Posts Tagged ‘marketing strategy’

Social Doubt: Beware the downside of social proof in social media marketing

March 8th, 2018

Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida, our basketball team won in the Elite Eight round of March Madness, meaning we were headed to the Final Four. Right after we won that game, students poured out onto University Avenue. There was jubilation in the street.

And then … all of a sudden … everyone just ran down to the football stadium and tore down the goalposts. (We were a football school at the time, not yet accustomed to basketball success)

It was a very odd moment. No one planned anything. People didn’t even shout out any directions. Most (but not all, let the record show I stayed put) of the students in the streets simply started running together toward the stadium.

Ah, the human animal

Much like a V-shaped formation of birds adjusting down the line to keep the formation tight, or a school of fish quickly changing direction, humans also engage in unthinking, subconscious herd behavior without even realizing what they’re doing.

And this is one of the most powerful drivers behind social media marketing.

Psychologists call this phenomenon social proof, which Wikipedia describes as “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Do you see what I just did there? Wikipedia is another example of social proof. If enough people agree to a definition of a term — even if they’re not experts — I guess it’s reliable enough to include in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

But social proof has its downsides for social media marketing as well

Now, I’m not the only person to write about social proof in social media marketing. Just search the term, and you’ll find endless articles and blog posts.

However, I noticed a serious dearth of conversation about the opposite of social proof in social media marketing. If social proof works because it shows other people are interested in your brand, the opposite of social proof shows that other people are not interested in your brand. What is the word for that?

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Marketing 101: What is above the fold?

March 2nd, 2018

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.

Above the fold refers to the part of an email message or webpage that is visible without scrolling. It refers to a printing term for the top half of a newspaper which is, literally, above the place in the newspaper where it is folded in half.

Unlike a newspaper, however, email and webpage fold locations aren’t predictable. The fold may be affected by the user’s preview pane, monitor size, monitor resolution, device type (i.e., mobile vs. desktop) and any headers placed by email programs such as Gmail or Yahoo!

Material in the above-the-fold area is considered more valuable because the reader sees it first. According to the Wikipedia entry for Above the fold, “Most web design advice available today encourages designers to place important information at the top of the website, but also to prioritize usability and design.”

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Business Intelligence: If only more of our customers were like Larry David

February 23rd, 2018

I usually watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” through the eyes of a fan. But recently I watched the popular HBO show through the eyes of a marketer.

And it struck me — Larry David is an extremely valuable customer. And not just because he has all of that “Seinfeld” money (some $900 million of it, according to Adweek).

Larry is valuable because he actually tells brands what he is thinking. Commonly derided as “complaints” or “rants,” in reality, Larry is offering up valuable customer intelligence.

Complaints are business intelligence

In a recent episode, Larry is staying at a hotel. When asked by the front desk employee if he had any feedback on his stay, he suggests that they shouldn’t tuck the sheets in so tight when making the bed. Who sleeps like that?

But Larry isn’t the normal, quiet customer. He’s a super-suggester. And he goes far beyond replying to a question from an employee asking for feedback. He offers unsolicited advice on topics the hotel doesn’t even think to ask about.

While the hotel brags about cookies made by its pastry chef, Larry isn’t buying it. He says the cookies are from Pepperidge Farm.

And Larry is none too happy about the cookie retrieval system the hotel has set up in its lobby. Larry doesn’t want to use tongs to grab the cookies — he is afraid the cookie will get crushed — and he suggests a wider cookie layout system so guests can pick cookies with their bare hands without touching an adjacent cookie.

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Screw the Competition: How to avoid dreaded commodification

February 16th, 2018

In high school, I never quite found my niche. I wasn’t a jock or preppie, neither freak nor geek. I just had to be me.

In other words, my focus was on my intrinsic value proposition, not what the competition was doing.

Competitive analyses are valuable, don’t get me wrong. They are necessary to ensure you have a unique value proposition. After all, your product isn’t for sale in a vacuum. I’ve worked with a competitive sales office in the past and you can learn a lot from win-loss reports as well.

But don’t go too far with this business intelligence. My point is this …

Don’t let the competition define you

At some point, you have to say, “screw the competition.”

If your focus is on the competition, you’ll just be another Why Bother Brand.

And if your focus is on the competition, it’s in the wrong place. Your focus should be on the customer. That’s the way you create differentiated value.

Here are three examples of focusing on the customers, not the competition, from otherwise commodified industries:

Example #1: Southwest Airlines

Airlines have become a dreadfully commoditized industry. Just look how they move in lockstep. One airline adds baggage fees, and then every other “me too” airline jumps in behind it.

Not Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it has analyzed the competition. I’m sure it is aware of fee revenue.

But that simply doesn’t work for this brand. So Southwest offers “No change fees. No matter what.” And communicated that value proposition cleverly in a recent TV ad about a coach who believed in his basketball team so much, he already booked tickets to the championship game.

The kicker, of course, is that the team doesn’t make it to the championship game and has to change their flight plans. Cue the tagline — “That’s Transfarency. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.”

Does this mean you’ll fly Southwest every time? Probably not. I know I prefer non-stop flights. And you might have a favorite frequent flyer program.

But I tell you this — next time you’re charged $200 for canceling a flight, you’re going to remember that Southwest commercial. And if you go through negative experiences with your current airline enough, you may choose not to shop only on price but to favor flights from Southwest Airlines.

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Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

February 14th, 2018

Think of all the money you invest in attracting customers before they even get to the call-to-action … buying media or traffic, designing websites and landing pages, crafting just the right offer.

If you can squeeze just a bit higher conversion rate out of your calls-to-action (CTAs), it increases the ROI on the rest of your marketing investment.

And that’s just a few percent. What about more than doubling the conversion of that CTA? Without the need for any IT or development resources?

A recent experiment MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) ran with a Research Partner did just that. Let’s walk through the simple word changes and what you can learn from them as you craft your own calls-to-action and button copy.

Experiment design

This experiment was a landing page test that encouraged people to get a physical copy of a textbook mailed to them. These people are decision makers. They choose a product that will lead to significant product sales from others. By getting the sample in these decision makers’ hands, they are more likely to select this product and, therefore, drive significant sales.

The experiment had a control and two treatments. There were several differences between the control and the treatments including changing the image, headline and call-to-action. Both treatments improved clickthrough rate (CTR), with the second treatment generating a 277% increase in CTR at a 99% level of confidence.

That clickthrough increase carried its way through the funnel to an increase for the final conversion as well — an 82% increase in conversion for Treatment 2 at a 99% level of confidence.

But here’s where it gets more interesting. While the team changed several variables between the control and the treatments, they only changed a single variable between Treatment 1 and Treatment 2 — the call-to-action — to discover the impact of the CTA wording.

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There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

February 9th, 2018

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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The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising (and Why It Matters)

January 5th, 2018

In his 1923 book “Scientific Advertising,” Claude Hopkins said, “Advertising is multiplied salesmanship.” But in the modern day, I’ve more often seen a tight comparison (and even confusion) between marketing and advertising.

On the other hand, marketing and advertising are distinct majors in college. Most agencies are advertising agencies, and most departments inside companies that promote the sale of products are marketing departments.

Why the distinction? Are these two words synonyms, or is there a real difference?

A high-level, ephemeral topic like this isn’t something marketers spend most of their time thinking about. They’re too heads down, focused on budgets and marketing automation and copywriting. I know I am.

But I came across that quote from Hopkins when I took MMC 5435: Messaging Strategy and the Centrality of the Value Proposition, part of the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate created by MECLABS Institute in partnership with the University of Florida.

And so I started pondering the bigger, more existential topics of marketing, such as this one. Marketing philosophy, if you will.

                                            photo courtesy: “cVillain Sponsor Post” Creative Commons, Spicy Bear, Flickr

More than just nomenclature

To me, marketing is strategy and advertising is (but one) execution of that strategy …

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People Buy From People: Five examples of how to bring the humanity back to marketing

December 13th, 2017

“People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.” This is an essential principle from the MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization certification course (from the parent research organization of MarketingSherpa).

With so much focus on martech, marketing org structure and website optimization, and channels ranging from print to digital advertising, this principle can be easy to forget.

Yes, marketing technology is powerful. Yes, the correct structure of the marketing department and IT department are necessary; and you certainly want a well-functioning website.

But this is just infrastructure. Mere roads.

You, dear marketer, are in the driver’s seat. You decide how to use these roads.

The most effective way to use them is to connect with other people. Remember that everyone behind the technology is a real, complex human. And everyone on the receiving end is a real, complex human with hopes and fears, needs and wants, goals and pain points.

Here are five examples to give you ideas for bringing humanity back to your marketing.

Example #1: Engage with influencers

Every B2B industry and B2C niche customer community has influencers. Rock stars to that specific group of people, even if no one in the general public knows who they are. They’re more than a brand or a logo; they’re a person. And when it’s the right person for your ideal customer, your customer deeply wants to learn from these influencers.

“I would say don’t be afraid to talk to your influencers in your industry. Engage them and try to partner with them,” said Mike Hamilton, Director of Marketing Programs, Exterro.

Exterro is a legal software company specializing in e-discovery. When it launched its vendor-neutral E-Discovery Day virtual event three years ago, the team was able to get a couple of key influencers on board. In Exterro’s case, a few of these influencers were federal judges.

Having federal judges speaking on a webcast back then was a big deal. So, Hamilton started calling other influencers in the industry and used the federal judges’ names as a proof point that E-Discovery Day was designed to be a day of education and not vendor-speak. Exterro opened it up to competitors, law firms, anyone in the industry. As a result of bringing all these influencers on board, the team was able to get more than 2,400 event attendees this year, an increase of 70% from 2016.

“If someone has a blog in your industry, and you think they write great content at the same audience as you, send them the email, or don’t be afraid to call them and just ask them what they’re doing, how they’re looking to grow their influence, and how you could potentially partner together. Because the reason why I think E-Discovery Day was so successful was we got buy-in from a lot of influencers in the community at the very beginning,” Hamilton said.

Example #2: Talk to one person … or account

Marketers can do amazing things with data and automation these days. However, sometimes it’s worth singling out important accounts and customers and giving them a more manual, human touch.

This may seem overwhelming at first, but if you analyze your most valuable customers to determine who your best customers will be, you may find that some version of the Pareto principle is at play. In other words, 80% of your revenue may come from 20% of customers.

Trapeze Group, a provider of hardware and software to the public transit industry throughout the world, took an account-based marketing (ABM) approach to try focusing and humanizing its marketing to specific accounts.

They started a pilot program with a public transit agency in the Los Angeles area, and positioned the ABM strategy in the business as “ensuring that it was not just a marketing or sales function but also that of project management and customer success,” said Michelle McCabe, Manager of Demand Generation and Marketing Operations, Trapeze Group North America.

For example, the team created a personalized magazine just for that account. The magazine contained a combination of custom content that was created from scratch for the people in that account as well as repurposed content. “We knew that some of the C-levels were a little bit more traditional. So we felt that a print magazine might speak to them a little bit more than something digital, which is why we went for a printed magazine versus digital specifically for this account,” McCabe said.

In addition, the team created a 3D-printed statue and sent it specifically to one person in the account. “It said the word ‘innovation’ because that spoke true to his role and his overall mission. He did receive it, and he thanked us for that, which was great,” McCabe recounted.

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Copywriting: Listen to customers so you can speak their language

December 1st, 2017

Words matter. Both for their denotation (to ensure prospective customers understand your advertising) as well as for their connotation.

(Words are subtle indicators to tell a potential customer “we understand you specifically” and “this offer is meant for people like you.”)

To truly speak our customers’ language, we must listen to them because our customers may be very different from us.

No easy task. As Don Peppers and Martha Rogers say in Managing Customer Experience and Relationships, “‘Listening’ has never been part of most mass marketers’ primary skill set.” (I’m reading the book as a student of the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program.)

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Micro-yes(s) versus Micro-moments

November 21st, 2017

“I was wondering about the methodology of MECLABS, about micro-yeses and the micro-moments.  There are some similarities about both terms. Do you have some articles on the topic micro-yeses vs micro-moments? If yes, can you provide me a link for it? If you don’t, this is a good topic for the next one, I guess.”

This suggestion comes courtesy of a MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing newsletter subscriber who recently completed the MECLABS Institute Value Proposition Development course (from MarketingSherpa’s parent research institute).

Understanding these two topics — the micro-moment and the micro-yes — is especially important to the inbound marketer.

Content and social media tend to be consumed in micro-moments, and to get customers to engage with your social and content (and ultimately take a larger conversion action, like a purchase) requires a micro-yes to get a micro-conversion.

Micro-moments, i.e., “I will not waste 37 seconds standing in line without being entertained!”

“We put a name to a behavior that, thanks to mobile, was becoming pervasive. People had started to expect an immediate answer in the moments they wanted to know, go, do and buy,” said Lisa Gevelber, VP of Marketing for the Americas, Google, in the article 3 new consumer behaviors playing out in Google search data.

Essentially, mobile web use is exploding. Yada, yada, yada. I’m sure you know all of that.

But the important element to take away is not just the form factor that mobile use requires (e.g., responsive design) but the customer behavior shift mobile hath wrought.

And this is a trap we as marketers fall into. When we’re reviewing our social, our content, our landing pages, our advertising, our email, etc., we’re pretty darned focused on it. We eliminate as many distractions as possible. We craft headlines and body copy with a surgical precision. We know every detail about our products and services.

However, the customer is taking a mere micro-moment in their day with many other distractions going on. When they come across your blog post, they — “Jimmy! I told you to put that down and get off of your brother!” — interact with your content, social and marketing messages in a much more distracted fashion — “Wait, what did they say? Was that Flight 2054 to Jacksonville canceled? Or did they say Flight 2045?” — so you need to make sure your messages are clear and compelling.

Hence the need for micro-yes(s); more on that in a moment.

But the bigger point is this: Next time you’re looking at a marketing piece or piece of content, don’t just make sure the form is optimized for mobile (e.g., big buttons, white space, whatever). Make sure you’re thinking through that customer’s mobile behavior.

Because customers often exhibit different behaviors in these micro-moments. To wit, “Mobile searches for ‘best’ have grown 80% in the past two years,” Gevelber said.

So this behavior impacts your SEO and content strategies, for example. What type of information will people be searching for in a micro-moment? What content would help them?

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