Archive for the ‘Basics’ Category

Kindling and logs

June 30th, 2013 Comments off

kindlingI hate constantly quoting Seth Godin, but he has another post that got me thinking called Wasted Kindling. It’s about resting on your PR and planning on that to keep you going as opposed to continually inventing and creating new ‘stuff’. I have to admit that I’d fallen prey to that for a little while. Readers of my blog will notice that several months went by where the only thing I posted was press, speaking appearances and tv interviews. That’s great stuff for my own PR, but that doesn’t add much value to your the reader. It’s basically a rehash of things I’ve already discussed in this blog.

So while those posts are great for my ego, I’m going back to my roots and posting new interesting content that will hopefully be interesting and relevant. If there are any topics you’d like me to discuss, feel free to email me at and I’ll try to address them.

Categories: Basics, Strategy

Getting the basics right

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

It’s easy to forget the second word when talking about Digital Marketing. The word ‘digital’ just describes the channel being used. It’s actually all about ‘marketing’. Without a thorough understanding of the basics of marketing, the next new shiny toy won’t help reap any rewards.

My clients often ask me what the next new technology or channel is for their digital marketing efforts. I can often sense the frustration when I tell them to first work on their website, write some compelling thought-leadership pieces and send excerpts out to their audience using an email campaign tool. Then measure, adjust, refocus, lather, rinse and repeat. Only when you’ve exhausted the basics should we consider adding a new channel to your marketing.

Learning the basics of marketing is easy. Executing the basics of marketing is hard. Not difficult, but it takes time, labour and consistent persistence. It takes some time (months, usually) to see measurable results from basic marketing. But once you have the basics right and firing on all cylinders, adding a new technology or channel into the mix is much easier.

As my old boss used to say… “Don’t worry about the tricks of the trade until you’ve actually learned the trade!”

It seems more and more of my blog posts have the obligatory Seth Godin reference. It didn’t take long to find a post from Seth that (again) summed this up better than I could:

Fledgling sushi chefs spend months (sometimes years) doing nothing but making the rice for the head chef.

If the rice isn’t right, it really doesn’t matter what else you do, you’re not going to be able to serve great sushi.

Most of the blogging and writing that goes on about marketing assumes that you already know how to make the rice. It assumes you understand copywriting and graphic design, that you’ve got experience in measuring direct response rates, that you’ve made hundreds of sales calls, have an innate empathy for what your customers want and think and that you know how to make a compelling case for what you believe.

Too often, we quickly jump ahead to the new thing, failing to get good enough at the important thing.


Categories: Basics, Strategy

In the news…

October 1st, 2012 Comments off

Over the last year or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some press for the digital marketing my firm has been doing.

At the end of August this year, Investment Executive released their 2012 Advisor Scorecard. Within the scorecard was a story titled “Apprehension over social media” by Clare O’Hara talking about how some financial firms are still having difficulty understanding how to use social media effectively while staying within regulatory guidelines. I was quoted in the article:

Even before IIROC set its guidelines, Macquarie was one step ahead, having created a social media committee and an advisor pilot project in early 2011. “We never wanted to block social media,” says Silu Modi, Macquarie’s vice president, digital marketing, banking and financial services group. “We always wanted to figure out how we can use it.”

In July, I was quoted in the Wall St. Journal in an article about how advisors are using social media and what role a financial advisor should play on Twitter:

“Tweets and points should not be timely but timeless–we shouldn’t be the ones breaking the news,” said Silu Modi, vice president for digital marketing at Macquarie Group Ltd.’s (MQG.AU) North American operations.

And finally, in May 2012, I gave a talk at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services conference. ran an article about my presentation titled “Regulation doesn’t stifle social media” taking excerpts from my talk:

He adds, “If you aren’t using these social media tools, you are throwing away a huge chunk of your potential market.”

Modi stresses, though, “Social media is not a digital or marketing strategy. It’s only one part of a complete strategy and you need to fold it in with your other efforts.”

In a future post, I’ll add more recent press our work has received.

Categories: Basics, Management, Press

Novices vs. Experts

December 6th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve been doing digital strategy for a long time now (over 15 years!). I seem to have found a pretty good niche recently, specializing in digital strategy for the Canadian financial services industry. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I feel confident to call myself an expert. However, it wasn’t until recently that I got an inkling of what it means to be an expert in a particular field.

Then I stumbled across this excellent post from Eric Barker at Barking Up The Wrong Tree. The line that tweaked with me was:

…novices sought and responded to positive feedback, and experts sought and responded to negative feedback…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have an ego as big as the next person’s (well… maybe a little bigger). I still like it when I’ve been told that something I’ve done has been helpful / useful / profitable . However, I get more juice from someone teaching me something or guiding my thinking into a direction I haven’t been. I’d like to say I like getting pulled out of my comfort zone, but like most people I get that little feeling in my stomach that resists the move initially. But I’ve gotten to where I am because I’ve been able to take the chance to do something I’ve never done before and figure out how to do it.

Of course, it reminds me of a post I saw recently on Joey deVilla’s Accordion Guy blog:

Categories: Basics, Management, Strategy

Information vs. Confusion

October 25th, 2009 Comments off

I just returned from the Microsoft Sharepoint Conference in Las Vegas. So much information on collaborative technologies! However, out of all of the sessions I attended, one image stuck out from the rest.

We all know this intuitively, but it’s easy to fall into the trap when researching a new direction, or in the analysis phase of a project:


Categories: Basics

The Pen is Mightier than the Computer

October 21st, 2009 1 comment

moleskinI still get people doing a double-take when they see my PDA. It’s light-weight, portable, never needs recharging and is instant-on. Yup, I use a Moleskine notebook and a pen. It’s always on me, I’m always jotting notes in it and it has (so far) never failed me.

David Hornik recently wrote a post on how he’s seeing more and more Senior Executives using real, old-fashioned notebooks and pens in meetings. Fewer and fewer are bringing out their laptops.

I concur. And I also find that people that are using laptops are often not listening to the meeting, nor are they taking notes relevant to the meeting. They’re using it to catch up on other work or responding to email. I’m guilty of that as well with my Blackberry. If I have it on the table during a meeting, I find myself constantly checking it and responding when I should be listening.

Once or twice (OK, more), I’ve been caught flat-footed when a question was asked of me. I have that blank stare, try to think of something, and often resort to asking the person to repeat the question.

So now, I’m a pen and paper person as well. My note book never fails me. Why:

  1. Instant on. Don’t have to wait for a boot up. Don’t have to find a power outlet. Don’t have to log in.
  2. Always connected. I don’t have to look for a signal. All of my info is right there.
  3. Rugged. I have a tendency to drop my toys. Not an issue with my notebook.
  4. Memory. I’m talking about mine. I find that if I write something down with pen and paper, I remember it. I almost never have to refer to my notes again. The very act of writing it down works well enough. I can’t say the same about typing a note.

So please don’t laugh at my when I bring out my notebook. I’m only following the example set by the movers and shakers!

Categories: Basics

Writing Renaissance

September 30th, 2009 Comments off

pen_and_paperThis post doesn’t have much to do with Digital Strategy, but I found the topic very interesting. Two somewhat unrelated articles this week. One talks about how kids are losing their cursive writing skills. The other talks about how kids today are becoming better writers than in any other generation. Interesting corollary.

Apparently, they’re not teaching cursive handwriting much in schools anymore as more and more writing is being done on keyboards now. Kids see handwriting as something you do when you put a note on the fridge. Block letter printing does just fine for that. Using a pen for long writing is not a skill that’s deemed necessary for long term employment.

So… kids can’t write with a pen… but apparently, they can ‘write’!

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.”

Contrary to popular belief, the writing skills of the young today are blossoming. With text messaging, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other communication platforms prevalent, young people are writing more now than ever.

“It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.”

That is very true. When I was in high school, I remember many of my friends complaining (ok: I was complaining) that the essay writing that we had to do over and over again were never going to be useful again. Most would probably never write a long piece of text again until they got an email address some 10 years later.

An interesting point the article makes is that students today not only write more prolifically, but they also have a innate understanding about the audience for their writing. Unlike previous generations, these writers understand that their words will probably be transmitted for tens, hundreds, thousands of people to see and may be around forever. They also know that different forums require different levels of vocabulary and communication. Something that earlier generations would have never considered. An essay in high school was read by your teacher, and then probably trashed.

“We think of writing as either good or bad. What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.”

After hearing so much about the illiteracy of today’s generation, it was refreshing to see that we may have entered a new renaissance.

Categories: Basics

Advice on creating a Great Website

September 12th, 2009 Comments off

websiteThis one’s an oldie, but a goodie. Seth Godin (Marketing Guru Extraordinaire) gives a simple 10 point plan on how to create a great website. I can’t argue with any one of his points. Some of my favourite points:

  1. Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. I completely agree. I’ve found that the more people involved in creating (or strategizing) a website, the more watered-down the ideas become and the more ‘standard’ the website looks and feels. If you’re trying to generate interest, buzz or Google Juice, you’re not going to do it by taking a consensus of dozens of different opinions.
  2. Get the best people possible. He makes a great point that’s been made over and over again. Ten mediocre people can’t do the job of one great ‘rock-star’.
  3. One Voice. One Vision. Similar to point 1. One person needs to lead it with their vision, and have final say.
  4. Don’t Settle. You get one chance. Every details matters. Every detail.

See also: How to create a Good Enough website.

Categories: Basics, Strategy

Providing the “Table Stakes” for your Corporate Website (Pt. 2)

August 26th, 2009 Comments off

dealer chipsPreviously, I started talking about the basics your corporate site has to have to provide the information your customers will be looking for on your site. The list continues here:

Contact information
This is an easy one, but there are so many corporate websites that overlook it. The basics to provide on this page are:

  1. A real street address for your head office and all regional offices
  2. Real contact email addresses for Sales, Support, Questions, Press, General. By real, I mean an email address that is monitored and responded to by a human being within 48 hours. And that response needs to be human, relevant to the question or comment, with a real person’s name and response address attached to it.
  3. A job board that is current. No old and filled jobs. All current openings posted. An email address to contact for each position (please don’t use one of those generic recruiting services that make the applicant fill out generic questionnaires. Instead, provide an email address to reply.
  4. A phone number for each office and for general inquiries that is staffed by a human.

If someone is going to your Contact Information, they obviously want to contact you. Make it as easy as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions
This could be an offshoot of your Contact Page, but the FAQ needs to be questions that are… er… Frequently Asked. This is not the place to include puffery or sales/marketing speak. Answer the questions here and you’ll save yourself having to respond to dozens or hundreds of the same requests. Give the answers a human voice. Written by a real person. A mild sense of humour here doesn’t hurt if the questions are not serious.

Latest News
If you’re big enough, you’ve been in the news lately. This is the place to link to all the articles in the newspapers and top blogs. If it’s positive, you can thank them. If it’s critical, it’s a great place to respond to it. This is the toughest one, as many companies have a deep-seated fear of drawing attention to criticism, let alone responding to it publicly.

If you want your corporate website to be viewed as anything other than biased marketing fluffery, these are the basic things it needs to include. If you want to take it to the next level and actually interact with your customers, the company needs to take a deep breath, cast aside some basic corporate fears, and dip the corporate toe into this thing called Social Networking.

Categories: Basics

Providing the “Table Stakes” for your Corporate Website (Pt. 1)

August 25th, 2009 3 comments


I posted earlier about what users are (or will be) looking for when they visit your company’s site. First let’s talk about the basics. What do you need to have on your site that just get you in the game (the table stakes, to use poker terminology).

Brand information
Obviously, the brand comes front and centre. The main landing page has to reflect your brand properly. All brand attributes need to be reflected, not only in the look and feel, but also in the experience. That means that, unless you want your brand associated with “wasting my time,” or “making me do unnecessary things,” don’t have a splash page. Your URL leads directly to the message you want to get in front of your audience right away.

(Side Note: It seems that most web developers realize this intuitively. Most splash pages have the “Skip Intro” link, leading me to believe that most developers understand that people don’t want to see it. I’d love to see the stats to see how many people watch the splash intro in its entirety.)

Company information
Who are you? What do you stand for? Who are your leaders? What’s coming up for the company, including any major press releases, trade show presentations and public financial information. This is where people doing research into the company are going to gravitate. It’s a great opportunity to put your best foot forward.

Major product and/or service information
You have products or services you want to promote, right? Keep this section updated, relevant and with all of the information your customers will want to know about the products or services, including specifications, limitations, updates, notices and, if applicable, where and how to purchase them. If you don’t already have eCommerce capabilities, link to the resellers that have your products, preferably directly to the product purchase page. Make this interaction as Low Friction as possible.

Search engine (that works!)
Invest in a search engine for your site that actually works and delivers the results users are expecting. This is not just good user experience, but also a great way for you to get insight into what your customers relate to your brand. Don’t make them hunt. Again, Low Friction interaction on your site.

… Continued

Categories: Basics

Making your Corporate Website relevant

August 23rd, 2009 1 comment

The biggest challenge most companies have with their corporate website is making it relevant. The tough questions to ask when your corporate site is being built (or, more likely) redesigned are:

  1. With billions of sites one could type into the address bar, why would they type in the name of my company? What would they be looking for?
  2. Are we going to provide that?

For the first question, if you have a well known brand, you may think you know why the user is coming to your site. They want product sales information. Right?

Maybe not.

Recent studies have shown that for the web savvy users, product decisions are not made at the product’s website. Instead, those decisions are made from review sites, from shopping sites, or more often recently, through social networks. Going to your brand’s site is generally the last step in making a product decision. Looking for a final reason not to part with their hard earned money.

So, what is the user looking for? It can be several things:

  • Locations to purchase
  • Specifications
  • Competitive information (why ours is better then theirs)
  • Support
  • Community

Therefore, question 2 is a difficult question. Are you really willing to provide any or all of the above on your company or brand site?

Over the next several posts, we’ll dive into some of the above reasons to discuss the pros and cons of providing what your users may want.

Categories: Basics