End of the Quarter Wrap Up

Over the past three months I’ve read, learned and talked about many facets of digital marketing. I’ve come to realize that digital marketing is a much broader term than I first thought. It applies to many strategies and is constantly changing. Digital marketing yesterday is different than digital marketing today.

Through all this there are five key areas that I think every business needs to take advantage of:

The first is SEO and Google+. The harsh truth is if your website is not above the fold on the first page you might as well not exist. The click through rate dramatically decreases the further down the results page you go. That’s why SEO is so important. Similarly Google+ will also help you rank higher on Google. Having a well set up Google+ page also makes your results more enticing with ratings, hours, phone number and location features.

The next is mobile marketing.  If you haven’t heard more than half the US population owns a smart phone and they are using their smart phones to find and connect with businesses. Therefore your website must be mobile friendly. Be sure to include your address and phone number as these are key details that users are looking for. It also doesn’t hurt to have an app. Figure out what your customers need and design a useful, engaging app.

BIG DATA– I think it is safe to say that most businesses are collecting and storing some level of data on their customers. Harness that data and make decisions based on it! Become a data mining expert and find the trends and patterns hidden inside. Raw data is totally useless unless you can find those hidden meanings.

On that same train of thought A/B test everything! With the tools and technology available there is no more excuses for bad websites. Don’t guess and infer, base your website on cold hard data. Let your customers decide which website design is better. At the end of the day only their option matters.

Lastly create amazing, engaging inbound marketing. Create stuff that people would pay for and give it away. Position yourself as the expert in your market and become the go to source. People expect the information they want to know to be upfront and readily available to them so give it to them.

I don’t think a business could go wrong using these five strategies as their digital marketing foundation.

Now for the results of my blog:

page views

I gained 20 followers:

followers

 

And these are the lovely countries that read my blog:

countries

In total I wrote: 12,015 words

I also become HootSuite certified:

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And Google Analytic Certified!

Google

Thanks for a great quarter Mark!

Creating Value with Co-creation

You may have heard about a new phenomena in business called co-creation or sometimes refereed to as crowd sourcing. But what  is co-creation? According to Wikipedia co-creation is:

A form of Economic strategy that emphasizes the generation and ongoing realization of mutual Company-Customer value. It views markets as platforms for firms and active customers to share, combine and renew each others resources and capabilities to create value through new forms of interaction, service and learning mechanisms.”

In other words it’s involving customers in different parts of the value chain of a new product. Customers could be involved in ideation, product development, commercialization or post launch activities. Scope and intensity can be used to gauge the different levels of co-creation. Scope is the propensity of a business to engage customers across all levels of the value chain. Intensity referrers to the degree to which the customer is involved in anyone stage of the entire process.

If done right this process can create greater value for both parties. Customers receive products what more closely match their needs and wants and businesses have produces that are much more likely to succeed in the market place.

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According to “Co-creation: A new source of Valuethis model is not without its share of problems and difficulties. Often times business and customers will have conflicting objectives. It is important for the business to set clear objectives and goals before the process begins. They should also maintain customer expectations throughout the process to keep every one of the same page. The most tricky piece of co-creation is the problem of who retains ownership of intellectual property, the customer or the business. This should be decided before any work is started and kept consistent.

There is also the problem of initiating the project. There are factors on both, the business and the customer side, that will hold back each party from starting the process of co-creation. The Journal of Service Research addresses these factors in the article Consumer Cocreation in New Product Development.”

On the customer side there are issues of “monetary and non-monetary costs of time, resources, physical and psychological effort to
learn and participate in the co-creation process.” Customers can be motivated to over come these deterrents for a number of reasons:

  1. Financial rewards. Either direct through monetary prices or profit-sharing or indirectly through retained intellectual property
  2. Social benefits. Titles, recognition or increased status.
  3. The desire to gain technological knowledge.
  4. Psychological benefits. Gained through creativity, self-expression or enjoyment of contributing

On the business side firms can be held back from co-creation due to organizational issues. These include:

  1. Transparency. Secrecy is more important to some firms than others depending on their industry and product.
  2. Issues around ownership of intellectual property. As stated above this can be a tricky issue that some firms are not willing to deal with.
  3. Information overload due to large volumes of customer input. This can greatly slow down the process and make co-creation almost impossible, especially for small firms.
  4. The ideas produced may be great but not feasible in terms of production.

To encourage co-creation and its success a firm can do two things:

  1. Increase the customer benefits based on the above list.
  2. Reduce the customer cost by providing all the tools and resources necessary for an easy and smooth process. Also modularized the process so customers can be assigned or select particular components of the project to focus their energy on.

A great article by Wired,The Raise of Crowd Sourcing” , includes some great examples of businesses who were shttps://i2.wp.com/www.neshaminy.org/cms/lib6/PA01000466/Centricity/Domain/449/science_animated_gif_by_mysteriousshamrock-d5p3shf.gifuccessful.

My favorite is InnoCentive. This is an online community where businesses like Boeing or P&G can post their hardest problems for the masses to try and solve. Solutions can be worth anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. According to the article about 30% of the submitted problems have been solved at a fraction of the traditional R&D cost.

Then there is Ben Kaufman who built his entire business based on the power of co-creation. His company Quirky is a community of inventors who come together to bring new products to market.  According to the Business Insider article4 Stupidly Simple But Wildly Successful New Inventions” the process is as follows:

  1. People submit their ideas to Quirky
  2. The community decides which ideas it likes
  3. A few hundred ideas get designed by the Quirky staff
  4. A few get built
  5. Some are sold at their 35,000 retail locations in 35 countries
  6. Those who ideas are sold get a percentage of the sales.

Quirky

According to HLN’s article “Quirky idea reinvents invention” the site has developed 412 products and commercialized 150 since its start in 2009. Clearly the model of co-creation is working and has the power to accomplish great things.

Forbes thinks so too. According to their article they feel co-creation is what we need to fix social and environmental problems that have felt unsolvable up to this point. As they point out co-creation may just be the perfect answer in our increasingly complex and rapid moving world became the model is able to approach problems in unique ways and often offer cheaper solutions than traditional models can.

No matter the application or use expect to see a lot more co-creation in years to come.

Digital Money in a Digital World

It seems the world is going paperless even when it comes to money. But what about plasticless? Plastic credit cards and debit cards may also go the way of cash thanks to something called the e-wallet or digital wallet. This is an electronic wallet that lives inside your smart phone that would take the place of  credit cards or cash. The user simply takes the cards they already have and loads them into their digital wallet.

Depending on the brand this takes a few different forms when completing a transaction.

With Google Wallet the user simple taps their phone against the pay terminal, enters their pin inside the phone app and the transaction is completed.https://i0.wp.com/www.technobuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Google-Wallet-Payment-Demo.jpg

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Square sends the POS system a name and picture of the user. If the picture matches the user the cashier approves the transaction and the money is transferred.

When using LevelUp a QR code is displayed on the user’s phone screen that is then scanned by the cashier.

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These are some of the biggest players in mobile payment right now. As of yet there is no clear winner or standardized system of payment. Each of these brands has their own advantages and merits.

LevelUp is great for merchants and small businesses. There are no hardware costs, no transaction costs and information is automatically recorded and stored with each transaction that businesses can use for retargeting. They also released connected apps. This allows others apps and software to connect to the LevelUp system to enable customers to order,  pay and take part in royalty and rewards programs all in the same place.

Square is unique in that they are working towards a whole system solution. Were as LevelUp and Google Wallet may just be focusing on pieces of mobile payment, Square wants to dominate the entire game. Jack Dorsey, the founder of square, explained their business plan as follows

“A lot of folks are looking at parts of the equation and Square is looking at the entire thing. If you’re not solving for the entire experience, you are putting those seams in front of the customers — and the customers see that. And they have all these friction points, and it actually slows down the business.”

Google Wallet is backed by the richest internet company but is pretty run of the mill otherwise.

What I think is really cool about mobile payment is the automatic use of coupons and promotes. Instead of finding coupons and cutting them out a user’s digital wallet will already be aware of the sale and automatically apply the sale price at the time of the transaction.

Like I said there is no clear winner yet but Starbucks may speed up the process. In a shift of priorities announced by Howard Schultz the company wants to “adjust to technology-driven shifts in its industry. As part of [this] new focus, Mr. Schultz plans to work … on what he calls “next generation (of) retailing and payments initiatives.”  In other words which ever mobile payment brand Starbucks decides to carry could receive a major boost in business.

Although we may not want Starbucks spearheading this new movement after their mishap earlier this year when the company left customers passwords and information in plain text. Anyone with a computer could have taken private customer ihttps://bitcoin.org/img/opengraph.pngnformation right off their phone.

If this all sounds too corporate and mainstream for you there is always the alternative Bitcoin. Bitcoin is an internet currency that is not linked to any country or bank. It is the self proclaimed first decentralized digital currency. The benefits of Bitcoin include:

1. Money is directly transferred between parties without going through a bank or clearing house

2. Fees are much lower

3.Accounts cannot be frozen

4. Bitcoin can be used in any country

5. There are no prerequisites

Bitcoins live in your digital wallet and making a transaction is as simple “as sending an email”.

It was started by an unknown individual under the pseudonymous name Satoshi Nakamoto. While its early days were marked by crime and drugs, most notably The Silkroad,  today the currency is quickly gaining popularity. Recently Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss established a Bitcoin exchange fund that may soon be listed on the Nasdaq and the first Bitcoin ATM opened in Vancouver BC. Businesses are increasingly accepting Bitcoin but the currency is still very volatile.

To get started with Bitcoin one can buy Bitcoin using traditional money or it can be mined. To mine Bitcoin you run special software on your computer that solves math problems. In the early days of Bitcoin, mining was quite easy and anyone user could make a lot of money with a relatively simple computer. Now the equations are much harder to solve and cannot be done with a normal computer. To mine Bitcoins today you have a buy a special computer dedicated to the task and even then you will only be making factions of a Bitcoin with each solved equation. To better the odds of making money users have now formed mining pools that pool their computing power and split the coins earned.

Here is a great video that explores Bitcoin and one of the largest mining facilities in the country.

 

The future of Bitcoin and digital currency is a bit unclear right now with no clear standardized system. What is clear is that the way we engage with currency and make transactions is changing and may never go back.

Mobile Marketing is too Powerful to be Ignored

Mobile marketing may just be the most personal form of marketing yet.

Think about it a person’s phones is an extension of themselves. It is something they rarely let out of arms reach and now marketers have the power like never before to leverage this new medium. Mobile marketing allows personalized messages to be delivered at the right time in the right context with a much more powerful call to action. Where as before an ad may ask a person to visit a website or contact a number, with mobile ads the user can click directly on the ad and be taken to the offer with little to no friction. This lack of friction and seamless user experience leads to better response and conversion rates.

With Geo-locators and increased user data mobile ads can deliver the perfect message when the customer is  ready to buy or is near the physical store.

One of the best things about mobile marketing is the ability to link the static, physical world with the dynamic digital one. This can be done a few different ways, including QR codes. By far the best way mobile marketing accomplishes this though, is through augmented reality. There are many examples of how brands use augmented reality here but my two favorite examples come from Volkswagen and IKEA.

 

In this example Volkswagen is able to link their static, physical world billboards with the much more exciting digital world.

 

 

Here IKEA is connecting their catalog with the digital world.

Even if mobile marketing wasn’t super cool the argument is still solid due to the fact that sometime between 2013 and 2015 mobile use is estimated to over take PC use. One of the basic keys to marketing is reaching your desired audience by being where they already are. If customers are switching to mobile marketers have to switch with them end of story.

It seems like these overwhelming benefits would be enough to get any brand or business on board. Sadly this is not the case. According to The Classic Guide to Mobile Marketing 98% of small to medium businesses have not optimized their website for mobile use.  This includes not offering a phone number which nearly half are guilty of , yet 73% of mobile users look for a businesses phone number in order to contact them. This translates into poor user experiences and frustrated customers who expect better. These customers will almost always switch to a competitor who offers a better experience.

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There is also a lack of money to support mobile marketing. While 10% of a consumer’s time is spent on mobile only 1% of most budgets is allocated to mobile. This is an alarming disconnect.

That is not to say all industries are equality guilty of over looking the power of mobile. Surprisingly the consumer packed-goods category is very optimistic about the future of mobile marketing.  These groups have stated they will increase their mobile marketing budgets in the coming years.

So what should you know about mobile marketing?

1. Optimizing your website for mobile use is not enough. You should also develop an app. Apps offer better immersion, faster speeds and offline use. Don’t forget to market your app through your existing channels or else it will become buried in the app store.

2. Design your app if the user in mind. According to Kiss Metrics 90% of apps are no longer used after 6 months. Give people a clear reason to keep using yours.

3. Modify your keywords to be shorter. People who search via mobile often type in shorter phrases

4. Be sure your store location(s) is updated and correct and that you offer a store locator as manyhttps://assistly-production.s3.amazonaws.com/mobify/portal_attachments/47692/mobify_sbux_original.png?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJNSFWOZ6ZS23BMKQ&Expires=1399844837&Signature=N6HdwJ12PJuNEgxkulQ61LHkrWw%3D&response-content-disposition=filename%3D%22mobify_sbux.png%22&response-content-type=image%2Fpng customers will be using smartphones to find you

 

5. Understand how your customers user their phones, vs their tablets vs their PC and modify your offer accordingly to fit their needs

Some great examples of mobile marketing done right come from Harper’s Bazaar and Allrecipes.com

Harper’s launched a digital catalog they call the Bazaar Book. This catalog seamlessly connects a typical magazine experience with the ability to purchase items from retailer’s without ever leaving the Book.

Allrecipes.com on the other hand engages users while they are in the physical store. Their apps and website help customers plan and organize meals while they are in the grocery store. They also offer ad space to food brands that allows them to connect with customers while they are actively planning purchases. It is the ultimate right message, at the right time in the right place.

While mobile marketing growth may be slow right now the future is looking up. According to Mashable  mobile spending could hit $18 billion by 2014 and $41.9 billion by 2017. This is still a far cry from the $196.5 billion spent on TV but is still a great improvement from the $13.1 billion spent on mobile in 2013.

The key take away is mobile marketing is a powerful force that is here to stay. Leveraging its power will only reap benefits.

shades

Making Sense of Big Data and its Power

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Just about every move a person makes is collected as data. Paying with a rewards card, conducting online searches, and using social media are just a few of the ways in which data is collected about us everyday.

All of these sources feed what is called Big Data. According to Webopedia Big Data is “used to describe a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques.”

What does this really mean and what is it used for?

Getting to know your customers better through data has many pay offs. Today we are going to focus on marketing and how this data is used to better target customers.

One of the most basic ways this data can be used is through customization. Once a team has enough data they can predict what messages or products a person will most likely respond to or buy. They use this to tailor the messages they send you, the ads you see and the products you are suggested. But according to Forrester it’s not just about encouraging behavior:

“It is equally essential to anticipate customer behavior and be prepared with the most appropriate offer to which the customer is most likely to respond.”

 

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Probably one of the best companies at using data to fuel sales is Target. Back in 2002 Target started working on a way to use the data they had to predict if a women was pregnant. They knew that most shopping was habitual with little to no conscious thought and that these habits were hard to change. But lucky for Target and retailers everywhere there are times during a person’s life when these habits are most likely to change. Moving to college, getting a new job or getting married are a few. But being pregnant is the holy grail. This is the time when shopping habits are most up for grabs and Target wanted to know first. Through lots of analysis and pattern uncovering they found a way based on certain products bought if a women was pregnant and at what stage. They used this to send customers targeted coupons relevant to their stage of pregnancy before any other retailer. And so they reshaped the buying habits of countless women.

A couple less creepy examples include Orbitz and Hollywood. Orbitz realized that Mac users tend to spend more on hotels per night than PC users so they started experimenting with showing Mac users pricier options. At the time of the article they were still in their early stages but had already experienced some favorable results.

Hollywood on the other hand wants to know the formula for a blockbuster. Gone are the days of gut instincts and pure creative power. Now they can use their data analysis to predict what people will enjoy and about how much money it will make. This information can be used to guide investment and marketing funds. As the article says “predictive analytics will be considered just as important as the producer, director, and actor who make a film a blockbuster.”

But don’t get the impression that everyone is a wiz at data analysis. As the definition above stated this stuff is BIG and hard to work with. Starbucks for one isn’t prefect at it. The company collects tons of data from their loyalty cards but is not yet using this data to its full advantage. The company is still struggling to make sense of it all.

Target aside, the Obama campaign may be one of the better groups at harnessing the power of data. The group had a massive database that helped them raise $1 billion and target the right message to the right voter securing them the reelection. As a part of their efforts they gave voters persuadability scores. They enabled them to know who was worth targeting and how to do it. In swing states such a Ohio they collected even more information. They had enough data to go and and see which voters were changing sides after debates and polls. In terms of media buying they had the data to run their own analysis rather than rely on consultants. Based on their own data they raised ad efficiency by 14%.https://i0.wp.com/www.quickmeme.com/img/2d/2db85a78ccdbcb45bd122315533ec8f0aec40ccd1b9b420fb9362d777ac2d28a.jpg

Big data can be intimidating but once controlled it can be your most powerful weapon. The future of marketing lies in the data,  making decisions without it is a thing of the past.

Let’s get Technical

Once upon a time it was enough to be either a Generalist or a Specialist. Generalists, usually in a management role, knew a little bit of everything and took a holistic approach to business. They probably couldn’t the do actual work as well as the Specialists though, the people who knew how to do a particular thing really well. Today, according to Moz, this system no longer works like it use to. With leaner budgets and faster cycles companies can no longer afford to hire both types of people instead they want one person to play both roles. The Generalist Specialist.

 

 

So what does this mean to marketers? Well its not longer enough to only understand marketing. You’ll be expected to be technical as well. I touched on this idea in my first blog post with State of Digital Marketing Talent which talked about the talent gap. This gap was educated marketers that lacked the technical skills that employers were looking for. This included many skills but today I want to focus on SQL or Structured Query Language.

According to Webopedia: “SQL is a standardized query language for requesting information from a database.”

Why should we care?

Being able to write your own queries as a marketer can be very valuable for a number of reasons:

  1. You no longer have to wait for someone else to write them for you which means getting work done faster.
  2. You have the opportunity to learn more from your database if  your in there running the queries yourself
  3. More of the marketing process can be done by one person which is very valuable to smaller companies. Case in point.
  4. Running any kind of analysis is much easier using SQL

Overall knowing how to writing queries increasing the pace at which you can work. The people over at Udemy report that their marketing team can now operate two to three times faster than they could without SQL knowledge.

With this overwhelming  evidence that marketers need to be technical I wanted to learn some SQL for myself. I went through a few of the lessons at W3 Schools.  Some of the material remained me of using Microsoft Access and picking up the basics wasn’t too hard. Just looking at the basic rules and syntax I started to get a feel of just how powerful this stuff could be.

So are companies really using SQL in marketing?

Yahoo uses SQL to better understand their customers and their behavior online. They use this information tohttps://brianamilligan.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/f6eae-6a00d83451d49569e20192ac7c42d6970d-pi.jpg better target advertising so that it feels more like a suggestion than an ad. With this information they can more effectively sell ad space to clients. Since using SQL Yahoo has experienced improved campaign performance and greater ad spending over all.

 

At eBates thehttps://i0.wp.com/www.sharperimage.com/img/ebates_logo_PMS.jpgy describe their SQL position as such: ” The Database Marketing Analyst is a fountain of data and knowledge about our members and their behavior and works across numerous business lines to ensure we are making data-driven marketing and business decisions that improve member experience and lifetime value.” They seem to fully understand the power of SQL and apply it to all their marketing and business decisions.

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Even banks know whats up with SQL driven marketing. At Huxley Associates their SQL marketing team “extract[s] data from the banks core data warehouse,[and] manipulat[s] this data to provide analysis to enhance marketing business decisions.”

 

As well as Auto pahttps://i0.wp.com/transamericanautoparts.com/images/transamerican_autoparts.jpgrt suppliers. The marketing team at Transamerican Auto Parts uses SQL for “Develop[ing] insights on various customer segments and behavior (i.e., customer profiles), and provid[ing] analytics that will help identify opportunities and improve campaign targeting” among a many other things. 

 

This is a wide representation of businesses that all use SQL to enhance their marketing. There seems to be no debate, knowledge of SQL is important in marketing today and will only become more important in the future. Data is only growing and the demand for data analysis is growing with it.

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A/B testing: Putting Ideas to the Test!

A/B testing is a fairly simple strategy that leads to big results and increased revenue for your business. So what is A/B testing?

Quite simply you have two versions of an element, A and B. You determine some metric for success then test the two versions simultaneously to see which is more successful.

When applied to digital marketing you can have two versions of a website or email campaign and a metric for success such as purchases made (Make sure you decide your metric for success before you launch your test). To conduct the test lead half your web traffic to one version, the other half to the other version then test which one lead to more purchases.

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A is usually the existing version or otherwise known as the control that the new version is being tested against.

B is usually the new version being tested otherwise known as the Treatment.

Your metric for success is usually measured by conversions. This is any completed activity that is critical for the success of your business. This is commonly purchases but could also be something like newsletter sign ups.

Sounds easy right?

With a little knowledge and the right tools it can be.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when conducting a test:

  1. Finding a good randomization algorithm that will divide your traffic between the two versions is very important. Your results will mean nothing if your test was not based on a simple random sample.
  2. Calculate the sample size needed to obtain an accurate answer before you run your test. There are many statistical help sources online that will help you calculate the size needed.
  3. Make sure your software shows repeat visitors the same version each time.
  4. Be sure to run the test for a few weeks to account for any day-of-the-week effect.

Another good idea is to use an automated ramp-up system. This system will begin the test by only showing a small number of people the treatment. Over time the number of people who see the treatment will slowly rise to 50%. This allows any bugs or mistakes in the test to be caught early on and will expose fewer customers to the bad version.

Now lets look at some good real world examples of A/B testing.

This first example shows the necessity of A/B testing. Which Test Won.com featured the ad in question and asked readers to vote on which version they thought was proven more effective by the test. First here are both versions of the ad.

 

a and b

 

Which do you think was more effective? Here are were voting results.

test voting

About a 50/50 split. Trying to decide which version is better without running an A/B test is a lot like flipping a coin so its best to run the test.

The next example is from Majestic Wines. They redesigned their website for less clutter, better images, better call to actions, more interactive and clearer headings. Here is their original page, version A

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And here is the resigned page, version B.

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Version B resulted in 201% improvement in their goal conversion rate. Majestic Wine did not stop there though. They further A/B tested variations of version B to better improve the new design even further.  These additional changes lead to an additional 36.9% increase in conversions. This illustrates what many companies do. They continually test and re-test for even better design and results.

The last example is a A/B test done to increase the “add to cart” click-through rate for Taylor Gifts. Here is the original design, version A.

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And here is the redesigned version B.

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Version B puts all the buying information in the same box as the “add to cart” button. This increased conversions by 111%.

 

As you can see A/B testing is superior to judgements made by non-users and will definitely pay off in increased conversions.