WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: What’s the Difference?

Year after year, WordPress ranks as one of the top website building tools available. This easy-to-use CMS (content management system) software is beginner-friendly, offers a variety of plans, and allows you to quickly create and manage a unique and functional website for your visitors.

If you’re looking to build a site on WordPress, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is, “What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?”

 

WordPress.org is a self-hosted, free platform in which you purchase and manage all aspects of your website including your domain name, add-ons, security, and code. WordPress.com hosts your website for you, offers multiple payment plans, gives you access to a domain name, and a variety of default features.

Below is a useful table that compares the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

Feature WordPress.org WordPress.com
Cost Free. Free, $4 per month, $8 per month, or $25 per month.

Hosting Provider and

Additional Features

Need to purchase hosting provider, create a custom domain name, purchase plugins, themes, and all other add-ons. Must manage your entire website, code, and security. WordPress offers a hosting service, domain name, security, and backups. You can upgrade your account and create a custom domain name and choose a third-party hosting provider as well.
Customization Must purchase and install your own themes to customize your website. Customize your website with any WordPress-compatible theme of your choice. If you upgrade your account, you can also use premium themes, third-party themes, or custom themes.

Integration with Social

Networks

Must install plugins to enable all social media sharing on your website. Your website can integrate with social media networks. If you upgrade your account, sharing functionality with social media accounts is included.
Plugins Find and install plugins to enhance your website’s functionality. Features such as sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. You can also add plugins to your website for other features.
Support WordPress.org support forums.   WordPress.com support forums and personal support are available. With an upgraded account, you have access to live chat and email support.
Link to Download Get started here. Get started here.

Let’s dive into each of these features and review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in more depth.

Cost of WordPress

There are a number of different WordPress plans to choose from that range in price. No matter your budget, you can find an option that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Cost of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is always free. However, because it’s only a publishing platform, you’ll have to purchase every other element of your website including your third-party hosting provider, domain name, as well as your themes and templates, plugins, and add-ons. You’ll also have to find a way to manage your website’s security and maintain and edit your site’s code.

Cost of WordPress.com

WordPress.com has four different plans that range in price.

Source

There is a basic plan that is always free, a plan ideal for personal use that costs $4 per month, a premium plan that costs $8 per month, and a business plan that costs $25 per month. As you work your way up through the more expensive plans, the more features and levels of customization you will be able to take advantage of on your website.

If you choose the free option, you will be offered WordPress hosting, a domain name, and minimal access to WordPress support. If you choose one of the three paid options, you’ll be able to add a hosting provider of your choosing and a custom domain name. You will also be offered extensive support and customization options.

WordPress Hosting Providers

A hosting provider gives your website a place to “live” on the internet. Choosing the right hosting provider for WordPress is crucial because it will impact your site’s functionality, speed, reliability, security, and more. Let’s review the differences between website hosting with WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com.

Hosting for WordPress.org

If you choose WordPress.org you’ll have to self-host your website, meaning you’ll have to purchase a third-party provider, such as WP Engine or InMotion Hosting. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, so we’ve created a guide to 19 of the best WordPress hosting providers of 2018 for you to review.

Hosting for WordPress.com

WordPress.com offers different hosting packages for you to use. If you pick a paid version of WordPress.com, you can decide whether or not you want to use WordPress’ hosting service or if you want to use a third-party provider — as you would with a WordPress.org plan — you already feel strongly about or have prior experience using.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosting

There are plenty of benefits that come from self-hosting your WordPress website, as you would with a WordPress.org site. However, there are also a lot of challenges to be aware of that often make WordPress.com plans preferable.

The pros of self-hosting include having complete control over everything that goes into the creation of your website, and the ability to manage your website’s security and edit your website’s code. You also have the opportunity to find, buy, and install a third-party hosting provider of your choosing, create a custom domain name, and find different themes, plugins, and add-ons that work for your site and needs. If you choose the self-hosting route, you use the WordPress platform for free.

The cons to self-hosting include having to actually spend the time to find, purchase, and install an ideal third-party hosting provider for your site, learn how to create a domain name, and identify the themes, plugins, and add-ons that make the most sense for your website. You also need to have some type of knowledge in web development as you’ll be the one managing your website’s code and updates.

WordPress Customization

WordPress is a completely customizable CMS. With the help of the hundreds WordPress themes and templates available today, you can achieve virtually any look imaginable by customizing every element of your website.

WordPress.org Customization

With WordPress.org, you are required to find and install your desired third-party themes, such as StudioPress, Pixelgrade, and Stylemix Themes, on your own. WordPress does not offer you access to their free themes the way WordPress.com does, so the level of customization you want to achieve is dependent on your own theme research and the options you decide to implement on your website.

WordPress.com Customization

The free version of WordPress.com comes with dozens of free themes that you can choose from and implement on your website. The free plan does not let you add any third-party or premium themes to your website.

However, with a paid plan, you can use premium, third-party themes as you would with a WordPress.org website. If you choose this route, WordPress.com allows you to easily install your third-party or premium theme so you can get started customizing your website in just minutes.

WordPress Website and Social Media Integration

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become a powerful tactic to promote brands, products, and websites today. Integrating your WordPress website with your social media channels is an easy way to manage all of your interactions in one place, broaden your impact, and increase conversions. It’s also a great way to simply ensure your website visitors know about your social media channels and vice versa.

WordPress.org Social Media Integration

WordPress.org does not come with any social media channel integration. You’ll need to install plugins on your website to enable social media sharing and integration. There are a number of social media plugins available in the plugin library, such as Social Media Widget by Acurax and Jetpack, to help you with tasks such as social media posting from your website and creating beautiful sidebars with links to all of your social accounts for your site.

WordPress.com Social Media Integration

With a free WordPress.com account, you can integrate your own website with social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. This will just require a bit of work on your end. By publicizing your website, or connecting it to your multiple different social accounts, you can integrate your accounts and access them from your WordPress dashboard.

If you have a paid WordPress account, all social media integration comes included and ready-to-use so you can access all of your social accounts from WordPress with the click of a button.

WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to add to the array of features you have on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install plugins. Plugins are how you enhance your website’s functionality by adding capabilities that don’t come standard with the software. Since there are over 56,000 options available, we created a list of 25 of the best WordPress plugins to help get you started.

WordPress.org Plugins

You’ll need to find and install plugins yourself with a WordPress.org website. Since WordPress.org is simply a platform and there aren’t any features that come standard with the plan, you’ll want to install some plugins on your own. You can search for specific topics or things you need in the WordPress plugin library to narrow down the thousands of search results and find an option suited to your specific needs.

WordPress.com Plugins

With WordPress.com plans, some social media, customer interaction, and analytics-related features (that do not come standard with a WordPress.org plan) such as sharing, statistics, comments, and polls, are automatically included. To add to these default features, you can install WordPress-compatible plugins of your choosing. If you pay for the most expensive WordPress.com plan, you can also install custom plugins.

WordPress Support

While building your website, you may run into a roadblock here or there, or have a question about how to complete a task. WordPress has varying levels of support based on the plan you choose.

WordPress.org Support

With WordPress.org, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to customer support as this plan does not provide any access to one-on-one assistance. Instead, you can access the WordPress.org support page which contains a number of forums that you can use to problem solve. Other than that, you can always try searching for answers to your questions on the internet.

wordpress.org-support-page

Source

WordPress.com Support

Free WordPress.com plan users can take advantage of community support and forums available, which are similar to the support pages that WordPress.org users have access to. This is a very basic level of support that leaves you to do most of your own problem-solving.

If you are a paid WordPress.com user, you will have 24/7 access to live chat and email support with WordPress experts in addition to the community support and forums. 

Back To You

Understanding the key differences between WordPress.org and the various WordPress.com plans is key to determining which type of website best fits your needs. WordPress.org is a great option if you’re looking for complete control over every aspect of your site. WordPress.com is preferable if you need some assistance building your website and want more automation. 

Once you’ve reviewed and considered all of the plan options, you can get started by downloading your WordPress.org or WordPress.com account and utilizing the variety of features you have access to design a website perfect for your specific needs.

Black Friday 2018 SMS Sale – 20% Free SMS

The Super Bowl of sales is now upon us, and you know what that means . . . The Text Marketer Black Friday sale is here!

Year on year Black Friday gets bigger and bigger, with more people purchasing, more retailers offering a Black Friday sale, and ultimately more money being spent.

This year is no different, we have predicted that the UK will spend a whopping £9.2 Billion over the four day Black Friday weekend. And to help you, we have put together a post on when the best time is to send your Black Friday SMS campaign, with one extremely popular day being a few days before Black Friday – read more here.

With the increase in popularity and consumer spend, that means you are going to need more SMS to tell your customers about your amazing Black Friday sale. And with Text Marketer, more SMS doesn’t mean spending more money.

Introducing our Black Friday 20% Free SMS credits offer.

Any purchase over 1,000 credits between Monday 12th November – Cyber Monday 26th November will receive an extra 20% SMS credits for free!

So by purchasing more SMS credits, we will give you more SMS completely free, it really is that simple.

To claim, forward your invoice to [email protected] with the header BLACKFRIDAY – the offer CANNOT be used with any existing offer or discount, but can be used multiple times during the period.

Please see our T&Cs for more information (Section 14 – 14.1)

The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room

There are perhaps four software companies at the forefront of casino gaming technology in Europe, some of which have managed to transform how mobile users play and interact with online casinos. Who are they and what should we expect next?

The list below shows some of the main software developers designing and operating online casino games. There is a high expectation that the next generation of casino software will soon be released by them.

Playte

Playtech has been going for almost 20 years, operating in the online bingo, slots and casino arena where it has developed over 600 games. It has licenses with multiple US entertainment companies like HBO, MGM, Marvel and Universal and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

NetEnt

NetEnt processes over 21 billion gaming transactions every year and serves over 100 online casinos. It won the 2015 EGR awards for slot Provider of the Year and is listed on the Nordic Nasdaq.

Novomatic

Novomatic turned over nearly 4 billion euros in 2015, which isn’t surprising when you consider it has over 28,000 employees. It specialises in slots, card and electronic table games. It is the biggest casino software supplier in Europe.

Evolution

Evolution has become one of the leaders in online poker and roulette software. It is one of the newest and fastest-growing software developers in the online casino sphere and it continues to develop and grow.

An Augmented Reality for Online Casi

The popularity of online casinos has so far matched and probably exceeded the appetites of the bricks and mortar casinos. Amongst the most popular online casino games is the offering of classics like roulette, mahjong and blackjack just like you’d find at William Hill’s table games. The reason why these remain the most popular casino games to play is primarily because they are easy to learn and fun to play; one offering a player the chance to test their skill and the other offering random, but rich potential on the spin of the table.

Currently, online gambling in the UK generates over £3 billion annually and this figure is only going to grow further as online gambling becomes more mainstream and furthers its growth and appeal. Meanwhile Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have become huge in the technical sector and a major landscape changer. It doesn’t take long to recall the effects that Pokemon Go had on the public’s imagination to see where this technology can go. It was quickly followed up by the BBC’s Civilisations App to reproduce works of art that came alive right in front of you. So how long will it be before online casinos start developing and releasing their own AR roulette table in your own living room?

There are already virtual zones being set up in Las Vegas casinos.

The answer to that is not long. The hardware technology is already here with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Playstation VR becoming more affordable and available. The software for casinos is getting more closely aligned with reality already with slicker graphics and a more realistic ‘casino’ experience. Add in the technical might of the big casino software developers and we should prepare for some nights in where home casino parties with a full array of tables, games and slots might well be coming soon.

The post The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

How to Use Gift Cards to Give an Experience This Holiday Season

Originally posted by Evan Snively.

It was my birthday recently (why thank you kindly for the well wishes!) and the night before official festivities were to take place my wife received a text from my sister asking for gift advice. Without looking up from her phone, she turned to me and asked for ideas to relay back. I rattled off a few of my favorite beers and ended with the caveat: “and if they don’t have those in stock you know I enjoy a good browse through the aisles.” What I didn’t put together until the next day when I opened my present to reveal a sleek little gift card (thanks sis!) was that what I had actually asked for was an experience.

With the overwhelming focus on millennials over the past few years, the term “experiences” has gotten a lot of play within the marketing and loyalty space. Numerous studies show that this key demographic holds an affinity for experiences, and often articles – like these from Forbes and Business.com – position this as a clash between the preference of material goods vs experiences, but that is not the full story. When reports quote that younger consumers “prefer” or “would rather spend money on” experiences it is misleading as this often paints the picture that these generations are primarily focused on accumulating cultural wealth instead of monetary wealth, flocking towards wildly unique happenings in an act of rebellion against consumerism.

This is false.

This type of presentation fails to acknowledge that you don’t need to mark your calendar and buy tickets to an event in order to have an “experience”.

Life is a constant experience.

And the goods we interact with in our daily lives have the potential to elevate each and every moment.  And that is what younger generations care about – creating memorable moments.

Yes, sometimes that means checking an item off the bucket list. Other times it could be hosting a backyard bonfire where laughs are shared a bit too loud and a bit too late into the night. Or simply capturing an image and sharing it with friends and family who will appreciate its contents. All are experiences.

And as I have been reminded recently by the gift card from my sister, merely the hunt for material goods can be a very enjoyable experience in of itself. A big reason for this is because when we purchase things, we imagine ourselves enjoying them in the most ideal of situations. It’s a similar phenomena as to why playing the lottery is actually worth it, even if you don’t win. We garner enjoyment from the thought of the experiences we will have in the future, allowing us to take greater pleasure in the now. So

So with the gift giving season nearly upon us, how do you ensure that the gift cards that you are giving will result in an experience not once, but twice for the end recipient? To take a deeper dive into the concept of having an experience, while prepping for an experience (where are Leo and Joseph Gordon-Levitt when you need them?) I want you to imagine yourself in 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1:

You open a birthday card with a decently funny punchline courtesy of Hallmark with a generically uplifting sentiment scribbled below from the sender, along with a $50 Target gift card.

Useful no doubt, but not very exciting or memorable. A likely scenario is that you slide the gift card into your wallet and forget about it until you are at the checkout aisle a month or two later (and let’s be honest, this isn’t even the first time you have been to Target since you received it – just the first time you actually remembered you had a gift card). It covers about half of your purchase and moves out of mind as soon as you pull out a credit card to cover the balance. There is no specific item that the gift card bought, it was essentially a great coupon. Furthermore – by the time it’s used you might not even remember who gave it to you (guilty).

Scenario 2:

You open a birthday card with a decently funny punchline courtesy of Hallmark, a $50 Target gift card, but this time a specifically tailored message from the gifter stating that they want you to use these funds to ‘revamp your board game collection’ for the next game night. Suddenly you aren’t just given a $50 catch-all, you are given a passport to adventure. (I realize not everyone will consider picking out a couple new board games as a “passport to adventure” but I do, so if you disagree simply replace the scenario with something you are passionate about.)

The key difference is that in Scenario 2 the presenter framed their gift in a particular manner, which in the case of a gift card causes 3 things to happen:

1. Clarity of focus. The focus has been shifted from the monetary value of the gift to the potential items that will be purchased which allows for a vision of the ideal state where those goods will be used. (i.e. the specific framing has created anticipation – one of the keys to a great experience).

2. Permission to spend irrationally. ‘Irrational’ might be a stretch but certainly the gifter has empowered the giftee to make a non-utilitarian decision. Let that sit. The delivery of the gift, not the gift itself, is what is impacts the end user’s ability to justify their spending behavior.

Scenarios 1 & 2 impart the same financial benefit, but because the second narrative includes commentary from the gifter stating: “I am giving a green light, nay a directive, to spend this on an activity of pleasure” there is an instant switch in the mental accounting of the recipient, stating that they can (and should) treat this pile of money differently than their usual expense budget. This is a vital piece of the puzzle.

3. Evoking a deeper emotional response. Gift cards are notorious for doing the opposite. But adding the personal touch of how the recipient could use the card improves the overall memory halo of the gift. No more forgetting who made your shopping adventure possible.

The bottom line? It is all about how the gift card is framed in the mind of the end user.

Prime the mind to pay attention to the experience that the gift card allows.

So this holiday season when you are checking names off the list, don’t feel bad by settling on a gift card. Quite the contrary! Know that based on how you present them, you have the potential to be giving millennials the thing they value most – an experience – regardless of the brand on the card.

This content is sponsored by Maritz Motivation Solutions. To learn more about Maritz Loyalty, please visit them here.

The post How to Use Gift Cards to Give an Experience This Holiday Season appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Why Both Data & Relationships are Essential to Personalized Marketing

As the importance of customer retention and customer lifetime value (LTV) become more popular in the world of marketing and sales, personalized marketing is also popping up in more and more marketing team discussions. Today’s advanced marketers are touting the benefits of personalized marketing campaigns, which range from landing page headlines that adapt to the copy on the ads that were clicked, to email newsletters tailored to a specific segment of subscribers. The desired result of running these campaigns? Usually, it’s some variation of conversions, more conversions, and more efficient conversions.

Personalized Marketing Works

Starbucks’ mobile app is a master-class in personalized marketing, based on gamifying their rewards system. It’s simple, but it works. Customers can customize and order drinks on the app, which uses information like purchase history and geolocation to make the experience unique to each person. The more they buy and use the app, the more stars they earn—which go toward free drinks.

As trivial as buzzwords like “gamification” may seem, the results they achieve are anything but. This Starbucks Rewards program has set new records in revenue, and in its early stages, the app was already generating around 6 million sales a month, or about 22% of all U.S. sales.

How about another example?

For their 20th anniversary, Easyjet launched an email campaign that took all the information they had on customers to create travel stories. They based the stories on each customer’s previous flights with Easyjet. They got creative too, including not only photos of their customers’ record of flight destinations, but also a fun reminder of the number of times they had a window seat, their first trip with Easyjet (building that brand loyalty), recommendations of where to fly next (with their airline, of course), and more.

How did this perform? Open rates were over 100% higher than their average newsletter, with 25% higher click-through rates.

Why Do Consumers Respond Well to Personalized Marketing?

We build relationships in our personal lives in large part by remembering information about other people—and using it in positive ways. Birthdays. Anniversaries. First dates. Favorite foods. Favorite sports teams. Telling someone that we remember details about them is probably the most common way of showing that we care. And that improves relationships. The caveat: having the data is not enough. You have to use it to build the relationship too. It’s the same in marketing.

Starbucks’ mobile app is successful because it uses its repository of customers’ buying habits to remind them that they might want to have their usual venti sugar-free caramel macchiato (iced) today, or just to wish them a happy birthday and offer a free drink.

Easyjet’s campaign worked because the team had rich data on their customers’ past Easyjet flights, which they used to remind customers of these happy experiences.

How to Build Relationships That Make It Easier to Personalize Marketing

Marketing and sales are just beginning to enter the Relationship Era, though relationships have been around since, well, forever. And much like humans in real life, businesses tend to want information without putting in the effort to build the relationships. Relationships take work.

Many marketing articles tend to throw around phrases like “Keep it real,” “Be authentic,” “Transparency is key”—but what do these mean? The actual work of nurturing relationships often gets swept under the rug in favor of these pithy, but meaningless, “tips.” Big campaigns are important, but so are the everyday interactions with prospects and customers. Every email, tweet, and phone call is a building block of the relationship—not just touchpoints or opportunities for driving engagement.

Because how can you “keep it real” if you don’t have a real relationship with that person? Whether a personalized marketing campaign means creating effective email segments or a direct mail piece tailored to that specific household, at the heart of each one is a relationship.

Here are a few ways to make the relationship-building process easier:

1. Make Sure Your Customer and Prospect Information is Organized and Easily Searchable

Post-its and notepads aren’t going to cut it. If you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time entering, organizing, and finding data, you probably have enough of it to look into a proper CRM tool. The goal here is to minimize your time doing these low-value tasks (and ultimately to make your life easier).

2. Log Every Interaction

Live chats, emails, phone calls, and tweets are where you’ll tend to find unique—and useful—nuggets of information about your audience. Your knowledge about seemingly random things like their love of donuts or favorite sports teams just might come in handy later on. A surprise box of donuts as a thank-you for a referral? Free tickets to a basketball game to reward a customer for five years of loyalty?

All of this helps build a relationship they’ll never forget—but only if you’ve logged that information first.

3. Align the Team

There are few things more embarrassing than having an awesome conversation with a customer or prospect only to have someone else on the team ask the same question later because they didn’t know that it’s already been answered.

It can make your brand look disorganized or just scattered.  While it won’t wreck a relationship, it can still raise some eyebrows or be a roadblock. Use the right collaboration tool or app to get everyone on the same page.

4. Analyze, Report, Improve

Of course, you want this to work. And the only way to know is to look at the results. Ideally, you’d have a tool that updates your numbers automatically and shows you dashboards and charts.

Bonus if it integrates with other apps that you already use. This could save you hours if the data is already linked between them without you having to manually do anything.

Building meaningful customer relationships are, like many things, simple but not easy. But this is the most genuine (and probably the best) way to personalize your marketing if you want to maintain your brand’s authenticity and “human-ness.”

Feel like it’s time for your team to try their hand at more personalized marketing? You’ve already got the building blocks you need to get started. Make sure you have the data, get everyone on the right tools, and start building those relationships!

The post Why Both Data & Relationships are Essential to Personalized Marketing appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Create a Landing Page in 8 Steps [+ Examples]

A landing page is a single web page designed to be linked to digital advertisements, such as Google and Facebook ads. They help drive users through your sales funnel, leading to higher conversion rates. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers looking to increase conversions and generate more leads should use landing pages. Creating professional-looking and effective landing pages…

The post How to Create a Landing Page in 8 Steps [+ Examples] appeared first on Fit Small Business.

The Leader's Guide to Effective Change Management

The only constant in life is change.

[Enter any tried-and-true marketing tactic] is dead.

Winter is coming.

We’re reminded daily about how change is coming, and to succeed in business, we must remain agile. Sure, that all makes sense in theory, but in practical application, to change how we operate or serve customers is no small feat.

According to Mckinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Yikes.

This doesn’t mean employees are wrong — they simply lack understanding and buy-in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to guide your team through the end result and help establish this comfort and buy-in.

The good news is there are tons of change management methodologies that you can adopt and adapt to your business.

At IMPACT, we’ve gone through quite a bit of change recently. We’ve almost tripled in size in just over a year, and what was once a small core team, is now a fairly good sized-agency that requires a much different approach to implementing change than the good ol’ days (a.k.a. last year).

After struggling to implement a change to our client onboarding process, we decided to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to change management.

Below I’ll share with you the key change management models and tools we reviewed, and how you can avoid becoming another statistic.

Yes, there are tools and models, which I will get to below, but at the core of any strong change management program is your people.

No model will work if you continue to let employee resistance and lack of management support sabotage your efforts.

4 Common Change Management Models

No need to dust off your old college business school books. Here are the top 4 change management models most commonly referred to when researching the “how” behind change management.

1. Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model

Picture an ice cube. The Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Unfreeze
  2. Change
  3. Re-freeze

This sounds like the most simplistic model on the surface, but there’s a lot to unpack.

In the unfreeze stage, you are essentially breaking down the current way of doing business and noting what needs to change. It’s crucial in this stage to obtain two-way feedback of what needs to change (vs. solely top-down).

After noting and communicating the need for change, gather the key stakeholders necessary to proactively implement what needs to be done.

Once everyone has bought in, “re-freeze” in the sense that the change is institutionalized and consistently used in the new manner.

In our experience, this model focuses more on process than people. If you have a smaller team with less emotion to manage, this could be a good option.

2. The ADKAR® Model of Change

The ADKAR® model breaks down the human side of managing change.

The idea is you should work through each letter of the acronym, focusing heavily on the individuals within your company.

Awareness. Here, the goal is to learn the business reasons for change. At the end of this stage, everyone should be bought-in.

Desire. This is dedicated to getting everyone engaged and willingly participating in the change. Once you have full buy-in, the next stage is measuring if the individuals in your company want to help and become part of the process.

Knowledge. In this stage, you’re working towards understanding how to change. This can come in the form of formal training or simple one-on-one coaching so those affected by the change feel prepared to handle it.

Ability. Next, you must focus on how to implement the change at the required performance level. Knowing the required job skills is only the beginning; The people involved need to be supported in the early stages to ensure they are able to incorporate change.

Reinforcement. Lastly, you need to sustain the change. This final step is often the most missed.An organization needs to continually reinforce change to avoid employees from reverting back to the old way of doing things.

Unlike Lewin’s model, this focuses on people-side of stage. We like its idea of using reinforcement to make your changes stick and this model takes it a step further. It’s a good approach to consider if you have a larger team or more complex problem you’re trying to solve.

3. Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

In is 1995 book, Leading Change, Harvard Business School professor, John Kotter, lays out 8 stages all companies must go through in order to see effective change management.

  1. Create urgency through open dialogue that leads others in the organization to want the change as much as you.
  2. Form a powerful coalition of change agents in your organization. This can go beyond leadership and manager.
  3. Create a vision for change to reinforce the why behind it and the strategy to achieve the end result.
  4. Communicate the vision regularly to ease team anxiety and reinforce the why.
  5. Remove obstacles to pave the way for the needed changes to happen.
  6. Create short-term wins to keep up morale and show the team you’re moving in the right direction.
  7. Build on the change by analyzing what went well and didn’t go so well in your quick wins to keep pushing to the desired end result.
  8. Anchor the changes in corporate culture as standard operating procedure and reinforce why change is necessary and embracing it is part of your company culture.

If you have a more agile team, this model’s iterative short-term wins and building based on what you learn as you go, sync nicely with the agile methodology.

4. Kim Scott’s GSD Model

Okay so maybe this one isn’t as common yet, but it soon will be, so you might as well get ahead of the curve!

Kim Scott outlines the GSD model (get stuff done) in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, which is a process of the following steps:

  1. Listen: Listen to the ideas of your team and create a culture where they listen to each other.
  2. Clarify: Make sure these ideas aren’t crushed before everyone has a chance to understand their potential usefulness.
  3. Debate: Create an environment where it’s okay to debate and make the ideas even better.
  4. Decide: Select the idea that will best solve the issue.
  5. Persuade: Since not everyone was involved in the listen-clarify-debate-decide stages, you have to effectively communicate why it was decided and why it’s a good idea.
  6. Execute: Implement the idea.
  7. Learn: Learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.

We included this in our mix at IMPACT because of how much it focuses on obtaining ideas from the frontline. People buy into what they help create and Kim Scott’s GSD model provides a framework to make that happen.

Now, there are many more models for you to choose from than just these four, but realize there may not be just one model that fits your organization best.

If you’re anything like us at IMPACT, you may want to take a page from several of these models to improve your communication and effectiveness in times of change.

A Change Management Plan in Action

Below is a real example of how my team approached a major change and the change management steps we took to ensure everyone was on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Step 1: Determine What Needs to Change and Craft the Message

In the course of 3 months, IMPACT completely restructured the agency-side of our organization. In March, our agency team looked like this:

image4-7

This structure worked for us in 2017, but as we came into the new year with an even larger team, our quarterly team survey results told us a different story.

For the first time in several years, not everyone could see their future at IMPACT.

Some had no idea what was going on or why certain decisions had been made. And what stung the most is we had a few happiness scores below seven, which we haven’t had since 2015.

Ouch.

In our February leadership team meeting, we debated for hours why some in the company were feeling this way.

After several ideas, we all determined one area we should focus on was our structure. We were setting our managers up for failure with competing responsibilities and in doing so, we made it extremely difficult for them to effectively communicate with their teams, coach them in their careers, and ensure they could see their future at IMPACT.

The ones who did better in this area suffered in others, like client results and retention.

It was a huge issue that needed to be solved immediately.

This leadership team meeting was the beginning of step 1 in our change management plan:

Determine what needs to change and craft the message.

In our monthly all-hands meeting following that leadership team meeting, our CEO, Bob Ruffolo, explained the why behind our decision that we needed to make a structure change — the what.

He explained the survey results, our thought process, and everything that led to the conversation.

Then, he explained that we had outgrown our current structure, placing too much responsibility on our current managers. We inadvertently set up our teams to fail and that wasn’t ok. — the message.

In order to improve this situation, we needed to create a structure that scales.

Planting the seed for a change is seriously just the first step. After this meeting, we knew there would be fear and confusion, so we got to work on step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Stakeholders and How to Manage Them

We knew that a complete structure change would not go well if it was strictly a top-down initiative. We needed help and a core coalition to get it off the ground.

However, not every single person would need to know every single detail of what was going on.

While all teams were involved, most were focused with how they would personally be affected in a day-to-day sense, as well as in relation to how they work with other teams.

To keep communication clear, and to ensure everyone had a voice and a chance to enact Kim Scott’s debate stage, we needed to identify stakeholders across the agency team.

In this case, our stakeholders were the managers of our teams. We were essentially changing their job responsibility, so it was prudent to include them in the conversation.

Although we created a committee of stakeholders, what we failed to do was take our communication a step further by managing the other agency team members more closely.

The matrix below outlines a way to segment your team and your communication with each segment so you can better communicate across the board.

We only had our managers involved, and we updated the rest of the team all at once in our monthly all-hands. Next time, we will definitely create a strong communication plan based on this matrix.

Stakeholder Power-Interest Grid Diagram

Image from Mindtools, which adapted from Mendelow, A.L. (1981). Environmental Scanning – The Impact of the Stakeholder Concept,’ ICIS 1981 Proceedings, 20.

Once we identified our key stakeholders, we met with each one and some of their teams to get their feedback, pushback, concerns, and ideas about the structure change.

In full transparency, not all these meetings were fun. There was high emotion and rigorous debate, but, at this point, we had not zeroed in on our exact plan, and they helped us understand the team’s concerns and ideate on the best way to structure for scale — together.

Step 3: Systematically Communicate

This is an area we got wrong in this scenario.

In step one, we announced at a company meeting a pretty earth-shattering idea. Our managers felt blindsided and not all the team members were convinced a structure change was needed.

We learned the hard way that surprising people in a company meeting was not the way to go.

Our intention was to be transparent about what was discussed in our leadership team meeting, but there was definitely a better way to do that had we been more systematic in how we communicated to the team.

After identifying key stakeholders, this is the path we are focusing on now:

CEO/Leadership team (if it’s a leadership decision) > communicates to the next level management > who then communicate to the frontline managers and key stakeholders >who then communicate to the the rest of the team.

Managers can communicate to their own teams in a style that they know will resonate and create shared understanding. They can also help identify issues and concerns so we can all co-create a solution.

This eliminates group-think and reduces the timeline to extinguish fear.

Although our path was a little messier here, once we received all team feedback, we all agreed to what our new agency structure should be:

Then we moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Get Organized With Incremental Steps

At this stage, everyone knew a change was coming, but no one knew how we were going to make it happen.

This was the time to get organized and get buy-in on the “how” of change management.

Now that we knew what our new structure would be, we developed a project plan with the incremental steps to get us there by the end of the quarter.

We created a video explaining the structure and project plan for all teams to review in their weekly meeting.

Our managers and key stakeholders were involved and accountable for different parts of the plan, and in our all-hands meetings, we updated on the progress of the plan so everyone could stay informed.

In our plan, we also mapped out some “quick wins” in the first month so the team could feel major progress was happening.

In our case, this was selecting new team managers for those teams whose Principal Strategist moved over to the Strategy team.

We interviewed internally and selected our new managers within 3 weeks of rolling out our initiative, which was exciting for our new managers and exciting for the team to see we’re already making huge steps.

Step 5: Equip Your Managers to Handle Emotional Response to Change

It’s one thing to have great communication and a solid-looking plan — but change is hard.

Everyone responds in their own way, but what we didn’t think about was this concept of The Change Curve. Ok, let’s be honest — we didn’t even know this existed.

image2-1

Image from Insights.com, Kubler Ross The Change Curve

After our initial all-hands meeting, we had people all over the Curve. We then in essence said, “Managers, figure it out!”

As we went through the process, we learned another lesson the hard way: We needed to adapt our communication and management style for each individual based on where they were in responding to change.

The graphic below by Expert Program Management shows how you change your response along The Change Curve to gain buy-in sooner and give better coaching to your managers.

image1-26

By meeting team members where they are at, our managers could adapt their communication style to coach each team member through the process, allowing for more personalized, effective transition.

Note: This doesn’t have to be advice just for managers. Our teams operate in scrum, and in their team retrospectives, a shared understanding of this tool could have facilitated more understanding and stronger conversations and problem solving within the team.

Step 6: Manage by OKRs

In order to stay focused throughout the quarter, we created an objective and corresponding key results (OKRs) for our structure change.

The objective was essentially “make the structure change happen” and we measured by tracking the milestones from our project plan.

Each all-hands, we would update the team on how we were doing on our objective and show the percentage complete so they could see visible progress. (We use 7Geese as a way to continually check in and measure our key results.)

This was also a time for those working directly on the project plan to celebrate and give themselves a pat on the back. There was a ton of work involved, and they deserved to be recognized for crushing it.

By breaking down exactly what needed to happen, we were able to keep the team focused and motivated to reach our goal.

Step 7: Continue to Communicate like Crazy

As I mentioned in step 1, discussing the idea is seriously only the first step. To keep everyone motivated, organized, and informed, we had to communicate like crazy.

There three types of communication we focused on: motivational, informational, and two-way.

Our motivational communication often came from our CEO to continually reinforce the why behind this major change.

Informational communication came from updates on our OKRs in our all-hands meetings, as well as one-off videos from the team working on the project plan to update on progress.

The most important one that we focus on the most now, however, is two-way communication. We started off slow in this area, but after getting feedback in our Q2 team survey and from individuals on the team, we doubled down on this much more in the last month of the transition.

By ensuring you have a regular cadence of two-way communication, you ensure the team understands what’s being shared, but you also learn and address if there’s underlying dissent or miscommunication.

Although I put this as the last step, this is the most crucial.

Communication must happen throughout your entire initiative or you’ll risk falling short and potentially damaging company morale in the process.

If you focus on the 3 types of communication above, you will reach your goals faster with a happier team to boot.

Change is Cyclical

The reason I included Kim Scott’s GSD model is it most relates to our company culture. We are always looking for ways to improve, which means we have a lot of change going on all the time.

There is rarely a beginning and a clear-cut end like the more traditional models. I’m sure we’ll discover more tweaks we need to get our structure right, and that’s okay.

The point is change really is constant, and developing a model that works for your business is the best way you can manage the people-side of change and set everyone up for success.

As a leader, you can choose a model, or a mix of models like what we do at IMPACT, to help organize effective, lasting change in your organization.

By incorporating your team via the communication methods outlined above, you can empower and enable your team to take action — and have pride in the change they helped make.

Change isn’t easy and it isn’t going anywhere, but when you can figure out a model that works best for your company, you and your team have no limits. 

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Black Friday 2018 – everything you need to know to succeed this Black Friday

There is no bigger retail event in the year than Black Friday. It trumps all spring and summer sales, makes Christmas look tiny and is far superior to any January sale – it is simply the biggest and best event of the year.

Every year retailers try and top their competitors with a bigger and more creative offer, but you don’t need to create the most elaborate offer to triumph on Black Friday. All you need is for your offer to be seen by as many of your customers as possible – it really is that simple.

There is no point having the best offer if it is only going to be displayed on your website. You need to shout about it from the roof tops, promote it through multiple marketing channels, social media, email, in your shop, on the radio, on TV, but most importantly and by far the most effective, via SMS.

Not only do your customers want to receive offers from you via SMS, but SMS is the perfect way to get your message straight into your customers pocket, knowing that your text message, unlike email, will be read almost instantly with 90% of all text messages read within 3 minutes.

Even though SMS is such a powerful marketing tool, it can still go wrong, especially if you don’t send your message at the right time. Sending a text message to your customers at 9pm on Black Friday, even if it is a catchy message with an amazing offer, will get you very little response, by that time the majority of your customers have already seen other offers and have made their main Black Friday purchases.

It is vital you send your Black Friday campaign at the right time of day. To help you get the most out of SMS, we have put together a guide on the best time to send your Black Friday SMS campaigns, which you can read in full here.

Handy Black Friday tips
Copy Amazon – Well don’t just copy Amazon, but they do Black Friday very well every year. They have timed Black Friday deals and don’t just have one big offer, they break it down, adding a timer and unique offers to different products. This gives consumers a sense of urgency that the particular offer they are looking at, will soon end and never be shown again.

Remind customers – Remind customers that you have your sale is still on. First send all your customers an initial text message as soon as your Black Friday sale has started, then again on Black Friday itself and again the day before your deal finishes. By contacting customers at different times may promote them into a second or even third purchase, and for those who didn’t make a purchase, it will give them a gentle nudge of your amazing deals.

If you aren’t ready for Black Friday this year, what are you waiting for, sign up for a free account now and start sending your customers text messages in minutes. Or for those who already use SMS marketing but don’t really believe in the whole Black Friday hype, have a read of our amazing stats below. We are sure once you have finished, you will be a believer.

Black Friday 2018 infographic

Cheetah Mobile Vice President Keynotes Microsoft Tech Summit 2018 in Shanghai

MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT: As a proud partner of Microsoft, Cheetah Mobile, a leading mobile internet company with a strong global vision, was honored to participate in Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit where its vice president Li Liang gave a keynote speech about Cheetah Mobile’s focus on promoting digital transformation through AI-powered products and services.

Commenting on the news Li stated, “I am honored to have spoken at this prestigious event and look forward to Cheetah Mobile’s continued relationship with Microsoft to develop products that solve real-life pain points and increase efficiency for people and businesses.”

Cheetah Mobile and Microsoft have been working together since 2017, when it integrated Microsoft’s intelligent voice assistant Cortana into its popular launcher app, CM Launcher. Cortana not only allows CM Launcher users to easily control the app with voice commands, they can also use voice commands to make voice calls, read the news, create and manage events, set reminders and perform web searches, all without leaving the app.

Microsoft and Cheetah Mobile expanded their partnership in July 2018 with the release of Cheetah Translator, a portable translation device developed using text-to-speech and translation technology from Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) and OrionStar, a Cheetah Mobile-invested AI company. The device is light-weight and easy-to use, while providing accurate and reliable translation, making it the perfect accessory for travelers. Cheetah Translator operates on OrionStar’s self-developed Orion Voice OS, the number one smart voice OS in China, with a 30% market share. Orion Voice OS currently powers smart speakers from Xiaomi, Midea and Ximalaya, as well as Cheetah Mobile’s entire line of robotics products and smart devices.

Unlike similar translation devices that feature two or more buttons, Cheetah Translator’s one-button design reduces the number of operations required of users. Whether it is selecting the language, translating or changing volume, it can all be done with one button. In fact, the translation engine provided by Microsoft and OrionStar automatically detects which language is being spoken and translates accordingly without the need to manually switch between languages. It currently supports Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese, with more languages to be added soon.

Li continued, “The major advantage that Cheetah Mobile has in AI products is its combination of user thinking, product thinking and AI technologies. By focusing on users’ needs in specific scenarios, Cheetah Mobile uses the most suitable technology to solve those needs, and Cheetah Translator is the embodiment of this goal. There are no borders between machines and people anymore. Cheetah Mobile’s goal is to provide users with AI products that are truly intelligent and truly useful.”

Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit was held at the Shanghai World Expo Center from October 24 to 27, 2018. The Summit brings together Microsoft‘s top global technology experts, famous domestic entrepreneurs, industry leaders, entrepreneurial pioneers and technology enthusiasts gather together to discuss hot topics, share the latest & most cutting-edge gains, the most competitive strategies and techniques, as well as industry solutions under digital transformation, to jointly improve business productivity and predict the development trend of the industry.

About Cheetah Mobile Inc.

Cheetah Mobile is a leading mobile Internet company with strong global vision. It has attracted hundreds of millions of monthly active users through its mobile utility products such as Clean Master and Cheetah Keyboard, casual games such as Piano Tiles 2, and live streaming product Live.me. The Company provides its advertising customers, which include direct advertisers and mobile advertising networks through which advertisers place their advertisements, with direct access to highly targeted mobile users and global promotional channels. The Company also provides value-added services to its mobile application users through the sale of in-app virtual items on selected mobile products and games. Cheetah Mobile is committed to leveraging its cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies to power its products and make the world smarter. It has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since May 2014.

About OrionStar

OrionStar is an AI company in China that is controlled by Fu Sheng, CEO and chairman of Cheetah Mobile. The company was established in September 2016 by a group of technology industry leaders and product specialists from Silicon Valley, Japan, Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen. OrionStar has developed a complete robotics technology chain, including a voice-controlled operating system, Orion Voice OS, visual recognition technology, indoor mapping and navigation system, and a back-end robotics platform, Orion OS. OrionStar is committed to using AI technology to develop the next generation of ground-breaking technology products and free people from the burden of overly complicated tasks, make homes more intelligent and create a better world through technology.

For more information about Cheetah Mobile and its products, please visit www.cmcm.com

The post Cheetah Mobile Vice President Keynotes Microsoft Tech Summit 2018 in Shanghai appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

A Professional’s Guide to Loyalty Program Liability

To the great delight of customers, many companies offer loyalty programs. These programs allow customers to receive rewards for the purchases they make, with repeated purchases from the same company resulting in an ever-increasing, compounding array of incentives and kickbacks. Customers become motivated to direct as many of their purchases as possible towards the same organization, and businesses reap the rewards of more purchases and a loyal customer base.  It’s the perfect win-win scenario.

Except when it’s not.

While customer loyalty programs are a tried-and-true method of drumming up consistent business, potential risks must be carefully considered when implementing one into your company’s marketing framework. Loyalty programs can result in more sales, but they also carry what is known as loyalty program liability.

Loyalty program liability is the eventual cost to your company of the redemption of all outstanding loyalty points. If accounted for properly, they can be an effectively-wielded strategy for increasing customer engagement and strengthening the consistency of your company’s relationships with clients.

Conversely, failure to properly factor in the impact of these material financial costs  on your company’s balance sheet can have an unexpected financial cost upon redemption of outstanding rewards points.

Fortunately, these financial risks can be mitigated using careful planning and sophisticated analytics tools.  A loyalty program should be viewed as an investment, and, when prudently executed, can return far more than what it cost to implement.

Read on to find out how your company can leverage the benefits of loyalty programs while limiting the risks associated with loyalty program liability.

 

The basics of loyalty program liability

The impact of customers redeeming loyalty rewards is a balance sheet liability that can cost companies billions of dollars.

Though structures vary, the essence of a loyalty program is this: A company offers its clients a certain amount of “currency” per every unit of a designated dollar amount spent. In practice, this might look like Walmart offering shoppers 20 rewards points for every $10 spent, or a pet store offering one “Barky Buck” for every three cans of dog food purchased.  Of course, these currencies mean nothing if they’re not able to be redeemed for products or services, so the second part of the loyalty program formula is to allow customers to redeem the accrued currency for company offerings. Many times, these offerings are simply free or reduced inventory items, but often, the most valued (and desired) options can only be attained by earning enough of the loyalty program’s currency.

In each case, companies are forced to eventually assign the currency real value by making it exchangeable for tangible items. In turn, the delivery of these items in exchange for the rewards points comes at a cost to the company.

For example, that free, steaming hot cup of coffee given by Starbucks to the loyal client actually costs Starbucks some big money. While a single cup doesn’t amount to much, multiply it by the millions of Starbucks customers getting free coffees and the cost skyrockets. And what is this cost known as? That’s right —  loyalty program liability.

 

What loyalty program liability means to your company

All liabilities matter, and loyalty program liability can impact both the financial health of an organization and the way it’s perceived by the market.

The principle reason why loyalty program liability matters is that because, like any other variety of corporate liability, it can negatively impact the financial standing of a company.

The most direct way it can harm the financial health of a company is when companies opt to operate on a model that overestimates breakage. Breakage is the accounting world’s way of describing services that are paid for by a customer but not actually used. A classic example of this is the sweeping tide of gym memberships that get activated at the beginning of every year by inspired would-be gym goers, bent on finally keeping their New Year’s resolution. Similarly, every year companies make millions off of unused gift cards for which money is paid, but no products are consumed. While breakage can result in unanticipated profits, relying on it solely to underwrite unsustainable advertisement promises can have devastating effect on a company.

 

While breakage can result in unanticipated profits, relying on it solely to underwrite unsustainable advertisement promises can have devastating effect on a company.

 

Changes in regulations concerning how companies must classify rewards points are also certain to heighten the impact of loyalty program liability. As of 2018, the International Finance Reporting Standard (IFRS) and US GAAP has mandated that companies categorize rewards points as deferred revenue, considering them separate parts of a sale. This signifies that, at least initially, companies will have to decrease their listed profits from whatever they’ve actually generated to the smaller amount that results after the value of the accompanying rewards points is subtracted. This is particularly true in the US, where the the change in accounting rules is more dramatic.

Although this doesn’t mean that companies cannot eventually incorporate the profits earned from breakage after points expire into their bottom lines, it does mean that, at least in the short term, the value of rewards points must be factored into reports of revenue. For any company, depressions in revenue reports are an important concern, as they affect investor confidence and can change the market valuation of the organization.

 

Bottom line

Like any other type of liability, loyalty program liability can affect the financial well-being of a company. Due to new regulations, businesses will now be forced to view rewards points as independent occurrences from the event that incurred them, and investors will view them as revenue deferred. This means that rewards points can bring down the revenue reports of a company at any given moment, even if, eventually, they come to increase them.

Most importantly, however, effectively managing loyalty program liability requires measured, strategic, interdepartmental cooperation between accounting, financial and marketing departments — which is where we now turn our attention.

 

Loyalty program liability accounting

Accounting departments need to accurately hone in on ultimate redemption rates and costs per point to correctly quantify outstanding levels of loyalty program liability.

Accounting departments are pivotal to the management of loyalty program liabilities. After all, in order to properly calculate the direction in which loyalty program liabilities are heading, you need to know where they stand today.

For many of the largest loyalty programs, these liabilities can amount to billions of dollars:

Deferred revenue liabilities from loyalty programs (2017)

1. American Express 7.751 billion
2. Marriott 4.940 billion
3. United 4.741 billion
4. Delta 4.118 billion
5. American Airlines 2.777 billion
6. Southwest Airlines 1.676 billion
7. Hilton 1.461 billion
8. Intercontinental Hotels 0.760 billion

 

At this scale, even small changes in redemption behavior can drive significant financial impact. For example, if a $1 billion liability needs to be restated by just one percent, that will drive a $10 million hit to income during the period in which the liability is restated.

Proper understanding of the ultimate redemption rate (URR) as well as the cost per point (CPP), is key to getting the pulse of existing liabilities. While many companies believe that URR cannot be properly gauged, the reality is that this rate can be determined with a fair degree of accuracy.  What tends to impede companies from correctly evaluating their URR is their neglect of many valuable data points concerning the individual behaviors of their members.

The previous actions of loyalty members can help predict what they’ll do in the future, and by analyzing these individually, companies can develop forward-looking databases that can give cogent insights on how likely individual point-bearers are to redeem the points.  While this may require the analysis of huge quantities of data points across a large membership base, new techniques are making it easier for companies to wrangle this “big data” and uncover hidden insights. In particular, the combination of actuarial science and machine learning has proven to be a robust approach to predicting redemption behavior.

 

The combination of actuarial science and machine learning has proven to be a robust approach to predicting redemption behavior.

 

Financial reporting not only requires an estimate of the liability, but also disclosures about the timing of when the obligations will be fulfilled. This adds another dimension of complexity to the models, since the models must estimate the total number of points that will redeem as well as the timing of when they will burn. Unfortunately, the methods companies use to estimate URR are often too simplistic to make accurate predictions of redemption behavior in the dynamic world of loyalty programs, and can result in materially biased estimates. These methods include approaches that look solely at aggregated historical data, or analysis by member vintage.

A URR estimate biased high means that you expect more redemptions to occur than actually will. This can result in deferring too much revenue, and never seeing the number of redemptions required to allow you to eventually recognize it. In essence, the revenue is “stuck” in the deferred revenue account. A URR estimate biased low means that more redemptions will occur than you expect. When these redemptions occur, you may find that you don’t have enough revenue to cover the costs to fulfill the redemptions, causing a reduction in income during this period. Eventually, a true-up of the liability may be needed to reflect a more accurate URR. This can be quite painful for companies with large liabilities. As noted earlier, even a small restatement of the liability can impact income by tens of millions of dollars.

Obviously, the outcome of having a URR estimate that is either too high or too low is not desirable. The nature of such risks often results in tough questions by senior leaders and auditors on the state of the company’s loyalty program liability. Having a robust analytic framework that uses sophisticated modeling rooted in actuarial theory, along with leveraging predictive modeling tools, helps mitigate risk and proves to these stakeholders that your estimate are accurate.

 

Bottom line

Proper accounting and financial reporting of your liability requires an accurate estimate of the ultimate redemption rate and cost per point. One powerful way to accomplish this is to integrate actuarial science with advanced computational capacities of modern predictive modeling techniques.

 

What finance departments need to know

Though loss of cash and an increase in liability is hardly appealing to the finance department, finding the proper balance of customer engagement needs to be strategically executed for sustained competitive standing.

It’s important to note that the financial impact of issuing rewards points is not incurred at the moment at which they’re redeemed, but, rather, at the time of their issuance. The second the rewards points are doled out to participants, the company incurs the accompanying costs associated with “potentially redeemable points,” either as a reduction in revenue or as a direct recognition of expense, depending on how the program is accounted for.

While accounting is often focused on current liability estimates, many in loyalty finance roles are focused on future liability (i.e., how the liability will grow over time). And to accurately predict future liability, finance must have a solid understand of URR and CPP, too.  It’s also important for finance teams to recognize that, as user engagement increases and members graduate from being casual participants to more heavily invested users, rates of redemption will fluctuate upwards. This, of course, can be offset by the arrival of more new members, whose engagement is typically less vigorous.  This means that it should be expected that the URR will change over time. Failure to recognize this in your financial planning could result in material variance in financial performance.

The trajectory of the liability is also influenced by loyalty program changes and loyalty campaigns. Understanding how changes in these programs, such as modifications to expiration rules or earning rules, or the addition of a new co-branded credit card, impacts the URR and CPP is critical to building an accurate financial plan.  A sole focus on costs may drive some to wish for high breakage. This one dimensional view should be avoided. Program managers must be wary of trying to encourage an excess of breakage, as doing so involves intentionally disengaging customers from the company.

 

Program managers must be wary of trying to encourage an excess of breakage, as doing so involves intentionally disengaging customers from the company.

 

Best practice is for companies to focus not just on liability, but more holistically on customer lifetime value (CLV). CLV considers both the cost of redemptions, as well as the revenue generated from a lifetime of loyalty from your customers. This is the most important metric for any loyalty program.  Cost considerations for CLV include items such as acquisition costs and redemption costs. Therefore, the ultimate redemption rate and cost per point are critical to understanding CLV.

The other half of the CLV calculation is related to revenue — in particular, expected future revenue. Unlike liability, expected future revenue from your members is not an asset you can put on your balance sheet, and is a big reason why there is so much focus on cost.  CLV puts liability in the appropriate context. Program strategies may increase the URR, and therefore increase the liability. But if the expected future revenue sufficiently increases more than expected future costs, then the strategy is a smart financial choice. Disciplined loyalty finance professionals should insist on quantifying CLV to fully understand the financial health of their program.

 

Bottom line

Ensuring accurate loyalty program liability is not only critical to satisfying Wall Street’s demand for accurate financial forecasts, but for measuring loyalty program ROI as a whole. The challenge for the finance team, then, is to get this right amidst the technical difficulties of implementing precise predictive models and constantly evolving loyalty program marketing strategies.

 

Loyalty program liability: what marketing teams should know

Marketers can get broader buy in and investment in their loyalty initiatives by accurately quantifying liability and CLV.

Marketing departments are responsible for the way in which a company engages with its clientele, and are the vehicle through which customer engagement is controlled. When it comes to loyalty programs, these levels of engagement predict corresponding levels of redemption. This means that marketing plays a key role in managing loyalty program liability.  For the most part, a marketer’s primary focus is not going to be program liability. And it shouldn’t be. With that said, they still have stakeholders in finance and accounting that are concerned about it. Understanding the financial implications of their engagement strategies will help get broad buy-in across departments.

Increasing breakage rates indicates a lack of engagement by members and demonstrates that customers don’t see the program as having value. While it may be beneficial for a company to dump its liability in the short run, this will not be a sustainable strategy for long-term customer engagement. It’s safe to assume that most loyalty professionals, regardless if they’re sitting in finance, accounting or marketing, know this to be true.

The challenge for many loyalty marketers, then, is that business cases often require sound logic and quantifiable evidence. This is where accurate liability estimates and CLV are helpful. If marketers can show that their chosen strategy will sufficiently increase CLV, this shows quantifiable evidence indicating that increasing liability will generate the needed ROI. It’s evidence that marketing, finance and accounting can all get behind.  Beyond building the financial case for a given strategy, CLV can also be used to help identify opportunities and new strategies. This is particularly true when CLV is estimated at the individual member level. This allows you to quantify and identify your most valuable members based on their expected future value, rather than their historical behavior.

This predictive view will have the biggest impact on future profit potential. Focusing your efforts and resources on these opportunities will maximize program ROI.

 

Bottom line

Marketers, finance professionals and accountants are all key stakeholders in a thriving loyalty program. The key metric at the intersection of their objectives is CLV. Accurate CLV requires an accurate estimate of the URR, CPP and program liability.

All loyalty professionals should demand predictive CLV and, consequently, demand accurate liability estimation.

 

Final thoughts: Keep your business sustainable

Regardless of where you’re sitting in a loyalty program, you need an accurate estimation of  ultimate redemption rate, cost per point, and loyalty program liability.

  • For accountants, this means needing to comply with financial reporting requirements.
  • For finance, this means building an accurate financial plan that ensures that smart financial decisions are being made.
  • For marketing, this means framing programs and campaigns in the context of how they affect liability and customer lifetime value to get needed buy-in from accounting and finance.

While all companies must estimate URR, CPP and liability for financial reporting, disciplined loyalty professionals should not stop there. They should insist on evolving those models to provide accurate customer lifetime value estimation.

And accurate CLV cannot be calculated without first understanding URR and CPP at a granular member level. Accurate liability is the starting point.

This article has been republished from Kyros Insights.
Len Llaguno is the founder of Kyros Insights, a leader in loyalty program liability solutions. Kyros helps loyalty programs predict member behavior and manage complex financial reporting of program liabilities.

 

The post A Professional’s Guide to Loyalty Program Liability appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

At this week’s annual Samsung Developer Conference, there was one technology that arguably stole the spotlight: Voice.

Samsung is making a somewhat apparent push to power more devices — from smartphones to smart speakers to home appliances — with its own voice assistant, Bixby.

It got us thinking: Where do users stand on voice assistants, anyway? How widespread is this technology’s use? And as Samsung keeps its audience waiting for its own smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, how enthusiastic are consumers about these digital assistive devices?

We ran some surveys to answer these questions, and with the help of new data from Zazzle, drew some conclusions on the current sentiment toward voice.

How Many People Plan to Buy a Smart Speaker?

We asked 831 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you plan to buy a smart speaker?

Most respondents — about 43% — indicated that they do not plan to buy a smart speaker.

It’s interesting to note, however, that while a smart percentage, the second-highest number of respondents indicated that they plan to buy one within the next six months.

That could align with more of the top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features (such as video).

The Value of Voice Assistants and Smart Speakers Remains Ambiguous

For many consumers, the purpose and tangible use cases of  voice assistants (and the smart speakers they power) remain unclear. When we asked 818 users across the U.S., UK, and Canada, “If you do not own a smart speaker, why not?” we found that most people simply don’t see the benefits of having one.

If you do not own a smart speaker, why not_

These findings align with two other sets of data.

The first is data from Zazzle, where out of “thousands of social media users” in the UK, 35% said that they don’t believe they would ever actually use such voice assistant devices as smart speakers.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-MediaSource: Zazzle

The second is an additional survey we ran among 481 people across the U.S. and Canada, where 21% of respondents said that they don’t completely understand what voice assistants do.

Do you plan to buy a smart speaker_ (1)

The Outlook

The findings above point to some possible key indications about the outlook for voice assistants and the devices they power.

First, it seems that many users are unclear about the value of voice assistants, or what they do — a finding that’s suggested by the number of survey respondents who, if they didn’t say that their understanding of voice is muddled, said that they want to learn more about the technology before investing in it.

It is possible that some users do not assign the formal terminology of “voice assistants” to the technology with which they might be on a first-name basis; for example, Siri, Alexa, or “Okay, Google.” That’s suggested by Zazzle’s finding that 68% of users acknowledged the convenience of a voice assistant, saying that they were able to find information quicker by using this technology over typing out a query.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-Media(2)Source: Zazzle

That finding is supported by our own findings that about a quarter of users who do use voice assistants do so to answer questions.

Which of the following describes the way you use your voice assistant -- like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri -- the most_ (1)

To repeat our earlier point: More top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features. As the technology improves and scales, it could become more widespread and accessible to consumers, broadening the value and use cases.

And as it does, points out HubSpot’s head of SEO Victor Pan, so do the different platforms where customers can be reached.

“Pay attention to when your customers start to adopt,” Pan says — such as voice. “The point of marketing is to be where your customers are.”

Building a Business Around Your Website: Post-Launch Learning for Growth

This piece is part of a series surrounding website development best practices as followed by Marketo’s web development team. You can learn about the pre-planning process, how to create an actionable plan, setting your team & project up for successmanaging your team throughout the build process, and finally how to manage the go-live process in our previous posts.

From your website to any apps you’ve developed, any digital product that touches your customers during their journey from sales to delivery should be seen as a child that requires constant attention and instruction. Imagine having insights into the three things per day your child should learn. What if those three things would increase their chances of achieving their dreams of becoming an astronaut or professional athlete by 400%? Or what about the three things that will help them avoid nasty diseases like cancer and diabetes by 1000%? Unfortunately, this platform does not exist—though I’m sure many parents would pay millions to have these insights. But with the proper set up and process you can get this type of insight to create the optimal plan for your digital child’s health.

In this blog, we’ll prepare your website to be a source of continuous learning for your company. We’ll cover tips for teams, goals, timelines, data, tools, insights, and angles. Sorry, there is no great catchy acronym for this yet, but if you come up with anything to help you remember it, please let me know in the comments below.

SCRUM Team

These are your stakeholders. This should not look that different than what the stakeholders activated for product ROI planning except there may be different team members depending on the size of your team.

If any function or department was missing from that initial set of stakeholders, make sure to plug that hole now. For true continuous learning, you need a representative from each aspect of the business. Representatives from support, sales, content marketing, social media, SEM, SEO, training, user experience, engineering should be included to get a more holistic picture. Each team member has a different view of what’s important to the user journey and what defines success and failure. Miss any piece of this puzzle, and you will be missing opportunities to improve the business outcomes possible with your digital products.

This might sound like a lot of voices in the room, but a complete view is necessary for success. With this many voices, it’s important to have tight agendas that include strict guidelines and scheduling.

Setting an Agenda

Here is a sample agenda and the process to manage it:

  1. Introduction and reminder of the OKRs, available resources, and process that will be followed. Any questions for newcomers are fielded now: 5 minutes
  2. Department lead presentations: 10 minutes each
    • Learned from last week: 5 minutes
    • Want to learn/test this week and suggested ways to learn: 5 minutes
  3. Recommend presentation order
    • Customer support
    • New customer marketing
    • Sales
  4. Resource Q&A to clarify design, development, or other resource estimates: 10 minutes
  5. Voting: 5 minutes

Managing the Agenda and Process

Presentations: Each department gets a total of 10 minutes to move through their initial presentations. The short presentation window keeps things focused. All questions are left for the Q&A period before voting. Each team member must come prepared with:

  • What they learned and how. For example, 33% of visitors are requesting demos on how to use the email service provider (ESP). They found the website confusing and couldn’t find details on how the ESP worked. We discovered this through demo request tracking and surveying 10 visitors that requested ESP demos.
  • Want to learn/test and how. For example, how a video demo and new landing page with a feature comparison can reduce support requests and increase premium conversions. Our goal is to reduce the number of customer support requests by 10% and increase the premium conversions by 5%. We believe these are reasonable benchmarks due to the percentage of visitors that submit support or more information requests related to the ESP.

Filling in the Planning Chart

While departments are presenting the SCRUM leader fills in the chart on the whiteboard:

  • Learned Section:
    • What was impacted
    • Why
    • By what percent
  • Suggestion Section:
    • Type of suggestion (Content, tool, feature, other)
    • Percent of audience it would impact
    • Size of audience they would like to test with
    • Expected impact
    • Time/cost/resources to implement

Voting

At the end of the meeting, the team will vote on each item. If there is a tie and not enough resources to execute on the top results, then there is a short open discussion and final vote by the product owner.

Note that this data is also key in helping management identify the ROI of expanding the team. It is difficult to ask for more resources.

Managing the Process

Start by getting your whiteboard set up. I recommend doing the following:

  1. On the left: the OKRs established for this quarter or month to keep the team focused on priorities when voting.
  2. Underneath the OKRs: the available resources critical to implementing optimization strategies including the number of hours of design, engineering, or content creation.
  3. The chart to capture highlights and suggestions from each department presentations, listing each of the departments speaking in order, so they know when it’s their turn.

As the presentation process becomes a fluid part of your planning you should be able to reduce presentations down five minutes, if possible. If it is taking longer than 10 minutes there are too many objectives per week, the results and suggestions aren’t prepared, or you’re allowing for too much Q&A. Remind everyone of the strict guidelines: if they aren’t prepared, they will not present.

Objectives & Key Results

Objectives and key results (OKRs) gives you a north star. These are sometimes also referred to as your company goals. There has to be some sense of where you are headed and why. How much profit do you need to generate to cover your monthly expenses? How many customers do you need to convert per month based upon the average monthly profit per customer to meet that monthly minimum? How many new leads do you need to generate to convert the number of required customers? You can see how setting the north star makes all of the other OKRs fall in line nicely—right down to measuring how one campaign performs against another.

It doesn’t matter if the numbers you start with are exactly right. What matters is they are grounded in what’s important to your business. Start with what you know and back out from there. You know how much your monthly overhead is? You know how much an average customer generates on a monthly basis?

Timelines

If you’ve never heard the phrase “time-based goals”, learn it. OKRs have this inherently built in. Every goal must have a time frame. Otherwise, there is no common unit of measurement. How much will it cost to acquire 10 new customers in 30 days? Without the 30 days, your entire plan changes. Time is the most important and consistent unit of measurement to ensure you’re meeting goals. Your bills won’t wait for six months. Your goals to grow the business and pay your bills can’t wait either.

Data

What data do you need to see what’s working and what’s not? Examples include click-through rates, cost per click, conversion rates, average enterprise value of a customer,  and lifetime value of a customer. Identifying the different data points needed to gain insights into what’s working is the foundation for a solid analytics plan.

Tools

What tools will you use to measure the data? Tools include Google Tag Manager, chatbots, tracking codes, tracking pixels, and lead gen forms with built-in analytics. These are the tools you’ll need to capture and organize the data that will give you insights into what’s working and what’s not.

Look at tools as an open field and choose what works best for you. From my experience, you can often get a better result using google tags to track data and the Google API to build a custom analytics dashboard providing the exact insights your team needs on a daily and weekly basis.

Insights

A solid insights (or analytics) dashboard will give you insights into where to double down and where to fold.

Insights should highlight behaviors such as a measuring the amount of time spent on the site and the bounce rate based on persona. For example, you might see an average of three minutes on-page with an 80% bounce rate for a given personayou’re seeing. The insight from this is that a specific type of user (persona) spent three minutes learning about your product, then exited on the registration page. This could mean that this persona is a window shopper or there was something specific they were looking for in the pricing and features chart that wasn’t included.

If I saw an 80% bounce rate with three minutes average time on site, I would do the following:

  1. Review the current customer data to identify the number of customers that fit in this persona. Perhaps this persona is not the ideal customer profile.
  2. Conduct interviews with customers to find out why they converted and what would have created frustration or made them leave.
  3. Create two to three premium registration page options to A/B test which has a higher conversion for the same persona.
  4. Create an exit survey that offers 90 days free for insights into why they decided not to buy.

Insights Improve ROI

Insights should tell you which campaigns are providing a better ROI. Assume an example where there are two campaigns with a total of 100 new leads generated per campaign.

  1. 25% click-through rate, $1 cost per click, 1% conversion rate, with an LTV of $100 or a = $75 Loss
  2. 5% click-through rate, $3 cost per click, 15% conversion rate, with an LTV of $1,000 = $450 Profit

If just the click-through rate or cost per click is used to make a decision on which campaign performed better, you’ll be losing many thousands of advertising dollars per month.

From this insight, I see that the issue is product-market fit. In the first campaign, there’s a high level of interest in the message but very little interest in the product even at a low entry price of $100. Reasons could include: the person doing the research doesn’t have decision making power, they are just window shopping, or the campaign was misleading, and the user landed on the wrong page.

You may be thinking, how do I parse through all of these “insights” to figure out what’s working and what’s not? Hire a VP of Angles.

VP of Angles

This person’s sole job is to find the opportunities in your data. Their essential function is to identify where and how to make improvements by doubling down, where and how to test further to identify the triggers driving identified behaviors, and what to kill.

A good VP of Angles will have a CRO (or conversion rate optimization) framework that they use to analyze opportunities and risks to meeting OKRs. They will also have an MED (minimum effective dose) approach to optimization.

Here are summaries of the two CRO frameworks I use and how I implement MED: 

AIO (All in One) Framework

What How Why
Start small with low hanging fruit driving immediate impacts Focus on key pages in the user funnel:

. Top 5 high bounce rate pages

. Top 5 high exit rate pages

. Top 5 lowest time spent pages

. Top 5 figurehead pages

. Top 5 highest time spent pages

. Top 5 delayed page loading

 

Use data and interviews to identify optimal solutions for identified problems such as:

. Google Analytics

. Lead forms

. CRM

. User interviews

. Incentivized exit surveys

. Incentivized entry surveys

. Chatbot interactions

. Email surveys

. What is the revenue potential?

. What are the cost savings?

. Are the gains incremental or game changing?

. What will it cost? (team, time, costs)

PMI (Plan, Measure, Impact) Framework

What (Plan) How (Measure) Why (Impact)
. Who are we trying to persuade?

. What action do we want them to take?

. What action do they want to take?

. The actions we want them to take

. The pages we will test

. Benchmarks for success/failure

. The required sample size for accuracy

. What is the revenue potential?

. What are the cost savings?

. Are the gains incremental or game changing?

. What will it cost to run tests? (team, time, costs)

Rating Systems

Each of these has a simple rating system to judge the options. Rate each impact on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the test with the greatest velocity, impact, and lowest resource cost. Each score is multiplied by five, and the resulting total is used to identify the top performing tests.

I personally like to use the MED (minimum effective dose) as a super vote.

MED is the smallest input needed to produce the desired outcome. For example, if you want to boil water, the MED is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Increasing the temperature above 212 degrees will not produce a better result, it will just waste resources.

Example: what is the MED to generate $1 million in new revenue next quarter?

Option Time Cost Proven ROI
Insider event for top referrers 30 days to plan $10,000 $2 million in new business leads
Launch a new referral bonus program 1 day to launch

30-day awareness and activation campaign

$0 Unknown
New content marketing program 2 weeks to build

30-day awareness and activation campaign

$25,000 $1.5 million in converted new business

 

You now have all of the tools and processes you need to successful measure and manage your web development process. What you do with it is up to you. I’d love to hear about your web design process in the comments below.

The post Building a Business Around Your Website: Post-Launch Learning for Growth appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

6 Best PPC Management Companies 2018

Pay-per-click (PPC) management companies provide businesses with the valuable service of building, managing, and optimizing paid search and social advertising accounts on the business’ behalf. With an abundance of options, it’s difficult and time-consuming to weed through them all, so we’ve found the six best PPC management companies based on price, service, and capabilities. Top…

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The Ultimate Guide to TV Ads

Just do it.

Think different.

Breakfast of champions.

Where’s the beef?

Got milk?

Taste the rainbow.

The six phrases above feature no more than three words. But I’d bet you could tell me which brand each phrase belongs to.

The above slogans aren’t only popular quotes from advertisements, they’re also defining phrases for brands. They inspire case studies, jokes, and Halloween costumes. They’re pillars of our advertising society … and they all came from TV.

Author Ray Bradbury once said, “The average TV commercial of 60 seconds has 120 half-second clips in it or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.”

It doesn’t take long for consumers to feel, for them to sense something. That’s why these slogans — and many others — aren’t more than a few words.

And that’s why TV commercials, despite their evolution over the last 60 years, are still one of the most effective — albeit most fleeting — marketing strategies.

The following guide will acquaint you with the TV advertising industry and equip you with the tools needed to run your own TV ad. Keep reading to learn more, or use the chapter links below to jump ahead.

History of TV Advertising

TV advertising has changed drastically since 1941 when the first commercial for Bulova Watch Company aired. The ten-second ad cost less than $10 to create and was seen by 4,000 people on WNBT, a local channel in New York. It was aired during a baseball game — the Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

Since then, TV ads have seen drastic changes, both in content and culture. Here’s a brief overview of the history of TV ads.

TV Ads in the 1950s: Sponsored Programs

TV took a break during WWII. But after the war, over a third of US households owned a TV. Companies took advantage of the boost in viewership with sponsored programs, which is when a brand pays for shows to exclusively showcase their products or air their commercials.

Wonder Bread and Cheerios were presented during shows like Howdy Doody and The Lone Ranger. Some companies were even part of program names, like The Colgate Comedy Hour and Texaco Star Theater.

TV Ads in the 1960s: Rules and Regulations

Advertising was everywhere, but it was hardly regulated. Sponsored programs put a lot of creative power in the hands of brands, and programs and networks were resigned to follow suit.

It wasn’t until NBC’s Sylvester “Pat” Weaver introduced what was known as the “Magazine Concept” for TV commercials. Advertisers could purchase time blocks (around one to two minutes) during which their advertisement would air, and multiple brands could advertise during one program … much like in a magazine. In turn, programs and networks gained back creative control, and TV advertising morphed into how we know it today.

This change diversified advertisements and forced brands to become more creative in order to stand out. TV ads became more entertaining, viewers looked forward to commercial breaks, and networks had no problem selling ad space. In 1961, the Committee of Advertising Practice was formed.

The 60s also saw a rise in jingles, a short slogan sung during an ad. Brands like Slinky, Rice-a-Roni, and Dr. Pepper advertised with short, memorable songs.

TV Ads in the 1970s: Defining Audiences

TV advertising in the 1970s was all about recognizing, experimenting with, and regulating audiences. Some brands were bold, such as Winston Cigarettes using the G-rated Flintstones characters to promote their products. Other brands were subtle, like when Gilbey’s Gin hid the word “sex” in its ads. (The latter was a print campaign, but plenty other brands applied this to TV.)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlawed subliminal messaging in 1974 as deceptive advertising. As for the bolder brands, they soon learned that targeting their messages to the right audience was the better, more profitable practice. Tootsie Roll used animated characters like Mr. Owl to advertise to kids. Folgers featured a married, suburban couple to promote their coffee. Bounty targeted restaurateurs and food lovers with their microwave-specific towels.

In turn, companies that advertised to the right audiences and on the right channels had a stronger, more memorable message. 

TV Ads in the 1980s and 1990s: Super Bowl and Storytelling

The 1980s introduced one of the biggest annual phenomena in TV advertising: the Super Bowl. Because so many people tune in for the game, the four-hour window has become one of the most exciting (and expensive) times for commercials. In 2016, advertisers had to pay $5 million for a 30-second spot during Super Bowl 50.

In 1979, Coca-Cola aired one of the most memorable Super Bowl ads to date. Hey Kid, Catch! featured Mean Joe Greene, a defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, taking a Coke from a boy and tossing him his jersey in exchange.

It was impactful for a couple reasons: one, it was aired soon after the Civil Rights Movement, and featuring Greene was a major step towards equality and diversity in advertising; two, it didn’t promise anything special. It was simply an injured ballplayer downing a tasty drink that improved his mood. That was enough for Coca-Cola, though, as the ad improved the company’s brand awareness and partnership with the Steelers.

The 80s and 90s were also all about storytelling in advertisements. Apple’s “1984” TV ad introducing their new Macintosh remains one of the most popular TV ads and introduced the slogan “Think Different,” which the brand still uses to this day.

Lots of other companies followed this storytelling model, too. Eggo Waffles featured a little boy with a big invention, Super Soaker empowered two teens to crash a pool party, and McDonald’s told the tale of a little girl at her piano recital.

The 90s also saw the introduction of popular actors and celebrities as spokespeople in TV ads, such as Brad Pitt in a Levi Jeans ad. This paved the way for brand endorsements.

In 1999, TiVO came on the scene and changed TV advertising forever.

TV Ads in the 2000s:

With the introduction of TiVO and DVRs, consumers became accustomed to skipping over TV ads. Companies and brands fought to create more creative advertisements to counteract this, but that didn’t always help.

Product placement was also revived. Friends mentioned Pottery Barn and Oreo, Sex and the City featured Apple’s MacBook, and The Office highlights Staples as Dunder-Mifflin’s biggest competitor.

Today, streaming TV is advertising’s biggest competitor. We’ll talk more about TV ads in 2018 below.

Pros and Cons of TV Ads

Like any marketing method, there are benefits and drawbacks to TV ads. You should ultimately base your decision on your own resources and advertising goals, but these factors are important to consider, too.

Pros of TV Ads

TV ads provide a multi-sensory ad experience. Viewers hear, see, and read your advertisement, meaning they digest the information (and the feelings it provokes) in many different ways.

TV ads have a wide reach. TV as a medium also has deep penetration. These terms basically mean lots of people see TV ads … but we explain reach and penetration in the following section.

TV ads are impactful. They reach your audience when they’re attentive and focused.

TV ads allow your brand to establish a brand identity and expand your brand awareness. They give you a chance to be creative and attach a personality to your company or product.

Cons of TV Ads

TV ads are expensive, more expensive than any other marketing medium. Networks charge for airtime, and hiring writers, actors, producers, and editors can add up, too.

TV ads are hard to change. Unlike display ads, social media posts, or even print ads, you can’t hop in and change a TV ad without shooting a new ad or at least contacting the network. If you do choose to change anything, it’ll cost you more money.

TV ads are avoidable. Although your audience is attentive and focused while watching TV, they might choose to skip over or ignore the commercials. Also, with technology like DVR and streaming on Netflix and Hulu, TV ads can be entirely eliminated if a viewer so chooses.

TV ads can’t be targeted like other marketing channels. You can, however, choose to run your ad on channels and during day-parts that reach your audience. If you sell products for stay-at-home moms, you might run your ad during the day; if you’re advertising a service for working parents, you might run it during nighttime programs.

TV Advertising Terms

Like any niche industry, TV advertising has its own slew of terms, some of which you’re probably unfamiliar. Below you’ll find some common terms used in TV advertising and campaigns.

Reach

Reach is the number of individual people who watch a program during a specific time period.

Penetration

Penetration is the number of households who own a TV or subscribe to cable.

Frequency

Frequency is the number of TV ads placed within a time period that viewers will see.

Share

Share is the percentage of households or people who are viewing a TV ad at a specific time.

Coverage Map

A coverage map (or just coverage) represents the percentage of households or people receiving a particular broadcast signal within a geographic area.

Impressions

Impressions represent the number of households or people who will potentially see a TV ad.

Rating

Rating is a percentage of total households who own TVs who are tuned into a program at a specific time. One percent of the population within a coverage area is equal to one point.

Day-part

A day-part is a set time period within which TV stations sell and segment their programs and ads. Most stations sell their time slots based on rating and day-part. The default day-parts (in EST) are:

  • Early Morning — 5:00 to 9:00 am
  • Daytime — 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
  • Early Fringe — 3:00 to 5:00 pm
  • Early News — 5:00 to 7:00 pm
  • Prime Access — 7:00 to 8:00 pm
  • Prime — 8:00 to 11:00 pm (Mon thru Sat) and 7:00 to 11:00 pm (Sunday)
  • Late News — 11:00 to 11:30 pm
  • Late Fringe — 11:30 to 2:00 am
  • Overnight — 2:00 to 5:00 am

Sweeps

Sweeps refers to a time period (in February, May, July, and November) during which rating surveys are sent to local marketing to measure viewership.

TV sweeps determine station ratings, which is why stations usually run their best programming during the first few weeks of each sweeps quarter.

Gross Rating Points (GRP)

Gross Rating Points represent the measurement of impressions as related to the number of targeted people in a campaign, without regard to repeated impressions. The formula is GRP = Rating x Frequency.

For example, if a TV program has a rating of eight and an ad was run during four episodes, the ad campaign would have a GRP of 8 x 4 = 32.

Run-Of-Schedule (ROS)

A run-of-schedule campaign is when advertisers and agencies will pay for ads to run during any day-part and any show. Most ROS campaigns run overnight as these slots are rarely “sold out.”

Cost Per Thousand (CPM)

The cost per thousand is the cost to reach 1,000 people with a TV ad. CPM is a commonly-used measure of ad efficiency.

Everything You Need to Know About TV Ads

Placing an advertisement on TV might not be for every business. It’s certainly a costly commitment that requires a variety of resources. But if you’re interested in how to run a TV ad for your company, we’ve covered the basics in this section.

Positioning Your TV Ad

The first step to creating and running a TV ad or ad campaign is positioning. Here are a few questions to ask.

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What TV channels do they watch and when?
  • What TV shows on those channels do they watch?

Consider these questions before you move forward in the process. These answers will guide other decisions you might make for your TV ad.

Paying for a TV Ad

Next, let’s talk about money. TV ads are expensive — we all know that.

But there isn’t one set cost for TV ads. Many factors play into the price, including channel, day-part, length of the TV ad, and how much it costs to produce the ad.

The price also changes based on what kind of network on which you want to advertise.

Advertising on Local TV

Local networks are specific to your location. They typically air on low-numbered channels (like 3 or 10) and feature local news, events, and more. Local brick-and-mortar businesses who target audiences in a specific geographic area will find it most cost-effective to advertise on local networks.

The cost of a local TV spot varies but is typically between $200 and $1500 per 30-second ad.

Broadcast / Cable TV Ad

Broadcast and cable TV aren’t synonymous. Broadcast television includes channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX (considered Primary Networks), and typically have local affiliates in each city. (Chicago’s ABC affiliate is WLS.)

Cable television includes channels like The CW, USA, Discovery Channel, ESPN, and HGTV. Both networks require consumers to pay to access.

Cable TV spots are tricky. Not everyone pays for cable (fewer now with TV streaming), but cable channels are more niched than others. This means that your audience will be targeted, albeit smaller than on other channels.

The cost of cable TV ads vary greatly depending on the popularity of programs and day-part. AMC’s The Walking Dead averaged $400,000 per 30-second spot … but that’s probably because it was the most expensive program on cable TV. The season five premiere drew over 17 million viewers.

Broadcast TV spot can either be extremely expensive or pretty reasonable, depending on the program or event. For example, the cost of a 30-second spot during The Big Bang Theory on CBS in 2015 was $344,827. On the other hand, companies paid $1.55 million for a 30-second spot during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Tournament … also on CBS.

Estimating the Cost of Your TV Ad

Like I said above, TV ad costs vary. But with a little math and an understanding of the terms we defined above, you can roughly estimate what your ad might cost.

  1. Figure out how many people watch the program during which your ad might air. You can ask the network for Nielsen data to help with your research. Here are the broadcast TV networks in your area.
  2. Estimate the CPM of your intended program. The network probably won’t supplement this information, but you can estimate it by dividing the cost of one TV ad by the total viewership — data they should provide. As for the 2018/2019 season, the average CPM for national broadcast networks is $31.97.
  3. Determine how many spots you’d like to run during your campaign.

Let’s say you wanted to run 12 spots during a six-week window on your local ABC affiliate during the evening news segment (the Prime Access day-part). The segment is watched by 45,000 people on average, and the CPM is $18.00. Here’s how you’d estimate the price of the ad campaign.

Estimated TV Ad Cost = (# of spots) (# of viewers in thousands) (CPM) = (12) x (45) x (18) = $9,720

Notice that this doesn’t include the cost of creating the ad itself. We’ll dive into this next.

Creating a TV Ad

Producing a competitive, creative TV spot isn’t an easy feat. But what makes it possible is a thorough planning process (like with any advertising or marketing campaign).

The following section is full of questions that’ll help you brainstorm and plan out your TV ad. Don’t skip ahead as previous questions might inspire other answers.

1. What might stand in the way of your TV ad?

By this question we mean: Why would your ad not be successful? Just because TV advertising isn’t the promotional powerhouse it once was doesn’t mean it can’t still be effective.

As a marketer, you just have to be aware of and plan around the initial roadblocks.

The first, most obvious roadblock is DVR, TiVO, and other TV technologies. While you can’t control how people choose to watch TV, you can prepare yourself — and your budget — to not reach the viewership numbers for which you’d hoped. Instead of projecting a specific number, try shooting for a goal range.

Secondly, people get distracted. We’re humans. We have the attention span of a goldfish … which is kind of sad if you think about it. (Op, already forgotten!) Anyway, we get distracted easily, which means you as a marketer need to come up with funnier, more creative ways to keep viewers attentive. Do so, and we might watch through the commercial breaks.

Lastly, advertising burnout is a real thing. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of advertisements throughout their day … how can you make your TV spot not like the others? Try borrowing from those 80s and 90s ad producers and tell a story in your ad. Better yet, focus on features and benefits, not tacky sales tactics.

Don’t let these roadblocks dissuade you. TV spots can still be effective; we’re just equipping you to build the most effective TV ad strategy possible.

2. How long do you have for your TV ad?

At this point, you should know which networks and programs during which your TV ad will air. But how long is the commercial you’re paying for? How long do you have to grab attention and share your call-to-action? Keep this length in mind as you plan your spot.

Don’t be tempted to go over time, even just by a few seconds. It’s not worth it — your ad will be cut and your brand will look unprofessional.

3. What’s the big idea or purpose of your TV ad?

When planning your spot, start small: What’s the big idea of your TV ad? TV ads give you a handful of seconds to convince, inform, entertain, impact, or humor your audience. Jot down the purpose of your ad, or at least what you’d like your audience to take away.

Advertising your new product? Announcing a new location? Introducing a brand partnership? Simply trying to get your name out there? Whatever it is, jot it down. Next, consider how you want your big idea to make your audience feel. The emotion your TV ad provokes will be just as (if not more) memorable than the message it sends.

Focusing on your ad’s big idea and emotional experience will make it impactful for your audience. TV advertising is an expensive, competitive field. You can’t afford (literally) not to stand out.

Every idea needs something that’ll make it pop! How are you going to do that with your spot?

4. What will viewers hear during your TV ad?

TV ads are multi-sensory experiences. That means viewers should understand what your ad is about whether they’re watching it or listening to it from the other room.

Video scriptwriting is much different than any other type of writing. Scripts need to be informative, entertaining and convincing while remaining short and snappy. 

Whether your script is what your characters will say to each other or represents what a narrator might read, commercials give you a limited time frame to get your objective across. Start with your big idea (as defined above) and work from there. Remember the emotional experience you want to convey, and weave that into your writing.

Now, read your script out loud. Role-play with a teammate. Trim any excess content you don’t need. We also recommend writing scripts in Google Docs for easy collaboration with other team members.

Lastly, consider what music you want in your commercial, if any.

5. What will consumers see in your TV ad?

TV ads are so effective because they’re so entertaining … and because the best ones keep viewers around after their program has stopped for a commercial break. Your ad doesn’t have to be synonymous to a TV show, but it should be similarly engaging and visually stimulating.

What or who you include in your spot will depend on your big idea and your target audience. If you’re promoting a new product or business location, you’ll definitely need to show those images or video at some point.

Plenty of great TV ads have been made with gorgeous visuals alone (like Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” commercial), but featuring people can help your viewers relate to your brand. Better yet, if viewers see people similar to them in your spot, they might be able to visualize themselves using your product or service, too. So, if you choose to use people in your TV ad, try using actors that fall into your target audience.

6. How will you create your TV ad?

This question depends on your resources, but hiring a production company should be considered by businesses of all sizes and budgets. If you want to your TV to look professional, you need professionals to create it.

If you simply can’t afford a production company, it’s possible to produce your commercial in-house. Gather scriptwriters, videographers, actors, and designers to get the job done, or consider hiring out a freelancer or specialized contractor to help out.

7. What’s the CTA in your TV ad?

The CTA in your TV ad is similar to your big idea, but it should be much more specific. Is your ad introducing a new product? What do you want your audience to do once they see your ad?

Surely not simply think, “Huh. Neat product.”

No, you want them to take action. Do you want them to buy the product? Visit the product landing page? Share the product on social media? Enter a contest to win the product? Whatever you want your audience to do, include clear directions (both audibly and visibly) for your viewers to follow.

8. How will customers engage with your TV ad? How will you measure this engagement?

The last step in planning your ad is figuring out how your viewers will become visitors, leads, and customers — and how you will track this. Consider how you’ll equip your audience to engage with your TV ad and further research your product, service, or brand.

One way to engage your audience and measure your campaign effect is by providing a vanity URL, which is a simple URL customized for your ad. Short URLs work best because they’re easy to share, use, and remember, especially for offline marketing like TV ads. You can get a vanity URL on sites like Hover and GoDaddy or can just be a page added to your main URL.

For example, if McDonald’s was advertising a new milkshake, they might create a vanity URL for their TV ad campaign like mcdonalds.com/new-milkshake. It’s easy to remember for viewers and easy to track for marketers.

You can also create a phone number specific to your TV ad campaign. 1-800 numbers are trackable — that’s why you see so many on TV ads. Software like CallRail can help you do this. This option is less popular now, though, as the internet has become such a popular research and engagement tool.

Keep an eye on marketing and sales metrics during the span of your TV ad campaign. While you can’t pinpoint direct leads or customers from your campaign in this way, you can at least track a general peak (or valley) effect from your TV ads. Keep an eye on other reasons for increased or decreased sales, such as other marketing efforts or specific seasons.

Lastly, set up a filter to track social mentions, press mentions, and general online chatter about your brand or commercial. Consider giving your commercial a specific title and hashtag to make it easier for your audience to talk about it. Don’t forget to upload your TV ad to YouTube and Vimeo to give your viewers a chance to rewatch and share it on social.

TV Advertising in 2018

In 2014, Netflix’s CPO announced that we were entering an era of “no more commercials.” While the TV advertising landscape has certainly changed, commercials are still alive and well in today’s marketing environment — four years later.

But he did have a point. Netflix and other streaming services have altered how we view and create commercials. While Netflix itself won’t be adding commercials (except for other Netflix shows), streaming services like Hulu and Sling TV show commercials before and between their programs.

Running ads on Hulu are less expensive than on their co-owner NBC, but they’re still pricier than network TV.

The difference with services like Hulu? Consumers have to watch the commercials … unless they invest in a more expensive streaming plan.

If you’re interested, here’s how to reach the streaming-only audiences with Hulu commercials and Sling TV commercials.

Over to You

A lot of work goes into creating that sensation we’ve called the 30-second TV ad. Is it worth it? If you put in the research, target the right audience, and measure your campaign, it certainly can be. The same goes with marketing on any other media. TV advertising may be new to you, but it’s certainly not out of reach. Take a look at your local networks and dip your toe into the world of TV ads.

The Sports Spike: Why Mobile Advertisers Need to Go Broader Around the Big Games

The following is a guest contributed post from Gareth Noonan, General Manager, Americas at Smaato.

When it comes to major sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Cup, inventory in sports apps is a hot commodity — and rightfully so. These apps represent an excellent way to reach engaged sports fans at contextually relevant moments. But if you’re an advertiser looking to make the most of these big-game moments, you should also think more broadly about your mobile in-app strategy.

During flagship sporting events in the first half of this year, sports apps’ mobile ad spending and eCPMs saw significant spikes, according to Smaato platform data. The Super Bowl in the U.S. is a prime example of this trend. As consumers turned to their mobile devices on game day, both ad spending and eCPMs spiked more than 120 percent above the monthly average. And that makes sense, given the continued popularity of the Super Bowl as a mega-viewing event. More than 100 million U.S. viewers watched the game in 2018, representing more than 30 percent of the entire country. Among these viewers, over 2 million streamed the game via mobile, desktop, or CTV.

Regarding mobile ad spend and eCPMs, we saw a similar — and, in fact, more pronounced — trend around this year’s FIFA World Cup, especially in Latin America. Sports fans’ enthusiasm in this region piqued advertiser interest, causing sports app ad spending to increase 289 percent and eCPMs to increase 46 percent in the first two weeks of the World Cup alone.

Major sporting events are an ideal time for advertisers to reach engaged users. Even while watching the game on TV, sports fans are often using their phones to check stats and interact with the game in various ways. But they do a lot more than that. According to Statista, second-screen activities while watching sports on TV in the U.S. include using social networks, sharing with friends, and reading emails. Notably, from an in-app advertising perspective, they also include the following activities:

  • 40% read the news while watching sports
  • 40% play games
  • 31% search for products to buy

This broader app usage while watching sports represents an excellent opportunity for advertisers looking to build a more-comprehensive mobile strategy around major sporting events. News apps, gaming apps, and shopping apps all offer strategic advertising inventory during such events, but without the dramatically higher eCPMs seen in sports apps around these time frames.

The key to leveraging these apps as a part of a broader strategy is to align a brand’s messaging and offers with the audience’s second-screen behaviors during sporting events. For example, offers for franchised sports apparel within a shopping app might resonate particularly well around game time, while a pre-halftime pizza delivery discount within a gaming app might be particularly appealing to a user who has the big game on in the background.

Sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Cup represent important shared experiences among audiences, but that doesn’t mean individual activity ceases on viewers’ small screens. The best game-day mobile strategy enables an advertiser to find the right audiences in a relevant way in both the obvious and less-obvious places.

Author bio:

Gareth oversees all of Smaato’s sales and operational activities in the Americas region, leading the region’s account management and business development teams to drive revenue growth and ensure the highest level of client satisfaction.

Gareth has over ten years of experience in mobile and desktop video advertising technology and M&A. As the General Manager of Video for blinkx (now RhythmOne), Gareth built a consistent Top 5 comScore video property and also participated in M&A on five deals totaling over $100M in value. This helped position RhythmOne as a true cross-screen leader in the video space. Gareth has also served in several consulting and advisory roles, spanning established mobile exchanges and publisher networks to seed-stage and funded start-ups.

Gareth holds a degree in Business and Economics from Trinity College, Dublin

The post The Sports Spike: Why Mobile Advertisers Need to Go Broader Around the Big Games appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

Can loyalty programmes lead to healthier habits?

Tesco is a name recognised globally, a large international conglomerate, currently operating in 13 countries across the world. Like any large company, Tesco has a detailed and well thought through corporate responsibility scheme, and the forefront of this is trying to get the population to eat just that little bit healthier. With 25% of the UK technically obese, and the number tripling in the last 20 years, it’s not hard to see why this has long been part of Tesco’s commitment to the public; starting in 1984 with the introduction of their Healthy Living Range, and they were the first supermarket to introduce nutritional information on the front of pack, with one of the latest initiatives being free fruit for children while you are shopping, introduced in 2016.

However, what Tesco surely aims to do, is utilise the data they have and are continuing to collect to lead to healthier engagement and healthier habits through loyalty, specifically the use of their Clubcard programme. Clubcard launched back in 1995, gaining just under 5 million customers in its first year (Tesco Corporate). This led Tesco to overtake Sainsbury’s in market share for the first time.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s Chief Customer Officer speaking at this year’s Festival of Marketing stated there are 5 main barriers to eating healthily, identified through research and data collected:

  1. Taste
  2. Cost
  3. Confusion
  4. Time
  5. Access & Visibility

 

To combat these challenges companies need to look at the data they have and analyse how customer behaviour can be modified or changed. The first challenge is taste, the majority have the perception that healthier foods don’t taste as good as junk food, that they will be bland and have no flavour – but Tesco are on a mission to change this.

The second is cost, when Tesco spoke to customers, the general perception is that healthier food is much more expensive, but introducing their “helpful little swaps” campaign in 2017 is starting to push this in the right direction. Bellini states that this has so far had good results and gave them the encouragement to carry on.

Confusion is the third barrier, the media play an integral role in this, with so many differences in opinions e.g. is butter good or bad for us? Customers find themselves confused and left unsure of what to purchase, sometimes unwittingly purchasing unhealthier products.

Time is also key to making a healthier purchase decision. There is a perception that junk food is quicker to cook and eat, and, with people leading increasingly busy lives, sometimes the convenience factor wins.

The final challenge is access and visibility, sometimes it is not always easy to see and find the healthiest products, again the “Helpful Little Swaps” are coming to Tesco’s aid, helping to point people in the right direction, often with the two different products situated next to each other.

Tesco Clubcard is evolving to help combat these challenges. Our recent study with YouGov, “what the British think of loyalty programmes” revealed that 65% of the British population are part of a supermarket loyalty programme. However, only 44% of the youngest group (18-24s) saying they are a member. This could be a sign that, when they started, these programmes had high appeal and registration, but their appeal has declined significantly over time. Clubcard has evolved to a place where, for the first time ever, recipe cards are linked to Clubcard. If you scan the barcode with your phone, it will download the recipe onto your device for safekeeping. The new recipes are all designed to cost between £1 – £1.50 per portion, and take between 15 – 30 minutes to prepare and cook, often the ingredients are all placed together near the recipe card for ease too. In turn the data collected helps give Tesco insight into trends and patterns of customer food shopping behaviour, leading to further understanding audiences and helping to overcome those barriers.

Brands and companies can also enlist the help of celebrities and / or influencers to help change perceptions of their brands, products or a subject. Tesco recently announced their new partnership with Jamie Oliver, with his background in working to make school lunches healthier for children, and his campaigning for the sugar tax, making him a perfect match for Tesco. Bellini stated that the partnership was one of aligning passion and purpose, and one of intent. Oliver said that he was “creating content to help the nation eat a little better”.

Another superb loyalty programme in the UK attempting to use loyalty to achieve healthier ambitions is Vitality. The Vitality programme allows you to track your activity using a variety of smartwatches and apps earning points as you go. The more Vitality points you earn, the higher your Vitality status. By completing your online Health Review and taking a Vitality Healthcheck, it could take you straight to Silver status. They have teamed up with several partner brands including Evans Cycles, to give you up to 50% cash back off a bike to encourage you to be active, and Sweatshop giving you up to 50% off a pair of sports shoes, again helping customers to access a healthy lifestyle easier.

Loyalty programmes can and should think bigger than short term commercial ambitions. The two case studies shared are clear demonstrations that, through well mastered approaches, brands can achieve more from their loyalty programmes. They can make a real difference to the brand, to customers, to the nation. Tesco Clubcard and Vitality are two great loyalty programmes working to making the nation healthier; loyalty marketers everywhere should ask themselves what more they can achieve.

Charlie Hills is Managing Director and Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect part of Mando.

The post Can loyalty programmes lead to healthier habits? appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Building a Business Around Your Website: Going Live & Measuring Success

This piece is part of a series surrounding website development best practices as followed by Marketo’s web development team. You can learn about the pre-planning process, how to create an actionable plan, setting your team & project up for success, and managing your team throughout the build process in our previous posts. Now you’re almost at the finish line! Everyone on the team is excited. They are ready to see your hard work, explore the new site, and take it for a spin. And they’re already thinking about what can be done next.

Maintaining excitement about your website is great. This excitement will keep the right stakeholders committed to providing the resources needed.  It’s equally as important to keep the team focused, from top to bottom.

Think of it this way:

  • Would you launch another 50 SKUs before testing the performance of the first 50?
  • Would you open 10 more locations before maximizing the current location ROI?

No, you would not. So why would you treat your digital space any differently?

Because your perceived investment & time to results is small when creating a website, you’re often jerked back and forth in ways no other part of the business would be. It’s important to communicate the power and process to achieve continuous optimization.

The power is that you can learn quickly, sometimes within just a few minutes when testing a new campaign or SKU in your eCommerce store.

The process is based on measuring and comparing the performance of one version versus another.

Remember, there were ROI and benchmarks set into your process. Now is the time to focus on what you set out to prove and improve.

For tactical purposes I have broken the process of preparing the product and the team for launch into two steps:

    1. Going live
    2. Preparing to measure

Going Live

Going live involves the last and most critical parts of the development process, UAT and QA. UAT and QA executed improperly can double the time and cost to launch and can lead to bug-riddled experiences that lose customers by the thousands.

Here is my checklist for moving quickly and effectively through the final UAT and QA process:

CHALLENGE SOLUTION
Organizing UAT Feedback for Engineering If engineering has to dig through feedback from stakeholders, it will double the time to get through final UAT and QA. I use Google Forms to collect UAT Feedback and a Google Sheet to organize the feedback by issue type: functional, formatting, content
Getting UAT Feedback from Stakeholders Stakeholders are notoriously slow, and you’ll often get feedback after you’re live. The key to keeping things on track is consistent communications with timelines and the decisions that will be made for them if they don’t respond by the given deadlines.
Keeping Stakeholders Focused on UAT Once stakeholders start to dig in, they often provide more optimization or content changes than the feedback you need. Don’t reject their feedback for future releases—but don’t include this feedback in what engineering needs to get this version of the site live.
Speedy and Complete QA A regression test is the only way to deliver complete and quick testing. I create regression tests in Google Sheets. Every time there’s a new release I run back through the regression test and mark items as pass or fail. This test can also be handed off to an external QA team.
Accurate QA Accurate QA means testing in real-world environments. If you’re launching an application where 90% of the usage will occur in a stadium during a live sporting even—then you need to test the application in a stadium during a live sporting event. In testing, it’s important to replicate the real-world environment, and this includes making sure your staging environment has the same set up as your live environment.

 

Preparing to Measure

Having the new site live without the appropriate measurements is just as good as never launching it. You need to make sure that everything from the tags to the tools and people are ready to accurately measure the impact of the new site or features on your existing website.

Here is my checklist to make sure we are ready to learn:

CHECKLIST METHOD
Measuring ROI Make sure all of your benchmarks (KPIs) are set and reinforced with the team.

Here are the three key data categories to include:
1. Target KPIs: An example Target KPI is a 3% increase in lead conversion.

2. Benchmark KPIs: An example Benchmark KPI is a current lead conversion of 6.3%

3. Statistically Relevant Requirements: How many visitors do you need to properly test the change in lead conversion? How are these visitors broken done by persona, stage of the funnel, and stage of the journey?

Tags and Tools Making sure that the campaigns, web pages, and other aspects of the user journey are properly set up is key to capturing the data needed to measure ROI.
1. Data includes things like Google Tags, defined user journeys and tracking codes.
2. Tools include Google Analytics, email service providers, and ad management platforms.
Team Once you’re live the campaigns won’t run themselves, the data won’t interpret itself. People, the people managing campaigns, press releases, content marketing, and more must be ready to execute the day you go live. If the team isn’t ready and the traffic isn’t created to measure ROI,  there will be no further executive investment in enhancements that are not being measured.

 

Remember, the site is one piece of the business puzzle, and any investment in the website must be measured against other investments for growth and improving key business metrics. If you can’t measure the impact of the site, you can’t justify the spend.

As digital product owners, we must become data scientists. Data is the only way to know what’s working and what’s not to quickly and repeatedly identify where to double down, stay and fold.

The post Building a Business Around Your Website: Going Live & Measuring Success appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Write a Boilerplate for a Press Release in 7 Steps

A press release boilerplate gives a brief description of your company and key business information at the end of a press release. A boilerplate adds credibility to your press release so it’s more likely to get picked up by the media. A boilerplate is typically 100 words and is used for all press release types….

The post How to Write a Boilerplate for a Press Release in 7 Steps appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Apple Maps May Not Be As Far Behind Google Maps As You Think…

Justin O’Beirne has published another amazingly detailed analysis of Apple Maps and how it has developed compared to Google Maps. While I shall yield to Justin’s mastery of all things geospatial, I feel like he kind of punted on his analysis of Apple Maps’ business listings data.

O’Beirne observes that Apple Maps has few business listings for Markleeville, CA and then claims “all of the businesses shown on Apple’s Markleeville map seem to be coming from Yelp, Apple’s primary place data provider.”

While only Apple and Yelp know for sure, I am fairly certain Yelp is not Apple Map’s “primary place data provider.” I imagine Yelp is Apple’s primary U.S. business review provider, and perhaps has a significant role in helping Apple verify a business is in a specific place with specific data, but there are several other business listings data providers that likely are providing the “primary” place data to Apple, not the least of which includes Acxiom, Factual, Neustar Localeze and TomTom. These companies likely have significantly larger POI datasets than Yelp, while Yelp likely has the lead in newly created businesses in its popular categories. Clear Channel Broadcasting may also be a provider, although it is unclear what data it is exactly providing Apple.

In his analysis of Apple’s lack of businesses in Markleeville, O’Beirne claims that “Apple Maps doesn’t have some of the businesses and places Google has.” This is possibly true, but not based on the data O’Beirne shows. Here’s his comparison of what Apple and Google show for a section of Markleeville:

I think O’Beirne is confusing that Apple Maps is not displaying the businesses in this view v. actually having them. Each of the highlighted businesses on Google Maps are on Apple Maps, they just don’t appear in the default view of this section:

Alpine County Chamber of CommerceJ Marklee Toll StationIntero Real Estate Services

I believe a lot of the Markleeville business data (surprisingly) comes from Factual, not Yelp.

O’Beirne also makes a point about a discrepancy between Apple Maps and Yelp re a single listing as evidence of a larger problem. O’Beirne states “there’s a place on Apple’s map with no Yelp listing at all: the “Alpine County District Attorney”. Even stranger, it appears to be a garage:” Then he shows the following the Apple Maps listing next to an image of a garage at the same location from Bing Maps:
Alpine County District Attorney GarageThe problem actually is that Apple Maps has the Alpine County DA location correct, but it also has a dupe listing in the wrong place:
Apple Maps Dupe ListingI am not going to claim that Apple Maps has fewer dupe listings than Google Maps, but given the amount of crap we deal with for clients on Google Maps on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case. Regardless, the really odd thing is that had O’Beirne checked Google Maps, he would have seen its address for the Alpine County District Attorney’s office is 100% wrong:

Alpine County DA Wrong Address

I am not trying to dispute O’Beirne’s take that Apple Maps still has a long way to go and it may never get to feature parity with Google Maps, but maybe Apple Maps is not in as bad shape as he thinks.

 

The post Apple Maps May Not Be As Far Behind Google Maps As You Think… appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

Is Amazon Really Gaining on Google's Search Traffic? [New Data]

There’s been some speculation that Amazon might be creeping into Google’s (search) territory.

In some ways, that’s at least partially true. Amazon has showed some promise of potentially overtaking Google’s paid ads business, and its market share of product searches (54%) outnumbers that of Google’s (46%). 

But not all search is created equal. We dug a little deeper into the numbers, looking at a recent report and running our own surveys to see how people search for different types of information.

The Info-Seeking Market Share

While it may be true that Amazon is gaining on Google’s share of product-specific searches, when it comes to general information searches, Google still reins supreme. 

According to a recent report from SparkToro, Google’s domination in the area of general search traffic is quite significant, with 90% of web searches taking place on its site. That includes not only the primary Google search bar, but also, queries taking place on its Images and Maps products.

Source: SparkToro

To see how that information might uphold among a census-style audience, we asked 860 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for information online?

Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for information online_

Data collected with Lucid

Our results lined up with SparkToro’s, with 82.7% of respondents indicating that Google is their primary resource for finding information online.

When including respondents who chose “Google Maps” or “Google Images,” that number increases to 84.7%.

The Product-Seeking Market Share

Here’s where things start to get interested. As we previously mentioned, studies show that over half of all product searches take place on Amazon. And, according to our own previous data, people are more likely to buy something based on an ad they saw on Amazon, versus an ad they saw on Google.

However, when we asked 827 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada — Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for products online? — the results looked a bit different.

Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for products online_

Data collected with Lucid

Here, only 10% of respondents said they use Amazon as the primary resource for searching for products.

A few things could explain that — namely, it’s possible that survey participants use Google as the primary source of information to seek information like the “best” products in a certain category.

As Andrea Leigh of Ideoclick, a company that works with manufacturers to optimize online sales, explained at Code Commerce in September — Amazon is most effective when it comes to specific, niche product searches. Think: queries like, “Probiotics for children.” That could one source, for instance, of the aforementioned 54% figure.

So, Does Amazon Stand a Chance?

When it comes to general searches, it could be quite some time before Amazon can see eye-to-eye with Google’s traffic. As Rand Fishkin, author of the SparkToro study put it, “Google [has] a near-monopoly” of web searches. 

But that doesn’t mean Amazon should be completely discounted, for a number of reasons — a major consideration being voice search. In 2017, for instance, eMarketer found that 70.6% of smart speaker users owned an Amazon Echo, versus the 23.8% who used a Google Home.

However, we don’t know if those uses pertained to information-seeking or product-buying — and other studies have shown that even if it’s not used by as many people, Google’s Assistant (the voice assistant that powers the Google Home smart speaker) answers questions correctly 17% more of the time than Amazon’s Alexa. 

Another key question to ask when looking at this data: Does Amazon actually view Google as a threat? And, is its primary goal or concern to reign supreme in the world of web searches?

“If you view search as a pie, sure, Amazon doesn’t have a huge piece of it,” says Keith Anderson, SVP of Strategy & Insight at Profitero, an eCommerce performance analytics platform. “Amazon isn’t particularly threatened by Google as a search engine [and] has a different business model that has different incentives.”

So, for Amazon, product search could remain the name of the (winning) game — especially when it comes to understanding the intent behind those searches.

“What Amazon is building really quickly is an ad network and targeting capability at the intersection of ads, and the ability to buy really seamlessly,” Anderson explains. “Because they have so much information about buyer intent and buyer behavior, they can build a level of targeting that’s very hard for Google to match.”

In other words, he says — for now — there’s no need for Amazon “to try to out-Google Google.”