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Welcome to Round 1 Creative Strike That! Creative Check-In

February 20th, 2015

That was how I introduced my last creative presentation. Let me explain.

Having worked in the digital experience world for the past decade (and a bit), I’ve not seen as many changes in the “creative process” as I’m seeing today. Loosely, the creative process has traditionally followed a waterfall approach, which usually starts with strategy exploring what the client needs from a business standpoint. They then hand off their findings to the user experience team who interprets them and creates wireframes that are then handed off to the visual creative team. There’s more “handing off” than an Olympic relay race.


That was then.

Today I’m seeing a major shift towards the “agile” approach to projects. I have to admit that initially I did everything possible to thwart the agile approach as it doesn’t give the “visual creatives” nearly enough time or information to produce the best work possible. And I strongly believe that, in its purest form, it never will.

But luckily there are options beyond pure agile…

At Extractable we’re using a modified agile approach. Instead of the client seeing the first conceptualization of the site as a creative comp with the strategy and content presented simultaneously (i.e., agile approach), Extractable uses a slight waterfall approach. This gives teams time to gather enough information and/or create enough assets to hand off to the next discipline. As the project moves forward with user flows, content and designs get more locked down, which enables more overlapping and more developer involvement. This allows us to leverage the advantages of the agile iterative process without the accompanying level of risk. Feedback and changes can be incorporated in small manageable batches rather than having to retrofit an entire experience after it’s in development.

And the best part is:

Although there is a waterfall process here at Extractable, it is extremely redacted. As a result, the process fosters an environment where teams can effectively collaborate to deliver an initial creative presentation that is highly evolved. A key collaborator in this process is the client—in fact, they’re potentially the most important contributor. After all, the client knows his/her business better than anyone else (usually). That’s why our initial creative presentations are more akin to a workshop. In this way, we engage the client in the creative process and this collaborative environment leads to more honest and timely feedback. Having more fluid creative check-ins is the antithesis to “big reveals” where the Extractable team goes off and works for two to three weeks and then returns with finger crossed that the client is happy with the results.

This is just a small example of the changes that are happening. Along with new presentation and prototyping tools, technology is also streamlining the process and further narrowing the gap between creative designs and developed product. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our process.


The Top 10 Characteristics of Great Digital Agency Project Managers

February 11th, 2015

I read a compelling blog post recently that outlined the top 10 traits of a great PM. I think the author’s insights are right on. He mentions many of the characteristics I look for when I am growing my own project management team, and traits I hope to find in my clients’ project managers with which I regularly interface. The post sums up qualities of a strong PM in any industry, any company, anywhere.


I’ve been doing project management, and managing project managers, in digital agencies for a long time, and I’ve come to find that there is a unique set of qualities required for even a great project manager to be truly successful working on digital projects in an agency environment. So I decided to put together my own top 10 list:

1. Balance the needs and desires of your client with the needs and desires of your team.

Great agency PMs (not just digital ones, actually) need to be Janus-like in many ways. On one hand, you need to make sure your clients’ expectations are being met, that they feel taken care of and that everything is under control because you’re communicating with them every step of the way and they’re delighted with the work. So you need to crack the whip on your team to make sure they deliver. On the other hand, in order to deliver that quality work on time and within budget, you need to make sure your team is feeling taken care of, that you’re communicating with them every step of the way, and that you’re removing obstacles to help foster creative thinking. So you need to hold your clients to the constraints of making fast and firm decisions, and not pushing the boundaries of scope. Project managers who not only “get” this delicate balance, but can also practice it with prowess every day, are a must-have for successful digital projects and programs.

2. Appreciate your geeks.

Your technical resources are the ones that are going to make sure that all of the great strategy, design and creative thinking can actually come to fruition. If you operate in a “stuff rolls downhill” capacity and put unrealistic burdens on your developers to deliver the moon in a tiny timeline or budget, everyone will end up being disappointed with the compromises that have to be made. Your technologists should be a part of the strategic and the creative process from the beginning, and their inputs during those phases of the project should’nt just be welcomed, they should be cherished.

3. Learn the language of technology so you can speak confidently and authoritatively about it to clients and designers.

Inviting your engineers to be an intrinsic part of your project from the beginning doesn’t mean that they’ll want to be, or should be, the only person who can answer technology-related questions from your clients and team members. Understanding terminology, some best practices, and common scenarios in digital builds, and being able to respond to some level of technical inquiry, will make you a stronger leader on your project.

4. Be good at quality assurance.

You can schedule as many internal reviews, QA cycles, and copyedits as you like, but as the PM you are the ultimate filter between what your teams are delivering and what your client sees. You’ve got to have an eye not just for detail, but also for those little things that could pass QA muster but that you know would drive your clients crazy. In order to be a good client advocate, you must actively contribute to the quality controls on a project.

5. Be willing to get your hands dirty.

I have never project managed a single website build where I did not end up doing at least some content entry. I’ve found myself making some quick fixes to wireframes, doing a bit of massaging to HTML, and writing functional requirements documentation. Were any of these things technically “my job” at the time? No, but when you’re there in the trenches with your team, you need to be willing to throw off the poncho and dive into the mud when necessary.

6. Understand that there is no single digital tool that solves all problems.

Find the best-of-breed set of tools that help you do your job. Microsoft products, Google Drive, online chat, time tracking software, status reporting tools, project communication hubs, project review sites, and countless other tools are needed, and you need to be comfortable using them all. I’ve yet to find (or hear anyone else who has found) the magic bullet of a single online project management platform that does it all.

7. Consume digital media regularly and stay abreast of trends.

If you are going to work in the digital media space, you need to avidly and regularly use the types of sites and applications you are designing and building for your clients. This will help you be a more strategic member of the team as well as be a good first line in answering client questions and concerns.

8. Ease your clients’ fear of the unknown.

While you live and breathe digital on a daily basis, many of your clients do not. Re-platforming, or moving offline properties online, or even having to learn how to use a new content management system, can be daunting for your clients – and not just for the marketing folks, but the IT teams as well. You’ve done this before, you’re the pro, and it’s your job to ease your clients into these new digital tools with finesse.

9. Appreciate, but don’t take unfair advantage of, the flexibility of digital media.

I used to joke that a website isn’t carved in stone but rather is an ice sculpture. Unlike a TV commercial or a billboard, you can make a lot of types of changes to a website fairly easily. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of “we can fix that during the build” or “we can come back to that after launch.” As the PM it’s your job to ensure that the strategy we set out with actually gets delivered on launch day.

10. Work on the “client” side at least once in your career.

If you work at a digital agency, you are moving a mile a minute. You are used to an incredibly fast pace, to making dozens of decisions a day, to moving ahead with lightening speed and adaptability along the way to do whatever it takes to get the job done. In all likelihood, most of your clients do not work in an environment like that, which can feel stifling or frustrating to your drive to plow ahead. The best digital PMs have spent some time on the “corporate” side, and can appreciate the intricacies of having to operate within a large, multi-tiered organization. With that insight, you can both bring a better understanding to your client’s roadblocks, as well as provide some tested solutions for getting past them.

If you need guidance from an amazing digital project management team, who just happens to have a phenomenal team of strategy, UX, content, creative and technology specialist on our roster of resources, please contact us so we can help you make your next website initiative a reality.


Empowering Customers with Online Banking

February 4th, 2015

Customers demand that a financial institution have online and mobile banking as a minimum requirement. These expectations are even higher among millennials, of which 88% do their banking online and half use their smartphone to bank.*

The online channel is no longer just transactional, though. According to the EY Global Consumer Banking Survey, approximately half of customers are somewhat or very interested in receiving financial advice through financial management tools.**

How do you create an online banking experience that offers baseline ease of use for common tasks and additionally provides financial guidance?

At Extractable, we have seen dashboards as extremely successful in meeting diverse customer needs upon login. Dashboards, as a way of representing information, have numerous benefits. They offer:

  • Easy access to common tasks for task-driven customers as well as an overall summary of key financial metrics for customers interested in monitoring overall health
  • Consistent placement of key metrics for frequent visitors and positioning of changes in these key metrics for infrequent visitors
  • A modular structure that enables easy personalization and scalability across screen sizes

The core of the benefit of dashboards though, is that they expose customers to a wider breadth of information than they may be aware of, or otherwise focused on. By putting several key metrics together in the same interface, dashboards empower customers to come to new conclusions about their financial health.

What is even more powerful is when the financial institution takes that a step further and offers conclusions and guidance based on those same key metrics.

How do you measure if your dashboard experience is successful?

A great dashboard can be measured by the click map (where people click on the dashboard) and click path (how the dashboard affects where customers visit next on the site).

The click map of a successful dashboard experience is extremely de-centralized, with customers clicking into diverse modules (as shown below).


This indicates that customers can find triggers for common tasks, which may differ greatly by customer segment. The click path will be similarly de-centralized with low abandonment rates throughout the path. This means that customers are clicking into and staying engaged with new metrics that they may not have been aware of before.

What’s next?

The great thing about dashboards as an entry point is that they are easy and quick website refreshes. The first page someone sees when she logs in to online banking can significantly impact her impression of the overall customer experience. Additionally, the findings about how customers use dashboards can inform the rest of an online banking redesign.

At Extractable, we get our thrill partnering with financial institutions to empower customers to greater financial health. Read the case study on how we did it with the Newport Group, a leading retirement services firm.



Personalization Is Just Like Dating

January 22nd, 2015

The other day I was in a new business pitch, and part of the strategy we were recommending included personalization.

“You know, when users are exposed to personalized experiences, we often see triple digit gains in key KPIs. Not just sometimes, but often.”

That’s a quote from Mark Ryan, Extractable’s co-founder and Chief Analytics Officer.

As I was driving home from the pitch, I thought about what Mark said, and my reaction was, “Well … yeah. Of course.” Although my position is a technical one in our agency (and has been at every stop along my career), you’ll constantly find me trying to simplify concepts and I most often do that by using everyday experiences as a metaphor.

So it is here I proclaim, “Personalization is just like dating.” Fine, it’s a simile not a metaphor, but hang with me.


Try this dating strategy sometime: walk up to the door to meet your new date for the first time, and the moment he/she opens the door, immediately propose marriage. Ask for long-term commitment right out of the gate. Seem a little abrupt? OK, now raise your hand if your website is routinely doing the equivalent. “Ah, I see you’ve found our website, how about filling out this form with 25 fields so we can tell you what we want you to know about our product.” Like a marriage proposal on a first date, not the best start to a relationship.

What if, instead, you decided to focus on your users’ needs and wants first? If you actually did a little bit of listening and paying attention?

Real-world example:

You: “I noticed you wear a GPS watch. Do you run or bike?”
Your date: “I do! I run, but I have to admit, I just got started. I don’t know what I’m doing, really.”
You: “One of my coworkers just did a beginners’ program called Couch to 5K, and she said it helped a ton. I’ll see if she’ll send me a URL.”

Translated into personalization-speak:

You (in your personalization tool): “Customers coming to our site who spend time looking at models FR10 and FR15 are either novice athletes or are just getting started. We should highlight our ‘Ten Tips For Beginning Runners’ on their next visit.”

You get the point. When you can meet your customers’ needs at the right place, at the right time, and at the appropriate level of your relationship (in their buying journey), you’ll find more success and have a better shot at a positive, long-term relationship. Entering a site and immediately asking for the sale or an onerous amount of personal information is the equivalent of proposing marriage on your fist date.

Personalization can go a very long way to help you build trust and interest, which leads to better conversion. I realize that I used a very simple example, and that your customers’ journeys can be far more complex, but that shouldn’t stop you from implementing basic personalization quickly. At the very least, you’ll get better information and decide whether or not to act upon it at some point in the future. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started, and they fall into what we’d call anonymous personalization. You can do these without ever asking your users to log in or provide any information. You’re going to want to see how these tests turn out, so make sure you have some good website analytics hooked up first. Then, make some best guesses at customer categories and use those to group your visitors. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect at first.

  • Model customer behavior. Use visits to certain sections of your site as a hint to what type of customer is browsing. I used an example of this technique above when I mentioned a certain GPS watch model.
  • Use geography and time-of-year. A February visitor from Southern California may not need to see your frozen pipe solution, but a visitor from Minneapolis may be quite interested.
  • First-time visitor vs returning visitor. In essence, a second date. Your customer has shown a bit more interest, so make sure to keep providing value.

Again, think of these as “get-to-know-you” endeavors. The dating equivalent of “Where did you grow up?” or “What do you do for a living” kind of conversations. You may find that you have something in common. “You went to Northwestern, too? When were you there? I graduated in 2005!” It’s a basis for better understanding and trust going forward.

The grand majority of our clients use content management systems (CMS) to run their web presence, and even the most basic have some ability to do personalization. At the Enterprise end of the spectrum, Sitecore, Adobe, and SDL all have incredibly robust offerings that can allow you to integrate sales and customer service data (for instance, in Salesforce), behavioral data, lifetime value, and social cues (to name a few) to create very nuanced personalization experiences. In fact, these tools allow you to move into the realm of marketing automation. The system itself begins to adapt and display appropriate content at the appropriate time. While the simple examples above can probably be managed by hand, once you start down the road of complex segmentations, matrixed customer decision makers, and intricate customer journeys, you’re going to need the help the automation can provide. Think of it as the “we’ve decided to move in together” phase. It’s a serious step that needs to be thought about carefully.

I’m not trying to tell you that getting great ROI from personalization is easy, but I am saying that you shouldn’t wait until you have every bit of data to get started. It’s a process, not a project. If you only agreed to go out on a date with someone you knew in advance was a perfect match for you, you’d have plenty of Friday nights to catch up on Downton Abbey watching. Alone.

So get out there and get started. And when you do get to the point where you need help taking your strategy to the next level, contact us, we’d love to help. Our services include Digital Strategy, Content Strategy, User Experience, Creative, Analytics and Technology.



A major digital healthcare opportunity?

January 14th, 2015

Digital Healthcare Opportunity

Over the last year I have been thinking a lot about the opportunities that digital can bring to the healthcare realm, specifically in terms of improving patient outcomes. At Extractable we have a number of healthcare clients on both the service delivery side (hospitals and healthcare organizations) and the payer side (insurers), which has given us the opportunity to undertake in-depth research with all types of healthcare consumers and learn the nuances and challenges of healthcare delivery.

There are a couple of major trends in the use of digital channels and technology we are seeing. The first, that was everywhere in the last year, is the use of wearable and other technology to help gather data and feed that back to our medical teams to help with the treatment of chronic conditions, such as blood-sugar monitors for diabetics or smartphone-enabled heart monitors for cardiovascular patients.

More closely to the experience strategy and design services Extractable provides for our clients, we are seeing a strong push to drive improved wellness in patient communities through the use of targeted digital content (articles, tools, quizzes, etc.).  Yet, outside of providing electronic medical records (EMR) to patients, specifically driven by the meaningful use provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we are not seeing much in the way of online tools being used as part of treatment itself.

While clearly online tools are not a replacement for the appropriate drug or medical procedure, there may be a large opportunity to improve patient outcomes through readily available digital tools and techniques – through using digital to close the loop in healthcare provision.

Stepping back, there were two stories I came across in the last year that helped set the stage for identifying the challenge and opportunity I see ahead. Neither is pleasant to read (for different reasons), but the lessons are worth drawing from here.

The USA and UK are a good comparison for healthcare purposes. The populations are similar in terms of wealth, education, technology adoption and general health patterns. However, the systems are very different with the USA insurance / private model and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) single payer (state) model. Having grown up in the UK and now living in the USA, I’ve experienced some of the pros and cons of each model very personally, but this post is not about which is better, but what we can learn from the contrast.

So, what can we learn from this shocking statistic?

In 2010, for every 100,000 people in the USA, 6.1 died of HIV/AIDS. In the UK, that rate was just 0.5 out of 100,000.

Some details as to why from the New Republic article:

“In the United Kingdom and Germany, if you test positive for HIV, you’ll immediately be referred to an HIV clinic for tests to measure how much of the virus is in your blood and how well your immune system is holding up. Three-quarters of Brits diagnosed with HIV get to this next stage of care within two weeks, and 97 percent make it within three months.

…in the United States, only 65 percent of people with HIV get linked to a hospital or clinic within three months.”

The basic premise of the argument is that when there is a positive loop of continuous care, the patient does not ‘fall between the gaps’ and it requires much less pro-active effort on their part to lead to the best outcome.

The other, unrelated article that triggered my interest was by the BBC related to the growth in DIY fecal transplants! While an unpleasant topic (don’t read the article if you are having lunch!) for most of us to think about, there are multiple cases of people with untreatable conditions that have found a cure through the power of Google and online self-help communities.

From the article:

“”My colorectal surgeon said: ‘The easiest thing would be to just take your colon out.’ And my question was: ‘Easier for whom?’”

…They started the process at 16:00 in the afternoon. By 22:00 that night she felt almost completely better. “And I had been literally dying the day before,” she says. “I was going into renal failure – I was dying.”

The lesson I took from this was that the core premise of the internet truly delivered in this case – that of empowerment – the ability to connect a normal person to detailed information that they may not have ever been able to reach before.

So, we have two connected ideas. Firstly, that digital channels can connect and empower people like never before. And, secondly that people fall between the gaps in the healthcare system to the detriment of their health.

So, what can we do about this?

I believe there is a strong opportunity for digital tools and techniques to be integrated into the healthcare process to close these gaps and hence aid in people’s health outcomes.

Today we have many digital technologies designed to close gaps in marketing and sales. If we visit a shoe website we see re-targeted ads the next day when we are on Facebook aimed to persuade us to buy those shoes.  At Extractable, we use powerful personalization tools in CMS systems like Sitecore, tied with marketing automation tools like Marketo or Eloqua and integrated with CRM systems like Salesforce to track and nurture every potential customer / lead. These tools allow us to create a highly personalized and relevant experience for each prospect as they hit our client’s digital properties over potentially long sales cycles.

And, it works, with these experiences increasing conversion rates by orders of magnitude.

So my proposition is that we should, in effect, treat patients like an e-commerce customer or lead – tenaciously providing personalized relevant content and tools throughout each cycle of treatment and driving wellness throughout their life.

While I’m not suggesting we use re-targeting to promote broccoli after you visit a bacon orientated website, there are many ways in which messaging and content could be embedded within our day-to-day digital life. And, as importantly, in the same way we can report a prospect’s progress to the allocated sales person at our client, we can integrate the data back to the patient’s medical team to continue the positive cycle of care.

Of course, this will not solve all the challenges of the healthcare system, but we don’t have to do that. Just changing some of these health outcomes by a few percent (or less) can mean thousands of lives saved.

And, for me, that is the opportunity.


Banking Better Online

January 13th, 2015

By far, the most frequent touch point between financial institutions and their customers today is online – specifically online banking or other logged-in experiences – outpacing branches, call centers, and service representatives combined.

As one stakeholder from a large regional bank told us during a recent project, “If the online channel was a physical branch, we would have to buy the football stadium and fill it with tellers, not just put our name on it!”

Extractable recently evaluated the logged-in online banking (OLB) experiences of 20 of the largest and most recognizable banks in the United States. What we found is that, while many provide their authenticated customers an experience with rich functionality, nearly all fall far short in delivering an easy-to-use and insightful user experience for customers to actually manage their money.

What is most surprising is how similar these shortcomings are across banking brands. In our research, both the typical retail customer and the typical commercial customer are engaged with multiple financial institutions. Tens of millions of people must tolerate multiple OLB experiences, with each coming up short in a similar fashion.

In reviewing these OLB experiences, we found they are by-and-large designed in a way that is “bank-centric” rather than “user-centric.” Products, services, and transactions are expressed as a financial professional(or their product manager!) might talk about them, not as a nurse, firefighter, or teacher would be expected to.  Thus, an “inside-out” design approach manifests in which user interactions are structured around a bank’s own internal systems and 3rd-party integrations, rather than a user-friendly and informative approach.


An opportunity exists for banks to pivot and adopt a customer-centric, “outside-in” mentality, designing their online banking experiences to anticipate the needs of the user while providing valuable tools and content to support their journey.

Many of the experiences we looked at offer little or no insight into a customer’s financial condition and how certain actions, such as scheduling recurring money transfers, could affect account health. The OLB environment represents a perfect opportunity to provide contextual insight into how customers are managing their money and making day-to-day financial decisions, such as  explicitly demonstrating for a user how scheduled bill-pay will affect their balance, helping to avoid overdraft or other penalties.

A good example is the basic “balance” element of OLB experiences. It’s typically stated as a single number, or as an end-of-day total on the statements / transactions page. However, why not show the user, next to that balance, a simple chart of the balance over the last 30 days? This would help a user see the pattern (typically a saw-tooth shape) and use this to factor into their decision making.

Why would a bank invest precious resources in something that people, frankly, have no choice but to use? Because like an appetizer before the entrée, online banking sets the stage for something much more substantial.

Banks make profits off of customers that grow in deposits and wallet-share, less so those with basic checking or savings accounts. It comes as no surprise that when a customer decides to shop around for a loan or credit product, their primary deposit/checking institution can miss out on a substantial opportunity in the form of a longer-term, profitable relationship.

Consider for a moment, if a person’s primary deposit institution provided an online banking experience with which they were extremely comfortable using, and which proactively communicated with them about relevant financial products. Would the user be more likely to place additional trust in their chosen institution by opting for an added product that has already been recognized as meeting their need? We think the answer to that question is decidedly, “yes.”


Providing an experience that meaningfully connects people with their money and provides sought-after, contextual advice offers banks a previously untapped opportunity to cross-sell customers and grow through a modern relationship-oriented approach.

This may sound like an idealistic yet logical direction to head in, but how can banks truly seize the opportunity to use this “appetizer” to develop deeper relationships with customers and grow their share-of-wallet? There must be a concerted effort to design and build an easy-to-use, highly-functional, and insightful user experience that provides consistency as users move fluidly between digital touch points.

Based on our extensive work with clients from the financial services industry, and a thorough assessment of the current state of online banking, we’ve boiled down four core principles that should be embraced when designing a superior OLB experience:

  1. Ensure exceptional ease-of-use by designing from the user’s perspective to present information and structure interactions in a manner that is easily understood and managed.
  2. Deliver a consistency of experience across device types by keeping the design aesthetic, content structure, and functionality the same across delivery channels to ensure that web, app, and mobile experience all work in a similar (but not identical) way.
  3. Support good financial decision-making by offering valuable, contextual-based insight that can help people recognize which financial products and services could be beneficial to their situation,
  4. Embrace a platform that can elegantly expand to house more features and functionality while moving up the value chain to deliver more products and services to customers.

4 Principles

We believe the banking industry is on the verge of a huge leap forward and that a tremendous opportunity exists in designing a better online banking experience. It starts with understanding what retail and commercial customers are looking for, and making a concerted effort to deliver a painless and fluid experience managing money. It ends with a customer experience that is differentiated from the rest, forges deeper connections across financial products and services, and empowers people to make better financial decisions.


Content Strategy and Messaging for B2B Technology Audiences: Technology Experts vs. Decision Makers

January 9th, 2015

In our last post on B2B technology audiences, we discussed the motivations and information preferences of technology experts and key decision makers. Today’s post shows how you can appeal to these two very different audiences on the same site.

Lead with business benefits, follow up with proof points

On pages that need to appeal to both decision makers and technology experts, one strategy is to start off with the broader business benefits. That gets decision makers’ attention right away, and even highly technical users recognize that technology is a means to an end.

This solution page from our client, Keynote Systems, is a great example of how to do this well.

keynote screenshot

The first sentence clearly expresses the business benefit of their load testing products. This message also resonates on a more personal level with both decision makers and technology experts, because their professional reputations are on the line and they need a solution they can trust.

The next few sentences of the overview paragraph explain how Keynote load testing solutions model real user interaction, ensuring accuracy. This explanation is high-level enough that it’s easy for a non-technical user to understand, but detailed enough that a more technical user can see how Keynote is different.

The last sentence of the overview brings the focus back on the business, showing how Keynote solutions help users make better purchasing decisions.

As the user moves down the page, Keynote reveals more details about how their load testing solutions work. Each section includes the technical proof points that a performance measurement expert is looking for, but features are presented in terms of business benefits, which keeps decision makers interested.

Make technical specifications easily accessible

Technology experts visiting your site may already be familiar with what your products do and how they work—they’re looking for detailed technical specifications rather than an overview.

This product page from our client, Imperva, shows one way to meet technology experts’ needs without alienating decision makers.

The Specifications tab at the top of the page gives technical users quick access to information like supported database platforms and deployment modes. They can easily skip the video that explains why database security is important, as well as the high-level business benefits, like streamlining compliance, that are targeted toward the less technical decision makers.


Show off your technical expertise in specific channels

For Imperva, the knowledge gap between decision makers and technology experts is extreme. While security technology experts understand the need for data center security, a less technical decision maker may have no idea what Imperva products do or how dramatically they differ from other types of security solutions.

As a result, Imperva’s product pages need to educate decision makers on the basics of data center security and how it offers an important layer of protection. But, Imperva understands that they need to demonstrate that they are skilled and insightful to technology experts, and their blog is the perfect place to do that.

In addition to shorter posts on how to address new threats and vulnerabilities, Imperva uses their blog to share findings from the Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC), which researches security issues through lab work and hands-on testing in real world environments.

This level of technical detail would be too much for most decision makers, but it’s the technologist’s point of view that positions Imperva as a trusted thought leader in data center security.


Understanding B2B Technology Audiences: Technology Experts vs. Decision Makers

November 4th, 2014

Top Agency Extractable

Developing messaging and content strategy for B2B technology products can be challenging. In many cases, your company has to reach two distinct audiences with very different needs:

  • Technology experts: The engineers and developers who understand the nuts and bolts of how your technology works. They’re the ones who are going to design something with your component or use your software.
  • Decision makers: The managers, directors and C-level executives who make or approve purchasing decisions. Decision makers may have a technical background, but if they’ve spent the last several years managing a team or program, they aren’t likely to have the same depth of knowledge as technology experts. In some cases, they may even be a line-of-business manager with little or no technical knowledge.

These two audiences view information differently, and it’s important to address both on your website, even when they’re at odds with each other.

Technology Experts

If there’s one thing engineers hate, it’s marketing. They tend to be skeptical of anything that looks too promotional. So, what will get their attention?

  • Measurable facts that back up your claims. If you say your product is fast, you’d better tell them how fast. And, you’ll get bonus points if you can describe how you measured the speed so they know you’re using accurate data.
  • Quick access to product specs and features. Make it easy for technical users to find specific details about your products. You can try presenting features or specs in a table or comparison chart. A simple, straightforward presentation is more appealing than a flashy, complicated design for this audience.
  • High-quality documentation and support content. In their quest to learn more about specific capabilities and functionality, technology experts may review your documentation, support content and user forums to see how well your product really works. These users also want to know that your company will be ready to support them after they’ve become customers.

Decision Makers

Managers, directors, and C-level executives want to see how your technology can benefit their business. They tend to be less interested in technical details, and more interested in how you can help solve their problems. To appeal to them:

  • Focus on the outcome. Get a decision maker’s attention right away by showing what your products can accomplish for them. User research can help you determine which of their problems and pain points your products can address most effectively.
  • Demonstrate your expertise. Decision makers want to be confident that they’re making the right decisions. Building your reputation as a thought leader through your blog and other content marketing initiatives helps decision makers associate your brand with knowledge and expertise, which makes them more confident about choosing you.
  • Tell them something they don’t already know. Fresh, original content that shows decision makers how to meet an organizational need is highly appealing and shareable. Appearing knowledgeable and confident becomes more important to decision makers as they move up in their organizations. Genuinely helpful content enables them to make a better impression on their peers and helps cement their loyalty.


Stay tuned for our next post on more content strategy and messaging tips for reaching these different—and sometimes—conflicting—B2B technology audiences.

And if you’d like help with your content strategy, reach out to someone in our content department today!


EXTRACTABLE wins Top Agency in 2014 WebAwards

September 14th, 2014

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We are very excited to share that EXTRACTABLE was named Top Agency in the 2014 Web Marketing Association’s WebAward Competition. This is the third time EXTRACTABLE has won the Top Agency WebAward.

EXTRACTABLE Wins 55 WebAwards:

The Top Agency Award is given to the organization who wins the most WebAwards in a single year’s competition. This distinction is given to recognize the outstanding websites produced by digital agencies around the world. There are 96 industry categories – each website entered goes head-to-head with other sites in their categories. EXTRACTABLE took home 55 total awards, including many in industries of expertise: Healthcare, Financial Services, Green Energy, and Business-to-Business (B2B).

About the WebAward Judging:

Each site was assigned to three or more expert judges for evaluation. The WebAward judges are informed of the overall website project, the prospective audience for the site, and then asked to assume the role of the target user when judging.

Entries are judged on the following seven criteria:

  • Design
  • Innovation
  • Content
  • Technology
  • Interactivity
  • Copywriting
  • Ease of use

The success and acknowledgement from the WebAwards brings our team great satisfaction and pride, and reinforces our dedication to our clients to produce exceptional work.

Some of the award-winning projects: 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Awards Won: Health Care Standard of Excellence, Healthcare Provider Standard of Excellence, Medical Standard of Excellence, Regional Standard of Excellence

Judge’s comment: “The site is well done!”

Energy Upgrade California

Awards Won: Advocacy Standard of Excellence, Energy Standard of Excellence, Environmental Standard of Excellence, Non-Profit Standard of Excellence

Judge’s comments: “Nice site. Good customer interaction and appealing content.”


Award Won: Outstanding Website

Judge’s comments: Consistent use of color and space enhance the experience, easy to use with very readable text (well spaced and formatted). Sleek and modern.

Marcus & Millichap

Award Won: Outstanding Website

Award Won: Financial Services Standard of Excellence


Award Won: Outstanding Website

Judge’s comment: “Very well organized and easy to navigate when considering the volume of data that is required.”


Award Won: Outstanding Website

Judge’s comments: “There is a lot of content on this website, but it is broken down into easy to navigate categories. Very well planned for its target audience.”

Motif Investing

Award Won: Outstanding Website

Judge’s comment: “A website that presents difficult information better than most others I have seen attempt to do the same.”


Award Won: Best Mobile Website

Judge’s comments: “Nice clean design with lots of content. Looks like it would be a very effective tool for employees.”

Greater El Paso Credit Union

Awards Won: Associations Standard of Excellence, Credit Union Standard of Excellence, Financial Services Standard of Excellence, Regional Standard of Excellence

Congratulations to our team and to our clients on the 2014 WebAwards and the Top Agency achievement!  Get the full details on all the EXTRACTABLE WebAwards at

If you’re planning a redesign of your digital experience, please connect with us. We’ll go deep to understand your business needs and develop a digital solution that just may be on the lineup of the WebAward winners next year!


Six Places Content Marketers Can Go for Ideas and Inspiration

September 2nd, 2014

EXTRACTABLE Content MarketingThe great thing about keeping a content calendar is that you’ll never have to worry about what topic you’re going to write about today. The catch is that you have to come up with enough ideas to fill out a content calendar. So what does an overworked content strategist do when she gets calendar choke (the content strategist’s equivalent of writer’s block)? Luckily, there’s at least a half dozen different places I can go to for content inspiration and ideas. Check ’em out and see if inspiration comes to you, too.

1.      Web Analytics Data

I find that analyzing the organic search terms in Google Analytics is an excellent way of discovering topics that are of interest to my audience. After all, this insight into what a user is interested in is about as direct as you’re going to get apart from doing primary user research. Plus, if you limit your analysis to recent inquiries, it has the added benefit of being a great source of timely content ideas.

Below you I’ve shared a few of the organic keywords that drive traffic to our website (I can’t give away all of our secrets!)

Top Digital Agency


Just as with your Web analytics data, there can be some good content gems to unearth in your social analytics. Because your social analytics includes an audience that is tangential to your core audience, you may find a broader set of topics here. The way I recommend mining social analytics for ideas is to see which posts garner the best reach and then see if there’s a topic there that can be turned into a story. For example, the last post about sketchnoting in the Facebook Insights reporting snapshot below shows excellent reach, so sketchnoting might be a topic I’d want to write about further.

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3.      Google Trends

If you’re looking for content that is topical and current, Google Trends can be a great source.  Google Trends analyzes Google search terms to track what is popular on a given day. Google Trends doesn’t report on every possible term, but if you happen to be in an industry that aligns with their top charts you’ll have an added source for content ideas. For example, if you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, you can see what medications are trending in search at a high level (e.g., Antibiotics) and then explore deeper to see related searches (e.g., uti, uti antibiotics). If you find that you’re consistently uncovering relevant topics from Google Trends, you can subscribe and receive regular updates from Google, saving you the trouble of having to go look for them.

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4.      Google Keyword Planner

It should be no surprise that Google offers a wealth of data and I’ve got one last Google source for you—the Google Keyword Planner. Built around the primary purpose of suggesting keywords for PPC ads, the Keyword Planner is an excellent source for researching keywords and concepts related to a topic. Let’s say for example that you want to write something about Obamacare but you’re not sure what angle to take. The Keyword Planner will suggest any and every term that is related to Obamacare.  Below we see 394 different terms that are currently being tracked in relation to Obamacare. You can also gauge the relatively popularity of your content based on the number of average monthly searches, competition and the suggested bid (the higher each of these is, the more popular the term is).

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5.      Quora

Scanning and searching Q&A sites like Quora can be an excellent way of finding obscure topic ideas and possibly even a bit of supporting content that you can utilize in your writing. For example, just searching on the terms “pharmacy” and “oncologist” on Quora produces some interesting lines of questioning as shown below. A blog post on the shared personality traits of oncologists could make for a pretty nice little lifestyle piece, but what are the chances that you’d come up with that idea on your own?

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6.      Call for Questions

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Sometimes there’s just no substitute for asking your users what they want to see from you in the future. You can make the request (on your website and social channels) for what people want to know about by asking them to submit questions or topic ideas via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (depending on which social platform is best for your business). In addition to getting valuable information you can use, your users are likely to appreciate the opportunity to provide the input, especially your loyal visitors. But take a page from Hypebeast’s attention-grabbing example and make sure that your request is something that will catch their eye in the first place. Then be sure to be specific about any pertinent parameters you require —such as timeframe for submitting requests, expectations about when they might (or might not) see their idea live, and any information about incentives (if applicable).

Still Stumped? Time for Professional Help

Coming up with content ideas week after week, month after month is no easy task.  And while we hope these ideas will inspire you, we know that content concepting and creation is incredibly time-consuming, and sometimes just finding the time can be the biggest challenge you face. We’re here to help if you should need it. At Extractable, we’re passionate about all things content, and we’re ready to put our experienced content team to work for you. Contact me at to learn more about how we can make content work harder for you.