Archive for March, 2009

The science of marketing

Before I started typing, I checked the Category as “rambling” as I don’t know where this post is going, but I was thinking while driving home this evening (always a dangerous prospect). My conclusion: marketing is no longer an art. Marketing is now a science.

Back when I was at UBC, I obtained a Bachelor’s of Arts (English & Art History). And while marketing was not even on my radar at that point, I never considered myself a man of science. I mean, I always enjoyed Science Fair projects, but I really was not a fan of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. Math was something I dreaded going to. The benefits of Science at UBC, was the 432 and some of the beer gardens.

When I got into marketing, I was focused on the copy writing, communications, branding, programs, and the like. I have been calling it “extroverted marketing” now for several years… though this is mostly to differentiate it from the “introverted marketing” that I was doing over the past 5+ years. Introverted marketing is the product marketing, market requirements, technical specifications, product road maps, and the like.

In conversations with my father-in-law (an Engineer), marketing has always been second fiddle to a man of science. We were the ones that wrote the “spontaneous quotes” to feed the executive team. Science was what made the world go round. But at some point in the past few years, marketing has become a science. I don’t know the exact moment it tipped, but it has.

This really hit home when I was reading a very good post from ClickEquations called “The Economics of Quality Score”. In this article Craig Danuloff wrote:

So What Is Quality Score Worth?
Knowing this is how cost-per-click is calculated, we’re able to determine the specific impact of any quality score on your cost-per-click.

And therefore the exact cost or savings from any single-digit increase or decrease in your quality score.

Yes that’s right – we can tell you the specific change in your CPC that is due to the quality score you’re getting for each of your keywords.

For example, your QS=10 keywords are enjoying a 30% CPC discount as compared to if they were QS=7 and in the same position. And your QS=4 keywords are paying a whopping 75% premium for their position.

This excerpt was followed by a very good analysis of the importance of quality score and how it can dramatically impact your paid search marketing activities. Check our the piece for sure…

But here I was, a self-professed math-o-phobe, reading with interest the statistical analysis of quality score. This is, of course, on top of the bi-weekly Marketing Experiments webinars on landing page optimization. More science.

Every day, I am pondering the stats and metrics of my assorted paid search campaigns. What gives?

You see. Marketing has changed. It is no longer an art. It is a science.

What does that mean to the world at large? Well perhaps the next marketing recruits will no longer be coming out of the art schools. Perhaps agencies should be scouring the Physics and Math departments of university campuses. I don’t know… maybe they already are?

Years ago, I was brought back to UBC by the Arts Undergraduate Society to talk to 1st and 2nd year students in a session called “Beyond the BA”. The focus was on what a person could do with an Arts Degree. Of the other panelists, I was the only one to go out and get a ‘real’ job. The rest had gone on to a technical program (BCIT), onto Education [when in doubt, teach], or onto Law.

The advice I had for the students at the time was that it was OK to go out and learn business on the job. Use your BA as an opportunity to learn how to learn, how to communicate, and how to synthesize. These traits would be useful wherever life takes you, and at the time this took me into the marketing of software.

But in hindsight, seeing at where marketing is at presently, perhaps the advice I should have given was this. If you want to be a good marketer, forget about studying English and Art History as yours truly did. Go out and look at the hard sciences and learn to do research. Think about the math programs so that you could discover the next formula for optimization. Be a scientist. And with it, you will become a better artist.

March 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

What to look for when buying a domain name

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:


{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.

The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “” does not communicate this. does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.

There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture,, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.



Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Vancity Savings – an example of great customer service

I had a great customer service experience at Vancity Savings, the credit union I deal with. And as they say, when you have bad customer service you tell 10 people, and when you have a good experience, you tell 1. Well I think that is wrong, so I am telling the world.

I was doing a wire transfer out today from an account that, in its classification as a “high interest savings account”, required that a $5 fee be imposed should I withdraw funds while interacting with a teller. It sounds like one of those rules that a bureaucrat makes up, though I assume it had some thought put into it.

Anyhow, after I said “that’s fine” and was more than willing to pay the fee, the teller offered this up, “How about I log out of my terminal, log onto our website, and then you could transfer funds from this account, into another one of your accounts. From here, we will do the wire transfer out of your other account, saving you the $5 fee?”

Pardon? What happened to the concept that all banks are evil, money-hungry, and only interested in their bottom line?

Well maybe they are still interested in the latter point, but the empowerment of the frontline staff to suggest things like this would generate way more revenue for them than a measley $5 fee. After all, not only do I do a lot of business them, but with good service, I will tell someone else. And that is exactly what I am doing.

Kudos to Vancity and the staff in Maple Ridge. And thank you.

March 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm 3 comments