Thursday, December 4, 2014

Smiling Marketress 2015 Digital Marketing Predictions: #Video, Integration, Training

It’s that time of year when marketers are predicting trends for the upcoming year. What actually happens is really up to consumers. Their behaviors dictate what we actually do. So I’m going to start by saying that whatever you have planned right now for 2015 should not be the end all, be all. I’ve said it over and over again…but marketing is fluid. Make sure your marketing plan is flexible to allow for consumer changes in 2015. Meaning, you may notice that certain campaigns aren’t converting and you’ll have to tweak your strategy to meet behavior trends. So let’s get started. What pray tell could the Smiling Marketress possibly predict for 2015?

Focus on Video
I think 2015 will be a year for video. Whether that’s creating more YouTube content or even video emails—video content is one way to really engage your customers. By 2017, it is forecasted that 74% of content will be video. As of now, 52% of content with the best ROI is actually video.

The reality is that marketers are finding it more difficult to reach consumers because we’re all vying for their attention. Marketers need to be innovative, creative, and persuasive… the “ives” if you will. 
Pay attention for innovative video production companies. Start networking with them now so you can get the best deal when you’re ready.

Start paying attention to companies like Inviter. Video email content is fairly new right now, but not for long. Become an early adopter and you’ll get the early conversions now while everyone else is still trying to figure out how to use videos in email later.

Start Integrating
I preach digital integration all the time. I do it because so many companies don’t get it. At its core, it’s about communication between departments. If you want to thrive and grow, marketing functions fall under one umbrella with experts in each area working as a team (not silo’d). SEO should be at your center along with content. Then social, email, even print, radio, and tv are extensions.  Earlier this year, I read that print, tv, and radio impact what we search.  I can’t find that article now unfortunately. I’ve been telling companies this for years. We can impact what consumers search by creating consistent, quality content that is memorable. By consistent, I don’t mean duplicate content either. But if a phrase that is easy to remember is repeated in all your marketing collateral and consumers hear and see it, don’t you think that will impact what they type in Google? This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense.  So integrating all your marketing efforts is going to take your 2015 marketing budget a lot farther.  I recommend having your SEO manager review or all marketing collateral before it goes out.

Digital Marketing Training
This plays off the whole integrated marketing trend we’ll see.  I started doing this with two companies this year.  For people like you or me, we get digital marketing. We understand its complexities. But others don’t. So educate them. Provide them with training.  It doesn’t have to be in depth or super detailed, but enough that they can do their jobs more fluidly and improve the overall process flow. I found that teaching cross functional teams creating content with the basics of SEO was super helpful. It saved me time. It saved them time. More importantly, it created a team atmosphere and everyone felt unified.

So that’s what I have for my predictions for 2015.  Just make sure you’re fluid and flexible…as always. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Boosting Engagement Series: Creating Custom Video Messages

If you’re going to use videos in marketing collateral, think outside the proverbial box…especially if you run an ecommerce or retail operation. I have a few ideas to increase your customer engagement now and especially around the holidays.  Considering that 75% of viewers visit a company’s website after watching a video (Digital Marketing Sherpa, 2014), it makes sense to get a little creative with video messaging.

Segment First
Let’s face it…we’re all on the clock, and we have to find the most efficient way of doing things. The best way to use videos in marketing (in my opinion anyway) is to start by segmenting your customers. Of course, you should apply this to all marketing strategies. But start with grouping customers into product categories based on previous purchases. Most of your customers will be on my lists. By now, you should have data that tells you what your customers are buying and when. Use it when segmenting. Have as many segmented lists as needed.

Link Products
Once you have your segmented lists, add specific products. Take advantage of your CRM to keep data in one place. Easy enough. So for a gal like me, you’ll have me in the baby/toddler category. So you would probably add products like winter clothes, toddler toys, etc.

Create Those Snazzy Videos
Now the fun begins. You actually get to create the videos to showcase these products for your segmented lists. You can go the professional route, but honestly, I like the more organic, homegrown videos. It’s more personable, especially coming from a small to medium sized operation. Surely there are other shoppers who like feeling connected to where I shop…where everyone knows my name and “get me.”  So, my advice, don’t spend thousands doing this unless you have a really talented person on staff. Then go for it. 

There are several types of videos you could use.

·        Slideshows of pictures you’ve taken of the product. Those are good and pretty easy to create.
·        Shooting custom message with videos on location. This is my favorite because it is more personal. Get a team member (preferably the manager or owner of your operation) to go on camera talking about the products, next to the products.  You’re connected “one-on-one” with the viewer, but you’re also showing customers (if you have a brick and mortar), where the product is in store!

Ready, Set, Go!
Now you’re ready to put it all together and actually send a video newsletter. You could use your email provider, or you could go with the pros at Inviter. They specialize in mass video newsletters. Sign up (three pricing options for businesses), upload your segmented lists, create an event (your newsletter for each segment), upload your video, schedule, and you’re done. It’s that easy.

Parting Words: Frequency

My last bit of advice on this. Do this as often as you want, but for sure during the upcoming holiday season. Start planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday now. I would send promotional video newsletters Thanksgiving Day (and eve for that matter) and several weeks right before Christmas. Then use your judgment on sales cycles throughout the rest of year. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Boosting Engagement Series: Message Customization Starts with Data

I feel like I go through periods where I speak in themes. Early in my career, it was focusing on the customer and improving the customer service experience (using social media). Then I went through a period where I focused on the need for integrated marketing. I still talk about that, especially since that’s a focus of my dissertation. Lately it seems that I, like many of you, have been focusing a lot of recent efforts on custom messaging. That’s what this series is really about…customizing our marketing pieces. Customization is one key ingredient in boosting customer engagement.

Using the data
The mere fact that only 18% of marketers are customizing their marketing channels is horrifying to a gal like me. We should be customizing the majority the messages we create. Most of us have access to data that we should be putting to good use and We work with large amounts of data that we should be using to create messages that appeal to our customers.
It starts with getting to know our customers. If you don’t have a profile or customer persona, then get one. Basically, you identify who your customer is, likes, dislikes, behaviors, etc. Use data to get to know your customers and create messaging around your findings. You can find this data in a variety of places.

Google Analytics. Use GA as your starting point to figure out where your customers are coming from and where they are going, how long they’re staying, and if they’re leaving-- where they are clicking on the page, etc. If you notice that a certain demographic is spending a lot of time on a particular page, note it and make sure you use that topic/product in your messaging. If you’re noticing that you get more goal conversions over others, use that page/messaging in your next content piece. Vice versa works too. Figure out why certain goals aren’t getting the same traction.

Adwords: Google Adwords (and Bing Ads for that matter) provides some really good insight about when people are really shopping by day and hour. You know when to send emails and test social posts during those times too.

video newsletter analtyics
Inviter Dashboard. Inviter is a corporate business greeting cards and video newsletter service. They have a really good analytics dashboard that gives you insight on RSVPs, social engagement, open rate, etc. It’s useful when you’re creating new video newsletters because you know which ones drove the most opens, RSVPs, and social engagement. You can either copy that messaging in other marketing collateral, resend that video or create something similar.

So this is it for now. We’ll go into more detail about how to further customize that messaging next week. I’ll be a little more specific too.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Boosting Engagement Series: Holiday Business Greeting Cards

Retailers start the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier every year. Although I’ve been thinking about gift ideas for my friends and family, I was a little shocked when I walked into Sam’s Club and saw pre-lit Christmas trees front and center. From a consumer perspective, it’s a little early for my taste. But from a business perspective, it’s perfect timing.

As part of the series on consumer engagement, let’s focus on holiday business greeting cards. Part of your 2014 holiday strategy needs to include holiday cards. Depending on your industry, you either need to send multiple cards or one greeting right before the holiday.

The Warm and Fuzzies
Your customers want to feel special. One way to go the extra mile is with custom holiday business greeting cards just for them. Sending the standard card in the mail (with low ROI) is fine. But custom video newsletters or video holiday cards can boost engagement because it tells your customers you took the time to do something different. If you take the time to get to know your customers and provide a heartfelt message, you’ll see the difference between in your conversion rate.

Holiday Business Video Greeting Cards
Videos increase interactivity (emarketer, 2014). Holiday business greeting cards with a video message from your team is one way to have your customers meet core members of your organization and actually make a connection. It’s connections like that boost that engagement. Record one video, upload to Customize it with your customer’s name and special text. Schedule it and check the analytics dashboard. You can see engagement through the analytics dashboard provided and through Google Analytics (increased traffic to your website).

Service Industry
When you’re creating these custom video holiday greeting cards, think about your customer’s behavior. You may want to send out two holiday messages depending on your industry and how your customers currently interact with you. For instance, if you provide a service that could be given as a gift, you may send out several messages. Record a couple of videos and schedule them at a different times.

If you’re a retailer, create several video greetings and then attach coupon codes or product information. Schedule accordingly. Obviously make sure you hit Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Social Engagement
If you use Inviter, your customers will have the option of sharing the video on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll be able to track those social shares on the dashboard. That being said, you want to make sure your holiday video greeting is worth sharing. It may mean adding humor or a really good deal that’s worth sharing.

The best part—you can save the video and use it as many times as you want. Let’s say you forgot to send it a group of customers. Go back to the template you created, make the changes you need to make, and schedule. It’s that easy to begin the process of better customer engagement.

Get Creative!
You can record a general video with the CEO and other team members. But if you really want to boost impact, get creative.  Emails with a little personality boost open rates and engagement. To add a little something extra to your holiday business video greeting cards, try:
·         Dressing up like Santa
·         Singing Holiday songs
·         Segment your customers and then shoot videos that include appropriate products

It’s okay to get sentimental. It’s okay to be cheesy. It’s okay be sincere.

Although it’s only September, you can start planning now. Include these video holiday ecards as part of your content strategy.  So go on. Start brainstorming. Then come back and tell me about it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Boosting Engagement Series: Business Birthday Cards

When I talk to small business owners, one of the first things they tell me is how difficult it is to really engage their customers in meaningful ways that encourage conversions. Since we are heading into the 2014 holiday season, I thought it prudent to address this now so you can make necessary adjustments to your boost customer interaction now and even plan for 2015.
One of my friends owns Wholesale & Liquidation Experts, a wholesale and liquidation operation just south of Atlanta with a storefront. They do a great job of asking every customer for their email address, especially if they’re new. People actually do give their email addresses because the prices at the store are seriously the lowest they’ll find. Matt Brenckle, the owner does a great job of staying price competitive.  Wholesale & Liquidation Experts sends out weekly emails about the latest deals. That’s great. But as I told Matt, he could do more.
Business Birthday Cards
Wholesale & Liquidation Experts has a field for birthdays for new customers. I told Matt he needs to ask for that info so his marketing team can use it to create custom birthday email messages. The concept isn’t new. Retailers do it all the time. Every December, I get bombarded with Happy Birthday deals. And believe me, I like most shoppers, take advantage. So…birthday business greeting cards is one way to encourage engagement.

Custom Email Messages
Needless to say, custom email messages creates 6 times more revenue (Experian, 2013). Using the existing data…like the data you get in retail (products, shopping habits, birthdays, etc) to create a custom email just makes sense. When you’re creating these email business birthday cards, the extra effort can generate more conversions and that revenue you want.

It doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use a service like Inviter and create a template for business birthday cards. To save time, you can create all the cards at once. I suggest at the beginning of the month, and then schedule them out for the appropriate day.  

Remember to Customize
Make sure you do customize the emails with fields for products and a special birthday discount code to track sales. How you set up the discount code is up to you. You can create custom codes for each customer, but that could be a bit much unless you use their last name and year perhaps. Or the custom discount code could be monthly code for all birthdays during that particular month. It goes without saying, but make sure you use their first name in the greeting.


Inviter provides some analytics. You can see who opened the birthday email, social analytics, and more. I would also suggest creating an event in Google Analytics. Understanding customer behavior coming from a business birthday card will help you better craft future messages.

Stay tuned for the next post in the engagement series. Next time we’ll discuss the upcoming holiday season.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Been a While...

I know...I's been WAY too long since I've touched this blog. It's not because I've disappeared. Quite the contrary. I've just been busy working for others. I have a few things in the works. For now...I'll start a series here that focuses on improving customer engagement. I'm hoping that by the end of the month, I'll have done. At which point, this blog will be transferred over there. So...stay tuned.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear Business Majors

My brother is a business major. Although he was a little lost at the beginning of his higher education career, he's come to realization that a bachelor's degree in business will suite him better than other options he was considering.  He's looking for real word experience and guidance, so I've taken to mentor him.

There are so many recent high school grads out there. I will tell you all what I told my brother. If you're going to major in business, don't just pick general business administration. Instead, pick a specialty. As a business major, you'll be exposed to all aspects of business (finance, accounting, marketing, business law, economics, human resources). Getting a business administration degree is fine, except that you graduate feeling a little lost. You don't know where to start looking for a job.

My advice is this. During your years in undergrad, intern within all aspects of business--or pay close attention to classes that really peak your interest. If you're finding that you're not so great at accounting, then maybe that's not for you. But with trial and error, you'll find where you're best suited.

Another piece of advice, even if you don't chose marketing, understand social media and be able to execute a social media plan. Consumers are taking to social media. Business grads need to understand social media, how it impacts the bottom dollar, and how to work using social media as a business. Social media is used for customer service and marketing.

My last piece of advice for business majors  is to utilize social media for networking. Don't think your Facebook account is enough. Create and maintain a LinkedIn profile and Twitter account. Google+ is on the rise with communities. Join them and stay active. I've gotten clients and job offers all because I'm active on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Here's some food for thought. I didn't get my undergrad degree in business. I got it in English. To be successful in business, you don't always go the traditional route. As it turns out, I use my BA in English just as much as I use my MBA on a daily basis. English is a good minor by the way. Companies want to hire good communicators and writers. We're in high demand.