Marketing

Obsess Over Existing Customers

Companies are often hyper-focused on growth. It strikes me as misguided. Sure, you need to acquire brand new customers, but you should not forget about retention (getting your current customers to come back)

I’ve been in situations where we would bleed customers. We’d pump crazy budgets into getting more & more new customers. Rather than focus on retention and solving the root cause of why we were bleeding customers, we focused on vanity metrics, like how many users we got by throwing promo codes (free money) at them. These hoards of new users never stayed for long; they bounced once they had their first terrible, all too common, experience. Plus we alienated our small but mighty crew of power users, who were never rewarded with a nice discount or ‘thank you’ for their loyalty. 

The customers you already have took time and money to acquire. Go invest in their experience. You don’t have to “sell” them on your company; they literally already bought it. By designing an experience that creates brand affinity and rewards loyalty, you have the chance to make them life-long (very valuable) customers. 

Some signs you are doing it wrong

  • If you reward new sign ups with discounts and perks but don’t do something to reward long-time loyalty. 
  • If you pump money into new customer acquisitions but haven’t dug into why most churn.
  • If you haven’t looked at the small subset of very successful, long-time customers, and asked: “Why are they doing so well?” “What makes this group different?”
  • If you don’t talk to your power users and brand advocates. 

Signs that give me faith

  • I’ve seen a resurgence of the hand-written thank-you note.  
  • Focus on customer marketing, customer advocacy, and a realization that word-of-mouth and referrals are hugely valuable. 
  • Coupons and rewards for long-time users or high spenders. 
  • The focus on actual relationship building. Uniting the brand to the actual people who use it. 

What are you doing to invest in the people that are already rooting for your brand? 

Stop Relying on your Gut; Start A/B Testing

 I began my marketing career in college, writing social media updates and blog posts about financial planning. The creative writer inside of me was having fun–yes, even writing about money management can be exciting. The stats geek inside of me, however, was starved for attention. Thus, I was ready to do cartwheels when I first learned about A/B testing, and realized that marketing is not something just for the “creative types.” Sure, I love art journaling, blogging, singing and the like (I still dream of being part of a funky band one day) but that’s only part of me. I was relieved to learn that [good] marketing and data are closely intertwined.

My first post-college job, I was lucky to be surrounded by marketers that tested everything: emails, landing pages, site design, etc. These were true data-driven marketers. For them, gone were the days when they relied on gut feelings to create and optimize marketing campaigns. I wanted to be just like them and let data do the talking.

What is A/B testing? (aka split testing)

Smashing Magazine summed this up well in their Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing

“You have two versions of an element (A and B) and a metric that defines success. To determine which version is better, you subject both versions to experimentation simultaneously. In the end, you measure which version was more successful and select that version for real-world use.”

If you are a visual person, here is a lovely sketch from my notebook. It shows what a basic subject line test might look like. Please forgive my (lack of) drawing skills:

Also, please note that A/B testing is not the same thing a multivariate testing. A/B testing involves changing one variable at at time, while multivariate testing entails changing several variables at once. A multivariate test can be great too but you would need a lot more traffic for the results to be statistically significant. We’ll keep things simple for now.

email_testing

Many marketing campaigns are based on a hunch

Should our call-to-action button be orange or green? What is the best day of the week to send a newsletter? Is it a good idea to use “FREE” in the subject line? Should the subject line describe the contents of the email, or be fun and quirky? Should the email sender be an individual team member, or a generic company email? There are endless opportunities for testing, so here are several marketing tests and results to inspire you.

When it comes to marketing decisions, it’s best to rely on data, not assumptions. You may have a hunch that the prettiest landing page will get the most leads (and dollars) but you could very well be wrong. Have multiple variations in mind for a campaign? (ahem: of course you do). Now, A/B test it!

How to get started with A/B testing

First, check out this A/B Testing for Marketing Optimization Guide by HubSpot. Their crew is one of the best when it comes to content marketing and they put out helpful learning tools with actionable information.  

Once you are ready to get started, email subject line testing is good way to get your feet wet. It sure was in my case, at least. There are various subject line testing scenarios, but this was the extent of my split tests for the first month or so:

  1. Finalize copy for an email.
  2. Come up with three different subject lines (every other variable stays exactly the same).
  3. Send the three variations to a sample of 30% of subscribers. 10% gets subject A, 10% gets subject B, and 10% gets subject C.
  4. After 16 hours, pick a winner based on whatever defines “success.” This could be open rate, click-through-rate, conversions, or dollars. It depends on what you are trying to achieve for that specific email.
  5. Winning email goes out to the remaining 70% of subscribers.

A/B testing your next email

I have first-hand experience sending emails and conducting split testing through MarketoMailChimp, and SendGrid. Luckily, all three automated the testing process, automatically sending the “winning” email (based on my criteria) after the test-run was complete. Whatever email marketing tool you use, check out if A/B testing is a built-in feature. If not, it may be time to re-evaluate the way you manage email marketing.

Test entire site elements

Once you get a little more comfortable with the idea of A/B testing the small stuff you can experiment with testing entire site elements. Instead of changing up button colors or subject lines, you can test two radically different pages against one another. In this case, the two designs would be variables. This kind of testing can yield big improvements so it’s worth looking into split testing tools that can handle these kinds of experiments, before you get too caught up focusing on only small tweaks.

Now that you are convinced…

ResolutionMedia has a great step-by-step guide to split testing. Many A/B testing tools automate the process, but it’s still important to understand how to pick a sample size and acceptable confidence level, how long to run a test, what the criteria for picking a winner will be (and why), and whether the results are statistically significant or not.

Go forth my fellow data-driven marketers and get testing. Because not testing means losing out on leads and ultimately cash.

Harness the Psychology of Persuasion and Develop a Blogger Outreach Strategy

There has been a lot of buzz regarding the importance of blogger outreach. But getting your foot through the door with legitimate bloggers is not a task for the faint of heart; it should not be automated, and it takes time, resources, and persistence. Is blogger outreach worth the effort? You bet it is.

Why does blogger outreach matter?

As is the case with all forms of content marketing, it can be difficult to get buy-in from colleagues. Blogger outreach, like webinars, white papers, blogging, and other content strategies, is time intensive–results do not happen overnight. After all, bloggers are humans too, and developing genuine relationships takes time.

Yet, making the time to build these relationships within the blogosphere is well worth the effort.  Ignoring the ever-increasing role that bloggers play in marketing, is turning your back on the opportunity to build social proof for your product or service. Our job as marketers is to persuade our target audiences that our products are the best. Yet, how can we convince anyone we rock when we are the only ones saying so? Saying you rock isn’t cool; bloggers saying you rock, to an extremely engaged and qualified niche, is.

A crash course in the Principle of Social Proof

What is the first thing you do when evaluating a product or service? Perhaps you ask a friend if they have tried it? Or perhaps you search for testimonials and reviews? When I was asked by my manager to research Search Engine Optimization conferences I could attend as part of my professional development, the first thing I did was head over to the SEOMoz Community and search “SEO Conferences.” This community of extremely helpful “marketing geeks” was the most trustworthy place I could turn to. The recommendations on this forum felt authentic because they were organic and real conversations from objective individuals.

My need to seek out third-party validation before selecting an SEO conference is the tenant of social proof at play. Social proof, one of the six principles of persuasion as identified by Robert B. Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, “suggests that we tend to look to others to decide what to do, especially when we are uncertain about the correct behavior.” When in doubt, paying attention to what other people are saying and doing can have a powerful influence on us, especially if we perceive them to have a lot in common with us.

Having bloggers who are respected and influential within your industry endorse your company provides social proof that your product is the real deal. In fact, getting just one blogger to link back to your corporate site can provide SEO value for years to come. If you would like to get started with your blogger outreach strategy, I would recommend checking out  8 Tips for Blogger Outreach by the crew @Distilled. In time, you should be well on your way to building a network of bloggers who will be able to spread the good word about your products and services.

When it Comes to Hiring a Social Media Manager, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number

I am surprised by the amount of ageism going on when it comes to hiring a Social Media Manager. Between Cathryn Sloan’s, Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, and Hollis Thomas’ 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media, I am left asking myself, “What does age have to do with it?” Since when did age become solely indicative of professional skills? Sure, some companies want and require 5 + years of professional experience, but for those that cannot afford a more senior social media manager, you would be wrong to dismiss all recent graduates, just as you would be wrong to dismiss someone who is 50+ years old. As a twenty-three year old social media manager I suggest we stop talking about how old a social media associate should or should not be, and start exploring, defining, and re-defining traits of successful social media managers so we can identify and hire individuals who will get the job done right.

The Five Habits of Highly Effective Social Media Managers


 

 

Habit 1: Be knowledgeable of social media platforms.

Cathryn Sloan suggests that us twenty-somethings should run social media programs because we have lived through the Facebook and Twitter era. While it is true that most of us young adults know Facebook like the back of our hands, I would venture to say that older people were quicker to adopt Twitter. In fact, just this week I explained to both my 23-year old roommate and my 24-year old boyfriend what Twitter was. I myself did not get active on Twitter until this year because it is hard to get into a social network that none of my peers are using.

Fighting over which age group runs which platform is missing the point. All that matters as a social media manager is that you have a thorough understanding of the online communities where your audience is hanging out. If you do not already have a strong social media presence then at least have the ability to learn the platforms quickly.

This is the age of the Internet, people. Just because a candidate does not have their own YouTube channel or Quora account does not mean they cannot pick up on it quickly. Look for knowledge of the basics, enthusiasm, and resourcefulness. The right individual should be proactive enough to research and understand the dos and don’ts of each respective social media platform.

Habit 2: Be Curious

There are an insane amount of communities, white papers, bloggers, and other resources for social media marketers. Go find them! A successful social media manager should find genuine joy in reading publications like MashableTechCrunchReadWriteWeb, and SocialMediaToday. Be eager to hear about awesome campaigns other companies are doing dig around for up-and-coming social media platforms and tools. Social media is evolving and you must possess the curiosity to stay ahead of the curve or risk getting left behind.

Habit 3: Be Efficient

Social media can be distracting. However, when on company time, it is important to stay focused on furthering business goals instead of your own social media agenda. So let’s say you are already good about not updating your personal Tumblr on the job or pinning your favorite cupcakes to Pinterest, how can you possibly engage with everyone?

Sometimes it is not possible to respond to every single comment regarding your brand. However, there are many social tools out there like HootSuiteTweetDeckFollowerWonkBuffer,Google Alerts, and IFTTT which can help you work smarter. With the right tools you will be well equipped as a social listener, curator of content, community advocate, and brand evangelist. For more information regarding social media tools, check out this article by John Paul, 12 Best Social Media Tools You Should Be Using. And don’t stop there; there are new tools developing each day, from paid premium products to awesome free hacks made my tech savvy social media marketers.

Habit 4: Be Empathetic

Social media is a two-way street. It is no longer about advertising at people but listening, engaging, and building relationships with your community. An effective social media manager should be tuned in to customer experiences and should be the biggest advocate for what users are saying about the brand.

Take this example of a Twitter engagement I had with a user:

stupid_signup
While I must confess that I do not always respond to every single negative brand mention, I do make it a point to engage whenever some progress or learnings are within reach. In this case, the user is complaining about our free edition sign up, a form vital to our marketing goals. This man seems angry, but maybe something good can come of this. Although the tone is hostile, this tweet tells me that the individual was interested enough in our product to try to sign up. I perceive frustration but I also see that this man was on the verge of completing an important marketing milestone.

I took it upon myself to email the man behind the tweet and asked for feedback regarding our form. Take a look at the actual email I sent below:

actual_email

By managing my emotions effectively I was able to respond with empathy rather than hostility. The result was very long, detailed feedback with actionable tips for improving our sign-up flow (free market research from a real-life user) and a consolation tweet:

result_of_followup

A social media manager is both a marketer and a customer service representative. You must possess the social skills to grow, expand, and connect with your online community.

Habit 5: Be Sensitive to Business Goals

Even if you have mastered Social Media 101, that does not mean you have the technical and quantitative skills required to track social media ROI. Company executives don’t care about your followers or the number of views on SlideShare. They care about how social media is performing as part of the overall marketing strategy. An effective social media manager knows how to track everything from clicks, to leads, to revenue.

When hiring, don’t just look for a “creative type,” look for an individual that is an analytical, data-driven marketer. He or she should be well-versed in Google Analytics, Excel, or other tracking and measurement tools. Knowing how to tweet just doesn’t cut it; one must be able to share and articulate the overall business story.

While I agree that companies should not place their brand in the hands of just anyone, I don’t like these blanket statements regarding social media management and age. I am fortunate to work at an organization that does not make social media an afterthought and I am lucky that they are willing to trust me to manage our voice.  I urge you all to look at skill set, because when it comes to hiring a social media manager, age ain’t nothing but a number.