Grant Grigorian's Blog

Freelance Business Operations Consultant

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Fake Impressions and Fake Likes

A friend of mine recently sent me the article “How Much Of Your Audience Is Fake” by Bloomberg Business and I thought it was excellent enough to share.

Here’s the summary in a video form:

This is all very icky of course, but the reality is actually a lot worse than the article makes it seem – for example the article says:

Facebook traffic is real people, and costs about 100 times more per visitor than the mysterious cheap traffic

But even that is not entirely true. Here’s another great video, this one specifically about fake facebook likes:

Misleading With a Chart, Uber Example

I recently got an email from Uber advertising lower rates in the Denver area and they even included a chart to demonstrate the savings:

Uber chart showing decreased rates in Denver, but with the wrong axis.

What’s wrong with that chart?

If you haven’t already noticed, scroll back up and look at it longer.

See how the drop from $11 to $7 is smaller than from $7 to $6?

Here’s the same chart but with corrected proportions:

Corrected Uber Chart

I get that Uber was excited about changing prices from $7 to $6, but I think this goes too far.

Just goes to show you that just because someone’s showing a chart it’s not an excuse to stop paying attention.

When Marketers Hide Behind Vanity Metrics

Last week I visited with a Hubspot Users Group in Denver for the first time and was looking forward to the presentation on the topic of marketing analytics and campaign performance.

It was my first time visiting with the group, and I was looking forward to meeting everyone. There was a decent turnout of about 30 very friendly people, and free food and drinks were being served, so I really had no excuses to complain about anything. But after the presentation was over, I was stunned. The word “revenue” or any references to real business outcomes were never mentioned. Not even once!

Now I understand that there are KPIs related to different types of marketing campaigns, like if you’re doing an email campaign then you want to know about % of people who open your email, % of people of click, etc – and similarly if you’re doing a landing page optimization campaign then there are KPIs related to optimizing that.

But when all is said and done, and the campaigns are optimized are we not looking for real business outcomes?

When I asked the group how they report on business outcomes, the consensus from the group that I got was that Hubspot doesn’t provide reporting to that level, and instead to rely on the CRM like to derive those metrics. Essentially they throw their hands up and say “it’s not my problem”: I got you the leads, now it’s up to Sales to deliver. Then someone who actually does have said that they track which leads came from Hubspot by Lead Source and then report on Closed Won opps by Lead Source to get to the “marketing contribution” and overall ROI.

All of this was very depressing to hear because it felt like a giant missed opportunity.

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about “Marketing ROI” and consumes a lot literature on the topic from other marketing automation providers like Marketo and Eloqua, I couldn’t believe that here was a massive marketing ecosystem and it’s not concerned with business, and instead it’s stuck on vanity metrics like # of Views, Opens and Clicks.

Is there really no easy way to do true revenue attribution by source, campaign, and content in Hubspot? Maybe my user group was simply unaware of existing capabilities?

A simple Google search revealed that there is in fact a way to do this in Hubspot: How to Use Hubspot to Report on Revenue.

So if there is at least one way to do it, why was my group so clueless, and even disinterested in the topic?

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of the people in the room were from agencies, which I think made it even more disappointing because I would expect consultants to be generally more knowledgeable about both the product and more sophisticated in it’s application.

That means that their clients are not asking them for it.

But how long before they do?

The whole evening felt like a giant missed opportunity because Hubspot, unlike a lot of other marketing automation vendors, truly serves as the marketing nerve center for marketing campaigns and content. Being able to create campaigns and evaluate combinations of audience, content and channel through the lead’s lifecycle journey to revenue can provide very valuable insight into positioning, customer development, and channel effectiveness, not to mention true campaign ROI. That’s the stuff of business glory!

Can someone point me to people who are leveraging Hubspot to it’s full potential?

Clipboard, map, and Andrew Romanoff pamphlets.

Foray Into The Ground Game of Local Politics

I’ve wanted to be more politically active for a long time, but there is always a long list of reasons not to get involved at all.

When I think about the fact that I’m living in the United States of America, and in the year 2014 – I imagine that given the ease of communications and the political freedom that we have today, shouldn’t we be living through a political activism renaissance?!

But in fact the opposite seems to be happening (source):

It’s a paradox: The United States is supposed to be a beacon of democracy, yet Americans have one of the lowest levels of electoral participation in the world. In fact, a 2012 study found that the US ranked “120th of the 169 countries for which data exists on voter turnout, falling between the Dominican Republic and Benin.”

Our turnout rate has been consistently declining since the 1970s.

There are of course many different reasons other people don’t care about politics, and there have been endless articles and books written on the subject.

What I wanted to explore was why don’t I get involved with anything political?

The thing is I really do care, and I understand the impact of my inaction. I rationalize not getting involved very simply: I’m just too busy and I’m too scared of offending other people.

Between time spent working, time with my family and time I’m setting aside to build a new company, I simply don’t have enough time in the day to do the “politics” stuff. The other reason I’ve hesitated getting involved and being vocal and active in politics is that I’m afraid of how it will come across to my friends and colleagues. Politics is polarizing, and I’m afraid of the opinion of the hypothetical boss at work, or the potential client who might not want to work with me because of my political views.

But it feels wrong not to be involved even in some minimal way. It feels wrong because I don’t want to live in a society where elections are free, political speech is protected, but no one cares enough or believes enough to actually participate. I want to find a way to weave politics into my life in a balanced way – and think of it as another aspect of my routine lifestyle – just like I think about exercising, eating well, reading, working and spending time with my family. It should become a healthy habit.

So this weekend I finally took the fist step and went to volunteer for a local political race. It turns out that very close me is one of the most exciting (contentious!) congressional districts in the country: CD6 – Romanoff vs Coffman.

Clipboard, map, and Andrew Romanoff pamphlets.

Me, hitting the pavement for the Andrew Romanoff campaign.

I arrived at the Brighton office of the Andrew Romanoff campaign, got a short lesson on how neighborhood canvassing works, and off I went armed with clipboard, a map and some Andrew Romanoff propaganda.

Here’s what happened. First of all, I’ve never volunteered for a political campaign before, much less knocked on doors. And the prospect of knocking on stranger’s doors to ask them questions like “have you decided who you’re voting for in the coming election in November?” was totally terrifying.

It was the same sort of fear I’ve had before when I was first learning how to do sales cold calls. It’s completely irrational, but it’s also not that easy to overcome, and it’s what I suspect keeps most people away from these activities.

After knocking on a few doors, the fear and the hesitation quickly went away. The truth is that most doors never open because no one was home. And the few times when someone was home, it was very quickly established wether I was welcome or not – and if I wasn’t particularly welcome, I politely excused myself and moved on – and when I was welcome, I was thankful for the respite, and the resulting friendly conversation that really made the whole thing worth it.

And that’s really what political canvassing is all about. It’s not about converting opinions, it’s about finding people who already believe in your cause, and to encourage them to vote. That’s it.

I didn’t keep exact statistics, but here’s roughly how it worked out:

  • 25 doors knocked on
  • 18 doors “Not Home”
  • 3 doors “Not Interested”
  • 4 doors “Friendly Conversation”

It took me about 2 hours between driving and walking. So was it worth it?

I’m not sure. Certainly, with the election being as close as it is, you could argue that any bit of extra effort helps. On the other hand I wondered whether there is nothing else I could have done with that time that would have been more effective.

According to the research, canvassing is in fact effective, as is phone banking, which what I’d like to try next.

Have you even canvassed a neighborhood for a political party? What was your experience?



Dynamic Image Rendering in Email?

Last week I was at the Marketo Summit and I must have stopped by the booth of Lattice Engines, because yesterday morning I got an email from them with the event follow up and I was impressed by execution of the email image header:


I asked the Marketo Community (need Marketo login to access) to see if anyone knows how to do this, but didn’t get much back in terms of how-to.

How did they put my name on the blackboard as an image?

Is there a call out service that returns a custome image for each lead given a background image and a text string?

Who knows how to do this in Marketo?

UPDATE (4/15/2014):

The kind friends at Lattice responded to my question – and here’s their answer:

We actually use a technology from PTI called FusionPro Expression. It’s pretty cool stuff – it resizes all of the text to make sure it always fits and looks nice, you can define minimum and maximum font size, and choose an image to display on error just in case something goes wrong when they serve the image.

It pulls from Marketo using lead tokens when it serves the image, that’s how I got your name on there!

Slides from a recent talk

I recently did a talk about business flow data and these are the slides I used:

So it’s now been almost 7 months since I’ve been working as a freelance consultant. I have to say that it’s been both wonderful and scary at the same time. I’m learning a ton and with time I’ve been able to better define what it is that I am really passionate about. For myself. And I think I’m finally ready to start sharing what I’m working on online – here on my blog.

Why I Quit My Cubicle To Freelance

Just about six weeks ago I quit my cubicle job to start freelance consulting. A lot of people have asked me why I made the move, so I thought answering that question would be an appropriate start to this blog.

Here’s why:

I was no longer learning the things I wanted to learn.

I learned a ton while working at my last company. When I quit, I had been there for over four years and had continually advanced within the organization to more and more interesting roles every year. Along the way, I had to continually learn and adapt to my new responsibilities, and with every promotion I felt like I was getting closer to fulfilling my career goals and aspirations, even as those goals got more ambitious over time.

But at some point along the way something had changed, and I was no longer learning. Instead I found myself feeling stuck.  I was in an information bubble at work, and it was very difficult to get out of it. It became very difficult to tell whether I was doing a good job at work or not. I started wanting to evaluate how well I was doing (and how well the company was doing) not compared to myself the year prior but to other companies in similar situations.

So I started reaching out to people outside of the company who were doing similar work, and found that other companies were facing very similar problems, but they were solving them in very different ways.

And I discovered that I really enjoyed learning about how different companies approached and solved similar business challenges. I was really craving this industry experience because the more I learned, the more perspective I gained to be able to make better business decisions myself.

This was the biggest reason I quit to become a consultant. I quit to escape the information bubble, and to instead have the opportunity to learn from many different companies.

But I also didn’t want to work 60 hours a week for a billable hour on someone else’s schedule.

When I decided to go into consulting, I was also very mindful of the typical business consultant’s life:

  • The 60-80 hour workweek.
  • The constant travel.
  • The pressure to make the billable hour quota.
  • Lack of control of projects and type of work

No doubt that being a consultant for an established and reputable consulting firm has it’s perks, but it’s probably not for me.

Is there a company through which I could work on interesting projects, so I can continue learning? There probably is, but until I find one, I want most is more freedom.

Freedom to choose my own work hours, freedom to choose my own work environment, freedom to go after the types of projects I want to work on, the freedom to choose my own clients, and the freedom to set my own standards and expectations for work.

And while I realize that none of these freedoms are easy to attain, I am looking forward to the opportunity to earn them.

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