Email and Referral Marketing: The Workhorse and Dark Horse for Customer Acquisition

July 1st, 2014 by ddeal

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Digital long ago established itself as a channel for brand building and direct marketing. But what are the most popular digital tools for acquiring customers? According to my newly published report for Gigaom Research, the unsexy tactic of email marketing is a digital workhorse, popular for awareness building, and customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. And referral marketing, not used as widely as other tactics, provides an especially strong payoff for its practitioners. My report suggests to marketers that acquiring customers in the digital era is like creating a mosaic: to achieve a beautiful outcome, companies need to apply the right blend of tactics. For instance, brands should consider using social media and referral marketing to complement lists created for email campaigns.

The report, Workhorses and Dark Horses: Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition, is based on a Gigaom survey of 300 U.S. digital marketers. We wanted to understand how they are using digital marketing tactics across the marketing funnel, spanning awareness, customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. Our survey affirms that digital marketing is being used consistently across the entire customer experience.

Marketers told us that social media, already well known as an awareness-building tool, is also particularly useful for customer retention. Content marketing is especially useful for awareness and retention. And email is consistently used across the entire marketing funnel.

Digital Marketing Spend Set to Increase

Here are the key findings of our survey:

  • Nearly 60 percent of companies plan to increase their digital marketing spend in 2014.
  • Email marketing is the digital workhorse, deemed the most effective (relative to other digital tactics) for building awareness, acquisition, retention, and conversion. In fact, 56 percent of respondents identified email as being the most effective at retention, several points ahead of the second-most-effective tactic.
  • Social spending is set to increase, but we discern some buying on faith with social. More marketers plan to spend more on social media marketing than any other digital tactic. But when we asked marketers to describe their perceptions of social media marketing, more marketers agreed with the statement “It is difficult to prove ROI for social media marketing” than with any other statement.
  • Referral marketing is a digital marketing dark horse. Only 39 percent of marketers use it regularly, but 43 percent of those who do use it acquire more than 35 percent of their new customers with it. These numbers are double the percentage of marketers who report such acquisition rates using email. Brands that invest in referral can gain a competitive advantage over those investing elsewhere.

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7 Ways to Make a Content Junkie Cry

June 20th, 2014 by ddeal

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I am a content junkie. I read, watch, and listen to anything. The New Yorker, Vice, Rolling Stone, my daughter’s Instagrams, or Vine selfies from people I don’t even know: everything is fair game to be consumed at my all-you-can-eat content buffet. I even check my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds before I’m fully conscious of being awake in the morning. So it takes a lot (and I mean a lot) to lose me as an audience. And yet, some content publishers are trying very hard to do just that by polluting the digital world with tired, annoying content ranging from clickbait headlines to quizzes that test our tolerance for cultural trivia. Here are seven types of content that are ready for retirement now:

1. Stories that wallow in epic failure. 

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 2. Clickbait headlines. (Thank you, @SavedYouAClick.)

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3. 99.9 percent of all memes . . .

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. . . especially involving this kid:

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4. Political rants on social media. Hearts and minds remain unmoved. 

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5. Pop culture quizzes.

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 6. Definitely this guy. Everywhere. Every moment.

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 7. Articles that scold me for doing everything wrong.

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And what kind of content should make me vomit but doesn’t? Well, I know I’m destroying all crediblity here, but I’m a sucker for photos of cats doing strange things, and I can’t get enough of those YouTube clips of crazy Russian daredevils dangling off buildings and balancing themselves on tiny steel beams hundreds of feet in the air (although I usually keep all those posts to myself when I see them).  And that’s the rub: my inspiration is your soul-sucking waste of time. The lesson? Content is all about context. Content creates an audience, even momentarily. Content with context — shared at the right time to the right person — creates a loyal audience.

OK: what’s on your list of content that makes you want to curse the day the Internet was born?




Apple Buys Beats: The End of an Era for Apple and Dr. Dre?

May 29th, 2014 by ddeal

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Now that Apple has officially purchased Beats Music and Beats Electronics, we are left to ponder its broader meanings as the man who once rapped about gangbanging and reefer now becomes a high-profile Apple employee. I believe the deal symbolizes the possible end of an era: an end to Apple as an innovative brand, and a farewell to Dr. Dre as a music maker.

The Deal

As reported widely, Apple officially acquired music service Beats Music and Beats Electronics (which makes Beats headphones, speakers and audio software) for a total purchase price of $2.6 billion. As part of the deal, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre have joined Apple to take on unspecified roles.

The acquisition is widely viewed as Apple playing catch-up to streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. Apple’s own press release stressed the importance of Beats Music. As a sign of respect for the Beats brand (and lack of belief in its own), Apple will keep the subscription Beats Music intact, alongside Apple’s own iTunes Radio. Beats Music has hardly taken the world by storm as a streaming competitor to Spotify and Pandora since being launched in January 2014. But Apple Insider reports that the service has a strong conversion rate, with the vast majority of tracks being streamed by paying customers. Meantime, iTunes, which relies on a download model, has seen its sales slump as consumers latch on to streaming services. iTunes Radio, Apple’s answer to streaming, has yet to take hold.

Apple Buys into Innovation

When I first heard the rumors of Apple buying Beats weeks ago, I remembered back in 2011 Farhad Manjoo of Fast Company touting Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google as the four economic titans fueling the “great tech war,” pitted against each other in a “battle for the future of the digital economy.” Apple emerged as the clear favorite of consumer innovation, reeling off one game-changing product after another. Facebook? Well, Mark Zuckerberg was riding the momentum of a business built off one compelling idea, that as naturally social creatures, human beings would flock to a digital place where we could emulate our offline social behaviors online. But on top of the core innovation of launching Facebook, Zuckerberg’s massive wealth, and Facebook’s phenomenal growth, was built off pedestrian advertising programs and ongoing tweaks to the core product as opposed to anything newsworthy (unless by “newsworthy” we want to count noticeable gaffes such as Beacon).

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Jimmy Page Shares Three Lessons for Content Marketers

May 22nd, 2014 by ddeal

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Jimmy Page: legendary guitarist, producer, all-around rock god . . . and a marketing teacher. Yes, the guitar magus knows marketing in addition to music. He not only founded Led Zeppelin but also influenced the band’s image, down to crucial details such as the choice of album artwork (most famously for Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album) and Led Zeppelin’s visual presentation in concert. Of course Led Zeppelin became one of the most successful rock groups ever. So when Page conducted an exclusive interview with the Berklee College of Music to discuss his career, as a marketer I watched the video interview closely. I listened to his ideas through the lens of content marketing given the nature of much of my own professional work. Even though marketing was not the focus of the conversation, Page is so image-savvy that he shared some useful marketing advice even when he wasn’t trying — especially about the importance of over delivering to your audience, being eclectic, and always learning.

1. Over deliver to your audience

In the interview, Page recounts the time when, early in its career, Led Zeppelin began building a loyal fan following by playing explosive concerts that could stretch for as long as three hours — even though the band had only one album’s worth of material under its belt.

Recalling the first time the band ever played a three-hour show, he says, “In the very early days we had only one album out, and the audience just wouldn’t let us go — they wanted more, and more, and more. In the end, we exhausted anything that any of us knew individually or collectively.”

In due course, Led Zeppelin would become renowned for performing mind-blowing shows, combining the power of the band’s music with a flair for the theatrical (as evidenced with Page’s choice of exotic stage garb). The band’s dedication paid off: by 1973, Led Zeppelin was playing to more than 56,000 people at Tampa Stadium, breaking an attendance record set by the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

Do you over deliver to your audience with your content marketing? Chipotle Mexican Grill certainly does. Content Marketing expert Joe Pulizzi says that Chipotle takes a “24/7″ approach to branded content. For instance, in 2013, Chipotle created a digital video and game, The Scarecrow, to spark a consumer conversation about industrial farming. Chipotle pulled out all the Read more »




Why You Need to Hustle Content: A Lesson from The New York Times Innovation Report

May 19th, 2014 by ddeal

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The recently leaked New York Times Innovation report has become required reading because the document provides a candid snapshot of a legendary brand struggling to embrace the realities of running a business in the digital era. In unsparing language, the internal report indicts The New York Times for failing to master “the art and science of getting our journalism to our readers.” I believe The New York Times Innovation report offers many lessons for content marketers regardless of your industry. Among those lessons: it’s not enough to produce great content. You have to be a content hustler, too.

Content hustling means sharing an idea across multiple distribution channels ranging from a brand’s website to its social media spaces. Content hustling requires companies to empower employees to act as brand ambassadors, relying on their personal networks to share corporate thought leadership. Essentially The New York Times takes itself to task for being a woeful content hustler.

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Don’t Take No for an Answer: Career Advice from Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead”

May 15th, 2014 by ddeal

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If you want to get the job you really want, you can’t take no for an answer. Just ask Norman Reedus, who plays the popular character of Daryl Dixon in the AMC hit television series, The Walking Dead.

As Reedus shared in a recent Wall Street Journal Live interview, the role of Daryl Dixon didn’t even exist when he tried out for The Walking Dead. In fact, all the roles for the show had been taken. But he was so impressed with the show in development that he asked for the chance to audition, anyway.

“I said, ‘Let me come in and audition for anything,’” he told Paul Vigna of The Wall Street Journal. So he read the lines for a part that had been filled, already — that of angry racist Merle Dixon — hoping perhaps to be cast as an extra. His audition was so impressive that writers Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee, and Jack LoGiudice ended up creating a role for Reedus, that of Merle’s younger brother, Daryl. The tough, crossbow-wielding survivalist would go on to become so popular that he became a cultural phenomenon, with his own fan club, Dixon’s Vixens; merchandise; and strong media coverage.

Reedus himself has become a TV star. Because of his impressive portrayal, Daryl has been elevated from supporting role to a lead character on The Walking Dead, and Reedus has won an IGN “Best TV Hero” award. Producer Gale Anne Hurd says, “No one brings a compelling, albeit broken, character like Daryl Dixon to life like Norman Reedus.” He has a strong fan following across social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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If you’re looking for a job, or are an entrepreneur trying to land a client, you can take away three important lessons from this story:

  • Go for it even when you have no apparent hope of succeeding. Reedus could have focused his energies trying out for a different show when he heard all the roles for The Walking Dead had been taken. But he was so passionate about the show he tried out, anyway. I’ve been in his shoes, and I’ll bet you have, too. Even when you’re told, “We have nothing available here for you,” you might suggest an informational interview, just to introduce yourself. Meeting in person can plant the seeds for a position or an opportunity that your prospective employer or client hadn’t thought about until they had a face to go with your name. Witnessing a compelling skill set in person is a lot different than reading a list on paper.
  • But don’t be unrealistic. By the time he tried out for The Walking Dead, Reedus was a respected but lesser known actor best remembered for his performance in the cult favorite The Boondock Saints. He also had minor experience writing and directing. This might sound obvious, but when trying out for The Walking Dead, he stuck to his bread-and-butter skills of acting instead of trying to get on to the show by directing or writing. It’s one thing to try out for a long shot. It’s quite another to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Get your foot in the door doing something you know really well — and build from there.
  • Be bold. What I especially like about the Wall Street Journal interview is what happened after Reedus landed the role: he did not adopt a meek, “I’m just happy to be here” attitude. He took ownership of the character and fought to shape the role that he felt would work best. For instance, the creators of The Walking Dead originally suggested Daryl would be a racist like his older brother Merle, as well as a pilferer of Merle’s drug stash. But Reedus fought to make Daryl different from his brother — rough around the edges but ashamed of his family’s behavior rather than accepting of it. The elements of shame and a determination to make something better of himself have made Dixon a more rich and sympathetic character. When you get the job you want, being bold is how you make your mark.

Refusing to take no for an answer doesn’t mean you need to act like a pushy jerk. You can be persistent and polite yet assertive, too. A few years ago, a college student reached out to me about the possibility of being an intern for hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri, with whom who I was working at the time. Technically, Dupri had no internship program. But the student was eager to learn and to help, and gracious. A few phone calls later, she got the job — because she created it.

Have you ever created a job or landed a business relationship after being told no? Tell me your story.




How Hip-Hop Legend Jermaine Dupri Writes His Own Rules

May 1st, 2014 by ddeal

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In the world of hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri, building excitement for new music means creating his own rules for using social media to engage with fans.

Dupri, Mariah Carey’s manager and co-producer, has been a lightning rod for criticism from frustrated Carey fans who have wanted more information about her career moves (especially the status of her new album) than they have received. But instead of appeasing fans with social, Dupri acts like a boxer, sometimes quietly absorbing the blows, and other times trading stiff jabs and upper cuts as he did recently when engaging with impatient fans on Twitter. The way he sees it, frustrated fans are good business because they build anticipation for music.

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“If you’re going to be a music executive in the digital era, you need to try different approaches for running a business with social media,” he reveals in an interview with me. “Conventional wisdom says you give fans everything they want when they want it, like all the artwork and information about a new album long before release day. Fans today are buying the promotion that leads up to the music, not necessarily the music. But giving away too much to fans can actually ruin the game plan for someone like Mariah Carey, who is very protective of her music, her brand, and her mystique.”

Applying social finesse is one of the rules that Dupri lives by as he reinvents the role of the music executive in the digital era. Music industry honchos who first made their marks in the analog era, as Dupri did, have famously struggled to embrace digital (hello, Napster). Not so with Dupri. In the 1990s, he exploded on to the music world by breaking successful acts such as Kris Kross and Da Brat before becoming CEO of So So Def Recordings.

The 1990s were a long time ago, though. Then, artists could make millions by dropping CDs like manna from heaven into the hands of hungry fans. Digital downloading was not a threat. No one had ever heard of social media. But unlike many of his peers, Dupri has made the leap into the digital era by making digital — especially social media — the epicenter of a career in which he plays many roles, including CEO, czar of his own social media community Global 14, a popular DJ, and manager of a certain diva who has sold 200 million records.

Here are Jermaine Dupri’s rules for reinventing himself as a digital executive:

1. Build a Home Base

Dupri creates a flurry of activity on social every day, on sites ranging from Facebook to YouTube. One moment he’s tweeting information about a club appearance with Fabolous. The next he’s posting an Instagram of himself with Pharrell backstage at Coachella or a YouTube video about a moment with Mariah Carey and her fans.

“I create my own social whirlwind,” he says.

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How C2E2 Celebrates the Superfan

April 27th, 2014 by ddeal

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Three years ago, I blogged about the first time I attended the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, then in its second year. This fan culture event was overwhelming, and it was difficult to know where to begin talking about the experience. On April 26, I experienced C2E2 from a more personal perspective: my 12-year-old daughter Marion was among the throng of attendees who dress up as their favorite fictional characters ranging from Princess Mononoke to Dr. Who. Marion was adorned in a trench coat and black wings to honor Castiel, an angel in the CW Network series Supernatural. As I noted on a LinkedIn blog post, being with Marion helped me appreciate first-hand a superfan loyalty that is rooted in self-expression and spontaneous community.

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C2E2 has quickly become a premier destination for fans and companies to gather and celebrate each other over the course of one weekend. C2E2 attracted 53,000 attendees in 2013, up from 40,000 the year before, and the event has taken up more space in the Chicago McCormick Place convention center to accommodate the growing number of merchants and entertainment properties participating.

If you opt into the C2E2 email newsletter, your experience begins well in advance of the actual event. The pedestrian-looking newsletter and website serve up a steady stream of announcements about the show, such as autograph signings (for a fee) by comic book legends such as Stan Lee, a panel with Game of Thrones cast members, or the unveiling of an interactive booth for online game League of Legends.

But you really don’t begin to understand C2E2 until you walk into McCormick Place on the day of the show and take stock of your surroundings. Even before you enter the formal C2E2 convention area, you encounter the superfans expressing their passions. Read more »




How AC/DC Turned Loss into Triumph with “Back in Black”

April 16th, 2014 by ddeal

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The rock and roll world recently exploded with rumors that AC/DC was finally calling it quits. Unfortunately, those rumors included speculation that founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was suffering a debilitating health problem. The band responded with some good news and bad news. The bad news was that Young was taking a break from recording due to an undisclosed health problem. But the band also affirmed its intent to stick together and make music. In fact, AC/DC has endured through hard times before. Thirty-four years ago, one of rock’s loudest, badass bands taught creative minds everywhere how to turn loss into hard-fought gain with the release of Back in Black, one of the greatest rock albums ever.

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In 1980, AC/DC was on the ropes. On the verge of achieving global superstardom, the band suffered a devastating loss when lead singer Bon Scott died after a night of heavy drinking. Losing a lead singer would be a crisis for any band, and especially given the circumstances, AC/DC considered breaking up. Not only was Scott’s loss tragic, but his throat-shredding vocals had helped define the band’s raw, head-banging sound and appeal.  But the band, consisting of brothers Malcolm and Angus Young (who was quickly establishing a reputation as a scorching lead guitarist), drummer Phil Rudd, and bassist Cliff Williams, decided to carry on. And then AC/DC made two decisions that would change its fortunes: finding front man Brian Johnson and deciding to release a tribute album to Scott.

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How Coachella Creates a Digital Community

April 15th, 2014 by ddeal

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is the top music festival in the world, according to Billboard, grossing $67.2 million and attracting 180,000 people in 2013 over the course of two weekends. It’s also an elite experience for the affluent, with an expensive admission fee and amenities that include a furnished “Shikar style tent” with electrical outlets and two queen-sized beds at a cost of $6,500. I’ve been fully immersed in Coachella. I’ve discovered artists such as Haim and ASAP Ferg, re-kindled my love affair with the music of the Cult, and enjoyed the long-awaited OutKast reunion (warts and all).

Oh, and I’ve not even left my home in the Midwest hinterlands.

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My new SlideShare, which contains detailed speaker notes, discusses how Coachella creates a digital community for people like me (especially via a YouTube livestream) without compromising the appeal in-person event. As it turns out, digital creates a powerful network of brand ambassadors for Coachella.

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Coachella offers a lesson on how marketers can make an exclusive brand a bit more accessible without damaging your mystique. Luxury brands wrestle with this issue all the time especially as they court younger audiences who are on the cusp of being affluent.

On the surface, Coachella may look anything but exclusionary, especially when you consider that being there in person involves swimming a sea of dirty, writhing bodies baking in the hot desert sun. But Coachella is a luxury. As Todd Martens and Mikal Wood noted recently in the Los Angeles Times, “Coachella is now more like a spring break weekend at a walled-off resort than an edgy music festival.”

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Like Louis Vuitton, Coachella has aggressively employed digital to make its brand more accessible to wannabes like me who stand on the outside looking in with our noses pressed against the glass. Check out my SlideShare to learn more. And if you attend Coachella, tell me what you think of the event.