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Email Marketing: Why phishing emails (unfortunately) work … and what marketers can learn from them

August 8th, 2018
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I was riding in the car with my wife’s uncle. And when he found out that email marketing was one of the things I work on, he said, “Oh, so you send spam. I hate spam!”

It goes without saying, spam is bad marketing and I don’t support it. As I’ve written before, email marketing is just a means to an end. And the end should be helping a person.

I bring this up because we’re going to a pretty dark place today: Phishing emails.

Let me be clear. Phishing emails aren’t marketing. They are a flat-out scam. The role of marketing is to help a customer perceive the value and cost of products in a world of choice to — ultimately — make the best choice for them. Phishing emails are just plain thievery.

While phishing emails don’t ultimately deliver value, they do communicate value. Not to everyone, but to a specific audience. And that is why some people act on them.

So let’s see what legitimate marketers can learn from them. Let’s not be close-minded because their intentions are wrong. After all, for the marketer who seeks to grow his personal capacity, there are lessons everywhere. So here are some email marketing insights from email marketing scams.

What is a phishing email?

Earlier in my career, I worked in the IT security space for a bit, and I learned that the weakest link in security isn’t that encryption could be hacked.

It’s you. And me.

And that’s what phishing is, essentially. Instead of trying some complex technological ways to steal, just get people to act of their own volition. It’s a form of social engineering. They are using bait to catch a victim, and the visceral way it is named always reminds me of this scene from “Wayne’s World.”

 

You can see 15 examples of phishing emails here, and I’ve included a few of the most common types below.

 

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Marketing 101: What are decoy marketing and price anchoring?

July 26th, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

The entire global marketplace is built on transactions. And those transactions occur because a buyer perceives that the value of a product or service justifies the cost (and a major part of that cost is monetary price).

I bring this up because many business and marketing folks think they set the price of their products. Well, they don’t. In a capitalist system, only the market sets the price for your product.

Of course, business and marketing professionals have an essential role in this process …

Marketers present the price, they don’t set the price

This is an important distinction because it’s not only the monetary amount of the price that affects how well it will be perceived and thus how likely it is to be accepted.

It’s how that price is presented.

Which brings us to some common price and value presentation tactics.

Price anchoring

When I learned Economics 101 in high school, one of the first things I learned was that the supply and demand set the price in the market. You can even plot it out with simple curves. When the demand shifts up — boom — the price goes up.

Demand curve shift via Silverstar

It all seems so logical. Just crunch the numbers.

But it’s not. Because supply and demand don’t only set price, price itself can influence demand. And price influences demand because humans don’t run a logical calculation for every transaction they face every day. That is far too complex. We’ve got other things to do.

So we look for shortcuts. We look for signals. And one of them is this: What should the price of this product be?

Here’s where price anchoring comes in. Let’s say you see a box of cereal in a store. It costs $3. Is that a lot or a little? A good price or a bad price?

Wait, there’s some more information. Actually, the regular price of that cereal is $4. And it is on sale for $3. In fact, if you buy this cereal today, you’re saving a whole dollar compared to what it normally costs.

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Marketing 101: What is funnel creation?

July 13th, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Most purchases are not an instant decision on the part of the customer. There are several mental steps people must take before making the actual purchase decision.

For a more complex purchase, these steps usually involve learning more about the industry, product and company, until they get to the point of making a purchase. For a simpler purchase, the steps may simply be getting through the product’s purchase path.

And each step on that journey is a decision.

For example, a complex purchase funnel might include steps like this: searching a pain point in a search engine, getting to a content piece on a website, clicking to a landing page for a white paper download, receiving several pieces of email in a lead nurturing campaign, deciding to speak to a sales rep to learn more about the product, going through several stages of a sales process with a sales rep, and then ultimately making a purchase. This may happen over several months.

A simpler purchase might look like this: clicking on a paid search ad, arriving on a landing page, moving to a product page, going to a shopping cart, entering payment info, confirming a purchase. This might happen in a matter of minutes.

Funneling customers to an ultimate conversion objective

A funnel is so named because marketing literature typically depicts this journey in the shape of a funnel.

This is an example of a kitchen funnel.

And this is an example of a marketing funnel.

(from the case study B2B Marketing: Demand generation transformation doubles conversion rate for cyber security provider)

The general idea for the funnel shape is that there are more people at the beginning of the funnel then at the end. For example, more people will visit a landing page from an ad than will purchase your product.

The other idea for the funnel shape is that, much like a funnel channels liquid into a small opening, marketers should channel their potential customers from their first touchpoint to an ultimate conversion.

However, with a physical funnel, liquid naturally flows down into the container pulled by gravity. MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) teaches that this is a flaw in the traditional marketing analogy. Customers don’t simply fall through your funnel naturally pulled by gravity.

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Marketing 101: Copywriting vs. Copy Editing vs. Content Writing

June 8th, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

I recently received the following request about one of our MECLABS Institute Research Partners  (MECLABS is the parent research organization of MarketingSherpa.) …

“One of the pages we are building is a Bio page/section. The Research Partner is having their people write their own bios.

I know you’re already working closely on the other pages, but wanted to see if you would be able to take those and do some minor copy editing …”

Now, we have an excellent copy editor (the blog post you’re reading right now is likely far better than my original draft, thanks to Linda Johnson). And while I’m quite confident of my copywriting skills, I readily admit I am a very poor copy editor … but I’m often mistaken for one since the different words sound so similar.

I bring up this example for the latest in our series of marketing terms posts because I’ve often seen the two terms confused by marketing managers, project managers and the like. Throw in content writing as well, and it gets even more confusing.

So to help you differentiate between similar roles and find the person with the skill sets you need for your websites, blogs, print ads, direct mail letters, brochures, product spec sheets, catalogs, and on and on, here’s a quick guide. Even if you’re on the marketing technology side and don’t consider yourself a “creative,” it helps to know the people you should call when you need help.

Copywriting — Helping the customer come to the best decision about a brand, product or conversion goal

The copywriter writes TV commercials, radio spots, print ads, marketing emails, direct mail, brochures, out-of-home advertising and other types of advertising or marketing. The goal is usually to get an action from a customer, whether that’s making a purchase, becoming a lead, giving a donation or coming to a conclusion about a brand (branding).

Harry McCann famously coined the phrase “The truth well told” for advertising.

Copywriters are the ones who tell it well.

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Making a career shift (to B2B copywriting)

June 6th, 2018
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: I came across your organization because I was searching for data showing which/what kinds of companies and industries care most about well-written marketing copy, in all forms.

I am taking on a career shift from many years of Software Engineering and Project Management, and I am targeting B2B copywriting, with a niche somewhere in the high-tech sector. I know that is too general, as just about every company today is facing high-tech challenges whether or not they know it, and I need to go much narrower.

Admittedly I am in the early stages of this transition, but I am trying to focus my efforts as much as possible. My thoughts are to eventually produce materials such as white papers, case studies, explainer video scripts, but those require more expertise and track record than blogs, short articles, etc., which is where I feel I could start. At this point I’m very open to any start.  I’m planning to get a website up and start posting some blogs on it, but I’m researching how I want to do that, too.

But back to Marketing Sherpa — As I make a wide scan of potential clients it occurs to me there will be many people who just don’t care and don’t need clean, coherent, well-organized copy. I don’t need to expend my efforts there. At the other end of the spectrum there should be people in industries where the slightest misstatement or grammatical error can sabotage one’s attempts. That’s where I want to work.

I would welcome any suggestions you might have on this point, and since I am still such a green twig in this new field, any other counsel would be great. Do the ideas I have laid out above sound sound?

Thanks in advance!

Rob Tompkins, PMP, CSM, LSSGB
Allen, Texas

Dear Rob: Thanks for your question. If you’re looking to break into B2B copywriting, the number one skill set you must prove is that you can write effective copy. And the clearest way I know to do that is to write effective copy. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Start blogging

You’re on the right track with your idea to start a website and begin blogging on it. You’d be amazed how many aspiring writers I interview who don’t do this.

When I was just starting out, you had to work hard to build your book (portfolio). Try to find an internship or nonprofit or anyone who would let you write for them. Sure, you could do spec work. But that wasn’t nearly as valuable as having real published work for an actual client.

Today, you can publish to the entire world with the push of a button. Yes, in some ways it’s still spec work. But unlike a dot matrix printout hidden in my giant black portfolio, your blog gets exposure to the world. You can share it on social media. You can look at the analytics to see who’s reading it. You can solicit comments. You can attempt to interview people on your blog.

So, by all means, do it. Start that website. Start that blog. Get yourself out there.

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Value Gulfs: Making sure there is differentiated product value when marketing upgrades and upsells

May 31st, 2018
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unique value proposition in the marketplace is essential for sustainable marketing success. You must differentiate the value your product offers from what competitors offer. That is Marketing 101 (which certainly doesn’t always mean it’s done well or at all).

However, when you offer product tiers, it is important to differentiate value as well. In this case, you are differentiating value between product offerings from your own company.

This is a concept I call “value gulfs” and introduced recently in the article Marketing Chart: Biggest challenges to growing membership. Since that article was already 2,070 words, it wasn’t the right place to expand on the concept. So let’s do so know in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

When value gulfs are necessary

You need to leverage value gulfs in your product offers when you are selling products using a tiered cost structure. Some examples include:

  • A freemium business model
  • Free trial marketing strategy
  • Premium membership offering(s)
  • Good, better, best products
  • Economy paired with luxury offerings
  • Tiered pricing

The customer psychology of value gulfs

MECLABS Institute web designer Chelsea Schulman helped me put together a visual illustration of the value gulf concept:

Allow me to call out a few key points:

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Email Testing: 7 tips from your peers for email conversion optimization

May 10th, 2018
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We recently asked the MarketingSherpa audience for tips on running effective email tests. Here are a few of the most helpful responses to consider as you start to develop an email testing program.

Tip #1: Start with send time and subject line testing

“Testing and measuring open rate data for send times and subject lines is the best place to start. Once the open rates increase, you can work on the messaging to improve email engagement and conversions.” – Markelle Harden, Content Marketing Specialist, Classy Inbound

Tip #2: The language of your best customer

“Subject line tests are an incredible way to drill down into the language of your best customer and we use this to directly influence the rest of the offer.” – Al Simon

Tip #3: Don’t overlook the landing page

“Landing page tests are especially important and often overlooked. The more seamless the experience leading to the call to action, the higher the conversion rate. I have seen conversions increase substantially as the landing page was edited based on test results to more specifically match the offer.” – Susan F. Heywood, Marketer, educator, entrepreneur

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Voice-Over Coaching: Tips for improving external webinars, internal trainings and other content

May 1st, 2018
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Webinars, demos, videos, external online trainings, internal trainings posted to an intranet and many other types of inbound, outbound and internal content require voiceovers. But many marketers don’t have time or budget for professional voice-over (VO) artists, or they don’t want someone external representing the brand.

So many content marketers, sales directors and marketing managers find themselves doing the voice-over work, even though that isn’t their expertise.

A MECLABS Institute Research Partner (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa) recently found himself in this situation while preparing to record audio to go with PowerPoint presentations that would be hosted in an LMS (learning management system) for internal training.

The MECLABS team suggested we connect to discuss the presentations (“Dan leads our publishing team and has conducted many interviews, webinars and training — he’d be a great resource to get some tips on how to best prepare and conduct the recordings for the training.”) In this blog post, I’ll provide a few voice-over tips we discussed in that call, along with some other advice if handling a VO isn’t your primary (or secondary or tertiary) skillset but you find yourself doing it as part of your job.

I have the benefit that none of this comes naturally to me. I’m incredibly introverted. So I’ve had to really think through, learn, and put a lot of effort into being able to speak publicly or have my voice recorded. Learn from my shortcomings …

Tip #1: Speak slowly

I’ll out myself and admit it right up front — this has always been a big challenge for me, but it really came to light when I did some public relations training. The PR consultant recorded us answering questions in an interview, and then we had to painfully watch those recordings back. It really hit home with me how fast I can speak in an audio recording if I’m not careful.

Try it yourself. If you’re doing any voice-over work, you need this lesson.

And then slow down. Working with many speakers and presenters over the years, I think people speed through a presentation when they’re speaking for three reasons:

  • They’re nervous — so have someone with you in the room giving you a subtle hands-down-pausing gesture to remind you to calm down and breathe deeply.
  • They think their audience will be impatient listening to them — That’s true. Your audience likely is impatient. But cramming 15 minutes of content into seven minutes won’t help. It will just overwhelm them, and you’ll lose them.
  • They haven’t managed their time well — Some speakers will take way too long on the upfront and speed through the rest. If you’re speaking with slides, have a clock and understand the breakpoints beforehand. Print the slides out nine-up or similar and write different time stamps by certain slides. Let’s say, you should be 10 minutes into an hour webinar or recording by slide seven, 20 minutes in by slide 14, etc. If you’re longer or shorter than that, you’ll know if you have to speed up or slow down way ahead of time and not try to cram 15 minutes of content into the last five minutes.

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Selling and Marketing to Senior Citizens When Your Team is Very Different From the Customer

April 26th, 2018
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“Nobody reads direct mail letters anymore.” “Everybody has the latest iPhone now.” “I would never read that.”

Let’s unpack these sentences. What they are really saying is:

  • “Nobody (I know) reads direct mail anymore.”
  • “Everybody (I follow on Instagram) has the latest iPhone now.”
  • “I would never read that (but I’m not the ideal customer for the product).”

We humans, we’re a self-centered lot. And we think other people are much more like us than they really are. Psychologists call this false-consensus bias. And it is a significant challenge for the CMO or other sales or marketing leader in charge of a team that is very different from them.

I discussed this topic with Denis Mrkva, general manager of Aetna’s HealthSpire subsidiary, right before I interviewed him about a landing page optimization effort that increased leads 638% for a call center. Denis’ ideal customer is interested in Medicare Advantage. So his fairly young team is selling to senior citizens.

We also discussed hiring and creating the right culture, how senior citizens use digital channels, and how Denis’ team helps his customers navigate the digital environment. You can watch the video below or jump to the full transcript.


Customer-first sales and marketing

In discussing the customer, Denis had some good advice:

“Put them and their needs first — and listen. And try to understand not only their needs for the product they want to buy, but their lifestyle, the important things in their life.”  — Denis Mrkva

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Marketing 101: What is website usability?

April 19th, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Simply put, website usability is how easy, clear and intuitive it is for visitors to use your website. This is from the visitor’s perspective, not your company’s perspective.

Of course, website usability isn’t so simple at all. You essentially have to read someone else’s mind, so the expected user experience matches the web experience you design. However, as 18th-century poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry.”

As I said, you’re trying to read someone else’s mind (many people, in fact). So the challenges of web usability aren’t necessarily unique to the web. These challenges are the very fundamentals of human behavior and interaction. Here’s a very visual example that UXer Oliver McGough shared on Twitter …

There are many terms related to website usability that you might have heard:

  • User experience — how people experience your website. This may be very different than you intended because you may not be able to take an outside perspective of your website and assume visitors will understand something that they don’t, or understand differently, from you (more on this in a bit).
  • User experience design (or UX) — the practice of creating websites, computer programs, apps, etc. with the user in mind. UX can also be used as shorthand for website usability. (e.g., “That site has good UX.”)
  • User interface (UI) — where man meets machine. For example, an operating system has a graphical user interface. UI continues to evolve and isn’t always visual. Thanks to virtual assistants like Alexa, the human voice now interacts with a UI as well.
  • Usability — in general. This is, after all, broader than just websites. Any digital offering has (or lacks) usability, from a website to a computer game. But physical objects have usability considerations as well. For example, OXO is a company that is well known for kitchen utensils and housewares usability. When I first learned about usability, the instructor used a car brake pedal as an example. I had never noticed before, but it is a lot wider than the gas pedal for a reason. If you’re accidentally going to stomp on one of them, it’s better to be the stop than the accelerate!
  • User testing — Get your visitors’ opinions about what works well on the site and what doesn’t, what processes and mechanisms are intuitive and which are confusing
  • A/B testing — Measuring your visitors’ behavior to see how well they are able to actually use the site, and if the actual user experience matches the intended website design

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