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Avoid Business Overexpansion: Will Glitter Bomb…bomb?

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It started with a simple prank idea: send a glitter-filled envelope to someone you hate and rejoice as their clothing and furniture are coated with sparkles. Throw in a reasonably-priced service and some hilarious website copy, and you have the website shipyourenemiesglitter(dot)com, founded by Australian entrepreneur Matthew Carpenter. The site quickly went viral, attracting attention from major media outlets around the world, blowing up on social media, and even mentioned on Late Night TV. But within a week, the highly talked about online service site was up for auction on Flippa.com.

In the founder’s own words, “I launched this website as a bit of a joke not expecting this level of attention….It’s taken on a life of its own, and I want to watch it continue to grow under a new owner.”

Having too many customers may seem like an entrepreneur’s fantasy come true. However, Ship Your Enemies Glitter is a cautionary tale of startup overexpansion, a business-killing miscalculation that usually results in unhappy customers and overwhelmed business owners. It is especially easy to over-expand in ebusiness, where a small business can be buried in a world of orders. Abandoned, unfulfilled orders are common occurrences on Kickstarter, where prototype products, such as Radiate Athletics’ color-changing clothing, can overshoot their fundraising targets, be left with hundreds of orders, and no way to produce the pledged products on such a mammoth scale and within a reasonable time frame.

Most small ebusinesses do not have the resources or experience to expand rapidly in order to survive a viral craze.  So, especially with a ‘can’t miss’ idea, it is important to focus on steady growth in order to sustain success. One method of managing initial growth is to gradually increase the number of people who can place orders. Bay Area food delivery app Spoonrocket, for example, offered exclusive membership to the first few people who signed up for the service before their official launch. Gradually, they allowed members to send membership invitations via email, and once their capabilities expanded (kitchens, drivers, etc), they allowed anyone to sign up for the app.

Another way of stemming an expansion crisis is by bringing in more people to help. This can mean hiring out order fulfilment to other companies, or it can mean hiring internally ahead of need and delegating tasks within the company. If you are hiring within your company (via an HR firm, a resume database service like Monster, or a native application section on your website), you already have the advantage of positive attention garnered from your growth, and this will help you attract the best talent. Begin your search by identifying the core values that have brought your company success thus far. Determine how you will identify these traits in potential candidates (through a questionnaire section or an interview question), and you will be able to grow without sacrificing the integrity of your company.

Eager customers for your business idea is exciting, but sometimes a good idea without a plan for feasible growth can spell its own doom. Don’t end up as a one person lemonade stand with a line around the block—gauge the public’s interest ahead of time, plan to expand in a manageable way, and prepare to bring real value to your customers, consistently and over a long period of time.

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What Your Data Isn’t Telling You: The Limits of Big Data

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We’ve all heard of big data—the vast analytics capabilities made famous by Silicon Valley’s power players including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon. It conjures up images of never-ending server farms– massive warehouses filled to the brim with terabytes of data–as well as the controversy stirred by the NSA’s surveillance data mining.

But while “big data” is all the rage in tech, what does it mean for your business’ marketing strategy? And what are some of the limitations of a big data approach to analytics?

The principle behind big data is simple: with our increased ability to collect and store large data sets from internet use, it is no longer necessary to collect representative samples for analysis. We can, in principle, analyze all the data that exists rather than guessing. McKinsey and Company highlights the importance of this innovation in business, stating that “established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and up-to-real-time information.”

On the other hand, an article by Tim Harford at The Financial Times points to three major pitfalls in big data analysis: false positives, sampling bias, and sampling error.

In Harford’s article, he tells the story of Target’s analytics-driven marketing efforts which offered deals on baby products to women who looked at or purchased pregnancy related products, such as magnesium supplements. While the marketing efforts were uncannily successful for some customers, Target also realized that there was potential for false positives: women who weren’t pregnant but whose buying behavior had triggered the marketing response. Because of this occurrence, Target mixed in coupons for non-baby products such as wine glasses, so as not to disconcert non-pregnant women by only sending them useless coupons for baby products.

False positives point to the fact that big data analysis is often wrong when applied to individuals, so data-triggered marketing copy should not rely on correlations being accurate indicators 100% of the time.

Another issue with big data analysis is sampling bias: the immediate assumption that your data is representative of the entire population you are analyzing. For instance, trending tags on Twitter provide a snapshot of topics of interest throughout the world, but the average age of Twitter users biases the data set toward younger subsets of the population. When analyzing the data you have, consider who might be left out of your data set and how you might collect their input to create a more inclusive understanding of the problem. By thinking outside of the given data and demographics, you might be able to pull in previously disengaged audiences.

Furthermore, Samuel Arbesman at Wired.com argues that “long data”—data which represents long spans of time—provides deeper insights than large snapshots of the present moment. He is, in a sense, pointing out big data’s sampling bias toward the present.

Sampling error is a phenomenon similar to sampling bias, but it is caused by choosing a subset of data that is biased. The most well-known example of this error is The Literary Digest’s poll of the 1936 Presidential election, which polled from auto registration lists and phone directories, biasing their sample toward wealthier Americans and erroneously predicting that FDR would lose the election. To minimize sampling error within big data, you must carefully consider which parts of your data would compose a representative sample for the characteristic you are examining.

Generally speaking, a large amount of data can be difficult to wade through since it is liable to produce flukes that are too difficult to detect within such a large set. Because bias is so easily overlooked, big data doesn’t often yield the clear correlations and answers that marketers and analysts need to make informed decisions. It can easily yield information on general trends, but it lacks precision.

The moral of the story: big data analysis is easy, but it won’t replace the brainwork behind careful, in-depth statistical analysis.

 

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Creating Content with a Point of View

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*New Year Content Strategy – The best time for B2B content marketing is right now! January and February represent huge opportunities to create content that engages prospects and convert them into leads. In this blog series, we take a look at content marketing tips to start your new year with a bang.

Here is your content mission, if you choose to accept it: Write many blogs and whitepapers on all the exciting news in your industry, post them on your e-commerce site, and then share them all across the web.

The problem is, for many e-businesses, creating enough content feels like Mission Impossible.

Whether creating content yourself or telling a third-party what you want out of their content, creativity isn’t easy. Anticipating the wants and needs of your consumers isn’t easy. If you simply regurgitate facts you read on another site, you might tick the box for relevancy, but you’re not offering your reader something new or compelling.

If you want to be relevant and compelling and interesting, then you need a point of view.

A point of view is important to creating content that interests the reader. Having a point of view is even important if you’re outsourcing your content creation. You only have to look to the top-rated programs cable news to find out that having a point of view is just as important to viewership as the news itself! Even the blog you’re reading right now has a point of view. Our point of view is that having a point of view helps you differentiate your company from your competitors.

Once you discover your point of view, you naturally develop other aspects of your brand’s identity, such as your tone, whether conversational or professional. Let’s face it. All your competitors have access to the latest industry trade magazines and new studies. It’s your unique point of view on those matters that makes your brand and company stand out above your competitors. And that’s what gets people to keep coming back.

Establishing a point of view means tackling the news, themes, and the issues of the industry you’re dealing with. Creating content with a point of view means anything from your method of attacking your customers’ paint points to your ability to dig deeper into the social effects of your business. For example, maybe you want to create a full case study describing your perspective on how a company succeeded with your solution. Or if you’re in manufacturing for instance, you might want to write a topical blog post about the rise of 3D printing.

When creating content, keep in mind that if you only discuss your solution to the customer’s problem, you come off as proselytizing. This is unappealing to read. Be subtle about your own products, and keep the focus on the customer. Ask yourself how a piece of content helps them better understand a news article, study, or their own situation. And while a dry recap of information is dull, facts are still important. Back up your point of view with facts to maintain your credibility in the reader’s eye.

You don’t just have to appeal to readers either. There are listeners and watchers too. With content as varied as blog posts, infographics, videos, webinars, and podcasts, you’ve got more options than ever to appeal to the senses of your potential customers. And once you’ve got an issue in your sights and a point of view, choosing the correct medium for creating content becomes even easier.

So the next time you’ve got a case of writer’s block, don’t succumb to copying an industry press release or repeating numbers from a study. Give careful consideration to your brand and its identity. Then take the tip of your pen and write your point of view.

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Business Presence: For B2B Companies, SEO Strategy Matters

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*New Year Content Strategy – The best time for B2B content marketing is right now! January and February represent huge opportunities to create content that engages prospects and convert them into leads. In this blog series, we take a look at content marketing tips to start your new year with a bang.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then what of the search engine? The search engine has the power to take all that has ever been written in digital ink and to present it to you with a few clicks of the keyboard. And this power is not lost on your customers.

A study from Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive shows that 89% of customers use Internet search engines to make a purchase decision.   If you have a B2B company without a coherent SEO strategy or, worse, without an online presence at all, then you are missing out on a prime opportunity to influence and obtain potential customers.

The B2B Sales Cycle.

While SEO optimization is important in the B2C market, it takes on a new dimension for B2B. The B2B sales cycle tends to be longer and customers often do tons of their own research before ever reaching out to your company via a lead form, email, or phone call. Read More …

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3 Tips from Leading Marketers on Customer Acquisition

*New Year Content Strategy – The best time for B2B content marketing is right now! January and February represent huge opportunities to create content that engages prospects and convert them into leads. In this blog series, we take a look at content marketing tips to start your new year with a bang.

In a quest to determine the #1 business goal, IBM set out into the wild to study marketers in their native habitat. They searched far and wide to survey 500 marketing professionals in more than 15 different industries. So what did they find out on their safari? In their State of Marketers report, the top business goal among marketers is customer acquisition. But the really interesting statistics in the report are those that identify leading marketers and what those marketers do differently (and better) to acquire customers.

Who Are Leading Marketers?

The IBM report found a great disparity between the top 20% of marketers compared to the bottom 80%. In terms of attitudes and practices, the leading marketers follow specific trends that strengthen their results. The leading marketers had 1.8 times better gross profit growth over a three year period and 3.4 times higher net income growth over the same period. Those are the results, but what are the tactics those leading marketers employ to maximize customer acquisition?

1. Leading Marketers Own the Customer Experience.

According to the IBM study, $83 billion is lost in poor customer experience. That’s a lot of money and a lot of unsatisfied potential customers. Customer acquisition is about taking those unsatisfied potential customers and turning them into satisfied actual customers. A good customer experience gives customers what they want. And what customers want is a personalized experience.

When you ensure your customers see the content and products that are most relevant to their unique interests, it only makes sense that they have a better experience. Whether you reduce the time it takes for them to search around your site or whether you introduce the customer to a product they didn’t even know they wanted, you stand to benefit from delivering a personalized experience. Leading marketers proved 2.6 times as likely to adjust real-time offers based on the specific context of their web visitors.

2. Leading Marketers Reach Across Channels.

One increasing trend is the customer that jumps from device to device when browsing your website and even when placing their orders. It’s not uncommon for a customer to make a broad search while on a smartphone to find a quick solution. Then the customer picks up later and browses a bunch of products while kicking back on the sofa with their tablet. Finally, they walk over to their desktop PC, pull out a credit card, and place an order.

To maximize customer acquisition of this type of shopper, leading marketers are 5.6 times as likely to optimize the experience across channels, including smartphone, tablet, and desktop. By having a responsive website that is just as capable on a smartphone as on a PC, you exercise more control over the entire customer experience with more coherent branding. Leading marketers are also more likely to use mobile-specific marketing tools, such as location targeting and mobile messaging.

3. Leading Marketers Use Analytics.

Leading marketers not only are more successful, but they also know when they’re successful. Unsurprisingly, leading marketers were the most likely to mine customer insights and analytics. With the power of data, these marketing professionals know when a campaign is boosting customer acquisition and when a campaign is barely moving the needle. By measuring and acting on real metrics, the top 20% of marketers are more likely to achieve their business objectives.

For the web, A/B testing is a great way to compare the success rates of landing pages or individual product pages. Keeping a careful eye on shopping cart abandonment rates helps you optimize checkout and improve customer acquisition. Also, by integrating eCommerce with CRM, leading marketers are also able to target individual customers for more revenue and to encourage customer retention. Leading marketers are leaders, but when it comes to data, they’re not afraid to learn.

Be a Leading Marketer!

The web gives you many opportunities to optimize your marketing. By following these tips from the top 20% of marketers, you’re more likely to improve your customer acquisition efforts. Own the customer experience, reach across channels, and use intelligent analytics to tie it all together. Get the customer, and then get them coming back for more.

 

 

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