Jessica Lorenz

Newsletter Engagement: 3 tactics Calendars.com used to improve its monthly sends

November 11th, 2014

When Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager at Calendars.com, was challenged with the task of defining the company’s email campaign, she dove at the chance of evolving the campaign from promotions to engagement.

Marcia and her team hoped to develop a newsletter that people wanted to read and a way to “engage with subscribers without asking them to open up their wallets.”

The result was a newsletter with refreshing and relevant content that resonated with the customer.

 

Find your voice

The team at Calendars.com used a calendar format as a template for the newsletter send. Not only was this visually different than other emails in the inbox, but it was very fitting for the brand.

They also used a previously shelved trademark phrase, “Flip Day,” to describe the newsletter send. (Flip Day, if you’re wondering, is the ceremonial and satisfying day that you flip your calendar from one month to another.)

By using this resource they already had, it empowered the team to communicate with their audience in a purposeful way, without promoting products.

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Daniel Burstein

Why You Should Consider Customer Service to be 1-to-1 Marketing

November 7th, 2014

Some retailers only see customer service as an expense.

They view it as a cost that needs to be ruthlessly cut to the bare minimum by incentivizing call center reps to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible and push customers to self-service portals instead of providing easy contact information.

Yet, a major challenge retailers face is that many are resellers and the products they sell are commodities.

 

If a customer can buy the product in many places, why should they buy from you?

Since the products are the same, retailers need to create a unique value proposition for their store.

One unique element of value can be your store’s customer service. According to data from the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, customer responsiveness correlates with success.

Stop thinking of customer service as a cost center and start thinking about it as an investment in one-to-one marketing.

Let me show you what I mean by using a customer journey as an example.

In this case, the customer journey is one I intimately understand since it was my own. (Please Note: I am overdramatizing it for effect and to highlight different decisions that go through the buyer’s head. In reality, some of these journeys may happen in a matter of minutes and many happen at a subconscious level for the customer.)

 

My customer journey

In my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., it has been raining and hot and cold and dark and bright and buggy and all sorts of other excuses I could come up with for not going running. I needed a fool-proof method for exercising.

After doing some pain-point-level research, I discovered a recumbent exercise bike would be the solution I was looking for, since I could comfortably catch up on HBO Go while exercising – just the motivation I needed. Some product category research led me to the Marcy ME 709 Recumbent Exercise Bike.

Now that my product search was complete, I had to decide where to buy it. This was a commodity product with the same exact model available at many retailers. A quick foray into a shopping search engine identified 38 online stores that sold the exact same bike.

 

One-to-many marketing

There were price differences, and that helped with store selection. But another factor that helped with store selection was one-to-many marketing.

With so many selections, there were various stores I trusted thanks to their overall advertising and branding campaigns, print ads, newspaper circulars, content marketing, a physical presence in my hometown and many other tactics I would consider one-to-many marketing.

This branding, combined with my overall experience with these stores in the past – even excellent branding can’t outweigh negative customer experiences – caused me to prefer some stores over others.

However, there were still many stores to choose from.

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Erin Hogg

Content Marketing: Lord of the airline safety videos

November 4th, 2014

Since when did airline safety videos become so darn viral?

What used to be a dry and boring legal formality has now become a way to engage audiences outside of the plane cabin.

As a huge fan of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movie franchises, my inner nerd did backflips when I watched Air New Zealand’s newest airline safety video:

 

For those not so familiar with the world of J. R. R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson, New Zealand was the filming location for all three “Lord of the Rings” films as well as the more recent “Hobbit” movies.

Featuring actors and characters from the movies, as well as flight attendants dressed as elves and an appearance from director Peter Jackson, Air New Zealand really outdid themselves. (However, I would have liked to see a little more Gollum in the video.)

This isn’t the first time the airline has capitalized on the “Hobbit” hype for its in-flight safety videos. In 2012, they used the theme in coordination with the first “Hobbit” film in the series.

Delta VideoHowever, Air New Zealand is not alone in taking safety videos to the next level.

Delta has produced some pretty entertaining safety videos as well, notably this 80s-inspired throwback featuring big hair, crazy clothes and of course some iconic characters from the time.

 

Storytelling in the strangest places

These safety videos, while still used for the in-flight safety precautions, were undoubtedly created to become viral online.

What was once an untapped resource has become a way to kill two birds with one stone: comply with FAA regulations and entertain viewers.

But even more than that, these videos are great content marketing. For Air New Zealand, the company is gaining more brand awareness from these videos because, let’s face it, most people will probably never make the 24-hour trek to the island.

However, by embracing its ties to the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and getting creative, it’s found a way to reach audiences who may have never heard of the airline company before.

For larger airlines like Delta, I would argue that having more entertaining safety videos is a way to spice up what used to be mundane travel for 165 million travelers each year.

As a popular network, these videos add more personality to the brand.

For me personally, I saw one of Delta’s comedic videos on a trip I took, and that video was the first thing I told my family about when I landed was that video. Even on the flight, people were chuckling and talking about the video, even if they had seen a similar one on a previous trip.

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Jessica Lorenz

3 Instagram Lessons You Can Learn from Taylor Swift

October 31st, 2014

Taylor Swift uses Instagram just like I do. She takes photos of her cats, maybe takes a short clip of them jumping into boxes or snaps a photo of something that she baked that evening.

But, unlike me, Taylor has 12 million followers.

Aside from sharing her fascination with cats and baked goods, she also leverages Instagram to tease music she’s working on through behind-the-scenes glimpses into the recording studio or photos of lyrics that are yet to be released.

The brilliance of marrying these two techniques is two-fold. Not only is she using Instagram to market her albums, but also the personal and fun posts on her Instagram account give fans a glimpse into her world. By inviting fans into her home, it makes them feel like they’re actually friends with Taylor.

Cats

 

She makes her fans feel like they’re not too different than her (despite millions billions of dollars).

This strategy is part of Taylor’s value proposition. She tries to make her fans feel like friends. To supplement this strategy, she hosts and personally appears at secret fan parties around the world for “all-star” supporters, making Swifties feel special just for being her fans (I’m still waiting for my invite, Tay).

This is in stark contrast to the “arms-length” celebrities who keep themselves locked up in giant, fancy mansions in the Hollywood Hills with 12-foot ivy-covered fences and 24-hour security, quietly posting the occasional PR-induced Tweet.

Fan-Party

 

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Daniel Burstein

Corporate Creativity: Managing your marketing team (and career) to balance innovation and execution

October 28th, 2014

You, my friend, are a knowledge worker.

All marketers are.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it was first coined by management guru Peter Drucker in the 50s.

Of Drucker’s six factors for knowledge worker productivity, the one I want to discuss in today’s MarketingSherpa blog post is:

“Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers.”

This sounds like the perfect description of the challenges facing the modern marketer today.

 

Come up with out-of-the-box ideas (while sitting in a box)

Corporate CreativityNo longer can you rely on reaching potential customers by running a TV ad on the three major networks. Marketers must find innovative ways to use an endless (and growing) array of channels to reach customers.

They must combine smart uses of data and metrics to understand what their customers want and make sure they are delivering that content effectively (while proving the effectiveness to business leaders).

They must also combine this innovative thinking with persistence and process-orientation. After all, marketers must be able to execute these campaigns in complex corporate environments while managing budgets, agency and vendor relationships and corporate policy.

Essentially, marketers need corporate creativity.

 

Is corporate creativity an oxymoron?

“Creativity” is defined as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”

Also, the connotation of “corporate” is “Oppressively awful in that numbingly ‘cubicle in a hermetically-sealed office’ kind of way: lacking good quality, morality or ethics, excellence, creativity, spontaneity, kindness, love, integrity, beauty or intrinsic worth and meaning,” according to the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary.

In other words, these two aspects of marketing success do not necessarily go hand-in-hand  — innovation and execution.

It is your challenge as a marketing leader to make sure your team (and even your agencies and vendors) never lose that wild spark when working on your brand and campaigns.

Yet, they must be able to execute, manage projects and deliver on time and on budget.

Quite the conundrum. It’s a challenge that deeply interests me, so when I recently came across an article by Joe Robinson in Entrepreneur magazine, “The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off,” I knew I had to talk to Jeff Stibel, CEO, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and author of Wired for Thought from Harvard Business Press and Breakpoint from Palgrave Macmillan Trade.

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Jessica Lorenz

Event Marketing: 4 questions to ask before submitting a speaking application

October 24th, 2014

Speaking at events offers a great opportunity for marketers to build their own personal brand and reputation in the industry as well as improve their career. It also provides a way for solutions providers to gain credibility through customer success stories.

However, getting on stage is easier said than done.

If you’ve ever applied to speak at an event, you probably know that it can take a while to hear back from application evaluators, if you hear anything at all.Summit Speaker

Having applied to speak at several events in the past, I can relate — but I also have the inside scoop on what happens on the agenda-building side.

Over the past couple of weeks, the MECLABS content team, myself included, has been hard at work sifting through hundreds of speaking applications for MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 in Las Vegas.

I’ve spent over 30 hours reading through applications, analyzing blog posts, watching videos and reaching out to applicants.

During those long hours, I began to develop four fundamental questions to ask myself when sorting applications into the “yes” or “no” stack, and I want to share those four questions with you:

 

1. Did you take time and effort to explain your story completely?

It’s disheartening to see people throw away an opportunity to win over the evaluators. Applications where you’re given the chance to tell someone about your story should take more than a sentence or single word, or, big oops, left blank entirely.

This is your chance to tell your story. Give the application reviewer a story and let them imagine how it would be presented on stage.

If you’re the hero of the story, explain the challenges that you overcame.

Be a storyteller in your application. J.K. Rowling could have summed up all the Harry Potter novels by simply writing, “Harry Potter went to school and learned how to overcome challenges.” Instead, she expanded this story into seven complete novels, detailing the events that unfolded and inviting you into the life, experiences and thoughts of Harry, not just offering the world a simplified plot.

The art of storytelling — even in a speaking application — is important and will set you apart from the hundreds of other applicants.

The effort that you put into your application is a preview of the effort that you’ll put into the content you present.

If we ask for a video and your reply is, “I have one, but I can’t find it,” we’re not going to go look for it. If you write, “Will provide video upon request” under the section where we requested a video, your application will likely be disregarded altogether.

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Daniel Beulah

How to Craft a Viral Campaign in 3 Steps

October 21st, 2014

In 2012, only half of Americans knew of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after one of its most famous victims. The ALS Association, a nonprofit committed to raise money for research and patient services, raised a combined total of $19.4 million for that year.

Fast forward to today, and the ALS has raised over $100 million this year alone, most of which has been raised in the two month period of July and August.

As many of us know, it’s all due to one viral campaign: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge, in which one records dumping ice water on themselves or donates to the ALS Association, has been shared over 1.2 million times on Facebook and 2.2 million times on Twitter.

The campaign was so successful that critics started to worry about how the challenge would affect counties under severe drought watches.

Why did this campaign, out of all the others floating around on the Internet, go viral?

There’s not a lot we have control over when it comes to the “viralocity” of an image, video or idea. However, according to Malcom Gladwell, there are three elements that increase the probability:

 

The law of the few (Know who to target)

Malcolm Gladwell states in The Tipping Point, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”

Gladwell calls these movers and shakers of the internet realm “connectors.” These are people with the extraordinary gift for making friends and acquaintances. They have a multitude of followers on social networks, and when they mention something on Facebook, it is immediately shared 100 times.

These connectors can be people, a website or a news organization. People want to be connectors.

While in today’s society a connector can translate their social network directly into money or political power, most people simply want the rush they feel when their idea or link is liked or retweeted. A good idea in the hands of a few can spread like wild fire.

 

The stickiness factor (Good content)

The two reasons the ALS Ice Bucket challenge succeeded was because it was for a good cause, and it was easily repeatable. At the end of their individual challenge, the participant then had to challenge three of their friends to replicate them. As the campaign gained momentum, it even grew to include big-name celebrities, such as Oprah, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg, taking the plunge.

The stickiness factor correlates to your core content, cause or campaign. Is it well thought out? Is it for a good cause? Will it make a difference in someone’s life? More importantly, is it memorable? The more memorable the campaign, the higher the stickiness factor, and the faster it spreads.

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Austin McCraw

Marketing Strategy: What is your “Only Factor”?

October 17th, 2014

Warning: I am about to offend someone. It could be you. It might not be. Either way, I wouldn’t continue reading unless you’re up for having your notion of marketing challenged and you have the time to leave a ranting blog comment — just in case you end up feeling the need to.

Let’s talk about marketing strategy for a moment.

That’s right. Put down your proverbial to-do list, and let’s talk about the force behind the success (or failure) of all your marketing campaigns — your value proposition.

A good value proposition is the key to true sustainable competitive advantage, and without one, you are simply just pushing pixels around, hoping something will stick. However, a good value proposition must have what we call an “only factor.”

There has to be at least one way in which you can say about your product, we are the “only.”

You can match your competitors in many ways, but in at least one way, you must excel. If you do not have this “only” factor, then you are, as Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, says, “simply surviving on pockets of ignorance.”

Now, customer ignorance was once a decent way to make a living (when I say “decent,” I’m using it in the old snake-oil sense of the word). Today, thanks to the internet, your customer can learn everything about you and your competition in about three mouse clicks. As information abounds, ignorance decreases.

Our marketing exists in a world where there are very few pockets of ignorance. In a world like that, a true “only factor” is the only way to survive.

If I haven’t offended you yet, I’m about to provide two more opportunities.

 

Don’t blame the “crowded market”

When teaching these concepts, I often get asked, “What about crowded markets?”

First, I generally ask a group of marketers to raise their hands (gutsy move, I know) if they are currently not working in a crowded market. You want to take a guess at how many hands get raised?

There are no good markets that aren’t crowded. I haven’t met a marketer yet who feels like their market isn’t crowded (and if there is, please introduce yourself to me). We all like to talk about how our market is so crowded, when the reality is that there are few, if any, markets that aren’t crowded.

The point is that opportunities draw crowds. If there is any inkling of an opportunity in your market, it may only be a matter of time, but it will become crowded.

Also, “crowd” is a relative term.

Meaning, the sense of crowding is completely dependent on the available space. Three’s a crowd in the back of a cab — but not so much on a football field. It all depends on the size of your market, and for many niche markets, it only takes a couple competitors to make a crowd.

Here’s the point: Dealing with a “crowd” is a basic experience of marketing. It is not unique. It does not release the marketer from needing a forceful value proposition. If anything, it makes it more necessary.

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Andrea Johnson

How Seamless Email Turns Ecommerce Prospects into Buyers

October 14th, 2014

Only 2.6% of the people browsing an ecommerce site actually buy during that visit, but, according to Charles Nicholls, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to eventually make a purchase.

Charles is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for SeeWhy, a provider of cloud-based behavioral target marketing. He discussed what it takes to transform browsers into buyers with Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, at the 2014 Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.

Charles exhorted marketers to rethink the channel mindset and optimizing websites for a single session, and instead, think about optimizing the entire buying process. The key, he explained, is seamless use of email across desktops, tablets and smartphones.

Why? Customers may use all of these devices before finally making a purchase.

Consider this: SeeWhy has been tracking smart phone conversions, and, according to Charles, smartphones are outpacing tablets, which have become a desktop substitute. Also, 67% of smartphone conversions are done via email.

Watch the video below to learn about the importance of seamless emailing:

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Jessica Lorenz

Email Data Hygiene: When you know it’s time to break up

October 10th, 2014

I still get emails to the email address I created in middle school. This was back when having cutsie screen names was awesome, DSL was the latest and selecting your Top 8 on MySpace was the most stressful part of the week.

Although I haven’t sent or opened an email in that account for probably 10 years, the emails still come through.

It had been a while since I had actually gone to that inbox, though I needed to reset my password before I was even able to scroll through the pages upon pages of unread mail. Not one of them was a personal email. As I kept going through pages years back, I noticed that they’re all marketing emails – often from the same few companies.

I have not engaged after nearly a decade of sends. I have not read a single subject line. I have not opened any emails. I have not clicked any calls-to-action. Yet these companies keep sending.

How is marketing to that email address helping the marketers’ campaigns (other than contributing to list bloat)?

 

The importance of list hygiene

At Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas, Laura Mihai, Email Marketing Specialist, 3M Canada, spoke on the integration of list cleansing as a regular element of its email marketing campaigns.

Laura opened her session by reflecting on a time when deliverability rates started to affect campaigns.

“We really wanted to focus on eliminating those who don’t engage with our communications,” explained Laura. The team at 3M Canada had the idea of running a campaign with the incentive of a contest to stay on the list and update contact information.

Using this campaign, the team trimmed their list by an impressive 64%. Now, they can be in touch with people who want to engage with them.

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