The End of an Era

Okay, maybe “the end of an era” might be a little extreme, but this is my final post for my Digital Marketing class. It has been a good run but it is time to move on to new things.

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I know it is sad but we can save the tears for later.

More Than Social Media

Well, it’s been an entire quarter of learning about digital marketing and considering I thought this class would mainly be focused on social media, I definitely learned a lot. Digital marketing is much more than just social media marketing and in fact, social is only one small aspect of the digital environment.

I learned about content marketing and how you should use your online material to help people find you. I learned how to perform SEO and A/B testing to optimize your search and online presence. About your mobile presence and some of the new technologies coming to the mobile environment. I sort of know what Bit coins are now.. Sort of..

I could keep listing topics we covered but that starts to get old. Overall, one thing I feel I am really taking away is that digital marketing is always changing. New technologies come and go. Where millions of people were once gathering on the internet is now obsolete (sorry Myspace). Look at Square, the mobile payment company. They were one of the companies leading the way in creating technology to use your mobile device as a payment method and now they have dropped the project and are focusing on other areas.

Things we are doing today would have seemed crazy ten years ago. The capabilities made possible by the digital age are unbelievable. We can connect with and understand our customers in ways that people wouldn’t have even imagined in the past and it’s all possible with digital technology.

Another ten years from now we’ll be looking back and seeing that this was just the beginning. As technology advances so will our abilities in marketing and I can’t wait to see what is in store.
Final Results 

Throughout the quarter I’ve been writing these blog posts to not only document what I have been learning but to also practice my writing skills. A part of that includes getting views of my blog. More views means better writing. Or something like that.

Now before I post my results, I want to make note of something. The first day of class I remember my professor telling a story about how people in the past have simply posted their blog link on their Facebook and begged their friends for views and how this technique doesn’t work. Apparently I misjudged this story as my professor telling me not to use Facebook as a platform to gain views. Which was wrong. So my views aren’t exactly impressive but considering I never once posted my link on Facebook, I can’t complain.

 

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Not bad, right? Nothing too impressive but hey, it’s my first blog. I also wrote 12,963 words (not including this post) and 14 individual posts. These posts earned me 16 followers and overall helped me improve writing. I still have a long way to go in mastering this skill of writing but simply exercising this ability has brought a sense of ease to my writing. The words seem to flow much easier now than when the quarter started.

 

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In addition to my increased knowledge of digital marketing and a more practiced writing ability, I was able to pass the Google Analytics test and become certified in Google Analytics! It was a hard fought battle but I made it through.

 

Final Thoughts

So here it is. My final post of the quarter. Interestingly this is also my final quarter of college. I don’t believe any quarter has been more beneficial to my marketing education than this one and a lot of that is credited to this class. I’ve spent hours and hours reading and writing about concepts that are going to be crucial to the future of marketing. Although I still have a significant amount of work ahead of me if I want to master these techniques, I couldn’t have asked for a better class to conclude my marketing undergrad.

I have had a blast and I am actually headed into a position in marketing that is somewhat digitally focused and I expect to use many of the skills I learned during this class. You never know, maybe someday I’ll have the honor of joining the list of digital marketers that have been called upon to have a Google Hangout with the WWU digital marketing class.

Well, until next time. I’m out.

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Adding people to the equation

When I was little I used to love LEGOS (Okay, I still love them..). My siblings and I would all gather around this large bucket of bricks and let our imaginations go crazy. My brother and I especially enjoyed this activity as most of our sets were star wars themed or focused on “boy” interests.

Historically, LEGO has been more of a hobby for boys growing up. This was especially true with the introduction of themed LEGO sets like star wars, cowboys, and such.

They wanted to reach both genders with their toys. They had focused so long on certain segments of the market and completely missed out on meeting the needs of young girls. After some problem solving, they eventually went to the girls themselves to try and figure out what they would want. They tested “girl-focuses” LEGO sets with young girls and their mothers and often times brought girls in to directly create products with LEGO.

The LEGO examples introduces a rather interesting topic, co-creation, the concept of bringing your customers directly into the value chain and letting them contribute to the business. Another example would be IKEA and the way that customers are brought into the operation by having customers themselves pickup and assemble the furniture. Or think about the clothing company that only sells designs directly from the customers themselves.

Co-creation is a powerful tool. What better way can we meet the needs of our customers than going to them directly? We have the ability to communicate with our audience on a level that has never before been possible. It would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity. By collaborating with our customers directly, we have the ability to lower costs and build relationships with the customer all while hopefully giving them the exact product they are looking for, win-win-win.

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Simply put, co-creation is the activity of bringing your customers into the value chain.
Although the benefits that come from co-creation can be great, there are issues that can impede the ability of a firm to create an environment that fosters co-creation. The Journal of Service Research wrote an article that brings to light four points that can put a dent in your co-creation attempts.

1. Co-creation takes a significant amount of transparency. Companies that have well kept secrets may lack the ability to bring consumer input into the value chain. Because the firm is unable to share the information required, customers input is less useful.

2. We are dealing with intellectual property. Although some customers may gladly part with their creative ideas, others may bring up legal situations with ownership of the ideas. This can be messy for both parties and discourages co-creation.

3. If you open the door, people will enter. By opening up the possibility for people to input ideas to your firm, people will likely be interested. This can be a good and bad thing. Firms may find that they are overloaded with information from the abundance customers who have ideas and want an input on the project.

4. Your customers have great ideas. Again, this can be good or bad. Sometimes customers will propose an idea that is really great, but one that your firm can’t utilize due to time or the size of the idea. These firms end up simply working with their customers after the product has launched and miss out on the input.

Don’t worry, the same article also proposed ways to promote co-creation with your customers!

1. Reward your customers. As was pointed out before, your customers have some great ideas and sometimes they might not be interested in sharing them. I’m not suggesting you should bribe them, but make it interesting. Help them out for helping you.

2. Help them create. Sometimes your customers need the proper weapons to really tackle a project. Help them out by providing the tools for success.

Crowdsourcing
Some companies like LEGO are getting pretty good at co-creation and creating new products. Others, like Quirky, rely almost entirely on people outside the firm to come up with ideas for products.

This brings us to crowdsourcing. Like co-creation, crowdsourcing goes outside the firm and brings people in to help with the business. Unlike co-creation, crowdsourcing is an open call to the public, usually using the internet as a networking platform, to find solutions to a problem, create content, or other related activities.

The results are fantastic. Firms are able to find solutions to a number of ideas that their R&D department can’t, and those tinkering minds that crave puzzles are finding a a platform to release their creative energy.

Colgate previously needed a way to inject fluoride powder into a tube of toothpaste without the powder getting into the air. They were unable to solve their solution until posting the problem on a crowdsourcing website called InnoCentive and a man with a background in physics had a solution by the end of reading the posting.

Stories like this exist throughout the crowdsourcing world.

So what does Quirky do? Quirky was started by Ben Kaufman, the founder of a startup when he had an idea for a phone case in high school. Hoping to give others the feeling of seeing their innovations come to life, he left the mobile accessories industry and started Quirky.

Quirky allows people to post their ideas on their website and then the company selects a handful of projects that they like and develops them. Once they select the promising designs, they work with the community to receive input on what features and aspects should be a part of the product before introducing it to the market. 30% of online sales and 10% of retail go to the inventor of the product.

Some of the better selling products have brought given the inventors over $500,000, seems pretty good to me!

The overarching idea behind co-creation and crowdsourcing is that people have answers to the questions facing firms. They have ideas, intelligence, and assets that firms can access if they simply reach out. Firms are usually limited to the minds of those within the organization, and sometimes this may be enough. But considering we have billions of minds that might have better ideas, why not go to them? Considering firms are creating products and services to meet the needs of these people, what better way then letting them help?

Will you be paying with cash, card, or phone?

The list of things we can do with our smart phones is a long one, there’s an app for everything, right? Well, if you didn’t know, you can add payments to the list of capabilities. There are a handful of companies that are now offering ways to use your smart phone as a credit card. Most of the technology works in a similar way by connecting your credit information to an application but there are some key differences to how they work.

There are two main players left in the mobile payment game, Google (Google Wallet) and Level Up. Square, the company that made it possible to accept payments with a smartphone recently dropped their mobile wallet project leaving the competition to Google and Level Up (Paypal is also competing for this market but there presence seems minor in comparison).

Lets look at Google Wallet first. They have incorporated a chip into the newer android phones that can communicate with specifically designed “terminals”. The terminals look similar to any other card reader you might run into however there is an additional piece shown below.

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The application works by linking your credit card information to your phone and is transmitted to the card reader through the chip simply by touching the terminal, pretty cool, right? With a simple tap, you can make a payment with your choice of credit card (assuming it is linked to your Google Wallet application).

Level up has similar aspects but takes a somewhat different approach. Like Google Wallet, Level Up uses an application to link your credit card information to your smart phone. When you are making a payment, the Level Up application creates a QR code that can be scanned at the time of purchase. This code brings up your credit information and you are on your way!

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Instead of using a unique terminal, Level Up only requires a small scanner that is compatible with many current POS systems. In fact, a seller only really needs a tablet or smart phone to accept purchases with Level Up as the scanner can link with most tablets and a smart phone camera can act as a scanner as well.

Level Up recently entered new territory by making it possible for users to make in-application purchases by connecting to your Level Up account. One example on how this would work is with a food service company. Developers now have the power to link their applications to the credit information found in a user’s Level Up account and would enable the customer to pay for their food in the app without reaching for their wallet.

Both mobile payments offer a new twist on an old system. Arguably they are unnecessary service and we’ll see if they really catch on in the future. Personally I think it’s a great idea and unlike our friend George Costanza, I like the idea of carrying fewer items in my wallet.

Coin: The new device that could have saved George Costanza’s ... on Twitpic

There are other competitors trying to compete for the top spot in the mobile payment world but Google and Level Up seem to be leading that frontier. Forbes writer Gene Marks argues that one company has the power to decide who will win in this game, Starbucks. Starbucks already has a mobile payment app but has only a small number of users. Arguably, if Starbucks were to join forces with perhaps, Level Up, they would make a statement that decides how payments are made for a long time. Starbucks already seems to be headed towards a more innovated payment system and with a better system, they may be the trend setters for other companies and industries to follow.

What about Bitcoin?

With all this talk about alternative payment systems, it would be a shame to leave out bitcoins. So what is a bitcoin? I want to give a shoutout to CNN for giving me a description that finally clears up my confusion on bitcoins. Bitcoins are a form of currency that can be used to purchase goods and services just like real money, except they exist entirely in computers. People purchase bitcoins with real currencies in an exchange that appears to be similar to the way stocks are traded in a marketplace. They were created anonymously by a character known as Satoshi Nakamoto.

The bitcoin itself is created through a process called “mining” where a computer as awarded 25 bitcoins for solving a complex math equation. From here the currency can be traded in the market. Once owned, they exist in a digital wallet and you have the ability to make anonymous purchases.

Bitcoins seems very beneficial if you have some shady purchases to make, but I am yet to find the appeal in a digital currency. People question the longevity of bitcoins as they are currently unregulated and their future is unknown. The infamous Winklevoss brothers (they claim to have created the idea for Facebook) are advocates of bitcoins and currently own about 1% of those on the market. They are pushing for a listing of bitcoins with NASDAQ.

Bitcoin seems to be gaining ground in the current economy and many retailers are actually beginning to accept them. One interesting aspect of this currency is the value fluctuation. Much like a stock, the value can change each day. Some people are buying bitcoins simply hoping that they increase in price and can be sold for a profit.

Closing Thoughts

As technology increases, I expect to see a company like Level Up or the Google Wallet become a prominent form of payment. Perhaps future payments will incorporate technologies like Apple’s thumb scanner from the iPhone 5s. Being a little bit of a technology nerd, I would love to see that. As for bitcoins, I have a harder time seeing them become as important as other forms of mobile payment in the future but only time will tell. In fact, the first bitcoin ATM was recently installed in Canada, perhaps this is a sign of the future of currency.

 

Mobile Playground

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The above quote from Cognus Technology makes a good point, we live in a world where more people vieq cell phones as an integrated part of their lives. Where most people have their phones within reach at all times and more people use these devices than own televisions. Cell phones are a part of every day lives and are increasing in use and capabilities. With the advancements of smart phones, consumers are reachable at all times. Marketers would be smart to take advantage of these times and use all the tools available to them, including mobile.

Mobile Marketer comes out with a fantastic guide to mobile marketing and I will touch of some of the main points from one of the recent editions. I highly recommend checking out their current guide and get a better understanding of the mobile environment. You can view that article here.

So what’s up with mobile marketing? Well it’s still a relatively new portion of marketing. It’s still somewhat misunderstood and not being used to its highest capabilities by most firms. So where do you start? Mobile marketer points out that using mobile in your mix begins with a rather simple question, where do you want to go with mobile? This could take you a number of different directions. Some want a mobile site, others simply want mobile as a platform to introduce new products and be included in the advertising mix.

Some go the application route while others focus on the mobile web side. Either way, mobile should be a part of a firms marketing presence. Wherever you decide to focus your goals, it should be noted that a mobile presence is expected by most consumers in this day and age. So here are a few things to think about when creating your mobile presence.

Just cause it works online, doesn’t mean it’ll work for mobile

One that came up throughout the Mobile Marketer articles was the idea that your mobile presence should differ from your overall presence. Don’t get me wrong, you should be on par with your brand positioning and thus your mobile content will be similar, but there is no cookie-cutter method to marketing. You should create content that is specific to your mobile mix since the platform is different. What works on a personal computer may not work on a mobile device and navigating a desktop site on your mobile device can be a hassle. The last thing you want is to frustrate a customer who is trying to purchase your product. Help them help you.

Personalize

Similar in the way social media and content marketing allow for personalization with your audience, one of the greatest strengths of mobile is the ability to personalize your message. With all of the applications, searches, and activities conducted on mobile devices, it is easier than ever to personalize messages to our audience. For example, with the use of GPS and wi-fi, marketers can even push out advertisements based on location of the devices itself (some might think this is creepy but I think it’s brilliant). Advertise using applications that are common to your audience and

Use mobile to help your audience interact with you

One important aspect of the mobile presence is being a way to interact with your business. It might sound simple, but make sure that customers can reach you from your mobile content. Your mobile website, your social media presence, even your whereabouts should all be up to date in the mobile environment so your audience can better interact with you.

These were three of the basic themes that came up throughout the articles and the list could go on forever. There is much available through the mobile mix and it’s important to remain up to date. Keep learning and improving on your presence to achieve optimal results.

The mobile marketing environment is growing and expenditure is expected to grow significantly in 2014. So follow the trends of the packaged goods industry (64% of firms expect t increase mobile marketing expenditure) and get on the mobile marketing game.

Application marketing

As was pointed out earlier, one of the directions that a firm could take their mobile marketing is through applications. Here a few tips in case this is the choice of methods.

1. if you create an app, make sure people know about it. Make it known so that your customers don’t miss out on a great opportunity.

2. Remember that your app is not a mobile website. Your application has a different use than your website so create your app with the knowledge of how it will be used in mind. Applications are best used for times when internet connection is questionable.

3. Most people who download your app will stop using it within 6 months. Create incentives for people to come back to your application and continue to interact with your brand.

4. Don’t forget about your application users. Instead of just creating an application as a means of promotion, use it as a 2-way communication platform and build relationships with your customers.

Simply put, know why you are making an application, and make sure you manage it. It’s not a complex concept but one that can be poorly executed if not carefully performed.

Closing thoughts

Mobile is a new platform but one that is growing very quickly. People live by their phones and marketers should be smart in taking advantage of the opportunities in front of them. It’s hard to find a reason NOT to have a strong mobile presence in today’s market. Even the questions and issues that some people find with mobile can easily be refuted with a minor lesson in mobile technology. The fact is, mobile is a great way to personalize a message to your customers, especially with the ability to track user activity.

Even if you decide you don’t want to dive deep into the mobile environment, the least you could do is give your customers a mobile web page. One common complaint people have is that a mobile web page is difficult to use. In fact, people are much less likely to recommend a site if they had a hard time navigating the mobile site. So do yourself and your audience a favor, and optimize your mobile page. I found a really simple article from Mobile Marketing Edge and you should check it out if you are looking into mobile web optimization. Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

 

 

 

 

 

From Hollywood to the Presidential Election, Data rules

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Data is everywhere. No matter what we do it seems like companies are collecting our information. It turns out this information is being used across many different industries, from marketing to the box office and even had an effect on who became our president in 2012. There are many advantages (and some pretty scary disadvantages) to all this data being collected and there are numerous benefits to managing these datasets.

Forrester points out that this data can be used for analytics purposes to personalize business interactions with their customers. Although this concept isn’t exactly new to the business world, it has been poorly used in the past. The irregular use of databases and analytics have left marketers with a poor focus. Forrester promotes an analytically driven management of data that can be used to find patterns in customer habits that can be used to greatly benefit both the customer and the firm. Through this process, marketers will be able to better create relationships through personalized messages and offers that are more relevant to the consumer and lead to a higher retention rate.

Basically what Forrester is showing us is that the data is out there and it can lead to greater relationships and marketing opportunities if used properly. So what does that look like? Target acts as an excellent example of the strength of database marketing, but one should be careful in wielding it’s power.

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I thought Target used database marketing brilliantly, although others may not share my opinion. So what did they do? Enter Andrew Pole, a statistician hired by Target in 2002 and given a rather unique task, find a way to tell if a woman was pregnant, even if other people didn’t know. You see, people have rather unique shopping habits. They buy some things here and other things there and Target was looking to change that by grabbing a hold of customers during specific times in their lives when shopping habits change and make them loyal to Target. One of these times is the birth of a child. The issue, is that most companies simply attack new parents with advertising when the birth is announced, target wanted to get a head start on the competition.

Andrew Pole found that head start. Target keeps a database of customer information that includes purchase history. He noticed that when a woman is early in her pregnancy, she starts buying very specific items like unscented lotions and certain vitamins. There were 25 products to be exact.

It turned out his algorithm worked perfectly, almost too well. Target started marketing to women that bought these items with ads centered on maternity products and baby needs. Because Target had so much information on their customers, they also knew exactly how to market to them. Some respond better to emails while others like direct mail. Either way, Pole supplied the list of likely pregnant women and Target knew how to reach each one, all from proper database management.

Unfortunately people didn’t love the idea that Target was doing this and their advertisements ended up informing a father that his high-school daughter is pregnant in a round about way. So it wasn’t exactly a PERFECT system but you should see the power that is available in the data.

Other companies like Orbitz are using data in a less invasive way. They analyzed their data and found that users that visited their sites on a Mac were more likely to book a slightly more expensive room than those from a Windows platform. Their marketing team now uses this data to promote the higher end rooms to those visiting from a Mac. The movie industry uses data simply to project the success of movies based on past results. They combine variables like weather, stars in the movie, time of release and other factors to come up with an idea of how well a movie will do.

So not all uses of databases and data analysis is as questionable as Target’s use (although I still think it was brilliant) but in fact can be very helpful for both users and businesses. One of the most interesting uses of data actually came through the 2012 presidential election. The Obama election was a ridiculous show of technological adaptation and database management. The Obama team seems to have ran things more like a business than anything.

When they came into the re-election processes, they had years of data that they had been collecting since the 08 election. They created an enormous database that collected information from across numerous platforms in order to reach voters in the best way possible. And there was no cookie-cutter method. They analyzed the data to come up with a score that rated a voters ability to be persuaded to vote for Obama. From there, they focused their reach on those with the highest chance of persuasion. With all the data they collected they knew how best to reach the voters and were able to add some personalization to their campaign messages.

The database force completely overwhelmed the Romney team and led to an Obama re-election. It also emphasizes the opportunity we have in this day and age. People have habits and cues that lead to certain behaviors. These things can be found through analytics of data and we have all the data needed, it just needs to be used correctly to offer personalized messages to your customers and help create lasting relationships.

Closing Thoughts

To finish up this post, I want to share a few tips that I found during my research of database marketing (You can read more about these tips from the author himself here):

Tip 1: seek permission
Tip 2: grow your database at every opportunity
Tip 3: build relationships with people
Tip 4: personalize the message
Tip 5: test, test test

In summary, get permission to use people’s data, don’t end up like Target with people trying to decide if your behavior was ethical. once you have permission, grow your database, the information could give you a significant edge on your competitors (like the Obama election). Use this information to personalize messages that help you build relationships with your customers. Finally, keep testing. Find patterns in your data, test results of your campaigns, and keep looking for better options.

SQL: not just for the computer guys

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Fall quarter this year I took a management information systems (MIS) class that gave me my first taste of working with databases. I couldn’t stand the class considering I felt like everything I was learning was absolutely useless to me as I pursued a career in marketing; the computer guys will be there to help with that, right? Why would I take the time to learn how to interact with a database when I will be focused on marketing?

I’m finding out that I may have misunderstood the need for technical skills as a marketer. It turns out I was wrong in assuming that I would not need the skills to work with databases in the future, and in fact, its an extremely important skill to learn.

During my MIS class, I remember learning about SQL or structured query language. Well, let me rephrase that, I remember learning what SQL is. It is a way to communicate and manipulate a database. In it’s most basic form, SQL allows you to extract information from a database which can be extremely helpful when working performing analytics. Instead of trying to manage all of your data on Excel, take advantage of the tools you have with databases and SQL.

For example, lets say you have an entire database full of every customer who has ever made a purchase as well as some random information like emails and purchase history. Now, if you wanted to go through and email the customers who haven’t made a purchase in over 6 months, you could very easily extract this information with a few simple SQL commands. The database would quickly make a list of all the desired information like the customer emails instantly.

This leads to one of the main benefits of learning SQL; efficiency. Using databases and SQL can help marketing operations become more efficient. Because the marketing team knows how to work with the SQL, you no longer have to wait around for the computer savy guys to come in and pull up an email list from your database, you do it yourself. Not to mention the fact that you can analyze your database on your own and find patterns that can help make marketing decisions.

Where is the benefit for companies with SQL? Well look at Zynga. They are a company that creates online games and applications. Recently they found that with the large amount of users, they had an enormous amount of data that needed to be stored. They decided that an SQL bases storage system would be the best choice for housing their data. They also concluded that SQL was the most efficient and allowed for the best results when running analytics on the data. Through the use os SQL and their new Memsql database, they expect to be able to create a better user environment with more engaging games. They are already seeing the benefit of SQL for analytics purposes in order to better reach their audience in-game and through the use of ads.

Why should you learn SQL?

In the end, I think the benefit of SQL as a marketer mainly comes from being self-sufficient as the ability of doing things on your own can go a long way. Knowing how to communicate with a database gives you a front row seat to the information that can be gained through SQL. Think about it, would it make more sense to have someone analyze a set of data and then give you the results? Or would it be more beneficial to conduct the analysis yourself? Adding a middle man seems to just leave unnecessary room to miss something that could be extremely important and understanding SQL would allow marketers more freedom to conduct their own research.

For example, since learning SQL, the Udemy marketing team has performed their own analysis and have found correlations with the interests of their customers and their enrollment in Udemy courses and have also found relationships between future enrollment rates depending on what classes you took first. All of this simply through SQL.

But even if you aren’t necessarily the one who is analyzing the data, it helps to know what is going on, and what you may be asking others to do when performing analytics of a database. Just like with coding, it helps to understand the difficulty of a request even if you aren’t the one fulfilling the duties. Is SQL detrimental to a career in marketing? I would still say no, but it would be extremely helpful and lead to a more efficient marketing operation. Although I believe marketers can survive without this knowledge, I plan to understand SQL and am adding it to my list of skills to hopefully put on my resume.

The Zynga case pointed out that their are significant analytic benefits from learning SQL in comparison to things like Excel or Hadoop. They are able to understand their customers better through the use of SQL and offer them a more personalized, engaging experience. Going back to some of the main concepts of digital marketing, it’s extremely important to know your audience. By understanding their wants and needs, you can create a relationship and offer them content that meets them where they are at. SQL can help with this. SQL offers a means of analytics to better understand your customers. You have all this data and SQL can help you decipher it, that’s why it is so important.

SQL is just one of the many technical abilities that are becoming more useful for marketers. I read an article by MOZ that describes why marketers need technical skills as well as information on how to learn them. It was a really good read and I recommend taking a look at it here.

 

Red vs. Blue? Left vs. Right? How A/B testing can optimize your results

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If someone was going to offer you a cookie, they would likely ask you something simple like, “Would you like a cookie?”. Well what if they were to ask you, “Would you like a free, sugary, fat biscuit?” You might be less inclined to accept the offer depending on how it is phrased, right? If the goal was to give away a bunch of cookies, it would probably help to know which phrasing enticed people to accept the offer.

The same goes for your online goals. Although you may not know it, the specific designs and layout of your website can affect the way people interact with your page. For example, if the goal of your website was to get people to subscribe to to your magazine about Alpacas, you might get different rates of subscriptions with different sized buttons or changing the layout of the pictures. Even minor differences like the color of the link can impact the results. The cookie example, although ridiculous, exemplifies the idea of concept behind A/B testing.

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Microsoft points out that A/B testing is just another form of experimentation and one that is commonly used throughout science. You have a random exposure with two variations of something and you analyze the data to come to a conclusion. From there, the data can be reinforced with statistical processes to ensure that the final results are significant. It’s just like any other experiment you might conduct while developing products.

To sum up A/B testing in a digital marketing sense, you take two variations of a possible web pages and test which one gets better results based on the overall goal of the site. The object is to simultaneously allow new visitors to interact with the two variations and analyze which received higher conversions for example. It’s a fairly simple concept that can have huge results. They even have programs that make A/B testing that much easier by allowing you to easily conduct the experiment and view the results.

As the image above points out, half of the visitors will see one page while and other half is given a variation of the site (this is a very simple form of A/B test). You may find that both pages have similar results but you may analyze the results and notice a serious impact. Like our cookie example, you may find out that this whole time you were phrasing your question wrong and people would be more inclined to accept the offer with a minor change to how your offer is phrased.

Let’s look at an example of a successful A/B test. visualwebsiteoptimizer.com has a list of A/B testing success stories and here is one that I thought was interesting.

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The first image is the original web page and the second is the variation. The change had a significant impact on the conversation rate of the page, but which one worked better? If I was to follow my instinct, I would have guessed the first page had better results, I was wrong. In fact, with a few changes and the removal of the green “secure” badge, conversion rates increased by 400%.

This example points out several reasons why A/B testing is so important. First of all, testing can make a huge impact and may optimize your performance so don’t be satisfied with the first completed version of your page, keep testing. 400% is an incredible increase (they made sure the test results were significant) and A/B testing made that happen. It’s extremely important to test variations as you may be missing out on better results due to something very minor. Second, just because it looks prettier, it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. When I looked at the two options I liked the one with the badge better. I actually think the new version is a fairly boring page and the badge brought color into the layout. However, my instinct was wrong and it would be extremely easy to choose the option that is appealing to the eyes although an alternative may be better. Finally, there is no cookie cutter solution. The case pointed out that a similar situation had recently occurred where a website ADDED a badge to their page and their conversion rate increased. This points that each situation is unique, it’s part of the reason we do A/B testing. The entire combination of your site works together and impacts the visitor in a number of ways and you have to test different options to find the one that works best.

 

Want celebrity level attention? Give programming a shot

With the importance of computers in the current industry, it shouldn’t surprise you that the minds behind computers are getting some attention, celebrity level attention. You may not being seeing computer programmers on the front of People magazine anytime soon but their talents are becoming so important that agencies are being formed to represent and manage the careers of software programmers. Agents are helping with tasks like finding work and negotiating salaries, but why are programmers being treated like hollywood stars? \

Of all people, why are agents deciding to represent coders? Well, in this digital age, the world is being written on computers. The importance of strong programming talent is growing and finding the right talent can be crucial for success. Agencies, coders, and companies in need of programmers can all benefit from this. In a time where there are fewer coders than programming jobs, it is so important for a company to have strong programming talent. With the help of agents, they are able to find employees who can fit their needs more easily. Coders themselves are finding better salaries, better hours, and jobs that match their interest while agencies collect commission; everyone wins. The need for these talented minds is becoming more and more important as is pointed out by the agencies themselves.

Throughout the country, we can see further affects of programming and the need for talented coders.Huge, a digital agency company, recently hosted a conference to help make up for this lack of programmers in the economy. People from across the nation gather in Texas for the free lessons on how to code. These students came from a number of different career paths and that emphasizes how important coding knowledge is in this day and age. Huge pointed out that even as marketers, it is an extremely beneficial talent. Considering marketers are behind a large number of decisions, it helps to understand the programming requirements that would go into the possible solutions.

A non-profit in Queens has used coding to help people earn a better living. They have been teaching people how to create IOS apps and have had amazing results. The average income of people who have received jobs after completing the training is over $72,000 for the small class. This is after a mere 18 week course; it’s incredible. If that doesn’t explain the fact that coding talent is becoming more and more important I don’t know what will.

Programming has had a huge impact on our economy. Jobs are being created, people are finding new careers, and programmers are riding this wave to fame and fortune. It is a growing field and has high prospects for those who would like to dip their toes into the coding game.

Maybe I should switch to coding..

After all this talk about coding and the growing feeling that I may have chosen the wrong degree choice, it’s time to give this coding thing a shot. One of my tasks this week was to sign up for code academy, a free site that teaches you basic coding techniques, and spend a few hours learning the basics of HTML/CSS. Well, I actually decided to go through Code Academy a few months ago before my class on digital marketing ever started so I might be a little ahead of things, but I never completely finished the course so I decided to jump in where i left off!

 

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What is HTML? It is basically a computer language that is used to create web pages. Through a series of tags and specified text, you can use basic text to  input tables, images, change fonts and add links. Most things that you see on a web page are created with this computer language, even this blog is written using HTML. CSS is used in combination with HTML to make the web page look pretty. It’s used to style the webpage, at least in it’s most basic usage.

It’s actually really fun. There is a sense of accomplishment when you look at the results of your coding and see what the page looks like, no matter how poor it looks. See these circles? Those took about a half-hour to make but they were created with simple HTML and CSS comands. Obviously I’m no expert but I’m very proud of my accomplishments.

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When all was said and done, I still have some work left on Code Academy. I plan to finish it very soon and would love to see what else I can learn!

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Here is the my ending progress after a few hours on Code Academy. It’s nothing special but I have learned a lot and I already so how this knowledge could benefit me in my future career. It’s an exciting time for programming and the industry needs more people. As was pointed out, coders are being treated very well, luxury dining, personal drivers, and not to mention a large paycheck. I highly suggest giving it a shot. You never know, maybe you will find a hidden passion and end up working on the iphone 10!

The marketing trifecta: changes to paid, owned, and earned media

Paid, Earned, and Owned

Let’s talk about media, specifically paid, earned, and owned media. Paid media is pretty self explanatory, it consists of things like purchased ads on a website or even paid tweets. Owned media includes content that a company creates and owns the rights to, like a company Facebook page, their website, and blog. Finally, earned media comes from other parties that decide to promote your content. For example, this could be a blogger that is writing about your product, a local newspaper covering your company’s work in the community, or simply a repost of your social media content. The image below will help explain the differences between the three and how they all come together.

 

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Shared media?

Interestingly, some point out that the lines drawn here are starting to blur. Paid media remains what it is, content and marketing that is purchased. However, the lines between earned and owned are starting to disappear and creating what some are calling shared media. Shared media introduces the concept that marketing should be shared between the marketer and the consumer. With the growth of social media and the ability to communicate with each other, consumers have the ability to be more of a part of the brand and the marketing strategy itself.

What does this mean for the marketing mix? Well, you should create an environment that engages the customer. Use pictures and blogs contributed by the consumers themselves to promote your brand. Incorporate their opinions into new and existing products. Foster an environment where you allow the consumer to be a part of the strategy, get them engaged. This task can be a risky one but can create relationships that are extremely powerful and beneficial to your brand.  The relationship between consumer and marketer is changing so you should take advantage if the change and the channels available to you.

Changes in paid media

In the same way the consumer relationship may be changing how earned and owned media work, the paid media environment is changing as well.

Recently, the EU passed a law that will drastically change the way paid media will be able to interact with the consumer. For example, often times your Facebook page includes ads based on the sites you have viewed recently to give you an individual experience. This is only possible through the use of cookies that allow Facebook to know what interests you and what ads to show you. Many sites work in a similar way. By collecting information form cookies, website can personalize your experience.

Well, with this new law, this type of interaction may end. The EU cookie law forces websites to have an “opt-in” or “opt-out” feature. Basically what this means is that people have the choice to let their browsers take information and use it to modify the pages they visit. If people decide to choose NOT to allow the information gathering, this means no more individual advertising.

This change will make it much more difficult for marketers and the trend may be coming to the U.S. in the future.

Programmatic buying

Not all changes to the paid media sector are bad. In fact, it may be easier than ever to purchase paid media in the future, assuming changes to cookies doesn’t end the online portion of paid media. Programmatic ad buying integrates technology into buying online advertising. By using data and algorithms to calculate when and what media to purchase, it would revolutionize the way that paid media is bought.

Programmatic buying allows for an automated process to bid on advertisements. Buyers would be able to bid what they believe an ad space is worth. The system will help incorporate technology into the decision making process instead of doing it all manually. The way Amazon simplified the consumer shopping experience, programmatic looks to do the same for advertisements.

To sum it up, programmatic will bring software into the buying process to make things more efficient and allow marketers to spend less time on the paperwork side of buying, and more time on planning the strategies.

Things are changing, some good and some bad. But it’s an exciting time to be in marketing and I’m curious to see where all these changes will take the industry next.

 

Google+

Just another social media platform?

You may, like me, have thought of Google+ as a failed attempt at building a relevant social media site that rivals Facebook and the other leaders. In turns out that Google+ offers really great features that are extremely useful for businesses and their marketing strategies.

As you can expect, Google+ offers many of the options that Facebook or twitter might, but is somewhat of a combination of many different social media sites. You have the ability to post content like images and videos, follow friends, message people and +1 the material they post (this is the equivalent of liking something). You can use hashtags, tag people in posts, and comment on your friends materials. There is even a video call option called Google Hangout that can bring together up to 10 people!  All in all, a traditional social media site right?

Circles

Well, Google+ has one feature that makes it an extremely useful business tool, and it is called Circles. Like most social media sites you have the ability to add (or follow) friends who are also users of the site. When you become “friends” with another user, you have the option of adding them to specific “circles”. Circles are  basically groups that are self assigned to your contacts on Google+. For example, you could have a circle for family members, co-workers, yoga buddies, clowns, or simply people you want to keep closer tabs on. And yes, this means you can put all your customers in a circle. More importantly, you can create a circle for your customers in Anchorage and another for those in Vegas.

So what it is the benefit of Circles? Not only do you have the ability to organize your contacts with circles, but you can post specific content that will only be seen by those in a given circle. That way, your Washington customers are given promotion for your rain-coat sale while those in California are reading an article that your company wrote on the best places to surf in Southern Cali.

Additionally, you have the option of posting materials that can show up in the circles of people that are in your circles’ circles. My head hurts from trying to comprehend and explain how that works so I’ll let Google do that for us:

“let’s say Nediva is in one of your circles, and Jadon is in one of Nediva’s circles. You don’t know Jadon and he’s not in any of your circles. If Nediva chooses to have Jadon visible on her profile among the people in her circles, and you choose to share a post with your extended circles, that post could appear on Nediva’s Home page and be visible to Jadon on your Posts tab of your profile.”

In other words, content that you create and post for your followers could be viewed by those in the circles of people you know, regardless of being in your circles. This gives a much larger reach and potential to grab customers you may not even know about!

Finally, you can choose to view content that is posted by specific circles. This way, if you would like to know what your Arizona users think of your new product, you can simply view the posts from those in this circle.

Closing thoughts

Basically what Google+ is offering is individualization. The ability to create and a post content to specific groups allows you to more efficiently cater to the needs of your customers and build lasting relationships in a way that other social media sites don’t offer. As you can imagine, there are many other possible uses of Google+ and the circles feature other than what i described but I saw the most benefit from those abilities mentioned here.

In a previous post I linked an E-book that did a fantastic job explaining all the uses of social media in marketing and I thought the Google+ section was excellent. If you are interested in more info on this specific social media platform, you can view that here .