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Should your content generate leads or relationships – Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}

There are two content marketing camps. Should your content generate leads or relationships? A discussion of both views.

Source: Should your content generate leads or relationships – Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}

One of my digital marketing profs from Rutgers, Mark Schaefer, wrote this gem (although he writes a lot of gems).  I like his approach here–and it’s one that’s a big part of what I often say is the role of social media as well–is that content is to form relationships. You can generate lots of leads, but if those leads don’t turn into relationships, then they are worthless.  Social media, I’ve often argued, is one of the means of conversation in the relationship between customers/clients and providers.

What do you think about Mark’s take on this? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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The Power of Social Media: Chewbacca Edition

There’s a viral video that just came out that I just love, not only because it’s funny, but it appealed to the geek in me.  It’s a woman who bought a fun item for her own enjoyment, and was getting a kick out of how funny it was and how it made her laugh. What can I say? The Force was with her:

Watch here:

It’s a contagious video because it’s so silly, and as she said, it’s the simple joys of life that makes it worthwhile. She has so much fun with the mask, and you can’t help but laugh along with her. My husband and I were laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes.

But wait…did you catch that first part of the video? While she had not intended this to be a marketing video, this ended up being a great marketing video with great content. Where did she get that mask? She got it at a department store chain called Kohl’s.  And with this video going viral as quickly as it did, Kohl’s picked up on her video and this woman’s love of Star Wars, and essentially got free advertising! Not only that, but they took it a step further:

Kohl’s was smart! They not only picked up on her mention of the store and how she was a frequent customer, but also on how much one random item at the store brought her so much joy.  She had provided fantastic content that reflected well on the store! Fortunately for her, they recognized this, and did something nice by giving her all those gifts as a thank you.

Why do you think that Kohl’s did all that? As I said, they realized the value of this social content. It was all in the storytelling. People who love Star Wars items–and there are lots of them–would especially relate to this story. Even people who didn’t like Star Wars would get a good laugh from watch this woman play with her mask.  Kohl’s wasn’t selling anything directly by posting these videos.  (Although when I played the videos later, I did see some marketing overlays trying to sell the masks at Kohl’s did pop up, but it was still after the fact.) They did show, in showing their appreciation to the woman, that there were lots of other Star Wars things they sold as a means of indirect selling. Kohl’s showed that they appreciated the value of her sharing her good experience not only with finding her mask, but that she wasn’t discouraged because she had to return some items simply because of sizing issues, and she still found something else she liked. They showed the value of a satisfied customer, which has more value than almost any other kind of marketing or advertising. The gifts were even intended, if you think about it, as a way of keeping her as a value customer.

Chewbacca and Han Solo
“Chewie, this is content marketing through social media at its best.”
“RAWWR!”

This is a great example of the power of social media through content and content marketing. The woman was simply sharing her experiences on video through her Facebook account, the video went viral, and as a result, she received all these gifts from the store itself to ensure that she continues to be a valued customer.  Kohl’s found appropriate content from a customer that I’m sure will be helping to boost sales for a bit–at least with the Star Wars merchandise–for a while. I’m sure she never expected the attention that she’s gotten, but due to the Kohl’s gift, she extremely glad she shared it!

You never know where good content will come from. This is a great example to show that it can come from anywhere if you have the opportunity to make it or appreciate it.

What do you think of this event? Include your comments below.

 

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What was TechCommGeekMom’s 2015 Top of the Pops?

Florence and The Machine think that TechCommGeekMom's Top of the Pops 2015 is smashing. (Source: telegraph.co.uk)
Florence and The Machine think that TechCommGeekMom’s Top of the Pops 2015 is smashing. (Source: telegraph.co.uk)

I always find it interesting to see what stories people end up gravitating to each year on TechCommGeekMom, and along with other year-end summaries, I like to figure out what were the most popular blog posts for a given year. Sometimes, it’s something that’s archived from an earlier year. That’s good, because I try to write or post things that will have long-term relevance as often as possible.  However, I’m usually interested in what was written THIS year that came out to be the most popular of all original information posted that wasn’t an archived post or a curated topic posted.

So, this year’s “Top of the Pops” for 2015 are:

  1. WHEW! Dodged a bullet on that one.
  2. What’s my value as a technical communicator?
  3. More localization and user-friendly features in the new Framemaker 2015
  4. Oh, the Academian and the Practitioner should be friends…Engaging TechComm Professionals
  5. Move over, Google Glass! HoloLens is here!
  6. Online Student Again – Part 3: Social Media Marketing–Now You’re Talking My Language!
  7. Online Student Again: Part 1
  8. Ready to learn tech comm or instructional design in 2015? Check these out…
  9. Stage 2 of non-pudding brain: It’s official. I’m a student again.
  10. It’s easy being a consultant? Think again!
  11. Weight Loss is like Content Strategy, Part 2: It needs to be Agile

What’s interesting to observe from a statistical perspective is that the top three almost tied for first place–#1 has one more view than the next two, which are tied.

I’m also pleased to see that most of my most popular posts this year were ones that came from the heart, based on personal experiences or observations. I’ve often argued that social media is a medium in which people discussed things and could more closely relate to each other because there is the ability to have more personal experiences and have the opportunity to connect and respond. The fact that many of these top blog posts relating to my job woes, trying to provide DIY training for myself, and trying to take positive steps towards the continual advancing of my career are relatable topics–that I’m not the only one going through these feelings and experiences. I almost always try to open up conversations with my blogs–for better or worse–and the reflection of the top original posts for 2015 reflect that.

The last one I listed was something personal that I wanted to include. This showed a big part of my weight loss and self-improvement journey I’m on right now. I’m still on that journey, having made a bold move in the last few weeks (something that I may write about soon, but not yet). I was glad to see that truly personal topics matters, and that even when relating it to something in technical communications, people responded positively towards it. My weight loss journey is a deeply personal one, and something that I don’t have to share, but I do, simply because I think all of us can relate to a non-tech comm struggle like that easily.

What will 2016 bring? Stay tuned…plans, resolutions, and predictions coming soon!

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Online Student Again, Part 8: Online Customer Acquisition – Accio Customers!

With a wave of his wand, Harry Potter cried, "Accio Customers!"
“Accio Customers!” — Harry Potter
(Supposedly, it’s not magic, though.)

As of the end of this module, my mini-MBA course is now three-quarters of the way done! I’m glad it’s getting towards the end since it’s been a while since I squeezed in a course into my busy schedule.

This week’s topic was about online customer acquisition. Staci Smollen Schwartz taught this section. She was formerly the VP of digital marketing at Virgin Mobile, and now is an independent consultant for the Interactive Advertising Bureau. I found that much of this module took elements of all the prior sections so far, picking out elements that were meant to provide the best customer experience and provide what customers needed.

Ms. Smollen Schwartz began by talking about the offline versus the online experience– what entices customers to buy online versus offline? Some sites will direct you to brick-and-mortar, some will have you shop online retailer, and some will sell direct.

The foundation for how customers are driven towards products via websites has to do with the path towards awareness, to consideration, to conversion, followed up by engagement. Ms. Smollen Schwartz demonstrated this by presenting many different kinds of ads and having the class try to determine what part of the path were the ads and banner ads as calls to action.

She discussed various tactics to bring about the conversion. Offline tactics are meant to drive you towards digital, and can include QR codes, vanity URLs, using the Shazam app to listen to commercials that will drive you to a website, and hashtags. Product placement within website can occur too, just like on TV or radio. There are also brand experience apps to consider, such as an app doesn’t sell the product but the experience. The example used was the Weber Grills app, which provided recipes and grilling techniques instead of shopping for a Weber Grill. Another examples were branded microsites like Sherwin-Williams Chip-It browser plug-in or app, and YouTube videos and channels that talks about the experience rather than the product.

Naturally, you need to figure out how the measure the awareness through reach, engagement, favorability, and re-marketing capabilities. Search Engine Marketing is important, because while relevancy in organic search is big, you also need to know how buying keywords for paid search can make a difference provided that you can bid high enough on the rights to that keyword in the paid search. You can also use product listing ads, daily data feeds from retailers (images, SKUs, price), and CPC price   – can be made and used similarly to paid search, but with product specifics

Affiliate Marketing is another tactic. It’s similar to advertising, but instead of getting a slotted space, you get a percentage based on clicks to conversions. RetailMeNot is a good example of affiliate marketing with their coupon codes. Amazon actually has the longest running affiliate program–since 1996! (Where do I sign up?) This strategy is often used on smaller sites like blogs.  Commission Junction and LinkShare are others that are affiliate marketing networks. Re-marketing in online ads is marketing to people who have already been exposed to your website or banner ad at least once. The premise is that you look at an ad, and then next day, you see similar ads everywhere, like on Facebook, Yahoo, etc.

Behavioral targeting in online ads involves marketing to people who demonstrate an affinity to your brand or category, without necessarily every having been to your website or seen a prior ad. Third party data companies see cookies for certain things, and based on those purchases and views, they can figure out what likes might be. AdChoices is a common third-party company which is an initiative that tries to educate and be transparent in doing behavioral targeting while keeping government rules out, and provide an easy opt-out.

Enhanced targeting is often paired with custom creative, such as setting up a modular ad in which, based on the cookie data, can switch up info for the ad on the fly to customize and personalize it for the user.

Email marketing is a proven and efficient online acquisition tactic. Shoppers overwhelmingly report that promotional emails tend to be their preferred method of communication with a company, and often cited as second biggest influence on a website visit.

Social media marketing is something that brands are still experimenting and seeing how this works because it’s still new. At least one-third of all shoppers say their purchases are influenced by social media, as “likes” and “dislikes” are often posted about a retailer that can influence the brand.

It was at this point that Ms. Smollin Schwartz gave us some formulas on how e-commerce conversions happen.

1) Total site conversion rate (%) =# of orders / # of visits X 100

2) Upper conversion rate (%) (This would be the awareness, consideration, and conversion) = # of orders added to the online shopping cart/#visits X 100

3) Lower conversion rate (%) (engagement) = # of completed purchases/#orders added to cart X 100

Tactics for driving upper conversion include recommendations and personalization; A/B testing, multivariate testing (variations of the same thing in different configurations) created on the fly for best performance, site search,virtual sales agents (live chat), and social commerce (negative reviews are best, because you can decide if the worst thing about that product is something you can live with).

Tactics for driving lower funnel conversion include incentives, like free shipping or accelerated shipping if ordered by a certain time, pricing incentives, alleviations to security and privacy concerns, and accepting PayPal instead of credit cards.

Shopping cart abandonment is about 71%, and this is usually due to customer shipping concerns or the customer is not ready to purchase. Some will take advantage of that, and re-market the shopping cart information for abandoned items in carts and promote a discount in order to fulfill the purchase process.

Driving cross-channel conversion is another online tactic, in which companies provide store locators, in-store pickup options, or even cross-channel prompts (allows the customer to click to call to finish the sale).

Engagement after the sale is important, because customer acquisition doesn’t stop after the initial sale.  The progression of customer engagement starts with inactive customers, then moves towards active customers, to participating customers, who eventually can become product evangelists who bring in more prospects. Building engagement and loyalty is confirmation marketing, which is done through community building, packaging and loyalty programs. Referral marketing is part of this engagement, in which incentives are used such as one customer’s referral code is used by another customer, and the original customer gets an incentive to get a reward too. This works similarly to affiliate marketing.

Ms. Smollen Schwartz summarized the online customer acquisition process with her “Key Tactical Lessons throughout the Customer Journey”, which were:

  • It is helpful to think about tactics in terms of a consumer decision framework of awareness/consideration/conversion/engagement, integration of offline, online, mobile and social, and often circular pathways.
  • Tools, tactics, and metrics differ depending on a customer’s stage along the decision pathway, nature of your product and industry, and your budget allocation.
  • Look at the key drivers of e-commerce and digital-influences sales, including the success of traffic-driving tactics, upper and lower conversion rates, ways of measuring cross-channel sales impact, engagement, and repurchase.

Before I took this module, I thought this might be an easier topic for me to understand, but this was a harder section for me to get through. I think it’s because much of this was deeper marketing than I was experienced with, and it centered around consumer product examples. While I understood the consumer product examples, I had a hard time envisioning how I might convert this same information easily for a B2B service model. Everything given was very commercial product related. The information was very dry, so while it was evident that Ms. Smollin Schwartz knows her stuff, for me personally it was tougher to get through this information. I will say that a few examples she provided proved to be well-explained, so I could see that I had already participated in some of these tactics at some point, like affiliate marketing. I could also relate to all the consumer examples she gave from my consumer perspective. Envisioning how to parlay this information into a means of promoting the potential new business I’m thinking of starting…well, that question wasn’t answered as clearly as it was on how to promote and sell a consumer product.  Even getting through the quiz– it took me several tries before I got a good result. It gave me agita like the SEO information did again.

It looks like I will definitely have to attend the virtual office hour for this module, because I need to have a better grasp of how this information translates into acquiring customers for services that are not B2C (business to consumer), but B2B as well. For all I know, more subtle tactics are used.  So for now, a good part of this topic still eludes me.

The next module will be about web analytics and ROI (return on investment). I understand on a broad level what those are, and I’ve used some elementary analytics to help me understand how webpages perform on a website, but not much beyond that, so this will prove to be interesting.

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Online Student Again – Part 3: Social Media Marketing–Now You’re Talking My Language!

social-networksThe next module of my online digital mini-MBA in Digital Marketing was about social media marketing. Simply from the name of it, I suspected that I had a better chance with this topic than I had with search marketing. I took a look at the slides and completed the pre-reading assignments, and sure enough, I understood ALL of it.  Why? Because I’ve entrenched myself into social media from the beginning of my tech comm career, and it’s why you are reading this article. It’s all about how to use social media for promotion and starting the conversation with your readers through the use of meaningful content.

I was lucky that I had a great course on the theory and practices of social media at NJIT, which I still refer to in presentations and still greatly affects me to this day. That course was what started this blog, after all! I learned many of these marketing concepts through trial and error over the last three years.

There were so many concepts that easily clicked for me, which included what I’ve been struggling to get people to understand not only from a social media perspective, but from a content strategy perspective as a whole! It seems that most of the issues from a corporate level stem from a cultural standpoint, and that corporate culture is not willing to evolve and change with the times! There are other complications, but that’s the primary one. I know from working with several companies, I’ve seen this often. There’s some progress, but it’s not the progress that I would recommend. (But I’m a consultant at the bottom of the food chain, so I know I don’t have a chance to be heard anytime soon.)

The biggest part of this module that I agreed with entirely was that social media is not another type of media along the lines of singularly directional TV, radio, or print. Social media is SOCIAL, people, so it’s about that two-way communication that I wrote about in my last blog post. The instructor for this module of the course, Mark Schaefer, is the author of several books on the subject and has been in marketing for 30+ years, and discussed much of what I’ve come to understand on my own! He went into deeper detail of it all, but he talked about the idea of creating strategies that create relevant content that connects. He said that we are already experiencing content overload, and the key is figuring out how to filter the relevant content that connects people to each other. It’s no longer B2B (Business to Business), but rather P2P (Person to Person).  Mr. Schaefer is also the author of Tao of Twitter where he provides insights on how Twitter can be used effectively–and ineffectively–for content marketing.  As students of this course, we all received a digital copy of the book. Based on how this module went, I definitely plan to read this! (Perhaps I’ll do a TechCommGeekMom Book Review about it as soon as I finish it.)

This time, I got 100% on my quiz on the first try.  So many of the concepts in this module were easy for me, I think simply because there was such a strong connection between content strategy and social media concepts that I already knew or learned on my own in the last few years, either from experience or from various presentations I’ve seen at conferences (Intelligent Content Conference is a great example–did you see that discount there on the right side bar? If it’s still there, take advantage of it! It’s a very good conference on this very topic!)  After last week’s struggles with Search Marketing, I was relieved that this module, while truly packed with a lot of information, was much more my speed and less confusing.

I know Rutgers offers another mini-MBA program that is solely on social media marketing, and I’m sure that I’d like that very much, but I think I’ll wait and see how this mini-MBA goes first. I’m not sure that I necessarily need the social media marketing mini-MBA, but Mr. Schaefer said he teaches in that one, and if this module was a broad summary of the larger course, then I think I’d be okay!

The next module is something that I think I’ll have a pretty decent understanding of as well…mobile marketing! Y’all know that I love my mobile tech comm and m-learning, so I have a feeling that many of the concepts that will be brought up in this module will be familiar to me or easy to understand as well. Until the next module…