Mautic :: The Musings of Tony Gavin, Esq.

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Minimalist Marketing: Invest Less in Marketing & Make More Money

I know. It’s confusing. I’m telling you to invest less in marketing when everyone around you is telling you that you should invest more. As one of those self-interested marketing types, why would I tell you to invest less in marketing when you investing more is how I make my rather questionable living? Doesn’t that go against everything that us narcissistic marketing types are supposed to say to unsuspecting business owners? Um, yep. But I guess that’s what happens when you throw an accountant into the deep end and they’re forced to learn a thing or two about marketing – but that’s a story for another day.

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention

Over the past 10 years marketing has changed more than it has in the 50 years prior to that. Every day sees the introduction of some new strategy, tactic, system, algorithm, platform, method or metric that’s supposed to help business people become better marketers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Most business owners just get MORE confused as they try to go up the digital learning curve. The more they learn the less they feel that they know. I know exactly how that feels.

I’ve been “doing digital” for more than 15 years now and have personally mastered (and excelled) at a wide variety of digital tactics. I can build pretty awesome websites. I can write decent copy. I’ve truly slammed it at SEO. I’ve built and managed profitable Google Ads campaigns. I can retarget successfully across multiple platforms. I’ve mastered cold email. I’m ranked amongst the world’s top 10 influencers for the Mautic marketing automation platform. I have a social media footprint running into the tens of thousands. I have anything up to 40 staff doing all this stuff for me and my clients – and yet…

I sometimes feel that I know less now than I ever did! That’s the fast-paced nature of digital.

What is Minimalist Marketing?

In essence, minimalist marketing is marketing that’s guided by strategy, rather than the anarchy of standalone or disjointed tactics. You might wonder what I mean by that, so let me illustrate by explaining how many businesses arrive in that dark, unprofitable place.

The Story of John & Sarah

John and Sarah start a business. They “know” that they need a website and get their neighbours cousin (a uni student studying graphic design) to build them one, really, really cheap. It has great pictures of John and Sarah on the website and their Mum’s are super proud of both of them. John and Sarahs’ friends all express their admiration for their new website, as well as the really snazzy purple, green and orange logo designed by Sarah. That thing really pops!

As the months and years roll by, John and Sarah find that they need more marketing collateral. Initially, Sarah designs some brochures using MS Word, but eventually, they hire a local graphic designer to “fix things up a bit”. The new brochures look great but don’t quite match the website or their business cards, as Sarah has changed their logo “just a bit” quite a few times now. In fact, the orange has gone and it’s now a bright shade of yellow. And it has some blue stripes. Ah well, it’ll all be OK…

Meanwhile, one of Johns’ golf buddies tells him that he knows someone in his industry who’s killing it with Facebook ads. John knows that their 22-year-old receptionist, Emilee, uses Facebook every day and is a regular Wizz on the computer. He instructs Emilee to create a Facebook page for the business and run some Facebook ads. How hard can that possibly be, right? He gets Emilee to write some blog post too, because – ya know – everyone needs blog posts and Emilee has plenty of free time to do that – in spite of her “solid C student” prowess at English.

Next, Sarah gets a random phone call from a phone number in India. David Smith (really?) is an SEO guru who can get their website ranking at the top of Google search results with his “Miracle 999 SEO Booster Bundle”. Sarah tells John all about the thousands of new customers from around the globe who could soon be visiting their locally focused website and buying from them. They jump right in for some of that amazing SEO.

Then Sarah meets somebody at the kids’ school who knows this awesome Google Ads guy – and you can guess the rest. Before long, John and Sarah are on the road to a digital marketing disaster. Sun Tzu said it best, long before the internet was ever even thought of: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” John and Sarah are now hearing the noise before defeat. Loud. And. Clear.

Minimalist Marketing is all About Your Strategy

John and Sarah could have avoided the situation I’ve outlined by having a clear strategy and a solid tactical plan for their marketing. Instead, they decided to chase every bright shiny object that offered even a glimmer of hope for their marketing. They knew no better. I’ve done it myself. Repeatedly. You’ve probably done it too. These days, I think I spend as much (or more) time reminding clients to STOP chasing bright shiny objects as I do persuading them to stick to their strategy and just implement their existing plans. Staying focused and disciplined is hard. It also sits at the core of minimalist marketing, right along with Strategy.

Write this across your forehead: Strategy comes first.

Don’t even think about tactics (what marketing you’ll actually do) until you get this sorted or you’re headed for certain disaster. I’ll give you my iron-clad guarantee on that.

Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

To be a successful minimalist marketer you’ll need to focus on the quality of your marketing, rather than the quantity. If you’re going to have a website, make damned sure that it’s a high-quality website – good design, customer-facing, selling a clear value proposition and encouraging visitors to engage with you. If you’re going to write blog posts and distribute them via social media, make them informative and worth the time that readers might invest. If you decide to engage in SEO make sure your focus is on the kind of keyword sets where you can easily add value for visitors to your pages.

The days when you could just push out worthless content on the internet and still manage to have it discovered by search engines are long over. You are now competing with the (literally) millions of pages published each month on the internet for the attention of search engines and the eyeballs of prospects and customers. You’d better make damned sure that your content is worthwhile or you won’t attract either.

Just the Absolute Essentials

There are almost endless options when it comes to marketing tactics and you don’t have the time, money or skills to engage in all of them. I mentioned strategy as the first principle of minimalist marketing. The individual tactics you choose (like SEO, or PPC, or blogging) need to feed your strategy and those tactics will hopefully feed off one and other. For example, you might write a high-quality, keyword-rich blog post which you use to attract organic traffic to your website (SEO). You might also post that same blog to your social media pages, drive paid traffic to it (Google Ads, maybe), or use it in a newsletter to customers. One high-quality marketing piece can be used over and over and/or be repurposed. Again, quality is the key ingredient.

The biggest challenge with the essentials might be deselecting certain things that you are doing now in order to become more focused on the most essential tactics that feed your strategy. Making those choices can be more difficult than it looks, but they are essential if you want to become a minimalist marketer. Choose the things that are the best fit and the most likely to work. Drop the non-essential completely.

Systems, Systems & More Systems

Minimalist marketing relies more upon systems and less upon people. Don’t get me wrong, people still have an extremely important role to play, especially in any service-based business, but even the people need to work within your system for minimalist marketing to be effective. You’ll find too that most of your people will love working within clearly defined systems because the part they have to play within that system should be quite clear to them. People generally love predictability and routine. You’ll be appreciated more than you know.

Software plays a major part in minimalist marketing too, reducing or eliminating the variables (or outright mistakes) associated with normal human behaviour, as well as eliminating the need for people to perform repetitive and often mundane tasks. Like the Terminator, a marketing automation platform just keeps pursuing its programmed objectives. It never sleeps. It doesn’t experience bad days when it doesn’t feel like emailing prospects. It doesn’t go on holidays or need any sick leave. Marketing automation might just become your new best friend.

For example, when a lead comes in via your website, could it automatically be pushed to your CRM? Could a series of emails and/or text messages be initiated that are designed to “warm-up” your newly acquired prospect? Can the right people in your organisation be notified automatically when your new lead engages in certain behaviours on your website? The answer to all of that is yes, thanks to the wonders of marketing automation.

Developing systems takes time and effort. The exciting thing is that you do it just once, then allow the processes you’ve developed and the tools you’ve employed to drive it. The long-term benefits of robust systems are profound. It’s not marketing specific, but I can highly recommend Michael Gerbers’ excellent book about developing systems, The E-Myth. Frankly, it’s the best book on business that I’ve ever read. Period. Just get it.

Become End-to-End (Outcome) Focused

An ideal system will be end-to-end and outcome-focused. It will be sequential, leading each new prospect along a pre-defined journey to becoming your customer – all with as little human intervention as possible. Put another way, minimalist marketing requires you to think backwards from the desired result (i.e. the sale) and plan each of the steps that your prospect will take from the point of first contact through to when you finally take their money and beyond.

Taking this ultra-organised approach allows you to do some things that more randomised, standalone tactics just don’t lend themselves to. Here are what I see as the two greatest benefits.

1. Visibility Over the Journey

Have you ever wondered where a prospect is at in the sales process? Are they warmed up enough that they’re ready to buy your product or service yet? Is now the right time to reach out to them and offer more information, or should you wait a little while longer? Systems (notably marketing automation) provide you with a high degree of visibility over where your prospect is at in their sales journey, right down to letting you know what pages they’ve visited on your website, when and how often, etc. If you want to go to the trouble, you can even develop a point scoring system that puts objectivity into when the right time is to reach out and speak to a prospect. You need marketing automation in your life.

2. Identify & Resolve Weakness in Your System

One of the main benefits of being organised and having a system is that it permits you to measure the effectiveness of each step in your process and make changes, as required. For example, if you have a nine-step marketing process and you are losing a heap of prospects at step six, maybe you have a problem right there, which you can now address by taking (and measuring) an alternative approach. A less organised process wouldn’t permit you to even identify the problem, let alone experiment with possible solutions. A problem correctly identified is half the problem solved. The right systems and tools make the correct identification of problems 1,000 times easier!

Measure ROI, Not Meaningless Metrics

What does every marketer want from their marketing? A solid return on investment.

I often meet people who are obsessed with measuring fairly meaningless metrics. Where their website ranks on Google for a certain keyword set. How many likes a particular post on Facebook gets. How many followers they have on their Instagram page. All of that stuff is interesting and you certainly should know about it. The problem is that none of it tells you anything much about your return on investment from marketing spend.

Minimalist marketers focus less on meaningless metrics and keep their eyes firmly on the ball of ROI. One of the keys to all effective marketing (minimalist or otherwise) is to measure your return on investment from particular marketing activities. How much do you make as a result of SEO, PPC, social media posting, or sending gifts to customers? You’ll be able to measure all or most of this stuff – and you should. Over time, you’ll know with a high degree of certainty what works best, leaving you free to spend more on your most effective marketing and drop less profitable marketing altogether. It might even leave you with some budget to experiment with some of those bright shiny objects!

The Minimalist Marketer

It took me a long time to accept that less really could add up to more, that quality beats quantity and that NOT trying new things all the time could lead to a far more effective and profitable marketing program. Since I embraced minimalist marketing as a personal mantra, my business has never been quite the same. It takes a LOT of effort to get yourself organised as a minimalist marketer, but in my personal experience, it’s been 100% worth the time and effort required. Give it a go. Comment below to let me know how minimalist marketing is working out for you.

5 Reasons Why Mautic is Not Suitable for Most Businesses

I know that many people follow my posts on Mautic. According to Influencer World, I am currently ranked 16th in the world as a Mautic influencer. Everyone who knows me personally is aware of my tremendous enthusiasm for Mautic and also knows that I’ve been a supporter and evangelist of this powerful platform since its early days. The big question I’m sure you’re now contemplating is, why am I saying that Mautic is not suitable for use by most businesses?

This is NOT an anti-Mautic Rant

First up, let me make it clear that this post is not in any way a rant against Mautic and/or its terrific community of developers. It’s the simple truth, told from the perspective of someone who has to deal with the day-to-day frustrations of business owners we are currently supporting using Mautic. It’s also my own, direct experience of using the Mautic platform for close to two years now.

Here are the 5 key reasons why business owners should think twice before using Mautic:

1. Buggy Updates

Virtually every new release of Mautic is plagued with bugs. Sometimes, these are very serious bugs. We long ago set up a Mautic test environment on our server, which includes Mautic integrated installations of Joomla! and WordPress. On the test sites we’ve replicated themes, templates, modules, extensions, plugins, pages, custom code, mail configurations, Cron jobs, etc. all of which we have in use, elsewhere. Each time a new version of Mautic is released we install it on the test site first, then proceed with testing. Every time we do this there are problems and often a lot of them. Frequently, these problems cannot be resolved by a novice. They need a programmer.

2. Cost of Management

Following on from buggy updates is the cost of managing Mautic. Our development team has spent hundreds of hours identifying and resolving update related issues. Developers cost time and money. That’s time and money that most businesses simply don’t have. The truth is that this “free” platform can end up costing any business very real money to host and manage. We’ve lived in the hope for a long time that the Mautic community would get this particular aspect of Mautic, under control. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, up to now. Fingers crossed for the future!

3. Sharp Learning Curve

Mautic has a very sharp learning curve. Whilst there are some excellent resources out there for users to tap into, few business owners are prepared to invest the time and effort required to really put Mautic to work for them. That is as much an issue of people not wanting to take the time to learn Mautic, as it’s an issue with the difficulty of mastering Mautic. Once again, this is an observation of how Mautic tends to be utilised by real businesses. The truth is that most business owners will never become proficient at using Mautic. It’s just too difficult for them to fully grasp.

4. Lack of Marketing Skills

Mautic set out to create a marketing automation platform for everyman. It’s an admirable objective and something that I thought was a great idea. I am no longer convinced of that. The reason why is that using Mautic proficiently and profitably requires something more than knowing which buttons to click and where to drag and drop. Using Mautic effectively requires a broad range of skills including basic competency in graphic design, some knowledge of HTML coding, decent copywriting ability and a variety of other general digital marketing skills. The reality is that most business owners lack some or all of these skills and are often reluctant to hire somebody who does have them. You might learn where and how to click every single button on Mautic – but still get nothing from it without these skills.

5. Unrealistic Expectations

Mautic is not a miracle worker. The platform offers much and delivers in spades on most of those promises. The simple truth is that unless business owners are prepared to invest the necessary time and money into making the platform work for them, Mautic will simply become a source of near-endless frustration and cost, for them. Realistically, Mautic is a professional level digital marketing tool. Most small businesses cannot absorb the costs associated with putting this exciting platform to work for them. Even larger businesses that might be able to afford properly implementing and managing Mautic, baulk at the real costs of putting it to work for them. Expectations need to be realistic, when using Mautic.

Mautic as a Core Service Offering

For more than a year my company has implemented and managed Mautic as part of its core service offering to businesses. For all of the reasons outlined in this post, from the end of this month, we will not be offering Mautic as part of any core service packages from now on. Mautic is not an everyman product.

We will still be providing services for businesses which have a clear need for Mautic. We’ll also implement and manage Mautic for businesses with both realistic expectations of just what Mautic can deliver for them and pockets deep enough to drive that. We will, of course, continue to support existing customers who are using Mautic, already.

Leave Mautic to the Professionals

In summary, my opinion is that Mautic is an automation tool best left to the professionals. If your business is considering using Mautic, you might like to think about the foregoing facts before walking down the Mautic superhighway. Mautic offers either Heaven or Hell, without much in between. You have been warned!

Mautic | How to Switch to the https:// Protocol (SSL Certificate)

Yesterday, I switched my primary website over to the https:// (secure) protocol. This article is not about how to purchase and install an SSL certificate – it’s about what to do with your installation of Mautic when it ceases to work (and it will cease to work properly) after you’ve installed that certificate.

WARNING: You’re going to need a few geek skills to pull this off. If you don’t have a reasonable understanding of how to edit templates and are not confident inside your cPanel – do not, repeat DO NOT fuck with this – get a geek to assist you. Your hosting provider is not going to be enough to help you to pull this off.

This post is aimed at intermediate to advanced Mautic users.

The Symptoms…

First up, we edited the htaccess file and did the normal redirections that you’d do for a website that has a newly installed SSL certificate, setting up the site to always resolve to the https:// protocol. After we’d done that, we noticed that all of the embedded Mautic forms what we had on our (Joomla!) website had completely disappeared from the pages where they were installed. Clearly, something was wrong.

You’ll also notice that the word SECURE and the padlock which sits beside it on https:// enabled websites may not appear on some pages. Instead, you’ll see a circular icon. If you click this it will alert you that problems exist with the page and it may not be secure. Usually, that will relate to something that has inadvertently been hardcoded on the page, such as an image file. In the case of Mautic, look first at your embedded forms as the source of the problem. I’ll cover how to diagnose and fix this later.

Edit Mautic Configuration

First up, you’ll need to clear your Mautic cache. Mautic does a terrible job of this and you’ll find it easier to simply delete the cache folder, which you’ll find located in the app folder of your installation of Mautic. Don’t worry about deleting the folder. Mautic will generate a new one.

Next, login into your instance of Mautic. Click on the gear icon (top right of admin panel) and navigate to Configuration. In the system settings, you’ll see your website URL. It will be the old http:// URL – not the new https:// URL that you have with you newly installed SSL certificate. Edit the website URL to include the https:// protocol and click save.

When you click save Mautic will resolve to the User/Authentication Settings tab and will display and error warning in red. You need to add the same Email, First name and Last name as you already have entered in your user settings. Click save.

Edit Website Plugins

Chances are you are using a plugin to monitor website visitation if you are using a popular CMS like WordPress or Joomla!. You will need to edit the plugin so that it recognises the new https:// protocol. Navigate to the plugin within your CMS and edit the URL, as required. Click save.

Edit Custom Themes

This next step only applies if you have custom themes installed. Even then it may not apply if relative URL’s have been consistently used in creating those themes. Especially if your custom themes are older, there is a big chance that they may contain hardcoded URL’s. Older versions of Mautic (back in the 1’s) sometimes rejected relative URL’s when creating templates. A quick look at the public pages of your template should tell you if anything requires attention.

Go to your cPanel (or use ftp) and navigate to your installation of Mautic, then navigate to the theme that you wish to edit. You’ll then need to go through html / html.twig files and edit any hardcoded URL’s to reflect the new https:// protocol. Notably, pages and forms appear to be affected. I went through everything – and even cleaned up some messy code!

After I’d done all of that, everything seemed to work fine – except for one thing…

Edit Forms

Earlier I mentioned the problem of pages still being insecure. It only affected pages with embedded Mautic forms on them. The solution is simple. Mautic forms all provide a for a return URL (the URL visitors are directed to upon submission of a form). Navigate to each form and edit the Redirect/URL Message field to include the https:// protocol. That immediately cleared up my issue, with some pages displaying as insecure.

Warning

This was my first run through on this. I fully expect to uncover more issues in the next day or two. I’ll update this post as I identify and resolve those problems.

Large Mautic Campaigns – Workaround for 100 Decisions/Actions Limit

This post is for people experiencing difficulty with building larger campaigns (more than 100 decisions/actions) with Mautic.

The problem with Mautic Decisions & Actions

By default, it appears that Mautic (as at version 2.2.2) imposes a limitation of 100 decisions/actions when building campaigns. You will be able to save more than 100 decisions and actions, but will notice that Mautic strips the green or red links joining those decisions and actions. That means that your campaign will break down at the point of those breaks. Here is what it looks like:

The Workaround for Mautic Decisions & Actions

This assumes that you already understand the basics of Mautic campaign building, such as the need for Segments and Channels (such as emails). This is a workaround is for email sequences and does not cover the finer points of contacts, forms, point scoring, etc. Here is what I did.

1. Create Multiple Contact Segments

First up, I created multiple Contact Segments, which are really for the same group of Contacts. In my case, I had a Contact Segment which was capturing leads from a Mautic form. I created a second Contact Segments and simply renamed the first, just to tie them together:

Lead Segment 1
Lead Segment 2

Lead Segment 1 continued to capture leads from my Mautic from. I’ll cover what I did with Lead Segment 2 later.

2. Create Multiple Campaigns

I created two Campaigns and named them, again to tie them together for my own review purposes.

Lead Segment Campaign 1
Lead Segment Campaign 2

3. Create Campaign 1

In Lead Segment Campaign 1 I set up a campaign with around 80 decisions/actions (mindful of the 100 decisions/actions limit imposed by Mautic).

My final action in the campaign was to:

Change Campaign
Add Contact to Lead Segment Campaign 2
Remove contact from Lead Segment Campaign 1

4. Create Campaign 2

Create Campaign 2, effectively as a continuation of Campaign 1.

Helpful Hints

To pull this off you’ll need to think the campaign through from start to finish. The first campaign that I did this with was a simple auto-responder sequence. There were a total of eight emails in the campaign with the decision of Open Email set to trigger the next email in the sequence after one day. The decision not to open an email triggered the next email in the sequences after 3 days.

How I worked around this was by setting up Change Campaign to trigger immediately the Contact opened an email, if within one day – and otherwise within two days. I then set up Campaign 2 to trigger after one day – meaning that the one day for opens / three days for non-opens rhythm of Campaign 1 was maintained.

Mautic has more bugs than a tackle and bait shop. This is not perfect and I don’t think for one moment that it will work well for every situation. If you think it through you will find it’s a fairly good workaround for a lot of situations when creating large Mautic Campaigns. Good luck with it!

Mautic – More Full of Bugs Than a Bait & Tackle Shop

Let me start this post by saying that I love Mautic. I hate Mautic too. For those who don’t know, Mautic is an open source marketing automation tool. I really believe that in the long term Mautic will revolutionise digital marketing. I believe it so much that my company has staked its future on Mautic in many ways – but that’s another story.

Get out the bug zapper!

Not much goes smoothly with Mautic. Multiply that by 10,000 if you are running Mautic on your own server, rather than using their hosted solution. I know how to install Mautic. Hell, I even made a video on about it that has proven to be popular on YouTube. That doesn’t mean that everything went smoothly from day one. I have personally put HUNDREDS of hours into coming up the learning curve on Mautic. Much of that has just been ironing out the bugs. You’ll need a thick skin to work with this baby.

Server configuration issues unlimited

Every time I turn around Mautic appears to have developed another server configuration issue. I’d estimate that about 97% of all problems I’ve ever encountered with Mautic are server configuration related. When Mautic fucks up (as it will) go looking for server permissions problems first.

You’ll need the help of your hosting support unless you are very server savvy yourself. The team at Liquid Web have been outstanding with us. I’d conservatively estimate that they have poured maybe 100 hours plus into support chats and tickets with regard to Mautic. It took several months (literally) to get things just right. In case you’re wondering, the Liquid Web claim of “Heroic Support” is the real deal. They rock!

Mautic server requirements – a dark mystery…

Mautic provides basic server requirements on their website. Those basic requirements are tested by Mautic upon installation and it will throw an error message if your server fails to meet them. That is FAR from what is required to get Mautic running correctly. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive guide to Mautic server configuration. It’s trial and error. I’ve tried to raise some interest in the Mautic Github Community to create a comprehensive server configuration guide but none of the devs seems interested. I’m sure that thousands of people walk away from Mautic each week out of the sheer frustration of being unable to get their server configuration right.

Froala Editor: The editor from Hell!

Mautic utilises Froala Editor. Froala Editor is an abomination. There. I said it! I totally get that the Mautic dev team wants to make Mautic user-friendly for Mums and Dads without technical skills. That is a worthy objective. Unfortunately, Froala frustrates the shit out of people who do possess technical and creative skills. This horrid tool cannot be easily disabled in Mautic and strips code when users attempt to save using the code editor. Truly horrible behaviour.

I’ve been vocal within the Mautic community to get rid of Froala Editor. Thanks to one of the dev team explaining the realities of how many interdependencies there are with Froala, I completely get why ditching this tool is so difficult. It is due for deletion in a future edition of Mautic, so watch this space for updates.

Social integrations

These seem to be difficult at best – and just don’t work at worst. I’m completely lost with what’s supposed to work and what isn’t. What I do know is that when this stuff is finally sorted out, Mautic will become an indispensable tool in monitoring the social activity of your leads – all from within the Mautic CRM.

Email Hell

Mautic boasts a variety of email integrations. Some work better than others. Some don’t work at all. Part of that is related to the SMTP service providers, like SparkPost. Part of that is Mautic. Again, this is a feature that improves with each update. Same deal with the horribly buggy Campaign Builder.

Some Mautic Love

I haven’t written this post to be critical of Mautic. I love the product. I love open source. This post is a warning. As much as Mautic likes to position itself as something that anyone can use – that’s bullshit. That may change as the product evolves. Right now, you’re going to need some geek skills just to make Mautic work. You’re going to need intermediate to advanced geeks skills to make it work well, or you’re going to need somebody who has those skills helping you.

Mautic promises a lot. It delivers on most of those promises – if you have the technical skills to take advantage of it. If you don’t you’ll end up confused and frustrated. Right now, Mautic is a tool for web marketing professionals. If you accept that and get the help you need, you might also find that it can completely change the way that you do your marketing.

Keep up the awesome work team Mautic!