Tags: small business blog

Using the Benchmark API & Autoresponders as an Onboarding System

Using the Benchmark API & Autoresponders as an Onboarding System

Beyond • November 28, 2011

Ez Texting is a web-based SMS Marketing service. Our business is actually very similar to Benchmark, except we do for text messaging what they do for email. Like most SaaS offerings, our customers sign up on their own. We don’t have an old fashioned sales team. What we do have is a team of Community Managers who help our customers get the most out of our service. We had a few goals in mind when we ramped up our customer onboarding efforts: Let every person who signs up for a free trial know that our Community Managers are there to help them get started, not sell them something. Let those people know that we have a wealth of SMS Marketing resources that distills six years of experience advising customers into really useful advice for beginners. Track the effectiveness of the emails that we planned on sending. Where We Were We’ve always sent Welcome emails that a new customer receives as soon as they create an account. Welcome emails do a good job of getting people started; they initiate contact and give an overview of some quick ways to try out Ez Texting. The problem was that email communication (aside from newsletters) ceased after this initial email. We knew there was a place for more information, delivered in small doses. The small doses part is important – no one reads endless emails, so we didn’t want to just shove everything into a welcome email. We decided that four to five emails would be needed, spread out over the course of a month. The first thing we did was spec out an onboarding system that would work through our own backend system. After talking those specs over with our Lead Developer we realized that this project was not going to be the best allocation of our developer’s time. Further, functions such as delivery, click and open tracking went from “essential” to “nice-to-have” to “perhaps in a future iteration.” Clearly we needed another solution. This is the point where we turned to Benchmark, who we were already using for our email newsletters. What We Decided to Do After talking things over with a few people at Ez Texting, we realized that we could use Benchmark’s autoresponder feature to send a series of timed emails. That solved half of the problem; getting our new customers’ email addresses into the system was the other half, and that’s where the API came into play. The process we set up probably isn’t exactly what Benchmark had in mind when they designed their autoresponder feature, but it’s worked flawlessly for us. When a user creates an account, our system calls Benchmark’s API in the background. The user’s email address is loaded into our Onboarding Email List. We still send our Welcome email, but after 24 hours, the autoresponder sequence kicks in. The new email address that was added via API is sent its first onboarding email. And then, over the course of the month, a few more follow. Aside from saving countless development hours (writing the emails took longer than doing the API integration), we simply can do more by using Benchmark than if we were to send the emails on our own. Changing timing, changing messages and headlines as needed, testing rich layouts - those are all things that would have been a pain, if not impossible, in the system we had intended to build ourselves. But of course there’s a lot more. The Results We had four goals, and we accomplished all of them. The first goal is a bit abstract but we are doing a much better job now of letting signups know that real human beings are here at Ez Texting, waiting to help them. Open and Click tracking, along with our internal analytics, confirm that we’ve achieved our second goal – pointing out the guides, articles, videos and webinars that are freely available to help new signups get the most of their Ez Texting account. Tracking the effectiveness of the emails is where Benchmark’s web app shines for this project. It’s all there, from a high-level overview of messages sent and read in the entire series, down to click stats that we can tie to a particular customer. Again, none of this information would be available if we had built this out on our own. Down the Road As great as onboarding has performed for us, we know there is more that we can be doing. We’re fanatic A/B testers here, but the email subject lines and contents are something we have not tried to improve just yet. After collecting a few months\' worth of data we’re in position to do this. Beyond that, we need to keep some secrets to ourselves. Have questions? Our Marketing Director is happy to answer your questions in the comments, or you can find him on Twitter at @JoshText.


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10 Ways to Make Business Team Collaborations Painless

10 Ways to Make Business Team Collaborations Painless

Beyond • November 23, 2011

The idea of telecommuting teams is the norm now. These days, many companies opt in on departments working remotely and on hiring outside contractors. Now add to that equation the fact that people no longer need to be in a traditional office to get work done and that many teams find it advantageous to work with the best teams from all corners of the country. There are clearly a lot of benefits in collaborative team work, but also a number of problems that both managers and employees of any generation must learn to adjust to with greater frequency. Common problems include time zone differences, lack of accountability and basic miscommunication problems that come with not being able to see or work from the same document. However, collaborative teamwork doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. It can be a painless transaction that’s beneficial to all involved parties with these tips. 1. Assembling Your Team – You can thwart most problems by making sure they never happen in the first place. Do this by choosing your team carefully. You need team members with experience, ones you can trust to work on your side even when you’re not there. 2. Meeting Face to Face - Invest in web conferencing software to make sure you’re able to meet no matter where you are. You can also make use of clever apps to simultaneously work on a project. 3. Don’t Complicate the Process – I cannot stress this enough. The more people are involved the more mangers want to see some kind of progress sheet/report letting them know what’s been going on. That’s fine. What’s not fine is requiring every little detail to be included/updated, which only wastes valuable hours. You hired the right people; trust that they’ll do the job without you having to micromanage everything – you’re only going to be wasting everyone’s time. 4. Trust the Professionals – If you’ve assembled the right team then you know you’ve recruited people who excel in their field…and you have to step back and recognize that you don’t know that field as well as they do. This is often true for any team collaborations that involve graphic designers, engineers or data analysts. Their jobs are technical, and having to break it down to someone who lacks their level of experience or background education is only going to frustrate the project. 5. Invest in Email Communication – Emails are the fastest way to communicate and get the job done, so you should invest in email updates and communication as often as needed. Weekly reports and minor conference conversations can also be conducted via email. This is especially helpful if team members are traveling and/or in different time zones. 6. Set Goals – Setting goals is important for long-term projects. When setting goals, try and keep realistic goals in mind in order to not get discouraged about a project’s progress. 7. Establish Ranks – Every team member should know who to go to for what. There should always be a pecking order established. Make sure that when involving 3 or more separate teams that you’re not ending up with too many middlemen that cost the team time and effort playing telephone with any updates or questions. 8. Communication Management – The longer a project goes on, and the more teams/members that are involved, the more confusing it’s all likely to get. This means that along the way, critical team members who may have their attention diverted on other projects will easily forget what was agreed upon or what step the project was currently at. Avoid this by making sure someone plays secretary and keeps tabs on the conversations and agreements. This person should also send out a weekly project update highlighting where the team is at now, any prior benchmarks and anticipated goals. 9. Document Management – There will be a lot of documents going back and forth, whether it’s through mail, fax or electronic signatures. Make sure someone keeps all those documents together in one place. 10. Reward the Results – Team collaborations require a lot of hard work, a huge commitment that often exceeds time and effort spent working alone or even in one location. Make sure that milestones and successful yields are rewarded appropriately. Get together when possible, but offer public thanks, recommendations and gratitude where appropriate. If you’re lucky enough to have found a successful team, you’re going to want to use them again – so make sure you leave people wanting to work with you in the future.


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The Top 5 Ways to Create a Successful Online Startup

The Top 5 Ways to Create a Successful Online Startup

Beyond • November 23, 2011

Every freelancer or consultant working in the creation of online content has met this client: The one who is convinced that the simple act of placing a website, video or podcast on the internet will by some form of magic cause it to be viewed by millions of people. Instead of focusing efforts on driving traffic to the content, they expect that they’re doing the online equivalent of placing a Super Bowl commercial. The truth is that unless you’re marketing a cold fusion flux capacitor plug-in to your DeLorean, whatever you’re selling has already been done by others, likely with larger budgets and more experience. When a Google search for Bird Feeders brings up 6.5 million results, the question that remains is what your startup can bring to the web that will rise above the fray. Here are the top five ways to ensure that your online startup will soar instead of stink. 1. Don’t Even Think of Skipping a Business Plan Starting any venture without a business plan is tantamount to jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Even if you are not seeking to raise capital, a business plan allows you to visualize the various aspects of your startup so that you can complete an accurate competitive analysis. You may find through your research that your concept to market maple syrup-soaked snuff has already been done… and failed. 2. Niche Down & Down It can confidently be stated that there is no such thing as horizontal marketing on the internet, as it’s all narrowly vertical if not outright niche-y. If your desired market segment is already dominated by multi-billion dollar brands, you can be secure in the knowledge that confronting them head-on results in one success for every several million crash-and-burns. Niches and sub-niches are where the accessible online markets reside. If your field is crowded with velvet snow shovel covers, try hand-knitted versions. If those are already on the market, niche down to hand-knitted personalized covers. 3. Realistically Budget for Your Website Most startup entrepreneurs vastly underestimate how much it costs to have a professional website created. Sure, anyone can download a shareware HTML editor and have at it, but the results will be embarrassing. Hiring a web designer can be an expensive process, especially once sophisticated technologies like HTML5, Java and ActiveX gets involved. It’s not unusual for a top-notch website to cost over $100,000 so either scale your expectations way down or buy a winning lottery ticket. 4. S.E.Woes Google has been fighting a pitched battle against the search engine optimization (SEO) crowd, and the Googleplex is winning. By hitting the SEO practitioners with rapid-fire barrages of Googlebot algorithm updates, successful SEO strategies are expiring faster than Kim Kardashian’s marriages. Creating unique, interesting, erudite, value-focused content is the only effective and timeless SEO strategy. If someone arrives at your office guaranteeing a #1 Google position in exchange for cash, either show them the door or better yet call the police. 5. Turn $1 into $40+ with Email Marketing Pay per click placements such as Google AdWords can be effective albeit expensive, as not everyone who clicks through to your website will convert. Coupons are great if you can afford to sell your product for less than 25% of retail, but unfortunately that is impossible for most startup companies. A much more affordable, efficient and profitable alternative is email and social media marketing where you can efficiently reach your customer base and engage them in the types of two way conversations they prefer. With the Direct Marketing Association stating that every dollar invested in email marketing brings in more than forty dollars in profit, it’s the best promotional channel available to any company whether startup or mature. Although you may be convinced that your octopus flavored granola bar is going to be the next big snack item, you can’t expect the world to beat a path to your tentacles. The three Ps of effective business planning, practices and promotions will give your startup company the best chances of success, no matter what you’re selling.


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WordPress Steps It Up for E-Commerce Businesses

WordPress Steps It Up for E-Commerce Businesses

Beyond • November 21, 2011

For WordPress enthusiasts who long ago discovered a beautiful, easy to use platform, nothing became more frustrating than its ultimate limited functionality when it came to e-commerce. GetShopped changed that by offering one solution as an alternative to DIY e-commerce websites. WooCommerce WooCommerce – If you want a thoroughbred online shop, WooCommerce recommends you give them a shot. A common frustration with WordPress themes is that you only get to see a live preview, but rarely can really test drive it yourself. WooCommerce alleviates the worry by offering both: A 14 day live preview that you can try out to see if it’s something that works for you as well as a free download after a brief registration. So what do you get with WooCommerce? You get administrative control and reporting, shipping and tax is sorted out for you along with an easy mode to track customers and orders. You also get product and inventory control, marketing and promotion help, payment gateways (like PayPal and credit cards) and theme options (depending on which package you choose). Cost ranges between $70 for a Standard Package to $150 for a Developer Package and between $100-$200 for Enterprise Themes. If you’re a beginner running the shop on your own, your best bet is a Standard Package, which gets you what you need but doesn’t include layered Photoshop files or advanced functionality – options that you’d really only use if you knew how to manage this already or were to hire help on the side. For someone who wants the options, Enterprise is the right choice. You don’t get bonus themes but you do get Photoshop and advanced functionality. Having the option to tweak your site to suit your preferences, especially aesthetic ones, is really a critical factor that determines whether your shop is going to attract customers or not. A great design will always get the customers…assuming it’s paired with a great product. Cart66 Cart66 – A plugin rather than a complete theme like WooCommerce, Cart66 stands out by not only catering to e-commerce business owners but also to those interested in selling subscription and digital content/services. For those not interested in complicated design implementation, Cart66 is an attractive feature that lets users plug in e-commerce aspects anywhere; so rather than designing the site around the trade you have the trade mold to the content/products already on your site. But if you do want to change the appearance of your page, you’re still able to do so through CSS. The admin side of business is made pretty easy too. You can set your currency, choose “sell to” countries, sort out tax, manage sales reports and track inventory. The cost ranges between $89-$299. A free version is available but doesn’t allow for analytics or subscription sales and has limited payment modes, among other disadvantages. Shopp Shopp – Also a plugin, Shopp lets you get your e-commerce store started quickly without all the complicated programming that traditionally goes into a non-WordPress site. Although the plugin allows you to customize style sheets including your site’s theme, catalogs and receipts, there’s no mention of order tracking, price coding and inventory management – which is a major drawback to an otherwise adequate plugin. Cost ranges between $55 to just under $300. Shopp might be best for those with a little more programming and site navigation experience; it’s not designed for beginners. Experience is another necessity in using this plugin, otherwise you’re going to end up with an amateur site. Which One Should You Choose? An e-commerce project is not like any other web project. It involves a lot of time and commitment, market research, sales and a considerable investment in time. You can do it for less with WordPress, but it’s better to really do your homework and study each option. Think about all the pros and cons, your needs and how you want your store to grow in the years ahead. Once you have a thorough blueprint, you have a better idea for how to forget a path. Here, you’re better off taking your time and doing it right the first time, rather than jumping from platform to plugin, leaving you disheartened with the project and with a loss in profitability.


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Emotional Marketing: Reaching the Consumer’s Motivation

Emotional Marketing: Reaching the Consumer’s Motivation

Beyond • November 17, 2011

We\'ve long posted on the importance of ROI in email marketing campaigns, and the avenues of implementing metrics and analyses to optimize social media and email advertising goals. However, there\'s another aspect of marketing not so easily quantifiable by click-through rates and impressions: emotions play a major role in encouraging a consumer to perform an action or develop brand affinities. As a recent article from Fast Company called Ramping Up the Emotional Side of Marketing points out, \"How do you measure a kiss? And how many kisses lead to a marriage? ... Those instantaneous, irreplaceable moments when an authentic connection occurs, the one that grows an already deepening relationship ...\" - these are the real metrics for success, no matter what you\'re marketing and how. And it\'s as true for digital advertising as for traditional print and broadcast media. Innovative businesses get it: consumers are best reached when incited to emotional involvement. Look at then-Senator Barack Obama\'s 2008 Change campaign, which relied on grass roots rhetoric from the people, for the people and by the people to (dare we say) exploit the population\'s gut desire to hope. The Christian Children\'s Fund and animal rescue infomercials were exploiting our heartstrings long before the digital age, relying on basic imagery of the less fortunate and vulnerable to reach our consciences and pocketbooks. The new wave of marketing, tuckered out from talk of ROI, open rates and less-than-exact analytics, has added emotional involvement back into the advertorial mix. As it turns out, a little bit of authenticity still goes a long way. A study out of the University of Minnesota on forecasting and backcasting emotions reveals that a person is more positively affected by an ad if it first invokes their feelings instead of leading with a selling point. According to their research, \"a person who sees an ad for a Caribbean cruise in the dead of winter would expect to enjoy the trip more (and thus be more likely to make a purchase) if an advertiser’s copy read, \'Winter getting you down? ...Wouldn\'t a sun-filled tropical vacation help? Book one today,\'\" than if the advertiser initiated the campaign with an immediate call to action. The study shows that people make many decisions based on their emotional investment in the outcome, and that by playing to consumers\' future goals and feelings, marketers can increase their influence and traction. In short, set the hard sell aside and go straight for the soft underbelly of consumer motivation. So how can marketers gain more traction with consumers’ feelings? Start with the five main emotional factors that should be taken into consideration: fear, guilt, greed, pride and love. Engage these emotions through stories, videos, imagery, testimonials with current happy clients or someone within the company; speak from the heart in your copy, cold calls and customer service; help build your business around a genuine connection with your clients. However, bear in mind that it\'s very important never to sacrifice realistic attitudes and authenticity for emotional appeal. The other edge of the sword when you’re playing to human emotion is that you open your business up to instinct. The savvy consumer can smell a rat coming from a mile away. If you\'re still not sold, take it from the advertisers who do emotional marketing best: Hospitals. The New York Times documented a campaign for prostate cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan that seemed to rely more on emotional impact than factual assurance. Using superlative language like \"highest cure rates\" and \"lowest risk of side effects,\" the ad - like many cancer awareness ads - plays heavily on consumer fear of the disease. Vague and anecdotal evidence is acceptable for nonprofit medical centers, which are not held to the same statistical standards as medical science and research organizations, but the ad does imply that \"choosing a particular hospital could be the deciding factor in whether a cancer patient lives of dies,\" says Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a medical professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical practice. According to the federal government, this sort of advertising is legal. But therein lies the problem. The laws around emotional marketing may be black and white, but the ethics? Those are pretty gray.


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The Difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

The Difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Beyond • November 16, 2011

I keep coming across the terms “inbound/outbound marketing.” Apparently, I\'m not the only one. Out of curiosity I shot out a Facebook question to my business community asking how many people knew what that meant. Apparently not a whole lot and it’s understandable why. We’re constantly being bombarded in all direction by what’s ‘in’ for business. It’s hard to keep up with the developments let alone the right terminology. I think this warrants a quick inbound/outbound marketing 101. Outbound Marketing Outbound marketing is known as the ‘old way’ of doing things, including using billboards, TV ads, telemarketing, sales people, direct mail, radio slots, paid print publishing advertisements. It’s not a completely irrelevant marketing strategy; it depends on what type of business you’re in. Even bigger business get seduced by the lure of television – but they forget that with Tivo most commercials are fast forwarded through. New ‘digital media friendly’ ads are popping up. You’ll know what I mean when I remind you of all those annoying pop up ads that get in the way of you reading or watching what you want online. If you’re ignoring them by clicking out, so are others. However, many small businesses can’t afford billboard ads and TV slots. But they can afford a one-off magazine ad in a local publication or a direct mail piece. The latter are highly ineffective and go mostly unread and tossed in the trash, since about 44% of all direct mail and junk publications get thrown away – especially around the holidays. As a result these smaller more affordable outbound marketing strategies end up costing you more in the short run – and with nothing to show for it. Be advised that this type of marketing requires repeat plugs, repeat appearances that are really expensive. And if you’re successful, someone remembers your name but they know nothing about you. There’s no customer relationship fostered and nothing offered that warrants someone to use your service over another. And here’s where inbound marketing really comes in… Inbound Marketing Inbound marketing encompasses email marketing, blogging, social media, link building, gratis magazine articles that cater reader interests, podcasts and videos…it’s digital content catered to the community and leading the conversation. Inbound marketing strategies are the way to lead to viral marketing campaigns that get you noticed! And you get noticed “naturally,” as opposed to outbound’s “in your face” approach that in our community-driven era tends to turn off a lot of consumers by being too consumer oriented. Inbound marketing’s best if you’re a smaller business or on a budget crunch, and especially if you want to set yourself as a field authority. It’s also a great tool for larger companies with a more flexible budget. They can use inbound marketing to test out a new product or service as a way of experimenting before deciding to pursue it further. They may even decide that select aspects of their business will exclusively be marketing through inbound methods. This type of marketing also requires you to really understand your target audience. Understanding people has a lot to do with why inbound marketing has really grained traction, especially in the advent of increased digital media platforms. People want to be courted, they want to be understood and appealed to. Inbound marketing is a slow train but gets you more passengers in the long run that will return for the ride. It takes time and commitment, so if you’re not a patient business owner and need results fast then consider employing some outbound strategies as well.


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3 Ways to Build Your Brand with Online Videos (and Pizza)

3 Ways to Build Your Brand with Online Videos (and Pizza)

Beyond • November 14, 2011

Internet marketers are probably all too familiar with Chicago’s Domino’s Pizza legend Ramon DeLeon, but for those of you out of the loop, here’s a bit of back story. DeLeon has been a true entrepreneur of Internet marketing through his honest and innovative use of social media and Internet video. The result of his strategy has been a huge boost in brand awareness and improved revenue for his Domino’s Pizza stores, which is certainly tough to do in what can arguably be considered the pizza capital of the world. The following article takes a look at some of the effective uses of Internet video pioneered by DeLeon, and how such approaches could benefit your brand, business or blog. 1) Connections Come First Internet video has long been used to promote products and services, but how often do you use Internet video to build a connection? In fact how often do you use Internet video to build a connection with one individual? I don’t mean a collective “one,” I mean a real, singular member of the average general public. I bet the answer is “Seldom to never.” DeLeon made this idea of connecting with that one individual a vital component to his online strategy, in this video to a customer created the morning after an order went awry: http://www.viddler.com/explore/dpzramon/videos/19/. That particular example has been shown around the world and viewed by over fifteen thousand online users. It’s not just small regional businesses either who have gotten wise to this effective video technique. Old Spice took to this idea with gusto: . Building a connection is far more powerful and far more effective than trying to create a quick sale. By taking the time and money to extend thanks, apologies or even just saying hey to online users, you can make a connection with that user for life. These instances not only create a lasting connection between brand and customer, but also spread a huge amount of conversation and word of mouth online promotion. 2) Video Apologies Work DeLeon’s clip shows a great business-to-customer communication between himself, his colleague and a dissatisfied consumer. For a business of any size to take the time out to apologize to one individual customer is exceptional. The level of customer service this provides and the representation of how important any one customer is to the brand is fantastic. This will undoubtedly spark online interaction and increase brand awareness for both DeLeon and Domino’s Pizza. Now this is not just a regional concept, nor is it always a one-to-one exchange. Sony for instance apologized publicly to thousands of event attendees and thousands of online viewers, for the downtime their Playstation Network suffered a while back, and here’s how they did it: . I’d like to draw your attention to some of the comments these uses of apologetic videos received. Domino’s Pizza (DeLeon): Playstation (Sony): Both videos received thousands of views and have been talked about across the world on and off the web. Admitting to a mistake, addressing it in a timely manner and focusing that apology on your audience is a powerful way to restart the conversation about your business. Its power, ultimately, is a reflection of its authenticity. Create real solutions and take genuine care in their presentation. 3) Create an Internet Video Presence Internet video is one of the most popular forms of media on the web, so it’s little surprise that a good one is quickly shared across websites and social platforms. Being a part of this media by making engaging and interactive video content can quickly put you into a position to have your content spread across the web too. Our celebrated Pizza guy DeLeon created engaging content by connecting with his customers whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied, but there are many other ways to make influential video content. Creating tutorials, instructional videos, interactive videos, webinars, streamed live events or just creating entertaining content could help you to build a strong online presence in both the video community and the social community. Generating this sort of presence for your brand, business or blog will certainly put you on the fast track to boosting revenue, increasing website traffic, creating higher levels of website traffic and building up your social networks. These three online video practices can help you build your brand, engage customers and authenticate your business. What are some of the ways that you or your company have used online videos to market your brand? Share in the comments below!


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What Your Marketing Department Can Learn from Infographic Resumes

What Your Marketing Department Can Learn from Infographic Resumes

Beyond • November 11, 2011

We’re in an information overload age, but the fact of the matter is that information still needs to get relayed. So to compete with everyone else out there, the creative-minded are coming up with new ways to say the same thing or showcase information. I stumbled across a graphic designer’s resume a few months back. I clicked on it and instead of another boring data sheet that offended my eyes, I was captured by the two tone ‘infographic’ that showcased her talent in a fun and memorable way. So what’s an infographic? Think chart or graphic with an art-department twist. They’re being used more and more for resumes, but they can be used for just about any purpose, including telling a marketing story, sharing a vision board, as a press release and more. How to Use Infographics for Marketing Tell a Story – If you have a story to tell, nothing says it better and more effectively than a simple infographic. When done right, just a scan of the eye will help you achieve your message, and make it more fun for your recipient. Make it a link and you’re guaranteed to get it plugged in social media. How could anyone resist a creative narrative? Press Kit – Many novices are using infographics for resumes, so I ask why not use the same tool to sell your company via press kits. Every company needs a press kit and whether you’re printing them or keeping it digital, you’ll gain attention and save on bulky printing costs with a clean one sheet that tells people what they need to know. Message Mode - Infographics are best if they’re not one-off works of creative genius. You should incorporate infographics routinely into your marketing efforts. Maybe one blog a week can be an infographic or the way you showcase your executives or company history can also be an infographic? How about an infographic press release to ensure your story gets to the consumers via social media rather than wading in a pool of thousands waiting for reporters to pick up on it? What Makes for a Great Marketing Infographic Keeping It Simple – Just like we don’t like (or have time) to be overloaded with text, we also don’t want a chart to understand a visual. If you’re using a visual, keep it simple and spaced out. Less color is more, which is why you should stick with between 2-4 complementing shades. If you’re going to use colors, this is how to do it. Use Gradient – If you’re going to go with more color, then make sure your design is simple. Here you can also incorporate gradient (subtle color depth shifts) to add more dimension to your piece. Charts 2.0 – Let’s face it, charts are hard to ignore. Most of us are still forced to create or read them. Either way, we feel like we’re being punished with Atari-like graphics and text. Give it a twist by pushing charts in the 21st century by making them adopt the community-inspired effect that makes marketing so successful. Personalize charts with creative text and characters that break the mold, and incorporate multiple types of charts into one, which ensures that something will capture reader attention. Infuse Character – The example above, “Breakdown of the Blogosphere” also showcases a festive “night time theme with subtle stars and gradient blues.\" If your company culture allows, you can do the same with your infographic. Have fun, play with colors, characters and themes and your customers will notice.


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4 Brand Marketing Lessons Learned from Netflix’ Follies

4 Brand Marketing Lessons Learned from Netflix’ Follies

Beyond • November 10, 2011

The DVD rental service Netflix quickly became a household name simply by offering what no other DVD rental store was doing. It turned the business and pleasure of rentals into a convenient transaction that never required your to go past your mailbox or your online account. It made what people do easier and more efficient and there’s no better marketing than that. But the simple principle of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” didn’t keep Netflix executives from tampering with what was otherwise a brilliant design. Changes in service and especially pricing caused the company to lose over 800,000 paid subscribers in just one quarter. That’s an astounding loss. While it’s just a dent to them, as they still have over 23 million users, the lost customers should raise red flags. The loss also wasn’t an overnight transition. As an on-again off-again NetFlix user among many others, I know that a sudden SIXTY PERCENT fee hike was too much for many loyal and long-time customers. Here’s what you can learn from what some are calling the first wave of a sinking ship…. 1. Service First, Sales Later Netflix ignored the golden rule of business, and that’s that sales always follow service. If you have good service, you’ll have profits. Tamper with your services and you’ll quickly see plummeting sales. 2. Don’t Ignore Feedback Recently Bank of America tried to implement a $5 monthly fee for all customers who didn’t meet a minimum monthly balance. The move caused uproar and BofA quickly took noticed and decided the money they’d make from the hike wasn’t worth the bad PR. Netflix did just the opposite. They ignored social conversations and the reviews they were receiving in the press. Worse, when they finally got around to addressing it, it was already a dead issue that was forgotten by much of the press and consumers. By resurrecting the proverbial dead horse, they reminded people how much they hated it. 3. Don’t Divide Your Brand Brand marketing is a tough business that takes hard-earned dollars. The larger the company, the more dollars it takes to create brand awareness. And despite the good and bad PR, NetFlix is known for their movie and game rental service. So when they decided to fracture the brand by creating a separate name, Qwikster, for their DVD rental, they unwittingly sent themselves back to the drawing board. The rule here is stick with your brand and do everything you can to bolster it. 4. Respect Your Customer’s Intelligence No one likes being treated like an idiot. But that’s exactly what Netflix did to their customers. Rather than trying to gain sympathy and explain price hikes due to rising cost or any other number of reasons, they instead used a rather transparently manipulative ploy. They acted like they were doing you a favor. Netflix claimed that the price hike was some sort of “convenience” to the customer. Almost a million customers later, we can safely say that it wasn\'t.


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