First written early in 2017, re-discovered in drafts.

Photo by Arvind Thangli on Unsplash

Process: Facebook Advertising is a wonderful rabbit hole. I’ve done Facebook Ads in the past. It’s easy to get carried away by all the targeting options like, custom audiences, interests, demographics, placements, bid types, ad types etc.

But it’s important to focus within your resources, both people and budgets. Sure you can make gorgeous canvas ads to create an immersive experience with embedded videos and what not. But is the complexity and overhead worth it? Sure you can create Facebook Ad funnels with a blog post for the first group, use the Facebook Pixel to re-target those who read the blog with a gated offer and then re-target those with a free trial or demo. But it’s a factor of much money are you willing to spend, how often do you want to actively monitor campaigns, ad sets and ads and tweak and keep an eye on things. Yes you can setup automated rules within Power Editor now to take some of that headache off you but does if you are only spending $500 per campaign, with 5 campaigns and 2 ad-sets and 4 creatives, is it not easier to simplify the process?

Experimentation and process is an important part of learning, but only after you’ve reached the local maximum in your current setup. In my case, doing Adwords, Adroll, GDN, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook meant that my rather limited ad spend was getting chopped up across these channels and not really getting its full potential. For any meaningful learning to happen, you need to have enough data points to look at.

Spending $100 on Adroll and reaching 50 people but not seeing early results didn’t mean it wouldn’t work. It just mean I hadn’t figured out what would work.

Learning in most experiments is a function of sample size. For example, if you only get 100 people to your landing page that you have 2 variations of, and variation B is shown to 50 people and 5 of them signup for your product, does that mean the same will hold true when 5,0000 people land on that page? Most likely not. And how long does it to get 5,0000 eye balls on a page? Months? Is it worth testing something over a period of 8 months when you only expect to see a 2% increase in signups? Does it have a significant impact on your business? I won’t get into the math of the statistics behind it, but something to think about.

The same held true for my ad spend. If I am spreading my budget across every available channel, with LinkedIn being the most expensive & only getting a handful of people to click on the ads. Is that a learning? Or just a waste? On top of that, within each ad network, there’s at-least a dozen things you can change like ad creative to attribution windows to bids to targeting.


Learning comes from structured process and smart decisions to focus vs trying 20 different things but not really trying them well.

4 years ago, I wouldn’t have said process. I probably would have been that person who spent $100 on each available ad network including Snapchat, partially out of curiosity without asking if my audience uses Snapchat.

Process helps you answer questions like what you are trying to do and how will you do it? How will you document results so 6 months from now, you can reference them instead of repeating the same mistakes?

How I’ve started doing it: writing everything down in a Google Doc.

Before I start a new advertising campaign, I take sometime to create a document outlining my assumptions, strategy (driving new audience or trying to reach an existing one) which defines the audience (interests + behaviour + web) & ad creatives.

After the campaign is over (I structure them by months for ease of budgeting) I export the results into excel and see if there’s any correlation or patterns that I can repeat.

An example is that in March, I noticed that most of the conversions from Facebook Ads came via Desktop and Apple Devices:

Conversions by Device (exported from Facebook Ads for CrowdRiff)

So in the next campaign , I created Ad Groups targeted by device:

  • Desktop
  • iPhone
  • All Devices

With the same audiences across ad groups to test the assumption. Since my previous campaign strategy & results are documented, I can always go back and see what I did and compare.

December 2017 update: The device targeting didn’t result in a significant change in results.

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Agencies: It was after dinner when I got the call from alawyer from the west coast specializing in real estate & family law. Looking to dive into marketing to drive new business, a mutual friend had introduced us earlier.

He shared his experience with a local agency that promised to increase his search rankings but after 6–8 months, without any solid results, he decided to part ways.

With another agency proposal in hand, he was looking for an extra pair of eyes for a sanity check.

As I looked the proposal he sent over from a full service agency, it sounded needlessly complex for a small law firm. The agency had line items for content calendar, social media marketing, Adwords (setup and ongoing) and even press releases.

My first instinct was to look at Google Analytics and the % traffic via social media & what % of visits came through the blog and general content spot check. The numbers of referrals from social in GA didn’t justify the $$ on social media setup & and on-going $ for social media marketing (posting?). All social channels combined were bringing in less then 2% of the traffic, which could have been bots since the bounce rate was high. The blog; a mix of client stories for the most part, did not have a strong organic reach.

We didn’t get into each line item, but I told him that in my view, the proposal he got was trying to do too much. It was a local law firm that only worked with local clients, folks don’t tend to follow lawyers on Twitter, unless they have a super witty social team (Wendys anyone).

My two cents were to stop putting up client stories on the blog they belong as testimonials on the site, instead focus on search keywords and intent and break it into two buckets:

  • Brand Affinity: focus on keywords that are informational — How do find a good real estate lawyer, example of house transfer contract etc, what happens during divorce or separate etc. Search queries where someone isn’t looking to hire someone right away but looking for more information.
  • Buying Intent: Good lawyers near me, real estate lawyer <city name> etc. This is also a direct conversion (have Ad extensions setup) but also if you did the brand affinity strategy, your customer is already familiar with your name so they’re more likely to click/convert on your ad.

The second suggestion I had was to perhaps hold some offline workshops or free office hours and put up some subway ads in the city. Press releases and scheduling posts in buffer would hardly move the needle for him.

Thought’s comments questions? Let me know on Twitter.


Note: This is not a product endorsement. There are some product flaws in Hubspot that I don’t cover here.

We recently switched from Marketo to Hubspot at CrowdRiff, yes I was involved in a switch from Hubspot to Marketo at Uberflip before so it was an interesting experience see’ing the process from both sides.

The primary reason for switching was usability. Hubspot in general is easier to use and manage then Marketo for a dozen or so reasons that I wont get into today. I’ll say this, the general perception that Marketo is more robust might not hold true anymore.

If you’ve read my previous post about building a lead to account matching in Marketo (without external plugins) you’ll realize how painful it is. Marketo’s matching caps out at 500 entries from what I know.

With Hubspot there is a magical setting that matches any new leads to existing accounts and syncs their status

What does this do?

Imagine you have an account in Salesforce from Acme Co and it has a contact with the email sophia@acme.co who is currently in the Opportunity status.

You run some Facebook ads and you get another lead from company Acme Co with the email kamil@acme.co. In the perfect world, you want to avoid communicating with kamil@acme.co with messages meant for a prospect because someone from your team is already chatting with acme.co about signing a deal. Ideally you want kamil@acme.co to be routed to the company acme.co and not sit as a lonely lead in your database and end up getting pulled into marketing comms and keep your reporting and database clean. That can happen one of two ways:

  1. kamil@acme.co is auto-converted into a contact in Salesforce under the Acme.co account and the lead status is updated.
  2. kamil@acme.co is NOT converted into a contact in Salesforce but the lead status is still updated to show that it’s part of an active sales opportunity.

With the Hubspot trigger, any new lead that is created from an existing account will match the lifecycle stage of the existing contacts within that account. What that means is, kamil@acme.co will not have the status ‘MQL/Lead’ which means open season for marketing, typically nurture emails or such. Instead kamil@acme.co will have the lead status ‘Opportunity’ because someone from that company already has that status.

Here’s an attempted flow chart to simplify the text:

I am not great at flow charts.

The same principles apply if it’s a lead from an existing customer. It’s does happen, more often then not, that you have a customer in your database with 3 known contacts. What if a 4th person from that customer account downloads an ebook you just put out? How would you avoid putting that person from a company who’s already a customer in your ‘Downloaded eBook’ nurture? With the matching in Hubspot enabled, the new person will have the status ‘Customer’ so they’ll get routed to a suppression list.

You must always have a suppression list.

Before we moved to Hubspot and enabled this, we had some instances where customers/opportunities got pulled into marketing lists by accident since the status wasn’t changed.

You might be thinking, that’s all great but we don’t use Hubspot Lifecycle Stages because we can’t customize them, so we use our own custom field for status, how would it work then?

Use Workflows.

Workflows take care of mapping your custom status field to match the Hubspot lifecycle stage. So even though you are not using the Lifecycle stage to track lead/contact status, you can create workflows to trigger your custom field based on the changes to the lifecycle stage field. Word of caution, make sure you don’t have multiple workflows overwriting the same field.

Although the system only looks at the domain information, it comes pre-packaged with Hubspot and it does save me much of data management problems such as pulling customer contacts who have not been set as customers into an email list for a sales campaign. You could use third party Salesforce plugins like LeanData for more robust fuzzy matching with multiple data points and auto converting leads into contacts under matches accounts within Salesforce.

If you’ve experienced issues like this and have tried this or a different approach, please let me know in the comments below!

P.S: This setting is in Hubspot Sales, Hubspot’s free CRM.

P.P.S Hubspot also has a Company -> Lead ownership matching, avoiding the scenario where leads & accounts have multiple owners for the same company.


Going to Pakistan next week so brushing up my Pashto (Hey Dad, Mom, Gol and Aimal can’t wait to see you again 🙂 )

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, or months. I don’t remember when was the last time I sent this out, but it’s been a while. I won’t get into the details, most of you already know my personal/work life and since this gets republished on Medium and LinkedIn at some point, I don’t want to make it public.

I am looking for help with editing an ABM post I wrote. Interested? Let me know. I sent it to the editors at Inbound.org and they are interested but it needs some work.

Which brings me to the next thought, most of you know I am a big reader and between my new subscription (paper in the mailbox) for New Yorker and Medium I read quite a bit. This morning there was a interesting tweet(storm) by a senior executive at Hubspot about content that I embedded below and hopefully works in Gmail. Now Hubspot is a company built on the whole concept of ‘content’. But Peter Caputa (VP Sales) at Hubspot made the case of storytelling and bloggers being more like writers and writing ‘in-depth’ essays. I on the other hand think that is a luxury only companies of a certain size can afford. Think about marketing on a spectrum of revenue and there’s an end of demand generation where the focus is on revenue, direct response and leads and the other end is brand marketing (stable revenue stage). My disagreement was two fold:

1) a company like Hubspot can afford to run an editorial operation completely divorced from the Demand Generation operations, as can Zendesk. 
2) A company below certain ARR /<insert a local startup or SMB> here needs to keep it’s content focused on direct response. That means focusing on keywords, writing about things that come up in sales calls that SDR’s/BDR’s can use when they’re making calls or marketing can use in campaigns. It has to ultimately help generate revenue in some way. 
3) A company that has a great editorial operation like Mattermark comes to mind, but I am not a customer and I read the analysis by @alex and the newsletter curated by @nick and it’s unlikely I will be a customer. Companies like Buffer who write about transparency and operations also heavily write about social media marketing and ‘direct response’ writing.

Preliminary thoughts. No conclusions reached yet but wanted to put it in writing.

Here are the embedded tweets I mentioned. Goodnight!

Yes to this entire rant/tweetstorm 🙌 https://t.co/gImXWO6Xgt

— Janessa Lantz (@janessalantz) December 14, 2016

This was sent earlier as part of Overdrafted. Subscribe here.

Photo Credit: https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1468309218808-b673d545d957?ixlib=rb-0.3.5&q=80&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&s=7f613564f8e45eb116209f29ed92b808

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Edition 9: Demand Generation Funnel

Hey friends and family,

I’ve read a series of articles on Medium about lead scoring, Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) & Product Qualified Lead (PQL).

My head is buzzing so I will try to keep this coherent.

First of all, this article talks about building a predictive lead scoring model. It’s quite the buzz these days in B2B Marketing circles, with different vendors with hefty price tags and ominous black boxes selling their wares. However let’s break it down; B2B technology vendors are notorious for vague copy on their website, without actually explaining what or how they do it. I guess that helps them fuel the ‘demo request’ forms.

Traditional lead scoring is based on 2 dimensions:
– Straight up things like job title, company size (a proxy for revenue which means ‘disposable money to spend on technologies’) and mostly country and other such things.
– Behaviour, which means if they’ve actually been to your website/blog a couple of times and read or downloaded some eBooks and such.

Note: Remember to have negative scoring for things like email bounced, blank title, unsubscribed from marketing emails and such. Otherwise you’re lead score will, in theory, trend towards infinity.

Where lead scoring falls short? A couple of things, the world isn’t perfect and data isn’t clean. Someone might self identify as a VP of Marketing but in reality they might be a Marketing Manager. It’s all user generated anyway. Secondly if you use a third party data service to augment your lead records, you have a single point of failure. If the third party returns null or wrong data, your whole model is thrown off. 

So what is predictive lead scoring? It’s the idea (data science anyone?) that you look at a sample size of all the customers you got and look for similarities. If you have a large enough sample size and enough data points, there might be some commonalities like certain industries, behaviours (attended your webinar twice around ‘Lead Management for High Performing Marketing Teams’), spent 3 minutes look around your pricing page, had job titles within a certain area or other overlaps. These themes give you data points on what your ideal customer profile looks like and instead of having a linear lead scoring model, you have a weighted one. After all, not all behaviours are created equal, some are more equal then others. The challenge of-course that the process from visit to customer isn’t linear or simple. But a large enough sample size offers insights.
Should you then drop a hefty sum on a predictive lead scoring tool? Nope – Hubspot already offers it in built into their tool and you can build one yourself using excel by using regression analysis. What is regression analysis is a project for me for next week.

The second article talked about how traditional excel sales/revenue growth models often are based on historical funnel conversion rates which leads to total lead/MQL target madness. Yes, I’ve been there. But historical conversion rates aren’t predictive of the future, they’re an opportunity of improvement. If you MQL targets or lead targets are 8000 a month, then there’s definitely something leaky in your funnel and it’s better to fix that. What is the bottle neck? is it the Sales Qualified stage? Is that because of head count? Or is there a broken process? For example your funnel looks like this:

Lead -> MQL = 90%
MQL -> SAL = 40%
SAL -> SQL = 8%
SQL -> Opp = 50%
Opp -> Customer = 60%

It’s clear that there’s a 8% conversion rate that is causing the MQL/Lead number to inflate beyond control. What is causing that? What can be improved? If only 8% of the leads are being qualified by sales, what is happening to the rest of the 92%? Are they thrown out and replaces by new MQLs? Why not recycle them? Or is it simply that the MQL’s are not true MQL’s and hence not replying or engaging with sales? Can the channels/messaging and positioning be shuffled to better explain what the product does for whom so those who do fill out a form actually know what they’re getting into? One too many B2B SaaS products have vague ambiguous copy on their website, but interesting blog/ebooks that someone will download with no intention of buying the product or rather no idea what the product does. 

Process is essential but hard to get right but essential to the demand generation funnel. Hard to get right because there’s two ‘departments’ on a constant head butt with each other: sales & marketing. Traditionally, marketing is responsible for Leads -> MQL and Sales is SQL -> Customer. But both have varying incentives in places. I am all for SDR/BDR teams being under the Demand Generation/Marketing teams, to help simplify the process changes and align goals. 

Last thing: Product Qualified leads. This is a concept on freemium products, where a user has a free trial or free version and hits a ‘wall’. The wall can be a premium feature leading to a landing page or hitting the max quota on their plan or something of the sort. However I find this only works in the case of freemium products, if your product has no entry point to a account and usage, this model would not work.

Here are all the links:
Stop the Lead Scoring Madness.
Lead Scoring Models [Slide Share]
Product Qualified Lead
Before You Widen The Top of the Funnel

Before I go, here’s a fantastic read by Erin from Fortune on Cruise Automation that sold to GM Motors for a a mind boggling amount of money and how GM and Cruise is keeping things alive.

It’s been a while. I hope you’ve all been well. 


This is Edition 9 of Overdraft. Signup here if you feel like it.

Mike Walsh — https://unsplash.com/@mkwlsn

It’s been a couple of days since I wrote this. Mostly because of an existential crisis around the purpose of writing this newsletter. More on that some other time.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes Intercom, Slack, MailChimp, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and other companies (technology mostly) that sit on people’s tongues and minds, special?

All of the companies mentioned above don’t work in a certain vertical, but if you’re thinking email, you mind goes to MailChimp. If you think logistics and transport, it’s Uber. Intercom has a great writing and editorial operation and that is what I associate them with mostly, and if someone says ‘In-App Messaging’ I think Intercom. These companies have built incredible products and mind-share through… marketing. But how? My theory is, not everything they do is about acquiring customers.

Here’s the rub. Sure customers are important and without cash flow you won’t have the luxury of running a business let alone write about product management. But perhaps it’s the case that these companies have reached a certain scale where they have enough operating cash on hand that they can think longer-term strategy. The marketing organization isn’t constrained by ‘How are we getting new customers this month’ but rather ‘How are we building a company and a brand that’s going to help people associate us with our vertical so business naturally comes’.

I use naturally somewhat loosely above.

There’s also something else. These companies (and founders and teams) stand for something. They believe in what they’re building and write about it every chance they get. Does the personal brand these folks build conflict or overshadow the company brand? I don’t think so. I think it helps support it.

Imagine the following scenario — you read a great Medium Post on how to… design great email templates using nothing but your hands and the in-line css in your editor. The post was so useful that you start following the author on Medium and go check out her Twitter and find out she works for MailChimp. In your mind, there’s a synapse firing associated MailChimp with that post and tagging it as ‘awesome’ or ‘well written and easy to follow’ or whatever. Next time you’re in the market to send emails or looking for software to send emails, you’ll maybe check out MailChimp.

I am oversimplifying. Grossly oversimplifying.

In other cases (such as Uber) they spend money to place ads on your browser with striking visuals that you click and poke around and next time you’re going somewhere, you download the app.

Gross oversimplification.

Are we as marketers going back to brand(building)? How do the internal marketing teams within these companies operate? Do they stare at metrics all day wondering how much they spent and how their campaigns are performing? Or do they just spend money and write about things they care about, run nicely designed ads and figure the money will follow? There’s been a ‘performance’ focused marketing approach, especially in startups since there’s no money for big campaigns and the focus is on getting customers. But after how many customers do you stop worrying about getting that next customer and start focusing on the intangibles and believe the customers will come?

Perhaps, more then anything, it’s about balancing the two. I wonder though if there’s a relation to business models. If you’re selling enterprise/SMB software with no freemium option, then your marketing will operate completely different then if you’re selling to consumers or a freemium product tier.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure More questions to be explored another time.

Related links: Drift (Messaging App) on why they are bringing brand back to marketing.

McDonald is moving to a performance based marketing model with its agency.

Uber is increasingly weaving itself to the fabric of our cities and urban planning. With Uber, you can now ride to your train station in New Jersey for free (if you already have the $4 day parking permit) because commuters ride the train and leave their cars in the parking lot which means there’s not enough parking for everyone. This way the city saves a whole whack of money by not expanding the parking lot pays the difference on the ride. It’s still a pilot but this is a first world problem that i’ve experience in San Jose and Toronto. Uber itself is losing a ton of money every year (in the order of billions) and is not profitable yet. But as it mounts losses, it continues to expand it’s reach into the urban landscape. As I heard on a recent podcast, alot of folks look at the ride-sharing market as a winner take all, but I personally think options are better, especially since every time Uber makes a change or offers options at a lower price then usual, its the drivers who suffer the most.

One of the reasons I think about Uber and other ‘on-demand’ services is because I ask myself, what kind of future do I want to live in? Even though there’s all these lazy services that bring anything from laundry to food to your doorstep, we never realize the human cost and perhaps lost human potential behind the glitz. Often times, I’ll look at a courier with a logo slapped on her/his backpack and wonder if they didn’t do this, what else could they have done with their time. Too often in the race to scale, there’s basic labour laws and working conditions that get ignored but they exist for a reason. I keep thinking back to the working conditions in my home country (Pakistan) or the news about factory collapses in Bangladesh.


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Some find the newsletter a little random. So I’ll do things a bit differently today. Instead of writing opinons about technology or anything of the sort. I will share some links and let you read them in your own time.

This is very Toronto Centric but raises a lot of questions about women in tech:

Some media related news: 

And finally something closer to home:


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