Nate Knox is a Minnesota-born digital marketing nerd

Trying to recapture creativity while working in the uncreative side of digital advertising

Nate Knox is a huge digital nerd & works in search / ppc, social media, content, etc. Contact him if you need help with your digital marketing

be purposeful: always have a reason

If you don't have a readily answer to "Why?" in your back pocket for everything, stop everything.

More and more, I expect everyone around me, particularly at work, to know this answer. I expect it and ask why to things more and more just for the answer, regardless of whether or not it really, really matters. 

Be purposeful. Be intentional. 

Consider the implications if you don't have the answer. You're acting without thinking. Is that something you really want to do, much less fess up to? 

the most dangerous phrase

A new client came into the office earlier this week ready to kick off a retainer-based project. The client is a B2B company with sales and sales-support staff to close leads. Enter Nate Knox. I'm on board to drive leads. Sitting around the conference room table, the client beams while giving me the download of the company and all of the success they've seen. There is a good dialogue with a lot of back and forth until I ask a question about how they handle new leads. The client tells me the sales-support staff sends a generic "Thank You" email to new leads with a note saying, "contact us if you want to place an order." 

My eyes pop! 

"Are you serious?" I say. 

"Yes, why?" the client responds.

"Does that work well for your staff? Are they closing those deals?"

"No, we get a lot of non-qualified leads from our site, which is why I'm going to pay you." they said. 

Baffled, I walk them through the process of capturing new organic leads and how they are absolutely qualified, particularly considering their industry. I try to *nicely* explain that the customer service is lacking and they need to do more in their responses. I try to *nicely* explain that they are already interested in placing orders because the potential customers are completing lead forms for more info, but the client's team is just responding generically and asking the customer to respond *again* to start the ordering process. 

The client, obviously, doesn't take this well. 

We talk.

We talk.

I ask why. Why the hell is this the process? 

"We've always done it this way."

The most dangerous phrase. 

I consider this the most dangerous phrase because it kills movement. It kills opportunity. It kills growth. It doesn't even allow innovation, so it doesn't even have the chance to be killed. It sucks enthusiasm from the team. It isn't challenging. It lowers the bar so low that employees do not strive for anything new. 

That phrase alone is holding that client back from growth. That phrase alone is going to make me and my team look like poor performers because it opens the door to comments like, "you're need driving qualified leads," or "you're getting a bunch of leads, but my team can't do anything with them," or even worse, "this isn't working out." 

That phrase — "we've always done it this way" — instantly makes my blood boil. If I hear that phrase come from someone on my team... oh, boy. It wreaks of being content with a plateau. It is unattractive. No, it is repulsive. I want to work with A-players and A-players only. The people I want to work with don't say that phrase or anything like it ever.

I'm thrilled that I've never heard it from anyone on my team. I'm excited about not having to scream at a colleague for saying it. With everything coming down the pipeline — more on that later — I hope I don't have deal with anyone muttering this phrase ever. 

breaking the mold

One of the first things I do when reviewing a new or potential client is check to see whether or not they actively blog or have some other means of creating content. This is also one of the first things I do when checking out a person on Twitter; digital marketers ought to have a domain and simply create, regardless of content type. Of course that's my opinion, but it's something I check immediately. 

If I apply this idea to myself, I'm the type of person I discredit right off the bat. Inactivity is obvious. Inactivity, whether it be physically or digitally, is disgusting. Inactivity is also a habit. I might argue it's the worst kind of habit. 

So what's the answer?

Original art for sale at | Break the Mold by David Ballinger 

Original art for sale at | Break the Mold by David Ballinger 

break the mold

If you see an area that needs changing, change it. If your personal presence online is lacking, and you work in the industry, build it out. I'm rewriting every main piece of content about me that exists online right now. I've also noticed my physical life is in a rut. My mold was saying I'd workout after work, but then I'd get distracted by family and anything else. To combat this idea and break that mold, I've brought my 5AM workouts back to life. 

At work, I have very successful clients. The problem with success is that you get used to it. Once you get used to something, you quickly expect more and see the past dial movement as inactivity. While this obviously doesn't apply to all of them, I've started taking some of them into new directions, particularly with how they are using their digital ad dollars. While AdWords can usually kick all of the ass, it isn't Life or Death for all clients. I've taken one client into Outbrain and some other awesome partners to break their mold and it's been amazing. 

I'm looking at other platforms to break into with certain clients. So far, I'm started digging into ad platforms I don't normally suggest, like StumbleUpon, Reddit and some others. I'm even looking for more ideas, so let me know if you have ideas. 

Inactivity is death
— Benito Mussolini

Sure, I just quoted Mussolini, but that quote is true. Inactivity physically and literally kills us. Inactivity at work gets us fired. 

Take a day or 11 to think about your personal and professional lives. You're going to see things that need attention and adjustment... I hope. What molds do you need to break? 

Reaching goals and keeping promises

Today is the last business day of 2014's first quarter. Analysts and finance folks will be crunching numbers while employees (should) face quarterly performance reviews. It feels like yesterday that 2013 was wrapping up and people were resolving to be better in X, Y and Z. This got me thinking about goals set for/by us and promises made by us and to us. 

promises and goals made by us

People are marked by their ambition and diligence in pursuing that ambition. Think about it. People cross your path and leave an impression of being hard working or lazy, aggressive or passive, this or that. This idea carries through both personal and professional areas. Either you make goals and promises or you don't. Those who don't are aimless, unfulfilled and often alone. People do not want to date an aimless person, while businesses don't want aimless people. 

So, did you even make promises to anyone or goals to achieve something this year? Really think about why, regardless of your answer. 

Have you been following through on those promises and goals? If you can check anything off your list yet, are you at least pursuing them? 

"Hold yourself to a higher standard than you do for others." 

That's a quote I honestly believe in and actively pursue. Am I fulfilling the goals I've set for the quarter and year? Yes. Absolutely. Am I following through on the promises I've made myself, and more importantly, to my friends, family and wife? I have not made it...yet. I have excuses, sure, but that's all they are. I am working on following through with those promises, regardless of how light-hearted they are, which accounts for nearly all of them. 

promises and goals made for us and to us

If I promise you something, I will follow through on it. If you promise me something, I expect you to follow through on it. Fail to do so and I will lose respect for you — instantly. That may seem severe, but it's not going to change. I will give grace when it's needed, but the bar is set high. 

I mention this to question the consequences of not following through on things promised you. Have your friends made promises to you? Has your boss or company made promises to you? Are they following through on those promises? 

So far this year, people in both personal and professional situations have fallen flat in promises made to me. How did I respond? To err is human. They simply forgot in most cases. I gave grace. For the situations where they simply are not following through, for whatever reason, I simply reminded them. 

What happens if they continue to fail in following through? For me — I get that I may be severe — I question that relationship. On a personal level: are we even friends? Does that person need me to be more proactive? Does it really matter? My friends are my friends for (a million) good reasons and I'll keep them, no matter if they keep promises to me. 

Professional life is so very different. I'll generalize and say that businesses expect you to achieve your goals and fulfill your promises, and they will even go so far to decide your continued employment based on those ideas. Does your business fulfill the goals & promises they made to you? If No, then the results ought to be different than a personal situation. If you are constantly being lead on and let down, why stay committed to that business? Call it shortsighted if you want, but I would seriously question my continued employment at a place that dangles a carrot in front of you and then makes excuses for why you can't have it. 

Don't let your employer hold you to higher standards than they hold themselves. 

No matter the situation, be aware of the goals and promises being made by you and to you. Decide what, if any, consequences should result from things not being fulfilled. If something radical needs to happen, get radical. 


Cyber Monday: The Great Impact of PPC

60% of cyber monday revenue

If you're not running paid search campaigns for your business, then you're wasting time and losing out on an incredible amount of potential revenue. If you are running PPC campaigns, then you must dedicate time and energy towards making it work for you. Those are two very simple ideas.

Yesterday was Cyber Monday and one of my e-commerce clients kicked ass. I increased the budget a lot to account for people looking for deals, especially particular items they want to find. This client offers great deals already, so yesterday wasn't much of a stretch for them. How did we kick ass? By increasing our budget, adjusting for the holidays and special event, and by using PLAs, we increased our ROAS from an average of about 12-to-1 to 25-to-1.


Notice the two red arrows... The first was Cyber Monday of 2012 and the second is yesterday. That's a huge increase! In fact, that's a 104% increase in revenue generated from PPC.

cyber monday by the numbers

Now let's take a look at the numbers. Revenue from paid search accounted for 60% of total ecommerce revenue! If I haven't sold the idea of PPC yet, you're insane. Consider the opportunity cost of not running PPC and let me know how you feel. 

Here are some more numbers to consider:

  • Cyber Monday 2012 vs. Cyber Monday 2013:
  • Last year's Cyber Monday (CM) event pulled in a 79% increase in revenue.
  • Average order value was $184 in 2012 & $215 in 2013.
  • Revenue from AdWords doubled year-over-year and organic nearly did as well, increasing 73%.
  • Another interesting fact was that mobile revenue grew 315% from last year, but mobile had a 79% abandonment rate... YIKES!

Can you imagine how different this would look if the client had a mobile-friendly site? Imagine the potential if the site had a strong UX from a responsive design. I love this picture already, but it could be so much more beautiful if the UX was there.

only one example

This is only ONE client example. I'm dying to see other numbers and case studies. If you find any, leave a comment with a link or send me a tweet @nateknox

Happy PPC'in!