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Ask for Permission, Not Forgiveness

February 18th, 2010

I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I admit I wasn’t paying much attention when Google added Buzz to my personal Gmail account last week. Then I started seeing blog posts and articles outlining some pretty serious privacy concerns about the new social networking feature — and they got my attention.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the Buzz icon in my account I saw that Google had manufactured a list of followers for me, and a list of people to follow, all based on names in my inbox. Some of those names represented friends of mine, who I didn’t mind sharing information with — but some certainly weren’t friends.

Then it hit me: I’d just been opted-in to a social network without my permission.

I wasn’t pleased, and spent a long time trying to figure out how to un-enroll in Buzz. Turns out, lots of people are mad – suing mad, as a matter of fact.

So, Google’s big misstep is a great reminder for other marketers: Social media and email work because they represent permission-based marketing channels. Prospects and customers have to proactively reach out and say, “Yes, I want to hear from you” by subscribing to your email newsletter, becoming a Facebook friend, following you on Twitter, and so on.

So if you’re launching new social media features or thinking about ways to get social media followers onto your email lists, don’t assume every name in your database is open for enrollment. For example, a lot of B2B vendors are launching branded, private social networks. Don’t be like Google and automatically create accounts for every prospect in your database.

Just ask them first. It’s so much easier than countering a firestorm of bad PR and potential lawsuits.

Capturing Attention on Twitter

February 9th, 2010

A well-timed and well-crafted message always has a chance to generate buzz through social media. If people like your message enough, they’ll send it to their friends. But they have to see it first.

During a call with Gary Wohlfeill, Creative Director, Moosejaw Mountaineering, I realized that getting attention is easier through some channels than others. Wohlfeill and I discussed his team’s recent holiday promotion (keep an eye on our free newsletters for the article). They ran the effort mostly through Facebook and Twitter.

Leading up to launch, the team sent messages through the social channels to build anticipation. They got some attention through Facebook, but it was harder to gain traction in Twitter, Wohlfeill says.

“Twitter is much more like a river. You drop a pebble in the river and you have to be standing there to see it go by. So you have to drop a lot of pebbles to reach a lot of people.”

Wherever you send a message, it’s going to have to compete for attention. Whether it’s a billboard competing with highway traffic, or an email competing with an inbox, competition is there.

Twitter, it seems, thrives on limited attention. Being seen can be a challenge. And once you’re seen, you can only hold attention for 140 characters–unless you get a click.

Two good ways to increase your chances at capturing more attention:
1. Be interesting enough to entice people to share with friends
2. Link to relevant content

Super Bowl Wins

February 4th, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV is just around the corner, and one marketing team is hoping to repeat last year’s game day win.

Denny’s is inviting America to visit its restaurants on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a free Original Grand Slam Breakfast. The team will announce the offer with a funny television commercial during the Super Bowl’s third quarter. Check out this teaser commercial.

The team ran a similar effort last year, using a Super Bowl ad to help pull in more than 2 million hungry customers for free Grand Slams during the single-day event.

We reported their strategy after the results were in. Denny’s realized a 39% net brand improvement score, the third highest of all of Super Bowl XLIII’s advertisers, according to a comScore post-Super-Bowl survey. They also captured more than 50,000 website hits, and a ton of free press.

“We hit a chord with people and resonated with people on a sort of warmth and kindness perspective. We had literally thousands of emails and phone calls from consumers, even some that didn’t go to the event, thanking Denny’s for giving a free breakfast,” said Mark Chmiel, EVP, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer, Denny’s, when we spoke with him last year.

Minor problems are inevitable when 2 million people show up for a free meal. Here are two snags the team hit last year and how they handled them:

1. Cold feet

At the last minute, one franchisee started charging customers $1.99 for a Grand Slam. The team sent people to the store to prevent customer backlash and bad PR. They stood at the door and handed out coupons for free Grand Slams, redeemable at any Denny’s. They also mentioned that the franchisee was violating an agreement.

2. Long lines

“We did have a free coupon in case some people felt the lines were too long or that they had to get to work…They could come back within the next two weeks to have a free Grand Slam,” Chmiel said.

As you can see, Denny’s effort is focused on building brand affinity. They do not want anyone turned away and disappointed. Last year, they leveraged their good will to capture a massive amount of free press–and you can expect the same this year. This will not be the last time you hear about Denny’s feeding America.

Integrate SMS and Social Marketing

January 13th, 2010

Two of the latest marketing trends–social networking and SMS messaging–are becoming routine for some marketers, and their roles are becoming more clearly defined.

Chad Hallert, Director, Ecommerce, Eldorado Hotel Casino, and his team have experimented with building and promoting to a list of SMS subscribers since early 2009. In some ways, the team uses SMS similarly to how they use Facebook and Twitter. However, they’ve found SMS messages attract more immediate attention to promotions.

The team’s tried sending channel-specific promotions to SMS subscribers and social followers, but without fantastic results, Hallert says.

“We tried stand alone offers with mobile, social and email…when you break them up to pieces, nothing really competes with email, and the other two don’t look as valuable as they are.”

Instead, the real value of SMS and social are their ability to improve the results of an integrated campaign, Hallert says. He’s seen results improved by 5% to 8% by adding an SMS alert and Facebook updates to campaigns that already included website, paid search and email promotion.

This is due in part, Hallert says, to customers subscribing to more than one promotional outlet. A person who receives a text message and email about an offer is more likely to convert than a person who receives only one of the two.

The marketing power of the team’s SMS subscribers and social followers is likely to improve as the lists grow in size in relation to the team’s email subscribers. Currently, their SMS list is about 10% of their email list in size, Hallert says.

For now, the team is seeing social and mobile marketing add more value to integrated campaigns than the channels could generate by themselves. Watch our consumer marketing newsletter for a case study describing how Hallert’s team leveraged the immediacy of SMS to take advantage of the weather’s impact on hotel bookings.

Social Media Success Means Learning to Let Go

January 7th, 2010

For this week’s EmailSherpa case study, I had a long conversation with Eric Erwin, EVP Marketing & Product Development, Wilton and Tim Bay, Founding Partner, Shay Digital about the ways email and social media marketing can work together.

I compiled five of their best strategies in the article, available here, but there was another big point that I think is important to remember.

Social media isn’t entirely unknown territory for email marketers. After all, they’re the experts at growing an audience, creating relevant content, experimenting with message timing and frequency, and adjusting tactics based on response rates.

But there is one big adjustment that email marketers might have to make when launching a social media strategy: You have to be comfortable with the idea that you’re no longer in control of the conversation.

“The hardest thing for marketers is to turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it,” says Erwin.

When creating a Facebook fan page or managing a Twitter feed, you have to avoid making yourself the center of the conversation. Instead, Erwin’s team has found success by listening more than talking, and inserting themselves into discussions when appropriate.

Watching customers discuss how they use Wilton products on Facebook gives his team new ideas for future marketing campaigns. If they see a particular question or challenge continually bubbling up from the community, that becomes fodder for a how-to blog post, or even ideas for a new product.

When they do start a conversation, they make sure to take a step back and let the community dictate where it goes. Yes, there can be some criticism of the brand, but Erwin says that criticism helps them improve the customer experience.

So while it’s a big step to take, it’s one that marketers must accept for a successful push into social media. As Tim Bay of Shay Digital says:

“We recognize that there is a leap of faith, but you can reduce the distance of that leap by doing your homework and then just diving in. If things don’t go well at first, you can adjust.”

Sometimes that leap of faith is so daunting that marketers just can’t bring themselves to make it – and they’re missing an opportunity. That’s why we’re dedicating the second day of our upcoming Email Summit to the convergence of email and social media.

We’ve filled that day with new research presentations, panel discussions and case studies that show how marketers are making email and social media powerful allies. You can check out the agenda here.

If I don’t see you there, feel free to share your own advice on navigating the waters of email and social media in the comments section.

Share Your Quote for Sherpa’s Wisdom Report

December 18th, 2009

The year is almost over, which means it’s time for us to compile our annual Marketing Wisdom report.

So before you enjoy some time off for the holidays, please take a minute to share a story about a great test result, campaign lesson or other insight you gained during 2009. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2009.

Here’s the form where you can share your contribution:

In January, we’ll release our 2010 Wisdom Report at no cost to readers. It’s like a crowd-sourced marketing guidebook, compiling the best campaign lessons, test ideas, inspirational stories and creative solutions to common problems — all based on the experiences of the Sherpa reader community.

Here’s how it works. Your quote — a short story told in your own words — must be based on a real-life experience.

A few suggestions for your entry:
– How you coped with the recession and limited resources to execute your 2009 marketing strategy
– A test campaign that worked better (or worse) than anticipated
– Lessons learned about specific tactics, such as social media marketing, lead scoring, email autoresponders, etc.
– Career stories — everything from hiring to budgeting to dealing with office politics

So think back on your challenges and achievements of the past year. We’re sure you’ve got a great story to tell that will help make us all better marketers in 2010.

Here’s the entry form link again:


Sharable Holiday Wish Lists

November 12th, 2009

Marketers at multichannel music equipment retailer Guitar Center this week launched customizable wish lists to help customers steer friends and family toward their desired holiday gifts.

The lists are designed by professional concert poster artists to resemble posters from different musical genres, says Scott Archambault, Director, Customer Acquisition, Guitar Center.

Guitar Center Wish Lists

Shoppers can browse, click to add products, and launch a browser-based Flash app to choose a design. Dragging-and-dropping automatically blends products with a design, and shoppers can add a title and an image to certain lists.

Shoppers can click to share lists on several social networks including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

The posters won’t appeal to everyone, and shoppers have the option to create and share a more traditional list, Archambault says.

Why offer sharable lists? Archambault says that gift shopping for musicians can be difficult due to the range of product choices and each player’s preferences.

“It’s not enough to just buy a guitar off the shelf,” he says.

The team created the effort with Organic of San Francisco and expects it to extend into next year. They later intend to drive custom marketing efforts based on the products customers select.

“If you have a lot of guitar instruments or something that maps toward an instrument preference, the emails that you get and the reminders that you get will speak to those very specifically.”

Homepage Overlay Boosts Subs

October 19th, 2009

The folks at PETCO  tested an email registration overlay ad that helped lift subscriptions more than 400%.

Carol Ott, Director, Finance Reporting and Web Analytics, PETCO, and the team used Amadesa’s Customer Experience Suite to A/B test the ad (and other offers) on the homepage since June.

As you can see in the image below (click for a larger one), the overlay offers visitors two rewards for submitting email addresses:
1. Chance to win a $500 gift card
2. A free shipping offer

PETCO Email Registration Overlay

“We were impressed with the results. We were testing offers that we thought would drop our average order value and were pleasantly surprised when it did not have any effect,” Ott says.

Campaign Measurability and Creativity

September 17th, 2009

Marketing has undoubtedly benefited from the control and measurability of online channels. Teams can use search ads, email and websites to test and tweak their way to astounding returns on investment. But has this come at a cost in creative license?

Marketing requires creativity. All those commercials, direct mail pieces, and landing pages have to be written and designed. However, tests often dictate their ultimate layouts and content. Is this trend brining us toward formulaic, uncreative marketing?

These questions arose during a recent conversation I had with Brian Maynard, Director, Brand Marketing, Jenn-Air & KitchenAid. They were an aside to a conversation we were having on a KitchenAid promotion strategy (full article coming soon).

“As we get better at measuring marketing,” Maynard says, “I fear a bit that in the future, unless you show a positive ROI on every single tiny effort, that you won’t be bold. You won’t step out and do something that’s exciting and innovative because you cannot prove that it works.”

Maynard also noted that he worries that marketing could become like factory work, where switches are thrown and 3,000 more units are sold. That kind of environment would not be conducive to risk taking and creative thought.

“The best marketing ideas have come from people who take a chance,” he says.

Where do you stand? Have you lost some creative license since the Internet’s arrival? Or does measurement simply guide your decisions, rather than make them for you? Let us know in the comments…

How to Be Cool

August 12th, 2009

Referrals from friends are a strong influence on how teens and tweens learn about “new brands and cool new stuff,” according to survey results released last week by Pangea Media.

Pangea is an entertainment an online advertising company that operates a network of quiz-related websites. The survey received 2,396 responses, and allowed for multiple selections when asking “How do you find out about new brands and cool new stuff?” The results:

o 76.4 % friends
o 75.5% stores
o 56.8% television commercials
o 52.6% magazine ads
o 39.8% online ads
o 35.0% Web/search engines
o 27.7% television shows

The results from asking how they “learn about new stuff” online (only one answer could be given):

o 27% ads in search engines
o 24% social networking sites
o 21% when friends email or IM
o 15% pop-up ads
o 13% trusted website

The results underscore that one of the best ways to earn your brand the elusive “cool factor” among consumers age 10 to 19 is have your brand referred to them by a friend. Stores are another powerful place to reach this demographic, even more so than any type of advertising queried, according to the survey.