SEMpdx SearchFest 2013 Keynote Interview: Marty Weintraub
Marty Weintraub will be giving the morning keynote at SearchFest 2013 which will be taking place on February 22, 2013 at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click the following link.
First, let me say how much I’m looking forward to keynoting SEMpdx and thank you for inviting me. When I arrive in PDX I’ll be coming directly from London after keynoting Day Two at SES London. SearchFest and the Portland marketing community have grown to mean a lot to me. aimClear has clients, associates, and dear friends who live in Oregon (which I’ve finally learned to pronounce correctly, Or-eh-gihn). Portland is on the short list of where I’d enjoy living some day…and then there’s the Pinot :.)
In 2008, after 20 years as a professional marketer, SearchFest was my first mainstream speaking engagement. Representatives of Search Engine Strategies (SES) saw my panel. Two months later the SearchFest speaking gig led to my SES New York debut followed by engagements that year at SMX Advanced, SES San Jose, SMX East, PubCon and SES Chicago, all in 2008! Those speaking gigs put aimClear on the map and we took off like a rocket ship. So, it can be said that much our company’s trajectory can be traced to Portland. Since then I’ve had the privilege of speaking at 5 out of the last 6 SearchFests. Portland: you have one of the coolest, if not the coolest, regional online marketing conferences in America and perhaps the world . Dude, I’m psyched to keynote. Let’s kick some ass!
1) Please give us your background and let us know what you do for a living.
In my last life I was a musician, with hair down to you know where. I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and went on the road with a band which led me to the Midwest. In the early 80s I toured America, Europe, and the Near East as a civilian entertainer for the USO. I actually got to open for Bob Hope a number of times on aircraft carriers and in stadiums. After that I moved to Minneapolis, taking a gig in a local band touring around the Midwest.
The 80s were a heady time for the Minneapolis music scene. I was deeply entrenched in what was a vibrant Minneapolis/Saint Paul music scene. “The Cities” spawned bands like Prince, Husker Du, The Time, Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Suburbs and many others. I recorded with Yanni and actually took over his spot; playing keyboards in the band he cofounded which was called “Chameleon.” Yanni is actually quite talented and I was really fortunate for the experience. In the 90s the musicians I ran with cranked out wonderful records by The Jets, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Jonny Lang, and many others.
It was awesome to even be in Minneapolis at the time, all around musical greatness. It inspired me so much that I still believe anyone can be successful based on talent and lots of hard work. As for myself you most likely saw some of records I made. In the early 90s after a stint working as an A&R [A3] guy for PolyGram International Publishing in Burbank, I was on the team that first put interactive kiosks in stores like Target, blending nature sounds and music. For about 5 years I was lucky enough to travel the world making early digital recordings of dolphins, wolves, loons and other sweet nature sounds. The BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) north of Duluth was one of my favorite places to record. I’d weave sonic tapestries of natural sounds and set them to world beat and piano. The record label I worked for sold over 20 million CDs and I was very lucky to be part of it. That was right before the Internet took hold.
In 1992, to the endless whir of my 2400-baud modem, I discovered and became obsessed with the fledgling Internet. I was driven to connect with people all over the world, obsessed really. Being an early adopter digital musician and with a young family, I started writing music jingles to earn more money. I wasn’t bad at it and, more importantly, the jingle gigs provided my first exposure to advertising agencies. Because I’m a somewhat creative fellow, the agencies hiring me to write music invited me to be part of other non-musical creative brainstorming sessions. Pretty soon I was working with graphic artists, contributing ideas for print, billboards, radio commercials, industrial videos and websites. Since I’m a nature guy at heart, I moved to Duluth in 1995 after being recruited by the CBS television affiliate as Creative Services Director. In 1996 I made the first website for KDLH using Adobe PageMill, and subsequently for a number of other network stations. The transition from music to online marketing was nearly complete.
In 1998 I left KDLH to help found and lead the new “Interactive” business unit of a venerable regional advertising agency, Westmoreland. We used programs like GoLive, NetObjects Fusion, and early incarnations of DreamWeaver to build websites for SMBs and midsized regional b2b firms. Nobody called it SEO then. I got into buying media on AltaVista, Overture and direct banners. Those were amazing times. You could get ahead and help clients make money just by knowing what to do because few advertising industry players really understood what was coming, let alone how do make websites.
I left that job to found an online record company recording nature music CDs. We kicked out 22 CDs over 5 years and sold the company. In 2002 I became the Online Marketing Director for a small .edu in Minneapolis, the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR). Those were the magical times when we could spend a couple of thousand a year on PPC (Early Google AdWords & Overture) and book millions in sales.
In 2005 after somehow surviving stage 3B cancer, I founded aimClear from my hospital room at Mayo Clinic with my employer IPR becoming my first client. The second client was BlueCross Minnesota where I helped sell a crap pile of health insurance with SEO. The experience was foundational because I learned what a cluster f_ck it can sometimes be to understand and navigate very large companies and how important building internal processes and relationships are to success. It was a big win and priceless experience. I wrote the business plan for aimClear in late 2006 and moved myself to a 300 square foot office on New Year’s Day 2007. Soon after, I started blogging and covering conferences which lead to amazing things…like speaking at SearchFest in Portland in 2008.
For the first 6 years of aimClear and until last month I was CEO and proud to have led the company to INC500 status in 2012. Now I’ve morphed roles. My new job title is “Founder & Evangelist.” It was my decision because I wanted/needed to spend more of my time focused on internal training, writing, speaking, networking, traveling and studying. aimClear works for really cool clients including Intel and Tektronix, which are based in Portland. Credits include Siemens, Martha Stewart, SecondLife, Washington Post and many others. aimClear is rare, a fully integrated search, social, PR and display marketing company. We’re dedicated to the mashed up tip of organic, paid, and paid-organic in both search and social. We’re been deep into social PPC, retargeting and third party (big data) targeting in banner space for a long time.
My first book, “Killer Facebook Ads” (Wiley/Sybex 2011) was a critical success and one of the first to concentrate on social psychographic targeting, occupation targeting and taxonomy with which to categorize and human affinities. This month Wiley/Sybex will release my second book, “The Complete Social Media Community Manager’s Guide: Essential Tools and Tactics for Business Success” co-written with the fabulous Lauren Litwinka (@beebow) who works at aimClear.
2) Online marketing in 2013 is a confluence of so many different things. How can a marketer evaluate the value of each piece of the marketing pie and how they interact with all the other pieces?
Great question! It’s getting so intense to understand the options available that some marketers are not going to make the cut. The best way to think about things is to:
· The first step should be to take inventory of what has always worked. Find those keywords referring sites, content, pages, PR touches and funnels that pay well already.
· Ask, “How can we amplify that success?” and what technology should we use.
For instance if your hot organic keyword (KW) usually converts at 6.8%, use Google analytics to set a remarketing cookie whenever that organic keyword is provided. Follow those KW visitors that did NOT convert in banner space with tight creative, related to the original keyword. If the hot KW is from search PPC then you can set retargeting cookies for other retargeting platforms like FBX. There are about ten archetypal first party site retargeting methodologies to learn and they should be utilized to amplify what already works when possible. In other words, don’t ask, “What new technology should we use to get more customers?” Ask, “What can we do to squeeze more out of what we already do?”
After you’ve amplified what already works then look for new ways to pump customers into the system. Third party data sources like BlueKai, Chango, MagneticMedia, Forbes, Expedia, and ClearSpring are great for targeting users with specific affinities who may have never been to your site at all. These data sources can be used to target banners. Once these users touch your site, retarget and follow them. It just blows me away that we can retarget visitors to other people’s websites.
So, in summary, look to what already works and find the right technology to amplify that success. Then, find ways to use big data to herd new customers into the system. aimClear thinks of social PPC as the latter. We don’t worry about FB ads converting on their own because we know so much about the inbound users that we’re confident that following the psychographic segment will end up as an attributable step in the ultimate conversion.
3) Attribution is clearly an important concept when so many marketing channels are involved. How can marketers sort out this most important issue?
Attribution modeling is like divorce. There is no perfect solution to a nearly impossible problem. Start with GoogleAnalytics multi-channel conversion funnels. Also Google tag manager holds great promise. There is a great attribution white paper from econsultancy that surveys most of the big time attribution modeling tools. It’s well worth the money to get it. I’m particularly excited about the tag management approach.
Regardless of the tool, start with classic last touch conversion tracking we’ve always used. Then look at first touch as introductory. Then study the intermediary steps that commonly lead to conversion. You can do all of that with GA. Attribution gets slippery when marketers start to impute weight to the steps preceding conversion. The soup gets even thicker when one tries to calculate grades of importance of each step in a grid with what each step cost. The cost analysis can involve a lot of variables including content creation, PPC, SEO, retargeting and social.
4) On our company “crystal ball” post for 2013, I wrote: By the end of 2013, PPC experts must also have display expertise. The wall between paid search and display will be obliterated. Can you comment on my prediction?
Without display expertise, marketers have already lost clients. The best thing for PPC practitioners to do is to stay totally up to speed on as many retargeting and third party data source options in banner space as possible. Serve the role as expert to clients and you’ll never be obsolete.
The bad news is that takes a lot of work and some marketers are going to be left eating dust. The good news is that your clients are just as screwed when it comes to figuring out what to do so they need you even more.
The value proposition for great marketers remains the same as always. Be the best, most creative and intuitive marketer at the table. Figure out what the message is and who to say it to. Connect the true value of the product with actual needs of users in quantity. Know options to target those users, test creative and landing pages. Understand how to make the connection between the business objectives your clients have and the technologies available now to get the job done. In some ways everything has changed. In other ways everything is the same.
5) You’re not the only search marketer who is a musician but you might be the only one where I see the direct correlation between the two disciplines in your writing & presentation styles. How does your background in music influence you as a marketer?
That’s a great question and I think about it all the time. Musicians are linear and non-linear, creative and pragmatic all at once. Recording and editing a vocal performance or writing a song is not much different than building and optimizing a social PPC campaign. It’s all about the musician/marketer choosing spots, taking risks, exercising a colorful imagination and going for it. Literally sometimes I hear an imaginary orchestral score whilst blogging or researching targets.
Ironically these days marketing influences my music as much as the inverse. That’s how life works anyway. You play the piano for 25 years and it makes you a better marketer. Next time you play chess after taking a few years off both marketing and music will impact your chess strategy. We’re humans first and all our creative, personal, and technical endeavors fuel each other. Getting good at any craft makes you a more competent and capable person in all endeavors. Maturing as a person makes everything you do better. Grow in one area and you grow in all. One other thing: Having spent 25 years on the stage playing music was perfect preparation for being a conference speaker. Take no prisoners baby!
6) What skills and abilities do online marketers need to succeed in 2013 and beyond?
I’ll point you to a blog post to answer that one because I just spent days writing a blog post about remaining relevant as a marketer. That’s exactly what I’ll speak about at SearchFest. I guess your readers will have to attend to get the full plate!