Daniel Burstein

Content Marketing: How a farm justifies premium pricing

August 19th, 2014

“We often feel like we have a sales force of thousands of loyal customers looking out for our best interest.”

We’ll get to how content marketing enabled the example in that quote in just a minute, but first, let’s start with the incredible, edible egg market.

The egg market is a perfect example of how value, and marketing’s role in the communication of that value, can be added to what was previously a commodity in order to produce higher margins.

Take a look at the market for eggs. There’s white. Brown. Hormone free. Antibiotic fee. Vegetarian fed. Grass fed. USDA organic. Free range. The list goes on.

Of course, there is a range of prices for these different attributes, ranging from $2.78 per dozen to $5.49 per dozen in a recent Consumer Reports article, for example.

This creates a dilemma for the consumer and a challenge (and opportunity) for the marketer.

 

The Marketer’s Challenge and Opportunity: Communicating value when markets are filled with choice

This is, after all, the heart of marketing: enabling choice and communicating the value of those choices.

So let’s look back at the egg market. Remember, not too long ago, eggs were just a commodity. Then, all of these product claims came along. One could argue that all of those claims create more value for customers, and thus, justify the higher price. That may in fact be true, but they would miss the point.

The real ability to charge a premium price for having any of those words on an egg carton is the customer’s perception of that value. After all, how many customers really understand what goes into raising an organic egg?

 

It was beauty (the content) that killed the beast (the commodity)

Commodity products are very dangerous for companies. It means their only lever of survival is to focus on operational excellence and cost-cutting to constantly stay one step ahead of expenses and the competition.

This is where content can be so powerful. Companies that really are producing something of greater value (e.g., the organic egg) can use content to show the story of how their products are made so the customer can see for themselves what the value is (e.g., justifying the higher cost for an organic egg).

Effective content marketing isn’t only happening online. Let’s take a look at an example of how one egg company is using content marketing to show this distinguishing value.

 

In-package newsletter

If you buy Country Hen eggs off your grocer’s shelf, when you open the carton, you will see “The Country Hen Farm News.”

country-hen-newsletter

 

Content marketing = show your work

At first glance, it’s easy to miss how profound this in-package newsletter is. After all, the company basically bought a truck. So what?

Surely, customers must assume that their eggs make it from point A to point B to eventually their grocery store shelves in a truck of some sort. How does that add value?

“We like to see people working on our behalf,” Michael Norton, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, explained at Web Optimization Summit 2014. (You can read a 15-second synopsis of his research in Takeaway #2 of Web Optimization Summit 2014 Wrap-up: Top 5 takeaways to improve your testing and optimization).

 

The difference between showing and telling

It’s not simply the fact that The Country Hen bought a truck that adds value, but rather, how it uses the newsletter to show product value. The magic is in the writing. This newsletter shows the value in three subtle, but brilliant, ways:

  1. Shows the work – As mentioned above, it shows how these farmers are working hard to get your eggs to you.
  1. Shows the passion – This isn’t some mega-corporation with commodity eggs. These people really care. For example, “Our girls will not have their vital nutrients in the care of a less than reliable vehicle.”
  1. Establishes its place in the market – Again, this isn’t a mega-corporation. They’re the underdog, the little guy. By spending more to buy Country Hen eggs, you are supporting the small farmer. After all, it’s quite charming how proud they are of a used truck: “The truck has only 188,000 miles and is capable of transporting 24,000 pounds of our certified organic cuisine.”

This company could have ran a TV ad campaign with stock farm footage of dewy mornings and hay bales being loaded into trucks and a ruddy-voiced announcer reading lines like, “We’re working a little harder for you.”

That would be telling. It would be hype. I would argue, it wouldn’t have been as effective because it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t win over today’s skeptical customer.

Pamela Jesseau, Senior Director of Marketing, MECLABS, is the person who gave me this newsletter and suggested this blog post. She described it like this: “I spend twice as much money on these eggs because they tell me about their truck. I’m never going to buy another egg ever again as long as The Country Hen is on the shelf. I want to find out what is next. I feel like they are my hens, too.”

After reading the newsletter, I wanted to share some insights from The Country Hen with you to help improve your own content marketing. So I reached out to Kathy Moran, the signatory of the newsletter, to get some background and tips for you.

As with any marketing department we write about, they aren’t perfect by any means. They still have work to do on their digital side. But I thought it would be helpful to hear how they create content with a small team and limited budget. Her responses were so good and real, I didn’t even pick up my editing pen.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Email Marketing: Unique send times for micro-personalization [Video]

August 15th, 2014

According to the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, email was the top channel for driving significant traffic to an ecommerce site. For companies in the $10 million $100 million range, it drives nearly 80% of the traffic.

However, if you are not sending your marketing emails at the most optimal time for your audience, you’re leaving revenue on the table.

This is not a new challenge. But timing the right message to the right person at the right time remains a critical aspect to effective email marketing.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, Dave Sierk, Consumer and Small Business Strategist, Dell, took the stage to share several case studies showing how Dell leveraged a GIF-centric campaign to achieve a 109% revenue lift.

You can see Dave’s full presentation from Summit for that story, but in this MarketingSherpa Blog post, see how Dell created unique send profiles for each of its customers to personalize email marketing efforts on a micro-level.

 

While composing a creative and engaging email is a great start to driving traffic and, hopefully, conversions, sending it at a time that does not match customers’ email viewing habits could mean your efforts are wasted when that email never gets opened.

dell-send-times

 

Watch this brief excerpt from Dave’s session to see how the team personalized email send times to adjust to customer’s consumption habits and drove an 8.2% increase in unique click rate.

Read more…

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David Kirkpatrick

Email Marketing: What is the best day to send an email?

August 12th, 2014

For this MarketingSherpa Blog post, I thought I would examine some email research. This chart from the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report focuses on the effectiveness of sending emails on different days of the week:

 

 

Looking at the results of this survey, you can see a wide range of effectiveness, along with a few clear patterns. Tuesday and Wednesday look pretty good, but Sunday looks to be the least effective.

What’s left off of this highly aggregated data is the fact there is no “best” day – or time of day – to send emails that works across the board for all email marketers.

The reality? Testing your email sends is paramount to effective email marketing. What might work for one industry, or business category, or maybe even your direct competitor might not – no, make that probably won’t – work for you.

Your email list is unique to your business (unless you’ve bought the entire list, and if so, shame on you). Only by testing your sends and tracking open rates, clickthroughs and other engagement metrics will you learn what works best for your list.

Read more…

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Allison Banko

Mobile Marketing: 3 tips from ModCloth on mobile app engagement

August 8th, 2014

Seldom do I condone a selfie.

Nothing makes me want to cut a slice of humble pie for someone more than a pointless, self-taken snapshot. If you’re doing absolutely nothing but think you look darn good, it’s pretty clear you’re pulling for some strokes to the ol’ ego.

In the driver’s seat of your car? Not a photo op. Working at your computer but having a great hair day? Don’t click the cam.

However, I do think there are some exceptions — and perhaps even necessary occasions — for a selfie. If I run into Jennifer Aniston on the street but no one’s there to take the pic, you best bet I’ll hold up my iPhone and do it on my own.

While my iPhone’s photo album doesn’t have celebrity-accompanied shots (I’m working on it), it’s not selfie-free, which brings me to my other exception: fashion.

Putting an outfit together or buying a piece of clothing is often stressful. I can look in the mirror as long as I want to see if I think a shirt looks funny or if my shoes go with my dress, but there’s nothing better than a second opinion.

I can get that second opinion by taking a photo of myself in the outfit, texting it to my girlfriends to weigh in. What do you think of this top? How does this skirt look with these earrings? Should I buy it? All of my friends and I do this.

Fashion retailer ModCloth, a brand my wallet knows all too well, integrated this selfie behavior into its mobile app. I learned all about it when ModCloth’s Chief Technology Officer Udi Nir chatted with me in the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE.

 

Udi co-hosted an IRCE session in Chicago titled, “Mobile Commerce: Get Ready Today for Tomorrow,” where he gave me the scoop on ModCloth selfies along with how crucial it is to have a strong mobile presence.

“It’s really important because that’s where our girl, our customer, is,” Udi told me. “We are wherever she is. If we want to serve her, we have to be in all those places she wants to access our site.”

On the marketing side, mobile unlocks new opportunities for marketers to reach customers in ways and at times they couldn’t have before.

“Mobile basically provides us new moments of found time,” he said. “Those two minutes in line, a few minutes on the bus or whatnot that weren’t able to be used before.”

ModCloth has channeled its mobile focus into its app, which has helped the company achieve both entertainment and engagement among its customers.

One particular feature is the app’s Style Gallery, a place where ModCloth customers can upload their outfit photos to show how they’ve styled their clothing to give others inspiration, Udi explained.

modcloth-style-gallery

  Read more…

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Daniel Burstein

Content Marketing: Encouraging sales and upsells at the point of purchase

August 5th, 2014

Many marketers think of content marketing as a top-of-the-funnel activity. This could include a video to build brand awareness, or an e-book to grow the email list.

But what about using content to encourage sales and upsells at the point of purchase?

On a recent trip to Maine, I came across a great example of point-of-purchase content marketing, although I’m not sure the content’s author would have labeled it as such.

 

How to eat a lobster

how-to-eat-lobster

 

This is a great example of where point-of-purchase content marketing can help: when you have a product that novice customers might not know how to use.

For a tourist who has never eaten a lobster, a placemat like this could be the tipping point between:

  • Buying the less expensive (and easier to eat) lobster roll or lobster meat salad or something more familiar like a steak

or

  • Buying the premium-priced product with the higher margin – lobster

No one wants to order a lobster (or any product) and look like a fool because they don’t know how to eat it. They are less likely to order because they don’t see the value in it.

That’s why this placemat is true content marketing, by my definition. This isn’t an overt sales piece; it was executed in a way that teaches someone how to do something.

Even for myself, as I have eaten a lobster before and was going to order one anyway, it helped me enjoy it more as a refresher for exactly how to eat the lobster since it had been a few years since I’ve eaten one.

 

Opportunities for point-of-purchase content marketing

The great opportunity for point-of-purchase content marketing is this:

When a customer needs to be taught about the product to make a
decision that is better for them.

This likely falls into two major buckets: product education and product differentiation.

Read more…

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Regina Love

Social Media: Leveraging visual marketing on Instagram and Pinterest

August 1st, 2014

At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, sat down to discuss the growth and value of visual social media with Jason Miles, Co-founder, Liberty Jane Clothing, and Aime Schwartz, Digital Marketing Manager, King Arthur Flour.

Aime shared the importance of identifying what makes Instagram different from your Facebook and Twitter efforts. The goal is to showcase your value to multiple audiences through images, and think about reasons why people should engage with you and your brand.

Showcasing your value means being transparent, and with images, you can convey trust much better than just with words. (Want to learn more about trust through transparency? Watch a replay of Michael Norton, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, speak at Web Optimization Summit 2014.)

In social media, we’ve all heard that adding an image to a post will drive more traffic, and together, Aime and Jason presented ways to leverage images on social media, regardless of the product or service.

“The research shows that even on Facebook, pictures get more engagement than normal posts,” Jason said.

 

For example, one way to be creative with the photography, Jason suggested, is by using the 80/20 rule – the happy balance between uploading meaningful posts alongside your product images.

As you think about where to start with Instagram and Pinterest, make sure you conquer one platform before expanding and jumping onto all of them. Also, don’t forget to provide plenty of social sharing options on your website to allow users ample opportunities to gravitate toward their preference.

Read more…

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Maria Lopez Fernandez

Social Media: Mass personalization starts with Catsies

As a young 20-something, I understand your pain when it comes to social media.

You see hashtags and acronyms online and wonder where the world is headed. Then, just when Justin Bieber makes you want to crawl under a rock, you see #Catsies.

catsies-virgin-mobile

 

Catsies are a real thing.

It means cat selfies, and it was created by Virgin Mobile USA to generate buzz for the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the idea is (arguably) genius. Recently, the company also launched a contest for the best Catsie to be crowned the Virgin Mobile #Catsie Spokescat, among other branded prizes.

Virgin Mobile’s target audience is a younger crowd and let’s face it: My peers and I are a little obsessed with cats.

Well played, Virgin Mobile.

I wanted to mention there’s also more to the campaign strategy than cute closeups of your calico.

By thinking outside the (litter) box and leveraging the interest of a specific audience, Virgin Mobile is taking a new approach to mass personalization.

The idea of mass personalization sounds somewhat paradoxical, but it’s where the roads of tech, design and culture appear to be taking us (and our cats).

Here’s what it looks like when broken down:

  • Target audience: People who like, or may have an interest in, cats
  • Purpose: Drive sales for Samsung Galaxy S5, and increase visits to the Virgin Mobile site
  • Method: New Catsies page, Catsie contest, Twitter hashtag, behind-the-scenes video

 

Creating a mass personalized campaign is like planning a kid’s birthday party

Mass personalized campaigns sound more difficult than they really are.

I’m not saying mass personalization campaigns are safe from a quick spiral into a highly complex strategy to execute, especially if you’re thinking of a multichannel approach.

When you strip mass personalization campaigns down to the core elements, you have almost the same list of bases to cover that you would in planning a child’s birthday party.

birthday-party-planning

 

Take a look at the table I put together and feel free to add any recommendations in comments section below.

Also, don’t forget the cake.

Read more…

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Daniel Burstein

Email Deliverability: 9 lessons about Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

July 25th, 2014

CASL.

You might think the “C” stands for confusion, or perhaps concern, at least on the part of marketers.

canada-anti-spam-legislationThose letters stand for the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. This law applies not only to Canadian companies, but email marketers anywhere in the world sending messages to Canadian subscribers.

Since this is probably the strictest spam law ever, marketers are growing concerned. Because marketers aren’t lawyers, many are also confused about what they actually have to do.

I’ve spent the past few weeks gleaning insights from experts in the field, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

 

Lesson #1. A blog post is not a legal opinion

Some marketers have been reading blog posts and other content to try to understand what they must do to comply with CASL.

No piece of content can replace legal advice, including this blog post. If you think there is legitimate exposure for your company, the best thing to do is get legal advice.

CASL is a law, not just an industry best practice or a good idea. If your company breaks the law, it can be legally liable and punished. As with any law, ignorance is not a legal defense.

According to FightSpam.ca, “Penalties for the most serious violations of the Act can go as high as $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is chartered with enforcing the act.

That said, I’ve included some related reading at the end of this blog post in the “You may also like” section to help you dive deeper into this complex regulation.

Lawyers aren’t the only place you can get some help.

“Become informed and stay on top of it. If you are using an ESP and they are providing any sort of CASL assistance, take advantage of it,” suggested James Koons, Chief Privacy Officer, Listrak.

 

Lesson #2. Don’t overreact

Trusting any blog post or other content at this point is especially fraught because, while CASL is law, interpretation and enforcement of the law is still ongoing. It’s still all very new.

“I think you have to use some common sense.”

That’s what Shaun Brown, a lawyer and partner at nNovation LLP, a Canadian law firm, advised when I spoke with him about CASL. Shaun also went on to say:

Fortunately, the government decided to delay the private right of action, because the private right of action is a whole other ballgame. It creates incentives for lawyers to find technical violations. The CRTC, we have to assume and I do believe that they’re going to be reasonable and it’s not their goal to try and catch legitimate businesses in technical violations or in a gray area and to really try to punish them. I think it’s going to be their goal to try and reduce some of the worst practices we see out there.

So where there are a lot of gray areas, I don’t want to see people being scared to use email marketing because of these gray areas and lack of certainty. We do have to have a little bit of faith and assume that the CRTC is going to be reasonable on some of these issues.

 

Lesson #3. Keep doing the basics

There are a few basics in how you send your emails that you should be doing anyway, thanks to CAN-SPAM and being a savvy, successful and ethical marketer who cares about deliverability.

I say should, because last time we surveyed marketers about their email practices, only 62% provided an easy unsubscribe process – as the rest simply beg recipients to hit the “SPAM” button and cause major deliverability problems.

Does your email template (perhaps in the footer) include:

  • The ability to unsubscribe?
  • Your company’s physical address?
  • An email address, telephone number or Web address?

 

Lesson #4. Understand the two types of consent

Implied consent and express consent.

Implied consent tends to be when you’ve had a business relationship with recipients in the past, like a purchase or donation.

Express consent is when they specifically opt-in to your list. It’s a good idea to check your opt-in forms and make sure you are now getting express consent.

“Make sure you put expiration processes in place to remove subscribers that you are unable to get express consent from, or when the time limit for implied consent runs out. Basically, you should have a solid, auditable process in place that shows your CASL compliance in the event of an enforcement action,” James said.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Video Ecommerce: Getting up close and personal with products

July 22nd, 2014

Creating an engaging experience for online shoppers is key to increasing conversion. Time and time again, we have seen case studies from in-the-trenches marketers who improved a user experience with engaging content, better catered to their customers’ needs, and ultimately, achieved revenue gains.

Videos are a treasure trove of opportunity for ecommerce marketers. Rather than static product images with bland descriptions, videos convey how a product looks, feels and works much better when a customer physically cannot touch a product.

At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, MarketingSherpa hosted the official Media Center at the event. Ecommerce marketers and industry experts shared their insights into what works, and what the future of ecommerce will look like.

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, CEO and Founder, Joyus, stopped by the Media Center to share her story along with some tips for effective video marketing.

 

Joyus is an ecommerce site where fashion, beauty and health experts find the latest and best products, which can also be purchased directly from the site. The videos are brief, showing  products in action with highlights from the experts on their unique features. Videos are also time stamped, so users can skip ahead to what they want to know about a product, whether it be sizing or color choices.

Here’s an example of one of Joyus’ product videos:

 

But Joyus doesn’t stop there.

Users can also see what other products were featured in a video, and join the community conversation via a Facebook embedded Q-and-A section.

In a way, Joyus has transcended video marketing and uses videos as content marketing. High-quality, informative videos that are easily sharable engage users incredibly more for Joyus.

All of these efforts have earned impressive results. Joyus reported that its video viewers are buying 4.9 times more than those that do not watch the product videos, according to a news release.

Read more…

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John Tackett

Ecommerce: 3 vital marketing resources to explore before your next email send

July 18th, 2014

Email marketing has emerged as a staple in ecommerce.

Seemingly countless companies use emails to flood our inboxes with a galaxy of promotions and product offers.

How can you stand out in an already overcrowded inbox?

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, I’ve included a few resources from our content library and publications that you can use to aid your email marketing efforts.

 

Read – Email Marketing: Jewelry retailer integrates product recommendations into email campaigns to lift opens 9% 

email-personalization

How it can help

This case study from Allison Banko, Reporter, MarketingSherpa, shares how fine jewelry retailer Heirlume integrated product recommendations into its email programs, tailored to male and female audiences.

Segmentation is already a best practice, so the real payoff here is in basing content on user behavior to help you deliver relevant products directly to your customers.

 

Watch – Brand Value: Ecommerce marketing on a global scale

 

How it can help

Delivering a consistent brand experience in your emails to customers around the globe gets harder the bigger you grow.

Consequently, one thing to consider according to Rob Garf, Vice President, Industry Strategy, Demandware, is when exposing brands to new cultures, marketers must understand the experience is all about the customer.

“It comes down to really being entrenched in how consumers behave and how they want to interact with the brand,” he said.

Check out more interviews from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE featuring a wide range of speakers like Rob who represent a variety of brands including: Fathead, Website Magazine, Digital River, Save-A-Lot, Demandware, Joyus and eBay, among many others.

Read more…

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