What home improvement stores should teach you about buying marketing technology

Ever gone to a big-box home improvement store? I certainly have. They’re a DIYer’s paradise most of the time. My favorite section is usually the sharp objects portion of the store, where the knives, axes, machetes, and other pointy things are kept.

When you’re in the store looking for tools or supplies, how do you decide what to buy?

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I recently bought a new electric screwdriver; this is the general process of how that happened. First, you have to get a sense of where to look. Screwdrivers and refrigerators aren’t going to be in the same section. Taxonomy counts! Once you’re in the correct general section of the store, you look up to find the aisle you should be in. After you locate the aisle, you find the section of shelf that contains the products you want.

Once you’re at the shelf, how do you determine what’s the best tool to buy? Most people, like me, first look at the prices. What can I or can’t I afford? Not much point looking at DeWalt if you can only afford Ryobi. After you’ve found the price bracket that you can afford, you start comparing features in that set:

  • How many volts does the screwdriver have?
  • What kind of battery?
  • Most important to me, what warranty is on the box? Manufacturers generally make warranties last only as long as they expect the tool to last. A product with a 1 year warranty means that in the lab, in 366 days the product probably fails.

For tools, which are things I tend to break in fairly short order, warranty is the feature that makes or breaks what I buy in my price bracket.

Compare this to how we select marketing tools. Is the process similar? I’d argue that many marketers begin the process lost. They’re not even in the right section of the store or looking at the right aisle. A fair few marketers I’ve talked to ask about analytics tools when they’re really talking about monitoring tools. They ask about media tools but their goals are really lead generation. If you’re selling people marketing tools, or if you’re buying marketing tools, know what section of the store you need to be in. I strongly recommend thinking of Scott Brinker’s MarTech landscape as a map of the marketing tools store:

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Once you know you’re in the right section, think about how we normally buy and then think about how vendors sell. Vendors sell by pushing features and benefits hard, and a fair few dodge any question on price. I’ve even had a vendor say that they don’t discuss pricing until after a demo. Almost needless to say, that vendor never got a followup call.

Work with vendors who disclose their pricing up front so you know what you can and can’t afford. Finally, once you’ve narrowed down the pricing bracket, decide what feature is going to be most important – and that the vendor provides it.

For example, I recently tried Act-On Software, a marketing automation tool. The tool seemed promising, but Act-On’s main benefit was their support and on-boarding. This was a mismatch. I’m a highly technical user; I wanted them to give me the setup information like SPF records, then get out of my way so I could speed through setup and be productive immediately. They wanted to hand hold me through the process and refused to give me the data I wanted until after I finished the on-boarding process and training. I canceled the service within a week. Is their service bad? No. It’s just not the way I work. It’d be like a screwdriver that required me to complete a tutorial before using it. Some people would want that and absolutely love it if products worked like that. I’d return it immediately.

This comparison to how you normally shop should give you an idea of how to more carefully evaluate marketing technology vendors:

  • Make sure you’re in the right section of the store.
  • Find the price bracket you can afford.
  • Look for the key feature that’s most important to you and see which product has the most of it.

With that, your marketing technology tool selection should be a little easier!


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Combine Bitly, Google Analytics, and Google Sheets for Winning Metrics Analysis

I was asked recently by Social Media Examiner for my top social media tool recommendation for 2015, as a lead up to my talk at Social Media Marketing World. Here’s what I came up with:

When you combine Google Spreadsheets with the Google Analytics plugin and Bit.ly’s out-of-the-box integration, you have a powerful, free analytics dashboard solution. Everything’s in one place, and as a bonus, you can customize the reporting to incorporate more than one Google Analytics profile. That’s a significant help for consultants with more than one client.

James McCarthy followed up to ask:

“I just watched a Google video and saw how to enable the Analytics plug-in with Spreadsheets. Seems straightforward enough. How to go the next step and do the Bitly integration? Thank you.”

Bitly’s role is to determine how many things you’ve shared that get clicks. While Google Analytics will tell you what social posts drove traffic to your website that you’ve shared, it won’t tell you about the overall engagement of your shared content, which presumably contains links to other sites as well as your own. Bitly helps to solve this by reporting on how many clicks any Bitly link gets, regardless of when it’s shared, or who it’s shared by.

This is driven by Bitly’s integration with Google Spreadsheets, the documentation for which can be found here. You’ll need a free access token from Bitly’s developer page to make the magic happen.

For example, in this spreadsheet, I’ve pasted all of the Bitly links I’ve shared in the last couple of weeks:

Bitly_Example_-_Google_Sheets.jpg

The formula in the cell V5 above is:
=IF(ISURL(B5), IMPORTDATA(CONCATENATE(“https://api-ssl.bitly.com/v3/
link/clicks?format=txt&unit=day&units=-1&rollup=true&access_token=”, ACCESSTOKEN, “&link=”, B5)), “”)

If I can’t remember what a link is, I can use the expander function in the Bitly API to re-lengthen the shortened URLs:

Bitly_Example_-_Google_Sheets 2.jpg

The formula in the cell above is:
=IF(ISURL(B5), IMPORTDATA(CONCATENATE(“https://api-ssl.bitly.com/v3/
expand?format=txt&access_token=”, ACCESSTOKEN, “&shortUrl=”, B5)), “”)

And if I want to see what’s been re-shared and on which social network, I can use the Shares function in the Bitly API (admittedly not real clean, since it spits back raw JSON):

Bitly_Example_-_Google_Sheets 3.jpg

The formula in the cell above is:
=IF(ISURL(B5), IMPORTDATA(CONCATENATE(“https://api-ssl.bitly.com/v3/
link/shares?access_token=”, ACCESSTOKEN, “&link=”, B5)), “”)

Anyone who’s got a method for cleaning up raw JSON inside a Google Sheet, please leave it in the comments!

With the Bitly API and Google Spreadsheets, you can construct a fairly impressive dashboard and identify things like the most reshared content, the links that get the most engagement, and so much more. The entire reason for using Google Sheets is so that you can have tabs for all your Google Analytics data and Bitly data, then roll up just key analysis points onto a separate sheet or even workbook.

I can sort my Bitly links by click and identify the topics, by link, that get the most engagement vs. the topics that get crickets. From there, I can make a decision whether to focus more on certain topics to boost overall social media engagement. Blended with Google Analytics data, I can also see whether the most popular topics are resulting in actual conversions down-funnel or not, a critical point!

Thanks for the great question, James.

Disclosure: Bitly is a client of my employer, SHIFT Communications. I receive indirect financial benefit derived from them being a paying client. Bitly did not provide any assistance or resources for this blog post, nor did they ask me to write about them.


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How to download your Facebook archive

Facebook is the dominant, de facto social network, as confirmed by Pew Research in their most recent social media report. With more of us using it for business purposes on a personal level (as opposed to a brand), you will likely encounter a time when you want to save and archive what you’ve done. Maybe you’ve got some great business conversations in Messenger. Maybe you’d like to do Throwback Thursday stuff with images you loaded to the service years ago.

It’s not obvious or apparent, but there is a way for you to get all of your Facebook content. It’s been hiding there for a couple of years, actually. Under General Account Settings, Facebook put a tiny, tiny link that lets you start the download process:

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Depending on how much you’ve loaded up to Facebook, your archive might be immediately available, or you might be told to wait.

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Once you get the archive, what exactly do you get? You get a ZIP file (archive) containing everything you’ve ever done on Facebook on your own profile. Messages. Wall posts. Videos. Photos.

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You get the works, but it comes out fairly disorganized. From here you’ll want to process stuff and get it indexed. Each file comes with markup inside that will help a piece of software (but not necessarily a human) make sense of it. There are some paid products that will help you slice and dice it, or if you’re a coder, you can do it yourself. Your uploaded photos are in separate folders.

What can you do with this data? For one thing, it’s searchable. Quickly locate conversations and discussions you remember having.

You can also look at concordance. What do you talk about most? You can copy and paste contents into any of the word cloud generators to see what’s been on your mind since you started on Facebook.

Finally, if you work at a company that requires data retention for legal purposes, this is an easy way to fulfill the retention requirements if you’ve used Facebook to stay in touch with people for business reasons.

Download an archive and poke around!


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