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Content Marketing: User-generated content tips from Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia

July 15th, 2014 2 comments

At the recently held Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, and Allison Banko, Reporter, both of MECLABS, interviewed event speakers and attendees in the MarketingSherpa Media Center.

In this 11-minute video, watch as Daniel spoke with Wikipedia CEO and Founder Jimmy Wales on how to encourage user-generated content – a powerful element within an overall content marketing strategy. Jimmy also discussed why Wikipedia is the only top 50 website in a Wall Street Journal study covering companies that do not engage in any visitor tracking.

 

Empower people to provide the content they want to provide

Jimmy explained that user-generated content is not free labor for marketers, and that he dislikes the term “crowdsourcing” for that reason.

Retailers think, “I want people to do this work – I want them to write reviews for me.”

He explained, “Instead, they should turn it around and say, ‘What do my customers want to accomplish? What is it they are trying to express, and how can I help them express that?’”

Jimmy continued to say this mindset might lead you in new and different ways. Maybe reviewing products is boring for your customers, but what they are really interested in is discussing your products or services in a more general way in which they can add their expertise to a community.

“That’s the first idea I would give – flip it on its head,” Jimmy said. “Don’t think about the work you would like people to do; think about what it is people want to do and how you can empower them to do that.”

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Social Media Marketing: Adding Reddit to the mix

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Social media is almost certainly a part of your marketing mix by this point. Facebook and Twitter are the two overall leaders, and B2B marketers are probably at least looking into how to leverage LinkedIn. Then, there are a host of additional social media platforms such as StumbleUpon, SlideShare, Pinterest, Vine, Quora and many others.

One platform that probably isn’t on most marketers’ radars is Reddit. Marketing tactics on Reddit are not readily obvious, and the platform’s users are not there to be marketed to and don’t welcome any interaction that feels like marketing.

Should you consider Reddit in your social media strategy? If so, how should you approach the platform?

To answer these questions, we reached out to two experts in marketing on Reddit: Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist, Kairay Media; and Greg Finn, Internet Marketer, Cypress North.

Here is the result of that discussion.

 

MarketingSherpa: It sounds like a key challenge to marketing on Reddit is the platform’s policies toward that activity. Briefly cover what marketers should know and understand about these policies.

Brent Csutoras: It is very important to first understand that Reddit is not a single community, but rather a platform to either join existing communities or to create your own communities. Each community is made by a Redditor who then can add moderators and who makes the rules for which everyone in the community must follow. It is super important before trying to submit any content to Reddit to understand the moderators and the rules for each Subreddit you intend to submit your content to.

For instance, some Subreddits will not allow certain domains to be submitted to their community, some like “TodayILearned” require content to be at least two months old, and some like “/worldnews” do not allow news about the U.S.

As to the challenge of marketing to an audience who is by nature against the concept of marketing, it definitely takes someone with a long-term goal and general interest in Reddit to balance the line between being a valuable member of the community, while at the same time, trying to submit your own content.

Greg Finn: The biggest question to ask when participating in Reddit is: Are you contributing? That’s essentially what you should be asking yourself before beginning any type of “marketing.” One of the lines in Reddit’s User Agreement is:

“Cluttering Reddit with junk or spam reduces the quality of the Reddit experience.”

Make sure that you are going into the site with the mindset of increasing the quality of content shared. Also, while not blatantly obvious in the user agreement, you should not be too promotional with your content. Reddit moderators will swiftly ban users that only submitting their own content or commenting with their own links. Treat it like a forum and build credibility in a specific Subreddit, add to the community, then start marketing.

 

MS: Beyond the key challenge addressed above, what are some of the unique marketing challenges (and potential advantages) faced when marketing on Reddit over other social media platforms and other digital marketing channels such as email and paid search?

BC: I mentioned earlier, how individuals really need to make sure they understand the rules of each Subreddit they are submitting to in order to have any real chance at long term success.

Another challenge that people might now understand is that Reddit has a lot of anti-spam elements at play on the site. New users to a Subreddit, and in some cases, new domains, can find themselves being auto-filtered or even silent-filtered, where their submissions might show as submitted to them, but are actually hidden from all other users until it becomes approved by a moderator.

Lastly, it is really important to understand Reddits’ voting algorithm, which, to put it simply, values the combination of the first 10 votes the same as the following combination of the next 100 votes, and then 1000 votes, and so on. This means that what happens during the first 10 votes of your submission are super important. Choosing the right Subreddit, knowing what type of content the moderators support, and selecting the best title when submitting are key to making sure your first couple votes are positive.

GF: The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the volatility of the community. There are dozens of unwritten rules that exist and can kill your promotion on arrival if you don’t follow along. If using images, submit with Imgur. Videos? Use YouTube. Follow along with the community, learn the inner workings before giving it a try.

One of the biggest challenges is the sheer competitiveness of Reddit these days. You need quality content, a killer title and a dash of luck to strike it big.

 

MS: What are some actionable tactics or tips for marketers looking to add Reddit to their digital marketing mix?

BC: Start by identifying the Subreddits you really want to participate and submit to, followed by learning what works in the Subreddit, both from the community’s acceptance and support, and from what the moderators are going to approve and support. Make sure to fully understand the rules of the Subreddit prior to submitting any content.

Never submit something that doesn’t fit into a Subreddit. It will almost always get removed, which can result in you having filters applied to your submissions and possible having your account silent banned.

You simply do not win on Reddit with brute force.

Lastly, you have to be a Reddit user first and foremost, to really understand how to be an effective marketer within Reddit.

GF: Far and away, the most valuable tactic is to go niche. Every marketer is looking for the homerun, but you can easily hit .400 while driving the right mix of targeted traffic to your site. Reddit has individual sections called Subreddits that are niche communities around a specific topic. These Subreddits have the most potential as you can get your content in front of a (smaller) group of highly targeted users.

Local business? Look for a local Subreddit near you and scope the scene.

Got a book about parenting? Head to r/parenting.

Manufacture crockpots? Try /r/slowcooking.

There is a Subreddit for everything. Seriously, take a look. Jump into a community that fits your niche and start participating. The numbers won’t be overwhelming, but the quality will.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Come in with an idea, leave with a blog post

April 1st, 2014 3 comments

Two previous MarketingSherpa Blog posts, “Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources,” and “Content Marketing: Making use of internal resources,” covered meeting the challenge of infusing the knowledge of your internal experts into your content marketing strategy.

Marketers, particularly in the B2B sphere, are regularly told that there is a wealth of great insight and knowledge to be mined for content within the enterprise walls. The challenge is turning that knowledge into content that can be shared.

The first post in this series looked at the popular tactic of interviewing those internal experts and turning the interview material into blog posts, e-books, podcasts and more. The second post in the series offered lists of tips and ideas from three content marketing sources.

Today’s post provides three interesting approaches to take in meeting this content marketing goal:

  • Thinking like a publisher and developing an editorial process
  • Gaining buy-in at the highest levels to improve the process
  • Implementing an interesting tactic dubbed the “blog closet” can provide a wealth of internal expertise for sharing

Kari Rippetoe, Content Marketing Manager, Marketing Mojo, explained how her team takes a publishing approach to content marketing with an editorial process:

We rely heavily on internal resources to create our content!

I’m the content marketing manager for a digital marketing agency, and we create a variety of content including blog posts, webinars, infographics and guides.

Our staff has expertise in a lot of different areas of digital marketing, and we want to showcase that expertise through our content. In fact, content creation is a big part of our culture here. So, almost the entire staff contributes regular blog posts and periodically present webinars.

When I first joined the company, there was an “editorial” calendar of sorts in place for the blog. In fact, the only real purpose it served was to assign blog post deadlines to each writer. This was done without any real interaction with or input from the writers. In addition, writers would run up against their deadlines with no idea about what they were going to write – resulting in last-minute scrambling to get something written.

So, I implemented the following:

  • Regular editorial meetings with the writers to determine topics in advance, so they have more time to think about what they want to write.
  • True editorial calendar tracking not only due dates, but topics, keywords and special holidays/events to keep in mind.
  • Editorial review process to ensure quality of content.

We’ve seen dramatic improvements in the efficiency of content creation on our blog because of these process changes. There is a lot less stress on the writer and me, as the editor of the blog, to get the content written, reviewed, published and distributed.

 

Brandon Gerson, President of Business Development, Mak & Ger, provided an agency perspective on the importance of making internal content a process that begins from the top down:

This is a challenge that our agency faces on a regular basis while trying to create content for our clients.

Interviews work well, but it is best when they can create their own content.

The challenge is that we are trying to do our job, which requires their help, but they have their own job to do, and thus, by working with us, they are not getting their work done.

Here is the best way we have been able to remedy this …

Take a top-down approach and work with the CMO to make an organizational commitment to generating content.

This helps each department allocate a certain amount of time and employees towards generating content. Ideally, this can be a team effort that can occur on a Friday, when productivity levels are low anyway. A few members of a department can get together and share ideas and turn it into bullet points. We then have a dedicated person email these bullet points to our agency partner, who then works to turn their bullet points into blog posts.

We position this as not only a way to help us create content for their marketing, but also as a camaraderie, brainstorming, team building time where new ideas can formulate.

It can be a hard sell initially, but when it works well, it adds a lot of value to all involved.

We have been able to get one client to commit to this approach with their sales team and it has produced some great content that has helped all of their closing rates. In addition to blog posts, we have been able to create white papers, numbered lists, e-books and other assets that they now use to nurture their prospects further down the funnel and it has worked well for the entire organization.

Read more…

Content Marketing: Tips from your peers on making use of internal resources

March 25th, 2014 No comments

A recent MarketingSherpa Blog post, “Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources,” covered one technique for including internal resources in your content marketing. Today’s post features sources who each an array of quick-hit tips on the topic.

Content marketing is major piece of any digital marketing strategy, particularly for B2B marketers. This content – in the form of blog posts, white papers, e-books, infographics, videos, podcasts and more – can be created by the marketing team and can also come from third-party experts.

Utilizing the knowledge of experts, such as developers or engineers, within the enterprise is another resource for content marketing. The challenge is taking advantage of those internal resources.

Simply interviewing those resources is one way to tap into their knowledge, and we covered that tactic in the earlier blog post.

Here are three of your peers in content marketing sharing their lists of tips and ideas to kick start the process of making use of your internal resources.

Tricia Heinrich, Senior Director of Strategic Communications, ON24, explained a number of tactics used at the webcasting technology company:

1. The primary challenge faced when working with internal personnel to develop marketing content is getting needed information from colleagues who are already too busy with their own day-to-day responsibilities. They see the value in marketing, but it is not their primary focus. Overcoming this challenge requires a combination of incentive, persuasion and simplification across all levels and roles.

2. A top-down approach is helpful – if the CEO or CMO mandates that everyone (or certain people) take a more active role in marketing their company and asks to see results, employees will be more accountable and likely to take part.

3. Critical to the success of ON24’s marketing and communications program is customer involvement, and key to recruiting quotable, positive customers is enlisting the assistance of our sales reps.

4. To encourage their participation in the program, we incentivize sales reps by providing a special bonus for customer media interviews, press releases and case studies.

5. Another strategy for successfully involving sales reps in ON24’s marketing and communications program is ON24’s annual customer awards program. Leveraging their relationships, sales reps publicize the program to their customers, recognizing that the program creates good will between ON24 and the customer. The customers who win an award are more likely to participate in the generation of marketing content.

6. To encourage blog posts and bylines by internal contributors, including the executive team, we try to minimize any extra work involved by repurposing content across channels.

7. For example, a presenter in one of our webinars will write a blog post based on his webinar presentation, and the blog post will then be promoted across social channels.

8. Bylined articles are also promoted socially when published – and are often posted on the blog or rewritten for the blog.

9. We also encourage colleagues to write about what they are passionate about. For example, our CEO Sharat Sharan sees the importance of communicating effectively in the workplace and emerging marketing trends. As a result, he has written pieces for The Economist and The Huffington Post on these topics.

 

Jeff Klingberg, President and CEO, Mountain Stream Group, offered tips with a focus on gaining knowledge from engineers:

This topic was discussed at great length in LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketing Community.

 

Issue #1Time

Small companies (50 employees) are typically working with a skeleton workforce and everyone is wearing multiple hats. Even larger companies are facing downsized workforces since the “Great Recession.” Finding time in a busy workday to create content while fulfilling the day-to-day responsibilities to satisfy client needs can be challenging, especially in the engineering department.

 

Issue #2. Subject-matter experts

In manufacturing companies, the retirement of engineers has driven them to take a different track in meeting engineering department needs. Many companies are hiring CAD operators (designers) on a contract basis instead of hiring engineers. Therefore, they don’t have a lot of subject-matter experts available to create content.

 

Issue #3. Fear

Engineers, by nature, are not good communicators, so fear sets in when asked to create documents beyond the typical CAD drawing or manuals.

 

Issue #4. What type of content to create

Smaller companies typically don’t have a deep understanding of their customer personas, pain points and what customers’ purchasing influencers and specifiers are looking for in content. Also, you have to define what content is.

For example, 52% of engineers expect a supplier to have downloadable CAD drawings in order to consider doing business with that company, however, only about one-fourth of manufacturers have CAD drawings on their websites. And engineers are looking for 3D models to help them reduce time to market.

I know one company who has taken a novel approach to the 3D model issue. If their current suppliers don’t have 3D models, they have offered to create the 3D models for the supplier in return for product.

Ultimately, content creation is a team effort. Its importance has to start at the chief executive. Marketing personnel have to make it easy for subject-matter experts by providing research on subject and content needs, put questions together to help the SMEs create content or pull together information that Marketing can then [use to] create content.

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Content Marketing: Interviewing internal resources

February 25th, 2014 3 comments

Marketers, particularly B2B marketers, for the last couple of years have been hammered with the message that content is the key that unlocks all other marketing channels. Sharing quality content makes email messages more likely to be opened and clicked through, makes social media more engaging, and when done correctly, promotes both thought leadership and brand awareness.

Of course, to share great content, you need to have great content.

Here are three of the areas where marketers are commonly instructed to mine for content:

  • White papers, blog posts, videos and podcasts created by the marketing team
  • Third-party experts providing written, audio or visual information
  • Internal expert resources within the company, such as engineers or developers, providing that information

The first is obvious, and creating this sort of content is most likely part of the job description for a marketing position. The second involves some legwork in tracking down those external experts in a particular business space or marketplace, but achieving that third-party validation as part of the content marketing strategy is powerful.

That third area – utilizing the knowledge of internal expert resources – is a resource that is often touted, but actually taking advantage of that resource can be easier said than done.

We’ve reached out to a wide range of content marketing sources who do just that and are sharing their tips for taking advantage of internal experts for content marketing with you in a series of MarketingSherpa Blog posts.

Although the tips cover a number of different tactics, for today’s post, the focus is on one of the most popular methods of turning that internal knowledge into sharable content – the interview process.

Maureen Jann, Senior Manager, Marketing, Intrepid Learning, offers several tips (you’ll find more in later blog posts), including one covering the interview process:

The “You’re an Expert Now” Method – We have a ghost writer interview someone based on their expertise and we write the content and send back to the “author” for approval.

 

Erin Cushing, Social Media/Content Manager, inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency, has this advice:

The vast majority of our clients are in the B2B space, and while they understand the importance of blogging and content marketing, they feel that they are “unqualified” to create content.

One of my main jobs is to identify potential brand ambassadors and formulate strategies to involve them in the content marketing process.

For example, one of my software clients was addressing a severe gap in original content. I worked with the lead support specialist for the company and in a journalist manner “interviewed” him, asking him about the most frequent questions he fielded from clients, what features of his software product were his favorites, and what the clients he spoke with were most interested in when it come to the type of software they sell.

This gold mine of information made for a wealth of blog posts, white papers and data sheets. This is just one example of helping internal resources zero in on essential information and craft useful content.

Read more…

Testing and Optimization: Radical website redesign program improves lead gen 89%

October 1st, 2013 1 comment

I’m live blogging at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, and attending a brand-side case study with Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, One Call Now.

To begin a testing and optimization program, Jacob launched a test on the website with a radical redesign, attempting to improve lead capture. The program was executed sequentially as opposed to A/B split testing.

Jacob said each new homepage version replaced the previous – the marketing team created new treatments and “flipped the switch” to learn how the page would perform.

An important insight from this testing approach  is there isn’t necessarily a need for a complex A/B or multivariate testing program.

The testing program was run on the homepage, and there were several objectives:

  • Increase conversion rate
  • Increase traffic
  • Reduce bounce rate
  • Provide niched messaging via enhanced segmentation

Here is the test control and original website:

 

And, here is the radical redesign treatment:

 

There were several key differences with the treatment:

  • Restructured navigation
  • Consolidated calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Single value proposition – no competing headlines on the page
  • Trust indicators
  • Color palette
  • New tag line
  • New content

The original homepage, the control in this test, achieved 2.40% lead capture, and the radical redesign treatment pulled in 2.85% lead capture – an 18.75% lift over the control.

Jacob says the radical redesign was based on a revamped segmentation model.

“The new segmentation model drove the basic navigation structure and information architecture of the new homepage,” he explained.

This test with an early “win” was part of an ongoing optimization program. Not every test uncovered a lift, but every test did garner a discovery. The testing protocol involved taking the “winning” treatment and then refining the webpage layout, calls-to-action and length of the sign-up process for lead capture.

Through optimization, the sign-up process was shortened, and free trial sign-ups increased 55.3%, and the overall redesign of the entire website garnered a 89% lift in lead generation.

For the big takeaway, Jacob says, “Never stop improving. Complacency is lead capture optimization’s worst enemy and perfection is impossible. Complacency is conversion rate optimization’s worst enemy.”

  Read more…

Email Marketing: Inactive lists and deliverability

September 6th, 2013 1 comment

I recently had the chance to speak with Ali Swerdlow, VP Channel Sales and Marketing, LeadSpend, on some of the challenges facing email marketers. She mentioned emailing inactive lists is an issue for a number of reasons.

That conversation led to a joint interview with industry experts Craig Swerdloff, CEO and Founder, LeadSpend, and Spencer Kollas, Global Director of Delivery Services, Experian Marketing Services.

 

MarketingSherpa: We’re going to be talking about inactive email and what email marketers can do about this issue. This is a challenge for a lot of marketers.

Spencer Kollas: There has been a lot of press around the fact that Yahoo! is actually shutting down and potentially reassigning I’ve heard anywhere between 7 million and 15 million email addresses that have not been logged into in the past 12 months.

It’s really important for clients, as they start looking at this, and senders, to focus on those most active users, because not only are the ISPs such as Yahoo! potentially shutting those addresses down because of inactivity, but a lot of the major ISPs are also looking at user-level engagement to determine inbox delivery.

When you look at  a Yahoo!, a Gmail, a Hotmail [account], they are actually looking at how engaged [your users are]. And that will actually help them determine whether they think that they should deliver all of your mail into the inbox, the bulk folder, or just even potentially block it.

By looking at that engagement level and focusing on those and knowing who your inactives are, and really determining what is considered inactive based on your business needs and goals, is also a very important piece.

Craig Swerdloff: Yeah, I would echo that. I completely agree with Spencer. I think marketers are faced with a tough challenge in really identifying active users, however, because at the end of the day, the metrics around activity aren’t necessarily accurate.

The best example I can give on that is there may be a lot of users who are receiving your email, for example, on a mobile device where the images are disabled by default. From a marketer’s perspective, they may never register an open [for that email] even though they may be actually engaging with that email on their mobile phone.

Furthermore, they might be taking action from that email that may not be identified in a click, but may actually result in a person coming into your store and making a purchase.

You’ve got to clean up your data and, obviously, you’ve got to remove inactives over a period of time. But you also don’t want to throw away email addresses of customers that are actually reading your email or seeing your email and who are then prompted to go into a store and make a purchase. So, you’ve got very careful about it.

 

MS: Actually, that brings up a great question because – what is the marketing challenge? Obviously you’re going to track open rate, clickthrough and everything else. But at the same time, you have people who are opening on mobile, they’re engaging with you in different places. How do you meet that challenge?

SK: From a straight deliverability standpoint, right, the ISPs are strictly looking at email engagement, right? So, truly understanding your customers and your business, you have to figure out – are there other ways to engage with [your customers]?

Are they looking at things on, say, social or are there other options that you can use to get them to open your emails – even by posting something through your social networks and getting them to open one of your emails, something along those lines.

Because Yahoo! doesn’t know that somebody’s coming into your business and your retail store and actually buying something. Only you know that. So, finding other avenues to reach out to those customers and getting them to engage with your email is something that I think is really important. Again, it’s all based on those particular business goals and those business needs.

It’s a careful balance. You want to work for better deliverability and better inbox placement rate, but at the same time, your ultimate goal is to optimize towards the highest ROI and the highest rate of return and revenue on your email program.

You probably want to do things in steps and do things in a gradual process. By the way, if you’re not having a deliverability problem, then you probably don’t need to really worry too much about removing inactive email addresses. But if you are, then you may want to stop and take a look at what’s causing that and which domains you might be having a problem [with].

Let’s just say, for example, you’re having a deliverability problem related to engagement at Yahoo!, then you probably want to start removing some of your inactive Yahoo! addresses.

But the best way to do that would be, for example, to start with email addresses that have never registered and opened, never registered a click, and who aren’t customers, current customers, as far as you can tell online or offline.

You can remove those folks and then kind of measure and gauge what effect that’s having on your deliverability and inbox placement at Yahoo!. And, if it is having enough of an effect, then you may want to start adding some additional email addresses into your inactive segments. So, you may want to start removing people who maybe haven’t opened or clicked in 12 months and who haven’t made a purchase in 12 months, and you can continue to sort of expand the universe, if necessary, in order to fix that deliverability problem.

 

MS: How does your inactive crowd affect your reputation score?

SK: Again, from the deliverability standpoint, when you’re talking about the major ISPs that are using engagement as part of their overall reputation scores, it can have a drastic impact on your overall ability to reach your customers.

While some [if not all] of the ISPs use engagement level-type situations, a lot of the major ones do, and so that’s where you’re going to see the effects of your inbox delivery. It’s not just about how much mail are you sending in a given time or throttle rate, or even just spam complaints. It’s all of the different levers that they can look at, whether it’s unknown users, whether it’s spam traps, whether it’s complaint rates, whether it’s engagement level stuff. They’re looking at all of those and tweaking as they go along to determine your overall reputation.

 

MS: Is there anything you want to add that I’ve not brought up that you think is apropos to this entire conversation?

SK: I think from a deliverability standpoint, one thing that has been kind of proven time and time again is in email, it’s not always about the biggest list makes the most money. It’s about the most focused list, sending the most relevant content.

Just by sending emails to people that are opening or clicking or engaging with your brand isn’t necessarily going to make you the ROI that you’re looking for on email.

While email is very cheap and easy to do, you want to make sure you’re reaching those customers that are your most active and finding other avenues. Again, be it print, phone, social, whatever it may be, how to engage those customers and possibly bring them back into the fold in email.

 

MS: You’re telling me you like segmentation and not batch and blast, right?

SK: It was probably 10 years ago, my boss would basically start every presentation, every conversation with telling people that they are no longer allowed to say the word “blast” because blast is a bad thing and that’s exactly what the ISPs look for and try to block. They are looking for segmentation. They are looking for different ways that companies are reaching out to their users.

From a deliverability standpoint, that’s how best we can understand which segments are your most valuable. By just doing the old batch and blast, you can’t really tell what’s actually making you the most money and what’s not, so you don’t know where to focus your time.

By creating different segments, you can really focus where it’s going to make you money in return, instead of just focusing and wasting your time on people that will never truly engage with your brand via email.

Read more…

Email Marketing: Your questions about personalization and length

May 31st, 2013 6 comments

Last week, I was a guest of Responsys at Responsys Interact 2013, and I had the chance to interview Rich Fleck, the company’s Vice President of Strategy.

We covered a range of topics that will appear in an upcoming MarketingSherpa how-to article, but I thought it would be interesting to address some questions from our audience that we didn’t have time to cover in MarketingSherpa webinars and MarketingExperiments Web clinics.

Here are your questions with Rich’s answers:

 

From Cate: “Can you go too far with personalization where it gets kinda creepy for the recipient? Big Brother-ish …”

Rich Fleck: Yes – there is great temptation to get hyperpersonal with all the data we now have at our marketing disposal. However, it’s important to align personalization with consumer expectations and privacy guidelines.

As marketers, we need to look at our marketing efforts through a consumer lens – putting ourselves in their position to make sure our initiatives make sense in the context of the consumer experience. How will the consumer respond? Are they expecting this message? Effectively balancing the targeting/personalization with consumer expectations will drive the best marketing result.

 

From Ed: “How does personalization affect conversion rates?”

RF: Smart targeting and personalization drives better consumer engagement and conversion. We often see targeted messaging out-performing status quo messaging by a factor of two to three times – on both engagement and conversion metrics.

The challenge is finding the right personalization opportunities by leveraging analytics to understand consumer behavior and then aligning marketing initiatives to propel a positive behavior (purchase) or mitigate a negative behavior (unsubscribe, customer churn).

Read more…

Email Marketing: Why National Geographic uses business rules and frequency caps

May 24th, 2013 2 comments

National Geographic was sending an enormous amount of emails to its list – as much as almost 18 messages a week on average, depending on the season and the target segment within its database.

There were multiple marketing and creative teams sending those messages, so along with volume, branding and just simple look-and-feel was an issue as well.

To compound those problems, when a creative piece worked, it was re-used. A lot. A subscriber receiving a high frequency of emails might see the same, albeit (at least originally) high-performing, image for weeks or months on end.

Unsubcribes became an issue, particularly among the best converting recipients who were receiving the highest volume of email.

 

Kill your marketing calendar

I’m reporting live from Responsys Interact 2013 in San Francisco (Full Disclosure: I am a guest of Responsys at this event). Eric Brodnax, EVP, Digital Products, National Geographic Society, shared steps about how that well-known brand sought to overcome this challenge by taking a very customer-centric approach to completely change its email strategy in a session titled “Kill your marketing calendar. Moving from campaign-led to customer-led marketing.”

“What we saw was the retention rate was directly correlating to the number of messages they were receiving,” Eric said.

National Geographic used three learnings to turn this problem around across its email campaign ecosystem:

1. Ignoring your customer’s wishes impacts the entire business.

2. Your organization needs unified ownership of the customer relationship.

  • Without central oversight, it’s easy to mail too much.
  • It’s often your best customers who are treated the worst.
  • Problems compound as time passes.

3. Tailor your message to your (internal) audience.

  • Use analogies. Numbers don’t speak to everyone. In this case, Eric used the analogy of overfishing the ocean.
  • Be patient. You may need to repeat your message again and again.
  • Appeal to core values. Most companies claim to respect the customer and value collaboration.

“In the end, [appealing to core values] will resonate with people,”  Eric said. “But, if you don’t change the way you do business, you’re not going to make any differences.”

 

The implementation of business rules and frequency caps

I also had the chance to get insight into this email transformation from Marc Haseltine, Email Marketing Manager, National Geographic:

By actively monitoring our comments inbox and communicating with our email subscriber base, those on the front line of the program were aware that many customers felt like they were being over-communicated with via email.

These individual comments and feedback that were being received helped surface issues and potential problem areas in our email program for our data analysis group to really dig into. Their work helped identify long term trends that were impacting the email program.

We were actively targeting all our email campaigns, whether it was based on customers’ and fans’ stated preferences, purchase activity or geolocation, however, the email channel was helping to support so much of the Society’s content, activities and products.  Without business rules and frequency caps, it’d be possible for those most engaged with our brand to sometimes receive up to four emails a day from us.

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[Video] How The Boston Globe used customer insight to create new strategy

MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2013 is rapidly approaching, and today’s video excerpt offers an exciting preview for one of the sessions, “Boston Globe: Discovering and optimizing a value proposition,” featuring Peter Doucette, Executive Director of Circulation Sales & Marketing, The Boston Globe.

At last year’s Summit, Peter’s presentation was titled, “The Boston Globe: Managing a transition from free to paid product,” covering an ongoing and relatively early-stage testing and optimization program. This year’s presentation will discuss part two of that process.

In this excerpt, Peter and Pamela Markey, Senior Director of Marketing, MECLABS, talk about how tablets became an important digital form factor for The Boston Globe’s new online subscriber strategy, some of the customer insight that began informing the strategy and the new direction insight created at The Boston Globe.

Also, if you would like to hear the entire process Peter and his team at The Boston Globe undertook to transform the way it approached both its online and offline audience, watch the full presentation from last year’s Optimization Summit from the MarketingSherpa Video Archive.

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