Sonne Taylor


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The One Where I Quoth Something Someone Once Told Me About Quotations

One of my more peculiar habits is that once I start paying attention to something like a new album or company or news, I have a really hard time adjusting once that topic is out of the limelight of coverage. As a result, I spend a lot of time staying up to date on things I probably would be better off ignoring.

It was on one such fact-finding mission, that I noticed an old associate recycling one of my old tags in an interview with a journalist. It was a good line, and we had tested it before hand. At the time we were working on building real relationships with customers, and a tested line seemed like the best way to do that.

…which is how you know it was a few ago. After 2016, I’d be surprised to see pre-tested lines too often.

Thinking about that reminded me of something someone had once said to me about quotations. All too often, you’ll hear someone say “I heard this great quote.”

The temptation to dive into the weeds of the history “quote,” is overwhelming. but for the sake of focus, I’ll resist it. Suffice it say that in contemporary vernacular english we’ve taken a few words and molded them into one shorter word we abuse the hell out of.

“Quotation,” isn’t the only bit of speech where this happens, but it’s one of the more interesting ones — because the nature of evoking the language of another is wrought with nuance. As the language we use to describe an action evolves, so to does our understanding of the action we use the language to describe.

Settling into a familiar pattern of describing your business happens to everyone. After you’ve told the founding story once or twice, it all starts to sound the same. It gets easy to slip into the rhythm of the high notes and the low notes of the story.

You start to feel the parts of the story that receive a reaction, you start to explore the pauses and after awhile, the details just all become things you play with.

That’s true of any story you tell enough to have memorized, I think, and the trouble is that when it comes to presenting your business in an authentic light — pretested lines fall flat.

See the trouble with quotations is that they’re one of the few examples of speech that we look to as though it might hold value on its own.

Have you ever told a story to a group of friends about something funny that happened? It probably included a moment that was something along the lines of “so then (so and so) said”

If you’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing a story that doesn’t hinge around that sort of movement, you know just how dry such a story can be.

Have you ever wondered why?

It’s because when you retell a story without that little bit of motion, that little bit of context? You tell a story that sounds like it doesn’t have a point.

“I Think Hail To The Chief Has A Nice Ring To It” the famous Kennedy quotation, just doesn’t pack the same sort of punch if you hear it divorced of its context.

But the with the context, knowing the statement was uttered by a man running for president, the words take on a new meaning. The words are given a power they didn’t have before.

While this may not be true of every repeatable phrase, there’s an important lesson here to be learned by those of us who are engaged in the work of professional communications.

It isn’t good enough to say something that “sounds good,” you’ve got to spend a little more time thinking about the where and the why of what you’re going to say.

The One Where I Quoth Something Someone Once Told Me About Quotations was originally published in Fits About Prints.

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I Wish Other People Could Find Your Articles, Too:

Something I Learned Today.

One of the rather enjoyable parts of my job (and I should know, I’ve written about it before) is that I get to spend a lot of time thinking about why people consume the media that they consume. Part of doing that in a way you can actually manage means building up systems that make it easier to sort through massive amounts of information.

One of the first tricks I learned when I started out working with smaller teams was that while every founder wants to run a brand with national reach, the truth is getting to that threshold is expensive. I think because it’s so great to celebrate the successes of others, there’s a lot more attention paid to the wins — makes them seem more common than they are.

It takes time. It takes an investment of resources. It takes persistence.

The truth is, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense for a lot of businesses to bother with it.

Tasty Medicine

So, I pulled a window of traffic recently, and I spent the better part of this afternoon updating our lists of media sources out of those offices.

That was a journey and a half.

I think the first thing that stood out was just how much great work gets produced by people who have no discernable internet presence. It’s really a shame, because articles like those are really bad candidates for aggregators. They’re like dead-ends for traffic.

The next big thing that stood out to me was just how cluttered some of these sites have gotten. Taking a walk through the landscape of traditional publishers and smaller regional outfits is like going on a tour of the last 20 years of ad tech.

If you’re really trying to load 20+ tracking widgets, the time has long come to look at tag managers. If I’m having trouble loading a site on a desktop with 16gb of RAM, I can’t help but wonder how bad it’d have been trying to get the news on my phone.

All told, I’m finding that it takes me about an hour to collect a state’s relevant sources. I’m averaging some things out. Smaller states and states with very consolidated media markets are much faster, intricate markets much slower, but the truth is that’s not unsustainable. That’s a good clip.

While I might like to think that everyone could take a day a month, I had one real advantage doing this I hadn’t thought about for today.

I spend most of my time maneuvering around media. I know where to look to find who wrote something and where to look to find out why. I know how to browse without a layer of adtech and how to zero in my search on what I’m looking for — but if I were just looking up a random thing, like say, what I needed to know about which infrastructure initiatives were getting prioritized or changes to a school board election process…I might not think to bring that context with me.

Nor would I think to go back and cite those events were I to conduct the search in reverse when I say, wanted to know why a certain candidate won and another lost…(to pick on that school board example.)

You can still spot places where someone is working hard (like say, C Jones Voiklis) and just hasn’t quite captured the attention it’s bound to. (I say ‘it,’ because I know exactly what % of each class at each grade school I went to across the country read “A Wrinkle In Time” and it’s a lot higher than this follower count would suggest.) But being truly “undiscovered,” really isn’t the problem for as many people as you’d think it might be.

If you’re producing great, local, relevant content you’ve got to think a little more broadly about how you put it out there. I picked a little on that school board race, but the truth is if you find yourself saying “no one cares about this,” you’re probably right about where you want to be and instead need to take a step back and look at how you’re distributing content.

Why?

I can find scores of readers online fired up about the race, and they’re just as frustrated that “no one is covering” the stories they care about.

It’s a shame really.

This really made me think a lot about something that happens with clients that ask for “SEO.” Many times, they’ve hacked together a collection of articles about a whole slew of keywords that they heard were important or related to their topic. Over time, the searches for those keywords have slowed down and traffic has suffered.

The trouble is, this happens with ‘real,’ words, too.

If you’ve ever called an “attorney” a ‘lawyer,’ or a “physician” a “doctor” (or even more tasteless or “ambulance chaser” or “sawbones”) just to watch the cringe you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The words people use in everyday speech are just different from the words they use in other contexts.

When you need information to cross those contexts, I think that means that somewhere, there’s a little bit of extra work for someone to figure out where a bit of information like an article might be most relevant.

I Wish Other People Could Find Your Articles, Too: was originally published in Fits About Prints.

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What I Learned The First Time I Was Managing More Than Ten Ad Accounts

We don’t always talk about the things that don’t go well. I think that’s because things that don’t go well can fall into a few broad categories. At some level, it’s easy to obsess about the things that haven’t gotten better yet.

When you do that, it’s entirely too easy to ignore the things that are going right. When you do that, you can’t be sure that you’re spending your time on the right activities. You can’t prioritize properly with an obsession like that nagging at you.

That’s why, in hindsight, I’ve always remembered the times where “good,” couldn’t be the standard, fondly.

I’m really not sure how we had ended up in a situation where I actively had my hands on that many projects. I try really hard to limit the number of things I do at any one point in time, but earlier on, I had a habit of making decisions based on the exact number of hours a task would take.

If we agreed to run an ad that would reach 10,000 people, I would figure out how long it would take to reach that number of people given the constraints of the account.

Some clients we work with are looking for help launching a product. That means devoting a lot of resources upfront and then doing work to keep the campaign operational for some period of time. It’s hard to do anything else when you’re working on a project like that.

Some clients we work with are looking for a little bit of help over a long period of time. They might need help with a weekly blog or someone to monitor traffic over time.

My system worked great for working with these two types of teams. I figured out how to balance both perfectly. I’d spend some time each hour checking up on accounts that needed slow managing. I’d schedule blocks of time to work out coordinated pushes.

You know what happened?

Something I wasn’t expecting.

At the time, my thinking went something like this.

Because we had figured out how to work with about 6–7 teams at once, I figured that we could work at a slightly more aggressive pace while we started experimenting with backfilling additional capacity.

It wasn’t a horrible plan, but one of the things that changes when you start to grow your customer base is that the types of clients you work with changes. That can mean that you quickly need to learn new ways to solve old problems.

I didn’t expect to be managing 11 accounts that spring so long ago, but I was, and I needed to figure out how to do it quickly.

I knew that breaking the task up into smaller parts helped with the pieces that were well understood.

This is always one of my first steps.

When I made it, I started to notice the tremendous amount of time we were spending on “ideas.”

The hours I’ve spent with user numbers on a whiteboard, the long nights I’ve spent pouring over maps of neighborhoods and purchasing data, those have been some of my favorite experiences. But what I noticed was that if I sat a limit for the amount of time I allocated to such activities, it almost always got hit — as long as it was realistic. You wouldn’t take 5 hours to plan a new email, and you certainly shouldn’t take 100 to plan a logo.

I try to avoid time based measurements with our team because I think they make it too easy to abandon “finishing” work.

I had an editor years and years ago who told me a really smart thing. Said, “karl, the average reader can read 124 words per minute. type real well, and you can type ’em just about as fast.”

I don’t think that holds true in every case, but the spirit behind the ethos is something I’ve always held with me.

See when I was working through eleven accounts, I had to learn how to identify the difference between something we were doing and something we might like to do. I had to make sure that we spent more time doing than we did thinking about doing.

It’s easy to fall into a routine. A stable campaign needs W number of hours a week. A blog needs X number of articles. We need Y new images for Z new posts.

The trouble with that is, when you fall into that routine you forget what you’re doing in the first place. So you start to ask yourself if there’s a better way.

You start looking for a short cut to get around what you’re doing. You start looking for a better process. It’s only normal.

After a while though, if you stop to look you’ll find you’ve spent more time thinking about work than you’ve spent actually working.

It’s true for writing, and it’s true for ad ops. When you’re serious about doing work, you’ve got to take time seriously, but the only way you get there is to think about what you’re really doing and let yourself get right down to the task at hand.

What I Learned The First Time I Was Managing More Than Ten Ad Accounts.

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How Long Does It Take To Make An Email Template Anyway?

I’ve been spending a lot of time the last few weeks trying to feel “caught up.” In part, it’s the consequent of a holiday weekend that ended with a cold. In part, it’s the result of a shifting workload. In part, well hey, it is winter.

With that being said, I’ve had a few minutes to think about the way some tasks seem to quickly balloon to take up much more time than they ought to, and the way others seem to fly by.

I thought about this in particular when I was working earlier this week to build out an email template for a project we’re working on.

There was nothing particularly challenging about the project.

All of the assets that were going to get used in the finished product had already been made. Handful of article links, handful of pictures — very standard stuff.

At this point, I have a pretty robust collection of templates. It means that projects like this really can be plug and play. On occasion I might have to fire up a code editor and make a few superficial tweaks, but when it comes to our email flow, that’s pretty rare.

All things considered, I was looking at a two hour project.

A far cry from the six it ultimately took.

I was really surprised by that. It gave me a minute to think about some of the different reasons things fall off schedule.

The truth is, many of those reasons are perfectly legitimate. Getting distracted by something you don’t want to be doing doesn’t seem like one of those reasons — and really, when I stop to think about it, that really is what I was doing.

I’d break up the task into smaller more manageable chunks. Each time I’d finish a chunk I’d take a few minutes to regroup. I was disciplined about the balance, but the chunks kept getting smaller and smaller.

It’s just too easy to fall into the trap of wasting time when you’re working.

A few years ago, I had stumbled into a situation where I really had to push myself to do something I didn’t want to do. It wasn’t easy, but after what felt like weeks of banging my head against the wall, I found a shortcut.

It was a similar situation. I was behind and I needed to catch up. It felt like one of those situations where the only way out was through.

I found that if I could find one thing I liked about the task at hand, everything got a little easier.

Some of the work that goes into maintaining your team’s media presence is mind numbing. Lots of well meaning people will try and tell you to avoid it, but you just can’t. Comments need to be read by someone. Somebody’s got to decide what’s worth including in a read-out report. You’ve got to find a way to make the time for moving pixels around until they fit. The consequences of not doing that stuff is readily apparent.

But to get through it? You’ve got to take a step back and remind yourself of why you started in the first place. If you can capture that enthusiasm, it’s a lot easier to avoid wasting time like I did with those email templates.

How Long Does It Take To Make An Email Template Anyway? was originally published in Thoughts On Best Practices.

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It’s All About Arbitrage.

The OG NYSE Opening Bell

Being a media buyer or planner is a little bit different than most advertising. A lot of people are dreaming up experiential or innovative ideas, but I’m just worried about one thing.

Arbitrage.

What is arbitrage though? Truthfully, it’s a word more at home on Wall St. than Madison Ave, but as advertisers become more and more metrics driven it’s slowly entering the vernacular. In the world of securities and commodities, it essentially means that it’s taking advantage of price differentials in different markets and exploiting them for short term gain. An example would be if I was selling gum for $1 a pack and someone 2 blocks away was selling them for $3 a pack. You would buy my gum and sell it 2 blocks away making money on the “arbitrage”.

Now when this comes to advertising this is incredibly interesting. There’s tens of thousands of different media products sold by millions of different publishers. While most aren’t perfectly transferable, many are on some level. Utilizing things like MMM (Market Media Mix, which is a multivariate regression analysis of your media buys) you can being to put together patterns of what media properties, on average, have what impact on your sales and assign dollar value to them.

Now from the perspective of media planning and buying this is a unique chance to set ourselves apart. If we can utilize analytics and past performance data, we can identify opportunities for clients and help them make more money than the average. For instance, if a $1000 a month billboard in Breckenridge is as effective as $2000 a month in Facebook ads, it only make sense to buy the billboard. What gets really interesting, is when you measure the various combinations of these tactics in congress. At the end of the day, my job looks a lot more like hedge fund manager than marketer, but the future looks more like a combination of stock broker + artist rather than one general “marketer”.

It’s All About Arbitrage. was originally published in Multimedia Marketing.

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What To Do When Your Marketing Is Broken (And You Don’t Know Why)

One of the more curious problems in digital media is that there really isn’t a great way to match up the numbers you get from an audience targeting tool to the real world people you count on reaching. Relying on the wrong numbers can mean that you very quickly end up looking at skewed landscape.

We were working on a project a few weeks ago where our team was trying to spread awareness about a topic that would have only appealed to a very select group of people. It wasn’t that the topic wasn’t interesting. We were helping to spread the word about an initiative that had the potential to make a real impact. While many people express tacit interest in “doing good,” there isn’t a great way to break through the noise in a category so broad. The trouble was, to really appreciate the aims of this particular project, you were likely to be in a fairly select group of people.

This is a common problem.

We meet with a whole host of teams who have been relying on one or two clever targeting gimmicks. When we meet with them, they express some form of “my marketing broke.”

The reasons are always varied.

Sometimes, growing your traffic can feel like a trap.

Maybe they’ve been using a pop-under to collect email addresses, and then using those email addresses to drive the targeting schema they use to promote their posts. Maybe they’ve been focusing on developing relationships with a list of people who have publicly engaged with their content. Maybe they’ve been relying on transactional techniques like retargeting ads and wonder if they can every break out of the traffic trap.

It doesn’t really matter how you got here.

We’ve found that in every one of these situations, the process for getting out is the same.

Take Some Time To Identify Where You Really Are

Digital marketers are horrible about tunnel vision.

It’s only natural. After you’ve spent hours crafting a message and researching an audience. After you’ve obsessed about the placement of each pixel and finessed your insertion order as well as you can, there’s an all too real temptation to become a little bit obsessed with execution.

You won’t be able solve a problem you can’t understand.

If your ad costs are going up, start by isolating each data point you’re targeting.

Are you hitting too narrow an area? Try an ad without those limitations and see what happens. Is the response rate low? Try a different piece of creative.

This is a lot like the advertising version of unplugging your modem. These are just examples.

The truth is, you’ve got to find a way to work through each part. While this isn’t fun, it’s the only way you can develop an accurate understanding of where your work is falling short.

Understand Why You Failed To Reach Your Goal

It’s not easy to embrace failure — many of us are conditioned to avoid it at all costs. When it comes to developing a program on the basis of small consistent wins delivered over time, however, it’s important to recognize opportunities to do better.

Perhaps you’ll find that you neglected one or two elements of platform specific best practice that you can easily change to get your ads back up to spec.

You might find that you’ve been reaching the wrong customer segment. With a few tweaks you could be well on your way to finding a new more profitable niche than you’d ever addressed before.

Bad news isn’t bad news forever. It’s important to learn to think about bad news as the signal that you’ve stumbled into a genuine problem.

When You Find A Real Problem, Fix It

Easier said than done, I’m sure.

One of the advantages of isolating each part of your marketing funnel, is that you can quickly identify which levers impact which results. If you’re only getting 1 click for every 100 people who see your content and you know you need 100 clicks, you also know that you can either increase the number of clicks you get per 100 people or increase the number of people who see your content.

You won’t ever be able to rely on this approach to find anything but “ideal” solutions. That doesn’t mean that these steps won’t help you — on the contrary, they should prove quite illuminating. You won’t know what you find in your marketing data until you take a step back and look. We’ve always found this approach to work well for us, and we’re betting it’ll work for your team, too.

What To Do When Your Marketing Is Broken (And You Don’t Know Why) was originally published in Thoughts On Best Practices.

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Persistent Selling

There’s a troubling trend I see in startup marketing plans. It’s almost solely focused on user acquisition, with absolutely 0 plan to activate, retain, fight churn, or leverage their customers for word of mouth. It’s a sad state of affairs.

It’s essentially the marketing equivalent of thinking “That Iceberg isn’t so big”, ignoring that 90% of the importance in marketing comes after you acquire a user.

I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. I think that there’s a few startup “memes” that get traded around enough that it’s finally done real lasting damage to marketers ability to do their jobs effectively.

“Move fast and break things” aka let’s torch brand equity.

The obsession over top line numbers to appease investors is incredibly harmful. Who cares if you’re getting $0.10 cost per installs if your customer lifetime value is $0.05 or you have 99% churn.

The general need to be “killing it” all the time that’s translated only into easily understood top-line metrics rather than creating meaningful, long term relationships with your customers.

Frankly, just plain not giving a shit and being lazy.

This notion that you should ignore your competition.

Want to get in on a little secret? Your competition is poaching your customers constantly. I do it all day every day. Nice little Twitter audience you’ve built up. Would be a shame if someone scraped it, made a custom audience, and messaged your customers based on your biggest weaknesses. Your customer churn is my gain, and there’s dozens of me going after you every single day. The only way to win is to be constantly selling to your customers and continuing to grow the relationship. In the world of business, and specifically marketing, you are never “done”. You grow, or you die.

Persistent Selling was originally published in Observed Reflections.

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Cooperation isn’t a 4 letter word.

I’m currently traveling abroad to Europe for work. One of the perks and curses of the job. Luckily I’m in a lovely little country called Iceland that I’ve never been to before and am danger of falling in love with far too deeply and far too quickly for my own good.

As I had the chance to fly Icelandic air over I noticed something quite interesting. The entire magazine, television selection, perks, etc. all revolved around local products and services. Seriously, the airline was almost a flying, and very comfortable, billboard, but likely not to the highest bidder but rather another local.

At first I thought it must be a mistake, or perhaps there was low demand to a place like Iceland for points. Thinking quickly on the captive audience as well as ads for high end foreign fashion, I concluded this must not be true. No, I think the Icelandic people have remembered something that most of us have forgotten.

No product is an island. We all do better when we all do better.

Think about this for a moment. It’s in the best interest of each and every one of these companies to help one another create a great experience for me. Why?

If I have a good time, and come back, I’ll surely be spending more money.

This simple fact of putting customer experience above short term gain is a powerful one, that I believe many companies could stand to remember.

Cooperation isn’t a 4 letter word. was originally published in Fits About Prints.

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Media Buying For Conferences Is Fundamentally Broken.

I’m currently writing this from sunny and warm Las Vegas as I sip a rum and coke at the airport. It’s a wonderful town that I always love visiting. I’m here specifically for the the Money 2020 conference which is a gathering of financial folks of all sorts to talk about the future of the industry. If you know me at all, you know that I love to follow the money to find out what’s actually happening which is largely why I’m here. One thing I noticed though, is the gross and, in the words of Hillary Clinton, deplorable state of the media buying surrounding this conference. There’s a handful of offenders that stick out in my mind, but I want to just say something that should be obvious to any marketer that gives a shit.

Buying a billboard that’s half a mile a way doesn’t do anything for you.

Now let me be clear I’m not railing against outdoor. In fact, I think outdoor in general is actually a pretty good deal at the moment. No what I’m railing against is lazy marketing. (Yet again). Buying on points in a zip code is easy. Buying actually relevant ads is hard, but that’s where all the ROI is. Think about this for a second. For a conference that costs $3300 to attend, do you think they’re taking taxis, or do you think they’re taking limos and ubers?

I’m waging a crusade. A crusade against lazy media buying.

The worst part is this is incredibly solvable. All it would take is doing diligence on the actual buy. That being said I don’t want to wholesale throw marketers under the bus. There are very real time and resource constraints that dictate these things. What companies need to realize is that marketing lies in 2016. We can measure ROI. Treat marketing like a profit center rather than a money pit.

If you invest in your media buying you may actually see some great returns.

Media Buying For Conferences Is Fundamentally Broken. was originally published in Fits About Prints.

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The Problem With “Widget, 5$.”

A few years back, the advertising world was caught up in a debate over the relative values of “Rational” and “Emotional” messaging. Emergent digital targeting data and performance analytics made quick work of the conversation…

…or you’d think so, but that would make too much sense.

There’s a misconception that’s still all too common amongst teams that aren’t up to spec on performance data. This idea is so toxic in part because it means many believe that if they don’t berate the customer, the customer won’t know you’re selling a widget and they won’t know what to do with the information you’re sharing with them.

Don’t get me wrong: strong calls to action are important, they drive results. They promote cohesion. They keep things moving.

But teams who think this way are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to future proofing their marketing program.

For a long time, cross-device performance was a pain to track.

A company might know that you visited a website on a desktop computer. They might also know that later a user made a purchase from a smartphone.

Historically, linking events like those presented a fairly significant challenge.

It’s easy to understand that your messaging isn’t being consumed by your customers in a vacuum, but it’s a lot more difficult to take a leap of faith and trust that a % of the people who see your ad on Facebook will launch a new tab and start looking up additional information about your product or service on Google.

It’s easy to intuit that when someone engages with a Snap that features a product, they’ll have an association with that product when they see it again in a display advertisement.

One very slight adjustment to the way you look at the world can be enough to change everything. The truth is, that cross-device is still out of the budget for a lot of digital marketers. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to stick with the old world, though.

At the end of the day, you’re very likely a native user of many of the platforms that your team uses to promote itself.

You don’t have to grasp for straws to figure out where the balance between “savvy” and “scammy” is, you’ve got to roll your sleeves and start looking for it.

The Problem With “Widget, 5$.” was originally published in Observed Reflections.