Generations Of Wealth

Generations Of Wealth | Brian Davidson | Digital Marketing

In today’s digital age, reaching your target audience requires a strategic approach. From social media advertising to search engine optimization, it’s a dynamic field crucial for businesses, and mastering the art of digital marketing is key to staying competitive in the online marketplace. In this episode, Derek Dombeck dives into the world of digital marketing with guest Brian Davidson. They explore the intricacies of reaching and engaging with customers online, touching on topics such as leveraging AI tools, optimizing ad campaigns, and measuring ROI effectively. Whether you’re a startup or an established brand, learn actionable tips to boost your e-commerce marketing and win in the competitive online space.

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Digital Renaissance: A Midwest Marketer’s Thriving Guide In The Modern Age With Brian Davidson

I’m happy to bring you an original Wisconsinite, Brian Davidson. He’s not in Wisconsin anymore, but he’s still in the Midwest and we love that about him. Brian, thank you so much for joining us. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and we’ll dive right in?

Thanks for having me on the show, Derek. To spoil the lead, I’m originally from Wisconsin, Southeastern Wisconsin, in the Brookfield area. I’ve been all over the Midwest. I spent a little bit of time out in Colorado, but my passion in life is what I do for a living. For the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been deep into digital marketing. In ‘06, I remember going to my boss and telling him, “I think we need a social media department.” It took a little bit of convincing, but he said, “Okay, kid. You’re in charge.” I didn’t make a lot of money doing it, but I learned things from the ground floor, and I still love what I’m doing to this day and how much things keep changing.

Digital Marketing Strategies And Tracking

I was talking with you a little bit earlier about I love doing these interviews because they can be self-serving to myself and, of course, help our readers. Specifically for me, I’m a real estate investor. It’s a Wild, Wild West as far as who you believe what’s actually working on the different social media platforms. How often should you post? How many TikToks or reels or all that stuff? I would love to start at the ground floor, if you wouldn’t mind. What are most people doing wrong when it comes to their online presence or your expertise?

I’ll talk a little bit about the real estate space. This applies to almost every space. Most people, when they’re starting off, are very unsophisticated. They decide they’re going to throw a little money at something and hope that it works. The problem is they rarely have tracking on the backend setup to find out is it working. They rely on things on a website like, “How did you hear about us?” Wildly inaccurate. They rely on looking at things like, “How many clicks happened on my website?”

That’s Google many years ago when you’re paying for a click. They look at things like impressions, likes or shares. Those can be bots from China. Boosting engagement, it is important, at least at a rudimentary level, to put a phone number on an ad dedicated to a specific ad platform or even direct mail flyer, for that matter, that things are trackable as much as possible. Spend more time on the tracking than actually even on the ad creation.

Admittedly, I’m not a techie. When it comes to tracking, metrics, and KPIs, that honestly bores me to the degree that I have staff who are supposed to do it. If you were to give me three bullet points, what’s the most important thing to start with? I know they’re all important, but to start with my staff or with our reader’s staff that don’t understand the metrics.

I think there are two pieces. One, are you tracking offline or online? For this purpose, we’ll talk about online since it’s more of an expert. One is tracking on your website. The table stakes is simply Google Analytics. They’ve upgraded their analytics platform to something called GA4. It’s free. It’s table stakes. Everyone should be using it second to whatever to drive traffic, which is most likely a Facebook, a Google, or a TikTok. Make sure that your ad platform is integrated with the website and your tracking is clear and it flows into Google Analytics.

It’s all free, just installing things within a website. Usually using a site like a Wix, automatic tracking built in. Shopify, automatic tracking built in. Just hit some settings, you’re good. If you’ve got a more traditional, like a WordPress-type website, simply use something like Google Tag Manager, which is very easy for code. You don’t need to be a code to do it. I never took a single coding class. I could not code a website, but I can poke around code and launch something on every page. It’s pretty easy to do.

The final thing would be back to what I said. I poo-pooed earlier, but think about your message and the other person on the side of that message. Just because it’s online, it doesn’t mean you’re not speaking to someone directly and try to focus in on not who is your customer because sometimes people get a little too tight. They think my customer is a Wisconsin woman, 50 to 54, who doesn’t like cheese. Okay, that’s a pretty specific person.

Just because it's online doesn't mean you're not communicating directly with someone. Always focus on understanding your customer, not just their demographics. Sometimes, generic messaging can feel impersonal. Share on X

It’s a very limited pool.

That’s why it’s more important to be a little more broad in thinking about, generally speaking, who I am speaking to? Not so much at age or demographic, but more often the feature set of your business or what do you deliver as value.

Marketing Platforms And Tools

Specifically then, if we were looking at growing your brand by using Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms, is there one that you like more than others or is there a hierarchy?

I think it depends on what you want. There are usually two sides to the marketing funnel. One is demand generation. You wake up in the morning and see an ad about something and you think, “I want to buy that new T-shirt or hoodie or shoe,” that you definitely don’t need, but you might want. The second side is demand fulfillment. I need new shoes. I go to Google, eBay or to any of the various search engines. I go to Amazon and type in Nike shoes or running shoes. That’s straight demand fulfillment. You’re always going to see ads at the top and more. More and more, they’re taking over all the space.

Where do you want to sit on the spectrum? Do you want to fit existing demand? Are you a roofer? That would make a lot of sense that if you want someone wants a roof right now, I want appear at the top. It’s pretty rare to throw a Facebook ad at someone who doesn’t need a new roof and they decide, “Today I need a new roof.” Obviously, demand fulfillment is there all day.

The second piece is do you want to pay for it or do you want to hope to get it organically? If you want to get organic search, that’s going to be a long game, and you need to find ways to break through in little niches if that fits your business. That might be a Google My Business account. That’s very niche for a very specific service in a very specific geography. If you are a very large business and you’re hoping to compete on very broad terms, that is an extremely long game as far as competing organically.

The other side of organic would be competing on social. Right now, I’d say the best place to compete organically on social media is TikTok. The ban passed and so we’ll see how much longer it’s around. I’ve got a feeling our courts will keep them around for a while regardless of how you feel. As far as the paid side on generation of demand, I still believe Meta, Facebook and Instagram.

Can you explain Meta a little bit to me? My staff takes care of all that stuff for us, but what is it in a layman’s terms?

It’s pretty hard since they changed their name and they’ve launched so many new initiatives to put them in one box. It’s a consumer-facing software business building tool for people to connect, whether that be their new augmented reality glasses, which are pretty cool. It may be Facebook Messenger, something like a portal where you’re calling people, the traditional Facebook where you’re posting pictures of your friends and family and interacting with potentially businesses, or Instagram where you’re posting maybe something live or posting a story or sometimes even chatting with your friends, sending around different memes to each other. There’s Facebook Groups where affinity groups, maybe a fishing group, an RV group or a fitness group get together to talk about something specifically. I’m in actually a couple of digital marketing groups on Facebook where our community is tight.

I’m in business communities, actually on Facebook groups. There are a lot of different ways for the Meta platform to help people connect. If we’re talking specifically on digital marketing, it’s probably 99% ad still. The days of getting good organic reach are difficult. You could do something like start a Facebook group if you’ve got a hardcore group of fans in your community rallying around something. Maybe that might be a running store that has a run club Facebook group.

There are different ways you could potentially have niche organic content. As far as getting very wide, what used to be called viral reach organically, very difficult time. It’s much easier if you’re trying to reach a lot of people by using ads. At the same time, I’ve seen a lot of businesses with relatively low margins do well with Facebook ads if their business model is proven out.

If you’re a startup and you’re not sure if things are going to work or not and your unit economics are still a guess, Facebook can certainly be a mystery, especially with the question of where I start. How much do I spend? It’s very difficult if you don’t understand your unit economics, but if you’ve got a sound business, I’d be shocked you couldn’t extend it using Facebook.

You’re a founder of Matchnode. What does Matchnode do then? Is it doing the analytics?

At its core, it’s matching people with products and services that can at best improve their life? We work with a lot of different businesses. We work with eCommerce businesses and teams like the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. We work with the United Center for some of their suites and premium products, as well as the concerts that come through the arena. We work with several financial services that can help you get a personal loan, a business loan, an SBA loan, and all sorts of things that could potentially financially change your life, as well as we work with different health companies.

We work with a great telehealth company that helps people kick opioid addiction. They’re absolutely making a huge help in the world. We work with another different telehealth company that helps women that are experiencing menopause. Obviously, that’s a unique and important private time in someone’s life. In all those instances, we’re trying to match a business with the person on the other side of that ad. We don’t ever think of ourselves as I’m showing an ad to someone. We’re matching that business with a person on the other side of that ad.

Without giving away the secret sauce, how do you do that? Is it the retargeting and trying to find a like audience to an avatar?

Generally speaking, we only work with businesses that are at least if not national, have a significant footprint or significant ad spend. We do it for a lot of reasons. The main reason is growing our business. That’s hard to work. A lot of small businesses, especially the way we’re set up and work and do it profitably, find it easier to work with select big brands. For us, the majority of our targeting is done two ways. One, through the AI, and two, through the creative writing. Very specific creative that speaks to a genre of people and communicates our message.

That doesn’t mean a static or a video. It means static. It means video. It means different formats. It means different lengths. It means speaking to people how they like to use the different platforms. If they’re on reels and they’re flipping through, it’s interesting, sound is on, but they’re flipping through even faster than they are through the feed.

You’re going a little bit slower, but you’re generally on mute. We’re trying to make specific creatives, and then we’re trying to use every feature possible to lean into the AI. There’s still an amazing amount of people that wanted, “No, I know better. I want to do it my way and hyper focus my targeting.” We’re always leaning to the AI, the new features, the new style of campaigns, the new things that are launching on the platforms. More often than not, it’s putting you in the right direction.

Just utilizing AI, which is changing daily, I don’t know how many people are in your organization, but that must be full-time work for somebody to keep up on what’s new tomorrow.

There is something new launching out in the ether every day with AI. I read newsletters and stuff, but do I know what’s launching every day? No. Most of the current innovations that are out in the market are LLMs to some degree. That helps me in my business. The biggest place where we are currently using AI is within the meta platform and the things that you can automatically opt into around targeting, optimizing, changing your ad in different ways, and allowing the algorithm to serve things differently.

Within the verticals that people operate, I’m sure they have very specific industry use cases that are popping up within the tools they already use. Our graphic design team has been using Adobe for years. When Adobe throws in some new AI features, they adapt right away. The products we already use for our profession are doing a lot of the work for us to discover interesting use cases. Yes, of course there’s always more out there. I’m in a million different Slack groups and email newsletters, and I’m trying to stay on top of it. I don’t know if you necessarily need to be on every single tool the moment it pops because we’re going to find winners pretty quickly.

I’ve been told over the last couple of years, specific to Facebook, that there’s only a certain number of posts that Facebook will actually allow your friend group or your followers to see. It’s going to be based off of how much interaction you get if they’re going to open it up to more people. Has this changed? Is this still legit? I’ve been told that the magic number was thirteen posts a day.

If there’s a hard cap, I’m not aware of it, but it’s always followed what they used to call edge rank. It could be called the algorithm. It’s now been years since they moved from a chronological feed to an algorithm-based feed. What’s interesting is that the ad platform works the exact same way as the organic stuff. I’m a skier, so it loves showing me my friends skiing. My wife is into fitness, so she’s probably seeing pictures for friends posting yoga this and recipe that. It’s equally likely that I’m going to see ads for skiing the same way that she’s going to see ads for fitness.

The algorithm is trying to show you posts, whether it be from a business for a person, regardless of things that matter to you. Why does it do that? Two good reasons. One, it helps engagement, which helps time on site, which helps daily active users. It gets you “addicted” but engaged within the platform. Two, the way the business model works is businesses are essentially paying for ads on a CPM basis. If Facebook gets good at serving the right ad to the right people, they’re effectively crunching those advertiser’s budgets on a faster basis every single day.

They’re either willing to invest more and raise their own budget with Facebook or because I ran through my budget so fast because my ads were so good, I went dark for the rest of the day and Facebook all of a sudden has this new chunk of impressions to sell to someone else. It’s an ingenious way for both the business side as well as the engagement side to work together. It’s fundamentally different from Google and a lot of old school PPC guys can’t wrap their head around that. That you’re not paying for a position. You’re trying to create an ad that creates true engagement and that actually lowers your cost.

You're not just paying for a position. You're trying to create an ad that creates true engagement, and that lowers your cost. Share on X

As I’m thinking through what we currently do on social media, I believe we’re still going the old-school method. We create our content. We try to get engaged and go back and forth with them as much as possible. We’ve always been going off of that there’s a hard-set number of posts that we can do. Beyond that, it would be fruitless because nobody’s going to see it.

I’d probably post even less than however are now, and I would think about how I can create true engagement within this post. How can I create the best post possible and how can I get interaction with that post rather than ever thinking about, “I want to post this many times.”

As I told you, this is self-serving. I love it all. You’re talking about content and messaging. How does relevant messaging help somebody? I know that you’ve got some clients or some work that you’ve done where you’ve helped people increase their revenue based on relevant messaging. What does that look like?

Testing and more testing, like I said, bringing it back to the beginning of the episode and having our tracking set up ahead of time so I know what’s working and what’s not. Also, again, leaning into AI. Facebook will let you put 5 different headlines and 5 different copy pieces above every image or video that you’re launching. You can also, through dynamic ads, add multiple different versions. From there, even do things like allowing Facebook to put separate text over your image, auto optimize brightness. It will allow you to flip headlines and copy options and mix and match.

Some people are still very worried about that. They want the perfect headline in their brain and the perfect piece of copy to align with this perfect image. This is going to be sent to a very specific landing page, and it’s going to speak to that exact person. That’s hard to do. You can do it through large ad budgets with lots of variations, but it’s a lot easier to jump into the machine and let it help optimize for you and do it more quickly.

I feel like I have so much to talk to my marketing team about after this. I did ask you earlier what your favorite platform was. I think you answered it. It’s specific to what your goals are.

It’s Meta because of the innovation that’s constantly happening.

What if you were to go to Instagram or TikTok?

I consider Instagram to be part of the family.

Content Marketing

The question is, again, what I’ve heard from other marketers in the past: how many reels, shorts or posts should you be putting out any given day? Let’s assume you’re trying to put out content that’s educational. You’re not necessarily selling anything. We’re going to chop up parts of this show and put that out in shorts and reels. In your opinion, how much should you put out there at any given day, week or month?

I’d go back. I would throw that idea out. I would think, “How can I create content that’s engaging? Who can I engage with and what’s the tactic? Is it because I’m tagging Brian and his friends? Is it because I’m tagging the Milwaukee Brewers? Is it because I know I’m going to post it on this specific platform and it’s going to get engagement in that way?”

I would keep posting until I started to find some tactics that worked and then I’d start to iterate and double down. Every post that you put out there that doesn’t get any engagement, all you’ve done is burn your own time. Are you learning something from that post? Right or wrong, I don’t think this content is working. You can try.

Of course, every single post isn’t going to be a stat sig test, but whatever you’re putting out there, whatever time you’re putting into this content creation, think about it as a test and think about it as much like an ad, even if you’re posting organically, because it’s your time. You’re spending money doing it. If you’re going to take the effort to put it out there, come up with a plan for engagement and come up with a plan for measurement.

I’ve had marketing firms, marketing people that their plan or their map is based off of pure numbers. We’re going to put out 1 post a day on each platform or 10 posts a day on each platform

It’s going to reach 200 people and on average, 5 of them are going to click. If we do that over the course of the month, we’re going to get X amount of clicks to your website. If we can convert about 2% of those, that’s going to be ten leads. Are you telling me that you can close 10% of your leads and this is going to come up to their revenue and this is what we charge? It looks like an ROI positive, perfect little storm. I understand why that sells and it sells to a lot of small businesses that don’t have a marketing person on their team or don’t have a marketing background. That’s not a coin flip. That’s pretty low. You’re going to the casino and you’re hoping you’re making your shirt off alive.

What does the small operator do? A lot of my readers are exactly that. They’re not the Chicago Bulls with a multimillion-dollar marketing budget.

It starts with education. I went to school. I was a Marketing major, but I graduated in 2004. I didn’t own a computer when I was in college. I didn’t even own a flip phone. I wasn’t into technology even though the internet was certainly around. I went to the library to finish all my papers and printed off. That was good enough for me.

When I fell in love with Web 2.0 a few years later, blogs started launching, when myspace was number one, when all of a sudden, we starting to listen to podcasts for the very first time. Mark Cuban’s making moves, putting radio on the internet, very beginning of streams. Certainly, AOL instant messenger was probably the first social network. As that started to come to life, I became fascinated with the internet. It had nothing to do with my ability to code. It had everything to do with my curiosity and the creativity that comes with it.

Digital marketing has nothing to do with your ability to code. It has everything to do with your curiosity and the creativity that comes with it. Share on X

I didn’t go back to school to learn something. I learned it all on the fly. I tell college kids this all the time when I speak in front of them. “I could teach you everything that I know about digital marketing and it would not matter because it’s all going to change.” One of the things we love as digital marketers is learning how to do something and running it and keeping it to ourselves. We like to put a blog post on about it. We put a social media post about it, post it on YouTube. There’s virtually no topic out there. You can’t find free education on how to set up tracking. A simple YouTube tutorial. “I’ve got a Wix website,” or, “I’ve got a Shopify website,” or, “I’ve got a WordPress website. How do I set up Google Analytics?”

Simple things like that are free out there. I wouldn’t focus again on a budget. Obviously, the Bulls have a large budget for a variety of branding and direct response campaigns. I would think about what I said initially, that tracking. That way, small amounts of dollars can be tracked. I’d start with, if you’re such a newbie that no one in your team understands it yet, I would dive into YouTube or simple digital marketing blogs out there and learn on the fly.

If you can’t find on Google, go to Twitter and throw in a quick X search or go right to YouTube. There are so many different ways to figure out all the different handles to pull. The next question probably is, “That’s a lot. I only have so much time.” That’s true of anything. If you’re going to spend time on digital marketing, you should start to do it the right way rather than throw money in a black hole.

That is what many of us do. We try to take somebody at their word that they’re going to get the performance that they claim they can do. I’ve had this for several years now. I’ve been through several marketing firms and you don’t know if they can perform until 3, 4, 5, 6 months into a very expensive venture and then if they can’t perform, you have to start all over again. It’s a frustrating battle. The whole point of this show is to help people live their vision and do what they want to do. Part of that is outsourcing and letting professionals do what they’re supposed to be able to do. This is one that frustrates me.

Just like any professional services contract that you go into, of course, it’s important that you’re going into it. I think you need to understand what your real timeframe is. If you enter into any SEO agreement with someone and expect results in the first year, I think especially meaningful results in the first year, you’re probably being sold some snake. Perhaps not. Perhaps there’s some niches within something like a Google My Business and you can break off X amount of traffic.

Understanding those timeframe expectations is important. One of the reasons we started off Matchnode the way we do and did is we intentionally never took SEO work because we wanted to show impact from our ads immediately. That’s why we’ve always been focused on direct response. We’ve never been a brand awareness business. We believe strongly that showing the client results within those first six weeks is important.

We start all of our engagements on a 90-day sprint so that there is no long-term commitment if we can’t show results and that first 90 days. We also learned the hard way that we shouldn’t ever break that and move to 60 days because it takes time to iterate. There is a mix of understanding what you’re purchasing. Is it a long game? Is it a brand awareness game? Is it a DR game? What is the timeframe that’s understood by both sides? Of course, talk to as many referrals as possible.

This has been awesome, Brian. I would like to start by answering one of my favorite questions, which I ask almost all of my guests. What should I be asking you that I haven’t?

The simple thing is I’m always happy to help. If someone needs my help and wants to ask for my help, please reach out. I’m happy to do it.

Is there a best way to get a hold of you that you prefer?

Just look me up on LinkedIn. My handle is Brian R. Davidson. It’s pretty easy to find me. Obviously, my business name, Matchnode. Feel free to reach out there.

Now we do have to address a couple of things here. You’re wearing a Milwaukee Brewer’s hat. You were born and raised in a Milwaukee suburb for a certain period of time. You then lived in Chicago for, in my opinion, too long. Are you, at all, any Chicago Bears or Bulls fan?

I grew up as a giant fan of the Bulls. I remember being at the old Bradley Center. I had a neighbor who was nice enough to give me floor tickets to watch the Bulls In 1992. My mom had a college roommate, a good friend who had a box at the top of the United Center and he was nice enough to invite us to the ‘98 finals. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Bulls.

As a kid, I always thought it was interesting to take the train down and go to White Sox games when the Brewers were playing in possibly the worst stadium in all of baseball. Maybe only worse than Wrigley Field. Comiskey seemed like the greatest thing in the world. As far as the Cubs, they are actually my client, so I’m very thankful to have their business. We work on their restaurant group, their hotel, and all the activities that happen in Gallagher Way, the neighborhood park connected to Wrigley. I have no comment. I did go to Game 163 to see the Brewers beat the Cubs. We took off work that day. It was an official Matchnode holiday. That was fantastic. I am a proud Packers owner, so I will never be a Bears fan.

That’s the main one that I was looking for right there. For those of you who are reading the show that none of this makes sense or matters, it’s a rivalry between Wisconsin and Illinois. It’s part of being in the Midwest, which is awesome. Of course, we love everybody equally. I’ll be all politically correct, maybe someday. I know you took time out of your day to come on and grace us with your expertise and your knowledge, and it means the world to me. I appreciate it, Brian.

Derek, thanks for having me on.

We’re going to wind this up. Those of you reading this, our loyal followers, new followers, please go like and share this. Give us five-star ratings and reviews. Until the next show, go out there, live your vision, love your life. See you next time.

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About Brian Davidson

Generations Of Wealth | Brian Davidson | Digital MarketingBrian Davidson is the Co-Founder of Matchnode, a digital marketing agency that is changing the way people and organizations leverage social media. He and his team have worked on digital ad campaigns for influential brands like New Balance, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, LendingTree, and Indiana University.

Brian has been a leader in generating leads using Social Media since 2007 when he became the VP of Social Media at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Lead generation efforts helped the company join both the Crain’s and Inc fastest-growing lists. Brian is passionate about using his experience to help businesses achieve provable, meaningful growth.

His relatable style makes Brian a sought after guest, providing actionable insights on all things social media marketing.

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