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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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Social Doubt: Beware the downside of social proof in social media marketing

March 8th, 2018
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Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida, our basketball team won in the Elite Eight round of March Madness, meaning we were headed to the Final Four. Right after we won that game, students poured out onto University Avenue. There was jubilation in the street.

And then … all of a sudden … everyone just ran down to the football stadium and tore down the goalposts. (We were a football school at the time, not yet accustomed to basketball success)

It was a very odd moment. No one planned anything. People didn’t even shout out any directions. Most (but not all, let the record show I stayed put) of the students in the streets simply started running together toward the stadium.

Ah, the human animal

Much like a V-shaped formation of birds adjusting down the line to keep the formation tight, or a school of fish quickly changing direction, humans also engage in unthinking, subconscious herd behavior without even realizing what they’re doing.

And this is one of the most powerful drivers behind social media marketing.

Psychologists call this phenomenon social proof, which Wikipedia describes as “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Do you see what I just did there? Wikipedia is another example of social proof. If enough people agree to a definition of a term — even if they’re not experts — I guess it’s reliable enough to include in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

But social proof has its downsides for social media marketing as well

Now, I’m not the only person to write about social proof in social media marketing. Just search the term, and you’ll find endless articles and blog posts.

However, I noticed a serious dearth of conversation about the opposite of social proof in social media marketing. If social proof works because it shows other people are interested in your brand, the opposite of social proof shows that other people are not interested in your brand. What is the word for that?

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Screw the Competition: How to avoid dreaded commodification

February 16th, 2018
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In high school, I never quite found my niche. I wasn’t a jock or preppie, neither freak nor geek. I just had to be me.

In other words, my focus was on my intrinsic value proposition, not what the competition was doing.

Competitive analyses are valuable, don’t get me wrong. They are necessary to ensure you have a unique value proposition. After all, your product isn’t for sale in a vacuum. I’ve worked with a competitive sales office in the past and you can learn a lot from win-loss reports as well.

But don’t go too far with this business intelligence. My point is this …

Don’t let the competition define you

At some point, you have to say, “screw the competition.”

If your focus is on the competition, you’ll just be another Why Bother Brand.

And if your focus is on the competition, it’s in the wrong place. Your focus should be on the customer. That’s the way you create differentiated value.

Here are three examples of focusing on the customers, not the competition, from otherwise commodified industries:

Example #1: Southwest Airlines

Airlines have become a dreadfully commoditized industry. Just look how they move in lockstep. One airline adds baggage fees, and then every other “me too” airline jumps in behind it.

Not Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it has analyzed the competition. I’m sure it is aware of fee revenue.

But that simply doesn’t work for this brand. So Southwest offers “No change fees. No matter what.” And communicated that value proposition cleverly in a recent TV ad about a coach who believed in his basketball team so much, he already booked tickets to the championship game.

The kicker, of course, is that the team doesn’t make it to the championship game and has to change their flight plans. Cue the tagline — “That’s Transfarency. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.”

Does this mean you’ll fly Southwest every time? Probably not. I know I prefer non-stop flights. And you might have a favorite frequent flyer program.

But I tell you this — next time you’re charged $200 for canceling a flight, you’re going to remember that Southwest commercial. And if you go through negative experiences with your current airline enough, you may choose not to shop only on price but to favor flights from Southwest Airlines.

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There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

February 9th, 2018
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Hobbes: Why are you digging a hole?

Calvin: I’m looking for buried treasure!

Hobbes: What have you found?

Calvin: A few dirty rocks, a weird root, and some disgusting grubs.

Wait for it … Wait for it …

Hobbes: On your first try??

Calvin: There’s treasure everywhere!

I thought of this cartoon by Bill Watterson (which he also used to name a cartoon collection book) while reading the Harvard Business Review article Searching for New Ideas in the Curious Things Your Customers Do by Taddy Hall and Eddie Yoon.

Turning a waste product into a $500 million brand

Hall and Yoon tell the story of Steve Hughes, now the CEO of Sunrise Strategic Partners. He was walking through a Tropicana factory when he noticed some workers on break taking the excess pulp (a waste product in orange juice production) and mixing it into juice they would drink themselves.

Instead of ignoring the workers or just assuming their behavior was odd, Hughes got curious and asked them about it. They explained that it made the juice taste fresh squeezed. This interaction gave Hughes the idea to launch Tropicana Grovestand  “the taste of fresh-squeezed orange juice,” which after four years became a $500 million brand.

That is just one example of turning waste into profit. Throughout history, curious business people have not only used this process to launch complementary brands in their own company like Hall and Yoon’s Tropicana example, they’ve also launched entirely new companies off their company’s waste (Kingsford was created when Henry Ford turned wood scraps from Model T manufacturing into charcoal briquets) and launched new brands off other companies’ waste (I interviewed TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky back in 2007, and since then, the company has made everything from pencil cases to furniture out of other brands’ waste).

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Marketing 101: What is an A/B split test?

February 2nd, 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.

An A/B split test refers to a test situation in which two randomized groups of users are sent different content at the same time to monitor the performance of specific campaign elements.

A/B split testing is a powerful way to improve marketing and messaging performance because it enables you to make decisions about the best headline, ad copy, landing page design, offer, etc., based on actual customer behavior and not merely a marketer’s opinion.

 

Let’s break down the process of A/B split testing.

Real People Enter the Test

This is part of the power of A/B split testing as compared to other forms of marketing research such as focus groups or surveys. A/B split testing is conducted with real people in a real-world purchase situation making real decisions, as opposed to a survey or focus group where you’re asking people who (hopefully) represent your customers what they might do in a hypothetical situation, or to remember what they have done in a past situation.

Not only can you inadvertently influence people in ways that change their answer (since the research gathering mechanism does not exactly mimic the real-world situation), but people may simply tell you what they think you want to hear.

Or, many times, customers misjudge how they would act in a situation or misremember how they have acted in the past.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use surveys, focus groups and the like. Use this new information to create a hypothesis about your customers. And then run an A/B split test to learn from real customers if your hypothesis is correct.

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Winning the Negative Moment of Truth

January 19th, 2018
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As a student in the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program from the University of Florida and MECLABS Institute, I recently read the ebook “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” by Jim Lecinski.

Even though it is obvious content marketing for Google, it’s still a very good book. It’s six years old at this point, so I’m sure you’ve heard the term Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) by now, but there are still many good ideas you can get from the book to improve your content and other digital marketing.

The power of ratings and reviews

As he explains in the book, Lecinski’s ZMOT term is a play off a quote from Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley (p. 11, Lecinski, 2011):

The best brands consistently win two moments of truth. The first moment occurs at the store shelf, when a consumer decides whether to buy one brand or another. The second occurs at home, when she uses the brand — and is delighted, or isn’t.

That got me thinking of creating my own play off of ZMOT that ties into Lafley’s Second Moment of Truth.

In much of the book, Lecinski explains how important ratings and reviews are for a range of products thanks to how friction-free getting this information is on the internet versus the pre-internet days. No longer are people only reading the print edition of Consumer Reports to get reviews on cars and washing machines, now they search reviews on everything.

“When I go to a presentation at, say, a Hilton Hotel, I tell the audience this: ‘There are more reviews online for the Bounce Dryer Bar than there are for the hotel we’re sitting in right now.’” he says (p. 38, Lecinski, 2011) He says that 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase (p. 10, Lecinski, 2011).

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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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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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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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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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