Marketing Optimization & Technology with Doug Karr, CEO of DK New Media

Below is the audio and transcript of the most recent Smartups with Doug Karr, CEO of DK New Media and Found of

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Full transcript after the jump.


I don’t want people looking at the slides.  It’s no shave November.  So I’m trim in here but my mustache is starting to go in my mouth.  So if I start making funny moves that’s what’s going on.  It’s just all a mess.  Everything is just – it’s a mess, not like Chris.  Man, manicured.  He’s looking good.  Show of hands tonight.  I’d just like to hear how many are entrepreneurs of just your own business, just by yourself?

Oh, wow.  So quite a bit.  Just small business?  Big business?  Okay.  B2B, business to business?  So most of the room, kind of.  Whoever has money [laughter].  B2C?  Okay, a couple.  I think it might be in another one.  We already have the pizza.  I was talking to Tim and I don’t like talking about – this isn’t as much about me and my story, but I did want to share some of the things that I’ve learned from an optimization standpoint along the way.

I started the Marketing Tech Blog believe it or not it’s about a decade old now.  It started as and before that was on Blogspot and everything else.  When I first started I blogged about anything.  I think the first thing I blogged about was bitching about Mountain Dew doing a breakfast commercial.  That was like ten years ago they had this thing where they were going to say, “Hey, if you’re in a hurry, have a Mountain Dew for breakfast.”  Right?

I wonder what happens to America when you advertise stuff like that.  That was a fat joke.  You guys can laugh at that, but when I first started I was kind of all over the place and I was talking about everything and anything and that’s what bloggers typically did, and as the years went by I started narrowing my focus and narrowing my focus until now it’s just marketing technology.  So it’s always about how can marketers utilize technology and leverage technology to get results.

I never put the software in front of the people, even when we’re talking to customers.  We have partnerships with folks like Mindjet and Right On Interactive who is a marketing automation company, but if someone came to us and said, “We need a marketing automation system,” I don’t say, “Let me put you in touch with Right On Interactive.  They’re our client.”  We start to talk to them about what their needs are, figure out what their processes are and resources are, and then get them the right solution that matches that because ultimately if our clients are successful then they’re going to keep working with us.

If we put something in there that really messes them up and they have a bad install and a bad startup and everything else then we wind up getting booted.  So from an optimization standpoint the lesson there was really fine-tuning what it was that we were – who we were talking to, what we were going to talk to them about, and then how often that we were going to talk to them.  And then for the next five years I chased numbers.

For the next five years it was SEO and you could tweak things and you could put names out.  You could game the system and everything else and I did crazy crap like one time I celebrated that I was the number one marketing blog on the Internet and it took off and everybody came to my site.  And I never said who said I was the number one marketing blog.  I thought I was the number one marketing blog.

So then I blogged a week later how I doubled my traffic by saying I was the number one marketing blog.  Sometimes people believe what’s on the Internet [laughter].  And I would constantly do tricks like that.  In town I don’t know that you ever heard that I totally cheated on a – it was who’s who of social media and it was poor Nick Carter.  I don’t know if you guys know him.  He’s a great guy, but he did put a cool little contest together to vote up who the number one person in social media was here in town and I figured out how he programed it so I just hacked it and basically I put a hidden iframe on my site so that anybody that landed on my site actually voted for me in this contest on another site.

But then I told Nick what happened and he cussed me out for five minutes and then we talked about it and I talked about how it was a test.  I wanted to test and see what happened when people found out and what the response was, and what I keep finding out is that people are very fickle and easily manipulated, honestly.  And so there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that from a marketing standpoint, and I like to run DK the way that we like to do it is really set strong expectations.  Tim and I were just talking about the hardest part of my job is prequalification.

It’s not getting more leads.  It’s not getting – it’s really figuring out whether this person is going to deal with me or not because we work a very specific way, and we have a specific pace, and I’m busy all the time.  So I don’t answer phone calls.  I don’t answer e-mails.  So some people hate that.  They think I’m just sitting there waiting to talk to them and so the whole prequalifying side of the business, the whole prequalification side of lead generation has been a boondoggle for us.

And Tim asked me what marketing automation system are you guys using and we used to use HubSpot and so I would get all these leads in and I’d score the leads and everything else and then I found that I was working so much on trying to figure out who to call that I wasn’t calling anybody.  So then it just turns into whoever keeps calling and says they really want to do business with us, those are the people that I’m going to make an appointment with.

I was at a meeting up here at the north side.  You guys are all young.  I was at a meeting up here on the north side and it was a roundtable with a boardroom and these guys were all attorneys and lawyers and one guy almost had a stroke when I told him that.  He was like, “You don’t call some people back?”  And I was like, “I don’t have time to call them back.”  He was like, “You can’t do that.”  And I was like, “I do it.”

Chris is here.  He’ll tell you, right?  And then so search engine optimization really kind of came to the forefront and it was really easy for someone like me on the technical side to manipulate that as well.  I could structure my pages right and my site right where I got a lot of search engine traffic.  And so the blog turned from making we called it webmaster welfare, Google AdWords, but we went from making $50 a month to $400 a month on the site.  Woo-hoo.  We’re making it.

So every night I was up and I was tweaking and cramming and how can I get more followers and how can I get more fans and everything.  My whole life was just focused on more, more, more, more, more.  And it’s that top of funnel they talk about ToFu, MoFu, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel.  How do you get more people on the top?  How do you get more people on the top?  How do you get more people on the top?

And what happened was we got fired from a client and it was for bad SEO.  They had some bad links out there and we hired the company that put the bad links out there and so we got fired and I just said I am so tired of chasing this.  It was literally stressful.  It was just stressful.  Where are we going to get the next link from?  Where are we going to get the next link?  How are we going to game the system more?

And I just got sick and tired of that constant pressure to just keep getting more and more and more and so what I decided to do was with the  Marketing Tech Blog which we had a significant following on, probably about at the time we had I think about 25,000 people a month.  I just stopped.  I just stopped all of the SEO crap.  I stopped trying to grow my Twitter following.  In fact, my Twitter continues to decline.  It’s probably because it’s more based on my personality now than trying to gain followers.

And we went from the blog making about $5,000 a year to last year pulling in about $120,000.  That’s my message is what we did was I took all of that attention that we were putting on those numbers and trying to get more and I started focusing on what people were asking – this sounds stupid, right – answering what they were asking, and then taking care of putting everybody in the spotlight.  Every company that we talked about we had a positive message about, a positive video, a positive – so if you go to the Marketing Tech Blog very, very seldom will you see a rant about a company or anything else.

Most of the time it’s, “Here’s their angle.  Go try them out and see if they’re good, but here’s what they say they can do and here’s how they do it and then go visit it.”  And what that turned into was obviously companies started liking us but people started liking it too and we started pushing infographics a ton.  I think right now we’re probably the leading site for marketing infographics for putting that out there.

We started doing a podcast.  We had a mobile app built.  The mobile app is 25th for marketing which I think that’s pretty good in the App Store.  So, again, what we were trying to do was feed the audience.  The audience wasn’t always in front of a big screen.  The audience a lot of times was on their mobile browser.  The audience a lot of time was in e-mail.  So we have a huge e-mail program.  We’re down to about 90,000 I think subscribers right now.  It jumps up and down and stuff.

And then we have video.  So we partnered with Site Strategics on the south side and we’d have videos going up all the time.  We have a radio show that you can only hear it on the south side.  It’s on Freedom whatever, 95.9 or whatever and then we record it and push it into a podcast and then we push it and syndicate it everywhere.  So what we did was we took all of that attention that we were focusing on more, more, more, more, more and instead we focused it on who is our audience?

It’s people looking for software and people selling software and that’s what we focused on for basically the last year and we’re continuing to grow that.  I think DK New Media, most people probably won’t know who DK New Media is in a few years, but a lot of people are going to know who the Marketing Tech Blog is and that’s because we’re ratcheting down our client services.  We’re not ramping them up.

We’re looking at how can we get more sponsors and work with more companies on the blog because our audience is what’s valuable to us.  Our audience is where that revenue is at.  People want to reach that audience and they want to reach it through a trusted source.  So at the same time I did a test where last year I would say that I’m a conservative leaning on anarchist, somewhere in there or another, but my family was split down the middle.

I had a liberal – my mom’s side is liberal and my dad’s side is conservative.  So we had awesome holidays every year, but I decided I’m not going to be quiet anymore about my politics.  And so if any of you guys follow me if you’re liberal you’ll probably hate me until you come talk to me.  Anybody who knows me and is liberal, like Jeb, he likes me.  Anybody who doesn’t know me hates my guts because I’ll just go to war with them.

I’m the typical Facebook troll, but with respect.  I’ll say that, with respect.  And so I said you know what?  I’m going to have the Marketing Tech Blog is my business but my personal I want people to know who I am.  I’m not going to hide anymore.  I’m not going to be politically correct.  I’m going to put it out there and let people know and I’m going to argue with them or debate them or whatever and we’d go out for a beer after and that’s cool too, but I’m going to let people know who I am.

And so the results of that has been a positive one as well and I’d say the result of that is some business has come that way.  People come and they say [whispers], “We really like your politics by the way,” and they do business with me and we can speak freely as we’re doing the work and that makes it easier.  It makes it easier because people understand who I am, where I’m coming from, what my opinions are and everything else.

It’s not a matter of, “Oh, he’s conservative.  He only works with conservatives.”  That’s BS.  We work with everybody, but it just makes it easier that I don’t have to act in front of these people.  I don’t have to pretend who I am to try to get the check.  It’s a matter of being transparent.  So in that time my personal Twitter has declined.  My following has declined.

In fact if I throw something out there about I guarantee you I’ll lose 1,000 people.  It’s almost instantaneous.  It’s like boof.  It’s the tolerance.  That was a joke.  I’m sorry.  And sometimes I’ll pick some up, but the fact is is that it’s becoming a lot more real experience for me.  Everything that I’m doing now is a lot more transparent.  The people that I’m talking to I’m able to speak to them about what we do.

I don’t have to carry a façade anymore and I don’t have to chase the numbers anymore.  Now I can really talk to customers, and find out what their needs are, and how we can help, and whether we can help.  Tim was saying before that part of the challenge of a business is who to turn down for business and I can tell you honestly the early days Chris was the one that cheered me on to go start this thing, but the early days my son was just starting college and I was a single dad.

I had a lot of money in savings.  I had a lot of credit and I jumped out and started the business and so it was nuts the way that I had started it.  Where was I going?  I don’t even know where I was going with that one.  Where was I going with that, Chris?  Chris is checking his Twitter.  Look at that.  Oh, no.  Don’t do that.  I’d get in trouble.

That first year, again, it was torturous.  It was night and day.  I didn’t know what I was doing with clients.  I was doing anything for money, literally, not literally but almost anything for money.  There’s not a big market out there for us guys.  I’ll tell you that, but I was programming at night, or doing design, or filling out people’s marketing strategies, anything that I could do to pick up a buck and I started – it was the same thing.

I’m sitting here working myself to death and not making anything.  The company wasn’t growing.  The challenges were all there that I was going to go under if I didn’t change things and so what I did was I started asking people.  I got Alerding Castor is an attorney.  I found them through Chris as well.  I asked Dave Castor.  I said, “I don’t have any money but I’ve got an opportunity to get a contract here.  I just need an attorney to review that.

Can you do that and invoice me and just ignore the fact that I can’t pay the bill right away?”  And he worked with me on it and then I had a sales coach that did the same exact thing, a sales coach that I contacted and he took me under his wing and then my employees went to training under him afterwards.  And what I found is people are really, really scared.  They think that – and I’m saying this because a lot of people said that they were small business and entrepreneurs.

People are afraid to ask for help for some reason whether it’s ego, whether it’s humility or whatever.  People are very, very hesitant to ask for help and it seems like the more I ask people for help the more people give it and so we do it too.  We’ve done infographics for charities.  We’ve done websites for people that needed them and we fit it in where we can and when we can, but I’m really surprised at the amount of people that their business tanks just because they didn’t ask for help out there.

And then at the same time what we did was we started looking for people that really liked the style of the way that we worked and DK New Media is a lot different from a typical agency.  We’ll take on a client that might pay an agency $50,000 to do work and they might pay us $3,000 a month, and we might take on a lot of that work up front and then down the road as they’re paying a monthly engagement we make up the profit later on.  And folks thought I was nuts for doing it that way but I really felt like we needed to be around when they succeeded or failed.

I felt like agencies were doing a disservice by taking a big huge chunk and then if it failed they weren’t around to pay the price of that and so we did things that way and so that takes a lot of trust from a company to say that we’re going to sign up for you for a year.  You’re not going to see results for six months and we set monthly engagements with our clients.  We tell them, “Here’s what we’re going to do every single month,” and then we do it, but we don’t tell them how many – we’ve had people ask, “How much time did you spend on that?” or, “Do we have some more time this month to work on this?”

And I go, “I’m not telling you how much time it took and just give me what you need done and we’ll fit it in somehow.”  That scares the heck out of some people.  You have those people that are Gantt chart crazy and they want everything tied to – they want that retainer and they want the 15 minutes and here and there.  They want meetings.  Ugh.  I can’t stand meetings.  Biggest waste of time ever.

I just want to get the work done.  That’s it.  What’s the problem?  What’s the solution?  And so even within my business the optimization that we’ve done has just been fantastic.  From a profitability standpoint, we’re much more profitable now than we were in the beginning.  That doesn’t mean that we’re making money.  That just means that we’re more profitable.

We’re investing most of that back into the company, but everything that we do is optimized, every single thing.  Everything that we look at from a budget standpoint we look at and we say what was the return on investment on that?  Did we make money?  How much did we spend on it?  The best investments that I’ve made have been in an accountant because I was the accountant first.  That did not work at all and over time that optimization has been what’s led us there.

Now, the side of that – there was a quote that Tim used up on the site earlier where I said, I was arguing with – he doesn’t know I was arguing with him – but Seth Godin had a post about if you’re chasing numbers all the time the only thing that you get is increased numbers and I just think that’s total BS because it’s the numbers that led us to take huge risks.  It’s the numbers, when the numbers were declining or flat that’s when we knew we had to transform ourselves.

That’s when we knew that we had to flip something over and try something new.  With our clients it’s the same way.  When their conversions are flat on their site we know that we can’t squeak any more out of that.  We’ve tried it.  We’ve done the A/B testing, multivariate testing, and everything else, and it’s the numbers that lead us to go back to the client and say, “We need a drastically new strategy.  We need to try maybe video landing pages.  We need to try a more aggressive e-mail program.  We need to try – you name it, we’ll try it.”

And so I don’t believe that optimization is one of those things that you just keep doing these tiny changes to improve, tiny.  Sometimes you do massive changes to try to move the needle in the right direction and where it’s brought us is now we had to lay off one employee a few months ago.  I’m surprised he’s not here, but Marty Thompson.  Marty’s a great guy, a social business consultant for anybody whose business is looking for one, but it was the numbers that led us there too.

It was a side of the business that what we saw was SEO and social consulting companies were getting the feel for it.  They were getting employees on board.  They had their strategies.  Now they just needed tactical work and so our agency went from more strategic work which Marty does to more tactical work now that we have developers and we have content writers working on things and we have designers and we have all of those pieces to help companies drive that change.

And so even our business has totally changed in the last five years because, again, because of that optimization.  And we’re a smaller team now and we’ll be more profitable this year because of it.  So I don’t know if that gives you guys what you wanted tonight.  I want to open up the floor to questions and you guys can talk – we can talk about social media specifically, LinkedIn, Twitter, everything else, but that’s what I wanted to get across to you guys from an optimization standpoint.  I wanted to try to give you a pep talk that you have to keep watching the stuff and you have to take risks and you have to keep fine-tuning things.  Right behind you and then you.

Q: I’m Taylor and I have a real estate investing business that I’m getting to the point now that I’m looking to do some optimization and so as a new startup trying to find the right company, the best fit for our company and be able to work with, I’m not too familiar with how to do that.  So what are some of the things that I should take into consideration while looking at my business model in search of the right company like yourself or somebody else to work with? 

A few things there is companies that were paying us $5,000 to do an audit three years ago are paying us $300 to do it now because of the advancements in software and crawling software and everything else.  You’ve seen in the news even here locally that SEO has taken a nosedive and it’s not just because of what Google was doing but it’s also because the tools have gotten drastically less expensive.

I can run reports on your business literally within an hour and pretty much have an overview of things to fix and things to push in.  What I would say is if you’re talking to me I would say I’m probably not a fit because have I worked with other real estate businesses before?  What am I doing from a local SEO if that’s what you’re after?  And there’s businesses that specialize in those areas and that’s what you want to get attracted to.

You want to see a trail.  You want to see who people are working with and what they’ve accomplished for them and then you want them to have skin in the game as well.  It used to make me really mad when people used to say when I first started, “Can we do just a small project to prove yourself and then later –.”  Now I know why because I’ve been burned by 40 different companies that said they could do it and then they couldn’t or sold me software that I couldn’t use or whatever.

So I had a blog post up a few weeks ago about five scams of software-as-a service industry and I really think it’s scams.  We had a company that we signed with online with credit card.  So they didn’t have to do anything for setup, anything.  We started using their software.  I didn’t like the software.  I go in there and I’m looking for the cancel button and I can’t find the cancel button.  The terms of service was that I signed a six-month contract with them.

It’s that kind of crap that these people are constantly using and I’ll give you a, for instance, hopefully nobody is here from there, but Yelp, a friend of mine asked us to listen to Yelp.  Yelp had Yelp advertising.  It’s pretty cool.  You kind of own the market so if it was let’s say – she was in the massage industry, that sounded really bad, but legitimate massage.

This is recorded.  She was in the massage industry and so if she advertised she would own that spot for as long as she advertised, but she had to sign a one year contract.  So I asked the guy, “Why don’t we sign a one month contract and if it works, great.  You’re going to see instantaneous results.”  And he was like, “No.  We can’t do that.”  So I was like, “So you’re telling me it’s not going to work.  That’s what you’re telling me.”

And so we’re really, really leery about the kind of contracts now that we sign and what we get into.  What I would tell you is that I would be more interested in a business that starts to ask you – there was a quote up here about this, too – a lot of questions coming in.  If they start just telling you what they can accomplish for you and, “Yeah, we do local SEO and, yeah, we can manage your Twitter account and everything else,” just say, “Yeah, that’s great.”  Have a cup of coffee and show them the door.

But if they come in and they start asking a lot of questions and then they start describing a lot of clients that have the similar problems and the similar things then I would move in that direction.  The analysis side of this has just been chopped down to nothing.  Literally tools that we paid $25,000 for a license before now are $100 a month.  It’s just plummeted and that’s what you have to keep in mind now.

Even at DK we’ve significantly dropped all of our pricing across the board.  We’re getting stuff done a lot faster and there’s no need to charge more for it.

Q: Is there maybe a screening script or guidelines that I should look at, like some of the things that you had mentioned?  Is there some sort of a screening that I should follow to go after a person to help out?

There should be.  Maybe that’s something that we need to work on.

And add that under your blog.

Now I’ll put that on there.  I think that I’ve written a couple articles about it because you can get into some real trouble.  We have clients that were devastated from their SEO a few years back and are still climbing back and that money’s gone.  They spent it.  It’s done and the thing is is after they fired the person is when it really started hurting them.

It’s now that Google algorithms are a lot better that they’re finding all these bad links and crap out there.  And so the thing is is you can do just so much damage.  I would be really hesitant nowadays to hire a consultant for a project.  I would much rather create a relationship and figure out a monthly budget and work with someone that’s going to be there for the duration to see whether it gets good or bad and of course talk to other clients that they’ve taken care of.

Q: This is more an overview question.  I’m just curious what your opinion is about the trajectory that you went on, starting out chasing the numbers in all the different ways that one can do that and then getting to a place where you kind of have to turn on a dime and say this is not the thing.  Is this something that is related to the age of the Internet and what was going on and what people knew?  Is this something that’s essential to the growth of an individual person in the business or is it possible for somebody to leapfrog over a lot of the numbers oriented fixations and get directly more into a place of optimization?

I think the problem with big numbers is we put a lot of focus on them even as – if we see a high Klout score we go, “Oh, 75.  Holy crap.  Who is this person?”  We did a test, another one of our cheat tests.  So we did a test where we put two videos on YouTube and one YouTube video we just put out there and the other YouTube video we went and bought 5,000 views for it.  You can go buy views of YouTube.  I don’t know if you knew that.

So we bought 5,000 views of the video.  The videos were the same.  They were the same video just on two different accounts, two different locations, two different titles, everything else but it was the same video.  The one with 5,000 was getting about 100 more views a day than the other one.  The other one trickled.  It was like one, two, three.  And what does that tell you?

It tells you that people were looking immediately at how many views did it have.  So that’s the problem is is that everything that we have – Twitter, Facebook – everything blares these numbers out that somehow give this appearance of importance.  So that’s why I’ve always been like no wonder why people cheat and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  If you’re good at what you do and you can go buy 100,000 followers and then all of the sudden be successful at what you do, go buy 100,000 followers.

I don’t care.  I don’t.  In the end people will fall or do well based on that, and so I’m not advocating go out and cheat all you want, but, people, pay attention.  So when we’re running a contest for a client we make sure that we do a lot of paid promotion.  We make sure that we get a lot of people to the site.  We make sure that those numbers are going up, legitimately and I mean that, but we make sure that there’s a strategy around getting those numbers up enough where it gets someone who’s a visitor psychologically to go, “Oh, this person’s important.”

But it’s a terrible – the great thing is once you’re there you just forget the numbers and work on the audience that you have.  That’s my problem is that a lot of our clients come to us because they’re not getting enough conversions and so they say, “We need to double traffic to the site.”  And I’m like, “No you don’t.  You have tons of people come to the site.  They’re all leaving because your site sucks.  That’s what’s wrong.  There’s no personality in it.

There’s stock photos.  There’s pages that have broken links all over the place,” and they don’t pay attention to those little minute things that are ticking everybody off when they get to the site, but all that they keep looking at is, “How many visitors did we get today?  How many visitors did we get today?”  And they’re not taking care of the people that they have.

What I have found with the Marketing Tech Blog was that I had people that were really passionate readers that had been reading for years and I was totally neglecting them, trying to get one more guy on Twitter or one more person on – I was totally neglecting them and when I started taking care of them all of the sudden the problems went away.  So if you have a site that has 100 visitors and you get 3 clients a month that might be more clients than you have right now.

Why don’t you work on taking those 100 visitors and getting those 3 clients?  You don’t need 1,000 visitors.  You just don’t have to change that.

Q: So you talked about how at the start of things you were up all night doing design work and developing stuff and accepting every client just because you needed the money and you had this façade where you didn’t have your real person shining through and it was just stressful and tons of hours.

It hasn’t changed.

Well now you seem to be more at peace and a little more under control and not just chasing everything like you were back then and almost like you look back and regret it saying no that stuff’s not worth it.  Do you think that stuff though was necessary?  Because I hear all these horror stories of founders who once they’re established they’re like, “I work 90 hours a week and neglected my family and got burnt out and it wasn’t worth it.”

Maybe it wasn’t worth it, but is it necessary to get you to where you are today?

I think I have a lot of gray hairs, a gray beard and everything.  The mistakes that I made, you don’t have to make.  That’s my point is I had to make them.  Back then there wasn’t someone to tell me you’re doing it wrong.  You’re an idiot.  And I was just with the gang.  We were all going that direction.  I was telling Tim back when I had that blog and it was really going good it was in the who’s who.

I was at the top echelon of bloggers.  Now I’m kind of C-level and I took two years out and everything just plummeted when I stopped blogging for a couple years and I dropped off the market and was working and stuff.  I don’t want you to make that mistake.  That’s my point is you don’t have to do that.  The mistakes that I made about chasing numbers, I wish I would have quit doing that a year earlier.

I’m not saying it wasn’t necessary.  I had to get some of the numbers up and some of the things to get the authority that I have – and by authority I’m not being a braggart.  I mean perceived authority.  But I think I could have done much better by concentrating on who my clients were, who my readers were, who my prospects were.  If I would have focused a lot more on that – let’s say if I could have switched 80 percent on that and then 20 percent went to growth I would have been a lot better off.

Now my drive is literally today I had two blog posts.  In the back of my head I am screaming because I need three blog posts for tomorrow.  That’s the way my brain is working now is because I have to feed those people.  They want that information.  So everything I do is what are we doing for webinar?  What are we doing for an event?  What’s coming?  What’s coming?  What’s coming?

What’s coming in our e-mail next week?  Everything is how do I give value to those people because ultimately if I give value to them that’s when it comes back.  Did that help?

Yes.  Thank you.

They’re either stunned or disappointed.  One of the things that – we have kind of an open house Friday afternoons at DK New Media.  If you guys want to stop down I would just drop me an e-mail or hit me up on Twitter, but Sean’s been down there a couple times and we have a good time.  We usually drink a couple beers and we just chat and sometimes there’s interns there and college students that are just trying to get some exposure.  And sometimes it’s some CMOs and VPs of marketing there and sometimes it’s just funny and we’re joking the whole time but sometimes we’re talking about some serious issues.

You guys are more than welcome to come down there and I’d say this that even after this, if you felt you didn’t want to ask a question because maybe it was off topic or whatever, if you didn’t get a question answered tonight just e-mail me, and I’d be glad to help you out.  What’s that?  Someone’s paying attention out there.

Here’s the thing is I joke with people that the two sides of our business are – is it still recording?  We have people that pay the bills and then we have people we really like working with and then we have all the jerks in the middle.  The people that we get really excited about are actually the ones that are entrepreneurial and startup and businesses with no money but they’ve got something.  So we do a lot on that end of the scale.

We probably squeeze out a little bit too much down there, but it’s really exciting for us.  So, no.  If you’re the jerk in the middle that’s probably [inaudible], but now all the people that I don’t answer e-mails to, “I’m the jerk in the middle.”  I’m screwed.  But, no.  You’re more than welcome.  I mean that.

Q: Especially to the Marketing Tech Blog how you had to configure everything and reaching a certain audience.  I know that several prominent bloggers like [Dukio] that have not blogged in a while that a recent survey about people commenting and that kind of stuff.  What will happen to Marketing Tech Blog again if there is another change?  How will you adapt and optimize obviously to that?

It’s changing.  Every single day we’re adjusting it and I mean that.  It’s like every single day we’re trying something new.  We’re talking to a company right now that does explainer videos and we’re trying to drum up a partnership with them so that we can get a lot more how-to and stuff.  We’re looking at building out a marketing, I don’t want to call it a glossary, but something usable.  It’s almost like a wiki for marketing terms and things like that.

It’s we’re always trying to test and do that next thing.  Sometimes they work.  Sometimes they don’t.  I think last year especially we blew a ton of money on stuff that didn’t work but we had to try it and see whether it was going to go anywhere.  So that never stops.  It’s not like there’s stages.  It’s always ongoing.  It’s always ongoing.  I don’t know if that helps.

An added question onto that.  What is your percent of success and failure?  I would say just in the sense of if you try something new how many times, how much turnover do you have to have to –

That’s a good question.  I’d say for every $1 we invest in something new we probably lose $1 down the road or at the end of the project or whatever, but what happens in social media especially in blogging and everything else is that $1 today isn’t $1 a year from now.  It’s like interest and that’s the way that I explain it to everybody that if you write a blog post today it doesn’t cost you money today and that’s it.

“Did you get a lead today?”  “No.”  “We lost money on it.”  It’s that you do something today and then three days from now someone turns into a lead, 20 days from now, six months from now.  Sometimes someone retweeted one of my posts today from 2009.  It was a pretty funny post, actually.  I was tired of everybody calling it engagement.  I was like you could talk to your girlfriend all day long and say that, “Hey, this is engagement, isn’t it?” and she won’t believe you.

I thought it was funny, and that’s the thing is that here it is four years later and that’s paying off.  When I say $1 gained and $1 lost I mean we might spend $1 today and lose $1 today but that $1 that we invested turned into $1.25, turned into $1.50, turned into $2 down the road and actually made us more down the road.  It’s all investment.  It’s all investment.  It’s all risk.

Q: [Inaudible]

I think there’s a quote, Henry Ford, yeah or was it Edison tried 10,000 different filaments for a light bulb and he said, “I didn’t fail 10,000 times.  I just learned 10,000 ways it didn’t work.”  Absolutely.  Tim and I were talking that one of Tim’s quotes up there was, “I don’t know.  Let’s test it.”  And that’s the funny thing is people ask us, “What should we do?”  “I don’t know.  Let’s test it.”  And they look at us with shock like how do you not know?  You’re taking care of these people and these people.

And the thing is everybody’s audience – I don’t care if you’re the same exact company, if you do the same exact thing.  You have different people.  You have different processes, different billing styles, different everything.  And so what works for that company may not – it might just bomb for you and vice versa.  So we’re always – our path is more like this.  We’re just going down the path and we deviate a little bit too much, “Oh, we’re failing.”

We come back over and that’s how – we’re fishtailing all over the place, but if we just tried to do it perfect every time we’d just be stopped.  We’d never get anywhere.

Q: So, Doug, you’re saying a lot of interesting things and I just want to know what are some sites or some books that you’re reading to stay ahead of the game?

I wish I was reading more books, honestly.  I don’t get as much time in books as I do, but most of what I’m reading is off of alerts.  You could use Google Alerts, but we have Meltwater is the software that we use and it’s basically I have keywords on everything.  I have probably 50 different keywords that have to do with the kind of work that we do and the kind of topics that I blog about.

So every day literally I have 12 emails that are 100 articles and I just skim and I’m skimming them and what I’m looking for is something new, something different.  They actually give it to us with the number of indicators like on how many times it was active and how many times it was out there.  So we have some kind of semblance of whether it was important or not because most of the others just spam.  They’re just people that just throw articles all over the Web right now.

I’ve never been a guy that reads ten different blogs and that’s my list every day.  I’ve never done it.  I’ve always tried to look for someone new and someone different and someone saying something different, and I think it’s probably one of the value things with the Marketing Tech Blog is we find solutions that nobody knew existed.  They didn’t even know it was out there and it’s because we’ve worked so hard to just listen.

We’re constantly listening.  So it’s analytics.  We just wrote about GoSquared.  Oh my gosh.  Their app looks absolutely amazing.  It’s a totally different kind of Web analytics program with different visualizations and everything and I didn’t know about it.  None of my friends knew about it.  I forget the guy’s name, but a friend of mine told me about Beta List,  If you sign up for their e-mail every day you get an e-mail with people that want beta testers.

So you wind up seeing the software a year before it’s released out there and so we put ours on there and we got 50 people to sign up our software off of it.  So it’s stuff like that that I’m always looking for and then communication.  I’m telling you the more you spend in your circle the more ignorant you become.  It’s stuff like this that’s awesome.

If I can meet new people, almost every time I meet new people we talk about stuff and then they go, “Have you ever seen such and such?”  And I’m like, “No.”  And I like to think that I’m on top of that stuff and every time I meet someone new I learn about a new tool they’re using, a new app, a new something.  So I don’t know if that helps, but that’s it.  It’s usually in the morning and the evening I’m scouring those e-mails and seeing what they picked up and then reading about them and then sharing them with the audience.  One more.  One last one.

Q: Regarding the new technology that you’re suggesting, as an agency or individually I guess, how do you decide when to lock into a technology and stay with it or chase the next shiny object?  And doesn’t it get overwhelming and there’s just a lot of noise out there?

We’re always testing the shiny object but we don’t sign contracts on it.  Honestly.  We probably have 10-15 licenses of software going right now that we’re just trying out, and seeing how it works, and seeing whether it’s a fit for any of our clients.  The stuff that we’re locked into it just matches our process internally.  We work [inaudible].  So we don’t spend a lot of time in our office.

We’re usually at home or on the road or whatever.  We work disparate hours.  So a lot of the tools that we’re using are all about over-communication and process flow and things like that.  So if we know that it’s a perfect fit to our process we’ll go ahead and lock it down and sign it.  That’s Right On Interactive is a client of ours.  They have a great software application but we don’t use it and the reason isn’t because it’s not great.  It’s just because it doesn’t meet our – we don’t need, a four people company doesn’t need a marketing automation system to score leads and send 12 e-mails a day or all that stuff.

So that’s pretty much it.  We try to stay vendor agnostic as much as possible and that’s because we don’t want to get in trouble.  I don’t want someone in the audience going, “Yeah, because they pay you.”  So a lot of times we work with clients on Eloqua, on Marketo and we had one client that was on Pardot and Right On Interactive is our client.  And we wouldn’t go into those meetings say, “You’ve got to get off of this Marketo crap.”  We wouldn’t do that.  It fit their process.

They evaluated it.  That’s the right solution.  Instead it was, “How do we make it work with that?”  For as addicted as I am with tools, I really don’t get hung up on them.  If the next best thing comes along and I see people starting to pile on and it works we’ll test it and if it works we’ll go to.  Right now we’re using Fuze Meeting for our meetings which was pretty cool, but you guys are using ReadyTalk, right?  And so we started talking to ReadyTalk and so we’re starting to use ReadyTalk now and we might make that switch.

It does similar things.  It’s got a couple of different advantages.  Fuze Meeting, oh, well.  It’s cool looking, but they might lose us because of some of the functionality that ReadyTalk has that will help us.