Modern Marketing Tips from the Wizard of Moz

rand-fishkinWith MozCon bringing together the digital community next week in Seattle, it’s a good time to get the scoop on the latest trends in digital marketing along with modern marketing tips directly from the Wizard of Moz himself, Rand Fishkin. We had an opportunity to interview Rand leading up to the “not your typical marketing conference” and capture his insights in this always surprising and informative gathering of digital marketers.

Note: Integrate will be participating in MozCon, including Integrate’s CEO Jeremy Bloom’s session sharing his inspiring journey to become an innovative marketing technology entrepreneur. More info here on MozCon, the agenda and Jeremy’s session: http://moz.com/mozcon.

Q: Rand, what’s the macro theme for this year’s MozCon?

Rand: MozCon is focused on helping people do better marketing. There's no specific theme this year (or any year) - we prefer to focus on getting the best and brightest to give diverse talks on any subject we believe can dramatically upgrade marketers' skillsets and tactics.

Q: What should be on the priority list of today’s data-driven, digital marketer?

Rand: The list is unimaginably long, so I'll abstract out the question one level. The key for digital marketers today is to discover where their organization (or client) most needs marketing help, then determine the channels, tactics, and measurement methodology most appropriate to solving those problems. For some organizations, the top of the funnel needs the most help, for others, it's turning visitors into leads, and for some retention and education matters far more than conversion.

The priority for marketers as they're seeking professional growth is to have a broad understanding of all the marketing opportunities available to them, to acquire the self-knowledge and organizational knowledge to know which tactics they can truly excel at, and to apply their work in a way that will be embraced and magnified by their team and peers. Basically, you've got to find out what the problem is, know the options available to you, and figure out which one (or ones) you can be best in class at.

Q: Customer Experience is a hot topic. What are the keys to achieving a full view of the customer lifecycle in order to deliver a great customer experience?

EmpathyRand: Many folks would say analytics and detailed metrics that can track a customer from first visit to every action. But I'm going to be contrarian and say it's empathy - deep, personal, heartfelt empathy for the lives your customers live, the problems they face, and what they hope your solution will help them accomplish. A customer experience built on numbers is often outperformed by one built on empathy and the great intuition that comes from that.

That said - don't overestimate the power of empathy and intuition either! Once you've built that compelling experience, found those pain points, and helped to heal them, you need great metrics to know if your efforts are working! Many times I've fixed something I thought was causing great pain, only to discover that few of our customers even felt that pain because something else was holding them back. Data is there to help you see the holes in your thinking.

Q: What are the most important metrics for inbound marketing?

Rand: My top three, in no specific order are:

  • Customer lifetime value (hopefully broken down by cohort and demo/psychographics rather than just the global average)
  • The average path to conversion (all the channels touched by folks who become customers and how much/often each contributes in the journey - for example, at Moz, the average person taking our free trial has visited our site at least 7 times before converting and ~1.5 of those visits have come through social media, while ~3 come from organic search)
  • Conversion funnel metrics (knowing the percent of potential customers make it through each step of a given conversion process, and which channels or behaviors predict that they'll make it further)

Each of these, of course, have tons of metrics inside them (depending on the complexity of your marketing/sales cycle), but if you've got them nailed down, you're probably doing a pretty good job.

Q: How do you see the relationship between advertising and marketing technology playing out over the next 18 – 24 months?

Rand: I strongly suspect we'll see more data sharing between the two, but I've long predicted that there'd be more overlap and participation in earned/organic marketing by ad-focused marketers and vice versa, but it's never happened, so I'm no longer expecting it. I think paid marketers and organic marketers just tend to be different breeds of folks and that's OK. So long as we're sharing our learnings about what makes a right customer, what messages resonate, what broad strategies are working vs. failing, and how the data can be combined to build a tactical checklist, we're in fine shape.

Q: Search or Social. Which channel rules the day for marketers?

Rand: It's still search by a large margin for nearly every business and the reasons are obvious.

  1. Search still drives vastly greater quantities of external traffic than social
  2. Search is how we "do things," social is much more about being in browse/consumption mode. It's the difference between going to the mall to go shopping (search) vs. watching TV and seeing some ads (social)
  3. Search converts far, far better as a "last-touch" and for many marketers, that's still how we're measuring (even though it's a very bad idea!)

That said, I believe no marketer should choose one or the other. Search and social go hand in hand, and both continue to grow tremendously in opportunity. Social even has big (though often indirect) influences on search.

Q: Moz’s community of marketers is impressive. What are the keys to building a vibrant, engaged community of professionals?

Rand: That's a big question and I could write a book that wouldn't tackle all the answers. My best TL;DR version of that for Moz is that we've done a few things right:

  • Created a place where respectful, thoughtful, helpful interactions are rewarded and contributions that don't fit that mold are removed
  • Put a ton of effort into creating and curating the kind of content we'd always wanted ourselves and then shared it openly and freely
  • Chosen to serve a group of professionals who didn't have many great, online gathering places when we began (back in 2004 when the SEO world was relegated to a few small forums and blogs)
  • Overinvested in engagement and relationships one at a time - often reaching out to people directly through email or in person, finding common ground, seeking out contributors, sending thank you packages in the mail and generally doing things you'd never expect from a company simply because you contributed a good guest post or left a nice comment. By surprising people in positive ways, I think we created a virtuous cycle for participation and support.

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