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What Single Attribute Can Improve Your Marketing? Sales and Marketing alignment

July 10th, 2015 No comments

After writing hundreds of MarketingSherpa Newsletter case studies and, in the process, interviewing, speaking with and getting to know many, many marketers, one attribute really stands out for influencing successful marketing — Sales and Marketing alignment.

It doesn’t guarantee success and lack of alignment doesn’t automatically mean failure. However, when Marketing and Sales are working together as a team instead of as adversaries within a company, the entire sales pipeline is much more effective.

One reason for this success is that companies with a Sales and Marketing alignment are much more likely to see the entire customer experience holistically, where each person is seen in terms of where they are in the process.

For example, that person will be seen as a freshly generated lead, a prospect who has been handed off to Sales, a paying customer requiring service or an ongoing nurturing to ensure they remain a customer.  This is much more preferable than being just a cog in a process that begins with Marketing, goes to Sales — where, at that point, the person drops off of Marketing’s radar altogether — and then, hopefully, is passed to customer service and is no longer a Sales concern.

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Email Marketing: What are some of the biggest deliverability challenges?

June 19th, 2015 3 comments

Deliverability should be a concern for any email marketer. If you can’t get into the inbox, your email send might as well not have even happened.

Deliverability can be a challenge. A bad reputation score can significantly impact your ability to reach the inbox. An ESP (email service provider) with other clients behaving poorly on a shared IP also hurts you. Getting off of a spam or junk mail blacklist can be a Kafka-esque experience of not really being sure who or what will get you off that list.

To help you with deliverability issues, I reached out to three industry experts to find out what they considered to be the biggest deliverability challenges facing marketers today.

 

Understand why you have a deliverability problem

Tom Sather, Senior Director of Research, Return Path, said, “The biggest challenge that marketers have today is gaining awareness and understanding why they’re having a problem. Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo!, as well as spam filters, make real-time, data-driven decisions based on their users’ behaviors and actions.”

He said understanding the data behind your email program is going to do more towards solving a deliverability issue than following any list of tips or best practices.

Tom explained, “Most email marketers lack this fundamental data that the email providers have access to and are essentially in the dark ages when it comes to finding a solution. As a result, we hear experts touting general best practices — which is more like alchemy and doesn’t provide the desired results or can make the situation worse. Marketers who have access[to]  and analyze the data will see the highest inbox placement rates and happier and more engaged subscribers as a result.”

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User-Generated Content: How a payday loan company takes advantage of customer reviews

June 12th, 2015 2 comments

Customer reviews and testimonials can be a powerful source of third-party validation and credibility when added to an overall content marketing strategy.

Today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post looks at how one consumer marketer — in a business area that is potentially hostile to positive customer feedback — initiated a campaign to actively add customer reviews to its marketing mix.

Check ‘n Go is a payday loan company with a focus on short-term consumer lending with retail outlets going back almost 20 years and, more recently, an online option for loans as well. Farhad Rahbardar, Web Analytics Analyst, Check ‘n Go, worked with the company’s Analytics and Customer Acquisition Group. Rahbardar said the team wanted to begin using customer reviews in different touchpoints on the website. The team also wanted to aggregate those reviews through an independent third party to help build Check ‘n Go’s Google Seller ratings.

One initial challenge was internal concern about what sort of feedback customers might provide — or possibly even refuse to provide — given the reputation of the company’s business space. In fact, the company had already found that it couldn’t really get any sharing via social media platforms because, as Farhad said, “Customers are really not fine with sharing their experience getting a payday loan on any social media, which is understandable.”

In terms of asking for customer reviews, he said “We were hesitant about implementing this — the senior management here — just because there’s a stigma about short-term lending and we were unsure if we were going to receive anything positive.”

 

Begin collecting customer reviews

The team pressed on, chose a customer review vendor and implemented a process for collecting customer reviews. After someone secures a loan, they receive messaging that simply asks them to come back to Check ‘n Go and write about their experience.

“To our surprise, we started receiving really positive reviews,” said Farhad. “Nine out of 10 were either four star or five star. We had a lot of people who were really happy with the fact that we were able to help them.”

The first place Check ‘n Go began using these reviews was on its landing pages, and the team even tested different ways to display the reviews.

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Mobile Marketing: How Voices.com involved its customers in a responsive design campaign [video]

Today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post features an excerpt from a MarketingSherpa Optimization Summit 2014 presentation — “Mobile Optimization: How a B2B ecommerce company used responsive design to increase revenue by 180%” — with David Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer, Voices.com, providing insights into how the company utilized its customers in a mobile marketing campaign on responsive design.


In this video David explains how Voices.com tested its website with click tracking and heatmaps, saying that the first goal was to find out what website elements the team needed to keep when rolling out a new, responsive version that would be effective on both desktops and mobile devices.

“That’s how we identified the [website] elements that we were going to keep,” he says.

Another aspect of taking a customer-centric approach was that the team made a change in how interaction with the website was explained in help guides, tips and tutorials, email instruction and FAQs. This was done in order to reflect that mobile users will be tapping, spreading and pinching rather than navigating with mouse clicks like desktop users.

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Personalized Marketing: Choosing your targets wisely

A recent MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter case study, “Personalization Marketing: In-trial messages increased online registrations by 15% for a B2B SaaS,” covered Brainshark, a cloud-based B2B service for training, sales conversions and marketing. The case study examined how Brainshark pushed personalized messaging on users of a freemium product that offered a scaled down version of one of its main enterprise products.

These messages took the form of informational and educational tips about using the freemium products and promotions for other free Brainshark products, while offering to upgrade to the paid version.

The freemium product, myBrainshark, creates video presentations out of static data, such as presentation slide shows, spreadsheet data, PDFs and other written content. Although Brainshark targets business users director-level and above in sales training, enablement and operations, the freemium product attracted more than just attention from business users. Arthur Gehring, Vice President of Demand Generation, Brainshark, said educators were another main user base.

He explained, “It’s amazing how much kids today are using technology like this in the classroom. It’s really cool. A lot of high schools, elementary schools, use myBrainshark as a learning aid.”

Arthur continued, “Those people — we’re not as interested in trying to sell them an enterprise product.”

At the same time, for Brainshark’s actual target audience, Arthur said the team wanted to know more about those users and used analytics to see what they were looking for. He described it as, “[trying to] help them and hopefully provide more value to them.”

 

Making registration quick and painless

To register for myBrainshark, new users only have to provide a screen name and email and create a password. Arthur said the small number of form fields was to drive as many registrations as possible.

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Content Marketing: Measuring results, tracking ROI and generating leads

April 24th, 2015 2 comments

One of my recent MarketingSherpa Blog posts, “Content Marketing 101: Tips on content strategy” covered some basics of content marketing. For today’s post, I want to dig into the MarketingSherpa Newsletter archive to highlight what can be a challenging aspect of content marketing — quantifying and proving its worth.

The first article to highlight is a how-to, titled “Measuring Content Marketing: How to measure results, find gaps and grab opportunities,” that covers a range of tactics offered by Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute, and Michal Brenner, Senior Director, Global Integrated Marketing, SAP, on quantifying your content marketing efforts.

Joe says to set three categories of goals for content — driving sales, saving money and making customers happier.

To reach these goals, he suggested tracking those goals in three tiers:

 

Creator-level metrics

For a company blog, these KPIs include traffic metrics, such as page views and unique visitors; source metrics, such as inbound search results and referring sites; and sharing metrics, such as tweets.

 

Manager-level metrics

These KPIs include lead volume generated, lead quality, cost-per-lead and conversion rate.

 

Director-level metrics

At the highest level, content KPIs include revCreatienue, costs, ROI and customer lifetime value.

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Analytics also plays a role in content marketing.

Michael suggests that Google Analytics can be a content marketer’s best friend because the free tool allows tracking of the most downloaded, shared and viewed content on the website, sources of inbound traffic and organic search keywords used to reach your site.

Joe added, “We’re so infatuated with the creative that we don’t take two seconds to look at how this is making an impact on our customers. [Tracking software] is not glamorous. I can’t hold or touch or feel it, but you can take that feedback from the technology and then improve the content you have.”

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Omni-channel Marketing: How do you define the term?

April 21st, 2015 1 comment

Marketing, like any business area, is full of acronyms (CRM, SEO, SEM, etc.) and buzzwords that get hot and start being used in conversations, presentations, industry articles and other professional interactions. I can think of more than a few, and I bet you can too (in fact, it would be fun for everyone to share some of your favorite marketing buzzwords in the comments section of this post.)

One of the latest buzzwords out there is “omni-channel marketing” — a term that obviously is related, but different from multi-channel marketing. However, like any new term or phrase that begins receiving a lot of traction, there is no clear definition on exactly what omni-channel marketing means or entails.

With that in mind, I reached out to a group of marketing industry thought leaders who, by job title and description, are tasked with staying in front of industry trends.

Here are different takes on omni-channel marketing from three industry experts:

 

Loren McDonald, Vice President Industry Relations, Silverpop, an IBM company

“Omni-channel to me means that, first, a brand or company understands that its customers interact with them in multiple and different Loren McDonaldchannels along their customer journey and is organized around that customer experience and journey, rather than individual channels. Then from an execution perspective, it means listening to and capturing data and behavior from a customer across all channels and then responding back through the channel, or channels, that best moves that individual customer on to the next stage of the journey.

“Unlike a simple multi-channel approach, omni-channel means that the brand’s messages are both coordinated and provide a consistent experience for the customer across channels and devices. For example, a customer that browses your site or abandons your shopping cart might receive a push notification promoting the product viewed when they log in to your mobile app a few days later.”

 

 

David Baker, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Cordial, Inc.

“The fundamental shift in multi-channel vs. omni-channel thinking is a product of a maturing view of the consumer by marketers. Think consumer at the center, wrapped by a connected experience vs. the consumer connecting with each channel discretely in a very linear way.

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Content Marketing 101: Tips on content strategy

April 14th, 2015 7 comments

By this point, I think most marketers understand the value and importance of the content marketing channel. It’s well known that prospects for both consumer and B2B marketers are now doing most research on their own — I’ve seen research reporting B2B prospects are now getting 80% down the pipeline before ever raising their hand and letting you know they might be a customer.

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A prospect 80% down the pipeline is likely going to be a more qualified prospect because they are nearing the end goal in terms of making a purchase — and because Marketing and Sales only have to get that last 20% to close the sale. At the same time, it means you can’t just push out marketing messages to names and leads in order to reach the entire marketplace.

The solution to this issue is to have a solid content marketing strategy in place, maybe even making content marketing the centerpiece of the overall marketing strategy.

Having spoken with hundreds of marketers about their content strategies over the years, I wanted to share tips on some of the basics of content marketing with the MarketingSherpa Blog reader.

 

It’s not about selling

One point about content marketing that can’t be emphasized enough is this: It’s not about selling your company, your products or your services. At its core, a content marketing strategy is targeting those prospects in the research phase that have yet to identify themselves as potential customers. You don’t know their names; you don’t have their email addresses in your database, and they might not even follow you on social media.

However, they are conducting research on your products, your services, your marketplace, your competitors and your company. If you can become a resource of basic information and instruction around the general marketplace of your business, you can become a trusted destination for those as-yet unknown prospects.

The two terms to keep in mind here are thought leadership and brand awareness. If you can provide valuable and relevant content to people conducting research on your marketplace, products and services, you can become a thought leader for information in that space.

As people visit, and revisit, your website and other digital outposts (such as a Facebook page or answer to a question on Quora) without being sold to, they will become aware of your brand. When they do decide to take a more definite step and raise their hand to be sold to, hopefully you will be top of mind.

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Ecommerce: How to preserve your brand globally [Video]

March 27th, 2015 3 comments

Ecommerce offers a great opportunity because it allows marketers to sell globally much more easily than opening brick-and-mortar locations around the world. This video from the MarketingSherpa video archive features Rob Garf, Vice President of Industry Strategy and Insights, Demandware, covering this topic with some tips on global ecommerce and insights from the frontlines of selling online in new geographies.

 

Preserving brand value across multiple cultures

According to Rob, global ecommerce is growing, and the first challenge is preserving brand value while meeting the specific needs of the new marketplace.

“First off, you can’t not pay attention to [global ecommerce]. Retailers — historically, how they grew globally was to have to stand up an entire physical location, retool their entire supply chain, and it was really expensive,” he said.

“The digital world really allows you to grow across boundaries in a real, more efficient way. Be able to test different markets. Be able to reach new consumers and ultimately grow the business,” Rob added.

Rob explained that it comes down to culture and being entrenched in how the consumers behave and how they want to interact with the brand, and those factors are affected by geography. In order to accomplish this in marketing, merchandising and promotional practices need to be adjusted. In Rob’s words, “Have a local presence in order to be local.”

Watch the video to find out more of Rob’s advice on marketing ecommerce globally:

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Mobile Email: Tips on getting started

March 20th, 2015 3 comments

For email marketers, tackling mobile email is a relatively new challenge, but a challenge that needs to be addressed. According to research from Litmus, the email testing and analytics vendor, 49% of people access email via a smartphone — a figure that’s risen fivefold since 2011 and continues to trend upward.

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To provide some insight for you, the MarketingSherpa Blog reader, I reached out to five email marketers who addressed the mobile email challenge with two basic questions on the topic.

Read on to find out what this expert panel had to say about mobile email:

 

MarketingSherpa Blog: What one tactic has the most impact on mobile email campaigns?

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus

Ah, the million dollar question! As with most things with email, it’s hard to make a generalization since it can vary greatly based on your industry and audience. If I had to pick just one tactic, I’d go broad and say responsive design has the most impact on mobile email. MailChimp sends billions of emails every year, and they’ve seen a 15% increase in unique clicks for mobile users when responsive design is used. Even without huge gains in performance, sending responsive campaigns sends the message that you care about providing the best possible user experience for your subscribers.

 

 Brian Graves, UI Team Lead, DEG

Simplifying the experience. In addition to helping deal with the smaller amount of screen real estate available on mobile devices, statistics show that customers typically spend less than 15 seconds reading marketing emails, with iOS users spending the least amount at around 3 seconds or less. Look at repositioning your email layout to lead with your most important messaging. The most effective emails are typically concise and have a clear focus. This is not only a good tactic for mobile but is one way in which a mobile-first approach can help improve your campaigns across every platform.

 

Ted Goas, Designer and Developer, Canfield Scientific

Work as a unified team from day one. Having product managers, marketers, designers and developers working together from planning through to execution helps ensure a campaign’s quality doesn’t degrade as it gets ‘thrown over the wall’ in a waterfall process. Everyone knows what’s happening and why.

 

Dan Denney, Front-End Devevloper, Code School

Designing an email for scanability has the most impact. We want everyone to read every word, but people want to find what they’re interested in and move on. Make it easy for them.

 

Fabio Carniero, Lead Email Developer, MailChimp

Spongy development (sometimes called hybrid development), in my opinion, has the most impact. There are a fair number of pitfalls associated with mobile email, and the spongy development method — a combination of fluid and non-fluid email markup — can generally resolve most of them. The most pertinent example is the Gmail app on Android and iOS; the app doesn’t support media queries, which are generally necessary for responsive design. The spongy/hybrid technique serves as a work-around for providing ‘responsive’ email in clients that don’t support the technology specifically.

This development technique, with its inherent flexibility and robustness, also has the benefit of being stable in a very wide variety of email clients and platforms, from desktop to tablet to phones.

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