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Six Places to Focus to Make your Website a Revenue Generator

May 24th, 2016

We have more digital marketing channels than ever before, but it’s become even harder to connect with customers. In my role as chief evangelist for MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, I get to talk to marketers and thought leaders daily.

One thing’s become clear, that there is a growing divide between those who are fully engaged with digital marketing and those who are still figuring out the fundamentals. When I read the report by Kristin Zhivago, President of Cloud Potential, on “revenue road blocks,” I wanted to see what she’s discovered to help marketers quickly close this digital marketing gap and do better.

If marketers directly address getting six key focuses right, you can move forward and close the gap between digital and customers.

Brian: What inspired you to do your research on revenue road blocks?

kristin-zhivago-president-cloud-potential

Kristin: Actually, it was our day-to-day experience working with company managers that drove us to these conclusions, combined with our research on the best practices of digital market leaders in more than 28 industries. The gap between the companies that are successfully using the newer methods and those who are not is growing wider by the quarter.

What is really concerning is we are seeing otherwise solid, successful companies slipping behind their more digitally adept competitors, and they can’t figure out why. They’re doing what they’ve always done, and it’s not working anymore.

Of course, that’s the problem. Buyers have radically changed the way they buy, especially in the last couple of years, and these sellers haven’t changed the way they’re selling. Mobile and the cloud have changed everything; today’s buyers are not the obedient, pass-through-your-funnel buyers that we used to be able to depend on. They are looking for any excuse to say no, because they are sure that there’s another solution only a click away. There is absolutely no risk for them to reject you. In fact, rejection is the safest option for them.

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Maximizing Multiple Marketing Platforms for Success

May 20th, 2016

After 35 years in the industry, Chinese Laundry, a privately held women’s footwear company, continues to expand its influence season after season.

During Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition (IRCE) 2015, MarketingSherpa’s Courtney Eckerle spoke at the MarketingSherpa Media Center with Scott Cohn, Vice President of Ecommerce, Chinese Laundry.

Scott spoke about how marketers tend to establish processes or utilize platforms that work for specific projects or campaigns, but don’t always think about how it affects our customers.

“The biggest challenge we had is that they [platforms] were perpetually out of sync. So our inventory, pricing and a whole variety of other things that a customer expects to be consistent across channels, just weren’t consistent,” he said.

Whether you are looking to condense your blog platforms to update your content strategy or want to build product awareness, Cohn shared two key takeaways on maximizing multiple marketing platforms:

 

Be on the lookout

When undertaking a technology innovation, how do you begin to think about where you pain points lie?

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Marketing Basics: Don’t overlook these 5 digital marketing tenets

May 17th, 2016

There are so many impressive things you can do with your website these days. Augmented realty. Rich animations. Micro-interactions. Interactive infographics.

But I like to think of it like this …

When the quarterback throws a 90-yard touchdown pass, the camera cuts to the wide receiver doing a celebratory dance, and then to the quarterback pumping his fist. What they’re not showing you is the right guard who picked up the blitz to allow the quarterback the time to heave up that bomb.

Your website, content, and digital marketing is often presented the same way. Advanced, flashy user interfaces are great. But looking in our own analytics, I was reminded there are probably a few unheralded, down-to-Earth, un-buzzworthy basics that should still power your online marketing.

 

Basic content

“Basic” has become slang for “limited,” “rudimentary” or any number of other negative connotations. To quote Kara Brown on Jezebel, “Being basic just means that you aren’t that dope.”

And you probably feel that way about the content on your site as well. You are steeped in the latest, most advanced things going on in your industry. You focus on the breaking news. You spend your waking hours thinking about the coolest features of your products, and most advanced capabilities of your services.

But is that what your customer is looking for?

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Video Marketing: Electronics retailer injects fun into product tutorials to achieve 1.75% purchase rate

May 13th, 2016

“We try to have fun with everything we do, and our audience seems to respond to it pretty well,” Gregg Barclay, Senior Videographer, SparkFun Electronics, told me in an interview at last year’s MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE.

What it takes to produce online video marketing

YouTube, Vimeo and other online video sites have lowered the bar on what it takes to use video to promote your product to consumers. They no longer expect a slick commercial with a massive production staff and budget. The DIY feel can resonate with customers, as well (and for the right product, feel more authentic).

But, as with any business initiative, video still requires a resource investment. For a company with relatively limited revenue ($30 million in sales), SparkFun has nonetheless chosen to make a significant investment in video with seven or 130 employees dedicated to this purpose.

Only two (including Gregg) are involved in the actual shooting and editing of the video. Additionally, there are three full-time creative technologists building products. The team invests a few days in preproduction while the shooting and editing is complete in just a few hours.

This may be a reason SparkFun’s videos have been successful. After all, no matter how slickly a video is produced, it is just a container. You must fill that container with entertaining, helpful content.

“I never wanted our videos to feel like commercials,” Gregg said. “I wanted them to feel like these are projects that we would build whether we were working there or not, and I think that that’s what our audience really responds to because they’re doing the same things that we are.”

The electronics retailer introduces 10-15 products per week, and its team is able to produce two to five videos per week that shows customers how they can use them.

 

Video content driven by fun online tutorials

While the site also includes more traditional tutorials, along with informational product and how-to clips, fun is a key component in many of the videos, such as in the LIDAR Lite Module video or SparkFun Claw Machine! video.

lidar-lite-review

“We always think of fun first. It’s in our name — SparkFun Electronics,” Gregg said. “There might be more conventional uses for these products, but we try to think out of the box a little bit and really get people thinking of other ways to use this kind of stuff.”

As a result, 1.75% of people who view a video on SparkFun Electronics buy a product within that session. This doesn’t include people who watch a video and come back later to purchase, or those who watch a video on YouTube, so the real impact might be even higher.

 

 We’ll be heading to Chicago in a few weeks to bring you more stories of marketing, ecommerce and fun from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016.

 You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.

 

You might also like

Inbound Marketing: Small business builds YouTube channel from the ground up, expands to 40 countries

Video Marketing How-to: 4 tactics from a small business that generated 1 million YouTube views [MarketingSherpa Case Study]

MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas Call for Speakers — Tell us your story for a chance to speak and, as a bonus, win a trip to Summit in the MarketingSherpa Awards

Four Simple Ways to Become a More Customer-Centric Marketer

April 26th, 2016

Recently, I wrote about our need to guard against company logic. I argued that it is very easy for us as marketers to slip into a mindset that ignores the ultimate desires of the customer. This is a struggle experienced by all companies, big or small, new or old, well-known or unknown.

customer-centric-marketing

Ironically, as one commenter posted, perhaps even my blog post suffered from a little company logic as it seemed to focus on what I wanted to say rather than what would have most served the audience: more application. Knowing myself, and the tendency that I have just like anyone else, it may very well be true. I can also relate to wanting to know not just the “what” of a thing but also the “how.”

So, in the spirit of taking my own medicine, I would like to attempt being a little more customer centric and suggest four ways in which we can practically guard against company logic and become more customer-centric marketers. These are not the only four ways, but they are a good place to start.

 

#1. Listen

Learning the discipline of listening to your customer is essential for all marketers. This is where a marketer should always start. Listening to customers was once much more difficult, but today there is so much feedback our customer is giving to us. With the prevailing social dynamic of the Internet, our customers are constantly talking to us (directly or indirectly). We just have to make sure we are listening.

Many marketers are tempted to fear social feedback. I mean, who really wants to hear someone else critique you? However, if we are really doing our job, we will embrace both pleasant and painful insights that we gain from hearing from the customer. It is so easy to become insular and solicit feedback only from our peers, but we must force ourselves to hear the customer’s feedback. Sometimes that comes in the form of them talking directly to us, and other times it comes in the form of customers talking to one another. Nonetheless, our customers are talking, and we must learn to listen.

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20 Predictions for the Next 5 Years that Every Email Marketer Should Hear

March 28th, 2016

Email marketing has evolved significantly during the first half of this decade — from the impact of mobile and engagement-based email filtering to the emergence of wearables and omni-channel integration. All that change made us wonder: ‘How will email marketing evolve between now and the end of the decade?’

That was what Chad White, Research Director, Litmus, sent me in an email when I asked him to comment on a SlideShare he created from Litmus’ Email Marketing in 2020 ebook.

In the report, our own Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, along with 19 other experts in the field of email marketing, share their predictions for what email marketing will look like in the year 2020.

The slides, which pull out Litmus’ favorite prediction from each of the experts interviewed, have a number of interesting tidbits.

Overall, the general consensus is that email will be incredibly personalized and highly automated.

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From the Westin to the Waffle House: Overcoming the pervasive challenge of company logic

March 22nd, 2016

I recently overheard an interesting conversation at a Westin hotel check-in counter. It went something like this:

“… and we’re energy efficient!” said the Westin receptionist.

“That’s great …” the customer’s hesitating response was only met with her static smile.

“So … What does that have to do with my room?” he added.

“Well, you will have to use you room card to turn the lights on,” she replied with the slight hint of an eye roll.

“Oh … ? How does that work? Do I have to have it on me or wave in front of the …”

“You put it in the light card holder. We are energy efficient.” she interrupted.

“To turn the lights on?” The customer asked with now his own slight hint of an eye roll.

“Yes, a lot of hotels are doing it now,” she replied, slightly defensive.

Trying to get her to break from her conditioned customer service pose, and make a slight acknowledgement of the absurdity, the customer joked, “Ah … well all the hotels I have gone to have these light switch things.”

He failed miserably at this attempt, obviously not cut out for comedy.

“We are an energy efficient hotel!!” She said again, but this time with two — yes, two — exclamation points.

“So … where is this card holder thing?”

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First Impressions: How to earn your place in customers’ inboxes

March 18th, 2016

I have two personal email accounts.

The first I nigh abandoned when about five years ago in college it became so inundated with spam that I panicked and started over. The experience was essentially the electronic mail version of Fastball’s 90’s hit “The Way.” I just took off and left it all behind me.

It seems silly that email could cause so much anxiety that I would call it quits and get the heck outta Dodge — meaning that I even switched email platforms.

Now that I’m a full-grown adult of 26, I know that when I have an overwhelming amount of unwanted dirty laundry piling up, I don’t just set the basket on fire so I can start my wardrobe over. I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I apply the same principles to unwanted emails. And with services like unroll.me, it’s easier than ever to clear out the clutter. Emails fight it out for survival like it’s the digital Hunger Games.

My situation is not unique. It’s not even uncommon. As a Millennial, it pains me to admit that I am not special.

As a marketer, it makes me curious: how can emails earn their place in my inbox?

 

Tactic #1. Make a good first impression

Just like with in-person interactions, a first impression is everything.

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Recipe for Creating Successful Project Plans

March 15th, 2016

I love to bake and never turn down a chance to have a sweet treat. Everyone always tells me that they don’t have the time, energy or patience to bake. As a highly process-oriented person, my entire life is built around planning and executing projects of all sizes. I know how effective organization can optimize time and effort, so I’d like to share my “recipe” on how you can create successful projects from your company “kitchen.”

Recipe Card

 

What you will need: A strong starting goal and well-structured framework to begin building your process.

 

To assemble:

Step 1: Mix together a flavorful team

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How Companies Fail, and Why the Customer Always Wins in the End

March 11th, 2016

There are two ways for a business to be successful in the short term.

Option 1 is to do anything you can to generate revenue. Sometimes it’s something small like sending that one extra promotional email — it will get unsubscribes, sure, but at least it will push your numbers up this quarter. Or it might be something huge like holding a monopoly position in the marketplace. It could even be slowly making the product just a little bit worse to boost margins.

Option 2 is to relentlessly serve customers better than your competitors. Those are the case studies and stories we share on MarketingSherpa. Likewise, you see this in Zappos walking away from drop shipping, even though it produced 25% of its revenue. Or Optum reorganizing its marketing team around educating the customer, instead of one-and-done marketing techniques that attempted to generate leads but didn’t serve the customer.

Optum's consumer resource center

 

And, frankly, most companies are a combination of the two. But every day, with every decision you make as a marketer, you decide where on the spectrum your company lies. Will you push your company closer to the customer or farther away?

Of course, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Let’s take a look at why customer-first marketing is so important, and why it’s so hard.

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