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Why Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign is misleading

Posted by: in General on Thursday, February 28, 2013

You may have recently seen the new ad campaign from Microsoft that promotes its new Outlook.com email service. Outlook.com appears to be the next evolution of Hotmail and is designed to compete with Google's popular Gmail service.

Outlook.com actually looks pretty good and appears to be a well-designed system. However, rather than promoting the positive aspects of Outlook.com, Microsoft is instead running a misleading campaign that attacks Google. The campaign is called "Scroogled" and is a rather weak attempt to create a fake bogeyman out of Google's advertising policy.

The commercials feature a somewhat unlikable couple having pie with cheesy music playing in the background. The clueless husband complains that ads "just started showing up" in his email after which his wife explains that Google "goes through every single word of your Gmail" and uses that information to sell ads. He then exclaims "so I get Scroogled!"

The "Watch How You Get Scroogled by Gmail" video is particularly saucy. Look! Google goes through all your personal email between husband and wife about relationships, money, etc. –– how scary!

The commercial and the campaign overall is quite cheesy and not terribly believable but that's not really the issue. What bothers me is the misleading way that Microsoft is presenting the facts.

So why is this campaign misleading?

The campaign claims that Google "goes through your email "and violates your privacy" in order to sell ads. This conjures up images of hordes of spies at Google that personally read your email and inject nefarious ads in your browser window while cackling maniacally (probably while wearing monocles).

In reality, Google explains very clearly that no human ever reads your email. The entire system is automated. Gmail simply uses algorithms to automatically display ads that might be relevant to the viewer based on the content of the email. If this still sounds creepy, then just being on the Internet is creepy because it happens to everyone just about every day.

Ever notice how you might be planning a trip to Hawaii and then all of the sudden you start to see more ads about travel to Hawaii? Or maybe you start to get more emails from travel sites with special offers on vacation packages. This is all automated. Your browsing history and activity online leaves a trail of data that advertisers can use to target messages more specifically to your needs. It's been happening for a long time now and it's done by software.

Microsoft would be making a reasonable point by saying that Outlook.com doesn't show ads and this would have some value to a lot of people. However, don't be fooled into thinking that Google is "invading your privacy" in any way.

If you truly don't want ads in your email, then by all means check out Outlook.com. However, if you are living in fear of the "spies" at Google then you can relax. Microsoft is using hyperbole and misleading advertising to try to fool you.

How to get a job in marketing

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

As a corporate web and marketing company that also happens to be a ROWE, we get lots of interest from potential team members who would like to work at SpinWeb. Though we are growing, we unfortunately can't hire everyone that comes our way. However, we always try to help great people find great job opportunities.

There are some skills and behaviors that today's marketing professional needs to possess in order to compete in the modern economy. Marketing has changed significantly over the past few years and has become intimately integrated with technology.

So what does the modern marketing professional need to know to get a great job?

Stellar writing skills

Today's marketer must know how to write effectively for the web. This is why English majors often make great marketing pros! Modern inbound marketing is built on great content, such as corporate blogs, guides and ebooks, video scripts, podcasts, website copy, and articles. Great content is the fuel that drives inbound marketing and great writers are the brains behind the content.

A love of analytics

Lots of marketing professionals are very creative, outgoing people who love to get excited about big picture ideas but often lack attention to the "boring" aspects of marketing like analytics. No more! Modern inbound marketing is a world of data and experimentation. We have more tools today than ever before that let us measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts and you need to learn to love analytics to be effective.

Business empathy

Silos can lead to less-than-optimal campaigns. If one side of the company is on a different plan than the other side, the whole team becomes inefficient. The modern inbound marketing needs to be in tune with what the sales team, the customer service team, and the CEO are all doing. In addition, he or she needs to be able to help these teams all work together to support the organization's marketing plan so that all the peices are in sync.

So how does a person with these skills find that dream job in marketing? Well, finding the right job is not easy but here are some things that can help give you a competitive edge.

Blog - professionally

We've gotten applications from people who list their personal blog in their profile and it's less than impressive. Some employers might be happy to see that you have a social life but in general, a strictly personal blog is not going to add much relevance to your productivity footprint online. Even if you are unemployed, maintain a professional blog that offers insights and solutions in marketing. This demonstrates your expertise and is the online way of "dressing for the job you want."

Network

Don't just send out resumes and hope something sticks. Get out and meet people. Look up networking events in your area and attend as many as you can. Ask friends to take you along to business events that they attend. Join groups on LinkedIn. Ask for referrals from friends or past co-workers. Networking is a lifelong skill that should be "always on" no matter what your situation is.

Build trust before being assertive

We've sometimes gotten messages from people who want to work for us and they start off with a very agressive campaign of emails and social media posts that get very annoying very quickly. Instead of annoying your potential employers, start off by helping, providing value, offering to do some limited contract work, etc. Once trust is built, then you can get a bit more driven.

Make sure your materials are well-designed

If it takes a little money to get some professional design work done on your blog and other work samples, invest it. Design affects credibility and credibilty is exactly the thing you want to build.

Show personality

While you want to come of as a credible professional, do show some personality. Marketing is a creative profession and requires a love of people and human interaction so don't be afraid to let your sparkling personality shine.

Are you a marketing pro looking for the next great opportunity? I frequently share job openings on Twitter so feel free to follow me there and I will do what I can do help.

The marketing director's guide to AuthorRank

Posted by: in General on Thursday, February 21, 2013

If you've been paying attention to recent trends in SEO, you've probably heard of AuthorRank, which is the next evolution of search. AuthorRank is based on Google's Authorship system which allows greater tie-in between content on the web (such as an article or blog post) and the author of that content.

We covered the "why" of AuthorRank in a previous post on how highlighting your employees can be good for your search visibility.

So how do you, as a marketing director, CEO, or business owner get ready for AuthorRank and take advantage of it for your organization? Here's a step-by-step guide.

1. Set up a Google+ profile

If you're not on Google+ yet, now is the time. For AuthorRank to have the best impact, you'll need to set up your Google+ profile correctly. Go to plus.google.com and get started there. It's painless, I promise. Oh, and fill out your profile completely with photo, bio, and everything.

2. Set up your Authorship properly

The next thing you'll need to do is make sure your website and Google+ are configured properly for Authorship. We cover this in a handy 15-minute webinar called Google AuthorRank and Why It's a Big Deal for Your SEO Efforts. Basically, at minimum you'll want to add your website's domain name in the "Contributor" section of your Google+ profile.

3. Be active online

Ok... this is kind of vague but in general, get in the habit of using your social networks to communiate with people. Share interesting content with your network, comment on posts, and above all else be sincere. Include Google+ in your activities as much as possible.

4. Create content

In order to develop influence, create content in the form of blog posts, videos, and articles that teach and solve problems. Be careful, though. It's not enough to just spit out content for the sake of volume. Your content must be relevant, well-researched, well-written, and useful. High-quality content leads to greater influence.

5. Cross-contribute

Contributing content to your own website is great. However, to really build influence you'll also want to start writing for other websites. Look for opportunities to write guest posts for partner sites or articles for influential publications. Then, include those domain names in the "Contributor" section of your Google+ profile.

Influence is a process

Building influence through AuthorRank is not a one-time project. It takes time and consistency but can pay off with the right approach. Google is always looking for ways to make the experience better for the searcher and measuring the influence and credibility of authors is one more step in that evolution.

If you take the time to nurture your online influence, you'll be laying the groundwork to provide better visibilty to both yourself and your organization.

No mobile website? You're losing sales.

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

If you've spent the time to craft a beautiful and effective website that inspires trust and generates leads, then you know how important your online presence is to your organization. You're likely using all sorts of tactics like SEO, social media, and blogging to generate traffic and awareness.

However, there is a world beyond the computer screen that is full of people trying to view your website on a tiny screen and if they don't get what they need within seconds, they move on. If your website is not mobile-optimized, you just lost a sale.

"Whoa! Easy there, Reynolds! That's quite a bold statement." (Just helping out by providing some sample inner monologue for you).

So am I really saying that a lack of mobile website is likely causing you to lose sales?

Yes. Yes, I am. And there are a number of reasons behind it.

First, let's take a look at what Facebook is telling us. According to Mark Zuckerberg (I think he works at Facebook or something)...

"2012 was a big year for us. We made the big transition where now there are more people using Facebook on mobile everyday than on desktop."

More on this in a great post by Chris Penn. So according to Facebook's analytics, mobile has become the default method of use for a majority of their users.

So why is it important to create a unique mobile-optimized version of your website? Jakob Nielsen goes into great detail on why full sites don't work for mobile use. In the article he points out:

"The desktop user interface platform differs from the mobile user interface platform in many ways, including interaction techniques, how people read, context of use, and the plain number of things that can be grasped at a glance. This inequality is symmetric : mobile users need a different design than desktop users. But, just as much, desktop users need a different design than mobile users."

So how does this apply to you and your organization? Your mobile website is your opportunity to reduce friction. Friction occurs when something slows a visitor down while he/she is trying to accomplish a task. If you're a business, here are some ways prospective customers might find you in a mobile context:

  • Do a Google search from a smart phone
  • Ask Siri
  • Follow a link from another article read on a smart phone
  • Click on a website link from Google Maps or Apple Maps on smart phone
  • Scan a QR code

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time so many people are becoming more active online outside of the normal "at a desk" context. When they hit your website and see a well-designed mobile site that makes it easy to find information, you've kept friction to a minimum. However, if they encounter a full website that requres zooming and scrolling to read anything, you've instantly created friction, and this can very easily cause the user to abandon your website. Ouch! Lost opportunity.

If you want to run a simple test, pull up your website on your smart phone. Now, get into the mindset of a prospective customer and try to quickly find information. Evaluate how comfortable and easy it is to get around. If the experience was not pleasant, imagine how your prospects feel?

No more waiting. Mobile is no longer an option. It is a requirement to stay in the game.

14 ways to show love to your customers

Posted by: in General on Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day and florists and candy shops everywhere are enjoying a nice bump in sales. Side note: If you need some last-minute ideas, our client, Elfcu, has a nice post on budget-friendly Valentine's Day ideas.

While some couples are making plans for a nice romantic dinner, there's another group of people who also need some love — your customers!

Now we know that your business is brimming with great customer service but it never hurts to go the extra mile now and then. While you obviously appreciate your customers and try to do everything you can to serve them, here are 14 other ways you can show a little extra love.

1. Send them referrals.

One of the best gifts you can give to your customer is a referral to a prospect. This shows that you understand their business and are keeping them top of mind. A prospect that has been referred by a trusted connection has a much higher probably of working out than other methods. Your customer will appreciate a warm referral like you wouldn't believe.

2. Celebrate their positive news via social media.

If you're connected with your customers on social media (as you probably should be… ahem) then you'll probably notice when they announce some good news. For example, FlexPAC (one of our clients) was featured in a nice story about their expansion to new space. We're super-proud of them and we were happy to share the news with our network via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

3. Ask them for feedback — personally.

Customers like to be heard. However, most organizations default to gathering feedback through impersonal surveys. While surveys are fine, try simply calling your customers every now and then to see how they are doing and what they think of your company. Listen to their suggestions and do whatever you can do address any issues. In addition to showing you care, it will help you improve your service.

4. Surprise and delight them with unexpected service.

A well-run organization needs to be mindful of profits, scalability, and capacity. However, every now and then it doesn't hurt to do a little something extra or waive a fee on something for your customers without them having to ask.

5. Cut them some slack.

You probably have some customers that are just flat-out wrong at times. Instead of arguing with them over the issue or trying to prove a point, take the high road and show them some forgiveness by focusing on serving their needs rather than proving you're right. Everybody makes mistakes and just like romantics relationships, business relationships sometimes need one party to let go of pride a little. It might as well be you.

6. Keep them informed.

You're an industry expert, right? Don't keep all that information to yourself! Periodically send your customers articles and information that can help them. It can be information from you or from other sources. Bonus: set up a Google Alert on topics relevant to your customers and stay alert to news that affects them.

7. Invite them to guest blog for you.

If you maintain a corporate blog (sure you do, right?) invite your customers to write guest posts to help them reach a new audience. The referring links and relevant content for their website will give them a little SEO love.

8. Write a guest post for their blog.

If your customers maintain corporate blogs, write content for them, as well. Nothing says "I love you, man!" like giving their marketing team a break from blogging. Not to mention it helps your visibility, as well.

9. Buy their products or services.

Look over the products and services you use in your business and see how many of those things can be supplied by your customers. You might be surprised at how many opportunities you may have missed to show some love by doing business with your customers.

10. Give them sincere reviews and testimonials.

Assuming you've done business with your customers (see #9), you can show your appreciation by leaving a positive review for them online. If really want to go the extra mile, create a video testimonial for them and send it to them to use on their website or social media properties. If this sounds daunting, grab a free copy of our ebook on producing great video for the web.

11. Be honest about flaws you notice in their business.

True love means never letting your significant other go all day with lettuce in their teeth, right? Do the same for your customers. If you notice a typo on their website or a glitch in how they are presenting themselves, politely and discreetly let them know and offer a suggestion on how it can be fixed. We always appreciate it when someone points out an error that we've made because it gives us a chance to fix it.

12. Invite them to conferences and events that could help them.

As an industry expert, you're probably plugged into all sorts of events, networking meetings, and training opportunities that some of your customers might benefit from. Bring them along and help them build their networks.

13. Make yourself (and your team) accessible.

In a romantic relationship, when one person stops returning calls and is hard to get in touch with it's not going to last very long. The same applies to the relationship between you and your customers. Return calls promptly. Interrupt internal meetings to take calls from customers. Answer emails outside of "normal business hours" sometimes. Make sure your customers get a real person when they call. Yes, it might take more work but think about a time when you wanted the same type of responsive service from a company. It makes a difference and shows that you make your customers a priority.

14. Send chocolate.

When all else fails or you just want to make a simple expression of appreciation, don't be afraid to resort to the 100% time-honored and reliable gift of chocolate, coffee, or goodies from Dillman Farm (a SpinWeb client). It's a great way to say "thank you" after finishing a project and everybody likes office snackage, right?

We sincerely hope that both your personal and your business relationships are strong this Valentine's Day. What are some ways you show love to your customers?

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