Linda Johnson

Marketing 101: An intro to social listening, why you should become an undercover social media agent (and where to begin)

July 3rd, 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.

In the early 2000s when social media networks like My Space and Facebook first came out, many of us thought they were just a passing fad. We were wrong.

These social networks have been so successful because people are hardwired to be social. And they want to share on social platforms.

Then businesses began to realize that customers were reacting more positively toward this gentler inbound strategy as opposed to the traditional, more aggressive outbound methods. Today, social media marketing is a vital part of most companies.

Yes, social media marketing is here to stay, and statistics show that it reigns as king of the mountain in the business world, being one of the most widely used lead gen tactics.

Most Widely Used Lead Gen Tactics

If you have been trying to avoid learning hashtag lingo, retweet etiquette and analytics, then chances are your business won’t last long among its many competitors. Because THEY most certainly are utilizing social platforms to their advantage. You, on the other hand, are trying to execute your business strategy blindfolded.

Some benefits of social listening

Even if your business doesn’t have the budget for a dedicated social media analyst or the latest and greatest social monitoring tools, you can still go ahead and set up some accounts. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the most popular ones but you should conduct some sleuthing to determine which social media platforms are the best fit for your ideal customer.

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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Linda Johnson

Customer-First Marketing: What every entrepreneur and SMB marketer can learn from successful Etsy sellers

May 4th, 2018
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Whenever I’m looking for an original, handcrafted gift, I go to Etsy.com. In case you aren’t in the loop yet, it’s a worldwide digital marketplace for artisan entrepreneurs. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time there because my daughter is getting married, and I need to find some unique gifts for the wedding party.

But it’s also a laboratory of capitalism that any marketers — especially small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups — can learn from. Smaller companies might not have the giant budgets for media, perfect photography and SEO, but they can find an advantage with more human customer service and customer interactions in general.

I’ve found that each seller has their own communication style and shop policies. Some of these artisans are wildly successful with thousands of sales and loyal customers.

And some, well, not so much.

It’s clear that many of the top-grossing ones stand out because they not only have a great product, but also excellent customer service. No, not even that. Their service is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. They’ve obviously learned a thing or two about customer-first marketing.

Here are just a few of their practices that can help other marketers who are trying to succeed in an already saturated marketplace.

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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

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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Daniel Burstein

Email Clickthrough Rate: 9-point checklist to get more clicks for your email marketing by reducing perceived cost

April 5th, 2018
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To help you increase the clickthrough rate of your email marketing, here’s a nine-point checklist for minimizing your recipients’ perceived cost of clicking in your emails. This checklist is from the Email Messaging online certification course taught by MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization).

You can click here to download a PDF of the Email Click Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

EMAIL CLICK COST FORCE

For macro decisions, like a purchase, you likely spend significant time and resources ensuring that customers want to purchase the product.

However, it’s all too easy to overlook the smaller decisions your customers are making every day — the micro-yes(s) — like clicking through an email.

Every decision you ask prospective customers to make has a perceived value to the customer as well as a perceived cost. The “force” of value or cost is a term designed to discuss the strength of the effect of those elements on the customer’s decision-making process.

Put simply, if the value force is stronger, your customer will take the action you are asking. If the cost force is stronger, your customer will not take the action.

For example, could the customer be concerned that you are sending a phishing email, and by clicking through they will get a virus or be scammed in some other way? That is a cost, a major cost.

But every click has a cost. Even if it’s just the time it takes their phone to load the data of the landing page they are clicking through to.

Now, the actual value or cost of the email click isn’t what determines if your subscribers will act (although it could affect their likelihood to take future actions). It is the perceived cost or value before customers even take that action. After all, they don’t know what value they will really receive or cost they will incur until they act.

This checklist will help you minimize the perceived cost of an email click to help you increase your brand’s email clickthrough rate. For a checklist that will help you maximize the perceived value of the email click, along with checklists to help you grow your email list and increase open rate, you can download this bundle of six email marketing checklists.

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