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Five tips from a personal care industry CEO for setting (and getting approval for) your marketing budget

September 9th, 2016
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When we ask marketers about their biggest challenges, budget issues are usually at or near the top. Ecommerce marketers say size of marketing budget is the biggest challenge to their companies’ ecommerce operations. B2B marketers say lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time are the biggest barrier to overcoming their top challenges.

Everybody is challenged by the budget in some way.

So to give you a business leader’s perspective on key budget questions: What should you prioritize in your budget? How should you work with the rest of the organization? How do you get your key priorities approved?

I looked outside of the marketing-sphere and interviewed Stuart Benton, President and CEO, Bradford Soap.

Budgeting Advice CEO_Sherpa_DB

Stuart has a unique perspective on budgeting, as he was formerly Bradford Soap’s CFO, and has a perspective on selling products as well from a previous stint as Director of Sales and Financial Operational Planning at Veryfine Products, a $250 million juice company (at the time).

To give you some context, Bradford Soaps is a 140-year-old, $100 million organization with 700 employees that develops and manufactures soap for Dove, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Tom’s of Maine, Dr. Bronner’s, and other brands.

“We make the majority of all the specialty bar soaps in America,” Stuart said.

Here are some tips from our conversation to keep in mind as you set your next budget…

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Promotional Marketing: How to use promotional marketing to build brand awareness

July 5th, 2016
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I’ve gotten the nickname “Coupon Queen,” because I love a good deal. It’s hard for anyone to turn down a 50% off sale from their favorite company. Promotional marketing uses special offers to raise a customers’ interest, to influence a purchase and to even stand out among competitors. As marketers, our main goal is to use tactics like this to boost awareness in order to build the community for our brand.

A few months ago, I wrote a post on building customer experience by looking at event marketing while we prepared for MarketingSherpa Summit. Before getting started with the event marketing process or the launch of your content, the truth is there is a whole production that begins before that. You have to start with your promotional work. As we are now gearing up for MarketingSherpa Summit 2017, I interviewed Erin Fagin, Senior Marketing Manager, MarketingSherpa, on her role with promotional marketing.

Promotional marketing includes advertising, public relations and sales promotion. Whether you want to inform the market, increase demand or differentiate a product, here is an introduction to promotional marketing that can help you drive the traffic that you need for your product.

 

Phase 1. Establish your objective

Erin is responsible for the MarketingSherpa brand, with majority of her focus being on MarketingSherpa Summit. She said this includes the “entire brand perception, experience and voice, and how we are positioning ourselves to our followers and customers.”

As a marketer, the first question you want to ask yourself is, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Everyone’s goals are going to be unique to the company; for example, our main objective is to grow our community. This is where your past can become handy in the future planning process. Take a look at past campaigns and data collected to analyze what previously worked and areas where improvements can afford to be made.

Erin has built a portfolio of ideas that were inspired from past campaigns. However, she strives to involve her team in as much as the process as she can. A collaboration session is key in this step.

 

Phase 2. Build your strategy

Research is the most important asset in your strategy, whether formal or informal. Using that available data on your current or past audience engagement is going to benefit your campaign heavily. Organizing your route to the end goal while showing the value is going to be challenging yet rewarding in the end.

Marketing with internal stakeholders provides the beginning foundation, and external stakeholders can also provide a valuable perspective to the strategy. Here is where the buy-in from those involved comes into play. Your team and leadership has to be convinced to change the nature of the existing or previous strategy to be on-board from the very beginning, because as you move on to the next step, that buy-in is going to be to be crucial.

Budget is a piece to always take into consideration at this stage. If you have the flexibility to share a budget with other departments, utilize the resources to combine efforts to cut costs. With the remaining funds, you may have room to experiment with your strategy.

 

Phase 3. Execute your plan

Three core components in creating this plan to execute are:

  • Clearly defined goals
  • Establishing resources
  • A realistic project plan

Identifying the milestones needed to achieve your goals is going to be the first step. In this marketing optimization post, I walked through steps that similarly tie into building a promotional strategy when improving marketing efforts.

The content messaging is one of the core pieces in your promotional plan. Think about, what you want to say to your customers and how you want them to interpret your content. At the end of the marketing asset, put yourself in the audience’s shoes. How likely are you to be motivated to take action by clicking on the CTA or sharing the information?

In a Buzzstream article, “How to Create a Winning Content Promotion Plan,” Stephanie Beadell presented a well-developed framework to building a successful campaign. What I found thoroughly valuable were the starter questions for marketers to ask during the crafting section:

content-promotion-plan

 

Erin added that she begins by taking a crack at developing the content needed for her promotions and then solicits feedback from her colleagues on the marketing team. The content team is brought in the process as well to copy edit and ensure that the voice of the brand remains consistent. Utilize as many departments as your company has available. You also want to change your copy to reflect where it will be shared, she said, whether with a segmented audience and of course for unique social media channels.

Determining when and where your content is distributed is the final step.

Ensure that you aren’t overwhelming the audience with multiple sends, and map out your promotional periods in advance if you can. Understand your audience and where their motivations are, whether it is through direct mail or email. But don’t be afraid to take risks and test new mediums. Establish how technology can be of assistance as well – can paid search, print ads and retargeting help in your marketing efforts?

When your team comes within reach of the objective or achieves the overall goal, celebrate with your colleagues because your hard work has paid off. Communicate the success with your entire company and internally share the information. And don’t forget to use this promotional marketing strategy you’ve created as a baseline for the next one.

 

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Three Questions to Align Your Strategy, Marketing and Sales

June 28th, 2016
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When the business strategy isn’t linked with sales and marketing, the result is that marketers and sellers end up working harder, not smarter. This has a multi-billion dollar impact. Most companies struggle with this according to the Frank Cespedes, author, and Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School: “Selling [or marketing,] no matter how clever and creative, can’t generate good financial returns unless it’s connected to strategy.”

I met Frank while we both spoke at an event in Santiago, Chile. We had a memorable time sharing ideas and research. I thought Frank had a practical approach to aligning sales and marketing. So, I reached out to him and interviewed him about what he’s learned through his research for his most recent book Aligning Strategy and Sales.

[Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and grammar only.]

 

Brian Carroll: What inspired you to write about Aligning Strategy and Sales, which is the title of your new book?

Frank Cespedes: Despite decades of attention to so-called strategic planning, there is remarkably little research about how to link strategy with the nitty gritty of field execution, especially sales efforts [and marketing]. American companies annually spend about $900 billion every year on sales efforts. That’s not marketing, that’s sales, that’s compensation, the travel, incentives, the infrastructure, etc. and to put that in perspective, Brian, that figure is more than three times what they spend on all media, Super Bowls, everything. It’s more than about 40 times what they spend on digital marketing, and it’s more than 50 times what they currently spend on social media. This is a big, big gap.

 

Can you tell us more about your background and where all of this came from?

I was an academic at Harvard Business School for about 11 years working my way up the hierarchy and always was doing research in sales-related areas. My research started with distribution channels, B2B distribution channels, morphed into sales. Then I ran a business for 12 years. And then I came back and said, “I’m teaching strategy. I know something about sales. Let me see what people have written about it.”

What I found was this gap, so I figured two things. One is I don’t think the world needs another book about strategy, and I don’t think, to be blunt, the world needs yet another selling methodology, but there just isn’t much if anything about linking the two and that was the gap that I set out to address.

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Six Places to Focus to Make your Website a Revenue Generator

May 24th, 2016
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We have more digital marketing channels than ever before, but it’s become even harder to connect with customers. In my role as chief evangelist for MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, I get to talk to marketers and thought leaders daily.

One thing’s become clear, that there is a growing divide between those who are fully engaged with digital marketing and those who are still figuring out the fundamentals. When I read the report by Kristin Zhivago, President of Cloud Potential, on “revenue road blocks,” I wanted to see what she’s discovered to help marketers quickly close this digital marketing gap and do better.

If marketers directly address getting six key focuses right, you can move forward and close the gap between digital and customers.

Brian: What inspired you to do your research on revenue road blocks?

kristin-zhivago-president-cloud-potential

Kristin: Actually, it was our day-to-day experience working with company managers that drove us to these conclusions, combined with our research on the best practices of digital market leaders in more than 28 industries. The gap between the companies that are successfully using the newer methods and those who are not is growing wider by the quarter.

What is really concerning is we are seeing otherwise solid, successful companies slipping behind their more digitally adept competitors, and they can’t figure out why. They’re doing what they’ve always done, and it’s not working anymore.

Of course, that’s the problem. Buyers have radically changed the way they buy, especially in the last couple of years, and these sellers haven’t changed the way they’re selling. Mobile and the cloud have changed everything; today’s buyers are not the obedient, pass-through-your-funnel buyers that we used to be able to depend on. They are looking for any excuse to say no, because they are sure that there’s another solution only a click away. There is absolutely no risk for them to reject you. In fact, rejection is the safest option for them.

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Maximizing Multiple Marketing Platforms for Success

May 20th, 2016
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After 35 years in the industry, Chinese Laundry, a privately held women’s footwear company, continues to expand its influence season after season.

During Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition (IRCE) 2015, MarketingSherpa’s Courtney Eckerle spoke at the MarketingSherpa Media Center with Scott Cohn, Vice President of Ecommerce, Chinese Laundry.

Scott spoke about how marketers tend to establish processes or utilize platforms that work for specific projects or campaigns, but don’t always think about how it affects our customers.

“The biggest challenge we had is that they [platforms] were perpetually out of sync. So our inventory, pricing and a whole variety of other things that a customer expects to be consistent across channels, just weren’t consistent,” he said.

Whether you are looking to condense your blog platforms to update your content strategy or want to build product awareness, Cohn shared two key takeaways on maximizing multiple marketing platforms:

 

Be on the lookout

When undertaking a technology innovation, how do you begin to think about where you pain points lie?

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Marketing Basics: Don’t overlook these 5 digital marketing tenets

May 17th, 2016
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There are so many impressive things you can do with your website these days. Augmented realty. Rich animations. Micro-interactions. Interactive infographics.

But I like to think of it like this …

When the quarterback throws a 90-yard touchdown pass, the camera cuts to the wide receiver doing a celebratory dance, and then to the quarterback pumping his fist. What they’re not showing you is the right guard who picked up the blitz to allow the quarterback the time to heave up that bomb.

Your website, content, and digital marketing is often presented the same way. Advanced, flashy user interfaces are great. But looking in our own analytics, I was reminded there are probably a few unheralded, down-to-Earth, un-buzzworthy basics that should still power your online marketing.

 

Basic content

“Basic” has become slang for “limited,” “rudimentary” or any number of other negative connotations. To quote Kara Brown on Jezebel, “Being basic just means that you aren’t that dope.”

And you probably feel that way about the content on your site as well. You are steeped in the latest, most advanced things going on in your industry. You focus on the breaking news. You spend your waking hours thinking about the coolest features of your products, and most advanced capabilities of your services.

But is that what your customer is looking for?

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Video Marketing: Electronics retailer injects fun into product tutorials to achieve 1.75% purchase rate

May 13th, 2016
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“We try to have fun with everything we do, and our audience seems to respond to it pretty well,” Gregg Barclay, Senior Videographer, SparkFun Electronics, told me in an interview at last year’s MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE.

What it takes to produce online video marketing

YouTube, Vimeo and other online video sites have lowered the bar on what it takes to use video to promote your product to consumers. They no longer expect a slick commercial with a massive production staff and budget. The DIY feel can resonate with customers, as well (and for the right product, feel more authentic).

But, as with any business initiative, video still requires a resource investment. For a company with relatively limited revenue ($30 million in sales), SparkFun has nonetheless chosen to make a significant investment in video with seven or 130 employees dedicated to this purpose.

Only two (including Gregg) are involved in the actual shooting and editing of the video. Additionally, there are three full-time creative technologists building products. The team invests a few days in preproduction while the shooting and editing is complete in just a few hours.

This may be a reason SparkFun’s videos have been successful. After all, no matter how slickly a video is produced, it is just a container. You must fill that container with entertaining, helpful content.

“I never wanted our videos to feel like commercials,” Gregg said. “I wanted them to feel like these are projects that we would build whether we were working there or not, and I think that that’s what our audience really responds to because they’re doing the same things that we are.”

The electronics retailer introduces 10-15 products per week, and its team is able to produce two to five videos per week that shows customers how they can use them.

 

Video content driven by fun online tutorials

While the site also includes more traditional tutorials, along with informational product and how-to clips, fun is a key component in many of the videos, such as in the LIDAR Lite Module video or SparkFun Claw Machine! video.

lidar-lite-review

“We always think of fun first. It’s in our name — SparkFun Electronics,” Gregg said. “There might be more conventional uses for these products, but we try to think out of the box a little bit and really get people thinking of other ways to use this kind of stuff.”

As a result, 1.75% of people who view a video on SparkFun Electronics buy a product within that session. This doesn’t include people who watch a video and come back later to purchase, or those who watch a video on YouTube, so the real impact might be even higher.

 

 We’ll be heading to Chicago in a few weeks to bring you more stories of marketing, ecommerce and fun from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2016.

 You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.

 

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Four Simple Ways to Become a More Customer-Centric Marketer

April 26th, 2016
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Recently, I wrote about our need to guard against company logic. I argued that it is very easy for us as marketers to slip into a mindset that ignores the ultimate desires of the customer. This is a struggle experienced by all companies, big or small, new or old, well-known or unknown.

customer-centric-marketing

Ironically, as one commenter posted, perhaps even my blog post suffered from a little company logic as it seemed to focus on what I wanted to say rather than what would have most served the audience: more application. Knowing myself, and the tendency that I have just like anyone else, it may very well be true. I can also relate to wanting to know not just the “what” of a thing but also the “how.”

So, in the spirit of taking my own medicine, I would like to attempt being a little more customer centric and suggest four ways in which we can practically guard against company logic and become more customer-centric marketers. These are not the only four ways, but they are a good place to start.

 

#1. Listen

Learning the discipline of listening to your customer is essential for all marketers. This is where a marketer should always start. Listening to customers was once much more difficult, but today there is so much feedback our customer is giving to us. With the prevailing social dynamic of the Internet, our customers are constantly talking to us (directly or indirectly). We just have to make sure we are listening.

Many marketers are tempted to fear social feedback. I mean, who really wants to hear someone else critique you? However, if we are really doing our job, we will embrace both pleasant and painful insights that we gain from hearing from the customer. It is so easy to become insular and solicit feedback only from our peers, but we must force ourselves to hear the customer’s feedback. Sometimes that comes in the form of them talking directly to us, and other times it comes in the form of customers talking to one another. Nonetheless, our customers are talking, and we must learn to listen.

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20 Predictions for the Next 5 Years that Every Email Marketer Should Hear

March 28th, 2016
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Email marketing has evolved significantly during the first half of this decade — from the impact of mobile and engagement-based email filtering to the emergence of wearables and omni-channel integration. All that change made us wonder: ‘How will email marketing evolve between now and the end of the decade?’

That was what Chad White, Research Director, Litmus, sent me in an email when I asked him to comment on a SlideShare he created from Litmus’ Email Marketing in 2020 ebook.

In the report, our own Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, along with 19 other experts in the field of email marketing, share their predictions for what email marketing will look like in the year 2020.

The slides, which pull out Litmus’ favorite prediction from each of the experts interviewed, have a number of interesting tidbits.

Overall, the general consensus is that email will be incredibly personalized and highly automated.

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From the Westin to the Waffle House: Overcoming the pervasive challenge of company logic

March 22nd, 2016
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I recently overheard an interesting conversation at a Westin hotel check-in counter. It went something like this:

“… and we’re energy efficient!” said the Westin receptionist.

“That’s great …” the customer’s hesitating response was only met with her static smile.

“So … What does that have to do with my room?” he added.

“Well, you will have to use you room card to turn the lights on,” she replied with the slight hint of an eye roll.

“Oh … ? How does that work? Do I have to have it on me or wave in front of the …”

“You put it in the light card holder. We are energy efficient.” she interrupted.

“To turn the lights on?” The customer asked with now his own slight hint of an eye roll.

“Yes, a lot of hotels are doing it now,” she replied, slightly defensive.

Trying to get her to break from her conditioned customer service pose, and make a slight acknowledgement of the absurdity, the customer joked, “Ah … well all the hotels I have gone to have these light switch things.”

He failed miserably at this attempt, obviously not cut out for comedy.

“We are an energy efficient hotel!!” She said again, but this time with two — yes, two — exclamation points.

“So … where is this card holder thing?”

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