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Marsh Williams

what's your brand

What’s Your Brand?

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“Describe your brand.” It’s a simple request and one that we ask of every client.

Let’s start with one data point. Brand is more than a logo or a name; it’s the full representation of your company (tone, voice, look, values) and how it’s perceived out in the world.

So as companies grow how do they make sure everyone one understands and buys into the brand? Where is the stake in the ground against which you can measure any communication? Do you have one?

We work with companies of all sizes and stages; the first thing we want to know is what is the brand. We’re engaged to act and communicate on their behalf as part of their team so emulating their voice and tone is critical to the role they have asked us to fulfill. Being in lockstep with what the brand is and what it stands for drives everything. For companies that have a brand guide, that stake in the ground, it’s pretty easy. For those that don’t we lead them through an exercise we call Brand Clarity. It’s not a rebranding by any means, but it’s a useful way to gather the information to create the document a business can use as north on the compass and we can use to create more effective marketing communications.

Clarifying Questions

We start the process with some key questions. It’s always interesting because even though everyone generally has the same idea of their company’s brand, there are still nuances which need to be captured and discussed. These discussions are a great way to build understanding and consensus within the organization about the brand.

You don’t need us to do this you can do it yourself. Using Google forms or something similar create a simple online form and ask the primary stakeholders in the organization to respond; make it anonymous. Then compile the answers, share them with everyone and discuss the differences. Document the outcome and share it with everyone in the organization. Of course, a full brand book contains more than this, but that exercise a good starting point even for mature organizations.

Begin with these four fundamental questions and add others you deem valuable:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. Name two or three brands that share a similar audience
  3. Why does your company exist?
  4. What makes your company unique?

We’ve never been through the brand clarity process without it precipitating excellent discussions about the value, voice, and tone of an organization. It’s a reliable process for getting everyone on the same page, and when done correctly the output can be an excellent onboarding tool for new staff at any level. The brand book says this is who we are; this is what we believe, this is how we treat everyone with whom we come in contact.

Moreover, if you want to take it to the next level, add information about your visual standards; colors, logos and proper use, fonts etc. There’s your stake in the ground. Something against which you can measure every communication to make sure is on point and consistent across the organization no matter who is telling the story.

Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

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A few weeks ago one of our clients asked us to comment on why they had not been able to cross the marketing/digital marketing divide on their own. Certainly a provocative question and one that really required some thought on our part.

This particular client has a very productive marketing department delivering traditional marketing activity: conferences, press releases, pr placement; however, they just felt they had never been able to capitalize on the power and promise of digital marketing.

Here’s how we responded to our client’s question…

It’s easy to look at marketing and digital marketing and assume they are the same. Most companies with a marketing department treat social media and other digital communications efforts as just another distribution outlet for the content they are already producing.

This is the genesis of the problem.

Traditional marketing is about creating a presence in the marketplace, establishing knowledge of an organization within the market, building awareness of products and services as well as the company’s value proposition. All great efforts that are absolutely required as part of an overall marketing equation.

Digital marketing is about creating an engaged audience and there are significant differences between the two.

First, mindset. Engaging an audience means thinking about information that has value for them. What questions do they have that you can address? What are they already talking about and how can you make a contribution to the conversation? In simple terms it means putting aside what you want to tell them and giving priority to what they want to know or how you can help.

When you go to a party or event, who is the person everyone wants to speak with? It’s the person who engages in conversation, who listens before sharing information, and who is as interested in your point of view as you are in his. That approach to digital marketing works. Every single time you add content to your website, post on social media or send out an email marketing piece ask: does anyone care about this? Will people see this as valuable and be more informed as a result of taking their time to read it?

The second difference of digital marketing is the ability to target an audience with precision heretofore unavailable. For example when posting an article on LinkedIn, you can target individuals by industry, job title, seniority level, and geography. On Facebook, you can target people down to the level of who they follow, their demographic information and even a zip code.

A third differentiating factor is the ability to measure your success with a high level of precision. Once you’ve established systems and set up the right tools you will know — down to an individual respondent — how many people are following you, how many people actually read or respond to your message and the types of success your efforts lead to over time. We developed a standard digital marketing dashboard that allows us to track all digital marketing efforts on a month-over-month basis to see our results.

Certainly we do not advocate abandoning traditional marketing, but we do recommend that digital marketing, with its additional capabilities and benefits, be treated as a separate discipline requiring dedicated staff, tools, and processes to generate the maximum benefit for your organization.

Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory

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Well it’s now official. If you don’t have a website that is mobile friendly you’ll be harder to find on Google.

After months of proclaiming the importance of having a mobile website, Google has finally implemented their changes that make a mobile site mandatory as part of a company’s SEO strategy. Up until last week, Google operated on the honor system allowing companies to just say their site was mobile friendly, but no more. Now Google is the sole arbiter of this issue and no longer will just take a company’s word for it.

So what’s the impact?

Effective last week searches from a smartphone will include the term—mobile friendly—in the results. By including this tag Google is betting that companies will work to make sure their site is verified as mobile friendly: that’s the carrot. There is also a stick, as the new algorithm rolls out over the next several weeks, sites that are not defined as mobile friendly will be dropped down in the search engine results list. While this is not stated specifically it is pretty much guaranteed it will happen.

However there is a silver lining here. The days of having to have a separate website done in mobile format are behind us. Many content management systems, like WordPress offer a 2-for-1 capability. Any site constructed with these tools should be set up to be “responsive.” This means that you can have one website which automatically reformats for the device being used to view it, meaning there is no longer a need to have separate desktop and mobile websites.

If you’d like to know how your site ranks use this link and enter your domain name.

If you need other reasons to value a mobile website consider the following:

  • Mobile traffic leads the Internet
  • Companies with responsive design websites reduce their bounce rate by 11% on average
  • 66% of all email is opened on a mobile device, think what it means for a client to open an email on their smartphone and not be able to read your website when they click there.
  • In a 2013 survey Google reported that 90% of executives used their mobile devices for research and 34% said they abandoned sites that were not responsive

Goodbye to Google

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Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with an old friend whom I’ve not seen in months. He is fairly highly placed in the technology sector and of course we wound up talking “geek” ad nauseum. One of the things we discussed was his take on Google. Here is what I got.

There is absolutely no privacy when it comes to Google; there may be some last vestige of anonymity, but there is no privacy. Google knows when you’re in your car, who you communicate with, and now, with the acquisition of Nest, what you do in your home, thus rendering the phrase “in the privacy of your own home” meaningless. The amount of data they collect, examine, and use is staggering and is an absolute assault on the right to privacy.

That being said, yes, I opted in. But now I’m opting out. It will take a while, I’m guessing at least a year, to get away but I’m going to do it. And yes, I’m going to miss the effectiveness of Google as a search engine. Plus I’ll be giving up an email address I’ve had since 2004, but I have to draw the line somewhere and this is it.

While all of what my friend shared is already public, hearing it put together with his perspective, which I greatly respect, has led me to one conclusion: my 2015 resolution is to separate from Google. That means dropping Chrome, Gmail, Google+, YouTube, the whole shebang. Can I actually do it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.

To get a real sense of what Google does and does not do/know/plan/collect/sell, check out these articles:

“4 Ways Google is Destroying Privacy and Collecting Data”

“Privacy concerns? What Google now says it can do with your data”

“Google concedes that drive-by prying violated privacy

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Growing, Maturing and Getting Organized

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Growing, Maturing and Getting Organized

I’ve been through so many start-ups it’s hard to count, but there is a point in each one where members of the team have to make a change in their mindset and for me it’s always hard.

Starting out everyone knows everything that’s going on in the company all of the time. Whether by water cooler or meeting, it’s pretty easy to keep a proverbial finger on the pulse of what’s happening. In addition, everyone helps in almost every area. People pitching when they have time and do what they can to serve the clients, build the team and grow the company. As a friend of mine used to say, “everyone is a generalist.”

But one day it happens

Someone finds out about something “after the fact.” This is the point where things are moving quickly, the organization is growing and all of sudden people find out there is more going on than they know about. This is an inflection point in the life of a company and for the individuals who find themselves there. Now what?

In my experience there are two ways to respond, and to be honest, I’ve done both over my career.

Two Options

One way is to start taking it personally, to feel you’re being excluded because you’re not in the loop on everything. In my experience once this begins it can get very ugly. The second way to deal with this is to realize that it’s just growth. As the organization gets bigger and the projects get bigger and the clients get bigger, things will naturally change and the process of communications becomes much more complicated. As a result, it’s very hard to keep everyone involved with everything that is going on. There is also a point where it’s incredibly inefficient for everyone to be involved in everything.

So as we’ve been wrestling with this issue within Shout Out, here’s what we’ve decided to do: get organized, and get organized in a way that let’s everyone have access to pretty much any information they want and everything they need. Wow, this sounds so simple, but it’s not. We’ve been working on this for several months and looking for a way to communicate efficiently internally and externally with all of the involved parties.

So what do you do?

Well we think we have found a solution. About a year ago we started working with a tool named Asana. We tried it for a little while then set it aside. About four months ago we picked it up again and it is helping to transform the way we work, communicate and manage everything we’re doing. We can now let anyone see what is going on with any project, internal and external, and know who is working on what. Everyone on the team also has the ability to jump in and help on a project if they have any extra capacity, just by looking at the open “to-do” items and seeing if there is something they can pick up.

Asana is a solid tool in which we’re investing a lot of time and effort. This is not a case where the magical-silver-bullet, golden-unicorn tool saves the day. Asana is a tool and that’s it. What we’re investing in is learning how to use the tool and developing processes that surround our use of Asana. Without processes a tool will just sit there and stare at you. Or even worse, it can drag you down a rabbit hole and waste a lot of your time.

Over the coming months we’re going to provide updates on our little experiment and get perspectives from all of the team members about how it is working. In addition, we will do our damnedest to provide guides on any best practices we come up with in case you want to tag a long or are already using Asana.


And by the way…there is no connection at all with Asana, other than the fact we’re a client of theirs. The reason we share all of this is that in our experience all companies are looking for good tools and process to help them grow, mature and get organized.

Photo Credit: reynermedia


Instagram: Behind the Scenes of Business

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A few weeks ago we wrote about our favorite people to follow on Instagram, but we didn’t really talk a lot about how to use Instagram for business. Thankfully we’ve been provided a great example by Beauty’s Most Wanted.

Beauty’s Most Wanted teams up with Stylemakers to develop custom product lines for cosmetics and skincare which are all sold through Costco pop-up shops and online through their website.

Last week they had a video shoot with one of their Stylemakers, Jenna Hipp and they literally turned their Instagram account over to her during the shoot. The result, a great inside look at what goes on to make all those great images we see every day and usually don’t think much about.

Not only did Beauty’s Most Wanted give fans a look behind the curtain, they also got to promote their end product. Followers got a great sense of the fun and professionalism behind the brand and it’s clear everyone had a great time. Think about this as an approach for your company, products, and brand. Use Instagram to give followers an inside view of your organization, how your products are made, or who the people are behind the scenes that work so hard to make all of this happen.

In the end social media is about engagement and this is a great example of how to engage customers with your brand. A big Shout Out to the marketing and creative team at Beauty’s Most Wanted. Thanks for the lesson on how to Instagram right.


Photo Credit: Jason A. Howie

Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.

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I have a great friend, Marty Vian, who has always said that “Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.” I’ve named this Vian’s Axiom.

Now take that to heart for a moment and apply that to your customer’s experience. How much time to you spend extolling the benefits/virtues/outcomes of your product? How much time do you spend trying to cut through the noise and get potential customers to at least be interested or aware of your product?

If you’re like most companies this is the entire focus of your marketing and advertising effort.

Now take everything you know about your marketing and throw it away for the next fifteen minutes. Forget about all of the effort you’ve put into positioning, promotion and communications.

Make yourself a customer and do the following.

  • Respond to your own marketing offers.
  • Click on social media link, go to your website and pretend you know nothing about your offering
  • Post a question to your company on Twitter, Facebook, Etc and see who’s listening
  • Contact your customer support with an issue
  • Call your customer support phone number and see what happens
  • Call the main phone number of your company and see what happens
  • Send in an email inquiry through the website
  • Fill out a contact form on the website.

If you do these things the response/result you are experiencing is your brand: as Vian’s Axiom goes this what you’re actually delivering to your customers therefore it is your brand.

You probably know where to go from here, but make sure the response from these experiences matches your marketing…that’s real brand alignment.

Here are a few things we’ve worked with our clients to align, all the company names have been replaced with Green-Widget.

Do Not Reply

Don’t send emails out to anyone, under any circumstances, with a return email address that starts with “” all this tells the customer is that you don’t really care about what they have to say and you are making them look for a way to respond if they need to.

If you have to do this because your IT department is making your marketing decisions then provide a contact email in the body of the message. Never, ever make your customer have to hunt for a way to contact you.

You’re Valuable, but not That Valuable

Do not send an automated reply to a customer service inquiry that says

**This is an Automated Message to confirm that we have received your inquiry.**
Thank you for contacting Green-widget Support.
As a valued customer of Green-widget, you will receive support within 1 business day

How’s that for mixed messaging.

Setting expectations is a good thing but try something like, “Thank you for contacting us. We want you to know we have received your request and are reviewing it now. It may take us up to a day to review it and respond. However, If your matter is urgent please contact us at 123-123-12345 or and we’ll get on it immediately.

To contact us…aww we’re only kidding

Recently we encountered a firm whose website contact page had no email address or contact form. It simply listed Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube etc

We sent them a question via Twitter…no response.

We sent the same question to them via Facebook…no response.

We looked up their Chief Operations Officer on LinkedIn and send him an InMail…no response.

We looked up their VP of North American Sales on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail…no response.

That’s their brand you hear talking, very loudly.

In Summary

If you want your customer to love you and what you’re doing listen to them, engage them, applaud them…but do not ignore them; what you say is marketing, what you do is brand.


Photo Credit: aldenjewell

Backstory on Photo

The Chevrolet Corvair was an entirely new approach to car design, fun, fuel efficient, inexpensive: a marketer’s dream. Then reality set in when Ralph Nader published Unsafe at any Speed. It crushed the Chevrolet Brand for years. Thus a great case for Vian’s Axiom.

zappos customer service

There’s Zappos and Then There’s Everyone Else

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Updated: 1:15 pm 4/24/14

I’ve just had an interesting customer service experience to share and hopefully learn from.

I bought a Jot Script stylus to use with my iPad a few weeks ago and last week it exploded in my hand, not literally, but it certainly fell apart. I reached out to Adonit via Twitter and asked for help. They responded which was wonderful and they offered to replace the item which was great, but here’s where it went sideways, at least in my opinion.

I was asked to package the stylus “very carefully” and ship it to them for inspection after which they would send me a new item and pay for the postage it cost me to ship it, but only via PayPal. Sounds good right? Then my Zappos customer training kicked in. I literally found myself thinking, “What would Zappos do?”

Zappos would have said, “…we’re really sorry, we’re sending you a new one tonight and when you get it tomorrow please use the same box to return the broken one, and we’ll pay the postage both ways.”

Why? Why does Zappos do this? And, more importantly why doesn’t everyone else? After thinking about it for a while I realized something that I’d never thought of before: Zappos doesn’t make anything…nothing, nada, squat.

The only thing they sell is service. They have no emotional investment in the product purchased, or what it took to design, manufacture or engineer it. They are not attached to the product. Yes, they evaluate it to make sure it’s made well and stands up to their expectations, but they did not make it and are therefore free of all the baggage that goes with creating a product and getting it to the market.

So here is the question for every organization selling anything online…what do you really care about? Do you want happy customers, or do you want customers to like your product and appreciate all the work that went into creating it? They are very different things.

In my situation with the Stylus, it seemed as if Adonit was more concerned with getting their broken product back than in getting a new one to me. They put the burden on me to do everything first and then wait to get a replacement product, and to be honest while their intent is good, they are not putting the customer (me) and their (my) needs first. By the way—the real underlying issue here is that they don’t trust me to hold up my end of the bargain and return the broken stylus.

So I encourage you to think about the end game of customer experience if you’re going to sell online. If all you want to do is sell more product then you probably will not succeed. If you want to create an incredible customer experience then it is likely you will win big. It can be done. If Zappos can make money selling commodity items and doing it better than the brick and mortar joint down the street, imagine what you can do with your product and how incredible it can be.

Give your customer service/support the gift of not caring about what it took to design, manufacture or engineer your product(s) and let them focus on making the customers fanatics about the experience. If you don’t want to service the customer, if it’s too much trouble or it’s too expensive, or you believe the customer will just rip you off, or if your only goal is to sell more product, then do not be surprised if you get your butt kicked…just my opinion.

Set your course toward a Zappos experience. You’ll have bumps. You’ll learn a lot. But putting your customers first is the only strategy that will ultimately create a win. And instead of customers you’ll get fans, which are infinitely more valuable.

Post Script

I’m probably just going to go buy a new stylus because it’s a great product and that’s the easiest route for me, but I’m not feeling very good about the experience or the company behind it.

Post Post Script 4/24/14 1:15 p.m.

Now that ‘s what I’m talking about! After Adonit blew a chance to be customer service heros, Evernote stepped in and actually did it right. Evernote’s Social Media team had been listening in and filed a customer support request on my behalf. I then received an email from Theo (my new hero) at Evernote Customer Support with the following information:

“I sent a new stylus to you with one-day shipping; I don’t have the option for overnight unfortunately, but you don’t need to worry about covering that cost. You’ll receive an email with tracking information as soon as it ships.

Please let me know if I can assist you further.



Score Evernote! That’s the way it should be done…

Photo Credit: mdanys

Someone Was Listening

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So a couple of weeks ago we blogged about social listening and it’s power to help connect with people. Well it works, or at least it worked for Liquid Web. Last week our major hosting provider Bluehost had a major outage and we Tweeted about it to our clients and followers.

Well, lo and behold, about 3 minutes later we got a follow from Liquid Web and a request for us to follow and get a direct message. They had “heard” our Tweet about the Bluehost problems and were asking us to give them a try. So we have. We set up our first Liquid Web account and are trying it out to see if it’s a possible alternative.

For the record, we think Bluehost has some of the best support in the industry, but this was their second major event in a year and even great support can’t overcome issues with reliability.

At any rate, Liquid Web was listening and this is just meant to be a very quick example of how this all comes together to create new customers.

Photo Credit: Philippe Put

Growing Our Business: A Look Ahead

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When we started this little experiment we had several goals in mind: everyone will always be treated with respect, clients will always receive our best counsel, we will never take on a project just for the money, and we will create a culture where people get to showcase their talents, love what they do and love where they do it. Oh, yeah…and we will not compromise on any of these points.

So far we’ve done pretty well, but now comes growth.

Rightly or not, what we’ve created feels like a recipe of well-blended ingredients, but now we need to add in some new people, new skills and probably a new office. What’s this going to do? How do we add to the mix but not loose the flavor we’ve created?

At this point we’ve made two decisions about Shout Out’s growth, people are everything. Finding the right people with the right personalities and skill sets is absolutely essential, and in a showdown personality always trumps skills. Skills can be improved, but it’s a little tougher with personalities.

Secondly, we want to make sure we continue our philosophy of taking what we do very seriously, but not so much with ourselves. We need to stay true to ourselves. To manage this we have proclaimed Nathaniel our company Oracle; the keeper of the flame, our personality barometer. His sense of what is right and wrong for us is spot on, and last but not least it’s because we love calling him The Oracle.

Actually we’re going to do what every organization out there does: do the best we can. But, we’re going to journal this process of growth and see what we do learn. If you have any interest please join us and ask us any questions you have along the way.

Photo Credit: ortizmj12

There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying No

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At one point in my career, about 324 years ago, I had the privilege of working with Harry Gard, one of the original people behind CompuServe, and one of his favorite sayings was “…I’ve made more money saying no than I ever have said yes.”

I’ve always had a tendency to say yes and felt saying no to something, be it a client, a project, a whatever was a sign of weakness. “I don’t want anyone thinking there’s something I can’t do,” and that philosophy has probably created more problems for me than I want to admit. There’s nothing wrong with stretching yourself and learning, but overreaching and promising something just so you can say yes can cause a lot of problems.

But, over time, I’ve come to understand that know what can be done and what should be done in a given situation is a great strength. I’ve learned to say no. Oh don’t get me wrong I still hate to say no, but I’ve learned that it’s the best route in certain situations.

Two weeks ago we were in a meeting with a prospective client and we were asked if we could help them develop a retail marketing strategy for something. Could we? Maybe. (That’s nothing but arrogance speaking.) Should we? No. It’s way out of our experience and core competencies. I told them that it was just not something we were comfortable with and it would be lying to them if I said we could.

The CEO thanked me. What I was really prepared for was, “Well thank you but we’re looking for a firm with broader capabilities.” What I got was, “…thank you. That’s the most honest answer we’ve had in any of our meetings. I’m just sick and tired of everyone saying they can do everything.”

Did I want to tell him yes…of course, I’m a recovering pleaser, but I had to tell him the truth. He would have found out anyway and at that point, our relationship and credibility would have taken a huge hit.

Saying no is hard, there is no doubt about it, but if asked to do something outside your expertise or abilities, try it…I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Photo Credit: gaptone

Why Do We Have A Website?

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Why do we have a website? Every-once-in-a-while it’s really important to stop and ask this question. It’s important to validate what we are doing as a company and make sure that we’re still on point with what we are publicly communicating about our organization.

I can tell you this, what we were when we started is not what we are now. Change is inevitable and we love it. Change is growth, learning, movement, adaptation, and natural, but we need to remember that our story and how we communicate it needs to keep pace with that change in all we do. This is the hard part. It’s so easy to just put something out there and leave it alone and have it be fine, and in reality, it’s what we all want, but in reality, it’s never going to happen. So what do we do? We stop and ask ourselves three key questions:

  • Why do we have a website?
  • What does it say about us?
  • What do we want from it?

It gets to be a little convoluted from time-to-time but here is how we handle it.

We have a website to tell our story. It’s not a sales tool it’s a tool that lets people see into our organization, what we do, how we do it, who we are, and what we’re like. If they like what they see we offer them opportunities to get to know us better and hopefully they will get some insights from our blog,—”Why do we have a blog?” is another topic for later—but we do not expect our website to sell anything…ever. We just think of it as a way to share, our knowledge, something about who we are and tell our story.

What our website says about us is important, not in the description of what we do, but in the words we choose and how we present ourselves. We want our site to reflect who we are as a company and what we are like as individuals. We like long-term relationships and that means we have to be really honest about ourselves. It doesn’t do any good to present ourselves one way on the website and actually show up and be different people. We are, for better or worse, unique. We are the only “us” there is and that’s what makes us different from every other firm in a very crowded space.

We cultivate that difference and work hard to reflect it in our communications. It took a long time and a lot of effort to find our genuine voice and eschew the standard marketing speak for real communication that people can identify with. We do not want to lose this and it’s incredibly important that our website says what we believe and reflects our culture as it really is.

Some companies just don’t care for what we put out there and think that it’s too informal or too “creative,” but that’s alright we are very comfortable with who we are as a firm and a team, and for the companies that can relate to that it’s usually a great place to begin our conversations.

Lastly, what we want from our website is interest. That’s it. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our firm. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our people and how we dissect and solve problems for our clients. We want someone who needs our services to visit our website and say, “I don’t know if this is the right team or not, but I’m crazy if I don’t meet with them.”

That’s why we have a website…why do you have yours?

Photo Credit: jonathan mcintosh cc

Picture of tools on table

Excellent New Marketing Tool for WordPress

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Everyone has heard about marketing automation; the holy grail of business software solutions; at least this week. The solutions abound, HubSpot, ActOn, Infusionsoft, Marketo, and so on. They promise the moon, and for those with the human and financial capital to use them effectively, they actually deliver outstanding results. But what about the little guy, what about the small business that wants some of the same capabilities but has a staff of five and no money to spend. What do they do?

Well, using our superpower of prognostication we think we may have found one; LeadIn. We’ve been trying it out for the last few weeks and really like what we’ve seen so far. Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but it already is adding value to our organization.

In short, the current software provides capabilities to track individuals who visit a website and fill out any associated form, be it a request for information, a download of some sort, or joining a newsletter. LeadIn adds a tracking cookie to the visitors’ browser and automatically ads them to the LeadIn contacts section it will create in your WordPress site. In that sense, it is as powerful as the other options that cost thousands of dollars per month.

The folks at LeadIn are very much on the right track and have designs for bringing significant capabilities to the WordPress world.

Now the reason for this blatant plug…something we don’t do often…they need testers. Right now they are seeking to get as many people as they can accommodate to install the beta PlugIn and try it out. If this holds any interest for you, we hope you will check them out and we can all watch together as they move forward.

Photo Credit: tashland

sign and guitar

Marketing Equals Engagement

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We’ve been on an internal campaign lately to think less about marketing and more about engagement. After all, you cannot create a customer/client/friend/whatever until you engage them in some way.

The phrase we’ve been kicking around is AIDA—not the opera, but ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION. It’s a natural progression in forming a relationship that so many companies, including ours, forget from time-to-time.

Alright, break it down. Let me share what the little voice in my head is saying in response to your marketing…stay tuned there’s a prize at the end.


The goal here is not to just get someone’s attention but doing it in a way that leads to interest. Any idiot standing on the corner screaming can get my attention, but lose it just as quickly because I have observed, processed and decided I have no desire to be around them.

So now turn that around. In the same way, a great visual element, or line of copy can pique my interest and get me to the point of spending a few seconds more (that’s all you get) to see what is going on, “…you’ve got my attention, now keep me interested.”


I’ve seen enough on this brief journey to start observing critically and begin to form an internal value statement on what I’m observing/reading/listening to.” I’m actually going to spend a few more seconds to see what happens next. “…you better keep it interesting.”


“Alright, I’m in. I’ve seen enough that I want to know where this goes.”


This is the payoff…what all marketers want: engagement. Up till now, I’ve been “distracted into” seeing what someone has chosen to present. I’ve been a passive party in the experience, but now I’m stepping over the threshold. Now I’m taking action based on my experience and I am going to be proactive in my response by calling/emailing/buying/referring.

Now for the fun part…take those thoughts and apply the first three steps to the video.


A man in formal wear standing in the middle of a public plaza with a bass doing nothing.

Little Voice: “Wait, what’s wrong? Why is he here in tails and why is he just standing there doing nothing.”


The man starts playing and almost immediately someone else comes out and joins him to build the experience.

Little Voice: “Alright this is cool and completely unexpected. I want to see where this goes”


New elements/layers are being added at a rate that captures my interest. The overall experience in building on itself to the point that people are going to see this through and get the full message.

Little Voice: “This is pretty wonderful and I don’t care if I have to be somewhere else right now. I’m just going to be late because this is worth it.”


People loved it and it has been the most successful marketing/engagement the Sabadell Bank ever undertook… that’s right, the bank that’s in the background of almost every shot.

Little Voice: “If that ever happens again I want to be there to experience it myself.”

By the way…if you don’t have a little voice in your head then we rent ours out.


Photo Credit: Stephen Poff

Why is blogging important?

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One of the questions we get asked most often is “Why is blogging important?”

Here’s our experience…

Our culture at Shout Out Studio is fairly open. As a result, one of the things we love to do is share our knowledge and learn from others; blogging seemed to be a great way to approach this for us. So, in January of 2013, we made a commitment to start blogging in earnest.

It took a while to get everything going but there were three important lessons we learned:

So we took off on a new road without being sure where it would lead us.

Within a month we saw the traffic building for our site and within two months our average traffic increased by 42% over our baseline month of February 2013. In three months it increased by 68%. Honestly, we were surprised.

Our original goal was to write about things we share with our clients. The idea being that not everyone would read everything, but that once-in-a-while someone would find a “nugget;” that one piece of information that meant something to them and they could use to improve their company’s marketing efforts. What we found is that certain topics we wrote about began to get traction and based on the way SEO works, the more traction an article gets, the more it gets preference in the search rankings. What this taught us was that we can only make information available, the users decide what’s important. This realization took off a lot of the pressure we had been putting on ourselves and transformed blogging from a chore to something we actually enjoyed. No longer did we have to worry about what would resonate with our readers, they took that task on and it was great to learn from them.

But as usual, I digress…

The real lesson we learned came in June and July of last year when we found ourselves extraordinarily busy. Our blogging habits fell by the wayside and we found ourselves too busy to deal with it.

Pay attention, because here’s the moral of the story…

When we looked at our site traffic for June and July we were again very surprised. Our traffic immediately dropped 9% in June and another 2.5% in July. Here’s the graph from that period.

June July 2013

So in August we made blogging an absolute priority and restarted our efforts with the goal of at least one good article per week. By the end of November, our monthly site traffic had increased 265% over our February base-line.

Jan-Dec 2013

Lesson learned. keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it good, but keep it going.

Have you had any experiences with blogging and increases, or not, to your site traffic? We’d love to hear about them.

Photo Credit: margaretkilljoy

Identify Your Story

Identify Your Story

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In earlier posts, we’ve referred to storytelling as a key component of marketing, regardless of the distribution medium. Most companies know they have a story of some kind but it’s not always easy to tell it in clear concise terms.

We recently discovered this for ourselves in redoing our company About page. In asking everyone to write a short bio for the new page the general response was as if we have asked people to eat a bowl of boiled okra, and for those of you wondering, that’s not a good thing. To a person, everyone said they hated writing about themselves and didn’t know what to say, so we changed it up. We wrote everyone’s name on strips of paper and took turns drawing them out of a hat. So the net effect is that everyone got to tell someone else’s story. And you know what, it turned out pretty well. The profiles really captured the essence of each person and there was peace in the read more

Great Marketing is About Storytelling

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Once upon a time…

We met with a prospective client recently on another disaster recovery project. All the usual suspects were present in the form of the story: great company, great brand, incredible product and an unbelievable, crappy, digital presence.

But here’s the part we want to get into…

The owner has a friend who they referred to as, “a programmer who said that they could build the website.” Now at first blush, there may not seem to be anything wrong with that but after cogitating (word of the day) on that for a while it hit me. Websites are not about programming; period. They’re about storytelling.

So embrace that fact and think about the people you would want to create and tell your story; think about your reaction to someone who says I’m a programmer and I can build your website. Let us clarify right here that there are programmers who are great storytellers, but the primary skill for developing a great marketing program of any kind is the storytelling capability. That trumps technology of the delivery mechanism every time.

So to help if this happens to you we’ve put together a small list of things to ask anyone who says they can “build your website.” Top five things to ask someone who wants to help with your website. read more

Google Analytics Made Easier

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For those of you who know the power of the Google Analytics dashboard, you can skip to the next paragraph. For the rest of you, Google Analytics has the ability to create customized dashboards which provide a fast detailed look at any set of data you want. While it can be a bit “wonky” to create them they are well worth the effort if you’re trying to get a quick look at any subset of information and invaluable in understanding your audience.

Or if you don’t want to create your own, there are places on the webernet that you can also find pre-packaged dashboards which can be directly imported to your GA.

We have found a few of these to be especially effective and use them frequently…

Site Performance – Go get it

This is a great option for showing how your site is actually performing from a time-to-load standpoint. It also shows metrics for performance in each browser.

Click the image to enlarge. read more
Image of a tape-measure for Review of Twitter Analytics

If you aren’t measuring you’re wasting your time…Twitter Analytics

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Let’s start with a brief bit of context. I hated statistics in college. I did everything possible to avoid it as a subject area and it bored the hell out of me.

Skip forward a whole lot of years and I now love statistics. They are the benchmark for measuring creativity and the effectiveness of any digital marketing efforts.

Seem like a non-sequetor? It’s not. Shout Out’s whole approach to marketing is based on a simple model:


This combines the left brain/right brain, creativity, and measurement, in what we believe has become read more

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