7 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing is Fueling High Growth Brands

High growth brands are spending more time and resources on their influencer marketing campaigns for one simple reason – it drives results.

In Riding the Tsunami of Change in Consumer Marketing, I talked about what’s causing traditional marketing and advertising to become increasingly less effective and how consumers are embracing the influence economy. Below, we’ll walk through 7 of the reasons why brands are seeing influencer marketing fuel their growth.

New to the Influencer Economy?

Different brands and agencies use slightly different wording, so I always like to level set with what Influencer Marketing means to our team at Sideqik. Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on identifying, building relationships with, and activating key leaders, partners, and individuals who have reach and relevance to your potential customers.

Who is focused on influencer marketing? According to Forrester, 73% of marketers have budget for influencer marketing. Overall, 59% of marketers at consumer brands say they’re planning to increase their influencer budget in the 12 months. We often see brands get started with a brand ambassador or influencer program and then expand into marketing with other influential marketing partners.

Now, onto why brands are growing with influencer marketing.

# 1 Greater Influence with Potential Customers

Whether you’re working with celebrities and journalists, pro influencers or the lucrative long tail of influencers, those influencers have strong relationships with your potential customers already.

Many brands will initially start their influencer campaigns by seeking out celebrity endorsements. While that can be a good use of ad dollars in the beginning, especially if you have the relationship already, most brands quickly realize what research has shown in almost every consumer vertical. When it comes to community size, 54% of consumers agree that the smaller the community the greater the influence (source: TechnoratiMedia).

McKinsey, Nielsen and others have all found that word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources are the primary factor behind 20% to 60% of all purchases decisions. We’ve heard the same things from our customers at Sideqik, with younger demographics being at the upper part of that range.

# 2 Influencers are Social by Nature

Influencers thrive on being social. They’re actively engaging with their friends and people they’re connected with across digital channels.

It’s not just that they’re sharing on social. Many influencers feel that it is their responsibility to tell their followers about their experience with brands. FleishmanHillard and Hearst Magazines found that 73% of millennials feel it is their responsibility to help friends and family make smart purchase decisions.

# 3 Influencers Want to Work with your Brand

Real influencers and brand ambassadors are fans of your brand. They use your products and want to work with brands they like, for many different reasons.

#4 Influencers Let you Magnify your Reach

Each new influencer that you bring onto your campaigns is another audience that you’re able to tap into for growth. Many brands have an existing influencer and brand ambassador list, while others are just starting to build their lists and form those relationships. That’s one area Sideqik helps. Sideqik’s tools to help identify and build relationships with influencers that otherwise would have been impossible or costly to do manually. On average, our customers are able to extend their reach by 50x – 300x what they could reach from their email list alone.

Selling to a younger audience? Millennials have approximately 200 more connections on each social network than members of older generations.

Need help finding your influencers? That’s one of the areas I can help.

#5 More Cost-Effective than Advertising

Without getting into the debate of whether influence should be purchased or earned, I wanted to walk through the value of an individual short campaign with influencers. The calculation also helps when looking at the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing.

One of the most common metrics for looking at the value of content is CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions). One of the nice things about CPM is that there are standard CPM benchmarks for TV, print and digital. The table below shows the value of just the brand impressions based on the size of the audience you’re able to reach, assuming a 2.5% engagement rate and a CPM of $5. While many brands are driving KPIs deeper in the purchase decision process, this is good for quick comparison with advertising rates.

We’ve worked with hundreds of brands across different verticals and see engagement rates and the number of posts significantly higher than these. When looking at the cost to set up and run a successful influencer strategy over the year, it’s easy to see why almost 25% of marketers say influencer marketing is their most cost-effective acquisition channel.

Reach of influencersAvg EngagementCPM# of PostsValue of single campaign
100,002,500$5.004$50
500,00012,500$5.004$250
10,000,000250,00$5.004$5,000
50,000,0001,250,000$5.004$25,000
250,000,0006,250,000$5.004$125,000

#6 Increased Conversions and ROI

A majority of marketers believe that influencer marketing brings in higher quality customers and they see greater revenues from these campaigns. Research shows that offers shared by a trusted influencer or brand ambassador convert at a 4x – 12x higher rate than offers shared by brands.

One consumer electronics company reported a 10x ROI by making it easy for ambassadors to share promotional offers with their friends. They estimate that 50,000 offers will be shared by ambassadors, driving clicks, sign ups, and sales from both their ambassadors and their friends.

#7 Ability to Scale

Successful brands approach influencer marketing as a fundamental strategy within their company. Just as email marketing works best when done consistently by a marketer with expertise in the area, the same is true of influencer marketing.

When trying to scale:

  • Manual influencer marketing can work to start a program. However, most brands find themselves using a variety of tools built for other purposes, along with spreadsheets and peoplepower to run their campaigns. If you’re a single person team, this may let you run a few campaigns per year for a boost, but it won’t support growth and predictable results unless you have the budget to allocate substantial headcount.
  • It can be difficult to find an agency with a core value proposition around influencer marketing. They do exist though. We have certified a number of incredible agency partners, so let us know if you’re looking for one. If you’re one of those agencies that we haven’t met, let’s talk.
  • Use a marketing automation platform specifically designed for influencer marketing. This is the best way to build expertise in-house and scale your programs.

One of the reasons our team gets so excited working with new marketers is that we get to rescue brands from a dependence on legacy and ad-based marketing models. Just as long-tail and marketing automation has revolutionized other marketing channels, we started Sideqik to offer that same disruption to influencer marketing.

These are just a few of the reasons that influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the most important online marketing channels. Budgets are growing fast, and marketers are seeing short-term and long-term results not matched in other channels. Given the results we’re seeing, expect to hear more soon.

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

(Infographic) The NEW $1bn Industry: eSports

Here’s an infographic our team at Sideqik created given all of the company’s work in eSports.

12 KPIs that Keep your E-commerce Business Growing [Infographic]

Here’s an infographic our team at Sideqik created summarizing the most important KPI’s are to keep your E-commerce business growing.

Finding your cadence to thrive as an entrepreneur

Success doesn’t come just from working harder or working smarter. True success comes from finding your cadence and knowing what you’re working towards. Kurt walks through the lessons he’s learned building teams around the world, mentoring new leaders and being taught by some incredible entrepreneurs.

How Facebook’s New Rules Will Make Your Brand Stronger: Surviving and thriving after Facebook kills like-gating

Facebook will no longer allow any company to “like-gate” their Facebook page or content starting November 5th, 2014. While they tried announcing this quietly, with it buried at the bottom of a developers’ announcement, you can’t keep a change like this quiet.

Marketers around the world definitely reacted. Some marketers didn’t see this as being a big deal, others screamed foul, others freaked out and many see the opportunity they’ve been given. In this post, I’ll walk through the change and how this will impact you as a digital marketer, both now and in the years to come.

Having been part of the small team that worked with Facebook as they first created Facebook Pages and released their APIs to us and a few others, there have been lots of changes. Smarter marketers will not only survive this change, they will thrive.

Facebook’s Rule Change

What they said

Facebook mentioned this change in a developers’ blog post:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page.

This is how they explain it

To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

What It Actually Means

Facebook is basically putting the kibosh on “like-gating”.  You will not be able to use any third-party app or custom built app to hide content and require people to Like your Facebook page to see it or to get something. That means that you cannot require someone Like your page to 1) enter a contest 2) access an entry form 3) get a coupon or anything else 4) get more tokens in a game 5) access a special section of your website or a coupon.

For those brands that relied on bribes as their primary ways to get people to Like their Facebook pages, their world was rocked. I saw quotes from well known marketers, several of them friends (so I don’t want to call them out publicly) such as “Facebook is restricting, no removing, my ability to have organic success just to boost their advertising revenue”, “this continues their war on marketers” and “how can they do this given the spiraling reach and algorithm changes”.

Google has done the same thing for years. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, along with their smaller updates, change the day to day activity for many marketers. We know the long-tail of keywords and content are consistent ways to grow your organic search. However, for marketers that focused solely on link building, they saw traffic decrease drastically. Marketers that used link building as a tool, rather than a pillar, saw their traffic increase.

Personally, I see this as a GREAT move by Facebook and one that will be a boost to brands, companies and marketers.

Facebook’s Engagement and Reach Issue

Many marketers complain that only 1% – 3% of the fans on their page see their updates. Those marketers are pissed. Is that reality? Is everyone seeing that? How do you change it?

Facebook first came out with business groups in 2007 and business pages in 2009. Since then, there has been remarkable growth in traffic and functionality of those pages and the overall network. In 2014, we see 152 million active daily users in the US & Canada. And, they’re spending more than 40 minutes per day on Facebook and 13 minutes on Instagram. The average Facebook user now has 338 friends. That’s an increase of 208, from the 130, they had in 2012.

Those changes result in thousands of potential stories and actions you, and every person, could see in your news feed each day. Facebook had to do something to make sure that the “over-sharers”, “downers” and low quality posts did not swarm your feed. So, Facebook instituted EdgeRank and started filtering and reordering what users saw. Some marketers freaked out and doubled down by trying to focus on just getting more Likes. Others focused on good content and other ways to engage their community on Facebook.

Buzz does NOT equal truth

Reach and engagement are up, then they’re down. Marketing blogs and some less than honest tools love to post click bait headlines, but what’s true? Well, Facebook once announced that organic reach was 16% for a given post on average. Some marketers claim that the 2014 Facebook changes reduced organic reach to 1%-3% and some shady tool providers claim that they can help you reach 70%+ of your page audience. The reality is that Facebook’s changes helped some and hurt others. Food/beverage, jewelry and car related pages saw reach drop. After all, while I adore Doritos, how many posts per day/week do you really want to see about them? TV, radio, nutrition, sport and family related pages saw engagement substantially increase (on average).

Facebook forcing brands to do it right

I believe Facebook is really trying to force marketers to do it right and to grow. From having spent a good amount of time at Facebook headquarters over the years, knowing many people there and seeing the results, they are trying to build a better content delivery system. They want to put content in front of fans that will be enticing and that they truly want to see. Facebook knows that this will keep people on the network more, which yes, means more chances to display ads.

The concept of offering an incentive in exchange for something is not new. Marketers have used lead capture forms and lead magnets for years. However, Facebook Likes are not only an action, they’re the basis of Facebook as a network. It’s something that Facebook must protect the value of for both their future and the brands that have communities on it.

Facebook’s not saying that you can’t offer incentives to users in exchange for something. They’re just saying that you can’t require a Like or Share. Many simple contest apps and developers used to encourage Likes/Shares (e.g. see the details of the contest to enter or get an extra entry into a sweepstakes). That was great for cheap apps and the marketers that simply focused on getting more Likes. However, it usually wasn’t helpful for companies. Facebook’s move is a great way to filter out the crap and take the focus off of people playing the number of Likes game. (tweet tip)

Offering a gift or prize devalues Likes – you only did something to get something. Guess what happened after someone Liked your page simply to be able to get a free download or enter a sweepstakes. Best case is they unlike your page. Worst case is they hide your posts in their feed, which Facebook sees as “negative feedback” and can decrease who else will see your posts. Overall, it encouraged shallow fan behavior.

The Tools in Your Utility Belt

The new Facebook rules will let real superheroes shine and require others to step up their game. 

It’s always more valuable to have 100 quality fans than 1,000 passive ones. This is how empires (and HUGE growth) are built. Real connections are what make your business grow. This is the mentality that Facebook is taking and I agree. The value of a Like is minuscule compared to the value of other data that a marketer should be trying to collect. Emails, feedback, testimonials and other forms of engagement and data is where the world changes.

I think too many businesses have been focused on Likes alone, at the expense of actions and data with a much higher ROI. Focusing on action-gating, engaging content and together marketing is a much more profitable strategy.

We designed the entire Sideqik platform from the beginning to allow marketers to achieve their goals without like-gating and to include all digital marketing channels. Our customers collect actionable data and engagement, on Facebook, other social networks and on their websites. Everything that our customers want to do can be done on or outside of Facebook completely, which lets everyone participate. Many see a significant increase in Likes on their page(s) too; we just don’t force consumers to. This results in an increase in engagement that helps them both now and in the future.

Actionable Strategies to Thrive in Your Campaigns

I hope you were one of the superhero marketers that didn’t focus simply on Likes. Either way, let me share three strategies that will let you take actionable steps to thrive in the new world. 

Expand beyond just Facebook and Likes

Start thinking “action-gating” and “form-gating” instead of “like-gating”. A marketing plan doesn’t work when it focuses only on the “top of the funnel”. Instead of Likes, change to other forms of entries for your giveaways that are more valuable to your business. Then, start thinking about how different campaigns can expand your brand awareness and interaction with true fans.

Good content and strong community of like-minded people will seduce people into liking your page. And remember, you can still ASK and encourage people to like your page and you should. Likes still matter, although it may be time to be more creative in your methods.

Identify and market together with your best partners

You already know that marketing together with a good marketing partner can bring in buckets and buckets of potential customers. We’ve seen thousands of great partnerships between marketers (and companies), and some relationships that didn’t quite work out.

Make sure you are identifying the best partners upfront and can track the results of your together marketing campaigns. With the right system in place, you can increase the number of potential good partners and easily identify what works with them. This combination will improve your campaigns today and has the potential to revolutionize them in the future.

Optimize for mobile

Facebook reports that 30% of only use Facebook on their phone or tablet, with a large portion of the 70% using mobile part of the time. It’s a mobile world, yet many marketers are using apps and promotions that are not optimized for mobile, and that is hurting their results. Let me repeat that. Many Facebook tabs and applications, especially those requiring like-gating, are NOT mobile-friendly or mobile-optimized. That is a huge problem for your results and is a horrible experience for your prospective customers.

Mobile-friendly means the experience works okay on mobile. Mobile-optimized platforms provide an experience that is tailored for the users’ device. Our team made sure the Sideqik platform was (and is) fully mobile-optimized. We want you to be a marketer and not have to think about all of the technical details to make an awesome mobile experience. Make sure your campaigns, landing pages, custom Facebook tabs and the platforms you use are mobile-optimized.

Predictions

This policy change is opportunity for growth. Here are my predictions.

Facebook reach will continue to increase: By removing the ability to add low-quality likes to a brand’s page, Facebook has reset the bar on quality. Companies will have to start thinking about other incentives to get people to Like your page. Such as, if you like a fitness page, you’ll receive valuable tips for staying in shape and early access to new products

Great digital marketers will get promoted: If you’ve been growing as a digital marketer, you do not have anything to worry about from Facebook’s change. You’ve been working with marketing partners and other strategies for growing. This is your time to shine.

How does the change in like-gating impact your approach to marketing?

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

“Next Evolution of Partnership Marketing” Award Given to Sideqik

Short write up from one of the members of our team on us receiving another marketing award. Honored to have been part of founding one of the first influencer marketing platforms and guiding us through the first three years of growth.


Earlier this week Sideqik had the honor of being invited to the 2014 TAG Social Savvy Awards hosted by the Technology Association of Georgia. The ceremony was Emcee’d by Conn Jackson who showed off his shiny new Zappos shoes that matched his shiny smile and personality perfectly at the Georgia World Congress Center. With representatives from UPS to Turner Sports it was packed with the who’s who of Georgian companies leading the way in social media evolution.

The second annual TAG Social Savvy Awards kicked off with speeches from Jack Harris, President of Junior Achievement of Georgia, and Peter Stewart, Senior VP at PGi, who introduced this years keynote speaker Ryan Oliver (@RYNO) Brand Strategist at Twitter. Oliver delivered an amazing speech that gave us insight to Twitter trends, best practices, and what’s new. Throughout the speech Oliver also, without giving a second thought to it, showed us how much Twitter participates in partner marketing. Examples from Accura and Twitter’s new “buy now” technology made it very clear that any time a company uses Twitter, regardless if they are aware or not, they are engaging in partner marketing. Wowing the crowd with facts like every 48 hours brings 1.2 billion tweets to 255 million engaged users and inspirational thoughts like “Brands don’t have target markets they have target moments.” he set the stage for the award festivities to begin.

Awards presented throughout the night included “Innovation through Tapping Employee Wisdom” (UPS), “Using Social Analytics to Inform Business Results” (Turner Sports), and “Supporting Employees Using Social Media in their Daily Jobs” (The Weather Company) to name a few. The winner of the “Growing a Social Media by Being Authentic”, KontrolFreek, happens to be an early adopter of Sideqik’s platform and services. During the acceptance speech Matt Konigsmark, VP of Marketing, was kind enough to attribute some of their success in growing their social media efforts to Sideqik. Which was a perfect compliment for Sideqik as we were presented with the “Next Evolution of Partnership Marketing” Award.

Atlanta Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) General Manager KP Reddy gave an introduction highlighting CEO Kurt Uhlir’s alligator wrestling abilities and, more importantly, how excited ATDC was to have Sideqik alongside many other startups utilizing their incubator space. Kurt accepted the award on behalf of Sideqik with a rousing speech on how partner marketing, or together marketing as we like to call it, is becoming the most important way to market for companies of all sizes. Winning the “Next Evolution of Partnership Marketing” award is another incentive for Sideqik to continue helping and teaching others to make partner marketing work for them. We would like to thank the TAG Social Savvy Awards again for honoring us with this recognition.

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

Judson Green and Salahuddin Khan - NAVTEQ

Digital Marketing Apprenticeship: Steps to supercharge your career

Our team at Sideqik has received a ton of attention for how we steward our time to grow the next generation of leaders and tech rock stars. People ask us why we take the time, so I wanted to share a little about what we do and why we do it.

Everyone has heard of internships. Technically, we use that term too. However, you’ll hear our team and past interns use terms like internships, mentorships, mentors, apprenticing or protégé program. Our goal is to make superheroes. Many successful people credit one or more mentors that made a huge impact in them achieving early success. Here’s how we approach them.

Hands on experience

What’s it like to intern at Sideqik? Rather than tell you what I think it’s like, here’s a short video from some of our past interns:

{Sorry, this video is no longer live, but I’ll see if I can dig it up and repost}

Something changed

The world used to be different. I’m not talking about politics or religions.

If you want to do electrical work, you can always be a “handyman” but other than that, you have to work alongside someone more advanced. If you want to be an electrical engineer, you need an electrical engineering degree and then a certain amount of experience to take your professional licenses. If you want to be an electrician, there’s not a simple test. You have to work for a number of years apprenticing under someone more advanced to move up from an Apprentice to a Journeyman and then to a Master Electrician.

The ecosystem used to teach and apprentice the next generation even earlier than that too. Think about it. If your family were farmers, you grew up at an early age helping them. If your dad was a lawyer, you may have worked your way through junior high or high school at the front desk. You learned very different things than what any classroom could teach.

Overcoming the skills gap

We see a huge skills gap in America, and it exists not only in manufacturing but also in technology, marketing and business development. Many students graduate from tier one schools with tons of knowledge but very few real world skills, and it’s years before they’re able to add substantial value to a company. In other cases, people are ready to jump right in but simply lack certain tools or particular skill.As an example, our office is on the Georgia Tech campus. We’re huge Tech fans and it sets one of the best foundations for developers in the country but the CoC program does not teach Ruby and most students have not worked on sizable team based development projects.

For others people, they graduate only to realize that they’ve studied a field they will not enjoy working in and yet they do not have the track record to move into something new.

Taking the time to teach

Why do we take the time? There’s not a simple answer to this one. For many of us, we feel called to. For others, it’s a way to do for others what someone did for us. Ask our team. They’ve got some incredible stories about why each of them stewards their time.

Personally, a number of people took intentional time with me growing up and during my career. I still remember being an 8, 9 and 10 year old visiting Bell Labs with my dad. He worked on the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), the original cell phone network, and I even at that age I saw first hand what the “real world” looked like. There are a handful of people that I can look back that took time to help me grow to the next level. They took time where they did not have to and did not benefit them directly.

Judson Green and Salahuddin Khan - NAVTEQ

One of those is M. Salahuddin Khan, Navteq’s CTO and then global head of marketing and strategy. He took extra time to hear my thoughts, teach me about the constant changing pieces involved in running strategy and product for a global tech company, and how to actually lead teams. Another one was Donald Wisniewski. Don served on a board for me with the International Game Developers Association. We became friends and before I knew it, we were meeting monthly for dinner. I credit him for much of how I approach business and our current team. We simply do not have time to for me to mention the others or and what they have taught me.

Stewarding grows ecosystems and people

Our team believes in stewarding what we’ve been given. Many people believe in donating resources to causes they support. For us, that also includes our skills and our time.

We’re intentional about it and make it a priority in our lives and at Sideqik. This also lets us stay focused on growing the company. After all, the high growth environment provides the best place for us to teach others and some incredibly fun things for people to be part of.

Specifics internships teach

Whether an internship is paid, for credit, unpaid or not-for-credit doesn’t change its value. The right internship is an investment in your future, and often paid internships have people doing menial tasks. Let’s face it, if you’re going to take the time for an internship, you want it to give real value.

Our team at Sideqik makes sure all of our internships are educational. We’ve structured each track and tailor it for each person. We want to make sure that people learn a ton. To us, that means everyone learns and receives

  • real world experience
  • networking experience and skills
  • time management
  • cool technology
  • a portfolio to highlight what value you add to others.

Taking the next step

If you’re around Atlanta, we’re always looking for the best people to join our team. Check out our careers page to see if anything looks interesting. You can also find us at tons of events in the area.

We’d love to see more companies and teams taking this approach to internships and apprenticeships. Let me know what’s working for your team and what’s not. We’d love to see others replicate what we’re doing in Atlanta, and I’m always looking for new ideas on what’s working well.

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

Marketing Expert Interview Series: Hidden Ingredient in Marketing Partnerships with Dipinjeet Sehdev

For this part of Sideqik’s Expert Interview Series, I sat down with Dipinjeet Sehdev, head of Internet Marketing & Brand Relations at KEF America. Dipin and I spoke a few weeks ago and not only did he renew my passion for awesome sounding music but his expertise running marketing partnerships and recent success with some awesome partners prompted me to ask if I could share some of his insights and best practices with you.

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Kurt: Here at Sideqik we are familiar with your company, but for those who are not, tell us about your company and what amazing products you guys are creating.

Kurt: Here at Sideqik we are familiar with your company, but for those who are not, tell us about your company and what amazing products you guys are creating. 

Dipin: KEF is speaker manufacturer. We have been building and pioneering speaker technology since 1961. Our founder, Raymond Cooke (an ex-BBC engineer), had one simple idea; create the best loudspeaker possible with modern materials and technologies. That idea is still with the company today and we are on the forefront, creating revolutionizing speakers, and coming up with concepts like the KEF Blade. We released the “KEF 50 Years of Innovation in Sound – Limited Edition Book” that goes through our history and technological advancements. You’ll read about things KEF developed decades ago that other speaker manufacturers try to use today.

Kurt: KEF runs marketing partnerships all the time, and to me, they really highlight the music experience. What are the benefits to you as a marketer for organizing these marketing partnerships?

Dipin: Absolutely! Working with partners helps us tell the KEF story from different perspectives. To tell the music story we have launched the KEF Connects program that highlights different musicians and experts in their respective fields. Then on the opposite end, we partner with companies like Geekbeat.tv so we can tell the technology story of KEF’s innovations. To switch gears again, by partnering with design magazine; KEF can tell the story of how much technological effort goes in the shape of the speakers for better performance, without having to compromise on style and looks. By having these partnerships it puts the KEF story into context so that different audiences can appreciate all aspects of what KEF does, and we do it very well.

Kurt: “Content marketing” is the buzzword of the day. And it’s a great strategy but not every company or marketer has the team or resources to really do this well. From following KEF, it seems like that is something you’ve been able to help many of your strategic partners with. How have you been able to include some of your partners in KEF’s content and what has the response from consumers been?

Dipin: In the audio industry KEF has taken the stance of education. Educating consumers about all aspects of the music and recording industry. To showcase this we came up with the Masters of Sound event. What we did was bring in a legacy producer, Ken Scott (an Abby Road engineer who worked on albums like The Beatles’ White Album), an up-and-coming band, Staying for the Weekend, and a world famous studio, MSR Studio. We invited all members of the media and press, from Rolling Stone to fashion experts to tech blogs, like Gear Patrol, to attend a night with KEF in MSR Studio. We created a platform for a legacy producer to discuss his thoughts on how the audio engineering aspect of recordings has changed over his life time. Derik Lee (2014 Grammy Winner) of MSR Studio discussed his current challenges in the quality music space and the band discussed how, as artist, they want their music, and the passion they put into their music, to reach as many people as they can without compromise. What the press and media walked away with was a better and deeper understanding of why KEF cares so much about making sure music reproduction in speakers is perfect. You can read about the event on our blog, KEFDirectBlog.com and see the video on Youtube.

Kurt: Can you share with us the advantages of sharing your audience with your partners? What do you get in return and how does this benefit KEF?

Dipin: The advantage is creating the brand lifestyle. Our partners end up using our products in their everyday life and it becomes their point of reference in audio. By sharing our audience with our partners KEF can get a better understanding of how users of KEF products interact with other products in their daily lives. As different products enhance different aspects of peoples’ lives (i.e. getting a better car, new clothes or new phone) KEF Speakers enhance the audio part. By working with different marketing partners we can make sure the enhancements are easy as possible for consumers to understand and see in their daily lives.

Kurt: As we mentioned earlier, you focus a lot on strategic partnerships, if you were able to give a bit of advice to another head of marketing, what would you say are the top three things to look for in a partner before entering a marketing partnership?

Dipin: The first bit of advice is; get out of your comfort zone. It is easy to only think about your Brand and marketing partnerships in your industry, but look outside your industry to see how your brand or product can enhance another industry. My personal example is, “I love listening to music in the evening during the week, but an album can sound much better with a Glenlivet 18 in my hand.”

The Second bit of advice is think long term. Consistency pays off over the long haul. Trends sprout up and die quickly. Hopping on trends can easily lead to your brand dying along with the trend and becoming an unnecessary causality. Legacy branding is what will keep your message strong and consistent as trends come and go.

The last bit of advice is broken up into 2 parts. The first is every partnership strategy needs to have a ROI. In the end, all partnerships need to lead to sales. Which leads me to my second point of; Don’t underestimate the power of ‘No.’ It can be hard to say ‘No’ to opportunities, especially if they are cheap or cost nothing, but being able to say ‘No’ will protect the brand and more importantly the consumer perspective of the brand.

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What amazed me about talking with Dipin is KEF’s willingness to experiment with new marketing partners and desire to keep trying things until they find the right mix. They’ve found a great mix of taking the lead in cross-promotions and knowing how to include marketing partners in the creation of much of their content. If you ever get the chance to see one of their KEF Blades in person, it will forever change how you think about those earbuds that came with your iPhone.

What topics and questions do you want to hear in our next interview series? Let me know below or on twitter at @KurtUhlir . Be sure to follow Dipin at @Datsm1015 too.

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

Mini Flashpoint reunion - Sideqik and Springbot - Jeremy, Kurt Uhlir, Dave Armento, and Brooks Robinson

Marketing Expert Interview Series: Tackling the E-commerce Challenge with Brooks Robinson

As part of my Expert Interview Series at Sideqik, I sat down with Brooks Robinson of Springbot about tackling the e-commerce challenge with better data, smarter actions and more revenue. We all want to win against large enterprises and he knows e-commerce and marketing space in-and-out.

Mini Flashpoint reunion - Sideqik and Springbot - Jeremy, Kurt Uhlir, Dave Armento, and Brooks Robinson

Brooks Robinson is the CEO and co-founder of Springbot, which provides an e-commerce marketing platform to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) looking to tackle the “e-commerce challenge.” A Gold Industry Partner of Magento, we’ve known their team for years and hear about their e-commerce expertise from some of Sideqik’s customers. We have been fortunate enough to benefit from Brooks’ expertise and thought it would be helpful to share this knowledge with others.

Kurt: Springbot has had some great growth over the past year and much of that can be attributable to the non-conventional approach your team took to get started. Can you tell everyone a little about how Springbot started?

Brooks: In early 2012, while serving as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgia Tech, I met the partners and other two co-founders, Joe Reger and Allen Nance, for our newest venture, Springbot. Our passion is helping e-commerce merchants grow their business by leveraging marketing analytics and automation that SMBs need to grow their revenue by taking smarter, data-driven marketing actions.

Through our partnership with Magento, an eBay company, we’ve been able to help e-commerce stores, all looking to compete (and win) against giants like Amazon.

Kurt: What one thing stood out the most from working with so many online merchants?

Brooks: I am passionate about helping the SMB community grow, and this is Springbot’s mission. Our goal is to help e-commerce SMBs grow their revenue by using the consumer data (demographic, social, purchase) that drives more shoppers to their online store, converting them to customers, and personalizing marketing campaigns to keep them coming back.

As the e-commerce world evolves, so must the stores that want to stay ahead of the competition. Don’t get stuck in a rut, just because something has worked well before. Listen to your customers, keep up with the latest industry trends, and analyze your customer data. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new marketing techniques and tools as this could lead to improvements in your user experience and ultimately the bottom line for your store.

Kurt: Given your experience with e-commerce sites, tell me about the importance of data and analytics to an e-commerce web site?

Brooks: Many e-commerce stores know very little about their customers, despite the explosion of valuable consumer data that is now available.

Having a good understanding of the data helps you generate more traffic, conversions, and overall revenue. In addition, the feedback we have gotten from merchants is that being able to personalize marketing content is a huge benefit to them -ultimately leading to more revenue and a better return on investment (ROI).

It is easy to make assumptions about what is working on an e-commerce site, but once you have data that is available and easy to understand, you can KNOW where people are going on your page, what social media and paid ads are bringing people to your site and what the audience that buys actually connects with. It takes assumption out. It’s a huge value to not waste $ on areas or audiences that are not bringing in revenue.

Kurt: You help companies of all different sizes. What would you say are the kind of issues small and medium businesses have with e-commerce?

Brooks: SMB’s struggle to compete against large enterprises like Walmart and Amazon who have been perfecting big data, predictive analytics and marketing mix optimization for years. Many marketers are not even sure what the best next step is to grow their business. That’s actually something Springbot helps with. We coined the term Marketing Robotics™, which is a technology solution that lets e-commerce merchants leverage these same

Kurt: What are the easiest actions that e-commerce sites can take that would help them make some major gains in the next 6 months?

Brooks: There are many factors that should be considered when trying to accelerate growth -great customer service, innovative products, the ability to market smarter, and a great team that is passionate about your business.

Focus on creating systems that make you more effective and efficient. Start with the areas of greatest importance, with a focus on making any needed improvements to your customer service or product offering and let your passionate team members help create systems for improvement. After that it’s really simple – market smarter, not harder. We often see marketers at e-commerce sites getting burned out trying lots of things and not knowing what’s working. With the right tools, you can simplify your data and content to integrate with your multi-channel marketing tools (social, online, email, retargeting, etc) in order to drive more traffic. That’s part of what Springbot helps with – thus marketing smarter.

Kurt: What has changed in online retail in the last year, from your vantage point in the industry?

Brooks: The constant connectivity of shoppers in a multi-screen world with the line between brick and mortar and online blurring by the second. Online browsing is the new form of window shopping.

Kurt: We all know that people are talking about brands on social media but so many small and medium sized brands are still hesitant to start actively engaging in social for a variety of reasons. What would you say to a marketer that is questioning how much, if any, of their efforts should they spend on social this next year?

Brooks: Social media gives you an opportunity to hear important information from your customers. They are online talking about you either way. Not being involved in social media prevents you from having a voice in the conversation. Your marketing team knows the value of listening, trust your team to leverage social media to your benefit.

You don’t know until you try. Getting started is the biggest step. Looking at the data, something Springbot’s predictive analytics helps with, lets you know what to do next.

One of our customers, Country Club Prep, said it best. “Working with Springbot has allowed us to analyze the people we are reaching which enables us to better prioritize our messages for various marketing channels,” said Matt Watson, cofounder of Country Club Prep. “For example, we now know that we typically have a higher conversion rate on Facebook than other social sites. Springbot has even given us insight into what the product price threshold for Facebook is – allowing us to post products that will interest our Facebook audience and allow us a higher conversion rate.” The path to success is in the data.

Kurt: Is there anything else you would like to add on the topic?

Brooks: Marketing an e-commerce site can be challenging. When your customers can’t physically see and touch the products you’re offering online, convincing them to break out their credit cards can be a harder sell. My advice is try to work with a network of trusted industry experts and partners that know the space and can guide you in the right direction. Find good partners, like web design firms, hosting providers and marketing partnerships, which can do the heavy lifting for you. Work with the right partners and you’re a lot more likely to hit your numbers this year. Tweet this Tip!

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If you haven’t checked out Springbot yet, I’m a big fan.

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

How to choose the right email service provider for your e-commerce marketing

Email marketing is often advertised as being a low-cost, high-return marketing investment. However, picking the wrong email service provider (ESP) or acquiring poor quality email addresses can cost you thousands of extra dollars per year.

At Sideqik, we often help customers improve the quality of their email lists as well as the potential customers they acquire, but for now, let’s help you with choosing the right email service provider.

There are hundreds of different ESPs and dozens in any “top” list.  Is MailChimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, Hubspot, Silverpop, WhatCountsLeadLife or another provider right for your email marketing? Yes and no!

The choices (and sales pitches) can be daunting. From my experience, the best place to start is by answering some questions about your business, marketing plans and e-commerce platform. This doesn’t take too long and will save you a ton of time overall, as you start looking at the options on the market.

Future-focused and present-minded

When choosing an ESP, it’s critical to consider where your marketing and e-commerce platform will be in 12 – 18 months. Now, let’s not get carried away with best-case scenarios. What will your business realistically look like in the future and where are you today? The ESP sales reps will almost always pitch you on “edge cases” and extreme usage. While we’ve seen our customers have some incredible growth in as little as six months, it’s important be realistic and not let the ESP up-sell you on fictitious possibilities.

Questions to consider:

  • Email volume:
    • How many people are on my email list? Make sure that you count those currently subscribed/opted-in only. Some email service providers, like Aweber, show you a total including unsubscribes on the dashboard and you have to dig in to see the number of people you’re actually sending to.
    • How many regular emails (e.g. newsletters, email blasts, etc.) does my brand send each month? How many do I expect to send each month in 6 – 12 and 12 – 18 months?
    • How many transactional emails are you sending each month? These are the real-time triggered emails such as abandoned cart recaptures and order confirmations.
  • Customer and prospect data:
    • What kind of customer and prospective customer data should I capture? This includes much more than name, city and email. It could also include birthday, order history, what marketing partner they came through, how long they’ve been on your list, etc.
    • Do you need to capture additional customer data from surveys, cross-promotions or social media sources?
    • Are you currently targeting your customer base for different email content? How would you like to improve this targeting? Will you actually tailor content for different segments or do you need an ESP that can help with that?
  • Email hygiene:
    • What are the sources of your emails? Are they all opt-in?
    • Do you currently have any deliverability challenges? Do you expect that to change in the future?
    • Do the emails your brand sends frequently end up in spam? Do you have a plan of action if you get blacklisted?
  • Technical skills:
    • How technical is your digital marketing team? How about your email team/person?
    • Do you need technical assistance during the creation of the email templates or during the campaign deployment?
    • Do you have in-house creative resources (i.e. Who does your graphics and design?)?
    • Do you have multiple members of your team helping specific tasks during the email production process? If yes, you may need an ESP that helps with workflow. How is this impacted by your e-commerce platform?
  • Required features:
    • Do you need to nurture leads? Is placing them in a drip campaign enough or do you need marketing automation based on data and interactions with your e-commerce site?
    • What will you need to report to your boss? We know it all comes down to results, so what will you have to produce? Some of the ESPs can provide reporting and analysis tools that will meet your immediate needs.
    • Do you need private IP addresses to send general marketing emails? How about for transactional emails or are these already sent from your e-commerce provider (frequently the case)?
    • Does the platform need to handle SMS campaigns? Yes, this is similar to the “upgrade options” when buying a new car. Don’t let them talk you into it, unless you know you need it. There are mobile messaging providers that may be able to better meet your needs.

Kind of like car shopping

Choosing an email service provider can be a lot like car shopping. Everyone has an opinion, and many of the sales people are ruthless (although, we know some really great ones too). Your decision ultimately comes down to how you feel the ESP will meet your needs.

Taking a little bit of time to establish your must have features and thinking through your growth plans will allow you to drastically narrow the choices. Be open to test driving a few different providers to better understand their interface and ease of use, before making a final decision. Email marketing has been around for a long time, and it isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. So take your time, think it through, go for a test drive and remember, you have options.