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Customer-centric Marketing: How transparency translates into trust

May 23rd, 2014 No comments

Transparency is something that companies usually shy away from. From the customer’s perspective, that product or service just appears for them – simple and easy.

Marketing has a history of touting a new “miracle” or “wonder” product and holding up the veil between brand and consumer.

michael-norton-summitHowever, in Wednesday’s Web Optimization Summit 2014 featured presentation, Harvard Associate Professor Michael Norton brought up a different idea, speaking about how hard work should be worn as a badge of honor.

“Think about showing your work to customers as a strategy,” he said, coining it “The Ikea Strategy.”

The idea behind this is that when people make things themselves, they tend to overvalue them – think of all the DIY projects around the house. In the same vein, when people comprehend the hard work that has gone into a product, they are more likely to value it.

Michael gave the example of a locksmith he had spoken to as part of his research to understand the psychology of people who work with their hands. This man was a master locksmith, Michael said, and he started off by talking about how he used to be terrible at his job – he would go to a house, use the wrong tools, take an inordinate amount of time and sweat over the job.

Gradually, he became a master at his trade, and could fix the same problem quickly with only one tool. It didn’t matter that his work was superior because of his experience, his customers became infuriated when he handed over the bill. Even though the result was the same, the customers hadn’t seen the effort.

Independent of the service being delivered, Michael explained, we value the labor people put in.

“We like to see people working on our behalf,” he said.

He asked two questions on how to apply this in the marketing sphere:

  • Can this be applied to the online environment as well?
  • Can this be built into websites so people feel like these interfaces are working for them?

A counterintuitive mindset must be applied in this area. In many cases, rapid service or response comes second to transparency. Michael spoke about how his team ran a test where they purposefully slowed down the searc results for a travel site by 30 seconds.

“30 seconds of waiting online is like … 11 days. It’s an enormously long time,” he said.

But slowing something down like a search, he continued, makes people feel like the algorithm was working hard for them.

As surprising as it sounds, more customers picked the delayed search travel site because they perceived that it was working harder for them, he said.

Read more…

Email Summit 2014: Finding your email voice

February 19th, 2014 1 comment

Sometimes marketers might feel as though they are stuck in a permanent promotional cycle. Promo email after promo email goes out, and there are high expectations for each one.

It may make sense to the bottom line, but what is the cost to the relationship with your customers?

Discovering a human voice for your email content was one of the topics covered yesterday at the ninth annual MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, held this year in Las Vegas, where marketers spoke about how a fresh perspective or voice can help keep the magic alive between a brand and consumers.

Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, in her Tuesday morning session spoke on her team’s tricky situation last year. The email channel was almost exclusively utilized for promotion, and had no real “voice” despite sending roughly 50 million emails a year.

“We were only talking at our customers, not really talking with them. We wanted to evolve beyond that,” she said.

 

Find your voice in unexpected places

When Marcia’s team decided to break away from promotions with a monthly newsletter establish a voice, they had to integrate two previously underutilized assets into the email sphere.

Calendars.com social media provided the voice with the plethora of quirky blog posts via Calendars.com’s official blog, “The Daily Grid,” useful tips and boards on Pinterest and a trademarked phrase, “Flip Day,” which gave the brand a fun excuse to reach out with content on the first of every month.

 

Even the interactive design of the Flip Day newsletter conveys the voice with an interactive grid calendar design that reinforces the brand with engaging and fun imagery. Marcia said they needed to consistently supply newsletter content that:

  • Entertains
  • Informs
  • Is seasonal and timely

The most important aspect, she added, was that if the voice and the content of the send didn’t provide a benefit to the subscriber, it would fail.

To provide that benefit, the days of each month are filled with celebrity’s birthdays, a “word of the month” and historical facts and helpful hints such as “25 make-ahead breakfast ideas” in every Flip Day newsletter. All of this content is interactive and links to Calendars.com Pinterest, Facebook and blog content.

Creating a consistent voice is more than just knocking off the company-speak, Marcia said. It’s a consistent balance of time and assets for the sake of consumer interaction. Sometimes, promotions and monetary goals have to be set aside for the sake of brand equity with your consumers.

“We’re more than just a website to order calendars for your family at Christmas,” Marcia said, adding that the Flip Day newsletter voice has allowed feedback that “is really exciting as a marketer to see someone value your content.”

 

Demolishing discount fatigue

Jessica Andreasen, Digital Marketing Manager, ZAGG, spoke in her Tuesday afternoon session about subscribers succumbing to discount fatigue.

“We’ve been doing the same promotions for years – buy-one-get-one, discounts, and we were just not seeing the same kind of results,” she said.

To better communicate with their customers, the team at ZAGG decided to totally reassess their email design template with an email send to loyal customers.

“A template can’t get in the way of what you need to say,” Jessica said.

Her team started with a conversation with ZAGG’s Web development team.

“Tell me everything you have. I don’t care if it’s relevant or not, tell me everything you have,” she explained.

Whatever data or information you are able to uncover can help you develop a voice that speaks to your consumer and anticipates their behavior.

With data in tow, Jessica’s team studied their current email template with the consumer in mind – how could they speak to them in the design?

She said it was decided they needed to:

  • Disarm the customer by only using one call-to-action, and placing it below the fold
  • Connect to the customer by using image and word selection to convey the email’s purpose to customers
  • Deliver value to the customer by ensuring product details are prominent

Jessica added, “We still needed to deliver value to our customers – we attempted to do this by enlarging and simplifying the text as well as programming a personalized image.”

Some ZAGG customers had been on the list for three or four years, and Jessica wanted to reward that brand loyalty.

“These are loyal customers. I wanted to have a conversation with them,” she said.

By fighting against the discount fatigue they were seeing and developing a voice through their template to communicate with subscribers, the ZAGG team was able to increase their revenue per email by 152%.

Read more…

Why Social Media is the New Customer Service Hotline

October 15th, 2013 3 comments

Buying your first house is a big milestone in American life.

There are two entire HGTV shows, “My First Place” and “Property Virgins” centered around the experience.

Every episode follows basically the same trajectory:

Overly anxious buyers, with expectations that far exceed their budgets, hoping to find the “perfect” dream home to live happily ever after with no problems.

“Oh honey,” current homeowners say pityingly, as they shake their heads knowingly.

Good luck to whoever has those expectations. The really difficult (and least interesting) stuff happens once you move into that glorious, shining home.

Take a friend of mine for example – she recently made that big step into adulthood and bought her first home. Closing went fairly well, so she was feeling good when she finally moved in.

Then, like most first-time homeowners, she looked around and realized how much needed to be done, and how much stuff she didn’t have.

All at once the chaos of happily ever after began to unravel in a series of rescheduled deliveries and insanely long waits on the customer service lines. The real breaking point came when she was trying to schedule the delivery of her washer and dryer.

The company-that-shall-not-be-named rescheduled her delivery four times, and upped her backorder wait time from two weeks to six weeks. After being stressed out by multiple phone reps and receiving no responses to her emails to customer service (she’s still waiting for a reply, in fact), she decided to take the fight to social media.

She was shocked to see the company’s Facebook page promoting the backordered machine that had caused her so much trouble five weeks after purchasing. Not only that, but the website was making the dubious promise that people ordering five weeks after her would receive their washers only three days after her machine was scheduled for delivery.

In spite of posting her concerns, the only interaction she had was with other customers – the brand never commented or attempted to help.

The truth is, many large companies are still not placing enough importance on social media as a customer service channel that more customers have come to expect.

But, there is hope as some big brands are starting to use social media to truly enhance the customer service experience.

 

Social media is the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers

For example, Cisco is a large company that focuses on meeting customers in the social media sphere. Kathleen Mudge, Social Media Marketing Manager and consultant, Cisco, has previously spoken with MarketingSherpa about her views on different social media platforms.

Kathleen consistently embraces social media as the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers.

“Providing customer service can be an entry point to an ongoing relationship,” she said, adding customer service is a great opportunity for conversation and connection with the brand.

Because Cisco is such a large company, Kathleen said it can be “daunting and confusing for customers when an issue arises.  I love delighting customers with quick replies to questions, issues or concerns they post through their social media channels,” she said.

 

Make customers feel heard

Cisco’s social media channels are monitored year-round, Kathleen said, and her goal is to consistently be “extremely responsive to our communities.”

During off-peak times, when one of Cisco’s events isn’t ramping up or in progress, she said customers may expect a response within 12 hours, “but normally within the hour during the week.”

During events however, social media is in overdrive, and customers receive a response time that local emergency crews would envy – within three minutes or sooner.

Kathleen credits proper staffing to this feat, a necessity when “event conversations explode, as they did last June [during the Cisco Live event] with 46,000 total social mentions.”

 

Use complaints as an opportunity

Responsiveness is especially key when dealing with a complaint or upset customers, and addressing the issue immediately will keep the issue in check, Kathleen said.

“I may not have the answer, but I want to let them know I am aware of their issue and I am seeking an answer or solution or whatever it is they may need,” she said.

The same principles of customer service via phone, email or in-person are true in social media (perhaps especially important since it’s available for other customers to see) and making sure a customer feels seen and heard is paramount.

If there isn’t a timely response, “they will most likely continue to get more frustrated and their complaints may multiply, causing a very negative situation for the brand,” Kathleen said.

A complaint handled properly is an opportunity to solve the same problem for other customers who may be following the conversation.

“We can’t always provide a resolution that is what the customer is requesting. No brand can be all things to all people,” she said. But letting a customer know you are aware of their situation and troubleshooting it, “that does a lot to ease the aggravation.”

 

Use and promote positive interactions

Sometimes customers are using social media as an outlet to voice their excitement for an event or their overall experience with the company, and those positive updates, “truly make my day and are the favorite part of my job,” Kathleen said.

 

When Cisco customers post positive updates on Twitter, for example, Kathleen retweets it from the brand in addition to responding to them.

“When I see that I can make a positive difference for someone online through communication with the brand, I am absolutely thrilled and I want to amplify their update by a retweet on Twitter or a ‘like’ and response on Facebook or another channel,” she said.

Cisco’s events are also provide a great opportunity to  flaunt those positive customer interactions – as updates may appear on the big screen during a keynote in front of 20,000 attendees, as well as being available for their virtual audience.

Singling those comments out works for both parties: “They love being recognized and we love highlighting their comments,” she said.

  Read more…

Social Media Marketing: Michaels Stores increases Pinterest board followers by 86% with contest

March 21st, 2013 2 comments

With a new upscale product line, Michaels Stores decided to look toward harnessing the considerable power of its 150,000 followers on Pinterest, where the marketing team fosters “tremendous engagement,” according to Robert Freeman, Director, Digital & Social Marketing, Michaels.

This was the challenge for Michaels – to use those followers to build awareness on the platform for its new upscale line of frames, the “Platinum Collection from Studio Décor,” as well as driving engagement within their Pinterest audience.

 

Michaels decided to capitalize on its social media audience by launching a contest on Pinterest to users in both the United States and Canada – the “Pin It to Win It” campaign.

Freeman said Michaels chose Pinterest as the platform for launching this contest because it made sense on three levels:

  1. The new frame collection seemed like the right type of product to bring to this audience because, “First, Michaels has seen = Pinterest users are looking for project inspiration and are highly engaged with inspirational content on Pinterest,” he said.
  2. Michaels found Pinterest users enjoy engaging in promotions, especially those that are compelling and easy to enter.
  3. Pinterest provided an environment in which Michaels could showcase its products “both contextually and visually, to increase interest in the product,” he concluded.

With simplicity as one of the main objectives for the campaign, there were only a few key steps for users to participate in the contest.

The prize chosen were two $500 gift cards to Michaels to “to build your own display wall!” and the process for entering was threefold:

  • Follow Michaels Stores on Pinterest
  • Fill out a form asking for name, email address and postal code
  • Pin the image of “our new Studio Décor Platinum Collection”

 

After filling out the form, users then have the option to join Michaels email list before clicking submit. They are then taken directly to log into their Pinterest, or if already logged in, the pinning page, where they can select the board they wish to pin the Platinum Collection onto.

The pin already includes a pre-written comment reading:

“I just saw Michaels new Studio Décor Platinum Collection frames and wall décor and entered their Pin It to Win It sweepstakes for my chance to win a $500 USD Michaels gift card. Click this pin and follow the instructions to enter yourself!”

After pinning the contest, the user then also has the opportunity to share via Facebook or Twitter as well. Once they have pinned, they are redirected straight to Michaels “Framed” Pinterest board, where they can peruse the Platinum Collection as well as other related content. Michaels’ 79 other boards filled with merchandise are also easily accessible from that point.

  Read more…

Mobile Marketing: 7 tips based on CNET’s mobile newsletters

February 14th, 2013 No comments

The MarketingSherpa Mobile Marketing Benchmark Report shows a staggering 55% of marketers reported lacking an effective mobile marketing strategy, as well as not having adequate staffing, resources and expertise.

With MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 quickly approaching, speaker Diana Primeau, Director of Member Services, CNET – who will be presenting a session on win-back campaigns and list cleansing at the event – has insight to offer on this topic to fill in the knowledge gaps when it comes to developing an effective mobile newsletter strategy.

Diana said she knows many marketers become overwhelmed when upper management demands “mobile” without understanding the time and work that goes into it.

“It is not a little magic wand … because if it was really easy, every single email we look at today would work well on mobile,” she said.

 

Tip #1. Know what your audience expects

Mobile newsletters take quite a bit of planning, Diana said, and the most important question to ask is: “Who are you going to design for?”

Knowing your audience will allow you to not only understand what their expectations of you are, but what types of devices the majority of them use, and how often they interact with your emails on their  device.

The MarketingSherpa Mobile Marketing Benchmark Report also shows 31% of marketers don’t know their mobile email open rate – start by determining what that rate is, and become better acquainted with the needs of your audience.

“Who is your audience and what do we need?”  Diana asked. “If somebody has a business that requires them to have certain attributes in their emails, what are those attributes and will they work on a mobile platform?”

 

Tip #2. Consumers expect a multi-device experience

Like most aspects of marketing, mobile newsletters are not something you can wash your hands of once it’s accomplished – it is a constantly evolving process where your customers will always want more.

With mobile, Diana said, “Our customers are just like everybody else’s customer,” meaning every aspect of an average customer’s day from dawn to dusk is filled with multiple devices, and they expect their emails to reflect that.

“They might be commuting to work and they are on their phone, and they might be sitting at their office and they might be on their desktops. They might be going to meetings and they might have their tablet with them, and they might be sitting at home and they have their tablets or … their phone with them,” she said.

Knowing how your customer spends their day will help you develop your mobile email program, and decide how expansive you need to be.

Diana knows with CNET customers, “the idea of being able to move from device to device is an expectation, not something that is like, ‘Oh wow, that is really cool.’  It is expected and we know our customers look at their email across multiple devices.”

Read more…

Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%

January 31st, 2013 No comments

Celebrated every September, National Library Card Sign-up Month marks an opportunity for the New York Public Library to bring in scores of new library users.

“It is organized by the American Library Association and it is really designed to remind parents and children that a library card is the most important school supply as they head back to school,” said Johannes Neuer, Associate Director of Marketing, New York Public Library.

However, without the available marketing budget to promote it, Angela Montefinise, Director of PR and Marketing, New York Public Library, said it wasn’t “the easiest thing to get out there.”

She said it was very important for the library to “get the word out for people to sign up for library cards and open a whole new world of information and free programs.”

The solution to take part in this nationwide effort was to generate a creative social media marketing campaign. Using its flagship channels of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest, the library could reach its social media network of more than 550,000 fans and followers.

Read more…

Cause Marketing: “Likes for Tikes” campaign generates a 39% increase in Facebook Likes for small firm

December 20th, 2012 No comments

Thinking of businesses during the holiday season often conjures up the image of Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, building his fortune a penny at a time and miserly clutching every one. The uncanny number of movie versions of the tale usually perpetuate this, with an updated Ebenezer being a stingy CEO or mogul – see Bill Murray in Scrooged.

But, for many companies in the marketing industry, the truth is much closer to the old Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life – people building a business by working hard while balancing the profits of business and goodwill.

World Synergy is an online marketing firm based out of Cleveland, Ohio, going into its 16th year of business. It provides a real-life example of how companies are integrating giving back with business as usual.

Toys for Tots has been the charity of choice for World Synergy, and Facebook the chosen outlet for the give-back campaign “Likes for Tikes.”

“It is an outreach opportunity for us. … We wanted to get engaged with our current customer base and our employees’ friends and family,” said Glenn Smith, President and CEO, World Synergy.  Read more…

Content Marketing: 7 tips for content repurposing

December 11th, 2012 7 comments

“The Web expects you to generate a lot of content,” said Muhammad Yasin, Director of Marketing, HCC Medical Insurance Services.

“It expects you to generate regularly, with … quality content and to generate it prolifically while you are at it,” he concluded.

The demand is great, as Muhammad said. Sometimes, the Web can feel like a marketer’s very own Little Shop of Horrors, and content is the constantly hungry wail of “Feed me, Seymour!

Repurposing has been a useful solution to this constant demand for Muhammad, and many marketers are searching for a consistent plan for repurposing that will relieve both time and budget.

In fact, this post is a bit of repurposing magic – Muhammad and I spoke recently for the case study, “Content Marketing: Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company.”

I realized that he had a lot of knowledge to share about repurposing, but it wouldn’t fit into the case study. Ta-da – a new blog post is born, filled with seven tips to help you with your own content repurposing.

Read more…

Marketing Management: Incorporating giving into your marketing department or agency

November 20th, 2012 No comments

In the MarketingSherpa 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel, 52% of marketers from large companies agreed that their marketing departments’ potential are undermined because “management is autocratic, uses poor skills, is not encouraging, or has poor ethics.”

If this is a challenge you face as a leader, your problems run deeper than any one blog post can fix. After all, as John C. Maxwell has said, “There is no such thing as ‘business ethics;’ there’s just ethics.”

However, one way you can improve your department or agency and avoid being an autocratic, unethical leader (ouch) is by incorporating community giving into your team’s workflow.

Sometimes it can be difficult to carve out the time and resources to give back to the community, but the rewards for you and your staff are too numerous to ignore.

As an employee, to me the benefits are obvious. It feels good to not only support my coworkers with their philanthropic projects, but to know that they would similarly support me.

Click to enlarge

An Instagram photo of MECLABS employees at the Susan G. Komen walk in Jacksonville, Fla.

Participating in events also provides a great bonding experience, and gives employees a chance to work together outside of the office.

However, as great as it is for employees, it can be harsh as a manager who has to answer to the bottom line. Reid Stone, CEO, HEROfarm, and Kurtis Loftus, President and Creative Director, The Kurtis Group, talk about how to balance the benefits of giving back with the realities of business.

“It benefits the bottom line when all of a sudden employees and managers are all communicating in a better way … which ultimately leads to more profit for the company. So internally, it’s phenomenal,” Reid said.

  Read more…

Social Media Marketing: Penguin’s Twitter book club nets 14 million impressions for its hashtag

November 6th, 2012 2 comments

Some fields seem more resistant to social media than others, and the transition strategy isn’t always readily apparent. Marketers in these fields know the benefits social media can bring, but need to find a way to engage their consumers in a way that is familiar and will breed genuine excitement.

 

 

Reading, for instance, is usually a solitary pursuit. It is cherished by the people who love curling up in a comfy chair in a sunlit corner with a worn Penguin classic, or who craft their own alone time while in the middle of a crowded subway or city park.

Readers emerge from this private world to connect with other readers in two ways – local book clubs, and lining up to meet authors at book signings.

Penguin Group (USA) found a way to integrate the book world’s most social activities into social media.  Read more…