• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • alexmoffit
    Alex Moffit on September 4, 2014

    John Doerr on OKRs and Goal Setting at Google and Intel [VIDEO]

    “Ideas are precious, but they’re relatively easy. It’s execution that’s everything,” says John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the man who introduced Objective & Key Results (OKRs) to Google. Google widely credits OKRs for helping the company grow from 40 to 40,000 employees. Other businesses including LinkedIn and Twitter have also embraced OKRs.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • Word of mouth is the strongest form of recommendation, and spreads quite quickly too. If people are talking about your business, then you can be sure you’ll get a big lift in your sales from new customers. According to a study done by Ad Age word of mouth can increase marketing effectiveness by 54%!

    Ready to give your eCommerce store a marketing boost? Have you thought of trying word of mouth marketing?

    Word of mouth is the strongest form of recommendation, and spreads quite quickly too. If people are talking about your business, then you can be sure you’ll get a big lift in your sales from new customers. According to a study done by Ad Age word of mouth can increase marketing effectiveness by 54%!

    But wait a minute – word of mouth marketing? How can you increase the word of mouth about your own company?

    Excellent question -- read this post to find out a 6 ways that you can actually get your customers to talk about your business!

    What is Word of Mouth Marketing

    Before we get into the different ways to promote word of mouth let’s just quickly clarify what word of mouth is.

    Word of mouth is any time someone talks about your brand. That can be in a conversation with their friends, it can be on social media, it can be in your own product reviews – essentially, it can be anywhere. So word of mouth marketing is the act of encouraging word of mouth about your brand.

    With that in mind, let’s get started!

    1. Promote Word of Mouth by Providing Above Average Service

    The very first thing you should look at when trying to figure out how you can possibly get people to talk about your company is actually just that – your company.

    Ask yourself a few questions: Do you sell above average products? Do you provide above average service and customer support? Do you deliver an overall above average experience?

    It might be useful to take a look at your company from the perspective of your customers in order to answer these questions.

    If you answer no to these questions, then there you go, that is the first thing about your company that you need to change.

    Think about it like a restaurant. If you go into a restaurant and the food is just OK will you say anything to your friends about it? Probably not. You will only feel the need to say something if the food was very good, or on the negative side, very bad.

    If your products or services meet expectations exactly then no one will talk about them. It takes a little extra something to get people talking.

    The same holds true of your service and support. Even if you sell relatively standard products, if you provide absolutely amazing service then people will definitely talk about you.

    Need an example of amazing service? Take a look at L.L.Bean’s satisfaction guarantee:

    example of excellent customer service

    L.L.Bean is so interested in its customers’ satisfaction that it is willing to exchange any item at any time if it is in any way unsatisfactory! Now that is customer service at its best.

    If you can provide that kind of service and sell amazing products, you can be sure that your brand will get a hefty boost through word of mouth.

    2. Connect With Industry Influencers

    The idea of word of mouth marketing is that the more people talk about your brand in a positive light, the more people will be convinced that your company is good and that they should buy from you. Now when it comes to the “mouth” aspect of word of mouth, some “mouths” are bigger than others.

    What do I mean? Well, if you sell soccer equipment, then getting Leo Messi to talk about how great your soccer equipment is will definitely have a bigger impact than if any regular person talks about how great your gear is.

    industry influencer word of mouth

    The point is, if you can connect with influencers in your industry and get them talking about your brand, then people will listen. But not only will people listen, they will start talking about your brand too!

    So by catching an influencer you are actually achieving double word of mouth marketing success – first you have an industry celebrity talking about you, then you have your customers talking about you too!

    In order to connect with influencers, before sending them an email or calling them up, try to make yourself known to them first on social media or on their blog. You can post comments on their content, or mention them in posts on your own blog. That way, when you do contact them your company will be at least somewhat familiar to them.

    3. Create a Core Group of Insiders

    In addition to connecting with industry influencers, you should also look out for your “super customers.” People who consistently buy from you, or who have written a number of positive reviews about your brand. These people can be converted into brand advocates – aka word of mouth marketing heroes.

    How can you do this? Not so hard actually. What you want to do is to make these people feel like they are your brand’s insiders. They are the ones who get to know everything first and get to try everything first, because they, and only they, are your company’s best customers!

    Here’s a step by step process you can follow to do this:

    1. Put together a list of potential candidates
    2. Compose an email to send out which makes the recipients feel super special by informing them that they are being added to a small and exclusive list of insiders that will receive company updates and other news first.
    3. When you are releasing a new product, or if there is a product that you would like to give a boost to, offer your product for free or at a discounted rate special to your insiders, and in return ask them to write up a review for your blog or to leave a review on your product page.

    Just by making the insiders feel special you will make them feel more connected on a personal level to your company, so that they will be not only willing, but excited to test out your product and write reviews.

    Here’s an example of an email I received from Razor Social after attending a webinar:

    razor social vip listThey understand that anyone who signed up for a webinar is probably a higher potential and higher quality customer than someone who did not, therefor they created a “VIP list” for those who joined the webinar with special and exclusive offers.

    This is the exact technique you should use in order to draw in your core group of brand insiders!

    4. Incentivize Word of Mouth to Get People Talking

    It’s not always enough to just provide excellent service and wait for people to start talking about your business, sometimes people need a little shove to get them going – why not give them that shove?

    You can do this by simply providing an incentive for your customers to talk about your products. Offer a discount to people who leave reviews or give coupons to people who write a longer review for your blog. There’s nothing wrong with a little bribery to get things rolling.

    Another great way to incentivize your word of mouth marketing is with StoreYa’s Refer a Friend marketing tool. The way Refer a Friend works is after a customer completes a payment, a screen will pop up giving them the option to redeem a coupon in exchange for referring their purchase to a friend:

    storeya refer a friendAs you can see, not only does the current customer get a coupon, but the referred friend also gets the coupon! This is a fantastic way to get positive word of mouth going, plus it will help you to bring in repeat customers.

    Click here to get Refer a Friend for free!

    5. Use Social Media to Create Personal Connections

    As was stressed in tip 3, a huge aspect of word of mouth is the degree to which your customers feel they have a personal connection with your brand. The closer they feel to your brand, the more likely they are to talk about it.

    Lucky for you, social networks are a fantastic medium for connecting on a more personal level with your customers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that one of the main aspects of social media marketing is just that.

    There are any number of ways that you can achieve this connection:

    Respond to mentions of your brand: Use a tool like Mention to monitor mentions of your brand on social media and personally respond to comments and posts. When possible, you should respond with humor or in some other creative way. Here’s an amazing example of how to respond from Kapost:

    respond to mentions

    Use user generated content: Use your customers’ own content as a way of giving them a shout out on your social networks. You can use their pictures for your profile, or publish a review which they wrote. Doing this makes them feel appreciated and needed by your company. Check out this example of using customer photos from Eggo Waffles:

    example of user generated content

    Take a look at How to Use User Generated Content for more on this!

    Post about company culture: Give your fans an inside look into what goes on at your company by posting pictures of your offices, your manufacturing process, company events, etc. in order to present your company in a more personal light to your customers. Buffer did a nice job of doing that with this post:

    buffer inside look

    6. Publish Quality Content

    You can also get people to talk about your company in a slightly more indirect fashion. If you consistently publish quality content on your blog, then you will naturally find your way into people’s conversations.

    What do I mean by this? Here’s an example:

    If you’re business sells watches, and you publish high quality articles on your blog about all kinds of topics related to the watch wearing culture like: comparisons between brands, new watch releases, watch wearing fashion tips, etc. then people will read your blog and begin to think of your company as a thought leader in the watch industry.

    A perfect example of a company that does this well is Virgin Atlantic:

    virgin atlantic blog

    Their blog is not related directly to their products, but rather to the culture surrounding their target customer.

    If you can become a thought leader in your field then people will begin going to your blog, for example, for all the latest watch news, or for any questions that they have. Essentially, your blog will turn into an important resource for people interested in your industry.

    Once this happens, the word of mouth will follow. People will start referring your blog left and right to all of their watch enthusiast friends. These new visitors will see your blog, check out your products, and, if they like what they see, they’ll pass it on to their friends.

    By becoming a thought leader in your industry, you can actually promote the word of mouth marketing for your products as well!

    To learn more about blogging for eCommerce, check out The ABC’s of Blogging for eCommerce.

    Get People Talking!

    Now it’s your turn. Take these tips that you’ve learned and try to apply them to your own business.

    It is true that it’s hard to gauge the success of a word of mouth marketing campaign, but you can get a general idea by keeping an eye on what the online world has to say about your brand.

    Don’t let this difficulty discourage you though, because word of mouth is certainly the most effective referral your business can get!

    Do you have any methods that you use to promote word of mouth for your business? Do you have any experiences you'd liked to share? We'd love to hear your questions and comments in the space below!

    It should be no surprise then that payment through social media shares is now becoming a thing. Paying with a Tweet or a Facebook share is a must if you want your content to be shared.

    So, for the first time I decided to experiment a little. Usually when I post a white paper or eBook I ask for an email address in exchange for a download. But for this eBook “Online Marketing For Local Businesses, a Beginners Guide” I added a new feature.  Pay With a Tweet! It’s just like the good old days, – and I mean centuries old – where instead of currency offered in exchange for goods, other products or services were acceptable payment and I like it!

    No cash or credit? No problem!

    There was a time when professionals and tradesmen were able to give what they worked hard to create in return for something they needed, and no one batted an eye. Okay, you can call me (really) old-fashioned, but doesn’t that sound like a sustainable model, not to mention an outstanding and friendly place to conduct business?

    But we all know that cash is king, and bartering and trading is a far cry of past, arguably better days. So why, then, are we talking about it? What does bartering have to do with SEO practices, social media campaigns or content marketing? The 21st century has not completely forgone the ability to barter. It just looks a bit different, and, low and behold, it involves cold hard cash.

    A[[{"fid":"164536","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"style":"float: right; height: 200px; width: 267px;","class":"media-element file-default"}}]] New Form of Payment – The Social Media Share

    How often do you share a link or a friend’s status update, or retweet a hilarious post? If you’re active on social media, along with the other 1.7 billion (yes, billion) users who access sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram daily, chances are you’re able to honestly answer that question with a confident, “every now and again.”

    If something moves us, speaks to us, or is just downright amusing, we have the desire (and ability) to share that information/video/picture/meme/article with our social circle. There is no more efficient way to do this than through social media. Come on, it’s in the name! It takes less than a second to do so, and makes us feel connected with our friends or followers.

    It should be no surprise then that payment through social media shares is now becoming a thing. By thing, I don’t mean a fad to quickly pass. I mean a real, viable, and most importantly, profitable strategy for businesses of all shapes, sizes, and missions. Although payment through social media sharing isn’t an entirely new concept, it is gaining momentum at an impressive clip. I mean, when there’s an app or software program built just for this, you can consider it worth a few minutes of your time (see www.sharewall.co.uk, or www.paywithatweet.com).

    Even so, most business owners would argue that defining the clear line between social media shares and cash in hand from sales is a difficult task. So let’s go down that road together, shall we?

    Why Sharing as Payment?

    We all know that content is king. When it comes to marketing via social media, the first principle to live and breathe is the fact that some sort of connection needs to be made continually in order for our prospects and customers to engage with our brand. So we spend time developing awesome blogs (just like this one), engaging stories, updates on events, and product and service updates, and demos in order to keep the attention of our followers.

    I get that, but businesses begin to lose hope when it comes to growth. Just like our customers, we want everything, right now. But content marketing through social media takes time, for which we are all hard pressed to find.

    When we give our audience the ability to use social media sharing as a currency, growth of that audience can be exponential, and faster than paid methods. Instead of paying for promotions through Facebook or banner ads on other sites, we have the ability to increase the number of visitors to our sites organically. Think of sharing as currency as a true grassroots campaign – we engage our current audience with content they love, which in turns makes them love us even more, and then they take two seconds of their precious time to share that with their social circles. Viola! We’ve now tapped the shoulder of hundreds more potential customers who may have not known who the heck we were five minutes ago. I’d call that content marketing at its finest.

    Why Does it Work?

    Let’s be real – consumers can be cheap, especially when it comes to content. Why in the world would someone pay for an article or blog post when there are a thousand other sites that offer similar material for free? Enter sharing as payment, stage left. Consumers are much faster to link their social media site of choice or enter an e-mail address than they are to reach for their credit card. It’s just that simple. According to Pay With a Tweet (www.paywithatweet.com), more than 6.5 million people have used sharing as currency to date. That speaks volumes. So does it work? Well, I will let you know in a future post.

    How Does This Turn into Cash?

    It’s clear to see that consumers respond much better to sharing as currency as opposed to currency as currency, but how does that directly benefit us?

    First, the ability to quickly gather visitor contact information through this medium means e-mail marketing ads can be seamlessly implemented. Through the share wall posted on your site, you can allow visitors to sign up for your newsletter or refers friends, expanding your network even more. Additionally, sharing as currency grows your audience organically. The more eyes on your fabulous content, the greater the chance that conversion actually takes place. If no one knows our businesses exist, no one is buying. Sharing via social media can make this obstacle a moot point.

    Finally, aside from the set-up costs associated with adding a share wall to your site, expenses are minimal. Instead of paying per click, you can have truly connected prospects visit your site regularly, and add them to your e-mail list or remarketing campaign in kind.

    Sharing through social media can be a viable monetization option for any business, if you’re willing to put in the work up front. Make sure your content is engaging and connects your business with your intended audience; post that content on your social media sites in order to prompt click-through to your site; establish a share wall in order to capture pertinent contact information up front, and organically grow your audience through grassroots sharing. This new wave of currency is taking off in a big way, and your business can take part and, ultimately, have greater success in conversion and growth.

    Twitter recently announced algorithm changes that have sent the Twittersphere into a spin. Dedicated users tweeted their collective dismay at the proposed changes.

    Twitter recently announced algorithm changes that have sent the Twittersphere into a spin. Dedicated users tweeted their collective dismay at the proposed changes. According to GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram, the message is clear: A Facebook style, curated news feed is coming, and it is likely here to stay. Yet, despite a torrent of veteran users threatening to leave Twitter, the company is willing to take the risk. Twitter’s CFO, Antony Noto explained:

    “Twitter’s timeline is organized in reverse chronological order, but this isn’t the most relevant experience for a user. Putting that content in front of the person at that moment in time is a way to organize that content better.”

    In other words, if Twitter can grow the relevancy of it’s platform, it will be able to move from being a niche player that traditionally only attracts news junkies (journalists, politicians, PR/marketers, to name a few), who’s professional status is incumbent on the real-time news that the reverse chronological order that the current Twitter feed provides. For the rest of the online community, Twitter remains just another social networking platform, still shadowed in number of registered users, by Facebook.

    Forbes.com’s Jeff Belocosdi explained why Twitter is set to imitate a Facebook style curated newsfeed in this way: if the new newsfeed algorithmim proves popular with first-time and occasional users, Twitter will be able to grow its number of registered users and position itself as a mainstream source of real-time news – even if at the expense of losing some of their veteran users along the way.

    What will a newsfeed-driven Twitter feed mean for businesses?

    The problem with Twitter’s new curated news algorithm feed is that businesses now risk not having their content seen at all without spending money on Twitter ads. Companies are all competing for an increasingly crowded online space, and with Google SEO and Facebook’s algorithms rewarding articles based on engagement and ads, it is crucial for brands to create relevant and newsworthy content for their online audience.

    Indeed Facebook has already warned publishers against ‘click bait articles’, recently tweaking its algorithm to punish content deemed “click bait.” This also means blogging is more important to your brand strategy than ever before, providing you with another channel to maximise your visibility on an increasingly noisy and competitive online space.

    Finding a savvy and engaging content writer who understands the digital sphere is crucial for businesses looking to increase their online presence. With Twitter’s imminent change to an algorithm based news feed, it will be worthwhile to seek out quality content writers who understand how best to optimise content for social media, SEO – and whatever’s next.

    So you’re thinking about outsourcing your marketing department…but is your organization set up to fully reap the benefits? Answer these 6 critical questions to make sure you are truly ready for an outsourced marketing relationship.

    Running a marketing department has become a more complex endeavor over the past couple of decades. With the introduction of the Internet came dramatic changes in consumer behavior, followed by dramatic changes in the way companies market products and services, followed by dramatic changes in the structure of a marketing department and the people inside it.

    This, along with other major business shifts such as the advancement of technology and the proliferation of small businesses, drove the birth of the concept of outsourced marketing.

    For the sake of this exercise, when I say “outsourced marketing,” what I am really referring to is an “outsourced marketing department.” An outsourced marketing department is an entirely different concept than outsourcing portions of your marketing effort, possibly farming out different pieces to various contractors, freelancers, or firms; hiring an agency, contracted primarily for project or campaign work; or the outsourced CMO concept, where you’re getting fractional senior-level leadership.

    This is not the post that will dig into the myriad benefits of the outsourced marketing department, but it’s safe to assume that those benefits are similar to other outsourcing situations: cost savings, access to better talent, time efficiency, and scalability.

    If you’re considering this type of arrangement, don’t be blinded by all the glamorous benefits without understanding that there are a number of characteristics that must be in place inside your organization to make this work.

    Answer these six questions before you start to make sure you are truly ready for the outsourced marketing relationship.

    Do you have a strong, but open-minded leader to own marketing?

    To achieve success in an outsourced marketing scenario, you’re going to need a point of contact, preferably someone at the executive level, to own the function. This person does not necessarily have to be a marketing expert (after all, that is one of the reasons you are outsourcing to begin with), but he or she must start with the mindset that marketing, when done well, can be a growth driver for the business.

    Additionally, this person must have the authority to make marketing decisions. If your marketing leader has to run every piece of website copy or every landing page design up the flagpole to the CEO, and your outsourced marketing team does not have access to that CEO, the relationship will start to feel inefficient quickly.

    Does that leader have the requisite time to own marketing?

    Sure, you bring on an outsourced marketing firm to save you time and allow you to focus on the areas that represent your highest and best use. Unless you’re willing to empower your outsourced marketing firm to run with everything without your approval, you’re going to need to make some significant time for marketing. This includes time to contribute to planning, time to meet and discuss priorities, and time for things like approvals and editing.

    Is that leader willing to cede some level of control over marketing?

    So while I just finished saying that your marketing leader needs to be strong, open-minded, and must make the time to participate in marketing, at the same time he or she has to be willing to let go of control. This may take some time as the marketing leader and outsourced marketing department get to know each other, but once a comfort level is achieved, some of the control—especially over the more tactical decisions—has to be relinquished so execution can move at a reasonable pace.

    Are you willing to plan, prioritize, and stick with it?

    Small, growing companies are often shifting, pivoting, or evolving – pick your word. That’s the reality of being a part of that type of business.

    That being said, if you’re the type of company that is going to change directions every week, approve something one day and then disapprove it the next, or blow up major plans every month, that’s a recipe for disaster in working with an outsourced marketing team. Frankly, this one holds for both internal teams and outsourced teams – it’s demoralizing and confusing when your team feels like they just can’t get anything across the finish line.

    Are there only a couple of cooks in the kitchen?

    While it’s certainly reasonable to have a couple of people involved in your outsourced marketing relationship, decisions should come from one person, and that person should be responsible for getting buy-in or approval from others in the organization. Asking your outsourced marketing team to deal with three or four different people in the organization, ranging from manager level to CEO, simply won’t work.

    Specifically, it’s critical to avoid “swoop and poop” situations — a C-level leader sees something for the first time (website designs, major content pieces, etc.) after your marketing leader has already issued approvals, swoops in with negativity, and sets progress back by weeks or months. It’s the organization’s responsibility to empower your marketing leader, and his or her responsibility to know how to navigate internally – that cannot be handled by your outsourced marketing firm.

    Can you articulate what marketing success looks like?

    If you cannot explain what success will look like three months, six months or twelve months down the road, rethink your decision to go the outsourced marketing route. While all team members, internal or external, like to be aware of the vision for success, it is especially important in an outsourced marketing relationship.

    Answers like, “Just put your heads down and work, and I’ll let you know what’s working and what’s not,” or, “When you create something great, we’ll know it,” are unacceptable answers for the outsourced marketing relationship.

    Outsourcing your marketing department is a critical decision for companies in growth mode. The good news is that there are tons of outsourced marketing success stories you can learn from, and plenty of options to consider. Before you’re bowled over by a fancy portfolio or successful case study, though, make sure you look inside your own organization using the six questions above to ensure that you’re ready for an outsourced marketing structure.

    There’s a nice psychological quirk called the pygmalion effect. It was first coined by Harvard researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen, who observed that students performed better when their teachers believed they had the potential to be great. So how can this impact upon the workplace?
    There’s a nice psychological quirk called the pygmalion effect.  It was first coined by Harvard researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen, who observed that students performed better when their teachers believed they had the potential to be great.  Their famous experiment saw pupils selected at random and labelled as bloomers, ie children with strong potential.  Lo and behold, those students then went on to significantly out perform their classmates.  What’s interesting is that the effect continued, even after the student was no longer taught by the teacher who believed they had potential.

    So how can this impact upon the workplace?  Well, a study led by Robert Wood provides a nice illustration.  The researchers took a group of participants and divided them into teams of three.  The teams were then further divided into two groups based upon a particular mindset that they were primed to take.

    One group of teams were primed to believe that we tend to have a fixed amount of management ability, and there isn’t really much that can be done to change that.  The other group however were primed to believe that our management ability was something that could be improved with practice and hard work.

    All of the teams had a bedding in period where they grew familiar with one another, after which they were given a complex task to complete that involved managing a furniture company that had hit upon hard times.  The task involved standard management things such as motivating employees and ensuring they were productive.

    Each team had to work collaboratively to try and ensure the best outcome on the task.  As the task progressed, one group clearly began to move clear of the other in terms of performance, and this group pulled further clear the longer the task went on.

    The teams that scored best were all primed to think that they could improve their abilities with hard work and practice.  This mindset encouraged members of those teams to engage in frank and honest discussions about both the task and the executive decisions made by the team.  The key aspect was that everyone in the team was part of the same learning journey.

    It’s a nice reflection of how powerful our mindset and philosophy can be in promoting the kind of culture we all want to see in our social businesses.

    pygmalion effect / shutterstock