Archive | February 2016

Quote of the Day

“Insight, plus Hindsight = Foresight.”

By Russell Murphy

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The Mind-Boggling Potential of Global D-Commerce

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E-commerce is now part of everyone’s vocabulary. No matter how you spell it (ecommerce? eCommerce? Ecommerce? e-commerce? e-Commerce?), we all know it stands for electronic commerce. But what about D-commerce? Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Most people haven’t. But it’s already changing billions of lives.

 

Blog - Global D-Commerce

D-commerce stands for digital commerce. (No big surprise there.) Some might say it’s just another name for E-commerce. After all: what’s the difference between ‘electronic’ and ‘digital’, really? Others think of D-commerce as a sub-category of E-commerce, usually relating to the publishing industry.

A new online alphabet.

Lately, there’s a new definition of D-commerce emerging from entrepreneurship circles. Under that definition, D-commerce is a completely unique, never-seen-before business model – one that wasn’t possible even 10 years ago, and one that will change the world in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine.

While E-commerce typically refers to the online buying and selling of physical goods or offline services, D-commerce is becoming the term of choice for businesses that deal in purely digital products or services.

Examples include:

  • e-books
  • webinars
  • online education
  • apps and other downloadable software
  • web hosting
  • software as a service (SaaS)
  • paid membership communities
  • downloadable music or videos (e.g. iTunes)
  • streaming services (e.g. Spotify, Netflix)
  • on-demand radio (i.e. podcasts)
  • digital currency (e.g. bitcoin)

And more digital products and services are emerging every day, as technology continues to evolve and a new ideas take shape.

A new business model.

Brian Clark, CEO of Rainmaker Digital and founder of the Digital Commerce Institute, is a trail-blazer of the D-commerce business model. In an October 2015 podcast episode, he talks about why he rebranded his already successful company, Copyblogger Media, into the new Rainmaker Digital: “Digital commerce is basically what kind of company we are. More than content marketing, more than WordPress, more than anything else – we sell digital products and services. We market them online, we deliver them online, we support them online. We are a digital business.”

The common denominator of D-commerce  businesses is that the entire customer journey – everything from brand awareness, to product selection, to payment processing, to delivery of the product or service, to customer support – everything takes place online. There is no physical product, there is no offline service. Nothing needs to happen outside of the digital environment in order to complete the transaction. So in that sense, companies like Uber orAirbnb are not D-commerce businesses per se, because the customer is still paying for a “real world” service in the end: transportation, travel accommodation.

Moreover, D-commerce is scalable by its very nature, meaning that there are no inherent limitations on the availability of a product or service once it’s been created. Since everything happens digitally, the only limiting factor is the technology required to create, deliver and support the product (from the vendor’s perspective), and to purchase, receive and use the product (from the buyer’s perspective). That technology is evolving constantly, and more and more people around the world are getting access to it.

We all understand that, like it or not, digital technology has forever disrupted the traditional media industry. More and more publishers are moving from print to digital. The days of music CDs, DVDs and cable TV are clearly numbered. And when was the last time you went to a brick-and-mortar store to buy computer software?

A new type of entrepreneurship.

We’re only just beginning to understand the full potential of ever faster, ever more powerful, increasingly mobile and globally accessible Internet technology. Just a decade ago, the concept of a “digital nomad” was unheard of. Now people like Natalie Sisson and Pat Flynnare inspiring a whole new generation of location-independent entrepreneurs to adopt D-commerce as their business model of choice.

The next step is for these new digital entrepreneurs to realize: not only can they run their business from anywhere in the world, they can target international markets anywhere in the world.

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How to Use Customer Service to Make Great Content Marketing

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This post – which is equally relevant for content marketers and customer experience pros – is drawn from my brand-new book, Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. Visit HugYourHaters.com to find out how to get exclusive bonus research not available anywhere else.  ~ jay


If customers can easily and thoroughly address their problems on their own, they will seek to do so. Self-service is always the most efficient path to issue resolution, because customers don‘t have to wait on your business to respond. As Gartner‘sMichael Moaz says:

“The best phone call is the one that didn‘t happen.”

Self service increases customer satisfaction and lowers costs

According to Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, self-service increases customer satisfaction and lowers costs for the business. So it makes a lot of sense, on both the customer experience and cost efficiency fronts, to mine your complaints and feedback for patterns and commonalities, and then address those issues with easy-to-access online information.

Customers love this. Forrester found that 72 percent of consumers prefer using a company‘s website to answer their questions. But businesses are not universally adept at this self-service approach, as only half of customers can find the information they need online.

72% of customers prefer to find answers on a web site2(highlight to tweet)

The best self-service programs are living organisms. They expand and morph to fit changing customer complaints and questions. To do so requires managers to meet often with personnel interacting with customers in other channels, to discuss what new questions and issues are emerging. Analyzing what visitors type into the “search” function of your website also provides good clues.

This is also a fantastic way to find new content marketing topics. After all, who better than your current customers to help determine what your content should be about?

One third of customer questions are repeated

Of course, many of the questions asked by customers are repeats. According to Rahul Sachdev from Get Satisfaction (now a division of Sprinklr), approximately one-third of customer questions are repeat or common issues. The objective with self-service is to determine all of those likely customer questions, and then provide answers to them, ideally in multiple online formats—text, video, audio, photographs, infographics and beyond.

These repeated questions are an absolute treasure-trove of content marketing opportunities.

Social media customer service pioneer, and author Frank Eliason praises Amazon.com for their devotion to this approach:

“Amazon has a model where they believe that if you have to contact us, our website is screwed up and we need to fix it. They try to ensure that no question is asked twice,” he says. “Two of the things that companies need to get much better at are taking feedback, and then not just addressing the customer‘s issue, but addressing it for all customers. That is where you get your greatest value. Instead, most companies have the mindset that customers are bad because they contact you.”

Of course, Amazon is a large company, and can devote considerable resources to perfecting the art of self-service information through content creation.

But small businesses can do the same. 
Not far from my new home in Bloomington, Indiana is Santa Claus, Indiana, home to Holiday World and Splashin‘ Safari, one of America‘s best amusement parks. This family-owned and operated business may have the best self-service approach of any small company, anywhere.

Holiday World embraces the premise that no question is unworthy of an answer and that customer experience and content marketing are two sides of the same coin.

Dozens of pages on the website are devoted to when to go, where to park, and what to expect. And for every major attraction at the park, the company provides an array of detailed data about the ride—a complete frequently asked questions section about every element of the experience.

“We want to give them as many tools as we can within the website, without being overly complicated, so that the guest has a real good working knowledge of how to have the best possible day at Holiday World when they choose their day of visit,” Dan Koch told me when I interviewed him for my book Youtility. Koch was formerly President of Holiday World and now runs Splash Adventure in Alabama.

The most important aspect of Koch‘s description of their information mission is his emphasis on creating the best possible experience on the day of the guest‘s visit. The focus of the website isn‘t on selling the attraction, or getting visitors to come back a second day, or selling T-shirts. It‘s about using content to improve the customer experience IN ADVANCE, which creates loyalty and word-of-mouth and reduces complaints. And it‘s working. Of the 1,573 reviews of Holiday World and Splashin‘ Safari on TripAdvisor, 1,481 are 4 or 5 stars.

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Quote of the Day

“You’er on the road to success when you realize that failure is merely a detour.”

By W.G.P.

 

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The Death Of Search Marketing Expertise

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Where have all the search professionals gone? Contributor Andrew Goodman explores the state of the search agency industry today and wonders if we can be doing better.

They’ve been friends of mine for a long time, so I assumed they’d be up for a little of the usual expert banter.

The first punch in the gut came when I casually explained about some PPC bidding methods we routinely use. My friends had no idea what I was talking about. Hyperventilating, I reminded myself they deliver SEO services, primarily.

So I told a story from the SEO world. As usual, it involved a chartered jet, a bottle of Scandinavian spirits, a spammer with a weird nickname and a senior Google evangelist who shall remain nameless. I was interrupted as I was just getting warmed up. The guys who run this SEO-first agency simply had not heard of the senior Googler — one of a handful of SEO evangelists Google has ever had in its history.

Talk turned to sports. The longevity of Jaromir Jagr’s mullet was debated.

Pardon the assumption, but I always thought the owners of professional services firms were more respected when they had “chops.” Granted, the owners or top execs of an agency may not need to get down in the weeds for their team to be successful. But you’d think we’d at least need to maintain a culture of expertise in agencies.

Less obvious — but no less important, if you ask me — is the need to keep up with an industry’s people, personalities and events. At some level, networks and connections matter. It’s hard to divorce the concept of maintaining relationships with key people (key experts) in a fast-moving industry from the very kernel of expertise itself. There are the “on paper” answers to tough problems, and there are the “real answers.” A great network provides shortcuts to the truth.

Many imperfections in agencies, of course, stem from low profit margins that stand in the way of learning opportunities, “20 percent time” and R&D.

Regardless, I’d like to challenge the related fiction that the only chances for agencies to climb out of the low-margin trap are those that “figure out scale” and deliver cookie-cutter services. The claim is demonstrably false. Take ReachLocal ($RLOC): have a good look at their financials and decide for yourself whether they’ve done well, even after raising all that money in an IPO.

Of note: ReachLocal’s once high-flying stock currently trades below book value. Flat to declining revenues may indicate that the cookie-cutter model, when applied outside of realms like sandwiches and oil changes, breeds client dissatisfaction.

An Aside About Awesomeness

David Ogilvy was brilliant. He also had good enough timing to be a co-founder, in 1948, of an ad agency that would soon win gargantuan accounts in an era when big brand ad spending was in its ascendancy.

Arguably, Ogilvy’s inspirational power at his own company was heightened by the fact that Ogilvy possessed what Seth Godin calls a “superpower” — no mere manager, bean-counter or big idea man, Ogilvy consistently wrote powerful advertising copy that made clients wealthy. Like several other early pioneers, he was also a champion of using data and research to improve targeting.

Ogilvy found his way to the top by rolling up his sleeves and doing a job he loved, not by planning a business model, raising “VC” or learning how to manage “key functions in a company of this type.”

Given his financial success, Ogilvy could be forgiven for enjoying the fruits of his labor in his later years, relaxing in his massive French chateau, Touffou.

It may simply be because the agency business is too competitive now, and upstarts face behemoths backed by decades of tradition and billions in revenue. Or maybe it’s because we’re facing a massive shift towards martech in the wake of the steady unraveling of the TV-industrial complex. But our world today doesn’t look much like Ogilvy’s.

It’s far tougher for agency owners and executives to get credit for maintaining “chops” nowadays, especially with the proliferation of media, technology, events and fields of expertise requiring attention. The pace of change is faster than it was in Ogilvy’s heyday; optimization is an hourly or daily activity. I get it. No one person, short of Mark Zuckerberg, is getting much mileage out of “keeping up.”

To paraphrase Bart Simpson: Gotcha. Can’t win, don’t try. Right?

Working “In The Business” — A Bad Thing?

Like most small business founders, agency founders have been led to believe that they should stop poking their noses into accounts, stop trying to achieve results directly for clients, stop holding technical conversations with clients and employees. That’s how you “stay small.” Don’t you want to get big?

According to business orthodoxy, the real problem would be if agency founders remained technicians. In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work, and What to Do About It, Michael Gerber asserts that there are really three competing people fighting inside the body of a small business founder: the Technician, the Manager and the Entrepreneur. The Technician is greedy for the attention of the business, because the Technician just wants to work on stuff. If left to his own devices, the Technician will destroy the business. Balance is a must.

Fair enough. But as any critical reader might conclude, Gerber doesn’t just instill balance in the technician, he shoots the technician.

It’s important to remember that his entire book is constructed as a dialogue with the owner of a pie shop (not even a variety of baked goods!), and that saving this pie baker from the slow-growth future of always being in the shop baking pies comes across as cutting-edge business advice that should be widely applied.

The franchise model (and business process thinking) of companies like McDonald’s and Mrs. Fields’ Cookies are held up as models for how to save the business founder from having to work “in the business” instead of “on the business.”

For a professional services agency, that’s extreme advice. It explains why many clients of marketing agencies today feel like they’re being served up a plate of Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (literally: cookie-cutter services) instead of developing a relationship with an educated, connected, senior-level marketing professional and the team around them.

Beyond that, Gerber’s ideas predate the complex challenges and opportunities related to scaling businesses in a digital and interconnected world. The trends of the past 20 years have radically altered business culture, supply chain management and much else. Certain business functions (under the aegis of the all-important Manager lionized in Gerber’s book) are more accessible to small companies today with software and outsourcing. Communicating with third-party vendors of logistical and managerial functions is also easier, thanks to tools.

Like many founders, I’ve often longed to follow Gerber’s advice to log out for the last time and work full-time “on the business.” As an already-proven expert, I’d also love to skip out on the Google Partners exams they continually require experts to re-take.

But I sense it doesn’t work that way. Our field is a little like pro golf. Your PGA Tour exemption – unless you’re the proud winner of a major or two – lasts but a couple of years. Fall out of touch with the fundamentals because you’re too busy hobnobbing with sponsors and celebrities and meeting with your agent, lawyer and accountant, and you’ll find yourself literally “back in school” — the professional golf “qualifying school” events – if you want to rejoin the pro ranks.

Expertise Matters

Somehow, expertise is going to have to rub off on employees who work on complex digital marketing assignments. Once liftoff is achieved, it would help if some employees developed actual careers with a sense of professional direction, as opposed to being semi-competent in addressing a few odd tasks.

There are only so many ways for this to happen, and in many agency cultures, ownership has no game plan to allow this to happen.

First off, it may be time to drop the act. You know the one. “The company is so big now, I’ve grown distant from day-to-day operations.” “I’m a philanthropist/show horse breeder/angel investor/triathlete.” Nothing against charity, the equine arts, angels or exercise, but unless you’re the departing chairperson of a mysterious, privately held $50 billion insurance company, isn’t all that extracurricular activity just a shade pretentious?

Mentoring (in some form or fashion) is essential. Many agencies do more monitoring than mentoring, trying to squeeze every ounce of “work” out of new people.

Conferences and meetups are also invaluable sources of insight and learning. To be sure, with tight agency budgets, not everyone can go; hardly anyone can get out frequently or routinely. But agencies that shut themselves out from industry events entirely are relegating themselves to a kind of dogged toil increasingly devoid of insight.

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Snapchat Gains Momentum: New Research

#1: Snapchat Nears Facebook Levels for Daily Video Views

In January 2016, Bloomberg News reported that Snapchat now delivers more than 7 billion videos to users each day. The news is amazing for two reasons. First, previously reported numbers of Snapchat daily video views in September 2015 was 4 billion. A leap of nearly 50% in just three or four months is certainly newsworthy.

Second, Facebook reported 8 billion video views daily in October 2015. Considering that at 1.55 billion users, Facebook’s audience outstrips Snapchat’s by 15 times, it’s clear video is Snapchat’s primary content form.

Key Takeaway: Snapchat’s 7 billion daily video views figure is important because mobile video is rapidly gaining favor with advertisers. According to eMarketer, companies spent $7.46 billion on digital video ads in the U.S. in 2015, an increase of 42% from the year before. eMarketer also relates that in the United States, mobile video ad spend is growing faster than all other digital advertising tactics.

Marketers with a video strategy in place can easily adapt their tactics to reach Snapchats video-friendly demographic.

#2: Vertical Video Rising in Popularity

When Snapchat emerged on the scene, some industry pundits criticized its vertical-only display as too limiting and unfamiliar for those used to more horizontal television and movie screens.

Now, after five years in business, Snapchat reviewed its own internal data to find that users are more likely to watch a vertical video than a horizontal video until the end. In some instances, the vertical video had a completion rate nine times higher than its horizontal counterpart.

snapchat completion rate research

Will Snapchat’s research on completion rate be replicated by independent studies? Time will tell…

Minutes spent on vertical screens have increasingly been edging out those spent on horizontal screens since 2011.

minutes spent on vertical screens

Users are spending more time on vertical screens.

Key Takeaway: Of course the consumer who views a mobile video until the end is more likely to respond to the call to action. Marketers will appreciate this finding because they typically put their strongest call to action at the end.

It’s also worth mentioning that if Snapchat’s findings are correct, it’s possible that although video consumers are accustomed to videos being horizontal, they’re more accustomed to their phones being vertical and staying that way should a text or call come in.

Marketers should consider testing response to their own video to see which orientation their followers prefer.

#3: Snapchat Users Are Engaged

Every day, between 300 and 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook. With an audience of 1.59 billion and 1.04 billion monthly active users, the portion of the audience participating by uploading photos is less than 35%.

In comparison, 65% of Snapchat users upload their own photos daily. They’re engaged with the platform, viewing it as an extension of their own personal brand rather than just a place to passively receive information. (Read how Facebook and Twitter users now regard those channels as news outlets.)

One of Snapchat’s primary sales points is frequency of use. Its 100 million users visit the platform daily. Facebook started measuring their monthly active users (MAU), implying that the number of people going to the channel even once every 30 days constituted success.

snapchat image shutterstock 268187840

Snapchat users return to the platform often. Image: Shutterstock.

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel scoffs at that metric, stating the time frame is far too long and not much to boast about. The numbers his company measures focus on daily activity.

Key Takeaway: Engagement is such a sought-after metric because marketers know that those who are interacting with a company are far more likely to share and talk up its posts, offers and products. The engaged consumer uses the company to build a portion of his or her identity.

The user with this level of emotional tie-in promotes and buys far more than the passive user just perusing the latest sound bite or unique fact. Once the platform becomes saturated, it requires far more time and budget to pull attention away from competitors.

#4: Snapchat Gaining on Instagram With Millennials

According to comScore’s The 2015 U.S. Mobile App Report, Snapchat has the sixth-highest concentration of Millennials.

millennials on snapchat research

ComScore finds that 76% of Millennials use Snapchat.

The study of 1,084 smartphone users also concluded that 18- to 34-year-olds spend an average of 6 hours on Snapchat each month, right behind Instagram’s 7 hours but far behind Facebook’s 25 hours. Still, at just 5 years old, Snapchat has some work to do to catch up with the 12-year-old Facebook and 6-year-old Instagram.

millennial hours spent on snapchat

While trailing Facebook significantly, marketers know that Millennials and others use several social channels daily.

Key Takeaway: With 76% of Millennials using Snapchat, any business catering to that prospect should consider taking the risk and reaching out on the platform. Keep in mind too that Millennials and younger generations use several social platforms. As yet, Snapchat is far less saturated with advertising than Facebook.

#5: Marketers Ready to Begin Advertising on Snapchat in 2016

With the advantages early adopters enjoy, it’s no surprise that marketers have been paying attention to Snapchat’s promising developments. As reported in eMarketer in January 2016, more senior ad buyers are planning to begin advertising on Snapchat than any other social media site.

This statistic can be misleading, however, because a portion of these ad buyers have already begun advertising on Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and the survey measures new efforts.

The chart below shows how numbers for Facebook and Twitter stand at 4%, clearly because most ad buyers are already there. Still, the poll does reveal that more marketers plan to test Snapchat’s platform and performance this year.

snapchat advertising trends

Marketers show their willingness to try yet another social media platform in 2016.

These ad buyers probably have demographics from Snapchat’s ad page or the 23-page sales packet it sent to agencies:

Nearly 100 million users visit the platform every day. Of this 100 million:

  • 26 million are 13 to 17
  • 37 million are 18 to 24
  • 23 million are 25 to 34
  • 12 million are 35 to 54

Looked at in another way (one that Snapchat may prefer), 60% of America’s 18- to 34-year-old smartphone users use the platform. Depending on business size and target market, those numbers can be appealing, particularly for businesses with nationwide reach.

snapchat user ages

Nationwide U.S. businesses with Millennial audiences should benefit the most from a Snapchat presence.

Key Takeaway: While C-suite executives can accuse marketers of chasing the most recent fads, marketers have learned that jumping onto a new digital outreach tactic can pay off. Early adopters enjoy a less-crowded playing field where individual companies can stand out.

Conclusion

Recently, Snapchat reduced introductory advertising rates from $700,000 to $100,000, indicating it will be offering more advertising opportunities to more companies.

Still, Snapchat advertising is inaccessible to most small businesses at this time. That doesn’t mean a small business can’t have a presence on Snapchat, however. Businessesof all sizes can deliver messages and entertaining snaps to boost visibility.

What do you think? Do you plan to explore Snapchat as an advertising option? Will you start building your own stories to reach and convert a Millennial audience? Let us know in the comments below!

Snapchat photo from Shutterstock.

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Quote of the Day

“Seeing much, suffering much and studying much, are the three pillars of learning.”

Benjamin Disraeli

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