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Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google : Aaron Goldman Book Blog Tour

I’ve known Aaron Goldman since 2006 and he stands out as someone who has made himself accessible and friendly in the search engine community. Every few months we share a conversations about what we are both up to and aspire to, it is always fun. Aaron has encouraged me to continue evangelizing my message about the strategic and structural changes in marketing and how they will continue to profoundly impact business results and economic distribution realities – whether businesses chose to engage in them or not. It will impact them positively or adversely based on their course of action or inaction.  For that continued encouragement, I’d like to take a minute to thank Aaron right here and it’s a great honor to be the first stop on this blog tour for his new book “Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google” (McGraw Hill 2010).

In the introduction, you discuss how many have a love and hate relationship with Google – at the same time. What it is about Google that allows these emotions to exist mutually at the same time?

Aaron Goldman: Well, I wouldn’t call it a love/hate so much as a love/fear.

I love using Google as a searcher and as marketer. As a searcher, Google helps me find what I’m looking for. And, as a marketer, Google helps me get new customers.

But I’m definitely afraid of Google too. As a searcher, I’m afraid it of what it could do with my data. And as a marketer, I’m also afraid of what it could do with my data but even more afraid that it may one day change its algorithm and leave me out in the cold.

I think it’s general human nature to fear the things we love the most. Once we become reliant on something or someone, we fear that it one day may be taken away.

You discussed relevancy and intent in the book at a few junctures. How do you like to explain these issues to people and why are these concepts challenging for people to understand?

Aaron Goldman: It’s difficult because, by its very definition, relevancy is relative. What’s relevant to you may not be to me. Too many marketers make the mistake of thinking that what matters to them also matters to their target customers.

From a Google perspective, relevancy is the key to search. If Google’s search results aren’t relevant to each individual searcher, he or she will stop using it. That’s why Google looks to collect and keep so much data. It needs to personalize the results to make them more relevant.

For marketers, it’s critical to give off signals of relevancy if you want high rankings on Google. This includes content geared towards specific search queries as well as links from relevant websites.

As for intent. I really think it’s the reason search marketing works so well. People come to Google with the intent of finding something. And, often, that’s something to buy. It’s one of the few places in media where people raise their hands and specifically ask for products, services, etc. It’s the whole pull vs. push thing.

You mentioned how AOL values content differently than most organizations and how Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation, owner of The Wall Street Journal or Fox News accuses Google of stealing content. As content channels become infinite, isn’t media monopoly power also changing and/or even declining?

Aaron Goldman: The point I was making with content is that there are certain topics that are highly commercial and others that are not. What I mean by commercial is that the people consuming the content are in a commercial mindset — they’re thinking about buying something.

For publishers, commercial content is the easiest to monetize. Advertisers want to be wherever there are people thinking about buying stuff. AOL has done a good job of creating content on highly commercial topics — think travel or financial services — that it can sell ads against.

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are too busy covering the “news.” And news is tough to monetize. People consuming news are not in a commercial mindset and are not open to advertising messages.

All that said, you make a good point that it’s tougher to wield monopoly power as channels become infinite and distribution is spread across the long tail. These days anybody can start a blog or Twitter account and “report” news. And people tend to trust their friends more than the media.

You interlaced a bunch of URLs in the book. This is an interesting experiment. What is your hope for it?

Aaron Goldman: I wanted to make the experience of reading the book more dynamic. Rather than just read cover to cover, my hope is that people will read a chapter and then go to the web to learn more about specific topics covered and interact with other people reading that same part of the book.

With static print, it’s tough to keep content fresh — especially in the world of marketing and Google when changes are happening every day. By including the URLs, I have a way to share new developments.

The URLs also helped keep me from going off on tangents or going too deep on topics that many readers may not care about. For example, rather than recap an entire thesis that David Berkowitz wrote about “Jewhavioral Targeting” in my chapter about “Letting the Data Decide,” I just cover it in a sentence or two and include a link.

There’s a few people in the book that were mentioned considerably more than others, how did you pick the contributors, quotes and subtopics?

Aaron Goldman: Along the same lines as the URLs, I knew it was important to include a wide variety of perspectives on the lessons learned from Google. No-one wants to read 300+ pages of what Aaron Goldman thinks about marketing. But people do (I hope) want to read 300+ pages of what some of the brightest minds in the industry learned from Google as curated by Aaron Goldman.

I interviewed over 100 marketing big wigs in the course of preparing my manuscript ranging from agency types to Google employees to researchers to university professors. The ones who are mentioned more frequently are the ones that gave me insights that were the most compelling, controversial, quotable or all of the above.

The book is part history, part teacher and part tour guide…who is the intended audience?

Aaron Goldman: This book was written for anyone who has a stake in marketing. It covers all areas of marketing — advertising, PR, promotions, media, product development, etc.

And it’s written for people like me who have very short attention spans. The copy is quick and punchy. And there’s lots of fun wordplay. I put the “pun” in punchy.

It doesn’t matter if you work for a small business or Fortune 500 company, the lessons in my book are applicable to your business. In each of my 20 chapters, I share a lesson, discuss how Google puts it into play, cover mini-case studies of marketers that exemplify it, and then walk through an exercise for the reader to relate the lesson to his or her business.

This book will also make great fodder for search engine marketing pros looking to broaden their horizons or understand how their skills can be leveraged across other channels.

What knowledge do you want people to take away from the book?

Aaron Goldman: First and foremost, I want people to take away specific tactics that they can apply to their business immediately. If you read the entire book and don’t find a single thing you can do to grow your business right away, then I will personally refund your money.

That said, I also want to give people a framework for thinking about the future of marketing. I spend quite a bit of time throughout the book — and especially in the last chapter on “future-proofing” — discussing what the marketing world will look like 10 years from now and what Google’s role might be within it.

If nothing else, I hope people will find my book entertaining and enjoy getting a peek under the hood of one of the most fascinating (and profitable) companies in the modern era.
I wish Aaron the best of luck with his book and look forward to learning from his experiences as I continue to explore my book author aspirations in the future. The constant mutual learning from all of the wonderful people I meet in the digital marketing space as I speak and consult around the world is special and hard to fully describe! Looking forward to seeing the other scheduled stops on the GoogleyLessons blog tour!

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Interview: David Meerman Scott On Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead

As you likely already know, David Meerman Scott and I have a lot in common. We both  started our careers in the bond market  and spent considerable time organizing and marketing financial market data to various audiences. Who knew we also shared a passion for music? David Meerman Scott actually maintains a database of the 308 different bands that he has seen live.

In association with Brian Halligan, David now releases Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead (Wiley 2010). The book gives a refreshing look at concepts you’ve seen in his previous books, explaining how David believes using the techniques of the Grateful Dead companies can learn to market, engage and build passionate fan bases. The book interlaces ideas from the offline world and show how to use them online today. Yet this vast opportunity remains hidden to most. They talk about the book in this video:

How did you conceive of the Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead’s concept and map the chapters to effortlessly flow to the reader?

David Meerman Scott: The book’s concept was really conceived out of our love for the Grateful Dead and their music. We were fans and at the same time were eager to write about the Grateful Dead because we identified many lessons in what the band has been doing over more than 40 years that are applicable today. These lessons are an important tool for helping to understand the new marketing environments in a language and with examples that are familiar to all.

You showed several examples of how the Grateful Dead treated their customers with care and respect (page 82). It seems like a simple concept. Why is treating customers with care and respect so hard to do in most companies?

David Meerman Scott: I think doing it involves more work and some companies mistakenly think there is an advantage to new customer churn instead of building a loyal fan base. Companies need to understand there really isn’t any difference between a B2B or B2C company, at the end of the day you are still selling to people.  The more people feel valued by companies and personally connected to them, the more the company’s fan base will grow and the bottom line will prosper as well.

Read more:

You discuss bootleg recordings and the freemium model extensively in the book. What are your views on how this is emerging in the corporate world and the potential future paths?

David Meerman Scott:   The idea of giving away something for free to anybody who wants it and then providing a paid upgrade to a premium version is becoming increasingly common with products and services that have no distribution costs. The challenge in the upgrade model is to give away something that is considered valuable and something that people will use regularly and become familiar with.

This strategy won’t work when you provides something for free that only has limited value. So for example a free software application with a feature set that is so crippled as to be of limited use will not sell more software.

Back when I had a music site, it was amazing to see that the artists that were heavily involved in defining the direction of the promotion of the band almost always outperformed the ones done by handlers promoting exclusively by the old rules and channels. How can companies best adapt and capture the opportunities this presents?

David Meerman Scott: If we look at this in terms of promotion the best things companies can do is make it easy to spread their content. And let the marketplace spread your content for you. The goal is to spread the word about your product or service in the marketplace. If you have a remarkable idea, you will attract bloggers and social media users in your marketplace that will help you propel your idea without spending lots of money on PR and advertising. The Grateful Dead lesson is that making it easy for our audience to spread our content makes our product “known” in the marketplace.

When you met the senior bond trader at Madison Square Garden in the 1980’s, the book states (page 76) “It’s sort of like a secret society, a shared interest in something that others in the office don’t know about.” Why didn’t everyone in that office become Deadheads? What can be done to make sure search marketing, social media and the new rules of marketing don’t get limited to “secret society” status?

David Meerman Scott: The Grateful Dead was never mainstream. They only had one top ten song in 45 years. As in every niche market, I wouldn’t expect everyone to be a fan.

However, search marketing, social media, new rules of marketing have no way of being limited to a “secret society” status, because every major media outlet, online blogs and sites all use these tools ubiquitously. The real question companies need to be asking is “Are we using these tools to benefit our customers, grow fans and engage in real dialogue,” if the answer is no, the company or its product is the one that will stay secret.

Really enjoyed your discussion of the strategy shift at Dropbox(page 40). Your discussion of how some tactics that work in an existing market can utterly fail in new markets is a highly misunderstood area for both entrepreneurs and existing companies alike. Why is this concept so challenging to understand?

David Meerman Scott: I think it’s not all that challenging to understand, the challenge lies in companies being willing to experiment and step outside of the channels that have been too long traversed and no longer work. Too often companies get comfortable with how they have always done something. So even when it’s no longer working, it’s hard to stop doing it. The key to changing this is to be open-minded about how to market your products and be willing to experiment in your market.  You’ll never know what might succeed if you’re not willing to try new things.

What techniques do you like use to convert raving fans of new marketing tactics that often conflict with previous belief systems?

David Meerman Scott: My job is to write these books and speak about all the successes that companies have when they put these new marketing tactics to use. I’m a journalist as well as a marketing strategist and I spend a lot of time blogging about all the right things and some not so great things that companies are doing with these tools. The best way to convert people to using them is to reveal to them how the can successfully apply them and what benefit will come from that application.