2015 was an explosive year of learning for me.
So I decided to document and share my 27 biggest business and marketing takeaways with you all in hopes some of these things will be helpful to the DigitalMarketer community in 2016.
These lessons were gleaned from all of our business holdings including Native Commerce brands and, of course, the DigitalMarketer brand.
I would be very excited to hear everyone else’s biggest 2015 takeaways as well, so feel free to share your own in the DigitalMarketer Engage Facebook group! (If you’re not a member, you can learn about joining here.)
Here are mine…
1. Structured Data Markup
Structured Data Markup for web content, video search and local business will become increasingly important for SEO by making your content eligible for 2 important kinds of Google features:
- Enhanced presentation in search results with Rich Snippets (enhanced info about Product, recipe, review, events, software apps), Breadcrumbs and Sitelinks Search Box…
Here’s an example of how this works for ties.com when someone Google’s “how to tie a tie.” Try it yourself and you should see the following…
Now, here’s what’s really cool about this. It actually lets you get around the no-pop-ups rule that keeps you from being able to put lead capture pop-ups on search ad pages. Check it out. If you click on the link to ties.com in the results about (shown by the red arrow), you are taken to ties.com and see the following lead-gen pop-up…
How-to searches commonly return rich snippet search results. So do recipes…
Sitelinks Search Box…
- Answers from the Knowledge Graph for use with Google answers, maps and Google Now.
2. App Indexing and Deep Linking
App Indexing and deep linking will drive app installs and use by making content within apps available to existing and new users by promoting search results from…
- Installed apps
Source: Google Web Master
- Providing enhanced display in search (app icon, etc.)
- Search auto-completions for queries to the Google app…
…driving installs by showing install button for your app in search queries,
including your app as a Now On Tap destination.
RankBrain is the 3rd most important signal for Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm and understanding word vectors and machine learning will be increasingly important for SEO going forward.
4. Google Rich Answers
You can leapfrog more authoritative (sites with more links) sites by being Google Rich Answers friendly.
1.4 million queries 35% returned Rich Answers.
Rich Answers are either Google provided, featured snippets or basic snippets (SERPs via schema). Featured snippets put you first regardless of SERP position or authority, so get you schema setup and get into Google’s Knowledge Graph to become Features Snippets for Google Answers.
5. Inside Sales
We need inside sales to hit the numbers we set for 2016.
We have amazing marketing and lead gen and very good online conversions, but no inside sales team or follow up sales team. We have to implement the highest impact growth strategies to be the $1 billion company we all want to be.
Inside sales is a big one. Growth through strategic acquisition of other companies is another. Expanding online to offline (O2O) is a third. App implementation is number 4, and leveraged capital acquisition is 5.
Intentional networking by first providing value to others without any expectation of something in return led to a multi-million dollar Series A round of funding from one of my neighbors, a 3rd meeting with Spectrum Equity for a $20MM investment in one of our companies later this month, and deep internal connections to most of the major PE, CG and VC funds in Silicon Valley.
7. Strategy vs Tactics
We are spending more and more time on strategy and less time on tactics.
We must be intentional in our strategy and stay focused on taking time out to plan where we want to go instead of just hearing about the latest cool tactics and implementing them without first determining whether they fit within our bigger strategies and move us closer to our goals.
8. A Simple Way to Increase Valuation
Changing industry classifications can deliver valuation multiple increases of 10x – 40x. E.g. Publishing companies are selling at a 10.18 multiple, while Retail Internet companies run up to multiples of 42.14.
Paying attention to market multiple comps by industry and characterizing and playing to trends can double or triple the valuation of your company with no major changes in core business.
9. High Leverage Points
Moving to the top quartile in 10 different areas can provide a 3x – 6x valuation bump.
Those areas include…
- Year over year (YOY) growth, Top Line, and EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) ideally triple digits for past three years…
- Employee depth and tenure strong and long…
- Audited financials…
- Legal/HR/SOPs all documented, systemized and up to date…
- EBITDA > $10MM…
- Proven team with past record of multiple successes…
- Lots of blue sky left in the market for growth…
- Defensible, proprietary IP,…
- Product, customer and supplier diversity…
- Low risk profile….
10. Systems as Product
Systems are critical and can be productized into a profit center. Examples are Amazon AWS and DigitalMarketer Lab. In the future (possibly) the Native Commerce Wiki.
An ideal planning system combines:
- The Profit Center > Revenues > Unit Sales > Needs matrix…
Here’s the one we did for DM with numbers blacked out…
- Business Model Canvas, Key Value Factors Map and Products/Markets Matrix from Blue Ocean Strategy…
Here’s one we did for Native Commerce when it was Associated Interests…
Here’s an example of ours…
Here’s one of ours…
- Character Diamond from David Freeman…
See this post.
- Traffic Channel Grid (notice that some of these are both channels and profit centers)…
Here’s a blank one…
- Income Target to Ad Spend reverse engineering exercise.
12. Expanding Outward
If you have high market penetration in a narrow niche, the fastest growth can come from expanding outward to a larger niche that subsumes your existing niche.
E.g. 3MM survival preppers > 40MM campers > 141MM outdoor enthusiasts.
This allows you to develop a broad market offer which is critical to rapid growth.
13. Make or license decision
Publishing ultimately builds someone else’s brand. Bite the bullet and create assets yourself then add a celebrity spokesperson.
It will be cheaper in the long run. Staff as spokespeople a la DigitalMarketer.
We licensed Spy Escape from Jason Hanson as part of our deal with Daymond John from SharkTank. We sold over a million dollars of the product, then ultimately Jason went on to other opportunities. When he left, we no longer sold the product.
If instead we had simply hired a highly qualified celebrity spokesperson to be the face of a product that we commissioned to have made or purchased outright from an existing author/course creator, then if the spokesperson went on to other opportunities, we would still own the brand and reap the benefit of all the money we spent promoting that brand.
One way you sell until you no longer have the right to sell and it’s a cash play. The second way you create an asset and every ad dollar you spend builds brand value. The second way is much smarter.
14. Building Brands
Test generic physical products first, then move fast to build a brand as soon as you prove the market.
When you have the brand, use a wholesale model to rapidly build market share. With a branded product everyone can sell and you are building brand equity.
If you’re the only one selling your product, you must spend dramatically more capital and time to build brand equity, maximize omni-channel sales and diversity and depth of distribution.
15. The End Game
3 pronged ultimate end-game model. Retail Distribution + Wholesale Distribution + Brand Proliferation permits Layering for multiple exits and really appeals to funding sources.
16. Affinity and Seasonality
Affinity and seasonality awareness and planning can vastly increase sales – Think People Magazine and Sephora make-up affinity models.
Build affinity sites to sell customers things they already buy from someone else.
Sites that are owned by us that sell things to customers from one of our sites (like SurvivalLife.com) that those customers currently are buying from someone else (DIYKits a la DIYReady.com or MakeUp from MakeUpTutorials.com. The graphic below shows how it works…
- Candied pecans
Use DigitalMarketer’s marketing calendar wheel to always have seasonal and event based offers on calendar (Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for this! The calendar wheel will be released in the Email Marketing Mastery certification at the end of February.).
17. Exact Match Domains
The importance, benefits and widespread use of exact match, partial match and branded domains and how they fit into the overall business structure.
Owning Exact-Match Domains (EMDs) and comparing organic traffic to cost of PPC for top ranking high-demand keywords can make you impossible to compete with and at the same time build a tremendously valuable domain asset portfolio that pays for itself along the way. EMDs consistently outperform branded and Partial-Match Domains (PMDs) in organic search, ad click through rate (CTR) and quality scores across multiple products and offers.
18. Online to Offline
Online to Offline (O2O) is a major growth strategy for DigitalMarketer in 2016 forward following models of Warby Parker, Amazon and Indichino.
19. Getting “Knocked Off”
Sell something that pirates cannot “knock off”.
- DigitalMarketer training > certifications
- Native Commerce > proprietary physical products
20. Continuity Offers
Buyer’s clubs and certifications are probably the best form of continuity.
Using a 90-day onboarding plan with physical product welcome kits, product explainer videos and retention kits are great ways to reduce voluntary churn.
The 7-Point Involuntary Churn Plan can add 10% – 30% of continuity income back to top-line revenue:
- Use Visa/MC card updater service.
- Amex card refresher service.
- Roll forward expiry dates.
- Recurring transaction indicator in merchant gateway.
- Auto-decline non-reloadable prepaid cards for continuity and request an alternate card at signup.
- Implement intelligent re-auth plan vs. auto re-authing 3 times immediately.
- Client side credit card and account updating periodically as part of login to accounts.
Using The Philippines (PH) for customer care and graphics and web design allows our average employee cost among 200+ employees to be only about $2k/month.
23. Content Licensing
Use content licensing to get high value branded content to elevate your own brand and content without having to hire a huge team of creators.
24. Hiring Content Creators
You can hire a kick-ass editor for about $100-$120k a year and expect five 1,000 word articles a day from a $35k full time “section chief” writer.
Compare to online services offering similar content for $300 – $500 per article.
25. Newsletter Ads
Newsletter ads in your daily emails to your list can deliver a significant additional profit stream. Example, Survival Life has generated $150k+ month with newsletter ads.
26. The Hispanic American Market
The Hispanic American market is huge and virtually untapped by any of our competitors and it has greater time online and average spending than most other audiences.
Own and bid on Spanish language search terms but no need to translate pages as most of this market prefers to search in Spanish and consume in English.
27. Messaging Apps
Messaging is the next huge thing and in-messaging apps with virtually no user interface (UI) are the future.