“They just want to get stuff done.”

There is a large contingent of people who just want to get stuff done, they don’t want to fuss with the tech. They don’t care about open source or owning their data. They don’t want to install a theme and setup their widgets, or search thousands of results to find the best SEO plugin. They don’t want to setup “managed hosting”, an SSL certificate, or a payment gateway. They just want to sell their products and make money as fast and easily as possible.

Source: Perspective on WordPress – Scott Bolinger

WordPress isn’t easy. It’s just relatively easy compared to other content management systems. It’s in this grey area between a simple DIY SaaS product and a web application framework.

The WordPress community pulls in two directions. On one side, we’re pulling towards enterprise usage by making WordPress more sophisticated. Think REST API and WP-CLI.

On the other side, we’re pulling towards small businesses and hobbyists and bloggers by making WordPress even easier to use. Look at the Customizer, Gutenberg, and the growing popularity of plugins like Beaver Builder and the ecosystems that grow around them.

The open source upside of WordPress is still a strong selling point. The fact that you can migrate a WordPress site from one hosting provider to another, the fact that you don’t have vendor lock-in the same way you do with SaaS products. That’s all great.

But as Scott covers in his post, those are moot points to a good number of people. Maybe even the majority of people. Because they just want to get their site up and running. And they’d rather deal with a solution from a single vendor who they can call up if something goes wrong.

Getting help with WordPress is harder. There’s more to troubleshoot, and depending on where the problem is, the solution may be out of scope of whoever’s providing the support.

This is why I fall back to the “it depends” response when someone asks if it’s better to use WordPress or a website builder. It depends on your comfort level; it depends on your budget; it depends on what you’re trying to build; it depends on how you want that to evolve.

These days I’m generally in favour of site builders for small businesses. WordPress gets recommended for publications (blogs, media sites) and sites that need more sophistication (basically acting like a lightweight web app).

To be trusted, you must first give value for free.

This concept can be applied to any type of products to services: to be trusted you must first give value for free. This requires patience.

Source: How Seth Godin Would Launch a Business With a $1,000 Budget – Louis Grenier – Indie Hackers

Always. Be. Helping.

New to a community? Volunteer. Offer to help. Share your expertise. Don’t have the expertise? Lend your time instead.

Listen and ask and raise your hand. Build your rapport. Build your karma. Build your credibility over time.

Then, and only then, have you earned the right to ask for something in return.

You need to build the trust before you can cash in on it.

(Aside: When you’re given an opportunity to step up, don’t squander it by overstepping.)

Tips for online advertising (Growth Hacking Toronto)

Search & Gather, a small digital marketing agency in Toronto, led yesterday’s Growth Hacking Toronto session about running paid search and social campaigns. These are my notes from their presentation.


Choosing the right platform means understanding the product (or service) you’re promoting and the audience you’re promoting it to.

You may have some assumptions about the audience — who they are, what they want, where they hang out, and what platforms would be the most effective — but those are only assumptions.

What does the data say? We’ll come back to this in a moment.

The type of CTA you use — the call to action, e.g. “sign up” or “buy now” or “learn more” — will also affect your platform choice. Some CTAs are better suited to certain platforms.

Ditto for when the conversions — the action of clicking on the CTA — actually happen.

Targeting an evening behaviour (e.g. finding a place to grab a drink with friends) may be better served on a different platform than targeting a daytime behaviour (e.g. scheduling a business meeting).

You’ll have assumptions about the target audience. You’ll have assumptions about the CTAs. You’ll have assumptions about timing.

Test your assumptions. Run trial campaigns and see what the data tells you.

Start with a small budget and iterate your tests across 3-4 platforms. As you get comfortable and grow your confidence, gradually increase your spend.

If you have a tight budget, use fewer platforms so you’re pulling in statistically significant data. (Search & Gather recommended a minimum of $1k per campaign.)

So, which platforms should you use?

LinkedIn is good for targeting industries and professions. Unfortunately it has a bad algorithm.

Bing is like “AdWords little brother”. It has lower CPC and higher ROAS. (I think they mentioned 2x to 3x return.)

WeChat is a great way to reach the Asian market.

Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, and Remarketing are all underutilized on Facebook.

An additional point on Lookalike Audiences: Base your audiences on different levels of your marketing + sales funnel. Start with 1% lookalike and “work out from there”. To reduce the budget, layer on geographic and demographic filters.

Call Campaigns (advertising a phone number – mobile only), negative keywords, and key positioning with better creative (e.g. targeting 2nd or 3rd placement but having a better offer) are underutilized on Google.

Sticking with Google: Dynamic search ads can get bring in traffic from longtail keywords, and perform well with a lower CPA. Google Display Network offers advanced targeting. Start with responsive ads.

Twitter is high maintenance. (Yes, that’s the only note I have about it – conversation was mostly focused on FB and Google.)

Audience fatigue is real

Audience fatigue/frequency fatigue happens when the same audience is exposed to the same advertisements and messaging over and over and over.

To get around it, rotate your audiences. Segment your “big audience” into smaller groups. Alternate your spend on-and-off to target the different segments at different times.

You can also test new audiences and add them to your rotation.

Bottom line? Don’t waste your budget on a tired audience.

Let’s talk ad creative

There’s still a ripe opportunity for good, interesting creative in online advertising. Channel your inner Don Draper.

If you’re not sure which direction to go in with your creative, start simple. “Keep it vanilla.”

From there, experiment and iterate with your creative, the same way you iterate with your targeting.

Run multivariate tests. Try different messaging and images. “It’s not set it and forget it.”


Continuity & relevance between ads and landing pages

So a prospective customer clicks your ad. What now? What do they see on the landing page?

Should the creative be the exact same as the ad? Should it be different? Does it matter?

“It’s situational.” Sometimes the creative doesn’t need to match 100%. But the tone and messaging should be consistent.

What about video?

“Video is hard and expensive.”

Traditional brands are doing it well because they have the cash to spend on production.

Small businesses and startups don’t have that kind of money. So they go static. It’s easier to test and iterate and “fail fast” on images and text.

…and that’s it! Thanks to Search & Gather for sharing their knowledge with the group and putting up with the inconveniently-timed fire alarm tests.

Sitting in on my first #GrowthHackingTO meetu–OH HEY FIRE ALARM TEST 🚨🚨🚨

A post shared by Andy McIlwain (@hello.andymci) on

On analyzing your audience.

Psychologizing your audience doesn’t have to be some big ordeal. I can see how surveying would be interesting if you have a group of very loyal customers, or pre-customers helping you finding product-market fit. I would definitely ask them what kind of information they need. I think that’s the key, it’s not the content their WANT to see… it’s information they feel they NEED to succeed. Where are the gaps they see in front of them, standing between them and their definition of success, or the metrics they want to maximize. How can you help them fill this gap? Really, you’re looking to provide utility, utility, utility. I think where a lot of content strategies misstep is providing customer stories, or trying to demonstrate value without considering what their customers’ goals are and how they can help with that first.

Source: AMA with Camille Ricketts, Head of Content and Marketing at First

Love this advice. I’m pushing myself to take a step back when someone hits me with a content request and ask a few questions first:

  1. Who are we creating this for?
  2. What problem does this content solve for them? (And if we don’t have a good answer, what problem can we solve for them?)
  3. What goal does it hit for us?

And then we go from there. 🙂

“Branding” is not a singular project.

I know that “branding” is not a singular project. Being a brand is kind of like being a rapper. Not a lot of rappers are loved because of their name and their first album. People love rappers because they put together a body of work over a period of time that they continuously find themselves connecting with.

Source: Design Director Alex Center Got a Masters in Branding at Coca-Cola – 99U

I also really like the follow-up statement to this:

Every single thing you do, every album, every tour, every tweet, and every decision you make, amounts to people either loving you and wanting to be a part of your orbit or not.