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Social Media Marketing: How Lilly Pulitzer, Kahlua and Neiman Marcus use brand influencers

Customers have long been wary of content sponsored by brands. This is probably because marketers have been trying to sneak it past them for years — the notorious “Sponsored Content” label, buried at the bottom in tiny font.

The marketers from Lilly Pulitzer, Kahlua and Neiman Marcus — which have all been previously featured in MarketingSherpa case studies — found ways to be transparent about collaborating with bloggers and vloggers to promote their brands.

The brands were also able to approach this content in such fun, creative and colorful ways that consumers didn’t really care the content was company-generated, causing customers to engage regardless of the source material. Read on to learn how to create sponsored content that actually interests audiences.

 

Bringing bloggers along for the (bike) ride with Lilly Pulitzer

Every year, Lilly Pulitzer has a brand theme for all its marketing materials and events. This year, it is “Spill the Juice.”

Spill the Juice

 

#Spillthejuice, the hashtag for the year, goes back to the brand’s origin story, which is the life of Lilly Pulitzer herself.

Lilly Pulitzer was born into New York society and “could’ve lived a fancy life of galas and soirées and black ties and gloves. But she … was a real rule breaker,” Eleni Tavantzis, Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing and Public Relations, Lilly Pulitzer, said, adding that in her early twenties, Pulitzer eloped to Palm Beach, where her husband’s family owned citrus groves.

She eventually started a juice stand using citrus from the grove, and Pulitzer created her first shift dress because she wanted a wild print that would hide the juice stains on her dress — hence the phrase, “Spill the Juice.”

The brand frequently collaborates with fashion bloggers, according to Eleni. To pull the brand’s theme and brand influencers together, the team puts together trips to create powerful brand content.

“We’ve done two this year, two Lilly Spill The Juice influencer trips where we bring some of our favorite fashion bloggers and editors to Palm Beach with us to really experience what Lilly’s Palm Beach was like, which was not stuffy or fancy or full of rules,” Eleni said.

During these influencer trips, the marketers create a lifestyle out of brand ideals and have bloggers live it out — all while wearing Lilly Pulitzer, of course.

Spill the Juice Brand Influencers

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Customer-Centric Marketing: 5 tips on mining customers for content

May 1st, 2015 1 comment

A blinking cursor on a blank page is a terrifying sight for a writer. It’s like having arachnophobia and someone putting a spider in your hair. The struggle is, in fact, real.

The good news is that, as marketers, we have it easy. Customers are telling you what they want to hear, and it’s only a matter of listening to what they’re saying. Sounds simple, right? I can practically hear everyone mentally (or maybe actually) murmuring, “Duh.”

However, when it comes to talking about tactics for making customers the genesis of content, every marketer I have interviewed for a case study or blog post — and there have been many — has made me dig deeper. That’s because this is an issue so many content creators struggle with in execution.

Whether it’s email, blogs, social media or any of the other seemingly endless channels, the main point is to have a conversation. Be engaging.

I recently wrote a case study for our Email Marketing newsletter with JustAnswer. Seeing as how it’s a service where customers come to the site to ask questions, you would think creating content would be simple. One of the best tips for coming up with content is to simply answer customer questions.

Just Answer blog categories

 

However, with so many questions being asked and topics including law, mechanics, medical (both humans and animals), plumbing and technology, just to name a few, the options are dauntingly endless, forcing marketers to be creative with their tactics.

Below is bonus material from the case study about how the JustAnswer team approaches content creation — both email and otherwise.

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Social Media: Understanding Pinterest consumers

March 13th, 2015 1 comment

“The only reason any brand exists in the first place is because it helps people do something in their lives,”  Kevin Knight, Head of Agency and Brand Strategy, Pinterest said.

In his session at The Digital Marketing Conference — Adobe Summit, Kevin spoke about what makes Pinterest unique to marketers and brands in the social media sphere.

Mainly, unlike other social sites, it’s kind of a loner.

Not in the standing alone in the corner at the school dance kind of a way, but in a “Best All Around” superlative kind of way: independent, and not only party-planning the dance, but countless other activities and interests as well.

“They’re using it for themselves,” Kevin said, adding that many users don’t follow a lot of people, because they using the platform to fulfill their own needs, not to impress anyone else.

 

What is a Pin?

“Art and copy, as old as advertising itself,” Kevin said.

What is a Pin

 

Who is on Pinterest?

  • 70M+ monthly users in the U.S.
  • 40% of women in the U.S. are on Pinterest
  • 75% of usage is on a mobile device
  • One-third of millennials are on Pinterest

*Based on comScore Sept 2014, desktop and mobile, U.S. users, and internal Pinterest data

Those 70 million monthly users utilize Pinterest to discover, save and then do, Kevin said. Over 30 billion pins ave been categorized by people into more than 750 million boards, and this is a highly personal interaction to them.

Pinners are sharing their interests, hobbies, hopes and goals, creating the narrative of their future through pinning actions.

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Digital Marketing: Quick insights from Adobe Summit on perfecting the art and science of marketing

March 11th, 2015 No comments

From the opening General Session at Adobe Digital Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, the speakers reiterated, in one way or another, the thesis statement made by Brad Rencher, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Adobe:

Consistent and continuous experiences only happen when marketing goes beyond marketing, and the reality is that brands have to earn it every day, with each experience. With each touch point, we either win or we lose.

Marketers need to fight every day to be personal with consumers — this isn’t a plane you can reach or a level to be achieved. It’s a consistent struggle won through consistently building up small interactions.

If those word choices — fight, struggle — sound harsh, forgive me. With Adobe Summit’s gigantic main stage, complete with three towering screens, impeccable design and A/V feats, it’s easy to lean into the theatrical feel of the event.

Adobe-031115

 

Digital marketing is certainly not real war or strife, but each speaker takes the stage not unlike the speech in “Patton,” commanding attendees to work for a better (marketing) world. The marketers here begin to feel like foot soldiers who believe they can engage customers with genuine interactions.

These aren’t actions savvy brands should be shirking from because they’re difficult, but running toward. There are an overwhelming number of opportunities to understand your customers in digital marketing.

These three takeaways are just a start.

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Three Takeaways on Customer-centric Marketing from Email Summit 2015 Media Center

February 24th, 2015 1 comment

There are a lot of decisions that go into putting on Email Summit. Millions, probably, if you go deep enough.

But they all come around with one objective: you. The attendees and people who are reading about, and following, the event.

In every discussion and decision, we were asking ourselves how it would affect the experience. Your experience. So it made sense that when it came time to pick speakers and give out the Email Summit Awards, sponsored by BlueHornet, that customer-centric campaigns were the ones that rose above the rest.

Fellow Email Awards judge Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, and myself sat down on the steps of the (still under-construction) 2015 Email Summit Media Center to discuss some of our award winners and the customer-centric elements of campaigns featured at the Summit.

Media Center 2015

 

“The companies that focused on customers, that put their customers first, are the ones that ultimately have the sustainable competitive advantage,” Daniel said.

Our marketing compass points toward true customer-centricity, so it was important that marketers we featured held that same standard.

Daniel spoke about the B2B Award winner he has been working with over the past few months, Ferguson, and one of their main takeaways from their own event effort: Always look to enrich the customer experience.

Ferguson Enterprises generated more than $10 million and growing in online sales by enriching the customer experience within their 90 trade show events, which allowed Ferguson’s vendors to get in front of customers and promote their brands and products.

To accomplish that, Ferguson went from one email per event to a segmented series as well as optimized its onsite event registration for better retargeting.

Read the full case study here.

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4 Tips from Jonah Berger on Taking Content Marketing Viral

February 10th, 2015 4 comments

We all see things go viral on the Web or certain products that suddenly take off. It begs the question: Why do some things get talked about more than others?

“And how by understanding that science can companies and organizations and individuals get their stuff to catch on?” said Jonah Berger, Associate Marketing Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, during our phone interview.

ContagiousJonah, who will be a keynote speaker at Email Summit 2015, has studied how products are used and why behaviors catch on. His book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller on the topic.

Companies can get stuck in an “advertising” mindset, he said, and see that as the only way to communicate with consumers.

“While advertising is useful for some things, it’s not as effective as word-of-mouth for some other things. And so understanding how to both effectively use traditional advertising and word-of-mouth and blend those two approaches becomes really important,” he said.

Jonah provided four tips on how to best integrate the two and how to make your content go “viral.”

 

Tip #1. Keep the focus on customer

Marketers have a tendency to focus too much on the product or service, rather than the customer or user, Jonah pointed out.

It’s easy to speak in a language the customer can’t easily understand when you spend day after day up close to what you’re offering — “You know a lot about your product, your service, your idea,” he said.

Ask yourself a few questions to make sure that you’ve pictured the customer’s journey:

  • Why are they using this?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • How can we be more successful by finding our messages in customer language?

The value of content done well, he said, is that “it’s not about you … the best content doesn’t yell your brand; it whispers it.”

While recently working on a project with 3M, Jonah said he helped them create content that focused on how the product could be used.

“So focus is more on the user, or the thing that happens, or the way it improves the world or people’s lives, rather than the product itself,” he said.

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Email Marketing: Which of these 5 Award nominees can help you improve results?

December 9th, 2014 No comments

Email marketing is often a constant grind of tiny wins and (hopefully) tiny losses.

That’s why it’s such an honor to be able to recognize a marketing team for their relentless work on a campaign, where despite limitations, they were able to make a real difference in the email conversation between company and customer.

This is my second year as a judge for the MarketingSherpa Email Awards (sponsored this year by Blue Hornet) and it’s always a lot of work (30 hours of pre-screening, followed by 20 hours of deliberation) but a privilege to be able to debate and discuss strengths and weaknesses in email marketing with four other judges, who all come from different email marketing perspectives.

The joy that we get out of it is why this year we wanted to share that process with you, the MarketingSherpa Blog reader, by creating the MarketingSherpa Award – Readers’ Choice category.

Out of 500 speaking submissions and email case studies, the judging panel selected two Best-in-Show winners for B2B and B2C, as well as five finalists for the Readers’ Choice. All five are listed and detailed below with links to full case studies if you wish to learn more.

You can now vote for your Readers’ Choice Award winner. After voting, give your Klout score a workout by showing your favorite some love and sharing on social media.

All of the campaigns met our judging criteria of being transformative, customer-centric, innovative and offering transferable principles that marketing peers can apply to their efforts. Each case study displayed strong results. From there, it’s up to you to decide which one deserves top honors.

Have different criteria? Thoughts to share on any of the campaigns? Let us know in the comments.

Happy voting!

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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…