How ‘Frienemy Marketing’ Can Save Your Online (and Offline) Business

With the economic climate as crazy as it’s been, now more than ever businesses large and small are looking for creative ways to increase visibility, sales and leads. One effective way is to leverage the relationships with your ‘friendly’ competition. By friendly, I mean synergistic and respected formidable adversaries with a like-minded community of followers to your own.

With the economic climate as crazy as it’s been, now more than ever businesses large and small are looking for creative ways to increase visibility, sales and leads.

One effective way is to leverage the relationships with your ‘friendly’ competition. By friendly, I mean synergistic and respected formidable adversaries with a like-minded community of followers to your own.

You can look to this niche for opportunities to help grow your list and add extra revenues to your bottom line. Even better, this can be done for virtually no out-of-pocket cost.

This is a great way to leverage your content and increase market share, enhance brand awareness, grow sales and leads, and establish credibility with a new, yet synergistic list.

As a consultant, and even back in the days when I was leading the marketing efforts at top publishers, it’s important for me to be “strategically creative” and deploy as many no-cost online marketing tactics as possible for greater return on investment (ROI).

I like to concentrate on the marketing and editorial relationships I have forged with fellow publishers and aggressively pursue ad swaps, guest editorials and joint ventures (JV). I’ll explain a little more about these three opportunities in a moment.

With “frienemy marketing,” the idea is to develop synergistic relationships that are mutually beneficial—to look for areas of deficiency in your competitors and think of ways your company can fill the void.

One potential partner may have a great front-end product (e.g., a low cost e-book) but no up-sell (e.g., a higher-priced related kit containing DVDs, CDs and workbooks). Another potential partner may have an innovative back-end product but no cost-effective front-end product to bring new customers in the door. Still others may have large, qualified lists but need editorial to bond with their lists.

Some tips to keep in mind when looking for partnerships with friendly competitors:

Do your homework. Find out, in advance, who will be at industry events that you’ll be attending. (Check the program for speakers, vendors and participants.) Sign up for their e-newsletters. Read their promotional emails. Maybe even purchase some of their products.

Look at EVERY opportunity as a way to maximize your company’s brand during presentation breaks, lunch time and cocktail parties. When you go to industry events, don’t eat dinner alone in your hotel room. Go to functions. Mingle. Network. Have a genuine conversation with a potential partner … then, if there’s a synergy between your two companies, exchange business cards.

Before you contact a potential partner, get familiar with his products and target audience and figure out how your company may be able to dovetail with his product line or marketing efforts.

So, once you’ve made the connection, now what? You need to look at potential marketing and editorial opportunities …

Ad swaps are a form of revenue sharing. Typically, this can be a text or graphic ad two publishers place in each other’s e-newsletters and each keep 100 percent of the sales they get from their respective ads, no strings attached. Other things to know: Both list sizes should be close in circulation size, hence the reciprocity. You both keep any sales or email addresses collected, and call it a day. Know your “opportunity cost”—the “cost” you will incur for running an outside ad to your list instead of your own ad. If you normally sell ad space in your e-newsletter, this cost could simply be the flat rate fee you typically charge. Or, if you know the average revenues an issue brings in, you could calculate the potential “missed opportunity” of letting another ad run to your list on a given day. You should also agree to share important information with your partner. Before his ad runs in your e-newsletter, point out any creative issues. Provide your partner with your e-newsletter’s sent and deliverability sizes, open rate and ad click rate. Exchanging performance data is critical to a long and mutually beneficial relationship. It has to be a win/win situation for the partnership to work.

Guest editorials are offering content (editorial) that is relevant and targeted for an external publication and reciprocate. This is a great way to get introduced to a new list with the “implied” endorsement of the publisher. His endorsement gives you credibility. And if you provide his readers with good, solid, useful information, they will bond with you quickly.

This is a soft-sell approach that may or may not yield results on its own. At the end or beginning of the article is an Editorial Note or Byline, which can have author attribution, back-link to your website and short sentence for cross-selling, which help with sales, traffic generation and link-building efforts.

Joint ventures are similar to affiliate relationships, with the difference that instead of an affiliate program that is openly marketed, this relationship is more personal—it’s usually a company that you’ve built and cultivated a relationship with and are looking forward to a variety of ongoing business ventures down the road. There’s more of a vested interest. This is a quick and cost-effective way to make money with your list even if you have not yet developed any products.

To determine the viability of a potential JV product, there are several strategic marketing variables to consider. I like to think of them as “PPPGS”:

P = Product quality
P = Price point
P = Performance (when promoted to your potential partner’s house list, as well as to outside lists)
G = General market demand
S = Subscriber interest (when promoted to your list, as determined by feedback, surveys, etc.)

Remember, with “frienemy marketing” you’re looking for long-term partners, not one-hit-wonders. So carefully select the people you approach, making sure their products, brand and message make sense to your business … and, together, you can reap the unlimited profit potential of this underutilized business builder.

Today’s Top Marketers Are Translators, Publishers of Utilities

You can’t control customers anymore. You need to enter the conversation or risk becoming an irrelevant brand. And when you start conversing, you must be transparent and humanize yourself. You need to be monitoring the pulse of your brand image, mapping customers’ social graphs and architecting personas. Sound familiar?

You can’t control customers anymore. You need to enter the conversation or risk becoming an irrelevant brand. And when you start conversing, you must be transparent and humanize yourself. You need to be monitoring the pulse of your brand image, mapping customers’ social graphs and architecting personas. Sound familiar?

But rather than look at these typical Web 2.0 statements as valid, let’s question them at the core. No, you haven’t lost control of your customers. No the conversation they’re having about you isn’t really new … it’s just amplified and expedited by the social Web. Your brand image is “humanized” and you are honest with customers.
The truth is that what social media gurus and content marketing experts are offering as business advice is often outside of the context of a very important question:

“How can I use digital media to create sales, better products and improved experiences for my customers?”

Many social experts are well-intended but selling the wrong answers to the right questions.

If we continue to believe the hype-and-spin—that the rules of business have forever changed—we risk believing that engaging, tweeting and friending is more important than making sales or capturing leads. Or believing that somehow all we need to do is “do social media” and the sales will roll right-on-in.

Creating sales and leads using the social Web demands we see the big lie as a lie: The fundamental rules governing your business have not changed! There is no social media revolution … just a chance at evolution.

Leading social marketers are now translators. They’re discovering customer need, analyzing it, feeding it back into marketing programs and amping up optimization—generating more leads, more often.

The opportunity is to discover hidden customer need, tonurture and capture it by publishing and by creating knowledge-based utilities. That’s how I see it. How about you?

13 Things You Must Do This Year To Boost Your Biz! Part Two

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

[Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a two-part series.]

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

Today, I’m wrapping up the list with even more tips and tricks to get the most out of your marketing efforts (and marketing budget!) this year.

7. Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. If PPC is new for you, then don’t start out with the big guys like Google or Yahoo, run your “test” campaign on smaller search engines such as Bing, as well as second-tier networks, such as Adbrite, Miva and Kanoodle. In addition, you must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

8. Free Teleseminars or Webinars. These are a great way to collect names for list building, then cross-sell to those names once they’re in your sales funnel. You can use services like FreeConferenceCall.com, where it’s a toll (not toll free) call. But in my experience, if the value proposition of the subject matter is strong, people will pay that nominal fee. Promote a free teleseminar or webinar to prospects (that is not your internal list). Remember, this is for lead generation. So your goal is to give away valuable information in exchange for an email address. You can have a ‘soft sell’ at the end of the call and follow up with an email blast within 24 hours. But the most important thing is getting that name, THEN bonding with them through your editorial.

9. Free Online classified ads. Using CraigsList or similar high traffic classified sites is a great way to sell a products or get leads. The trick is ad copy that is powerful and persuasive, as well as geo-targeting—picking the right location and category to run your ad in. Hint: think of your ideal audience. Ads are free, so why not test it out.

10. Reciprocal Ad Swaps. One of the best kept secrets in the industry: Some of your best resources will be your fellow publishers. This channel often gets overlooked by marketers who don’t give it the respect it deserves. In the work I do for my clients, I spend a good portion of my time researching publishers and websites in related, synergistic industries. I look for relevant connections between their publications (print and online) and list (subscribers). Let’s say I come across a natural health e-letter that has a list of readers similar in size to one of my clients, who is a supplement manufacturer. Since many of their audience share similar interests, cross-marketing each other products (or even lead gen efforts) can be mutually rewarding. Swapping ads will save you money on lead-generation initiatives. Since you won’t be paying for access to the other publisher’s list of subscribers, you can get new customers for free. The only “cost” is an opportunity cost—allowing the other publisher to access your own list. It’s a win-win situation. This technique also opens the door to potential joint-venture opportunities for revenue sharing (sales).

11. Guest Editorials and Editorial Contributions. Another popular favorite used in the publishing industry is editorial contributions. This is where you provide quality editorial (article, interview, Q&A) to a synergistic publication and in return get a byline and/or editorial note in your article. In addition to an editorial opportunity, this is a marketing opportunity. You see, within the byline or ed. note you can include author attribution plus a back-link to your site. Some ed. notes can even be advertorial in nature, linking to a promotional landing page. Relationship networking and cultivation come into play when coordinating these, as it’s usually someone in the editorial or marketing department that spearheads such arrangements. These are great for increasing exposure to other lists, which can be beneficial for increasing market share, bonding, sales and lead generation efforts.

12. Snail Mail. Direct mail is still a consumer favorite—and another good way to get your sales message out. It can be especially effective used in conjunction with another effort, such as an email campaign. Studies indicate that 70 percent of respondents prefer receiving correspondence via mail vs. email. As with any marketing medium, though, you can end up paying a lot between production costs, list rental costs, and mail shop/postage costs. The most costly direct mail packages are magalogs and tabloids (four-color mailers that look like magazines). However, 6 x 9 postcards, tri-fold self-mailers and simple sales letters are three low-cost ways of taking advantage of this channel. Note that copywriting, list selection and geo-targeting can be crucial for direct mail success, no matter which cost-effective mail format you pick. Although 100 percent ROI (return on investment) is what you should aim for, many direct mailers these days are content with 80 percent returns. This lower figure takes into consideration the lifetime value of the names that come in from this channel, because they are typically reliable buyers in the future and snail mail address are more solid—they don’t change as often as email addresses.

13. Print Ads. This is another channel that gets a raw deal. One reason is because it can be costly. To place an ad in a high-circulation magazine or newspaper, you could shell out serious money. But you don’t need a big budget to take advantage of print ads. If you don’t have deep pockets, consider targeted newspapers and periodicals. Let’s say you’re selling an investment report. Try using the Internet to research the wealthiest cities in America. Once you get that list, look online for local newspapers in those communities. These smaller newspapers hit your target audience and offer a much cheaper ad rate than some of the larger, broad-circulation publications. You end up getting quality rather than quantity. I once paid for an ad in a local newspaper in Aspen, CO, that had a flat rate of less than $500 for a half page ad. My ROI on this effort turned out to be more than 1,000 percent. Most important rule: Know your audience. That will determine placement and price.

Mobile Marketing’s Must-Attend Events for Fall 2010

Mobile phone sales continue to defy the global economic slump. Smartphone sales grew nearly 49 percent between Q1 2009 and Q2 2010, according to analyst firm Gartner. More than 314 million smartphones and feature phones shipped in Q1 2010 alone, 17 percent more than one year earlier.

Mobile phone sales continue to defy the global economic slump. Smartphone sales grew nearly 49 percent between Q1 2009 and Q2 2010, according to analyst firm Gartner. More than 314 million smartphones and feature phones shipped in Q1 2010 alone, 17 percent more than one year earlier.

All of those figures add up to an enormous opportunity for brands and marketers, including those looking to add interactivity to advertising campaigns that center around traditional media such as print, broadcast and billboards. That’s because whether consumers are buying their first Java ME feature phone or upgrading from an older smartphone to the latest Apple iPhone, that handset is now one of the most effective ways to build a brand, promote products and distribute coupons, to name just a few ways that mobile marketing is used today.

But there are no slam dunks in mobile marketing. Success depends on understanding factors such as the types of mobile phones used in a particular market and how that affects campaign strategies.

For example, at the most recent Mobile Marketing Forum (MMA Forum), held June 7-9 during Internet Week New York, one speaker noted that in India, 33 percent of SMS traffic is media content and/or advertising. Why do so many mobile marketing campaigns there use SMS? Because virtually every handset and network in India supports text messaging, and because SMS is affordable for more of the population than other types of data services.

If you missed the New York MMA Forum, there are plenty of other opportunities to get up to speed on mobile marketing. The first is by checking out some of the success stories presented at the New York MMA Forum, such as Lipton Tea’s mobile campaign that grew sales 47 percent, or the several brands — from florist chains to detergents — that reported 20 percent response rates for their mobile campaigns. Those and other highlights are recapped on the blog of one of the event’s many renowned speakers, author Tomi Ahonen.

The second opportunity is to attend one or more of the upcoming MMA Forum events. Each one provides an overview of mobile marketing, along with actionable insights into the world region where the event is held. The next three MMA Forum events are:

Latin America: Coming Sept. 2 in São Paulo, Brazil, this event will feature case studies of successful campaigns in Brazil and other regional countries.

Europe, Middle East and Africa: On Oct. 5-6, MMA’s Forum series will bring together leading marketers from across the world to share their experiences, challenges and successes with the mobile channel.

North America:
The final 2010 Forum on Nov. 17 in Los Angeles will feature speakers from across the mobile ecosystem, including many leading global brands and agencies.

The diversity of locations reflects the fact that although the mobile channel’s reach and effectiveness spans the globe, each region has unique market conditions, opportunities and needs. The New York event highlighted those by featuring insights from all four MMA regional directors, who represent Asia Pacific (APAC); Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); Latin America; and North America.

All of the MMA regional directors provided plenty of real-world examples of mobile marketing’s bottom-line benefits. For instance, in the U.K., the Ariel detergent brand sent text messages to 400,000 housewives, achieving a 20 percent response rate and boosting in-store sales. In Japan, the AXE Wake-Up Girls mobile campaign increased deodorant sales 300 percent, a success that’s been duplicated in countries such as Turkey, too.

But don’t just take my word for it; see for yourself this fall.

Attribution is the Word of the Day

I’ve just returned from a few days in sunny Florida, attending the Direct Marketing Association’s Retail Marking Confernce 2010, and the main takeaway I received from it was that multichannel retailers today are struggling with attribution.

I’ve just returned from a few days in sunny Florida, attending the Direct Marketing Association’s Retail Marking Conference 2010 (RMC), and the main takeaway I have from the event is that today’s multichannel retailers are struggling with attribution.

Attribution is determining which of your marketing vehicles is reponsible for generating consumers’ purchases. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For example, a catalog and search can share credit for a sale.

While attribution in the retail world is often viewed strictly as a way to figure out which online marketing programs — e.g., search, affiliate or display, social media — are responsible for the most sales, it also refers to figuring out which sales channel (online or off) are bringing in the most dough.

It’s a tricky thing: Old-line catalogers at the event claimed catalogs drive more online sales than websites or search efforts. E-commerce guys, on the other hand, said websites are where sales occur, so attribution should be credited to them. Email marketers were in the mix, too. They believe email messages received by opt-in consumers are the main driver of in-store and online sales.

Attribution is even more important these days, as corner offices are closely watching marketing teams, who are operating with tighter budgets, to see if spending is being accurately assigned.

The issue of attribution was discussed in several sessions at the RMC. A preconference intensive session led by Al Bessin, a partner at multichannel direct marketing firm LENSER, for example, discussed how customer and transactional information from multiple sources, such as website reports, email service providers and order management systems, can help marketers figure out which channels are working to ensure they’re spending their marketing budgets in the best ways possible.

Attribution was also discussed by Chad White, research director at Smith-Harmon, a Responsys company, in his his closing keynote.

White correctly identified attribution as the missing link, citing an Epsilon study that found 33 percent of permission-based email recipients said they usually visit a brand’s website directly after receiving an email about that brand, instead of clicking on an email link. So, he said, “online conversions attributed to email may be undercounted by as much as 50 percent.”

White also discussed an attribution experiment performed by REI, the outdoor gear merchant. In an effort to test email attribution, REI withheld emails from a certain group of customers while continuing to send them to another, and began monitoring sales. When the test was completed, REI discovered it was overstating the impact of email on online sales since a good portion of customers still bought even without receiving an email.

However, White said, “after determining email’s impact on store sales, which email previously got no credit for, REI discovered that email contribution to total sales was actually twice the level of cookied sales.”

So what’s the answer? Which channel drives the most sales? It’s really hard to tell, and it’s not an exact science. Whether you’re at a large company that has the resources to institute an attribution modeling system or a smaller company that performs witholding tests, it’s still a crapshoot, in my opinion. How can you really know why a customer decides to buy something?

How do you handle attribution? I’d love to hear from you.

Amid Gloom, eBags Has a Happy Dec. 1

From an e-commerce standpoint, it’s hardly surprising that we can “officially” use the R-word (recession) now. Cyber Monday’s sales pace was considerably slower than it was last year, according to a bevy of reports, which, of course, is unprecedented.

From an e-commerce standpoint, it’s hardly surprising that we can “officially” use the R-word (recession) now. Cyber Monday’s sales pace was considerably slower than it was last year, according to a bevy of reports, which, of course, is unprecedented.

But for at least one e-tailer — eBags.com — there’s some good news to be found. Cyber Monday 2008 sales were up 6 percent over last year for the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based online seller of bags and accessories, according to Co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing Peter Cobb. In addition, traffic was up 23 percent, a company record. The early evening, in particular, was highlighted by three straight record sales hours.

Cobb attributes eBags.com’s success to several Cyber Monday marketing initiatives:

  • negotiated steep discounts with many of its product vendors; as a result, had more than 1,000 products with special deals beginning on Black Friday, dubbed “Web Busters”;
  • temporarily converted its homepage into a Web Busters page showing 15 deals and contained links to 1,000 other Web Buster offers;
  • offered 20 percent off all merchandise on the site on Cyber Monday;
    if customers used PayPal, they received an additional $10 cash back;
  • allowed visitors to view 125 product videos on its site and also promoted a humorous video eBags.com produced explaining Web Busters;
  • sent 1.1 million e-mails to its opt-in members prior to Black Friday promoting the Web Busters sales, Web Busters video and other special offers; and
  • secured homepage placement on CyberMonday.com, a Web site that features special Cyber Monday deals each year; in fact, a big eBags.com promotion was the exclusive deal on CyberMonday.com from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. MST. Eighty-five percent of the CyberMonday.com site traffic was new to eBags.com, Cobb says.

“With all the negative press about the economy and the fact that Cyber Monday is five days later this season, it pushed us to think creatively about offers that would appeal to shoppers,” Cobb notes. “We have more planned to keep the positive momentum going through the holidays.”

DM Hiring Down

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

But in my inbox this morning, I was greeted with a real clunker: According to a press release from Berhart Associates Executive Search, continued layoffs and more hiring freezes appear to be on the horizon for direct marketers this spring.

According to the latest Bernhart Associates employment survey, 54 percent of the companies responding said they will be filling new positions during the current spring quarter, down from 58 percent last quarter. The percentage of companies that have imposed a hiring freeze jumped to 19 percent, compared with 13 percent last quarter and more than double the rate just six months ago. Planned layoffs remained unchanged at 12 percent.

A total of 129 companies responded to the random survey that waa e-mailed the week of April 1.

Jerry Bernhart, owner of the Owatonna, Minn.-based search firm that conducted the survey insists, however, that there is some good news in all of this.

“If you look at what’s going on now and compare it with what happened during the last downturn in 2001-2002, things are still holding up better on the jobs front,” said Bernhart, in the release. “All of our indicators were weaker back then. Direct marketers this time around are turning more to hiring freezes and doing what they can to avoid significant cutbacks in staff. They know that when things turn around, talent will be more difficult to come-by.”

Even in the current environment, said Bernhart, many companies are still having a
challenging time finding qualified candidates for certain positions. “Nearly
three-quarters of those responding said they are having some degree of difficulty filling
openings,” said Bernhart. “For the most part, these jobs are more specialized lower to mid-level positions, or they are in geographic locations where the available direct marketing labor pool is relatively small.”

When asked what positions will be in greatest demand during the coming three months,
Bernhart said sales dominated the list. “This is similar to what we saw during the last downturn. Many companies apparently believe that a good way to weather an economic downturn is to increase the effectiveness of their sales force, and that’s exactly what
many of them are doing.” Bernhart said analytics was a close second, followed by account managers.

So, I guess there is still some hope, I guess.

Online Sales Continue to Climb, Despite Struggling Economy, Study Finds

Want to her some good news amdist all of the bad news surrounding the economy?

According to The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report–the 11th annual Shop.org report based on a study conducted by Forrester Research of 125 retailers–online retail will continue to be a bright spot in the industry with retail sales rising 17 percent this year to $204 billion.

Want to her some good news amdist all of the bad news surrounding the economy?

According to The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report–the 11th annual Shop.org report based on a study conducted by Forrester Research of 125 retailers–online retail will continue to be a bright spot in the industry with retail sales rising 17 percent this year to $204 billion.

Apparel ($26.6 billion), computers ($23.9 billion), and autos ($19.3 billion) will be the largest three sales categories.

According to the report, online retailers allocate 53 percent of their marketing budgets to online customer acquisition and 21 percent of marketing dollars to online customer retention. However, retailers are finding that traditional acquisition programs such as search engine or affiliate marketing may also serve as retention tools that attract existing customers as well as new shoppers.

Retailers report that search engine marketing continues to be the most effective way to reach new customers, citing 35 percent of sales coming from that initiative. As a result, nearly all online retailers surveyed (90 percent) use pay-for-performance search placement, and 79 percent said they will make this tactic an even greater priority this year. Companies are also using offline marketing tactics to drive customers to the web, with catalogs and other direct mail pieces taking priority over methods like television and newspaper advertising.

Though free shipping offers have proven to get some consumers over the obstacle of shopping online in the past, the study showed that retailers’ are less interested in promoting free shipping options this year. While 85 percent of online retailers said they used some shipping with conditions promotions in the past, just 35 percent said that they would focus more on these types of promotions in 2008. Instead, retailers are eager to experiment with Social Computing initiatives to attract customers – 65 percent and 55 percent of retailers respectively said that social network advertisements and widgets would be categories of increased focus this year. However, Social Computing efforts to this point have been considered more effective for brand-building and less proven for driving revenue or sales conversion. Therefore, the report advises retailers to continue investments in proven techniques like email marketing and free shipping promotions to drive sales.

The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report is currently available to Shop.org members and can also be purchased directly at www.shop.org/soro08.