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A new ZIP code

Three months ago, my family relocated to Houston from Memphis where we spent two years.  Both moves were for my husband’s job.  He is an architect and, for anyone who knows the architecture industry and how badly it was hurt in the economic collapse, you know that many architects had to leave the industry or move to where the jobs were.  So we moved.  All five of us…my husband, me, our teen daughter, our pre-teen son and our 6 year old shih tzu, Lincoln headed to the Bayou City!

It has been an amazing adventure and to be quite honest, we are finally in a city where we feel at home.  Although it is overwhelmingly huge and will take years to ween me off my Google Maps wherever I go, we are in Houston to stay, or so it would seem.  

I spent the eight years prior to moving to Memphis in business for myself, running a digital focused marketing and brand strategy shop.  I never knew it until it was forced upon me thanks to being laid off in 2004, but I was meant to be an entrepreneur.  I love the excitement of wearing so many different hats and the fact that no two days are alike.  I NEED to see the big picture at all times in order to be fulfilled and successful.  I am the risk-taker in the marriage.  My husband is definitely NOT a risk-taker.

So tonight I am attending my first networking event in Houston to relaunch my business.  I have spent some time working on the concept and the offering and settled on this:  Chief Impact Officer - On-Demand Brand Champion (click here).  I am excited to get to know the Houston business community and collaborate with some of the wickedly smart people who call Houston home.  

I’m not much for superstition, but my fingers are crossed for an exciting, fruitful new chapter in my career as an entrepreneur!



STOP! Your SEO and paid search managers should be totally different people!

I consider myself a veteran when it comes to digital marketing.  I have been in the digital world since 1999 when I went to work for AOL when it was considered the mothership of all things digital.  So because I am a veteran, I get calls from recruiters and companies looking for someone to help them navigate the murky waters of digital marketing.  More often than not, during the conversation they tell me they want someone who can handle SEO and paid search.  They want one person who does both.  Having been around the block a few times, let me tell you that is not your best approach.  They are generally two different people who are wired very differently.  

Your SEO person:  This person is going to be stronger on the technical and development side.  They will work with a copywriter to ensure your copy is well optimized and know all the not-so-obvious optimization tricks.  They will be very well read in industry publications.  They will probably not be the most polished in terms of soft skills if you put them in front of your CEO.  They tend to be wired more for hard skills than soft, social skills…not always, but more often than not.

Your paid search manager:  This person is first and foremost a marketer (as opposed to a developer) and can be one of several different personalities, depending on what your company does and what your objective is when someone visits your website.  Are you hardcore eCommerce? This person will be a data and trends person like no other.  They will know off the top of their head the response rates of the smallest changes to keywords and copy.  If your company is less eCommerce and more slow cycle branding, your paid search manager will be much more copy savvy. They will understand the essence of the brand inside and out and will be able to capture it in 85 characters or less without compromise. There are several different types in between, but these are two distinctly different types of paid search managers.  

When you are searching for professionals to fill out your digital team, keep this in mind.  Although it would be cheaper to get both in one person, remember that cheaper isn’t always better and figure in the opportunity costs of settling on less than ideal.



Integrating Your Brand into Customers’ Lives

As summer approaches, the calendar of outdoor events and festivals is filling up! Companies are preparing to spend an estimated $1.34 billion on music venues, festivals and tours to reach Millennials.  As consumers become more savvy and resistant to outbound marketing messages, integrating your brand into their lives is becoming more complex.  

Ad Age’s recent article offers some insight into how some marketers are tackling these new complexities:



Fascinating!  If you are seeking Millennials, clearly Facebook should not be your medium of choice! 

Facebook’s teenage exodus, in one chart
An iStrategyLabs report found teenage users ages 13 to 17 have declined 25% within the last three years to 9.8 million in January 2014. Meanwhile, the 55-and-older subset have taken to the social network, with more than 28 million users in that demographic, an 80% growth over the same period.

Fascinating!  If you are seeking Millennials, clearly Facebook should not be your medium of choice! 


Facebook’s teenage exodus, in one chart

An iStrategyLabs report found teenage users ages 13 to 17 have declined 25% within the last three years to 9.8 million in January 2014. Meanwhile, the 55-and-older subset have taken to the social network, with more than 28 million users in that demographic, an 80% growth over the same period.





How to Manage an Event Crisis through Social Media. Fear not, transparency is key here and on the Internet. Brands are not immune to negative press. All you need to do is be proactive and take control.


How to Manage an Event Crisis through Social Media. Fear not, transparency is key here and on the Internet. Brands are not immune to negative press. All you need to do is be proactive and take control.




Is this the most awesome ad of 2013? 

Yes, this IS the most awesome ad of the year!

Hi, my name is Betsy and I’m a Growth Hacker

If you have ever done business with me, you know that I have epitomized the term “Growth Hacker” for many years…more years than the phrase has been in existence.  But, in case you don’t know what a growth hacker is, let me fill you in.  The definition is a moving target, but I recently came across several lists of typical characteristics that, when combined, come pretty close.  

A Growth Hacker is:

  1. intuitive (without data) and scary accurate (with data)
  2. laser focused on keeping pace or setting a new pace
  3. they are able to bring resources and teams together and break down silos.
  4. media agnostic (online, offline, paid, owned, earned, whatever)
  5. data oriented, but they never become paralyzed by too much data
  6. they can be a cog in the wheel or they could run the joint…they are scalable at all levels
  7. they have just enough creativity to speak the language of your most unreachable art director
  8. they lean more toward marketing / sales / customer insights and away from tech / IT (tech and IT are just tools in the toolbox to get us to a solution)
  9. good with analytics and projections…actually GREAT with analytics and projections
  10. they are extremely flexible…not physically, but in terms of adapting to fluid situations 
  11. they MUST have fun at work

This…is…me!  My resume has always looked like a maze with a right turn here, a left turn there and the occasional U-turn.  And finally, there is a term that describes me perfectly!  What a relief!  Except, now it will probably become a career path and every 20-something west of the Rockies will try to define themselves as a Growth Hacker.  As a seasoned veteran Growth Hacker who has earned her stripes the hard way, let me describe what it took for ME to get to this amazing place in my career.  First of all, it took 20 years.  And in those 20 years, some of the more formative experiences included:

  • I have planned, bought and sold traditional media such as print and broadcast.  
  • I have planned, bought and sold online media such as banners and email lists.  
  • On more than one occasion I have been the only one in the room with enough creativity to design an email template and write the copy.
  • Frequently I have been the only person to speak up and ask the question: “Wait, does anyone else notice what we are doing is off-brand?”
  • I have worked for companies that spent more than a million dollars on their annual meetings and I have worked for companies who could only afford to give their employees a $10 Starbucks gift card for Christmas.
  • I have worked for companies where I had an office with a door that overlooked a professional baseball stadium and I have worked for companies that painted every single wall beige and put everyone in a 3x3 cubicle with 4 foot tall cubicle walls.
  • I have worked for myself and been my own brand…and my word was as good as gold.

It doesn’t happen overnight, it comes from wearing a lot of different hats and the ability evolve.  When I look at a client’s situation and opportunities, I look at their staff, their in-store / online customer experience, their strategic partnerships, their events / guerilla tactics, their data and of course, their marketing.  

A Growth Hacker is able to get into the head of your customer and move the needle faster than you ever knew was possible.  They will be honest with you…so be prepared to hear that everything isn’t perfect.  But being solution oriented, a really good Growth Hacker will always have a plan to right the ship.  And it won’t take 18-months to begin.  We get impatient with people who insist on putting together a plan to begin to build a program to define objectives to develop a roadmap to share in the first meeting we will hold in 4 months…you get the point.  That’s not the Growth Hacker way.  

Growth Hackers see problems and opportunities.  We provide solutions. We see all the parts and how they move together so we are able to anticipate what effect it will have on other areas of your business.  And we have solutions for that too.  

So, yes, my name is Betsy and I’m a Growth Hacker…and proud of it.



JPMorgan Cancels Twitter Q&A After Flood Of Negative Tweets

Did they REALLY not see this coming?  This is a perfect example of why you need a strategy before you jump to the tactics.  



Doing business right…embracing digital even when it’s unconvetional

I love it when I see a business doing it right.  And I love it even more when that business isn’t one you would think would naturally embrace digital best practices.  Both my kids go to an orthodontist in Collierville TN.  His name is Dr. Bill Burriss. (

The first thing Dr. Bill is doing right is he has learned that, in order to reach his patients’ parents effectively, he must speak to them on their terms.  Here is what Dr. Bill does:

1. When I make an appointment, I get a follow up email within about 10 minutes with appointment details and an option to add it to my Outlook calendar.  

2. A week before the appointment I get an email reminder of the upcoming appointment.

3.  The day before the appointment, I get a text message reminding me of the appointment.  If I don’t reply to the text confirming that we will be at the appointment, I receive a phone call at home at the end of the business day reminding us.

I am sure that their multi-channel, multi-device approach is good for business by keeping missed appointments to a minimum, but as the one responsible for the patient, I appreciate their willingness to speak to me via the channels that I have approved for them to contact me.  I told them it was ok to email, text and call me.  And they used that information to its fullest extent.  Many times when you provide contact information to a business, you only hear from them once or twice a year and it’s usually just a promotional message…nothing that benefits you directly.  These communications are designed to benefit me, which I appreciate.  They also happen to benefit Dr. Bill’s practice which is just fine with me.

In addition to how they contact me for appointments, they have an active Facebook page with a mascot, Bracket the stuffed dog.  Bracket can be seen all over Collierville, TN with their social media manager taking him to various kid friendly locations for photo opps.  Over spring break, they held a contest, providing clues throughout the week as to where Bracket was.  He ended up being at the Library, of course.  Leave it to Dr. Bill to sprinkle in messages about reading and literacy with those about good dental health.  The winner got some sort of prize that I can’t remember, but I saw all kinds of kids posting on their Facebook page that week.  No offense to Dr. Bill, but there can’t be many less cool people for a teenager to be connected to on Facebook than their orthodontist, but Dr. Bill and his team have cracked the code!

If an orthodontist can figure out how to become cool to a bunch of teens and pre-teens on Facebook, there has to be hope for the rest of us.  The hardest group to reach and appeal to now is Millennials.  And it has got to be next to impossible to get Millennials excited about dental care, wouldn’t you think?

"Bravo" to Dr. Bill and his staff for finding the secret sauce that appeals to the oh-so-elusive Millennials and for lighting a fire under the rest of us by setting a new standard.  I am a student of case studies of many Fortune 500 companies’ marketing efforts. I was all over the Oreo-Super Bowl social media incident!  It was high profile and in all the industry publications and websites within a few hours.  But I love that this success story is one about a small business owner whose primary job and passion in life has nothing to do with digital media itself.  He and his team figured out how to communicate with their patients and families and took it to the next level.  

Do you have some small business wins to share?  Please post them here or email me at  I would love to read about them!  



Failure and other bright spots in my career

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." ~ Henry Ford

I got on LinkedIn first thing this morning, as I often do as a new business owner…actually, 2nd time business owner…and there was an interview posted with Richard Branson from talking about embracing failure.  The next article I read was a piece by Jack Welch talking about when to trust your instinct, and when not to.  Needless to say, Jack and Richard got my morning off to a GREAT start!  

In 2004, I stumbled into the crazy world of the entrepreneur.  I hadn’t planned it, it just happened after I was laid off by yet another dot-com I was working for that was sold.  Literally two hours after losing my job, a client called me wanting to do more business.  I mustered up the courage to say, “Great, but I am working for myself now.  Is that ok with you?”  Fortunately their confidence was more in me than in the company I was working for.  It was definitely a case of me selling myself effectively enough that the client relationship lasted much longer than the company I was working for.

In 2008 and 2009, the company I had formed which was creatively named Nanson Interactive, was primarily working with automotive dealers around the country.  The volume of auto dealers (and the unfortunate lack of diversity) in my client base was once again more by accident than design.  I got my first client which happened to be an auto dealership group in Kansas City where I was living at the time.  As always, I had sold myself well enough and was doing a good enough job for my client that they referred me to another dealer group in Phoenix, who referred me to another dealer group in Dallas, and so on.  By 2007, I had built a digital strategy consulting and media agency that was placing over $1.5 million in media each year.  And then the recession hit.

With 90% of my clients in the automotive industry, I don’t have to tell you when happened next.  Within 6 months of losing one client, they all fell, many of them closing their doors completely.  

Needless to say, round two of the entrepreneurial adventure has me a little gun shy.  Well, to be honest, it’s not as much me who is nervous, as it is my husband.  What happened was really hard on our family.  After my business dwindled down, my husband, an architect, was laid off.  At that time, I read that an estimated 40% of architects in Kansas City were unemployed.  It was a tough time.  But that didn’t change the fact that I loved what I did!  I was doing what I was good at…not trying to shoehorn my valuable yet bizarre skill set and experience into a job description written by someone who didn’t even understand marketing OR digital.  

So I am looking forward to round two even though my husband is terrified.  Some people are wired for risk and for working in an unstructured environment.  That’s me.  And the failure I experienced during the recession…I truly believe that it wasn’t a reflection of a lack of skills or determination on my part.  It was because I had allowed myself to rely too heavily on one industry for my business.  And that business just happened to be one of the two hardest hit by the recession (real estate being the other).  That failure taught me a lot and, like Henry Ford said, I am beginning again much more intelligently.  

I look forward to doing business with you all!