Paul Cheney

Think Like a Troll, Act Like a Brand: How @Charmin organically grew their Twitter account to superstar status

October 23rd, 2016
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Twitter is a tough place to be for anyone; large brands are no exception. But in addition to the cynicism, they have to balance pleasing their customers and their shareholders – a fine line to walk when you’re trying to grow an account.

But what if you were a large brand that sold toilet paper? What if all you had to tweet about was little pieces of paper that people use to wipe their asses with?

For Marie Bonaccorse Hackman and her small editorial team at Charmin, it was a playground of nutrient-rich material for tweeting.

“I was there from March of 2011 until probably, my last tweet was February or March of 2015 … I was there four years, I started the Twitter feed. I was there from its infancy…” Marie told me in an interview.

“We knew we were toilet paper, we had no qualms about it. We knew we were not inherently cool, but we knew that we could have a lot of fun with it.”

And have fun with it they did.

In that four years, the team organically grew their Twitter account from zero to 66k followers. While it was slow at first, the team grew the audience as much as 1192% year over year.

Charmin Twitter Growth


But not only did they experience explosive growth, they got picked up by almost every major media publication for their hilarious, snarky tweets.

How did they do it?

Here’s three key takeaways from Marie Bonaccorse Hackman – the woman at the helm during Charmin’s explosive (and award winning) growth on Twitter.

Read more…

Daniel Burstein

The Radical Idea: Outsourcing that touches the customer is penny wise, but pound foolish

October 14th, 2016
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Think about how hard you work, how much time and resources you put in to get a customer’s attention.

It may be that you have methodically built up a content marketing powerhouse that pulls in new and returning customers. Or you invest a big part of your budget in social media advertising or print advertising. Maybe you’ve spent hours and hours scrubbing your list squeaky clean and creating valuable newsletters and a finely tuned, marketing-automation fueled drip campaign.

Whatever your marketing focus, you realize that getting customer attention for your marketing efforts is costly…and valuable (not to mention a privilege).

Now what if I told you that companies are throwing this valuable asset away every…single…day?

No, it’s likely not you and your peers in marketing. It’s probably the team in the Logistics Department. Maybe in your company they call it Fulfillment. Or perhaps it’s someone in some other department that is involved in product delivery.

These product delivery decisions are about so much more than cost and speed. They also affect customer perception because they touch the customer. Customer touches and those valuable moments of customer attention are just as valuable after a purchase as they are before a purchase.

When I brought up this idea to Shane Cragun, Founding Principal and CEO, SweetmanCragun, and co-author, “Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption,” he told me that “customer touchpoints can also be called ‘moments of truth.’ They are connecting points between the company and customer where the customer leaves with a renewed perception of the company.”

Cragun said that these moments of truth touchpoints can only do one of three things:

1) increase customer loyalty
2) decrease customer loyalty
3) maintain the status quo in the buyer’s mind.

First, a personal anecdote to understand the challenge, and then a few reasons why you’re missing an organic opportunity to connect with current and future customers and ensure that you increase customer loyalty (or at least maintain the status quo).

That can’t be for me

I recently bought a clothes dryer from The Home Depot. The driver calls me and says he’s 15 or 20 minutes away. A little while later, I hear what sounds like a big truck driving down my street. I look out the window, but no, it’s just a pickup truck towing a plain, white trailer. Not a truck from The Home Depot. Must be a roofing contractor working on another house in the neighborhood.

But then I hear the truck noise again. Apparently, the truck had turned around in the cul-de-sac at the end of my block, and was in front of my house. So I walked out of the house and talked to the driver and, sure enough, they were delivering my dryer. The driver happened to be wearing a GE shirt, and I had ordered an LG dryer.

Now you may be thinking — Daniel, who really cares? What’s the difference which truck they were driving or what shirt he was wearing? Value perception, my friends. Value perception.

Marketing’s job is to turn actual value into perceived value

When you think of the marketing function today, there are likely many processes and tasks that come to mind. Managing a database. Making sense of analytics. Setting a drip campaign in a marketing automation platform.

But all of those activities are secondary. Marketing’s primary job is to influence perceived value. And you do that by clearly understanding and leveraging the actual value delivered to the customer.

In my case, the actual value delivered was spot on. The delivery people were helpful and nice, and they delivered and installed the appliance quickly and correctly. Really, everything a customer would expect in a home appliance delivery.

So it wasn’t the service itself. It was the perceived value of the service. And that is marketing’s job to influence.

But if you’re a marketer, here are four reasons you should own or influence as many customer touchpoints as you can:

Reason #1: Branding

In fairness to whoever makes the decision to outsource appliance delivery and installation for The Home Depot, there is probably a very logical reason for it. After all, many other stores outsource as well. I’m guessing that reason is cost savings. It is probably more expensive to have trained delivery personnel and a fleet of delivery trucks.

However, how much does The Home Depot spend every year on branding? For example, the home improvement supplies superstore spent $70 million over 10 years for the naming rights to Home Depot National Training Center in Carson, California, according to

Ironically enough, The Home Depot even spent money on mobile billboards — in essence, paying another company to drive trucks around within five miles of its stores to advertise its brand message.

If this money was instead invested in a branded delivery experience for the customer, would outsourcing still be cheaper? And would the overall result be a better ROI for the company?

The challenge is likely that branding and mobile billboards come out of a different budget than delivery and installation. As a marketer, your challenge is to break out of those artificial silos to create the best experience for the customer. That is, ultimately, the best experience for the brand.

“If you research the most popular companies in the world with customers, it is apparent that they proactively design customer touchpoints, or moments of truth, in a way that increases customer loyalty. They never leave touchpoints to chance. They are way too important for future viability and revenue,” Shane said.

Reason #2: Social proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon in which people essentially look to the behaviors of others to determine how they should act. “Oh, everyone else is suddenly running into the cave. I should as well. A saber-toothed tiger must be chasing someone.”

If I see Mr. Jones down the street getting a refrigerator (or furniture or anything else) delivered, I subconsciously think — maybe I should get one, too. After all, we’re roughly from the same socioeconomic grouping, if they can afford it, so can I. And our houses were all built within a few years of each other. If they think their fridge is old enough to replace, maybe mine is, too.

And where would be a good place to get it? The name of the store on the truck.

While big box appliance stores apparently prefer to save money on logistics instead of leverage social proof, some of their competitors are making this investment. For example, Cathy’s Appliances in Warren, Michigan which is “Stacken Em Deep & Sellin Em Cheap” (according to an image I randomly found on Twitter).


Reason #3: Purchase satisfaction

Us humans, we’re a handful. A complicated tangle of sub-conscious thoughts, emotions and hang-ups. This comes out in the way we make choices, including product purchase decisions.

A great example is cognitive dissonance, which Wikipedia defines as, “the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” (emphasis is mine)

In other words, if you buy an expensive appliance (or any product) and the product delivery experience is subpar, you are getting confronted with new information that conflicts with your existing belief that you made a good purchase decision.

This increases the likelihood of a product return and decreases the likelihood or repeat purchase or positive word of mouth.

To avoid this cognitive dissonance, brands must look at the marketing after the sale as an important step in the buying journey.

Researchers Geoffrey N. Soutar and Jillian C. Sweeney provided the following advice in their academic paper titled, “Are There Cognitive Dissonance Segments?”:

“As dissonance, when it occurs, does not seem to fall in the few days after purchase (as seen in the insignificant relationship between the time after purchase and the dissonance groupings shown in table 4), there is an opportunity for the retailer to contact customers in this period to reassure them of the wisdom of their purchase and to allay any risk perceptions they may have…This may be achieved through advertising that is deliberately aimed at recent purchasers. Early researchers such as Engel (1963) recognised the interest in this post-purchase role of advertising, although studies have had mixed results. Nonetheless, such information strategies can be used to reduce dissonance through reassurance, rather than by complaining to others.”

As I’m sure you can tell by now from this blog post, I believe one way to advertise to consumers after they purchase to reduce dissonance through reassurance is to use actions (and not just messaging) by having a superior customer delivery experience.

Reason #4: Every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to add value

The first three reasons are pretty heavy on company-centric thinking, I’ll admit. Get your brand in front of more customers. Get more customers to think about your store when making a purchase. Get better word of mouth.

But let’s take a customer-first marketing approach to delivery and installation. What do you think the customer expects? If I buy a used dryer off Craigslist, then, yeah, maybe a random pickup truck with a blank white trailer. But ordering from the largest home improvement retailer in the U.S., I expect (as it says on its delivery webpage) — “The Home Depot Advantage.”

radical-idea-home depot

In fairness, I did actually experience the value listed on the website. I just didn’t attribute that value to The Home Depot. Because it was an unbranded, random, obviously outsourced customer experience.

Perhaps I’m the only one who noticed this because I work in marketing. Again, I had a positive customer experience, but I did find a couple of examples online of people who had a negative experience and blamed the outsourcing as the reason why. They did not seem to absolve The Home Depot of responsibility, however. In fact, the outsourcing just seemed to make them madder. Here’s an example from

“THD [The Home Depot] contracts out their delivery service to cut corners on labor costs and wash themselves of accountability of confirmed time frames. I WILL NEVER purchase another major appliance from a retailer who has elected to put cheap outsourced labor ahead of customer experience…THD, wake up. It’s your brand I deal with when making a purchase, not GE’s lackluster delivery network.”

This is a problem. According to a study of 24,489 customers by Accenture, 52% of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service. You don’t want to spend all that time, money, and effort on your marketing winning customers only to fumble on the five-yard line and lose them by not delivering on the value you promised.

On the upside, the study also discovered that 45 percent are willing to pay more for better customer service. For a retailer like The Home Depot, that number is crucial. After all, I could have bought that LG dryer at many retailers. And several retailers had very similar prices. So a main element of differentiation, a main piece of any value proposition is the service and customer experience, of which delivery is a major part.

Study authors Kevin Quiring, Fabio De Angelis, and Esther Gasull advised “… they [brands] need to focus less on luring customers with digital marketing and sales and more on dazzling them with superior service across all channels of interaction.”

A holistic view of marketing

You invest a lot of money just trying to get in front of customers and get their attention. That is, after all, what you are doing with PPC, TV advertising, print ads, and all of your other customer acquisition spends. When you’re delivering your product, you’ve been entrusted with an invitation into your customers’ lives. That is valuable. How will you react? Myopically look at these interventions as a logistics challenge? Or look at them as a value delivery opportunity?

Perhaps this is one reason (beyond saving on shipping costs) that Amazon is building more delivery capabilities. The world’s largest online retailer has leased 40 Boeing cargo planes (“Prime Air”), but also according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal — is experimenting with last-mile delivery.

While Greg Bensinger and Laura Stevens focus on cost and reliability (after UPS’ holiday season 2013 fail) in the article, I think one of the readers made a spot-on observation in the comments section, so I’ll give the last word in this blog post to Chris Lee:

“For Amazon, timely and speedy delivery is a critical part of customer experience, and I think they made the right call in making this strategic decision. And yes, in the short term, they will be sacrificing profits – but all for the sake of continued growth of their customer base, which will likely reward them later with future profits once Amazon raises prices on their products.”

You might also like

The Radical Idea: Why investing in the physical world should be part of your social media marketing budget

Customer-first Marketing: Do you put your customers’ interests first?

Brand Marketing: 5 tactics to understanding customer experience

MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 – Aria Las Vegas | February 13-16

Courtney Eckerle

How to take storytelling risks through publishing

October 7th, 2016
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“Brands suddenly realized, 30-second spots aren’t working. There’s got to be a better way for us to tell a story,” Morgan Spurlock, Academy Award-Nominated Director, Super Size Me, said in our MarketingSherpa 2016 Media Center interview. “That’s when they started looking at creative ways to make content tell stories.”

Since making POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Made, where Morgan worked with brands to finance the entire film, he’s realized that there are a plethora of compelling brand stories to tell. It’s just a matter of recognizing them. He’s worked with companies like General Electric, Toyota and Haagen Daz doing short film series.

“The beauty of where we are right now, as a content creator is, you can tell stories everywhere now,” he said. “There’s this incredible access to short-form digital content, we can tell a story that’s two minutes, three minutes, and find an audience for it. Not only find an audience for it, but have it be seen world-wide by millions of people.”

A fantastic recent example of how brands are doing this is with Starbucks’ Upstanders series.

According to the site, “Upstanders is an original collection of short stories, films and podcasts sharing the experiences of Upstanders – ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstanders series helps inspire us to be better citizens.”

With absolutely no mention of coffee or the brand within the stories, this content is able to connect with something positive and real in the communities the company works in. These stories focus on people who serve their communities with more than just coffee.

Everything from an impoverished town in Michigan who fulfilled a promise to offer free college tuition to every graduating senior, and did so through grassroots efforts, to an empathetic police academy in Washington that teaches cops a new approach to the job.

These are compelling, topical stories being brought to us directly from … Starbucks, the place that normally only supplies us with coffee, scones and the occasional impulse-buy CD.

“A lot of times … brands are very precious about, ‘here’s what we stand for,’ and they don’t want to give up that brand ID to somebody like me because they feel like they have to control it and keep it tight,” he said.

There’s always a way, he added, to come to an alignment of ideologies where a neutral content creator’s idea of what will be great for your brand, also works with what a marketer believes will be great for the brand.

So how do you start?

“It starts like this, with a conversation,” Morgan said. “I think you sit down, and you say, ‘what do you want to accomplish? What stories do you want to tell?”

Marketing is storytelling, he added. It’s just a matter of deciding on what story you want to tell. It can be your brand’s story, or it can be your customer’s stories.

To find those authentic stories, and decide what it is exactly they want to say, marketers have to decide what their brand voice is.

“What is your ethos, what is your DNA. Once you know that, then you can say, ‘what are the stories we want to tell, what do we want to accomplish,” he said.

The biggest part of this process, he added, is, “Don’t be so precious. Don’t be so scared. Now is the best time ever to dive in and take risks, and do things you normally wouldn’t do because the price point, the barrier to entry, is so low.”

With digital content that can reach millions, marketers can take low-cost risks that might pay off big with customers.

“What starts to happen is, the more risks you take, is the less risky things become down the road,” he said.

You might also like…

The Greatest Lecture Ever Presented – Morgan’s full presentation at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016

Reader’s Choice, MarketingSherpa Awards 2017 – voting is still open! Cast your vote to see the winner present on-stage at this year’s Summit

Daniel Burstein

What marketers can learn from The Onion: Interview with founding editor Scott Dikkers

September 28th, 2016
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Change. Is. Scary.

There was a time, not very long ago, when marketers were the only ones that had the resources to get the message out about products. And they did it through print, TV, and radio ads.

And because of this one-sided power, advertisers would pretty much just say whatever ridiculous bunk they could come up with to sell their product. Like this ad from 1931, in which a “doctor” shills for cigarettes.

According to the Stanford School of Medicine, “The doctors depicted were never specific individuals, because physicians who engaged in advertising would risk losing their license. It was contrary to accepted medical ethics at the time for doctors to advertise, but that did not deter tobacco companies from hiring handsome talent, dressing them up to look like throat specialists, and printing their photographs alongside health claims or spurious doctor survey results. These images always presented an idealized physician wise, noble, and caring.”

Not surprisingly, customers became skeptical over time. And marketers’ jobs got harder. But that was nothing compared to what was about to happen.

dikkers interview blog pic

The digital revolution

In the year 2000, 50% of adult Americans were using the Internet, according to Pew Research Center. By 2013, that number hit 86%.

With the advent of the web, more and more customers were given an outlet to express their opinions about products and services. This exploded further with social media. No longer did marketers and brands have the market cornered on communication about products and services.

This was a massive change that made marketers’ jobs exponentially harder. Sure, there was the splintering of media. But the real challenge was in the change in brand voices. The Internet created the most skeptical generation yet. If marketers could no longer get away with ridiculous boasts, what should their voice be to customers? How could they convince and connect with customers in the age of the Internet?

Read more…

Daniel Burstein

Millennials something Snapchat something something

September 22nd, 2016
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Skeptical Millennials (defined as ages 18-34) are a notoriously hard-to-reach demographic for marketers. But a new social media outlet can help – Snapchat.


For experienced marketers unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s like direct mail, in that you can send messages to potential customers with images. But it’s like weird direct mail that disappears after 24 hours. Because it was sent by a magician or something? No one knows for sure.

But we do know that means you should send heaps of snaps to your customers when you chat. Send snaps constantly and without pause, so they can never escape your product. Just keep ruthlessly going after customers like your company is the shark in Jaws.

Spoiler alert: you’re gonna need a bigger budget.

Just kidding.

scott-dikkers-colorAt MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas, one of the featured speakers will be Scott Dikkers, co-founder and former owner and editor-in-chief of the notorious news satire publication, The Onion. Which got us thinking … what would MarketingSherpa look like if it were written by the editors of The Onion?

So I got together with one of my Summit co-hosts, Pamela Jesseau, Director of Marketing, MECLABS Institute, and we had a lot of fun coming up with the headlines at the bottom of this blog post that really, really should run on MarketingSherpa … but of course never will.

It’s an interesting exercise. Comedy, and satire specifically, is the perfect vehicle for constructive criticism. It’s funny because there is an element of truth to it. And the process of identifying the satire helps draw attention to areas (of society in general, or in our case, marketing) that can be improved.

It’s important to step outside of our industry and discover how customers see it. MarketingSherpa’s mission is to share inspirational stories of customer-first marketing. We’ve learned that sustainable success comes from putting the customer first – that means thinking like they do, even if it means poking fun at ourselves.

Read more…

Courtney Eckerle

MarketingSherpa Awards 2017: Customer-focused campaigns drive significant conversions

September 12th, 2016
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MarketingSherpa has always been about customer-first marketing. Those are the stories we love to tell, and the marketers we love to talk to.

That’s why, in this year’s judging process, we made customer focus a pass/fail criteria. It has always been more heavily weighted than other aspects, but we still considered and discussed submissions that were lacking in, or ignored how customers were actually affected.

This year, no matter how otherwise intriguing the campaign was, it was dismissed if our seven judges unanimously agreed it was not customer-focused.

On top of that, all of the selected campaigns had to meet these criterion:

  • Be transformative
  • Be innovative
  • Offer transferable principles that marketing peers can apply to their efforts
  • Display strong results

After 50 hours of pre-screening 198 submissions, and 15 hours of deliberation, we’ve narrowed it down to the marketers and campaigns that have put in that work. These four campaigns deserve to be celebrated and studied by you, our readers.

Please review the finalists below, and vote for the Reader’s Choice nominee that stands out the most to you. After voting, please share your favorite nominee or insight on social media.  

Read more…

Daniel Burstein

Five tips from a personal care industry CEO for setting (and getting approval for) your marketing budget

September 9th, 2016
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When we ask marketers about their biggest challenges, budget issues are usually at or near the top. Ecommerce marketers say size of marketing budget is the biggest challenge to their companies’ ecommerce operations. B2B marketers say lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time are the biggest barrier to overcoming their top challenges.

Everybody is challenged by the budget in some way.

So to give you a business leader’s perspective on key budget questions: What should you prioritize in your budget? How should you work with the rest of the organization? How do you get your key priorities approved?

I looked outside of the marketing-sphere and interviewed Stuart Benton, President and CEO, Bradford Soap.

Budgeting Advice CEO_Sherpa_DB

Stuart has a unique perspective on budgeting, as he was formerly Bradford Soap’s CFO, and has a perspective on selling products as well from a previous stint as Director of Sales and Financial Operational Planning at Veryfine Products, a $250 million juice company (at the time).

To give you some context, Bradford Soaps is a 140-year-old, $100 million organization with 700 employees that develops and manufactures soap for Dove, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Tom’s of Maine, Dr. Bronner’s, and other brands.

“We make the majority of all the specialty bar soaps in America,” Stuart said.

Here are some tips from our conversation to keep in mind as you set your next budget…

Read more…

Courtney Eckerle

How to move beyond industry-speak, and start a conversation with your customers

September 2nd, 2016
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“We knew that the content was there, but [customers] weren’t sure how to interpret that. We used very industry-specific terminology,” said Abby See, Director of Online Marketing, Sunrise Senior Living.

Visitors to the Sunrise Senior Living website are often looking for immediate senior care options or are researching senior care providers for upcoming care needs. The issue was, that research wasn’t coming as easy to them as it should have.

In the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Abby told me that through user experience testing, she and her team found what was a surprising insight at the time – customers were actually requesting a questionnaire.

“They said, ‘it would be great if you could offer some sort of tool that would help me determine what I need for my mom or dad,’” she said.

The result of that insight was the development of a Care Questionnaire, which leads those customers through an emotional point in their lives, where they are trying to determine what the best next move is for a family member.

The questionnaire is a non-invasive overlay, she said, so customers don’t lose whatever page they were on, and they’re able to access it from every channel.

“They have choices from there.  They can reach out to a resource counselor, or just do nothing with the results and continue on with their research,” she said.

This puts the customer in control, she said, which is especially important because, “it’s such an emotional time, so we want them to feel comfortable and confident before they reach out to us.”

The advice Abby gave for other marketers who might want this kind of customer insight, was to, “create a survey [through email marketing,] you could have some detailed information and surveys on your site, and really tailor the sales experience to that information you learned from the customer before you reach out.”

Since the launch in September 2014, the impact of launching a Care Questionnaire to foster meaningful off-site engagement has been measured by more than 19,400 users completing the survey, resulting in a 12% lift in on-site leads and a 4% lift in total site conversion rate.

The best results, thought, might be anecdotal in what See and her colleagues have seen in personal interactions with customers.

“There was a woman, she took the Care Questionnaire, it told her that her mom needed assisted living. So she did her research that night, and called several other competitors, but was able to book a tour with us at seven o’clock at night. Other competitors wouldn’t take her at that time, “Abby said.

That customer was able to quickly go from online to offline, knowing what she wanted to do and comfortable in her decision. Having the Care Questionnaire allowed Sunrise Senior Living to help her in a way that competitors couldn’t.

Abby and Sunrise Senior Living were selected last year by blog readers as the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Reader’s Choice Award. This year’s Award is going up on Monday, September 12 – please be sure to visit and vote for one marketer who will present their campaign on stage at Summit, held February 13-16 in Las Vegas.

You might also like…

Mobile Marketing: How a private jet charter provider’s app averages 500 downloads a week using customer-centric booking experience – A Reader’s Choice Award 2017 nominee

Inbound Marketing: How SAP drove 9 million impressions with targeted content campaign – A Reader’s Choice Award 2017 nominee

Email Marketing: Extra Space Storage uses a customer-first approach for a 50% boost in email conversion rate – A Reader’s Choice Award 2017 nominee

Daniel Burstein

Startups 101: How and why a green retailer chose to bootstrap instead of accepting venture capital

August 26th, 2016
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If you’re an entrepreneur running a startup and begin to find some success, you will likely face a crossroads:

  • Should I bootstrap, funding the business myself with personal savings and/or ongoing revenue?
  • Should I procure funding and give away ownership interests to a venture capitalist or private equity firm?

To help you make this decision, we interviewed Brian Fricano, Founder/CEO, Sustainable Supply. He is an entrepreneur who has weighed the pros and cons of each option and made this decision for his own startup.

Brian and his wife launched Sustainable Supply seven years ago as a business with a social mission. “The core of what we were trying to do was sell products for commercial buildings that save water and save energy,” Brian said.

Profitable from day one

They started the business without any outside funding, according to Brian.

“Bootstrapping has forced us to be profitable from day one,” Brian said.

Without a cushion of outside funding, the company had to be creative, and launched with a “drop shipping” model, in which products are shipped directly to customers after they purchase and not to a retailer’s warehouse.

“We signed up dozens of suppliers that were willing to drop ship on our behalf, so we were able to become a virtual distributor, never taking possession of inventory,” he said.

Not only did the drop shipping model allow Sustainable Supply to start operations without the need to invest in inventory, it also tied into its social mission by reducing the carbon footprint and pollution generated from shipping products twice (first to the retailer, and then to the customer).

Success brings offers of capital

Sustainable Supply was successful, and was named the fifth-fastest growing retailer on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. This attracted the attention of venture capitalists interested in investing in high-growth startups.

This decision has worked for his company for two reasons. First, Brian would have diluted his ownership if he accepted the investment.

“Our growth after that has [grown four times over] since we made the Inc. 500 list. Had we brought on investors, we would have given away too much too early in the process,” Brian said.

Sticking to its social mission

In addition, his company has a social mission. Its tagline is “Build. Work. Green.” While there are a few exceptions, most venture capitalists are focused on growth and profitability, and less concerned with a social mission.

“Each venture capitalist has its own specialty, not a lot are specialized in sustainability…there’s not a lot out there that have a social component to them,” Brian said.

You might also like

Inbound Marketing: Medical startup increases website traffic 600% year-over-year with content marketing

Email Marketing: ‘Go Green’ campaign lifts revenue $30K for bookstore chain

Watch more interviews from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016

Daniel Burstein

The Radical Idea: Why investing in the physical world should be part of your social media marketing budget

August 18th, 2016
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What do you include in your social media marketing budget? Most marketers focus on elements like software and tools, paid advertising, social media management, and content creation.

But let me introduce a radical idea – the physical customer experience is a worthwhile investment as part of your social media marketing budget.

Sounds crazy, right? That’s in someone else’s department. It’s someone else’s focus.

But I bet you would have thought I was crazy if I told you just a few months ago that two men would fall off a cliff chasing a pretend monster on their mobile phones (fortunately, both were rescued by firefighters and only suffered moderate injuries).

One thing the Pokémon GO phenomenon should teach all marketers is that – thanks to the evolving way customers interact using mobile devices – the digital world is not a vacuum.

Nowhere is that more true than in social media. Because companies do not own the conversation about their brands on social media. They can participate and engage and boost and shape and share the conversations about their brands. But they cannot control them.

So an important element of positive word-of-mouth about your brand is how customers interact with your brand in the physical, real-world environment. To put it in terms of an overused cliché – think outside of the digital box.

Here are three ideas to help you create unique ways to leverage the physical world for social media impact.

Idea #1: Invest in the product

This may be the most radical idea. Product cost is not usually considered part of the social media marketing budget. The usual (way overly simplified) thinking is: price – cost of goods sold = margin.

But what if you didn’t attribute all of the cost to produce the product as a manufacturing or R&D expense? What if you looked past simple production costs to consider what extra, special, unique touches you could add to a product (or service) experience that sparks enough extra joy in your customers that they’ll want to tell everyone about it on social media?

Wouldn’t this be a worthwhile investment? Specifically, a social media marketing investment? In fact, it might be worth more than, say, a paid Facebook ad.

To spark some ideas, watch this story from the MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 Media Center showing how an exceptional product experience naturally flowed into social media exposure and value.


“They actually were going to Instagram and posting very natural photos of what their experience was like when they received that box. They’d put their children in and want to take pictures of their babies in this box brimming with broccoli and kale,” said Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing, Door to Door Organics. “And all of a sudden, we realized that they were taking and sharing that joyful feeling. It was all over social media, and it was ours to embrace.”

Some products have a more expected passion behind them than others. And in this case, Door to Door Organics is an online grocer that delivers natural and organic groceries, a product that typically has a passionate following and lends itself unsurprisingly to social sharing.

However, any product experience has the potential for social sharing. All experiences are relative. When you create a better product experience than expected, you increase the odds of a positive customer experience on social (on the flip side, the same effect works in reverse when you don’t meet customer expectations).

If you’re serious about social, don’t leave that just up to product managers. Put some (budgetary) skin in the game to deliver positive surprises for customers.

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