Austin McCraw

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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Courtney Eckerle

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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Regina Love

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Courtney Eckerle

Charles Duhigg on How You Can Use Habit to Influence Customer Behavior

March 8th, 2016

“Although we think of ourselves as people who can make decisions, and in control of our own lives, 40 to 45 percent of what we do every day is a habit. It’s something that happens almost subconsciously,” Charles Duhigg, best-selling author, The Power of Habit, said in the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016


Right now, he added, we are going through a golden age of understanding the neurology of habit formation.

“Which is great, if you’re … a marketer who wants to influence what people are doing with their time or their money,” he said.

A central insight of this, is that every habit has three components that it is made up of.

  • Cue: A trigger for an automatic behavior to start
  • Routine: The behavior itself, what we usually think of as habits
  • Reward: The gratification from performing the habit.

“What we’ve learned is that these cues and these rewards are really the important parts of what influences how people behave,” he said. “If we figure out how to diagnose these cues and rewards, we can change how people behave.”

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Brian Carroll

From 0 to 233,000 Members: 7 steps to running an effective LinkedIn group

March 4th, 2016

LinkedIn groups are one of the many helpful aspects of the professional community available on the platform. It can help you to build connections, get questions answered, share your expertise and demonstrate thought leadership.

With this in mind, I started the B2B Lead Roundtable Group to be a community for people to learn and discuss the many facets of B2B lead generation. However, over time, I noticed that our group discussions started to look more like Twitter feed. Discussions became overrun with blogs, articles and other content sharing and hyperlinks but there was no discussion happening.

B2B Lead Blog Conversations

 

It was time for a change. As I was researching I came across Eric Blumthal and his group “Sales / Marketing Executives Forum” which boasts over 233,974 members and was voted “Best LinkedIn Group for Sales / Marketing Executives” by several publications. And this group is 100% discussion, no link sharing.

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Austin McCraw

Marketing to Millennials: Are we still just selling snake oil?

March 1st, 2016

Skepticism is the disposition of our age. I’m not saying it’s a altogether new, but it is definitely the disposition of anyone under the age of 30 — AKA Millennials (see this study, and this one). I was recently reminded of how this reality impacts marketing when I came across a snake oil spoof video:

 

Most of us are too young to know the history of the original snake oil ads, and yet we have been significantly impacted by them. Some of the original snake oil ads (see below) created so much demand for their product that entire businesses were built upon them. It has been reported that city blocks had to be converted into factories just to handle the demand generated from such an ad.

And yet today, this kind of disingenuous marketing has completely jaded the marketplace. If this ad could even make it past all of its legal offenses today, it would not even come close to producing 1% of the results it did hundred years ago.

Snake Oil Cures AllThe above video, though a spoof, is making a very poignant point — many of today’s marketplace, particularly Millennials, see our “clever and creative” marketing tactics as nothing more than snake oil.

Consider the video as more than just something funny to pass around the office, but as a satirical indictment of our marketing techniques. Yes, the content of the video is absurd, but the marketing approach is not. And the painful truth I am reminded of as I watch it is that the post-modern consumer sees right through all our “best” methods.

 

We are more “oily” than we think

Whether you’re a Millennial or not, you don’t have to go very far to feel what I am talking about. You are a post-modern customer. Consider your email box right now, and look at the emails that have come in the past 24 hours.

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Shelby Dorsey

Live From MarketingSherpa Summit 2016: Morgan Spurlock and using storytelling in your campaigns

February 25th, 2016
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This week the MarketingSherpa team is live in Las Vegas at Summit 2016. We are so excited to see all of the attendees who came out to learn with us at the beautiful Bellagio, and with thirty speakers diving into case studies on topics such as Digital & Data, Content & Social and Email & Mobile, there is so much to learn from our marketing peers.

This morning, Morgan Spurlock, Academy Award-nominated director and one of our featured speakers at MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, presented “The Greatest Lecture Ever Told.”

Read on for some of the many insights Spurlock shared with the audience.

MarketingSherpa Summit

 

Marketing is storytelling

Morgan opened with the idea that, with storytelling, you don’t want to be like everyone else — you want to bring something unique to the table — and you want to do the right thing, from a moral standpoint. And yet, you don’t want to go too far and be too crazy. “What does it take to create original stories that can make a difference?” Morgan asked the audience.

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Selena Blue

Live From MarketingSherpa Summit 2016: 5 steps to telling your team’s story internally

February 23rd, 2016

No matter which division of marketing your team works in, you’d probably love to grow your team. You know your team is doing well, achieving great success, but how do you get that success noticed by leaders in your organization?

During Day 1 of MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Brian MacDonald, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, shared his journey to overcome this challenge.

Brian is a huge movie fan, and drew inspiration from Pixar director and screenwriter, Andrew Stanton, in his quest to get his team noticed and gain more budget.

Storytelling became his strategy. Brian is responsible for the IT Experts Community, as well as community strategy and blogging. His previous team of three did some great things that he didn’t feel were well seen by higher ups.

“How can we build a story around it to get people to care?” Brian said.

With movie making as a basis for his strategy, Brian came up with a five-step process for storytelling to internal audiences and stakeholders. 5 Steps to Effective Storytelling

 

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Andrea Johnson

3 Steps to Conquering CASL: An interview from Email Summit 2015

February 19th, 2016

As we’re in the final days before MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, we thought it would be fitting to share the last Media Center interview from last year, covering a timely topic marketers were concerned about — Canada’s Anti-Spam Law.

With fines of up to $10 million per violation, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is among the world’s strictest anti-spam legislation and, naturally, it got attention. As a result, it’s too easy for marketers to feel overwhelmed by the new regulations, Shaun Brown, Partner, nNovation (an Ottawa-based law firm), said.

 

He discussed CASL with Courtney Eckerle, Managing Editor, MarketingSherpa, at Email Summit 2015.

“There are potentially huge penalties under the legislation. Every law firm is publishing information. You have bloggers, email marketers … everybody is talking about CASL. But not everything out there is necessarily factually correct,” he said. “And even then, we can’t always claim to know exactly how the law is going to apply in every circumstance.”

Consequently, some marketers have embraced CASL compliance. Others, not so much.

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