Acquiring Customers Using Branded Content

The great news is that we’re seeing many more hilarious and effective videos as marketers are looking to branded content to generate awareness (and possibly sales) for their new products and services.  While there is no guaranteed formula to reach your target audience, it’s often a combination of tone, timing and luck.  The most effective examples of acquiring customers using branded content are short and sweet videos that achieve the right balance of light tone, edgy humor and product information.

Here are two of Savvy Marketing’s favorites and one sort of, well, see for yourself.

Ship My Pants

This video from Kmart generated 13 million views since launching on You Tube.  Thanks and hat tip to the always informed for highlighting this 30 second spot as part of ViralFriday.

Dollar Shave Club Video

This classic 1:30 minute spot, created by CEO and Upright Citizen’s Brigade alum Mike Dubin, generated 10 million views and 12,000 orders within 48 hours.

Dove Real Beauty

Dove’s focus on real beauty is authentic and amazing, so I want to love everything that they produce.  However, in this video, women describe themselves to FBI-trained forensic artist, who then creates composite sketches.  It’s pretty long at around 3 minutes and feels forced and heavy, especially compared to some of Dove’s past campaigns.   That said, it’s certainly popular; this video has already gotten 27 million views in 10 days.

B2B Social Selling as easy as 1,2,3

twitter logo map 09

Is your Brand on Twitter? (Photo credit: The Next Web)

When I tell sales teams about the multi-million dollar deal I closed thanks to social selling it gets their attention. Up to that point, I get a lot of disinterested looks when I discuss engaging personally with clients and companies through social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.  Yes, I even get some eyeball rolling.  However, salespeople are capable of intently listening when money is at stake.  But just in case, I keep it easy for them by telling them the method for engagement is as easy as 1,2,3.

Step One: Build Persona

Many salespeople have larger than life personas to begin with, but when you look at them through the lens of their social sites they often don’t stand out as someone you would want to engage with. This is because they don’t rely on social media to communicate with their audience. Of all the business functions, salespeople rely on their in-person skills the most.  They enjoy one-on-one time with people.  Talking on the phone and conversing in writing are a distant second and third for salespeople.

So, I coach our sales teams to spruce up their on-line image as a first step. In doing so I tell them to be real, be credible and be alive. The first order of business is getting a good head-shot loaded onto Linked, Twitter, etc. It may cost money to get a decent picture, but a shot of you and Mickey Mouse from last year’s Disney vacation with the kids does not help at all.

Secondly, in addition to work experience,  I tell them to make sure to share something personal in their bio section that gives people a hint that they are flesh and blood. Telling people about your love of birding or old movies brings you to life in a way that no amount of documented awards and recognition can. Finally, I tell the teams they need to be ready to be consistently active on these social sites, but more on that in step 3.

Step Two: Get Connected

A beautiful profile on social media means very little if  you do not have an audience.   My tactics are simple and genuine to build a network full of real and like-minded people who you actually enjoy interacting with.  In LinkedIn I recommend first researching people of interest at your customer, in your industry and at  your employer. Then (and here comes the shocker!) DON’T ask to connect!  Instead, see what groups they belong to and join those groups.  Now you are not only unobtrusively attached to the people you want to converse with, but also with potentially thousands of their friends and associates.   Twitter is a bit more sublime, but the general idea is the same.  I suggest following people of interest and paying close attention to their activity.  My other tip is to grow slowly in Twitter.  Sure,  you can buy thousands of followers on Twitter, but what is the point? Again, the purpose of a network is to interact with each other and share ideas. Buying a group of friends has never worked and never will.

Step Three: Take Action

Now that you have a great profile and are connected to a receptive audience it is time to mingle.  Starting out with ‘likes’ on LinkedIn group content and ‘retweets’ in Twitter is a good baby step. The next step is replying and adding to the posts with your own ideas. The final step is posting your own content or finding interesting content for the group and post it. Note, this does not mean posting headlines from the Wall Street Journal! Everyone has seen that, try posting an article from a smaller journal or an article that puts a new spin on the front page news. The best kind of content is helpful insight that praises existing works or calls the reader to action to change how they are doing things today. This idea resonates well with sales people, because these are typical starting points for sales discussions.  Once you have been part of the dialog in a group or conversed with someone on Twitter, it is ok to ask for more from the relationship.  If the sales person takes her time and proves herself to be a thought-leader, clients are much more receptive to taking a meeting or giving an introduction to the proper budget owner.

Let me know what you think?  It may seem simplistic, but do you agree that many in B2B sales are missing these steps?  Would some training in going social help your sales team modernize and become more productive?  Reach out to the great staff at Savvy with more questions and ideas.

3 Perspectives on Paywalls

English: A speech in The New York Times newsro...

Writers creating content worthy of a paywall.

The good news is that paywalls are actually working well for publications with considerable scale like the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and The New York Times (NYT).  At the NYT, digital subscriptions will generate $91 million for the paper in 2012 according to Douglas Arthur, an analyst with Evercore Partners. The paywall, by his estimate, will account for 12 percent of total subscription sales, which will top $768.3 million in 2013. Even more encouraging is that digital subscriptions generated $52.8 million more than advertising.

The growth in digital subscriptions represents a new version of the NYT’s business model that evolved from the traditional 80-20 ratio between ads and circulation.  Further, the business model is still growing; subscription sales are increasing faster than ad dollars are declining. During the 12 months after the paywall was implemented, the Times and the International Herald Tribune increased circulation dollars 7.1 percent compared with the previous 12-month period, while advertising fell 3.7 percent. Subscription sales more than compensated for the ad losses, surpassing them by $19.2 million in the first year they started charging readers online.

The Guardian is taking a more nuanced approach, according to Andrew Miller, CEO of the Guardian Media Group:

In some news organisations where growth in readership may not be so important and in particular where there is a strong existing print subscriber base to build on, a pure paywall may make excellent business sense. The Economist and perhaps the Times spring to mind here. It also makes sense in other publications which feature business-critical information – for example, the Financial Times and, in the Australian context, the AFR.

At the Guardian we will continue to look at, monitor and offer a blend of options, including paywalls, depending on the product we are offering. But at the same time we have to recognise that digital advertising is not yet able to fill the substantial gap between any paywall revenues and the cost of the operation — not least because advertising agencies have not yet fully aligned their spend with changing patterns in media consumption.

But how to get from where we are today to where we need to be?  The main thrust of our strategy is to invest in our digital audience and revenue growth, while optimising the newspaper’s contribution in terms of both format and pricing and, crucially, managing our cost base to a level that is sustainable in the long term

My guess is that the Guardian’s audience will pay a premium for clips from The Premier League, which could put the whole publication in the black.

While this is great for large, global publications with scale, the question remains how to apply paywalls to smaller niche publications like The New Republic.    The New Republic’s marketing combines an eager softsell with some sticky features: the website has a strong call to actions, with reminders in bright red and the option to signup versus subscribe.

After signing up, you get a charming note from EIC and Publisher Chris Hughes:

Dear friend of The New Republic,

At The New Republic we believe that our democracy needs thriving and serious journalism about politics, culture, and ideas to function well. Tailored for curious, socially aware people like you, The New Republic embodies these journalistic ideals by going deeper than the headlines in a timely, unbiased fashion.

The way we all read and consume content changes every day. In an age of unprecedented technological change, we look to find new ways to help our readers engage with our content in print, on the web, and on mobile. We place less emphasis on generating clicks or superficial page views and more on making it as easy and pleasurable to read, engage, and interact with our content and ideas, wherever you may be.

To get the most out of your New Republic experience please:
Sign up for The New Republic Daily
Follow us on Twitter
Become a fan on Facebook

Thank you again for being a part of this.


Chris Hughes
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

P.S. Subscribers get access to 20 print issues, unlimited digital access, and tablet versions of our magazine for only $34.97/year. Become a subscriber today.

Today, The New Republic boasts less than 75,000 subscribers, down from it’s peak of 102,392 in 1993 according to the Alliance for Audited Media.  The magazine stopped auditing circulation in 2005.  Unsurprisingly, the magazine’s social media presence is very compelling and should drive a fair amount of referral traffic to the site.  However, it’s unclear what type of conversion rates they’re seeing and if digital subscriptions will increase substantially.

Thinking of Creating a Rewards Program?

One of Savvy Marketing’s clients is creating a rewards program to increase customer engagement across their product portfolio.  They are starting from a blank slate and need to determine branding, digital assets, market fit, pricing/rewards as well as a communications calendar.  As part of the project, I evaluated the benefits of multiple rewards programs and came up with the following framework.

The best rewards programs include the following:

  • Obvious value proposition with tangible benefits such as significant discounts and rebates or ability to earn points redeemable for services and products
  • Intuitive and straightforward user experience at acquisition and activation
  • Intangible, often unpublished benefits that can include preferential access to services
  • Frequent communication reinforcing the value proposition

First a quick history lesson. Do you know who launched one of the first rewards programs?  Betty Crocker, which started one of the first rewards program in 1930s along with a few grocery stores.  Betty Crocker’s target customers (housewives managing a budget) could earn rewards points and exchange them for household items at substantial savings.  General Mills closed the program in 2006 to focus on a new program: BoxTops for Education, which earned $74m for schools in 2012.

Today, consumers have many more choices, yet not all programs provide tangible benefits that improve the daily lives of their target customers.  As of 2011, US consumers belong to 2.1 billion different types of loyalty memberships ranging from travel to financial services and retail. The average US household joined 18.4 programs in 2011, up from 14.1 programs in 2009. Despite the increase in overall membership, households only actively participate in 8.4.  The challenge today is making sure that your loyalty program is among the 8.4 that people actively use.  Without active participation it’s difficult to generate a decent ROI.
Here are a few examples of successful loyalty programs that combine tangible benefits (rewards, discounts) with intangible benefits (access to events, VIP feel).
Barnes and Noble
  • Loyalty Card costs $25, customers sign up online or at stores
  • Free one- to three-day shipping; discount of 20% percent on hardcover books (40% percent on best sellers)
  • Additional perk of 10% at Starbucks cafes in B&N stores
  • Discounts are applied at the time of purchase
American Express Membership Rewards
  • Customers earn points based on spending
  • Points are redeemable for travel at participating airlines,  products part of Shop Amex or for gift certificates to restaurants and events
  • Point balances are included on monthly statements
  • Customers can accrue as many points as they want before redeeming
Amazon Prime
  • Membership to Prime is free the first year $79 the second year
  • Prime Members enjoy free two-day shipping
  • Free movies and TV
  • Instant access to Kindle titles
  • Prime members see “eligible for Prime” as a delivery option at check out
Museum of Modern Art
  • Family Membership is $175
  • Members receive 20% off retail prices
  • Members have access to “viewing hours” before the museum opens, Little Member Mornings  and Mother’s Day at the Museum
  • New benefits include access to the Digital Lounge an online community for members only
The key elements are to reward customers with tangible benefits that they can’t get elsewhere to acquire customers.  Then to make sure they stay active, remind customers of the value proposition as often as possible across all customer touchpoints.  Finally, recognize that intangible benefits cost nothing and make customers feel good about continuing to participate in the program.

Betty Crocker logo used until 2003

Betty Crocker logo used until 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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