Q&A with Fred Pike, Managing Director/CFO at Northwoods

Media 7 | August 23, 2021

Fred Pike, Managing Director/CFO at Northwoods, is an experienced presenter, teacher, and blogger on GA, GA4, and GTM topics. He is a GA/GTM Practice Lead at Northwoods, DataDrivenU (Jeffalytics) Community Expert and CXL Institute Instructor in three courses: Google Analytics Audit, Excel and Sheets for Marketers and Using the GA API add-on for Sheets. He is certified in both Google AdWords and Google Analytics (GAIQ). Through ConversionXL, he is certified in CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization). He is also an active pit musician, playing guitar, bass, or mandolin for various musical venues around Milwaukee.

Your website might be great, but if Google Analytics is not set up properly, and is not measuring the right user interactions, you won’t learn anything to help you improve the website.



MEDIA 7: You have an MBA in Finance and have studied Psychology prior to that. How does your academic background help you create high-performing websites for your clients?
FRED PIKE:
My Psychology and Finance studies focused on measurement and/or testing, and I think that is critical for websites. My initial focus is on the accuracy of the measurement. Your website might be great, but if Google Analytics is not set up properly, and is not measuring the right user interactions, you won’t learn anything to help you improve the website.  The data in GA is, by default, messy and incomplete. You need to work with it to get it clean and trustworthy. It’s only after you have good, reliable, solid data that you even know if your website is high- or low-performing. High-performing, of course, can be very different between websites.  For an e-commerce site, it might be revenue; for a lead-gen site, it might be subscriptions, file downloads, forms filled out, etc. Regardless of the desired outcome, having a solid measurement plan in place is crucial.


M7: What are some of your go-to strategies to drive more traffic to your clients’ websites?
FP:
It’s always about content, isn’t it? There are several aspects you must get right — technical SEO factors; having a well-organized site; accessibility considerations; design; site speed, etc. but it’s content that will draw and keep people engaged with your site. Our content strategies can vary by client and by the audience.  Regardless, the goal is to figure out who the audience is (typically done through persona research) and what content they need to answer their questions. Then we can determine how best to deliver that content — white papers, blogs, videos, product detail pages, etc. Conceptually, it’s pretty simple! But getting the details right? Ah, not easy!


There are several aspects you must get right — technical SEO factors; having a well-organized site; accessibility considerations; design; site speed, etc. But it’s content that will draw and keep people engaged with your site.



M7: Could you please tell us some different ways Northwoods helps their clients grow their online presence through digital marketing and advertising initiatives, websites, and software projects?
FP:
One aspect that stands out, is our integrated focus on SEO and PPC — i.e. organic and paid traffic. We almost always hit both of those as part of a search strategy for a client.  It’s not an either/or. Another aspect of success: regular analysis. We are not big fans of “dashboards” here. I personally have developed too many that are enthusiastically received initially and are totally ignored six months later.  But add analysis to those and dive deep into two or three important changes that month?  That’s how you grow. Software projects are part of our secret sauce, as well.  Northwoods started as a software dev shop, and we still have deep roots in that area, with almost half the company working in software.

Many of our projects mix it all: designing and developing a website, creating a digital marketing strategy, creating a measurement approach, and working on custom software (or extensions to our CMS package, Titan CMS) to deal with unique challenges that our client has. That’s part of what I love about being at Northwoods — the confluence of disciplines we have under one roof. We’re not just SEO or PPC — we’re both. We’re not just software dev or digital marketing — we’re both.  We have a wonderful blend of marketing-savvy developers and technically-savvy marketers.


M7: What are the top challenges you see for the industry in general and Northwoods this year?
FP:
There will be an ongoing loss of data as more privacy factors come into play in the industry.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing — privacy is important. The challenge will be making good decisions with less data.
COVID-19, of course, is a challenge. We made the transition to working remotely fairly easily, but like everybody else, we’re still learning and adapting to the new environment. Keeping up to date with all the changes in digital marketing is key.  That’s one of the reasons I love being part of a larger team — we have specialists who dive deep into their area of expertise and know what’s going on. But I’m always worried about our blind spots. What are we not seeing? What are we refusing to take seriously? If we were to start the business today, would we focus on the same things and go to market the same way?


There will be an ongoing loss of data as more privacy factors come into play in the industry.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing — privacy is important. The challenge will be making good decisions with less data.



M7: How do you get rapid unbiased consumer feedback to know if you are addressing their needs?
FP:
There are two pieces to this.  The first is getting feedback from our clients to ensure we’re meeting their needs. We do that through an initiative we call Client Connect. Client Connect includes a facilitated planning session with our clients to better understand their objectives and changing industries and to learn how we can help them meet their goals most effectively. But we also conduct post-project and annual “happiness” surveys to understand what we’re doing well and where we can improve. This has been a critical way for us to ensure we’re consistently meeting our clients’ needs – being their digital BFF, as we like to say! The other piece is helping our clients understand if they’re meeting the needs of their customers. Part of that unbiased feedback comes through analytics. If it’s set up properly to measure significant user interactions, then there’s a lot of data there.  But beyond that, there are three tools we commonly use.

The first is heatmaps, showing where people interact with a page, how far they scroll, whether they’re trying to interact with elements that we didn’t expect, etc. The second is session recordings, where you see how real users interacted with your website.  Watch 10 people filling out a form, and you’ll quickly know if you have problems! The third is user testing, where you give a group of users a set of tasks to complete on your website. This is more of a “lab data” environment — not necessarily reflecting real-life.  Sometimes the results are messy or incomplete — mainly because we didn’t ask the questions very well!  But done right, five or six user tests will lead to real insights about the effectiveness of your website.


M7: When you are not working, what are you seen doing? Is there any hobby you would like to share with us?
FP:
I’ve been a musician for far longer than I’ve been in digital marketing, starting with bands back in grade school. I’m still active, often playing guitar or bass in the pit for musicals, for both professional and amateur productions.  In addition, I play mandolin and am the President of the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, which has been performing continuously since 1900. I also seem to spend a lot of time walking my dog, Xuxa, who is a huge joy in my life. And lastly, my wife and I are lucky to be able to spend time each week with our three-year-old granddaughter, whom I hope to get started in Google Analytics as soon as possible!

ABOUT NORTHWOODS

Northwoods is a true digital partner - a digital best friend - who's focused on their clients' ultimate success and happiness. Through honest guidance, outstanding service, and exceptional expertise, the team is dedicated to ensuring their clients' team consistently meets and exceeds their business goals. Their Services include Brand Strategy, Digital Strategy, Digital Marketing & Advertising, Software Development, and Websites.

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Nexon and Hivestack activate a cross-border programmatic DOOH campaign from South Korea into Singapore

Nexon, Hivestack | November 29, 2022

Hivestack, the world’s leading, independent programmatic digital out of home (DOOH) ad tech company today announced the success of its first “inside-out” programmatic (DOOH) campaign for Nexon, a global pioneer in the world of interactive entertainment software offering more than 45 live games operated across more than 190 countries. Nexon leveraged the Hivestack DSP’s suite of data and audience targeting solutions to promote its popular ‘massively multiplayer online role-playing game’ (MMORPG) “MapleStory M'' to audiences across Singapore. The “inside-out” campaign that was planned from Seoul, South Korea and activated in Singapore targeted gaming enthusiasts on multiple DOOH screen environments including shopping malls, subway transit stations and on roadside. Leveraging its own first party data in addition to Hivestack’s predefined audience set of ‘video and computer gamers’, Nexon was able to determine its key target audience and promote the “MapleStory M” game to them within a selected radius or proximity geofence. Hoon Lee, VP Demand & Supply, Hivestack Korea commented, “We are incredibly excited to have launched the campaign with Nexon, a leading global gaming company." Hoon Lee, VP Demand & Supply, Hivestack Korea commented, “We are incredibly excited to have launched the campaign with Nexon, a leading global gaming company. Our world-class technology platform shows audience movement patterns confirming that consumers have resumed their activities outside of the home so the campaign has come at a crucial time to attract audiences at scale. Consumer trust in OOH advertising coupled with programmatic DOOH technology allowed Nexon to reinforce MapleStory M’s position in Singapore as one of the top rated games as well as solidify their position as global leaders in the future.” Woochang Lee, Deputy Department Manager of Marketing Engineering added, "Through Hivestack's DSP, Nexon could capture a massive target audience in Singapore in the right place and at the right time. We are delighted with the partnership and upon the success of this campaign, we have decided to do an additional campaign with Hivestack in November in Singapore to continue our global expansion together." In 2022, global mobile gaming revenues were estimated at $152.5bn USD, making it the biggest segment of the digital gaming market. Online games were ranked second with approximately $23.56bn in revenues. The total digital gaming market is projected to reach $285bn by 2027 giving rise to a huge opportunity for marketers of gaming companies to attract audiences in highly interactive out of home (OOH) environments. Programmatic (DOOH) offers a sophisticated, more targetable, measurable and impactful way to reach precise audiences outside the home. In addition to offering unparalleled targeting and measurement capabilities on a global scale, it also opens new revenue streams for media owners to drive additional programmatic revenue.

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