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Expert Content Has a Bigger Impact on Product Purchase Considerations Than User Reviews or Branded Content

Today’s consumers are not supposed to believe in branded content or user reviews when making buying decisions. Instead, they are likely to be influenced by third-party expert content providers.

According to latest research, expert content providers, like product reviews or articles from third-party websites and blogs, was 83% more effective at lifting product purchase considerations than user reviews. They are also 38% more effective than branded content.

The research surveyed 900 consumers, measuring their responses to different forms of content marketing for nine separate product types, ranging from smartphones and video games to car seats, new automobiles and auto insurance. The study analyzed how the different types of content marketing (especially expert content, branded content and user reviews) impacted product affinity and familiarity, as well as purchase considerations. The result is quite surprising: not only were consumers more likely to be influenced by expert content when making purchases, the study also found that expert content from third-party sources also had a greater impact on product affinity and familiarity. Here is an excerpt from the result:

On average, expert content lifted familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews; they lifted affinity 50 percent more than branded content and 20 percent more than user reviews.


While expert content had a greater influence overall, the study revealed that branded content had the most impact in categories where product specifications were a critical component of the evaluation process, such as smartphones or TVs.

On the other hand, user reviews were most valuable for products where users were considered to have a “higher degree” of product expertise. For instance, although expert content was most effective at increasing familiarity and affinity, user content provided the strongest lift to purchase intent in car seats.

Here is the detail of how expert content, user reviews and branded content impacted the different stages of the buying process for all nine product categories:


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Pepsi “Unbelievable” AR Bus Shelter

Pepsi has done another cool campaign. The promotion takes on New Oxford Street, London, where they have altered a bus shelter to create a seamless augmented reality experience for the people who happen to stop by. From crashing meteorites and aliens to lions and balloons, this ‘Unbelievable’ Bus Shelter Installation from Pepsi is a a little bit of branded fun (and expensive). Amazing stuff indeed!

Black Friday Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses

Black Friday is one of the most long-awaited moments for small businesses. In 2012, consumers spent $423 on average during the Thanksgiving weekend, or $59.1 billion total (a 13% increase from the previous year). This year, retailers will open their stores early to persuade Black Friday shoppers with attractive discounts and bundled services. Entire shopping communities are abuzz with ad-scan leaks, rumors, and analysis of Black Friday offers.

What about small businesses?

It’s not a fair fight for small businesses or entrepreneurs to face large companies or chain retailers that make Black Friday a success through steep discounting, aggressive marketing, and massive advertising budgets. Still, small businesses, too, can take advantages during Black Friday. The most important point to make Black Friday work for smaller businesses is to position on the value of their products and services while marketing creatively to consumers. It’s likely customers won’t spend Thanksgiving camping out at their front door, yet small businesses can increase sales and do it in a calculated, meaningful way. Here are seven simple marketing strategies for small businesses to win this year’s Black Friday:

1. Don’t heavily discount your products or services

It’s tempting to discount your products that have the highest margins. It’s actually not a good idea, since you won’t win against larger retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or Target. Instead, incorporate more value into what you are selling. A brilliant way to do it is to offer extra warranties or extend your guarantees. In the mind of the buyer, this reduces the risk involved in the purchase. When you set a monetary value to your actions, you will be able to give the impression of an attractive discount that other retailers simply can’t match.

2. Build a meaningful relationship with your customers

Think about the genuine, personalized marketing activities during Black Friday for a moment. There are almost no human-friendly activities during Black Friday, since everyone is so focused on shopping and price. The value of a personal relationship to both loyal customers and prospects is essential because you will have a better relationship with your customers. Think of it as a long term “investment”. Consequently, do something personal and friendly for your best prospects and customers. Consider a simple handwritten thank-you note wishing them a great Thanksgiving. Let them know that you appreciate their support during the holidays. Don’t make a sales attempt. Just be genuine to your prospects and customers, and you just might have hot leads show up to buy.

3. Use guerrilla marketing

You’re a small business. You have to be crafty and creative.  Sometimes you need to take a few more risks than others. Do you sell cupcakes, coffee, baked goods? Head to your nearest Wal-Mart or Best Buy to hand out samples and provide a small flyer reminding people that they can buy from you after the Black Friday rush. No need to place flyers in the windows of people’s cars. Be friendly, genuine and try to make people’s day a little bit better. It could be even as simple as handing out free coffee or sample products to frenzied shoppers while you have your business cards on hand.

4. Be useful

Consumers will be receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of sales and marketing offers. By adopting the tactic of being useful, you can be on top of their mind and engaging while creating memorable experiences people will tell others about. Basically, by being useful, you are promoting your authority on the subject while building trust with your audience. Whether that means reporting on traffic jams in your local area, helping people choose between two similar products, or spotting the best deals for products and services your customers care about, you can absolutely add value while demonstrating your strengths.

5. Never aim for new customers

Never aim for customer acquisition. It will not worth your effort. Focus instead on the people who have already done business with you. Why? It’s easier to increase sales by marketing to customers who have previously purchased from you. How? Perform some analysis on your customers. Think about the ones who have spent the most or bought most frequently, or simply those who have been long-time supporters of your company. Send them a targeted, segmented email explaining that they are VIPs to your company and that you are happy to apply a “customer appreciation” discount or to offer an exclusive bundle to create more value. Your customers will have a sense of feeling rewarded, as though they’d earned a discount, which often translates into a repeat sale.

6. Harness social media and email marketing

You ought to use the social platforms that customers use, and email is social. People forward emails, share discount codes with friends, and even talk about specials with their friends. So craft a useful and engaging email marketing campaign to your customers and prospects. The better targeted (and therefore fewer recipients), the more personalized you can make your offers. Extra tips: be brief with your messages. Consumers don’t have enough time to read a 1,500 word email.

7. Don’t forget about search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is not something that will bring in droves of customers come Black Friday morning, but it will help your site stay visible during the overall holiday shopping season. Consumers often search for a product’s model number or features and do so with an intent. It means they are specifically looking for price or availability to purchase the given product or service in their local area. Google and Bing do their best to present timely and accurate information to their users. One such bit of information is structured data that is coded on the website. Some examples of structured data include product name, model number, features, price, location, reviews, ratings and more. That data is displayed in a special way within search results to promote the visibility of your website content.

Build relationships and strengthen your business on Black Friday

Black Friday, to many retailers, is about shortening their revenue gaps within a weekend. For smaller businesses, it’s about improving customer relationships and providing extra value. Since you’re in the business of developing strong relationships with customers, consider developing a robust customer lifecycle so every prospect is receiving follow-up, and every customer is being satisfied. That will make your Black Friday efforts last longer and provide more business value all year.

20 Most Shared Video Ads in 2013

Unruly, a video marketing company, has released its list of top 20 most shared ads for 2013. Based on the number of multiple social media shares – like Facebook, Twitter, and Blog – Unruly states that the most viral ad this year was the Dove Beauty Sketches video ad with 4.24 million shares since its release in April 2013. According to Unruly, not only is the Dove Beauty Sketches ad the most shared ad for 2013, it is also the most viewed video ad of all time.

Following the Dove ad, Geico’s Hump Day ad took the second place with 4.03 million shares and Evian’s Baby & Me ad at the third position with 3.34 million shares. Geico’s ad has trended every Wednesday since its May release which is a departure from normal trending patterns where a quarter of total ad shares usually happen during the first three days following an ad’s release.

According to Unruly’s data, top ads in 2013 have earned 28.8 million total shares, representing a year-on-year increasing of 52.1 percent in shares since 2012. Not only are more video shares happening at a dramatic rate, but Unruly claims the “most significant trend” in video advertising is the adoption of short-form content players such as Vine and Instagram Video. Here is the complete list:

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Some media, such as tweets or photos, are naturally quicker to create than others. Video, on the other hand, has traditionally been a slower medium, with longer lead-in times. However, the arrival of short-form content platforms changed this in 2013 and presents brands with an excellent opportunity to create and distribute video in real-time, without the production lead-in times and expenses usually associated with longer form video content. The fact is 40 percent of the top 1,000 Instagram videos are created by brands. This upward trend in short-form video accompanies a significant drive in mobile video consumption, with smartphone and tablet campaign CTRs tripling over the past four quarters.

Virgin Mobile Australia’s Campaign: Game Of Phones

This is another creative digital marketing campaign that was created Virgin Mobile Australia. Recently, the company has just launched ‘Game of Phones’, an app that parodied on the famous TV Show, Game of Thrones. The app itself utilises the main concept of “MINI Getaway Stockholm” campaign in 2010. In this new Alternate Reality Game that’s played out in the streets, you battle to other contestants to become the King and win a share of $200,000. Along the way, you can earn prizes, all you have to do is find them, “steal” them and then keep a distance between you and other player who also trying to become a King.

The Customer Engagement Framework For Inside Sales Success (Infographic)

Here’s an interesting question for you: “What do all customers want that’s easy to give, yet many companies fail to provide, especially across multiple channels?” It is customer engagement. If you don’t own your customers’ attention, then you don’t have their business, loyalty or advocacy. Many times, business owners fail to provide effective engagement. In order to win your customers over, you need to listen and give your marketers and sales teams the resources they need to engage in a two-way dialogue.

With the huge conversations among brands everyday, your website, store or phone line is no longer the first stop for prospects when they want to inform themselves. You don’t drive the conversation. Your community of customers, prospects, and interested bystanders are leading the conversation about your brand, whether you like it or not. These drastic changes in the way customers interact with brands means companies are battling for attention with increasingly less effective methods. Here are the three levels of customer needs:

1. Get in the game – it’s about efficiency.

The second level of customer engagement isn’t always easy to achieve, but being efficient in how you communicate with customers will help secure and protect your brand advocacy.

Think about it. How many times have you called a customer service department, given them your name and account information and once transferred to another agent, they ask you again for the same information? Providing a seamless experience across all channels, giving customers answers in real-time and offering new ways to solve their problems are the hallmark of best-in-class customer service. By responding to and addressing customers concerns in a timely fashion, you will see greater loyalty and commitment to your brand’s success. To reach the top of the hierarchy and separate themselves from the pack, though, businesses must work to address their customers as individuals.

2. Win the Game – it’s about effectiveness.

Just as humans need food and water to survive, companies need effective customer engagement to survive – it’s a basic function that all businesses must now adopt. Being effective in understanding your customer’s unique challenges is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. As people turn to online information, social networks, and communities to inform themselves, they are engaging with sales people much later in the buying cycle. You now need to understand your customers’ issues and preferences sooner rather than later, and be effective in bringing them new approaches to achieving business objectives through the platforms they’re most comfortable with.

For example, half of the time users are online, they’re using mobile devices. According to a recent SAP survey, already 27 percent of mobile users purchase products or services online, and 80 percent say they want to buy more on their mobile devices. Mobile usage has created such a radical shift in how consumers and businesses interact with each other that digital marketers must have a deep understanding of how consumers use their devices. That’s the only way they can be effective in developing mobile marketing strategies that deliver the right experience to each mobile user. Once a company has achieved effective customer engagement, they must continue to adapt to garner more loyal customers in the customer engagement hierarchy.

3. Change the game – it’s about 1:1 customer interaction.

The final and hardest level of engaging your customers is realizing the full potential of the relationship. Believing that the goal of customer engagement is to make a sale or considering every customer service call as an instance of customer engagement, will only result in a loss. In order to win and survive, customer engagement needs to be viewed as customer’s experience with you – a personal encounter and not a business transaction.

Part of this process is the need to apply new processes and technologies to develop the insights needed to anticipate and respond to customers’ unpredictable and ever-changing buying journeys. No customer is ever the same and using the same approach across the board only creates frustration and disappointment with customer service.

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Customer and Small Business Perception Survey

website design, advertising and marketing company at sydney, australia

Most small business owners will know that having a business website and social media presence is important to the business’s growth and success. The question is, are you just giving a “lip service” to this concept, or, is your website and social media outreach really delivering what customers want?

Sadly, according to the latest Consumer and Small Business Perception Survey, most small business owners are unaware of consumers’ expectations. As a result, these people are missing out on opportunities to increase their sales, create a base of loyal customers and build longer customer relationships.

The poll of consumers and small business nationwide has good news and bad news for entrepreneurs. The good news is: generally, consumers prefer to do business with small businesses than large ones, citing personal involvement, engagement and connection as important reasons to choose small businesses over larger brands. Consumers used words like “personal, intimate, human, face-to-face;” “customer-focused;” “reliable, there when you need them most;” and “local, close-by, convenient” to explain why they prefer small businesses.

Now, the bad news: While 83% of consumers state that “having a business website and using social media are important factors” when they’re considering which businesses to patronize, only 34% say the small businesses they’re familiar with have a business website. Even worse, just 50% say the websites are meeting or exceeding their expectations.

Small business owners have a significant perception gap. Although nearly two-thirds said having a business website is important, just 41% actually had one. Of those, 61% rated their sites positively, just 46% of consumers rate the websites of small businesses they’re familiar with positively.

If your website does deliver what customers want, there’s a lot to be gained. The study found that 58% of customers would be influenced to take positive actions if a small business delivers on their web/social media expectations. About 60% say they would be likely to visit the business’ website and social media to find out more about the business, recommend the business to family and friends, visit the physical store or office, and learn what other customers have to say about the business.

So what do consumers want from your site and your social media presence? Consumers seek empowerment, engagement and relationships, while business owners tend to focus on transactions, awareness and marketing. This may be part of the problem. If you want to build loyalty, grow sales and develop relationships with customers, here are some basic tips for you:

  • Post news about your business, alerts of sales and special offers are great ways to drive traffic and boost sales—but for long-term success, you also need to focus on posting content that’s not purely transactional.
  • Ask customers for their input on what your next menu item should be or what kinds of products they’d like to see in your store.
  • Encourage customers to share photos of themselves engaging with your business—using or wearing your products, eating at your restaurant or attending an event at your location.
  • Use your website and social media to survey customers and find out what they like, what they don’t like and what they want more of.
  • Always be responsive when customers like, post or comment on your social media sites.

The Tweeting Bra: A Bra That Tweets From Nestle

The Tweeting Bra Campaign by Nestle

What is The Tweeting Bra? Basically, it’s a bra that will tweet to remind about monthly breast self exam. The campaign itself is focused to increase breast cancer awareness among women and the need for self-examinations. How does it work? A unique apparatus is hidden under the hook of The Tweeting Bra. Every time this bra is unhooked, it sends an alert to a cell phone, the cell phone notifies a server, and the server generates the tweet.

Greek actress Maria Bakodimou is representative of this campaign. The campaign itself will last for two weeks. A dedicated website for the campaign includes tips for performing self-examinations and, of course, a Twitter account for the social bra. A very creative campaign. Take a look at this video:

Ten Best Practices For Building A Strong LinkedIn Connection

Creating a good profile is a common thing people do when they use LinkedIn. However, since LinkedIn gives a lot of space for your previous job roles, qualifications and more, there’s an enormous overwhelming temptation to make your profile look like your CV.

Sadly, LinkedIn is designed for business connections, not just hourly or salary work.  So, how to use LinkedIn in a more proper way? Here are ten useful tips on how to properly use LinkedIn to leverage useful, mutual relationships:

1. Keep it simple

When you first meet potential clients, never brag about a huge list of companies you’ve worked for and the responsibilities you’ve had as that would bore them. The most effective introductions focus on who you help and what problems you help them solve or results you help them achieve. Then if asked more, you say a bit more about what you do and give a little story as to why you are uniquely qualified to help.

LinkedIn is made for making connections. For the majority of professionals that means clients and business partners, not recruiters. You need to design your profile to have the impact you want on those connections. Treat it like your introduction at a networking meeting.

Most potential clients and business partners won’t get value from seeing the details of your previous roles. Job titles, main achievements and company names can help give you credibility (and make it easier for others to find you), but don’t include all the details you would on a job application. Also, don’t take LinkedIn category names too seriously. Use whatever slot is provided to give the impression you want to give.

2. Get some connections

The most powerful usage of LinkedIn is to find new clients and business partners through the search function or directly via your contacts connections. The more direct connections you have, the more opportunities you have to connect. The LinkedIn toolbar for Outlook provides an easy way of inviting your Outlook contacts and people you email regularly to connect with you.

3. Choose your strategy

There are two very different strategies for connecting on LinkedIn: Open Networking and Trusted Partner Networking. In business networking generally, the value you get from your network is a product of the size of your network, and your ability to convert connections into productive business (work, a referral, etc.). You can grow the value of your network by getting more connections, or deepening the strength of each connection (getting to know people better, helping them out, etc.)

On LinkedIn, one strategy for getting value is to be an Open Networking.  Open Networkers focus on growing the size of their network by initiating and accepting connection requests from as many people as possible. Open Networkers typically have thousands of connections. This means that when they search for useful relationships (potential clients or business partners), they are much more likely to find them (exponentially more likely because of the way LinkedIn connections work).

The downside of this strategy is that with thousands of connections you don’t know each one very well, if at all. You’re essentially using LinkedIn as a giant business directory rather than as a way of making deeper connections. That’s neither good nor bad it just means that if you find someone you want to connect with through one of these shallow connections. It just you’re unlikely get a strong referral to them.

The other strategy is to have fewer but deeper connections is the Trusted Partner strategy. Here you only connect to people you already know and trust. Most likely from face-to-face interaction, but possibly from online interaction too. With this strategy you have less chance of finding someone via a search because you have less connections. But if you do find someone, it will be through someone who knows and trusts you and they will be able to give a strong referral to you and put you in touch with the person you’re interested in connecting with.

The downside to the Trusted Partner strategy is that it’s a bit like going to a face to face networking event and only speaking to the people you already know. You deepen your relationship with them but you don’t build any new relationships.

4. Use Search function to find potential clients and business partners

Many people get going on LinkedIn but fail to use it to help their business. One of the most effective ways to gain business value from LinkedIn is to find potential clients and business partners. LinkedIn allows the ultimate in specificity. You can search for exactly who you want to be referred to by company, by geography, by name, by job title, etc. You can search across your entire network at once, or, you can look at the contact list of an individual to see if there’s anyone you’d like to be connected to.

Once you’ve identified people you’d like to be introduced or referred to, rather than try to connect them directly, give your mutual connection a call and ask them if they can connect you. That’s much more polite than going direct, and it’s much more likely to be successful.

5. Give testimonials to get them

Testimonials are very helpful to have on your profile. They’re a clear indication of the quality of your work and the relationships you form. However, begging for a testimonial isn’t a great strategy. If you want to get testimonials, use LinkedIn to give them to people you’ve worked with and who have done a great job for you. LinkedIn will show them the testimonial to approve, then ask them if they want to reciprocate. Most likely, they probably will.

6. Have a helpful headline

When people find you in searches on LinkedIn, or when you contribute to Group discussions or in the LinkedIn Answers Q&A section; the first thing they see is a little box with your name, photo, and your headline. What most people have in their headline is their job title, for example: “Owner at X Company” or “Principal consultant at …. Ltd”. By default, unless you change it manually, LinkedIn takes the headline from your last job title.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t give people a clue as to whether you might be able to help them, or might be interesting to connect to. You should treat your headline like your introduction when networking. Focus on what you can do to help people. You can edit your Headline via the Edit My Profile option.

7. Join LinkedIn Groups to connect and interact

LinkedIn groups are essentially discussion forums for specific interest groups. They allow you to find out the latest news, and to join in debates on topics of interest. You should be joining groups both of interest to you professionally, and the groups where your potential clients hang out.

8. Update your status

Status updates are a good way of helping to stay top of mind with contacts. If you were to call or email all your contacts any time you did something small but interesting, it would quickly become seen as pushy or spammy. Updating your status is a “friendly” way of getting a gentle reminder out.

Depending on their settings, your contacts will get a regular email with a summary of the status updates of their contacts. And they will see the updates on their LinkedIn homepage. Mostly it will just be so and so updated their profile type messages. So if your status update has something interesting in it, it will remind them of the sort of thing you do and may even trigger them into action.

9. Watch others’ status updates to initiate contact

Keep an eye on status updates from others as it can be a good opportunity to get back in touch especially if they’ve changed jobs or have set out on a new venture. Even small status changes can help give you something to start a conversation the sort of small talk needed to keep dialogues and relationships going in between more meaty topics.

10. Link others who you think may benefit

Don’t wait for others to initiate a request to be linked up to your other contacts. Review your contact list regularly looking for ways to add value to them. One good way is to offer to link them up with potential clients or partners for them.


My Coke Reward Case Study: 5 Strategies to Create a Successful Rewards Program

Loyalty programs are only effective if your customers actually use them. Your brand will get stronger the more often they interact with you. See how Coca-Cola boosted interaction with its My Coke Rewards program by switching to highly personalised and segmented emails. Their average clickthrough rate increased 46%, and member activity is up 57%.

Here is the mechanism of the campaign: members who log in to the My Coke Rewards website and enter specific codes get points toward products ranging from a cell phone ring tone to a flat-screen TV. The program has changed a great deal since its debut two years ago. Initially, Coca Cola did not send any emails to its members. Then, four months later, Coca Cola began sending the same email to their entire member list and started seeing a little bit of an uptick in activity.

It didn’t stop there. Coca Cola redesigned the email program and website to adjust for specific member preferences. The result is the average clickthrough rate has increased 46% and members who subscribe to the personalised emails are 57% more active in the program than members not receiving communications.

Email Marketing Strategy

Monthly emails from the My Coke Rewards program are not intended to sell products directly. They’re meant to get members to click on the program website, log in, enter a product code and redeem a reward. Content includes personalised greeting; member’s point total; header graphic; a few paragraphs of text highlighting a series of calendar events, like a fall football sweepstakes; six image links to reward products; images of Coke products redeemable for points; and a CAN-SPAM footer. The content is also personalised toward each member. For instance, those who express an interest in the outdoors might get a hiking header with codes for sandals or a telescope.

Coca Cola Email Design Example

Here are the 5 strategies that Coca Cola followed:

1. Optimise the message

The email is personalised slowly but sure. Their emails are now based on:

  • Basic demographic information (age, location, marital status, number of children, etc.)
  • Number of points registered
  • Reward products received
  • Product codes entered
  • Sweepstakes entered
  • Website clicking activity (like reward category most visited)
  • Interaction frequency
  • Length of time in the program
  • Other areas

One important distinction is the generational difference between customers.  From there, Coca Cola gave a similar targeting perspective to the website. This way, when someone logs on, a variety of different elements adjust based on what the company knows about that particular account.

2. Optimise zealously

Coca Cola email marketing team sent an average of 100-200 different emails for every blast. At times, the number can exceed 7,000. It’s all dynamically driven, so it’s not a completely different email. People might have the same top of an email and the content inside might be a little bit different.

3. Run email tests often

Coca Cola has also conducted a range of standard email tests to boost member interaction. Not only time of day but day of week, every subject line and types of messages are being carefully tested. They have done a slew of testing in all of that, and consistently use that information to try to refine and try to optimise the email.

4. Offer special content

At times, members receive special content depending on their customer profiles. For instance, members may receive a coupon for Coke products for a regional distributor in their area – although emails are not set up to sell Coke products directly. Valuable members sometimes receive bonus points to keep them in the program.

5. Measure activity rate

Coca Cola doesn’t try to independently analyse all customer actions, such as entering product codes, redeeming them for points, browsing rewards, etc. Instead, to gauge the program’s success, they have rolled these actions into one metric: activity rate. Through this analysis, they’ve discovered that members scroll looking for specific topics that has resulted in increased program participation, including a 200% increase in site logins and 100% increase in PIN entries.