lundi 14 septembre 2015

Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool Seeing A Potential Sequel Says Simon Kinberg


The resurrected character Deadpool has been receiving a lot of positive feedback. In fact, producer Simon Kinberg has confirmed that Fox is already in discussions about the sequel to next year’s R-rated film adaptation of the “Deadpool” comics.

Speaking with Collider during press rounds for Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” Kinberg reveals he’s already seen an early version of the film:

“I have seen a rough cut of Deadpool and it’s fantastic. It’s a really good movie. It delivers on the promise of the trailer. We really committed and leaned into it being R-rated. It’s just darker and edgier and weirder in the best way-like Deadpool should be—than any other movie in the genre.

We certainly are talking about the sequel – we were talking about the sequel while we were making the movie just because when you make a film like this that’s from a serialized source material, you hope that it’s the first of many… But yeah [Fox is] feeling good about it, we’re all feeling really proud of it, so hopefully before it comes out we will be well into the process of figuring out a sequel.”

Deadpool follows former special forces operative Wade Wilson as he is subjected to a rogue experiment in an effort to cure his cancer. He comes out of the procedure with his face disfigured, but on the bright side, he also has accelerated healing powers and a new dark, twisted sense of humor. Adopting the moniker Deadpool, Wade makes a name for himself as a mercenary and uses his new abilities to “hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life, according to CinemaBlend.

The film’s director Tim Miller has previously hinted that comics character Cable could appear and Kinberg was asked about that very possibility in the potential sequel:

“It’s certainly come up because he’s such a big character in the world. And it’s a character that I’ve always wanted to do in one form or another, we talked about Cable actually in Days of Future Past at one point. But yeah we’re in such the early stages of sequel talk it would be genuinely premature for me to say whether or not he was gonna be in it.”

The first “Deadpool” is currently slated for release in February 12, 2016. What do you think of the recent comments? Sound off below.



Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool Seeing A Potential Sequel Says Simon Kinberg

NFL Week 1: Highest-Scoring Fantasy Lineup

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Following an offseason of incessant Deflategate coverage, a handful of additional player arrests and a collection of big names like DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, and Frank Gore changing teams, the 2015 NFL season is finally upon us.

As a result, so too is another fantasy season—which will either end in bragging rights or complete and utter disappointment. But for owners that had some of the guys comprising Week 1’s highest-scoring lineup, chances are their fantasy seasons got out to a solid start. Thursday’s season opener is well represented by some of the league’s stars, but some interesting names also made the cut.

If you started the perfect fantasy lineup to start the 2015 season, this is what it looked like.

QB: Tom Brady, Patriots

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 27.62

Was anyone really surprised that Tom Brady came out and led fantasy quarterbacks in Week 1 after having his four-game suspension rescinded? The four-time Super Bowl winner had the opportunity to stick it to Roger Goodell with a solid performance, and he delivered in front of his home fans.

The results against the Steelers were four TD passes, 288 yards through the air and yet another W. Owners who drafted Brady in the late rounds before finding out he’d play in Week 1 have to be feeling pretty good about themselves.

RB1: Matt Forte, Bears

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 22.60

At 29 years old, Matt Forte may actually be considered “over the hill” by running back standards. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season—his lowest mark since 2009—so there were some warning signs that the dynamic back might be on the decline.

Instead of feeding that bleak narrative, Forte was the catalyst for Chicago’s offense with 141 rushing yards (on 5.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He would have had a second TD if not for a superhuman chase-down tackle by Clay Matthews. The Bears still lost the game, but Forte’s fantasy owners should be encouraged by his Week 1 performance.

RB2: Chris Ivory, Jets

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 22.00

Much of the chatter surrounding the Jets leading up to the 2015 season involved the quarterback situation—more specifically, Geno Smith having his jaw broken by a teammate’s punch.

Meanwhile, the under-the-radar offensive constant has been Chris Ivory. He entered the season as the go-to running back, and from a fantasy perspective, Ivory was an ideal value pick in the fourth of fifth round. He earned his keep in Week 1 by rushing 20 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns. New York leaned heavily on the running game, as Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 32 carries, while Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball just 24 times.

WR1: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 23.80

If fantasy owners crossed DeAndre Hopkins off their draft boards, chances are Houston’s sketchy QB situation was the reason why. But even though Brian Hoyer couldn’t manage to get through one start without being replaced by Ryan Mallett, Hopkins was remarkably efficient.

The 23-year-old out of Clemson caught nine passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback questions aside, Hopkins certainly seems to be the real deal.

WR2: Antonio Brown, Steelers

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 27.62

Last year’s leader in receiving yards picked up right where he left off in Thursday’s season-opener against the Pats. Brown caught nine passes for 133 yards (second only to Keenan Allen among wideouts for the week) and a touchdown.

His play somehow managed to overshadow his quirky hairdo, which is no small feat.

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 27.40

The unquestioned No. 1 fantasy TE continued to earn his keep in the NFL season opener on Thursday.

Gronk spiked his way to three touchdowns on five receptions. He fell short of 100 yards with 94 of them, but the trio of scores ensured yet another dominant fantasy week for the man-child out of the University of Arizona.

Flex: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 23.00

Cue fantasy owners everywhere scouring the waiver wire to pick up relative unknown Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The tight end out of the University of Washington finished 2014 with just 21 catches for 221 yards in nine games played. In Week 1 of 2015, he caught five of rookie Jameis Winston’s throws for 110 yards and two TDs.

It’s extremely rare for a tight end to act as the ideal flex, but Yahoo’s top 14 players at the position outscored their projections by an average of 5.9 points. Only Greg Olsen, Larry Donnell, and Owen Daniels failed to live up to their predicted outputs, so this may prove to be a big year for tight ends.

Seferian-Jenkins looked truly silly high-stepping into the endzone with his team down by five scores, but maybe the youngster was just fired up because he’s starting on his own fantasy team. Who knows?

D/ST: Carolina Panthers

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 21.00

As was the case last season, playing against the Jaguars is sure to make defenses look elite. Jacksonville’s offensive line once again did a poor job protecting Blake Bortles in the pocket, as Carolina’s D sacked the second-year QB five times.

Add two interceptions (one brought back for a touchdown) to the ledger and the Panthers defense led the way for D/ST fantasy units in Week 1. Carolina could be poised for more solid performances before a tough four-game stretch starting in Week 6 (after the Panthers’ bye week).

K: Brandon McManus, Broncos

Fantasy Points (Yahoo Sports Leagues): 18.00

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense struggled mightily in a ghastly 19-13 squeak-by win over Baltimore on Sunday. Luckily for Denver, kicker Brandon McManus had a perfect afternoon.

The 24-year-old cashed in his only extra point and all four of his field goal attempts (including a 57-yarder). McManus was just 9-of-13 on field goals last season, missing both of his tries from 50+ yards. If Manning isn’t able to get Denver into the endzone with as much consistency this season, McManus will need to tack on as many points as possible with his leg.

Final Tally

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Here’s the final recap of the perfect fantasy lineup from Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season:

Tom Brady: 27.62
Matt Forte: 22.60
Chris Ivory: 22.00
DeAndre Hopkins: 23.80
Antonio Brown: 27.62
Rob Gronkowski: 27.40
Austin Seferian-Jenkins: 23.00
Panthers D/ST: 21.00
Brandon McManus: 18.00

Final Score: 213.04 points

NFL Week 1: Highest-Scoring Fantasy Lineup

Matt Hardy On WWE Stars Coming to TNA, Best Heel Being Eric Young

TNA star Matt Hardy was recently interviewed by Journey of a Frontman, and below are some highlights:

On WWE Superstars coming to TNA:

I think it’s nice to see someone, like Drew for instance, get to go out and show everyone his full potential. When he came to WWE as The Chosen One and I was working with him, they had a lot of grand plans on the table for him. But I don’t know what happened along the way, there was some sort of monkey wrench thrown in or whatever. Then he ultimately ended up doing the 3MB gig and it just didn’t allow him to live up to his potential. He was becoming typecast in a certain role. It’s one thing that’s great about TNA because some characters may not have gotten great opportunities at WWE. They actually get the opportunity to realize their full potential on Impact Wrestling.

On the start of his heel Mattitude run in 2002:

It was interesting. I look back now and I liked a lot of the things I did, they were very entertaining. Sometimes it was hard for me to get booed in some arenas and I realize why when I look back now. You know how the saying goes, man, if you knew then what you know now. My approach to being a heel now would be different now, so drastically different. I feel like I could be a great heel. I actually feel like there’s more money in a heel Matt Hardy as a singles competitor than a babyface Matt Hardy as a singles competitor. I have a good grasp on what it takes right now to be a heel and what it takes to make the wrestling fans dislike you and want to see your opponent whoop your ass. Looking back, it was good for me because I was able to go out and show that I was a solid singles wrestler and entertaining in a singles role. It gave me a chance to showcase my own personality. But looking back, I could’ve been such a better heel. I think I was just in that mindset where I had just split from Jeff and everyone knows that Jeff was much more of a representation of what the Hardy Boyz were meant to be than I was. He’s the guy that is the natural daredevil and he does such beautiful, graceful, athletic moves. He is more of an extreme guy than I am. Once we split, he continued down the Hardy Boyz path and I had to do something drastically different. In my mind, I just wanted to be good and to succeed. I wanted people to like what I was doing with my act. I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be established and successful, that was probably my priority even over being a heel at that point.

On the best heel in wrestling right now:

Eric Young is an excellent heel. I think Eric Young is a really, really good heel because he does things intentionally so that you don’t want to cheer him, you don’t want to get behind him and you don’t want to support him. Kevin Owens is good. I worked with and against Kevin in Ring of Honor when I was there. Kevin Owens is good because he is very good at seeming normal. He’s a father and he loves his kids and his wife, you would think that describes a babyface. He’s able to turn things around. He’s able to do the things that seem cowardly, although he’s projecting an image of being tough. Kevin really knows who he is and that’s important. If you’re a wrestling character, especially as a heel, you have to understand who you are and you have to understand how the crowd views you. Kevin is really, really talented in doing that. Kevin Owens and Eric Young, those are my two top heels right now.

[Photo Credit: Source]

Matt Hardy On WWE Stars Coming to TNA, Best Heel Being Eric Young

The Risks of a Multi-Vendor Customer Engagement Strategy

Marketers are wasting excessive time managing too many vendors.  At least this is what the results of a recent study conducted at the 2014 Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference suggests.  The study shows that 52% of the marketers surveyed use at least six outbound channels in their customer engagement strategy, with 21% of those using more than 10 channels. How are these marketers executing on all of these channels?  Outsourced vendors. In fact, 21% of marketers are spending nearly 15 hours a week just managing and coordinating with seven or more vendors!

While it is a smart strategy to bring in outside vendors to execute on niche technology and service offerings, a less is more approach should be considered to save both time and money while reducing delays and remaining nimble.

Many Vendors, Many Inefficiencies

The top obstacles to accomplishing customer engagement marketing goals cited by survey respondents include their multiple tech vendors and service providers failing to integrate well, the need to consolidate vendors to be able to achieve goals, and too many vendors to coordinate. Other hindrances include:

  • Technology disconnects: When operating with different technologies, much time and added costs are required to integrate, and seldom does information flow back and forth to all parties.
  • Additional human resources: When technologies operate in different formats resulting in errors or the total inability of the output of one system to input to another, human intervention is required, leading to re-entry delays. And data re-entry is another common source of errors.
  • Integration costs: Big brand companies often spend the majority of their time coordinating the activities across all of these disparate vendors, rather than designing the optimal process to support the ideal customer experience.
  • Poor customer service: If an order is handled incorrectly, there is no single source to handle it. The customer likely contacts the call center, but the issue could be with the ecommerce site or with the fulfillment firm. Resolving the responsibility and correcting the issue takes additional time and money, with delays risking the loss of the sale and of the customer’s future business.
  • Delays in strategy shifts: Changes in marketing strategy, such as focusing on a younger age group, means adjustments throughout your marketing strategy, with different language, photos, featured products and services, etc. There are inherent delays in communicating these changes through the different vendors and ensuring that the new marketing effort, from initial contact to fulfillment and follow-up, is integrated and comprehensive.

Align Business Outcomes with a Single Partner

To create personalized and relevant dialogue throughout the entire customer journey, companies must look to employ a single partner who can optimize outcomes not in singular customer contacts, but across all lead generation, lead nurturing, sales and customer support activities.

Here are just some of the ways a company benefits from working with a single customer engagement marketing provider:

  • True measurement: Systems that work side-by-side can be measured for their effectiveness, empowering the company to make nimble investment decisions.
  • Easy management of all those moving parts: How many people should you need to call if you have a question, a creative idea, or if something isn’t working? The fewer the better.
  • Cost savings: Integrated providers are inherently less expensive than paying for premium products from several different vendors. Think of Costco. The retail giant offers high quality bundled items for a lower price.
  • More flexibility: Ability to react to results and shift strategy.
  • Fewer bugs: Integration means there will be few square-peg-in-round-hole scenarios, and less chance for incompatibilities and unforeseen conflicts.
  • More time to spend on customers: Companies that spend less time dealing with integration problems can spend more time engaging customers, building promotions, adding services and delivering on their business goals.
  • Enhanced customer experience: Your ability to bring all of the pieces together in an efficient, streamlined manner will provide a seamless, uninterrupted customer experience.

By using a single provider that combines the essential elements of marketing, from data analytics through marketing, call center, order fulfillment and follow-up, you will achieve a comprehensive customer engagement marketing strategy that will deliver to both your top and bottom lines.

The Risks of a Multi-Vendor Customer Engagement Strategy

The Most Dangerous Products At Schools


From new teachers to new friends, there are plenty of things to be concerned about as your child goes back to school. But even in the best schools there are dangers, often hiding in plain sight, which may surprise you.

From infrastructure to classroom supplies, products in schools cause over 60 thousand injuries each year. Even though manufactures are doing their best to improve the safety of school products, this number does not appear to be dropping. Although most of these injuries are accidental, HealthGrove listed the potential dangers you and your children should be aware of.

The experts at HealthGrove used data on product injuries from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to create school-product injury incidence charts from 1997 to 2014. The below chart shows incident rates in total.

The list of the most dangerous products in schools is ranked by average number of non-sports related injuries in schools per year to help you understand what potentially dangerous products your child might meet on a daily basis. Supporting trend charts show how incident rates are changing over time.

#20. Irons and Heaters

Children have much more sensitive skin than adults, and can easily burn upon contact with a hot surface.

Although most schools have upgraded to central heating, some older schools may still be using space heaters, which can cause serious burn injuries. Irons and heaters cause an average of 1,931 injuries in U.S. schools each year.

#19. Scissors

Not surprisingly, scissors are one of the most dangerous products in American schools, causing an average of 2,049 injuries annually.

There are many online resources that can help you teach your children scissor safety. Check out an article by Earlychildhood NEWS that teaches children how to cut safely.

#18. Luggage

Beware of tripping on stray backpacks! Luggage-related injuries total 2,054 incidents in American schools.

#17. Chemicals (Incl. Paint, Cleaning, and Fertilizer)

Chemicals have warning labels for a reason. Each year in U.S. schools, chemicals cause an average of 2,688 injuries.

#16. Footwear

Children’s feet are always growing, and it’s hard to keep them equipped with the right size. Keeping up with your child’s feet is important, as footwear causes 2,691 injuries in American schools on average each year.

#15. Non-Power Tools

Non-power tools such as hammers and non-electric saws are responsible for 2,923 average injuries in American schools each year.

If your child is in an extracurricular course where he will work with these tools, make sure he understands how to use them safely.

#14. Bicycles

Biking to school might be the environmentally friendly choice, but not the safe one. Biking causes an average of 3,123 injuries at U.S. schools each year. Help your child stay safe by equipping them with the right gear, including a helmet, light, reflective gear and pads.

#13. Power Tools

Each year, power tools cause an average of 3,245 injuries in U.S. schools. If your child is exposed to these products, make sure he is wearing the correct safety gear and is aware of his surroundings when using them.

#12. Fences

Fences are sharp and pointy, and not made to be climbed. It is important to stay off of fences, as each year 3,318 U.S. school children are injured, on average.

#11. Knives

When it comes down to it, sharp knives do not belong in schools. Knives cause an average of 3,458 injuries in American schools each year. Help keep you child safe by packing his lunch with a plastic knife.

#10. Pens and Pencils

Believe it or not, pens and pencils are responsible for 5,786 school injuries on average each year. Pens are for writing, not for horseplay.

#9. Poles

Poles have their way of sneaking up on the playground, as 5,847 pole-related injuries are reported in U.S. schools each year. It is important to have your wits about you if you are running around a basketball court.

#8. Lockers

We’ve all seen the scene in a movie where a young boy is distracted by a pretty girl and walks straight into an open locker. This scenario may happen more often than we think, as lockers cause an average of 7,558 injuries each year.

#7. Chairs and Couches

You are likely sitting on the No. 7 most dangerous product found in schools as you read this post. Chairs and couches are accountable for 10,669 average annual injuries in schools in the U.S.

Many children lean or rock back in their chairs during class, causing them to break. To help ensure your child’s safety, make sure he exercises good posture when seated.

Note: Our data source changed its product categorization scheme in January 2003, resulting in the spike seen in the visualization.

#6. Doors (Excl. Garage Doors)

There are few things more painful than slamming your hand in a door, especially the heavy industrial ones found in schools. Each year, doors cause an average of 13,402 injuries in American schools. Your child can protect his fingers by keeping them far away from the door.

Note: Our data source changed its product categorization scheme in January 2003, resulting in the spike seen in the visualization.

#5. Walls and Ceilings

Walls and ceilings are hard to avoid. Harmless as they might seem, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an average of 16,614 injuries in schools due to walls and ceilings each year.

Your children running around and playing with their friends is fine, just try and move the activities outside.

#4. Furniture (Excl. Beds and Chairs)

From broken toes to slammed fingers, furniture (excluding beds and chairs) is responsible for 20,664 average injuries in schools per year.

Make sure all fingers and limbs are accounted for before slamming down the top of your desk or shoving two tables together.

#3. Stairs

We’ve all fallen down (or up) stairs in our lives, so it is no surprise that an average of 24,482 injuries are reported in U.S. schools each year.

Slipping down a flight of stairs cannot only bruise your ego, but can cause many serious injuries. Help your children avoid fractured bones and head injuries by teaching them to take the stairs slowly and cautiously.

#2. Carpets, Rugs, and Other Flooring

Teachers know what they are talking about when they yell, “Slow down, no running in the hallway!” Carpets, rugs, and other flooring rank as the No. 2 most dangerous products in American schools, causing a whopping average of 26,758 injuries each year.

Children should be cautious and follow the rules when moving through their schools to decrease their risk of slipping, tripping or falling.

#1. Playground Equipment

Playground equipment is the top culprit of school injuries in the U.S., causing an average of 60,008 annually.

From climbers to slides, children are injured on playground equipment at schools over two times more than any other product. Surprisingly, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that girls actually sustain more injuries on playground equipment than boys do.

The Most Dangerous Products At Schools

Do The Painful Things First

Before I became an entrepreneur, I went to business school. While studying for my MBA, there was one lesson that I learned which has proved to be useful over and over again in my life.

I was sitting in a marketing class and we were discussing ways to design a wonderful customer experience. The goal was not merely to provide decent service, but to delight the customer.

Behavioral scientists have discovered that one of the most effective ways to create an enjoyable experience is to stack the painful parts of the experience early in the process. Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time. That means it’s better for the annoying parts of a purchase to happen early in the experience. Furthermore, we don’t enjoy it when painful experiences are drawn out or repeated.

Here are some examples…

  • If you’re at the doctor’s office it’s better to combine the pain of waiting into one segment. The wait will feel shorter to your brain if you spend 20 minutes in the waiting room rather than spending 10 minutes in the waiting room and 10 minutes in the exam room.
  • People enjoy all-inclusive vacations because they pay one lump sum at the beginning (the pain) and the rest of the trip is divided into positive experiences, excursions, and parties. In the words of my professor, all-inclusive vacations “segment the pleasure and combine the pain.”
  • If you’re a professional service provider (lawyer, insurance agent, freelancer, etc.) it is better to give the bad news to your clients first and finish with the good news. Clients will remember an experience more favorably if you start weak but finish on a high note, rather than starting strong and ending poorly.

These examples had me thinking…

If you can make a customer experience more delightful, why not make your life experiences more delightful? How can you take advantage of the way your brain processes painful and annoying experiences, and use that knowledge to live a better life?

Here are some ideas for how to do it…

To Boost Happiness, Stack The Pain

A delightful customer experience combines the painful experiences into a single segment that occurs early in the process and then improves over time. If you want to increase your happiness and have a more delightful day, you can do the same thing.

Here is an example…

On a normal day, you might have something annoying or painful to do (like paying the bills). And you also might have something good happen to you (like a friend sending you a thoughtful email).

If you read the email on your lunch break and then pay the bills when you get home from work, you will remember your day as going from a good experience to a bad experience. That’s the opposite of what you want.

However, if you decide to stack the pain early in your day — for example, if you pay your bills in the morning before you go to work and then read the email from your friend on your lunch break — you will remember your day as going from bad to good. As a result, you’ll feel happier because your brain likes it when experiences improve as time goes on.

This same principle can be applied in dozens of ways throughout your day.

  • When you’re working on a project, cleaning the house, or doing homework, start with the task that you dislike the most. Once that is out of the way, your experience will improve and you’ll finish with a more satisfied feeling.
  • When you’re trying to start a new habit, combine the pain of starting into a small segment. For example, in this article I discussed how one woman eliminated the pain points that prevented her from exercising consistently. By reducing the pain she felt at the beginning, it was more likely that she would follow through.
  • When you go to the gym, start with the exercise you dislike the most. With the hardest exercise out of the way, your experience will improve throughout the workout and you’ll be more likely to remember your workout as positive. And when you remember your workouts as positive, it’s more likely that you’ll show up next time and workout again.

Stacking The Pain For The Long-Term

It’s easy to worry about making the right choices with your life. However, if you choose to pursue things where the pain of the experience is largely in the beginning — like building a business, losing weight, or creating art — then you will tend to look back on those experiences fondly because they improve over time.

By comparison, doing things like trying to beat the stock market or become a professional gambler are very inconsistent. They can provide big wins, but they can also provide big losses at any time. The pain isn’t necessarily in the beginning. Because of this, these experiences are less likely to make you happy over the long-run.

Of course, that can be easy to forget when you’re struggling to succeed with other goals. In the beginning, it can be easy to feel like, “Building a business is so hard, why shouldn’t I try to beat the stock market?”

Understanding this difference can help you stay on track and continue to master your habits even when the day-to-day grind gets frustrating.

  • It might be painful now to put in the work required to get in shape or become a better athlete, but as your skills improve over time you’ll remember the experience as a positive one.
  • It might be painful now to create bad art, but as you master your craft and your work gets better you’ll remember the experience as a positive one.
  • It might be painful now to battle through the uncertain early years of entrepreneurship, but as you learn to build a stable business you’ll remember the experience as a positive one.

Choosing to front-load pain and discomfort isn’t just a choice that applies to daily tasks and errands. It can also be used to nudge you toward the goals you have that you tend to procrastinate on.

Where To Go From Here

If you’re anything like me, you want to get to the end of your life and remember it as being joyful and happy. Given what we know about behavioral psychology, we are more likely to remember our lives as happy if they improve over time.

This is one reason why working through the pain of learning new skills for your job, training to become stronger and healthier, and putting in the time required to master your craft is worthwhile. In the beginning, you may feel stupid while learning a new skill or frustrated while sacrificing current pleasure for a future payoff, but when you make the choice to go through the pain early, you get to enjoy the benefit of delight later on.

The path to a delightful life looks a lot like the path to a delightful customer experience. It starts off with a few painful experiences and improves over time. Using this strategy allows you to move toward happiness even when there are annoying or painful things you have to get done.

All the more reason to stop procrastinating, get the bad experiences out of the way early, and take on the hard stuff now.

This article was originally published on

Do The Painful Things First

It’s Not A Phone. It’s A Human Connect

Rear view of group of friends hugging. Horizontal.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or heard that “email is dead,” even though 247 billion emails are still sent every day. Likewise, the phone is proclaimed “dead” over and over – most recently via articles in Vanity Fair and The Atlantic.

The Atlantic article argues that “the ‘phone’ part of a smartphone is turning vestigial as communication evolves, willingly or not, into data-oriented formats like text messaging and chat apps.” Now, no one can deny the meteoric rise of texting and messaging apps like Snapchat and Whatsapp. I have teenage kids…trust me, I know.

When it comes to coordinating with friends or ordering take-out food, circumventing a conversation makes sense. However, what’s lost in the rhetoric about the phone being dead is that there’s an incredible number of circumstances where the need for human interaction is alive and well. When was the last time you texted your insurance broker?

Phone Calls Are Skyrocketing

Calls to businesses from mobile devices will reach 162 billion by 2019 according to BIA/Kelsey. This is more than double the roughly 77 billion calls generated last year from mobile devices. What this means is that despite all the communications technology advances that have been made in the past 20 years (email, social, SMS, etc.) ultimately, we are all still humans. And humans, by nature, crave actual live interaction with other humans.


A conversation makes us feel more confident about a purchase. A conversation reassures us in tricky business situations. A conversation helps us decide who to do business with. It is the tipping point in so many situations. Often, just getting off email and picking up the phone can help you make important decisions more quickly.

Do Millennials Really Hate Talking?

And this need for human connection is not limited to a certain age group. Just because millennials are addicted to Snapchat doesn’t mean that they don’t want to have a conversation. Heck, WhatsApp expanded beyond a messaging app to a fully loaded communication tool for phone conversations and Facebook is now giving users more information about who’s calling with its Hello app.

Millennials are talking. Yet, the Atlantic article claims that the “improvisational nature of ordinary, live conversation can feel like an unfamiliar burden [to the millennial generation].” Let’s give young people more credit.

Humans talk when it’s important. Buyers talk when the purchase is meaningful and expensive. As millennials mature and buy meaningful things, they will talk even more. What’s more, if you think about how the human need for interpersonal connection intersects with the power of today’s mobile technology, it’s no surprise that phone calls to businesses will increase to 162 billion in the next few years.

I’m confident that human conversations won’t lose their place as technology advances into every part of our lives. The qualities that make us human are more valuable today than ever before.

It’s Not A Phone. It’s A Human Connect

How Many Customers Could One Bad Yelp Review Cost Your Business?

Shopping with Yelp access

Most online reputation management firms will tell you that one negative online review isn’t the end of the world for your business. But an article pushed out by Moz recently might shift that thinking.

Measuring the Impact of Yelp Reviews

The author of this particular article reached out to 1,000 customers, asking about all sorts of different online behaviors. And there was one question that was really revolutionary. Here, the author asked people how many negative articles they needed to see before they decided to look for a different product or a different company.

Most of these customers didn’t look past the first page of search results, so most were looking at links that popped to the top. And that means they were looking at links pushed out by Yelp.

About 60 percent of these readers said they’d look for a new product or company if they saw three negative pieces on their searches.

That’s not too surprising. If your front page is full of negativity, about half of your customers will take notice and walk away. You probably know that already.

But here’s the interesting tidbit: About 22 percent of these people would continue a search if they found just one negative thing.

You read that right: Just one negative article or review could cost you almost a quarter of your market share.

Poor ORM Solutions

The article writer goes on to say that businesses should keep their first page free of negativity at all costs. It sounds like good advice, but it’s a task that most businesses will struggle to complete.

Do you think you can write blog articles that rank better than Yelp’s page? Do you think your participation in local community events will get you news that will beat out Yelp? Think again.

Yelp is a nationwide site with numbers most people can only dream about. That means it’s difficult or impossible for anyone to write anything that does better than Yelp. Keeping your front page clear without dealing with Yelp is a non-starter.

And if you thought of hiring someone to write up great reviews for your business, that’s another losing proposition.

Earlier this summer, Yelp started flagging suspicious reviews with “consumer alerts” that contained all sorts of nasty insinuations and accusations. Those notes are even more damning than negative reviews, as they seem to suggest that business owners are frauds and cheats. Never, ever write fake reviews now that you know this could happen to you.

Better Reputation Management Choices

So what can you do? Become familiar with the ins and outs of the Yelp terms of service. Figure out what sorts of reviews violate the guidelines, and when you spot those articles, notify the Yelp powers that be. Here are just a few examples of reviews you could flag:

  • Comments that mention a specific date or time in which your business isn’t open. If a customer complains about your “Sunday brunch service,” and you’re not open on Sundays at all, that’s a clear violation. It suggests this reviewer didn’t interact with your company at all.
  • Complaints about products you don’t make (and haven’t made in the past).
  • Concerns about staff members you can’t identify. If someone complains, for example, about your “snarky hostess” and you don’t have a hostess, you’re likely dealing with fraud.
  • Comments about interactions your staff can’t verify. If a consumer disses an interaction with a nasty employee, and you can’t find an employee that remembers that specific interaction on that date, flag the comment.

You get the idea.

Once you understand what sorts of comments the Yelp team will remove, you can be an expert at clearing your page of negativity. And you can augment that work by enticing your loyal customers to write good reviews.

Sure, this takes work. But clearly, there’s a lot at stake, when it comes to negative Yelp reviews. So you simply must do something. The time to start is now.

Photo credit: Stuart Miles via

How Many Customers Could One Bad Yelp Review Cost Your Business?

When to Run Bandit Tests Instead of A/B/n Tests

When should you use bandit tests, and when is A/B/n testing best?

Though there are some strong proponents (and opponents) of bandit testing, there are certain use cases where bandit testing may be optimal. Question is, when?

First, let’s dive into bandit testing and talk a bit about the history of the N-Armed Bandit Problem.

The Multi-Armed Bandit Problem

The multi-armed bandit problem is a classic thought experiment. Imagine this scenario:

You’re in a casino. There are many different slot machines (known as ‘one-armed bandits’, as they’re known for robbing you), each with a lever (and arm, if you will). You think that some slot machines payout more frequently than others do, so you’d like to maximize this. You only have a limited amount of resources – if you pull one arm, then you’re not pulling another arm. Of course, the goal is to walk out of the casino with the most money. Question is, how do you learn with slot machine is the best and get the most money in the shortest amount of time?

bandit testsImage Source

If you knew which lever would pay out the most, you would just pull that lever all day. In regards to optimization, the applications of this problem are obvious. As Andrew Anderson said in an Adobe article:

Andrew Anderson Andrew Anderson:
“In an ideal world, you would already know all possible values, be able to intrinsically call the value of each action, and then apply all your resources towards that one action that causes you the greatest return (a greedy action). Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in, and the problem lies when we allow ourselves that delusion. The problem is that we do not know the value of each outcome, and as such need to maximize our ability of that discovery.”

The Practical Differences Between A/B Testing and Bandit Testing

A/B split testing is the current default for optimization, and you know what it looks like:

ab testing conversionxl

You send 50% of your traffic to the control and 50% of your traffic to variation, run the test ‘til it’s valid, and then decide whether to implement the winning variation.


In statistical terms, a/b testing consists of a short period of pure exploration, where you’re randomly assigning equal numbers of users to Version A and Version B. It then jumps into a long period of pure exploitation, where you send 100% of your users to the more successful version of your site.

In Bandit Algorithms for Website Optimization, the author outlines two problems with this:

  • It jumps discretely from exploration to exploitation, when you might be able to transition more smoothly.
  • During the exploratory phase (the test), it wastes resources exploring inferior options in order to gather as much data as possible.

In essence, the difference between bandit testing and a/b/n testing is how they deal with the Explore-Exploit dilemma.

As I mentioned, A/B testing explores first then exploits (keeps only winner).

Explore Exploit ab testingImage source (courtesy of Matt Gershoff)

Bandit testing tries to solve the explore-exploit problem in a different way. Instead of two distinct periods of pure exploration and pure exploitation, bandit tests are adaptive, and simultaneously include exploration and exploitation.

bandit tests vs ab testsImage Source (courtesy of Matt Gershoff)

So, bandit algorithms try to minimize opportunity costs and minimize regret (the difference between your actual payoff and the payoff you would have collected had you played the optimal (best) options at every opportunity.). Matt Gershoff from Conductrics wrote a great blog post discussing bandits. Here’s what he had to say:

Matt Gershoff Matt Gershoff:

“Some like to call it earning while learning. You need to both learn in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but to earn; you take advantage of what you have learned. This is what I really like about the Bandit way of looking at the problem, it highlights that collecting data has a real cost, in terms of opportunities lost.”

Chris Stucchio from VWO offers the following explanation of bandits:

stucchio Chris Stucchio:

“Anytime you are faced with the problem of both exploring and exploiting a search space, you have a bandit problem. Any method of solving that problem is a bandit algorithm – this includes A/B testing. The goal in any bandit problem is to avoid sending traffic to the lower performing variations. Virtually every bandit algorithm you read about on the internet (primary exceptions being adversarial bandit, my jacobi diffusion bandit, and some jump process bandits) makes several mathematical assumptions:

a) Conversion rates don’t change over time.
b) Displaying a variation and observing a conversion happen instantaneously. This means the following timeline is impossible: 12:00 Visitor A sees Variation 1. 12:01 visitor B sees Variation 2. 12:02 Visitor A converts.
c) Samples in the bandit algorithm are independent of each other.

A/B testing is a fairly robust algorithm when these assumptions are violated. A/B testing doesn’t care much if conversion rates change over the test period – i.e., if Monday is different from Saturday, just make sure your test has the same number of Mondays and Saturdays and you are fine. Similarly, as long as your test period is long enough to capture conversions, again – it’s all good.”

In essence, there shouldn’t be an ‘a/b testing vs. bandit testing, which is better?’ debate, because it’s comparing apples to oranges. These two methodologies serve two different needs.

The Benefits of Bandits

The first question to answer, before answering when to use bandit tests, is why to use bandit tests. What are the advantages?

ma bandit tests googleImage Source

Google Content Experiments uses bandit algorithms. They reason that the benefits of bandits are plentiful:

“They’re more efficient because they move traffic towards winning variations gradually, instead of forcing you to wait for a “final answer” at the end of an experiment. They’re faster because samples that would have gone to obviously inferior variations can be assigned to potential winners. The extra data collected on the high-performing variations can help separate the “good” arms from the “best” ones more quickly.”

Matt Gershoff outlined 3 reasons you should care about bandits in a post on his company blog (paraphrased):

  1. Earn While You Learn. Data collection is a cost, and bandit approach at least lets us consider these costs while running optimization projects.
  2. Automation. Bandits are the natural way to automate the selection optimization with machine learning, especially when applying user target – since correct a/b tests are much more complicated in that situation.
  3. A Changing World. Matt explains that by letting the bandit method always leave some chance to select the poorer performing option, you give it a chance to ‘reconsider’ the option effectiveness. It provides a working framework for swapping out low performing options with fresh options, in a continuous process.

In essence, people like bandit algorithms because of the smooth transition between exploration and exploitation, the speed, and the automation.

A Few Flavors of Bandit Methodology

There are tons of different bandit methods. Like a lot of debates around testing, a lot of this is of secondary importance – misses the forest for the trees.

Without getting too caught up in the nuances between methods, I’ll explain the simplest (and most common) method: the epsilon-Greedy algorithm. Knowing this will allow you to understand the broad strokes of what bandit algorithms are.

Epsilon-Greedy Method

“One strategy that has been shown to perform well time after time in practical problems is the epsilon-greedy method. We always keep track of the number of pulls of the lever and the amount of rewards we have received from that lever. 10% of the time, we choose a lever at random. The other 90% of the time, we choose the lever that has the highest expectation of rewards.” (source)

Okay, so what do I mean by Greedy? In computer science, a greedy algorithm is one that always takes the action that seems best at that moment. So, an epsilon-greedy algorithm is almost a fully greedy algorithm – most of the time it picks the option that makes sense at that moment.

However, every once in a while, an epsilon-Greedy algorithm chooses to explore the other available options.

mgershoffslidesharebanditsImage Source (Courtesy of Matt Gershoff)

So epsilon-greedy is a constant play between:

  • Explore: randomly select action certain percent of time (say 20%)
  • Exploit (play greedy): pick the current best percent of time (say 80%)

This image (and the article from which it came) explains epsilon-Greedy really well:

epsilon greedy bandit testImage Source

There are some pros and cons to the epsilon-Greedy method. Pros include:

  • It’s simple and easy to implement.
  • It’s usually effective.
  • It’s not as affected by seasonality.

Some cons:

  • It doesn’t use a measure of variance
  • Should you decrease exploration over time?

What About Other Algorithms?

Like I said, a bunch of other bandit methods try to solve these cons in different ways. Here are a few:

Could write 15,000 words on this, but instead, just know the bottom line is that all the other methods are simply trying to best balance exploration (learning) with exploitation (taking action based on current best information).

Matt Gershoff sums it up really well:

Matt Gershoff Matt Gershoff:

“Unfortunately, like the Bayesian vs Frequentist arguments in AB testing, it looks like this is another area where the analytics community might get lead astray into losing the forest for the trees. At Conductrics, we employ and test several different bandit approaches. In the digital environment, we want to ensure that whatever approach is used, that it is robust to nonstationary data. That means that even if we use Thompson sampling, a UCB method, or Boltzmann approach, we always like to blend in a bit of the epsilon-greedy approach, to ensure that the system doesn’t early converge to a sub-optimal solution. By selecting a random subset, we also are able to use this data to run a meta AB Test, that lets the client see the lift associated with using Bandits + Targeting.”

Note: if you want to nerd out on the different bandit algorithms, this is a good paper to check out.

When To Use Bandit Tests Instead of A/B/n Tests?

There’s a high-level answer, and then there are some specific circumstances in which bandit works well. For the high level answer, if you have a research question where you want to understand the effect of a treatment and have some certainty around your estimates, a standard a/b test experiment will be best.

According to Matt Gershoff, “If on the other hand, you actually care about optimization, rather than understanding, bandits are often the way to go.”

Specifically, bandit algorithms tend to work well for really short tests – and paradoxically – really long tests (ongoing tests). I’ll split up the use cases into those two groups.

1. Short Tests

Bandit algorithms are conducive for short tests for clear reasons – if you were to run a classic a/b test instead, you’d not even be able to enjoy the period of pure exploitation (after the experiment ended). Instead, bandit algorithms allow you to adjust in real time and send more traffic, more quickly, to the better variation.As Chris Stucchio says, “whenever you have a small amount of time for both exploration and exploitation, use a bandit algorithm.”

Here are specific use cases within short tests:

a. Headlines

Headlines are the perfect use case for bandit algorithms. Why would you run a classic a/b tests on a headline if, by the time you learn which variation is best, the time where the answer is applicable is over? News has a short half-life, and bandit algorithms determine quickly which is the better headline.

Image SourceImage Source

Chris Stucchio used a similar example on his Bayesian Bandits post. Imagine you’re a newspaper editor. It’s not a slow day; a murder victim has been found. Your reporter has to decide between two headlines, “Murder victim found in adult entertainment venue” and “Headless Body found in Topless Bar.” As Chris says, geeks now rule the world – this is now usually an algorithmic decision, not an editorial one. (Also, this is probably how sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed do it).

b. Short Term Campaigns & Promotions

Similar to headlines, there’s a big opportunity cost if you choose to a/b test. If your campaign is a week long, you don’t want to spend the week exploring with 50% of your traffic, because once you learn anything, it’s too late to exploit the best option.

This is especially true with holidays and seasonal promotions. According to Stephen Pavlovich from, recommends bandits for short term campaigns:

stephen pavlovich Stephen Pavlovich:

“A/B testing isn’t that useful for short-term campaigns. If you’re running tests on an ecommerce site for Black Friday, an A/B test isn’t that practical – you might only be confident in the result at the end of the day. Instead, a MAB will drive more traffic to the better-performing variation – and that in turn can increase revenue.”

2. Long Term Testing

Oddly enough, bandit algorithms are effective in long term (or ongoing) testing. As Stephen Pavlovich put it:

stephen pavlovich Stephen Pavlovich:
“A/B tests also fall short for ongoing tests – in particular, where the test is constantly evolving. Suppose you’re running a news site, and you want to determine the best order to display the top 5 sports stories in. A MAB framework can allow you to set it and forget. In fact, Yahoo! actually published a paper on how they used MAB for content recommendation, back in 2009.”

There are a few different use cases within ongoing testing as well:

a. “Set it and forget it” (Automation for Scale)

Because bandits automatically shift traffic to higher performing (at the time) variations, you have a low-risk solution for continuous optimization. Here’s how Matt Gershoff put it:

Matt Gershoff Matt Gershoff:

“Bandits can be used for ‘Automation for Scale.’ Say you have many components to continuously optimize, the bandit approach gives you a framework to partially automate the optimization process for low risk, high transaction problems that are too costly to have expensive analysts pour over”

Ton Wesseling, founder of Testing Agency also mentions that bandits can be great for testing on high traffic pages after learning from a/b tests:

ton wesselingTon Wesseling:“Just give some variations to a bandit and let it run. Preferable you use a contextual bandit. We all know the perfect page for everyone does not exist, it differs per segment. The bandit will show the best possible variation to each segment.”

b. Targeting

Another long term use of bandit algorithms is targeting – which is specifically pertinent when it comes to serving specific ads and content to user sets. As Matt Gershoff put it:

Matt Gershoff Matt Gershoff:

“Really, true optimization is more of an assignment problem than a testing problem. We want to learn the rules that assign the best experiences to each customer. We can solve this using what is known as a contextual bandit (or, alternatively, a reinforcement learning agent with function approximation). The bandit is useful here because some types of users may be more common than others. The bandit can take advantage of this, by applying the learned targeting rules sooner for more common users, while continuing to learn (experiment) on the rules for the less common user types.”

Ton also mentioned that you can learn from contextual bandits:

ton wesselingTon Wesseling:
“By putting your A/B-test in a contextual bandit with segments you got from data research, you will find out if certain content is important for certain segments an not for others. That’s very valuable – you can use these insights to optimize the customer journey for every segment. This can be done with looking into segments after an A/B-test too, but it’s less time consuming to let the bandit do the work.”

c. Blending Optimization with Attribution

Finally, bandits can be used to optimize problems across multiple touch points. This communication between bandits ensures that they’re working together to optimize the global problem and maximize results. Matt Gershoff gives the following example:

Matt Gershoff Matt Gershoff:
“You can think of Reinforcement Learning as multiple bandit problems that communicate with each other to ensure that they are all working together to find the best combinations across all of the touch points. For example, we have had clients that placed a product offer bandit on their site’s home page and one in their call center’s automated phone system. Based on the sales conversions at the call center, both bandits communicated local results to ensure that they are working in harmony optimize the global problem.”

Caveats: Potential Drawbacks of Bandit Testing

Even though there are tons of blog posts with slightly sensationalist titles, there are a few things to consider before jumping on the bandit bandwagon.

First, multi-armed-bandits can be difficult to implement. As Shana Carp said on a thread:

“MAB is much much more computationally difficult to pull off unless you know what you are doing. The functional cost of doing it is basically the cost of three engineers – a data scientist, one normal guy to put into code and scale the code of what the data scientist says, and one dev-ops person. (Though the last two could probably play double on your team) It is really rare to find data scientists who program extremely well.”

The second thing, though I’m not sure it’s a big issue, is the time it takes to reach significance. As Paras Chopra pointed out, “There’s an inverse relationship (and hence a tradeoff) between how soon you see statistical significance and average conversion rate during the campaign.”

vwo bandit testsImage Source

Chris Stucchio also outlined what he called the Saturday/Tuesday problem. Basically, imagine you’re running a test on two headlines:

  1. Happy Monday! Click here to buy now.
  2. What a beautiful day! Click here to buy now.

Then suppose you run a bandit algorithm, starting on Monday:

  • Mon: 1000 displays for “Happy Monday”, 200 conversions. 1000 displays for “Beautiful Day”, 100 conversions.
  • Tues: 1900 displays for “Happy Monday”, 100 conversions. 100 displays for “Beautiful Day”, 10 conversions.
  • Wed: 1900 displays for “Happy Monday”, 100 conversions. 100 displays for “Beautiful Day”, 10 conversions.
  • Thu: 1900 displays for “Happy Monday”, 100 conversions. 100 displays for “Beautiful Day”, 10 conversions.

Even though “Happy Monday” is inferior (20% conversion rate on Mon and 5% rest of the week = 7.1% conversion rate), the bandit algorithm has almost converged to “Happy Monday”, so the samples shown “Beautiful Day” is very low. It takes a lot of data to correct this.

(Note: a/b/n tests have the same problem non-stationary data. That’s why you should test for full weeks.)

Chris also mentioned that bandits shouldn’t be used for email blasts:

stucchio Chris Stucchio:
“One very important note – email blasts are a fairly *poor* use case for standard bandits. The problem is that (b) is totally wrong for email – you might send out thousands of emails before you see the first conversion.”


Andrew Anderson from Malwarebytes summed it up really well in a Quora answer:

Andrew Anderson Andrew Anderson:

“In general Bandit Based optimization can produce far superior results to regular A/B testing, but it also highlights organizational problems more. You are handing over all decision making to a system. A system is only as strong as its weakest points and the weakest points are going to be the biases that dictate the inputs to the system and the inability to understand or hand over all decision making to the system. If your organization can handle this then it is a great move, but if it can’t then you are more likely to cause more problems then they are worse. Like any good tool, you use it for the situations where it can provide the most value, and not in ones where it doesn’t. Both techniques have their place and over reliance on any one leads to massive limits in the outcome generated to your organization.”

As mentioned above, the situations where bandit testing seems to flourish are:

  • Headlines and Short-Term Campaigns
  • Automation for Scale
  • Targeting
  • Blending Optimization with Attribution

Any questions, just ask in the comments!

When to Run Bandit Tests Instead of A/B/n Tests

Has Facebook Made Us Lazy When it Comes to Birthdays?

A few weeks ago, I celebrated a birthday.

And I got the requisite Facebook “happy birthday” posts on my wall. A bunch of them. Wonderful (thank you to those who left a note!). We all know the feeling.

Now, I’m going to preface this next comment by saying I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not playing the victim card. I’m just making an observation to make a point.

On my actual birthday, do you know how many people called me to wish me a happy birthday?

One person (thanks Andrea Kopfmann!).

Birthday candles

I’m not sure what that says about me as a friend. Better not answer that question.

But… one person.

One person took one minute to call me and say “happy birthday–hope you’re having a great day.”

Again, I say this not to garner sympathy (be honest, you don’t care that much anyway :). But, to make a point: We’re officially over-relying on Facebook and texting for birthday wishes.

And, it’s made us lazy friends.

BUT, this represents a HUGE opportunity for us all.

We can make a BIG difference during a very important day of everyone’s year.

A few easy ideas:


It literally takes less than a minute if you leave a message (probable). If the birthday girl/boy does answer the phone, it’s then a wonderful 5-7 minute conversation. And a great opportunity to catch up with a friend.

Take them out to lunch

You might be surprised how many people don’t have lunch plans on their birthdays. Dinner plans–yeah, folks usually have those on their birthday. But lunch or breakfast? I doubt it. Alternative idea: Call to wish them a happy birthday and offer to take them to lunch in the next month.

Send a fun gift to their office

Thanks to Facebook, we now know more about our friends and acquaintances than we ever have. We know what kinds of music they listen to. We know where they like to eat. We know what they like to do in their free time. Use that information to your advantage! Drop off a gift card to your friend’s favorite coffee shop. Or, what about a gift card to their favorite restaurant? Doesn’t have to be a big amount. But, if you deliver it during the day, at their office, you’ll make a big impression. Believe me.

Let me re-iterate, I’m not here today to give a big guilt trip. Heck, I’m just as guilty as you. I need to call my friends more on their birthdays. It’s far too easy to just send a simple “happy birthday” message on FB and think that’s good enough.

It’s not good enough.

We’re better than that.

YOU’RE better than that.

You’re a better FRIEND than that.

So, be a better friend.

Call people on their birthdays.

Send an unexpected gift.

Take a friend out to lunch.

Believe me, it’ll make an impression.

photo credit: Lit Birthday Cake via photopin (license)

Has Facebook Made Us Lazy When it Comes to Birthdays?

3 Aspects Of A Valid Online Survey

Delivering the perfect online survey. Does it exist or is it as mythical as dragons, fairies or the Cubs winning the World Series?

We can speculate, but as researchers we can also ensure we provide the best possible surveys for respondents. There are many methods to do this, much of it shared on qSample’s blog. One key way is to warrant that an online survey comprises certain aspects that make it valid.

According to Russell Renka, political science professor at Southern Missouri University, there are three aspects to a valid survey/poll. To exclude any of these, in Renka’s view, means the data will be dangerously flawed.

Here they are:

  1. The questions asked must be clear, written in neutral language and provide a range of answers to choose from.

This might be basic for marketers, but often unclear or even subconsciously-driven messages can tilt the survey towards flawed data. For example, a client’s survey utilizing our veterinarian panel once asked: “Do you think microchipping dogs might lead to a safer life for the animal?”

The problem was the obscure “might” in the question. The researcher was in essence vacillating. Therefore, the answer to the question would be compromised. (We made sure to bring this to his attention, of course).

In other words, be clear and concise and short. Furthermore, as we’ve promoted, include opt-out questions like “Don’t Know,” “Not Sure” or “Undecided.”

Your panel will thank you with richer data and not microchip your research with failure.

  1. The respondents must be randomly selected.

Yes, more Captain Obvious information, it seems. Still, marketers often penny pinch and end up drowning in river sample (in fact, Renka denounces a market research company in the cited article, the chief reason he detailed the three aspects of valid online surveys).

Detail must be placed on a questionnaire, indeed, but it also must be placed on the quality of the sampling. Beyond a good online survey provider, double-check the persona of your respondents.

We consider qSample a quality sample provider, of course. Yet there are other companies who specialize in niche panels. They will all take care of your efforts, even if it’s slightly more strain on the proverbial budget.

  1. The sample involved must be large enough to keep the margin of error fairly small, about 5 percent.

According to Renka, that should be at least 400 respondents. At 300 respondents, the margin of error grows to 5.6%. Obviously, certain respondent demographics and certain budgets necessitate a sample to be under 400 respondents. But all things being equal, keep your respondent numbers at a healthy size.

There are other aspects (or safeguards) to quality good data in online research, and these may include:

Quality of questionnaire
Quality of project execution
Quality of analysis

We agree with Renka in the end that these three simple aspects can go a long way in making sure your market research doesn’t get more complicated that it needs to be. It may not be perfection, but it’s probably closer to it than the Cubs winning the World Series.

3 Aspects Of A Valid Online Survey

It’s Time to Focus on Content Marketing Efficiency

Illustration for 090615 Post

One of the best-known aphorisms in business is that effectiveness is about doing the right things, while efficiency is about doing things right. Effectiveness and efficiency are the yin and yang of high performance, and both are essential to produce superior long-term business results.

For the past several years, marketers have been working to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing activities and programs. When it comes to content marketing, however, most of the attention has been given to the effectiveness component of the performance equation. Marketers have been primarily focused on dealing with issues like:

  • What attributes must our content have to create meaningful engagement with our customers and prospects?
  • What content formats will be most effective with our target audiences?
  • What channels will best enable us to reach our potential customers?

Because content marketing is a relatively new practice for many companies, it’s understandable that marketers have concentrated mainly on making their content marketing effective and have been somewhat less concerned about content marketing efficiency. Doing the right things should take priority over doing things right, particularly when the activity or process is new and the requirements for success are not fully understood.

But now, B2B companies are making huge investments in content marketing, and the time has come for marketers to focus on making their content marketing activities as efficient as possible.

A new research study by Gleanster and Kapost reveals the economic importance of improving the efficiency of content marketing activities and processes. The study is based on a survey of 3,408 marketing professionals in US B2B companies having 250 or more employees.

Here are some of the major findings from the Gleanster/Kapost research:

  • Large and mid-size B2B firms in the US collectively spend over $5.2 billion annually on content creation efforts.
  • Managing the overall content process is the single biggest content marketing challenge for marketers in large and mid-size B2B companies (identified by over 90% of survey respondents).
  • Poorly managed and/or cumbersome content management processes lead to an estimated $958 million each year in excessive spending on content marketing by large and mid-size B2B companies.
  • B2B companies that have invested in optimizing their content marketing efforts have marketing cycle times that are 240% faster than average firms.
  • The average large/mid-size B2B company spends and extra $120,000 per year on internal marketing personnel to produce the same volume of content as a firm that has invested in optimizing its content marketing operations.
  • $0.25 of every dollar spend on content marketing in an average large/mid-size B2B company is wasted on inefficient content marketing operations.

The findings of the Gleanster/Kapost research are both provocative and compelling. Even if the economic estimates are only reasonably accurate, they clearly show that virtually all B2B companies could realize significant benefits by improving the efficiency of their content marketing operations.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Darryl Moran

It’s Time to Focus on Content Marketing Efficiency

Why Your Sales Emails Are Not Selling

How to Make Your Email Marketing Efforts More Successful

Despite the advent of tools like Periscope, Facebook advertising and mobile coupons, email remains a mainstay of digital marketing strategies. Email marketing is still one of the most powerful tools businesses have at their disposal to effectively promote their business and drive revenue.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at these stats:

  • The total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase to over 4.3 billion accounts by year-end 2016. (Radicati Group)
  • 91% of consumers check their email at least one time per day using their smartphone (EmailMonday)
  • Email is 40 times more successful at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter (McKinsey and Company)
  • For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25. (ExactTarget)
  • Small business owners estimate doing their own email marketing gives them an extra hour in their workday–an hour that is worth $273. (Constant Contact)

With those numbers on your side, why would you ignore the power of email? As with most tools, though, the power is only as great as the user. If you are going to use email to market to your customers and prospects, you must know how to use it correctly in order to reap the benefits and capture the ROI.

The Basics of Email Marketing

While there is both science and art to successful email marketing campaigns, the fundamentals are easily mastered. If you are reading this blog, chances are you already have an email account through a service like MailChimp, Constant Contact or even HubSpot.

You have set up email templates and created an email newsletter or product announcement that you send somewhat regularly to your contact list that you have diligently created through online and point-of-sale subscription forms.

From these efforts, you see moderate success and are able to attribute some ROI to your email campaigns. So you continue to send emails to your list, each time hoping for better results that are never quite realized.

You may be on the right track. You are doing the right thing by sending emails, you just may not be sending the right message.

So you have an email list… now what do you do with it?

Oftentimes, clients come to us because they are frustrated by their lack of results from email marketing. They understand enough about marketing to know they should be sending emails, but they don’t understand why they aren’t reaping the same benefits as their colleagues or competitors. Our clients are in the same boat I just described–they are on the right track but are not sending the right messages to their list.

What we see over and over again, especially from our B2C and e-commerce clients, is a lack of nurturing and marketing and an emphasis on sales.

Take this recent client experience, for example:

A retail client recently came to us asking for help. This brick-and-mortar business was looking for ways to leverage their list of several thousand email contacts (collected through online subscription forms and sign-up sheets at the cash register) to increase in-store sales during an upcoming special event.

The client had all the right pieces in place: a sizable list, a paid account with a reputable email service provider giving them access to detailed analytics and reporting, and even a graphic designer who had created beautifully-Photoshopped email headers. All signs pointed to success.

But the problem was the message.

Instead of sending monthly emails of value and substance, such as providing tips on using their products or sharing industry news related to their business, this client only sent emails when there was an in-store sale event or new product to promote. Over time, the open rates and click-through rates were declining, as their customers grew weary of being sold to with each email.

This client is not unique. In fact, this example is rather typical. All too often, businesses just sell, sell, sell through email instead of working to build a relationship of trust and value. If all you do is sell, your audience eventually begins to tune you out, which leads to fewer opens, lower click-through rates, and reduced revenue.

Another potentially harmful side effect of constant selling in your emails is the increased risk of spam. If readers never hear from you except when you are selling something, not only are they more apt to tune you out, but they may be more inclined to mark your email as spam. This can increase your risk of spam rates, which can ultimately hurt your email sender score and make it harder for your emails to get through to the right audiences.

While email is an incredible tool to communicate about a sale or promote a product, it is also an incredible tool to generate conversations with your audience, build relationships and create trust and authority for your brand.

Communicate Value Instead

Unless you have specifically asked your customers and prospects to subscribe to your email list solely to receive promotions and coupons, most likely, people are expecting to receive valuable information from your email communications.

If your subscribers are expecting to receive monthly updates, interesting articles or other educational information, then you can’t just send coupons and product announcements. You must send valuable content if you want to keep your audience engaged.

What, then, defines valuable content?

Well, think about what you like to see as a user.

The irony of life as a marketer can be illustrated with junk mail. As professional marketers is that we spend hours at the office creating beautiful, slick, enticing postcards to mail to our customer lists. We proudly send them off, declaring a successful “direct mail campaign.” When we get home in the evenings, we find our mailboxes teeming with other people’s direct mail campaigns, which we promptly declare to be “junk mail” and throw away.

The same concept applies to your email mailbox.

You likely subscribe to dozens of newsletters, blogs and membership lists, both personally and professionally. Between my two email accounts, I can receive as many as 75 promotional emails in one day. (Maybe I should clean up and focus on the lists that really interest me, but that’s another blog for another time.)

Of these emails, the number I open each day or each week varies depending on:

  • the amount of time I have to spend reading email newsletters in a given day
  • whether or not the subject line piques my interest
  • the company or person sending the email

Of those emails I do open, the ones I spend the most time reading are the ones that continue to provide value. These are the emails I make certain to open and read, regardless of how much time I do or don’t have in my day. In short, the emails I continue to read as a consumer are the emails that continue to prove relevant and interesting in my life.

Your emails should strive to hit this sweet spot for all of your consumers.

In today’s world, nearly 2 out of every 3 customers makes up their mind on what and when to purchase on their own, before they ever pick up the phone or walk into your store. Today’s consumers are dictating the manner in which they want to make a purchase. And they don’t want to be sold to all the time.

Why else are subscription services for radio, television and music streaming so popular? Consumers are willing to fork over their hard-earned income each month to avoid hearing commercials and thereby avoid being sold to.

Some skeptics may wonder how their business is supposed to flourish if you don’t broadcast sales events or promote products. The point is not to quit selling–just quit selling in every. single. email.

Popular social media and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk expands upon this topic in his recent book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, in which he suggests that selling online is best done with three soft asks, or jabs, before the sales pitch, or powerful right hook. Although Vaynerchuk’s book is couched in social media, the concept adapts perfectly well to email.

Planning Your Email Communications

So what do those jabs and hooks look like? How can your business ensure that you are delivering value each time you deliver a marketing email?

Start with a content calendar. You don’t need a sophisticated template or tool, just a 12-month calendar and a pen. Plan out the year as a whole, so that you can identify the timing and themes of your messages. No matter how frequently you plan to send out emails (whether it’s monthly, weekly or just a few times a year), mapping out the themes and messages at once will help you stay on track.

Schedule around events or holidays. If you know your business will hold special events or holiday sales throughout the year, put these dates and events on the calendar first.

Fill in with interesting topics. Balance your sales and promotional emails with interesting emails that offer insight into your company without simply announcing a sale.  Just as you would showcase your business’s personality in your store, on your website or on your social media channels, you should showcase your personality in your emails as well. You can introduce your staff, showcase how to use your product or service, discuss activities or events taking place in the community or promote partnerships with other businesses.

Schedule these jabs in accordance with the right hooks, building up to the big asks throughout the year. Remember to think about those emails you enjoy reading as well and model your emails in the same fashion, to resonate with your audience.

By telling a story and providing value in your emails, you are priming your audience to really listen to your message. Then, when the time is right to make an actual sales pitch, your customers are ready to come in and make a purchase instead of tuning you out and deleting without reading.

And, isn’t that the point of email after all?

inbound marketing benchmarks

Why Your Sales Emails Are Not Selling

16 Ways To Engage Your Blog Readers

The online world is getting crowded. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can now create a blog and start making content that competes with your content.

See, you are already thinking this is a boring start and, if I am not wrong, ready to move on to some other content.

How do you keep your readers coming back to your blog and keep them on the page. And if you are really talented make them click some other blog posts.

I don’t know if you write an entertainment blog, a lifestyle blog, or a business blog. But I am sure some or all of the tips in this list will help you make your blog posts more interesting and engage your blog readers.

1. Cite numbers and stats where required

Don’t skimp on your research. Nobody likes to get wrong or incomplete information. After all, that is why the reader has come to you – to get information. Look for authentic data sources. Quote relevant data that will help your readers make a decision.

Some of the web sites where you can get accurate number include: Pew Research, Statistia, and Nielsen. These web sites share facts and figures on a range of social preferences and consumer patterns that can help you make your arguments believable.

2. Summarize important facts in a Infographic

You may be a wizard of words, but our readers are no longer interested in reading long posts all the time. For these readers in the fast lane, summarize your post with the help of an Infographic or other visual aids.

You can create Infographics and visuals free with any of these tools: Piktochart, Canva, Visualize, or Infogram.

3. Add a relevant slide share or video on the topic

What you say is good, but additional relevant information from an expert can add value for your readers. Adding a slide deck or video also helps you add alternative media formats fro your readers.

9 Tips for Making Your Content Go Viral From Gawker’s Most Successful Writer from HubSpot

4. Show examples to stress ‘what works’ message

Text is good to explain the complete concept and intricate details of how things work or what is the ideal way to do something. But actually showing a finished product helps your readers clearly understand what you are trying to say.

For example, if you are comparing different blog layouts, include final images of the designs to point out the benefits of one over the design mobile

5. Follow the Plain Language principles

Always remember you are writing for an average reader, and most probably for an international audience. Your audience will have readers from a range of educational background and many of them will have English as their second language.

Try to use small sentences. Whenever possible, focus on one thing in one sentence. Avoid using clauses. And use simple words.

6. Give it a personal story/twist

What you are writing may not be unique. But your angle on the whole thing is unique. Integrate your views on the subject in your blog content. This is what will separate what you write from other blogs and help you build an audience that is loyal to you.

Always remember, you are not a news reporter. You are a columnist. Your personal views and assessment of the topic is why your readers will want to read your blog.

7. Add Quotes

Quotes are inspirational. Everyone likes to read quotes that can help them stay upbeat. Write some great words from great men to reinforce your words. This will not only help you add support to your argument, but also keep the readers entertained.

“There’s a lot of information out there for free, so you’ve got to figure out what makes your information different.”

~ Matt Wolfe

8. Include images

Just like an Infographic, relevant images provide the additional information your readers need to make sense of what you are saying. You could be a travel blogger talking about the amazing piece of art at an old fort or going ga ga over the sunset view. Adding an image will hook your readers and help you communicate the wonder in a visual language.

9. Title, of course

I know this horse has been beaten to death. But all the same, any list that talks about making readers interested in your blog post is incomplete without talking about the importance of a strong title.

Amazing blog post titles

Your title is the gateway to your post. It has to be alluring enough to make the reader click and open the post. Try to address your readers’ pain points in the title. Alternatively, create a title that will make it interesting enough for them.

10. Add Twitter quotes

Twitter is an amazing communication platform where you can follow interesting conversations related to your topic with the right hashtag. Scourge your Twitter timeline and hashtag stream to find relevant updates from experts and leaders on your topic.

Embed these and you not only provide readers a useful resource, but also build your network.

11. Talk to the reader

One of the best and simple ways to engage your reader in conversation is to talk to them. Use ‘You . . .’ instead of ‘one can . . .’ or ‘blogger can . . . ‘

12. Weave in current events

Another common method of engaging readers is to weave in a current event of interest in your blog post. Use this in your introductory text to make your post more current and inviting to the readers.

newsjacking for blog post

13. A little Humor Goes a long way

Humor is one of the most engaging devices a writer can use to keep a blog post engaging. Try to crack a joke relevant to your reader and appropriate to your blog subject and audience every once in a while.

14. Add cartoons and illustration to communicate

Humor may be desirable, but it is not easy to to crack a joke for everyone. There are other ways you can make your audience laugh. Search for an illustration or a cartoon around the topic of your post and add it your blog post.

blogging cartoon

Here are a couple of web sites where you can create your own comic strips:

15. More than three things to say? Use Lists

I can’t reiterate enough how our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. And if your blog targets professionals and talks about ‘How To’ kind of posts that are useful at workplace, you need to get the information out quickly.

Long winded prose can put readers off. Use lists where you have more than a couple of things to share. Lists help readers scan the document and quickly spot what they are looking for.

16. Finish with a question

One of the most important objectives of writing a blog is to engage the readers in conversation. You might entice them through social media channels and other methods, but the goal is to get them talking.

One way you can engage the reader is ask a question and hope to kick-start a conversation.

While you don’t have to do all these things in every post, create a mix of the various tactics discussed here and keep your blog posts interesting. What have you observed so far? What devices have worked most for you?

16 Ways To Engage Your Blog Readers