• 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.
  • So what’s the perfect posting frequency? Depends on the size and reach of a website. Generally, once a week at a minimum, and once a day at max.

    Ever website owner struggles with the practice of blogging. While it may be easy (allegedly anyway), it’s a task that doesn’t always bring instant results, or even direct ones. Rather, it’s a practice that informs and educates readers, allowing them to circle back to a business over time. The unsung hero of the Internet world. Additionally, actually setting aside the time to write, schedule, and share a blog can sound like more trouble than it’s worth. (Even us professional bloggers don’t always find the time to write our own content.)

    However, failing to do so can also cause you to miss out on incredible opportunities, such as increased traffic, word of mouth, and more. Not to mention increased website clout and continual web bot crawling. Without blogging, websites become outdated and are surpassed by the competition, just because their words are more current than everyone else’s. Yet despite this simple practice, folks have been overlooking blogging for years, writing it off as a time consuming practice that does little to help a brand.

    Then again, there’s an exception to every rule. There are also website owners who simply post too often. Depending on reader base and interaction, posting too often can actually overwhelm an audience and provide them with too much content to get through.

    Posting Schedule Best Practices

    So what’s the perfect posting frequency?

    Depends on the size and reach of a website. Generally, once a week at a minimum, and once a day at max. (That is, unless you’re really huge. Like Mashable or Buzzfeed huge.) Check traffic levels and clicks to follow up, and if posts aren’t receiving as much attention, consider scaling back so readers have enough time to get to each post. This will save writing time, while also giving content the attention it deserves.

    Experimenting can help you find the ideal setup overall, while still offering the ability to adjust as needed. You can also keep track of daily hits to see which topics receive the most traffic, which SEO terms, etc. Those can then be incorporated more frequently to better utilize popular blogging topics.

    Really, the best possible blogging frequency will be different for every website. Individual schedules, traffic rates, and more should all be taken into account. Then, once a magic number is found, website owners can start benefitting from regular content that brings in better sales.

    In a nutshell, first party data provides the insight and context into your customers that you need to nurture loyal, engaged users.

    You’ve finally acquired the right marketing software in order to gather first party data. In other words, you officially have, at your fingertips, detailed and accurate consumer insights. Now what?

    While implementing a social login dialog that allows users to substantiate their social identities is definitely the first step in capturing more customers, it’s only the first step to success.

    After you gather this key information, it’s vital to have a strategy in place to use this data wisely in order to more effectively cater to your customers. This may seem like an obvious statement, but statistics show us that marketers have difficulty using this rich data strategically. In fact, a study from Teradata tells us that 78% of marketers feel the pressure to become more data-driven; however, only 33% are consistently and strategically leveraging consumer data in their marketing efforts (Teradata).

    In order to help you join the ranks of the 33% of marketers who are getting it right, here are 3 suggestions to help you effectively leverage your first party insights.

    1. Invest in a platform that lets you segment your data

    The first way to effectively leveraging your first party insights is to make sure you can successfully organize the information you are receiving. You do this by investing in an intuitive consumer insight platform.

    With a consumer insight platform, you can glean insight about your consumers by segmenting their details into the following categorizes:

    • Demographics
    • Insights
    • Social actions
    • Revenue activity
    • Top influencers
    • Geolocation

    Then, instead of a jumbled mess of data, you have instant and organized access to top consumer trends, key actions, revenue insights, and more.

    When you take measures to thoroughly organize data and understand your target market, you are able to market to them more efficiently. This puts you on the path to increasing your conversion rate. Without a way of segmenting data, it’s difficult to make sense of any information you may acquire, let alone use the information to create a new informed marketing plan.

    2. Use the first party data to make sound marketing choices

    As soon as you are familiar with your consumer insight platform, it’s important to spend the time sorting through your custom reports in order to really understand what motivates your target audience to read, click, and ultimately, convert.

    Once you have sorted through all the necessary consumer data, it’s officially time to start a more relevant marketing campaign by:

    • Reaching customers with optimized e-mail content
    • Offering customized product recommendations to your primary, secondary, and tertiary demographics, all based on user data
    • Setting up targeted advertising campaigns that are likely to boost key performance indicators

    While the details of these marketing efforts will look different for each company, it’s important to understand that the best way to create a focused marketing campaign is to collect and comprehend first party data.

    3. Serve relevant advertisements

    The last suggestion for leveraging first party data extends beyond the realms of solidifying your marketing strategy.

    Consider this: Advertisers are traditionally used to advertising on platforms that gather information using browser cookies. As a consumer yourself, you know what this means. It means that even though you are a 32-year-old man, who is not interested in beauty products, you may see advertisements for makeup, nail polish, and anti-aging cream. Why? You see these ads, because your wife used the family computer earlier in the day.

    Unfortunately, this scenario is common, and it’s a bummer for the consumer and the businesses investing their advertising spend on platforms that use cookies to gather data.

    When you collect first party data, on the other hand, you not only collect valuable information for yourself, you collect and segment data rich groups for your advertisers.

    Instead of relying on cookies, which 68% of consumers delete anyway (MediaPost), with the consistently updated data insights that advertisers receive from you, your advertisers have a much higher chance at conversion. And, advertisers are willing to pay big bucks for those kinds of chances.

    As you sell advertising space based on your first party insights, you increase your credibility, and provide more value to your consumers. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

    Knowing and Reaching Customers with Data

    In a nutshell, first party data provides the insight and context into your customers that you need to nurture loyal, engaged users. To learn more about how to responsibly collect and put your consumer data to use, download the free guide, Making Sense of Consumer Data.

    Whatever industry you operate in, the first battle you have to win over the hearts, minds and dollars of your potential customers is to rise above the noise and grab their attention by doing something different. Don’t let your marketing take the back seat.

    In 1928, a man named Otto Frederick Rohwedder created arguably one of the greatest inventions ever: pre-sliced bread. Rohwedder, a jeweller by profession, truly believed it would change the baking industry for the better. But bakers scoffed at his mechanical bread slicer - surely bread would quickly go stale if pre-sliced!?

    So Rohwedder came up with a better idea: the five-foot long and three-foot high Rohwedder Bread Slicer. Not only would it slice bread, but also wrap it in a wax paper to keep it fresh. However, even with the bread wrapped, many bakers remained dubious.

    It was a commercial failure for 15 years, until Wonder Bread popularized the idea and altered the meals of the world forever (think French toast, club sandwiches, bread pudding).

    While Rohwedder focused a lot on improving the manufacturing process, he failed to spread his brilliant idea. Some great minds have the occasional product win, but sadly, most marketers fail to attract the word-of mouth they want.

    Mass media used to make it easy for us to spread ideas. We simply had to buy ‘attention’ by putting ads on TV. All these products below made it on the market because they were able to touch us and grab our attention through mass media, whether we liked it or not.

    This model isn’t working like it once did. In a world where we’re confronted with too many choices and not enough time, we tend to ignore the ordinary.

    Imagine you’re walking into a store and you pass by an aisle of toothpastes and toothbrushes. You’ll probably keep walking because you’ve seen toothbrushes before. Toothbrushes are invisible to you. They are lifeless, dull. But if one of those toothbrushes was completely black, you would probably notice it.

    My point is not to invent black toothbrushes, but that your idea has to be remarkable to get everyone’s attention. People will ignore a regular white toothbrush but notice a black one.

    Brands that dominate our daily functions, such as shampoo, paper towels and deodorant, constantly fight to keep from fading into monotony. They must find a non-traditional way to get noticed. They must accept that, as consumer expectations change, so too must brand advertising techniques.

    Data, taken from Brandwatch’s report on Household & Personal Care Goods, shows that brand managers in this industry spent a $557 billion dollars in one year (2013) trying to interrupt us with commercials, emails, spam, coupons, magazine ads, shelving allowances, and so on.  

    While many marketers believe advertising can hugely affect a brand’s image, consumers feel differently. Consumers are so flooded with ads, they ignore most of it as there's just too much of it to process. They rank personal experience, word-of-mouth and packaging well above ads.

    So how can your product idea become remarkable? Avoid being safe, average, ordinary, and above all, find the people who really care about what you have to say. Talk to them. Market to those people who are listening.

    It’s impossible to create a product that appeals to everyone, but to the people who love it, they will spread the word.

    Toilet paper, for example, isn’t all that entertaining, but Charmin succeeded in creating one of the most engaged communities online. Their playful Twitter account celebrates the joys of using the bathroom with #tweetsfromtheseat, besides advertising their product. Charmin’s Twitter account now has over 40,000 dedicated followers.

    Dove successfully stands out from the crowd by encouraging women to be far more confident about their beauty and by targeting and including these customers in their marketing efforts. A great example is their recent Beauty Patches commercial, which received a truckload of positive comments and shares.

    Whatever industry you operate in, the first battle you have to win over the hearts, minds and dollars of your potential customers is to rise above the noise and grab their attention by doing something different. Don’t let your marketing take the back seat. It’s not the best product, but the product that has the ability to spread that will most likely succeed.

    The days of having to build a website “brick by brick” (i.e., code it line by line) are long behind us. For small businesses and “single shingle” professionals in particular, who don’t have in-house resources and can’t afford the time or money for complex development projects, there is a wide range of website builder and hosting options available that can enable them to create or update their site(s) relatively quickly and inexpensively.

    The days of having to build a website “brick by brick” (i.e., code it line by line) are long behind us. For small businesses and “single shingle” professionals in particular, who don’t have in-house resources and can’t afford the time or money for complex development projects, there is a wide range of website builder and hosting options available that can enable them to create or update their site(s) relatively quickly and inexpensively. But not all website builder tools are equally good or appropriate for everyone. This article provides guidance on selecting the best one. 

    As part of the effort to expand our website development and management service, I’ve been offering complimentary website reviews and recommendations to individuals, small businesses, and other organizations. And as is so often the case, I have learned a lot from these reviews and the related conversations I’ve had with their owners.

    Although we primarily focus on the WordPress content management system as a website builder, I don’t necessarily think that’s the best option for everyone. In fact, I wouldn’t even argue that a website is always necessary. As with everything else, the best approach is going to depend on someone’s goals and objectives, and what kind of web presence best matches them. Consider the following for example:

    • For “single shingle” professionals, a robust LinkedIn profile can serve as a de facto website, and can be all the digital presence required.
    • If an individual or organization relies primarily on word of mouth and referrals for new business and isn’t interested in being “discovered” via internet searches, they can probably get away with either no website or a super-simple one that serves as a digital calling card or brochure.
    • No website may be better than an ugly or anemic one. Yes, there are plenty of free and cheap website builder tools and platforms out there, but in general you get what you pay for – namely, an unimpressive site that doesn’t do much to enhance a business’s brand/offerings, and may even detract from them.

    Website Builder Platform and Hosting Options

    Except in rare cases, there’s almost no reason for individual professionals or small organizations to hire someone to code a website from scratch (or worse yet, to try to do it themselves). There are so many website builder tools and platforms available that it’s no longer necessary – and doing so is unlikely to produce the best, most functional and sophisticated website.

    Many small organizations are also unlikely to need a sophisticated content management system like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. Drupal and Joomla in particular require relatively strong technical skills to both build and manage. And even though WordPress is more straightforward, it still requires someone to stay on top of near-constant software changes to keep the site current and minimize vulnerabilities from hacking, spam, malware, and viruses.

    A hosted “all-in-one” solution is likely to produce the best results for most individual professionals and small organizations. But not all website builder and hosting platforms are created equal. Here are two comparison summaries that can serve as a useful starting point for understanding and evaluating the available options.

    Website Builder Platform Recommendations

    Regardless of which website builder tool/platform you use, it’s probably a good idea to hire someone with both the knowledge and experience to help you design and build the site, to ensure that it best represents your organization, brand(s), offerings, and unique value. You can still take a primarily DIY approach if you have budget constraints, but adding an outside perspective and website expertise to the effort will increase the return on your investment of time, effort and energy.

    WordPress is my first choice as a website builder, as it offers the best search engine optimization (including blogging) and provides the best long-term solution for expansion and growth. If you start with another website builder, you will likely find yourself needing to switch to something more powerful and sophisticated as your business grows and needs change. Starting with WordPress avoids those switching costs. In addition, although many people critique WordPress as not being that user friendly, I’ve found that our clients have quickly learned how to create and maintain pages and content on their own, particularly via the Visual Composer plugin. So once the site is built it’s not that hard to manage, at least from a content perspective.

    Although the WordPress software itself is free, you’re likely to have to spend some money buying a theme and some plugins, and you’ll have to pay to host the site yourself if you don’t use WordPress.com. Most individuals and small businesses will only require a professionally-designed theme, which is less than $100, and free plugins (e.g., Yoast SEO). Annual hosting for small sites is less than $100/year, so WordPress is hardly an expensive approach.

    The biggest “cost” of using WordPress, as noted above, is the requirement to keep all the software on the site current (and in synch) and maintain any custom code that gets created during development. If you don’t have the skills to do this yourself, you’ll have to pay someone a few hundred dollars a year to maintain it for you.

    SquareSpace is my first choice for a hosted “all-in-one” solution, with two big caveats. The main reason it’s my first choice is that all the templates (i.e., basic design formats) are built using responsive design, which means that they’re optimized to work as well on tablets and smartphones as they do on desktops and laptops. In today’s mobile society, that optimization is critical. None of the other hosted solutions are fully responsive. They may have a mobile editor, but that doesn’t produce the same result – and of course it requires extra work for whoever builds the site. It also offers the best blogging and SEO (search engine optimization) capabilities (after WordPress).

    The first caveat for using SquareSpace is that most of the themes are designed for “creative types” and small businesses with a consumer focus. For professional services and other B2B organizations, it could be challenging – if not impossible – to find a good template. The second caveat is that SquareSpace is often criticized for not being intuitive or user friendly, which means that it can be quite frustrating and time consuming – particularly for rookies – to try to use to build a site.

    Weebly and Jimdo appear to be the best options if SquareSpace won’t do. I’m not as familiar with them, but Weebly and Jimdo also rank highly in evaluations of website builder platforms. The biggest advantages to Weebly are its user-friendliness and the extensiveness of its template options (available both directly from them and via third-party developers). On the downside, unlike all the other options, it doesn’t include a free custom domain. Fortunately, the work-around for that is fairly easy.

    Jimdo may be better than Weebly for sites with a strong e-commerce component, and it’s also a better choice for non-English site owners, builders, and users. In addition, it has a built-in newsletter tool, which other platforms lack. It may not be a good choice if you want to upgrade to WordPress in the future, however, as the content is not exportable.

    Platforms to generally steer clear of: Wix is often included in the top four hosted “all-in-one” solutions, but based on everything I’ve read I don’t think it’s the right website builder tool for professional purposes. It may be one of the biggest (in terms of number of websites powered), but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best. I’d also avoid apparently convenient options like building a site using a service like VistaPrint, because websites aren’t their core business. And although using a domain registrar service to build and host a website seems logical, the ratings for GoDaddy (one of the biggest) reveal their general weakness in this area..

    Additional Resources: Website Builder Platform Reviews

    WebsiteToolTester and WebsiteBuilderExpert are two websites that include lots of reviews and comparisons of various website builder and hosting platforms. Here are some articles that provide more in-depth analysis of the hosted options I discussed above:

    Many of these reviews have extensive comment sections that offer additional information and insights. Be sure to read them as well!

    Choosing a Website Builder Platform

    Even for a simple website, all website builder tools are not created equal. Like your company name, brand identity, business cards, signage, and other marketing collateral for your business, a website should be viewed as a critical component of your business development efforts and an important investment of time and money. If it’s worth having one, it’s worth doing right.

    As I noted in the introduction, the first step in choosing a website builder platform is to articulate your goals and objectives: what are you hoping to achieve with your website? It’s also important to consider things like what kind of look and feel you want, how large and complex the site will it be (not just in the near term, but over time), e-commerce functionality, and how intuitive the design and management tools should be.

    When you define your evaluation criteria, be sure to assign weights to them to reflect their relative importance, and try to define the “deal breaker” factors (e.g., responsive design, depth of navigation) that will help you quickly eliminate options and narrow your choices. For what it’s worth, I don’t think cost should be a critical factor. Most website builder and hosting platforms offer comparably-priced plans – and for most small businesses, the lower-priced plans (ranging from $100 to $200 annually) will be sufficient. Even a more complex and potentially costly option like WordPress, which could add several hundred more dollars a year in maintenance costs, is hardly a budget buster.

    Assuming you opt for an “all-in-one” website builder platform instead of WordPress, be sure to visit the websites for each and review the available templates to see if there is at least one you can use as the foundation for your own site. If you don’t find something that seems like a good match for your organization/brand(s), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use that platform to develop the kind of site you want.

    Finally, to avoid overwhelming yourself and getting lost in various rabbit holes, get someone to help you through the decision-making process. Ideally this should be a coach or guide who understands websites and website builder tools, but even a non-expert who can serve as a good sounding board can enable you to make a faster and better decision.

    As always, I welcome your feedback. What questions has this piece raised for you? What would you add to, change, or delete from the recommendations provided.

    Board meetings and budget approval requests can be a nightmare to digital marketers in need of justifying the ROI of social media to their CMO. This article helps to break down how marketers can approach higher-ups and deliver key values that will get their social campaigns approved.

    So you have ambitious plans for a social media program that will build brand buzz and drive business impact? There’s just one problem: you need a big budget to match your big dreams. Though social media budgets are projected to double in the next five years, many social media marketers still report feeling underfunded. How can you convince your senior marketing leadership to invest in social?

    These proven tactics can help you prove the value of your social media efforts and win buy-in from your CMO.

    • Prove social media ROI through direct sales. Social media ROI: often talked about, but rarely proven. But if you want your CMO to increase your funding, you’ll need hard numbers that demonstrate your impact on the bottom line. Use your web analytics platform to track the performance of your social media efforts. Double down on your most successful efforts, and scale back tactics that don’t yield results.You’ve been warned of the dangers of being too “salesy” on social channels. But as long as you’re sharing engaging content, there’s no harm in mixing in campaigns that are meant to drive conversions. Take a page from brands like Lilly Pulitzer. By prompting consumers to show off their favorite looks on social channels, they engage fans while driving site traffic and commerce. Tactics like this will attract attention from the C-suite, and often result in a bigger investment.
    • Stop isolating social from other channels. Remember: social media ROI isn’t just about direct response. Use social to drive results for other marketing channels. Data gathered from social, such as email addresses, physical addresses, or demographic insights, can be used to build targeted email and paid advertising campaigns. Work with your marketing team members to track the influence of social on these campaigns, and then advertise the results through frequent reports and updates.
    • Use social like a focus group. Social marketing eliminates the gap between a business and its consumer. And social data makes super-targeted marketing possible. As a social media marketer, you have valuable insights into the latest consumer trends and hot topics. Tapping into this knowledge can help your team members make informed decisions about messaging for email campaigns, e-commerce promotions, TV advertising and more. CMOs will love this, because it turns social into a low-cost, data-mining machine that boosts every area of marketing.
    • Learn the native tongue of your C-suite executives. Social is a highly visible channel, which means that even the chairperson of the board has an opinion about it. Communicate the value of your efforts in the language of executives. Your direct manager might respond to metrics like retweets, reach, and engagement, but that doesn’t resonate as well with executives outside of your department. Share how social plays a part in traditional goals like business development, sales leads, strategic partnerships, brand recognition, and corporate culture. Learn to use their terms and address their objectives, and you soon you will be launching your dream campaigns.

    The key to getting executive buy-in to social media? Deliver them concrete performance reports and digestible proposals. Help your executive team see that investing in social makes an impact across the business, and watch them get excited for your plans and projects.