Daniel Burstein

Customers as Value-Creating Partners, Not Just Value-Extraction Targets

January 12th, 2018
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What is a customer anyway? According to the definition you get when you type the term into Google, a customer is “a person or organization that buys a good or service from a store or business.”

This is a very one-sided view of a customer — let’s get the money from customers, as much as we can. Sure, we give them value in return. But mostly, customers are the cow and brands are trying to pump them for as much milk as they can.

However, in the Harvard Business Review article What Most Companies Miss About Customer Lifetime Value (an article I’m reading as part of the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program form the University of Florida and MECLABS Institute), Michael Schrage insinuates a very different definition.

Customers as members of a company’s value-delivery ecosystem

In the article, Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, explains workshops he runs with companies where he asks them to answer the question “Our customers become much more valuable when …”

                                                                   photo courtesy: Didrik, Creative Commons, Flickr

Here’s what really stuck with me about the exercise: “It doesn’t take long before the answers start to incorporate an investment ethos that sees customers more as value-creating partners than as value-extraction targets,” Schrage said.

How do customers add value? Everything from providing feedback, to word-of-mouth marketing, to being early adopters for new products.

However, I would argue that customers must first be satisfied before they are willing to engage in any of these activities.

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Daniel Burstein

The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising (and Why It Matters)

January 5th, 2018
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In his 1923 book “Scientific Advertising,” Claude Hopkins said, “Advertising is multiplied salesmanship.” But in the modern day, I’ve more often seen a tight comparison (and even confusion) between marketing and advertising.

On the other hand, marketing and advertising are distinct majors in college. Most agencies are advertising agencies, and most departments inside companies that promote the sale of products are marketing departments.

Why the distinction? Are these two words synonyms, or is there a real difference?

A high-level, ephemeral topic like this isn’t something marketers spend most of their time thinking about. They’re too heads down, focused on budgets and marketing automation and copywriting. I know I am.

But I came across that quote from Hopkins when I took MMC 5435: Messaging Strategy and the Centrality of the Value Proposition, part of the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate created by MECLABS Institute in partnership with the University of Florida.

And so I started pondering the bigger, more existential topics of marketing, such as this one. Marketing philosophy, if you will.

                                            photo courtesy: “cVillain Sponsor Post” Creative Commons, Spicy Bear, Flickr

More than just nomenclature

To me, marketing is strategy and advertising is (but one) execution of that strategy …

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Daniel Burstein

Best of 2017: MarketingSherpa’s most popular content about email, customer-first marketing, and competitive analysis

December 21st, 2017
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As you head into 2018, I hope you have grand plans on how to exceed your company’s goals, improve results and create even more effective customer-first marketing.

Whatever your plans are for 2018, it all begins with an idea — and the inspiration to carry out that idea.

Hopefully, here at MarketingSherpa, we’ve played even a small part in powering those ideas and providing that inspiration. To give you that little extra oomph before we cross the line into 2018, here’s a look at some of our readers’ favorite content from the MarketingSherpa Blog this past year.

Time to Move On: Three email marketing habits your customers are sick of seeing

We provided some ideas for email marketing habits you might want to break. Habits like tricky subject lines.

Or overlooking your email’s true call-to-action. “Actually, I kind of view it as a failure for that email if they do click on anything but my main CTA. That was the point of sending the email,” said Bart Thornburg, Senior Manager, Email Marketing, Wedding Wire.

Read the blog post to see if any of these habits look familiar to you from your email marketing campaigns.

Email Marketing: Five ideas to increase your email’s perceived value

Value, much like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. And for marketing, that beholder is the customer.

So how can you create value for your email subscribers and make sure they perceive that value?

For one thing, you should be thinking of your emails as more than just promotions. “Content-focused emails now sell just as well as the product-focused ones,” said Blake Pinsker, Marketing and Brand Director, MVMT.

Relevance is always key. For example, including product names in cart abandonment emails, “customers seem to have a really high open rate in that one because it recognized what they had been looking at not long ago,” said Victor Castro, Director of eCommerce, Zachys Wine & Liquor.

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Tara Marotta

Ask MarketingSherpa: Should I use geo-targeting for event emails?

December 19th, 2017
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We frequently receive questions about marketing advice from our email subscribers. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we publish some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog since they may be able to help many other readers. And if you have any questions, let us know.

This question was submitted by Email Marketing Manager Korbin in reference to emails about his organization’s events.

Korbin: I’m trying to find the average decrease in conversion when we send an event email to a 30-mile radius around the event, versus something larger like 70 miles. It’s caused some heated disagreements between field and HQ staff.

Do you have any research on something like this? For example, if an event is in Denver, and we send an email invitation to 30 miles around Denver (~1 hr drive radius), how does that conversion/unsubscribe rate compare to an invitation sent to something like a 50 or 70-mile radius (~2-3 hrs.)? Is it worth expanding the send?

Dear Korbin: I asked around the lab and while we don’t have the precise data to support the decision you are looking to make, my colleagues were happy to review and provide their perspectives on your challenge.

Here are the insights I was able to gather:

Insights based on experience

From running our own events, our hypothesis is that the specific time or mileage would most likely vary by location. For example, here in Jacksonville, we’re pretty spread out, and people are used to going a long way to get places. The same is true in Los Angeles.

The Boston market seems way different. Someone isn’t going to come in from Cambridge to get into the city or go from the city out to the suburbs. New York is the same.

But that’s just a hypothesis. Would love to see your test. In the meantime, here’s some content you might find helpful:

In addition to the distance to the event, the messaging and title of the event are important, of course. Here’s an experiment we ran for one of our own events:

Email Testing: More Specific Subject Line Improves Open Rate By More Than 35%

Insights based on testing

Leads from our data sciences and research teams shared the results of a campaign they worked on for a large event with satellite host locations.

They ran a geo-targeted email test based on the registration addresses of previous attendees/alumni:

  Message CTA Clickthrough Registrations
Control General event messaging Register Now for a Location Near You 2.0% 34
Treatment This year, the closest host site to you appears to be: Host site name, City, State Reserve Your Seat Here Now 3.7% 162

Based on the success of the geo-targeting, this organization then sent the same treatment email to their entire list of subscribers based on IP address, securing an additional 87 registrations.

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Daniel Burstein

People Buy From People: Five examples of how to bring the humanity back to marketing

December 13th, 2017
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“People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.” This is an essential principle from the MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization certification course (from the parent research organization of MarketingSherpa).

With so much focus on martech, marketing org structure and website optimization, and channels ranging from print to digital advertising, this principle can be easy to forget.

Yes, marketing technology is powerful. Yes, the correct structure of the marketing department and IT department are necessary; and you certainly want a well-functioning website.

But this is just infrastructure. Mere roads.

You, dear marketer, are in the driver’s seat. You decide how to use these roads.

The most effective way to use them is to connect with other people. Remember that everyone behind the technology is a real, complex human. And everyone on the receiving end is a real, complex human with hopes and fears, needs and wants, goals and pain points.

Here are five examples to give you ideas for bringing humanity back to your marketing.

Example #1: Engage with influencers

Every B2B industry and B2C niche customer community has influencers. Rock stars to that specific group of people, even if no one in the general public knows who they are. They’re more than a brand or a logo; they’re a person. And when it’s the right person for your ideal customer, your customer deeply wants to learn from these influencers.

“I would say don’t be afraid to talk to your influencers in your industry. Engage them and try to partner with them,” said Mike Hamilton, Director of Marketing Programs, Exterro.

Exterro is a legal software company specializing in e-discovery. When it launched its vendor-neutral E-Discovery Day virtual event three years ago, the team was able to get a couple of key influencers on board. In Exterro’s case, a few of these influencers were federal judges.

Having federal judges speaking on a webcast back then was a big deal. So, Hamilton started calling other influencers in the industry and used the federal judges’ names as a proof point that E-Discovery Day was designed to be a day of education and not vendor-speak. Exterro opened it up to competitors, law firms, anyone in the industry. As a result of bringing all these influencers on board, the team was able to get more than 2,400 event attendees this year, an increase of 70% from 2016.

“If someone has a blog in your industry, and you think they write great content at the same audience as you, send them the email, or don’t be afraid to call them and just ask them what they’re doing, how they’re looking to grow their influence, and how you could potentially partner together. Because the reason why I think E-Discovery Day was so successful was we got buy-in from a lot of influencers in the community at the very beginning,” Hamilton said.

Example #2: Talk to one person … or account

Marketers can do amazing things with data and automation these days. However, sometimes it’s worth singling out important accounts and customers and giving them a more manual, human touch.

This may seem overwhelming at first, but if you analyze your most valuable customers to determine who your best customers will be, you may find that some version of the Pareto principle is at play. In other words, 80% of your revenue may come from 20% of customers.

Trapeze Group, a provider of hardware and software to the public transit industry throughout the world, took an account-based marketing (ABM) approach to try focusing and humanizing its marketing to specific accounts.

They started a pilot program with a public transit agency in the Los Angeles area, and positioned the ABM strategy in the business as “ensuring that it was not just a marketing or sales function but also that of project management and customer success,” said Michelle McCabe, Manager of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations, Trapeze Group North America.

For example, the team created a personalized magazine just for that account. The magazine contained a combination of custom content that was created from scratch for the people in that account as well as repurposed content. “We knew that some of the C-levels were a little bit more traditional. So we felt that a print magazine might speak to them a little bit more than something digital, which is why we went for a printed magazine versus digital specifically for this account,” McCabe said.

In addition, the team created a 3D-printed statue and sent it specifically to one person in the account. “It said the word ‘innovation’ because that spoke true to his role and his overall mission. He did receive it, and he thanked us for that, which was great,” McCabe recounted.

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Linda Johnson

Marketing 101: What is the happy path?

December 11th, 2017
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The happy path is a quick, linear path to the purchase of a product or service where the customer doesn’t get sidetracked, either by their own distracted actions or by a company’s poorly designed process, or because the customer has a more complex use case. Let’s take a closer look at why this is important and how it might look.

The Value Exchange Happy Path

Often, companies require users to fit certain criteria to be eligible for the simplest outcome.

An example of a happy path that MECLABS optimized with one of our Fortune 20 Research Partners would be the “Happy Path Upgrade Funnel.” The happy path would be what is experienced by a customer who chose to start the upgrade process having:

  • Fully paid off their old device
  • Was upgrade eligible based on the rules of their phone plan
  • Had no account problems that they had to resolve in order to upgrade today

This would allow them to complete the upgrade funnel in the shortest and simplest number of steps possible, with the least amount of cost experienced as part of the value exchange.

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Daniel Burstein

Copywriting: Listen to customers so you can speak their language

December 1st, 2017
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Words matter. Both for their denotation (to ensure prospective customers understand your advertising) as well as for their connotation.

(Words are subtle indicators to tell a potential customer “we understand you specifically” and “this offer is meant for people like you.”)

To truly speak our customers’ language, we must listen to them because our customers may be very different from us.

No easy task. As Don Peppers and Martha Rogers say in Managing Customer Experience and Relationships, “‘Listening’ has never been part of most mass marketers’ primary skill set.” (I’m reading the book as a student of the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program.)

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Tara Marotta

3 Quick Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of the Remainder of your Holiday Marketing Efforts

November 30th, 2017
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For B2C marketers, the holiday gift-giving season is the time of year when we drive the most revenue. So, to get the most out of the last 24 shopping days of the season, we thought a bit of insight and inspiration from your fellow marketers could be helpful. Here are a few of our favorite tips from ecommerce marketers interviewed at the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE that you can apply immediately to your marketing efforts.

Whether you’re working at a startup like Mitch Goldstone, ScanMyPhotos.com, and Gaston Frydlewski, Hickies, Inc., or are part of a larger organization like Mark Friedman, Steve Madden, these tips can be applied to your customer-first marketing efforts this holiday season and throughout the upcoming year.

Tip #1: Turn those holiday shoppers into brand advocates by going above and beyond in your customer service

“When someone receives their order, their digitized photos, they [become] my marketing team,” said Mitch Goldstone, CEO, ScanMyPhotos.com.

Since ScanMyPhotos.com digitizes physical photographs, Goldstone and his team are often privy to a very personal aspect of their customer’s lives, their old family photos. Because of this, it is important to the team that they humanize the customer experience as much as possible.

Watch the full interview below to learn how thinking outside the box when it comes to customer service (sending flowers along with completed orders), has resulted in ScanMyPhotos.com customers becoming brand advocates and content contributors.

Tip #2: Utilize user-generated content to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site this season

Are you getting the most out of those blog and social media posts that your brand is tagged in? Is there really a better way to advertise your product than letting your customers do your bragging? Take a note from the playbook of Mark Friedman, President of Ecommerce, Steve Madden, and make sure you’re using this user-generated content to its fullest extent.

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Daniel Burstein

Micro-yes(s) versus Micro-moments

November 21st, 2017
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“I was wondering about the methodology of MECLABS, about micro-yeses and the micro-moments.  There are some similarities about both terms. Do you have some articles on the topic micro-yeses vs micro-moments? If yes, can you provide me a link for it? If you don’t, this is a good topic for the next one, I guess.”

This suggestion comes courtesy of a MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter subscriber who recently completed the MECLABS Institute Value Proposition Development course (from MarketingSherpa’s parent research institute).

Understanding these two topics — the micro-moment and the micro-yes — is especially important to the inbound marketer.

Content and social media tend to be consumed in micro-moments, and to get customers to engage with your social and content (and ultimately take a larger conversion action, like a purchase) requires a micro-yes to get a micro-conversion.

Micro-moments, i.e., “I will not waste 37 seconds standing in line without being entertained!”

“We put a name to a behavior that, thanks to mobile, was becoming pervasive. People had started to expect an immediate answer in the moments they wanted to know, go, do and buy,” said Lisa Gevelber, VP of Marketing for the Americas, Google, in the article 3 new consumer behaviors playing out in Google search data.

Essentially, mobile web use is exploding. Yada, yada, yada. I’m sure you know all of that.

But the important element to take away is not just the form factor that mobile use requires (e.g., responsive design) but the customer behavior shift mobile hath wrought.

And this is a trap we as marketers fall into. When we’re reviewing our social, our content, our landing pages, our advertising, our email, etc., we’re pretty darned focused on it. We eliminate as many distractions as possible. We craft headlines and body copy with a surgical precision. We know every detail about our products and services.

However, the customer is taking a mere micro-moment in their day with many other distractions going on. When they come across your blog post, they — “Jimmy! I told you to put that down and get off of your brother!” — interact with your content, social and marketing messages in a much more distracted fashion — “Wait, what did they say? Was that Flight 2054 to Jacksonville canceled? Or did they say Flight 2045?” — so you need to make sure your messages are clear and compelling.

Hence the need for micro-yes(s); more on that in a moment.

But the bigger point is this: Next time you’re looking at a marketing piece or piece of content, don’t just make sure the form is optimized for mobile (e.g., big buttons, white space, whatever). Make sure you’re thinking through that customer’s mobile behavior.

Because customers often exhibit different behaviors in these micro-moments. To wit, “Mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown 80% in the past two years,” Gevelber said.

So this behavior impacts your SEO and content strategies, for example. What type of information will people be searching for in a micro-moment? What content would help them?

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Daniel Burstein

Everything is Marketing: Why all CEOs should have marketing backgrounds

November 17th, 2017
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You know the typical corporate structure. There are a series of departments that handle discrete tasks and hopefully work efficiently and effectively together to create a greater whole. There’s a finance department, human resources department, IT department, production or manufacturing department and a marketing department.

Except, can you really compartmentalize and departmentalize marketing?

Everything a company does is marketing. Perhaps once, marketing was simply the 4 P’s — product, price, promotion, and place. Understand the product well enough so you can identify a target market for it, understand the price point they are willing to bear, and then promote the heck out of it in the right place … usually with a heavy emphasis on advertising.

But as Deepa Prahalad says in Why Trust Matters More Than Ever for Brands, “Consumers today are trying and bonding with brands through design touch points and their experiences, not through advertising alone … Advertising and marketing can amplify the success of a great design, but they can rarely compensate for a poor one. Here, trust is a function of the brand messaging lining up with the consumer’s actual interaction with the product or service.” (emphasis is mine)

(I read this article as a student in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program).

Companies need to “wow” customers with every interaction

And this is why every CEO should have a marketing background. Because almost everything a company does has an interaction with the customer. So almost everything is marketing.

If the IT department can’t get the back-end systems right and it goes down when a customer is trying to make a purchase, that’s (negative) marketing. If the purchasing department buys wetlands and puts a store on it, that’s (negative) marketing. Or if the finance department creates a program to give 1% of profits to charitable organizations, that’s (positive) marketing.

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