Bad Facebook Ads

I’ve mentioned bad targeting and bad Facebook ads before. It’s pretty gross (and wasteful) business. It also provides a horrendous user experience. Whether Facebook likes it or not, when an advertiser doesn’t do audience targeting correctly, it casts a dark light on Facebook, because not everyone is totally aware of what is and isn’t an advertisement. That is both the beauty and drawback of native advertising.

In some ways, it’s even worse then a Google search. At least Google puts that little orange-ish box that says “AD” in the results now. With Facebook, it’s mixed in with your newsfeed and the 4 point “Sponsored” font is hardly noticed.
bad facebook ads
Last week I was doing a sort-of consulting gig with a local company (story for another time), but I saw this image above for Boise State Lacrosse Apparel come across my Facebook feed. This is an example of what I consider poor targeting. Why?

Well, I do have lacrosse in my Facebook profile, because it’s a part of my past work history and I follow several lacrosse-related Facebook pages. Which reminds me, I need to stop following those. So that’s why I’m seeing the ad. Checkmark for the advertiser.

However, I feel like they got it wrong on several levels. One is that I didn’t attend Boise State. Am I saying that the advertiser should have ONLY targeted Boise State students and alum? No. But it still doesn’t feel right. Two, I live and grew up 2,000+ miles from Boise.

So while the advertiser got the lacrosse part right when targeting me, they probably could have saved some money and optimized their spend by doing a little bit deeper targeting on things like geographical location. Tighten that up, folks.

Another thing – the image in the ad is an absolute atrocity. This advertiser should be shamed in public for not using high-quality pictures of actual Boise State Lacrosse apparel! Especially with all the image options (like multi-image carousels) that Facebook gives advertisers now. What the hell?!

I mean, look at that ad! Would you click an ad from Ralph Lauren advertising apparel if it was just the Ralph Lauren logo? The big huge B does nothing to entice the user. This provides further evidence to me that this advertiser needs a lesson in engaging and effective advertising.

All that said, maybe this was a campaign where the advertiser was only paying for clicks and if that’s the case, it’s probably a little more acceptable to spray it all around, targeting be damned. Or maybe the advertiser simply had a ton of budget (but no camera, hahah). The ad overall is pretty inexcusable and the ad is terribly ineffective.

Back to my original point, too – it’s not totally relevant to my feed and it makes the user experience, for me, unpleasant. Now I’m off to change my profile so I don’t get any more lacrosse ads.


Open Your Eyes

I had an interesting and slightly odd experience a couple of weeks back which made me open by eyes a little (literally) – and it involves customer service.

When given the choice, I normally will try to push my money to local businesses in the town I live in, which is Maynard, MA. That said, we are lucky to have an optical shop right here in town which can do standard exams and provide you with frames or contacts. I never really need to go anywhere else other than Look Optical.

Here’s what I like about it. First, I can walk there. As someone who has been in the retail business, convenience of location is huge with a capital H – we saw it in every customer survey we did. Look Optical also has a good selection of frames and they actually make their own frames, too. Also good. Convenience and selection – two major hot points.

Alex Thayer - Look Optical
Alex Thayer – Look Optical
But here’s where the hammer nails it in – service. The owner is a guy named Alex and he’s one of those people who has that talent where he can remember people’s names and he cheerfully says “Hey Jeff!” every time I walk in and he’ll remember I like music and ask what I’m listening to these days.

What’s more, he has the ability to remember what frames I used to wear and on more than one occasion, he remembers what frames I have previously tried on and not purchased. There is the magic. I will likely never shop anywhere else for optical needs.

I went in a few weeks back to order some new contact lenses and get a quick exam. I’m in the room and we finish up and Alex turns off the bright-as-the-sun light that was shining in my eyes and I can see he turns serious and then he asks me “what do you think is the most dangerous thing about contact lenses?”

Of course, I have no idea and I say so.

The answer: you can lose your eye. WHAT? He then proceeds to tell me that he had a patient who developed some kind of bacteria issue and ended up in the city in surgery – and lost an eye.

See the FDA’s page on the dangers of contacts here.

I’d never seen him so serious and it was clear that he took it hard. So we talked about ways to minimize the risks, including washing your hands when you put them in and take ’em out (which I do every time, all the time, anyway) and also not swimming or showering in them, because water carries bacteria.

Now this I hadn’t heard before. Almost every Sunday, I shower with my contacts in after my Sunday night hockey league games. And I must confess I swim in my contacts because a) I’m blind as a bat and don’t like blurry vision in the water, but more importantly, b) I’m usually swimming with my children nearby and I’m damn well going to make sure I have clear sight of them.

Of course, Alex understood the latter and discouraged the former, but wanted to let me know there is some risk in showering and swimming with contacts and he wanted me to know about it. I’m glad I don’t live in Flint.

Bottom line – customer service is king. I will take my contacts out when I shower from now on.

devotionIn this case, my devotion to Look Optical IS about convenience and location, but truth be told, if Alex moved to Acton or Sudbury, I’d drive there. Because he knows my name.

This applies to online marketing and customer service. The better you know your customers and the better you cater to their wants and needs, the better off your business will be. This is basic marketing 101 type stuff, but I continue to see it muffed by companies big and small.

Sure, there’s software – GOOD software – that can automate this for you in some facets and it can be quite effective. But responding in REAL-TIME in human ways AS SOON AS POSSIBLE is where people start seeing you like I see Alex.

For example, my goals in Social Media at my last job were to try and respond to any and all mentions of our brand within 1-5 minutes.  That was a lofty goal because I always had a lot of other stuff going on, but I’m proud to say that more often than not, I did it.

open your eyes
You wouldn’t believe how happy it made people. Does it show up in Google Analytics? Nope. Does it show up as a trackable ROI event? Nope. But I can promise you it shows up in people’s hearts and minds and that means one word, which maybe trumps them all: Devotion. I know this was effective because I saw repeat orders from certain people after I engaged with them.

So don’t swim or shower in your contacts, get to know your customers and be obsessed about making them smile. Open your eyes. Be human.


Pockets of Time

Now that the calendar has flipped to the New Year, I’ve had a flurry of job interviews and there’s been lots of activity. This is good of course, but I still find I have pockets of time. To help offset the restlessness associated with not having a full-time job, I’ve found that three things tend to happen:

– I try to help out around the house and do more with the kids
– I’ve caught up on a lot of shows on Netflix
– I try to teach and educate myself

One question that surprisingly hasn’t come up in the myriad interviews I’ve had is the traditional “what are your weaknesses” question. I mean, it’s gotta come at some point, right? In fact, at one point I even volunteered them.

This didn’t happen to me.

Let’s get back to the Netflix thing for a second, though. One show I’ve just started watching is season one of “Louie,” with Louie C.K. and it’s great. Little 20-minute nuggets of Louie’s hilarity and discomfort!

Yesterday I was watching an episode where Louie had a stand-up show in Birmingham, AL and ended up having a gun pulled on him in the parking lot of some run-down restaurant. An older police officer ended up knocking the gunman senseless and giving Louie a ride back to his hotel, but not before asking Louie for a kiss on the lips. It was awkward TV at its finest.

pockets of time
Louie goes in to thank the cop.

Louie felt like he owed the policeman something for how he helped him and didn’t expect THAT ask from the cop, but he got out of his comfort zone and accommodated him.

My point? Get out of your comfort zone! I’ve never been interested in much of anything related to IT, networks, servers, coding and such. However, the world of Marketing has evolved to the point where Marketers can’t just do Marketing anymore. You need to be well-versed in many of the different elements within a company that touch Marketing, namely….everything. I learned this first-hand at my last position, where some of this knowledge could have come in real handy.

So here’s a weakness. And I have time, so I’ve started to address it.

treehouseThanks to my longtime friend Dan Cederholm for recommending Treehouse, an online resource where you learn about UX, coding and just about anything else about computers going back to the 1950’s. I’m earning badges and learning stuff I never thought I’d care about. I’ve had a lot of those moments where I say “so THAT’s what that means” and dare I say, I’m enjoying learning more about IT and coding and it will undoubtedly help me at some point in my next role (oh, did I mention I’m looking?)

So yes, I’m watching some Netflix here and there and taking some breathers, but I’m also adding tools to my toolbelt. Moral of the story – once again – don’t ever be satisfied with what you know. Find out more. DO more.


I’m Sticking With You

I’m not what you would consider adventurous when it comes to investing. The older I get, the better this position seems to be. Do I regret not being more aggressive when I was younger? Maybe, but when it comes to money, I’m all about safety. I will gladly forego the dramatic highs of gain if I don’t have to experience the harrowing lows of major loss. I’m just not built that way. Financially, anyway. In other ways, I am. Topic for another day.

I have a small amount of play money set aside in an individual stock account at Fidelity. This little pile was created as part of a performance bonus I received at maybe ten years ago. I parked it in three stocks, one was a renewable energy technology, another was a backend technology provider to telcos and cable/internet providers.  The third is a pretty safe Fidelity Mutual Fund. I vowed to sit on them for years. And I did. Until this week.

I'm sticking with you
The mutual fund stays (see: safe). I made a little money on the other two, but times are changing and that calls for me to change, too. I’ve sold them and am now going long on Netflix and Twitter.

Twitter is the riskier gamble, but I keep thinking that when it comes to consumer internet technology, they’re the best value right now. I also think about it practically and how I use it in my own life. If I ever need to read more about a breaking news story or find something quick – I go to Twitter right away. And I ALWAYS find it.

Case in point: the other day my wife and I heard zillions of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks whizzing by our house. Something is up. You’re not going to find it on Facebook or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Or the local newspaper website.

It took me literally 10 seconds to find it on Twitter – a house fire right down the street. Now, this was not a monetized event for Twitter, but I’m banking that more and more of their solution will be soon enough. It’s utility. And utility pays the bills.

Netflix seems obvious. A consumer play that is strong and only getting stronger. They have good competitors, but I believe Netflix is the equivalent to the IPhone – a market share beast. If you look at their plans, they’re not even global yet and their proprietary content is in its infancy. I think there’s a lot of room for growth in their stock. Plus, I loved Bloodline. So awesome.

Netflix Bloodline
Look, I’m no expert. But I do look at the trends and the financials and do my best and I think these two are poised for growth. It also helps that the market has been down so much in the last week – great time to buy. So I’m sticking with them (hopefully for 10+ years!) and we’ll see what happens.

As a Marketing guy, I’m also long on the opportunity for video in 2016-2017. The way it’s setting up for social media and digital content, there’s going to be a LOT of opportunity, not to mention fun things to do, for marketers. Whatever my next role is – and I’m actively looking – I hope to make video (both canned and live) a huge part of the plan.

Now go ahead and dig some Jason & The Scorchers….


Retail Tips for January

If you’ve ever challenged yourself to some kind of professional or personal feat, be it completing a large project at work or training for (and then running) a marathon, human nature tells you to chill out and rest for a bit. Recover. Maybe even allow yourself to be lazy for a small period of time. Don’t. Capitalize and use some of these retail tips for January!

January Tips for Retail
Don’t Do This.
Often times, the time frame after a period of intense projects or events is the BEST time to step on the gas. In the same way a stock market dip is the best time to invest, a quiet period after something intense is often a time when you can capitalize in a big way.

Today I’ll talk mostly about retail, because that’s where most of my recent experience was. I no longer need to clarify if I mean offline or online when it comes to retail, because if you’re not thinking about both facets intertwined, then you’re already behind and you should seek work as a pager salesman.

I always approached January as an enormous opportunity to drive sales and approached it as a way to really get the year started off right. Because I wore so many hats in my job (a benefit AND a burden, of course), there was always a lot to do if I wanted to have this success and a lot of planning for it needed to happen in December, when you’re in the middle of total madness. But it’s always madness.

Janaury tips for retailSo here’s a few things I did to try and supercharge our retail business in Q1. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list, it’s just a few basic things you can and should do.

Create new customer segments. Well, it’s Q4 at retail, so there’s a darn good chance that you’ve piled up a healthy stack of first-time shoppers. Create a segment (your call on if you want to do multiple segments by online-offline) and welcome them to your brand in as human a way as possible. Don’t club them over the head with aggressive new product emails or beg people to buy stuff – they just did that, man! Come up with a way to delight them, perhaps some examples of your most successful social content from the past few months, a peek into the company culture or a new shopper discount (if discounting is part of your makeup). And duh, thank them for being new to the fold.

Extend Promotions. Maybe you had a weaker Q4 then you expected or maybe your company is just into discounting all the time, but this one is totally situational. I know one thing – whenever we positioned a discount or promotion as a “limited time extension,” it usually roared. So if you had a promotion going in December, announcing an extension of it in January isn’t a bad idea and it’s a pretty good bet you can wring out some additional sales to all those people who got gift cards to your store for Christmas.

Increase PPC and Social Spending. The research I did indicated that our competitors pulled back on spending pretty dramatically in January – and of course we did as well. So I don’t mean increase over December, I mean increase over last year’s spend or if you have any insight into your competitors spend, be more aggressive.  I’ve always debated the reliability of the various competitor monitoring services available, but then again, it seemed to pay off each time in terms of YOY growth in this channel. The retail business I was in (ice hockey and lacrosse equipment) is quite seasonal, so each year it seemed I chipped away more and more budget from the slow periods and even experimented with zero budget for a slow month at one point. But if you can be aggressive at a time when others are less aggressive, you can squeeze some growth.

Evaluate Cost of Acquisition By Channel. In some ways, even though this isn’t directly customer-facing, it’s arguably the most important. It’s something you should be doing monthly or bi-monthly (depending on what business you’re in) anyway. Take a look at each of your marketing channels – PPC, Social, Email, etc and understand what you are paying to acquire new customers. It will open your eyes. For example, to measure CPA for paid search for a given period, take your total spend and divide it by your total number of conversions. Voila. CPA. Repeat it for other channels as best as you can and see what’s performing better and where you can improve/manipulate and optimize. Computing this can get murky, for example you’ll need to decide if things like cost of labor or things like shipping costs play in. It’s also difficult to quantify things like traditional media buys (TV/Radio) without an associated unique URL being advertised or something. But plowing more dollars into the better performing areas is basic marketing and a good way to start the new year fresh.

There you go. Now enjoy this little ditty from The Decemberists, great music for January. See what I did there?