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Social Media: How to turn customers into brand advocates

April 11th, 2014 1 comment

For many marketers, user-generated content is the upcycling opportunity of a lifetime. It’s free content created by customers turned brand advocates with a margin of credibility money can’t buy.

Sadly, this content often goes to waste in marketing, or worse, unnoticed altogether.

The challenge, however, for savvy marketers like Evin Catlett, Digital Marketing Manager, Amer Sports, often rests in finding strategic ways to repurpose content effectively.

In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, Evin explained how Amer Sports was launching its first U.S. Instagram campaign in support of a new product. According to Evin, the launch would also focus on the overall goal of increasing social media engagement with U.S. consumers.

“We didn’t have a ton of reach,” Evin explained, “And while we did have really strong engagement, it was with a very small community.” 

social-media-engagement

 

Before Evin began, she realized one important element to the campaign was the need to inspire social media interaction with customers.

invitation-to-inspire

 

To help accomplish this, the team brought in key brand athletes to have a fairly robust part in interacting on social media with the product, and invited the social media community to do the same.

suunto-ambitions-instagram

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Email Marketing: How a creative throwback helped Dell boost revenue 109%

March 18th, 2014 2 comments

Meeting customer expectations can be tough, but exceeding them consistently introduces a whole new set of challenges.

How do you build fresh excitement around a new product when customers have become comfortably numb?

This was the challenge facing Dave Sierk, Consumer & Small Business Email Strategist, Dell, who shared an interesting case study at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 on Dell’s approach to tackling this problem for a new product’s launch.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, let’s take a look at the throwback creative Dave and his team used to effectively communicate value.

 

Expectations on autopilot are tough to disrupt 

dell-laptop-emails

 

Dell launches a few products a year, and as you would expect, most of them are laptops.

When the team prepared to launch the XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook, a laptop that can transform from a laptop to a tablet, they realized communicating the new product’s value effectively would prove a little tricky.

 

Text and images don’t always cut it

A versatile range of motion is one of the core values of the product.dell-text-emails

How do you communicate that aspect through an email using text or images?

You can’t.

Image stills do not fully deliver the product’s fluid range of motion, and a wall of descriptive text telling customers about it is not very appealing either.

Let’s not forget an even bigger problem …

While the laptop’s motion could be demonstrated at a brick-and-mortar store, the gap in effectively demonstrating the product online would remain unsolved.

 

A blast from the past emerges as a solution

dell-gif-email

 

The team decided to use a GIF to illustrate the product’s full range of motion in the email campaign. Another advantage of using this throwback to the 90s was that the GIF solved the problem of showing online users how the product worked.

“It’s a great way for a customer to get a full understanding of how that product is going to work in their hands,” Dave said.

 

Delivering value to the inbox is why customers buy from you

dell-gif-email-results

 

After Dell compared the campaign’s performance against internal benchmarks, it proved a success. Dave’s team increased conversion 103% and boosted revenue 109%.

This example also serves as a reminder as to why capturing and delivering a value proposition is vital to your email efforts versus just plugging a few product images and text in an email and hoping for the best.

You have to go beyond just sharing what something is with customers and show them why it’s the ideal solution for them.

To learn more about this campaign and other inspirational and transferable takeaways from Email Summit 2014, check out the on-demand replay of “Email Summit 2014: Top takeaways from award-winning campaigns.”

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E-commerce: 2 tactics to increase relevance in your email sends

February 11th, 2014 5 comments

Relevance.

Relevance is the biggest reason why a customer opens your emails amid the flurry of messages they don’t open.

True relevance is elusive, tough to achieve and even harder to maintain.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I wanted to share two tactics for moving the relevance dial that you can you can use to aid your own email marketing efforts.

 

Move from rebates to readership

For some marketing teams, promotional sending is habitual on a scale viewed as borderline narcotic.

With limited time and resources, incentives intuitively seem like the right move to drive sales, but when the customer experience becomes built on a quid pro quo discount purchase relationship, you’ve got a bit of a problem on your hands.

So how do you break the cycle of promotional-only emails?

Well, one approach Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, shared in a recent case study is to create relevant content that celebrates your product and engages your customers.

Marcia’s team realized that their problem was two-fold, as calendars are a seasonal product and even promotions have their limits with customers.

“There are only so many ‘calendar clearance’ messages that our subscribers will receive before they will opt-out,” Marcia explained, adding, “We don’t want our list to go cold. That would hurt us with our deliverability with the major ISPs.”

 

Marcia’s team built a monthly newsletter around blogging and social media that engaged their subscribers with year-round entertaining content.

Their move beyond promotions to audience building resulted in open rate increases of 46% over the previous year.

 

Customers will abandon more than just your cart

I think it’s important here to make a distinction.

Moving beyond a tactic doesn’t mean you abandon it altogether.

It just simply means you take one more deliberate step toward doing it better than you did yesterday, and hopefully better than the other guy.

For example, Laura Santos, Marketing Manager, Envelopes.com, saw an opportunity to move beyond cart abandonment triggers and seized it.

Laura’s team used their customer data to determine a chance existed to increase sales among their multiple-visit shoppers by sending emails to customers triggered by abandoned product pages that encouraged them to return and complete the transaction.

 

The tactic slashed checkout abandonment rates by 40% in less than two years while increasing overall checkout conversions by 65%.

You can learn more about how Laura’s team used triggered sends and testing to increase their ROI in a recent case study, “E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions.”

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Multichannel Campaigns: How do you avoid zombie marketing?

February 4th, 2014 No comments

Zombie marketing.

It’s where lackluster marketing runs rampant as customers are swarmed by hordes of mediocre messages.

So how do you avoid it?

 

Commit to breaking through the noise  

When you strip away all the fluff, marketing is a choice to communicate with the chance that someone might care enough to listen.  

But when you’re in an industry where there’s not much excitement, saying something of interest to customers can be tough. Christine Nurnberger, Vice President of Marketing, SunGard Availability Services, revealed some of the challenges she faced in taking on zombie marketing at SunGard, both figuratively and literally.

“Let’s be honest. Selling managed services, business continuity, production resiliency at the surface level isn’t really all that sexy,” Christine explained. “I was challenged by the CEO when I took on this position last October to find a way to really break through the noise of all the B2B technology clutter that’s out there.”

 

Focus on creating quality content for the channels that will help you break out

SunGard’s overall efforts across email, direct mail and social media were influenced by the buzz zombies are enjoying in popular culture. But according to Christine, the focus on delivering something of value to your customers is vital to your marketing’s survival.

“There is no substitute for really focusing on quality creative content that breaks through the noise,” Christine said.

To learn more about how you can survive zombie marketing, check out our next MarketingSherpa webinar, “How to Leverage the Zombie Apocalypse for an Award-winning Multichannel Campaign,” where Christine will reveal some key takeaways every marketer needs to stay ahead of the marketing undead.

Also, if you have any questions you’d like to ask Christine, tweet them to our host @DanielBurstein, or use #SherpaWebinar.

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Mobile Commerce: 4 creative approaches for using Flipboard

January 28th, 2014 No comments

Creating an awesome experience that engages users across desktop, tablet and mobile devices is tough.

When you factor in additional research projecting significant growth in Internet usage among mobile users, the need for brands to build a presence in the mobile marketplace is also increasing.

In short, the mobile monster is growing and the race is on, so what do you do?

 

Creativity drives mobile engagement

Mobile apps are a powerful tool to help bridge the gap in connecting with mobile users, but the trick is taking a creative approach to using them.

Flipboard, for example, is an app that helps users turn aggregated Web content into customized magazines. Other users can subscribe to your magazine, creating a captive audience for your curated content.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, we will take a look at how some brands have incorporated Flipboard into mobile marketing to provide examples that will hopefully inspire your efforts to tame the mobile monster.

 

Cisco’s “The Futurist Feed” aggregates tech news from around the Web

 

Cisco’s “The Futurist Feed” is an aggregate of tech content from around the Web.

In my view, this is one of the easier approaches to marketing on Flipboard, as aggregating content is really a core part of the app’s functionality. Consider this approach as a gateway tactic to help get your feet wet and experiment a little while keeping brand top-of-mind.

 

Levi’s Jeans uses fashion news to create a social catalog

 

Levi’s Jeans Flipboard magazine was an early adopter of using the app for e-commerce. Its magazine launched in late 2012 as part of a larger campaign. I like this approach as it has helped pave the way for integrating cart functionality into a social content experience.

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Social Media: 3 brands that totally get using Vine

January 3rd, 2014 2 comments

In social media, if 2013 was the emergence of Vine, then 2014 will likely be the year of more Vine videos.

The creative potential that surrounds the app will be fun to watch this year as more brands adopt it into their marketing mix.

I personally like Vine, and consider it the equivalent of a living breathing Pinterest; a mashup of all the goodies social media can offer in low calorie servings of six second videos.

Vine’s success in social media is also no real surprise to me.

Considering its story as a company founded in June 2012, it was gobbled up by Twitter three months later only to skyrocket to the status of most downloaded free app in Apple’s iOS app store before blowing out the candle on its first birthday cake.

What’s also exciting is with any new technology, there are always those few early adopters who set the bar only high enough to be outdone in ways that are as exciting as they are unique.

In today’s MarketingSherpa post, I wanted to highlight three trailblazing brands that are using Vine to reach their customers that you can use to help get your creative mojo going.

 

Lowe’s “fix in six” tips help customers build know how

Lowe’s uses the app to create mini “tutorials” that are strung together to help customers keep home repair D.I.Y.

 

 

Oreo Cookie shows its followers how to “Snack Hack”

I’m not too surprised by Oreo’s early adoption of Vine given its prior success with Twitter. Oreo’s use of the app serves as a great example of combining creativity, product and entertainment to engage an audience.

 

General Electric uses contests and tech mashups to engage consumers and drive new innovation

In the last few years, GE has really made any excuses B2B marketers have for slow adoption of social media quite tough to accept.

The brand’s use of Vine for holding contests to redesign jet engine parts using 3D printing is truly setting a bar for creative uses of social media in B2B marketing.

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Email Marketing: 3 resources to help you close the automation gap

December 20th, 2013 1 comment

Some marketers have noticed that when it comes to using triggered emails, there’s an interesting gap in the perception of automation in terms of “how things should be” and “how things really are.”

Most marketers use automated triggered emails for nurturing early stage buyers, which leaves overlooked opportunities to use automated emails to strengthen existing customer relationships or to win back the hearts and minds of recently lost customers.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, you’ll find three resources you can use to help your marketing team close the automation gap.

 

Commit to using automation to build stronger customer relationships

Most marketers in a custom or expensive e-commerce niche are typically not scouting for the impulse buys. Instead, their tactics tend to fall along the lines of supporting a longer sales cycle that requires a little more nurturing.

 

Indochino, a custom clothing company, decided to test an autoresponder send using hand-picked product suggestions in an attempt to build customer relationships using its email program.

 

Results: Indochino increased its revenue-per-email 540% in just the first test. To learn more about the campaign and the four-step process the team used to select targets and expand the program into other customer segments, check out the case study “E-commerce Marketing: 540% higher revenue-per-email for automated send.”

 

Customer behavior matters

For Jermaine Griggs, Founder, Hear and Play Music, communicating with customers through email messaging was a critical part of his marketing efforts. Here’s a short clip of the full presentation from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013.

 

During his presentation at Email Summit, Jermaine explained how he transitioned from using his CRM system as a “glorified autoresponder,” to a CRM system based on behavior and personalization for each customer’s unique needs.

Results: Jermaine was able to successfully increase the lifetime value of his customers by 416%. To learn more, you can also watch the entire on-demand replay of Jermaine’s session, “E-commerce: Harnessing the power of email automation and behavior-based marketing to increase conversions,” from Email Summit 2013.  

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Content Marketing: Finding the Goldilocks zone in your blogging

December 17th, 2013 3 comments

One of the perks of growing up in Northeast Florida was being able to watch space shuttle launches from my backyard. I never became an astronaut, but having NASA as one of your neighbors has an impact on you.

For example, I still keep up with NASA’s continued efforts to explore space, which is currently centered on a strategy of looking to planets in the Goldilocks zone orbiting around stars as big as our sun.

As a writer and editor, I often think about where the Goldilocks zone exists on our blogs.

Sure, there are a lot of factors to consider, but what I’ve found is that discovering the ideal zone where the conditions of voice and benefit exist in just the right amounts so an audience can flourish is truly not easy to find.

But, there are a few elements to consider that can point you in the right direction.

 

Start with the bare bones of blogging

If you break a blog post down, you’ll usually find it consists of two basic elements:

  • Identity – The human element of your content’s voice
  • Benefit – What the audience gains out of your content

When writing blog posts, hopefully your goal is ideally to try and find the balance between those two elements while keeping the interests of your audience at the forefront. 

 

Here are a few Venn diagrams to help put this into perspective. Now, let’s take a look at some of the imbalances and why they matter.

 

The messenger in blogging is a part of the message

A blog that is light on identity lacks the humanistic touch that makes your voice unique.

I often see this as a common problem for newer blogs still developing their voice in the market, but it can quickly become a problem even for established blogs.

To put a little context around this, blogs traditionally started as a platform for democratic content. It was a way for thought leaders to bypass the gatekeeping of traditional media and cut through the noise by taking their message straight to the people.

This idea still holds true today to a large degree even as blogging continues to evolve, but the trick to remember is the messenger remains a vital part of the message.

Consequently, if your blog voice is an erratic messenger with no unique identity, even the most beneficial content on the planet will not save you from eventually being abandoned by an audience.

Before you publish another post, take some time with your team to review the basics around your brand’s persona and how that persona translates into delivering a consistent voice in your blog content.

 

Just make sure the messenger is not the entire message  

In the case of overdeveloped identity, the majority of attention is focused on the brand or the author and not on the audience or how they benefit from your content.

The upside of an overdeveloped identity is that it’s is easy to spot – I call it “look at me” blogging.

Now, don’t get me wrong; you want to include a certain amount of personable information in your content. After all, that human element of blogging is what made blogging so dynamic to begin with.

But, the challenge rests in knowing when to deliver enough voice identity in your blog posts to be personable and transition from that to delivering benefit to your audience.

“Look at me” blogging is seductive because it’s easier to do than producing value for an audience, but the consequences for your blog are toxic.

The best way to avoid this is by holding your blogging to an editorial standard where the promise of benefit to your audience is always the focus.

If your team develops the habit of fleshing out value first by asking, “What will the audience get out of this?” before a single word is put on paper, you’ll discover that easily understood value is also easily delivered value.

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Content Marketing: How to manage a change in content on your blog

October 11th, 2013 4 comments

You’ll get no arguments from me that starting a new blog can be difficult.

There are plenty of great content marketing resources from MarketingSherpa and elsewhere to help you do that.

But, what happens when your company decides to undergo a change in content?

Navigating the waters of a new format on a well-established blog is a different kind of monster than starting from scratch.

 

Make sure everyone understands the big picture

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of new faces on the MarketingSherpa blog.

Also, if you read the blogs of our sister brands MarketingExperiments and B2B Lead Roundtable, you will also find a lot of new contributors there as well.

When I asked Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Content Operations, MECLABS, about some of the elements driving the change in content, Brandon explained the new approach was a unique opportunity to return blogging to its roots.

“For us, it felt like it was time for our blogging voice to come full circle,” Brandon explained. “Blogging originated as the ultimate personal journal. It was a platform for practitioners who were passionate about their message being heard, but over time, that approach has evolved into a more sophisticated medium that has as much in common with a trade journal as it does with a personal journal.“

Another reason Brandon mentioned for the change was based on the idea that members of the MECLABS research team have a wide range of insights and practical advice to offer our audience.

“We realized that we are in a place to leverage the strengths of both approaches. Real world practitioner discoveries and observations supported by a consistent editorial standard,” Brandon said.

Instead of letting all of that content simply vanish, the era of the MECLABS practitioner blogger had arrived.

Consequently, this also meant the MECLABS research team would be taking on a new writing initiative, so the first real challenge was one of communication throughout the organization.

So, the first tip here is simple – communicate, communicate and communicate.

Make sure everyone in the organization understands the reasons for change and what their role in those changes will be, as your team can’t help build something they don’t fully understand.

 

Anticipate problems and start looking for solutions

This is my faith in Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will – so the trick is to anticipate problems and find solutions to avoid headaches later.

For instance, while having a sizeable pool of new content creators was a great asset, there was one catch …

Most of our practitioners’ writing skills were based on formal training in academic writing.

Few had prior blogging experience, while only one to my knowledge had any experience in journalism or exposure to the editorial process.

Based on our assessment, here were some of the problems we anticipated:

  • Limited blogging experience – How do we help analysts to start writing blog posts?
  • Formal training in academic writing – How can the content team help practitioners develop blog writing skills?
  • Few have exposure to editorial process – How do we build a new editorial process that allows for more revision and editing time? How can we educate our internal thought leaders on the editorial process?

After a few rounds of discussion, our team decided a blog post template provided a simple solution to solve the problem of helping analysts get started writing blog posts.

 

The feedback we received from our in-house writers so far is the blog post template has been helpful in providing some rudimentary direction and structure to get started.

In short, the more problems like these that you can anticipate and find solutions for beforehand, the less painful your transition will hopefully be.

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Content Marketing: How McGladrey built a strategy around content development [Video]

July 19th, 2013 3 comments

When asked about different types of content, more than half of marketers considered 12 of 18 types of content to be difficult to create.

At Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, we will have sessions discussing how to use content marketing to capture and nurture leads.

To help prepare you for Summit, today on the MarketingSherpa Blog, we’re sharing a video excerpt from B2B Summit 2012 about content production …

 

In this video excerpt, Eric Webb, Senior Director of Corporate Communication, McGladrey, shared the steps the accounting and consulting firm took to improve its content marketing efforts and, ultimately, execute a 300% increase in content production.

To see the rest of Eric’s presentation and learn more about how you can use content marketing to better serve your customers, watch the free full presentation in the MarketingSherpa Video Archive.

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