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February 2014 archive

Does the Product Manager = Product Owner When Adopting Agile?

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Being a product manager in software companies has never been easy. If anything, every veteran product manager I know (yours truly included) describes their career as a love-hate relationship at best. The advent of Agile software development and the introduction of the product owner role caused even more headaches for a lot of Product Managers. Why?

Typically, one of two things happens when the development team goes Agile:

1.  The product managers are asked to fill the product owner role.

2.  The product owner roles is created in the development team and product management still exists outside the development team.

Just going from anecdotal evidence, it seems that #1 is much more common than #2. Both are problematic though. In the first case, the development team expects the product manager (PM) to suddenly fulfill the product owner (PO) role as described in their Scrum training while the rest of the business expects the PM to continue working with them just as before – you wind up with one foot in Agile and one foot in your “traditional” role and your overall workload increases significantly.

In the second case, the PM may be a dotted-line manager for the POs. I worked in one such environment, and it worked fairly well.  In fact, we wound up organically arranging ourselves in a relationship that some Scrum folks had already thought about. I’m talking about a PO team where there are multiple POs who report to a chief product owner (CPO) who ensures consistency in strategy, vision, and execution among the POs working on the same product or product line. I won’t bother rehashing someone else’s work here – you can just Google “chief product owner” to learn more.


Web Seminar Recap: How to Avoid and Recover from Google’s Penguin Penalty

As Google continues to be more aggressive in their efforts to uncover and penalize business owners simply trying to build their rankings, you need to know how to protect your website from becoming another SEO casualty.

Has your website recently seen a significant decrease in rankings or traffic? Do you have a notice in Google Webmaster Tools indicating a manual action against your site for unnatural linking practices? Have you ever, or are you currently considering, building links to your website to improve your rankings?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then last week’s web seminar with Virante’s Jacob Bohall was for you. Click here to listen to a complete recording of this presentation or download the slides from this presentation by visiting our Web Seminar Archives.

Learn how certain types of linking practices place your site at risk for being penalized. Jacob also explained to participants how to determine if you have been impacted by Google’s Penguin update and the steps you have to take in order to recover your rankings and traffic.

Don’t wait until it is too late before educating yourself on a topic that has left many SEO companies baffled and their clients with a costly clean-up project and a tarnished image with Google. Get priceless information to ensure your SEO efforts are not leaving you vulnerable and provide you with the knowledge you need to be proactive in cleaning up your backlink profile or preparing for a reconsideration request.

Why Every Company Needs a Journalist for Content Marketing

Learn to optimize your search visibility and website traffic using concise, high–impact content marketing strategies. Check out our 2-day Content Marketing training course.

Attention spans are getting even shorter, dependency on short titles and key phrases to grab attention is standard, and great content is finally being rewarded in the world of SEO. What professionals can deliver all of those with their eyes closed? Journalists.

Some say journalism started dying as a profession when the newspaper business faced the beginning of its downfall about 15 years ago. While I do think journalistic standards have fallen thanks to the advent of bloggers who call themselves journalists and sensationalist reporting in Western culture, I think journalists have a much needed position within corporate marketing and communication departments, especially when it comes to content marketing.

In 2012, content marketing became one of the hottest buzzwords for marketers. Content strategy consisting of web seminars, ebooks, speeches, blog posts, videos and more was frenzied into production and published quickly. Then editorial calendars became a tool for marketing managers to schedule and track blog posts. Now landing pages aren’t only being ranked based on keywords but based on the relevance Google determines they have to the searcher.

Copywriters might be able to get you a great headline. Search engine optimizers can figure out how to improve your landing page to get you ranked on Google. Technical writers can absorb information and write it with clarity to specific audiences. But that still doesn’t give you the heart, determination and skill of a journalist who can help you with content marketing.

The current demand is for high-quality, engaging content. But what does that mean? And how does that match up with journalistic skills?

  • Audience – Content should be written with a purpose, not just to insert keywords into a fluff piece. To do that the first step is to know what your audience wants to hear about. Journalists from local gazettes to national periodicals know what topics are important to their readers.
  • Research – There are so many people who want to cut corners. Journalists are ingrained with the need to fact check. And they aren’t afraid to call sources, customers or vendors and ask questions.
  • Details – Reading an opinion blog is great, but most people, regardless of professional industry, want something tangible to use or take away. Supporting detail, facts and statistics that journalists use to support their story are standard for them and help greatly with content marketing.
  • Grammar and spelling – I cannot stress this one enough. When reading a company blog, would you want to buy their product if they didn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re? Personally, I skipped getting a quote from one company when a main heading said they sold “hardwood floring.” No thanks.
  • Timely – Many times companies need to quickly turn around blog posts, speeches, press releases, etc. for content marketing in order to keep up with trends its customers are interested in. What journalist hasn’t been required to meet tight deadline demands and function well under pressure?
  • Inquisitive – To write great content you need to have great information. Journalism requires reporters to adopt skills enabling them to seek information relevant and purposeful.
  • Storytellers – At the Internet Summit in Raleigh last year, telling a story was the hot topic in what works with content marketing. Who better to write a story than someone who has written stories their whole career?


Big Data in Marketing: What’s all the Fuss About?

Yesterday I attended the monthly Triangle American Marketing Association luncheon:  CMOs and CIOs Collaborating to Use Big Data for More Successful Campaigns. Bryce Gartner, founder and CEO of Icimo, spoke and then opened it up for discussion and a question and answer session. So what exactly did the head of a “top 50 big data startup to watch” company, who has also been a CMO and CTO, have to say about big data? A lot. This is a rough summary and interpretation of Bryce’s presentation.

The big picture concept throughout, and one to keep in mind for all marketers really, is the push toward using data-driven rather than opinion-based decisions. In order to succeed in this “new world” of marketing and technology, there has to be a better way to know your audience, reach them and then measure the results. The way to do this is by analyzing the data you have available. “Doing” big data means knowing your business better, and the answers lie in your data.

So how do you currently find your data? Do you send a report request to IT and wait for the result for two weeks only to find it’s not exactly the data you wanted? That’s a pain point for marketers and IT people alike. Marketing gets frustrated because they had to wait, and it’s not even right, while IT thinks marketing doesn’t even know what they want. In this situation, IT has a backlog of hundreds of reports that they can’t output fast enough.

Or, is your marketing team a bit more autonomous because you’ve practiced “shadow IT” where your CMO has purchased and implemented technology to analyze your data without getting the official IT approval? You might be able to function that way, but in the end, the CIO/CMO relationship is strained further. So why can’t marketing implement technology they need to increase revenue if it comes from their budget? Simply put, in the end it’s the CIO who’s going to get the call at 2 a.m. if customer information is leaked or there’s a system breach.

Basically, CMOs and CIOs need to develop an efficient and effective relationship where marketing can be self-reliant, but the worry of implementation and cost isn’t a burden to the CIO. The resistance from the CIO comes from this issue being one among database housing, server issues, system infrastructure, security and more. The resistance of the CMO comes from the fact that they have to react quickly in order to make a good campaign great, and be able to know their audience better. Many times involving IT in a technical decision can drag that out for months.

The case needs to be made that big data does not equal big dollars or big time commitments. A few easy to use and relatively inexpensive programs Bryce mentioned were Tableau, QlikTech and Spotfire. On a more intricate and costlier level, he mentioned IBM, SAS, SAP and Microsoft platforms for big data.

Another barrier for data-driven marketing comes from the resistance to use data at all. In the past, the glory of marketing has gone to the creative who comes up with the award-winning idea. (If anyone watches The Crazy Ones, the “Simon Roberts Was Here” episode epitomizes this point.) But even to measure the effectiveness of great creative, you still need data to tell you whether an ad, jingle, event or something else led to conversions.

Another issue is the embarrassment of thinking you don’t have good data. Newsflash:  No one has clean data. But you won’t improve without making it a priority. And making data a priority is exactly what companies are doing. According to Informantica, half of Fortune 500 companies will have a Chief Data Officer by 2015. This emphasis on big data tells us that businesses believe that there is data-driven effect on their revenue.

Regardless of how your company is currently handling big data, the topic is going to stay for a while. So make sure that the information you have backs your thoughts and ideas. Your gut-feeling shouldn’t be abandoned, but justifying marketing campaigns with data that comes directly from customers will go a long way convincing the C-Suite to back your latest marketing budget.

To learn more about big data in marketing, check out our Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp.

Your Agile Marketing Backlog

You to can learn to apply Agile Methods to Marketing. Check out our 2-day Agile Marketing training course and learn to get more done, adapt to change and see immediate measurable results.

How much thought have you given to that billboard you leased for your marketing team?  What – you don’t remember?  When you decided to do Agile Marketing and use Scrum, you started by creating a Marketing Backlog. OK, maybe you remember that part but you still don’t know what I’m talking about, so let me explain.

Your Marketing Backlog is not just a big “parking lot” for marketing work. In fact, it’s one of the Scrum artifacts that serves as an “information radiator.”  If that term doesn’t ring a bell, then we’ve discovered the root-cause of our disconnect. Information radiators are things that expose others to information, making it something that is broadcasted as opposed to being something you have to seek out.  That’s why I asked about the billboard you got for your marketing team – that’s supposed to be your Marketing Backlog.

Now that we’re on the same page, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my Marketing Backlog on display where a lot of people can see it?
  • Is my Marketing Backlog organized so it’s easy to add new work?
  • Is my Marketing Backlog organized and annotated so I can easily show an executive what my team is doing?

If you answered “no” to any of these, then we have a problem. Or two. Or three.


Google Plus is LinkedIn on Steroids

I know most of you are saying, “Who cares about Google Plus?” But believe it or not, Google Plus is now the second largest social network in the world. Facebook is, of course, number one, but more than likely Facebook won’t help you land that next great job. Google Plus will.

Traditionally, we think of LinkedIn being the social network used for professional networking, job hunting, recruiting, etc. But now, Google Plus is not only bigger than LinkedIn, it has everything LinkedIn has with a lot less rules. So how exactly is Google Plus going to help you land that next big job? Let’s explore this subject. (more…)

What is Content Marketing?

The world is changing and so are consumers. In fact, they’re on to us; us being marketers. Consumers have learned to “shut off” what we consider traditional marketing. Think about it: they have DVRs to skip television commercials, they stream music online instead of listening to the radio and they purchase subscriptions to those music services so that they don’t have to listen to ads. They’ve even shut us off mentally. Consumers are now able to surf the web without paying any attention to banners or buttons. So, since traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective, what do we do? Insert content marketing.

What is Content Marketing?

According to the Wikipedia definition, Content Marketing is:

Any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, Q&A articles, photos and more.

What is the Purpose of Content Marketing?

The purpose of content marketing is to attract and retain customers with relevant and valuable content. But this isn’t a once and done sort of thing. Content marketing is constant. It is an ongoing process that should be integrated into your overall marketing strategy. Think of it this way, content marketing is your way of communicating with your audience without selling to them. Don’t get me wrong, that is your ultimate goal, but content marketing is what fosters that goal. Instead of pitching your product or service you are giving your audience relevant and valuable information that not only makes them smarter but sets you apart as a thought leader. Ultimately, you get rewarded with their business and loyalty.


Working remotely this week?

We’ve got a snow day here in Raleigh, but that just means we’re all working remotely! How about a discount code on remote courses? Register by Friday, Feb 14 and get 50% off our Virtual Classes when registering on the web by using code “SNOWEDIN” during checkout.

Hurry, this offer ends on Valentine’s Day, so spread the love and stay warm!

Offer valid only for new registrations. Some exclusions do apply (including Adobe, and Ranorex courses).

Google Analytics Views and Filters

Looking for Google Analytics training and instruction? Check out our three-day Mastering Google Analytics course. You will learn to leverage Google Analytics to better track and optimize your site. You’ll also have the opportunity to take and pass your Google Analytics Certification exam in class!

In my previous post about creating a Google Analytics account, we discussed the Google Analytics account structure and the concept of properties inside the main account. Just to jog your memory, the best way to structure your Google Analytics account is to group all your digital assets together. ASPE, a family of six different training companies, owns six different websites. Therefore, each of our sites is a different property inside our one main ASPE Google Analytics account.

Let’s take this further and discuss views and filters. You can create different views inside of Google Analytics for each property. There are three standard recommended views for each property:

  1. Unfiltered (automatic) View
  2. Master View
  3. Test View

The Unfiltered View is automatically generated when you create a property inside of your account. This view will be your backup data. You don’t ever want to apply any settings or configurations to this view. The Master View is where you can incorporate all your settings needed to gain a realistic and useful understanding of your website activity. For instance, you might filter all your internal website traffic from this view so that the traffic generated from inside your organization doesn’t affect your choices based on the data you see. Finally, you should always, I repeat, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS have a Test View. Any time you need to make changes to your Analytics configuration, you should test those changes first to see how they will impact your data. That’s what the test view is for. Once you understand that impact, you can then apply those changes to the appropriate view.

Two very important things to remember about views are that:

  1. Once you delete a view it’s gone forever
  2. When you create a new view you’ll only have data from the date you created the view

Let’s look at an example of how ASPE might set up an account structure with multiple views:


What Keeps Social Media Advertising from Being Successful

This blog was originally posted on

As more people engage with social media advertising via smartphones and tablets, the time between a click and a purchase narrows, but it also means that brands must be ready for the decisiveness of a buy-now crowd.

According to a comScore study, mobile devices host more than a third of visits to top e-commerce sites.

Never before have we seen the number of retail visits on smartphones and tablets so close to those on desktop, an indicator that brands need mobile-friendly websites in order to align with user intent.