Full Stack Marketing 2016 – The Rundown

25 August 2016

Ten reasons why the future of digital marketing is bright

A lot can happen in a year, and the year that has passed since Full Stack Marketing 2015 is no exception.

In that time, the digital marketing team at Storm ID has changed a lot – we’re a bigger team with a wider focus than before. And we have adopted the marketing function of Storm ID itself, which previously sat outside the team.

Personally, I have changed job role from being Head of Search and Analytics to Digital Marketing Director. My desk in the office has moved twice as we try to find space for the ever expanding team.

I have experienced new things outside of work too.

The year started by burying a relative, and the detached feelings that come with helping lower the coffin into the earth.

In April I drove a train, fulfilling an ambition I had since I was aged 4! I don’t care if you think I’m a train nerd. I don’t write train numbers down in a little book – I never have. I just drive them. Once. Still, I enjoyed it. Choo choo!

Me. Driving a train!

Me. Driving a train!

In July, I visited Europe’s oldest city (now in ruins – not my fault, it happened before I got there!) and walked on Europe’s oldest paved road. It had much less litter than some of the roads round here.

My parents have moved out of the home I grew up in and into a retirement apartment, which feels strange. It’s even weirder driving past the old house, and other people are inside. Odd.

I’ve worn out shoes; in fact I wore out my football boots so badly I started to get holes in my feet, not just in the soles of the boots. Don’t panic, I’ve bought new ones now. Boots, that is, not feet.

Throughout the year, though, there are some constants. I live in the same house, I have the same wife, I work with the same people, I like the same foods, I watch the same (limited number of) TV shows.

Against the backdrop of life’s ever changing parameters, it is comforting that some things feel so familiar and help anchor us back into the present, while still helping us picture the future.

This is precisely what I like about Full Stack Marketing at the Turing Festival. A conference in my adopted home city, with speakers I know and respect, giving great talks about subject matter that I know well – contriving somehow to make me feel like I already know a lot, but simultaneously teaching me new things and sparking new ideas. Attending Full Stack Marketing is like plugging your marketing brain into a charging point for a day, ready to run through the rest of the year until it finally gets recharged next time. You leave refreshed, and re-empowered to do great work and try new things, but with familiar subjects.

This years’ Full Stack Marketing did not disappoint on that front, combining great speakers, excellent topic choices, and outstanding catering (this kind of thing is important to me, stop judging me!) with an entertainingly erratic slide presenter remote control and a Moz.com goodie bag.

So what of the speakers and their topics, I hear you ask. At least I thought that is what you said, speak up! Here’s the run down.

Mike McGrail @mike_mcgrail

First up was Mike McGrail, friend and confidant of us here at Storm ID. Mike presented a crowd-sourced view of the skills that a digital marketer should possess.

Mike McGrail

A lot has changed for Mike in the last year, too, since taking a position with Administrate rather than running his own agency. But the consistency was restored by him once again wearing a kilt and distributing Caramel Wafers as reward for crowd interaction.

His talk was great, and the results of the crowd-sourced skills idea was very interesting – his panel (admittedly based on members of inbound.org) view the three key skills of digital marketers to be:

  • Writing – marketing is about stories, after all.
  • CRO – making progressive improvements to a campaign is critical.
  • Analytics – understanding performance helps us understand what works and what doesn’t.

You could argue that these skills are, on their own, quite limiting so Mike also suggested some other personality-based skills that marketers need to be able to do their job well. These were:

  • Curiosity – marketing is constantly changing, and only the really inquisitive will ever keep up.
  • Adaptability – being and to evolve to fit such changes is what helps us survive.
  • Empathy – marketing is all about understanding things, including humans (the audience of a marketing campaign).

These, as Mike suggested, are the skills that pay the bills.

Samantha Noble @SamJaneNoble

SamanthaNext up was Koozai’s Samantha Noble with a presentation about paid media. I feel for our Michelle, who came away from Full Stack Marketing last year feeling disappointed with the lack of focus on paid, but she’s at home on maternity leave now, so she’s probably having much more fun, right?

Anyhow, Samantha’s talk pushed the boundaries of what many people think about in terms of the usage of paid media. It’s not all about catching the sale as it is about to happen, but looking at how paid media can be used to support the whole customer journey.

It’s an interesting point, of course. Samantha’s talk didn’t introduce us to any channels that we don’t already use here at Storm. The biggest issue, though, is than when you extend the customer journey, you are obviously targeting people who are not yet ready to buy. This raises the Cost-per-Acquisition, and so if your campaign success parameters are based on delivering traffic and sales at a given CPA, you may find that extending the focus of a paid media campaign has a negative impact on this success metric. Though this was a critical point of Samantha’s talk, I felt she could have expanded on this more than she did. To be fair, she proceeded to give us dozens of examples of how to use paid media channels to execute such tactics, so there was probably not enough time to cover it all in the depth it deserved.

Judging campaign success solely on CPA is a hurdle we often have to overcome. For the record, my view is that you shouldn’t judge a campaign solely on a CPA, especially where the CPA expectation has previously been set where a paid media campaign focused only on the purchase point of the customer journey. Paid media campaigns should, of course, be considered successful if they have driven sufficient revenue at a reasonable cost, but the primary target should be the revenue metric, not the CPA metric. I’ve seen too many campaign with a great CPA, but that fail to drive sufficient volume of business.

Each stage of the customer journey is supported by marketing in a different way. The overall cost of marketing must of course be lower than the actual benefit it has driven for it to have been a profitable exercise in the first place. This means measuring success of the overarching marketing based on value for money. However, acquisition is not the only value that gets driven by marketing, and so these things need to be considered too.

Andy Young @andyy

AndyAndy Young from 500 Startups was up next, with a talk about Data-driven Growth.

Andy is a Brit, these days based in Mountain View in California. This has had the unfortunate side effect of changing his vocabulary but not his accent. Andy now says “oftentimes” in most sentences, but in a British accent. I’m not sure he’s aware he’s doing it, but oftentimes these things can be contagious and so we need to stamp it out now… Oh.

Anyhow, Andy’s talk gave some great insight into how he thinks of Analytics and how to use data.

He described how businesses often(times) start with data and then look for questions to answer. This is the wrong approach – think of the questions first, and then figure out what data you need to be able to answer them.

His key point was that we should start with a hypothesis, identify, collect and analyse the relevant data, make a conclusion, and act on that conclusion. Then iterate and revise. Keep moving, keep improving. Oftentimes.

He also said we should “Tag all the things.” If it weren’t for the oftentimes thing, he’d be a man after my own heart. Luckily for me I’ve got it safely locked up in the fridge.

Nathalie Nahai @NathalieNahai


Like many people, it seems that Nathalie is a big fan of the Harry Potter books and films. Unlike Nathalie, I’m not really that fussed by Harry Potter at all. I’ve nothing against Harry, but I’ve never read the books or seen the films either. I don’t have the time for nerdery when I can be driving a train instead. No contest.

Nathalie explained five different personality traits that influence how people respond and react to marketing copy. This was incredibly interesting, and helped me to formalise some things that I felt like I already knew, but that I don’t remember ever being taught. She then asked the crowd to shout out Harry Potter characters who matched certain personality types. I was a bit lost and might have shouted some Star Wars characters instead.

To be fair, Harry Potter aside this was a great talk describing how to apply thinking about personality traits to writing copy. It goes without saying that we all respond differently to marketing copy, and this talk helped formalise that thinking.

I may have to apply personality types to Star Wars characters after all.

Oli Gardner @oligardner

Last year, Oli gave may second favourite talk (after Cyrus Shepherd) so he had set himself a high bar.

Surprisingly, he surpassed himself and by some distance. This was outstanding!

Oli Gardner

Oli started his talk by giving us a glimpse of his vision of the future of CRO, a platform where you could get the benefits of AB testing before doing any AB testing, as the platform would have seen so many similar tests before that it would be able to confidently predict the impact on conversion rate of the change you wanted to make.

This is fantastic. I suppose it is also a little fantastical. The potential, though, for machine learning to at least help you to identify what tests to do, or to provide educated insight on conversion rate influencing changes for sites or pages that are too low traffic to do effective AB testing would be incredibly useful.

Obviously, this is not something that exists now, but that was the point of Oli’s talk – the data exists, the knowledge exists, at some point it is likely that this tool will exist in some form.

This was Oli’s way of introducing his concept of the conversion equation – a formula for the propensity of a page-view to become a conversion.
In fact he presented a number of equations revolving around video, social proof, clarity, CTAs, pop-ups, hero shots and forms.
In truth, the equations themselves are quite complex, and also include a number of subjective metrics, such as CTA Isolation Score. However, if you were to consistently apply such a model across different web pages, you should be able to predict which version of a webpage would be likely to convert more. Exciting stuff, and hopefully this will grow into something real.

Last year, I wrote about how I nearly knew Oli at University. This time I went up to him late on to say hi, but he looked a little scared – “who is this weird Scots-Scouse hybrid grungy old man who’s still eating all the ice cream but somehow smells of lamb tagine?” he said. Well, he didn’t say it but I knew he was thinking it. I digress.

Wil Reynolds @wilreynolds

WilIf Oli had set an insanely high bar for this year’s speakers, the right speaker came up next. Wil leapt way over that bar, metaphorically speaking (although he was also quite animated on the stage).

Wil is possibly my favourite SEO speaker, not just because his presentation style is fantastic, but also because his talks are always full of so much substance, so much common sense, and so little anti-Google bullshit. Too many SEOs spend too much of their time moaning about Google changing this or that. Wil focuses on action – satisfying users and by extension satisfying Google.

Wil talks clever marketing, but common sense marketing not growth hacking or any other hipster rubbish. Good SEO is good marketing, and is good for Google, good for users, and consequently good for business.

Wil talked about not just optimising for searches that people convert to being a customer on. Optimise to help people. Think about “the search before the search” – that is, help your future customers and build that loyalty now.

I’ve downloaded Wil’s slides since – all 250Mb of them (thanks, Wil!) – I might plagiarise one of his examples for an internal presentation about content marketing. Not because I’m lazy (well, not just because I’m lazy) but because the example is that good, it tells the story I need to tell clearly, cleverly and memorably.


Hannah Smith @hannah_bo_banna

HannahHannah had the unenviable job of following Wil. That is a job description that should not exist, but unfortunately for Hannah it did. That said, she gave another great presentation, describing how content marketing activity needs to focus on having a hook, and hitting you “right in the feels”.

All content marketing needs three key ingredients – the content itself, the execution of the campaign, and the hook that makes people care.

This reminded me very much of Mark Johnstone’s talk at Full Stack Marketing 2015 – he argued that you need to ask yourself two critical questions – what is the one story you are trying to tell (i.e. the content itself) and why should they care (the hook).

Like Mark’s talk last year, I found this quite inspiring, if not particularly new. It is nice to hear what other marketers think about strategizing content, and this helps me sanity check my own thinking. All very good stuff.

Depesh Mandalia @DepeshM

DepeshLike Hannah, Depesh had a difficult slot to fill – the excellent but significant lunch catering was beginning to have an effect and the hall was getting quite stuffy. It was fight night with Depesh in one corner and sugar crash in the other. Sugar crash landed quite a few heavy blows, but Depesh won by technical knockout, so it all worked out OK.

He focused on creating an “acquisition marketing machine” – i.e. creating the virtual machinery that helps turn marketing practice into actual sales.

Like Andy earlier on, Depesh talked Analytics, emphasizing that it is insights rather than data that are key. He gave examples of common mistakes people make through bad use of data and analytics.

His key takeaways were to keep your mission front and centre, extensively use product and customer insights, be scalable, and to test and learn often.

Lexi Mills @leximills

LexiLexi was another speaker returning after speaking last year to give us more insight into the PR aspects of content marketing.

I have to confess, I’ve never really been a phone-up-a-journalist kind of person, but nevertheless, I think the content of Lexi’s talk was quite interesting.

She covered very useful and transferable considerations, such as making sure you consider the things that will make a journalist want to pick up your story – make it an easy thing for them to do, for example, don’t make them work for it.

She looked also at how PR ties in with SEO, when the right time to do PR is, and how to optimise your process to get better results.

As an interesting aside, a great example of doing PR well this week was executed by Virgin, who managed to keep BA off the front pages of the newspapers by releasing their Jeremy Corbyn rebuttal on the day BA flew Team GB home from Rio. The story was actually 2 weeks old, but Virgin waited for the time that had the best impact for them – in this instance extinguishing the opportunities a rival company had to be in the news. Sneaky weasels!

Lexi finished by reminding marketers that they have a moral obligation to consider the side effects of the work they do. For example if you get your client to rank for a given high-volume search, who is being pushed onto page 2 of the results? Everyone’s win is someone else’s loss, and Lexi suggests we should be careful, sometimes, with who is going to lose out.

Rand Fishkin @randfish

RandRand started Friday by tweeting that he was still working on his slides for this, and once on stage told us that we should keep it under wraps as he’s doing the same talk again in Ohio in a few weeks’ time.

No luck Rand, I was there and I’m about to spill the beans. Maybe only one or two beans, but there will definitely be bean debris somewhere. Maybe I shouldn’t have accepted these beans in exchange for my magic cow after all.

As you can tell, the air was getting quite stuffy by this part of the day!

Rand focused on the worst advice marketing ever gave content – although his title slide claimed the opposite. Better fix that before Ohio!

As always, Rand was excellent, delivering great actionable tips, a little humour, and some important underlying themes.

Rand looked at some common content marketing claims, assessing the truth of each on the truth-o-meter. As always, most of the claims he refuted don’t even stand up to common sense, but if there weren’t many people believing them Rand wouldn’t have to refute them so it’s your fault, sheeple! Probably.

Rand also presented some facts as being half-true, i.e. rooted in truth, but commonly misrepresented. For the last time, people – PPC and SEO do different jobs – they (mostly) use different search results to reach different audiences with different purchase intent.

Rand presented “the modern SEO Pyramid” – a hierarchy of how you should look at SEO – ignoring the layers at the bottom makes all activity above relatively fruitless – in other words, there is a maturity model that you should really apply to a website’s SEO activity. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment – get the basics right first then expand on more complicated tactics.

As you’d expect from Rand, he says we should focus on providing unique value.

He also tells me I should cook a FoodLab steak. I see his point, but he’s not tried my lamb tagine. FoodLab can wait!

What next?

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in tonight’s show, please get in touch for some professional digital marketing counselling from one of our trained advisors.

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