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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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Marketing 101: What is a radio button?

August 11th, 2017
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Radio buttons — what are they, and how do marketers use them?

Well, like most marketing tactics, it’s something you’ve seen everywhere but simply might not have known the name for.

A radio button can be used in any form where you need people to make choices, like a survey, newsletter sign-up or a lead generation form.

This example is from an experiment in the research library of our sister site, MarketingExperiments. With the subject being a large people-search company catering to customers searching for military personnel, the test’s goal was to significantly increase the total number of subscriptions.

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Marketing 101: What is link juice?

July 14th, 2017
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Link juice is a valuable commodity in the search engine optimization world — and it doesn’t come easy. It’s a strategy game that gets more out of less and rewards marketers who prioritize value.

For the uninitiated, link juice is marketing jargon that is used to explain the power (i.e., relevance) that external links can give to another webpage. Based on various factors, the amount of “juice” your website gets from an external link can be a little or a lot.

According to the almighty Google, the search engine’s algorithm determines which pages have the best information for a query on a subject, mostly by other prominent websites linking to the page.

Basically, link juice is a quality, not a quantity game.

The more high quality pages that link back to your page, the juicier it will be — which translates into a higher ranking on Google.

A page is considered high quality if it meets the following criteria: indexable by search engines, swimming in link juice itself, independent or unpaid, has linked to you and only five others (not five hundred), and, lastly, the link has relevant, keyword-optimized anchor text.

How can I get more link juice for my website?

In the game of link juice, either you win — or you die.

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Live from MarketingSherpa Summit 2017: Making your customer the hero of your campaign

April 11th, 2017
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Vegas is in the middle of the Mojave Desert of Nevada, and yet you can move from Venice, to New York and over to Paris in 10 minutes.

MarketingSherpa Summit week is the one time every year that we get to bring the MarketingSherpa community together in the middle of Las Vegas to study (and toast to, at the Summit Party) customer-first marketing.

During the day, we work out of the beautiful Aria hotel, and at night, walk out onto the strip past famous structures like the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and the Paris Hotel, and it’s easy to see that there is no place else like it. In this morning’s Intro session, Daniel Burstein, Summit Co-host and Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, even spoke about the customer-centric thought process behind having penguins in the Flamingo hotel, thriving in the most unlikely of environments.

These structures, sights and scenes make Vegas one of the most popular and attractive destinations in the country. But how many of us think about the men and women who actually make Vegas what it is, by building (and re-building) the glorious hotels that shape the Strip.

Most don’t notice or consider the construction industry at all unless it’s somehow causing an inconvenience or delay in our day. No one glides over bridges and overpasses and thinks about how advanced new infrastructure is.

To change that perspective, construction software company HCSS decided to take on the challenge of getting the men and women that work in construction the recognition they deserve.

Dan Briscoe, Vice President of Marketing, HCSS, spoke today in his Best-in-Show Awards session on how, as marketers, they had to “get over” themselves in order to truly be customer-first.

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Elevating their customers would translate into elevating the industry, and as a result, the company.

Dan and his team developed the “I Build America” campaign, which focused on improving the image of the construction industry, infusing the people who work in it with pride and attracting a new generation of talent.

How did they do it?

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