The 5 Scariest Marketing Mistakes This Halloween

Scary Halloween Marketing Mistakes

It’s that time of year. Sugary treats are being stockpiled, costumes are being sewn, or bought, or torn (depending on your style). All your favorite TV shows are airing special episodes. Ghosts and goblins are in the air, and if you’re in Canada you’re bracing for the first frost warning of the year.

Halloween is coming!

For retailers of all colors, whether ecommerce or bricks and mortar, it’s also crunch time to prepare for the oncoming holiday shopping rush. That means it’s time to ensure that your inventory is in order, your logistics are all running smoothly, and your suppliers are easily accessible. It’s also a perfect time to be doing an audit of your marketing.

One of the most vital marketing channels for any business is email. Whether you’re sending customer newsletters, seasonal promotions, or even using email as a channel for a customer referral program. Email is still (even with the rise of social media) the best way to communicate with customers.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re email marketing machine is running smoothly. So without further ado, here are….

The 5 Scariest Marketing Mistakes This Halloween

1. Boring Subject Lines

When it comes to what you’re sending to your customers inboxes, the one element that weighs the heaviest into whether or not your messages will get read is the subject line. Despite how important subject lines are to the overall success of any email marketing effort, there are a number of best practices that often get overlooked.

  • Keep is short and simple. Most email marketing tools will suggest that you keep email subjects to 50 characters or less. That ensures that the entire subject will show up and be understandable in most common email clients, and also forces you as a writer to keep your subjects punchy.
  • Check your spelling! The only thing worse than a typo is a typo that is front and center right in the subject line. Make sure you proofread your subjects as well. Spellcheck does a great job of catching mistakes in spelling, but often will overlook grammar errors (Their vs. They’re anyone?)
  • Use power words. Research has shown that certain words will lead to higher open rates. Use them.

2. Spelling Mistakes

Poor spelling doesn’t just ruin subject lines. It can ruin and entire paragraph as well. Along with spelling mistakes, run on sentences and poor use of punctuation can also render your emails unreadable. While there are lots of tools out there built into most word processors to help with this, usually the best thing to do is just get a fresh set of human eyes. If an email is important enough to send to a customer, it should be important enough that you ask someone else to help you proof read it.

3. Spam

We all send and receive a lot of email. A lot. In fact, globally we collectively send over 180 BILLION email messages each day.

A lot of that is probably spam. One hallmark of spam is the frequency with which we get these messages. Don’t add to the problem. Sending the occasional email message to a customer is a great thing. Overwhelming them with too many is not. Make sure you have a thought out plan of attack when it comes to what messages you send, when you send them, and how many are sent.

4. Vanilla Spam

Your customers come from all walks of life. They also probably have all manner of purchase history and different stages of loyalty to your business. If you can you should leverage that data to your advantage. Tailored messages not only make the communication more personal, but can also increase engagement and click through rates as well.

At a minimum you want your emails to at least reflect your store and the value proposition you want to project. Fight back against blank messages that have no copy other than a coupon or call to action!

5. Doing Nothing

What’s the scariest email marketing mistake of them all? Not doing any. Sure we understand that a big list of best practices and things to watch out for can make email marketing a bit intimidating. We also understand that “not wanting to look like a spammer” can also be a huge deterrent. But email must absolutely be a critical part of how you engage your customers.

These days many tools are available on the market that make certain email campaigns much easier, far less intimidating and more personal to your customer as well. Take Referral marketing software. Gone are the days of generic blank coupon messages. Today’s referral programs can be tuned to your store value proposition and designed to look like they stepped right out of a designer’s screen. All without the effort and time consuming copywriting of old.

There you have it. Enjoy your Halloween, check your treat, brush your teeth, and make sure your email marketing isn’t leaving you scared!

Skyscraper technique your way to more customers

skyscraper technique

One of the hardest things about blogging is coming up with ideas for content.

You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them, and we’ve all seen them. Whether from corporate blogs, to personal blogs to blogs attached to ecommerce sites or stores, it’s the dreaded content drought. Blogs that start off with a bang, then fall off a cliff when suddenly no content gets published anymore.

More often than not, this happens before the blog even gets it’s readership off the ground. You’ll see post after post of content with no shares and no comments. As a writer I’ve been there, and I can sympathize with how frustrating that can be.

But as an ecommerce business owner, you should not give up. In fact you cannot give up, since blogging and content creation are so vital in any good online marketing strategy.

I’m going to share with you a great technique that will not only help you never run out of content ideas but also ensure that the content you create will be high quality, and highly shareable. It’s become known in online circles as the “skyscraper technique”.

It’s a pretty simple strategy actually, and like many effective strategies, it’s made up of 3 simple steps.

1. Find something that works
2. Make it better
3. Promote it

So what exactly does that mean? Stay tuned.

Step 1: Find something that works

The first step in the skyscraper technique is to find something that works. What does that mean exactly? It means your first step is to do a bit of research.

You want to do some research to find articles in your domain that have previously gotten a high level of engagement and a high level of social shares or comments. While you could try to pinpoint these posts via Google or just by manually browsing through blogs you may read yourself, there is an easier way. There are a number of tools that can help you do this.

One that I like is called BuzzSumo

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 9.52.35 AM

It’s a great tool that allows you to search for content by topic. Even better, it shows you the social engagement numbers of the content it finds. Here’s an example.

existing viral content

Now with those results I can see the type of “ecommerce marketing” content that has performed well in the past.

Rewrite something that worked

Let’s take a closer look at result #3 “7 Tips for Improving Your Ecommerce Strategy”.

This article looks like a prime candidate for skyscrapering. So now let’s go to Step 2.

Step 2: Make it better

One thing that was appealing about the article we selected was the format. Research will show that list based articles are not only high performing, but as a writer they are often easier to create. Instead of having to write one long form piece, lists allow you to break up your posts into smaller digestible chunks. In this case 7 of them.

The outline of the post is as follows:

1. Create a user oriented experience
2. Design services you’d want to use yourself
3. Customer feedback is crucial
4. Utilize social media
5. Invest in mobile
6. Incentivize customers
7. Be ever evolving

So now with that rough outline, what you want to do is try to improve on the original, following a similar format.

There are a number of ways that you can improve on each tip. First and foremost, if your writing style is different and you can add whatever personal slant you can onto a piece that in itself, can drastically refresh a piece of content. By the same token, if the piece is not brand new, you there is also an opportunity for improvement by simply updating any statistics or findings in the post.

Finally adding additional multimedia or case study examples is another simple way to upgrade a post and put your own spin on things.

Now, finally the last step.

Step 3: Promotion

There are a number of ways to promote your blog content. Simply put, you need to be putting as much, if not more effort into promoting your content as you do creating it. While there really are no silver bullets to guarantee “going viral”, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind when you’re promoting blog content.

First, get your timing right. The obvious place for promoting your content is in social media. But if you have a number of social media profiles it’s important to keep in mind the different behavior and timing that works best in each channel.

Some info from HubSpot shows the following:

Twitter:
Time: In the afternoon between 2pm and 4pm 
Day: Weekdays
Frequency: 3-4 times/day

Facebook:
Time: During the workday between 10am and 4pm
Day: Monday through Thursday
Frequency: Once/day

LinkedIn:
Time/day: before and after business hours. Not on weekends
Frequency: Once/day

Second, spend some time trying to get a killer headline. Believe it or not, there is a bit of a science behind headlines and that science is why we all, at one time or another, find ourselves clicking on the content we see from the likes of Buzzfeed and Upworthy. While much of this takes some getting used to, a simple formula you can follow is:

number + keyword + adjective + promise

For example: 7 Super Duper Ways to Spice Up a Turkey

Finally, when it comes to Twitter in particular, pay attention to the hashtags that are trending and may be relevant to your content. Hashtags are an often overlooked (and simple) way to help ensure your posts are getting in front of the right audience.

And there you have it, a simple 3 step process to help you create great content that will be shared!

5 Reasons Why Servers Make Great Entrepreneurs

There’s nothing that inspires us more here than the stories of other great entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day we can all relate to the same struggles, the same challenges. Whatever your goals are the same blood, sweat and tears will go into building a business.

One such entrepreneur I’ve gotten to know is PJ Lee, who’s the founder of Asterisk Media. You may have seen his work before, right on this page in fact. PJ was the director of the video in one of our last entrepreneur stories. The video we made with our client Ikkuma.

PJ is also a pretty awesome writer and a great guy to seek advice from. If there is one life lesson that I really do take to heart, it’s that everything happens fora  reason. This is especially true when it comes to my own career and what I’ve observed in others.

Here’s is a recent post he made, discussing how some of the past experience he’s had. Specifically his experience as a restaurant server has helped him in his own journey as an entrepreneur. PJ describes really well how some of the specific lessons he learned in the restaurant business have translated to his career now.

Take it away PJ.

 

 

Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Ecommerce SEO

Our CTO has a great saying. He says that the hardest part of any project is “getting to 1″. Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish; whether it’s building a new software application, training for a marathon or building an online business, the hardest part is getting started. Once you’ve got that under your belt you can then leverage the momentum you’ve new got to keep going.

When it comes to building an online business, one of the most common topics we get asked about is SEO or search engine optimization. Specifically how to get started with ecommerce SEO. What are keywords? How do I find the keywords for my online store? What the heck is a long-tail? Where exactly do I use keywords in my ecommerce store? etc…

So like most people we decided the best way to address some of those “getting started” questions was to write a whitepaper :)

The objective of this whitepaper wasn’t to be entirely comprehensive. But to help beginners (and even veterans loking for a new take on SEO) “get to 1″

Please leave any question, comments, or suggestions in the comments below.

Why Shopify Will Win The Platform War

If you run an enterprise level e-commerce shop right now chances are you’re running Magento Enterprise or you run a custom built shop. If you’re looking to start your online boutique right now, chances are you’re deciding between Shopify and BigCommerce (some version of a hosted e-comm platform). Magento GO decided fold up shop so they are no longer in the conversation.
I’m not going to get into a features/price comparison here, for that you can do some further investigation here: Shopify vs Magento – An Epic Battle.
Currently there is a clear demarcation line that separates these two platforms. Shopify solves the barrier to entry challenge with lower overall cost of ownership and ease of use. Magento addresses the enterprise’s need to fully customize their e-store to fit their needs (albeit at a price).

But I’m going to tell you why I think Shopify will power the vast majority of e-stores in the next 5 years. And Shopify will dominate regardless of size, number of products sold or need for store customization.

History Repeats Itself

In 1999 a group led by a former Oracle executive launched an interesting software product in the burgeoning CRM (customer relationship management) space. The product was widely ridiculed as a marketing ploy. My friends from Siebel, Oracle and SAP dismissed it as a fad with a shaky business model at best. The company was called Salesforece.com and that fad turned into a movement called SAAS (software as a service).
I see that same pattern repeating itself with Shopify (although Shopify is much further along the path of acceptance). Shopify is democratizing e-commerce much in the same way Salesforce.com democratized enterprise class CRM software for small to mid-sized business. But Salesforce.com didn’t convince the Fortune 500 to adopt the SAAS model overnight. The movement was accelerated by empowered users of Salesforce.com moving up from running CRM in small organizations to larger enterprises. With that movement came the firm belief that salesforce.com could be deployed successfully within any enterprise regardless of size.
I see the same movement happening with Shopify and much more rapidly to boot. The hundreds of thousands of small to mid-sized Shopify shops will grow, or the people running those shops will move onto operate larger shops bringing their allegiance to Shopify. The rate of adoption is staggering and it’s only a matter of time before this adoption seeps into large enterprises.

Customization ALWAYS Stunts Growth

A custom made suit is beautiful because it’s made especially for you. But Zara and H&M will always outpace custom suit makers in growth and scale. The key to Shopify’s growth will be the nature of the hosted platform itself. Shopify’s decision to lockdown the backend is annoying for shops that want to customize but it’s a huge benefit for the growth of a community. Thousands of developers and partners can develop on a consistent and standardized platform. Magento also boasts a lively partner community. However, each Magento store is a slight variation from one another and thus one must custom fit any third party solution to a Magento store. This slows down the growth of community. You’ve heard the saying “An unlimited number of monkeys on an unlimited number of type writers will produce works greater than Shakespeare.” The ease of integration and the sheer mass of the Shopify community will help push Shopify to greater heights. This same scenario played out between Salesforce.com and the market leaders of that time Siebel. By the time Siebel launched their version of a cloud based solution it was too late.

When Will This Happen? It’s Happening Now.

I’m already anticipating your denials. Sure, there are e-stores right now where Magento or a custom e-shop is the better solution for you than Shopify. Shop.ca is built on IBM Websphere and I wouldn’t recommend Shop.ca use Shopify as a platform. But the movement is happening and it’s happening now.
I’m seeing a growing migration of Magento customers who realize the costs they incur with running a Magento enterprise shop is not worth the benefits they’re experiencing. They’re realizing that it’s not about customizing a process to fit the desire, rather it’s re-working the desire to fit into process best practices. And for those who absolutely feel the need to customize, Shopify offers the PLUS program for enterprise level clients. Google, The L.A. Lakers and Tesla are just some of their clients currently on the PLUS program. You can check out http://www.shopify.com/plus for more information.

The rapid growth of Shopify amazes continues to amaze me. They have the right talent and tool to execute their growth strategy. My prediction is that they will win the e-commerce platform war within 5 years.

Note: My company Toocoo is a Shopify app partner with 2 products on the App store. Our flagship product Forewards is a fully automated customer referral engine that fits on to any Shopify e-store turning customers into sales reps. We are quickly becoming the referral engine of choice for Shopify clients. Visit http://forewardsapp.com for more information.