Welcome to the e-commerce marketing podcast everyone. I am your host Arlon Robinson. And today we have a very special guest, Paxton Gray, who is the CEO of 97th Floor, a marketing agency with clients like Discover, Celebrity Cruises, and Salesforce. He started in the digital marketing world in 2007 and has been with 97th Floor since 2013. Paxton serves on the Marketing and Business Education board as an advisor to the Alpine School District, and teaches marketing at Brigham Young University. Paxton has been a featured speaker at industry conferences all over the world, sharing insights learned through years of client work. He holds a degree in advertising from BYU and lives in Utah with his beautiful wife and kids. Welcome to the podcast, Paxton.

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

No problem. And I’m excited to talk to you today. The topic that we’re going to dive into today in a little bit is really going to be talking about data gathering when it comes to product development, content development and customer retention, because as our listeners know these days, we’re really in the age of data. And no longer do you have to make decisions, whether it comes to marketing, whether it comes to product development or even trying to figure out how to retain your customers.

It no longer has to be a guessing game. So many ways to get solid data analytics to make the right decisions. And so we’re going to dive into that and what you got to say about that. But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about a little bit more about your background actually, and specifically how you got into what you do today. Yeah, so I since I was a kid, actually, I’ve always wanted to work at an advertising agency making commercials and and kind of living that New York ad agency like that was my whole plan up through college.

And I was actually right on the verge of going into New York and interning for a big ad agency. And that was about the same time I got engaged to a girl who she would much rather be around in the taxi, taxicabs and buses. So we kind of compromised and we stuck around Utah. It’s not quite the country farm life that she wants, but it’s also not quite the New York big city life that I wanted on. So it’s kind of our meet in the middle.

I said so around that time, I started to get into digital marketing and I feel like back in those days, everyone who got into digital sort of fell into it doing something else because it wasn’t that big and that it is these days. And that’s what I started to get into. Website development, conversion optimization, AB testing, SEO digital advertising that led me to some floor where I’ve been for the past seven and a half years. We are just shy of one hundred marketing professionals and we just celebrated the last week, our 15th anniversary as a company.

So that’s pretty great.

That’s awesome. Congratulations on that. Thank you.

So over the past 15 years, we worked with brands like Omniture, Adobe, Discover, Capital One, lots of B2B SaaS companies. But we’ve also done a ton in e-commerce direct to consumer consumer packaged goods companies. And we’ve learned a lot of things along the way. And a lot of those things that we learned are from trial and error and seeing what worked and what didn’t. And that’s what I’d love to share with your listeners today. Some of those learnings.

That’s awesome. And I appreciate you giving us that background. I’m going to take a little gamble since you mentioned you really kind of been in love with advertising in these advertising agencies come from back in the day. But were you a fan of the show Mad Men? Yes, I was. Yeah.

I kind of figured that you mentioned kind of having such a passion for advertising and that kind of the New York advertising agency and that whole see. Yeah, that kind of came to mind. I wasn’t that much into the show myself, but one of my business partners actually was really into it. And I think he got into it after this show, I guess was at the tail end of the airing. And I think he watched all of the seasons back to back.

So he was really into it. It’s kind of interesting. I mean, that was my dream, to go live that Madison Avenue life and do all that. And I kind of fell into this digital world. But now I’m really thankful that I did, because a lot of those big ad agencies, they’re trying to build what we’ve built over the past 15 years. So it’s been just interesting. I remember when I started this and I was doing it as I remember, I didn’t want to tell my in-laws that I did because it seemed like a black magic thing to me.

Is this guy going to support our daughter doing like, what is that even? But now, like Tesla has a job posting for a specialist and it’s a much more legitimate and valid and digital marketing as a whole, including a CEO. And advertising has just really taken off. So it’s been fun to watch that change and shift in power. Yeah, definitely.

That has been quite a shift. And like you said, a lot of these older agencies that have been around for a long time are trying to play catch up now because like you said, when a CEO and the whole search engine optimization kind of started, it was, you know, a lot of people frowned upon it. There was a lot of unscrupulous. I guess that’s the right word. People were doing a lot of kind of funny business to try to get rankings.

And so, yeah, it was frowned upon. But now it is a legitimate thing. And if you you don’t have a CEO strategy in place, you’re going to be left by the wayside. So I think a lot of businesses that waited a little too long to get on the ball, you’re probably regretting that right now. But yeah.

So what I want to do is kind of dive right into it and really kind of get into what really are the different methods and strategies when it comes to gathering data for product development. That’s going to take it all the way back for, let’s say, a business owner, somebody that has a concept for selling online and they’re thinking about developing a product, whatever it is, and they want to get into getting the right data so they can make the right decisions, whether they really be.

And what are some methods for gathering data in the right data? Yeah. So the beautiful thing is that we live in a world now where there’s more data than ever been accessible. So I just keep saying over and over again that the people who win are the people who have access to and can better understand data. That’s who wins. And so there’s going to be hundreds of sources of data that people can use to better refine their product. Also contends and how to retain customers and the first source that I recommend everyone start with, given how powerful digital is and how much how active searches is search data and so is commonly referred to as keyword research.

And I find that whenever I talk about keyword research, people start to stop listening because they think they know everything there is to know about keyword research. The fact is, people have been doing your research for a very long time, but if you’re not paying attention to the nuance, it’s actually something that has developed pretty significantly over the past 10 years. So if you learn your research five, 10 years ago, maybe take some time, take a look at it again.

Most keyword research that’s outdated starts off with the first step being brainstorm. People recommend, OK, sit down with a notepad and write out what do you think people will type? And you kind of use your thoughts and ideas as a seed to fill out the rest of your research either. And this can be for your ads. This could be for a landing page or product creation. This could be for straight up SEO. But the problem with that as your first step is it’s relying on your experience and your understanding of the world.

I have this client years ago that taught well. Actually, if you got a ticket today and you had to go to a class to reduce that ticket, what would you call that class, Arlon?

That’s a good question.

So I have had to go to a that comes to mind is like I don’t know what they called it at the time, but it was more like a driver improvement class or something along that line somewhere to improve that particular style. Yeah.

What’s interesting is what that class is called is very region dependent. Most of America calls that traffic school like I got a ticket, so I have to go to traffic school. So this client that I had was based in Texas and had I originally started to brainstorm or as I said, well, obviously traffic school to be one of our primary keywords that were going to target, we’re going to call it traps, but I instead did some research on what do people in Texas say and people in Texas, no one calls a traffic school.

If you say traffic school in Texas, no one knows what you’re talking about. They call it defensive driving school. So that’s the keyword that everyone searching in Texas. So if I’m looking at national keywords, I’d be thrown off just because I started by going off my gut and my own understanding of the world. So we should never start keyword research with SEAD keywords. What we should be doing is selecting our site, selecting three to five competitors and finding everything that all of those sites rank for, and then pulling back data on volume for each of those keywords suggested bid, which is how much it’s worth if you’re going to buy ads on search for that and then difficulty, which gives you an idea of whether or not there’s a hole in the market.

So we’re going to be pulling keywords for our site for three to five competitors. And then the magic that no one ever does is finding a micro publisher in your space. And when I say micro publisher, I mean a publisher who writes specifically about what it is you do and nothing more. I want to find everything they rank for because a publisher, they make money in different ways than my competitors do. They make money by just cranking out as much content as they can, trying to rank for as many keywords as they can in an attempt to drive as much traffic as they can so they can get ad revenue.

So as a result, these micro publishers are going to be ranking for thousands of keywords that you and your competitors never even knew existed. But it’s going to be a great way to find those holes in the market and take advantage of them on your business or corporate website. So I’m going to put all these people into some kind of keyword tracker. There’s there’s dozens you can use. I like FIFA. I’m not affiliated with them at all, but they’re really cheap and fast.

Right. All that you export it now. I’m dealing with fifty thousand keywords and now I just need to sort through that. And I’ve actually built a template that your listeners can download if they want. Actually, if you just reach out to me on LinkedIn, just connect with me, search Paxton, ground LinkedIn. I should be the first one that comes up and just say, Hey, I want that template, I’ll send you a link, download that template.

You can pop all of these keywords in and it will tell you exactly what keywords you just target. Appreciate you sharing it. Yeah. Yeah. So keyword research is the first thing and a good application for this for product development. I did this exercise with a class in the business school at BYU University near me, and there is this group that was developing this belt and they were trying to rank four words like belts and compete on that this belt.

However, it was made out of rubber and it just happened to be that that was a really inexpensive way to manufacture the belt as opposed to leather. So they did this keyword research process and they found there was this group of keywords that represented around twenty thousand monthly searches as a whole. They were all around ski belts and belts that people can wear while skiing because. That’s not something that a lot of people are finding, so there’s a real big hole in the market, so they didn’t even change their product at all.

All they did was change how they talked about their product. And now they didn’t sell it built they sold skeeball and they were ranked number one now for all these key about terms. So it was a huge step for them in terms of their product development and how they maybe they didn’t even have a rubber belt, but they would have produced one. Now, they saw this whole. So it’s not just good for search, but it’s really great for content development.

And it’s really, really great for product development, because essentially all that data is things people are asking for. They’re going to Google and saying, I want this. So what better place to go find ideas for product development? That makes a lot of sense. And rather than using your gut, which in your own mind, you coming up with ideas and things that you think are relevant, but you’ve got to look beyond that. Like you said in that example, there’s certain terms like the traffic school, the driving school, two different things to different regions.

And if you’re not thinking about that, if you’re, let’s say, a business that’s looking to do things globally, then you really got to consider the whole world. What are some things and let’s say you’re just dealing with English speaking countries. You’ve got to think about what’s the mindset of people in these different countries. And it could be a whole different mindset that you have. Let’s say that you’re in the US. So it makes a lot of sense.

And what better way to start doing that is to just dig right in there, look at the what your competitors are doing, see where their keywords are ranking and if it makes sense for your business because it’s all there, like you said, with tools such as FIFA, which is a great tool that I’ve used before. It’s a great way to really kind of uncover kind of take the, you know, really just uncover what a lot of these other companies are doing that are your competitors.

So and to do a lot of info from it. You also mentioned and this is also a great strategy, not only for gathering the keyword data, what are the rankings for the entries, but pay per click is concerned. Also, what are people paying for certain keywords? All of that can be uncovered so that you can try to go after it. But of course, when you’re targeting these keywords, there’s a lot more behind the scenes that has to be done in order to rank form.

And that comes under the category, of course, content development, which has to go along with, you know, let’s say blogging about certain things or adding certain content pages to your site. And what are some things that can be done when you’ve isolated these particular keywords that you’re trying to decide, all right, what’s the content that I need to specifically create? Is it really just looking at what the your competitors are doing or do you have a specific strategy for that?

Yeah, so I’m going to get past all the basic stuff that goes into SEO and content creation. If your listeners are interested in getting more, I would recommend they check out the mods bringing SEO really great resources to go through all the basic stuff, making sure the key words and the user, the title tag, H1 tags and the content and and so forth. Internal linking is a point. Beyond that, though, there’s a tactic that we’ve been using now for the past four or five years that’s had a lot of success and that is what we call semantic analysis.

So as an agency and even in-house brands, we run up against the problem of creating content that is useful for the user. And sometimes we get into the trap of creating content that is really good for the search engine, but kind of ignoring the user. So the first thing that I recommend to all content creators and all business owners is every piece of content, with no exception, should have a clear next step. What do you want them to do after they read this content or they visit this page?

Even your business card should have a clear next step to many business hours to say, here’s my phone number, he’s my email address. Why not have a clear call to action on a business card? There is nothing that you should produce that does not have a clear call to action in the clear next step. So that’s number one. Number two is Google. If you put yourself in the shoes of Google, they want to rank content that is good and good.

Content is content that helps the user accomplish what they were seeking to accomplish when they made that query on the search engine. So Google, in an attempt to provide a good user experience, they want to rank content that meets that end better than other pieces of content.

So what we need to do is figure out how can we make content that is going to help the user do what they are seeking to do in a better way. And semantic analysis is part of the answer to that. So semantic analysis, what this allows content creators to do is to quickly understand all of the topics and ideas that are connected with the central idea of your content piece. I had the same experience recently. I just want to on a big backpacking trip back east and in preparation for that, I was looking for a good middle layer jacket and searching for the.

Their jacket was somewhat frustrating because as I did my research on all the different options, one source of content would mention how warm they all are. But it would totally neglect how durable they are. And another one would really highlight durability of all these different options. But they would totally neglect, like warmth, and they wouldn’t give me that level of detail that I wanted. So had a website giving me all the information I wanted around that down jacket.

I would now be more of a fan of that website and I would be more likely to use them in the future for research and purchasing products. So a semantic analysis does is you can say if you want to rank for like mid layer down jacket, for example, what you can do is you can either use stock where you can do this manually. You can say who is? I want to pull in all the websites that are ranking in the top 10 for that word.

And then I want to analyze all the words they’re using. And you obviously want to filter out words like a bug or of the right. But we want to see like what seems to be the most important words for this topic and what are the less important words. And then we do that same analysis on our own content and see what are you missing. And so we may see like, oh, it turns out we wrote a lot about temperature and warmth, but we totally neglected writing about durability.

And we can see that a lot of our competitors are writing about that. And so what we can do through this is kind of sample very quickly. This doesn’t require that we go through and actually read all the content that’s out there on this subject. We can very quickly analyze it and see how we compare and spit out another piece within just a few hours that is going to be much more comprehensive, much better for users. And because it’s better for users, it should be better for search, which means we should rank higher.

We had this case where we were doing some work for a company that makes a lot of chemicals, and there was this chemical name that they were looking for. We did this analysis and his name kept coming up and we noticed, like, why is this name keep coming up? And we realized that this person had done a big study related to this chemical that we were writing about. And so we were able to include a bunch of content around this doctor and we did that.

And instantly our rankings increased. But the content is also better for users because it’s now more comprehensive. And how do we just rely on more traditional research methods to learn about this chemical in that doctor? It would have taken us much longer to arrive at that conclusion, but instead we could do it much quicker and see those improvements and rankings and traffic much faster. So a semantic analysis is a very potent method for gathering data in your content development process.

It makes sense.

And to kind of we initially were saying a lot of business fall under the trap where they’re so focused on just Reinking trying to rank for that particular keyword and getting there to fight or find Google and forgetting about the most important thing, which is their customer, the people that are looking for that content. But some you can’t fault people because the bottom line is you got to drive traffic, you got to drive sales. You want to do whatever you can so that Google ranks you.

But you do have to make sure that once people come to your site that they’re going to stay they’re not going to just miles away because it’s a whole other thing about you can get people to the site. That’s all fine and dandy. You can you can drive thousands and thousands of visitors. But if people get there and they don’t see what they’re looking for, like you said when you were looking to buy those jackets, you could have the one that you were looking at.

You couldn’t really find out any details about the warmth or maybe there is others that you find more details about the durability. And so if it’s not comprehensively answering those questions that the users our customers are having, then you get to still lose the matter how high you rank, even if you’re ranking number one. It makes a whole lot of sense. And I know a lot of businesses fall into that trap just so focused on just trying to drive the traffic there rather than to make it a great user experience for the customer.

Thinking of actually customer experience, that kind of takes you to the next question and kind of the next phase of this, which is once you get the customer, let’s say you’ve gone through the steps, you’ve done your keyword ranking analysis from your competitors, you’ve gone in and you’ve done the semantic analysis to come up with the right content. You’ve got customers that are purchasing from you. But then what are some other data gathering techniques, strategies that you use to retain these customers, to keep these customers coming back, purchasing more from you?

Or if you are offering a have a service offering, what are some things that you can do so that they stay a customer? Yeah.

So this kind of gets to the heart of what I think marketers need to, especially today, be refocusing on, which is the experience that your customer is having with your site and your marketing, but not just your site and your marketing, but overall the experience of having your eyes. So whenever we get a new client, the first thing that we do is we call a six hour customer experience review. And the first step in the customer experience review is we’re going through and we’re looking at every competitor.

We’re looking at how all of the competitors talk about their service and their product. We sign up for every competitor’s newsletter and then we do the same thing. Our client, we see what the conversion process looks like, we go on and we buy a product and we see what is the thank you page look like they get a confirmation email or does that look like how does their experience from the very beginning to the very end? Is it consistent? Does it track well?

And how does that compare to the other stories that your competitors are telling? Because like it or not, the story that your competitors are telling is part of the landscape that your clients are experiencing. So to totally ignore it and not pay attention to that is a mistake. So we need to do a review from the very beginning to the very end of not just our customers, but our customers competitors. Then from that point on and we need to make some guesses into we think they are getting stuck here or we think that this point is creating some friction or we think that this messaging is not resonating based off of the rest of the landscape.

And we’ll use some analytics data to validate that. But then we need to go into conversion rate optimization or AB testing where we have a hypothesis and we attempt to answer that question through testing, through AB testing. And if you have a site that gets a good amount of traffic, this is something you should absolutely be doing. No questions asked. Every business should be doing AB testing where we’re running one variation and another variation and perhaps that we have more volume.

Traffic can run a couple others and then we can see which variation wins when it comes to the effect on the bottom line. And that is such a powerful source of data that is being it’s insane how much that’s being ignored. First of all, most people don’t do abey’s testing and those that do, many of them think that AB testing is about learning which headline will convert more. And that’s true. That’s I mean it is conversion rate optimization. We’re making variations to see what converts more, but a much more powerful way to look at conversion or optimization is to look at as you’re slowly learning about your market and you’re building a profile on them.

So we may have a variation where a headline is much more soft sell and a headline that is much more a hard sell, a much more aggressive sell. If it turns out that the headline is much more aggressive, converts more, then yes, that’s a variation we should run. And conversions went not great, that’s a win. But if we neglect to take that learning and apply it now to our ads, to other landing pages, to our pricing page and see if that learning is consistent, then we are leaving so much money on the table because that audience clearly we saw, at least in this case, they prefer a much more aggressive messaging.

So why wouldn’t they prefer more aggressive messaging in the ad that sends them there or the email campaign that we’re running? You can’t assume that, but that at least gives us hints about other tests so we can run and learning more and more and more about this audience instead of siloing those learnings to just little test that never then apply to other content. So maybe testing is just such a powerful form of marketing. And if you have a site that gets any decent amount of traffic, you should also be doing this and you should actually be learning, learning about your audience quickly through AB testing.

Yeah, that is so true.

And I think you really kind of answered my next question, which is basically how are you how do you measure the efficacy of these different methods and that you kind of nailed it there on the AB testing? That’s really the only way to do it. I mean, you can kind of hypothesize and guess what? You think it’s going to be the best method, but you really don’t know until you put it out there to you start testing. Yes. This messaging I used to start testing these keywords.

That’s really the only way to do it. And that’s really the best way to measure the efficacy of all of those methods. One thing I wanted to ask you, though, with AB testing, I’ve heard a lot about it myself and how powerful it is that you did mention. Is it really mainly effective if you’re getting a fair amount of traffic? Is there some type of benchmark that you guys usually use to decide if you’re going to do an advertising campaign with your agency?

Is there a minimum amount of, let’s say, monthly traffic that you would suggest that a business should get for the thick of it? Yeah, it can really vary to certain degree. You need to realize that the less traffic you have, the longer test will take in order to reach a confidence level that is high enough to basically be confident that you should apply that test. So ideal, not ideal, but I would say like where where we’re like really comfortable is when you get ten thousand visits a month to a site, you can learn some things.

They’re less than that. You’re getting into some like you’re going have to run tests for a long time. And the problem with that is you might run over certain things if it’s long enough that are going to skew your data. So like if we were to run a test now, that would require it running for three months before we sniff against now we’re running over Thanksgiving or running over Christmas over the years, and that’s going to mess with all of our data.

So I would probably get to ten thousand a month. You can do less, but that’s kind of where you should be, OK? That definitely helps. And I appreciate that. It makes a lot of sense. It’s not that you can’t do a B testing if you’re getting less traffic. It’s just you’re increasing the chances of different seasonal events that could just kind of mess up the data. Like you said, the Christmas holiday, Black Friday, all of that could mess up your data because those are obvious spikes that are going to get when they’re doing any type of campaign or advertising.

So it makes a lot of sense. So, yeah, ten thousand is definitely a good benchmark. And that’s that’s kind of the things that I’ve heard as well myself around that range. And I’m glad you called in on that as well. Well, that has been awesome. And I appreciate you sharing everything. And I’ve really learned a lot today for sure. And hopefully our listeners have as well, because I think the main thing to take away from this discussion is really you don’t have to use your gut anymore.

Just that is no longer has to be a guessing game when it comes to figuring out product development, content development and then retaining your customers. The data is out there. You just have to analyze it, do a B testing and then figure out what works best for your particular niche, for your particular product and site. So I think that’s the key takeaway from the discussion. And, you know, lastly, I always like to kind of switch gears here just so I can get to know you just a little bit better.

So what is one final fun fact that you can let our audience know about yourself?

I think something that most people don’t know about me is that I’m a beekeeper. I’ve got a couple hives. And a fun fact about bees is a lot of people think the queen bee is like in control of the hive and that is not at all OK.

All the queen bee does is like eggs and and they follow that where she goes. But once she’s in the hive, she’s there for the rest of her life, pretty much. So that’s a fact about bees.

No one’s got interesting, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you happen to get into doing that? And what is your kind of motivation for that?

Oh, I’ve always been fascinated with bees. And so pretty much as soon as I got my own house and had some property, a place I could put them. I’ve been into beekeeping ever since. OK, that’s awesome.

And so do you consume the honey that they produce, then you can go through that whole process if it’s a good year.

Those are my Christmas presents. It really gets though fresher than that then getting it from your own hive. Awesome. And I thank you for sharing that and definitely appreciate you coming on to the e-commerce marketing podcast today. I’ve definitely learned a lot, as I said, and I know our listeners have as well. But if our listeners want to get in touch with you so that they can pick your brain any more about this data analysis and making proper decisions, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Well, if they want to get in touch with me directly, LinkedIn is usually the best way. Again, if you just search Paxton Gray on LinkedIn, actually the first result, they can also email me Patston at ninety seven for dot com. And then if anyone’s interested in some help with their marketing, their content ads or getting some AB testing, we’ve actually built out some packages that are really great for small businesses based off of what we’ve learned doing the big enterprise work statements.

Got a nice name, Broadcom and reach out like requestor proposal and we’ll have someone in touch with you right away. OK, great.

That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that, Paxton. I appreciate that. And I hope our listeners will get in touch with you as well. And thank you again for joining us today on the E Commerce Marketing podcast.

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for listening to the E Commerce marketing podcast.

Podcast Guest Info

Paxton Gray
CEO of
97th Floor