Project 200: The Guerilla Jobsearch [Part V]

This is part five of a five part series. Just get here? Start from the beginning.


About a week into the campaign, I was surfing Linkedin and realized that a number of prospects had checked out my profile. On cross-referencing with my analytics data, I realized that a number of the Linkedin lurkers hadn’t visited their landing page. My working hypothesis is that Linkedin served as a surrogate to the landing page, making it unnecessary for these prospects to visit their landing page (damn you people for not obediently running my maze!). So I added Linkedin views as an engagement metric in my campaign summary.

Check out a summary of the data on Google Sheets here.

What was the end result of the campaign? Well, I haven’t landed an offer yet.

I’m currently talking quite seriously to three firms about leadership roles within the marketing function of their organizations:

One is a Director-level role at a software company with a great product that fills an important, under-served need in the enterprise space. They also raised nine figures’ worth of institutional funding this past summer.

Another is a head of growth type role with a really interesting hardware startup that has institutional backing, and a phenomenal team. When I look at their product design and think about the cool things you can do with it, I feel the tug of a pansexual nerd crush forming inside my grey matter.

The third opportunity is quite nascent still, but I envision a really off-the-wall pursuit marketer slash change management support role within a boutique management consultancy. I mostly steered clear of professional service firms during listbuilding, but this firm had such a compelling brand and vision that I couldn’t not pursue them (today is double negative Monday, by the way).

All three of these opportunities are really… me. They meet or exceed my criteria from the ideation phase of this campaign, and scream fit with my professional passions, interests, and capabilities. They’re also companies and roles that I likely wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near if I was just replying to an ad on a job board along with 400 other people. On paper, I’m punching way above my weight class… which is where I tend to perform at my best anyway. And the notion that talented people can only be a great hire if they tick off every single checkbox on some job description requirements list is complete bollocks. Job description requirements are nothing more than a proxy for trust and credibility. So, cheers to the three firms I’m talking to.

Update (Dec. 14, 2015): I’m now evaluating one offer, and expect to receive a formal offer from a second firm this week. Both opportunities arose from this campaign.

Update 2 (Dec. 16, 2015): I’ve officially accepted an offer to head up marketing at Nanoleaf in downtown Toronto, with a January start date. Game on.

Fun Facts from the Data + Campaign

  • 18.8% of VPs on my list are named Mike;
  • 40.9% of my prospects are CXO’s, Presidents, or Principals;
  • 14.3% of the firms on the list are boutique marketing / advertising agencies, and 0% of them turned into good leads (an interesting anomaly given that I have an agency background);
  • 2 companies on the list were so forward-thinking in what they did, it defied traditional classification. So in my list, I labelled them ‘Super Cool’;
  • The first company to contact me to schedule a meeting is in the design and manufacture of IoT hardware (I got an email from the CEO literally the same day my letter was delivered);
  • About a week after my letters were delivered, one firm posted a job on Linkedin that used part of my letter of introduction in the job description… word for word. Being the cheeky bugger that I am, I applied for it. I didn’t get a call from them (lol);
  • Prospects who visited their landing page visited two other pages on my website on average;
  • Once I corrected for weekends, average time on page jumped from 2:15 to nearly three minutes;
  • 75% of prospects who visited their landing page downloaded my resume, while only 12% also downloaded the ClearFit assessment (one of the three strong leads did, and they cited it in our first conversation).

How did I stack up against my target funnel?

Initial Contact: 57 (200 target)
Calls / Emails Back: 6 (89% actual attrition, 80% assumed… so, worse at this step)
Interviewing Firms: 5 (17% actual attrition, 80% assumed… so, way better at this step)
Offers: 2 (60% actual attrition, 80% assumed… so better at this step)

Ergo: taking the extra time for marketeering the shit out of this campaign was a good investment, as I beat the expected attrition rate at all of the critical inflection points. Both of the firms that extended an offer indicated that the unique approach was one of the reasons they contacted me.

Final Thoughts

Would I take this approach to finding a job again? Absolutely. In fact, I may never go back to relying solely on the ‘traditional’ job search. This approach gets you noticed and makes things happen, which is great when you’re in a new city and you don’t have a strong professional network where you are (like me).

One thing that’s also really important: CTFD (Calm the Fuck Down). When you’re looking for a job and don’t have one, it’s natural to be anxious about how long it’s taking. The temptation to fold and take the first thing you see is really strong (even if it’s a bad fit for you). Take a breath. Compartmentalize. Unless you’re literally going to be out on the street if you don’t bring in a paycheque within X weeks, resist the urge to give in. Trust me, you’ll be way better off. If I’d given in to the desperation monkey, I’d likely be working some entry level role in a new industry at half the salary I was making before being laid off. Instead, my career has taken a big step forward.

Thanks for reading. I hope that sharing this journey has been a valuable experience for you. If you want to chat about your own job search or fancy a sounding board, hit me up on Linkedin or the Twitter. My consulting fee is very reasonable: a cup of decent coffee. Or a vodka and water with a splash of lime if it’s after 5pm.

Previous: Execution [Part IV]

Project 200: The Guerilla Jobsearch [Part IV]

This is part four of a five part series. Just get here? Start from the beginning.


Mailing ‘Em Out

This was probably the easiest piece of the campaign workflow—walk the letters down to the post box, and drop them in it. Really, that was all there was to it.

Though, I did receive six ‘Return to Sender’ letters back within a week of mailing them out. Upon investigating, I noticed discrepancies between the companies’ address listed on Linkedin, and the address listed on their website. Presumably, these prospects had recently moved into new offices. The address on the company website was updated, but the address on their Linkedin page was not.

Learning: double-check addresses from Linkedin with the company website and other sources. When in doubt, call them up and ask for the mailing address.

Follow-Up Calls

I hate making outbound telephone calls of the ‘salesy’ variety. It makes me uncomfortable to disrupt other people’s schedule to try and build a case for something that I want. Yes, I realize that this is a very Canadian attitude for me to have.

The first few calls were bumpy. I left five or six messages; and when I finally had a prospect on the phone, I stammered and talked a bit too much. This made me realize that I should sketch out talking points and an objective for each call before making it (in hindsight… DUH).

So, I did. And the other 47 calls went much more smoothly. Most of the time, the response was a very polite variation on ‘we’re not really looking to add to our marketing team right now, but thanks for reaching out.’ I did get two referrals to other contacts where there might be opportunities, which was great; but, they didn’t lead anywhere.

Learning: always follow up. Though making the phone calls didn’t turn up anything really that concrete, stretching my comfort zone a bit was worthwhile. I also had some great gabs about shared professional passions with a couple of the prospects (generally a bit closer to lunchtime than first thing in the morning).


These weren’t really interviews. For the most part, I never spoke to a recruiter or HR person until well after I’d spoken with the hiring manager (normally, the opposite is true). I went in to each session with the prospective hiring manager as if it were a business meeting between peers. This impacted how I prepared, how I thought about the meeting, and my level of confidence. Overall, it was a good perspective to have—every time I sat down with someone in person, I made a great connection that will persist beyond this campaign. And that has incredible value.


Be prepared to do some work to demonstrate that you can address the pain points talked about in your meeting. I’m not advocating that you offer up hundreds of hours of consulting for free, but you do need to put your money where your mouth is (so to speak).


Because the labour market is competitive, particularly for knowledge-based creative jobs (especially in marketing and professional services). The globalized economy is also competitive. Disruption in both the makeup of the labour force and the market economy is creating some downward pressure on the pace of hiring for traditional positions (full time/permanent). Lots of people bemoan this, but it is what it is.

So What?

Well, pulling the trigger on a new hire is a lot harder than it once was. Especially when the role is central to the success of an organizational group, or the entire organization. And when it pays well (which it does, when it’s a critical role). Hiring managers can rarely greenlight a candidate unilaterally—they often need the buy-in of several internal stakeholders. Ultimately, this is a good thing when you’re successful in getting an offer—it means that you have support from a number of different people internally right from day one.

Learning: pay close attention to the pain points during your meeting. Then, prepare a project that demonstrates you can address those pain points. Give your knowledge, passion, and expertise freely and without expectation of anything in return. After all, you’re here when 400 other jobseekers aren’t. Be grateful of that fact.

Next Up: Retrospective [Part V]

Previous: Preparation + Production [Part III]

Project 200: The Guerilla Jobsearch [Part III]

This is part three of a five part series. Just get here? Start from the beginning.

Preparation + Production


I started with a pass through the listings for Canada’s 100 Best Managed Companies, going back to 2012. Quite a few of them were in Toronto. This also led me to a number of articles about Toronto employers and awards in the Globe and Mail. From there, I moved on to Glassdoor, Linkedin, and Google Maps (zoomed in far enough to see individual companies).

200 companies? No problem.

After I applied my criteria to the big list, it was down to 57. Also, the research required to refine the list took a lot longer than I thought—almost 10 solid days. The concern of course is that I won’t have a big enough funnel to get to 2 offers. But hey, what the hell. I can always try again later and include Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, and Vaughan. Only including downtown Toronto stems from a desire to keep my daily one-way commute under an hour.

PDF Resume

The resume was typeset, and included a career summary instead of a cover letter. I used the same resume for each landing page (the letter of introduction and landing page were personalized, sinking the time into a distinct cover letter too seemed a bit overkill). I used Adobe Illustrator for the typesetting—I’m picky when it comes to minute details, and trying to do a striking custom layout with Word kind of hurt my soul after the first hour.

The resume was meant to be downloadable from the landing pages, and coordinated with the calling cards and envelopes. Take a look.

Digital Personality Assessment

One of the big gaps in hiring a candidate is assessing their soft skills, and how suited they are to working in multidisciplinary, collaborative environments. Let’s face it—most jobs require teamwork of varying degrees, but not all people are engineered for playing well with other humans. Personally, I believe that my soft skills and orientation towards collaboration and facilitation are a significant advantage for me; but, this has never really been evaluated at length by recruiters or hiring managers with whom I’ve interacted. So, it was important to make it a part of the conversation.

I ran across a recruiting tech company called ClearFit several months ago, while still applying solely through job boards. A part of their platform features a 300-point personality assessment, geared toward answering this question: how well will this candidate function interpersonally inside a professional environment? After you’ve done the test, they email you the results. I was really impressed with how accurate the results were compared to what I knew about myself from the thirty-something years experience I’ve had being me.

I took the results of the assessment and dropped them into a Word Doc and PDF’d them. I left all of the content untouched, save for correcting some awkward sentence structure and bolding the important points in each paragraph. And, I included attribution and a link to the ClearFit website in the footer. If this was going to help me land my dream gig, I wanted to be able to give these folks some exposure and a shot at acquiring new customers from my campaign.

Want to know more about what makes me tick? Have a gander. It’s about a ten minute read.

I included this PDF summary as a downloadable asset on each landing page (with an event tracking snippet on the link to allow me to tally downloads in Google Analytics).

Letter of Introduction

This is a printed, one-page pitch letter. The objective was to introduce myself to the hiring manager and pique their interest enough for them to continue to the personalized landing page and ultimately download my resume. The Letter of Introduction included:

  • An introduction statement communicating that I understood their industry and was aligned with the company’s values;
  • An impact statement communicating why they should engage with me;
  • Five reasons why I’d be a great fit for their team;
  • My contact information;
  • A short URL to their personalized landing page on my website ( redirecting to;
  • My signature every letter was signed and I addressed each envelope by hand—it’s just more personal that way, though I could have had the addresses printed on the envelopes via Variable Data Printing.

57 letters were printed, total cost around $7 (my personal life is pretty much paperless, so I don’t own a desktop printer). Luckily, there’s a PostNet right around the corner from me. Thanks Randeep!

No. 10 Envelopes

Number ten envelopes are boring. Branded number ten envelopes are less so (they catch the eye—and saved me from hand-writing my return address 57 times).

I still have a great relationship with a trade printer I started using in 2006, during my consulting years. They’ve graciously let me keep my account open, even though I’m not doing anywhere near the volume of ordering that I used to. So, total cost for printing both the envelopes and the calling cards? About $80. Trust me, that’s a steal when it comes to short-run printing.

Calling Card

The calling card took the form of a two-sided business card with a UV gloss finish. It was simple, and the branding was consistent with all of the other creative elements used in this campaign. The front side had my name, email address, and phone number. The reverse simply had the tail of the necktie from my brand identity.

Print Specs (for the production design nerds out there):

4/4 CMYK, 16pt paperstock, UV-resistant gloss (front and back)
Blacks rendered as 40%, 0%, 0%, 100%

Landing Page

The landing page was the central plank of this entire campaign. It had to be engaging, informative, and further reinforce the value proposition I had for the prospect and his or her firm. Each landing page followed a fairly structured approach:

Entertain » Engage » Persuasive Selling » Call to Action

I can’t give enough thanks to two good friends who provided me with invaluable feedback on the landing page experience and content. Myles and Krissie—you guys rock.

Anyone who works in the creative industry should connect with Krissie and talk about her firm’s creative operations management platform. It’s dope. I’d be using it if I was still in agency or on an in-house creative team.

Anyone who works in any industry with IT headaches should connect with Myles and talk about his firm’s enterprise class data migration and connector products. Some pretty serious players rely on their technology—HP, Pepsico, Honeywell, and the likes. Yep, that’s the level they play at… but they have products for DIY’er SMEs too (high five!).

It might not look like a lot changed, but there’s a massive difference in the suitability of the second concept to deliver 1:1 engagement. Wanna skip right to the numbers and analysis? Check out Part V.

Next Up: Execution [Part IV]

Previous: Scope + Planning [Part II]

Project 200: The Guerilla Jobsearch [Part II]

This is part two of a five part series. Just get here? Start from the beginning.

Scope + Planning

This whole campaign started with a lot of reflection about what I wanted to do next with my career. If I was going to go the extra mile to find and introduce myself directly to hiring managers, I wanted it to be for high-quality opportunities and exceptional people who were doing awesome things at great companies. I wanted to avoid getting myself into a fuck-and-chuck situation at a dysfunctional company, and I wanted my talents to contribute to something meaningful that was more than just a paycheque.

I wanted the role to be compatible with my life and for there to be an opportunity for professional growth. I also wanted enough time left over after the workday for me to be able to take care of my well-being (both physical and emotional). This eliminated large, generalist management consultancies (I contacted one really interesting boutique firm) and professional service firms. It also made me very choosy about marketing and ad agencies. Does this mean that I want to be a clock watcher and leave the office at 5:01pm every day? Of course not. I’ve spent more than my share of time answering emails on evenings and weekends, and working until 2am on a deadline (while still in the office).

There has to be balance for the creation of high-quality work to be sustainable, and the cultural norms in the professional service and agency business somewhat vilify this notion.

Project Scope

Winter is coming. And that means the hiring no-fly zone known as mid-December through mid-January. So, this thing has to be executed with follow ups conducted by the first full week of December.

Project Start: November 11th
Project Completion: December 2nd
Data Collection Ends: December 11th
Campaign Journeyline: Direct Mail (Letter) » Landing Page » Call / Coffee » Formal Interview » Offer
Creative Assets: Letters of introduction, digital resume, personality assessment, calling cards (3.5″ x 2″, 4/4), no. 10 envelopes (no window), landing pages (with shortlinks)

Selection Criteria

In Toronto, there are literally thousands of companies in operation (I had about 4,000 search results in my first pass). It quickly became clear that I needed some selection criteria and a project scope to keep this campaign on point.


  • Within 15km of Union Station, Toronto (environmental sustainability is important to me and public transit is a big part of that);
  • Private sector, or a market-oriented Crown Corp (public sector/NGO environments that don’t track to the market economy just aren’t for me);
  • Not primarily involved in the production or marketing of pharmaceuticals, tobacco, or oil/fossil fuels (I have some ethical problems with the fundamental nature of these industries);
  • Commercial alignment with people, environments, renewables, sustainability, technology, or education (the big clusters for my professional passions);
  • Existence of business, market, or process challenges where I can make a significant difference to the org (admittedly, really difficult to ascertain without critical thinking and a lot of research).
  • Average Glassdoor rating greater than 3 out of 5, based on at least 10 reviews. Bonus points if the company actually replied to the reviews (companies that understand the correlation between people and profit generally have healthier, happier working environments and dynamic organizational cultures).


The operating concept behind this campaign is simple.

  1. Find a company you want to work for, and the person responsible for the team you’d work on or lead (Linkedin #FTW).
  2. Write and mail them a personalized letter and include a calling card (not the pre-paid long distance thing, the business-card sized thing with your name and contact information on it). Print the letter on paper, and mail it with stamps. Like, through the post office. No seriously, that’s still a thing.
  3. In the letter, pique their interest and discuss a business challenge you think they have, that you can solve. Then invite them to visit a personalized landing page on your website, where they can learn more about you and download your resume. Track engagement behaviour.
  4. A week later, call to follow up on your letter (a new experience for me, I’ve never cold-called to ask about job opportunities).
  5. Get together to talk turkey. Do a project for them to showcase your chops, don’t just be a talking head.
  6. Sign the paperwork and start making a difference.

Sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of moving parts in practice. It would be a couple of hours work (plus maybe a day for the project) if I was doing this just once, but I’m operating at scale based on the funnel above. I needed to replicate this journeyline two hundred times. Automating, templates, and modular thinking are my friend… but not so much so that the message loses relevance or the personal touch.

Next Up: Preparation + Production [Part III]

Previous: The Backstory [Part I]

Project 200: The Guerilla Jobsearch [Part I]

The Backstory

Conducting a job search is a pretty stressful and frustrating experience, as anyone who’s been through it can attest. Even more so if your job search is taking place while you’re unemployed or underemployed and under the gun (laid off, fired, company bankruptcy, what have you). After being laid off in the spring and having little success with a ‘normal’ job search through most of the year, I decided to get a bit crazy and break some rules. I decided to stop counting solely on recruiters and surfing job boards alongside the other 400 people who applied for that same position. Instead, I’d reach out directly to hiring managers in companies where I wanted to work. And I’d talk to them about business challenges they had and solutions I could offer. Then I’d ask them for a job, or for a referral to someone who could perhaps give me a job.

This would either go really, really well or end really, really badly. Enter, Project 200.

Project 200?

I associate a numerical goal/label with all of my personal and professional passion projects. Everything I do ends up being called ‘Project [Number]’ in Trello. Yep, I taskboard pretty much anything that has more than five steps or takes longer than a day. Sometimes, I even create a board for errands or apartment cleaning day. I’m a huge nerd like that.

Why 200?

This came from talking to a headhunter in the US who specializes in technical search. She’s built her business around representing jobseekers and profiling candidates to her network, instead of filling job orders from companies. She’s really good, but effing expensive (too expensive for me to retain, that’s for sure). She’s a numbers person, and broke it down for me like this:

“Count on 80% attrition at every step. That’s what I’ve seen when you buck the system and talk directly to hiring managers about business problems that you can help solve. Manage your expectations and stay positive… you’ll get a lot of rejection doing this, but it will work if you stick with it.”

So if this guideline holds water, I need to contact 200 hiring managers to get two solid offers.

  • = 200 x 20% (initial contact)
  • = 40 x 20% (calls / emails back expressing interest)
  • = 8 x 20% (interviews)
  • = 1.6 offers (let’s round that up to 2, I’m feeling optimistic)

Why two offers? Because I like choice. And leverage.

Marketers are in the business of increasing conversion through persuasion and targeted engagement. We’re a force for growth, right? It’s time to do something differently when you’re just another number in an applicant tracking system or another resume in a (digital) stack of 500. Or 671, one hour after posting in the case of this jobSo, let’s marketeer the shit out of this.

‘Modern’ applicant tracking systems strip out the visual awesomeness you spent hours creating, and flag you for review by an actual human only if you’ve used pre-selected keywords and semantic combinations a certain number of times. Oh, and your special layout formatting and carefully-selected typographical pairings (to make your resume attractive) messes with its ability to do that. Classic enterprise-level ATS software was built by engineers, not artists. Insert angry-face emoticon here.

My goal is to operate completely outside that dreadful ‘enterprise’ recruiting funnel. So for this campaign, I chose to go old school. Personal correspondence, hand-addressed envelopes, and a personalized letter of introduction that takes a stab at the hiring manager’s pain points.

All backed up by digital assets, of course. I’m not a savage.

Next Up: Scope + Planning [Part II]

eCommerce for Growing Service Businesses

Most business owners think of e-commerce in the most common use case—augmenting or replacing brick and mortar with online retailing. Canadian companies like Shopify and Tulip Retail are betting big and jockeying to be the trusted provider that guides brick and mortar establishments into the modern omni-channel marketplace.

In 2012, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Science, Information and Technology commissioned a study to look at the adoption of e-commerce technologies by Canadian businesses. The study found that our small to medium enterprises lagged behind those in the U.S. by a significant margin. The most commonly cited challenge behind moving business online was the complexity and cost of integrating modern point-of-order and point-of-processing technologies with aging inventory and fullfillment systems. It’s a fair concern—having worked on these integrations, I know firsthand what a nightmare it can be to drive a square peg through a pinhole.

E-commerce is much bigger than selling physical (or digital) goods online, though. The broad definition of electronic commerce used in the information, communications, and technology (ICT) community qualifies nearly anything that leverages a web-based technology to facilitate transactions as “electronic commerce.”

Products are really just services you can touch

A service is usually thought of as something that humans do for other humans to fulfill a want or need. A product is something that a consumer buys which is used to then fulfill a want or need for themselves or someone else. The product is the power drill; the service is the contractor who comes with their own drill.

In technology, the distinction between product and service has been eroding for several years. Software and infrastructure were mostly considered products, but now are also being delivered as services. This erosion in how we differentiate between products and services is similar to the erosion between features and benefits that afflicts many marketers.

When buying the power drill, is it the features of the drill that really matter? Speed, torque, number of gears—they’re all dimensions that when added together suggest what kind of outcome (benefit) a customer can create with the drill. The features don’t really matter beyond this description of a future benefit. When viewed through this lens, a product begins to look like a service with an extra step.

Like products, services can also be transacted through e-commerce. In many ways, growing businesses that provide services can more easily adopt e-commerce than those that provide products. Unlike their product-based counterparts, service organizations tend not to have rigid inventory and fulfillment systems.

The natural comment many service-based business owners have about e-commerce is: I don’t do business based on volume, I do business based on time. What I have is working fine. Why should I add more complexity to my business? It’s reasonable question. Here’s the answer:

Purchase friction has a direct impact on sales and retention—though the effect on your business is difficult to quantify unless you routinely collect customer feedback. As a service business, your purpose is to simplify or fulfill a customer want or need. Customers touch your brand and your organization beyond the delivery cycle of your services—order taking and billing are important touchpoints, as they directly impact how easy it is to do business with you.

If paying you is a headache, you’ll eventually start to lose customers to competitors who better manage these touchpoints. If you’re skeptical, poll 10 random people nearby. I’d wager you’ll find at least one who has changed phone or cable providers due to a poor billing experience.

Improving customer experience through e-commerce

Life is more complex today than it was 20 years ago, just as it will be more complex in 20 years than today. Many people are actively looking to simplify their lives, and the market is responding to this want by creating new ventures oriented around doing just that. Web-based businesses are springing up around everything from taking out the trash ( to hailing a cab (Uber) to doing your own taxes (TurboTax).

These new businesses all have two key things in common: they’re designed to improve a sub-par experience and payment is so seamless it’s almost unnoticeable.

When analyzing a customer experience touchpoint, there are five critical dimensions that should always be evaluated: speed, simplicity, convenience, consistency and certainty.

How do your customers currently pay for your services? How would the experience your customers have while paying stack up against these five critical dimensions?

Mailing a cheque or money order: This one almost always fails in speed, consistency and certainty. It takes a few days for the cheque to arrive and a few more for it to clear (which it might not, unless it’s certified).

Over the phone: Paying by credit card over the phone often fails in consistency. Language barriers and accents cause frustration. Humans also just have bad days and get cranky sometimes (customers and reps alike—it takes two to tango, after all).

In person: Cash, debit, credit—they all involve the customer travelling to you. More often than not, also waiting in a line with all the other humans who dropped by to give you money. This experience frequently suffers failures in speed (waiting in line), convenience (making a special trip) and consistency (language and mood).

Barter: A failure of simplicity and certainty, almost every time. And likely why our distant ancestors dreamed up the notion of currency in the first place. Moving on…

E-commerce: A properly-designed e-commerce touchpoint performs well against all of the above dimensions. Paying online rarely takes more than a few minutes, satisfying speed. Entering credit card information into a secure web page or app screen is easy to do, satisfying simplicity. Not having to leave the home or office to pay satisfies convenience. Human interaction during the process of paying is low and almost always the same as the time before. This satisfies consistency. On-screen confirmations and automatically emailed receipts satisfy certainty.

Ready to get started?

There are a number of secure, well-designed, well-supported, affordable tools available that will simplify getting started with e-commerce. When envisioning how it could work for your business, ask yourself these questions:

How would my customers place orders? If you’re selling heavily commoditized, standardized service packages at low(ish) cost, an online storefront is likely the best solution. Take a look at Shopify ( or WordPress with WooCommerce ( and WordPress is just as or more secure than other open-source content management system when you follow best practices on security and use a reputable managed hosting service for your website.

If your services are heavily customized or expensive, your order taking process might not change all that much. But, maybe you’d benefit from a platform to help you streamline deal closing and better manage your contracts. Take a look at Adobe Document Cloud (

How would I bill my customers? If you decide on an online storefront, this is built in (customers have to pay before the order can be placed). WooCommerce has optional extensions available for recurring billing and managing free trials. If contracts and a multi-step sales process are the norm for your business, there are other options available. The most common is to email your customers a PDF invoice, but let’s face it—this isn’t any more advanced than printing a paper invoice and dropping it in the post box. It doesn’t do anything to streamline operations or improve customer experience.

The real billing magic happens when you source a tool that emails customers an invoice you create, but also offers online payment options and integrates with your accounting software (or replaces it). Check out Freshbooks ( and Wave Accounting ( Or PayPal—these days, it’s not just for buying trinkets on eBay.

How would my customers pay the bill? Most invoicing tools have built-in payment options. The invoicing tool emails your customer the bill, and the message includes a link for them to click in order to pay it online. Freshbooks, Wave Apps and PayPal all take this approach.

Also look at Square ( and Shopify Payments ( These tools were originally build for online retailing, but can be configured to work for service businesses with a little outside the box thinking.

How (and how often) does the money get to my bank account? If you want your own merchant account for payment processing, there are a number of good ones readily available. Gateways like Stripe (, Braintree ( and Beanstream ( take an aggregated approach to merchant accounts, which helps bring down the cost of their services. When evaluating these providers, pay close attention to the processing fees and the deposit schedule (usually a rolling two-day or rolling five-day).

Final thoughts

It’s incredibly important to make change about your customers, not about you. Before getting started, solicit as much customer feedback as possible. What are their pain points? Avoid making changes that will improve your business if these same changes will make the experience for your customers worse. A great way to make sure you’re on the right track is to test changes with a trusted group of customers before rolling them out to everyone else.

This article originally appeared in the November issue of Direct Marketing Magazine.

Web Analytics for SMEs

Web analytics can be a very confusing topic for small business owners. Much of the information on the web is written from a specialist’s point of view, and meant for other specialists. Some content is written specifically for decision makers inside organizations with complex operations, and these viewpoints don’t always fit with the needs of owner-managers and their teams.

Leveraging web analytics will almost always enable discovery of valuable insights that aid in an organization’s decision-making capabilities. But, leveraging web analytics won’t always add enough value to justify the expenditure in resources that a dedicated program requires. That’s an important distinction—if what you’re doing isn’t adding more strategic or immediately quantifiable value than it consumes, it’s not fiscally prudent to continue. The aim of this article is to give you a high-level view of web analytics, and introduce some of the key concepts to aid in making informed decisions.

Demystifying Web Analytics

Web analytics is a form of performance measurement that seeks to identify patterns of behaviour to which you can assign economic value. For instance, if Visitor X finds your web property and takes Action Y, the business will likely realize Revenue of Z. That’s the heart of web analytics, though the implementation is more complex in practice. Over time, this measurement and analysis helps to improve the return on what you allocate to your digital marketing activities.

Business Analytics vs Web Analytics vs Digital Measurement

These terms are commonly treated as interchangeable, but there are distinct differences between them that are important to note.

Business Analytics refers globally to any planned measurement of business performance that’s intended to guide making iterative improvements. Both web analytics and digital measurement can be considered business analytics.

Web Analytics refers specifically to the planned measurement of user behaviour on web properties in order to guide making iterative improvements.

Digital Measurement encompasses a more holistic look at user behaviours across multiple channels and platforms. It seeks to look at the performance of digital marketing as a system over looking solely at user behaviour on a website. Industry professionals are beginning to adopt this mindset as digital marketing becomes more nuanced and integrated with ‘offline’ activities.

The shift to digital measurement marks an important move to quantify user behaviours in new technologies, beyond traditional websites. Implementing digital measurement software in self-serve kiosks, point of sale systems, and emerging human-computer interaction devices has become increasingly common. Since 2013, Google has freely offered a software development kit that can be used to deploy its analytics software on any internet connected device (the “Measurement Protocol”).

Commonly Used Terms


Assigning the source of a conversion or sale to a specific user behaviour or marketing channel. Historical attribution data is valuable when budgeting for a new fiscal year, as it gives some insight into what advertising activities generated revenue.


A specific action taken by a user that indicates purchase intent (or an eCommerce sale). Conversions can be further classified as macroconversions (actions which are directly linked to revenue) and microconversions (actions which aren’t directly linked to revenue, but still hold business value).


A dimension is a qualitative factor that adds detail to a metric by refining its focus. Examples of dimensions include location, mobile device, and a user’s browser. Using the location dimension, you could specify that you want the analytics software to determine the number of sessions originating in Montreal for a given date range, for example.


Filters are customizable sets of conditions that are used to include or exclude data en masse. For instance, if you wanted to look at data specific to users in your city, you could create a filter to include this location only. When using filters to manipulate data, be sure to keep backups of your unfiltered data in case you need to look back at it in the future.

Medium and Source

Medium and source together describe how a user entered your web property (medium is used to categorize source). For instance, an example of a medium is organic search (a search engine) with the corresponding source being


A metric is any quantifiable data point that can be measured. Time on site, sessions, and pageviews are all examples of metrics.


A pageview is counted when an entire page (including all of its resources) is loaded. This is slightly different from ‘hits’, which is a count of all resources requested from the server. Loading each page requires multiple hits.


A session is a single visit to a web property by a single user, and typically times out after a predetermined period of inactivity (where the user doesn’t interact with the property). Sessions are also sometimes called visits or interactions.


A tag is a snippet of data appended to a link that adds context to potentially ambiguous inbound traffic sources. For instance, if your business has a Twitter account that is active and an ad campaign running on Twitter, you would want to know if traffic (and conversions) from should be attributed to the ad campaign or to your business-as-usual activities there. Adding a tag links in the ad campaign would make attribution more precise in this case.

Creating a Digital Measurement Plan

Many businesses don’t create a measurement plan before diving into web analytics. This contributes to data fatigue and causes teams to get derailed before they start to see value from their efforts. There’s so much data readily available that it’s easy to lose momentum and focus.

Fight off data fatigue by creating a plan before you begin. A useful digital measurement plan includes at least three components: business objectives,key performance indicators, and measurable behaviours (metrics). It’s important that the person creating the digital measurement plan understand all three, or solicit help from stakeholders who can fill in the gaps.
A well-prepared digital measurement plan can serve as a document to facilitate buy-in across stakeholder groups, and can even serve as a springboard for preparing a more robust sales and marketing plan.

Step 1: List Business Objectives

What’s your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)? If you have one, write it down—this is important context for what you want to achieve. Also list any specific business objectives that you’ve identified.

Step 2: Develop and/or List KPIs

What are the indicators of success that relate to your business objectives? List them alongside the specific objectives to which they relate.

Step 3: Identify Measurable Behaviours

For each KPI, list measurable behaviours (metrics) that can be used to gauge your success for that KPI. This step is often the most time-consuming, as it requires a fair bit of intuition and inference when historical data doesn’t exist.

Step 4: Identify Reporting Frequency

How often do decision makers need access to the insights provided by your web analytics team? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? This will vary depending on your business objectives. It’s important to note that ‘reporting’ in this context does not mean collecting data—that should be heavily automated to reduce costs. Reporting refers to the human analysis of the data which generates actionable insights.

Interpreting Your Data

In order to really get value from a web analytics program, your organization needs the capacity to produce a useful interpretation of the data collected and processed by the analytics software. Having data without also having meaning amounts to wasted time and money. Always seek to identify actionable insights from your efforts. If you can’t make improvements to the business by leveraging your data, all you have is fun facts and figures.

The web analytics chain looks like this at a high level:

Data Collection -> Data Processing -> Data Analysis -> Data Interpretation

The first two steps in the analytics chain are typically automated by software, with the two being left up to humans (for now). In your interpretation of the data, there are three questions that you should seek to answer:

What happened? What might this mean? What could and should we do about it, if anything?

You can approach answering these questions with either reactive or proactive thinking. Reactive thinking is useful in evaluating the performance of content marketing or advertising campaigns (looking back). Proactive thinking is useful in identifying trends that are meaningful to your business (looking forward). Proactive thinking requires more deductive reasoning than reactive thinking, and is also less concrete.

When to Hire a Specialist

Essentially, web analytics is no different than any other form of business analysis that looks at numbers in order to measure performance. Hiring a specialist in this discipline is akin to hiring an analyst in more traditional disciplines—payroll, inventory, logistics, and the likes. Making the decision to hire a specialist is simple on the surface—either when the time requirements or the knowledge requirements move beyond what your team has available.

But there’s another factor in this decision: is the opportunity valuable enough to justify the cost? This question is much more difficult, and it’s often worthwhile to hire an experienced consultant to help you evaluate the opportunities and costs associated with implementing a web analytics program for your business. Implementing a program doesn’t necessarily mean having this function in-house, as there are many reputable data marketing firms that offer full-service programs that can be customized to your business.

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of Direct Marketing Magazine.

Webinars 101

What’s a Webinar?

Like many other Internet phenomena, the names of two things (‘web’ and ‘seminar’) were smushed together to make up a brand new noun (‘webinar’). After all, why not?

Webinars are increasingly being leveraged by B2B organizations to generate awareness and preference. Typically delivered via a purpose-designed platform, the format is less costly than holding a seminar. Most platforms include options for video and audio broadcast, screen sharing, and presenting slides.

When to Webinar

Producing a successful webinar requires planning and commitment. As with any speaking engagement, you want to ensure that the presentation enhances your reputation and brand equity. Being prepared and polished will position you for success, while diving in at the last minute will likely cause something important to be overlooked.

There are two common content approaches for webinars:

Product-centric webinars focus on teaching an audience about a product or service. They’re commonly used in the sales cycle to educate prospects on the value proposition and its effect on cost or profit centres.

Is this approach for me?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is our sales cycle long (months or years) and multi-part?
  • Is the value proposition obscure, technical, or non-intuitive?
  • Is educating the prospect a significant part of our sales process?

Product-centric webinars can help smooth over these friction points by presenting the answers in a structured, compelling way.

Industry-centric webinars are often a component of content marketing, and build brand equity through sharing expertise. Think of the industry-centric webinar as a new format for the famed ‘panel discussion’ at conferences. This approach can be very effective when the webinars are produced continuously (but you also need fresh content for every webinar). This requires more effort, but the residual value to your organization can be worth it if you treat the webinar as a content asset. You can syndicate recorded webinars through your marketing channels for as long as the subject matter remains relevant.

Is this approach for me?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is my target market in a highly competitive industry, or is painful disruption in progress?
  • Are my existing customers uncommonly invested in keeping up with industry trends?
  • Is my industry or product suite commoditized or “non-sticky”?

Industry-centric webinars can help you build engagement through demonstrating a critical intangible asset: your expertise.

Can Webinars be Effective for B2C Marketing?

Yes, but this context is uncommon. If a consumer product is so complex that it requires training seminars, you’re likely better off investing in a product redesign than additional marketing. If you have a B2C business and want to connect with customers through more engaging media, consider producing a video blog.

Earning Your TOMA the Webinar Way

Preference (TOMP) is a stronger indicator of future sales than awareness (TOMA), but many B2B organizations nurture preference through relationships. This often leaves awareness as the main focus of demand generation.

TOMA is most effectively generated through engagement-building (ultimately a game of systematic outreach). Webinar production is high-effort, so it makes sense to slot this tactic in near the bottom of the lead-generation funnel. Your vested interest is in making sure that the webinar spaces are occupied with the highest-quality prospects, as converting 100% of attendees to leads is extremely unlikely. To maximize opportunity value from the attendees who don’t convert, we can design our webinar using a concept from the data analytics world: microconversions.

Macroconversions vs Microconversions

A macroconversion is any action taken by a prospect identifying them as a lead or directly generating a sale. Macroconversions include submitting a sales inquiry or calling a salesperson.

A microconversion is any soft action that suggests future purchase interest. Microconversions include opting in to an email marketing list and subscribing to a social media feed.

Designing for Conversion

Successful webinars generously share value with the audience, but also make it easy to continue the conversation by:

  • Giving your audience a frictionless method to convert to a sales lead;
  • Building a passive audience—through email opt-ins or social media subscriptions;

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

Mitigating CASL risk is best advanced by adopting the principles of permissions-based marketing: ask before doing, do what you say you’re going to do, and ask if it was valuable. If CASL compliance is on your mind, visit and talk to a specialist in the field.

Producing a Webinar: The Play by Play

At a high level, here’s how to start. Over time, tweak this outline to better fit your organization:

1. The Cocktail Napkin Plan

Every successful event starts with a plan. You don’t have to produce a novel, but it’s important to sketch out the basics. Your plan should identify the basics: who are we presenting for, what we will present on, why does this add value, and how will we promote registrations? Collecting and analysing engagement data is also key to determining if holding webinars makes sense for your business. This analysis can help paint a picture of the costs involved and how webinars influence deal opportunities. Examples include number of registrations, referrals, landing page analytics, and macro/micro conversions.

As you produce more webinars and develop optimal workflows, preparation timelines will shorten. Many organizations that hold regular webinars produce them in three weeks, start to finish—though they also tend to have the benefit of an existing audience (another reason to design for microconversions). A final tip on planning: holding webinars on a Friday is perilous—you risk losing the momentum generated from your presentation.

2. Collect Registrations

If you’re using a purpose-designed platform, registrations will be automated. If using a more generic conferencing platform like, you’ll have to manually track and collect registrations. Beware: this will be time consuming, so carefully consider the cost/benefit of the cheaper platform.

3. Prepare Collateral

This collateral could simply be email copy and a website banner, or a full content marketing push leading up to the event. Whatever you decide, it should answer the following question:

What value will my audience get from attending?

Always prepare a formatted, professionally-branded presentation deck and make it available for download after the webinar.

4. Promote, Promote, Promote!

Promote to your existing customer base first (if it fits your objectives), and then through your established marketing channels. If you’re concerned about securing enough registrations to make the webinar worthwhile, consider co-marketing it with a strategic partner.

5. Remind, Remind, Remind!

Half of your registrations or more will be no-shows without timely, consistent reminders. Send out a reminder email (including a calendar invite) a week prior, a day prior, and four hours prior. Even with these reminders, there will still be some no-shows. With each webinar you produce, begin to look at the historical no-show data and factor this into your planning.

6. Hold the Event

It’s a good idea to be set up and ready to go 30 minutes early to conduct a last minute technical check. If including Q&A in the webinar wrap-up, have someone on your team collect, vet, and organize the questions as they’re submitted (most platforms include a chatroom or messaging feature). The principles of effective presentation are as important to webinars as they are to keynotes. It’s especially important to clearly enunciate and speak at a normal pace, as web audio can suffer quality issues. Presenting while standing up is helpful, even if there’s no video broadcast—this gives your diaphragm room to expand and makes it easier to speak clearly.

7. Follow-Ups

Follow-ups should start within a day of holding the webinar. If you lack the bandwidth to complete all of your follow-ups within a day, start with the sales leads. If you plan to stream the webinar recording in the future (hint: do this), let your audience know that an email will come once that link is available (great for capturing some of the no-shows).

Final Thoughts: Hand it Off or Bring it Home?

In designing for conversion, there’s a fundamental question to address:

Who’s going to handle the leads?

For many organizations, it’s the sales team. For organizations without a structured sales team, someone has to be assigned to follow up. This requires a ‘handoff’ between the presenter and the person who’s going to chase down the deals. Leveraging the pursuit marketing model can eliminate this inefficiency.

In pursuit marketing (for webinars), presenters also chase down the deals. One of the strongest advantages of pursuit marketing is the continuity between presentation and follow-ups. There’s no time lost in handoff activities.

If your organization has a sales team, experiment with involving the sales team early on. Have a salesperson (or sales manager) participate in planning and delivering the webinar. This can help dissolve silos between sales and marketing. When marketers and salespeople are joined at the hip, wins get chalked up more quickly and more often.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Direct Marketing Magazine.

Guaranteed Viewability: ‘Above the Fold’ Returns

Let’s be clear. I personally believe that the concept of ‘above the fold’ is not a valid design constraint for first-party content. ‘Above the fold’ may have held validity for digital mediums when the modern Internet first went mainstream… but that was twenty-five years ago.

What is ‘Above the Fold’?

The concept of “above the fold” originated with mass print advertising in the pre-Internet era. Printed newspapers were the most commonly commercialized method of news dissemination in the second half of the twentieth century. If you wanted to find out what happened in the world the day before, you went to a vending machine and bought a newspaper. These vending machines typically had a clear front door, so you could read the headline story of the newspaper. If you were interested in the headline story, you were more likely to buy the newspaper. Since newspapers were stacked in these vending machines folded in half, the term ‘above the fold’ became a common phrase to describe that you had to put your most interesting content above this half-fold, so that more people would buy the newspaper. What many people don’t consider when transplanting this phenomenon to digital content is that the importance of ‘above the fold’ was created by an artificial barrier. As a consumer, you simply couldn’t see what was in the rest of the paper without buying a copy.

This artificial barrier doesn’t typically exist in digital. You don’t have to pay a dollar to read past the first paragraph of content (unless you’re on the WSJ or Financial Times’ websites).

Issues in ‘Above the Fold’ for Digital

Problem 1: ‘Above the fold’ in digital is based on the assumption that a similar artificial barrier commonly exists. This premise suggests that people who are viewing the content either don’t know how to scroll down, or are too lazy to do so. Though I’ve never come across a study confirming it, common sense tells me that most people know how to scroll. And that twenty-five years after the mainstream adoption of the modern Internet, user interfaces are efficient enough that most people aren’t too lazy to use them in order to navigate content.

Problem 2: If a digital equivalent of ‘above the fold’ exists, where exactly is the fold? Wikipedia lists 86 common display resolutions for PC and Mac. That doesn’t include many popular smartphone, tablet, or embedded display form factors (like smart watches). The ‘fold’ will be in a different place for each distinct resolution. So, how can you guarantee that everything you wanted crammed ‘above the fold’ is actually above the fold in all these use cases? Factor pixel density into screen resolutions (which definitely would change the location of ‘the fold’) and it becomes a practical impossibility to keep important content ‘above the fold’ on every device for every piece of content. Trying to do so requires a significant investment of time with no concrete guarantee of the return needed to justify that time.

Guaranteed Viewability and ‘Above the Fold’

Advertisers have been beating the war drum about viewability this year. Digital ads that are bought on a CPM basis have traditionally been counted as an impression once they’re loaded from an ad server. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that an actual person looked at them, as the ad placement might be located further down the page… below ‘the fold.’ Even so, having an ad placement in view on the screen is no guarantee that the person looked at it. Short of mounting eye-tracking units to everyone who uses the Internet, we’re unlikely to get a more precise measure of a view anytime soon.

<tangent>At least, until immersive VR technology becomes mainstream enough that the advertising industry connects existing exchanges to VR platforms. Then we’d have a more precise measure of a view, as eye-tracking technology will likely be used in future user interfaces for VR. The way the industry landscape looks right now, Facebook is the closest to making this paradigm a reality. Facebook now owns Oculus Rift, and its 2013 acquisition of Atlas Solutions from Microsoft gave it access to a mature ad network with the capability to serve ads beyond Facebook’s own ecosystem.</tangent>

But that’s a conversation for another day. The current campaign calling on publishers to allow viewability verification has led to substantial policy and technology changes on the properties in Google’s GDN, YouTube, and Facebook. Google recently announced that it will be making vCPM bidding the default on its display network as it rolls out enhanced viewable impression technology. Facebook is taking a slightly different approach, announcing the availability of In-View ads (which offer guaranteed viewability) and 3rd-party verification of some types of ad units (for now, just video). In June, Yahoo! announced that it was building third party verification of viewability into its standard ad platform.

How does this relate to ‘above the fold’?

The most common technical method for measuring viewability in an open, programmatic ad network is to check whether the ad placement unit has scrolled into view on a user’s screen. If the ad unit is in view, the ad is considered ‘viewable’ to the user and can be counted as a viewable impression. Smart publishers, large and small, will adjust by placing their ad units in areas that are likely to generate the most viewable impressions most frequently. In most use cases, on most devices, this means that placements will move higher up in content pages. Really smart publishers will also evaluate their analytics capabilities and begin to experiment with ad unit locations by measuring dwell time with an ad unit in view. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google rolls out the capability to measure the dwell time or viewability of on-site GDN ad placements through Google Analytics sometime in the next year. Having this capability makes Google’s integrated suite of applications that much more sticky for content publishers.