IS13: online marketing thoughts and strategies

Yesterday, I attended the Houston Interactive Marketing Association’s annual conference titled Interactive Strategies 2013: Marketing in a Multi-Screen World. You may have heard about it on Twitter.

It was a great learning experience and I met many people who work in the business of online marketing in the Houston area.

The following is a recap of notes I took during the event.

See photos from the event on the HiMA Facebook page.

The photos here were taken with my Google Nexus 7.2 – the single device I used throughout the conference to take notes, photos and live tweet (@uhbauerredesign). So, yeah — the photos are kind of blah.

Tae E. Kim

Tae E. Kim's cheat sheet to win the Zero Moment of Truth
Tae E. Kim’s cheat sheet to win the Zero Moment of Truth

Tae E. Kim, Head of Channel Partnerships in North America at Google, was the keynote speaker at the conference.

His talk kicked off the event and he focused on tailoring marketing campaigns and online presence to win the moments that matter most.

Kim outlined steps to win in the Zero Moment of Truth (link to, a concept Google coined to describe how consumers now discover new products and services online. Top on the list: Putting someone in charge. “If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” Kim said.

The Evolved Mobile Experience panel

Paul Tapscott compares the percentage of time consumers are now spending on mobile devices (12 percent) to an industry average of how much is spent on mobile ads (3 percent).

Paul Tapscott, Director of Mobile at marketing firm CENTRO, moderated a panel discussion about the evolved mobile experience.

Tapscott presented really great slides about where the industry is right now, and panelists Paul Simmons from Celtra and Brian Kilmer from Paypal Media Network offered colorful antidotes about specific campaigns they’ve worked on and experiences with clients interested in making an impact in the mobile space.

Here are some interesting things I heard during the discussion:

-Tablets are the fastest growing technology in the history of technology

– We check our mobile phones 150+ times a day

– Mobile does some things really well. Others – not so much.

– “Don’t just slap a static banner on the page and be shocked when you don’t get engagement.”

– Display interactive HTML5 content within Facebook or Twitter – where the audience already is. You’ll get higher engagement.

– Are you helping consumers save time or money?

Keynote Panel

The after-lunch keynote was a panel discussion moderated by HiMA President and University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business adjunct Kelsey Ruger.

The discussion featured Jay Steinfeld,; Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, Gallery Furniture; Susan Saurage-Altenloh, Saurage Research; and Brent Richey, Tapad.

Kelsey Ruger led the panel discussion between Jay Steinfeld, Jim McIngvale, Susan Saurage-Altenloh and Brent Richey.

Steinfeld said it is important to experiment without the fear of failure – and he said his company is working to improve the conversion rate of its website on mobile devices. He also said that sending direct mail to lists his marketing efforts didn’t create has never worked.

McIngvale said they’re working on making the web as exciting as the store experience, but he said it’s hard to get the monkeys, birds and play area for the kid on a mobile phone.

Richey said tablets are changing everything and he stressed the importance of aligning your creative work with your business and marketing objectives.

Yoel Kluk

Yoel Kluk asked, “How might we emphatize with each other in a world where we are now more connected than ever?”

Yoel Kluk, Director of Global Consulting Services at Grupo-Piensa, presented “The Power of Human Center Innovation to Fuel Your Marketing Campaign.”

Kluk champions empathy, the acknowlegment that the user is always right, and stresses the importance of an open mind … and scope.

“I want to know what makes my customers yell … in excitement,” Kluk said. “Marketing is about understanding people. If we only focus on the product, we are misreading it.”

Justin Segal

Justin Segal, Boxer Property

Another breakout session I attended was led by Boxer Property COO Justin Segal – I was interested in this speaker because of my prior experience in the real estate business when I worked in the marketing department at RE/MAX of Texas.

Boxer Property is a commercial real estate and property management firm founded by friends in the early 1990s, and its first project was attempting to lease a downtown Dallas office building that had been vacant for six years prior.

“We know we couldn’t become what we wanted to be by doing what everyone else was doing,” Segal said. “Our whole business was built on going direct to tenants.”

Segal focused his session on the company’s many efforts to develop interactive apps for mobile devices – at first, they just wanted to be in the app store.

“It was a quick and easy tenant app – it allowed us to collect email addresses and allow tennants to send messages to us,” Segal said.

Now they’re working on a comprehensive app and website for all of their audiences and needs.

“You have to decide which audience gets priority,” Segal said. “(Our development team) has a monthly prioritizing meeting. We don’t schedule development cycles because priorities change so quickly.”

Latest News for Bauer College launches

Previously called The Ticker, the new theme for the C. T. Bauer College of Business public relations blog Latest News launched today.

The new theme is actually a child theme of Drew Morris’ Foundation, for WordPress theme, which is a starter theme based on Zurb’s Foundation 4.0.

It’s expected that we’ll cross the 600 posts-mark this year on Latest News. So when designing this theme, it was important to ensure that previous posts’ featured images work as well as new posts that now use the more modern standard of WordPress’ “featured image” function. The previous methods of displaying the thumbnail image were to hide an image (yeah – display: none inline CSS) for a javascript to render or a custom field with a URL; neither solution was very much fun. But with a few lines in the functions.php file, backward compatibility was ensured.

It was also essential that the new theme match the design and spirit of the newly launched redesigned Bauer website.

Another clear goal of the project was to improve the sharing buttons and increase the ease of conversation.


Here's what the old theme's homepage looked like.
Here’s what the old theme’s homepage looked like.
Here's what a sample story used to look like.
Here’s what a sample story used to look like.
Here's what comments used to look like.
Here’s what comments used to look like.


Here's what the new theme's homepage looks like.
Here’s what the new theme’s homepage looks like.
Here's what a sample story looks like.
Here’s what a sample story looks like.
Here's what comments look like.
Here’s what comments look like.

Getting WordPress for Android to work with 1and1

I’ve been stumped the last few days, trying to figure out why I was unable to update my self-hosted WordPress blog hosted on a medium-tier shared hosting space at 1and1 … it was just not working with the Android app.

It used to work. Back when I had a smartphone, I used the Android app a few times to post to WordPress … but it’s been awhile since I wanted to do it and now that I have the new Nexus 7.2 tablet, I thought I’d give the always-improving Android WordPress app another shot. But I’ve read that with WordPress 3.5, there was a change in the xml-rpc mechanism that WordPress uses (for instance, admins can no longer toggle it on or off from the control panel) and now that WordPress version 3.6 is out, who knows – but, the point is, it no longer worked for me.

After trying everything else it seemed — messing with the .htaccess and php.ini files, re-installing WordPress, reinstalling the Android app, etc etc — finally, I tried something that worked.

I renamed my xmlrpc.php file and uploaded this plugin, modified it, then activated it.

Rename XMLRPC (Jorge, daniloercoli and Automattic) y’all are my hero. According to the official WordPress Android app’s help page, excerpted below, this is likely my host’s fault.

My Host Blocks XML-RPC Access! How do I fix that?

Needing someone or something to blame when things go wrong, I’m blaming you, 1and1 – and it’s just about the final straw and I know I’ve said that before. But this, on top of another problem I’ve been experiencing on this WordPress installation that prevents me from uploading an image bigger than 1MB (yes, I know! What year is it?) makes me wonder if maybe it’s just not time to start over, somewhere else.

Pack up the database, migrate it all over and move the domain registrar and everything. I’ve been with 1and1 for almost ten years now, but maybe it’s time to move on up and leave the Wal-Mart of webhosts.

I remember the last time I had to rebuild my WordPress database, when I created this MultiSite version. I’m pretty sure it took all weekend, but that was years ago and I didn’t know then what I know now. Knowing more now means it will likely take twice as long.

Anyway, I wanted to put this out there in case anyone else with 1and1 is suddenly finding they have trouble publishing to their blog via the great apps that now exist to make the WordPress platform better than ever.

Montessori House for Children website launches

I’m proud to announce the recent launch of the website, a website for a local school serving students up to nine years old.

I was tasked with migrating the site from an outdated Drupal installation to a state-of-the-art responsive WordPress site that the staff of the school can maintain themeselves.

The new website allows teachers to update news about their classrooms and requires parents to sign in before accessing it, protecting the privacy of the students. Parents are also encouraged to sign up for e-mail updates which is powered by RSS Mailchimp campaigns to send parents emails the day following a new post about the classrooms they’re interested in.

It also features a prominent call to action button that encourages prospective parents to fill out a contact form to schedule a visit at the school, which has been reported to be very effective in driving new enrollment.




circa Dec. 2013
circa Dec. 2013




New website launches

Prior to today, the website for the University of Houston’s C. T. Bauer College of Business looked like this:

The original website homepage that was first launched in 2008.
The original website homepage that was first launched in 2008.

Today, we launched the new website for the college. It now looks like this:

The new bauer website, the first slide links to our Redesign section that details our team's work on the project.
The new bauer website, the first slide links to our Redesign section that details our team’s work on the project.

An origin story

My involvement with the website redesign project began before I was hired as the new web developer at the college back in late March. It started with an assignment that was part of the hiring process.

The assignment was to design a subsite of the website (specifically, the UH Global Energy Management Institute site) using a screenshot of the new design for the homepage.

Here is that screenshot that was provided by the Bauer Office of Communications:

The main design framework of the new Bauer website’s homepage was finalized before I began working at the college.

So I did, using the responsive Bootstrap framework. Here is a screenshot of how I approached the assignment:

My approach to a new Bauer subsite after only seeing the screenshot above.
My approach to a new Bauer subsite after only seeing the screenshot above.

And here is a screenshot of the UH GEMI site that launched today as part of the new website redesign:

Full circle: The actual UH GEMI website as it launched today.
Full circle: The actual UH GEMI website as it launched today.

During the interview I learned that the new website was actually being built using Zurb’s Foundation, another responsive framework similar to Bootstrap.

A collegewide effort

In April, after a week of getting acclimated to the new job, I began working in earnest with director of communications Jessica Navarro, lead college web developer Marla Molony and communications coordinator Amanda Sebesta to migrate all of the existing content that needed to be migrated into the new responsive redesign template. We wanted to be finished by the end of May so we could spend at least two months in the summer testing the new website with usability tests, focus groups and online surveys for the various audiences. To support this effort, which included an email campaign, I was tasked with creating the Redesign subsite.

It should also be noted here that former Bauer web developer Jesse Perez was instrumental in starting the redesign project back in October 2012. Most of the PHP-based template incorporating Foundation and jQuery was success that we inherited from him.

It was a tough deadline to meet the end-of-May deadline after two full months of migration, as the college website consists of more than 50 subsites and about 800 main pages of content — but we did it. Getting the content shoveling done with two months to spare really helped us free up time for troubleshooting and improving the site before its launch — I was even able to dedicate five whole days to looking for broken links using various tools like Dreamweaver and Google Developer Tools and fix them.

As we presented the new website to our audiences, their feedback allowed us to realize a few weaknesses that we were then able to strengthen before launch.

What I’m most proud of

Here is a top 5 list:

  1. Now, fully responsive, with text reading well on mobile phones and tablets.
  2. More consistent subsite navigation. In the previous website, links in the left main navigation of each subsite would sometimes take people to another subsite all together. With the launch of the new site, we tried our best to limit these confusing navigation patterns and in the process, simplified a very complex website.
  3. A better top navigation sitewide with three levels of hierarchy. What I like most about it is how the Academics section displays four distinct categories: Programs, Departments, Centers and Advising – and each of the first three categories then display their distinct subcategories in a manner that helps the new student understand the basic structure of the college.
  4. New print stylesheet allows for websites to look good even when printed. (Yes, we still live in a world where people print things.)
  5. The first-ever XML sitemap for Bauer informs Google and other search engines about our page structure.

I’m proud of the following two subsites which, among others, I migrated during the redesign process.


The new Undergraduate subsite is among more than 50 subsites that launched today with the new redesigned Bauer website.
The new Undergraduate subsite is among more than 50 subsites that launched today with the new redesigned Bauer website.

News Center

The new News Center also launched today.  It includes a new page focused on Social Media.
The new News Center also launched today. It includes a new page focused on Social Media.

Cougar Venture Fund website launches

Today, the new site for the Cougar Venture Fund launched – a subsite of the Bauer College’s website designed for an audience of prospective students and the greater venture investment community to encourage participation in a unique class that will manage investor money.

Here’s a screenshot of what the new site looked like at launch.


Update: Aug 5

As part of the launch of the new Bauer website redesign, this Cougar Venture Fund site was redesigned in the new template, too.

Here’s a screenshot: