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SearchChat Podcast: Data Is Not a Moat for Your Business. What Is?

If a moat is an uncrossable chasm, then data may not be a moat. No amount of data can make it impossible for the competition to catch up. But it could be an inconvenience to the competition who is trying to climb your walls.

The struggle is that there is very little data a company can capture that other companies can’t capture. Everyone has access to third party data, but maybe first party data can slow the enemy down a bit. There is also an interesting counter-argument: that massive databases, real-time response and hyper-personalized experiences do actually make that difference.

In this episode Steve and I explore how data is like oil: it makes the engine run. But data as a differentiator is not the game. The game is, what do you do with the data?

We also explore how Word is now incorporating AI-based features to improve writing within Word. As I like to say — all data is training data. Never to be totally one-upped on the AI game, Google also dropped an interesting release: CallJoy, which allows small businesses to answer calls using AI.

This is a big deal. The more that we can make this technology visible in practical ways, the more trust there will be in the technology in more sophisticated ways.

0:00 Intro

2:00 The empty promise of data moats

13:30 Counter-argument: data as differentiator

20:05 Word is using AI to Improve your writing

25:05 Google launches CallJoy

31:50 Outro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.

4 Keys to Data-Driven Content Marketing

Content marketing is informative, entertaining, and helpful. But great ideas for content aren’t enough. Who decides they are “great”? The customer decides. How do we know the decision of the customer? Data–the more the better.

Content Marketing Starts with Creating Great Content

Your content must consist of compelling, audience-centric, findable, shareable stories. If you build it, they might not come. Content must be built with audience interests in mind so that they will find it and come share it with their peers. Once built, it must be published and promoted. Content does not market itself.

You measure the effectiveness of content marketing according to how often it is used and shared.

Content is Useful Only in Context

You can’t just create content in a vacuum. In digital media, content is only as valuable as the number and quality of references to it (links, social shares, etc.). It is more useful if it builds on existing work than if it duplicates it. It is more useful still if it is built as a part of a system of other content that answers specific questions in a several-step information journey. This is especially difficult for traditional marketers, who want to tell self-contained stories.

You measure how well connected content is, within its context, by performing link analysis.

Content Needs Information Paths

Chances are that your audience will choose a different path through your content than the path that you designed. That’s to be expected. Digital media and books are not the same. In books, it is the author’s story. The reader implicitly concedes this point and passively consumes the story according to the author’s agenda. Digital media need not be consumed in such a linear fashion. The digital reader or viewer is in control. It’s their story, and they’re piecing it together from multiple sources on the fly. This fact vexes some traditional marketers because, like book authors, they are accustomed to crafting media to be consumed serially.

You measure and track users through your content to create experiences that align with their journeys.

Great Content Speaks Your Customer’s Language

Because the audience builds their stories using multiple sources, you must use language that the audience understands. Though you want to tell your story, your story will not make sense ijn the context of the audience’s story if you don’t use common language. Coining your own terms can lead to jargon that’s confusing to your audience. It’s natural for marketers to desire unique trademarked names for their products, but when you need to explain too many words, your message loses its punch.

You learn the common language by conducting keyword research and by listening to social channels.

Content Marketing Requries a Publisher’s Reputation

As in all other forms of publishing, credibility is the currency in the digital world. A sure way to gain credibility is through transparency. Not only must you publish the truth as openly as possible, you need to avoid hyperbole and other forms of exaggeration. This can be especially hard for some public relations professionals who are used to telling only the “good stories.”

You can measure the credibility of your content by performing sentiment analysis and other forms of social listening.

Content marketing is emerging as the primary way many brands engage with audiences, to the degree that resisting content marketing has become a  career-limiting decision. For example, only 12% of UK companies do not focus on content marketing.

Perhaps data-driven content marketing’s most striking aspect is its use of data to understand the audience. Data allows marketers to provide the content they need to solve the audience’s problems and to answer their questions. Are you making the most of it?

What’s Wrong with Advertising: The Case for Data-Driven Content Marketing

As content marketing has been practiced today, it resembles custom publishing. Companies tell stories that romanticize their brand, distributing those stories through various channels and amplifying them through social media. Content marketing has come to be more akin to advertising.

Let’s go back to the basics for just a minute. Here’s the definition we should all be starting with for content marketing, from the Content Marketing Institute.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience–and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer interaction.

So, as to our question — what’s wrong with advertising? Nothing, really. But I focus on the following part of the definition: “to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience–and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The kind of content marketing that can punch up through the noise has two distinguishing features. It is data driven and inbound. At SoloSegment, our focus is on mining audience data–big data, if you must–and identifying what content will be useful in a buyer’s journey. We then utilize that data to provide the right content to the right customer at the right time.

You need to build content that will be clearly purposeful and useful in a buyer’s journey. If you do it well, you turn prospects into clients and clients into brand advocates. This method focuses on messages that are valuable to your clients, not about you.

Marketing from the outside-in attracts prospects to your digital experiences and helps them answer their questions about your products or services. If you do this in a way that respects people’s time and gives them value in exchange for their attention, you can guide them through the customer journey toward purchase, adoption and advocacy.

Advertising stops finding customers the moment you close your wallet, but great content can bring in new customers years after your paid for it. Is your content marketing still about get-attention advertising, or are you truly providing value?

Personalization — It’s Not Just for B2C

This past year, the demand for personalization is at an all-time high.

According to a Lytics white paper, two-thirds of customers want brands to adjust content based on their real-time context. Over 40% are annoyed if you don’t. And another two-thirds of those said they skip making a purchase out of annoyance.

That’s not just a problem for retail.

The Future of Personalization

Marketing’s future is not just about knowing about your customer’s identity. That dream is slowly being killed off by companies like Facebook abusing their power, getting marketers slapped with legal restraints.

But you have far more data than that. You have the potential for behavior based personalization. Track what buyers come to your site and their buyer’s journey — what content they click through to reach a conversion — and you’ll get a guide for content suggestions.

The B2B World is Lagging Behind

B2C took the lead on personalization. Meanwhile too many B2B marketers are either early on in the process, or so behind that getting started feels daunting. According to the Seismic report, of the B2B marketers who responded, 55% have been personalizing content for two years or less. For a little over half of marketers, the main stumbling blocks are a lack of technology, bandwidth, and data.

Marketers make it harder for themselves than it needs to be. 67% are using entirely or mostly manual processes for content personalization. With a little automation plus the data on your website, you could be leading the pack.

B2B Buyers Expect Better

All signs point to B2B buyers being let down. In a SalesForce report, 65% of B2B buyers switch brands if a brand doesn’t personalize communications. 75% expect companies to “anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions” by 2020. This means the future we are headed in is one of content recommendation, of curated and responsive personalization.

You can get started in B2B personalization. You already have more data than you think — all of your website analytics. Behavior based personalization is waiting. It’s just a matter of taking the dive.

SearchChat Podcast: Personalization–Meeting Customers in the Moment

Personalization: why do it? No, this isn’t a suggestion that you shouldn’t. It’s just important to think about why you are doing it in the first place. Personalization needs to benefit the customer experience and drive your business.

In this podcast we start with eMarketer trends — ad agencies are building their own analytics platforms. Steve and I aren’t so sure if that makes sense. If you aren’t prepared to do something with those analytics they don’t matter.

MarTech recently found that marketers find content creation really difficult. How do you utilize automaton to help your content and data actually improve the business? That data should be able to make the content experience more effective in the moment.

You may have also heard that Walmart has basically introduced an “Amazon Go” store. It’s called “IRL” fuelled by AI. It’s about making customer experience more effective. Meanwhile Google introduced Stadia, a gaming platform that will allow them to pull data in and increase personalized experiences.

One of the reasons that personalization has been oversold is that it depends on you, the user, to create content and develop rules for all the various segments of customers you need to talk to. And, as the saying goes, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” We need to be thinking about automation of that instead to cut down on your work and make it do-able.

0:00 Intro

1:50 Ad agencies are building analytics platforms

9:30 Why do marketers find content creation difficult?

14:35 Walmart is doing AI

23:20 Google is getting into gaming

31:25 Outro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.

Companies that avoid change management, eventually change management

Digital transformation is all around us–no company can escape. Most companies recognize this, and focus on managing the change in an effective way. But then there are others that think they can avoid digital.

I have been in meetings with clients in which I patiently explained all the forces buffeting their business and what they needed to do to at least cope. (They weren’t ready to compete.) And, on many occasions, I heard excuse after excuse for why they can’t make the needed changes.

My favorite was the time that the manager leaned back in his chair and said, “We understand what you are saying, but it’s just not in our DNA.” I leaned forward and reminded them, “You know that your company can get new DNA, right?”

Six months later, I heard that the manager was let go. When companies avoid change management, eventually they change management.

Don’t let this happen to you. Maybe you think you can ride this out. Maybe you think that digital is coming. It’s not coming. It arrived quite a while ago. If you think digital is coming, you are going.

Instead of waiting to get disruption, you should be figuring out how you can disrupt. I especially see this change avoidance in my largest clients. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, it’s time to embrace them. (Give them a big hug.)

Big companies fail to realize that they have an advantage in digital that upstarts lack–data.

AI has changed the game–large companies are sitting on gobs of data that AI can analyze to find patterns that unlock huge return on investment.

Instead of letting that data lay fallow, it’s time to start using it to unlock the value that AI can bring. To do that, you need to change.

Change, or get changed out. Your choice.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out my workshop in June on using analytics to increase conversions at the Marketing Analytics Summit.

Originally posted on Biznology

Why Customer Experience Matters Most For B2B Marketers

The biggest mistake that many companies make in their B2B sales and marketing activities is the way they fragment or silo different touchpoints in the customer journey among disparate functional teams. And, worse, the way they make it difficult for those teams to work together. Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. You’d think you would make that easier to bring to life.

You’ve got a product marketing group that develops the content around your products. You’ve got a content team that develops landing and promotional pages. You’ve got a search marketing team that tries to drive people to those pages. You’ve got a social marketing team, ditto. You’ve got a conversion rate optimization squad that tries to generate leads. You’ve got a CRM team that focuses on developing those leads, funneling them to the right salespeople, and turning them into sales. Or you’ve got one very overworked team trying to do all of these at the same time. And who don’t have near enough time to work together.

You’d think that in 2019, this wouldn’t still be true. “Customer experience is queen” and all that. But, since people keep hiring us to help them untangle that knot, it seems that’s not the case.

Don’t get me wrong. I love helping clients sort out these problems. But that’s clearly not the best solution for your customers. Here’s why. And what you can do about it.

Here’s the thing. Your customers, without being mean about it, don’t really care about you. They care about their own needs, their own problems. As the old joke goes, “Your customer doesn’t want a drill. They want a hole.” At best, especially early in your relationship to the customer, you’re a solution to a problem. Over time, with patience, skill, and more luck than any of us want to acknowledge, you can become a trusted partner. But at the start, you exist only to — and only if you — solve a problem.

That’s why most folks start with search. We consistently see sites receiving at least 40% to 60% of their traffic from organic and, to a lesser extent, paid search traffic. The good news is that the customer is telling you what she wants. She’s literally asking for your help. The bad news is that so few sites succeed in answering her question. Isn’t that part of the customer experience?

In fact, it’s the first chance you get to both create a great experience and to develop a relationship. Why aren’t those better connected? What questions do your best customers ask? Is that information shared with your search marketing team? With your product marketing team? With your content team? If not, why not?

When you fail to connect these functions, you risk breaking the steps of the customer journey — and of breaking the customer experience. It’s tough to create a great customer experience or a great customer relationship when you don’t listen to the questions your customer asks and help them move from one step of the journey to the next.

The truth is that you care about customer experience because it literally informs every step in that customer’s journey. You care about search because, for most companies, it represents the first step in that journey. You care about account-based marketing (ABM) because it helps connect you with the specific needs of an individual customer. You care about behavior-based personalization because, well, it does the same thing.

So how can you fix this? It’s simpler than you might think.

Grab your colleagues from another team. Order a pizza or two. Start talking. Start sharing data. Start measuring where you lose your customers along the way. And start working together to fix those breaks.

Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to say many times that customer experience is queen. For B2B marketers, it’s especially true. So give homage to the queen. Help your team get to know her. And don’t be surprised when she showers you with riches.

Originally posted on Biznology.

SearchChat Podcast: Making Data-Driven Marketing More Human

It’s time for marketers to put humanity back in their marketing practices. Today for SearchChat, Steve Zakur and I discuss first whether you should be worried about government regulation. It seems some marketers have their head in the sand that it will never be an issue, others have their “paranoid” dial turned up to 13. People who have been giving away their data for free are tired of being abused. There’s an unease and distrust around privacy because that trust has been repeatedly violated. Is it the end of data-driven marketing, or does marketing need to get smarter?

We also talk about how White Hat vs Black hat isn’t just for SEO. Think about data usage. When you use personal data, are you trying to game the system or are you providing a benefit? It comes down to asking what the person would think about it, and if they are benefiting.

Meanwhile, we’re rolling our eyes at Zuckerberg’s latest take on Facebook and data privacy. Maybe Facebook doesn’t need the government to tell them how to better regulate — they need to better self-regulate. Has Facebook even earned a seat at the table?

Lastly, In Marketing Charts, B2B marketing leaders point out faults in the marketing message they get. All this and more, coming to you on SearchChat.

0:00 Intro

1:55 Government regulation — is it a threat to data-driven marketing?

7:10 Humanize data-driven marketing

15:07 The disingenuity of Zuckerberg’s Op-Ed

20:40 What content do B2B leaders find important?

27:25 Outtro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.

What Marketers Can Learn From Facebook’s Privacy Mess

In my work at SoloSegment and with individual clients, I spend tons of time working at the intersections of marketing, artificial intelligence, data, and privacy. I suspect the same is true for you too. Of course, that means we all spend lots of time working with — and worrying about — the role played by Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and especially given their recent missteps with regard to data and privacy, Facebook. Which is why Mark Zuckerberg’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post proved so fascinating. Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s challenges, and to address these asked for government regulation in a number of areas:

“But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone…From what I’ve learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.” [Emphasis added]

Why does Facebook think that’s important? The main reason is because, as Zuckerberg continues:

Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we’re creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions.

Whoo-boy. There’s a lot going on here that needs unpacking. So, let’s dive in.

First, kudos to Facebook for recognizing two facts:

  1. Whether intentionally or not, the social giant has actively contributed to divisive, harmful conduct on the Internet.
  2. They probably shouldn’t be the final arbiter of the solution.

I agree wholeheartedly with both points. And good on Facebook for acknowledging their mistakes. Seriously. As, the saying goes, “the first step is admitting you have a problem.”

At the same time, I have a number of issues with the rest of the op-ed due to its potential effects for consumers and competitors alike.

For starters, as Brian Heater and Josh Contine write at TechCrunch:

“The op-ed rings somewhat hollow, though, because there’s plenty that Facebook could do to improve in these four areas without help from the government.”

Yep. Facebook is wise to turn over disputes around its policies to a third party, but why does it need a third party — in this case, the government — to tell them what its policies should be? In part, I suspect, because Zuckerberg and Facebook want to shape whatever form those regulations take.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not opposed to government regulating customer privacy, election integrity, or use of customer data. I would argue they haven’t done enough in those areas. But I have a huge issue in Facebook driving that discussion.

As the joke goes about where an 800-lb gorilla sits (answer: Anywhere it wants to), Facebook’s size almost certainly guarantees them a seat at the table when it’s time to shape policy in these areas. But, ignoring that reality for a moment, given their past actions, do you really think Facebook has demonstrated it’s the right company to shape regulations around customer data and privacy? Yes, we’d hope they can provide plenty of lessons for others. The question is whether or not they’ve learned those lessons themselves. Offering them a role in the process feels a lot like letting the fox guard the henhouse after that fox has already helped himself to an all you can eat chicken buffet.

Facebook has continually failed to demonstrate that they’re a trustworthy advocate for consumers or competition. And please don’t misunderstand. I don’t think they’re actively evil. They’re simply untrustworthy in the same way a small child is untrustworthy. After all, you wouldn’t let your three year-old play with matches or sharp knives, would you? Of course not. Except in this case, the “three year-old child” is a $55 billion company, which makes it hard to make them sit in in the corner.

Still, the evidence is compelling for why that’s necessary. As recently as early February, TechCrunch reported this about Facebook:

“Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page…[Update 11:20pm PT: Facebook now tells TechCrunch it will shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of our report. The rest of this article has been updated to reflect this development.] Facebook’s Research program will continue to run on Android.” [emphasis added]

Remember, these are often the accounts of minors. The company also appears to have shared data about users’ health without their consent and stored “hundreds of millions of user passwords…in plaintext.” We talk about these privacy breeches in a recent podcast.

Um, wow.

They also bought Instagram and WhatsApp when faced with competition that they couldn’t defeat. And, frankly, flat-out copied SnapChat’s most innovative features such as Instagram (and later Facebook) Stories when they could.

Is this the kind of company you can trust guiding regulations that will affect your privacy and personal data as an individual, to say nothing of the environment your company must compete in?

Remember, data is an increasingly valuable commodity in today’s business and marketing landscape. Would Facebook’s proposed solutions really protect consumers? Or would they simply pull up the ladder behind themselves now that they’ve scaled that solution and already have access to, oh, I dunno, more data than just about anyone?

Again, beware three year-olds with sharp knives.

(By the way, I’m scrupulously avoiding the topic of government regulation of “harmful content.” My thoughts are summarized best here.)

So, what should you do about all of this? Basically, there are two things you should focus on:

  1. Don’t wait for regulation to do the right thing by your customers. The worst excuse you could make for treating your customers badly is “well, technically, it was legal.“ GDPR exists because marketers did not treat customer data or customer privacy with the attention and respect it deserved. Facebook simply exhibits the worst of these tendencies But they’re hardly alone in acting less than perfectly in this regard. Don’t be “that guy.”
  2. Continue to pay attention to what’s happening with data privacy regulations. And then try to do better. This story has a long way to go. Between Facebook, Google, next year’s US elections, GDPR, the beginnings of the California Consumer Privacy Act, and other efforts around the world, we’re not done with this yet. You owe it to your customers — and your business — to stay informed.

Again, Facebook deserves credit for recognizing that there’s an issue in the way that it — and plenty of other marketers and businesses — treat customer data and privacy. And government undoubtedly has a role in helping to protect consumers’ best interest. However just because both of those statements are true, doesn’t mean that Mark Zuckerberg’s proposed solution is the right way to get there.

Instead, look out for your customers both because it keeps you on the right side of the law and because it’s the right thing to do. Better self-regulation is a strong first step towards doing what’s right by customers. And strong self-regulation practices will likely reduce the impact any government oversight will have on your business. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find that customers generally prefer companies that treat them with respect.

Facebook has provided a roadmap for what not to do. Learn from their lessons. In the long run, your customers — and your bottom line — will thank you for it.

Originally posted on Biznology

Search Failure. You Can’t Stop Talking About It.

Since January I’ve had dozens of discussions with marketing professionals as part of a product roadmap listening tour. My goal is to hear what’s top of mind for thought leaders, understand the pain points, and figure out how to align our product and our marketing messages with what I’m hearing. While most of the conversation focused around our new product thesis: effective visitor journeys and customer experience powered by behavior-based personalized content recommendation, people couldn’t help but talk about search failure.

Site Search

As you already know, searchers are your best prospects and are more likely to convert according to the data our clients have shared with us. It’s true for B2C and it’s true for B2B. But selling this notion is hard because many companies have no clear owner for the search experience. So we don’t always talk about the positive effect our product has on search. But the people I’ve been talking to can’t help themselves. They universally volunteer that at best their search is a work in progress and at worst it’s a disaster.

So many stories

One large packaged goods company showed me a content marketing site that seemed incapable of providing search results of related articles. If you were looking for an article on living with teens, you were likely to see content marketing and products related to babies.

An executive at a leading insurance company lamented the fact that if you were looking for content related to their asset management business (a B2B play), you were just as likely to see information related to consumer offerings.

And there were also countless stories about personal B2C problems. Looking for the thing in white and only being offered red. Searching for a hoodie and being offered jackets without hoods. Seemingly random search results.

Why is that a problem?

Because of Google. You’ve spent a lot of money and effort improving SEO to attract visitors to the top of your funnel. If they land on your page and find the content wanting they have three choices: site search, navigate, or go back to Google. Navigation is only viable if your site is simple enough to understand. For most B2B companies, this is really hard. If site search isn’t working, well your visitors are left with only one choice. Google.

There are three concerns when visitors bounce back to Google:

  1. It potentially invalidates your SEO strategy. You’re either on the wrong keywords, have the wrong content or both.
  2. Your ability to progress journeys is stymied.
  3. Your competitors get another crack at your visitors.

The Promise of AI and Site Search

A lot of site search vendors are beginning to pitch AI as a technology that will make search better. The engine is smarter, therefore results are better. That’s a start. If text analytics or machine learning models can make search content more relevant, then eventually your visitors may begin to trust your site search.

But what’s really relevant about better search is not the “how” of better search, it’s the “why” of better search. Do the better results lead to fewer site bounces? Fewer exits? More conversions? Is your search data useful outside of search?

Is better search the answer?

Better search is only part of the answer. What you really want is better journey progression. What you really want are more conversions and more MQLs. That’s why we’re focused on building technologies that take better search data and use that elsewhere in the visitor journey.

If you’re a B2B company, it’s likely that site searchers make up a relatively small portion of your website visitors. But every visitor could use guidance as they try to navigate the complexities of your digital presence. Combining better search data with your journey data and your content data creates the opportunity to identify content that your visitors need, so that they’re more likely to progress their journeys and less likely to bounce and exit.

Make your search smarter. But make sure you’re focused on the true goal. Increasing the likelihood that your visitors are going to connect with content that matters and progress towards their goal. 

Want help getting the benefits of better site search? Check out our SearchBox software.