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How Automation Transformed a Distributor’s Online Business

March 17th, 2015 No comments

When you’re running a small online business, what’s the fastest, easiest way to grow your business and save money? Automation, according to Lenny Kharitonov, President of Unlimited Furniture Group, a furniture retailer.

Kharitonov says his company was among the first in the furniture industry to automate the online order fulfillment process.

“The furniture industry in general is not very technology savvy,” he admitted.

The Unlimited Furniture website markets products from a variety of manufacturers that ship them directly to the customer. Before automation, the Unlimited Furniture team and its vendors handled every aspect of the transaction manually using a combination of spreadsheets and Google docs. Now customers can order online, and the details are instantly sent to the vendor. Once the vendor ships out the product, Unlimited Furniture automatically receives all of the information about the shipment and updates the customer without any manual involvement.

This automated process:

  • Prevents mistakes. “When you do things manually, it’s subject to human error,” Kharitonov said. “For instance, somebody could put in the wrong quantity or wrong color; it could be done on our side or the vendor’s side.”
  • Eliminates duplication of effort. Before automation, Unlimited Furniture would enter a purchase order manually then send it to the vendor, who would enter the same information manually.
  • Saves money. Automating order fulfillment has slashed Unlimited Furniture’s administrative costs 40%.
  • Speeds delivery. Orders are processed real-time now, instead of waiting for someone at Unlimited Furniture and the vendor to manually process it.“The quicker the service you give the customer, the more likely you’ll get repeat business,” Kharitonov said.

“We want to grow the business. We don’t want to spend all our time processing orders,” he explained. “In this day and age, it’s assumed that’s automatic, but it’s not. I know a lot of our competitors are still doing it manually.”

Watch the full interview and find out more about the power of automation here:

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

March 11th, 2015 No comments

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

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

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

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

Adobe-031115

 

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

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

These three takeaways are just a start.

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Digital Marketing: Content marketing, social media and SEO predictions for 2015

February 20th, 2015 2 comments

Every year at Email Summit, we ask marketers for their predictions.

Before MarketingSherpa reporter Courtney Eckerle interviews you about your marketing predictions in the Email Summit Media Center, I figured it was only fair to put a stake in the ground and make some predictions you could hold me to as well.

digitalmarketing2

 

Prediction #1: Convergence is the watchword for digital marketing this year

You’ve already seen (and will continue to see) convergence among marketing and business software platforms, and this trend will continue to grow as the line blurs between publishers, brands and marketing agencies.

Curve by Getty Images. Verizon’s experiment with Sugarstring. And, of course, The Red Bulletin. More and more brands are learning the power of building this kind of one-to-one connection with their audiences, building an owned audienc, and not having to borrow interest from television or other content creators.

At the same time, publishers are creating content for brands with their own agency arms, as well (a bit of a blast from the past when newspapers used to help create ads to sell media space).

Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other dailies) bought a stake in Contend, a content agency that creates branded campaigns. Onion Labs, The Onion’s in-house ad agency, has made some seriously cool campaigns. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ recently hired a director of branded content and launched a branded content shop which blurs the line between editorial and promotion.

Advertising and marketing agencies, more threatened than ever by brands and publishers, will try to get an ownership stake in the ideas they help create, like Anomaly did with EOS cosmetics or how 37signals went from being a website redesign shop to a software company selling Basecamp.

Data, will of course, be huge. This will be of benefit to content creators of all stripes listed above. Since they have the traffic and relationship with the audience, they have the ability to learn the audience’s preferences based on their behavior, and then engage in A/B testing with these audiences to build a strong understanding of the products, services and offers that these customers will most respond to.

But behind it all, let’s not overlook the people with the knowhow to make it happen, which can be a scarce resource — brilliant, brilliant marketers, writers, designers and data scientists.

Being able to navigate this land of data and convergence, networking and real relationships will be critical for the marketer to build cross-functional teams that understand all the elements it will take to be successful — content, technology, data and strategy. That’s one reason we pay so much attention to the audience experience and foster interactions and networking at Email Summit.

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How to Harness the Power of New Technology to Personalize to Your Audience

February 13th, 2015 1 comment

We are in the midst of an informational and technological revolution. It is constantly changing the way we communicate. There is an unspoken drive deep down in the collective psyche of humanity that is pushing us to make communication faster and universal.

Being able to express complex ideas is vital to our species’ survival. It’s taken us from caves to high rises. From wall paintings and smoke signals to emails and international phone calls, the way we communicate is versatile and fluid. What’s the norm yesterday could easily be archaic tomorrow.

As marketers we have to communicate our companies’ ideas, products and values to potential customers in any medium they communicate in.

As we move toward more instant communication, the marketer has to evolve with consumers. Just like the shift from direct mail to email, the savvy marketer must know when to move to a new technological medium and how to market correctly in that medium.

 

Mobile email

For several years there have been predictions about the end of email.  While email has changed significantly in the last 20 years, we now send more emails than ever before.

According to emailisnotdead.com, there are currently 4.1 billion email accounts that send 122+ billion emails per hour — and 53% of those emails were opened on a mobile device. The future of communication is mobile email, and there is already a lot of it going on.

In order to get ahead of this curve, email service providers (ESPs) are developing algorithms that automatically sort your emails. Google unveiled their answer to the overcrowded inbox late in 2014. A consummate innovator and leader in the email space, Google has developed a system that automatically sweeps your emails into three easy to manage subfolders: Updates, Social and Promotions. They have allowed more design elements to be featured in the subject line space and have made it even easier to clear a whole inbox in seconds.

So what does that mean for marketers?

It means that as ESPs move into the future, they will use bundling to sort people’s emails. This will most likely lead to the average clickthrough rate decreasing. However, the quality of the leads will go up because emails, instead of being cookie-cutter sends, can be personalized for individuals based on data marketers accrue. In the future, designers will have to work with content writers to make sure their emails stick out visually, alongside personalization.

Effect of Gmail Tabs

Chart courtesy of: MailChimp

 

Marketing efforts will need to work in conjunction with all the other marketing options the company is using. We have to move away from thinking about individual campaigns and towards holistic, cohesive marketing tactics.

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Mobile Interaction: Website or app? Optimize for both

January 20th, 2015 No comments

Over the past several years, marketers have often been faced with the conundrum of where to allocate funds in order to better compete in the mobile space. Should I focus my budget on the mobile app for my business, on making the website optimized for multiple device types (responsive or adaptive) or should I attempt to do both?

 

Take user behavior into account

While I feel like the question above has been well documented in other resources, I think one of the most important concepts to keep in mind is that whether you are focusing on a mobile app or on your website, user behavior should be considered first.

As the expectations of the billions of users with mobile devices continue to converge, the question should no longer focus on which medium (the mobile web or an app) you should focus on connecting with your users on, but instead on how you can most effectively connect with them no matter which medium you choose.

Luckily, there are numerous transferable principles between the world of app interaction and web design that can be applied with relatively little effort on your part.

 

Visual attention vs. interaction

Visual attention vs interaction

 

Don’t forget the classics. Despite the ever-expanding screen sizes of devices,  in most regions, people still start reading at the top left of their device. However, it is important to remember that on touch-reliant devices, interacting with content at the top of the screen with your thumb has become increasingly more difficult as screen sizes in mobile devices have grown.

Why do you think Apple implemented a new “Reachability” control on the iPhone 6 that brings content from the top of the screen down about a third of the phone?

This being said, whether you have an app or a mobile site, make sure you prioritize content you want read at the top of the screen, but be selective in placing content you want interacted with at the top of most screens.

For items such as buttons, filters, drop-downs, quick navigation, etc., consider utilizing real-estate toward the bottom of the screen instead of toward the top to make the user’s life easier. Menus and navigation are still generally better at the top of the screen as the menu “hamburger” (see screenshot below) now seems to be so ubiquitous that it has become web-standard for responsive sites  Techcrunch also offers a great article on mobile navigation and reasons to “kill the hamburger” here.

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Global Ecommerce: The $1.2 trillion opportunity outside North America

January 16th, 2015 No comments

According to eMarketer, a marketing research company, ecommerce sales are expected to hit $1.771 trillion this year — with $1.233 trillion of those sales coming from outside North America.

Keeping this figure in mind, I sat down with Don Davis, Editor-in-Chief, Internet Retailer, after his trip to Shanghai to get some tips and advice for you as you expand your ecommerce business internationally:

 

We talked about the similarities and differences to the U.S. market, challenges of fulfillment and the important of trust to the Chinese consumer.

For example, when discussing trust, Don said, “Ratings and reviews are really important in China, because there are still a lot of fakes.”

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Tweetables: Top 10 MarketingSherpa posts of 2014 (according to you)

December 30th, 2014 No comments

It seems like only a short time ago I was sitting at my desk, staring at a fresh new calendar in front of me — an act that spurred feelings of intimidation, daunt and excitement.

But that was 12 whole months ago.

Over the past year, our team of bloggers have written over 100 posts for the MarketingSherpa Blog alone. I’m pulling together the ones that you’ve shared the most over the past year with your friends and colleagues into a single tidy post.

Something that stood out as I sorted the top shares by category (content marketing, email marketing and social media) is that marketers are evolving their mindsets from company-focused messaging to customer-centric messaging.

 

Content Marketing

Although content marketing may no longer be considered shiny and new, marketers continue to learn how to harness their talents and abilities into this form. No longer are we only marketers, but we are also artists, authors and videographers who strive to reach customers in ways that were not possible only a few years before.

Bolstered by the rest of the categories covered in this post, content is now an essential lighthouse to guide your customer to conversion in a world of saturated and stormy information across the Web.

 

Posts you shared the most:

 

What your peers said:

Tweet 1
 

The above tweet is is reference to Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing.

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Big Data: No longer a big buzzword

December 16th, 2014 2 comments

This week in the MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway, we’re giving out five free copies of The Big Data-Driven Business: How to use big data to win customers, beat competitors and boost profits.

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, we interviewed one of the co-authors, Russell Glass, for his insights on leveraging big data and what’s on the horizon for this much-discussed topic.

Russell currently serves as Head of B2B Marketing Products at LinkedIn and previously served as Founder, President and CEO of Bizo, acquired by LinkedIn this year for $175 million.

Sean Callahan, Senior Manager of Content Marketing, LinkedIn, and former Marketing Director of Bizo, served as co-author of The Big Data-Driven Business.

Read on to discover how big data has brought Marketing and Sales closer than ever and what marketers can do to use big data effectively and ethically.

 

What really is big data?

“One of the reasons we wrote the book is that we saw a big discrepancy between those who understand big data and those who were either skeptical of it or didn’t know what to think about it,” Russell said.

For a marketer just getting started in understanding and leveraging big data, Russell explained that it’s all about knowing your customers much better than you know them today through technology.

 

Why is big data so valuable?

For CMOs and marketers driving success for their company and achieving huge gains by using big data, they are putting a culture in place that is asking deep and insightful questions about their customers.

“They are understanding what makes a customer tick, what their customer is looking for and how can marketers create more relevant experiences for that customer,” Russell said.

Then, these marketers using big data are putting the systems in place to answer those questions as well as using all of those increases in processing power, storage and technology to create a better experience for their customers.

“These CMOs, because they are so close to the customer, they become the person in the organization that’s most likely able to move shareholder value,” he explained.

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

December 9th, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy voting!

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3 Steps for Crafting a Crowdfunding Pitch (and Improve Your Marketing)

December 2nd, 2014 No comments

The hardest part of getting any endeavor off the ground is to secure funding. Traditionally, in order to gain enough funding for a project, entrepreneurs had to go to banks or find funding through willing investors.

Today, entrepreneurs can achieve funding through a variety of ways including friends and family, angel investors or venture capitalists, but none of them are as interesting as the crowdfunding phenomenon that has surged into legitimacy in the past decade.

Crowdfunding might be an activity for startup companies raising funds, but marketers can learn a lot from the crowdfunding process, from the importance of the pitch to creating effective video marketing content – in this case, the startups are marketing themselves to potential investors.

 

How does crowdfunding work?

In crowdfunding, the entrepreneur solicits donations from the public either in person at events like Jacksonville’s One Spark Festival, or by using a variety of online websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Crowdfunding is unique because it allows the entrepreneur to pitch their product while simultaneously perform a focus group dedicated to their product with very little risk. The more people who invest in a campaign, the higher the interest there will be in the final product.

There has been a lot written about crowdfunding campaigns. You can find, in my opinion, one of the best blogs written by Tim Ferriss of The Four-Hour Work Week fame on how to raise $100,000 in 10 days.

My focus in this blog will be to explain how to craft the most important part of a crowdfunding campaign: the pitch.

 

Pitching a crowdfunding project

The pitch is generally a 3-5 minute video explaining to your potential investors who you are, what you are trying to accomplish, how much money it would take to reach your goal, why you need that specific amount, and what’s in it for them.

Depending on your budget, your video could be professionally made or shot with a simple camera phone. What matters most is your content:

“The strength of your video pitch often determines how likely you are to meet your crowdfunding goal.”

The Bank to the Future

 

The pitch can be broken down into three sections: The hook, the core and the bribe.

 

Step #1. The hook

According to the Bank to the Future’s useful video on crafting a pitch, the first 8-16 seconds of your video should be used to capture your potential investor’s interest.

In those seconds, it’s important to introduce them to the purpose of your video and to tell them visually or verbally what they are going to get out of watching it. If you have a prototype, show it in action. If you don’t, state your value proposition.

To craft your value proposition, ask yourself the following question; “If I am your ideal investor, why should I help you reach your crowdfunding goal?”

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