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Keyword: ‘data’

Social Media Marketing: Is in-stream e-commerce possible?

April 4th, 2013

E-commerce on Facebook was a horrible flop. That is to say, many brands found over the course of several years of experimentation the return on investment in terms of dollars spent developing their online storefronts didn’t measure up, so many of the most popular retail brands – such as The Gap, JC Penney and Nordstrom – were subsequently forced to close their Facebook shops. A recent study by W3B suggested just 2% of people with a Facebook account have made a purchase on the social network.

Yet, simultaneously, e-commerce sites in general (Amazon, Fab.com, etc.) have posted impressive growth figures.  For example, holiday e-commerce sales were up 13% to $34 billion in 2012.

Why is it that some sites sell, and others don’t? In particular, why are social media sites so horrible at conversion? I believe it’s a phenomenon related to (what I refer to as) the locus of conversion.

 

Facebook is a pub crawl

The environment on Facebook yields similarities to the dynamic of a pub crawl. Surrounded by acquaintances and, yes, a few old friends, we dive into topics of various levels of seriousness ranging from the patently absurd, to the politically charged before wandering aimlessly from topic to topic.

We do so without expecting to be inundated with marketing messaging, much the same as we would expect to not be rudely interrupted by an insurance salesman while we were in the middle of telling our best frat house story from college at the local bar.

However, if you are able to be interesting enough to become the topic of our buzzed conversation, I might be willing, in that instant, to purchase your product. I don’t want to leave the bar, mind you. I just want a magical product genie to appear and offer your purple widget to me at a reasonable price. If I don’t have to leave my bar stool, you just might have a sale.

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Customer Relationship Management: Bring Finance into the CRM world

March 28th, 2013

Last November, we published a how-to article in the MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter titled, “CRM How-to: Tactics on Marketing/IT alignment, database strategy and integrating social media data.” As you might guess from the title, the article covered a range of customer relationship marketing concepts. To get the insights presented in the piece, I spoke with six industry experts.

With all of this great information at hand, I faced a common “problem” that crops up when researching multi-source MarketingSherpa articles – after writing a thorough how-to article, I still had a huge amount of great material that just didn’t make it into the piece. The solution? Offer those insights in a couple of additional blog posts.

Here on the MarketingSherpa Blog, we published, “Defining CRM: Thoughts from three experts,” a deeper look into how different industry experts actually define the term “customer relationship management” (and a fascinating group of opinions that might change the way you think of CRM), and another on the B2B Lead Blog, “Sales and Marketing: The technology behind CRM.”

Today, I’d like to offer more insights into CRM, and also add another industry expert to the entire mix, Lou Guercia, President and CEO, Scribe Software, a data integration and migration software company.

 

4 doors into the company

One key distinction covered in the post on defining customer relationship management was between CRM as simply a technology piece of software that might be as narrowly defined as the software utilized by Sales, or CRM technology embracing marketing automation and email technology as well, compared against CRM as a holistic customer lifetime experience that takes into account marketing activity, sales actions and customer service.

Even though he is coming from a very data-centric perspective, Lou said he sees CRM from the customer lifetime perspective.

He explained the four touch points, or “doors,” for customers interacting with your company:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Support (customer service)
  • Finance

“What can we do to do support customers better?” Lou asked. “Think through what would be the data requirements and the workflows that would allow our business to service those customers through those four doors to the company in a way that would make those customers happy and more likely to continue to use our product or service.”

In the list of “doors,” I found it very interesting Lou added finance. Customer service is often mentioned in the holistic view of CRM, but from a customer touch point perspective, and maybe even more importantly from customer data perspective, how that person interacts with the finance department is a very important piece of the customer lifecycle.

The largest section of the original how-to article we published was on the database, and whether companies should keep separate databases for Marketing and Sales.

The opinion was mixed, with one expert, Brian Vellmure, Founder, Initium LLC/Innovantage International, splitting the difference suggesting one, or two, databases should be determined on a case-by-case basis, even though he did suggest there needed to be some way to merge all data for the ability to perform end-to-end data analysis.

Lou said a CRM implementation strategy should include integrating the Marketing and Sales databases if those are not already in sync, but the next stage would be to integrate the accounting and financial data into that overarching database as well.

With this total insight into the individual customer, if a database record changes for any reason at any point in the customer lifecycle – as a database prospect, after the handoff to Sales as a qualified lead, or at the account level post-conversion to a customer – the database everyone is using contains the correct information.

This means Marketing and Sales continuing efforts in up-selling, cross-selling and ongoing brand awareness understand, and can react to, changes in that customer’s status – maybe their phone number, job title or possibly even company changed over time.

 

The cloud and big data

As a marketer you might be thinking, “Oh man, first I have to get aligned with Sales and get all of us playing in the same data sandbox, and now I have to think about adding Finance to the mix?”

Lou suggested any CRM implementation strategy should be handled incrementally, and there’s no need to “boil the ocean” and try to do everything at once. At the same time, there needs to be an overall plan for the implementation.

He said, “If you think it through from a process level:

  • What are we trying to do?
  • What can we improve on?
  • What feedback have we heard from these customers?
  • How can improve the way we work with those customers and prospects?
  • What are the data elements that we are going to need to do that and then have an actionable, prioritized plan?”

The implementation should be based on an overarching plan, and he said to avoid being so tactical that urgent problems get fixed without a framework in place for the entire process.

From a data perspective, one relatively new technological solution is out there.

“One factor that is impacting the market for adopting this kind of strategy is the rampant growth of cloud services,” Lou said.

He added the cloud provides the ability to link data from sources ranging from sales and marketing automation technology, call center systems and even accounting and finance.

Lou said one school of thought regarding another hot term right now – big data – is the idea of “give me every bleeping piece of data under the sun, and I will have smart algorithms that will figure out where to get some patterns.”

“I think that’s great for IBM,” he explained. “What I am about is relevant data sets. What are the types of data that you would want that can be reasonably well parsed through and used by organizations.”

He added big data is about finding patterns in unstructured data that will be helpful to the business, and marketers probably know what data they want for better access into customer insights. The challenge is managing big data in a coordinated way.

“Maybe I am not about ‘big data’ in the classic sense, but more [about] relevant use of bigger data, not vast data,” Lou explained.

Brian Vellmure, the advocate of allowing corporate culture to determine the database strategy, provided another perspective on actually handling big data for marketers:

Big data will allow us to obviously understand our customers better.

If we can understand who they are, who they are interacting with, where they go, what they are interested in beyond our products and service offering, and what their normal day in a life is, then obviously, we have a potential to bring them the right message at the right time.

It is not intrusive. It is not annoying, and it also allows us to find patterns that we didn’t even know to look for before.

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Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages

March 26th, 2013

In the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we asked email marketers how they use automation capabilities …

Q: What type of automated, event-triggered, lifecycle email messages does your organization deploy? Please check all that apply.

 

As always, we asked the MarketingSherpa audience for their actionable advice based on this data. We received two interesting tips from Richard Hill and one from Chris Hexton …

 

Nurture current customers

Most marketers use automated triggered emails to strengthen relationships with early-stage buyers (i.e., for ‘lead nurturing’).

However, one of the most under appreciated opportunities is to use triggered emails to strengthen relationships with current (and recently lost) customers:

  • Advocate social referral
  • Contract renewal reminder
  • Product education/training
  • Customer service issue management
  • Low product usage alert
  • Upsell/cross sell
  • Win/loss
  • Net promoter score segment migration
  • Win-back campaigns

All of these “customer nurturing” programs represent great ways for modern marketers to re-balance their approach, and use trigger emails (and marketing automation tools) to more consistently support the whole buying journey.

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Email Marketing: 5 questions to find out if you’re using CRM as a glorified autoresponder

March 15th, 2013

One of my favorite proverbs is “Change yourself and you change your fortunes.”

Making changes that increase the bottom line starts with marketers making a commitment to change how they engage customers effectively with their tools at hand.

Tools like customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation systems that track user activities allow marketers to leverage behavior insights gained from captured analytics to engage both return customers and potential prospects.

But, according to Jermaine Griggs, Founder, Hear and Play Music and AutomationClinic.com, some marketers fail to put these tools to good use.

“Instead of better understanding ‘who’ or ‘what’ and letting the captured data talk to us, many of us are using CRM to send static time-based follow-ups,” Jermaine said.

Jermaine was a presenter at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, and one of the key takeaways from his session at Summit was a hypothetical litmus test for marketers to self-assess their CRM and marketing automation usage.

Today’s MarketingSherpa blog post will present Jermaine’s litmus test as five questions every marketer should ask themselves about how they use CRMs and marketing automation to drive email campaigns. Our goal is to share peer insights you can use to aid your email marketing efforts.

But first, let’s take a look at a case study that provides a little backstory on how Jermaine discovered he was not using his CRM and marketing automation platform to their full potential.

Jermaine explained Hear and Play underwent a transformation when it started using its CRM and marketing automation platform to focus on personalizing its automated email marketing campaigns. The change resulted in a 416% increase in lifetime customer value and product purchases per customer from an average of 1.5 to 12.46.

“Our transformation came when we stopped using our CRM merely as a glorified autoresponder and started to really harness the power of behavioral and personalized marketing,” Jermaine explained.

 

Question #1: Do I have email campaign steps users can’t influence?

Jermaine suggested marketers assess their email campaigns using a ratio he calls an S2D score, or static vs. dynamic ratio.

In Jermaine’s S2D ratio:

  • Dynamic sends are influenced directly by customer action
  • Static sends are steps in a process that are not influenced by any customer action

Jermaine accredited increased use of dynamic sends over static sends as a driver of success in Hear and Play’s email marketing strategy reformation and suggests marketers take the time look at their data and acknowledge past customer behavior.

“It will go a long way, and there is an exponential impact on how customers respond,” Jermaine said.

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Gamification: 3 tips for gamification apps as part of your content marketing

March 14th, 2013

Game on! There are 120 million people enrolled in travel rewards programs and more than 200 million play reward-based online games, according to Bunchball.

To help you get started with your own gamification app, here are three tips. Since gamification apps are such a new and emerging tactic, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section of this MarketingSherpa blog post, as well.

 

Tip #1: Provide value in game form

For a gamification app to help your content marketing, it should tie into the value your paid products or services offer. All paid products or services do one of two things:

  • Help a customer alleviate a pain point
  • Help a customer achieve a goal

In content marketing, you translate the value your products have in these two areas into some form of content, like a video or blog post.

With a gamification app, you take that value one step further by making pain point removal or customer goal achievement fun, and add a reward.

There may be many obvious ways to do this if you have a consumer brand. However, B2B marketers often tell me they find it challenging to produce engaging, or dare I say, fun, content.

Let’s take an example. Imagine if you sold manufacturing solutions. To engineers and plant managers. Sounds boring, right?

Well, Siemens turned that combination into an engaging game called Plantville. To learn more about it, and get ideas for your own games, read “Gamification: How Siemens got 23,000 engineers to learn about its brand.”

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Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI

March 8th, 2013

Despite Super Bowl ads promoting the misconception that social media marketing is full of clueless hipsters, the social media marketing channel provides a wealth of data marketers can use for analytics to optimize and improve campaigns.

Jay Baer, President, Convince & Convert, in his keynote presentation at the recently held MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 in Las Vegas, even made the case that email marketing and social media marketing are similar in three main areas:

  • Operations and measurement
  • Channel and audience
  • Message and content

Jay went on to describe social media as email “with a fresh coat of paint.”

So, if you accept Jay’s analysis – and he makes a very sound point on the topic – email, the elder statesman of digital marketing, and social, the new kid on the block, are more similar than different.

When you take “measurement” from the first bullet point in mind, email metrics are likely fairly ingrained for most marketers – open rates, clickthrough rates, unsubscribe rates, list building, etc.

To take a closer look at social media marketing metrics, I turned to the recently published MarketingSherpa 2013 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report and found this chart:

 

And, here is commentary from Brad Bortone, Senior Research Editor, MECLABS, and editor of the report:

HOW ARE MARKETERS TRACKING SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING METRICS?

Despite the fact that only 48% of surveyed marketers tracked social media marketing metrics, those who did were tracking a wide breadth of social tactics, with social reach (e.g., total followers, “likes,” etc.) being the most reported at 61%. This is likely the highest performer because these metrics are obtainable directly from the social media outlet in question.

This immediacy was beneficial to Mary Morel, Director, The M Factor Pty Ltd, who said social media enabled her the ability to, “concentrate most on regularly providing valuable information to build brand and watch Facebook stats, Twitter followers, Google Analytics, e-newsletter opens, subscribes and unsubscribes, and blog stats.”

Likewise, traffic referral data (49%) is information available from the social media outlet, and from link-tracking tools.

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Email Marketing: 58% of marketers see mobile smartphones and tablets most impacting email

March 7th, 2013

In our just-released MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we asked marketers about new email marketing developments for 2013 …

Q: What new developments will affect your email marketing program in the next 12 months? Please select all that apply.

 

As always, we asked your peers what they thought of this data. Here are three takeaways from their feedback …

 

Takeaway #1: Use mobile marketing and social media to engage a younger demographic

“In our market, loyal customers are getting older so we are focused on mobile and social as a way to communicate with younger customers to increase their loyalty. Spot on!!” said Randy Kobat, Vice President and General Manager, Strategic Initiatives.

 

Takeaway #2: Consider mobile design, not just content

“Mobile is dead on with our strategy and focus. We are developing programs with mobile in mind not only through content, but design. How have you faired with responsive design in email? Have you seen engagement go up?” asked Ivan Printis, Email Product Manager, Gannett.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, I moderated the Mobile Email Panel, in which Laura Velasquez, Marketing Program Manager, REI, shared the retailer’s experience with responsive email design.

Below you can see how the emails display differently on an iPhone thanks to responsive design.

Default on iPhone Responsive on iPhone

 

Results

 

The above charts show the results of A/B testing the responsive design email versus a traditional email, and you can see how Laura’s team was able to improve open rates with responsive design.

Laura also noted while mobile was slowly increasing as a percent of all opens of REI emails, the largest increase came after the change to a responsive layout.

For those looking to move to a responsive email design, Laura suggested marketers shouldn’t only focus on making mobile-friendly changes and creating a template, but they should also look at change within their organization. She advised marketers to have discussions with key stakeholders so they understand how their email messages will be affected.

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Email Marketing: What are the top three steps for effective email marketing?

March 5th, 2013

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, I was asked about the top three things marketers should do to make more effective emails by Jim Ducharme, community director, GetResponse Email Marketing

 

 

I’m interested to hear how you would answer the above question as well. Feel free to use the comments section of this MarketingSherpa blog post to share your thoughts.

The question reminds me of a story from John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He tells of a young man coming up to him, and asking for the one thing the young man can do to become a better leader. Maxwell responds that there is not just one thing, there are 21 things he must do to become a better leader.

Clearly, Maxwell is good at branding. But, he also brings up a good point. We’re all busy, and we’re looking for the top takeaways or shortcuts to do our jobs better. However, true success is not so simple.

While many marketing blogs are fond of giving you the few shortcuts or secrets to success, I’m sorry to say that email marketing is hard work involving so much more than the three steps listed below.

But, at a high level, if I had to narrow email marketing down to three steps based on all we’ve learned from marketers through MarketingSherpa, it would be these …

 

Step #1: Start with your customers

Almost all email marketing developed by a competent marketer, really all content and marketing in general, is effective … for the right audience. The question is – are you delivering the right email to the right audience?

So, for example, a free shipping promo. That works great for the people who really love your product and are already keenly interested in buying. That might be the little incentive that drives them to make another purchase.

However, for the people that don’t know the value of the specific product you are promoting quite yet, free shipping for something they don’t value is almost meaningless and likely to get deleted.

So, that’s the real question you have to answer. If you have an unsegmented list of 100,000, and only 100 of them like your product enough to buy based on the free shipping promo, but another several thousand might unsubscribe (or worse, mark your email as spam), then that email promo, while effective for a small segment, is not right for that overall audience.

Here is where deeper complexities, like segmentation, come into play. But at a high level, my main point is you cannot evaluate your email promotions and content in a vacuum. There is rarely right or wrong email marketing. However, there is effective or ineffective email marketing for a particular audience.

This is part of what makes email marketing so challenging. Marketers have to hit their goals, so they keep sending more email – and the email seems to be working. After all, even with diminishing returns, since your email will be right for some small segment of your audience, you get some conversions and it appears to work.

But what is the long-term cost of your actions? What customers would be interested if you gave them what they wanted? How many customers are you forcing out of your funnel?

These can be maddeningly difficult questions to answer. Here are a few resources to get you started:

What is B2B?: Discovering what the customer wants by understanding your Buyer’s Funnel – This video isn’t about email marketing specifically, but Kristin Zhivago does a great job of explaining how to understand what your customers want. Email marketing is one way you should apply that knowledge.

Value Proposition: How to use social media to help discover why customers buy from you – Again, not focused on email in particular, but this blog post should give you some ideas for using social media to help understand the value you can deliver (pun intended) with your email promotions and newsletters.

Personal vs. Robotic: How to turn automated email into personal experiences that drive new and repeat sales – Jermaine Griggs was able to understand what his customers wanted by tracking their behavior, and then delivering relevant email marketing with automation and segmentation. Some very impressive, and advanced, tactics in this case study. Plus, Jermaine is an excellent speaker, so I think you’ll really enjoy this video.

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Lead Generation Optimization: How Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ increased previous customer conversions 22% by removing its lead capture form

March 1st, 2013

Optimizing form fields in emails can be tricky as sales and marketing departments don’t always agree on how to create an effective lead flow process that captures important customer information while minimizing elements of friction.

So, today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post will share two case studies featured at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 and how one marketing team increased its conversion rate 22% by removing its capture form. Our goal is to share with you some real-world email campaigns you can use to aid your lead generation optimization effort.

First, let’s get some backstory on the role segmentation played in these case studies …

According to Dave Mossop, Manager of Interactive Marketing, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, segmenting between prospects and return customers early on in the campaign was key to allowing the team to offer more relevant content in its messaging.

“We did a very simple split of prospects versus customers and that alone gives you enough information to talk to these audiences very differently,” Dave explained.

By segmenting between prospects and return customers, the team was able to deliver a greater relevance for:

  • Price points – Lower for new prospects and higher for return customers
  • Itineraries – Specific destinations for new prospects and a broader range of destinations for return customers
  • Information – Answer first time cruise information for new prospects and explain the benefit of “Why book with us?”
  • Special offers – Exclusive bonus offers for prior customers

“As our team grew, we started going one level deeper by going to customer segments,” Dave explained.

Additional segmentation of past customers allowed the team to:

  • Focus messaging, sales offers and itineraries
  • Discover upsell and cross sell opportunities
  • Prevent down-selling to luxury cruise clients

The team took its segmentation efforts even further by grouping past customers based on previous cruise lines. Expedia CruiseShipCenters discovered past customers were likely to book on the same cruise line again.

By understanding past customer behaviors, the team was also able to:

  • Promote cruise line loyalty program offers and exclusives
  • Write content from perspective of experience

“We see phenomenal results as we get completely relevant and completely personal with the customer we have this data on,” Dave concluded. “Personalization makes a difference, but who we send to matters even more.”

Read more…

Content Marketing: An 8-point analysis for your blog

February 26th, 2013

Blogging can be a very effective element of your marketing mix. For example, an online retailer realized a 172% ROI from its blog.

Of course, as with any marketing tactic, just having a blog is not enough. So, if your blog is underperforming, or you haven’t yet begun to invest in this content channel, perhaps it’s time for a tune-up.

Inspired by the come-ons from the local oil and lube joints for “160-point winter readiness car inspections,” here is an eight-point analysis you can conduct to identify areas for improvement – and we all have them, the MarketingSherpa blog is no exception – on your blog.

 

Point #1: Posting frequency

On many blogs, the frequency and cadence of the blog posts is sporadic. You might see a blog post on Wednesday, then one on Friday, then no posts for a week, then two on Thursday.

An element of effective content is consistency. Let the journalists of the world be your guide here. For example, I have a weekend subscription to my local newspaper, The Florida Times-Union. Every Saturday and Sunday, a newspaper waits for me on my driveway.

If I were to stumble out of my house one Sunday morning – Tony Soprano-style – to find no newspaper waiting, well, I’d start to question the quality of the newspaper. If it just happened once, I would probably not think too big a deal of it. But, if the newspaper was no longer reliably on my driveway on the weekend, I would start to question the reliability of the information in it.

The same goes for your blog.

That said, you have a tough challenge to face as a content marketer, because you can’t sacrifice the quality of your content for a reliable cadence.

To serve both masters – content quality and reliability – you need to set up an editorial calendar you know you can consistently over-deliver on and build up a queue of content. In other words, if you’re writing your blog posts the same day they are posted, then you have a problem. For example, I’m writing this post on February 15.

That queue will wax and wane in size as you become busy with other duties, but it is your insurance and buffer against missing a scheduled deadline. You can still add some real-time posts to take advantage of general news or changes in your industry. Just make sure you have plenty of high-quality, evergreen posts in your queue to comfortably meet every date you are promising to your readers.

 

Point #2: Content value

“We know you have a choice of airlines when you fly, and we want to thank you for flying with us.”

While this has become less true of the airline industry after the American Airlines and US Airways merger, it is more true every day in the blogosphere, especially in hyper-competitive industries that have a lot of quality content marketing such as information technology and marketing.

Sure, you could publish only self-promotional posts. But why would anyone read them? Or share them?

When writing every post, you must ask yourself the central value proposition question – If I am a [particular prospect, e.g., IT manager], why should I [read this blog post] rather than [get information from any other source, anything from an industry magazine to a competitor’s blog]?

The end results of every blog post must be to serve your audience. So, focus on value as your top objective – it is more important than length, promotions or frequency.

  Read more…