The End: Don’t Worry, Just the End of the Quarter

  1. My quarter in Mark Staton’s Digital Marketing class has taught me a great deal about the potential to business growth and brand recognition that can be realized through the use of an awesome digital marketing plan.

 

Having an online presence is not just an advantage for businesses anymore, it is becoming a necessity. Consumers are increasingly using the internet not only from their desktops, but from their mobile devices and tablets as well. Having an understanding of these platforms and how best to utilize them to the benefit of your business is an essential aspect of succeeding in the digital age.

 

Over the past few months, I’ve learned

 

Technical marketers- being able to do the things that you request from developers.

Save time

Save money

Reduce miscommunications

Understanding the process gives you power

–          Coding

–          AB testing

–          SQL

One of the important things that I’ve been beginning to understand is the importance of understanding technical skills as a marketer. During the course I went through tutorials that took us through the basics of coding websites. This is an important skill to have as a marketer because you are actually more understanding of what kind of labor and skill set is required to complete the tasks that you are asking your developers to complete. This allows priorities and scheduling to be set at more appropriate points. Other technical skills such as knowledge of SQL become valuable as well. When you understand how to they give you quicker access to database information which cuts down on query processing time.

Other things I learned were geared towards understanding how to collect data by conducting research on the internet in order to determine the best course of action. AB testing was a great lesson that taught me how that web pages can be manipulated so that visitors see different versions of a page. Data is collected on the activity generated by visitors and it is determined from this data which features of a site are facilitating micro and macro conversions. The best tool for understanding user behavior however is Google Analytics. After going through the Google Analytics Certification process, I have learned a great deal about the possibilities that Google Analytics allow for internet marketers. You can figure out everything from the length of time that visitors stay on a given page to the determining where along the path to a goal conversion a customer is lost.

In addition I’ve learned of some trends that have been changing the way consumers interact with businesses. The most obvious one of course is social media. I’ve been able to work with Google+ which is so much more useful than I previously thought, especially in the field of content marketing. Another great tool is Hootsuite which allows the user to track social media activity in a very concise way. One trend that was discussed was co-creation  which is when companies pass a part of the value creation process on to the customers and in return, customers feel more engaged, and in many cases because this reduces their production costs in one way or another, that value is transferred to customers. One example of this is Quirky which is a company that enlists their customers to create the products that are going to be sold by the company then the product inventor takes a respectable share of the revenue generated.

Mobile was another of the topics that was discussed. More specifically, trends in mobile payment, its growing popularity, issues in security, which lead to customer doubts, and other positives and pitfalls of mobile payment. In addition, mobile advertising was a discussed and despite the fact that it’s not as popular yet, the projections are staggering on the amount of advertising money that will go into mobile.

Some other topics of discussion include understanding search engines, paid media, earned media, and owned media. However my favorite part of this course has been my introduction to inbound marketing and content marketing. The concept is so important to our current situation because the outbound marketing efforts that are used just aren’t enough to stay relevant anymore. We need to bring people to us, and the sophistication of search in our age is making it possible. People want to research for themselves, they want to discover, problem solve, and understand their purchases more in depth. By establishing yourself as the authority on a subject matter you can expand your company’s reputation as a trusted source of content.

Overall the class was a great experience and I’ve even been given the opportunity to employ the skills I’ve been learning throughout the rest of my curriculum, as well as in real world contexts. The startup software company that I currently work with has given me the opportunity to exercise my new skills in developing content and bringing customers to us through content creation and the use of social media with Hootsuite as a social media monitor. Google Analytics has helped me to understand more about the behavior patterns of our users and potential users, allowing us to develop our sales funnel.

Thanks for a great quarter Professor Staton!

 

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Creating Value With Co-Creation

The concept of a market oriented business versus a product oriented business is the fact that a product oriented business starts with a product then asks a sales and marketing team to sell it to the public. Market oriented businesses focus on identifying needs in the consumer market and designing their product or service to satisfy that need. Often the more successful of the two tends to be market oriented businesses because they are actually addressing the stated needs of the consumer rather than what a small group may think they need.  

As members of the business world, satisfying customer needs should be our bread and butter. One of the goals of business is to add value to products before passing them along to the consumer. Businesses thrive on the ability to create value at as low of a cost as possible so that they can have the competitive edge in pricing, and make a profit through their margins.

The concept of co-creation means that consumers are involved in the process of adding value to the products that they are purchasing. This kind of interaction could be as simple as Ikea’s process of letting customers transport and assemble their own purchases in order to decrease the price of shipping and set-up. This savings is then passed on to the consumer. Another example is Fiat allowing for the public to go to their website and vote on over 3000 features that they wanted to see on the next model release. This allowed for customer feedback to become a driving factor in the product planning process and it was considerably cheaper than traditional R&D methods.

Speaking of R&D, many big names in the manufacturing world have been choosing to use a type of crowdsourcing in order to solve their toughest engineering, chemical, and technological questions. Companies can get stuck on a problem and waste thousands and thousands of dollars trying to answer it and may never come up with a solution. This is bad for business, especially when it doesn’t yield results. In addition, it doesn’t help that whenever you stand too close to a problem for too long, you begin ignoring the simple solutions. So companies like Proctor & Gamble have decided to look elsewhere for their talents. A company called InnoCentive has answered this call by providing a place for companies to post their problems and a cash payment upon delivery of a solution. Meanwhile, scientists, engineers, chemists, etc, are searching through these problems and trying to come up with solutions to them in order to earn supplementary income. This decreases costs of R&D for companies, provides them with access to over 1.5 million problem solvers, and gives opportunities to free-lance workers who enjoy the ability to work in doses and at their leisure to make extra money. This is a revolution in how we solve manufacturing problems.

What are some ways to involve your customers in the creation of value? Try making them your employees. Quirky has an interesting business model where their product development ideas come directly from their customers. People submit ideas (sometimes reaching over 2000 ideas per week), their ideas are up voted or down voted, then reviewed by the analysts at Quirky headquarters. Ideas are mulled over, and the best of the best are discussed in a meeting of employees which is broadcasted live via the internet.  Once it has been decided that an idea should move through to production, the company goes into production and marketing mode, creating the product and figuring out the best distribution strategy for it. Their long list of retailers allows them to identify the best markets for certain products and idea turnover to product is relatively quick. Idea creators receive a handsome percentage of the indirect sales that are generated from the product and it has been proven that idea people can make quite a bit of money. How much are we talking? One inventor currently makes over $1 million per year. All I can say is Quirky, you’ve got my attention.

Mobile Payment to Come and a look into the Adolescent Stage of Bitcoin

As mentioned in my previous post, smartphone use is on the rise. Users are becoming more and more attached to their devices to the point that a significant portion of owners keep their phones within arm’s reach 24 hours per day. At this point, 48% of users even think it’s acceptable to use their phone on the toilet. Now let’s be realistic here. Use of phones for everyday tasks is increasing and in keeping with the trends, it is safe to assume that the era of mobile payment will soon be upon us. In fact, it’s already knocking at the door.

But what is mobile payment going to look like going forward? Who will lead the charge? If/When business owners decide to integrate mobile payment into their process, what are their options? Let’s take a look at these questions.

Mobile payment means a change in the trust dynamic that we have with our phone. Trust will be a factor that will take some time to build for mobile, but as with desktop purchases before it, mobile will soon be accepted into the circle of trust that consumers have with their money.

Companies like LevelUp are one of the leaders in this transition and have shown some promising updates in the way mobile users can spend their money. LevelUp is currently the largest mobile payment platform in the nation and is releasing some apps that allow for website and app developers to connect with their system in order to facilitate transactions from businesses mobile sites and apps. Companies such as Zuppler are using LevelUp to allow users to pay for food deliveries on their phone with a simple verification process. As of right now this is giving Zuppler a competitive advantage, however in the near future, just think what this will do for purchases. Merchants who effectively connect with their target over mobile will now have a way to facilitate transactions and reduce the risk of losing such high numbers through the funnel.

 

So when is the shift from early adopters to early majority going to happen? What it will come down to is having a few big players pick it up, and the rest will follow suit. Starbucks is one of the businesses that will be a deciding factor as to which platforms will be the most successful. They have a huge customer base and nearly 25% of them have signed up for their mobile app. The next step will be introducing them to online payment styles and seeing how they take to it. Starbucks currently gets good processing rates from Square, but the question remains, “Who will they choose as their provider?” As a large company, the decision that they make will likely influence the decisions of other companies that decide to follow suite. A lot is riding on Starbucks next move.

Some of the other options that companies will have are rich with interesting features, so just because Square is doing well doesn’t mean they will come out on top. Google Wallet is another up and coming option that gives users the ability to pay by tapping your phone on terminals in select stores.

Now since we have been on the subject of electronic payments, specifically mobile, let’s talk a little about the looming giant in the distance, Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has gained popularity over recent years as a form of international currency exchange whose value is not backed by any central bank. They provide the ability to conduct internet transactions with little to no cost per transaction. This makes them a very attractive tool for businesses to accept money from customers, while avoiding all the credit and debit fees that they are currently paying.

The system of exchange has gained a lot of attention due to its links to the purchasing of illegal narcotics on black market websites. This means that as the use and exchange of this currency increase, there will be an increase in regulation behind it. Despite this negative attention, legitimate businesses from around the world have begun accepting Bitcoin from their customers. An ATM has even been opened in Vancouver, B.C. in a local coffee shop that accepts Bitcoin. There are plans to open 4 new locations in Canada in the coming months. This is an exciting time and while I remain skeptical, it will be interesting to watch as this possible shift in banking gains popularity.

 

Who do you think will emerge as a leader in mobile payments?

What are your thoughts on the legitimacy of Bitcoin?

Growth in Mobile Advertising

Mobile Advertising

Once of the issues with mobile web advertising in the eyes of consumers is that there is currently a lower conversion rate on mobile sites than on desktop sites. People are getting to a certain point along the process and stopping. What we should explore is why this is happening.

One of the issues that is most likely the case with a number of sites is the lack of cross platform optimization. An unflattering user experience will turn a potential off from the possibility of continuing through the process rather quickly.

Another thing to consider is that people just don’t trust cell phones for follow through and purchases as much as they will trust their desktop. In the past consumers had to purchase in a physical location. This evolved into phone purchases and mail catalogs and eventually wound up on the internet. E-commerce is a booming industry and people trust it to an extent, but perhaps the trepidation associated with a mobile purchase stems from the same issues of trust that the internet and mail catalogs had before they became popular. It is an issue of maturity of buying process in society paired with the fact that mobile purchase has not crossed the chasm from early adopter to early majority. This will change, and mobile advertising will increase with it.

People in most age demographics are using their mobile devices increasingly more often to solve their minute to minute problems and questions. Mobile web browsing is used mainly for answer quicker, surface level questions (quick hits) while phone apps are used more for delving deeper into multi-layered content. The reason for this is the fact that apps are generally more user friendly because they have been designed for specific phone types and therefore can cater to different interfaces more effectively.

Mobile Ad Spending predictions

 

It is estimated that two-thirds of companies plan to increase their mobile advertising spending in the next year. Mobile advertising is a growing industry in which spending is expected to increase by 55% in the coming year to reach $11.4 billion. The 2017 prediction is estimated to be closer to $41.9 billion. This level of growth is expected due to change such as an increased ability of geo-targeting technologies, cookie tracking, consolidation of providers, and an increased interest in the creation of mobile by advertising agencies. More Here

Some things to think about

Some of the downsides to mobile advertising is that with such a small space, your advertisements become far more obnoxious and “in-your-face” than on a desktop. The lack of space offers a huge concern. In the future, when mobile advertising becomes more expensive, the amount of real estate to share is going to be considerably less, therefore pushing prices further upwards.

Also, recognizing the fact that people navigate mobile for far different reasons than they navigate desktop is an important distinction to make. Often times, companies try to make their mobile experience a duplicated (yet smaller) version of their desktop site. The reality is that people who are navigating desktop have different motives. Mobile users don’t need all of the information crammed into a single page. Having a smaller screen means you can focus only on the most important parts of your content. If a reader is interested in more information, the information should be easily accessible to them from that main screen so that they don’t have to go back and re-search anything.  Without the precision of a mouse clicker, it is best to make buttons larger and to use of eye catching colors.

Another thing to avoid is making an app without a plan to get people to use it. You must create a call to action for your customers to use the app integrated into your marketing plan. For example, a restaurant is rolling out their new rewards program application. They should begin adding content to their promotional materials that encourage patrons to download their app. Encouragement can also be done a point of purchase by offer them 20% off their purchase today if they download the application and make a profile.

There are also concerns about the ability of smartphones to run local advertisements. Despite skeptical views smartphones have geo-targeting capabilities that are arguably more versatile than a desktop. A desktop makes its connection to a local IP address, which means that the geo-targeting will establish the connection there. Smartphones are constantly on the go, and when a user decides to connect to the Wi-Fi that they are nearest to, the geo-targeting will recognize the new IP location and update your position meaning that your local advertisements will be more relevant to them.

Misspellings on mobile searches can be another problem. Advertisers will need to bid on a wider variety of keywords, including misspellings in order to get better search results. A way to remedy this is to simply bid on some shorter keywords, therefore there are fewer chances for mistake.

Finally, mobile is new, many companies haven’t had anything to do with it. How do we know where to start, or where to set our budget? Using a backing in method to creating the budget will resolve this issue. Start by establishing your goals (Reaching #1 in certain keyword searches), then establish your goals based on that. With mobile keyword, you must be either #1 or #2 in order to avoid being under the fold.

Using Big Data: How are Companies Taking Advantage of Technical Marketing Tactics

How are companies using their customer data?

Companies are constantly trying to boost their online sales, and by crunching number and analyzing purchase patterns they are become more adept at predicting tastes and purchase habits in online consumers. This is another big step for the marketing profession because it means that we are moving towards more technical marketing practices rather than focusing only on traditional marketing methods. While a mix is still and always will be important, it is going to be interesting to see what the future holds for marketing jobs, and how the technical aspect will be reflected in the curriculum of marketing degrees in the years to come.

Determining pricing is another way that companies are using big data. By understanding which customers are willing to pay certain prices, companies will have a better idea about what they should be charging for their product, and adapting to this understanding.

Driving customers through their funnel has and always will be a main function of marketing. Coming into the more technical side, using a CRM system to manage all of your customers and prospects will be more effective than ever. With some of the CRM software available today, understanding where your customers are in the funnel becomes so much easier. For example companies such as Hubspot offer software such as Signals which helps monitor email campaign success rates.Image

In addition,  Prospects, which gives a marketing team the ability to track and categorize your prospects based on how deeply they have dove into your online content. Learn more about it by clicking the link. Image

Streamlining the user interface is another way to use big data. By analyzing where your customers are stopping along the purchase path, you are able to build hypothesis about why they are getting hung up on these areas, and why you are losing their attention. This opens the opportunity to try A/B testing in order to determine where that issue lies.

Examples of how companies are using data.

Starbucks introduced its loyalty rewards cards and has since seen 25% of their customers switch over to this method of purchasing. This is a golden opportunity for them because they are currently compiling hoards of data. So much in fact that they are puzzled at what exactly they want to do with it. What we will likely see with them is a reflection in their product offering based on what their core customers choose to purchase. You might also see the introduction of coupons catered to specified groups of consumers. For example, for customers who have been in within the last 5 months, however haven’t been in the last month, you offer them a free breakfast sandwich or 20% off coupon to get them into the store and hopefully turn them into more regular customers. These types of campaigns allow for the effective targeting of certain types of consumers and allows your company to differentiate between those who are higher in the purchase funnel, versus those who are farther along in the process. You will save money and see increases in effectiveness of your campaigns through the careful analysis and utilization of your data.

In coming years you will see a rise in the use of big data analysis to determine whether films will be blockbusters. The industry will begin analyzing things such as cast, budget, themes, genres, current events, and the use of special effects in order to determine how well movies will do. For example, if there is a trend associated with a current event, such as the election of a new president, creating movies about a presidential election would tend to fare better during those specific time periods. If George Clooney’s popularity has been on the rise, then adding him to your cast will help to drive sales. By analyzing these predictive statistics, studios will be more effective at predicting sales and weighing options for which films to make, and which films to drop.

Possibly the most interesting and successful use of big data was during the Obama campaign for presidency. 

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In a groundbreaking move, Obama’s campaign sent out seven unique versions of their email campaign to supporters inviting them to a $40,000 per plate dinner. The dinner took place at Sarah Jessica Parker’s home in New York (a location decided upon by the campaign’s use of data) but each of the seven emails were sent out to supporters depending on what they valued more in the experience. Emails focused on either the subjects of a second fundraiser with a Mariah Carey’s performance, and some mentioned that the editor of Vogue Magazine would be attending the dinner. His ability to effectively market to these individuals in the most relevant way possible opened up the floodgates and money began pouring in. Time’s reported an excess of $1 billion in funding which went on to finance the traditional marketing campaign and door to door efforts that won him the election.

Keep these tactics and examples in mind when considering whether to take advantage of data on your next project!

Examples of Ethically Grey Areas: Are these Practices Ethical?

Orbitz recently learned that Mac users are willing to pay up to 30% more for hotel rooms than PC users. They began showing rooms that are 30% more to Mac users because they know they can. Just to be clear, they were showing different rooms that are pricier, not charging more money for rooms and customers still had the option to categorize based on lowest price if they wished. Trends have shown that Mac users tend to be interested in more luxurious vacationing conditions and are willing to pay a higher price for them. While this initially comes off as ethically unsound, once you understand the reasoning behind it, it seems like it is more of an actual benefit to customers. Rather than focusing on price, they are actually seeing hotel rooms that are more relevant to their needs.

Another interesting example that I think is genius is Target’s use of big data to determine if a woman is pregnant. The idea came from a statistician who noticed trends in a number of woman’s’ purchasing patterns, which culminated in the purchasing of infant care items. The hypothesis was that a woman’s hormonal cycle as she enters the different stages of pregnancy can affect her purchase patterns to the point that Target in some cases could predict a woman was pregnant before there were any showing signs. Target then decided to put this to the test. They began offering coupons on pre-natal vitamins, maternity clothing, and diapers based on where big data predicted they were at in their pregnancy cycle. What were the results? IT WORKED. The coupons were being used up rapidly and the team was patting themselves on the back. Target soon found out that their fortune-teller like predictions brought in some issues. For example, a father came in yelling at the customer service representative because his 16 year old daughter had been receiving pregnancy coupons. He was in a rage and found this to be inappropriate. However, a couple months down the road he came in to apologize because his daughter was, in fact, pregnant.

The question is however, whether this constitutes an invasion of privacy into the intimate moments of their customer base. I don’t see it this way. As long as information is kept confidential, I see this more as a way for companies to provide the most relevant experience for their customers as they can. This is just the next iteration of understanding buyer behavior.

 

Not all Businesses are Created SQL

sql-joins-two-tables

What is SQL?

Structured Query Language is a database inquiry system which allows you to access and manipulate the data that your company has collected. The data is stored in the form of tables which display the records in an array of columns and rows. SQL is a language that developers know, however one that is not considered common knowledge by the marketing community.

Many SQL databases are available online as open source software. Some examples are MySQL, ProgreSQL, and Firebird SQL. In order for it to be considered SQL, it must include at least the following commands: Update, Delete, Insert, Where.

SQL query:

–          Select: the data that you access from the tables you have access to

–          From: these are the table that you access in order to get the data you seek.

–          Where: what are the conditions you want to have met, how are you going to connect the tables with the data

–          Group by- filtering you data based on a similarity

–          Order by: arrange your data in an order than makes sense to accomplish your goals

–          Limit: specify! (ex: only bring me 20 rows of data)

It doesn’t stop there however because SQL can include commands in categories such as Syntax, Select, Distinct, And & Or, and so on.

In order to use SQL In building your website, you must have access to a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) such as Microsoft Access, SQL Server, or MySQL.

Examples of SQL in the Business World

In the finance world, Garanti Bank of Turkey, which is their second largest in the country increased productivity greatly by starting to use Microsoft SQL Server. Efficiency increased by over 50% and performance increased by over 70%.

Banco Central do Brasil increased their performance, reporting speed, and their scalability when they switched.

Read about more financial services that have benefited by clicking (here http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2012/09/26/financial-services-companies-rely-on-sql-server-2012-to-deliver-the-new-standard-in-mission-critical-platforms.aspx)

These are real companies making real differences to the strength and value of their business by integrating SQL into their processes. Don’t ignore the numbers.

What can SQL do for Marketers?

SQL can be used for many tasks, the most relevant to marketers being to input or delete entries, retrieve data from your company’s database, and build new databases and manipulate old ones.

SQL is a valuable tool that can be used by marketers to manage your businesses data by running search queries within your database. Understanding SQL can open up opportunities to learn more about your customers and do so in a shorter period of time. Creating queries within your database helps you to search out specific criteria about your customers and categorize them in categories such as country, first name, last name, and length of time since their last purchase.

How does a marketer use this information?

Let’s say you are interested in running a campaign to recapture a group of customers who haven’t purchased in a while. You could run a query that identifies the name and email address of customers who have purchased product from you in the past, however have not purchased in the past month. You then are able to include only these customers in an email blast offering them 20% off their next purchase for a limited time only.

While narrowing down the scope of your campaign, SQL will enable you to effectively target and provide discounts to only those people whose purchasing has decreased. This eliminates frequent customers from receiving discounts, and offers an incentive to buy to those who you are trying to capture as frequent customers.

 

Why is it important to know as a marketer?

The efficiency that SQL allows is something that can take a marketer with knowledge, and turn them into a marketing team who is able to get things done. The more that you become a specialist on all of the tools that are used by your team, the more valuable you make yourself, as well as making yourself less expendable. In today’s business environment, the more skills you have, and the more technical work you are able to do yourself will have a great impact on your ability to get entry level jobs and impress employers. Learning SQL could be the clinch that seals the deal on your job search, so go out there are start training learning.

Where can you learn about SQL?

Find someone who knows what they’re talking about and ask them for a lesson. If there are questions that you want answered, then run your queries trying to answer those questions. When you run into a snag, ask a question. Learn by doing, and be productive while you do so.

If you don’t have any SQL experts in your network, there are also online resources available to help you out. http://www.w3schools.com/sql/default.asp?PHPSESSID=300ae3404d5fa2612f238abeebb8869c has a great training program to help you learn the basics of SQL and even offer a quiz at the end so you can test your knowledge. Besides that, just start searching the web, there are a number of free websites out there designed to help people like you learn this database language. Start exploring now.