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Courtney Brown

Quest-Post

Talkin’ ’bout the Rep-volution (er, Reporting Evolution)

By | Data and Analytics, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement | 4 Comments

A necessary evil

Reporting is one of the unfortunate necessities of the marketing industry. Monthly (or weekly or quarterly or however you like to do it) reports are a time-honored way to communicate progress to the clients we serve.

Done correctly, they prove to those clients that we are accomplishing valuable things on their behalf, thus building and banking trust for future endeavors. (A little more substantive a tactic than getting together and doing trust falls, although perhaps not less nerve-wracking).

Now, as you may have noticed, here at Mack Web, we’ve gotten a little obsessed this year with conquering, er, completing with valor and perseverance our journey to integrating quantitative and qualitative measurement. Measurement is always a hot issue with digital marketers and for good reason. We measure the results of our efforts so we know what works and what to do about it. It’s a big deal.

But because it is so inextricably intertwined with measurement, reporting often gets short shrift, overlooked like the red-headed stepchild it is. (As a once-strawberry-blonde stepchild, I get to use that phrase without taking any guff, okay guys?).

The sad truth is that, though measurement is what drives our forward movement, if we can’t get the hang of reporting, it’s time to hang it all up and go home. Because reporting – though a royal pain in the neck – is not only how we convince the clients to keep paying us, but how we justify the decisions we make based on what we’ve measured.

It’s a simple equation: bad reporting = no trust = no forward movement = unemployed marketers = no rent, no loan payments, no gummy bear budget.

So, while mastering measurement is important, mastering the art of the report cannot be overlooked.

Which is why, as part of our Quest for Quanlitative Measurement, Mack Web has undertaken the Rep-volution: a long, painstaking, patience-testing evolutionary approach to our reports.

The Rep-volution of Mack Web

Yep. That’s right. Little black bars. I’ve been watching too much Alias on Netflix. I went a little nuts with the redacting. Deal with it.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

We won’t try your patience by going back too far. Not all the way to the long-dead days when rank in the SERPs was the all-in-all and Mack Web branding involved use of the color lavender. (You’re welcome).

Instead we’ll pick up right before we started to buckle down on this reporting thing. Jump in your time machine, grab the hand of the Ghost of Christmas (uh…Halloween?) Past, rev up the DeLorean. Do whatever you gotta do to join us in a little journey back to yesteryear.

It is October 2013. Mack Web has just completed another reporting cycle. We think we’ve got the process down but look upon the product with an eye of disfavor.

The early days of the Rep-volution

Our reports range from 11 to 16 pages. We use screenshots from Google Analytics to display the data. We have long-since dispensed with the lavender hue.

Our metrics are these:

  • Unique visitors for the last 5 months
  • Traffic, year over year
  • Traffic trends (visitors from search and social), over the last 5 months
  • Top traffic sources
  • Social media followers, clicks, shares
  • Social media engagement (as evidenced by retweets/comments left by influencers or peers)
  • Top performing blog posts for the month

The data is presented and unpacked with spartan words. Though we conclude with our intentions moving forward, we do not explicitly connect the metrics to the actions that will follow.

The result? Constant battles for buy-in from the client. The natives are restless and something is clearly rotten in the state of Denmark.


From amoeba to…something more advanced than an amoeba

Jump forward in time to November 2013. A few key things have changed in the Mack Web universe.

We’ve finally published Arthur, our long-suffering Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities, giving us a boost in confidence and motivation.

We’ve also undergone a Strat Ops scrub, a time for company self-reflection in which we concluded both that we needed our reports to work and that they were dismally failing to do so.

We discovered Avinash Kaushik’s famous See, Think, Do framework and decided to model our reports accordingly.

The result? This bad boy:

Rep-volution: The Avinash Days

The report still clocks in at an unwieldy 12 pages, but at least we equate the metrics to specific intent and audience behavior.

See Metrics, indicating brand interest and the beginnings of engagement, include:

  • Applause, Amplification, and Conversion on social media and blog posts
  • New visitors
  • Organic Search results

Think Metrics, reflecting an audience almost ready to commit, include:

  • Bounce rate
  • Page depth
  • Social clickthroughs
  • Branded SEO traffic
  • Visit duration & pages visited
  • Conversation quality

Do Metrics, indicating the visitors who had bought in, whole hog, are:

  • Visitor loyalty (indicated by returning visitors)
  • Conversion rate
  • Form submissions

We are cautiously optimistic about the result.


Minor tweaks (and a change in tense, ‘cuz that was getting weird)

Over the next few months, we kept the framework and started tinkering with it to make it more accessible and valuable. We added a little more analysis and an ‘In a Nutshell’ recap with the unique visitors over time.

Eventually, we prettied it up, matching the sleeker style we were beginning to favor.

We stopped using strictly screenshots and started tentatively creating some of our own charts and graphs:

Graphing it up with the Rep-volution

The unfortunate upshot of these additions was that the reports kept lengthening and, consequently, our clients’ patience with the reporting process was shortening.

We knew they weren’t reading them all the way through.

Alas. What were we to do?


Getting closer

The next evolution fell after yet another Strat Ops scrub in which we realized something mind-boggling:

It’s more important to create a report that the client will actually read than a report that includes every relevant metric.

That doesn’t mean that we weren’t going to make sure that our clients got the most important info. But we were going to make darn sure that they couldn’t ignore it when they got it.

It was a revelation. The next report was cut in half. Clocking in at 6 pages,and leading with the Do Metrics first, it was designed to grab the client’s eye and say:

Look! We accomplished stuff you care about! Now, here’s how we did it.

We added new, visually-oriented charts and then pulled all those charts together into a one-page dashboard:

An early Dashboard of the Rep-volution

It was a thing of beauty and we were justifiably proud of it.

Which explains, of course, why we discarded the whole format the next month.


One small step for man…

In retrospect, it seems so obvious now. In the last year or so, Mack Web has grown famous (in our own eyes, at least) for our ‘Goals not Tools’ approach. We were telling everyone we met (seriously, friends, family, strangers on the street) that a sustainable marketing approach had to start with Goals.

Which is why it’s a little embarrassing to admit that it took us so long to get get around to building our reports around the goals we were trying to accomplish.

Suddenly, the ideal framework became so beautifully clear: the metrics reflecting the performance of each campaign across all channels, organized under the goal they were meant to accomplish.

The Rep-volution has Goals

Of course, nothing is that easy. There was still the matter of choosing the right metrics and visualizing them in a way that our clients would see. It meant ensuring that the performance of each campaign was clearly connected to the strategy behind upcoming campaigns.

It also meant greater customization for each client.

Clients are not uniform. Their reports shouldn’t be either.

The client pictured above cared about form submissions as an indicator of success in…uh, increasing form submissions and branded mentions and site metrics as indicators of progress in the realm of thought leadership; other clients cared about other things.

Things like the individual breakdown of engagement on each social network to indicate progress toward identifying and engaging the ideal audience.

The Rep-volution Tweets

Some were more worried about their competitors than others.

A Competitive Rep-volution

If you’re serious about communicating value to your clients…be sure you’re talking to your clients. Not to some anonymized client generalization.

Side Note: To meet or not to meet

While we’re talking about talking to the clients, here’s a thing we’ve gone back and forth on: do we send the report or present the report? Ideally, the report should stand on its own. But how can we be sure they’re really reading and understanding if we aren’t walking them through it?

For now, we meet if there are pressing issues that need to be discussed. We certainly don’t want to waste our time or theirs by reading the report out loud to them. So, if we do in fact have a meeting, we focus on the three most important things that we want them to hear. Sometimes that means an action they need to take, something we want to experiment with, or helping them understand the bigger picture of year-over-year growth instead of just the results of the most current quarter.


Not quite there yet

All told, we’ve come a long way in the field of reporting. Of course, we’re still refining our presentation. For example: charts or line graphs? line graphs or bar graphs?

Graph crazy in the Rep-volution

We’ve continued to streamline the dashboards (Natalie just keeps making them prettier and prettier) so that they quickly and easily communicate progress and keep the focus on the things that are important to the client (and also coupled with the things that we really want them to hear).

The Rep-volution Streamlines

And as we hone in on the best quanlitative metrics to be found, our reports will continue evolving to reflect them.

But an incomplete quest is not a wasted endeavor. Rep-volution is all about learning: what causes us to thrive and what leads to a quiet extinction in the grass.  And, boy, have we learned.

One lesson is that our drive for perfection, though necessary in some ways, may have also hurt us in others.

Clients like consistency. Too many major reporting overhauls can be disruptive.

Oops.

Of course, the nature of evolution dictates that there will changes and improvements going forward – new metrics to use, new clarity to share. The only constant is change, etc. But we’ve already decided that we will be more deliberate about it. We’ll try changing one variable at a time.

This is a double win for us. We ease the client into the changes, giving them the consistency they crave. And we also get to collect specific feedback on how they receive each change without muddying the waters. No muddy waters means an easy fix if it turns out the change wasn’t for the better. Fail fast, right?

No movie is complete without a few explosions

But here is possibly the most important lesson, driven home over and over again:

The best reports in the world aren’t going to build the trust you need if you never act on what you report.

We’ve hinted at this throughout our trip down memory lane, but now we’re saying it plainly: the ultimate point of reporting is to gain trust. But unless you’re prepared to take action as a result of what you’ve reported – to ride any momentum forward, to reinvigorate or give a swift death to flagging tactics, to apply gained insights into user behavior and audience triggers – you’re going to snuff out whatever trust your beautiful reports may have earned.

At Mack Web, we’ve created a regular meeting we call Catapult.

Mack Web Team Catapults the Rep-volution

In these meetings, we check out any red flags (or green flags or gold stars or skywriting) that turned up in the reporting cycle. (To be clear: this is not the only time we monitor or respond to progress or regress. We deal with things in the moment. Catapult is to make sure the whole team is keeping an eye out for long term trends or patterns.)

We discuss the issue and decide on a response. We walk away from Catapult with a clearly defined list of action items or continued monitoring to be done.

This is the song that never ends…

Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. Metrics and KPIs are refined. Reports are tweaked. We cannot yet crown ourselves Imperial Highness of the Reporting Cycle. But we’re creeping up on that throne. And on that blessed day, we will remember the little people who aided our ascension.

Vive le Rep-volution!

Whaddya say, little people? What have you learned about reporting? What comes next in the Rep-volution?

Whiteboards & X-Men: A Story & Tip on Organizing & Integrating A Team

By | Business Stuff, Miscellany | 4 Comments

Nuthin’. Whatsa motto wit’ you?

Here at Mack Web, we have a motto and it is this:

Everyone loves a bit with a llama.

Actually, upon consideration, we have quite a few mottos, including but not limited to: Gummy bears make everything better, Trust no one, Never say never ever, Knowing is half the battle, and Always carry a towel.

never say

But none of those mottoes are at issue here. The motto relevant to today’s discussion is this:

Test. Everything.

We apply this particular piece of wisdom all over the place. Anytime an expert (or “expert”) suggests something, lays down the law, offers advice? Test it. Theories are great, but you don’t really know how true they are until you’ve had a chance to try them out.

Sometimes they don’t work for you or they don’t work the way you expected. Because, cliches aside, you are a special, special snowflake and what is ideal for someone else, in someone else’s circumstances may not be so ideal for you.

So, when someone recommends social media tactics, like the best time to tweet or the headlines that convert, test ‘em out.

If you read an article with recommendations on how best to accommodate an update in Google’s algorithms, test it out.

Should you come across suggestions for productivity hacks or operational efficiency, test them before you throw in your whole-hearted support.

And above all else, if someone asks you to contribute for office birthday cupcakes, test those suckers out. Be the brave soul who makes sure those cupcakes aren’t poisoned.

That’s the bonus tip, here’s the real story

Cupcakes aside and going back a step, let me tell you a little story of an operational efficiency idea that we have tested, do test, and will continue to test the heck out of.

(We’re starting to really get into the groove with it, to the point that – though it’s not perfect yet – we feel comfortable recommending it to you to test out for yourselves).

The year is 2011 and the Mack Web business is beginning to change, the team is starting to grow and to specialize. Instead of working on different aspects of the same project, we’re starting to work on different projects altogether.

Which means, inevitably, that we’re beginning to have occurrences of ‘the right hand knows not what the left is doing.’

Which is bad news for those times when collaboration is necessary to complete something. No catastrophes yet, but the danger looms.

Mack, fearless leader Mack, wise and farseeing Mack, canny and clever behind her bright, beaming smile, saw the problem that it could soon become. (Or maybe she was feeling a little left out, a little lonely. Maybe all of the above). And so she sought a solution.

In the course of her research (these were the days we were first learning about being agile), she read about programming teams who hold a brief meeting everyday to communicate what each member is working on.

Called standups – because making everyone stand up for the meeting keeps it brief (in theory anyway) – these meetings were intended to break down departmental silos and keep projects moving.

So we decided to test it.

Inception of a Standup

It quickly became clear that our first attempt was…not a success. The daily meetings pulled a chunk out of every morning, not only the actual standing up part, but the scramble for each person to assemble a list of their tasks for that day.

And then those meetings became exactly that: each member of the team reeling off a list of tasks, half of which had neither relevance nor, really, interest for the rest of the team. Glazed eyes, clutched coffee cups, 15 minutes gone from the crucial start of the day.

boring meeting

As the team continued to grow, that 15 minutes became 20, 25. And as the only time guaranteed to gather the whole group, they inevitably got hijacked for announcements, for chitchat, for ‘oh, real quick, while I’ve got you all…’. 30 minutes, 35.

There were other weaknesses as well: we only talked about tasks day by day, which didn’t give us any scope on the whole week or the weeks to come. We weren’t looking at the whole breadth and scale of the projects and we lost sight of the intent behind each individual task: to help our clients build their brand, build their community, build their dreams. (Dramatic, us? No, of course not. Silly rabbit).

We know that the daily standup has proven crazy valuable to all kinds of programming teams and we don’t knock them for the technique. But it clearly wasn’t working for us.

Evolution of a Standup

The first step was putting the kibosh on the daily madness. Weekly, we decided, was better. It meant that, when pulling together their lists, people were looking at the (slightly) bigger picture and the team got an idea of what was on everyone’s plates, in case someone needed to tag someone else for help or input on a project.

This broadened our perspective a little, but still we were missing out. It became clear that weekly was good, but task-oriented was bad. So instead of talking about what everyone was working on, we started to look at what we were trying to get done: client deliverables and the channels through which we wanted to promote them.

That shift in focus was a big step in the right direction, but it meant, of course, that we couldn’t just come to the meeting with a post-it-note we scrabbled together from a review of our individual emails: we needed a visual record of all ongoing projects so nothing got overlooked or forgotten.

Thank goodness Jon – Mack’s handy, helpful, forbearing husband – had built us this pretty cool whiteboard that everyone wanted and no one really knew what to do with, huh?

the whiteboard

Suddenly we had a place to record not only project due dates and interim tasks, we had a big central location for recording things like when people were out of the office.

We also had a very large, very colorful, very concrete (or…plastic? what are whiteboards made out of anyway?) reminder that no, it was not okay for this meeting to devolve into idle chatter about kitties (no matter how adorable), weekend plans (no matter how awesome), or even llamas (no matter how transcendently spectacular).

But even then, there were things that weren’t quite right. One week didn’t give us enough scope, so we started looking at two weeks. That helped us prioritize and prepare not just for the significant needs of today but the projected needs of tomorrow.

We even added a small section for Week 3, where any major deliverables lurk, reminding us of their impending doomishness.

Since we have remote team members, we take a picture of the board and send it off to them via HipChat. (We love Hipchat). When Standup time comes, we dial them in on Google+. (We love Google+, too). And off we go.

Somewhere in this process of evolution, we picked up Rebecca, our fearless Account Coordinator, she who knows the mysteries of the Master Calendar and does not fear.

Adding Team Support Ann, who has eminently readable handwriting and a knack with erasable markers was another boon.

Standup - Evolved

Things became much easier after that.

Benefits of an Evolved Standup

And that’s where we stand (ha!) now. Once a week, we gather at the whiteboard and review the burdens of the day, week, and beyond. We align the team and keep everyone accountable.

By focusing on the clients, rather than the members of the team, we’re emphasizing the integrated nature of everything we do: each deliverable carries the initials of the team members working on it. Not only does this make sure that all necessary departments are looped in, it serves as a subtle reminder to each of us that we are a team.

No man is an island.

With the Whiteboard of All Knowledge drawing from the Previously-Fearsome-And-Yet-Now-Docile-In-The-Hands-Of-Its-Master Master Calendar, we know that no balls are being dropped or forgotten.

Looking ahead alleviates the stress and fear of the unknown. Mondays, though they will never ever be anyone’s favorite day, are no longer quite so dreadful as we know there will be no uncomfortable surprises of last minute deadlines overlooked in the Friday rush out the door.

(Happy surprises like, say, cupcakes, are always welcome. Even on Mondays).

Time management is easier when we know what’s ahead and, furthermore, when we know we know what’s ahead.

Plus…we get to cross stuff off a big, ol’ list on a wall-sized whiteboard. What’s not to love about that, amiright?

So, we’re pleased with our Standup, however different it may be from its original shape.  And yes, we like to think of it as evolved rather than mutated.

Like the X-Men.

X-Men

Some pro-tips on dealing with the X-Men. Er, with Standup. That’s what we meant

Really, we highly recommend the method we’ve got. We urge you to test it out for yourself.

Should you find that something similar works for you, here’s a few minutiae we’ve stumbled across that have made the whole thing even better:

  • We hold our Standup on Tuesday. Monday mornings are inevitably a catch-up-check-your-email-chat-about-your-weekend time. Having it on Tuesday helps the meeting stay focused. Plus, we have a No Monday Meetings policy in our office. So that works out.
  • We also don’t hold it too early. Grumpy meetings are not good meetings.
  • We sorta, accidentally ended up with a mandatory, weekly client check-in right after our scheduled Standup time. That means that we have no choice but to keep the meeting efficient and brief. It was actually a perfect storm of productivity.
  • We include both internal and external dates for everything. We are accountable to each other as well as the clients. This also leaves us plenty of time for reviewing and conferring and editing.
  • We mark external dates with a big arrow so everyone knows that’s the day it goes to the client. No fudging.
  • We color code each client on the board.
  • We try to align tasks (the pieces and the internal and external dates) along the same visual line on the board, so all you have to do is skim across to track the timeline for progress.
  • In the actual Standup, we discuss the weeks by client, rather than day. It keeps the conversation focused and streamlined.
  • Uh, we don’t, really, uh, stand anymore. Dunno why.

And that’s us: wise and evolved, but with better hair than Professor X

We’re not ones to rest on our laurels. No doubt our Standup will continue to change as we mold it to fit our needs.

We’re curious about you. How do you keep your team on track and integrated? What tools do you use? What techniques? Any suggestions?

Come on, be an X-Man. I think we’re still looking for a Nightcrawler.

 

Sometimes Small Changes are Simply Small Changes

By | Miscellany | 2 Comments

You may have noticed something different …

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed a small change in our company branding recently.

Old Logo

(If you haven’t been paying attention, you probably won’t have noticed. It’s that small. We don’t blame you.)

If you weren’t paying attention or you had that niggling feeling that something was different but you couldn’t put your finger on it, we’ll be kind and fill you in. (That was the team consensus, anyway. Some people wanted to create a “Spot the Difference” puzzle and make you all guess. But we overruled that jerkface.)

We dropped the “Solutions” from our name.

 New Logo

Mack Web Solutions is now, simply, Mack Web.

Purely cosmetic, but less traumatic than a nose job

Now, sometimes a name change can be an indication of a significant shift in the company: personnel rearrangement, policy adjustments, hostile takeovers.

The reason behind this one?

Well, the long answer is that back in the day (like 10 years ago; seriously, we’ve been around that long), we used to be a web design and development company. And in those days, “Solutions” matched what we did. We solved web things, provided solutions for the web. Which is not so much our thing any more.  So we wanted to drop that from our name.

Also, we got tired of typing “Solutions” all the time.

That’s our deep, dark secret. We’re lazy typists.

And everybody calls us “Mack Web” anyway. Heck, we call us that.

So, we just, kinda … made it official.

We’ve made the change on our stationery and our letterhead. Our URL will shortly follow (never fear, we will be redirecting the heck out of everything). We’re changing it to mackwebteam. ‘Cuz, y’know, truth in advertising. Mack Web, though named for our eponymous leader, is the team.

A happy little pod of specialized experts, here to build your brand and your community.

That’s us.

Don’t freak out

Anyway, none of this is a big thing. We just didn’t want anyone to suddenly be unsure of who we are.

And just to verify that we’re still us, like a CAPTCHA in reverse, we present you with this:

Llama logo

Mack Web … with llamas.

All is right with the world.

Quest-Post

The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Data and Analytics, Social Media, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement, Web Marketing | No Comments

Quest-PostIn which Mack Web shoots for the moon and and hopefully lands among the stars (since we’re pretty sure the moon is dusty and barren and impact would be both painful and messy)

Let’s just be clear up front: we think we’re pretty great.

We’re proud of the work that Mack Web does, we’re proud of the growth and knowing-stuff-ness that have centered on our community building goals of the last few years. We’ve made tons of new friends, published an Arthur, been invited to some nifty conferences, told a lot (a lot) of llama jokes, and discovered/developed/adopted/hybridized/stumbled-accidentally-over-in-the-night our beloved ‘Goals Not Tools’ approach to web marketing and brand building.

That’s some good stuff.

But you know what else was some good stuff? Uniting all of Britain under one benevolent rule and establishing a prosperous meritocracy of virtue, chivalry, and the rule of law.

But did Knights of the Round Table stop with Camelot?

Camelot is a silly place

No. No, they did not. They set out on a new holy mission rather than resting on their laurels.

(Or so Monty Python would have us believe, anyway).

How could we, the noble denizens of Mack Web, do any less?

And so begins our great journey of 2014 and beyond: The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement! (Trumpet fanfare, please).

(Curious? Be patient. You’re going to be hearing that fanfare a lot this year).


In which Mack Web makes up a word and undertakes a vital task

Do not adjust your screens: you are seeing that word correctly: Quanlitative.

We made it up because there wasn’t a single word that adequately described what our deep thinking and praiseworthy insight identified as the principal challenge we (as a company and an industry) are currently facing: proving the value of what we do.

These are common dilemmas for the circles in which we run: how to demonstrate the ROI for social media and this community building stuff, how to get buy-in from the C-Suite, tracking the indirect connections between online campaigns, offline campaigns, and legitimate leads. And so forth. You get the picture.

Lots of people are taking a crack at this in their own ways and we are definitely borrowing inspiration and sitting on the shoulders of giants and the like. But – as far as we can tell – nobody has gotten it quite right yet.

Which leads to our grand adventure and the birth of a brand new word.

As we framed it for ourselves, what we’d like to solve is this: how do you wholly and adequately marry quantitative measurements (number of sales or leads, volume of downloads, increase in signups, etc.) and qualitative measurements (brand reach and awareness, follower vitality, thought leadership, and all that stuff)?

So that’s what we’re going to try to do.

And to kick it off, we decided we needed the right term for it. It wasn’t hard for our own ingenious Mack Fogelson to portmanteau it up. (Hey, if the paparazzi can do it, so can we. Brangelina, anyone?)

quanlitative etymology

So let it be written. So let it be done.


In which Mack Web reveals their deepest hopes and fears (appreciate this moment of vulnerability, please)

We’ve got our sights set slightly lower than the Chalice of Christ and its consequent immortality (but really only slightly).

What we hope to have in hand, at the end of all the questing and dragon-slaying and sage-seeking and trail-blazing and trap-evading and riddle-decoding, is this: a method of measurement that puts the integrated back into integrated marketing. After all, if we’re pulling in all the channels and trying to accomplish both intermediate and company-wide goals, we need to be able to measure and report that in a quanlitative manner. If it just so happens to be fully scalable, aesthetically pleasing, and both convincing and comprehensible to the layperson/C-suite type audience? Well, won’t we be happy little clams? (That’s the Grail).

That’s what we hope to find/create. But here’s what we actually want, the big party when the triumphant questers return home: more trust from our clients. We want to be able to quench that ever-present uncertainty, to prove that our methods have value and thereby gain a little breathing room to try new things, to get off the defensive and go on the offensive. (That’s the Immortality).

We’re not so naive to think it’s going to be easy.  There’s a reason nobody’s quite nailed this down yet.

Neither do we think we’re going to hit the mark in just a year. It takes time to summit Everest. For 2014, we’re just aiming to get out of Kathmandu to the Base Camp.

We’re going to take it one challenge at a time.

trials of the grail


In which Mack Web unveils some of the expected milestones of the journey

Though this is our first formal Quest fanfare, we’ve already started laying in the groundwork. We’ve been spending some quality time with Avinash Kaushik’s now-famous See, Think, Do framework.

Plus our own Mack gave her first talk of the year at SearchFest 2014 on integrated marketing KPIs (specifically in relation to video) that’s going to give you some hints on our starting point.

(Like this one: it’s not really integrated marketing if you don’t look at both the individual channels and what they come together to form. ‘Cuz that’s kinda the definition of integrated. Dictionaries are a always a good point of origin).

Along the way, we expect to be picking up knowledge on a lot of subjects including (but most assuredly NOT limited to):

  • All sorts of analytics
    There’s Google Analytics and there are all kinds of social analytics and then there’s the offline stuff that’s even.more.difficult.to measure, but by golly, by gum, we’re going to tap into whatever it takes to get the job done.
  • Psychology of the C-Suite types
    We’re going to be getting up close and personal with the Myer Briggs DISC personality model, probably. Good times.
  • Automating for scalability
    ‘Cuz if these reports each take 70 bajillion (wo)man-hours to put together? Dude, we quit. Let’s go home and eat Red Vines.
  • Learning to learn from ourselves
    We’re working on getting better at identifying our blindspots and spotting opportunities for growth.
  • And undoubtedly much, much more
    Every accomplishment will be communicated on our blog for your viewing pleasure and lauded with gifts and gold stars and probably chocolate.

achievement_unlocked


In which Mack Web shamelessly pleads for questing companions and wayside support

So here’s the deal: we are going to be reporting the progress on this quest throughout the year. It’s going to be our focus project so expect to hear about all the cool things we learn and resources we develop along the way. (We love sharing questing bounty with our boon companions).

But it is a truth universally acknowledged that solo questers don’t do as well as the ones who have partners and sidekicks and the occasional Rivendell rest stops. (There’s a reason the Fellowship of the Ring was nine, you know).

So we’re asking you to take part in this ongoing quest conversation of ours. Share examples, ask difficult and annoying questions, point out when we’ve gone astray, give us cryptic hints to get back on track.

We value your contributions, no matter what form they may take.

the fellowship

 

 

 

A New Team Member As the Old Year Goes

By | Business Stuff, Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

And you thought it was the Year of the Snake

2013 was a year of growth and change for Mack Web Solutions. (Uh, as was 2012. And, y’know, 2011).

Okay, so the past few years have pretty much been all about the growth and the change. But this year the growth and change took a particular shape. And it was a person-shaped shape. (Bet you thought it was gonna be a llama, hunh?).

Hipster-llama-l

2013 was the year of personnel. We started the year with a four-person team. By the end of the year, we had employed (at various times) nine. We’re starting 2014 with six and a solid six it is.

But that’s still a lot of change.

Fluctuating and unashamed

The thing is, we don’t take all these changes as a sign of weakness or failure on our part. Instead, they’re proof that our company is evolving. We’re constantly assessing and reassessing the best ways to serve our clients and as we gain greater understanding, we reshape the team to suit.

And you never quite know how someone is going to fit until you try them out. We agree with the philosophy of looking for the “future perfect people”– choosing people based on who they have the potential to become and how they could allow your team to grow — but we’re web marketers, not prognosticators. We don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into or tea leaves to consult.

Prognosticator Extraordinaire

So we give people a try and when their future diverges from ours we give them a hearty send-off and count it a stage of evolution rather than a mistake.

Small but mighty

The thing about a small company in a fast-moving industry is that you need your team to work together seamlessly and you can’t afford to wallow when something goes wrong. No fences between departments and no divas of any kind.

You need to be lean and agile and T-shaped and all those other lovely concepts that boil down to this: stockpile as much knowledge as you can without sacrificing your ability to adapt and respond.

t-shape-employee

Image Credit: Distilled

Which means that every time we are ready to bring someone new onto the team we stop and do one of those reassessments to tell us what we need.

If the new hire is the result of someone else leaving, we stop and think: do we need to replace them or is there some other skill set we should be looking for?

If we’re simply ready to grow, we stop and think: where is our team strong? Where do we have good overlap? Are we serving our clients to the degree we promise and aspire? Where are the gaps? What weak points do we need to shore up?

Sometimes when we ask these questions, the answers surprise us.

(And not just become some anonymous joker on the team who shall remain anonymous and absolutely is not me feels the need to answer every question with a cryptic, “42”).

Building the team

‘Cuz here’s the thing about our team: we’ve got some crazy mad skills already. You want to talk about your cross-discipline competence and deep discipline expertise? We’ve got that.

A genius designer with basic tech chops and a social media expert with a nice line in content and a creative strategist with analytics know-how. An entrepreneurial leader who dabbles in everything and writer who can hold her own with basic SEO and strategy. (And a partridge in a pear tree).

We are all kinds of T-shaped.

Not to mention…we all actually like each other. What are the odds?

All of which sets us on track to our company vision of a team of collaborative specialists without sacrificing our small team necessity of hybrid generalists who can roll up their sleeves and get stuff done, y’know?

But did you notice what was missing from that impressive list of skills?

Because when it came time to hire someone new and we compiled that list of skills, we saw something missing and it was a big something.

We’ve got creatives and number people and business minds and networkers. You know what we haven’t got?

They Got Every Damn Thing

Organizers.

Oh, at first glance you wouldn’t notice the chaos. We were holding our own thanks to our process-obsessed boss (and we mean that in the most complimentary of ways).

But, well…we said 2013 was the year of change and growth, right? Well, we’ve covered the change. But without some glue to hold us together, we weren’t going to be able to handle much more growth.

Because our processes were working for now but they weren’t particularly scalable.

So we realized it wasn’t another strategist we needed.

It was a coordinator.

Introducing Rebecca

Fortunately, we knew just the person. Rebecca Gilmore’s impressive experience and disposition pretty much custom-tailored her to our needs.

rebecca_crop1

She’s organized and disciplined and marketing-savvy and friendly and smart and pretty. (Plus she has impeccable taste in television, she isn’t afraid of the Master Calendar, and she has a twin sister we can set up as a body double alibi in case we ever need her to do anything illegal).

And if she might harbor some thoughts on world domination and hostile takeovers from within, well…we still outnumber her five to one.

Here comes trouble

Long story short (too late, I know)

All of which is to say…we’re delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Gilmore, our new Account Coordinator. Her job is to keep us all on track, to make sure our beloved clients are never lost in the shuffle, and to contribute her knowledge and expertise to the running of the team.

We’re pretty happy to have her and we’re excited for all of you people, too.

Because you’re going to get to know her too.

And, take it from us, that makes you pretty fortunate people.

Not Remotely As Expected

By | Miscellany | 8 Comments

(Or, the Remote Experience as Experienced By Me)

A simple question

When I stopped, per the request of my genuinely interested and concerned boss (who I’m fairly sure is bucking for some kind of Boss of the Year award), to think about what it’s like to work remotely, what first came to mind was a whole list of semi-comical pros and cons:

PRO: You never have to muster the foresight to pack a lunch again.
CON: No more free Friday lunches with your co-workers.

PRO: No one to distract you with idle gossip when you’re trying to concentrate despite the fact the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.
CON: You miss the announcement and general reaction when your co-worker makes the 15 Hottest Guys in SEO list.

(Yeah, seriously).

Tyler Brooks

And so forth.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was able to find a Con for every Pro and vice versa.

Which meant either that I missed my calling as a lawyer after all or that I was approaching the question wrong.

Because surely working from a little apartment just outside Chicago had altered something in the balance of my life.

Unexpected answers

And of course, there is a great deal of research that has gone into the topic.

Mack (maybe there’s a plaque or some kind of fancy certificate that goes with that boss thing) has done a lot of reading on how to accommodate remote employees, to ease the transitions, to make them feel included.

If that’s the kind of advice you’re looking for, go talk to her. She’s been doing a pretty good job of it.

But as it turns out, when I thought about it, it wasn’t really my professional life that had borne the brunt of the changes.

Oh sure, there are the communication glitches and missing the subtle shifts in office dynamics and the loss of the occasional office outing.

Plus, y’know, there was the setting up of a home office a thousand miles away while trying to finish a seriously major project and figure out the specifications of a new job title (and not just new to me but to the company).

None of that has been what you would call a walk in the park (unless it was a post-apocalyptic park inhabited by mutant carnivorous deer and you happen to have a chronic limp).

But really, that’s all stuff that time and technology can mostly overcome. The liberal application of email and various chat and video conferencing applications makes the world a smaller place.

Especially when your boss really is shooting for that trophy and does things like send you flowers and care packages with 5 lb tubs of Red Vines and the occasional stuffed llama.

MWC_Army of Three

Also, hey, pro tip for remote attendance at long meetings: hand-written notes. Maybe this only works for me, but actually using a pen and paper to make a record of what’s going on in meetings I can’t physically attend helps bridge the disconnect that comes from a day of staring at other people talking on a screen.

No, the real adjustments I’ve had to make aren’t so much professional as they are psychological.

No, there’s no need for the men in white coats.

At least, no more than there ever was.

The real problems I’ve encountered have been not so much dissociation between myself and work as over-association between the two.

After all, I live and cook and clean and fold my laundry in the same space that I edit blog posts and brainstorm strategies and email clients.

Without a TV, how do I deny the allure of my big-screened iMac for watching movies when it’s so conveniently placed in my living room? But it’s hard to take someone seriously once you’ve seen them in their mouldering sweats, right? How do I go back to considering it just a work computer?

And so it begins.

A case in point

For example, there’s a time difference between here and Fort Collins so I typically work 10 to 6 rather than 9 to 5, to keep pace with everyone else. That’s a personal choice, because most days, I’m sure Mack wouldn’t mind if I stuck to my business hours and not theirs.

But, hey! I’m not a morning person, so I’m not complaining and it does make it a little easier to be synced up to everyone else for the sake of meetings and greetings and other things that end in -eetings. (Are there other things?)

Morning People

But, y’know, I’m not a morning person. So back when I had to hit the office at 9 am, I didn’t have any time for straggling between getting up, getting ready, and getting to work.

Now that I can be a little more leisurely in the waking, with a little extra time and no extra distance to travel, the morning drive to ‘git up’n’git’ (as some hayseed cartoon character somewhere has surely said) is just not there.

Plus, I live alone so there’s no one looking over my shoulder.

Why not linger a little over breakfast? Read an extra chapter in that book? Enjoy your whole cup of tea at the table rather than carrying it half full to the desk. You can make up the extra fifteen minutes later.

These are not dangerous or seditious occupations, but it’s a slippery slope.

Because then those fifteen minutes get delayed. It’s 6 pm, so I walk the 4 seconds over to my kitchen and make dinner. I bring it back to the desk, so I can watch last night’s episode of Arrow while I eat (don’t look at me like that; everyone has guilty pleasures) and then I’ll be able to put in those fifteen minutes easily.

Arrow (Can you blame me?)

Except after Arrow, I remember that I didn’t ever get around to watching last week’s Reign (now you can give me that look. Judgment is totally warranted).

And then suddenly it’s 9 pm and I’m getting back to work. But it’s 9, so I’m going to go change into something a little more comfortable.

So now I’m back at my desk and finishing up the thing that I was working on.

But it’s also night time, in my living room, and I’m wearing the raggedy yoga pants that double as pjs, sitting in front of the computer that I was just using to watch the wildly inaccurate exploits of the Queen of Scots.

So, now I’m flipping back and forth between doing the work and reading snarky TV reviews. But hey, the work gets done, so it’s all good in the end, right?

See? Slippery.

It’s not so much the result that’s the problem here, it’s the mindset. (Well, I did say it was psychological, didn’t I?).

Because once you start seamlessly blending your work-and-play space like that, it’s hard to transition back. It seeps into the day as well as the night. The work gets done but because you’re never just working, it still feels you’re always kinda working.

This is the remote-ness problem that I’ve been having.

More than feelings of alienation and isolation, more than worries about my suddenly sedentary lifestyle, I struggle with this giant muddle of work and home and project time and personal time.

The workarounds

The best trick that I’ve figured out to dealing with all of those things is this pretty simple and obvious: boundaries.

And by boundaries, I don’t just mean things like: work during work hours, play during play.

This is psychological warfare, people, waged against my own brain. We gotta go deeper than that.

This is the ritual I’ve worked out, with three simple rules: Shower, Clothes, Doors.

Shower

I don’t just mean to watch your hygiene. (Although, y’know, do that). This rule is about starting the day right. I learned quickly not to get up, mosey out of bed, turn on my computer, check my email, put on the kettle, pour the cereal, and so on.

Separate your morning stuff from your work stuff. Get up. Take your shower. Eat your breakfast. Brush your teeth.

Then sit down at your computer and start the clock.

Clothes
Tempting though the alternative may be, this is hard-and-fast rule for me:

Do NOT Work In Your Pajamas.

(Unless you are the Doctor. In which case, carry on).

the doctor's pjs

If working from home is a slippery slope, jimjams are the skates that send you careening down it.

No, of course I’m not exaggerating.

This is the easiest boundary to enforce and remarkably helpful in resetting your brain. Clothes are for work. Jammies are for not-work.

If you’re wearing real pants and a shirt with no holes? You should be working.

If you’re wearing anything with an elastic waistband, it’s okay to log into Netflix.

(Note: this only applies to time spent at home. Please wear real pants when you go out, even if you’re not working).

Doors
Fortunately, I live in a one bedroom and not a studio, so I actually do have doors. But even if you don’t, the spirit of the rule is this:

During the day, work business is done in the office area. Anything personal goes into the other room.

For example, say I forgot to pay a bill online last night and it’s due today. I don’t use my work computer to log-in and pay it. I go for my personal computer in the other room and do it there. That way, I’ve got a physical boundary between what I’m doing for work and my personal list.

Likewise, say my mom calls. If I need to talk to her, I don’t sit in my desk chair to take the call. I walk it into another part of the apartment.

And so on.

Be a grownup

I know, I know. These are really simplistic rules. Maybe even juvenile. But see, that’s the real thing I’ve realized through this whole working remotely thing: it’s not for kids.

It takes self-discipline and self-regulation and the will to actively seek out social interaction and other things that have not traditionally been my strength. And sometimes it takes really dumb but easily enforceable rules.

grownups

So my remote experience hasn’t really been about my job, at all. (I’m sure that’s not always the case, but, seriously, Mack wants the medal, I’m telling you).

It’s been about finally proving to myself that I’m an adult.

With real pants and everything.

 

Holding Steady at Six: Say Hello to Ayelet

By | Building Community, Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

Contradictory emotions

Though we are sad to be bidding our beloved Julie Sutter a final (well…semi-final, partial, not-at-all definitive) farewell, we are beyond excited to introduce you to the newest member of the team.

Ayelet Golz comes to us from, well, the world. We consider her the planet’s gift to Mack Web Solutions, really.

Ayelet Golz - Social and Community Manager Extraordinaire

She’s done extensive marketing and community building work all over the globe and yet somehow we managed to lure her into our little Fort Collins net.

We assume that it was our passion for our work, our positively absurd amounts of charm, and the promise of unlimited gummy bears that did the trick.

Although, by happy chance, Ayelet also has managed to stumble into a work environment where her extensive collection of llama stories and ability to discuss the psychological and sociological effects of the coming zombie apocalypse would be properly appreciated.

Looking to the future

As you’ll learn in the coming weeks and months and years, Ayelet is a huge boon to the work of Mack Web Solutions. Her presence on the team means that we can dedicate all of her considerable brain power and experience and not-inconsiderable charm to just the building and tending of online communities.

(Which, if you hadn’t figured it out already, is pretty much our primary aim).

Turning over the care and feeding of the online communities to Ayelet frees up our strategist team to strategize and our production team to produce, while keeping a steady and confident hand on the community management helm.

So, pretty much a whole lot of winning going on there.

Already the perfect match

Even though Ayelet has only been with us a short time, we already know she’s going to fit right in.

How can we be so sure?

Well, we asked her, out of the blue, to write us a llama haiku (does that sentence sound Dr. Seuss-y to anyone else?).

And, off the top of her head and without asking a single question, she provided us with this little gem:

The llama lived up high
She gave kids rides and schlepped milk
Llama kicked up her feet

See? She’s definitely Mack Web People.

 

 

Beaches and Brains: Dreaming of SearchLove San Diego

By | Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

Ruminations on Locations

With the imminence of SearchLove San Diego and Mack’s speaking preparations, our team has found ourselves giving in to some grandiose dreams. This year has been a revelation of the value of conferences and we’d be lying if our far-flung future ambitions didn’t include some day hosting an event of our own.

Which, of course, raised the first and most important question: Where would this blessed occasion take place?

(This is a dream, remember? Not a practical issue just yet. Questions of funding and recruiting and otherwise resourcing are for other times).

After all, this year Mack has visited the great cities of Boston and Seattle and will soon be on her way to the coastal paradise of San Diego for SearchLove San Diego, held September 5-6, 2013.

SearchLove San Diego

It all raises the pivotal question of what makes a good venue for a web marketing conference?

Balmy Beaches

Choosing a location with the appropriate weather for the season is, apparently, key. Boston in the Spring, Seattle in the Summer, or say…San Diego in the Fall. What could be better?

This narrowed things down tremendously. No winters in Alaska, no summers in Arizona. Antarctica is right out. Likewise the Australian outback in January or the Sahara…really, anytime.

Actually, it’s pretty hard to beat something like this:

Paradise Point, San Diego

Which, by the way, is Paradise Point, the venue for SearchLove San Diego. Don’t you wish you were going?

And it’s not just weather that matters, either.

Bragging Rights

You want to pick city that people actually want to visit. No offense to the good people of Wisconsin or Minnesota, but when travelers are bragging about their past journeys, rarely do you hear them wax lyrical about their adventures in Milwaukee or Duluth.

They do not talk about Guatemala City or Luanda, Angola or Chisinau, Moldova or Houson (all of which have appeared on lists of the ugliest cities in the world).

Chisinau, Moldova

They probably don’t even bring up Mack Web’s hometown of Fort Collins or our nearest big neighbor, Denver, lovely though they may be to their residents.
No, they’re too busy talking about places like Angkor Wat or Miami or y’know, San Diego.

San Diego Skyline
Which is where they’re holding SearchLove in September.

Did we mention that?

Interesting…But Not Too Interesting

So we’ve ruled out the likely locations closest to home. If we’re not going for proximity, it would make sense for the entirely hypothetical Mack Web conference to pick one of those highly desirable locations that we want to visit.

(If it’s our hypothetical conference, there’s no reason we can’t be a little self-indulgent).

But here’s the problem: If we were to host a conference in say, Paris, would you actually go to listen to the speakers? Or would you be touring the Louvre and eating pastries at a little cafe in Montmartre?

Be honest, now.

So what we need is a place that’s beautiful and desirable without holding irresistible attractions.

Some place like, oh, I don’t know…San Diego?

San Diego pier

Say, I hear they’re holding a SearchLove Conference there next week. Wouldn’t it be cool to go to that?

Preciousness

You know what else would be a definite boon to a conference location?

Something characteristic and adorable that we could tie into our conference swag.

Like, if we held it in New York City, everyone could get Statue of Liberty hats with MackCon printed on them.

Or if we were to hold it in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, we could give everyone SearchMack emblazoned pepper spray. Or maybe a guard dog named MackWeb.

Now, if only we could think of a city that was famous for something interesting that we could tie-in, thematically, to our hypothetical future conference?

San Diego orcasSan Diego Zoo

San Diego Comic Con

Hmmm, we’ll have to give it some thought.

Available Libations

Now, if there’s one thing that we’ve learned from Mack’s attendance at other conferences and the hungover Tweets that pass back and forth in their wake, no web marketing conference is complete without access to post-speaker parties.

So, as nice as it might be to host a conference at a gorgeous and secluded retreat in the Alps or somewhere like Westhampton, Massachusetts (one of the few dry counties left in the U.S.), we realize that access to a nightlife is an absolute must.

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

Fun (and completely unrelated) Fact: Did you know that Paradise Point – where they’re apparently holding September SearchLove – is just a few minutes from Downtown San Diego?

Well, now you know.

Remind me again why you’re not going to SearchLove San Diego?

No Copycats

So, through our extensive research, it turns out that apparently the perfect location for a conference is…San Diego!

And what a coincidence, they just so happen to be holding SearchLove there next week.

While this is great news for you all (after all, tickets are still available), it’s hard to hear for the dreamers of Mack Web Solutions.

After all the first and principle rule for conference venues is: Nobody likes a copycat.

Which means, we’ll have to think of somewhere else to hold our future conference.

(Hmm…waterfront, desirable, limited distractions, easy gimmick, excellent nightlife…)

Atlantis

But hey, while you’re waiting for your invite to SearchMackCon Atlantis, you should consider checking out SearchLove in September.

Tickets are $1249 for the basic package, $1549 for the fancy one and you get to hang out at a pretty swanky hotel.

I mean, it’s a given that the speakers will be awesome (‘cuz they always are), but hey, did you hear?

They’re holding it in San Diego!

 

 

Farewell Peaks, Hello Skyscrapers – My (Woefully Undramatic) Journey Northeast

By | Building Community, Events, Miscellany | 4 Comments

Different skies

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to my Twitter feed (@courtneymackweb, but please don’t feel bad if you haven’t. Hardly anyone does), you may have picked up on the fact that I have relocated.

That’s right. The view out my window used to look like this:

Colorado

And now it looks like this:

A Chicago Skyline

(Uh…car window, that is. My office/home windows have never been quite so dramatic).

There is a long and convoluted explanation for my recent move from Mack Web’s homebase of Fort Collins, CO to the Windy City (that’s Chicago, just in case you didn’t know), but it’s actually not that interesting.

I know, I know. It seems like it should be, since it’s fraught with interpersonal dynamics, long-lost friends, miscommunication, and mosquito bites, but…in the end it boils down to this:

Courtney has itchy feet.

Courtney likes her job.

Courtney has trouble reconciling these things.

Until I was presented with a fantastic solution: keep my job and move away.

That Mack is a genius, I tell you.

An incredible journey (but only through space. My dreams of time travel are yet unrealized).

So, Mack offered me the opportunity to open what is, essentially, the first satellite office of Mack Web Solutions. (Or as I like to call it: Mack Web Chicago: An Army of One).

So I packed up all my belongings and drove the 16 hours from Fort Collins to Chicago. I was supposed to document the journey for you, possibly with a small garden gnome as companion, ala Amelie.

But, quite frankly, 16 hours of corn and wheat fields is frightfully dull with or without a garden gnome. (And, honestly, a little eerie).

So I didn’t.

Though I learned something very, very important:

Contrary to popular perception, Nebraska does end.

I never knew that before. I assumed it was like the island in Lost or a vortex in space and time, consuming all who pass through and depositing them at random points throughout history and leaving them to wend their way back home as they can.

But I made it out in the end. And without having lost a significant portion of my personal timeline.

(I know, ‘cuz I called my mom when I made it to Iowa, just to make sure I hadn’t pulled a Rip Van Winkle and lost a hundred years amongst the corn. I could actually hear her roll her eyes over the phone).

So I made it to Illinois safe and sound and prepared to set up shop as Mack Web’s first remote location.

We currently operate out of my best friend’s guest room, but that’s not really the relevant point here.

An imac in a borrowed room.

The current offices (and officers) of Mack Web Chicago.

A surprisingly natural progression

The point is that one of Mack Web Solutions’ central tennets is that you can build and foster communities online.

That it is possible to create and sustain productive and mutually-satisfactory relationships without sharing the same physical space.

That through the wide variety of digitial media now available, you can make friends, find partners and mentors, brainstorm and co-create with peers and colleagues, from whereever you happen to be.

(A message, incidentally, also preached by the suppliers of said digital media, but…we’re less self-interested than they are. And also funnier. And prettier. So you should listen to us, even if you ignore them).

Of course, occasional in-person follow-ups are helpful and we’ll be partaking in those, too.

We’ve preached this and we’ve practiced it with some fantastic folk external to our company.

Now we’re trying it out a little closer to home. (Or, really, farther from home, depending on how you want to look at it).

Proving the Theory!

See, doesn’t it sound better couched in terms of scientific inquiry than wanderlust?

And thus far, it’s working. (Not surprising. It was our theory after all).

It’s a little weird not being there to bug my co-workers in person, but I’ve found ways to retain my status as office nuisance via chat and copious, copious emails and Google Hangouts that get completely out of hand.

Pirate hats and facial hair, the imaginary escalators and carefully-mimed isododecahedrons (no, Nat, I will never, ever believe that was a cube): these are the stuff that great virtual meetings are made of.

A nuisance deferred

And of course, all those co-workers are eager to see me succeed, so that they too, can scatter to all ends of the globe and work digitally from, say, Paris or the Caribbean.

(No pressure, Courtney).

Wait…what was the point of all this again?

Right.

All of this was to say: Stop your weeping. Be not alarmed! I’m still here, though I am gone.

If you should notice that I no longer appear in pictures of Fort Collins, if you should hear references to my absence, if you should feel the slight chill ebbing off the office itself with the loss of my beaming smile and warm heart…

Don’t. Panic.

I’m not going anywhere.

(Uh…except to Chicago. I did go there. But, um…oh, you know what I mean).

So wish me luck and maybe, if you happen to be in town, I’ll see you around.

 

Judging By The Cover: MozCon 2013 Seen Through the Eyes of Mack Web

By | Events, Miscellany | 4 Comments

A Predictable Reaction

As you may have noticed from previous posts, we get pretty excited about the conferences we attend.

We get even more excited about the ones that Mack speaks at.

So when Mack’s speaking and our own Julie is attending for the first time?

Off. The Charts. Elation.

When it was decided (with plenty of good-natured ribbing and thinly-veiled envy) that Mack Web Solutions was sending not one but two representatives to Seattle in July for this year’s MozCon, the whole company got involved in the anticipation.

A Characteristic Response

So…what does it look like when Mack Web Solutions looks forward to something?

Well… a little like this:

More specifically:

Mack starts going nuts about her presentation (and her clothes and hair and fingernails).

Natalie starts looking up food options in the Seattle area (and designing some truly gorgeous slides).

I start nit-picking Mack’s grammar.

Tyler and Ashley look around at the veterans in bemused amusement and seriously discuss which sessions our people should attend (all the while wondering just how they got involved with this group of weirdos).

Julie keeps her head down to hide her smirk at being chosen to go.

Eventually, everybody shapes up and join in Tyler and Ashley’s discussion on which presentations sound the most interesting.

How to Choose?

The problem, of course, is that they all sound interesting. And vital and informative and like things we wish we’d thought of first.

So, despite the mature origins of the topic it devolves into something like this:

Of course when we’re preparing the slips that we’re pulling out of the hat, we usually just write the title without the description. So our anticipation of what each presentation will cover can be, from time-to-time, ever so slightly…off?

Skewed?
Mis-judged?
Childishly extravagent flights-of-fancy-esque?

The end result of this exercise is that, while we’re sure that all 35 speakers are brilliant, there are certain talks we’re particularly looking forward to (however mis-guidedly). (Besides, we had to limit our silliness or we would have been doing this all. day. long).

Here’s our top five, er…six:

Really Targeted Outreach

Richard Baxter

What We Think It Is:
Based solely on the title, we imagine that this particular talk will be an in-depth and informative presentation on the ways to connect your content with its perfect audience.

We speculate that it will run through data collection, content development, and methods of content delivery.

We’re pretty sure that it’s going to be awesome and valuable.

We also picture it conducted entirely by a Band of Merry Men in Lincoln Green. Tights and jerkins and feathered caps. Possibly with some archery targets and a little petty larceny among the audience when you’re not looking.

And we’re going to be really disappointed if there isn’t a rousing rendition of “The Phony King of England” at the end.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
We’ve all sent guest post pitches and “link building requests” and begged for precious links any way and anywhere we can. But, that simply isn’t marketing. We have all the tools for a better way of finding our audience and determining what they love. Richard will show you a data-driven approach to marketing your brand to your target audience. No more guesswork, you’ll know exactly how to get the right eyeballs on your content.

Wordless Wednesdays: How To Swaggerjack the Power of Visual Memes

Lena West

What We Think It Is:
We’re picturing a slideshow of everyone’s favorite cat and/or celebrity memes set to a rousing soundtrack of cleverly-written sea shanties.

We expect each shanty to provide inspiring (and preferably rhyming) data on leveraging these delightful images for inbound marketing purposes.

Because I won’t be physically present to taint the experience with my much-documented fear of birds, we’re also hoping for pithy and/or obscene interjections from a parrot with a peg-leg.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Image-heavy, responsive websites are all the rage, but can be problematic for SEO, load times, and other inbound marketing concerns. But how does this balance out with the popularity of images-based memes like “Wordless Wednesday”? Lena will examine these visual memes and their impact on traffic, and she’ll talk about how you can parlay the power of visual memes into serious search and traffic results.

Strings to Things: Entities and SEO

Matthew Brown

What We Think It Is:
There was a lot of speculation on this one, including, but not limited to:

  • Knitting Your Way to Better Rankings: Common Sense Marketing Inspired By Grandma
  • The Puppet Master: A Look at the Dark Side of Search Engine Optimization
  • Magical Music: Orchestrating Inbound Marketing
  • The Muses: A Panel Discussion with the Internet Pantheon

We’d be happy with pretty much any of these. My personal preference would be an off-the-cuff presentation tracing the sucess of well-favored digital marketing tactics to the relative vibration of tiny strands of energy…in the TARDIS.

(But that’s just me).

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
In the last year, Google and Bing have both indicated a shift to entity-based search results as part of their evolution. Google has unscored this point with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph, and Bing has now upped the ante on personal search results with Bing Snapshots. Find out how you can adopt strategies to stay ahead of the curve in the new world of semantic search results.

Breaking Up With Your Keyword-Based KPIs

Annie Cushing

What We Think It Is:
With this one, we expect a compassionate but no-nonsense walk through the woes of basing all sense of achievement on notably unreliable keyword data.

Then we’ll hear tips on (healthily) purging memories of the relationship from your life.

How to dispose of the adorable photo-booth strips of you and your keyword-based KPIs without crying.

The mature way to handle a post-breakup booty call from your keyword-based KPIs.

What to do when you run into keyword-based KPIs with their new devotees when you’re out at the movies.

What you should be looking for in your next KPI relationship.

(Possibly a few tips on shedding the break-up ice cream weight).

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Raise your hand if you hate (not provided)? Annie shows you how to raise your battle cry by finding your keyword data elsewhere. By changing your focus from (not provided) to what your landing pages can tell you, you’ll be able to audit your site even better than before.

Living in the Future of User Behavior

Will Critchlow

What We Think It Is:
This one we envision as a cautionary presentation on the perils of time travel: Don’t try to evacuate Pompeii or kill Hitler, don’t step on a butterfly, don’t kill (or become) your own grandfather, don’t accidentally stop your mom from going to the prom with your dad.

Y’know, the basics.

Then we expect it to progress to the industry-specific dangers inherent to transcending time: if you go to the future and see a virally-popular piece of content you will apparently create and then come back and create it…where did the idea come from in the first place?

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
As the technology space constantly changes, users and their behavior adjust with the tide. But what should we do? Will takes a look at where the trends are going and gives you the tactics and tips to keep up and maybe get ahead of the game.

Building a Better Business with Digital Marketing

Our Own Mack Fogelson

What We Think It Is:
Two words: Lego City.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Extraordinary businesses and communities are built with a higher purpose than just making money. Mack will walk you through how you can achieve bigger objectives for your clients or for your own business. Using the power of digital marketing tools (along with passion and hard work), you’ll learn how to shape and foster your company and the community around it.

A Great Show

Regardless of our predictions, we think the whole line-up sounds pretty amazing and we’re both honored and delighted to be presenting at and attending MozCon 2013.

But you know the best news?

It’s not too late to get tickets!

So, July 8-10, 2013. The Washington State Convention Center. Be there or you’ll miss out (hopefully) on Robin Hood, pirates, string, ice cream, time travel, and legos.

Which would be a shame.

Hope to see you there!

(Also…we welcome any additional speculation on what will be covered in those three days. Any thoughts on what “Moz Lingo” might be? For what the reasons does the internet hate us? We await your contributions).