Online Offerings

Bri Bauer  of iMedia Connection provides some interesting tips on how to get customers to open emails and act on them.

Understanding the ROI

An effectively implemented email marketing program can drive significant traffic, According to the 2012 Channel Preference Survey, conducted by the digital marketing group ExactTarget, email is the preferred permission-based marketing and service channel:

  • 76% prefer email over all other channels for customer service messages.
  • 66% of teens (ages 15-17) prefer email over all other channels for permission-based marketing.
  • 96 percent of online consumers use email at least weekly.

It’s also highly effective:

  • 66 percent have made a purchase after receiving an email marketing message
  • Email marketing drives more consumers to make a purchase than Facebook and text messaging combined.

Once people have signed up to hear from your brand, they want to be kept informed. You want to provide them with communication that gets opened and drives them to take action. Here are 5 practices that drive results.

1. Refresh Your Address List

A recent Experian survey found that more than 90 percent of companies suspected that up to 25% of their data is inaccurate. Look at the number of bounce-backs or routinely un-opened emails.

2. Create An Engaging Title

To avoid getting preempted by a spam filter, avoid spam filter-friendly language such as “free,” “act now” and “limited time”.

3. Develop User-Friendly Design

Make the communication responsive and scalable to  multiple platforms, allowing users to take action, whether they are viewing it on their mobile device or desktop computer. “Avoid the sophistication trap – email marketers see the most success with layouts that have  little noise (graphics, photos, video and scrolling)  with a clearly visible call to action.

4. Understand Their Motives for Signing Up

Knowing what motivated people to sign up for your emails in the first place will help you understand them as a community and facilitate delivering what they want:

  • Are they looking for discounts?
  • Do they want something to do?

Based these insights, you can provide them with relevant content to inspire their curiosity.

5. Provide Value

Your emails should offer relevant substance and value to your readers, including news, brand insights, and customer survey information and spare body copy.


Outstanding FB Page

Proving that Marketing isn’t about creating messages, but embodying them, Sivana (meaning Oasis of Enlightenment) is based in the yoga beach culture of Encinitas Ca., rooted in Eastern spirituality, and providing support for yoga and higher living. Their products include such goods as Yoga Clothing, Active Wear, Yoga Equipment and Accessories, Bags, Incense, Statues, and Malas.  They have an amazing Facebook page.

Gratitude to Seyi Sandra David for sharing:
Here’s a way to create your own free website, easily. It gives your own domain, and is customizable to your specifications:

free website

What Marketers Need to Know From 4 Experts

How affiliate marketing works for online offerings

  discusses Affiliate Marketing, in ClickZ. What is it, and why might it be of value to you?

Affiliate Marketing Defined:

Cohen  defines it as follows:

Affiliate marketing is about building and maintaining relationships between affiliates, retailers, and networks. It’s at the heart of selling. This explains why Affiliate Summits sell out.

Should you add it to your marketing mix? Why not ask the experts? Heidi  interviews 4 experts below. I’ve highlighted important takeaways in red.

1. How do you define affiliate marketing?

  • Dan Chiss: Affiliate marketing is a performance-based online marketing channel that rewards publishers for driving conversions for advertisers.
  • Shawn Collins: Affiliate marketing is simply online commission-based sales and lead generation. For instance, if somebody made a fan site for the latest hit movie, they could include links to merchandise and tickets. When visitors click the ads and buy, the site that referred those sales will earn a commission.
  • Murray Newlands: Affiliate marketing is where one entity drives a prospect to another entity in return for a reward. The traditional way of thinking about affiliate marketing was the owner of a book club website recommended the next month’s book and put up a link to Amazon. If people bought the book, Amazon would reward the book club owner. Now there are many more variations on this approach. While site owners are still paid for sales, they’re also compensated for leads, clicks to sites, traffic which goes to sites and leaves them (paid on the outkick), to mobile app installations and even in-store coupons.
  • Adam Weiss: Affiliate marketing is the performance-based segment of the online advertising industry. It offers advertisers the ability to generate sales, leads, or any action on a rev share or CPA basis. These actions are driven by highly targeted distribution partners that offer advertisers a unique value proposition driving increased revenue for all parties.

2. What’s the value proposition for marketers to use affiliate marketing?

  • Dan Chiss: Affiliate marketing can be a cost-effective, low-risk marketing channel that is uniquely suited for zeroing in on conversions, but also plays an important role in influencing consumers at each phase of the purchase cycle. It empowers advertisers to increase the mileage of their marketing efforts, while publishers are rewarded for driving conversions.
  • Shawn Collins: Affiliate marketing enables people to monetize their sites, email lists, etc. with relevant advertising. It’s a process that requires frequent testing and optimization, and affiliate success varies from a couple dollars a month to supporting themselves, and even powering entire companies in some instances.
  • Murray Newlands: You’re able to tap into a marketplace of marketing ninjas who can help merchandise your products. Ninjas can be good and bad. Know with whom you’re working and how to manage them. Further, as an adviser to VigLink, one of many affiliate channels, I’ve seen them enable advertisers to expand their reach and make sales through billions of pages of content they’d never be able to get traffic from otherwise.
  • Adam Weiss: The research Rakuten LinkShare did in conjunction with Forrester showed that consumers prefer visiting sites that focus on aggregation and curation of multiple advertisers and/or products. These are the types of sites that an affiliate network will provide to a marketer. Further, we found that these types of sites drive new customers to advertisers, help customers make a final decision when there is purchase intent, and also drive users who tend to spend more money to advertiser sites.

3. How would you persuade a marketer who believes that affiliate marketing cannibalizes his existing sales?

  • Dan Chiss: Marketers should focus on data and try to understand the full picture of their customers’ journeys.Before your customers buy or convert, they may see many different parts of your online marketing campaign – including paid and organic search, email, affiliate marketing, display ads, mobile placements, and more. Each of these elements has an impact on the results you see. Marketing attribution modeling can help you can assign value to all of the factors that contributed to a sale, and make better decisions about where to invest in the future.It’s also important to remember that testing is key to optimizing compensation to affiliate partners. Consider building affiliate programs that reward partners for the value that their referral provides to your business. For instance, some advertisers give more credit to affiliates that bring in new customers and provide awareness in the upper-funnel versus those that simply offer coupon codes to customers who are ready to purchase. Experiment to see what works best for your business.
  • Shawn Collins: When an advertiser has an affiliate program, it’s essential that the program is actively managed. The cases where an affiliate program can cannibalize the existing sales are when the program is on autopilot. For instance, if there is nobody to monitor whether affiliates are bidding on trademarks, a company could waste funds on commissions for what would likely have been organic sales.
  • Murray Newlands: Once you gain experienced with affiliate marketing, you’ll know which of your affiliates drive what type of traffic by which means. Then you select to work with those people who bring you new, incremental sales that don’t cannibalizing existing sales.
  • Adam Weiss: Affiliates are the ones who are continually innovating and on the cutting edge of ecommerce – building tools and technology that help shape how customers are shopping online and this can only support and augment a marketers current efforts. Customers are becoming increasingly savvy in how they shop online and use the web as a resource for e-commerce and we find increasing usage of affiliate sites as a way to make their final purchasing decision.

4. What kind of resources do marketers need to support their affiliate program?

  • Dan Chiss: Data! Explore all the available analytical tools and reporting your network provides, and constantly evaluate how your affiliate program is helping you meet your overarching business goals. Use free tools like Google Analytics to understand customer behavior and help you get your desired results. Always make sure that solid data supports any business decision that you make, whether that be reallocating budget, adjusting affiliate publisher payments, revising your cost-per-acquisition targets, or updating landing pages.
  • Shawn Collins: I’d recommend that any merchant/advertiser work with one of the bigger affiliate networks. It can be tempting at the onset to go with an off-the-shelf software, but affiliates prefer to work with a trusted third-party. Also, the affiliate networks are frequently evolving their tracking and reporting, while cheaper solutions are often static.
  • Murray Newlands: The obvious one is being on an affiliate network (Google, Commission Junction, ShareASale, or other network). Alternatively you can use your own affiliate tracking software such as Hassoffers, Cake Marketing, or LinkTrust. Next, you need time to manage recruiting and building relationships with your affiliates. To support this effort, you’ll need marketing assets including banners and email templates. Also, you’ll want the flexibility to change to your website as well as business model to make affiliate marketing effective for your company. This means management buy-in.
  • Adam Weiss: I’d say it depends on what you’re selling and what type of distribution you’re looking to reach. But at a high level, as previously mentioned, I think having a person or team to manage the relationships with your publishers is key. You want to ensure you are able to understand and leverage the full value of all the publishers in your program. You also want publishers to understand your brand and what you’re about as a marketer.There are also various tools and technologies out there that can make it easier for Publishers to work in your program. Rakuten LinkShare has spent a lot of resources building different tools making it easy for publishers to get links for their advertiser partners as well as to access reports in a streamlined fashion.

The Takeaways

  • Affiliate marketing is where one entity drives a prospect to another entity in return for a reward.
  • Affiliate marketers can enable advertisers to expand their reach and make sales through billions of pages of content they’d never be able to get traffic from otherwise.
  • Affiliates are the ones who are continually innovating and on the cutting edge of ecommerce – building tools and technology that help shape how customers are shopping online and this can only support and augment a marketers current efforts.
  • Marketers should  try to understand the full picture of their customers’ journeys. Marketing attribution modeling can help you can assign value to all of the factors that contributed to a sale, and make better decisions about where to invest in the future.
  • It’s essential that the program is actively managed  to avoid having an affiliate program cannibalize existing sales or wasting funds on commissions for what would likely have been organic sales.

Why Provide A Personalized Experience Across Touch Points?

1. Personalization Drives Consumer Behavior

According to a December 2011 analysis from Janrain, in Q3 2011, personalization is important to consumers:

  • half of the consumers surveyed say that social login’s personalization capability is attractive to them
  • One-quarter are neutral.
  • One-quarter do not find the capability attractive.

The study also shows that personalization proves quite valuable.

  • 50% say that if a website personalizes their experience, they are more likely to return to the site
  • 46% say they are more likely to buy products/services from the site
  • 38% would be more likely to recommend the site to others
  • 33% are more likely to make purchases in-store.

2. Both Consumers and CEOs are More Demanding

A January 2012 survey of 94 retailers by Retail Systems Research finds that 63% of multichannel retailers expect the online channel to account for a sharp increase in their total sales by 2015.  As commerce continues to flow through multiple channels including in-store, online, mobile and direct mail,  it’s important to remember this basic lesson: consumers still give their business to companies that are more service-oriented and customer-focused.

3. Personalization Has Become an Important Differentiator

Here are some statistics:

  • ChoiceStream study shows that personalization can drive 10% in incremental sales.
  • Yet, only half of the Top 500 online retailers are using personalization techniques.
  • Over 61% of retailers say personalization is among the most important merchandising tactics in web retailing (10th Annual e-tailing group Merchant Survey.)
  • Some estimates are that e-commerce will account for 20% to 30% of total retail sales in the U.S. in as little as five years

Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group testifies that:

Personalization is critical, essential, and growing in importance because as merchants really want to grow conversion, giving the customer a targeted experience through personalization is more effective.

Millie Park, Vice President & General Manager or ChoiceStream explains more concretely in How Can Personalized Recommendations Transcend Channels? why personalization is so important:

Think about your favorite in-store experience. The one where a salesperson on the floor makes suggestions, provides feedback, and helps you find what you need. You shop there consistently for a reason. That “personal shopper” model can be replicated across other touch points as well, whether it be online, via email, or even in catalogs. But retailers few and far between actually provide this experience across touch points.

4. Personalization Brings the Enterprise Together

Integrating online data into the offline world has endless opportunities. The key organizational roles that can implement and benefit from personalization include:

  • Merchandisers – Being attuned to seasonality, product inventory and demand, merchandisers who oversee the presentation of products  can leverage the power of personal recommendations online, at in-store kiosks and Point-of-Sale.
  • Marketers – Personalized emails can be used to present recommendations and drive repeat visits both online and in-store, as well as to re-engage lapsed customers, to help create brand loyalists and advocates
  • Customer Relationship Management – Personalized recommendations can be deployed online, via email, in mobile-commerce environments and in-store if there is a way to tap into online customer activity at the cash register or in a call center environment. This will help CRM to maintain customer data and reengage and nurture customers while creating loyalty across channels.
  • Information Technology leaders – They can use personalization to assure that solutions deployed are usable across multiple touch points with minimal or no impact on resources and technology assets for both integration and maintenance, as well as enable the use of data across all channels while protecting personal customer data.
  • Store (Brick-and-Mortar) Management – While relying on marketing and online promotion to drive shoppers to the door, having more information on the customer can help them to make a sale.  By swiping a loyalty card or entering an online user ID and password, a prospective customer can give  a salesperson a glimpse of their online behavior including what recommendations they clicked on or  products they researched. This information can help the salesperson guide the customer to those same products that may be in-stock or on sale in the store.
  • The CEO – Since the CEO wants to assure that all the business groups are working in concert to assure customers are being seamlessly serviced and sales are being increased profitably across each channel, (s)he can readily  appreciate the contributions that a comprehensive personalized recommendation strategy can deliver.

Leading retailers are leading the way in embracing personalized recommendations, and finding ways to integrate recommendations across each touch point. Companies in the financial services industry, where buying decisions hinge on highly personal circumstances and concerns, should be closely following these retail trends for opportunities to leverage them to provide a more personalized experience across touch points that can help drive the purchase process.

Marketing Meets Social Meets R&D

 of Mindjumpers Social Media Group in her post, Case of Creative Crowdsourcing: Let Your Fans Guide Your Brand, highlights how crowdsourcing gives a voice to your fans to inspire brand loyalty.

“Do Us a Flavor” 

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched it’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign launched in July, 2012. Lay’s is asking its US website, fans to “come up with the next great Lay’s flavor.” They invite users to name their flavor, pick out what ingredients will go into it and share their inspiration online or by text message. The payoff? The person who submits the winning flavor can win $1 million dollars or 1% of the chips’ 2013 net sales (the greater).

This campaign,  first launched in the UK in 2008 and then in several other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.  The campaign was successful in more than 14 countries, generating more than 8 million chips flavor ideas globally. It resulted in the creation of numerous new flavors, including: Chili & Chocolate, Caesar Salad, Late Night Kebob,  Thailand’s hot and spicy crab, Turkey’s haydari and India’s mastana mango.  Salman Amin, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, PepsiCo says he decided to launch the campaign in the U.S. because:

Judging from the success of these contests worldwide, we feel confident that the response will be incredibly enthusiastic here in the U.S. Consumers love to create new products and fervently support brands and companies that demonstrate they truly value their opinions. Moreover, everyone loves potato chips—each of us has a favorite taste that came from years of experimentation, and we all like contests with big prizes that reward our creativity.


  • Engagement People like to have their voices and opinions heard. By asking fans to submit a flavor, Lay’s makes them feel special, while an incentive to participate can generate even more engagement.
  • Attention News spreads fast among engaged fans as their participation shows in their Facebook newsfeeds.
  • Personal relationship You build a stronger relationship with customers by making them feel part of the company’s core processes. Guillaume Jesel, a Senior Vice President for global marketing at MAC describes the strategy as letting “the consumers take the steering wheel for a while.”
  • Problem solving Crowdsourcing provides you a quicker and lower cost way to decide on your next product, inspired by consumers’ needs and wishes.
  • Replicate success A winning idea in one market may work in many other markets as well with similar preferences.

Other successful crowdsourcing campaigns that have helped brands design their new products include:

Several have led to incredible levels of consumer engagement:

How Crowdsourcing Works

  1. You identify a problem
  2. You broadcast the problem
  3. The “crowd” (fans) submit solutions
  4. You and the crowd vet the solutions
  5. You reward winning solvers.
  6. Everybody profits

Dion Hinchcliffe of ebiz explains that internet startups that have had considerable success with crowdsourcing over the last few years, including with its more serious cousin peer production, have recently focused on creating the tools and communities for enterprises. They include the online design service Crowdspring, and other early providers such as Amazon’s excellent Mechanical Turk and Innocentive. The economics and results of crowdsourcing are often compelling. LG recently designed a new phone this way for just $20,000 (details and submissions here). Crowdsourcing services include idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support, all of which can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain. While companies such as Netflix (the Netflix Prize) and Emporis have built their own internal crowdsourcing capabilities internally, most companies rely on commercial services  for the necessary ingredients of effective crowdsourcing, including configurablearchitectures of participation, legal constructs, customer support, and communities of users ready to contribute.  Crowdsourcing campaigns typically pay by the unit of work (such as a successfully completed task) or for a successful solution to a problem, usually in the form of a prize.

Why Use Crowdsourcing?

The reasons for a business to use crowdsourcing are varied:

  • The ability to offload peak demand
  • Access to cheaper business inputs
  • Generating better results
  • Tackling problems that would have been too difficult to do otherwise.

A challenge is the swamping of inputs – the richness and variety of contributions, while wonderful, can require considerable review to find the best ones.  Crowdsourcing services now address this with filters and controls, such as Kluster’s ability to more readily tune the “relative influence” of various types of participants.

Five Functional Business Areas Suitable for Crowdsourcing

Here are examples of some of the business uses of crowdsourcing today:

1. Problem Solving

Innocentive, the leading open innovation service, has over 180,000 contributors who can work on problems in science, manufacturing, biotech, medicine and many other fields. They offer rewards ranging from $5,000 up to $1 million for solutions to submitted problems.  An article in The Economist reports a 74% ROI for crowdsourcing over central production methods. Other options include GuruStormsPhiloptima and PlanetEureka.

2. Design

Crowdsourced design services like Crowdspring provide marketplaces to allows for crowdsourcing Web designs cheaply and quickly. Others, like Denook, offer design for other things like apparel. BootB, can help companies crowdsource marketing and creative work. General purpose tools like Kluster can help companies strategically farm specific design decisions across their own private or public community. Services such as Elance provide on-demand design work, but are not structured to create multiple competing inputs.

3. Work

For many kinds of simple tasks, there are highly granular on-demand work marketplaces. Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower are two of the top solutions in this area. A good example is CastingWords, one of the best audio transacription web services, which breaks up recordings into tiny pieces and distributes them across the world to Mechanical Turk workers for conversion to text. For IT shops TopCoder offers crowdsourcing for software development from , the “world’s largest competitive software development community with 220,326 developers representing over 200 countries.

4. Testing. “Users as testers” assures broadbased and thorough user input from customers. Services such as uTest are bringing crowdsourcing to testing of software and other services.

5. Support. Online customer communities are a growing source of crowdsourced customer service and support for companies that understand how to grow and nurture them. Services such as FixyaGetSatisfaction and CrossLoop crowdsource customer support to get the answers to questions companies have that are often more accurate than what the companies can generate internally by themselves.

Like many aspects of digital business, crowdsourcing is a very recent development that is still in its early stages. Creative companies have an opportunity to use it to link marketing more closely to research, development, design and customer service, forging competitive marketplace advantages.

A Hybrid Between Marekting and Customer Service

The UK-based movie theater company Odeon has partnered with Conversocial, a company that specializes in social-based customer service.

How are they using social interactions with their customers? Robin Carey of Social Media Today interviewed Alex Packham, Social Media Executive for Odeon and its sister company, Europe’s UCI Cinemas. The company’s primary channels are Facebook and Twitter, and Packham engages in 24/7 monitoring and response on them. He says:

We’re a hybrid between marketing and customer service, and because our responses to customer inquiries and complaints happen in a public forum, we’ve come to realize that the faster and better we respond, the more likely we will engage and even please all our customers. So you can’t really separate [marketing from customer service.] Also, when someone answers a question in a public forum, we’re reducing the times that the question has to be answered individually,” thus reducing staff time and overhead.

Initial Measures of Success

From Facebook alone, in May, 2012:

  • There were 1,613 incoming comments/posts/messages on their official Facebook page, and 177,000 fans.
  • 190 of these were customer service inquires that they responded to.

In July, 2o12:

  • There were 3,900 incoming comments/posts/messages on their official Facebook page, and 216,000 fans.
  • 300 of these were customer service enquires that they responded to – more than double the inquiries over a 3-month period.

Better Analytics

The analytics provided by social reporting have reengaged the group’s reporting to management. They chose Conversocial because they found that it had the best combination of tools and brand analysis.

The result? A sentiment analysis survey in 2010 provided clear benchmarks on improvement to the monthly and quarterly reports. They discovered that they were viewed as expensive but not the best service provider. The Conversocial experiment reduced negative sentiment by 61% in a single year:

Conversocial offered us more analysis and set up an analysis dashboard with Twitter and Facebook data, the kind of thing not available on Facebook and Twitter, and in easy-to-read graphs and tables, which is especially relevant not only to members of the team, but also to senior members who get it on monthly basis.

Conversocial’s Success

Conversocial was founded in 2009 by Joshua March. As they introduced their focused social customer service platform and advisory services to new customers, they more than doubled its revenue in the past six months  March says:

Conversocial is very focused on high-volume social customer service. If a company needs a system to identify and prioritize large-scale social customer service, or is just looking for a solution that just handles social customer service, we can help. Our APIs can integrate into larger (CRM) systems.

Conversocial is now developing a Salesforce plug-in that users of the platform can coordinate with more easily.

More on Conversocial here.

Next Page »