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Posts Tagged ‘content marketing’

Why Savvy Marketers Establish Affiliate Relationships with Bloggers

June 20th, 2014 No comments

Having in-house bloggers on your marketing team can keep your content flowing, but there are limits to the audience they can reach.

One way to solve this challenge, according to Carolyn Kmet, Chief Marketing Officer, All Inclusive Marketing, is strategically recruiting third-party bloggers outside of your team to help deliver the right mix of credibility and content that can reach new audiences.

At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, MarketingSherpa hosted the event’s official Media Center. Our team of reporters interviewed marketers from across a variety of business verticals to learn insights on what works in ecommerce marketing.

As Carolyn explained to Allison Banko, Reporter, MECLABS, third-party bloggers can deliver additional exposure opportunities for your brand.

“Bloggers can position brands beyond traditional reach,” Carolyn explained.

 

According to the MarketingSherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study, less than 40% of all companies surveyed utilize affiliate marketing as a traffic driver to an ecommerce site. Using bloggers as affiliates can help with driving traffic from audiences outside of your reach.

The trick is, as Carolyn explained, is to build relationships with bloggers and offer them content opportunities that make exposing your brand to their audience worthwhile.

To do that, she often recruits third-party bloggers outside of her team as affiliates and helps them access industry thought leaders for interviews that would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain otherwise.

The affiliates create content from those interviews to share with their respective audiences.

“There’s a lot of transparency, Carolyn said. “It gives them fresh content for their audiences.”

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Content Marketing: Optimizing the newsletter offering for CNET

May 16th, 2014 No comments

As the old saying goes, bigger isn’t always better.

For Diana Primeau, Director of Member Services at CNET, creating a strong portfolio of email newsletters that resonated with and engaged CNET’s audience was her goal. As part of an company that is the No. 1 source for researching technology and consumer electronics and with more than 100 million unique viewers, CNET had a robust newsletter program including:trim-your-list

  • 26 editorial
  • 3 deals-based
  • 1 marketing

When it came time to plan a strategy for 2013, Diana and her team didn’t think they had a problem with their engagement metrics.

However, when they dug deeper, they discovered some newsletters were no longer relevant, some contained duplicate information, and some included sections that didn’t engage their audience.

“Because our business was healthy, I thought everything was good. But we found things like we had content that was no longer relevant to our audience. It wasn’t a cohesive experience,” Diana said.

In this brief excerpt from Diana’s MarketingSherpa MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2013 presentation, see how she began the process of increasing engagement with CNET’s audience through valuable, relevant content.

 

You can also watch her entire on-demand presentation, “Content Optimization: Reduce redundancy, improve relevance and increase engagement,” to learn how Diana and her team increased both open and clickthrough rates for the newsletter email sends and built a stronger alignment between CNET’s member services and editorial teams.

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Marketing Management: Can you use story in your hiring process?

April 25th, 2014 1 comment

Content marketing comes down to a great story.

It’s the story of your product, sure, but more than that, it’s the story of how your audience can achieve their dreams and overcome their pain points. Your product just plays a supporting role.

Can you use story, and essentially content, for recruiting and HR as well? You can show how your company can play a supporting role in helping the right candidate achieve his or her hopes and dreams.

High-performing marketing requires a high-performing team, so recruiting is essential. By using a story, you’re attracting and hiring people that are already bought into the company’s vision and ready to be part of the team.

I’ve traditionally used that story in the written format, but as we’re now hiring for a Visual Storyteller, also known as Content Presentation Specialist, I tried a more visual format with the help wanted ad, so to speak.

 

How about you? Have you experimented with using story in your hiring process? Do you approach hiring as another content marketing, or even general marketing, campaign? I’d love to hear your tips and techniques as well.

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Social Media: How to turn customers into brand advocates

April 11th, 2014 1 comment

For many marketers, user-generated content is the upcycling opportunity of a lifetime. It’s free content created by customers turned brand advocates with a margin of credibility money can’t buy.

Sadly, this content often goes to waste in marketing, or worse, unnoticed altogether.

The challenge, however, for savvy marketers like Evin Catlett, Digital Marketing Manager, Amer Sports, often rests in finding strategic ways to repurpose content effectively.

In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, Evin explained how Amer Sports was launching its first U.S. Instagram campaign in support of a new product. According to Evin, the launch would also focus on the overall goal of increasing social media engagement with U.S. consumers.

“We didn’t have a ton of reach,” Evin explained, “And while we did have really strong engagement, it was with a very small community.” 

social-media-engagement

 

Before Evin began, she realized one important element to the campaign was the need to inspire social media interaction with customers.

invitation-to-inspire

 

To help accomplish this, the team brought in key brand athletes to have a fairly robust part in interacting on social media with the product, and invited the social media community to do the same.

suunto-ambitions-instagram

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Social Media Marketing: Adding Reddit to the mix

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Social media is almost certainly a part of your marketing mix by this point. Facebook and Twitter are the two overall leaders, and B2B marketers are probably at least looking into how to leverage LinkedIn. Then, there are a host of additional social media platforms such as StumbleUpon, SlideShare, Pinterest, Vine, Quora and many others.

One platform that probably isn’t on most marketers’ radars is Reddit. Marketing tactics on Reddit are not readily obvious, and the platform’s users are not there to be marketed to and don’t welcome any interaction that feels like marketing.

Should you consider Reddit in your social media strategy? If so, how should you approach the platform?

To answer these questions, we reached out to two experts in marketing on Reddit: Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist, Kairay Media; and Greg Finn, Internet Marketer, Cypress North.

Here is the result of that discussion.

 

MarketingSherpa: It sounds like a key challenge to marketing on Reddit is the platform’s policies toward that activity. Briefly cover what marketers should know and understand about these policies.

Brent Csutoras: It is very important to first understand that Reddit is not a single community, but rather a platform to either join existing communities or to create your own communities. Each community is made by a Redditor who then can add moderators and who makes the rules for which everyone in the community must follow. It is super important before trying to submit any content to Reddit to understand the moderators and the rules for each Subreddit you intend to submit your content to.

For instance, some Subreddits will not allow certain domains to be submitted to their community, some like “TodayILearned” require content to be at least two months old, and some like “/worldnews” do not allow news about the U.S.

As to the challenge of marketing to an audience who is by nature against the concept of marketing, it definitely takes someone with a long-term goal and general interest in Reddit to balance the line between being a valuable member of the community, while at the same time, trying to submit your own content.

Greg Finn: The biggest question to ask when participating in Reddit is: Are you contributing? That’s essentially what you should be asking yourself before beginning any type of “marketing.” One of the lines in Reddit’s User Agreement is:

“Cluttering Reddit with junk or spam reduces the quality of the Reddit experience.”

Make sure that you are going into the site with the mindset of increasing the quality of content shared. Also, while not blatantly obvious in the user agreement, you should not be too promotional with your content. Reddit moderators will swiftly ban users that only submitting their own content or commenting with their own links. Treat it like a forum and build credibility in a specific Subreddit, add to the community, then start marketing.

 

MS: Beyond the key challenge addressed above, what are some of the unique marketing challenges (and potential advantages) faced when marketing on Reddit over other social media platforms and other digital marketing channels such as email and paid search?

BC: I mentioned earlier, how individuals really need to make sure they understand the rules of each Subreddit they are submitting to in order to have any real chance at long-term success.

Another challenge that people might now understand is that Reddit has a lot of anti-spam elements at play on the site. New users to a Subreddit, and in some cases, new domains, can find themselves being auto-filtered or even silent-filtered, where their submissions might show as submitted to them, but are actually hidden from all other users until it becomes approved by a moderator.

Lastly, it is really important to understand Reddit’s voting algorithm, which, to put it simply, values the combination of the first 10 votes the same as the following combination of the next 100 votes, and then 1000 votes, and so on. This means that what happens during the first 10 votes of your submission are super important. Choosing the right Subreddit, knowing what type of content the moderators support, and selecting the best title when submitting are key to making sure your first couple votes are positive.

GF: The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the volatility of the community. There are dozens of unwritten rules that exist and can kill your promotion on arrival if you don’t follow along. If using images, submit with Imgur. Videos? Use YouTube. Follow along with the community, learn the inner workings before giving it a try.

One of the biggest challenges is the sheer competitiveness of Reddit these days. You need quality content, a killer title and a dash of luck to strike it big.

 

MS: What are some actionable tactics or tips for marketers looking to add Reddit to their digital marketing mix?

BC: Start by identifying the Subreddits you really want to participate and submit to, followed by learning what works in the Subreddit, both from the community’s acceptance and support, and from what the moderators are going to approve and support. Make sure to fully understand the rules of the Subreddit prior to submitting any content.

Never submit something that doesn’t fit into a Subreddit. It will almost always get removed, which can result in you having filters applied to your submissions and possible having your account silent banned.

You simply do not win on Reddit with brute force.

Lastly, you have to be a Reddit user first and foremost, to really understand how to be an effective marketer within Reddit.

GF: Far and away, the most valuable tactic is to go niche. Every marketer is looking for the homerun, but you can easily hit .400 while driving the right mix of targeted traffic to your site. Reddit has individual sections called Subreddits that are niche communities around a specific topic. These Subreddits have the most potential as you can get your content in front of a (smaller) group of highly targeted users.

Local business? Look for a local Subreddit near you and scope the scene.

Got a book about parenting? Head to r/parenting.

Manufacture crockpots? Try /r/slowcooking.

There is a Subreddit for everything. Seriously, take a look. Jump into a community that fits your niche and start participating. The numbers won’t be overwhelming, but the quality will.

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Marketing Management: Are agency creative reviews killing customer response?

March 14th, 2014 No comments

“Practice like you play.”

This truism rang in my ears as I reviewed one of the videos slotted for MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014.

I was reviewing the video on a big screen in a conference room during a meeting as we prepared for Summit, and a key quote in the video was washed out and hard to read.

I realized I had made a mistake by previously reviewing the videos on my own monitor or the crystal clear monitors our A/V team uses.

However, the audience was not going to see the video on an LCD monitor 12 inches from their face. They were going to see it from a giant projector in a cavernous room at the Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas.

 

How do you review agency creative?

This also got me thinking – how many marketers review agency creative the way prospects will receive it?

I’ll give you an example from my own time working at an agency.

When we presented print ads, we blew each ad up as big as possible and mounted it on a black board to really make it pop.

Then, we presented the ad with no distractions in a conference room.

The people reviewing them were marketers for the company, obsessed and excited about every tiny detail of their product.

 

How do potential customers perceive your marketing and advertising?

Of course, potential customers never received the ad this way. The print ad was just one of many in a Wall Street Journal filled with competing ads, screaming headlines and political coverage.

On top of that, the reader was going through the paper on a busy train, or with kids fighting in the background.

No one, except the marketers we presented to, ever saw the oversized ad in a distraction-free environment.

 

How do you grab the attention of someone who doesn’t care?

I’m not picking on agencies here. This also holds true if someone inside your company, like my first example, created the work.

Creatives, marketers, account executives – we want to present our work in the best possible light. So it makes sense that we blow it up and show it on super sharp monitors.

But if you really want your marketing to stick out, break through the clutter and be different from the crowd, here are a few questions you can ask the next time you are presented with creative to review.

1. Did you buy the newspaper or magazine you’re designing ads for? How will the paper quality (glossy vs. newsprint vs. poor-quality newsprint) affect the ad? How does the ad look, at its real size, placed in the publication?

2. I prefer not to see these banner ads in isolation; can I see them on a few of the websites they will be placed on?

3. How will the customer view this website? It may not be on an Internet connection as fast as ours, on a computer as powerful as ours, and it certainly won’t be on a computer as powerful as the ones developers and designers use. How does the website render and load on an older computer with a smaller, lower-resolution screen and with a slow connection?

4. Same goes for any mobile emails or mobile sites: Do customers have the greatest and newest smartphones and tablets? If not, how will sites render and how quickly will they load on slower devices? On 3G?

5. What compatibility issues will exist? How will this website look if they don’t have Flash? How will this email look if images are blocked?

6. If the audience is older, can they read type that small in a brochure, postcard or on a website?

7. Will our TV commercial or online video be able to convey any information if it is muted? Should we leverage more text to make sure it does?

8. This PowerPoint looks good on my screen, but how will it look to an audience of a thousand people? (Hint: Make the text bigger than you think you should, you can see my own error below.)

 

What you see when you review

 

What your audience sees

 

I’d love to hear you share your tips as well. How do you review marketing creative? What do you do to put yourself in the customer’s shoes?

Do you engage in copy testing, campaign pre-testing or other advertising research, or do you approve marketing campaigns based on your own opinion? If so, how do you decide?

  Read more…

Web Optimization: How AARP Services boosted renewals by increasing usability

March 11th, 2014 No comments

Eyeglasses launched across the table. A focus group member was irritated, experiencing difficulty reading the AARP Services website.

“‘I can’t see this content because you’ve got a grey background!” the member complained. “There is no place for me to increase the font size!”

This was just one of the observations that helped drive the optimization of the AARP Services website, making it more user-friendly for its senior demographic. At Optimization Summit 2013, two members of the company’s team shared AARP Services’ secrets to success.

In this excerpt of the presentation “How AARP Services increased referrals and membership renewals,” we learned how focus groups helped fuel the first test’s goal – make the site easy to read and share.

 

Preeti Sood, Digital Channel Manager, AARP Services, admitted that she was initially opposed to using a focus group. However, by observing frustrations of customers, AARP Services was able to use data from a focus group to convince management to perform additional testing around readability and social media sharing.

This short clip showcases how changing the background color, font size and placement of the “email” button resulted in a 12% decrease in page bounce rate and 7% increase in social sharing – all beginning with information collected from a focus group.

Gaurva Bhatia, VP of Digital Strategy, AARP, also said he was skeptical about focus groups, especially given the subject matter at hand. He thought that website visitors could easily just change font size through their browsers. Why waste time and effort on this? After witnessing the frustrations from the focus group, it became clear that this was an area that needed priority when it came to testing.

This left Guarva with a valuable lesson.

“Listen to the members,” he explained. “Test what they’re telling you versus assuming about them and doing what you think is right.”

Watch the full free session from Optimization Summit 2013 to discover:

  • How AARP Services adopted a “teach and learn” culture
  • The benefits that can come from focus groups
  • Items to keep in mind with the “newspaper generation”
  • And much more

  Read more…

Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing

February 21st, 2014 5 comments

I don’t normally read press releases.

Frankly, most are just spam that I’m constantly trying to remove my email addresses from. However, one recently written by Amanda Presley of MSR Communications caught my eye.

“February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and what better way to pay homage to ‘Honest Abe’ than by looking at all the ways marketers can be more upfront and transparent with customers?”

She went on to discuss how her client, Kentico, viewed content marketing.

“Transparent content marketing: It’s not enough to just sell anymore. You need to inform. [For example, Kentico customer] Corner Bakery makes it easy to get nutrition figures when ordering online.”

So in the spirit of Honest Abe, let’s take a look at a few examples of transparent marketing that Amanda dug up from around the Web, along with key takeaways I provided for each to help you put these lessons into practice.

 

Lesson #1. Customer complaints on social media networks = visible business intelligence

 

Key Takeaway: I feel for Verizon Wireless and other tech companies. Our expectations for always on, always working, always super quick technology must be hard to fulfill. Admittedly, I’m just as impatient and immediately blame the product instead of my own user error.

These complaints, even when unrealistic about technological capabilities, are business intelligence gold. Don’t hide your customer complaints. Do as Verizon Wireless does on its Twitter account – address them very publicly and show how you are using their feedback to improve your product.

We all make mistakes. Most customers are very forgiving if they feel they are being heard and their problems are being considered.

 

Lesson #2. Help customers help themselves

Customers want to eat healthier. 

 

And take care of the environment.

 

Key Takeaway: There are no perfect choices in a free market. Life is a series of tradeoffs.

Help your customers make those tradeoffs to the betterment of themselves by showing the positives and negatives of the different products you offer, as Corner Bakery does with its nutrition calculator, Nike does with its Materials Sustainability Index and Patagonia does with The Footprint Chronicles.

“By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation,” Rick Ridgeway, VP for Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia, told Fast Company’s Simon Mainwaring in an interview.

“Hyper-transparency is a must. It’s not something we should be afraid of; it’s something we welcome,” said Jim Hanna, Environmental Impact Director, Starbucks.

Bonus points when you let customers know why they should buy from a competitor instead of you, when it serves them better.

  Read more…

E-commerce: 2 tactics to increase relevance in your email sends

February 11th, 2014 5 comments

Relevance.

Relevance is the biggest reason why a customer opens your emails amid the flurry of messages they don’t open.

True relevance is elusive, tough to achieve and even harder to maintain.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I wanted to share two tactics for moving the relevance dial that you can you can use to aid your own email marketing efforts.

 

Move from rebates to readership

For some marketing teams, promotional sending is habitual on a scale viewed as borderline narcotic.

With limited time and resources, incentives intuitively seem like the right move to drive sales, but when the customer experience becomes built on a quid pro quo discount purchase relationship, you’ve got a bit of a problem on your hands.

So how do you break the cycle of promotional-only emails?

Well, one approach Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, shared in a recent case study is to create relevant content that celebrates your product and engages your customers.

Marcia’s team realized that their problem was two-fold, as calendars are a seasonal product and even promotions have their limits with customers.

“There are only so many ‘calendar clearance’ messages that our subscribers will receive before they will opt-out,” Marcia explained, adding, “We don’t want our list to go cold. That would hurt us with our deliverability with the major ISPs.”

 

Marcia’s team built a monthly newsletter around blogging and social media that engaged their subscribers with year-round entertaining content.

Their move beyond promotions to audience building resulted in open rate increases of 46% over the previous year.

 

Customers will abandon more than just your cart

I think it’s important here to make a distinction.

Moving beyond a tactic doesn’t mean you abandon it altogether.

It just simply means you take one more deliberate step toward doing it better than you did yesterday, and hopefully better than the other guy.

For example, Laura Santos, Marketing Manager, Envelopes.com, saw an opportunity to move beyond cart abandonment triggers and seized it.

Laura’s team used their customer data to determine a chance existed to increase sales among their multiple-visit shoppers by sending emails to customers triggered by abandoned product pages that encouraged them to return and complete the transaction.

 

The tactic slashed checkout abandonment rates by 40% in less than two years while increasing overall checkout conversions by 65%.

You can learn more about how Laura’s team used triggered sends and testing to increase their ROI in a recent case study, “E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions.”

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Copywriting: 7 more copy editing tactics to improve your content

January 24th, 2014 2 comments

In copy editing, there’s always something new to learn.

In the past few months since writing my first post on editing, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece,” I’ve had the chance to sit down with members of the Content Team at MECLABS and develop an updated company style guide.

Also, I was given the opportunity to move into the role of editorial analyst and have had the privilege of reviewing candidates for a new copy editor (we’re still looking if you’re interested).

All of these changes in my current role have made me reflect on practices and techniques I naturally developed over the past year. I’ve taken lessons learned from mistakes, tips from colleagues and from my own experiences in editing and found that you never really stop learning when it comes to perfecting your content.

 

Tip #1. Make a checklist

Sometimes, editing can seem overwhelming when there are so many things to check for accuracy:

  • Individual names
  • Company names
  • Job titles
  • Headlines
  • Links
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Bulleted lists
  • Images

Ultimately, anything used to create content needs to be vetted in the editing process.

To help keep your mind focused on the things you need to be looking out for, make checklists for yourself to ensure your editing covers all of the key elements in the piece.

Write them down and pin them to your cubicle wall or set reminders to refer back to while you’re editing, especially if you’re editing content that is particularly lengthy.

Checklists are also helpful when you’re implementing something new in your process. This can help you start remembering to include it in your daily routine.

 

Tip #2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

As an editor, you have the power to change content as you see fit. The tone, context, word choices and everything else is in your hands.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

You should respect and consider two different groups of needs in order to improve your editing beyond simple grammar and punctuation changes:

  • The author’s need for a distinct voice.
  • The audience’s need for content that’s relevant to their interests and useful to their needs.

Respecting the author’s voice involves keeping it intact throughout. Good editors can spot who wrote an article without looking at a byline. Everyone has their own style of writing in the same way everyone has their own way of speaking.

While there may be changes for clarity or if something is just plain incorrect, editors should not go out of their way to remove the author’s unique voice from a piece.

This could mean removing an opinion if the article is not a subjective piece, but their style of writing should not be completely muted if it is not interfering with your editorial guidelines.

The second group you must respect is your audience, and the way to do this is to know them.

One way to do this is by reading the feedback you receive in your comments section. If people are expressing confusion or want to know more about a topic, address their needs by working those concerns into your next article or blog post.

As I’ve learned, one of the fastest ways to lose an audience is when using jargon. You may have a cozy understanding of it, but your audience doesn’t.

Do not include acronyms, terms or phrases that readers could be unfamiliar with. Instead, use a brief explanation and hyperlink to content that will help them gain a deeper understanding of the concepts.

 

Tip #3. Search engines are your best friend

Run into terms not in your stylebook?

Author using a phrase you’re not familiar with? Don’t just guess – search!

In marketing, there are quite a number of terms that don’t have standard spelling or punctuation.

Words like e-commerce, website, webpage, e-book and other Web terms (even the word “Web” itself) have different ways of being referenced.

You can set style standards for these, however, once in a blue moon, you will encounter something new that you need to make a decision on.

To help keep our decisions consistent, my team just wrapped up a revised version of our company style guide. In its 32 pages, we attempted to cover our usage of words that differ from how other companies typically use them.

We added some things and threw some things out.

For anything not covered in our style guide, we default to the Associated Press Stylebook to cover our bases.

My point here is instead of just picking guidelines at random, think of how your company uses certain words or phrases and search for those terms online to see how others are using them.

 

Tip #4. Make your bulleted lists consistent

Bulleted lists are great when you have a list of items too long for a sentence, or just need to separate thoughts to get your point across.

When making lists, be sure to keep your style in those lists consistent. This could mean choosing whether to make your lists complete sentences or not, ending them in punctuation or not, or maybe choosing a tense to stay in.

For example, I wanted to start by showing you one way not to do a list:

The top four goals our team has this year are:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Making sure the website is updated
  • We should be holding conference calls every week.
  • Email marketing

Here’s a way I would edit this list to be more uniform in style, grammar and punctuation:

The top four goals our team has this year are to:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Update the website as needed
  • Hold conference calls every week
  • Improve our email marketing efforts

Read more…