Courtney Eckerle

Marketing 101: What are widows and orphans (in design)?

October 13th, 2017
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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.

“Widows” and “orphans” sound incredibly morbid, and the designer who coined these terms was definitely a macabre lady or gent. However, it does accurately convey how seriously design lovers take this faux pas.

In typesetting, widows and orphans are lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph that are left dangling at the top or bottom of a column. This separates them from the rest of the paragraph and, generally speaking, is considered unpleasant looking by the design community.

I personally have experienced the woe of having an orphan and widow when working on a downloadable book with our design team. Reviewing the finished copy, the team was distressed over some parts of the copy that when put into the template, created these widows and orphans.

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Courtney Eckerle

They Won’t Bite: How talking to customers helped Dell EMC turn its content strategy around

October 12th, 2017
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“What we were finding was that a lot of our content was very product focused, and really quite technical. It’s not that we didn’t need that, but we weren’t engaging with customers at the top of their decision making,” said Lindsay Lyons, Director, Global Content Strategy, Dell EMC.

Lyons and her team came to the same content revelation that many marketers do — “we were talking about what we wanted to talk about, and not talking to customers about what they wanted to talk about,” she said.

In this content effort, they overhauled production efforts to ensure that content went through a stringent and honest assessment. This ensured that the content was not only in the tone that customers wanted to speak in but also in the spaces that they were already interacting in.

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Courtney Eckerle

Marketing 101: What is deduping?

October 6th, 2017
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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.

Deduplication, or deduping for short, is the process of removing identical entries from two or more data sets such as mailing lists.

Also known as merge and purge, deduping can be done for a lot of reasons. For example, the marketing team for MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, need to dedupe lists for its online certification courses.

Basically, if a student is enrolled in all four courses, they would be on four lists as a student.

So if Erin Donker, Associate Director of Marketing for MECLABS, wants to send an email to all the course students, she would dedupe the master list of enrolled students so that a particularly industrious one who is enrolled in all four courses wouldn’t receive the email four times.

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Daniel Burstein

What You Can Learn about Automated Personalization from Google’s Hilarious Mistake

October 4th, 2017
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Embarrassment. It’s a common emotion I hear from marketers after reading or watching a MarketingSherpa case study.

“The work these marketers are doing is amazing! And my marketing program is a mess. I’m overwhelmed by data. I don’t have enough resources to monitor social. My website doesn’t load fast enough …”

Today’s blog post is basically our way of saying:

Hey, it’s OK if you’re not a perfect marketer

Because no one is. Even here at MarketingSherpa, our reach is further than our grasp. There is so much more we’d like to do to improve our own marketing.

Which is why there was more than a little schadenfreude when we received an impressively erroneous direct mail piece from Google trying to use its hoards of data to personalize a message to us that would convince us to buy AdWords.

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Annie Summerall

Marketing 101: What is a GIF?

September 29th, 2017
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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 way we communicate has changed drastically from the days when we had to run to the phone in the kitchen that was *gasp* attached to a wall to call a friend. When we actually had to call someone to ask them out for a date, instead of swiping right or shooting a text.

We have evolved from phone calls to text messages and countless emojis (even animojis). And now, thanks to the popularization of GIFs — quick, bite-sized animated graphics that play over and over again in a loop with no sound — we barely need to use any words at all to communicate how we are feeling and what we are thinking. Even many corporate communication systems, like Slack, have integrated GIFs.


This transformation is not isolated to our personal use — brands and marketers are incorporating this type of visual content into their content strategy and campaigns. Why? Because they drive engagement and clickthrough, in both email and social media.

But what is it about GIFs that makes such a big impression?

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Courtney Eckerle

How to Drive Conversion Using a Value Proposition-focused Testing Strategy in Email Marketing

September 27th, 2017
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Your company’s value proposition is its answer to the question, “If I’m your ideal customer, why should I buy from you over your competitors?”

While this might seem like something that lives and dies on your landing page, value proposition needs to be brought into every aspect of your marketing, especially your email. It is the channel where customers are going to be interacting with you most.

Plenty of email marketers have begun at least light A/B testing — subject lines, images, button colors — but value proposition is often an untapped area of email testing that could lead to serious returns.

There are four elements that increase or decrease the force of your value proposition:

  • Appeal: How badly do I want this offer?
  • Exclusivity: Where else can I get this offer?
  • Credibility: Can I trust your claims?
  • Clarity: What are you actually offering?

Take this recent case study with Willow Creek, which dabbles in all four of these elements, for example.

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Tara Marotta

Marketing 101: What is the rule of thirds?

September 22nd, 2017
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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 rule of thirds is one of the first principles that all graphic designers, videographers, photographers and other creative roles learn. It’s a basic guideline for framing and image composition that results in the viewer seeing a balanced, more naturally flattering image.

To apply the rule, take your image and divide it into three parts vertically and again horizontally (it should look similar to a tic-tac-toe board.)

The rule states that the audience’s eye is naturally more drawn to the areas of the image nearest the intersection points. So, when you’re designing an image for a landing page, a social post, a PowerPoint slide, or even if you’re shooting a video, be sure to put the most important pieces of your image near these intersection points.

Applying the rule to video

Here is an example of a video frame from one of the most recent recent Quick Win Clinics published by our sister company, MarketingExperiments. The Quick Win Clinic series helps marketers with problems that are easy to solve but difficult to detect. Every week, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, takes a page submitted by the audience and optimizes it on the fly.

The primary piece of information we’d like the audience to see in this image is the person speaking, in this case, Flint McGlaughlin. You can see that Flint’s eyes are framed near the top left intersection point. As people, we are taught to look into the eyes of another person when talking to them. So framing an image so that a person’s eyes are near one of the points where the audience’s eye is naturally drawn makes a lot of sense.

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Courtney Eckerle

Five Questions to Ask to Understand Customer Motivation

September 21st, 2017
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This article was partially informed by The MECLABS Guide for Optimizing Your Webpages and Better Serving Your Customers. For more information, you may download the full, free guide here.

Motivation is a powerful tool in any marketer’s belt. If used correctly, it can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing message and move customers toward conversion.

After all, motivation is the key reason why any of us do anything — it’s just a matter of identifying what your customer’s motivations are and helping them understand how your product or service fits into that.

Question #1. Where is your customer in the thought sequence?

Looking at the MECLABS Institute (our parent company) Conversion Heuristic, you can see motivation (m) placed right at the beginning. However, as you can see by the number “4” placed in front of it, not all these elements hold equal weight.

Motivation is the single most important factor when it comes to affecting conversion. You can’t change something as intrinsic to your customers as motivation. You can, however, gain an understanding of it.

By learning where your customer is in this thought sequence and mapping out the other elements (value, incentive, friction and anxiety), you can craft your marketing message in such a way that it is optimized to speak to all four, leading to conversion.

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Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is a vanity link (or vanity URL)?

September 15th, 2017
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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.

A vanity link is a URL that is in plain English and very easy for a potential web visitor to type in. URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator — the webpage address. Every page on the World Wide Web has a URL, even this one. To find the URL of any webpage, simply look in the browser bar at the top.

Vanity links make it easier for people to visit your landing pages

If you’re sending people to a landing page, blog post or online article from a webpage, it’s easy enough to use a hyperlink — like this — to allow your visitors to click and visit the other page.

However, there are times when you would like to create a call-to-action to a webpage that readers or listeners will actually have to type into a web browser themselves. An example might be a TV or radio ad. Or a print advertisement. For this reason, a vanity link isn’t technically a “link” at all, but rather a URL (i.e., the web address).

For example, the URL for our customer satisfaction study is fairly easy compared to some URLs: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/freestuff/customer-first-study

However, why put that on the customer? It’s in the “Free Stuff” section of MarketingSherpa, so that’s why those words are in the URL. But why make the customer type that in? Or even the hyphens between “customer” and “first” and “study.” The HTTP and www aren’t necessary either.

When we wanted to direct someone to that website and couldn’t use a link, we created this simple vanity URL: MarketingSherpa.com/ConsumerStudy

Notice how much easier that is to type in and remember. Also notice the camel casing — I made the first letter of each word a capital letter so the URL is easier to read and remember, although visitors could type the URL with all lowercase letters and still get to the webpage.

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Daniel Burstein

Momentum Marketing: How to get the ball rolling toward a purchase decision

September 12th, 2017
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“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Those words probably sound familiar to you, as Newton’s first law of motion (the law of inertia). As a marketer, you can think of them as a physics-level explanation of a psychological phenomenon — customer behavior.

Rare is the customer who will go from zero to purchasing your product. That is, the impulse purchase.

For all other customers, they will tend to stay at rest until you get that ball rolling in the direction you want it to go.

Building momentum with intermediate payments

How do you start building momentum? Well, there are two other crucial payments from the customer that you should earn. And we’re calling them out by name in today’s MarketingSherpa blog post because, while your company may be doing them on some level already, these intermediate payments often get overlooked and under-resourced in favor of the granddaddy of them all — the fiscal transaction.

But all three of these payments require a value exchange, not just the fiscal payment. So make sure your company is providing unique value in order to earn all of these payments.

Payment #1: Attention payment

In the discovery phase, your ideal prospect shows some interest or has a felt need for your product. Sometimes this is front of mind, and they are particularly interested in the topic in their daily interactions.

Other times, it’s very subconscious, and they don’t even realize they were ever considering purchasing your product or even your product category until they come across your message.

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