The Modern Marketer

Keeping up with the times

Going Out With a Bang!

This quarter has flown by so quickly, it’s hard to believe. I’ve gained so much knowledge in such a short period of time, mainly thanks to my awesome professor, Mark! (@DigiMark_WWU).

Over the course of the quarter, we covered:

  • SEO
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Paid Media
  • Coding
  • A/B Testing
  • SQL and Database Marketing
  • Mobile
  • Product Co-creation
  • Edgerank
  • Growth Hacking

A pretty huge number of topics for one quarter. It was definitely intense fitting it all in, but so worth it. 

Technology is spreading like wildfire, and constantly increasing in usage. It’s also providing new opportunities for marketing, as well as new pitfalls. As marketers we have an ever increasing number of platforms and ways to reach out to consumers. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, SEO via search engines (mainly Google), Mobile marketing, etc.. All of these are continuing to grow, and I’m sure many more are on the horizon. The increased usage of internet by consumers is also a danger for marketers. People now have the ability to search a product online, and see hundreds of reviews from consumers all over the world. Since reviews online are generally either very good, or very bad, this has the potential to support a really good product, or completely destroy a bad one. Over the course of this quarter, I’ve gained a great sense of appreciation for both the benefits of our new age of technology, and the dangers. 

I’ve also gained a lot of great technical skills that I am so excited to have, and to be able to put in my resume as I’m beginning my job applications (AHH!). I learned the basics of HTML via Codecademy, which I’m sure is going to be very useful at some point in my career/life. I also got certified for the HootSuite Social Media Dashboard: 

HootSuite Certified Professional

And got certified in Google Analytics (it was touch and go there for a bit): YAY!

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Keeping this blog has been a totally new experience for me, but overall an enjoyable one. It’s been fun to watch my stats go up, and to see what the best ways of increasing viewership are. 

My stats for the quarter are shown below:

 

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On top of all that, I wrote 8,712 words in my blog over the course of the quarter. Not bad! 

Keeping this blog has been quite an accomplishment for me…and I hope you all have enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue posting even when my schedule changes next quarter. 

Thanks for following me, and if you’re a student as well, good luck with finals and hope your quarter ends well!

How Many People Know Where You Are?

Ok, so obviously this video is meant to be comical. But there is some truth in what he’s saying.

Ever heard of Please Rob Me? It’s an extremely simple website with just one purpose; to get people to think about the risks associated with sharing so much personal information online.

Here’s a brief excerpt from their website:

“[There is danger in] publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face.”

The slap might be a bit extreme, but you get the point. Scarily enough, although “Please Rob Me” isn’t actually real, there are media platforms out there that use your information in similar ways. Girls Around Me was a mobile app launched in 2012 by a Russia based company named SMS Services O.o.o. that allowed users to search for women in their area, and get this, see where they were. The app would scan the area for women who had recently checked in on their Foursquare accounts, and then when a user found a woman they were interested in, it would connect them to her Facebook account where they could see her full name, profile picture, and could message her. Not to mention that it would provide the Girls Around Me user with the location where the woman had last checked in. And all of this would happen without the women’s knowledge or consent.

xl_Girls_Around_Me_iPhone_app_624

Thankfully, Girls Around Me was removed fairly quickly from the app store by Apple, most likely due largely to the fact that Foursquare blocked the app from getting access to their users information.

But there is still a massive amount of our personal information floating around out there on the web, and there are so many ways for others to access it. And even if a user deletes content from say, their Facebook page or Twitter feed, that doesn’t mean that it’s been removed from the internet. To an extent, we can protect ourselves by watching what we post, but the privacy concerns from social media users are growing.

What’s being done?

Many social media platforms and other companies, both upstarts and well-established, are now “trying to gain market advantage by casting themselves as more privacy-friendly than their rivals.”

A few of these companies are:

  • Mozilla- They recently suggested that they would allow users to completely disable third-party tracking software.
  • Apple- Last year they began requiring applications using their operating system to ask permission from users before tracking their location, etc.
  • Snapchat- An upstart social media platform that has been taking off, which allows users to send pictures and short videos to friends. The pictures/videos sent auto-delete 10 seconds after being opened by the recipient, leaving no trail behind.

How do you feel about the lack of privacy involved with social media today? Do you think things will become more private as companies continue to try to meet consumer wants? Or do you think that as technology continues to evolve, it will only become harder and harder to keep information private?

Growth Hacking: Rendering Marketers Obsolete?

GROWTH

Is growth hacking rendering traditional marketers obsolete? The short answer, is no.

As described by Andrew Chen, “growth hackers embody the hybrid between marketer and coder needed to thrive in the age of platforms.” Put simply, he main difference between growth hackers and traditional marketers as we know them, is that growth hackers are increasingly and extremely important during the start-up phase of a company, while the role of a traditional marketer comes into play once a company has left the start-up phase.

The number one goal of a growth hacker, is growth. Stated differently, “a growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” Traditional marketers obviously care about growth as well, but not to the same extent.

So how do growth hackers achieve this growth? First, we need to understand that the definition of a “product” has radically changed over the past decade or so, thanks almost solely to the rise of the internet. In today’s world, a product can mean virtually anything. Products used to be only tangible objects. Clothing, kitchen ware, cars, coffee, etc.. Now, social media platforms like Facebook, Linkdin, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are products. Platforms like Pandora, or Spotify that give you access to millions of songs, are products. A product is no longer necessarily a tangible object. And this transition requires a new method of thinking.

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According to Lars Lofgren, the marketing analyst for KISSmetrics, there are 6 “best” growth hacks that all businesses should consider employing. These are:

  1. Site Speed
  2. Social Proof
  3. On-Ramp Program
  4. Bare-Bones Home Page
  5. Product Integrations
  6. Increase your Viral Coefficient

Site Speed- The speed of your site has a huge impact on whether or not people will stay on your page. “A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” Just by reducing the amount of time it takes your pages to load, you could increase your conversions by 15-21%. A simple change that can make a big difference.

Social Proof- It’s fairly common knowledge that most of us base part of our actions on what others are doing. If we’re unsure about something, we look to others for verification that we’re making the right choice. So, show your customers that they are making the right choice. Give them proof that others are doing the same thing they are. Whether that be via customer testimonials, statistics, or displaying logos of companies who support you, it doesn’t really matter. Choose the proof that works best for you, and display it prominently.

On-Ramp Program- How are you treating new customers? New customers require a different approach than your loyal customers. Help them along their journey through your website. Give them step-by-step, simple guidance. Make it easy, and preferably interesting for them as they get to know your company and product.

Bare Bones Homepage- I love this quote: “Remember, people are risk averse and their default decision is to turn away. They’re looking for an excuse to walk out the door.” Don’t give them an excuse! People hate being faced with an overload of information. Make your homepage as simple, streamlined, and sexy as possible. Twitter is a great example of a bare-bones homepage. As shown below, they have a simple two sentences of copy, a pretty picture, and a call to action (sign up/sign in).

twitter

Product Integrations- Integrate your product with the platform that best matches it. Airbnb’s integration with Craigslist is a great example of an ideal product integration. Craigslist already has a following of 10’s of millions of users, which makes it a great way for Airbnb to get access to users without having to create their own base. The integration allows Airbnb users to post their rental properties to their Airbnb page as well as to Craigslist. When a Craigslist user clicks on the posting, it will re-direct them to the Airbnb users page.

Viral Loops- Viral loops are the ultimate goal of growth hacking. Put simply, a viral loop means “if you start with 10 customers, they’ll bring more than 10 other customers to you. Each batch of new customers gets larger and larger as you go viral.” Which means that after your initial investment to get those first 10 customers, you have virtually no maintenance to do or money to spend in order to keep the growth going. Which is pretty much every businesses dream, right? A great product example is Skype: where one person gets it, then gets their family to use it. Then their family gets other friends or extended family to use it. Then their friends get their families to use it. And on and on and on.

skype

 Growth hacking has already proven beyond a doubt that it can be an indispensable tool for businesses. The trick is to not get growth hackers and marketers confused when trying to find someone to fill that spot.

Facebook: The Signal in the Noise

DONE

I currently have 349 friends on Facebook. And to be quite honest, I hardly know most of them.

There are a select few of my “friends” on Facebook whose lives I’m actually interested in, and whose posts I want to see. If I had to sort through every single update from the over 300 other people I’m friends with on FB just to find the ones I’m interested in, it would be incredibly annoying and I probably wouldn’t use Facebook nearly as much.

Luckily, I don’t have to. Neither do you. This is thanks to the constantly improving algorithm Facebook has developed to find the signal in the noise for us.

The original algorithm they used is a term that many of you may have heard before: Edgerank. Basically, Edgerank took into account three main factors when determining what people saw on their news feeds: affinity, weight, and time decay. 

  • Affinity, is your relationship with other users on Facebook. It takes into account the amount of interaction a user has had with your account, e.g. clicks, likes, comments, shares.
  • Weight, is how much priority is given to your post based on post type. Videos and pictures garner the most amount of attention, then links, then plain text status updates.  However, interaction with a post can influence its weight. If a plain text post has a ton of likes and comments for instance, it would be placed above a video with no interactions.
  • Time decay, is how old your post is. Age is relative though; if a user doesn’t access their FB very often, your post will remain relevant for them longer than it will for users who are constantly checking their feeds.

In order to evaluate a post based on these 3 factors, Edgerank would consider four “specific action-points”.

  1. The user’s past interactions with the author of the post.
  2. The user’s past interactions with other posts of that type.
  3. The reactions of other users to that specific post.
  4. Amount of negative feedback or complaints on that specific post.

Below is a simple diagram that explains the way these “specific action-points” work.

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So what does all this mean for us? It means that really, we control what we’re seeing on our FB news feeds. The algorithm FB is using today is basically a fine tuned version of Edgerank, that is constantly improving at deciphering exactly what it is that each individual user wants to see. This is great for us. Not so much for some businesses.

There’s been a lot of noise recently from aggravated from some corporate/celebrity FB users who don’t like the fact that they now have to pay to push their posts to the top of “fans'” news feeds.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, wrote a blog post last year in which he said, “Who really appreciates that some posts rise to the top of their newsfeed because some folks they used to work with and are still friends with shared a baby picture ? Not only do I not like it, I like even less the obligation I feel to like the picture so I don’t seem like some grump.” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding on his part of how the algorithm works. Posts from a FB friend show up on your feed because you have shown recent interest them. If you have a FB friend who you haven’t interacted with in a long time, you won’t be randomly seeing their “baby pictures”.

As Facebook’s statement  from August 12th said, “The bottom line is that your Page strategy should still stay the same: produce high quality content and optimize for engagement and reach.”

So, Mark Cuban, maybe instead of spending your time criticizing FB, you should consider utilizing it in a more productive manner. Possibly, by creating posts that your “fans” actually want to see? If they value the information you’re sharing, it will show. And if not hey, you’re a billionaire, so really what’s the $3,000 it would cost to put “a particular message in front of half of the people who follow the Mavericks page.”

Kickstarting your Quirky

Have an amazing product concept, but don’t have any idea how to go about turning it into an actual, functioning product? Quirky can help.

Founded in 2009 by then 23 year old Ben Kaufman, Quirky is a one of a kind business that turns “community-generated ideas into products that are actually being sold.” When their website first launched, they were receiving about 30 product idea submissions per week. Today, they receive about 2,000. To date they have received over 75,345 submissions from a community of over 581,000 inventors, and from those submissions they have successfully developed and sold 393 products. Products that, according to Alyson Shontell, are “stupidly simple but wildly successful”.

Porkfolio Packaging1153_BLACK

Above: the “Porkfolio“, a smart-piggybank that links with an app on your phone to keep track of its balance.

Below: the “Nibble“, a non-stick cake pan with a tasting cup.

NIBBLE-2

The question then, is why? If these products are so “stupidly simple”, why are they so successful?

The answer, lies in consumer co-creation.

Co-creation is basically a marketing strategy based on market orientation, or, “looking at consumer needs and creating products that fill those needs.” It recognizes that consumers know what they, and other consumers want. And that if companies listened, they could learn exactly how to fill those wants.

There are, however, many factors that can either motivate co-creation, or impede its success.

Motivation:

Consumers are motivated to participate in co-creation by four general factors. Financial rewards, social benefits, knowledge, and psychological reasons. Quirky is a good example of a company that provides virtually all of these motivations. There are three main steps that consumers can participate in during the process of creating a Quirky product.

Steps:

1. Submission- submitting your product concept to the Quirky website

2. Decision- each of the thousands of products submitted to Quirky each week is posted to the website for consumers to vote on. If you see a product you love, click “vote”, it’s as simple as that.

3. Influence and Earn- once a product makes it through to the design phase, community members can submit suggestions for everything from the color of the product, to the size, to the price. If a suggestion they make is used, they get a percentage of the profit.

By making suggestions and voting on products, consumers are giving the opportunity to make money: financial rewards. They are also giving themselves an outlet for creativity: psychological reasons, and receiving the knowledge that they may be aiding in producing a product that will benefit others: social benefits. Lastly, by exchanging information and bouncing ideas off of others online, they are gaining knowledge.

Impedements:

Unfortunately, not all co-creation business models work as well as Quirky’s. One fairly well-known one that has been running into trouble, is Kickstarter. There are four main impedimentsthat firms run into with co-creation: concerns about secrecy, ownership of intellectual property, information overload, and infeasible production. The two of these impediments that Kickstarter has had the biggest problems with, are concerns about secrecy and infeasible production.

These two go somewhat hand in hand. One of the main issues with Kickstarter, is that anyone can submit a project request and earn money to create a product. They don’t have to know anything about the product they are creating. When Alyson asked Kickstarter if  she, “a reporter with no knowledge of hardware manufacturing, could have submitted a campaign like the Pebble smart watch(a watch designed to sync with your smartphone)”, she was told “Yes.”. And if the inventor of the product concept has no knowledge whatsoever of the industry within which his product falls, it stands to reason that more often than not, producing the product will be infeasible. As of now however, there is virtually no way for an investor on Kickstarter to tell if the person behind the product concept is capable of actually delivering on their promise, which is where the concerns about secrecy come in.

That’s not to say that Kickstarter hasn’t had any successes. There is for instance, the “Ostrich Pillow”.

But that’s really about all I could find. Kickstarter considers a project “successfully funded” when it reaches its goal online, not when it actually makes it into production, opening, etc. Which makes it hard to tell what their success rate truly is. So for Kickstarter, the co-creation method may have some glitches that need to be sorted out, but in general, if you understand the pros and cons, consumer co-creation can be an amazing strategy that gives you a leg up in the competition. Quirky is a great example of that.

99 Problems, But a Wallet Ain’t One.

My wallet is in a constant state of near explosion. I have rewards cards for Haggen, Fred Meyer, and Starbucks. Punch cards for Menchie’s, Pho 99, and Mallards. Gift cards to Target, Subway, and Jo-Ann Fabrics. And those are just the ones I use regularly. I’m constantly having to sift through the mass, trying to find that one card I need at the moment, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve watched time and time again as people in line in front of me at the grocery store frantically search for their rewards card, or their credit card, holding up the line behind them and stressing themselves out. And it’s all so unnecessary.

Each of those cards is, after all, basically just a bar-code. So think of all of the space we’re wasting, and plastic we’re using, when there is such a simple alternative out there.

Smartphones.

More and more businesses are creating smart phone apps. Some of these apps, like the one Starbucks uses, let the consumer load money onto their “card” via the app, and then pay and earn rewards simply by scanning the bar-code displayed on their phone. Other apps, like those used by Target and Rite Aid, have scanners built into them that allow you to check prices on products in store, keep track of coupons, etc. It would be pretty simple for them to add their rewards cards into the app. And these apps are being used. According to an article from Media Post last week, Starbucks customers are currently making an average of 4 million mobile transactions a week via the Starbucks app.

starbucks

There are also apps out there now, like the “Key Ring Reward Cards” app by Mobestream Media, that allow you to download the info from all of your virtual rewards cards into one place. Who needs a wallet?

key-ring-smart-phone-app

But these rewards card apps aren’t the only way you can use a smartphone to pay. There are new apps available that let you pay for a product or service simply by tapping your phone on a credit card terminal, or by launching the app when you walk in a store. While the number of these new start-ups is still fairly limited, there are 3 front runners: Google Wallet, Square, and LevelUp. Below is a short video showing Google Wallet in action.

Unfortunately, Google Wallet is currently only available on a few of the newest Android phones, and only on ones that use Sprint. So as neat as it is, until it has a wider audience, it probably won’t be taking off any time soon. On the other hand, LevelUp is currently the nation’s largest mobile payment network, and seems to be doing pretty well. They recently introduced “connected apps”, which work together with a business’s website to allow customers to create an order, place it, and pay for it all in three simple steps.

Check out LevelUp’s demo site for connected apps here: http://www.levelupcafe.com/

Out of the three though, Square seems like the most viable option. With Square, you download the app and enter your credit card information, personal info, and a photo into it. Then, when you enter a business that accepts payment via Square (which many small businesses do), you simply launch the app. When you get to the register you just tell the person behind it your name, and they use the picture that pops up on their screen to verify your identity. And done! You’re all checked out. You don’t even have to have your phone out. Once you launch the app you can put your phone back in your pocket or bag, and you’re good to go. Pretty cool right?

These types of apps not only reduce materials waste by doing away with the need for cards, but also can greatly increase convenience and speed in the buying process. As more businesses begin to realize the benefits of accepting forms of payment such as these, I think we’re going to see quite a bit of growth.

Simple, Sexy, Streamlined.

Simple, sexy, streamlined.

Three words that should be able to describe any and all of the more than 1.6 million mobile apps in use today.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Too many companies are attempting to build apps that are “purely web-based in order to simplify their lives”. The problem with this is that these apps serve as “a launcher for a mobile website”, rather than being a native app. When customers see this, they will quickly realize that your app is not what they thought it was, and move on to the next, better, option.

On the other hand, as proven by the absymal retention rate of many apps today, creating an app simply for the sake of having one is not the way to go either. According to Apptentive, 90% of people who download an app are gone within 6 months. 90 percent. So where are these apps going wrong?

The trick lies in finding the balance point.

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Mobile versions of websites, unless very well designed, can be confusing, frustrating, and time consuming to navigate. As Harris Neifield says, people have “fat fingers“. And smart phones have small screens. Which means that people “click more often by accident on smartphones than on desktops”. So if a company doesn’t have an app or a the very least a good mobile version of their website, they can lose a lot of potential customers simply due to inconvenience. As Robi Ganguly says, “Consumers aren’t concerned with the complexity of your development process; they’re purely focused on their own experience.”

Take a look at the two versions of the Dominos mobile site below:

If you were visiting the Dominos website via your mobile device, which version would you prefer to see? My guess is that I’m not alone in saying that the mobile website is obviously easier to navigate. Even, dare I say, “simple, sexy and streamlined”?

If building a mobile website or an app from the ground up sounds too difficult, or you have no idea where to start, the good news is that there are people out there now who can do it for you. A local Bellingham company recently founded in 2010, called Womp Mobile, is doing just that. Basically you give them your website’s url, and then over the course of 10 days they completely re-format it to make it suitable for mobile use. This involves getting rid of such things as “hover navigation, where desktop users hold a mouse over a menu button to view more options. Clicking buttons and trying to interact with hover navigation menus is almost impossible on a mobile phone.”

Below are a few examples of websites they’ve re-vamped:

Kulshan-before-and-after  womp[  VSH

So far, they’re seeing great success. According to this article from the Western Front, “one client’s bounce rate dropped from 98 percent to 40 percent with the implementation of Womp Mobile’s system”.

These changes aren’t necessarily simple or quick, but to survive in today’s marketing world, they are extremely important. As of last year, there were 1.2 billion users of mobile apps worldwide, and that number is expected to almost quadruple to 4.4 billiion users by 2017. Not to mention that mobile web traffic is projected to increase by 2600 percent over the next 4 years. With stats as crazy as these, ignoring them could mean corporate suicide.

Surprise, You’re Pregnant!

Imagine seeing an entire catalog of baby product related ads when you are unaware of any pregnancies in your home. “Surprise, your [daughter, wife, etc.] is pregnant!” Possible not something you wanted to hear.

Sending this message was an unanticipated side effect of Target’s original ad campaign targeting pregnant women. A very detrimental side effect that negatively affected the company’s relationships with many consumers. Most notably perhaps, is the story of how Target’s algorithms figured out that a teenage girl was pregnant…before her parents did. The father of the girl went in to their local store, outraged, asking if Target was trying to promote teen pregnancy. When the manager called the father at home a few days later to apologize for the misunderstanding,  the father responded with: “I had a talk with my daughter. It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

Ouch. This is probably an all over loss situation. Even though the dad in this situation was in the wrong, he’s probably going to carry around a negative association with Target for quite some time, which will likely prevent him from shopping there. And considering that the ads from Target were what tipped her parents off to her teenage pregnancy, the daughter is probably not very likely to shop there either. Target also gets a bad rap as being a creepy company that has so much data on you that they can assign a “pregnancy prediction” score to pregnant women, allowing them to predict within a very small margin, when your due date is. Starting to sound a bit 1984?

Since all of the data mining techniques that they’re using are technically legal as far as we know, where they really went wrong was in their choice of interaction context. Using a more private distribution channel for their ads could have avoided the sticky situation. Email, for instance, would still have provided the teen-mom-to-be with the coupons needed to incentivize her to shop at Target, but would also have kept her dad from seeing the ads, and allowed her the time to tell her parents on her own (hopefully). It seems that Target has realized their mistake however, as their new ad campaign technique involves putting “an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers”, or “a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes”. This way it looks as though “all the products were chosen by chance.”

Aside from Target’s errors however, there are plenty of campaigns out there that are doing quite well using customer analytics based on their data mining. Take for instance, Starbucks, a company that is constantly pushing out new campaigns. Just recently, in May of this past year, Starbucks implemented a new program allowing customers to “put their Starbucks packaged-coffee purchases bought in grocery stores toward their MyStarbucksRewards, allowing them to redeem points for food and beverages at Starbucks locations.” “The program is expected to expand further into the grocery aisle with other Starbucks products –presumably Frappuccino bottles and the like — later this fall.” This is the next step in allowing consumers to feel like part of the Starbucks family, even while shopping outside of a Starbucks store. It also adds yet another benefit to having a Starbucks card. This, combined with many other aspects of their marketing campaign, is leading them to predict an expected reach of 9 million dollars by the end of  this fiscal year.

According to an article published in Advertising AgeThe company uses it card information to segment consumers and set up business rules based on purchase behavior, then pumps out offers immediately to them, often via their mobile devices.” Given that they can now see what types of coffee you purchase in supermarkets (e.g. roast, whole beans vs. grounds, etc.) they can now target you with ads based on those choices as well. They also mainly target people who they are worried are ‘at risk of not returning soon’.

So when you see that ad for a pumpkin spice latte or get a coupon for no charge on soy, it means that Starbucks is worried that you might not return. And knows that you have a weakness for seasonal drinks…and are lactose intolerant.

Specialist Meets Generalist

I am becoming more aware each day of exactly how lucky I am to be studying marketing now, in this day and age.

The marketing world is changing, adapting, revolutionizing the way it functions. And marketers are being forced to do the same.

According to Jamie Stevens, “For generations, professionals have been pressured to be either a generalist or specialist. The generalists were the managers who oversaw operations, and had a holistic view of how marketing was accomplished, but were less capable of doing the work themselves. Generalists relied upon specialists who knew how to write, design, code, or analyze. And for generations of marketing, this worked just fine.”

specialist  download

But this is rapidly changing. In today’s marketing world it is becoming more and more important to be both a generalist, and a specialist. “Stated simply, a great technical marketer can devise, develop, launch, and analyze their marketing campaigns with little or no assistance.” “You have to know what to ask for and how it’s done.”

Unfortunately for some, this is beginning to render them obsolete. They’ve been largely stuck as either a generalist or a specialist for most of their career, and now they either have to catch up with the times, or be left behind.

Not so for us. As current marketing students, my peers and I are being armed with knowledge that small few others have. According to Vault Analytics, only about 1% of marketers currently know how to use SQL (Structured Query Language). And I doubt the numbers are much higher for the percentage of marketers who fully understand A/B testing, or who have a functioning knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, etc. (Not that I’m a pro coder yet either, but I’m working on it!)

I’ve talked about A/B testing and coding in past posts, but SQL is relatively new to me. Basically it’s, “a database language designed to enable you to query, manipulate, and communicate with your database.” It allows you to quickly and easily do things like; pull a list of all of your past customers whose most recent purchase occurred outside of the past three months, as in this great and easy to understand example.

It is also INSANELY faster, more efficient, and more reliable than trying to do the same things in a program like Excel. Using SQL, you “can communicate directly with the database, extract exactly what you need, and because your procedure is there written in code and not lost in a series of manual copies, pastes, and filters, you can re-run it at any time and easily find and fix errors in your process.” I don’t know about you, but this sounds so much better than the time consuming processes and formulas I’ve had to hash out in Excel in the past.

If you’re interested in gaining some basic knowledge, check out this website! It’s a great introduction into the basics of SQL, and gives some really good insight into why it’s such an important skill to have.

What Color Are Your Buttons?

At it’s most basic, A/B testing is exactly what you see in the diagram above. Technically, I suppose the term could refer to virtually anything, but currently it’s used mainly in the context of digital marketing.

Say for instance, that you’re selling an awesome product online that everyone loves. The consumer reviews are great, the website is getting tons of hits, and people are adding the product to their online shopping carts like crazy. But then they stop. Instead of finishing the purchasing process, they leave the website.

Why?

As bizarre as it sounds, it could be something as simple as using the wrong color for your checkout button, or having it located in the wrong place.

Quick. Easy. Streamlined. These are the qualities that online consumers want to see in a website. If they can’t find the checkout button just by glancing at the page, they’re out. They don’t want to waste a second of their time searching for it. They’d rather exit the site and leave their cart, than sit there staring at your poorly designed webpage trying to figure out what they have to do next.

Now this may be an exaggeration, but you get my point.

And here’s where A/B testing comes in. Since your customers are consistently putting your product in their shopping cart, and giving it rave reviews, you know that your product is not the problem. Somewhere between putting the product into their cart, and hitting the “pay” button, they have an issue. Whether it’s something as simple as the color of a button, or something more complex, like the length of the checkout process, you can fix it. And it’s not even that difficult of a fix! Depending on how quickly you can find the problem, it may be a long process, but the steps are fairly simple.

Keep your original version of the webpage you want to change, and then create a new version. Direct equal numbers of consumers to each page, and see which version gets the best results. The key is to make minimal changes each time. If you want to see how the color of a button affects consumers, then change the button color. But leave the rest of the page the same.

People start getting into trouble when they change multiple things at one time. If you change the title of a page, the background color, the button colors and the font type, how will you know which of those changes caused the change in consumer responses? You won’t. So keep the complexity of each change to a minimum. And hey, if it takes you several tries to get to the root of the main problem, you’ll still be making lots of little, positive changes along the way!

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