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EPISODE 78

A Tool For Every Ecommerce Need

With Dan McGaw, founder and CEO of McGaw.io

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For more than two decades, Dan McGaw has been engrossed in the world of marketing technology. And through the years, there has rarely been a new MarTech tool that Dan hasn’t given a shot. Why has he placed such an emphasis on knowing the latest tools available to marketers? Because every company, big or small, needs to invest in tools that will elevate their business rather than slow it down. Some tools are better than others, and sifting through the rubbish to find the diamonds is a daunting task. That’s where Dan and his company, McGaw.io, come in.

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Dan discusses all of the marketing technology he’s bullish on at the moment, and why he believes ecommerce companies will be investing heavily in certain tools and operational activities. From campaign tracking, to multi-touch attribution, to recommendation engines, to personalization, Dan’s toolbelt has a tool for you, and he also has some comforting words for anyone who is worried about the potential of a cookieless future.

Main Takeaways:

  • Text Me Back: Companies are misusing SMS messaging as simply a way to send promotional messages. Instead, brands should think about texting as a way to open two-way communication with their customers, especially through the use of direct questions and interactive exchanges.
  • An Easy Way to Personalize: There are opportunities to personalize the shopping experience that are being left on the table. Brands reflexively choose the easy option of sending a cart abandonment email reminding users what they left in their cart. What would be more effective is sending an email that utilizes their entire shopping history, including things they didn’t add to their cart. Just because they didn’t add a particular item, doesn’t mean they weren’t interested. After all, they simply could have been distracted or otherwise disposed of before making the transaction.
  • C is for Cookie: Despite the fact that many people are worried about the death of third-party cookies, they will not completely disappear. And, in fact, there are actually already alternatives to cookies available that work in a similar way. Find out what they are and how to use them by tuning in!

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“Our company mission is to help companies of all sizes realize that their customer data is their most valuable asset.” 

“There are two primary problems that most companies have… they either lack visibility into their customer journey or they lack the ability to engage in the customer journey.”

“The fundamental problem that we see most companies have is that they just don’t have a consistent taxonomy across the stack… So that foundational thing is the last thing everybody focuses on, but when they get that right and it works across the entire stack using a unified taxonomy, which sounds so technical but it really isn’t, they really are able to create magic.”

“Growth is always focused on action, not necessarily planning. So the new role a lot of companies are rolling out is revenue operations, marketing operations, and sales operations. Revenue operations is the big position that SaaS companies are hiring for because it straddles across marketing sales and customer success. In a lot of the enterprise companies, you’re going to see a lot more of these revenue operations style roles that are coming out that try to align it.”

“When you’re a large ecommerce company, speed is obviously paramount because it affects everything from SEO rankings to people actually converting on the website. But I also think you have to very much focus on personalization and creating a customer journey for the user. I think there’s two kinds of use here. I mean, one marketing automation is great because it enables you to do so much, but sometimes we lose the human element and we kind of forget that people are still humans. They want to have a communication channel with us. So you want to make sure that you can personalize the experience and tailor that experience as much as you can. But at the same time, you just don’t want to overdo it.”

“Just because I didn’t add it to my cart doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in it. It means I probably have a five-year-old that’s distracting me and I didn’t get to add it to my cart. So we see allowing people to pick up where they left off as a really, really easy thing to do.”

“A marketer’s job in my opinion is to basically help somebody accomplish their goals by serving them what they wanted in the first place.  It’s to create that magical customer experience, knowing what they already wanted and serving them that on a silver platter.” 

“I’m super big fan of text message marketing, but I think a lot of companies get it wrong in the fact that they use it as a promotional channel and they use it as spray and pray.”

“When we think about text messages, we think about it from a helper perspective. We have to think about the things that are going to optimize the customer experience, not the things that are going to help us.”

“You should be running tons of tests. There’s a linear line between the number of tests that you run and the growth that you can create at a company. So you should run as many as you possibly can, that you can hit statistical significance with.”

“Everybody wants to do multi-touch attribution. Everybody’s trying to figure out how do they do multi-touch attribution to better align their return on ad spend. Because the key problem that you have is all these retailers are spending millions of dollars a year on advertising spend. And then if they look in Facebook, they see a conversion in Google, they see a conversion in LinkedIn or whatever the platform they see a conversion and they’re attributing one sale to five different conversions. So they’re really trying to say, “We understand that those five conversions we see in these different platforms or from one purchase, and we need to be able to pull that data together.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Dan McGaw is an award-winning entrepreneur and speaker. He is also the Founder and CEO of McGaw.io, an analytics and marketing technology consultancy. Coined as one of the original growth hackers, he has led the teams at Kissmetrics.com, CodeSchool.com, UTM.io and more. In 2015, Dan was selected to be a United States Ambassador of Entrepreneurship by the United States Department of State, where he had the privilege to advise government, universities, and private corporations on how to build entrepreneur ecosystems.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey everyone and welcome back to Up Next In Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder at mission.org. First things first, I would love it if you could hit subscribe and leave a rating and review, let me know how I’m doing and what you guys are interested in hearing in the future. All right, onto the show. Today, we have Dan McGaw, the CEO and founder of McGaw.io. Dan, welcome.

Dan:

Hey, how are you today?

Stephanie:

Good. How are you?

Dan:

I’m doing amazing. I’m living the dream right now. So having a ton of fun.

Stephanie:

You are. So tell me a bit about McGaw. So I was reading about your background and what you were known for, and someone called you the godfather of the marketing tech stack and one of the original growth hackers. So if I’m setting you up big here, let me know. But tell me, how did you get those names and what does your current company do?

Dan:

Yeah, great question. Well, I got those names from other people calling me, which is pretty fascinating to say the least because I remember the first time that I heard that I was like, “What?” But then it kind of caught some legs. So I’ve been in this space for over 20 years. So I’ve been doing marketing technology marketing since 1998. So I’ve been doing mass emails since before mass email was even a thing. So I just have been around for a really long time and I’ve been in the marketing technology space since before there was even a concept known as marketing technology. So definitely have had a long history of doing this. I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, even have been, another funny, fancy title that I was given is I am a United States ambassador of entrepreneurship.

Stephanie:

I saw that too. I didn’t know what that meant though so I was afraid to put that one out there.

Dan:

Right? So I was selected by the United States State Department to be an ambassador of entrepreneurship to Mexico and I was flown to Mexico and I had to advise a bunch of companies and corporations and colleges on how to build entrepreneur ecosystem. So it’s just been really fascinating. I think that the big thing that I will just say is I have a really big mouth and I’m always out there doing something stupid and I’m not afraid to say how I feel. So it’s kind of wound me up with some cool places and I’ve done some really cool stuff, but yeah, I’ve had an amazing career. Everything from working at a cemetery, to making pizzas to now of course doing some really bad-ass marketing technology stuff. So I hope that helps.

Stephanie:

So what’d you do at the cemetery? Now you’ve piqued my interest there. We’ll just have a conversation about that now.

Dan:

Yeah. Right. And that was the creepiest job I’ve ever had, but so awesome. I just did, I was a lands crew person and I weed whacked and I blew leaves. I think I was 14 in middle school, but I’ve always had the hustle so I just wanted to work and make cash. And I mean, I started my first company when I was 13 and was very successful in that business. So I’ve always just wanted to make money and that’s actually how I got into marketing technologies. I saw marketing technology was going to blow up and we chose a vein in there and stuck with it and it worked out really well.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. So how did you see that area was going to blow up? I mean, you’re saying that it was before there was even a terminology around it. How did you see this as an industry I want to get into and now I know what to actually do to even be helpful.

Dan:

Yeah. Fascinating question. So my first company was basically in the music business. We started one of the first online booking agencies for DJs and producers. So everybody here has probably watched the Fyre documentary on Hulu or Netflix. I literally did that same exact business except for I was not a fraud, which is so fascinating. We started an online website and bulletin boards marketing DJs and producers that basically would do raves. Today we now call it EDM and it’s all this big billion dollar industry, but back then it was like nothing. And I was just young and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And so I said, “Hey, we’re going to figure out how to promote these DJs because I love raves like any …” What 13 year old goes to raves? But either way-

Stephanie:

Yeah, really. Where are your parents? We don’t know where Dan went. He’s been gone for a week.

Dan:

Supporting me a 100%, crazy enough, but I started that and then really started figuring out the internet and none of our competitors were using the internet. They were still just like relationship based. And as we went through that process, I learned a little bit about development, HTML and nobody was doing anything. So so far in like those days, AOL didn’t even have a concept of mass email. You had to get white listed to send mass emails. So I just kind of started doing it to come to find out that there wasn’t really any technology back then to do this stuff. So before there was all this tech to be able to make it happen, I was already kind of making it happen manually. So I got really involved, naturally Google analytics which was urchin came out and like ad tech became and there wasn’t MarTech. It was just ad tech at the time, Google analytics and traffic tracking.

Dan:

I got really big into UTM tracking, which is kind of the first bit of it. So fast forward a little bit to like 2000, I think like 11 or something like that, Kissmetrics was a large analytics company. I got hired there as the head of marketing. I was hired to replace Neil Patel, one of the founders. So I wound up becoming like the head of marketing at one of the rocket ship analytics companies. But all the stuff in between the middle there was kind of you just made it up as you went. And then 2011, 2012 was when MarTech kind of like took off and I saw that as a humongous opportunity. So I’ve just kind of have stayed in that industry.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. And what brands do you work with today for context?

Dan:

Yeah, really, really good question. I mean, our clients weren’t … So our company mission is to help companies of all sizes realize that their customer data is their most valuable asset. So we work with some really, really small companies all the way up to some really, really big ones. So some big ones that people would know like King’s Hawaiian Bread. We do a lot of their implementation work. We are managing their ecommerce. Hydro.com, which is like the Peloton of rowing. We do work with them. Some other people might be familiar with like forksoverknives.com. They were a long time client of ours. We no longer work with them, but I mean, we helped blow them up. These are some really popular brands that people would be aware of, but we also work with some of the MarTech companies. So even Kissmetrics has hired us. Segment.com has hired us. Looker which is owned by Google has hired us. So it’s really across the board. It’s been a lot of fun.

Stephanie:

Cool. And what kind of challenges do you see the bigger brand struggling with today? And is it kind of similar to maybe with the smaller brands that you work with? Like same kind of thing or are they very different problems you have to focus on?

Dan:

I think the problems are exactly the same. I think the tactics which are being used are slightly different because the tool set changes, but there’s two primary problems that most companies have and that’s when they come to us, which is great, is they either lack visibility into their customer journey or they lack the ability to engage in the customer journey. And this is a pretty big problem that every business faces is that they can’t see what’s happening in that customer journey or they can’t act in there. And that’s where the marketing stack which is what our specialty really is, is we help companies basically connect all the tools together, integrate them, operate them and be able to gain visibility into that journey so they can provide engagement there.

Dan:

And this is one of the biggest problems that you’re facing in marketing today because everybody’s figured out ad tech. Everybody’s figured out email automation and everybody is kind of trying to figure out analytics now, but there’s still this huge middle and bottom that nobody understands and that’s really where our company kind of sits nice and sweetly. So the customer journey is huge right now. I mean, that’s what everybody’s focused on.

Stephanie:

Cool. So where do you see companies going wrong right now in the customer journey? Like are there similar things or like you guys all keep doing the same thing and it’s messing everything up or is everything very different, all the problems that you maybe discover as you were starting to look into how the brands are operating.

Dan:

Yeah. The biggest thing that we see that that’s fairly consistent, and it’s the thing that no marketer really focuses on is it’s the taxonomy of the integration. So like what does taxonomy mean? So every time that somebody does an action or we learn an attribute about somebody who’s coming through our funnel, that’s got to have a name to it. It’s got to have a label or as you might call, nomenclature. We’ve got to all call it the same thing. And that’s a big problem that we see across organizations and I’ll try to put this … If you’re working with an online education company, the marketing team is calling it a signup, but the development team is calling it an enrollment, but customer success is calling it a registration. And the problem is when this happens and the data all goes into the systems, you now have three attributes for the same exact action, and it makes it really hard to tie all these things together.

Dan:

So the fundamental problem that we see most companies have is that they just don’t have a consistent taxonomy across the stack. So when they finally start looking at the customer journey, they have it all in different namings, and then they have to spend all their time transforming things to get them to line up. So that foundational thing is the last thing everybody focuses on, but when they get that right and it works across the entire stack using a unified taxonomy, which sounds so technical but it really isn’t, they really are able to create magic because now everybody is calling the first name of a customer by first underscore name in the analytics, but in the attributes you see in marketing automation is Fname. Right? So that’s usually the key problem that we see is that taxonomy is wrong. And then the second problem that we see is that the tools are not connected.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So it’s funny talking about how the taxonomy is wrong. A lot of people listening might be like, that’s so easy. And I’d say for a startup like starting out, it’s very easy if you know to do that from the start. Like of course, have your variables, make sure they’re exactly what you want and train people up, have your data dictionary, whatever you may have so everyone uses the same term. But actually when it’s a bigger company which I’ve seen like back in my Google days, everyone’s operating off different things. How do you bring the org together and all the different departments to be able to not only agree like this is the variable, but then make sure everyone’s using it that way? Because that’s actually a lot trickier than I think some might think.

Dan:

Yeah, it’s extremely, extremely hard to get that cross department alignment. And it’s fascinating because like this is one of the things that a growth team would ultimately help with, is kind of cross department alignment in regards to these things. But growth is always focused on action, not necessarily planning. So a new companies or I don’t want to say new companies, excuse me. The new role a lot of companies are rolling out is revenue operations, marketing operations, sales operations, revenue operations is the big position that SaaS companies are hiring because it straddles across marketing sales and customer success And that’s the big thing that’s happening. And I think in a lot of the enterprise companies, you’re going to see a lot more of these revenue operations style roles that are coming out that try to align it.

Dan:

Because everybody’s realizing if your data’s crap, okay, great, we can’t do any of these cool things. This is where a lot of companies are getting their CIOs involved. I think the conversation over the past two years has really shifted away from, hey, we’re just talking to marketing technology. So now the CIO calls the shots for all of this because the CIO is the one who makes the decision on business intelligence and all that. So I think a lot of CIOs own the problem. I don’t think that they understand the problem because it’s outside of their purview, which is sales and marketing. So I think it will be really, really hard, but it’s really important for a company to have good data. And without good data, you’re kind of, you can’t do machine learning, you can’t do artificial intelligence, you can’t do personalization. But right now it’s the CIO, which I think needs to hire the revenue operations person to really get that done.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. And a side note, if anyone’s like, “I really want to hear more from CIOs,” we have a whole podcast called IT visionaries where we interview CIOs from fortune 500 companies. So go check it out. So okay. You get your data all set and correct at the company that you’re working with. What’s the next thing that you encounter that’s either an issue or that you see happening a lot right now?

Dan:

Well, I mean, just to make sure, I mean, the taxonomy, the data dictionary like you said, which I think is possibly a more common term or a schema. I mean, there’s just so many ways to call this, which is ridiculous. The integration of the tools I think is really, really important. A lot of companies don’t understand the way that tools can now integrate. We have a concept that we call data recycling. You typically see companies that are looking for what’s known as we want our source of truth or our single record of truth. And for us, we find that to be a really, really bad model. What you should be trying to do is mirror your data across many, many different tools over and over and over again, and then recycle this data throughout the entire tools. If you have a single record of truth, which is always great, that means that you’re helping one team and holding back many other teams.

Dan:

So we try to make it so that we recycle the data as much as we can and that’s through basically data recycling. Leveraging a customer data platform is always really helpful for this, leveraging tools like Zapier, leveraging tools like tray.io, Workado is always really, really good, but you have to string the systems together along in a very, very structured manner to make it so that that data can even flow. Because even if you call everything the same, if nothing’s connected in the right way, you’re still not going to make any progress. So integration is also a key part of that.

Stephanie:

Yep. Cool. So now thinking about a little bit farther down the line like maybe when it comes to actually either interacting with the customer or guiding them around on your website or something, what things can be improved there because I’ve talked to quite a few companies or people on this podcast who say, “Any plugins, get away with all the plugins, they just slow your website down. You just need to focus on website speed. But then you were mentioning earlier how much do you love tools, and so tell me more about that.

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, I definitely think website speed is extremely, extremely important. I mean, when you’re a large ecommerce company, speed is obviously paramount because it affects everything from SEO rankings to people actually converting on the website. But I also think you have to very much focus on personalization and creating a customer journey for the user. I think there’s two kinds of use here. I mean, one marketing automation is great because it enables you to do so much, but sometimes we lose the human element and we kind of forget that people are still humans. They want to have a communication channel with us. So you want to make sure that you can personalize the experience and tailor that experience as much as you can. But at the same time, you just don’t want to overdo it. So we focus a lot on personalization throughout the website, getting people back to where they want it to be, back to where they left off.

Dan:

And this would be, so as an example where you don’t want to use a plugin because you want to let them use their experience. As things are happening on the website, we can track that in real time. We can save that in marketing automation, we can save that in any tool. So when the person leaves the website, we can very easily send them an email saying, hey, picked up where you left off. Especially if it’s ecommerce, right? Last product that they viewed, they don’t need to add it to their cart. I think it’s the stupidest thing that we do. We send cart abandonment emails to people when they add something to their cart, because we think they have interest. If you send people an email which showed them the last five items that they’ve viewed, it adds the same value, right?

Dan:

Just because I added it to my cart, yes, it means I’m interested. Just because I didn’t add it to my cart doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in it. It means I probably have a five-year-old that’s distracting me and I didn’t get to add it to my cart. So we see allowing people to pick up where they left off as a really, really easy thing to do. But personalization in helping them accomplish their journey I think is the biggest thing. Marketers job is … I come from a developer company where the marketer’s job was, we were there to manipulate and trick people. And it’s like that’s not my job.

Dan:

But a marketer’s job in my opinion is to basically help somebody accomplish their goals by serving them what they wanted in the first place. Right. It’s to create that magical customer experience, knowing what they already wanted and serving them that on a silver platter, not tricking them to figure out, oh, you should’ve bought this, right? And I think that’s where growth hacking went bad a few years back is it got a little like slimy and really it’s about how do we just create the best customer experience for them through personalization?

Stephanie:

Yeah. So sometimes I think that personalization that I could see it going too far and I’ve talked to this a bit on the show before of like when you call in on the phone and it’s like a robot and they’re pretending to type, and they’re trying to personalize it to your name and they’re jacking with your name or sometimes you get an email and it’s so over the top, like Stephanie, I saw this, this and this and it made me thought of you and whatever. I’m like, “Oh, creepy.” How do you walk that fine line of giving people something that is helpful, but not being creepy.

Dan:

Yeah. And just because you’re using the word creepy, it brings back some awesome … I have a webinar and deck that I did before COVID happened. I was traveling the country doing this talk about automation without being creepy. But what does creepy really mean? So what I advise everybody who’s listening to this podcast, grab your cell phone and I need you to go to your text messages and I want you to text (415) 915-9011. I’ll just say a number again, (415) 915-9011. And I just want you to text the word creepy to that number and then follow along with the text prompt. There’s a bot that will follow along with creepy. And then if you’re really, really well known on the internet, you’re going to get a super creepy email that will surprise you on what the internet already knows about you and that we have access to through your email. So either way, nice experiment for your people to go try, but-

Stephanie:

I want to do that now. Now that piques my interest. I don’t know if I’m well-known enough on the internet though, but we’ll see. It’ll pull things from like Facebook. I’m like, “Here’s what you’re doing, Stephanie, back in high school.”

Dan:

Yeah. We’ll see. I mean, and usually the minimum that you’re going to get is like we get your zip code or it might have your wrong zip code, but there’s for myself and had over 300 attributes. I was like, “Holy crap, the internet knows way too much about me.” But that being said, you do follow this line of creepiness to straddle, right? And you have to understand like target as an example can predict with nearly 90% accuracy that you’re going to be pregnant within three months or you are pregnant within three months and that’s crazy data science that you have and that blurs the line of creepiness. What you have to understand is that you don’t want to impact life moments like that. Always, you don’t want to precede those things, but what you have to figure out is how do you understand what they’re looking for and then just serve that element to them?

Dan:

Because with an email address and with your IP address, we can basically find out anything we want, which is really, really terrifying to think about. So you have to make sure that you’re just superseding what somebody is probably already looking for and there’s definitely enrichment that you can get. So knowing that it’s raining in somebodies area and sending them an email is not necessarily a bad thing, but you don’t need to tell them that you know that you know it’s raining, right? Like don’t say, “Hey, it’s raining, you should buy an umbrella.” But yes, it’s okay to send them umbrellas and rain boots and things like that, which banana republic knows how to send emails based upon that but they don’t say it’s raining. So there’s a lot of ways that you can be helpful to somebody without telling them that what you’re doing. But I mean, you can be really creepy if you want.

Stephanie:

I mean, I think that it sounds simple, but I like that where it’s you have all this information, but you don’t have to be like, “Hey, here’s the zip code you live in? And apparently there’s this festival going on right now.” Like you can send something where it’s like, oh, how did you know? Cool, okay. That’s helpful because now I know of an event or whatever nearby without you saying, I know exactly the attributes of why I’m sending you this email because of this or whatever. So that’s interesting.

Dan:

Yeah. There’s an API for that too. When you talk about the events, I immediately think of companies that have APIs that allow you to have events and people’s areas. So definitely an API for that nowadays.

Stephanie:

There you go. So what are some of your favorite tools that you’re using where you’re seeing the biggest success with right now? And it can be marketing tools., it can be stuff around like helping the customer journey. I mean, what comes to mind where you’re like, “Oh, 2021, I’m really leaning into these things or we’re implementing these things on our customer’s websites.”

Dan:

Yeah. So there’s probably two primaries that I would go with. One, I’m super big fan of text message marketing, but I think a lot of companies get it wrong in the fact that they use it as a promotional channel and they use it as spray and pray. So I think text is really, really big. We use a software called autopilot, which is our marketing automation tool. They have an integration with Twilio so you can build a Twilio bot. So earlier I said, “Hey, text this number and text this word to it.” It adds you to a subscription list and then it will automatically send you information and it can talk back and forth with you. And those types of technologies are where you really get some interesting engagement from consumers in regards to your services. So definitely is a real unique channel, but I wouldn’t say that that’s something that you would leverage on your website all the time.

Dan:

However, as somebody’s going through your checkout flow and you collect their cell phone information, this is a way that you can reach out to them. Hey, we shipped your order to you and it has arrived today, right? Provide them helpful tips and then say, “Hey, you received your order. On a scale from one to five, how did it arrive?” And things like that. And providing this two way communication channel is really, really good for consumers. It gives them a communication channel. You do have to connect it to a support system and things like that. But customers really find it unique when you’re trying to have a two-way conversation with them compared to like buy my 20% off thing.

Dan:

People hate getting those spam promotions. They hit stop more than you would like to think. So I think that for me, leveraging the SMS bots, whether that be through Autopilot and I think there’s a company called Text In, which does really, really good there. There’s another company called salesmsg.com. And no, I’m not talking about the Panda Express MSG, but salesmessage.com. They’re more integrated with HubSpot or more meant for sales teams, but they work really, really good for customer support too. So text is huge for me. And then the flip side-

Stephanie:

How do you think about engaging people in texts? Because that’s an issue where, I mean, I even think about like World Market right now just sent me a text this morning, like oh, 20% off. They send it to me like every week. I’m like is every week, 20% off week? I start to lose interest and I just haven’t had the time to hit stop yet. But how do you think about building a flow that’s going to keep your customer actually engaged and excited to see your texts coming in? So I feel like it’s a two-way thing instead of just blasting them with promotions.

Dan:

Yeah. It’s got to be really personalized. And this is why when we think about text messages, we think about it from a helper perspective. Right? So we have to think about like the things that are going to optimize their customer experience, not the things that are going to help us, right? Sending somebody a 20% discount is not helping them, that’s helping us. So when we think about the change in that fundamentals is of course like when somebody is coming through your website, like hey, you can of course, hey, do you want to be updated with sales and promotions? Right. But I would target it more, hey, do you want to be made aware when we launch new skirts or hey, do you want to be made aware when we do these specific things, and try to only send the messages what’s they’re requesting which is going to help them in whatever they’re trying to accomplish.

Dan:

And you get unique opportunities like when somebody is going through the checkout experience, right? Like, hey, do you want us to keep you aware of certain things that they’re already interested in or hey, do you want to be shipping notifications? Do you want us to keep you aware of your shipping notifications? And those are good ways to get people going, but asking questions is going to get you much more than, hey, here’s 20% off. Right. So I think asking questions, that’s where the bot part comes into play is asking the question, like do you feel that our customer experience is optimal? Can you reply back with a one to 10 on how your checkout experience was? People respond back with a seven or two or a five. That’s the interaction they’re looking for, not hey, here’s 20% off, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah. Unless you walk in the door. That’s when I always think I’m like, if I walk into the door of a retail location and then I get that text, cool. I’m happy with it. But if you’re just sending it to me when I’m at home … Yeah. It is so possible. I know I’m like, they’ve got the beacons in the stores, you can do it. There’s so many ways to do it now, but I don’t see many brands at least retail locations doing that quite yet. But maybe I just don’t go into retail stores obviously.

Dan:

Well, yeah. Yeah. The retail stores is hard. Yeah. I mean, I definitely think if anybody on this podcast wants to do that, let’s do that because I know how to do that, leveraging radar, mobile apps and all that stuff. So like totally cool. I think my favorite campaign was by Burger King. They said if you were within 500 meters of a McDonald’s, we will send you a free coupon for a free Whopper and you have five minutes to buy it. So if you had the Burger King app, came in within 500 meters or so I think it was even maybe a hundred yards of a McDonald’s, you would get an instant push notification, you have five minutes to get your free Whopper. Holy crap. I mean, can we say contextual?

Dan:

But yeah, that’s all possible. I agree with you. If I walked into JC Penney and JC Penny sent me a 10% off discount, I would totally use it. We were working with an ice-cream retailer, which I can unfortunately say the name. They’re trying to create a loyalty program, but they couldn’t figure out how to do it. And we’re like, “Dude, just put a fricking number on the side of your building that says text loyalty now to this number and you’re in our loyalty program. And then connect that to beacons and you can do more stuff with it, connect it to your app and do more stuff with it.” And-

Stephanie:

Did they do it?

Dan:

No, they didn’t listen because they were too traditional, who needs technology either way. But [crosstalk] is super powerful.

Stephanie:

That’d be a really good thing to do now that I’m in Austin area. So hey, anyone listening from Austin, give me a shout out. I’m here now. Yeah. But that’s a good area to do that because there’s so much like artwork and graffiti that turns into artwork on all the buildings out here, but people pay attention to it. So I think it does depend on the city you’re in of like, are people open to that or will they see it and be like, “Man, there’s writing on a building.”

Dan:

Yeah. I think text is awesome. I mean, you just, people suck at it and I think people suck at most marketing in general. They just try to spray out there and hope for the best. So the one other technology, there’s two technologies that we’re testing a lot right now. One is called ConvertFlow, convertflow.com which is really, really good. The other one is right message. And both of the technologies are relatively the same. They’re a pop-up technology that happens in your website, except for they’re integrated in with your marketing automation solution and they also track a lot of what’s going on on the website. So you can provide real time personalization to the website based upon what people clicked or what people did. And for anybody who follows the B2B space, there’s like these drift chat bots.

Dan:

So if somebody comes to the site, a pop-up comes up, what is your goal today? Did you want to see a demo? Do you want to see this? Do you want to see this? People click on it. And then only the chat bot is able to control like what happens next. The difference with these technologies, specifically ConvertFlow is that when those types of things come up, you can click on something, it will drive you different places on the website, but it can also change the headline copy of the page. It can also change like things that are happening. So if somebody comes back, it can be like, “Welcome back, Dan. We hope that we were able to help you in your last visit. Last time you left off, you were looking at socks, let’s go look at socks again, right? Or is there something else we can help you find?”

Dan:

And then of course you could constantly be contextually changing the experience for that user. For us, ConvertFlow has one of the most powerful engines to it and it’s super cheap. These two twins created the platform, super, super cool guys, but they’re really good at that. And then the flip side would be right message, which right message is more of a kind of a chatbot-esq. It doesn’t change your websites, but it does constantly provide you personalization to push people down the funnel based upon what they sent.

Stephanie:

Cool. Like how many tests should a company be running to see what works and then how much should they pull it back and narrow it down to?

Dan:

Yeah, man, you should be running tons of tests. I mean, there’s a linear line between the number of tests that you run and as well as the growth that you can create at a company. So I would just say you should run as many as you possibly can, that you can hit statistical significance with, speaking of which we have a tool for that. If you Google AB testing calculator Chrome extension, go check it out. It’ll help you know if you have statistical significance. But yeah, I mean really, you should be running tests all the time. You shouldn’t be launching anything that’s not a test in our opinion. That’s a big part of our business.

Dan:

So companies like Hydro, we run all of their AB Testing experiments and we’re always running tests, right? So like for me, you should not be doing anything unless you’re testing it. The thing that I would just add as a caveat of that is you have to have enough traffic to run the test. You have to hit statistical significance and you have to know what you’re doing from a data perspective because false positives, I lost a company $125,000 in 24 hours because I had a false positive. I made a mistake. Luckily, this was a long time ago, but-

Stephanie:

What was the false positive? Tell me the story, or backstory of that.

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, a great problem that you have is that people only focus on one metric. So when you create an AB test, the test, I worked at a company called codeschool.com. Going back to that developer centric company, we were an online education company for developers. We created an experiment called the summer school campaign or summer camp campaign. And I had optimized the AB test for sign-ups and then purchases. The problem was we didn’t optimize the test for lifetime value. Lifetime value was 75% less on the winner of the test. So we saw an immediate increase in conversions. We got super, super excited, come to find out that those users were 75% less valuable based upon that test.

Dan:

So there’s a thing known as you have to basically reverse look at tests. So when they’ve been running for two months, go back and look at that to see if it hurt lifetime value, it hurt retention, anything like that. But we basically had just wrote a headline, which wasn’t 100% percent true to the developer. Like it wasn’t 100% in line, so they wound up churning after their first I think it was two months. The other users who didn’t see that headline stuck around for like six months. So it was just-

Stephanie:

Okay. So was the headline, it made them think it was something that it wasn’t where they came in-

Dan:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Okay, got it. Yeah.

Dan:

That’s what the developer said that we manipulate people and it was like, no, we just had a misalignment in regards to what we wrote. I wasn’t trying to manipulate somebody, but either way, that’s marketing.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, to me, that’s just always a good reminder that all of this is a long game and anything that’s focused on like a quick hit and trying to pique someone’s interesting and get them in, it’s probably not going to work out long-term.

Dan:

And if anybody knows of Kissmetrics, that was the whole reason why the company went out of business and got sold to a private equity firm is there was too many people at the leadership level that were focused on quick hits and it’s what put us out of business. You got to focus on, you’ve got to have a good mix of short-term and long-term focus and why we’ve been so successful and are still successful even at our company and our clients, we focus on the longterm as much as we do on the short term.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. Very cool. So when thinking about marketing and all these data attributes that you can have on your customer, how do you think about a, sorry, a potential cookieless world?

Dan:

Oh, it doesn’t bother me at all. Cookies, whether you like it or not, the cookie is not going to die. It’s third-party cookies they’re talking about which are going to die. It’s not first party cookies. The problem that people don’t understand is we’ve already come up with millions of solutions to create better first-party cookies, if I could talk, better first-party cookies, which we hide third-party cookies behind. So I mean, we just had a whole debate about this last week.

Dan:

Cname cloaking and proxies and all this stuff. There’s already a ton of ways to kind of hide it and change it. The cookie’s not dying. It’s just the way that the cookie gets used is what they’re saying is going to die. But cookieless world is going to happen. Is it necessarily going to be … I almost want to say it’s a false or that the cookie is going to die because you can’t completely kill a cache in a user’s browser about what we know about the user or you’ll break the internet.

Dan:

And the internet is not prepared to completely get rid of all those technologies, so there’s always going to be a hack around it. So we have a technology called utm.ao that we use for campaign tracking. So if anybody out there uses UTMs, they have a stupid UTM spreadsheet. We solve that problem. But the real problem is that the technology is now making it so that before you even before you even get to the website, we know who you are. So that’s all going to be passed to the website through URL parameters, and there’s all kinds of hokey stuff there. So I guess like I’m not that stressed, if that makes any sense.

Stephanie:

So why are other people so stressed? Because I listened to different ad tech podcasts and other marketing shows. And I mean, there’s been so many conversations where people are stressing about it. So why are you so chill about it then and they are so worried?

Dan:

Yeah. Well one, if you’re an ad tech company, Apple’s out to cut your throat, right? Like there’s just no way around it. Facebook is in a complete battle with Apple, which I think one, Apple is totally doing this for a promotional stunt because their job is to own your data, right? Like don’t let them fool you, they know every single thing you do and they hold it on. It’s the reason why they’re one of the most valuable companies in the world is they know every single action you do. So for a Facebook, it’s definitely really, really concerning because they have to be able to get companies like, and I’ll just use one of our clients, King’s Wine to figure out how to do Cname cloaking and proxy changes and stuff like that, which is really, really hard.

Dan:

But if you’re using myself as like your consulting firm, like that’s our job is to figure that stuff out and to solve those problems for you and to deal with it. So I guess like for me, I’m not stressed because that’s what we do. But for the ad companies, like how the hell did they get everybody else to know how to do that, right? They’ve got to teach mission.org how to load a advertising pixel in this certain way and there’s no way that mission.org is going to figure that out unless they hire me. So that would be the reason why there’s the big difference is I actually know how it works. Most people have no idea how any of this stuff works.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Okay. Well that’s good then. So then no one has to be worried and just hire someone who can help you, sounds like the gist of it.

Dan:

The general thesis of it. And it’s expensive. It’s a lot of service that stuff. So I mean, the problem is that 95% to 98% of the internet is not going to be able to understand it or fix it and that’s where a lot of people are really panicking on how do we get this done? But there’s always a hack.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And a certain point though, I wonder if Apple is going to have to change the way they do things. I mean, I know that they have been like ruling the market for a long time, but I see now that they’re trying to get into something like podcasting and they have big competitors out there who already know how to do podcasts advertising, and they know how to show the dynamic ads and actually showcase metrics to the advertisers. There’s so much competition when it comes to that. I can see Apple having to change the way they do things and provide more data and show the ROI instead of being like the black box of like yeah, just put it on here and it’s in your best interest because we’re a big platform.

Dan:

Yeah. Well, we have to remember that they did invent the pod cast and that came from the iPod. But they’re allowed to, I mean, I think when you have that dominance, you’re allowed to be slow to things. I mean, when we think back, I used to run a bunch of mobile app companies and like they sucked at giving us data about the mobile app. So we had to figure out all these other things. But when you’re the gateway to the rest of it, right, when you’re the heroine of the drugs, you can be a little late to solving your problems and that’s unfortunately how Apple is. So they’re going to be late to the party, but when they step on the throat of anybody else, they make changes. And I think the easiest way to think about it, does anybody remember the QR code? And it hasn’t gone anywhere, but all the QR code apps, there’s none of them, they’re gone because it’s part of your camera now. So when-

Stephanie:

It’s funny how you forget about that. Like I remember being like, “Oh, which QR code app is the best one that I need?” And it’s like, they’re all the same, just pick one.

Dan:

And now none of them are around, just like the calculator apps. And like when Apple wants to … And in our business, one of the things that we try to help our customers figure out and this is something I hope all of your podcast people listen, if you’ve never read the book, Crossing The Chasm, it’s a really, really good read. But you have what’s known as basically these innovators, which are out front. Most innovators die, right? They just don’t live forever. And what we’ve recommended to our clients is be the early majority, right? Don’t be the person always out trying to be a hipster because then you wind up finding out that like, hey, this stupid business idea blows up. I mean, I was put out of business one time by Facebook changing a feature like, oh my God, I can’t believe Facebook changed a feature I went out of business.

Dan:

There’s definitely things that other big companies, when you build on their platform, you have to be aware of that if they just decide to get into that space, you could go out of business or you could not have a feature which your business is around. So we always recommend people don’t always try to be the innovator, wait for there to like be something solid, wait for something to be proven, wait for something to be figured out. Because if you’re always going from the next hot flip to the next hot flip, and you’re always a hipster, you’re going to spend 10X more money than I am, and I’m going to still make the same amount of money if not more than you and that’s always fascinating.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I also recommend that book and it’s come up a few times on here. It’s a really good one. I mean, how do you think about companies relying on a platform? Because I see so many brands right now just launching on Amazon, for example, and not even worrying about building out their own website presence or even developing their own community. Like how do you think about that?

Dan:

Well, I think my opinion would be different if they would have been doing that 15 years ago. Right. But if you’ve ever read the book, The Everything Store About Jeff Bezos, just understand he is coming for your throat too. I mean, they’re just like Apple. If you read what they did to the book publishing industry, I’m like, “Holy crap. Wow, they completely gutted that industry.” So for now I mean, there’s not much you can do about it. You have to play with it. But I think it’s definitely imperative that you create your own online presence. And I think this is where Shopify is trying to come fill a void is there is definitely, you have to do both at the same time because at any time Amazon is just going to come out with Amazon basic of your product and you’re done. They’ve done it hundreds of times, if not thousands of times.

Dan:

So you do have to build your own kind of side sliver as a brand. And I think the best book that I think I’ve ever read, which made me understand not only my childhood and why I am the way I am as an adult is the book Antifragile.

Stephanie:

Yeah. You seem to love them.

Dan:

Yeah. It’s such a great book. But you have to have optionality and if you put all of your cards on Amazon, well, you don’t have any optionality. And I think creating those options is a huge business. I mean, I read 42 books last year. So we want to get into like talking about all the cool things I learned just last year on that stuff. But optionality is huge. I think it’s really, really important.

Stephanie:

Yeah, we’ve had a great guest on from, let’s see, it was Taylor Holiday from, I think something collective. I can’t remember what his company was, but he said, “You need to figure out how you can basically win even when you’re wrong.” So like when your models are wrong, which to me I’m like, “Yeah, you’re talking about being anti fragile and making sure that you won’t fail, even if your models set you in the wrong direction, how can you still benefit and have upside?” Which I thought was really interesting to frame it that way.

Dan:

Yeah. And I think in regards to the platforms and I’ll try to bring this back to like the marketing technology platforms, there’s a lot of optionality that you can look at and you need to have a backup plan to your backup plan in regards to marketing technology tools. I mean, Marketo got bought by Adobe and that’s going to revolutionize the way their product works. And I mean, there’s a lot of things in Marketo that suck already and Adobe buying it just means that it’s going to slow down, right?

Dan:

So you have to be prepared to be able to say, “What’s my backup plan to Marketo? And if I was to switch, what is that going to take?” And that’s one reason why we recommend a lot of companies to leverage customer data platforms because it makes switching easy, but then you run into the same problem. Well, if you have a customer data platform and all of my data goes to the CDP, well, what happens when that CDP gets acquired? Right. What happens when Twilio buys Segment for 3.2 billion? How does that change my … what’s going to happen to the CDP? So you just have to ask those questions, like what are my other options with these platforms when I choose it and how much am I baked into this tool? And if I lost this tool tomorrow, what would it take to replace it?

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really good to have a mindset like that and be thinking about all angles. So really good. So from a general ecommerce standpoint, what kind of trends are you guys preparing for in 2021?

Dan:

Well, first one, just going back, the death of the cookie.

Stephanie:

Or apparently you’re not preparing at all and you’re like, “I’m good.”

Dan:

No, I mean, we started … I mean, if Google the death of cookies McGaw.io and we wrote a blog post about this a year ago. So we’ve been tracking this for a long time. I think that the biggest thing that we are focused on, the biggest thing that we see in ecommerce right now, everybody wants to do multi-touch attribution. Everybody’s trying to figure out how do they do multi-touch attribution to better align their return on ad spend. Because the key problem that you have is all these retailers are spending millions of dollars a year on advertising spend. And then if they look in Facebook, they see a conversion in Google, they see a conversion in LinkedIn or whatever the platform they see a conversion and they’re attributing one sale to five different conversions. So they’re really trying to say, “We understand that those five conversions we see in these different platforms or from one purchase, and we need to be able to pull that data together.” So touch attribution is huge.

Dan:

We’re extremely well-known in that space so a lot of companies are working with us on that, but every company is a unique snowflake for multi-touch attribution. Recommendation engines are probably the other thing that we see a lot of companies really trying to figure out. There’s a cool technology called blue shift. Really, really good for ecommerce especially if you have thousands of products. They use machine, excuse me, machine learning to consume your catalog. And then also use machine learning to distribute that catalog as a recommendation to people based upon the best channel that suits them at the best time for them. Blue shift is crushes it. Great technology, Josh, the CMO or CGO, chief growth officer is a good buddy of mine.

Dan:

So we see a lot of the trend in regards, how do we make proper recommendations on the right channel at the right time with the right message. And then the last thing would just be customer data platforms. So those are the big three trends. I mean, one of the reasons why we’re crushing it right now is like we know CDPs better than almost anybody else, customer data platforms. And customer data platforms, it’s not a fad, it’s not a trend. It really is the future on how you need to manage your data and your customer data specifically. So those would be the three big things that I would lean on for 2021 and going, especially into 2022.

Stephanie:

Cool. So you were just mentioning channels. What kind of channels are you guys most bullish on right now? Maybe are there any new ones out there? We’ve had a lot of people mention TikTok. You and I were talking about Clubhouse earlier. Is there anything that you guys are kind of shifting your focus towards and trying out?

Dan:

Oh, I love TikTok. Man, they tried to hire me as a brand ambassador and I so wanted to do it, but we had to turn it down and I love TikTok. I spent so much time on there. It’s ridiculous.

Stephanie:

I do too. It’s great.

Dan:

I think TikTok is great, a really, really cheap channel, but you got to learn how to do it, but it’s a harder curve so I think that’s good. I think that there’s a lot of … YouTube, oh my God, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube. We haven’t even hit how valuable YouTube is. I mean, they’re going to be ridiculous. So I think between those two channels, figuring out video is going to be really, really important for companies across the channels with TikTok and YouTube. I think if you can’t figure that out in the next five years, you’re really going to struggle. There’s a cool tool called Fleeq, F-L-E-E-Q.com, which will help you do that for video. So I think YouTube and TikTok are huge if you want to be successful. I think there are some other really surprising ones. Like I always try to tell people you should invest more in Bing. Bing’s really cheap. I always think that’s always really, really good.

Stephanie:

I haven’t heard Bing yet. That’s a new one. Okay.

Dan:

Yeah. It’s just so cheap. Not as much volume, but just the per dollar comparison is good. And the last one that I’ll just say is direct mail. Like, oh my gosh, it’s so cheap.

Stephanie:

What are you guys doing in direct mail right now? Because that was also something I’ve brought up a couple of times of like so many people are now at home and I am delighted when I get mail that’s not something spammy where I can actually look through a great catalog and like, oh, this is actually cool stuff. And I always mention the Trader Joe’s pamphlet where I’m like, “They have really fun content that also sells their products as well.” But it’s, I mean, I look forward to that one. So how are you guys approaching the direct mail piece?

Dan:

Yeah, so depending upon what the integration … I mean, there’s a company called lob.com, which makes direct mail really, really easy. And we leverage autopilot as our automation tool and we’ve been able to, I mean, personalize tons of stuff. In regards to giving people recommendations, we are able to literally write text on the postcards saying the technologies they use through data enrichment. So there’s a lot of stuff that you’re able to do there, but we have to remember is like sending somebody a thank you card or a birthday card in the mail as direct mail like happy birthday. It’s your birthday coming up soon. Right? Like that’s not hard, but people love it. And with COVID, I think the best quote that I had somebody say to me into COVID, the most exciting part of my day is walking to the end of my driveway and collecting my mail. And I was like, “What?”

Dan:

So I think it’s just a great medium to use. And if you build it as part of your automated personalization journey, I mean, once again, you don’t have to know it’s raining in somebody’s area to send them direct mail. Right. But you can know that it’s going to snow two weeks ahead of time or there’s a good possibility, you could send them a coupon for snow boots. Right. Like I just, the options are endless. So yeah, I mean, I think it’s great. Hey, you abandoned your cart and you left these three things on and you print like three things on there. I mean, the personalization is really, really crazy and awesome.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. All right. So we have a quick lightning round brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I’m going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready?

Dan:

Can I admit I’m scared? Yeah.

Stephanie:

You can admit it. Yes. All right. I’ll start with the easier ones first. So you sound like a little bookworm. What are the next three books on your list?

Dan:

Oh, next three books. I don’t know. I’m not prepared for that one. I think Atomic Habits-

Stephanie:

I usually ask one, but I’m like, “That’s too easy for you.” You have to tell me three.

Dan:

Yeah. I’m slacking on my book thing because I had a goal at the end of the year to hit 20 books and I demolished it. So I could probably say my last three books, but Atomic Habits, Billionaire Plan and Maverick. Those are the three books that I want to finish right now.

Stephanie:

Cool. Where are you traveling to next when we can travel again more easily?

Dan:

Oh, well that’s an easy one. I fly to Snowshoe West Virginia and less than four weeks to go snowboarding again and I’m super excited for that trip. I traveled multiple times during COVID so-

Stephanie:

Yeah. I mean, I have too, but some people haven’t. So if you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?

Dan:

We are in the process of creating a podcast of what we call The Stack and we’ll be talking to VPs of marketing and CEOs about their marketing technology, sales technology and customer success technology. My first interview is hopefully going to be with mission.org and figuring out how you guys manage your marketing tech stack.

Stephanie:

All right. Yeah. Bring us on. And we also have a whole marketing trends podcast where we interview CMOs. So then we’ll have to bring you on that one as well.

Dan:

I think that’d be great. I think it would be a lot of fun. This has been awesome. You are amazing at this. Good, good work. I thought this was fun.

Stephanie:

Thanks. Yeah. I mean, we talked about in the beginning, what was our line was just don’t be generic. So I think that was a good motto of our interview. All right. Two more questions. What’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Dan:

Nicest thing that anybody’s … My godfather took me for my first snowboarding lesson when I was like eight years old. It’s the best memory I think of my entire life because it’s something I’ve used forever.

Stephanie:

Oh, I like that. Alright. And then what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next few year? And it can’t be the three things that you mentioned earlier.

Dan:

Oh, come on. The next biggest thing in ecommerce that’s going to happen. Amazon will start to die. They’re going to get … I think Amazon is going to get split up because Jeff Bezos will want to do it. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest things that happens in ecommerce in the next five to 10 years though. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think that and Congress realizing that Amazon, they’re too big.

Stephanie:

All right. Well, that’s a good answer. I’m glad that I punted the other three so you had to think of a new one. All right, Dan. Well, this has been an awesome interview. Thank you for not being generic. Where can people find out more about you and McGaw.io?

Dan:

Yeah, so definitely you can go to McGaw.io, but I’m most active on LinkedIn, so go to LinkedIn and search up Dan McGaw. There’s three of us, but you’ll be able to find my pretty face. Go there and send me a connection request and play along. I’ve got over 25,000 followers there and I try to stay active.

Stephanie:

Amazing. All right. Thanks for joining us.

Dan:

Yeah, thanks so much. And the one thing I forgot, look up Build Cool Shit, my book which is all about how to build a marketing tech stack. If you go to McGaw.io, I’ll send you a free copy. It’s on the headline, but I forgot all about it. I have a book called Build Cool Shit. So I forgot that’s-

Stephanie:

We will link it up. Don’t you worry. Cool.

Dan:

Thank you very much.

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