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How Automation Transformed a Distributor’s Online Business

March 17th, 2015 No comments

When you’re running a small online business, what’s the fastest, easiest way to grow your business and save money? Automation, according to Lenny Kharitonov, President of Unlimited Furniture Group, a furniture retailer.

Kharitonov says his company was among the first in the furniture industry to automate the online order fulfillment process.

“The furniture industry in general is not very technology savvy,” he admitted.

The Unlimited Furniture website markets products from a variety of manufacturers that ship them directly to the customer. Before automation, the Unlimited Furniture team and its vendors handled every aspect of the transaction manually using a combination of spreadsheets and Google docs. Now customers can order online, and the details are instantly sent to the vendor. Once the vendor ships out the product, Unlimited Furniture automatically receives all of the information about the shipment and updates the customer without any manual involvement.

This automated process:

  • Prevents mistakes. “When you do things manually, it’s subject to human error,” Kharitonov said. “For instance, somebody could put in the wrong quantity or wrong color; it could be done on our side or the vendor’s side.”
  • Eliminates duplication of effort. Before automation, Unlimited Furniture would enter a purchase order manually then send it to the vendor, who would enter the same information manually.
  • Saves money. Automating order fulfillment has slashed Unlimited Furniture’s administrative costs 40%.
  • Speeds delivery. Orders are processed real-time now, instead of waiting for someone at Unlimited Furniture and the vendor to manually process it.“The quicker the service you give the customer, the more likely you’ll get repeat business,” Kharitonov said.

“We want to grow the business. We don’t want to spend all our time processing orders,” he explained. “In this day and age, it’s assumed that’s automatic, but it’s not. I know a lot of our competitors are still doing it manually.”

Watch the full interview and find out more about the power of automation here:

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How a B2B Company Used Live Chat to Speed up the Sales Cycle

February 6th, 2015 No comments

Online chat is far more than a way to respond to customers. It’s an opportunity to optimize website content, pinpoint customer needs and even close sales, according to Brooke Beach, former Marketing Manager and current Marketing Director, Kevy.

Kevy enables businesses to connect and synchronize data to cloud apps. It’s a new industry, explains Brooke, so customers inundate the company with questions. Before live chat, Kevy responded to them via email. She admits the back and forth, full mailboxes and the time it took to clarify the issue via email dragged out the support and sales process.

So they took advantage of the immediate response of live chat and discovered it provided a much better solution by:

  • Optimizing their website. Brooke instantly found out which pages communicated effectively and which didn’t. Specifically, there were consistently two pages that people used chat to ask questions about. She revamped those pages based on the chat discussions, and the questions dropped by 75%.“I’m working with content all of the time, and I can have a false expectation of the level of understanding others may have,” says Brooke. “The immediate feedback enables us to cater the website content to better fit (customer) needs.”
  • Closing sales faster. “The beauty of chat is it gives a personal, human element to a flat website … you can get to know a person and what they’re looking for and immediately figure out the right solution for them,” she points out.In fact, almost immediately after Kevy installed live chat, a prospect used it to inquire about pricing structure. A sales professional was able to close the deal in a single conversation.

Watch the full interview and find out more about the value of online chat for B2B:

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Data Security: Why transparency matters in an era of breaches

December 12th, 2014 1 comment

Want to build customer trust?

Be transparent about how you’re using and protecting the information you gather from them.

That’s the word from James Koons, Chief Privacy Officer for Listrak, which provides omnichannel digital marketing solutions to retailers.

James’ statement is underscored by the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study. It reveals that frequent security evaluation correlates with greater ecommerce success. Specifically, of the 2,161 marketers responding, those that evaluated security on a daily or weekly basis had more than a 10% higher rate of revenue and responsiveness than those that didn’t.

“Consumers are savvier when it comes to privacy and security,” James explained, “and we continue to get those ‘your-data-may-have-been-compromised-please-change-your-password’ messages, so we can’t help as consumers to be learned in that area.”

 

“Nowadays, it’s not a question of if something happens, it’s when something happens. How prepared are you and what are you going to do?” James asked.

Here are some highlights from their conversation in the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE:

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What’s the Most Important Ecommerce Challenge? On-time Shipping

November 18th, 2014 No comments

You can optimize your website, signage and marketing, but if you can’t deliver what the customer orders when they expect it,  it’s all for naught.

That’s the word from Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief of “Retail TouchPoints,” a digital publication that covers customer-facing aspects of retail.

She spoke about the challenges of fulfillment with Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition earlier this year.

“The most important thing is getting your inventory right,” Debbie pointed out. “It’s not as sexy as digital signage or what you’re doing face-to-face or on mobile technology or inside your store or website. But if customers want to buy online, you have to make sure you’re ready to fulfill orders when they want them.”

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How Seamless Email Turns Ecommerce Prospects into Buyers

October 14th, 2014 No comments

Only 2.6% of the people browsing an ecommerce site actually buy during that visit, but, according to Charles Nicholls, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to eventually make a purchase.

Charles is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for SeeWhy, a provider of cloud-based behavioral target marketing. He discussed what it takes to transform browsers into buyers with Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, at the 2014 Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.

Charles exhorted marketers to rethink the channel mindset and optimizing websites for a single session, and instead, think about optimizing the entire buying process. The key, he explained, is seamless use of email across desktops, tablets and smartphones.

Why? Customers may use all of these devices before finally making a purchase.

Consider this: SeeWhy has been tracking smart phone conversions, and, according to Charles, smartphones are outpacing tablets, which have become a desktop substitute. Also, 67% of smartphone conversions are done via email.

Watch the video below to learn about the importance of seamless emailing:

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How a B2B Marketing Team Used Zombies to Win Over the C-Suite

September 30th, 2014 No comments

When Christine Nurnberger joined SunGard Availability Services in 2012, Marketing and Sales were clearly out of alignment. Marketing’s contribution to the sales pipeline was less than 3%, even though they executed more than 1,100 marketing tactics over the previous fiscal year.

By the end of 2013, that relationship had shifted dramatically. Marketing’s contribution to new revenue skyrocketed to 40% with the average deal size tripling.

At MarketingsherpaEmail Summit 2014, Christine revealed her secret to success: smart content marketing built on intense research, analysis and creativity. It culminated with chief technology officers preparing for the zombie apocalypse and eager to engage SunGard.

In the video clip below, Christine outlines setting the stage for that success with a two-stage direct mail pilot, targeting 56 CTOs in the later stages of the buying cycle:

  • Part one was a direct-mail piece made up of a  shadow box with a thumb drive, which included a personalized video announcing that, in the coming days, they would receive everything they needed to survive a zombie apocalypse.
  • Part two was a zombie apocalypse survival kit — a backpack that included a copy of World War Z, two tickets to the movie and “zombie repellant,” aka silly string.

 

The response blew the sales team away.

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Email Marketing: Verizon, REI share ideas to profit from growing mobile e-commerce traffic

August 30th, 2013 1 comment

If your emails and websites aren’t optimized for smart devices, you’re likely losing at least 20% of your marketplace, according to an analysis of more than 500 million online shopping experiences by Monetate, a website testing platform.

In the Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ1 2013) report, Monetate revealed more than 21% of e-commerce traffic comes from smartphones, up from 2% merely two years ago. Yet, it reports only 14% of companies optimize websites and emails for smart devices. Verizon Wireless and REI are among them.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, Laura Velasquez, Marketing Program Manager, REI, and Jason Jennings, Associate Director, Digital CRM, Verizon Wireless, discussed their success and lessons learned in the mobile optimization process.

Check out highlights from their discussion in this video excerpt of their mobile email panel.

 

:10 Jason outlines what you must consider when optimizing for mobile.

1:11 Laura discusses how REI developed a single, focused mobile strategy from many strategies.

1:53 Jason explains Verizon’s approach to developing pages that load fast, and why he designs for mobile before designing for desktop.

3:05 Laura explains how to begin optimizing for mobile. Hint: Look for small programs with a big impact.

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Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content

September 13th, 2012 2 comments

Attempting lead nurturing without strong content is like hosting a Monsters of Rock show during a power outage.

The results will be disappointing.

That’s because effective content is the power behind lead nurturing success, insist Toby Murdock, CEO and Co-founder, Kapost, and Chris Baggott, Chairman and Co-founder, Compendium.

Both companies are content software providers, and both leaders recently spoke about the value of content marketing: Murdock at Marketo’s Social Marketing Rockstar Tour, and Baggott at the MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012.

“The Internet has put buyers in control,” says Murdock. “Seventy percent of the buying is completed before Sales is contacted.”

What that means, he went on to explain, is that Marketing now has the greatest responsibility for guiding those opportunities through the sales cycle. However, traditional advertising methods no longer help leads move forward.

“The average clickthrough rate on paid Internet advertising is .01%,” he points out.

Baggott contrasts this with clickthrough rates on content that is meaningful to prospects. He provides an example: creating content that speaks directly to prospects’ needs and has strong calls-to-action.

“When we do this, we see clickthrough rates that exceed 20%,” he points out; it’s an observation they’ve made working with hundreds of clients.

“I click through because I am very motivated. I see something that will help me; I look at the content and say, ‘Yeah, these people get me.’ When you have a need and the content meets it, you’re very eager to move forward,” he explains.

Instead of pushing products or services, pull the right prospects through by providing information, ideas and solutions that will help them, advise Baggott and Murdock. (It will also help you rank high in search engines.) This is the essence of relevance, and without it, everything you consider content is just more advertising, they insist.

They offer these tips to create content with the power to move beyond advertising into relevancy:

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Watching Concrete: YouTube channel saves time, drives revenue for Mid Atlantic Concrete Equipment

July 27th, 2012 No comments

If you attend an industry event with Owen Blevins, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mid Atlantic Concrete Equipment, you better expect to hear the refrain, “Hey, Cretehead!”

It’s not an insult, just evidence that people are buying what Blevins is selling. As the founder and host of Concrete Answers, “the Internet’s most passionate show about concrete plants and equipment,” Blevins is becoming a concrete-industry celebrity, and, of course, he kicks off each episode with a resounding, “Heeey, Creteheads!”

Every other week, he introduces machinery and processes in direct response to the questions he receives from customers via his company’s website, events and sales meetings.

Even though the show is only about two years old, it has received more than 85,000 views.

“It’s not a bulldog on a skateboard, but we have a niche market. Our goal is to inform, educate and offer a little bit of entertainment. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, be sure to watch,” he laughs. “It’s highly technical.”

 

Hundreds of hours of work = Hundreds of thousands in sales

Every minute of the final product represents an hour of work – planning, shooting, editing and posting. However, Blevins says the hundreds of hours devoted to Concrete Answers are well worth the investment.

“We typically know exactly what brought our customers to us,” says Blevins. “This information allows us to justify expense, because there’s a lot of time, effort and energy that goes into the channel. It’s definitely been worth it; otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. I won’t reveal exact ROI, but I can tell you the show has ultimately resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment sales.”

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Lead Generation: 3 basic tips for webinar newbies

June 28th, 2012 No comments

Marketers rank webinars among email newsletters, Sales calls, whitepapers and thought leadership articles as top lead generation tools, according to the chart at right from the just-released MarketingSherpa 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link).

But Jeanne Hopkins, Executive Vice President, Smartbear Software, advises that if you’re new to webinars, proceed with care.

“Unfortunately, most people think that having a webinar is easy,” she says. “That’s because they don’t prepare enough. Webinars are very resource intensive if you want to produce results.”

And, if anyone knows, it’s Jeanne.

She was most recently vice president of Marketing for HubSpot where, under her leadership, the organization held webinars that attracted 25,000 sign-ups, 10,000 attendees and 3,500 new leads. She’s been a marketing executive since well before webinars came into existence, and leveraged their predecessor, the teleconference.

She draws from this experience to inform her three most important tips for novice webinar producers.

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