We’re All in This Together: Product Co-Creation

So, a few nights ago, I was watching High School Musical(HSM) with my roommate, and while I could have sworn the acting was better when I was 13, the ending number still hit me with a powerful message: We are all in this together.

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Tell me you didn’t sing that line…just try.

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Utilizing Paid Media to Perfect Your Marketing Triforce


Any Legend of Zelda fan knows of the legendary Triforce; golden sacred triangles left behind on Hyrule after the Golden Goddesses left. The Triforce of wisdom, courage and power when combined have the power to grant the wish of anyone who has an equal balance of the three in their heart. If someone does not have that balance however, the Triforce breaks apart, leaving the piece that best suits the person with them.  I believe this is a perfect parallel to explain the current imbalance of marketing today. Trends have been popping up for marketers to bandwagon on and take advantage of for their own strategies. The latest one just so happens to be inbound marketing. While it is very important to be engaging with your customers, a talk on Thursday from Content Harmony’s Kane Jamison had me pondering something: With everyone jumping on the social media and content marketing wagon, how are we now to differentiate ourselves in an over saturated trend? The answer is in our roots; Paid Media.

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Content Marketing: 3 Steps to Building a Relationship That Lasts

Businesses are starting to realize the power of content marketing, as consumers are no longer being influenced by traditional, intrusive messaging. With an estimated 60% of businesses employing inbound marketing last year, it is safe to say that the consumers have spoken. Besides being a better experience for readers, content marketing has become the best way to increase SEO rankings, find leads, and build a strong audience. 

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Uncle Ben’s Advice for Understanding Social Privacy

Uncle Ben was one of my great heroes growing up. He was right up there with Batman, Wonder Woman, and Mickey Mouse. However short his life was in the Spider-Man series, his legacy, and teachings was what helped create the Spider-Man we all know and love today.

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With Great Power…

Now how does this apply to you? With the internet being, well, the internet, privacy seems to be more of a luxury than a right. Anything you post can be found, and information given over the internet has the potential of being stolen via hackers (the bad kind, not like growth hackers). This article by Bloomberg Business week says it best,

Adults have long warned kids that if they weren’t careful, questionable behavior would end up on their permanent record. Over the decades, that record has become larger, more searchable, and more available to the public. “-Felix Gillette, Business Week 2013

Let’s dig a little deeper into what privacy means for people. According to this New York Times article, “It’s understanding what happens to your data, and having the ability to control it.” With data being freely given through social media, it seems easy to just get the data you want since it is so easy to access. Apps have used this data by sharing it in order to ‘help’ it’s users find anything from a store they are looking for, to potential dates in a nearby bar. However, having that amount of information out for everyone to see, can be extremely creepy; and really annoying.

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Check out this social media experiment done by Jack Vale.

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He got all that information from Instagram alone! Should being social have to mean giving up your privacy rights? Where do you define the line of personalization and “creep factor”?

 

…Comes Great Responsibility

So with all these weary consumers not wanting to share information on the net, how can you, as a marketer, help ease their worries while taking their information? This is where the second half of Uncle Ben’s advice comes in; “responsibility.”  There are quite a few measures you can take to make sure that consumers aren’t feeling creeped out with all the data you are supposedly collecting.

1. Have Users Opt-In: While Spiderman doesn’t usually ask before saving someone, as a company, and a smart marketer, you should. Building a relationship with a consumer is just like building any other relationship: it starts with trust. Make sure the consumer feels comfortable with sharing information with you, and know that you will guard that information with your life. Don’t be like those creepy dating apps that just share your information with the world, ask and then execute. It makes everyone feel more comfortable.

2. Be An Open Book: Let users know what you are collecting and why. The one thing I love about Paypal is that not only do I know they have a lot of encryption software to safeguard my information, they ask me every step of the way if I am sure I want to share a certain tidbit of information. They then explain why they need that information, and what they do with it.  i feel safer because I know why they need my information, and I know exactly what they are using. Snap Chat was able to target this peculiar situation of privacy by allowing someone to see an image or video for only 10 seconds before it is destroyed, making an erasable social media.

3. When your users go, so does their data: Don’t have your users be afraid to delete an app or profile to your business because of the data you have accumulated. Once they are gone, their personal data is as well. Data is constantly changing, and you don;t need to hang on to personal information about a long gone client. Instead, you should focus on why they left.

Ultimately, being given this vast amount of information about people is a big responsibility on your shoulders, and being open, and honest is the best policy to making sure your clients feel safe sharing their information, whether organically or via a social media channel, with you.

yadidgood
“You did good, kid” Wouldn’t you like to hear this from your customers?

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Growth Hack:Building An Audience with No Marketing

Le gasp! A marketing blog talking about a no marketing strategy for businesses? Say it isn’t so!

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It will all become clear soon my friends. I am going to be talking about one of the buzziest buzz words out there in the business world; growth hacking. To get started, here are a few synonyms I found for it:

  • ninja
  • super marketer
  • Hustler
  • rock star

Thoroughly confused? Let me break down what growth hacking is, and why as a marketer, you should know about this.

What is Growth Hacking?

Sean Ellis, the guy who coined the term “growth hacker” explains it best this way,

“A growth hacker is a person whose ‘true north’ is growth.”

My favorite description comes from a Mashable article I read this week, “growth hacking has marketing goals, driven by product instincts.” So you can all breathe, I am still talking about marketing. You’ve heard of the term ‘lean start up’? Well growth hacking is the ultimate lean start up marketer. The soul purpose of growth hacking is to build up the audience of start ups.  Here’s the kicker though: growth hacking ISN’T marketing. At least not in the traditional sense. They are, in a way, a specialist marketer focused on growth alone; using whatever means necessary. That means using A/B testing, website analytics, API integration, among other means to get to the users. Growth hacking is responsible for how things like Facebook, Dropbox, and StumpleUpon got there impressive amount of users.

The reason growth hacking works is because of a little thing called Product Market Fit. This is making a product that is designed to fit a specific need for a very targeted audience. You are testing and tweaking that product until you find the perfect fit for that audience. Personalization at it’s finest. A great example of growth hacking is Zynga, a gaming startup that was one of the first to integrate with Facebook’s API.  Remember all those Farmville requaests and updates you’d see from friends on Facebook? That would be the work of Zynga’s growth hackers. 

AirBnb, a housing rental company, had their growth hackers ‘hack’ Craigslist, and have people who list their space on their site, also have an option to list it on craigslist. 10s of millions of users that they were able to gain access to, for a fraction of the cost. They were able to steer people from Craigslist to their site and boom! New users acquired.

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Other startups who have used hacked their way to new users are:

  • Pinterest: with a staggering 70 million users, Pinterest’s “insta-follow” and easy integration where you can ‘pin’ anything on the web, has helped it to grow to one of the top social networks.
  • Spotify: Thanks to their integration with Facebook (they were one of the first), Spotify has been able to gain new users everyday; currently 24 million are active users.

Growth hacking is obviously not the only way to gain an audience; inbound marketing, SEO, among other techniques in a traditional marketing strategy can work just fine for companies.  Like Sean Ellis said, growth marketing isn’t a replacement for marketing, nor is it ‘better’. It is simply different than marketing. Meaning, you can use marketing tactics in tandem with growth hacking. Please note though that growth hacking works best seems to work best for start up tech companies that are looking to gain the largest audience as possible. Can you imagine McDonald’s using a growth hack strategy like Zynga? Neither can I. Always remember this with anything I post: it ALL goes back to your strategy, and what your goals are.

How You Can Do It

What does this mean for marketers. If you are looking to get into start ups, you need to be able to:

Get technical: Kind of a given, but you don’t want to think in the traditional marketing sense. The internet opens up thousands of opportunities, so you need to think more technical. Here is a great quote that captures how society has shifted,

“Instead of roads that lead up to local movie theaters, we choose to browse Youtube.”–The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking, 2013

Being a part of the product creation, marketers need to look at each aspect of the product, and tweak the product in order to reach the greatest amount of people. This means knowing web analytics, product engineering, and utilizing a lot of creativity.

Know When Less is More: This tip comes from Kissmetrics; if you are utilizing growth hacking, more than likely people aren’t entering your site from your homepage. It will be some page shared from friends, or from some page you have SEO’d the crap out of. When these potential users get interested in you and click to get to your homepage, you want to get them signed up as quickly as possible. To do that you don’t need a complicated website. Look at Tumblr:

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No home screen, no videos, nothing fancy, just a login/signup page. However, if you have seen any of those famous gifs or tumblr posts that have been circulating on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Buzzfeed, you would need to sign in in order to see the full post. They have roughly 30-50 million users.

Think you would like to be a growth hacker? Think growth hacking is over rated? Let me know in the comments below!

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Now Accepting Mobile: Payment by Phone Hit or Miss?

I have always been fascinated with how quickly our society adopts new practices as technology opens new doors for us. I have been tracking the Google and Apple watches, and let me just say that as someone who grew up envious of the Power Ranger watch communicators, I will be one of the first to get one of these things. Something else that has been gaining attention by businesses and consumers is this shift to dependence on our phones. Because of this, retailers are trying out different methods of accepting accounts via our phone, as payment.

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No I’m serious. Garter predicts that mobile payments will surpass $235 billion in 2013. This article here, predicts that in the next 3-5 years, 50% of transactions will be mobile. In addition to money, mobile devices on us literally 24/7. I know that I get fidgety whenever my phone is more than 3 feet away from me. So why not use it to make purchases as well? Businesses also benefit because you are able to gather more information from your customers to use for personalization marketing strategies (cough database marketing cough).These are all promising points, but is mobile really becoming a mainstream mode of transaction? Are we ready to allow our phone, our most precious gadget, to become our wallet as well?

Types of Mobile Payment Options

Lets start by looking into the different types of mobile payments methods:

1. Near Field Communications

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You recognize this nifty scanner pictured above? That would be an example of near field communication (NFC) mobile payment.You link the phone either to a Google Wallet account (tied to your bank or credit card), to an NFC credit card account (like Mastercard PayPass), or to an Isis account (tied to your mobile phone billing), then tap a terminal at the checkout to pay.   Certain devices, mainly Android and Blackberry phones ( no Iphone? Whaaat?), have NFC capabilities. What’s cool about this is that businesses who accept NFC payments, pay lower interchange fees, which in turn can lower some prices for consumers since that “swipe fee” isn’t driving prices up. While this seems like a cool, futuristic way to pay, that seems to be it’s only selling point.  According to Garter, while in 2017 they forecasts $450 billion users will make mobile payments, only 5% of those payments will be from NFC.  Also, in order to use NFC, you would need to have one of the specific phone with NFC, and I wouldn’t pick one phone over the other only because of it’s NFC capability. Perhaps if NFC was more widely used, it would justify leaving the house without cash or credit card. 

2. Brand Specific Apps

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This is my personal favorite of the mobile payment types. Like I discussed in my previous post, apps seem to have been the way to go when it comes to alternative payments. With an app, consumers are able to input credit card info and “load” money on the app for in-store payments.  This benefits “regulars” the most; by combining the payment functionality with apps that track purchases and reward loyalty, they can go to their favorite shop without needing a wallet.  Best example? Starbucks app. Starbucks has been the pioneer in mobile app payments; by using their mobile app to connect with their loyalty program, it prompts users to use their phones over a card whenever they make a Starbucks run. 

3.Payment Apps

Smartphone buy application

As opposed to using a specific store app, companies like Square and Paypal allow you to store money in their accounts, and use their apps to pay for things like a digital wallet. Stores that offer payment by app either let you key in your mobile phone number and a pin or use location data captured by your phone, in which case the phone will generate a QR code to be scanned at the register. LevelUp, another front runner in the mobile wallet race, actually does this buy using QR codes to allow consumers to pay for items in stores. They also connect this payment option with a loyalty program, ensuring a steady amount of customers use that payment method. It seems to be working too, since over 3,800 retailers nationwide use LevelUp.  While stores still need special equipment or merchant accounts to run these, the credit card processing fees are cheaper for businesses, and opens up transactions to those who prefer their online account over a bank account.

So let’s tally up our score shall we?

Hits

-Cheaper Card processing fees

-More integration with a tool you use all the time anyways

-Easier way to store information of customers for database marketing

Misses

-Security 

-External Equipment

-Doesn’t Solve a Pressing Problem

My Opinion: While I believe mobile payments are logically the next step in our technological adoption, I don’t think we can call it mainstream just yet. The main problem with mobile payments is that it’s not necessarily “solving” anything pressing. I mean, how difficult is it to swipe a card?People mainly connect mobile payments with web transactions. I would rather, for example, pay for something online through an app or mobile website, as opposed to using it at a physical place. That’s what cards are for. I think mobile payments have their place, but only when tied with something else at this point and time. Now as far as using mobile payment equipment in a business setting, i think there is a market there. Lean start-ups may not have the money at the beginning to afford processing hardware, which is where companies like the ones mentioned would be of benefit. Square actually just came out with a Square Stand, which is a sleek, light weight replacement of the cash register, that takes away the card reader, and allows for more accurate card reading and expanded business operations such as inventory, and analytics for I-pads.

I had asked opened up a discussion on my Facebook account asking what people thought of using mobile for payments, and here were some of their thoughts:

” I don’t!! Too much can be accessed through cell phones. And are we really turning so lazy that we can’t carry wallets now? Businesses obviously want is to download google wallet or a Starbucks paying app to increase loyalty but I don’t think they are necessary from a consumer perspective at all. An advantage: while dangerous to put that stuff on your phone, might also be a better alternative to losing your card somewhere”

“Love love love paying with my Starbucks app and I am counting the days i can leave my wallet at home and pay for everything on my phone.”

“Our phone or any other mobile device is vulnerable to attack in public places – it’s extremely easy for you to get hacked by someone, especially in a store over WiFi. I’d advise against it – just use your card or plain old cash.”

“As a Starbucks employee, it is very helpful when people don’t have to rustle through purses (coats, pants pockets, etc) in order to pay. It’s very convenient for us and people who are almost always holding their phone in line anyway.”

What do you think of mobile payments? Do you use mobile? Where have you gone recently that accepts mobile?  Discuss with me what you think!

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Debunking 5 Myths about Database Marketing

In last week’s post, I talked about how A/B testing helps you optimize conversions, and how SQL can help you with database marketing. This week, I decided to delve a little deeper and talk about how database marketing has helped unveil the mystery of customer behavior to better target leads for business.

Database marketing has been tossed around a bit, and honestly, I was a bit confused when I went looking for a definition. Here is the best I found:

Database marketing is a process of identifying, collecting, and analyzing significant information from all sources, internal and external, about your customers, leads and prospects to drive strategic marketing and sales decisions.” –Market Data Retrieval

It’s a pretty broad concept. So it makes sense that a lot of people seem to think database is out of their reach, because of all the work that seems to be involved with it. I am hoping to debunk some of those woes with this list I compiled of the biggest myths I had heard about database marketing, and how it can be one of the best benefits to your marketing strategy.

1.  I can’t do database marketing, it’s too expensive!

InTheMoney

Database marketing shouldn’t be seen as an added expense, but rather an investment. You know that expression, “nothing is ever free?” It applies here too. You can’t give nothing and get something in return. My tip? Look at your marketing strategy and see what will give you the best ROI. When you crunch the numbers, I think you will see database marketing is something that would be of benefit to you.

2. Database Marketing Takes Too Much Time

This one never made too much sense to me. Database marketing isn’t a gimmick or fad; it’s a proven marketing strategy that will help you make the best decisions for your business to reach customers. In order to have an effective marketing campaign, you need to take the time to coordinate the best strategy possible. Having live data to derive your knowledge of your market from is the basis you can have to crafting your marketing strategy. One of the best examples I have seen of database marketing is during the presidential election of 2012. In Obama’s reelection campaign, many said it would go down in history because he changed the course of how politicians can appeal to their audience. No longer were they talking to everyone with one broad message; instead they took a page out of the Marketing 101 textbook and started doing database marketing. I remember my mom and me getting an email from Michelle Obama, while my dad got some from President Obama, and rarely the First Lady. In this display of database marketing, the Obama campaign was finding the best point to persuade each of their supporters to help raise money for his campaign budget.

3. Database marketing can only be used for Email

Email

I think people misunderstand that database marketing can be used for more than just ‘personalization’, though that most definitely is the one of the most recognized benefits of it. Database marketing isn’t focused on just segmentation for putting your customer’s name on an email template; it’s live data that can be used to make effective marketing decisions across your entire campaign. A great example of this is once again the Obama Administration. They used their data to see where to place ads. Instead of traditional local TV programming, the campaign bought ads during popular show times such as Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, according to this Times article. That same article goes on to say that they were able to buy 14% more efficiently. Another use for database marketing is for predictive modeling; heck, Hollywood is doing it. We may not have to deal with movie flops ever again thanks to database modeling!

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4. You can make multiple campaigns from one instance of data

Database marketing, like other marketing strategies, isn’t just a one-time deal. This white paper from Srividya Sridharan talks about how, “personalization is a process, not an outcome,” meaning customer data isn’t static. You can’t just look at past purchasing data and personalize to customers based on that data alone. Personalization gets better when you refine it as new data comes in.  If anything, the opposite is the truth. You can make one solid campaign from several pieces of data. Orbitz for example, was able to identify one in for their campaign: Mac users tend to spend more on hotels than PC users. So when they sort  hotels for Mac users, they show them the pricier hotels first before anything else.

5. If I let my customers see I know everything about them, they’ll love me!

no-no-no

Yea..no. While you do want to gather as much relevant information as you can about your customers, using all that information for one database marketing campaign is irrational, and very creepy.  You want to be sure that your database marketing doesn’t freak out your customers. I read an article here about a man who created a program that allowed Target to send coupons to expectant mothers in their second trimester. As it turns out, a father wasn’t too pleased when his teen daughter received a baby coupon book, only to apologize later when he realized that she was indeed pregnant. Not only was that awkward, but pretty freaky as well. Just because you have all this information, doesn’t mean you have to use all of it on your customers. With great power, comes great responsibility. Think of it this way: would you like if you are just walking to work, when some random guy comes up to you and gives you coupons for babies because he’s been tracking your reproductive cycle? I didn’t think so.

So you see, database marketing isn’t this big scary tool that requires you to be a genius, you just need to know where it will serve you best in your company. Database marketing works when you are subtle about it, and work it into your overall marketing campaign, much like other strategies.

Have an example of database marketing that worked really well(or really bad) for you? How have you used databbase marketing to your advantage? Let me know!

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Stop Guessing, Start Optimizing

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.“-Morpheus, The Matrix

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With such a big decision ahead of him, wouldn’t it have been nice if Neo knew which pill would have been best for him? While Neo didn’t have that option, we in marketing do with an optimization strategy called “A/B testing”.

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Inbound Marketing: For the Self-Informed Consumer

We live in a DIY society. Broke your  bike? Go to Youtube to see how to fix it. Want to try a new hair gel? Go hit the forums for reviews and suggestions. Let’s face it: the age of telemarketing and direct mail campaigns has ebbed in the last decade or so. Thanks to the power of the Internet, people have become self reliant on finding information they need on new products; the constant bombardment of broad promotional material is no longer relevant. Our job as marketers is no longer  to find new leads, but to help leads find our company. This is why knowing about inbound marketing is so important; we are targeting our ideal audience with relevant content that acknowledges their problem, and gives them solutions. 

What is Inbound Marketing?

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There are a multitude of other blogs, reports and videos on a definition, but Marketo’s really lays it out for you by saying it’s, “the process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.”

In short: it’s bringing customers who are looking for you, to you. It’s all very personalized, and is what consumers like because you are catering to them, not just talking at them. Example: Search Engine Optimization. I talk about it a lot in this post. 

Here are what marketing professionals had to say about inbound marketing in an article on Scalable Sociable Media:

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In 2013, 60% of companies were implementing inbound marketing according to HubSpot; I’d like to see how many companies they interviewed to get that number, but I digress. What really matters is that consumers are responding better to the content-intensive marketing those companies used, with 82% of marketers who blog saw an increase in ROI.

There is also an infographic that actually is a great example of Inbound Marketing here for Stark Inbound Marketing  that gives a very clear definition of the strategy, and how it can really benefit you while promoting their agency. I personally think Inbound Marketing should be one of the strategies that stays in-house though, because you are the one who knows your customer, and customers should be building relationships and trust with your company; not the agency you outsource it to. Isn’t that the whole purpose of inbound marketing?

Bring In the Justice League

Most companies seem to think that Inbound Marketing is a super hero. There are tons of articles that champion its ability to get through the consumer’s “anti-marketing” shield, and advise to put all your marketing efforts into it. While inbound marketing is a fantastic strategy, it works best when aligned with the rest of your company’s  marketing mix. Marketo’s article mentions how to amplify the effects of your inbound marketing to gain even greater successThink of your marketing mix as the Justice League. You have all these strategies that work well on their own, but together, can benefit your company 10x more than they ever could individually. Inbound Marketing needs to be a part of your Justice League in order to be of most value to you.

In my opinion, I am surprised it took us this long to start using Inbound marketing as a part of our strategy. It all seems like common sense to want to build relationships with your customers. That’s how human beings make friends, it seems logical to do business that way as well.

Do you agree with Inbound Marketing being the next generation of marketing techniques? Which superhero do you think it would be in the Justice League?
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SEO: What’s the Big Deal?

Almost every marketing class mentions it. Every marketing blog I subscribe to talks about it, and almost every company I have been interested in recommends you know how to do it.  The Internet has come a long way since Netscape in 1994. People spend more time online than anything else; 78.9% of people online in the world is from America alone. This is why companies have thrown all their marketing efforts into digital marketing, and are looking for people who are masters at tackling the wizardry that is search engines. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has become the pinnacle of internet marketing. If you aren’t using SEO, you aren’t taking full advantage of the marketing potential the internet has. But why is it so popular? Do we really need this? Let’s find out.

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