The Worst Advice I Ever Received from a Boss (and the Best)

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By Sue Brady

Donald Trump

Ali Goldstein/NBC

As a boss, you have a great deal of influence over the lives of your employees. You control the paycheck after all. We’ve all had good bosses and bad ones, some who gave great advice, and some, not so much. The good news is, you can learn a ton from both good and bad bosses and can use both to become a better and more effective leader and mentor yourself. Some of this advice comes in the form of watching how someone handles a situation and some comes in the form of direct feedback.

Here goes:

Good Advice. If you exude confidence, everyone will think you know what you are talking about (Tweet this). I’ve also heard this described as “own it.” And it is good advice. It doesn’t mean you should emphatically state things you know not to be true, but it does mean speaking with authority on topics where you know your stuff. I believe Sheryl Sandberg calls this ‘Leaning In.’ http://www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women-Work-Will/dp/0385349947

Sheryl Sandberg

Time

Bad Advice. Only hire people who are married. Seriously, a boss actually said that to me. His reasoning was that married people were more stable. Oh boy.

Good Advice. When you are talking to an employee (or anyone), give them your undivided attention. That means, don’t look at or answer your phone, check your email or look over their shoulder. Being distracted sends one message: the person you are talking to isn’t as important as you are.

Bad Advice. Always have something to say in a meeting. I had a boss who would comment in a long-winded fashion in every meeting, regardless of whether or not what he was saying added to the discussion. Folks hated to be in a room with him because meetings would last twice as long as necessary. He would say to me, you can’t just sit in a meeting and not contribute. On the face of it I felt he was right. After all, why was I in a meeting if I didn’t have anything to contribute? But, if I didn’t have something new to add, I believed (and still do) that saying something just to say it, was not productive. Just because I’m not talking, doesn’t mean I’m not observing, absorbing and processing. Let’s face it, when you’re talking, you’re not listening. Someone came up to me after a management meeting once and said “Sue, you don’t say much, but when you do I pay attention, because I know what you’re saying will be important.” I took that as a compliment!

Good Advice. The difference in response rates between .051% and .057% is really small. Yes, it represents over a 10% difference, but unless you’re evaluating a ton of responses, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a big data problem. It’s hard sometimes to know what’s important.

Bad Advice. Say whatever you need to say to get what you want (from a client, boss, employee, customer). Basically, lie. This might help you in the moment, but is just not a good long-term strategy. And once you’re busted, it’s hard to gain that trust back. Here’s my list of most egregious whoppers that were said either directly to me or to someone else in the room with the express purpose of misleading:

  1. Google changed their algorithm because of us.
  2. She didn’t even apply for your position. She wants to work for someone like you.
  3. She slept with her boss.
  4. I’m getting you equity in the company.
  5. I had approval to overspend the budget.
  6. There won’t be any layoffs.
  7. You will be able to hire the support you need in this role.

Good Advice. An employee should never be surprised about what they hear in a performance review. Ongoing feedback is far more valuable than once a year feedback. It’s important to learn how to have these discussions.

Bad Advice. Every penny counts. On the surface, this might seem like good advice, but let me explain the context. I worked in Marketing for a company where we did a financial review every month.One Cent One month my balance sheet was off by one cent. I was grilled for two hours, in front of my co-workers, about that cent.  I’m not making this up. There are times when it makes sense <cents> to let the little things go.

Good Advice. If you make a mistake, learn from it so that you don’t repeat it, but don’t continue to beat yourself up (or let others beat you up).  I once made a $250,000 mistake. I had printed a piece (millions of pieces) with what I thought was approved language, only to be informed by the partner that it was in fact, not approved. With my tail between my legs, I went into my boss’ office and confessed my error. He said “Sue, you know you’re someone when you can make a $250,000 mistake.” That was all he said. I was prepared to be humiliated, beaten, fired, but instead, my boss made me feel like the world wasn’t coming to an end. He knew that I already felt badly enough and chose not to make me feel worse. As it turned out, I was able to work with the partner and they eventually let us use the piece, so money loss averted!

Bad Advice. Devaluing an employee gives you control over them. Okay, so I wasn’t directly given this advice. Here’s what happened. I was a new hire for a large, well-known company. My first day on the job was a business trip for a big and important client event. I flew across the country and showed up where I was supposed to, knowing no one but my new boss, and with no information regarding what was expected of me.  I assumed I’d be debriefed once I arrived. I wasn’t. At the first event, I recognized my boss greeting folks as they entered the room. I enthusiastically walked up and extended my hand. She gave me a (very) brief hello and was onto the next person in line. No introductions to others standing at the door, no ‘happy to have you here,’ no ‘welcome to our company.’ It was weird. And it got worse. I walked into the ballroom, not knowing a soul and not knowing what my role in the room even was. I moseyed over to the bar and tried to look like I belonged. Eventually, a young woman approached me and asked who I was. It turned out that my boss hadn’t actually told anyone that I’d be at the meeting, or in fact that I’d even been hired. She had even neglected to tell one of the direct reports who’d applied for my position, that he hadn’t gotten it.  It was a harbinger for things to come and I only stayed a year in that job.

Good Advice. Know enough about what’s going on in your employees’ lives to have compassion…but don’t overdo it. In other words, don’t try to be Mom or Dad, but know enough so that you understand why someone might be having a rough week at work, or why a hearty congratulations might be in order.

Bad Advice. If you are running a meeting, always sit at the head of the table. I’ve always believed that if you want to foster more of a team approach, you should sit with the team. Always sitting at the head of the table means you are isolating yourself by never having anyone seated next to you. Employees feel special when they can sit next to the boss. You can still keep control of the meeting from a seat at the table that’s not at the head.

What are some of your good advice/bad advice stories?

You are Losing Sales if You Don’t Buy Your Own Branded Search Terms

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By Sue Brady

Clicks Based on Search Position

Consumer Clicks Based on Search Position

“But why should I spend money on my own branded terms? If someone is searching for my brand, they already are interested in my company.”

Two reasons: Competition and consumer behavior.

Competition: Anyone can buy your branded terms. It’s not uncommon for competitors to buy each other’s terms in fact so that they are showing up alongside whoever the user searched for. And, if you aren’t buying your own branded terms, chances are your competition knows that and may be seizing the opportunity to show up in a search for your brand. Why risk having a prospect click on the competition? As the graph above shows, the higher you appear on the search page, the more clicks you’ll get.

The example below shows results of a search for Ethan Allen sofas. Walter E. Smithe bought the branded term, while Ethan Allen was content to display only in the organic results.

Ethan Allen Search Yields Competitive Result

Ethan Allen Search Yields Competitive Result

Consumer behavior: According to research by Resolution Media and Kenshoo, even if you are in the top position in the organic search results, the paid ads still get over 60% of the user clicks. So you want to appear in a top spot, and you want others selling on your behalf to be visible as well.

Who Gets Position 1 in Paid Branded Search?

The obvious answer is, whoever bids the highest. But that’s not entirely accurate. One thing is for sure: you are the brand, so you want to be in first place. And if you use affiliates (aka resellers), they shouldn’t be bidding for placement above yours in branded search.  You might be surprised to learn that as the brand, you pay less than anyone else does to be in the top position because your quality score for your branded terms will be highest. This is a significant cost difference, say $.40 per click if you’re the brand, to $4 per click if you’re not. A study done by Engine Ready  shows that consumers are 3x more likely to click-thru on an ad that is in position 1 vs either positions 2 or 3 (n=192 million impressions). And position 1 garners 59% of the clicks, compared to position 2 at 15% (source: Compete.com).

Who Gets Positions 2 and 3?

Is it okay to let resellers bid on your branded terms for positions 2 and 3? It is okay, and you should allow it. Why? One primary reason is it can help you manage your competitors by keeping them out of those spots. Many companies utilize a network of affiliates and/or resellers to help them generate more customers by buying into those spots. These resellers are usually paid a bounty on an agreed upon action (sale, install, appointment). The key here is to know who is selling, how they are doing it, and to be able to manage it as best you can. If you are the brand, you get to set the rules. If others want to sell your wares, they need to play by those rules, or lose the privilege.

You probably don’t need to allow more than two resellers to bid on your brand, since there are only three paid positions in total, and you are already taking one. And your top two resellers will be more loyal if it’s easier for them to buy your branded terms over the other players.  And if they are spending more, your competition may decide not to bid for those branded terms.

How do you Enforce it?

First of all, enforcement is key or no one will follow the rules. If someone violates, you need to call them out and tell them to stop. There are a number of alarm products that can help you monitor search activity on your branded terms. Some examples are Search Monitor and  Marin Software.

What About Mobile?

The same principals apply to mobile. The big difference is that mobile only has 2 paid positions available. You still want the top position while one of your resellers can bid for position 2. With the Google Enhanced Campaigns that launched earlier this year, you can no longer create a mobile only campaign. You’ll need to manage your mobile bids as a part of your overall campaign. You can read more about that here.

This shouldn’t be minimized. You do need to be in mobile. Half (and growing) of all searches are conducted using a mobile device (source: Microsoft), and 90% of those searches lead to action, with 50% of those leading to a purchase (source: SearchEnglineLand). You can’t afford NOT to be there.

To recap, why do I need to bid on Branded Terms?

Here’s why, even if you are already number one in organic:

  1. You will pick up more clicks if you are in position one in paid and position one in organic. It’s a fact that has been proven over and over again. If you are unsure, try testing it. If your clicks (and conversions) don’t improve, then stop the campaign.
  2. Branded terms are really inexpensive when you’re the brand because your quality score on branded terms will be higher than anyone else’s. That means that you’ll pay far less per click then the next guy pays for your branded terms.
  3. You’ll be able to manage your competition better. If you aren’t bidding on your branded terms, there’s nothing to stop the competition from doing so.

Is There Value in Bing/Yahoo! Search?

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By Sue Brady

License Attribution Some rights reserved by Search Engine People Blog

License Attribution: Some rights reserved by Search Engine People Blog

Most digital marketers know about and use Google Adwords. Google has 67% of the search market share after all. With over 19 billion total searches happening a month (Comscore, August 2013) there is no question that Google is the search gorilla. Non-Google searches represent 6 billion searches a month however – no small number – and should not be ignored.  With the partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing, they power almost 30% of all searches.

Google is clearly more important as a search engine and should be a large part of your search plans. But you should also invest in Yahoo!/Bing. For one thing, Yahoo!/Bing will cost you less per click. It’s true you are reaching fewer people, but since it costs way less, your Cost per Click will be much lower. Your strategy can be similar on both search engines. In fact, Bing allows you to import your Google ad campaigns.

As has been reported in the past by many other studies, click-thru rates and conversions on both search engines are fairly similar if you are a small business. But for other advertisers, it seems that conversion rates are typically higher on Yahoo!/Bing.

Yahoo!/Bing is working hard to pick up more searchers and has added features to its search engine, like ad units called Hero Ads that come up when a user is searching for brand specific information (currently it’s a pilot program, only available on Windows 8).  They also offer call extensions on mobile ads and claim that those can yield up to 30% greater click-thru rates. And, Bing just became the default search engine for Siri on the new iOS7 release. Plus, search is being integrated into a number of Microsoft products such as Xbox, Windows 8, MS Office and others. Finally, while Google is no longer showing keywords that drive organic traffic to your site, Bing is not imposing that limitation in their analytics.

While this article will help you understand how much to actually spend on your campaigns, the real trick is to figure out how much to allocate between Google and Yahoo!/Bing and still be profitable. To figure out that balance, you’ll need to test. Definitely start with Google, and take your best keywords/phrases from there and test them on Yahoo!/Bing. If your profit is greater on Yahoo!/Bing, try allocating additional spend to maximize that profit.  You’ll have to play with it to get the balance to where it makes sense for your business.

The bottom line is, there are options and it makes sense to be careful about putting all of your eggs in one basket.

eggs nest

The Multi-touch, Multi-device Attribution Dilemma (and some companies that can help)

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By Sue Brady

IAB/TagMan Study, July 2012

IAB/TagMan Study, July 2012

Over half of the folks surveyed by Atlas Institute  (Cookie Retention. Is the sky falling on cookies?) say they delete their cookies at least monthly.  This data is not unlike data shared over the last few years from Nielsen and Jupiter, and is just another factor that needs to be considered as you think about attribution. Attribution refers to how you give credit to your various marketing efforts. It’s complicated and messy, but necessary to understand. Attribution tracking, or understanding the customer journey to conversion, is key to optimizing your site performance.

So why the buzz about multi-touch attribution modeling, and what does it even mean?
Just a few years ago, marketers favored First or Last Click  attribution, meaning the first or  final behavior that lead to the conversion is the one that received all of the credit. That means that if someone searched for your product and clicked on your ad one day but didn’t buy, the next day went directly to your website on their desktop, and on the third day went to your website via a mobile device, you’d attribute 100% of that person’s ROI to either that first ad or to the mobile device. The new norm however considers multiple sources along the customer journey as a way to gain much more real and useful information.

There are three primary ‘forms’ of multi-touch models: linear, position-based, and time-decay, and there are variations on each of these. A linear model assigns an equal attribution percent to each touch. Though better than a single-touch model, linear models are still somewhat arbitrary in that they assume each touch is as important as every other touch.  Position-based models spread the attribution across the touch points, but not evenly. Typically these are more heavily weighted to first and last touch, with the remaining percent assigned to the ‘in-between’ touches. This seems to be used most with marketing efforts designed to generate a lot of leads into the funnel.  A time-decay model assigns a larger % for attribution as the consumer goes through the touch points. This type of model is often used when a brand has a special promotion running with a quick close. Slingshot SEO published a nice checklist to help you decide which type of model would work best for you. It’s on page 13 of this study.

Why is multi-touch attribution important?

  • It helps you understand your consumer’s buying process
  • It helps you distribute your marketing spend to produce the greatest ROI
  • It can help justify your marketing budget
  • It creates much more accurate ‘cost per orders’

Multi-touch models aren’t perfect. Things get messy with cross-device tracking that can undermine the integrity of many of these systems. And it’s hard to tie offline advertising into your online attribution. But even messy, there is no question that multi-touch attribution is far more valuable than last-touch or first-touch attribution.

Given the relative newness of the field, there aren’t a huge number of companies in the attribution business, but there are some and the offerings continue to grow. Casey Carey, the CMO of Adometry provided me with this list. I’ve added a brief blurb from each company’s website:

  • Adometry: They bring media types together to provide insights to guide and improve overall performance and incremental ROI of cross-channel campaigns.
  • TagMan: Their clients can manage and unify tag based technologies to produce one independent stream of clean marketing data from all channels.
  • Visual IQ: They are a cross-channel attribution software company looking to improve marketing performance.
  • DC Storm : They do multi-channel measurement, attribution and optimization.
  • Google Analytics: Released earlier this year, the GA tool allows you to choose your attribution preference (first touch, last touch, time decay).
  • Convertro: Their claim is that they provide advertisers with actionable spend recommendations so that marketing spend can be allocated in the most profitable way possible.
  • ebay enterprise, aka ClearSaleing: They claim their solution measures and calibrates across paid search, comparison shopping engines, display media, email communications, social media, natural traffic and more, and delivers recommendations for improvement both within and across channels.
  • C3 Metrics: They offer the ability to capture and make sense of billions of advertising touches.
  • Kenshoo: Their uniqueness comes from applying mathematical modeling with machine learning and algorithms.

Cross-device attribution
Here’s where things get even trickier.  Tracking multiple touches when a user is on one device is hard enough, but tracking across devices requires more attention.  Tapad has a robust product that does cross-device attribution and cross-device ad targeting.  They work with the majority of the Fortune 500 brands. bluecava also does multi-device tracking and targeting.  Whatever tool you choose, keep consumer privacy in mind because that certainly comes into play. This topic is already generating interest in Washington with the FTC.

I spoke with Chris Brinkworth at TagMan  about multi-touch and device tracking. Their company conducted a study with the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK) on this topic and he told me that “the majority (55%) of customers who make the journey to purchasing a product have had at least 2 marketing touches before doing so.”  Where TagMan  comes into play is, they drop tags in various places (in an email, on a landing page etc.) that will identify the same customer each time he turns up. They use 1st party cookies to do this (in many cases 1st party cookies are better than 3rd party cookies because 3rd party can be readily blocked by the user). Using tags to identify a consumer based on various data points such as IP address, email opens and cookie data allows you to follow that consumer. Additionally, Microsoft and Google both recently announced their plans to move away from 3rd party cookies and towards technology that will help with cross-device tracking.

And Chris reminded me, you can’t forget about the halo effect, especially as related to offline advertising.  Here’s his example: say Macy’s is running a TV advertising campaign for sofas. TV viewers might be prompted after seeing the ads to search online for other sofa deals. As a result, JC Penney might see a spike in their search traffic. If they aren’t aware of Macys’ TV campaign, they may falsely believe that they’ve done something in search that’s having a positive impact. Companies like Optimal Social can help to tie these activities together.

In summary, attributing marketing success across multiple consumer touches, including cross-device, is key to understanding the ROI being produced from your marketing budget. Understanding the consumer’s journey will help you properly allocate your marketing budget as you move forward to accomplish your goals.