What Gardening Has Taught Me About Lead Generation

As a digital marketer, I am increasingly drawn to hobbies and creative outlets that aren’t reliant on the internet, computers or even electricity. And I’m not alone. I have colleagues taking up hobbies like boat making, home brewing and even knitting. After a long day at the office, it’s nice to work with your hands and make something tangible to balance out those clever tweets or landing pages with a 5% conversion rate.

The gardening bug really hit as I moved into a new home a few years ago. I set up a temporary garden that first season, to understand the physical conditions of my yard: the path of the sun, the wildlife, etc. Surprisingly, about 20 feet away from my garden, a rogue tomato plant grew. It didn’t look like any of the others I had planted. A seed must have been kicked up as the yard was being graded, or maybe a bird brought it over. Regardless of how, it wasn’t inside the raised bed I had built, so I neglected it. I never really watered it. And I think I even mowed over it once. But it persevered, eventually bearing tomato fruit that put my actual garden tomatoes to shame. Hands down, it was the biggest, most delicious and best tomato I’ve ever had.

The garden has evolved since that first season. The seeds of the rogue tomato were harvested and now my garden consists of nearly 40 tomato plants, half of which are from that persistent gem. And as I spend evenings or weekends toiling away, my mind inevitably drifts back to the digital world. With dirt on my hands and sweat on the brow, I realize the garden holds valuable lessons for my fellow marketers.

Be Open to Success in Unexpected Places

Just like my rogue tomato, some of our greatest opportunities come from beyond where we sew our seeds. And that’s OK! While I made the initial mistake of disregarding that opportunity, marketers should constantly be on the lookout for new social channels, additional inbound link opportunities and campaigns that drive traffic without our attention. Keep a watchful eye on your Google Analytics for traffic coming from sites not yet on your radar. Stay tuned to what’s happening with referral sites and MLS aggregates. Most importantly, when a lead does roll in from an unexpected place, don’t mow over it. Give it some water and see what you can make from it. Chances are good it will surprise you.

Plan Ahead

If I waited until I craved a fresh, homegrown tomato to start thinking about my garden, I’d be out of luck. At best, I could visit a local farmer’s market (expensive) or head down to the local supermarket (blech). Lack of planning forces me to fall back to a more expensive or subpar product. A great tomato season in July and August is reliant on actions back in February and March — starting seeds indoors, hardening off the young seedlings and transplanting at just the right time. To ensure a constant harvest, I’ll even stagger the start of plants over a few weeks and stretch those fresh tomatoes into October or November. The parallels to an onsite sales person wanting more traffic or an Online Sales Counselor craving more leads shouldn’t be lost. Sit down with a calendar and plot out the volume of leads you’ll need for the year. Work backwards from Community Grand Openings and sales goals. Build out your campaigns to support that need. Know that a delay in planning can easily result in overspending (expensive) or lower quality leads (blech).

Experience has taught me the most successful lead generation campaign, like the most successful garden, is the one thought out in advance.


Just like a strong garden needs regular care, all of your marketing campaigns need regular tending to maximize performance. A soil test will check the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash in your garden; uncovering which fertilizers are needed to amend soil. Mature gardeners will also keep tabs on PH levels. Do the same for your marketing efforts. Identify a set of common performance metrics for your campaigns to help diagnose and treat potential issues. Focus on monitoring Click-through Rate (CTR), Cost per Click (CPC), Conversion Rate and Cost per Conversion over time by channel. A drop in a Facebook ad CTR might indicate new photos are not performing. And you might decide to invest more time in your AdWords negative keyword list after a few changes drive a decrease in AdWords CPC. Across all channels, you can compare Cost per Conversion to ensure you are spending wisely. Just as I test the soil at the start of every season, check your metrics often to ensure progress.

Gardens need regular watering just like potential leads are thirsty for more content. Savvy shoppers are increasingly researching online for weeks or months before contacting a business. Ensure all of your product content is accessible by everyone. When they are thirsty, they need to find answers to their questions fast. Avoid practices like hiding basic content or asking visitors to “call for details.” Your visitors will dehydrate!

But beware: overwatering can be just as dangerous! Maintain a balance of how much content you push in a short period of time. A visitor receiving multiple marketing emails in a week or seeing three remarketing display ads on every page they browse is getting too much water.

Also, don’t be afraid to prune. Not every branch can produce fruit, and not every lead source can sustain the volume and cost of leads that you need. Know the core metrics your campaigns need to hit and be ready to trim as needed. You’ll be able to focus on growing bigger, healthier campaigns.


Harvest your crop too soon and you have small, undeveloped and tasteless tomatoes. Harvest too late and you risk rot. Asking for the conversion from website visitor to lead can be just as tricky. Align your Call to Action (CTA) with your content. A Grand Opening event landing page should ask the visitor to “RSVP.” A Facebook post highlighting a new model home could close with “Visit Today.” Don’t miss the opportunity by burying a contact page or phone number too deep on your website. And try to avoid the ever so blasé “Submit” button once they get there.

As my garden routine has grown more detailed and regimented, so have my lead generation techniques. My harvest is larger and more bountiful year over year, as is lead performance. Thus, allow me to update the famous H. Jackson Brown, Jr. quote: “Remember that relationships, careers, flowers [and now lead generation] reflect the kind of care that they get.”

So the next time you are taking some joy in your hobby, think of the lessons that can be implemented back in the office. As the humble, rogue tomato in my yard has grown, I hope your marketing practice grows as well.

This article first appeared as a Guest Post during Thoughtful Thursday on the Meredith Communications Blog.

 Oct 9, 2017  |  

20 Years Ago, I Became an Eagle Scout

Twenty years ago this year, I earned my Eagle Scout. A loyal Scout from an early age, earning the Eagle Scout Award was the pinnacle of my twelve-year Scouting career. I had been luckier than most: a strong Troop with both adult and youth leaders that valued outdoor programs, parents that supported and participated alongside me, and the means to indulge in adventure.

Through the years, Scouting took me to different parks, states, and countries, allowing me to log over 500 nights in a tent — that’s better than frequent flier miles. Scouting caused me to meet people from every walk of life, and to embrace, appreciate, and celebrate our differences as humans. Scouting gave me a true reverence for nature and the outdoors. Heading out into the wilderness, carrying all of your supplies on your back gives new meaning to sustainable living. Because of Scouting, I am committed to the ideology of a greener planet, protecting the environment, and leaving every place better than I found it.

Over time, I gave more and more of myself to the program. Following the lead of those who helped me, I helped those who came after me. Eventually, I instructed more than 150 individual merit badge classes, helping nearly 2,000 Scouts to learn core Scouting Skills like swimming, pioneering, and orienteering. I served seven years on Summer Camp Staff, two as a Camp Director. Even today, I can tie all of the BSA’s Forty Knots behind my back or blindfolded. And of course, I had fun along the way.

Recently, a friend asked about my current involvement. I was embarrassed to admit that I had been inactive the past few years, allowing both my Resident Camp Director certification and BSA membership to lapse. My own words stopped me in my tracks and caused a moment of reflection. Eventually, I took solace knowing that while I had left Scouting as of late, Scouting will never leave me.

Of all the lessons learned, one has continued to resonate with me every single day. Twelve simple adjectives that make up the Scout Law have become my life’s mantra. Twelve qualities that I admire and encourage in others. Twelve character traits to influence my behavior and attitude. “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”


Always tell the truth. Keep your promises. Remain honest and ethical in the face of corruption. Be dependable.


Stay true to family and friends. Proudly pledge alliance to community and nation. Give firm and constant support.


Be concerned about other people. Willingly give assistance without pay or reward. Make your actions useful and supporting.


Seek to understand others. Respect ideas, customs, and beliefs other than your own. Stay good natured, hospitable, and affable.


Manners make the Man. Be polite to everyone, regardless of age, rank, or social status. Be appreciative of others.


Exhibit strength through gentleness. Be affectionate and show compassion. Treat others as you want to be treated.


Remain law abiding, dutiful, and disciplined. Obey the laws of community and country. If you disagree, put forth effort to reform rather than disobey.


Look for the bright side of things. Stay happy and optimistic when faced with adversity. Try to make others happy.


Use time, money, and property carefully. Pay your own way. Be prudent and avoid wastefulness. Conserve natural resources.


Show courage by doing things that scare you. Always stand up for what you think is right. Be ready to face danger. Protect those who cannot protect themselves.


Keep mind and body fit and healthy. Stay morally uncontaminated. Keep home, community, and environment free from pollutants.


Show deep and solemn respect for the things that matter. Respect the beliefs of others. Permit yourself to be grateful.

 Apr 9, 2017  |  

I Thought Facebook Was a Fad

To be honest, when Facebook launched in 2004, I didn’t even notice. Mostly because I was well out of college, already working at Apple for three years. When they threw open the doors to the general public in 2006, my interest was piqued. But I still didn’t sign up.

Their stated mission at the time, an “online directory that connects people“, just didn’t solve a problem for me. I had a carefully curated electronic address book, maybe even had a tidy stack of business cards in my desk. Plus, how long could this “social network” really stick around? I had already abandon my GeoCities page for MySpace, did we need another option?

That’s right, in 2006 I thought Facebook was a fad. And now in 2017, I still think it was.

Let me clarify. I did eventually sign up in 2007. Late to the game for an otherwise early adopter of technology. The first few months were full of pokes, Zynga games and low resolution photos. I was underwhelmed. Then word came of companies creating Groups as a vehicle to talk to brand fanatics and potential customers. Shortly after, Facebook Ads and the Business Page as we know it came along. Then it all made sense. Just like Radio, Newspapers and TV before it, Facebook transitioned into a medium for advertising.

Remember the old adage, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

So the Facebook of 2006 was indeed a fad. The idea of being a simple online directory was short lived. Facebook the company knew this, and pivoted quickly. Today, they masquerading as a social network. In reality, Facebook is an ad platform.

 Jan 24, 2017  |  

Take the Time to Make Time

Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, I went for a short hike today in the 650 acres of Blendon Woods Metro Park. Walking alone, I adopted a quick pace. It wasn’t a race, nor was I aiming for a workout. I just had more plans for the day and was thinking about what was next. Whatever the reason, I kept that hurried pace.

Until I came up behind an elderly couple walking in front of me. I was forced to slow down. At first a nuisance, upon closer look they were holding hands and stopping every few minutes. Not because they were unable to continue or slowed by age. But to look at the birds, the squirrels, the stream and the woods around us. In my mind, I imagined they were married for decades, retired and set out to enjoy the day just like me.

Then I realized… they had decided to spend their precious time to enjoing the outdoors today. Time to breathe in the fresh air and savor the outdoors scenery. I had time too, yet I chose to rush my outdoor experience. In a hurry to the next thing on my list.

Why wait for life to give you time to do the things that make you happy? We all can claim ownership of our time. Slow down. Take the time, to make time, for the things you really want.

 Jan 21, 2017  |  

5 Things Live Tweeting About Ironing Taught Me About Twitter

On Sunday evening, I tried my hand at Live Tweeting. I wasn’t attending a swanky movie premiere or black tie event. I was ironing my dress shirts for the week ahead. Domesticated, boring, and relatively uninspired. But what better way to explore the ins and outs of a platform than to jump right in. So 56 minutes of tweets, photos and videos followed.

If your brand is considering Live Tweeting from an upcoming event, I’ve got some advice for you. These are the five things I learned about Live Tweeting.

1) Audience Matters

While I spend an hour every Sunday night ironing, this topic isn’t exactly “on brand” for me. On a regular basis, my Twitter followers engage with tweets related to Real Estate, breakfast, Jeopardy and Internet Marketing. Not household chores. The segment of my audience that was interested in clothes ironing was low. More so, ironing fanatics haven’t exactly taken to Twitter in droves. Even major brands like Rowenta, Singer and Sunbeam are not generating vast amounts of ironing related content.

Ultimately, engagements will depend on a captive audience’s interest in the topic. Choose your events carefully and invest in Live Tweeting when it makes the most sense for your audience.

2) Media is Everywhere

Finding content assets for Live Tweeting can be intimidating. Heck, maintaining a regular non-live tweeting schedule can be daunting. But the reality is rich media is all around us. Don’t blame being in the moment as a reason to not create engaging content.


Ahead of time, identify potential mention, hashtag, photo, video and link opportunities. Capturing this content does not need to coincide with publishing. Consider a pre-production run where you gather B-Roll assets that can be used throughout your event. Avoid a stream of plain text tweets during your event (so boring!). Leverage true live media tools (Periscope, Snapchat, etc) to drive the point home. Remember, you are painting a picture of what it’s like to be there in person. Being live is hard, but it’s no excuse for shortcuts.

3) “Doing it Live” is Hard

Balancing the momentum of a live tweet stream and the actual event itself is difficult. One of the two will inevitably suffer. A few wrinkled sleeves might have slipped thru during my #LiveIron tweets, I am OK with that. But allowing social media to preclude a brand from servicing customers or from running an event just isn’t acceptable.


Be reasonable with the demands of these online and offline tasks. Clearly assign duties ahead of time. Take a few extra steps to alleviate juggling by automating some posts during the event. Only you will know a few of those live tweets weren’t really live.

4) Copy Editing Takes Time

It’s easy to overlook the need for proofreading while live. Especially if the Live Tweeting is taking place on-location. Traditionally, working from a mobile device isn’t collaboration friendly. So draft your tweets in email, a shared document or collaboration tool. Get at least one additional set of eyes before publishing. Those pesky iPhone auto corrects or misspelled hashtags might be OK on your personal account, they just aren’t as forgivable coming from a brand.

5) Use Moments to Summarize

Announcing the start and end of your Live Tweet stream is a general best practice. It helps define expectations and holds your brand accountable during the event. However, you should also try to benefit from your live event in the days following. Twitter’s new Moment feature are curated collections of similar tweets. Bringing your content together as a Moment allows your audience to relive the event; and serves as an easy way to re-share.

 Dec 5, 2016  |  

The Virtues of Ranger Bob


Tonight I’m thinking about Ranger Bob. It would have been his birthday today.

Like he did for so many others, he gave me an eternity of life lessons, one summer at a time. He’ll always be my definition of a great leader. The “Virtues of Ranger Bob” have shaped who I’ve become and continue to drive who I want to be.

Bob embodied hard work, with his unrivaled work ethic and never ending quest to do good. He was kind in a way I’ve never seen again. A friend (and a pal) to everyone. And he was selfless, charming, and absolutely hilarious.

Ranger Bob has become a man of legend. The sole subject of tall tales that get repeated around the campfire. “He was bit by a rattlesnake and just walked to the hospital”, “He shoveled all the snow in the parking lot by hand”, “He could predict rain down to the minute”. Except they’re all true. Guys like this are rare. I’m honored that we crossed paths. I only wish that I had known him longer.

Happy Birthday RB.

 Nov 3, 2016  |  

Top 15 Real Estate Emojis

Emojis are everywhere. In November, Oxford Dictionary declared an emoji their “Word of the Year”. In June, Twitter introduced the ability for advertisers to target Emojis. And today (📅 July 17th) is officially “🌏 World Emoji Day“.

The stats on Emoji usage are staggering. Twitter has reported more than 110 billion emojis have been tweeted since 2010. Recently, Appboy analyzed 9,359 marketing campaigns and found Emojis are used in 777% more marketing campaigns this year compared 2015. And usage in email marketing has increased 7,100% compared to 2015.

While retail, gaming and food & beverage industries have seen the largest growth in emoji usage, fellow Real Estate marketers can play along too. Since some Emojis are still misunderstood, what are the best Emojis for Real Estate Marketing? Here are the Top 15 Real Estate themed Emojis to incorporate into your upcoming marketing efforts.

Rank Emoji Headline
192 💸 Low Monthly Payments Available
302 📝 Sign on the Dotted Line
343 🏡 Gorgeous Home on a Wooded Lot
333 🔑 Here’s the Key to Your New Home
342 📞 Call Me Today for Fast Answers
371 🏠 Your Dream Home Awaits
397 🚿 Owner’s Suite Boasts a Walk-In Shower
436 ⛳️ Enjoy Views of the Golf Course
503 🔨 Home Repairs from a Contractor You Can Trust
559 🚪 Walk Right into Your New Home
570 🏢 Office Space Available
587 🌆 Enjoy the Sunset from this Penthouse Apartment
625 📦 Get Ready for Moving Day
738 🛁 Historical Home with a Vintage Clawfoot Tub

Thanks to emojitracker.com for rankings.

 Jul 17, 2016  |  

Your Brand Should Not Post Today

Is your brand planning a Holiday, Memorial Day, Easter, Pearl Harbor, Sept 11th or celebrity death social media post? You really shouldn’t.

National holidays have become a marketer’s excuse to peddle their wares and promote their brand. If you are planning a post on a day like today, do it for the right reasons. Honor the person or event. Make your post about them, not you. Still on the fence? Here are some reasons to reconsider.

Golf Course Sept 11th Social Media Fail

Cinnabon Memorial Day Social Media Fail

Marriott Sept 11th Social Media Fail

Hooters Memorial Day Social Media Fail

AT&T Sept 11th Social Media Fail

Liquid Expectations

During the International Builder Show in Las Vegas last week, I discussed the concept of “Liquid Expectations”, a term originally coined by Baiju Shah. Simply put, as consumers interact with one product or company, their point of view for other (often unrelated) products and services are shifted. The expectations flowing from interaction with one company to the next. This can include the world class customer service of Nordstrom, the ease of ordering online with Amazon, or the personalized service of your local Starbucks barista.

For the first time, marketers are being forced to look beyond direct competition and evaluate the experiences being delivered outside their core industry. The standards are being raised and I suspect many businesses are not ready.

The popular ecommerce site Zappos is a prime example of Liquid Expectations for website content. For every product being sold, they build out a robust library of content to help the customer understand their product. That’s 20+ photographs, nearly 90 seconds of videos, and dozens of reviews from loyal customers for a single pair of shoes. Take a look at your product online, does it deliver the same message and detail?

The ride-sharing phenomenon Uber facilitates over 2 million rides per day. Riding Uber is easy. Launch the app, click a button and a clean car with a personal driver is dispatched. Within 5 minutes, an Uber ride appears at your location, ready to whisk you away to your destination. Comparatively, are you disappointing customers with slow followup or slow service? Today, letting a single call go to voicemail is enough to loose a sale.

If you are a regular coffee drinker like me, your local Starbucks barista might remember you when you walk thru the door. They will probably call you by name and often start preparing your favorite drink. This personalization of services is not unlike the homepage of Amazon.com, that displays recently viewed and recommended products. Does your website personalize the experience once you know who your customers are?

Ultimately, businesses ready and able to step up to the demands of these Liquid Expectations will benefit. Those that exceed and set new expectations will thrive.

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No Hoverboards in 2015?

With “Back to the Future” day upon us, a colleague and I were discussing how disappointing 2015 has turned out to be. No Mr Fusion, no Jaws 19, no self lacing shoes or auto drying clothes. But most importantly, no Hoverboards. CollegeHumor’s satirical cartoon on this topic is sobering reminder of how our version of 2015 ended up:

But consider this for a moment: could the hoverboard simply be a part of Marty’s altered 2015, a causality of tinkering in 1955?

In our version of 2015, the first mass produced skateboard hit the market in 1959. While it was hardly popular, it did find a small niche amongst surfers faced with an abundance of sidewalks and a lack of waves. It wasn’t until the emergence of urethane wheels in 1973 that riders grew to significant numbers. Then the late 1970’s gave real maturity to the sport as tricks, half pipes, and skateboard celebrities came into the mainstream.

That leaves Marty with a 4 year head start inventing the hardware and an 18 year jump on making it “cool”. His timeline has now accelerated the concept of skateboarding, drawing a larger audience sooner and encouraging innovation earlier. Imagine what kind of iPhone you’d have today if it had been released in 1989 (instead of 2007).

So on October 21st, don’t be discouraged that we aren’t riding hoverboards. After all, they are our density. We just might have to wait until 2033.

 Oct 15, 2015  |