Digital Strategy Technology Consultant - Patrick J. Santry

By Patrick Santry

About this podcast   English

Digital Strategy Solutions is a podcast about the digital marketing and technologies space. Topics pertaining to customer experience, digital marketing, and technology strategy from Patrick Santry. Author, and digital strategist who has 2 decades of experience in the digital arena.
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Patrick J. Santry

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April 10, 2015
So my Amazon Echo came in this week. It still has a ways to go, but it's changing the face of digital channels. In this review, I talk about Alexa, some of the things it can do, what it can't and where I see it going. It's nice to see some folks are already starting to hack the Echo, and figure out the API calls. Here's some links: https://github.com/noelportugal/AmazonEchoApi http://www.piettes.com/the-amazon-echo-api/ I applied to the SDK, looking to see what happens. But even the API access, would enable some reading of the calls, to see what's being sent and then acting on the commands.
Nov. 25, 2014
I had the enjoyment to go on several job interviews recently in the Pittsburgh area. Most of the companies I targeted were large above $1 billion companies. And since my background is in content management, having been part of the founding development team that created DotNetNuke (now DNN, or is it Evoke?), I figured I'd ask what they're using. From my questions, two names kept coming up for the Internet web content management space, and they were Sitecore, and Adobe CQ. And looking at the Gartner Magic Quadrant, you can see why. They are the two folks are talking about. Sitecore also did a recent acquisition of Commerce Server from Ascentium, which raises their presences in the eCommerce space, which is going to be integrated into their core product very soon. Adobe on the other hand has been making moves in the analytics space with the acquisition of Omniture, which makes it highly attractive to the marketing folks, top it off with some of their graphics offerings, you have visual experience benefits thrown in there too. I personally came off a SharePoint project, and anyone who has worked on an Internet facing SharePoint project knows a few things, it's not very user friendly when it comes to managing content, nor is it something that's simple to roll out. It has to be one of the most complicated implementations, and development isn't as intuitive for someone who may be seasoned doing .NET development. I'm sure some readers are asking, what about DNN? Why didn't it show up on the magic quadrant? I saw one recent post on LinkedIn asking this same question. Me, not being one to refrain from giving my opinion chimed in with the following: There are a few issues why DNN isn't there, and may never be there. For one, in the Microsoft world, the folks implementing a web content management system using Sitecore, or SharePoint are doing multi-million dollar implementations. The enterprise still sees DNN as a mom and pop solution (granted there are a few exceptions, but those are few), they don't take it seriously against other Microsoft based platforms. Open source is still looked at with apprehension in enterprises that have a MS stack. And, really what Gartner is focused on is the enterprise, and not the several hundred thousand mom and pops that have DNN installed.  For enterprises that have embraced OS, they just don't look at Microsoft as being the choice for hosting their OS stack. The power player in enterprise OS is LAMP. And the two web content management systems; Drupal, and Wordpress, are on the list is simply due to the number of installations and fitting into that LAMP structure. DNN doesn't come near to the amount of installs that those two have nor does it really fit in technologically into that stack.  For DNN to make it into the quadrant, and be taken seriously by the enterprise, they need to not be "DNN" anymore. The company is moving towards that, by dumping the "DotNetNuke" branding and working towards rebranding to "Evoke", but it also distances their community base that made DNN what it is, so they need to be careful. Until they can effectively change perception, and branding, they will continue to be considered a mom and pop deployment. So what do you think? Any comments about DNN, or other CMSs that missed the list? Or maybe a comment on those that did make it? Since I am a Microsoft kind of guy, do you think the SharePoint position is fair, or not? For me, I'm focused on Sitecore, what they're doing in the field appears to be positioning themselves for eCommerce, and enterprise clients. We'll just have to see, but the jobs are there for Sitecore folks, just do a quick search, and they're growing as well.
Nov. 18, 2014
First of all what is a conversion? For an eCommerce site it could be a macro-conversion like ordering product. That's clean and clear cut, it's generating revenue, and has value. Another conversion, a micro-conversion could be downloading a white paper, you add some value to the conversion since it may contribute to a sale. Still other conversions may be reading article on a purely content driven site, or clicking an ad. Tracking Conversions So now you have an idea of what a conversion is make sure you know how to track them. In Google Analytics you can set up goals, funnels, and review user flow diagrams to see how someone is going to a destination. If you have an eCommerce site, you're going to want to make sure your analytics package is configured to track transactions, and in Google Analytics, you have enhanced eCommerce tracking where you can view cart abandonment, and overall flow of the transaction. What's the goal? As said previously, that's what you want someone to do, it could be downloading a white paper, signing up for your site, or any action that has value.  All this data tracking in analytics, but what can you do with it? The topic of this blog post is about missing conversions. In order to find out if you're missing a conversion, you need to lay the groundwork as discussed here. Now that that's done, let's look at an example. Failed Conversion On one site, a company opened a new service to their customers, the bounce rate was incredibly high compared to other areas of their site. People would basically go there, from the initial view, about 50% of the traffic would drop off after viewing the entry page. Another large percentage would continue on to go to the About page, and then significantly drop off after that. Why was it so? Rethink Your CTA After reviewing the About page, it was basically some headline "About Our Service", and then one paragraph which wasn't very informative.  Why is this a problem? You need to understand the flow of your user traffic, and where people are leaving. The more leaving, means less conversions. If the majority of the users are going to the About page, that means they're interested in your offering, but you're not providing enough information to them to become actively engaged in that service. It's time to rethink your CTA. Should you place your CTA on the "About" page? The answer is most likely yes. If such a large percentage of people are hitting that page, then rethink it, make it engaging to prompt them to do more on your site, even place a CTA right on the page. Avoid confusing your visitors, and give them an experience that has a clear message. Connect to Your Audience And it's not just about moving your CTA, it's also about getting your messaging right. I blogged previously about a campaign we ran on the fan site network where I was a managing member and founder. Essentially, getting fans to do some action that would benefit the band, you couldn't have that message come from the band themselves, it needed to come from someone who was seen as peers to the fans. You can't speak down, or force someone to do some action that you want them to. You need to show the benefit that it brings them, wether this benefit is monetary, making their life easier, or some emotional benefit. Summary This is just for you to understand your user flow, by understanding the user experience of your site, you can use analytics as a tool to generate more revenue, and highly engage your visitors. I will be covering several topics using my digital strategy method as a guide. Good luck!   -P
Nov. 13, 2014
Have you started building out your digital strategy plan? Do you even know where to start? There are so many technologies, and acronyms thrown out there, what are they and where do they fit into your company's overall digital strategy plan. This article is to introduce you to a framework to build out your strategy. In the diagram there are four layers of the plan, on each side is user engagement, and marketing. At the top, which is the widest part of the strategy is where user engagement isn't as focused, but potential audience is at it's peak. Marketing strategies change in order to accommodate the various density of user engagement. Let's hit up on the four layers of strategy: Industry & Digital Like it is says, this is the outermost level of your digital plan, it's about gathering intelligence. Just as you would with any kind of entry to a market, you would do some market research first. With the web, and digital channels it's the same thing. You want to get a feeling for what people are searching on, what sites they go to, what your competitors are distributing and linking with, and doing industry site traffic analysis. It's all about understanding behavior of your digital industry, and what works, and what doesn't. At this level, user engagement is spread out, and not focused. It takes some industry insight in order to understand what their behaviors are, and what is going to motivate them to get to the next level and that's site acquisition. Site Acquisition So you have your intelligence, you know what people are searching on in your industry, and what your competitors are doing, and linking up to, now it's time to use that knowledge to get them to your site. At this point you're using your marketing channels that you figured out in the first phase of your strategy, and understanding which channels work, and which don't. The goal here is to not only get traffic but gain an understanding on what campaigns are bringing value to your ultimate goal, and that's call-to-action. This is about using all the channels, your content marketing, SEO, social media, all to tie into what brought them to the site, and what ended up as a conversion. A call-to-action could be a goal you specify like an ecommerce transaction, a lead that translates to a sale, or whatever you deem of value. Site - They're Here! Again, analytics comes into play, but now it's about monitor the user's activity on the site, and seeing if your outside marketing converts. It's also about tracking your internal marketing, and seeing if that plays part of the conversion goal. But first let's do a quick math exercise to find out which pay per click keywords are bringing more value to my digital channel. Say I spend $100 on a PPC campaign on Yahoo, it may be driving a huge amount of traffic to my site, but only 2% conversion rate. On the other hand I may be sponsoring a banner ad campaign on a vertical site related to my industry, the same $100 spend may bring 50% conversion rate even if the traffic is lower. How would I calculate an ROI on my various digital marketing campaigns? I would need to calculate the cost of the conversion between the two sources and find the relative value. So if I get 100 visits from a CPC campaign with a 2% conversion rate at $100: $100/2 = 2 sales cost $100 I end up spending $50 per conversion. Now say on the vertical site, I pay $100 and I get 50 visits, with a 50% conversion rate: $100/50 = 25 sales cost $100 I end up spending $4 per conversion. I would be better off investing my money and resources into advertising on the vertical site. By defining campaigns in analytics, I can set a budget for my campaigns, and then gauge the effectiveness of each source against the other. In addition to gaining building out those KPIs, you're now able to calculate the cost of your campaign efforts against the revenue generated from your call-to-action. Call to Action That's what it's all about isn't it? You're online to do business and generate revenue. Now that you built out a strategy to gauge your digital marketing efforts, find performance, and assign them a cost, you can calculate those costs against the transaction. By configuring your analytics package correctly you can create a direct ROI based on the first click that the person does to connect to your company all the way to the transaction, and then find a cost of each activity to calculate against the conversion. And your CTA doesn't have to be an ecommerce transaction, that's up to your business to decide what creates value for the company. It could be a support site that reduces the amount of support calls, thereby reducing your costs. You could import user data to correspond with your user database to directly gauge web activity against what's going on in the back-end data. It could be downloading your iPhone app, and building out new channels to customers, it's all up to you.   Conversion And when that CTA converts, meaning instead of leaving your site after they click that "Buy Now" button, you have your conversion which you gauge your success against, and build out a true ROI of your digital efforts. ROI = Revenue - Cost to Get That Revenue And in Google Analytics and other tools, you can place a cost on the channels, efforts, funnels, conversions, etc., in order to calculate that ROI. Establish KPIs by measuring the effectiveness of the channels that you're investing in. Summary We're only touching the surface of the digital strategy, but the above diagram could be used to describe not only marketing channels, but technology, and content management layers as well. In future articles I'll be covering each aspect in more detail, but I hope this gets you thinking about your own strategy. And feel free to leave any comments on the article, your feedback and thoughts are appreciated. -P
Sept. 8, 2014
I'm talking about what Apple is doing to respond to the iCloud breach, the upcoming iPhone 6 launch. Disqus has a new look to their website widget. And a little more to vent about.
Sept. 2, 2014
Today's podcast is all about the cloud. Just turning on the TV this week has news all over about celebrities posting nude pictures of themselves on the cloud. But really, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using the cloud in your business? In this podcast, we talk about the news, what supposedly happened, and should you be concerned.
Aug. 22, 2014
In this podcast, I'm talking about mobile and does your company really need a mobile enabled site? Maybe it's not that folks aren't using their phones to access your site; maybe you're just creating the expectation that the mobile experience they're going to have, isn't up to par.
Aug. 8, 2014
So in a previous post I explained the differences between content management, and content marketing. One is the mechanism used for posting and organizing content, and the other is for getting measurable results from your content that can ultimately generate a sales lead. What I have noticed now, is the overload of content marketing rather than just content.  It seems like companies are requiring folks to provide some sign up or registration in order to view the content. The content is presented as if it's going to provide you with some insight into an industry, or maybe a report, but turns out to be nothing more than what could be included as a blog post open to the public. Just looking into my feeds, it seems like more and more posts are content marketing, and not insightful information. What is up with this marketing overload? What is a quick way to turn off folks and actually turn them away rather than creating leads? Here are few of annoyances you can end up doing by being a little overzealous with your content marketing efforts. Registering for every piece of content - You still need to provide some frequently updated content for your visitors, and you shouldn't make them register for everything. Rather registration should be limited to information that they cannot find elsewhere, like surveys done in your market, unique analysis or white papers, value added items that not only covers your product or services, but provides some insight into their industry. No one wants to register and get a PDF download of your press releases, that promotes you, it doesn't help me in my daily job. Search engines are still spidering your site, and if you lock them out by putting a registration form in front, then you could lose some of the SEO benefits. In addition, people don't want to register for everything they read on your site. Use registration where you're providing high value content that is focused on who you're trying to generate as a legitimate lead. Over saturating your social networks with content marketing - Have you seen the tweets lately of companies, and sponsored sites posting "download eBook now for..." Content needs to also be posted on your site that is freely accessible by your visitors without having to register for a download, or read in PDF form. Your social networks are also used for communicating to people. They tweet you, you reply. Make sure to reply in a professional manner. Remember it's a communication mechanism, not just a marketing medium. Companies are making a big push to build a solid content strategy; so sure generate some leads using your content, but remember you're also building a community up behind your brand. Even if you don't use community features on your website, a community still builds up behind your social outlets. Treat them as people, and not like a TV viewer who just consumes content. Build relationships, and you'll build your business.  
Aug. 4, 2014
Post by Patrick Santry. Of course this all in jest, but it really stuck with me on how people view their personal technology. It has become so prevelant that it's the first thing that comes to mind? Has society become so dependent on technology that they forget about basic necessities to survive? Does having an iPhone, come before water, or shelter? I just thought it was really odd that they ALL answered in that way, not just some of them, but all of them. Then when I gave my answer, they went "Oh yeah..."
July 25, 2014
So CPU is spiked and it's time to upgrade your web server to a new one. Or is it really a problem with CPU? In many cases finding what the particular performance issue is with a website can be complicated. There can be several layers to a web application. For example: Http request comes in for ASP.NET web page. Logic is ran, checks for cached file on the disk. If there is no cache, it will then go over the network to make a request to SQL server. SQL Server will check the database on disk for the data and return back through the network. The ASP.NET web page gets a response back from SQL, writes to a local cache, and responds back to the requesting client. It even gets more complex in high availability environments. At that point you need to isolate any load balanced servers and  individually check each one to see if the problem isn't with the overall application, but one of the servers. Now throw in a web service layer, objects that connect to another database, maybe Active Directory, and things even get more complex. Say for our above example, how resources are being impacted? Network layers, for both HTTP, and the SQL Server. Disk IO for writing to the cache, reading the ASP.NET page, even IIS for writing to the W3C compliant logs. Disk IO for the SQL Server Of course memory and CPU resources.  Beyond the obvious logic issues, where many developers get caught up in, some may see CPU utilization spike and think the machine needs an upgrade, but is this always the case? Let's talk about some real-world examples I have encountered when I was running a small online business. One of my challenges was dealing with the huge amount of traffic we were generating, with a limited budget for resources. In this scenario, CPU utilization was spiking. If I'm going to throw some money at something, I had to be sure I was throwing it at the right resource. First thing to do was to run some performance metrics. Performance monitor is your friend. I needed to find out what was going on at every level of the transaction. Counters were ran to gauge the actual traffic. By running the Current Anonymous Users counter on that web instance I was able to see how many users were connecting to the machine at that specific time. In addition, to that counter, we also added CPU utilization, disk I/O, page faults (for memory issues). Then we ran the same counters on the back end SQL box. It appeared there weren't too many connections on the SQL box, but CPU utilization continued to spike. After evaluating the counters, we determined that disk utilization on the SQL box was spiked, and almost flat-lined the entire time. It turned out all that CPU spiking was being caused by SQL having to wait for the disk to respond to the request. After replacing the disks to faster drives, and separating out the database to multiple spindles, everything screamed and responded the way it should. Money was placed where it was needed, and wasn't blindly put somewhere to respond to the symptom, and not the cause. What's this example teach us? Before treating the symptom, an administrator needs to due some research first and collect data before bringing it up to their manager, purchasing resources, or whatever your first response may be.  

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