Monday, November 20, 2017

4 Things I Learned in my 4 Years at Taboola, the World’s Largest Discovery Platform

It’s been four years ago that I joined Taboola. The office was old and tired, I was given a desk right next to a heavily used tennis table, and the whiteboard in my office fell off every time someone closed the door in the office next to mine. There were about 60 of us Taboolars in the Tel Aviv office, and we were just starting to see revenue come in from a new and innovative model of sponsored content...

Fast forward to today. I’m working out of the 32nd floor of a shiny new office building overlooking the stunning skyline of Ramat Gan. We still have a tennis table, but it has its own space now. We’ve built the open web’s largest discovery platform - we recommend content to over a billion people every month. Our revenue has grown fast, very fast, and there are about 800 of us in 15 offices across the world.

As I pause and look back at the journey I was fortunate to be part of in the last 4+ years, these are a few things I learned (or rather re-learned) as head of Marketing at Taboola:

The key to success is not the market, the technology, or even the people - it’s the organization’s ability to build functional teams. What makes one company succeed where others fail? Ideas are a dime a dozen; your competitors are probably hiring top talent just like you do; positioning, target market or business model can change. To me, functional teams are the secret sauce - team members that trust each other, that are not afraid to speak their mind, that are passionate about their work, and can work extremely well, under immense pressure, with one another. Companies that possess the culture and operational knowhow required to build and support functional teams will always be at an advantageous position in the market. As our CEO Adam says, your competitors can copy anything but culture.

Hire slow, fire fast. Somewhat related to my first point, hiring decisions are the most important decisions you make as a manager. Throughout my career, every single time I felt I had to move forward with hiring an individual despite a nagging feeling he or she was not “the one,” I eventually regretted it. Our hiring process at Taboola often takes a long time -  at times it’s very long. We make sure candidates meet as many employees as possible. Even though we’re now hiring about a person a day, our COO Eldad still interviews most candidates himself - this shows the importance we place on making the right hiring decisions. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect and we do make hiring mistakes - and I also learned the importance of terminating the relationship quickly when it’s not a good fit for us or the candidate....

Being nice pays big dividends. Working at a hyper-growth tech company is extremely rewarding, but it also means you’ll be spending most of your waking hours at a high pressure environment. Keeping your calm and being nice to your co-workers, partners, customers and competitors is incredibly valuable. Carrying heated arguments over endless email chains, shaming a peer in a meeting or bashing your competitor will never ever be wise. It’s easier to do business with nice people, it’s easier to work with and for nice people, and recognizing an achievement, as small as it may be, or thanking someone for a little bit of help, never costs anyone anything. So be nice.

Story first, facts after. No matter what field you’re in - from politics to performance marketing - a compelling, well told story always beats dry facts. At Taboola it’s all too easy to throw numbers around - CTR, CPC, CPM, RPM, CVR, etc. etc. (if we only had a cent for each acronym used in this industry…), yet in order to make people connect with our product and vision, you need to be a storyteller. We’re powering moments of discovery, helping people find things they like and never knew existed. Yes, numbers are important - if your technology sucks, if your CAC is too high, or your CVR or RPM is too low, even a good story won’t save you, but stories will always be a far more effective communication vehicle than facts.

That’s it. More insights from me on my 8-year anniversary at Taboola :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

9 Ways to get your content noticed

Unless youve been living under a rock in the last few years, you know content is king and content marketing is the new black. Good content is incredibly effective. It boosts brand awareness, drives consumers to purchase your product, and it gives you much desired SEO juice.

But with every marketer on the planetfrom your local hair stylist to the white houseproducing content, getting your video or blog post noticed is an ever more challenging task, and that amazing piece of content that you spent time and money on may find itself on the back shelves of the web, waiting to be discovered

So how do make sure your content gets to its target audience?

Unless youre basing your marketing plan on your content going viral (thats about as likely as someone next to you at the coffee shop doing the Harlem Shake), you should start with a content distribution plan, which would typically combine a number of free and paid distribution methods. Here are some of the key ones for you to consider:

Post Content On Your Website

The most obvious place to start with is your own companys website. Make sure that your content is easy to find and use large thumbnails and clear headlines to drive clicks. Encourage website visitors to share your content through a social sharing toolbar, such as AddThis, ShareThis and Shareaholic.

Send Your Content by Email

If you have a good opt-in database, promote your content by sending email to the full list or to a relevant segment. While no longer a popular option, you can also purchase a list from a third-party vendor. Always use a marketing tool such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Marketo or Eloqua when you send emails so youll get the analytics you need to optimize your campaigns.

Share on Social Networks

Always share your content on your companys social media properties, such as your LinkedIn page, Facebook page and Twitter. It is recommended you use social publishing tools, such as HootSuite, Buffer, PaperShare and HubSpot. These will help you schedule your posts and provide analytics on engagement.

Post to Content Sharing Websites

Publish your content on websites such as YouTube, SlideShare, Vimeo, Pinterest, Vine and Instagram. Focus on the websites where your target audience is likely to consume your content, and invest time in properly tagging and describing your content so it will be easy to find.

Use Sponsored Updates

As competition for attention becomes fiercer, many social networks now offer sponsored updates. Pick some of your best content items and experiment with paid promotions on the social networks where your target audience is most likely to frequent. Make sure you set clear goals and are able to measure returns.

Advertise on Display Networks and Paid Search

Although CPCs are ever increasing and banner effectiveness is on the decline, experiment with advertising your content on different networks. Make sure you have tracking codes and goals set up properly so youre able to measure performance.

Run Social Network Ads

Many social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, let you run ads targeted by interests, behavior, location, skills and more. While these ads are typically not very effective for promoting content, experiment to find out if they might work for you.

Get the Media and Bloggers to Promote Your Content

Issue press releases about key content items, such as interesting survey results. Pitch your content to reporters and share it with influential bloggers you have a relationship with.

Promote on Content Discovery Platforms

Get your content recommended alongside editorial on some the top publisher websites using a content discovery platform such as Taboola. These platforms use mathematical algorithms to recommend your content to those most likely to take interest in it. They typically use a CPC model and are used in addition to or as a replacement of traditional display or paid search ads.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The art of creating art (in marketing)

Modern marketing is half science half art.

Science is easy. Can’t argue with MQL/SQL conversion rates, or RPM, or CPL (well actually you can, but that’s a topic for another blog post…).

When it gets to art, the creative process can quickly turn into a political/psychological ordeal. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. The CEO’s wife thinks the new logo is revolting. The VP of Sales dismisses the new website design as “lame”.

With so many opinionated and often vocal stakeholders, the result is compromise. And how can you do something remarkable when you need to appease the “committee”? Well, you can’t.

Over the years I’ve been involved in creating a fairly large number of new websites, presentations, demos, logos and user interfaces. I have taken two very different approaches:

1. Get only a handful of peers involved in the design process. The good: mostly friction-free and faster cycles. The bad: some of those not involved may be upset and will likely hate whatever comes out.


2. Get a larger group of peers involved. The good: everyone feels they’re a part of the process, so you’re more likely to get support. The bad: the process might be sluggish, and when you choose to not accept people’s comments, they’ll hate whatever comes out…

What’s a better (or least-worst) approach? I quite honestly don’t know.

Navigating the design process without making too many professional compromises is art in itself. It requires you to be a leader, an expert, a politician, a psychologist, and most importantly, thick-skinned. Whatever you do, don't forget that the worst feedback is no feedback

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top 20 webinar promotion tactics

Webinars are a highly effective tool for B2B marketing. At Zend we used to run over 100 webinars a year. We mapped webinar content to the sales funnel - some webinars were purely educational, nothing to do with our products; some were delivered by customers, partners and community members; a small portion of our webinars were Zend product-centric.

Webinar Promotion Checklist
Webinar Promotion Checklist
Running the program was a huge undertaking. It involved many hours of planning, promoting, building content, securing presenters, rehearsing, delivering, recording and editing (luckily we had people like Andrea, Nili and Lydia on the team to make all of this happen). But, it was worth it. We usually managed to get great numbers of live attendees, especially for educational webinars targeted at the very top of the sales funnel. And we got 10x or more views of the recordings in the months following the live events. We also re-purposed webinar content and shared it on SlideShare, YouTube and more.

If you put so much effort into your B2B webinar production, you better make sure you're doing the most to promote your webinars.

I recently compiled a list of 20 things you should consider doing to promote your next webinar - here's a summary (the full information is in the beautifully designed Webinar Promotion Checklist, which you can download from the Leadspace web site):
  1. Create a title that stands out and attracts just your target audience
  2. Write a compelling, search optimized abstract
  3. Post the webinar on your website
  4. Write a news release about the webinar
  5. Tweet about the event several times with the right hashtags
  6. Write a blog post about the webinar and any associated offers
  7. Work the relevant social networks with a focus on LinkedIn
  8. Create a LinkedIn event
  9. Create a Facebook event
  10. Post in member-only business community sites
  11. Promote the webinar in event listings
  12. Share a webinar trailer on YouTube
  13. Post several slides as teaser
  14. Run a telemarketing or inside sales call campaign
  15. Add a webinar registration link to company's standard email signature
  16. Email your house list
  17. Run an online ad campaign
  18. Use your current webinar to promote your next one
  19. Use local event services
  20. Leverage your guest speakers for promotion
The details and some useful links are all in the checklist document which you can download here (or drop me a note and I'll gladly email it to you, if you hate filling out forms).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The comeback of offline marketing. Yes, offline.

Online marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing - unless you spent the last 10 years in a cave, you are probably dancing the marketing 2.0 dance yourself.

Problem is, online marketing has become a crowded, noisy party. It's open to all, and it's virtually free.

We all understand the importance of building value adding content, of connecting with our tribe through social media, of sending drip email campaigns, of creating dazzling infographics and running virtual events. We do all of the above and more at the company I work at now, Leadspace, too.

As head of Marketing at a tech startup, I'm a prime target to hundreds of software vendors, numerous agencies and herds of freelancers. On an average day I get north of 200 emails, hundreds of tweets, dozens of webinar invites, e-book download offers, e-newsletters, content shares... you get the drift.

Take LinkedIn as an example. When was the last time you took part in a genuine, valuable, educational discussion on any LinkedIn group? Post a question and a dozen vendors are hitting you. Social networks have become a hunting ground for salespeople 2.0.

Perhaps it's just me, but are we beginning to experience social media fatigue? Is content marketing past the peak of inflated expectations?

Is it time for a comeback of the "old" way of marketing? Of "look 'em in the eyes" type of of marketing? Of the trade show, the seminar, the in-person meeting?

Ok, online marketing isn't going anywhere. Nor is social media marketing, or content marketing. But it seems that people are clamoring for a little more personal touch.

Something to think about as you build your 2013 marketing budget.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chimps, monsters and super heroes - the new world of software

Google proved you can hide ultra sophisticated technologies and mountains of big data under a page that has one text field and two buttons. Apple showed you can create a phone-to-die-for that does not even have a search feature. At some point, some software companies got it. Simplicity is the new black (white too, if you're Apple).

Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic, once said all users want is to "not feel stupid".

The old generation business and IT apps made all of us feel stupid. Real stupid. But the world of software is changing. Some examples:

Marketing automation can be fun!

MailChimp enables marketers to execute and manage email campaigns. It requires no training whatsoever. The interface is beautifully crafted, and the application "hand holds" you from the moment you sign up until you complete your first campaign. A few more features and I bet they will start winning accounts from the higher end, painfully more complicated Eloqua and Marketo.


Monitoring e-commerce sites can be fun!

Shoppimon helps Magento online store owners improve conversions by finding site problems, such as broken shopping carts or unusual slow responses. It is the first service that lets non-techies take matters into their own hands and see how their store performs. Sure, they'll need techies for fixing issues, but they will never leave their store unattended again, and the app is ridiculously easy to set up and use.

Shoppimon - Magento Monitoring

Server provisioning can be fun!

PHPCloud is a full-fledged cloud environment for building PHP applications. If you're a PHP developer that hates the hassle of going to IT every time you need a new test environment, PHPCloud is the answer. Sign up and within minutes your environment is ready for you.


There are dozens of other examples. DropBox, SEOmoz, New Relic, Balsamiq, Wix, SlideRocket are some that I used and loved.

The world of software is changing. "Simple" wins.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social media is not about free advertising!

Ask heads of marketing if they use social media as part of their marketing strategy, and I bet you 9 out of 10 will say yes.

The question is how many really get social media.

If you're like me, you are a member in several groups on LinkedIn, you're on Facebook (although if you're like me, you rarely use it nowadays), you're on Twitter, you're on Quora. Now think about LinkedIn groups. Although I haven't done any formal analysis, it seems like the vast majority of posts on these groups are either people selling or people recruiting. Genuine value-adding discussions are rare. They are rare on most social networks and it ain't getting better. Why? Because we marketers jumped on the opportunity to reach highly targeted audiences. And hey, it's free.

But social media is not about free advertising space.

Those who use it merely for promoting their products or upcoming events are not really getting the true essence of social media. It is all about interaction. It is about sharing knowledge, helping others, entertaining. This is the reason why you need subject matter experts to get active in your company's social media outreach.

Unless you're selling to marketers, if you have the word "marketing" in your title, you should probably stay away and let the experts engage with the community.