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2016 MarketingSherpa Awards: Customer-focused campaigns that drive results for 4 award nominees

October 2nd, 2015 No comments

2015 MarketingSherpa Readers' Choice Award WinnerWe will be evolving this year to keep up with our audience — you.

This year’s MarketingSherpa Awards extend beyond just email marketing and include marketing campaigns across all disciplines. All year long, MarketingSherpa covers compelling stories in the B2C, B2B, email and inbound spheres, so why shouldn’t our yearly awards?

The three-month process of rewarding talent is a serious endeavor. The selection process included 50 hours of pre-screening more than 300 submissions, followed by 15 hours of group deliberation by our panel of five judges. As we searched through stacks of awards and speaking applications, we were looking for a team that could carry on the legacy of previous years’ winners.

It’s now your turn. We’ve narrowed the submissions down to four of the best campaigns, and you can now vote for your Readers’ Choice Award winner through November 10. After voting, please share your favorite nominee or insight on social media.

All of the campaigns met our judging criteria:

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

From here, 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.

Among many others, here are four lessons you can expect to take from this year’s Awards:

Read more…

Crawl, Walk, Run: How Ferguson began customer-centric email habits to generate over $21 million in online revenue

September 4th, 2015 1 comment

I’ve interviewed around 500 marketers since I started as a reporter at MarketingSherpa. Looking back, most of those conversations are inevitably a bit of a blur, but it’s marketers like Mary Abrahamson, Email Marketing Specialist, Ferguson Enterprises, that truly stand out.

Mary was a first-time attendee at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, and took back what she learned to her office and implemented a transformative, customer-centric campaign that led to her winning Best in Show at Email Summit 2015.

“I learned a lot at Email Summit last year, and coming back [to the office], I felt like we were in an okay place, but we had a lot of room to grow,” she said, explaining that the team began taking steps to refuel their database.

When the team began making changes to view the email program as a whole enterprise, they took what Mary referred to as the “crawl, walk, run approach,” which is where they started off small and went back to optimize later.

The first thing to know when it comes to email relevancy is: there is no email that fits your entire list.

Marketers get requests all the time from different teams and interests to send out an email, and it’s up to the email marketing team to be the stopgap for what goes out to customers.

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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.

Read more…

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.



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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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!

  Read more…

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…