Putting the Spotlight on our Speakers!

As our industry has grown and developed a need for greater knowledge and understanding beyond the world of search, so too have our conferences. We’ve grown up, we’re no longer just hearing from search marketing experts. Attending a SearchLove conference now allows our delegates to expand their expertise and skills into the wider world of online marketing. 

Our speakers for this year’s SearchLove Boston conference (taking place in just under 2 weeks, save your seat) come from a variety of marketing disciplines. But how did they start out in marketing and what was their path to success? We asked them all a variety of questions and thought we’d share a few favourite answers below. (All conference attendees will get the full interviews in their booklets.) 

 Will Critchlow

Q: What was the last book you read? 

A: The Undercover Economist Strikes Back which is a lightweight introduction to macroeconomics from the author of The Undercover Economist (similar to Freakonomics – looking at microeconomic impacts on the world around us). I found it fascinating because it actually explained to me how bits of monetary policy work in theory and in practice. The introductions to quantitative easing, deflation and hyper-inflation in particular were fascinating. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed Freakonomics.

Q: What’s your favorite blog/s? 

A: “What if?” From Randall Munroe – the guy behind XKCD. It’s wonderful escapism that ends up falling somewhere between parodies of consulting firms’ interview questions (“how many table tennis balls would fit in a 747?”) and the geek-out science / math of XKCD.

 Rob Toledo

Q: Who would be in your online marketing dream team? 

A: Dr. Pete – His sense of humor and smarts are unmatched. Kyra Kuik – Content maven, also a bit of a cynic; great at telling me when my ideas are bad. Jonathon Colman – Always a source of inspiration in both my career and in life. Katy Perry – She has like 50 million twitter followers, she could blow anything up.

Q: Who (in this industry or another) do you most admire and why? 

A: Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy – I can’t believe what he has been able to accomplish through his online videos. The guy has revolutionized education around the world.

 Rand Fishkin

Q: What was the last book you read?

A: I just finished “Alif the Unseen”, and enjoyed it tremendously. The hero is a programmer in the Middle East amidst the Arab Spring, and it ventures into the educational, the mythical, and the geeky without taking itself too seriously.

Q: If you could have founded any other company, which would it be? 

A: I’m really obsessed with 15Five right now. I think they’ve built an amazingly simple solution to a hard problem and have the opportunity to make it a smash hit. The business model is great, and the timing plus the problems with any existing solutions combine to make me a little jealous :-)

 Marshall Simmonds

Q: What do you listen to while you work? 

A: Soma.fm – GrooveSalad

Focusatwill.com – Alpha Chill

Pandora – Zero7 or Air stations

Anything conducive to productivity or produced by Philip Glass? In.

Q: What do you find most interesting / exciting about working in marketing? 

A: The ceaseless moving of the goal posts, that – my friends – is job security.

 Melanie Spring

Q: How did you get into online marketing? 

A: I’ve been in the web business for almost 20 years but found myself in marketing because I loved what happened with everything after a website launched. Now I get to make sure the website and marketing are integrated.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that really stuck? 

A: “There is no corporate rulebook.” I heard this in the beginning and it allowed me to do whatever I wanted when building Sisarina. Aside from things that affected taxes, I could make the rules and I’m glad I did. I like how quirky we are.

 Chris Savage

Q: Who would be in your online marketing dream team? 

A: My dream team would be comprised of a mix of different skills and passions that can tackle any online marketing task. I look for storytellers like George R.R. Martin who can’t stop writing and pushes readers to their limits, data analysts as insightful and passionate as Nate Silver, creative remixers who can mash together concepts like Girl Talk, and a slew of crazy people just to keep everyone on their toes.

Q: How did you get into online marketing? 

A: In the early days of Wistia we thought we could cold call people until we found success. Like many others, we soon realized that we would never make the numbers work. We’d have to attract people to our website instead. Two months and an incredibly small but successful search marketing campaign later, it was clear that online marketing would be the way we would attract an audience. Ever since, I’ve been hooked.

 Adam Melson

Q: What is the most important thing to focus on when managing a search marketing campaign? 

A: Understanding the needs of the client & setting expectations. You can have great results, but if you don’t know what is important to the client & how they measure success, you’ll be off the mark.

Q: What was the last book you read? 

A: “Behind Closed Doors – Secrets of Great Management.” Wil handed this book out and I first read it a few years ago, but recently read it again. With dozens of new employees & different clients, the book can relate to new situations you encounter & provide some insights on how to best handle situations, workflow, workload, communication, etc.

 Stephanie Chang

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that really stuck? 

A: I’ve been really lucky to have amazing mentors in my life, who have all given me some tremendous advice. However the one that has stuck with me is “the last 10% matters most”. I’ve seen it play out over and over again. You could do 90% of the work and it won’t matter because you didn’t execute the last 10% properly. This especially applies to any client-facing organization. You could do all the research, have all the ideas in your head, but if you don’t communicate it properly at the right moment, it doesn’t matter. The last 10% is also where most people give up, so you have to keep fighting. I use this quote to keep me motivated, even when times are tough.

Q: What was the last book you read? 

A: I’m more into magazines and online articles than books. I definitely read Harvard Business Review and Wired every month. However, the last business-related book I read was “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. The last non-business-related book I read was “The Chinese in America” by Iris Chang.

 Darren Shaw

Q: Who/What is your content crush? 

A: I think Phil Rozek is the best writer in local search. It’s incredible how he regularly publishes so many brilliant and actionable posts on his blog at http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/blog/. If you’re interested in local search, you’ll want to read everything on his blog.

Q: What’s the one service you find extremely useful that most people don’t know about? 

A: Mention.net is an excellent replacement for Google Alerts, which is pretty close to useless these days. I’ve been using it for the past month and quite like it.

 Rick Backus

Q: How did you get into online marketing? 

A: My first job out of UCLA was at PriceGrabber.com. The experience at PriceGrabber gave me insight into what eCommerce was all about. I started to really gain an appreciation for how difficult online marketing was for retailers. Most of the retailers were small business owners with a background in product selection and fulfilment. They kicked ass at customer service and shipping their products on time but the world of online marketing was (and still is for a lot of them) completely foreign to them.

Q: Hottest search topic at the moment? 

A: From an eCommerce perspective, PLAs is definitely the hottest search topic. Non branded text ads are being replaced by PLAs a lot faster than most marketers anticipated. In 2013 PLAs generated between 40-60% of non-branded AdWords revenue for most retailers.

 Aaron Weyenberg

Q: Who (in this industry or another) do you most admire and why? 

A: June Cohen. Her range of knowledge is extraordinary. A gifted strategic and tactical thinker, she has seemingly endless energy and passion for her industry. One moment she’ll be geeking out over data, the next serving as an outward facing, eloquent personality and voice of the organization she was instrumental in building.

Q: Favorite email newsletter? 

A: The Week’s 10 things you need to know today.

 Sheena Medina

Q: How did you get into online marketing?  

A: I came into this by mere place and circumstance. I have a degree in film and video. So I have always had an interest in media. I happened to be working at Fast Company as an assistant to the Publisher and the ad sales and marketing teams. The online executive editor approached me one day saying they needed someone to run the company’s Twitter account and moderate comments on the website. He thought I had an interesting online personality. I was already on Twitter and loved it. The role kept growing so I decided to reach out and connect with others who were doing the same job at other media companies in New York. That’s how I first got involved with the Community Manager’s Meetup in NYC, which I now co-organize.

Q: What do you think the future holds for the search industry? 

A: I think this is an interesting time for search because everyone is now a content creator. Storytelling is now the highest form of commerce. Trust will be a major currency. Our relationship to digital content is shaped by mediators such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. To survive the future you must create something that people care about.

 Josh Braaten

Q: Best marketing tactic or strategy you have seen? 

A: Branching surveys. Ask people how they feel about you. Take the unhappy people and ask them how you could improve. Take the happy people and turn them into advocates.

Q: How did you get into online marketing? 

A: I used to be a business analyst but decided that applications weren’t being designed well enough so I became a systems analyst. Then I decided that the system didn’t serve business requestors efficiently so I became a project manager.

 Margot Bloomstein

Q: What do you find most interesting / exciting about working in marketing? 

A: Our industry is quickly evolving, but only at the pace our audiences deem acceptable. I love navigating that line of engagement that’s equally beneficial to both brands and their audiences, especially as it bends toward progress. The conversations, insight, and data we find useful now seemed creepy and invasive just a few years ago, and I’m excited to see how our engagement continues to evolve.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that really stuck? 

A: Find a mentor and be a mentor. Whether you work in marketing, content strategy, or design, this is an industry of big shoulders, and we are lucky to stand on them. None of us got here without guidance, suggestions, and referrals from others. If we want to always have good people to work with, with experience and education we respect, it’s valuable to invest yourself in the growth of more junior colleagues.

 Justin Cutroni

Q: Who/What is your content crush? 

A: I’m really into customer analytics – so I’m reading a lot of Kevin Hillstrom. His books, like “Hillstrom’s Database Marketing” and “Hillstron’s Merchandising Analytics”, have had a huge impact on how I think about analytics. I’m also a big fan of Peter Fader and his work at the Warton school.

Q: Best marketing tactic or strategy you have seen? 

A: I love what the team at Gardener’s Supply has done. They created a Garden Management app called Garden Minder. It costs $4.99 and contains an ENORMOUS amount of information for any gardener. If you register your app, simply by entering your email address, you get a $10 coupon from the company. In return the company gets a highly qualified sales lead. This is a brilliant piece of marketing. Gardener’s is supplying their existing customers with a valuable tool. Plus they’re engaging their target customers using information that will help them cultivate a relationship that should lead to a sale.

 Mark Johnstone

Q: What’s the one service you find extremely useful that most people don’t know about? 

A: Everyone should know about OSE Top Pages, but I doubt they use it enough.  I use it on almost every site I ever visit.

Q: Who (in this industry or another) do you most admire and why? 

A: Leo Babauta.  He built his blog without using any tricks, just consistent solid content on a really focused topic (productivity).

 Matthew Brown

Q: If you could have founded any other company, which would it be? 

A: Atari – It’s pretty silly, but I actually have recurring dreams about this. First, I’m a dedicated fan and rabid collector of all their products, from the 2600 to the excellent arcade games. (Portland plug: If you haven’t been to http://groundkontrol.com/ you are missing out).

But more importantly, they didn’t really survive the video game crash of the early/mid 1980s. Instead, Nintendo burst onto the scene in 1985 and the rest of the century is history. I like to think I could’ve seen the road ahead and averted Atari’s disaster. In a related story, I think we’re getting there today with SEO. There’s a lot of panic and FUD, and I think sticking to the plan and adapting where necessary will pay off.

Q: Favorite email newsletter? 

A: Two that I’ve been really enjoying lately:

Dave Pell’s Next Draft – It slightly leans tech, but not by much. It’s really f’in hard to put together a good “generalist” newsletter that continues to be interesting, and I can’t think of one that does it better.

Kate Matsudaira’s Technology Leadership News (TLN) – Kate’s the former CTO of Moz and the current CEO of her startup https://popforms.com/ – she’s focused on moving tech leadership and management strategies forward, and TLN is a great perspective of tech industry changes and opinion pieces. She does nice annotations of why an article or a piece of tech news is important.


 Joanna Lord

Q: What is the most important thing to focus on when managing a search marketing campaign? 

A: For me, it’s a tie between tracking and money. Never launch any campaign without knowing your tracking is dialled in, and that will make sure you never run a campaign that doesn’t return. I’m not a fan of the softer marketing promises – “it got us visibility” or “it drove awareness.” Well that is lovely, but track it back to return – emails, downloads, leads, calls, purchases. If you aren’t focused on tracking well and making money you aren’t really doing your job. I’m all for pushing secondary conversions, but I believe we have a responsibility to run well thought-out, tracked, and profitable campaigns for our companies. If they give us resources and budget to run them, we owe them growth in return.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that really stuck? 

A: I’m really fortunate to have received a lot of great advice over the years. I think the one that really resonates with me actually came from a blog post written by Mark Suster, where he talked about “building what customers need, not necessarily what they want.” I think this gets to the heart of a lot of things that are important to me. As marketers we should be asking our customers what they really need, we should be looking at the data, we should build valuable products and resources. We aren’t just here to tell a pretty story. As marketers we have a chance to build brilliant companies, products, and brands that provide real value to our customers.

 Duncan Morris

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you have been given that really stuck? 

A: KISS - Keep it simple stupid.

We all love to over-complicate things. It is surprising how often the right idea is the simplest one. It can be scary to pitch a simple idea. I think we worry that people judge us based on the simplicity of our ideas.

Q: What do you think the future holds for the search industry?  

A: The search industry has a great future ahead. Search marketing, done well, will bring a lot of influence in a company. That will bring a bigger share of a company’s marketing budget which in turn leads to bigger opportunities for us.

We dedicated a month on the Distilled blog to our thoughts on the future of TV - distilled.net/future-of-tv/. The month was kicked off with a report that explained the disruption we believe is coming to TV advertising and brand marketing. In short, we believe the biggest brands of tomorrow will be built online.

So, what about you? How did you get into the world of online marketing? What do you believe the future holds for search? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you want to hear more from our incredible speakers, get your place booked for SearchLove Boston!

About the author
Lynsey Little

Lynsey Little

Lynsey joined Distilled in September 2009. Lynsey heads up our events at Distilled, with plans in place to expand globally – it’s her job to make this happen. The key to being a great events manager is planning, predicting and being ready for...   read more