All Posts By

Mack Fogelson

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

As trust in companies continues to decline, and the needs of consumers and employees increasingly evolve, many innovative organizations are now turning to purpose as a means to bolster their growth and outmaneuver the competition.

While these innovators aren’t the only ones that understand the power of a shared purpose, the vast majority of companies have yet to effectively integrate it across their organization. According to Harvard Business Review’s The Business Case for Purpose, while 84% of executives believe an organization that has shared purpose will be more successful in transformation efforts, and 81% believe purpose-driven firms deliver higher-quality products and services, only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose

Only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose. Harvard Business Review

The successful integration and implementation of purpose, both inside and outside your organization, is directly related to your company’s ability to grow and compete in the digital age. And despite the increasing popularity of the business purpose concept, many companies are getting it wrong.

Purpose is not a veneer

Your company’s purpose is not only what you’re here to do (beyond making money), but the reason people — both customers and employees — connect with and believe in your organization. Purpose goes way beyond what your company sells or solves; it’s about who your company is.

73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when making a purchase. BBMG

Purpose does not mean making a charitable contribution from sales and it isn’t necessarily comprised of altruistic, environmental, or social do-goodery, but it does need to be authentic. It’s the foundation for building a company that people want to work for and do business with.

The way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how you’re perceived on the outside, affecting everything from the happiness, engagement and retention of employees, to word of mouth, loyalty, advocacy, and even customer acquisition and retention.

85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth of at least 10% annually.  Harvard Business Review

Your organization needs to do a stellar job of communicating your purpose to the outside world. But because consumers now easily see through marketing, no matter how strategic and clear the message is, purpose cannot be faked. Purpose is not a veneer.

72% of global consumers would recommend a company with a purpose. EY

Externally, purpose is most easily communicated through your marketing content, but it’s more deeply felt by the consumer through your approach to sales and customer experience. In other words, regardless of what your company “says,” how your company and its employees interact with the outside world—your customers and your community— can be the dividing line between success and failure for an entire company. Especially when things fall apart.

Take Chipotle for example.

In a nutshell, the company’s purpose is food with integrity. Not just sourcing, preparing, and serving whole food, but disrupting the fast food industry and how it typically operates.

And although their advertising is very clever and human and full of personality, when you dive deeper into their organization, you realize that their purpose isn’t just something they serve up on the surface in their marketing, it’s something that comes from the core of their organization’s soul. It’s in their DNA.

Purpose, not product-focused

Chipotle’s marketing isn’t just about burritos and the stuff they sell. Videos like Scarecrow and Back to the Start took a stand back in 2013 against how the fast food industry typically operates and sources its food. Chipotle holds free festivals each year like Cultivate where people gather in their local communities to celebrate good food, music, and connect with each other over ideas and values.

Chipotle has sponsored a Food for Thought column on the Huffington Post to build awareness and hold the conversation about how food is grown and the effects this system has on our world. They’ve invested in programs and better ways of working that encourage their employees to self-manage, which in turn empowers them to be better leaders.

For Chipotle, these efforts aren’t just marketing campaigns; they’re exhibitions of their purpose. This is how they’ve operated from the start. And even though their struggle right now with food safety issues is real and threatening the durability of the company, they’re working relentlessly to get back to their purpose and live their promise. Not only testing new ways of preparing their food to be safe and full of the integrity they promise, but also pioneering food safety systems for the rest of the fast food industry to learn from.

Chipotle is a shining example of how to communicate your purpose to the outside world through sales and marketing, through every single touchpoint, because they are purpose-driven through and through: leadership, strategy, operations, and employees.

Patagonia is an equally shining example of a company who effectively markets and sells from purpose. They use their business not just to make money but to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Again, why they truly exist isn’t just apparent in their marketing, it’s not product-focused, and it’s not a PR facade.

Patagonia’s approach to sales and marketing has everything to do with externally communicating their purpose and this has taken many forms. Of late, a new revenue stream where Patagonia will offer store credit for used, recycle-worthy Patagonia clothing and, in turn, refurbish and re-sell the clothing online.

An additional reincarnation of their purpose to wreak less harm on the earth and encourage other corporations to do the same can be seen in Worn Wear —  a movement to encourage their customers to buy less stuff, and instead get more out of what they already have. All of these actions are a clear representation of why Patagonia exists as a company; it’s their true DNA. All of this meaty and meaningful content that also happens to be their marketing.

And although financially, Patagonia is thriving, they’ve had their share of actions that conflict with their purpose. Using materials in volume that have been proven to do more damage once released into public waterways than plastic grocery bags. Yet once they were informed of the problem, they ran tests to verify and researched new yarn and fabric construction that would alleviate the shedding that caused the environmental damage.

Similar to Chipotle, Patagonia shared their learnings with the apparel industry in order to partner and find a solution on an industry-wide scale, not just to save face. Their hope is that other companies will take advantage of the technology and processes they’re pioneering, effectively increasing impact and further utilizing their organization as a means to make progress towards their purpose.

Purpose is certainly not the only factor that contributes to a company’s success or failure. Product, culture, brand, strategy, leadership, and even convergence, competition, market pressure, and economic shifts all play a part in their fate. However, an expertly articulated and executed purpose will give your organization a fighting chance. Not just to more profit and bigger market share, but to better employees and customers who will advocate on your behalf, even when your company blows it.

Customers no longer believe what you say. They will, however, believe what you do as long as it’s also felt through the experiences you provide.

Purpose lies at the heart of your business model. It should drive your growth strategy, focus, culture, and your way of operating. When purpose starts there, your sales and marketing naturally becomes a meaningful conversation that truly engages the people you want in your customer base and together, through your company, you become a vehicle for greater change in our world.

Clarifying and applying purpose to your sales, marketing, and customer experience

One of the biggest fails with purpose inside organizations is implementation. Many companies invest the money to identify or clarify their purpose, but when it comes to living it in the day-to-day, communicating it through their actions, or how they market, sell, and connect with their customers, purpose gets lost along with its benefits. Much like a mission or values statement, it becomes nothing more than the words stenciled on a wall or penned in an employee manual — read once, if you’re lucky, at onboarding and then forgotten.

Your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams play the biggest role in living the purpose of your company because they are integral in communicating what’s on the inside to who’s on the outside. Consider taking these steps in your organization to effectively clarify and implement purpose for increased growth and competitive advantage:

1. Clarify the purpose of your organization
The first step in clarifying your company’s purpose is understanding what purpose isn’t. Your company’s purpose is not your vision, mission, or values. It is not your brand guidelines or PR strategy, a tagline or a trend. It’s not corporate responsibility. And most importantly, it’s not giving a bunch of money to charity (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not purpose).

Your purpose is aspirational and belief driven, much broader than your products or services, and lies at the heart of your business model. Ultimately, your purpose improves the lives of your customers and your employees.

Ideally you want to clarify your organization’s purpose by pairing a cultural tension — a problem in the world that your company is looking to address — with who you are at your best self (this is an Ogilvy and Mather’s tool that Arielle Jackson explains well here).

For Dove, their purpose is to help women feel good about their bodies, not just sell soap. This purpose is relevant, meaningful, and it’s the key to connection and what drove a $1.5 billion dollar increase in sales. So it’s really important your teams are clear about what purpose is or isn’t so that they can effectively use it to understand your customers and talk with them through their acquisition and retention strategies.

2. Deconstruct your customer’s journey by actually talking with your customers
Once you have clarity on the purpose of your organization, take a look at how that connects you to your customers. Work for a deeper understanding of your customer’s journey — not solely through analyzing sales funnel drop-off rates, demographic or psychographic audience data, but by participating in actual conversations with customers in real life. Make the effort to understand what they’re thinking and feeling at every stage.

When your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams can bridge the gap between the purpose of the company and how it aligns with your customer’s needs and removes their unique roadblocks you crack the code to earning a coveted connection that leads to word-of-mouth: amplification, advocacy, loyalty, activism.

3. Connect your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose
As a leader, there are two questions to be answered here: 1) What does the organization as whole exist to achieve? In other words, what is the purpose besides making money? 2) What role does your team play in achieving that purpose?

Your teams need to understand how their daily contributions matter to the overarching purpose of the company. Especially when they’re pushing hard on things that seem meaningless; understanding how purpose relates to strategy and their day-to-day can go a long way for efficiency, output, and morale. In short, meaning matters to your employees.

4. Adjust the communication of your purpose externally
Finally, in order to effectively communicate and connect with your customers, your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams especially need to understand that the conversation is not just about your product, but also about your purpose. They need to be perceptive, strategic, and creative in how, where, and when that conversation takes place.

A well articulated and implemented purpose gives your marketing team a more focused approach to creative ideation, execution, and outreach. Often brand guidelines and historical data isn’t enough fodder for brilliant campaigns and relevant content. If you take Dove for example, there are thousands of ways to talk about the importance of helping women feel better in their own skin, and only a handful of ways to talk about soap.

When your sales and marketing force changes the conversation from product to purpose, you open up the opportunity to connect with exponentially more people — organizations, influencers, media, communities — who either are or know your ideal customer. Not only that, but now your sales force is empowered because they’re no longer just pushing a product or service, they’re selling something much more meaningful.

Business purpose is a parallel path

In order to get your growth strategy right in the digital age, you can’t just tell people your organization operates from the purpose of your business. You have to prove you’re on a parallel path between what’s happening inside your company and what you’re exhibiting on the outside.

Internally, purpose should be part of your business model. It should come in the form of authentic leadership and from employees at all levels; not top-down management mandates. It should be at the center of decision-making for growth strategy and overall company direction. It needs to be the source of innovation because it is the key to differentiation and competitive advantage. Most importantly, when done right, purpose should be the backbone of your culture, effectively driving how your teams self-manage, collaborate, and work together on a day-to-day basis.

The truth is, customers no longer believe your marketing alone. In order to earn and keep your customers, you must know how to effectively exhibit and fight for your purpose through your actions and the experiences you provide. That’s what will create the conditions necessary to achieve sustainable growth.

Learn how we can evolve your organization:


Mack Web is now Genuinely

By | Business Stuff, Events, Mack's Musings, MISSION: Authentic | No Comments

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 12.32.34 PM

If I were to ask my dad who the greatest influences in his life have been, I’m confident he would put Oprah Winfrey at the top of his list. It’s not that he’s ever wanted to meet her, or that he would even admit this out loud, but when going through one of the darkest times in his life, she became his therapist. Every day at 3 pm he’d watch her show. Over the course of a year, 60 minutes at a time, he became a better man.

Oprah had kind of a rough go of it when she was a kid. In an interview she was once asked if she could go back, would she change anything about her life? With conviction, she told the journalist that she wouldn’t trade any of it. All of those experiences — the bad and the good — have made her who she is today. It was all part of her journey.

13 years ago when I started this company, I had no vision for what I was building. I had quit a junior high teaching job, completed graduate school, and endured many, many failed attempts at achieving employment. I needed a job, so I started building websites in a home office just down the hall from my bedroom.

Over the years, my vision for this company has materialized from a great deal of contrast. So many questions asked. So many words read. So many conversations had. So many projects released. So many ways of working adapted. So many sharp stones beneath my feet. And so much clarity gained. Read More

How Our Culture Shaped Our New Office Space

By | Events, Mack's Musings, Miscellany, MISSION: Authentic | 3 Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

Summer is by far my favorite time of year.

otterpops Mmmmm. Otter Pops.

The urban trails are full of people running or biking. The weekends are spent by the pool, hiking, or visiting friends. There’s always an opportunity for good food and free concerts in the park. The daylight lingers to afford us all some much needed play time. Rigid routines fade and it’s finally time for a change of pace. And Otter Pops are always on standby.

It’s mid-July and Mack Web finds itself more than half way through our 12th year of business. Lucky for us, this summer started with a bit more excitement than the usual change of seasons: a move to a brand new office space that we were fortunate enough to customize to match our collaborative culture.

I’ve got all the photos (and even a super awesome video) to share with you. But first, indulge me with a little history. Read More

How to Lead with Meaning in Your Marketing

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –


There are a whole lot of companies who have been changing the face of business, and our world, with a very simple approach: prioritizing meaning over money. Rather than just make a profit, they recognize they’re here to do something bigger. They want to use their businesses to be agents for change and to build durable, worthwhile companies that leave a mark on our world.

Often referred to as mission-driven, companies who value purpose over profit experience a number of advantages. Their employees are happier and more engaged; they stay longer and make bigger contributions. Mission-driven companies also have a better understanding of their value and how to use it to retain a strategic advantage over the competition. As a result, they attract much more passionate customers.

The biggest caveat to this concept is that it can’t be just for show. To reap these benefits and connect people to your brand, your company must genuinely communicate your meaning beyond money with an authenticity that comes directly from your core.

The trick is to lead with meaning while, at the same time, effectively marketing your product. The best way to do this is by completely intertwining them so that no one thinks of your product without considering your meaning, and no one ponders your meaning without connecting it to your product.

This can be accomplished in a few ways. Read More

Purpose, Integration, and Understanding: Conversion Optimization Beyond the Landing Page

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

A Mack Web Webinar (Thanks, Unbounce)

Mack (and the rest of our dedicated team) was tickled pink – nay, fuschia – at the opportunity to create a webinar with the great folks over at Unbounce. We love their stuff on conversion. So we were excited to shed our particular wavelength of light on the subject, namely all of the ways to optimize the potential for conversion before and beyond just the landing page.

If you were among the brilliant (and potentially allergen-avoidant) people who signed up for the webinar, you know we had some technical difficulties. (We can neither confirm nor deny an encounter with a rip in the time-space continuum that sent our entire office back to the Dark Ages of 1994, well before the ascendance of Wi-Fi. That said, certain persons have been singing Can You Feel The Love Tonight for the last three days. Draw your own conclusions.)

But we’re back on track with some bonus treats. Unbounce has released the full recording of the webinar and, if you’ve got 45 minutes, you should definitely take a gander.

Since we couldn’t hold a live Q&A with the webinar, we did an Ask Mack Anything session on March 31st, instead. Check out that conversation on Twitter (all relevant tweets have been tagged with #UnwebinarAMA).

And, as is our custom, we also have, for your edification and perusal, the full deck here. It is, as per usual, a beauty with plenty of brains behind it.

And just in case you’re in a super big hurry, we’ve pulled out some key takeaways. Just for you. (Can you feel the love tonight?)

Key Takeaways

Customers connect and participate with you on many levels. They have high expectations. Don’t trick them into clicking a button.

Successful conversion doesn’t start with a beautiful landing page. It starts with building a better business from the inside out.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.014

If you’ve put in the work to improve your business as much as you promote it, conversion gets a lot easier.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.017

If you create a cohesive and genuine experience for your customers at every possible point of interaction – your landing pages, website, blog, social media, email, on the phone, at events, on the street – you’re presenting customers with something they can hold onto and believe in over the course of your entire relationship with them. (More on that in a minute.)

People notice and are drawn to companies that display and prove a meaning beyond money.

Before you can build that cohesive and genuine experience, you need to articulate the purpose and passion that sits at the heart of your business.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.025

That core can take any shape: a shoemaker that thinks everyone should have basic necessities, a toy company that believes girls can be scientists too, an outdoor gear supplier that promotes social and environmental responsibility, a direct selling company that yearns to change women’s lives.

Whatever that purpose, it’s going to drive all of your conversion efforts.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.039

Once you know why you get out of bed in the morning, it’s time to make sure that your outsides – the ways and means by which you interact with your customers – match your insides.

All of your efforts should work together to drive your customers to conversion.

We have a client. They just so happen to be a direct selling company that loves the wine they bottle but yearns to change the lives of the women who work with them. Our efforts to help them convert more leads into ‘Wine Guides’ did include a landing page upgrade.

We went from this – a generic, promotional page:

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.033

To this – a profile of a real, live Wine Guide including her vital stats, her story, candid photos of her at work and play, video of how the company changed her life, and a call-to-action at the end:

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.048

Actually, we built three of ‘em.

But that’s hardly all we did:

  • Before anything else, we identified and prioritized the top 3 persona groups to make sure we were targeting the right people.
  • Then we did the interviews and built the landing pages.
  • We created supplemental blog posts that drove traffic to the landing pages, fully supported by one-to-one outreach on social media.
  • We created targeted email marketing campaigns that drove traffic to the relevant blog posts.
  • We created a buzz on social media, fostering the relationships that our authentic posts attracted and amplifying our reach with paid efforts.
  • We set up an engaging and automated email response to follow up on all form submissions, continuing the conversation via inbox and telephone and clarifying the next steps.

All of this was to make the message clear:

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.035

Landing pages are important to conversion, no doubt. But they don’t stand alone.

Done right, conversion takes time to pick up speed but becomes unstoppable.

Here’s the downside, the fine print, the hard truth to expect. All that stuff we did for the client?

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.069

Conversion doesn’t happen overnight. But the efforts that come from the genuine core of your company are built for longevity, for relationships that endure. You want to be in your customers’ lives for a long time. If they believe in what you’re doing, they start doing the promotion and conversion work for you, becoming lifelong advocates of your brand.

A successful conversion experience will result in more than form submissions.

Which is not to say that lead form submissions aren’t important or can’t be achieved. In the year we worked on those integrated landing pages efforts, our lead form submissions went up by 57%.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.071

But we also saw a 71% increase in traffic to the site and the consequent brand awareness. We saw a significant rise in new visitors and a huge increase in returning traffic, indicating a reinvigoration of the existing Guides belief in the brand.

Email list subscribers increased and, more excitingly, the engagement of email recipients increased by 42%.

Traffic to the site from social media sources went up by 130%, giving us new insight into how to reach the audience.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.075

In fact, learning more about our audience was a huge win for this set of landing pages and the surrounding efforts.

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.076

We targeted three types of leads: Stay-At-Home Parents (Kirby), Pathfinders (Christi), and Achievers (Debbie). The response to each landing page helped us understand which sections of the target audience were drawn by the landing pages and who was visiting the blog.

Which is to say that we came away from the landing page launch with not only an increase in conversions but a better understanding on how to get more as we move forward.

(Not to mention an increase in brand awareness, increased enthusiasm from potential brand evangelists, and tacit permission to keep persuading leads who haven’t quite committed yet.)

Unbounce Webinar - IMAGES.077

Aren’t you sorry you missed it?

Like we said, you’ve definitely got a chance to learn more about the glories of a fully-optimized, fully-integrated conversion process. You can check out the recorded webinar, go through the whole deck above, or tune in to Ask Mack Anything.

Or, y’know, sign up for our email below. This isn’t the last time we’ll be talking about meaning beyond money or the best of all possible user experiences.

And maybe one of these days, we’ll even get permission to either confirm or deny the time-space thing. In the mean time: Hakuna Matata!

Using Focus to Build Long-Term Momentum in Responsive Companies

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments


If you take all of the lessons we’ve learned over the last 11 years, add them up, and extract the most telling insight, the biggest realization is this: the clients who have been most successful are those who are willing to focus.

Focus is the ultimate challenge. We have a finite amount of time. How do you spend it on the right things that will grow your business?

Many of the companies we work with are Responsive or inherently become more Responsive as they work through our approach to marketing. Where traditional companies often allow their long-term planning and projections to drive the direction of the business (and their marketing), Responsive companies embrace the unpredictable and rapidly changing world we’re living in.

Responsive companies are a different kind of animal. They learn, respond, and advance. They utilize a more progressive method to build their businesses, one that is dedicated to constantly evolving and iterating — both their organizational structure and products or services. They also spend a lot of time investing and listening to their customers and their employees.

It’s definitely more work to be Responsive, but these companies are using their businesses to change our lives and leave their mark on our world.

Responsive companies run on operating systems that allow for agility. They move quickly and respond to unrelenting change with grace. They have different values and cultures and support flexible work environments that many companies envy.

Responsive companies hold themselves to a higher set of performance standards and expectations and actually achieve them. They work to communicate and collaborate. They honor transparency and community. Most importantly, they prioritize meaning ahead of money.

Responsive companies are remarkable and they build their organizations, and ultimately their brands, differently. And that requires a very different approach to marketing. Marketing that will provide focus so that goals are accomplished. Marketing that constantly evolves just as quickly as their company does, but without adding to the chaos.

If you want to be a Responsive company, you have to do it through and through, including your marketing. Every part of a Responsive company’s marketing should align with everything that makes the company Responsive. This requires a focus on two fundamental things:

[1] A Focus on Core
Especially as you grow, there must be a sustained focus on the core of the company and the stuff that makes you authentic.

[2] A Focus on an Adaptive Marketing Process
In order to accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, you need an adaptive process that lives and breathes within the company’s operating system.

Doing both of these things will keep you on target and add to the durability of your company. Even more, it will provide the focus and necessary momentum toward achieving the company’s long-term vision.

Here’s how it works.

A Focus On Core

As a Responsive company, your marketing is going to follow the same paradigm as your overall perspective: it focuses first and foremost on your core.

This, by far, is the most admirable characteristic of Responsive companies because at their core lives their higher purpose. Something truly authentic that propels the organization and transcends their desire to exist solely for the sake of profit.

Prioritizing meaning over money doesn’t mean your company has to lead an environmental cause, put shoes on people’s feet, or glasses on people’s faces. It can be as simple as encouraging young girls to develop an affinity for science or helping stay-at-home moms find more satisfaction in their lives by building a successful business.

Focusing on core and valuing meaning over money doesn’t mean you’re disregarding the importance of financial benchmarks. It means you’re investing in the long game. From the core meaning of the company you derive the marketing goals that are going to make you the company you want to be.

At the top are your Visionary goals, driving the 3-5 year bigger, hairier, audacious vision.  These goals are then broken down into approachable Business and Brand goals that share equal weight. In other words, the financial benchmarks you want your company to achieve are certainly important, but so are the Brand goals that will ensure you’re continually working toward realizing the company you really want to become.

Finally, Campaign goals are what initiate the necessary steps toward action and bringing everything to fruition (which I’ll explain more about in a just a bit).

Meaning Beyond Money | Mack Web

When a company has the courage to focus on their core and build an authentic brand from meaning, they have clarity about why they exist.  They’ve identified their heartbeat, the real thing that makes them go, and they choose to infuse that in everything they do. This is what drives their marketing and it’s also what makes their marketing go a little differently.

When a company operates from core meaning, marketing momentum starts at the source and naturally works its way out through integrated strategy. On the inside, the company is aligning all tactics and deliverables with their meaning, goals, and vision. On the outside, customers and community get to taste that authentic core first-hand, connecting them fully to the brand.

Just like building a Responsive company, marketing from your core is hard work as it is an ongoing challenge in self-awareness. Companies don’t have to be perfect, but they must be real, authentic, transparent, and above all, human.

When you can do that, people will genuinely respond to you. When you respond like a human who cares about something, you provide a better user experience. Your customers remember you. You stand out. They return. They tell their friends.

By focusing on core in your marketing,  people become your momentum. Before you know it, you have a community of loyal advocates and an inexplicable strategic advantage over the competition.

Over time, the organic velocity becomes unstoppable.

Improving, Not Just Promoting

In order for your marketing to align with everything that makes you Responsive, there must be a continual focus not only on defining your core purpose but on ensuring that everything you do — the marketing campaigns you execute; the user, customer, and employee experience you provide; the way you operate and communicate internally — aligns with the vision, mission, and goals that make up your brand’s foundation.

Ultimately, for marketing to bring momentum, there has to be a willingness to improve the business, not just promote it.

This requires continuous evaluation, improvement, and a willingness to be self-aware in the business. It’s doing what sometimes may be harder or take longer to experience ROI because that’s what’s best for your employees and for your customers. It’s putting an emphasis on important stuff like improving internal structure, team communication, fostering your internal culture, and investing in the personal growth of your employees as well as the external culture you have with your customers.

You must continually work on your company’s value and own what truly makes you different from your competition. The authentic vision that you’re driving toward needs to be revisited from time to time, not just put on auto-pilot. You’ve got to hold your entire company accountable for living your mission and values every single day. All of that stuff sounds great, but it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and work.

There’s an important marketing framework to developing your brand’s foundation, too, that improves the business and contributes to the success of your marketing. Persona must be developed and remain dynamic so that you’re attracting those customers who align with your approach, values, and over time will become loyal advocates. Communication loops must be built in and feedback applied so that customers and employees know you’re listening. Critical (yet simple) questions must be asked and answered so that resources can be developed for your audience and provided at every point in the lifecycle.

Investing in your core requires building meaningful relationships one by one. It’s seeing your goals through even when you don’t think you’re going to reach them.  It’s intentionally selecting priorities and spending time executing integrated strategies that strive for consistency and integrity across channels. These are all of your building blocks and they’re what place your responsive company on a solid foundation.

Momentum Comes From Building Blocks

No matter how long a company has been in business or what stage they’re in, momentum towards realized goals and fulfilled benchmarks comes from focusing on all of these core, foundational building blocks. Over time then, and through your marketing, you’re able to radiate your authenticity and the internal work you’ve been doing on your core, outward. This may seem fluffy, but in actuality, all of this work is what builds an ideal experience with your brand that you can actually measure.

Time spent on the brand’s foundation ensures that no matter how someone connects with your company — a referral from a friend, on social media or your website, clicking through on an ad, attending an event, speaking to customer service, or picking your product off the shelf in a big-box store — you present the same message, meeting and exceeding their expectations. You’re real, you’re human, you are the company you said you would be because of your investment on improving your business and in your core.

This level of commitment to core focus certainly requires a level of diligence and intention. It’s also something that can be managed with an adaptive process.

A Focus On an Adaptive Marketing Process

This authentic approach to marketing is a long, organic game. The inherent challenge with a Responsive company is that there are always so many opportunities along the way. So many shiny things that you want to embrace with enthusiasm as they provide another chance to iterate and try something new.

The problem is, this is also what perpetuates campaign-centric-shiny-thing marketing that makes it difficult to integrate across channels and teams, accomplish company-wide brand and revenue goals, and experience long-term progress. That’s why you need a process that helps you identify and focus on the right strategic priorities to stay the course,  but also gives you room to adapt.

It’s easy for Responsive companies to struggle with process because it can be difficult to implement and utilize one without feeling suffocated by it. Without allowing it to drive or sacrificing flexibility. Rather than stifle, process should provide guardrails for momentum.

Responsive companies may be drastically different from month-to-month. The challenge becomes making the commitment to slow down so that they can also speed up. As companies pass through different stages of growth, priorities become a moving target. This lack of focus impedes momentum. When it comes to marketing, Responsive companies need an iterative process — a cycle that ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the business — to help them identify and prioritize areas of focus and then provide the necessary structure to see them through.

Something like this:

 Responsive Process | Mack Web

Focusing and Adapting: 90 Days at a Time

When you’re aligning your marketing with your core and using an adaptive process to drive it, strategic priorities — and the tasks required to accomplish them — will ultimately fall into three categories: acquisition, conversion, and retention. Your focus may fall more heavily in one of these areas at any given time.

Let’s say your company is just starting out with this approach and you’re carefully placing the building blocks of your core (going back to identify your meaning beyond money, your values, your mission, vision, and goals).

Focusing on Core | Mack Web

Before you jump into your first 90-day cycle, you’ve identified your strategic priorities for accomplishing your Campaign goals (that stem from Business and Brand Goals), and for this time period, your strategic priorities lie in acquisition (and awareness) and retention.

Strategic Priorities | Mack Web

So, for this first 90 day cycle, 75% of your marketing resources and bandwidth will be spent executing deliverables that drive acquisition. You may be making the necessary adjustments to the copy on your website and on social media to better align with your authentic voice and communicate your meaning beyond money, focusing more heavily on the value you provide for your customers and community.

You may be creating additional copy on your website and blog to answer the questions your actual customers have (based on your persona research) as they’re experiencing your brand through the variety of phases and channels on which they interact with you.

The other 25% of your marketing efforts for this time period may be spent focusing on retention and the customers you already have. Listening and learning from them, understanding what they need, and then driving strategic priorities from there. Maybe, as part of a test phase, you’re curating content and talking with your community (both on and offline), using targeted social campaigns to test and gather information about what really speaks to them.

All of these efforts are essentially iterations that take place in 30-day increments. Your focus is on executing, testing, and collecting data that will help you better identify how to accomplish those goals you’ve set, and to make informed decisions about direction moving forward.

Iteration- Mack Web

As you go about your merry way, executing on these strategic priorities and associated deliverables, at 30-day intervals, your team will work through an exercise called Catapult where they will review data and also consider intuition to identify red flags, challenges, and opportunities. Most important, during Catapult, the pulse of the company is evaluated in order to determine whether deviations from tactics being executed need to occur. Then your focused efforts continue as planned, or are adjusted, and the cycle (and your momentum) continues.

At approximately the 60-day mark in the 90-day cycle, strategy is scrubbed at a deeper level:

  • What is generating the most momentum?
  • What has become a larger priority during this cycle because of what you’ve learned through testing and iteration?
  • Do you need to adjust the balance between Business and Brand focus during this cycle?
  • Based on what you’ve learned and what’s changed in the business, in the 90 days ahead of you, does acquisition, conversion, or retention take the largest precedence?
  • Ultimately, are you accomplishing the right things in the short-term to eventually (in many cycles) reach your long-term goals?

Responsive Process Scrub | Mack Web

The more cycles completed, the more momentum that builds and the more the process becomes ingrained in the natural routine and flow of the company. Every 90 days, strategic campaigns get better at integrating together and becoming more seamless, building continuity across teams and channels.

Then, as you accomplish the smaller Campaign goals each cycle, you’re slowly chipping away at achieving bigger Business and Brand Goals, and eventually, reaching the Visionary goals and mission you’re working toward for your company overall. Over time, all of the efforts build on each other, not only bringing momentum, but long-term value and durability to the company.

Responsive Process | Mack Web

The most important thing to remember about focus when using an adaptive process like this is that it doesn’t mean you just put your head down and drive. This is where self-awareness comes in. This is where you’re being accountable for aligning with your core and your meaning beyond money. It means getting to know your business better so that you can make better decisions. It means spending more time listening to your customers and your employees, all the while learning and adapting as you work your way up the mountain.

Mountain of Success

Playing the Long Game

Responsive companies are powerful, world-changing entities. They are bold, agile, and lead with authenticity and meaning. Their approach to marketing should most certainly follow suit.

But this kind of approach isn’t easy and it takes companies who have the diligence to be intentional. Companies who are committed to investing in their core and the foundation of their brand even when they’re not brand new. Companies who can be alive, self-aware, and present, and also see the value in taking the time to focus so that they can strategically play the long game.

By really focusing on conveying their central meaning to their very human audience, responsive companies light the spark of connection and interest and real, solid value that will ignite the engine of their growth. By following a reliable, adaptable, cyclic process, they can keep that motion going, meeting both Brand and Business goals.

Most important, they can effectively communicate why they exist, from their very soul, which will foster communities full of advocates, continue to shape a durable foundation, and sustain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. All it takes is a little focus for the momentum to build and the company to continue to thrive.

Getting to the Good Stuff – Mack Web’s Year in Review

By | Building Community, Business Stuff, Data and Analytics, Mack's Musings, The Quest for Quanlitative Measurement | No Comments

I remember reading some advice on Mark Suster’s blog at some point a year or so back about how important it is to record the stuff you’re doing in your company on your blog — good or bad — so that it becomes a historical record.

That way, some day you can look back and uncover key turning points and gateways of your journey, and also see how extremely far you’ve come.

Initially this post was going to be a curation of the best stuff on our blog this year. But as I looked back at the posts that would fill the list, I realized the story of what we really learned this year was living behind them. Mack Web has made some big leaps over the last 12 months. Here’s a look at the discoveries that surfaced for our company this year (with blog posts in tow).

The Start of Changing the Way Companies Build Their Brands

At the very beginning of 2014, Mack Web was enjoying the success of our Community Building Guide, a guide we had launched in October of 2013 documenting a community-building process we had developed and were testing both on Mack Web and with our clients.

The guide was 147 pages and although we were receiving extremely positive feedback, it was a lot to digest. So I kicked off the year with the Essentials of Community Building, a webinar and accompanying slide deck that aligned with the key takeaways in the guide (page numbers and all) so that we could offer a more truncated version.

Essentials of community building Mack Web

I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back after all that has transpired this year, our guide was not only full of tips and suggestions for building community (and effectively building relationships with social media), but it was also the start of a fully integrated marketing approach that, by the end of the year, would evolve into our core method for helping companies change the way they build their brands.

It’s hard for me to believe that in just one year, we would go from here:


to here:


So although Mack Web started the year out with a strong focus on community and how to get started building one, there was a much bigger mission that we would end up pursuing.

And it all began with measurement.

The Start of Changing the Way Marketing is Measured

In the first quarter of 2014, our entire team resolved to change the way marketing is measured. Here we were: a highly dedicated team who was taking so much pride in all of the little pieces we were putting into place to grow our clients’ companies. The problem was, we weren’t just helping these companies build communities. We were helping them build the solid foundation of their brand. We were helping them set goals for their entire organization. We we were digging deep into the core of their companies and revealing weaknesses that we would then help them address and conquer. We were helping them transform their businesses from the inside out and even forge the right relationships one by one.

We were doing great things. But we were doing a terrible job of communicating the return on their investment.

Our work was highly qualitative and our clients wanted to see the results in quantitative metrics. They wanted to see their ROI in numbers, in black and white. And we had a whole lot of work to do in order to make that happen.

Ayelet started the conversation with Social Media Engagement Metrics: Taming the Elusive Beast in an attempt to reveal some relevant and useful qualitative metrics to complement the quantitative ones we had already been working with. At the time, we thought this disconnect and gap in communication with our clients was social media related. That our clients didn’t fully understand the value of social media and how it supported the building of their brand and ultimately their community.

In an attempt to bridge the gap, I wrote the slide deck Why Follower Count is Bullshit to shed some light on social media metrics that communicated real value. Turns out the deck struck a chord (it hit the front-page of SlideShare and was picked up by Hubspot) and had a lot of people looking at social media metrics differently. The thing was, this was just one part of the equation. We had so much further to go.

why follower count is BS

By May, our clarity in terms of how to effectively measure and then better communicate the value of our efforts was starting to get stronger and when I spoke at WistiaFest I was able to talk about the importance of an integrated strategy and how Mack Web had been using that, plus some scrappy low-budget videos (with eggs and fairy wings), to build our brand and community.


At this point, we were still testing a ton of the metrics I was talking about (take a look at slides 67-80) but it was a solid start. This time I wasn’t just focusing on social media metrics. We had started identifying and conveying the difference between metrics that showed how effectively we were building the brand and metrics that showed how our efforts were affecting bottom line revenue.

Each time I speak at a conference it gives me a chance to really digest what we’re doing as a company and also to see where we need to go next. A few weeks after I returned from WistiaFest, the team started working on the hurdle of reporting. We hadn’t yet found all of the metrics we needed to communicate both qualitative and quantitative efforts, but at the time, some of our reports were 16 pages long. The narrative of our efforts was way too much for our clients to take in and although we were making progress on the metrics front, we were gaining no ground on how we were communicating them.

Over the summer months, slow progress would continue to be made with the way we were measuring marketing and how we were reporting, but the most important growth would be made with our team.

The Turning Point

In September, we hired Mike to be our Director of Client Strategy. This meant that we would have someone in our company who was solely focused on the growth of our existing clients so that I could focus more on driving the vision of the company (as well as speaking and blogging which are a huge passion).

It was a gift to have Mike join our team when he did. After months of struggling with balance, I was elated to have someone sharing the load, but I also knew that we were on the cusp of making some significant gains with our two big goals: changing the way companies build their brands and also the way marketing is measured.

Having Mike on our team would provide me with the space to find clarity, give the team a fresh perspective, and supply us with some long overdue feedback that would catapult us ahead.

At the time that Mike started, I was preparing for two important conferences: one for Conductor in New York City and one for Distilled in London. Simultaneously, he was getting his feet wet. He was observing. Asking questions. Collecting data. Lucky for us, all the work the team had done all year (and the years preceding), Mike’s external insight, and the effort I put into these talks, would bring the long-awaited clarity that would define who were as a company.

In October, Moz launched a post on their blog that I collaboratively wrote with Mathew Sweezey. 4 Ways to Build Trust and Humanize Your Brand talked about many of the things we were helping our clients do. We were asking them to be real companies. To care about their customers. To live up to their customers’ expectations. To focus on reaching big goals for their business (not just their marketing). To do the shit that doesn’t scale.

Then I gave the talk in New York — Playing the Long Game: Growing Your Business Through Community and Integrated Marketing — which provided a step-by-step walk through the integrated process (formerly our “community building” process) that we had been evolving (by leaps and bounds) at Mack Web ever since the beginning of the year.


Two weeks after New York, I took a plane across the big blue ocean to speak at SearchLove London. The talk I gave in London — The Measurement Behind Your Integrated Marketing Strategy — was a continuation of the conversation I started in the States.

In NYC, I talked through all of the detailed steps of our integrated process. In London, I dug deep into our approach and metrics side with how to actually communicate the value of integrated marketing — telling the story of progression over time. The story of those valuable and essential building blocks that we were working so hard to put into place — one stone at a time. The story of the long game. The story of all these integrated pieces and channels working together to drive success in order to show both qualitative and quantitative value for both the business and the brand.


Definitely Something of Historical Record

When I got back from London and had a chance to breathe, I had a big realization.

It was the culmination of everything the team had been struggling through and learning. Everything that all of us had worked to communicate all year on our blog and to our clients. From the process we had unveiled in our community building guide last October, to the evolution it made for WistiaFest, and then finally coming together for my talks in New York and London.

What I finally realized was this: Mack Web isn’t just a community building company.

We’re a full-blown integrated marketing team who wants to build great brands and communities full of loyal advocates who truly love the companies they so selectively choose to support.

And it’s kind of funny that we did this almost backwards. That we came at our USPs, the core meaning of Mack Web almost by accident, at the end of a very natural (though somewhat painful) course of evolution.

Because, as you know if you’ve read any of the posts that led us here, the very first thing we do in this integrated marketing approach we’ve created is to sit down with our clients and ask them who they are and who they want to be. What do their products and services add to their customers’ lives? What do they care about, beyond making money? What sits right at the heart of their company?

From those answers, we’re able to help them articulate multi-level goals for their brand and their business. Everything else — the metrics and the social media and the content and the ROI and even the reports — springboards from there. We can’t tell you if you’re succeeding until we know exactly what you’re aiming for and who you really want to become.

These are questions Mack Web has struggled to answer for ourselves. Not because we didn’t take the time to ask. Not because we didn’t care. But because we started all of this during the evolution of an ever-changing industry that sits on the shifting sands of Google’s algorithm. Our company, among so many others in our industry, has been growing and redirecting so rapidly that we’ve been reaching half-blind. We’ve been running on all the knowledge we could get our hands on, as well as sheer intuition, to anticipate the changes.

So we answered the questions as best as we could at the time, with what we understood, and each time it was enough to carry us just a little bit farther, a little bit closer.

And then, in the midst of all the hard days, the disconnects, the gaps in ROI communication, the speaking engagements and slide deck creation, without anyone noticing it was happening, all the pieces slid into place. It had nothing to do with Google (and everything to do with sustainability). And we were looking at the whole picture of what Mack Web had always wanted to become all along, and it felt like home.

After nearly three years of effort, we were able to articulate — with clear examples and case studies — not only how our approach was different, but why it mattered. Why all the things we’d learned along the way were important and how they fit together.

Community building led us to authenticity. Authenticity led us to brand. Brand led us back over to goals and meaning. Goals and meaning led to progress and measurement. And everything together put a spotlight on all the channels, pointing back to community and relationships.

With all of those parts and pieces we finally had an approach that worked and that drove success. And, most importantly, it’s an approach that makes us proud to call this our work.

There’s More in Store

It’s been one hell of a year and I’m so incredibly proud of this team for what we’ve accomplished. We’ve been pushing really hard which means we don’t always post on our blog as much as I’d prefer. It’s really important to me that we’re not just putting something up to meet a designated frequency.

What’s important is that we’re sharing our journey and making your lives easier in the process. That everything on our blog is a window into the struggles and victories of this responsive company who is using integrated marketing and communities as a way to transform businesses.

This year has truly been a gateway. It took us 11 years to get here, but I finally feel like we’re getting to the good stuff. It’s not like it’s all rainbows and ice cream every day, but the mountain we’re climbing doesn’t seem so steep. We intentionally said no to new clients for nearly 9 months. And now we’re ready. We’ve selected some new clients and now it’s time to grow this team again.

We can’t wait for what’s coming in 2015. Thank you so much for your unconditional support of Mack Web. We hope you’ll stick around for the next part of this ride.

Something More to Achieve

By | Mack's Musings | 2 Comments

When I was 24 I found myself in grad school. My two-year stint as a junior high English teacher had run its course and I figured going back to school to find a new career would be a good next step.

To help pay my tuition, I took a Teaching Assistantship where I taught Freshman Composition. My Assistantship awarded me unlimited classes, so for some reason I felt inspired to sign up for a ballet class in the CSU Dance Department. I had danced recreationally when I was a kid, but I certainly wasn’t in any kind of shape to be standing at a barre, in a black leotard and pink tights, next to those 18-year-olds who’d been dancing their whole lives. I realized pretty quickly that I needed to level up if I had any chance of avoiding pure and total humiliation.

Picking up a ballet class turned into a full-blown obsession and within two years I had earned myself a spot on the local ballet company. For the next six years, I trained relentlessly. I took five to six classes a week. I rehearsed for and performed in three shows each season. All while freelancing as a web designer to pay the rent. I was newly married to Jon and I didn’t have Ryan, Easton, or Mack Web, so all I did was ballet.


With ballet, there’s always something more to achieve. Your extension can always be higher. Your technique can always be cleaner. Your feet can always be faster. Your stage presence can always be more captivating. Your stamina can always be greater. Even the most talented ballerinas in the world never quite reach perfection. There will always be more to work on and improve. And that’s what keeps you coming back, even when you’re physically bruised and utterly exhausted.

I danced all through my pregnancies and went back to the company after Ry was born, but once I had Easton, I couldn’t justify the level of commitment to maintain my status in the company, so I decided to move on. Looking back on it now, I can see how seamlessly my passion and drive with ballet shifted right into growing Mack Web.

There’s eight of us now. And we move fast around here. Lately, every month seems like a new chapter. We continue to stumble, but at the same time, we’re winning. Every day I’m re-learning that people are what makes all of this so great and, at the same time, so incredibly challenging. I’m seeing the significance of culture in motion. And I’m getting better at making decisions apart from emotion.

In the last three months we’ve figured out a lot of shit about who we are and why we’re here. We continue to pull through the tough stuff and now I can see that we’ve passed through a gateway and into the next big phase of the company.

For more than two years, I’ve been assuming many more roles than I would like. In addition to my spirit breaking and my personal balance slipping, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of justice to all the stuff I was taking on. I knew that I was holding the company back.

I recruited over many, many months for someone who I could trust to scale the business with. Our new Director of Client Strategy has been a colleague and friend who I’ve respected for several years. He has strengths where I fall short. He’s been teaching me to listen and ask questions rather than react and be the one responsible for finding the solution. He has years of experience leading a team and he gets that managing people means empowering each of them to be leaders in their own way. He’s slowly working on earning the trust of the team and we’re strategically plotting world domination.

It’s a wonderful feeling that I’m not the only one responsible for the direction of our clients or this company. I now have someone who can help me carry the load. I’m slowly starting to feel the weight lifting and I’m ecstatic about the promise that I will very soon return to things in the company that I really love to do and that drive my passion. This also means big things for Mack Web as this can only help our growth.

We’ve been quietly observing the rapid change in this industry over the last few years and slowly working our way onto the scene. It took a little while for the pieces to fall into place, but now I can see our opening and that this is our time to move. I don’t know how else to explain it other than we’ve become more brave. Really, we’ve had this courage all along, but finally I feel like we’re saying, Fuck it. Let’s go!

So we’re not going to do marketing like everyone else is doing it. We’re going to change the way it’s measured. And we’re going to change the way companies build their brands. We’re going to prove that the stuff that really works is the shit that doesn’t scale and isn’t easy to measure, and we’re going to make that accessible so that companies can build better businesses.

Every few months I gather the team in our tiny little excuse for a conference room and I give them little pep talks. I hang a bunch of colorful, oversized post-its on the wall with motivational sayings.


And even though they’ve heard me say it before, I tell them again how contrast breeds clarity. That in order to win we need to get comfortable walking through adversity and conflict. Not that I always want things to be hard, but when we find ourselves up against contrast over and over (especially in our individual relationships on the team), it sheds light on what’s important for us to change and motivates us to handle it quickly so that we can move ahead. Doing what we’re doing isn’t easy. But this shit should be hard; we’re paving a path and the first guy through the wall always gets bloody.


I continue to tell the team that we will never get it wrong and we will never get it done. None of us will ever have the answers, so we need to continually embrace a culture of experimentation. We’ve got to fail to find the path. And once we get there, there will be somewhere else to go. There will always be more work to do, so we’ve got to work on what’s important and find the meaning and purpose in everything we do.

And after I’ve told them all of that, I tell them how we’re actually going to do all of these things to change the face of marketing. I tell them that we’re already doing it and that we’ve already come so far. I get all excited and energetic and worked up. I say the F word a lot. When I finish my talk they look up at me from their chairs like I’m crazy (even though they always clap at the end). But then they show up the next day. And so far, every day after that. Because they believe it, too.

I remember when we would rehearse for a corps piece like Snow during Nutcracker season. That’s basically the equivalent of running a sprint, as hard as you can go, for eight minutes straight. During one rehearsal we may run that same piece four times. I wasn’t the most talented dancer on the company, but I had the drive, strength, and endurance to outlast the 14-year-olds. I always knew I could make it just a little farther. Just 30 seconds more. And then I’d get up the next day and push that hard again.

I’ve got that in me. And the team has it, too. And that’s why we’re here now. We’re not there yet, but we’re well on our way. We’ve got something more to achieve.

Solving Operational Challenges with Four Helpful Lists

By | Business Stuff, Mack's Musings, Miscellany, Web Marketing | 3 Comments

I remember leaving the hospital with my daughter Ryan just a few days after she was born. She was my first child and Jon and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing. But still I was released from the hospital with a tiny, helpless infant. No quick-start guide. No instructions. No nurse in tow.

mack holding ryan hospital

Fast forward 6 years. Ryan is growing and so is Mack Web. As with my lack of innate skills as a mom, I’m no natural born entrepreneur. I’m just a rookie with no formal business training who’s learned everything about building this company from the kindness of mentors, books, blog posts, and trial by fire.

Sometimes I’ve managed to stockpile the right info to help me handle a rising situation like a champ. But more often than not, just like with raising the kids, I have to stumble through it. Somehow, I manage to make it to the other side, failing faster every time, emerging with more hard-won character.

As I pocket this wisdom along my business-rearing journey, I am slowly gaining contrast and clarity. Agility. Experience even. I’m still pretty much writing the Mack Web manual as I go. But sometimes I am gifted with tools along the way.

Most recently, there’s a simple exercise that has been helping us solve some common operational challenges:

  • How do we do stuff better?
  • How do we resolve gaps in communication and collaboration with the team and our clients?
  • Who do we hire next?

For the last year, Mack Web has been working with a Strat Ops facilitator to help us set goals, initiatives, and move the company forward. She introduced us to an exercise called Four Helpful Lists and lately it’s been working like a charm.

We’ve applied the Four Helpful Lists exercise to every one of the challenges above (which I will provide in detail below). The great thing about it is that the outcome isn’t just a list of problems. It’s a conversation of solutions. So instead of spending thirty minutes talking about all the things in a situation that are broken, we’re focusing on how we’re going to fix it. It provides us with a place from which we can take action.

How it Works

Below I’ve provided some specific examples of how we’ve used this tool at Mack Web, but first, here’s how you would run Four Helpful Lists:

1. Assemble Your Team for 30 minutes
Depending on the challenge you’re looking to address, you’ll want to invite a few key people on your team who are directly involved or affected by the issue. We’ve had success with just 3 of us, or even 10  in the room at once. We try to keep these meetings really focused at 30 minutes.

2. Get a Whiteboard
On a whiteboard, or one of those big wall post-its, make 4 columns; one with each of these questions:

  • What’s right?
  • What’s wrong?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s confused?

3. Pose a Question
This is the prompt that gets the conversation of solutions going and the way you frame the question is one of the most critical steps of this exercise. You’ll need to pose the question so that your team can get to the underlying issue. So for example, if we’re using this tool to determine who we’re going to hire next, I wouldn’t ask, “Who are we going to hire next?” Instead, I would ask, “How is the team functioning?” You’ve got to frame your question in such a way that the four lists (what’s right, wrong, missing, and confused) make sense as a reply.

4. Fill out the Stuff
Then, under each column, ask your team to contribute the answers related to the question you’ve posed; the situation or challenge you’re working to resolve.

It’s great if you can start with what’s right? as that will help you to avoid a gripe session. And then, as you move along to the rest of the columns, avoid putting everything into the what’s wrong? column. Really think through what belongs in the what’s missing? column (like things related to systems, processes, tools, resources, communication, trust) that could be the root cause of the issue. And many times, what’s confused? will be things related to communication and expectations (that haven’t been properly addressed).

5. Identify and Prioritize Places of Action
After you’ve exhausted your lists, now go back and look for patterns and places of action under each column.

I’ll go into more detail on this in the examples below, but you’ll notice that there are things in each column that will relate to each other or the same root cause. So circle those (and perhaps draw lines or arrows to connect them). Then prioritize those items. Will you need to address and resolve something on your list before you can address another? If so, number them accordingly.

6. Assign Tasks
Now that you know what needs to be addressed and in what order, determine the next steps and assign tasks (and due dates) to the members of your team. Designate a follow-up date for getting the stuff done, and have one person in the group be the facilitator (to keep everyone accountable for their deliverables).

We run this exercise quite often. And now that we know the power of it, we are starting to recognize when exactly we need it. Mostly it’s when we  find ourselves stuck . Either we’re frustrated with a problem that keeps resurfacing in different forms, or we’ve done the same thing the same way for several times and realize that we’re still not getting a different result.

For us, Four Helpful Lists resolves so many challenges that anytime we’re feeling angst about anything: a process, a common client deliverable, a team member, or even a client, we use this tool.

The great thing about the Four Helpful Lists in action is that, regardless of the problem you’re trying to solve, you never come away empty handed.

Here’s what I mean.

Four Helpful Lists for Doing Stuff Better

There’s a whole lot of stuff we’re handling every day at Mack Web. And because we’re working with a small (but mighty) team, we are continuously looking for ways to be more efficient and, certainly, more effective.

Lately (and by lately I mean for almost a year), we’ve been working on improving our reporting. Not only do we spend a great deal of time on them, but they’re too long and they don’t communicate our value to our clients as clearly as we’d like. After the reports had gone through their most recent evolution, we decided to determine how to make them even better using Four Helpful Lists.

So when the team got together, the question posed was:

How do we make our reports better?


What’s right?
The team had a few positive things to say about how we had been currently communicating value in our reports. We were getting better at identifying the metrics that really mattered for each client,  the way we were presenting the information was easier to digest, and the collaboration among the team was helping us to take action on the data that we were collecting. Lots of good progress had been made in the recent months and certainly over the last year.

What was wrong?
The biggest problem is that we were pretty sure our clients weren’t reading them. To make matters worse, we were spending a significant amount of the team’s time each month preparing these reports (even though we were learning a great deal from them). We were also finding some hangups with data collection and the automation of that process. Especially for social media.

What was missing?
What we realized was that we needed to have a conversation with our clients about what was most useful to them in the reports we provided. We were making all kinds of assumptions about what we thought they cared about, but we had not taken the time to verify their expectations. We wanted to make sure we guide them with the most important data (vs. just showing them metrics like follower count), but what do they really want to see?

We also had not asked our respected colleagues what their challenges were with reporting and how they had resolved them. Do they provide a one-page report or is it 20?  Do they hold a meeting to discuss the data, or just send it via email with key takeaways? Maybe they would have some great ways of presenting important data to their clients that we could learn from. They also might have some automation tool suggestions that would help save some time collecting and aggregating all of the data.

We realized that we had a ton of information that was missing which meant we had a place to start filling in the holes.

What was confused?
We definitely knew that our reporting process could use some work. And as we had defined in the missing column, we really needed to get to the heart of what our clients were expecting. Ultimately, could we really say, without a doubt, that what we were providing in our reports was valuable to our clients? Having all of this confused meant we definitely had some work to do, which means we knew where to take action.

Prioritizing and Taking Action
So once we worked through each list, there was a lot that we needed to focus on. We identified the most important of the items that were wrong, missing, and confused. Some of those were related to other items so we matched those up.  If we prioritized the core of those issues, we would essentially be solving the others, so we assigned action items from those.

We knew that our first and most important priority was to talk to our clients, so we circled that and identified it as #1. There were a few items in other columns that were related, so we matched those up, circled them, and drew connecting arrows.

Simultaneously we knew we could ask our colleagues about their reporting processes and also what tools they were using to automate the data (so we prioritized that as #2). Ideally, we would have feedback both from our clients and our colleagues around the same time and then we’d have our next action steps.


Over the next several weeks, the team will work individually on their assigned tasks and report to the person we designated to keep everyone accountable. When we meet as a team at Strat Ops in the late fall, the team will communicate how they’ve decided to move forward in our reporting based on what they found and the action they took after we ran Four Helpful Lists.

Four Helpful Lists for Communication and Collaboration

This tool has worked so well for the Mack Web team that we’ve even used it with our clients. We run a pretty collaborative environment around here and require a whole lot of integration with our clients’ teams. Sometimes there are breakdowns in the communication and collaboration between our teams so we need to figure out why we’re having trouble getting on the same page.

After we’ve worked through the execution of the first strategy with a client, we use Four Helpful Lists to get to the root of any roadblocks we may have stumbled across.

Running the Four Helpful Lists exercise works best when everyone is in the same room, but since our clients aren’t in Fort Collins, we improvise with a Google+ Hangout and a Google spreadsheet.


Our team in Fort Collins still works through each list with our client, but because it’s difficult for them to read our whiteboard from the other side of the web cam, we send a Google spreadsheet before we start the exercise. As we run down each list, we take notes in the spreadsheet so that our client can see what’s being written on the whiteboard as it’s being written. Once the exercise is over, we send a photo of the whiteboard to the client.

Using this tool, even just with the Mack Web team, requires a sometimes-uncomfortable level of honesty about what isn’t working. Using it with a client requires a lot of bravery. If we’re not willing to conflict and commit to get to the root of the problem, we’ll never be able to start working together toward a solution.

It should be pretty simple to identify where to take action based on the results of the Four Helpful Lists exercise. Especially when using Four Helpful Lists with clients, we are very diligent about assigning action items. We are specific about what the action items are and which team is taking action so that a solution can actually come to fruition.

Four Helpful Lists for Hiring

One of the  most significant challenges that Four Helpful Lists has solved at Mack Web is hiring.  As our team has grown, it has been difficult to prioritize who we need to hire next. We’re not a funded company, so we hire as we have the revenue to support new team members. Many times we have the resources just to fund one position, so it’s really important that we choose wisely.

Earlier this year we had an unexpected change in the members of our team. So before hiring to replace for that exact role, we took a step back to determine what the company really needed. We got the whole team together to hash out Four Helpful Lists.

But instead of asking the team, “Hey, who do you think we should hire next?” we addressed the question: How is the team functioning?

Once we completed the exercise, we noticed that, despite the departure of a Strategist, it wasn’t a lack of strategy that was missing on our team. It was the time spent on grinder tasks that was slowing down existing key personnel.

What we needed to do was pull weight off of some of our existing team members so that they could have some headspace. Giving them this much needed room would allow them to operate in a more strategic frame of mind. This would help them get out of the weeds a bit, really benefit our clients, and help bridge the gap to our next hire.

After compiling all the items from the wrong, missing, and confused lists, we were able to define a new role: Team Support .  We could see that we needed more than just one person to take on all of the tasks in this new support position, but we determined that some of those efforts could be outsourced as we acquired the revenue for the additional person.


Over the last six months this decision to hire a Team Support person rather than another Strategist has really paid off. Within weeks of the hire, the team was quickly rebounding from hurdles that we had been stuck on for months. Using this role to take away some of the team’s stress has helped us to be more connected and collaborative than ever. It has pushed us forward with great momentum and we’re well on our way to our next hires (which we will determine by running Four Helpful Lists).

Give it a Try, Kids

If I’ve learned anything about being a mom and running Mack Web it’s that I almost  never have the answer. And sometimes, that can feel pretty paralyzing. Four Helpful Lists gives us a place to start and also puts the responsibility on the team (and not just me). It’s a really simple tool for figuring out what’s not serving us well and what we all need to do to make it different.

Give it a try with your team and let me know how it goes.

An Integrated Approach to Video (Mack’s Slide Deck from #WistiaFest)

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

An Integrated Approach to Strategy

Video is an incredibly powerful tool that is integral to creating a connection with your customers. But it takes a whole lot of channels and a whole lot of effort —in addition to video—to build your brand and your community and to accomplish goals for your business.

Like social media, email marketing, search, other forms of content, and offline efforts, video is just one tool that needs to fit into a larger marketing strategy.

This slide deck is a case study of the first time that Mack Web used video in our integrated marketing strategy. Inside you will find our roadmap. Our process. What we actually did: the goals we set, the strategy we followed, what we measured, and how it all turned out in the end.

(Feel free to walk through the deck yourself – it’s pretty self-explanatory – or have Mack walk you through it by watching the video of her WistiaFest talk.)

The Videos

If you’d like to see the actual videos that we created, take a peek at these. Each video provides a community building tip and a little Mack Web personality. Creating the videos this way really helped us to build brand awareness and a connection with our audience and to earn sign-ups for our community building guide:

Why Build a Community

Building Community Takes Personality

Building Community is a Team Effort

Make Friends with Other Communities

Our Guide to Building Online Communities is Finally Here

But Wait, There’s More

If you really want to experience the power of video, check out these speaker intros that Wistia created for each of the speakers at #WistiaFest. What a great way to honor each speaker and raise the energy level in the room before taking the stage.

I bet you can’t name anything that rhymes with Fogelson.