The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service

It’s just a few weeks into a new year and unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve been exposed to interviews with White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway. She has masterfully demonstrated how to dodge questions, provide “alternate facts” and generally frustrate the media in their efforts to get to the truth. In a recent interaction with Samsung, I’m convinced that the customer service agent received training from KellyAnne, as I’ve never experienced such a roundabout set of back-and-forth email communications from any major brand — ever!

KellyAnne Conway[Editor’s note: Update — Today, White House officials told CNNMoney that Kellyanne Conway has been sidelined from TV appearances because her comments last week about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn contradicted those of the White House. On Fox News, she denied being sidelined.]

It’s just a few weeks into a new year and unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve been exposed to interviews with White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway. She has masterfully demonstrated how to dodge questions, provide “alternate facts” and generally frustrate the media in their efforts to get to the truth.

In a recent interaction with Samsung, I’m convinced that the customer service agent received training from KellyAnne, as I’ve never experienced such a roundabout set of back-and-forth email communications from any major brand — ever!

Let me start with a little background: I don’t know about you, but I am not happy when it comes time to replace my mobile phone. Just as I get all my settings to work the way I want, and can flick screens, open apps and manipulate my device with minimal effort, the device inevitably starts to fail. First, it started shutting itself down when my power level fell below 50 percent, then it would freeze at the most inopportune moments, and finally, when it refused to hold any charge at all, I cried “Uncle!”

Okay, all you iPhone owners can start snickering now … because I own a Samsung Galaxy (and no, not the kind that self-ignites), and have done so since my Blackberry became a dangerously obsolete option (I still miss that qwerty keyboard!)

I braced myself for that ugly visit to the AT&T store. The one where no one seems to know how to import my contacts, or set up my email; true in keeping with my past experience, I was in the store for a full two hours and left with my old phone, a new phone and a promise to return in 24-hours after I had figured out how to set up my Exchange Server email myself. But that’s a story for another day.

The fun really started after I was upsold a Samsung tablet for $0.99 in the AT&T store. That probably should have been my first clue …

About 24-hours after my purchase, I received an email from Samsung congratulating me on my Tablet purchase and offering me 30 percent off on a tablet cover. Since I planned to carry my Tablet in my bag as a notepad, I figured a cover was a wise purchase decision. I copied the promotional code, and clicked the link.

The landing page presented me with a number of colorful Tablet cover options. I carefully looked at each one, compared the colors, the way they opened/closed, made my purchase selection, pasted the promotional code and checked out.

But when the Tablet cover arrived 10-days later, it was too big for my Tablet!

I immediately went to the Samsung customer service link and advised them of my plight. The customer service agent, Brian, started the conversation just like KellyAnne had taught him. Repeat the key word used in the question, but take your answer in another direction.

Even though I had clearly laid out the details of my transaction, Brian advised me that if my tablet type and the tablet cover purchased “matched” I would be offered a full refund. Since this was my first clue that there was a “tablet type” we all know where this is going … clearly they were not going to match because the cover didn’t fit!

After a very convoluted set of email exchanges, it turns out there are multiple tablet types, and even though Samsung knew what type of tablet I had purchased (it’s all about BIG data!), it never occurred to Samsung marketing people to send me to a landing page that presented tablet covers that would actually fit the device I had purchased. Instead, knowing I might own multiple tablets and want to purchase one for every tablet I owned, they presented me with all their tablet cover options. Never once did they point out “make sure you select a tablet cover that fits YOUR particular tablet type” or “Hey you idiot, there are multiple tablet types. Check your receipt to learn which tablet type you purchased and match it to the tablet cover.”

Call me dumb, but I honestly thought marketing would have linked their email to a landing page with covers that fit my device, and then offered a link to additional covers in case I owned additional devices. Now that would have made for a smooth customer journey.

Brian was not very helpful either. He ignored any facts relating to the email conversation I presented, he was dismissive of any data exchanges between AT&T and Samsung, and his reality was that I made a purchase error … and it was all my problem. Golly gee, KellyAnne trained you very well!

Now I can’t decide if I should pay to return the cover and get a new one, or simply sell the cover on e-Bay or sell the cover and the Tablet and call it a day. If you’re interested in any of these options, email me and I’m sure we can cut a deal that doesn’t involve Russia.

5 Reasons to Add Bing Ads to Your Search Campaign

Put simply, you shouldn’t ignore Bing Ads just because it’s dwarfed by Google AdWords. Microsoft has invested heavily in Bing’s success and those efforts are paying off. Bing Ads offers a viable alternative option for connecting your business with new, potential customers. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to make Bing Ads part of your long-term marketing plan.

bing logoIt’s easy to overlook Bing Ads when planning your online marketing efforts.

Google is the undisputed king of search with more than $67 billion in ad revenue in 2015 — by comparison, Bing finally achieved profitability in the first quarter of this year with just $1 billion in revenue. To describe Bing Ads as Google’s little brother might be too much of a compliment. Search is Google’s world, and Bing is just living in it.

Still, Bing has proven itself as a viable upstart in the search business. In April 2015, Microsoft renegotiated its contract with Yahoo to allow Bing’s ads to appear on 51 percent of Yahoo desktop searches — a nice boon for Bing’s bottom line. Microsoft also sold Bing’s display network and map data assets, streamlining the platform’s approach toward search. And now Microsoft is broadening Bing’s potential by incorporating it in several emerging products and technologies. You’ve heard of Cortana in Windows 10? Yep, that’s powered by Bing.

What does this mean for you, a small business owner?

Put simply, you shouldn’t ignore Bing Ads just because it’s dwarfed by Google AdWords. Microsoft has invested heavily in Bing’s success and those efforts are paying off. Bing Ads offers a viable alternative option for connecting your business with new, potential customers. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t hesitate to make Bing Ads part of your long-term marketing plan.

1. Bing Ads Are Often Cheaper and More Effective

As you could probably guess, most advertisers turn to Google. AdWords is really your only option for reaching the largest number of consumers with the least amount of effort.

Bing is much smaller than Google in terms of reach and revenue — which also means there are far fewer advertisers on Bing’s search network. And that means less competition for marketers who want a piece of Bing’s action. And less competition means cheaper costs per click — up to 33 percent less, according to some studies.

Not only is Bing usually cheaper, but advertisers also get higher ad positions than they would on Google’s more crowded search network. And higher ad placements usually result in higher click-through rates and conversions! Even though Bing doesn’t reach nearly as many people, these benefits are enough to make Microsoft’s ad platform attractive.

2. Bing Ads Let You Effectively Cut Off Tablets

Google caused a collective groan from PPC marketers by taking away the ability to block traffic from tablets. In Google’s eyes, tablets are the future of home computing and should be treated the same as desktops. For everyone else, tablets are giant smartphones both in how they function and how people use them — and that means lower CTRs and conversions than desktop searches.

Similar to Google, Bing has altered its device targeting options so tablets and smartphones can’t be completely turned off. However, Bing allows for incremental bids to be set on both types of mobile devices. Want to turn off tablets? Simply set your incremental bids on tablet traffic to decrease by a substantial percentage. It’s not a bulletproof way to ensure you’ll block all tablet traffic, but at least you won’t spend much money on the few clicks that slip through.

3. Bing Ads Let You Choose Your Partners

Want to choose between advertising on Google or its search partners? Well, you can’t. Google doesn’t let you choose one or the other. Either way, you’re stuck with Google’s primary network. You also don’t get to see which search partners might be running your ads. This is a problem because, while search partners often provide cheaper clicks, sometimes that traffic drastically underperforms.

Bing, on the other hand, gives you complete control. You can advertise only on Bing and Yahoo, or only with search partners — or you can run your ads on all platforms. Also, if you choose to target search partners, you can run reports to see exactly who those partners are. You can then take the additional step of blocking underperforming partners from running your ads. It’s a fantastic benefit that can make search partner targeting so much more worthwhile. And you can’t get that with AdWords.

4. Bing Ads Give You More Control Over Demographics

AdWords allows plenty of demographic targeting options for the Google Display Network, but demographic targeting isn’t an option for search network advertisers by default. Note that it’s possible to get demographic targeting for Search, but you need to go through a Google rep to get it turned on in your account.

Bing Ads, on the other hand, offers both gender and age targeting options by default. This is handled similarly to device targeting — rather than completely block certain demographics, you can decrease bids to specific demographics to effectively exclude them from your campaigns. These adjustments are made at either the campaign or ad group levels, giving you the ability to split test different ad groups with unique demographic targeting settings.

5. Bing Ads Are More In Tune With Social Extensions

A strong social media following is a strong indication of being an online authority — and that’s why Bing started testing social extensions back in 2014. If your business has a large Twitter following, then Bing’s automated social extensions will display your number of Twitter followers alongside your ad. It’s a meaningful extension that can boost your ad’s credibility and help drive conversions.

AdWords also has social extensions, but only for Google Plus. And who uses Google Plus? It’s no secret that Google has bent over backward pushing its social media platform, but Bing’s social extension provides a much more meaningful and socially relevant benefit.

Want more Google AdWords Tips?  Click here to get the Ultimate AdWords checklist.   

Are Coupons the Key to Mobile Marketing?

Mobile commerce has exploded in recent years—and mobile coupons are responsible for much of this growth. In fact, mobile coupons are redeemed 10 times more than print coupons and the number of mobile coupon users is expected to reach 53.2 million by 2014. Combine that with the increase in mobile usage by consumers on the go, and it’s clear that mobile coupons are the perfect solution for growing your small business and attracting customers on the hunt for discounts through their mobile devices.

Mobile commerce has exploded in recent years—and mobile coupons are responsible for much of this growth. In fact, mobile coupons are redeemed 10 times more than print coupons and the number of mobile coupon users is expected to reach 53.2 million by 2014. Combine that with the increase in mobile usage by consumers on the go, and it’s clear that mobile coupons are the perfect solution for growing your small business and attracting customers on the hunt for discounts through their mobile devices.

The Mobile Marketing Opportunity Is Real
eMarketer estimates that nearly 20 million US adults will redeem a mobile coupon this year, including coupons or codes received via SMS, applications and mobile web browsers; quick response codes for redemption online or offline; and group buying coupons purchased via mobile. More than 70 percent of US adult digital coupon users will redeem a coupon or code on a mobile device for online or offline shopping in 2014.

The mobile coupon audience will post double-digit growth rates annually through 2016, driven by continued smartphone and tablet adoption and the proliferation of digital channels offering coupons easily accessed by mobile, such as mobile apps, daily deal and group buying sites, email, and social networks. eMarketer expects that by 2016, mobile coupon users will represent nearly 83 percent of all digital coupon users. This is huge!

The Revenue Opportunity
There are a number of different ways to engage consumers and drive revenue opportunities, including:

  • Coupons: Mobile coupon redemptions in the U.S. will exceed 53 million this year. The mobile coupon audience will post double-digit growth rates annually through 2016, driven by continued smartphone and tablet adoption. (Source: Business Insider 2014)
  • Geo-Targeting: Geo-targeting has boosted the success of SMS-delivered coupons, with retailers seeing high redemption rates from coupons sent to consumers close to their stores.
  • Loyalty Programs: Consumers expect to be rewarded for brand loyalty, particularly millennials. A 2014 poll by Bond Brand Loyalty indicates that 6 in 10 millennial respondents would switch from brands they buy and two-thirds would change when and where they shop, if it meant getting a better loyalty program.

Don’t Forget the Tablet
Year after year, tablets are becoming an increasingly important part of a brands mobile strategy. According to eMarketer, in 2014, 80.2 percent of mobile coupon users will use a tablet for redemption, compared with 75.4 percent who will do so on a smartphone. Tablets are frequently used for in-home digital purchases, which boost tablet coupon redemption.

Coupons, geo-targeting, and loyalty programs can be offered, tracked, and monetized with a mobile engagement platform. Additional revenue opportunities include banner ads, mobile video, rich media and SMS campaigns. But keep in mind that more friction points in the redemption process will greatly reduce the use of mobile based offers. So keep it simple for consumers to redeem your offers.

The data from Black Friday on-line shopping as well as coupon redemption data from Cyber Monday should tell an interesting story for retailers who have made a strong commitment to mobile couponing to drive commerce and increase total purchases by incentivizing their consumers.