Growth Hack: Why business networks should copy the Nextdoor idea

The idea of business networks like LinkedIn has been to virtually connect your business contacts for networking – similar to social networks like Facebook which have been about virtually connecting to your friends to stay in touch. So far, this has been pretty much a one way street of bringing your real life connections into the virtual world.

But the other way of taking a virtual connection point and bringing it back into real life has tremendous potential as well. Start-ups like Nextdoor use your local community as connection point, bringing neighbors together in real life through a platform. Facebook has started to copy this idea, letting you ask for recommendations in your local community, organize community events etc. It’s almost ironic: Because everyone stares on their screen there is almost no by-chance communication and getting to know each other anymore, so technology (which created this problem in the first place) now helps you solve that too. But enough of that, back to the topic of how you can use a virtual connection point to build real life connections.

Everyone knows the network effect: The value of a business network increases with every virtual connection you make. But in order to make a virtual connection you need to know this person in real life first. While we all know the one person who is great at networking, the truth is that most people aren’t. You might feel uncomfortable approaching strangers, not have the time… The irony is that the non-networkers will profit the most from a large virtual network as networkers have no problem approaching people “out of the blue”. This is a huge growth inhibitor for business networks as the attractiveness and stickiness of their product requires more and more connections.

So here’s my idea: Use the company you work at as a virtual connection point to connect people within your company. Most companies organize a lot of “get to know each other” meetings when you first start at your job. This helps you start building your network but after a month you are out on your own. If you are not a great networker, chances are that you will have lunch at the cafeteria / go out for lunch with the same crowd every single day. But how about using your lunch break to get to know someone new in your company every week? Think of a little feature that allows you to opt in to a lunch networking date at a fixed time. This feature would create a win-win-win situation: A win for the user, as you can build your network without feeling awkward approaching strangers, a win for the business network as users build more connections, and a win for the company as creating connections within a company strengthens the business. I would even go so far to say that if such a feature were available, many companies would make the use “mandatory” for new employees in order to build their company network. Hey, they might even sponsor the lunch. There is free lunch after all :)

Growth Hacks: Turning your customer churn into evangelists


It happens to the best of us: Customers decide to send back your product, unsubscribe from your newsletter, or cancel after the trial. Your first thought might be: OK, this customer won’t bring me any more revenue, so let’s focus on the paying customers. But IMHO these customers are a gold mine no one really cares about. Why?

First, customers don’t quit without a reason. Understanding why customers churn provides very valuable feedback on how to position yourself in the future. You have heard this before – in fact you probably already ask for the reason using a quick questionnaire when they quit. That’s good, but you are only half way there.

Second, and even more important, these customers can become your nightmare or your evangelists, depending on how you treat them. Remember the marketing class you took where it said that people will tell 13 other people on average when they have a negative experience? Remember the horror stories you read on Facebook when one of your friends tried to cancel the phone subscription? Well, it turns out that customers will also tell 4-5 other people about it when they have a positive experience. Now, making the quitting experience suck less is probably not too hard, which helps you avoid the nightmare scenario. But turning these customers into evangelists requires a bit of creative thinking. Let me give you an example:

Let’s assume you run a online mattress business. Like everyone of your competitors, you probably have a 100 day no-questions-asked return policy. It really sucks when someone decides to send back their mattress as it is not only revenue lost but also adds additional costs for picking up the mattress. So spending 1 cent more than absolutely necessary is not something you are really interested in. But think again from the customer’s perspective: No one sends back a mattress because it is fun to do so. They probably weren’t comfortable with the mattress, maybe even had back pain, and now they have to go through the hassle of getting rid of this thing (which cannot be rolled up nicely anymore) and getting a new mattress. In order to turn these people into evangelists your job is to amaze them beyond their expectation (the expectation being that the mattress will be picked up at an agreed-upon date). That’s when they tell 4-5 of their friends this: “Yeah, the XYZ mattress was not for me but they did a fantastic job when I returned it. You should definitely try them out.” Suddenly you didn’t just avoid 1 angry customer and 13 other negatively influenced people, you added 5 positively influenced people through a genuine recommendation.

Here’s how I would do it:
1. Add a moving kit to every mattress. The moving kit would come in a nice little box with a huge plastic bag for the mattress and a nice little blank paper note inside. Your mattress probably has a 5-10 year guarantee and chances are that the person will move with the new mattress, so the plastic bag can provide protection during the move. But more importantly, if people decide to return the mattress, ask them if they would like to donate the mattress (e.g. to the local homeless shelter). If they say yes, kindly ask them to write a short donation note on the paper and wrap the mattress up with the plastic bag. That way this person will have a positive experience with your brand (the donation) even though the mattress did not turn out to be the right one for him/her. I bet they will tell their friends about this, they might even take a picture and share it in their social media streams.

2. Send out a confirmation email with alternative options. This email should include the agreed-upon pick-up date and a list of alternative mattress options. Yes, you read it right, links to your competitors. Why? They will go to your competitors anyway but this is your chance to give them one final WOW experience they will share with their friends. If they said the mattress was too soft include a list of hard mattress choices. If you want, you can even turn this into a revenue opportunity by using affiliate links. Make getting a new mattress as easy as possible and they will thank you by not only thinking positively about your brand but also telling their friends about it.

So, $1 for the moving kit and a slightly different confirmation email means 4-5 people are likely to consider buying you. And you might recoup some of the lost money through affiliate links. And most importantly: People will think your brand is awesome.

PS: The difference between 5% positive monthly churn and 5% negative monthly churn: 73% more revenues in one year.

It’s about the why, not the what

I have been working on a little book on B2B product marketing in the last couple of months. While writing up my experience, I have thought a lot about product positioning and how B2B companies present themselves. More often than not, I have seen the positioning to be a description of what they do and not why they do it. A simple, easy description of what your company does is already hard to come up with, especially if you are in B2B, have truly unique product and are building up an entirely new segment. That said, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because today’s markets, technologies, and clients move so quickly that you might become obsolete, if you are not able to answer the why question first.

There is a good TED talk on the why? question I recommend. A few weeks ago I saw a similar talk by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth at the OMR festival. Being able to answer the “why do we do what we do?” question helps you put everything in perspective: Are you developing the right products to help with the why? How does this new technology impact my “why we do what we do?”? Is this new company competition or not? …

Let me give you an example. I recently came across Flashstock. Here’s what they do according to their website:
Flashstock is the Most Efficient Way for Brands to Create High-Quality Content


Let me explain this a bit: They help fortune 500 brands to create visual content (pictures, videos etc.) for their social media channels and branding material through their network of freelance artists. It’s like upwork/freelancer/elance with custom support and content curation to guide you through the process. So if you want your new smoothie to “travel around the world” and want to have a picture of the smoothie bottle shot in Kuala Lumpur, New York, and Paris, you don’t need to send a photograhper around the world anymore. Using Flashstock and the freelancer photographers on site you can do it faster and at a cheaper price. So their USP is to be deliver “most efficient high-quality content”. But it’s the “what they do” and not the “why they do it”.

In order to answer the why, let’s take a look at their clients. One of their client groups are social media managers who need great content for their posts. They yearn for likes, shares and followers, resulting in the pressure to publish even more without larger budgets reflecting this. They need authentic content speaking to the brand but can’t afford to send people around the globe. And above all they want this content to go viral. Does it have to be efficient? Yes, fast means quicker posts and cheap means less money out of a budget. Does it have to be high-quality? Not necessarily, it has to be authentic to the brand. But it definitely has to have the potential of being engaging with the audience, and ideally going viral.

So let’s take a step back: Why is Flashstock doing what they are doing? They want to help social media managers succeed at their job. Combining technology & freelancers around the world to do this efficiently and at a high quality standard is a great idea compared to the old way of hiring a marketing agency to send people around the world on the plane. But it falls short on the reason why the social media managers do it. They do it because they need authentic content that goes viral. If something is engaging, it is worth a high price (unfortunately it is very difficult to plan for that when creating content so by default the price needs to be cheap) – so being authentic & engaging beats efficiency & high quality. Remember the “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet by Oreo when the lights went out during the Superbowl? Remember the Dollar Shave Club video? Remember the Unicorn Poop?
The content was authentic to the brand, in fact the last two videos defined the brand.

So when you look at your website ask yourself: Do we answer the why? IMHO, for Flashstock it would look like this: Answer the why, then add the what.
Authentic visual content for your brand. We help create [pictures, videos, animated gifs…] for [Facebook, Instagram, websites…].

Once you start asking yourself the why, it also becomes apparent of who your real competition is. In the case of Flashstock, authentic content might just be the first step. Companies such as Stoyo Media do not only offer authentic videos, they also address engagement by feeding the produced videos into the social media ecoystem to help with virality.

B2C marketing: It’s all about managing expectations

I have been doing quite a bit of online shopping recently, resulting in many retargeting ads and email newsletters. You know the drill – once the customer is on the website and shows interest, try to capture that interest.

What caught my eye was one thing even large brands such as Wayfair or Home Depot consistently get wrong: Managing the customer’s expectations. When I click on something, I show very high interest (we all know the low CTRs and newsletter open rates, so a click is like finding a gold nugget). There is a very good chance I am going to buy. But the experience after the click is nothing short of a desaster because I do not see what I expected to get. Not only do I loose my interest in buying, I probably won’t click on future ads and open new email newsletters any more because you tricked me.

Let me give you two examples.

Wayfair: Clickbait with cheap prices
I was looking for a comfortable chair on Wayfair but couldn’t find the right one for the right price. Later, retargeting ads popped up in my Facebook stream with a chair I had considered but was now offered almost 50% cheaper. Wow, what a bargain, I thought, and clicked on the ad. Well, it turned out that the price hadn’t changed at all. Wayfair support said that it was a “starting price for similar chairs” – notice the “starting at” at the bottom of the ad. Yeah, that makes sense, especially if you show the chair picture and the chair name in the ad. What a turn-off. I will never believe the Wayfair prices shown on Facebook again.

The Facebook ad – price $261,99:


The website after clicking on the ad – price $489,99:


Home Depot: Poor user experience
I signed up for the Home Depot newsletter to get their weekly specials. This is a great idea with poor execution: When clicking on the email, you get to a product category page where all products are listed. It’s up to you to find the special deals. What a turn-off. I don’t want to sift through all products to find the deals. Why isn’t there a special page?

The Home Depot email:



The Home Depot website – only one special offer visible:


Amazon: Meeting my expectations
Sometimes I wonder why people don’t just copy Amazon’s marketing. Amazon also showed me retargeting ads but – compared to Wayfair – the price was correct. Clicking on the ad met my expectation. Sounds easy, should be easy.

The Amazon Facebook Ad – price $699:

The Amazon website – same price:


So ask yourself: When designing an online marketing campaign, what does my customer expect to see when he clicking on the link. And then deliver exactly that. Or better: Give a little bonus, exceeding expectations (free shipping, a personal $2 off coupon, …).

Now let’s get back to work.

Twitter is dead

This week I came across several information bits that lead me to believe that Twitter is dead. I haven’t been using Twitter personally for nearly a year now as it became too cluttered and I had too many “I want to promote my product/service” tweets in my timeline. The information level was just too low & too cumbersome to sort through. Just ask yourself: When was the last time you really read your Twitter timeline? And when was the last time you really read your Facebook or LinkedIn timeline?

I stumbled across a Twitter experiment of a blogger (oh the irony that this is a post on LinkedIn) this week which showed no impact of Twitter whatsover on traffic. I quickly checked our referrals from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for wywy – Twitter is at <2% of all our social referrals, so basically irrelevant, although we post the same amount on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Then I read about Twitter laying off its Indian engineering team. And then I attended a meeting on Tuesday where a food blogger and a social media expert on a panel both said that Twitter is dying a slowth death.

So here goes my bold prediction: Twitter will be bought up next year for half the price it is worth currently ($13 billion market cap as of Sept 22, 2016). Twitter’s main (and IMHO only) advantage, the unmatched speed of news content, does not justify it’s stock price. And let’s be honest: Any breaking news will be on any other channel within one hour.

Update Sept 23, 2016: Well, that went fast. Twitter reportedly in talks with Google, Salesforce for potential sale

Source: Yahoo Finance

Optimizing local business listings in Google search

Whenever someone outside of Germany searched for my company wywy, the business listing for the German headquarters in Munich would show up. We double-checked our Google+ business locations and while they showed the correct address, a search in the US or in the UK would still return the German address. Definitely no way to impress US or UK clients as they would think we’d just operate in Germany. So I dug a little deeper and tested until I finally found the right way to do it using structured data mark-up. To be honest, there is probably not THE one way to do it but rather a combination of the Google+ listing and the structured data mark-up. 1 week after we implemented the changes Google started showing the correct business listing in most of the cases.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide including an example for our US listing:

Step 1: Check your local listing
Use the Google Adwords Preview Tool to get a local search result. Searching from Germany will not show you the same results as someone searching from the US. Choose the location (in my example: USA), the language (English), the search engine ( Then type in your search to get the result.

Google AdWords Preview options:


This is the original result for a US search:


Step 2: Use structured data mark-up
Google has a fairly detailed explanation on how to add structured data to your website. In our case, we wanted to make Google understand that there is a local address and phone number for the US market. Although you can add any phone number, Google asks you to specify the type (customer service, sales…).

This is what our final code on our contact page looked like:

For good measure we also added some structured data to our imprint page:

Step 3: Test your structured data mark-up
Google offers a tool to validate your code. Once validated, you can integrate it into your website. Done. Finally.

Here’s what a correct / validated mark-up looks like:


And finally the correct result:

Pro tip: Even if you don’t have any offices abroad, you might want to add virtual phone numbers to make your company look international. There are many virtual phone providers out there, we use Sonetel. Just buy a virtual local phone number and forward it to any number worldwide.

You like what you read and haven’t signed up to my newsletter yet? Well, it’s about time, isn’t it? ;)

Why SEO should become content marketing

I recently read an article on one of my favorite SEO blogs. It basically stated that classical SEO is dead as Google leaves nearly no space for organic listings on money keywords anymore (or as one industry expert put it, Google still has room for 1% more earnings by completely eliminating organic results). Ouch, that hurts as most start-ups see SEO as a cheap marketing channel. Well, IMHO the days of super-cheap marketing via a bit of onpage and offpage optimization are over. It was fun while it lasted.


Why do you still go to a brick&mortar store to buy stuff? To get advice, an expert opinion. And this is what needs to happen to SEO as well. Move away from trying to optimize for money keywords at the action end of the conversion funnel towards more relevant content at the upper part of the conversion funnel. Create interest and desire in the products you sell. Be it product reviews, comparisons, how-to-manuals… The German ecommerce retailer Notebooks Billiger employs a handful of people to write reviews about products on their blog, even if the products are shitty. They do it because they want to be perceived as the best price (everyone wants that!) AND transparent retailer. SEO today should not just be technical, it needs to be content driven beyond optimized keywords texts. Start thinking about how the conversion funnel to your product looks like at the very top, creating attention and interest. Become the expert, go-to source through content marketing. Use clever retargeting, SEA, social media to catch the people at the action end of the conversion funnel.

TV Advertising: Millions and millions lost

I am amazed at how siloed TV advertising and online advertising still are. We’ve been educating the market on how to connect these two worlds for quite some time now but it’s harded than I thought. Advertisers are spending millions on their TV campaigns, show a URL at the end of the commercial to prompt the viewer to visit the website. What would you expect on the website? The product you saw on TV? Well, in 50% of the cases you will not see the product on the homepage AT ALL (yes, no mention whatsoever). Wow. Here are some stats:

Source: wywy

I recently stayed up all night to do a quick study on the superbowl ads, as they are probably the most expensive ad slots in the world. The results were a little bit better, with “only” 18% not showing the product AT ALL on their homepage. Well, apparently spending a couple of million on one spot makes it easier to tell a seamless story. We are getting there. Now back to work.

Online Marketing Wrap-up

Jetzt, wo ich ins Social TV Geschäft gewechselt bin, nochmal eine kurze Zusammenfassung zu dem, was ich in den vergangenen Jahren über Online Marketing gelernt und darüber geschrieben habe (weitere gute Online Marketing Ressourcen hier):
Real-Time Bidding, der neuste (und gerechtfertigte) Hype im Display Advertising
Social Media Marketing: Twitter
Social Media Monitoring (und ganz kostenlos!)
– 10 Tipps zur erfolgreichen Online Video-Werbung
– SEO: Hier gibt es so viele gute Einführungen, da brauche ich nichts hinzuzufügen ;-)

Ich wünsche allen Online Marketing Spackos (Ihr wisst, wen ich meine) weiterhin viel Spaß, es bleibt spannend!