priority.
Heh, I love this question!
I deeply, firmly believe that marketing should have a TON of personality. It should be intense, it should be a multiplied function of the personality of the founders, of the company. It should be BOLD. It should go the extra mile. It means doing things that not everybody will get. It means wilfully ignoring most people to focus on on a few.
Testing is good to do, but you can't incrementally test your way to big ideas. Marketing requires balls-to-the-wall radical experimentation. It means deviating as dramatically from the status quo as possible.
I feel like this is often reserved for "outlier" companies like Eat24 (advertising on porn sites), OKCupid (dating), Digornio Pizza, and there's this idea that more "professional" companies can't be irreverent.
I think that's bullshit, but I can't prove it decisively. Yet.
Personality is a brand choice. So use your tools to understand your positioning. Maybe everyone else is projecting trustworthiness, reliability, confidence because that works better for the relationship they want to cultivate with their customers than something colorful and sharp. Banks vs. laser tag, pediatric clinic vs. sexy night club. Before worrying about metrics or spiraling off into wild brand experiments, do the classic consumer behavior analysis to understand how you fit into their world. You'll make smarter choices about when and how to break expectations.
Multicultural Marketing campaigns should be done more often, especially in the US as the diversity continues to increase...
At least in LA, the huge media groups have created versions of their content in Spanish, for example.
But we have a long way to go.
That "Disrupt or Be Disrupted" is a false strategic marketing choice for startups. There is a 3rd way.
That what I call "monoculture advantage partnering', i.e. symbiotic partnering with an alpha player as an ingredient inside their app, cloud, network, solution or experience--has driven the rise of empires from Microsoft to Google to Adobe to VMware to RedHat and beyond.
That winning 'upstream' can be more lucrative and inherently scalable than focusing on downstream 'markets of 1' in the beginning. This is counterintuitive to most advice startups get.
FYI, Upstream 2.0 Platform Marketing, PT 1.
Totally agree. I work in an industry that seems to have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to competition. I shock customers all the time when I say "you're probably not the right customer for us, you should go buy from X". This shocks them because it is so cutthroat that they expect me to beg for business like everyone else. But I think there is room for everyone. We have strengths and other places have strengths.
1. This doesn't work so stop doing it. - people for some reason are hesitant to stop things even if they know they don't work.
2. Marketing is not only telling people what you do but also doing exactly what you promise.
I have to be honest; I don't see a truth here at the level Thiel talks about in his book. There may be one, maybe.
Morgan, I think not seeing a truth is your truth you see!
I think it depends on who you use as your reference base and which group 'the very few people' belong to.
I'm pretty sure if you took 90% of the growth hackers and sat them down with most 'branding experts' (ie, those who charge $20,000 for a logo) there would be few agreements.
Conversely if you looked at this community, you'd be unlikely to find many truths that very few disagree with - because the mindset of a growth hacker should be all about hustle, testing and not accepting 'truths' without some evidence.
I don't know, there's a lot of "hidden truths" that are pretty obvious and actually widely held. Did you read Thiel's chapter on this? He kind of debunks these "secrets" as really just another form of conformity.
Even if this question is not completely in the spirit of Peter Thiel's book, I think it's a really good question for GH. It's great for triggering conversations/debate about the less obvious parts of growth.
Oh I agree, I'm just trying to spur people to go further :)
The idea was not to copy the contrarian question Peter Thiel ask and explain in is book "Zero to One" but to enable discussion about subject we would not talk about otherwise and learn from the answers of more experienced marketers.
Job done I think :)
Talking about Marketers role as Publishers makes many people nervous. Seems like that perspective is really hard to take on for people who still believe that marketing is doing campaigns towards target groups. My believe is that we are shifting very fast into a phase where marketing is built in every interaction people has with a company and a product. Meaning that communication is marketing and that there is no thing such as marketing communication.
Grammer iz ded. And design is a luxury for some and a crutch for most. Get to the point as fast and frequently as you can. Send, iterate, send...
I think a lot of people think there is always a solution and answer. There isn't. Sometimes traffic is down because it's down, and not a thing you can do will change it. Some products just won't sell, not because the deal isn't good, but because it just won't sell.
I think most marketers develop a god complex, thinking that every situation can have a solution.
I also thought of another truth. :) - But I think everyone should agree with it, but some don't have the insight to take it seriously.
In God We Trust, For Everything Else, Bring Data.
I think marketers, the most skilled ones, are those who back their decisions and dollars by the data. Those even better find and influence the data, and are able to make real differences by playing the data to their advantage. If you don't have a budget for branding - your CEO doesn't agree and just wants to spend on conversions - bring data to show that branding directly influences the acquisitions, and set the budget.
I've had this so many times where everything comes down to how you pitch the concept, and then follow up with supporting data.
That basically marketing is common sense applied to specific situation.
An important marketing tenet I live by is always doing something different, i.e. something that stands out. If you're writing ad copy for PPC, don't copy everyone else. Write something that stands out and grabs attention. If everyone else in your industry is doing 500 word blog posts, write 2,000 word posts. Those are only two small examples, but a big part of marketing is standing out, not blending in, but a lot of businesses are hesitant to do something different than the competition and instead mimic what everyone else is doing. I also don't think people disagree with this; it's just that not very many people put it into practice.
That marketing is a skill learned from masters in the field and that some people are better than others in the execution of it. More than any other field, Marketing suffers the most from people thinking that htey can and know how to market.
Supply side hacking is all well and good but make sure you are:
1 - managing expectations of the supply side vendors to ensure that they don't expect a lot of business anytime soon (whilst you work out the demand side)
2. Don't stop thinking about how you will activate the demand side. Don't expect word-of-mouth "X site / app has all the inventory so you should go there" to be the main driver of growth, you will need to spend equal time hacking this side later on
We experienced both these problems at hubblehq.com after working on the heuristic of hacking the supply side
Everybody thinks that marketing is a silver-bullet for growth and success, in reality product itself usually is the best tool and compass for goal predictions.
spend max 1/3 LTV (profit) on CPA, not 1/3 LTV (revenue) like some suggest
Unpopular marketing beliefs
- If you are asking "how should I market this," you should probably not be the person who markets it, ever.
- Testing is not a solution. It is a tool. If you created a garbage product/landing page/situation, you're probably not going to solve it by testing.
- Marketing and business are basically the same thing. Marketing is any act entailed in bringing a product to market. Therefore your product is marketing. Your marketing is marketing. Your customer support is marketing. Anything that is customer facing (and then some) is marketing. I've been the CEO/CMO at multiple companies, because a company's function is marketing.
- Social media is FIERCELY misunderstood and SEVERELY overrated in its ability to produce tangible results quickly. Outside of certain well executed and well-timed case studies, social media beyond the "we have a pulse" baseline is a waste of time for most companies and will never produce a positive ROI.
- Originality is drastically overrated. People don't spend nearly enough time intensely studying what has worked and ripping that off. Someone who doesn't keep a swipe file isn't taking this shit seriously.
- In the long run, originality, or it's more buzzwordy counterpart, innovation, is necessary. Being unoriginal is generally the way to build something solid, stable and good. Being innovative is how you win a market, build a distinguished brand and become a leader. The balance between innovation and proven practice may be the ultimate feat in all of business.
- Copy is king. Design and development are cool, but copy, or more specifically, the psychological content thereof, runs the show.
- If you're not going to do responsive design the right way, don't do it. There is a popular belief that responsive = good. Fact is, many experiences don't lend themselves to a 1 column format and need serious design and development to work properly. If you're unwilling to put in the effort, it may make sense to let people zoom in until you are.
Apologies, #6 is indeed a commonly held belief. My bad :)
I probably spend most of my time explaining what marketing means to me and where it stops/starts. I believe it starts very very early, and ends very very late (at a hypothetical). It spans multiple departments and is foundational.
I spend a lot of time explaining this to many business stakeholders (present company excluded) that marketing is a lot more than generating leads.
There are so many ways to promote a business but I think that video marketing is really hot right now. But in our industry- that is real estate- I have noticed that a lot of business owners using professional real estate text marketing services and they provide them very nice results. This is the reason I also I am thinking to hire this service from https://www.heymarket.com/realestate/ and hoping to get effective outcome!
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