Courtney Eckerle

Inbox Equilibrium: How small businesses are making an impact in customer’s inboxes

April 28th, 2017
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I have been writing email marketing case studies for MarketingSherpa for almost five years, and almost without fail, they’ve been from companies large enough to have a dedicated marketer working on campaigns. At the very least, small companies that had big company aspirations and a “jack of all trades”-type working on campaigns.

But when I take a look at my personal inbox, I realize that’s only a partial view. Sure, I receive emails from big brands, but my inbox has changed in recent years. At least half of the emails I receive now are from small, local businesses.

In fact, the one I look forward to the most is the update from the historic San Marco Theater here in Jacksonville — the owner writes each email himself as if it were a personal letter to each of us. The theater recently upgraded to a second screen, and I have been following the building drama rabidly.

There’s something about receiving a personal and detailed email that is almost quaint, now. The only people who email me any more to give me the small updates about their lives now are those small, local businesses.

In recent years, there has been an email evolution where email marketing became accessible and easily doable for people who are juggling the majority — if not all of — the tasks associated with running a business.

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Ken Bowen

Snapchat Do’s and Don’ts from HP’s session at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017

April 21st, 2017
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Throughout my tenure at MECLABS Institute, parent company of MarketingSherpa, I’ve worn a lot of hats. I have been the managing editor of MECLABS.com, produced web clinics for MarketingSherpa’s sister site, MarketingExperiments, and currently serve as a senior manager of digital analytics, where I help our Research Partners make sense of mountains of customer data.

Perhaps my most cherished responsibility, however, has been to act as the resident Snapchat journalist around the MECLABS campus. Whether the office alligator is sunning himself beside the lake, a company-wide ping pong tournament is taking place, or we’re surprising Aimee Reynard, Senior Events Manager, on her birthday at Summit, if something interesting is going on, I consider it my duty to spread the word to my coworkers via Snap.

For this reason, I jumped at the opportunity to work with Frank Danna, Content Director, Softway and Stef Brower, Global Social Marketing, HP on their MarketingSherpa 2017 Best Practices session, “Navigating the Complex (and Weird) Landscape of Snapchat: An inside look at HP’s Snapchat journey.”

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Courtney Eckerle

Live from MarketingSherpa Summit 2017: Jeff Ma on harnessing the power of analytics to better understand customers

April 12th, 2017
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As a member of the famous MIT Blackjack Team and the inspiration for the main character in the book Bringing Down the House and the Kevin Spacey film 21, Jeff Ma knows a thing or two about gambling.

Scratch that — Jeff Ma isn’t a gambler. That’s because every move in blackjack has one correct decision. It’s just about understanding basic strategy, and implementing it. Remove human instincts, or “gut feelings,” and you will stack the odds in your favor.

Currently the senior director of analytics at Twitter (after selling his startup to the social network) and a former predictive analytics expert for ESPN, Jeff spoke to the MarketingSherpa Summit audience about how to use data and analytics to come out on top with customers.

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By using data to overcome emotional biases, Ma said, not only can marketers win big with customers, but they’ll also build influence within their organizations.

Learning to make better decisions

It all begins with increasing your odds by using basic strategy.

“A lot of people don’t use basic strategy, which is why we’re so bad at making decisions as a people,” Jeff said. “Decisions are best when you have data behind them.”

One common mistake people fall prey to is omission bias. Basically, people don’t want to be perceived as the agent for harm to themselves — or their company. As Jeff put it, people would rather make a decision with a lower chance of success if the “dealer” or “fate” beats them, rather than going with a higher chance of success that, if it fails, will mean they’ve made a “bad” decision.

Or to put it in Vegas terms: big risk, big reward.

There are no bad decisions — only ones informed by data

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Annie Summerall

Live from MarketingSherpa Summit 2017: Making your customer the hero of your campaign

April 11th, 2017
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Vegas is in the middle of the Mojave Desert of Nevada, and yet you can move from Venice, to New York and over to Paris in 10 minutes.

MarketingSherpa Summit week is the one time every year that we get to bring the MarketingSherpa community together in the middle of Las Vegas to study (and toast to, at the Summit Party) customer-first marketing.

During the day, we work out of the beautiful Aria hotel, and at night, walk out onto the strip past famous structures like the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and the Paris Hotel, and it’s easy to see that there is no place else like it. In this morning’s Intro session, Daniel Burstein, Summit Co-host and Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, even spoke about the customer-centric thought process behind having penguins in the Flamingo hotel, thriving in the most unlikely of environments.

These structures, sights and scenes make Vegas one of the most popular and attractive destinations in the country. But how many of us think about the men and women who actually make Vegas what it is, by building (and re-building) the glorious hotels that shape the Strip.

Most don’t notice or consider the construction industry at all unless it’s somehow causing an inconvenience or delay in our day. No one glides over bridges and overpasses and thinks about how advanced new infrastructure is.

To change that perspective, construction software company HCSS decided to take on the challenge of getting the men and women that work in construction the recognition they deserve.

Dan Briscoe, Vice President of Marketing, HCSS, spoke today in his Best-in-Show Awards session on how, as marketers, they had to “get over” themselves in order to truly be customer-first.

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Elevating their customers would translate into elevating the industry, and as a result, the company.

Dan and his team developed the “I Build America” campaign, which focused on improving the image of the construction industry, infusing the people who work in it with pride and attracting a new generation of talent.

How did they do it?

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Courtney Eckerle

Measuring the Effectiveness of Social Media Campaigns in B2B for Internal and External Results

April 5th, 2017
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“You have to find something that you can measure,” said Brian MacDonald, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, in the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Media Center.

“Fortunately for us, in the software business one of the big things that we can measure, especially for the audience I usually go after, is all about them trying software,” he said.

MacDonald explains that if someone downloads a software trial, that tells the team where the prospect is in the buying cycle: “We know that if they’re going to download something, they’re probably pretty serious about it.”

Brian and his team were able to actually link trial downloads people had made to actual social media campaigns that they had run.

“That was really the key — finding the call to action that’s linked to something that’s gated, and we know that they took action,” he said.

By including downloads at key social media touchpoints, Brian and his team were able to measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns.

Aside from just metrics, it was also vital that Brian and his team keep up a continuous feedback loop with customers.

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Daniel Burstein

Customer-First Marketing Research: 4 key data points from research with 2,400 consumers

March 31st, 2017
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All marketers should have three key questions in their head at all times. What do consumers really think about your business practices? What marketing approaches can I use to tell them about our business? And where do they want to hear these messages (i.e. channel preferences)?

To help you get an answer to these questions, we conducted research with 2,400 U.S. consumers, sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population’s demographics. But we also split them into satisfied and unsatisfied customers to understand how these marketing and business behaviors affect customer satisfaction, especially taking a customer-first marketing approach to all of these business decisions.

We published what we discovered in a 54-page free report filled with oodles of data for the customer-first, data-driven marketer.

But that’s much too much to dive into on a Friday.

So here are some snack-size, social media-friendly (wink, wink) videos to provide you some quick consumer insights from the study.

But first, here’s a little more background about the research.

And now a look at a few of our discoveries…

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Courtney Eckerle

Advice on How to Make the Case for a Customer-centric Transformation

March 27th, 2017
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Customer-centric isn’t just a buzzword to us — those marketing efforts are the stories that we love to tell at MarketingSherpa. From our case studies to our data, we want to give you everything you need to keep your customer foremost in your marketing efforts.

In October 2016, we surveyed two groups of 1,200 about customer-first marketing. We asked one group 50 questions about the business, marketing and channel practices that make them highly satisfied with a company. We asked the other group similar questions about what makes them highly unsatisfied with a company.

We provided Sarah Esterman, Lifecycle Marketing Manager, Simple.com, and Jamey Bainer, Strategy and Planning Director, Pacific, with two of the charts created using that data, which asked 1,200 highly satisfied customers: “Thinking about the marketing of [the company they were highly satisfied with] which of the following is true about your experience? Select all that apply.”

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The same question was asked of 1,200 highly unsatisfied customers — with a very different result:

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Armed with that information, we asked Sarah and Jamey five questions about the trials, tribulations and tips for implementing customer-first marketing.

Editor’s Note: Sarah Esterman is speaking at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017, and Jamey Bainer participated in the sponsored Summit content “Inside the Industry.”

Q: What are some arguments marketers can use to push for customer-centricity in their organizations?

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Daniel Burstein

Customer-First Marketing: Use data to make sure the customer always wins

March 17th, 2017
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Every year when I’m in Las Vegas for MarketingSherpa Summit, I find myself on the casino floor at some point. All roads in Vegas lead through the casino.

There’s bright flashing lights and sounds. Lively chatter. General bacchanalia.

Gambling looks like a lot of fun, and many people enjoy it. But other than a few bucks here or there, I don’t partake. Because, as someone who has written about evidence-based marketing for these many years, I suspect the odds are not in my favor.

The house always wins. In the gambler-casino relationship, the casino has the slight edge that, over billions of transactions, generates positive cash flow. This is a business after all, and revenue for the fountains, the curved glass and steel towers, the futuristic trams — it has to come from somewhere.

So when I had a chance to interview Jeff Ma, I wanted his opinion on the customer-marketer relationship. Who has the edge?

The customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed

“I think ultimately it’s not a similar thing because the difference . . . this is like honestly one of the things I don’t think people realize — the customer and the marketer shouldn’t be opposed. There’s not a contentious relationship. This should actually be a very positive relationship,” Jeff told me.

“If I were a customer, as long as the marketer had my best intentions, I wouldn’t give a s%&@ if they knew everything about me and all the data about me. As long as they’re not going to harm or use that against me, I want them to have as much information as they can.”

Jeff Ma is currently the senior director of analytics for Twitter, was previously ESPN’s predictive analytics expert, and is perhaps best known for his role on the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. Using creativity, math and teamwork, Ma created a card-counting method that helped the group win millions in Las Vegas. He was the inspiration for the book Bringing Down the House and the Kevin Spacey movie 21.

I was interviewing Jeff because he is a featured speaker at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas, and his response was right in line with discoveries from MarketingSherpa’s recent research.

For example, “showing personalized ads based on data about me is invasive” was not a major factor in why consumers blocked online ads.

However, that part Jeff mentioned about “as long as the marketer had my best intentions” was huge. Customer-first marketing was the key difference between how satisfied and unsatisfied customers described a company’s marketing, showing that the intentions behind the marketing play a critical role in the relationship with a customer.

Here are a few more quick takeaways from my conversation with Jeff to help you look at your data through a new lens.

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Courtney Eckerle

Social Media: How to make [the right] friends and influence people [who matter]

March 13th, 2017
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It’s one of those randomly attributed phrases that people throw around in social media: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

We’ve all probably randomly scrolled past that phrase and ones like it a thousand times. But for some reason, reading that today on LinkedIn got me thinking — why do so many brands just follow the status quo for social media when the space is made so that the user can stand out from the crowd?

There are so many different ways to reach out not only to your customers as a whole, but to maybe even excite a niche crowd. Here are three of those ways:

Tactic #1. Pioneer uncharted platforms — go where competitors aren’t

In navigating the competitive marketplace for high-end jewelry, the team at Brian Gavin Diamonds needed a cost-effective method to help them stand out.

At MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Danny Gavin, Vice President and Director of Marketing, Brian Gavin Diamonds, discussed how the team wasn’t afraid of going somewhere the competition had yet to explore to do that.

This attitude led them to Vine, a social app that allows for six seconds of looping video clips.

“The natural paths of marketing can be more expensive. We turned to social,” he said. “No one in the jewelry business was using Vine. It was a wide-open playing field.”

There’s a reason no one else had dared — six seconds is not a lot of time to tell a story and sell customers.

The team came up with a four-part strategy to their Vine videos to surpass that hurdle:

  1. Don’t oversell
  2. Be true to the platform
  3. Be timely and relevant
  4. Distill

This Vine video follows that strategy by quickly showcasing what the company can do with the caption: “From idea, to design, to the custom engagement ring of your dreams … Brian Gavin Diamonds is a cut beyond brilliant.”

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Courtney Eckerle

Customer-First Marketing: The argument for sending your customers non-transactional emails in two case studies

March 3rd, 2017
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In a 2016 MarketingSherpa study, we split 2,400 consumers into two groups. We asked half of the respondents to name a company they were satisfied with, and we asked the other 1,200 to name a company they were unsatisfied with.

The most popular response from satisfied customers — 42% of respondents — said that their chosen company’s marketing puts their needs before its business goals.

For unsatisfied customers, the most popular responses — 30% of respondents in each case — were that the company they were unsatisfied with “sometimes” or “seldom” puts their needs before its business goals.

How does this translate into email marketing? Examining the ratio of company-first emails (heavily transactional) to customer-first emails.

We’ll do this by reviewing two case studies featuring marketers who decided to dedicate significant time and effort into producing an email send where the goal wasn’t to drive revenue.

Case study #1: Marriott International

“It felt like we had the opportunity to really do something that was much more member-centric, and really use all the data that we’ve got on our members and present it to them in an interesting, fun way that they might not expect from us,” Clark Cummings, Senior Manager of Member Marketing, Marriott International.

Clark said that in the interview for his published case study for MarketingSherpa, where he was describing Marriott’s Year in Review campaign.

That send — which was non-transactional in nature — helped triple the December average of revenue per message delivered and contributed to making Marriott’s Q4 of 2014 the most successful fourth quarter in three years.

The Year in Review campaign led with a video that summarized several of the Marriott-specific highlights of 2014. This video was customized to each Rewards member.

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