I talk to customers every day who run their own businesses and rely on Emma to share their story and connect with their customers. I recently had the opportunity to connect with Christy Farr, a life coach here in Nashville, and I learned how she used Emma to take her one-woman company, Seeds & Weeds Coaching, from maintenance mode into a period of high growth.
With a little planning and a lot of heart, Christy created a community of clients with a 30-day Sick of Being Stuck email series and breathed new life into her own business. Read on to hear Christy's story, in her own words.
1. Tell us a little bit about a day-in-the-life of a life coach.
My day is an ever-evolving balance between empowering others and managing "the business" of empowering others. Every day starts with writing – blogs, class materials and newsletters – then it's to the phone for coaching sessions with clients, group coaching with students or a book study. Throw in networking over vegetarian Indian food; collaborating with other coaches, healers and teachers on new projects; and looking for more powerful ways to serve my community, and you can piece together any given day in my world.
2. How has Emma helped you grow?
Emma helps me grow by meeting me wherever I am, no matter what. And every single time I get stuck, Emma has what I need to keep moving forward. When I needed to maintain my contact list and mail a monthly newsletter (aka, lick my wounds from the violent experience I accidentally had with the dark side of virtual marketing for life coaches ... only a touch of exaggeration here), Emma was there. And believe it or not, last summer when I faced the possibility of closing Seeds & Weeds Coaching (essentially for lack of engagement from the community I was trying to serve), it was Emma that helped me bring the business back to life.
I know how that sounds, but it's actually true. After two and a half years, the business still wasn't sustainable. Even more disheartening than the poverty (literally), was knowing that I wasn't doing what I was born to do. If I was reaching "enough" people, I'd be making "enough" money. If working for someone else could could solve both of those problems, it was time to consider the possibility. The decision felt impossible, and every time I would meditate or write or talk about it with someone else, I heard the same lesson in my head again and again. Maddeningly, it's something I always use to cultivate ideas in other people: You already have everything you need to take the next perfect step in this journey.
Rather begrudgingly, I agreed, "Fine, I have everything I need." A quick inventory revealed that I had only three things I could use to give this business one more chance: Me, Emma and the idea that when any of the gardens of our lives are unwell – body, relationships, money, creativity, spirituality, etc. – we can radically transform the situation by releasing that which no longer serves us from our physical environment. That was all I had, so I went for it, and "Sick of Being Stuck September" (SOBSS) changed, well, everything.
3. Creating a 30-day email series requires a lot of planning and content. What's your secret to success?
The program included daily clutter-clearing challenges, articles, group calls and community support, and I managed the entire thing through Emma. Now, I wish I could tell you that it was premeditated and smooth, but that would be a lie. This was, after all, my Hail Mary pass, and it took everything in me to get those emails crafted and sent every day with everything else that SOBSS stirred up.
There were times that I was writing emails at 1 a.m., climbing up the stairs and crashing for a few hours before I was up again getting the children off to school. Toward the end of the month, some of them were even written the morning they went out. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. Six hundred people signed up for that program, more than doubling the size of my newsletter list. And when I say everything changed, I mean the "now I have coaching clients, a monthly class with students actually paying to come, and the book is on the editor's desk" kind of everything changed.
I suppose that the secret to my success really boils down to integrity. I did everything in my power to keep promises that I made to myself (pursuing my dream), my family and the wild and wonderful people who said and continue to say yes to the Sick of Being Stuck invitation (crafting and sending the emails). To be clear, it's not perfect, but it's my best, and my students can affirm that my perfectly imperfect is enough to rock their collective worlds.
4. Where do you draw inspiration?
That one is easy. I'm inspired by what's not working. I believe that our struggles and challenges are a direct result of living out of alignment with the truth of who we are as individuals. The coaching, writing and teaching allow me to address the needs that my clients, readers and students bring to the table. When something stinks, they bring it to Seeds & Weeds, and we work together to craft a new way of being for them, a shift into thoughts and actions that will cultivate better results. I've found that when we are willing to accept lessons from the natural world, our lives can begin to bloom.
5. You can invite any four people to happy hour. Who'd be there?
Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Anne Lamott, Dolly Parton and Ellen DeGeneres.
From a sunroom in Atlanta to rainmaking in Africa: How Margaret Gearing connects with her audience
The garage claims pride of place in many great beginnings. Storied men from Walt Disney to Steve Jobs launched their companies with little more than a bucket of dreams and a bench.
So I find it fitting that EOS Marketing & Communications originated in an Atlanta sunroom. Named for the Greek goddess of the dawn and founded in 2005 by ad mavens Margaret Gearing and Susan Frost, EOS started with bright ideas aplenty (and even a coffee table). Seven years later, EOS' accoutrements are more lavish: their office boasts a "Collaboration Center" with a 25 foot writing wall, and their full-service roster of goddesses (and a guy) cover everything from cause marketing to design to media coaching. No matter if the space is great or small, EOS' motto, "new day, fresh perspective" abides.
They're all about connecting and inspiring their audience to take action. In my chat with EOS' President, Margaret Gearing, we covered EOS' approach to email marketing, nonprofits with global impact and more. It's an interesting agency succes story, and it's my pleasure to share it with you.
From desktops to iPads to QR, it seems we'll be communicating on an area the size of a contact lens any minute. So about that 25 foot writing wall — how does all that brainstorming fit in the incredibly shrinking ad space?
The board is a collaborative means to an end. Having so much white space allows us to explore every facet of an idea, and everyone gets to contribute. The belief is: everything is possible, let's just write it down. We identify the big idea much more quickly this way versus tomes and reams of data that distract from edgy thinking.
How do you maintain a brand's voice across the marketing mix while tailoring it to the audience and medium you're targeting?
We start our strategic program by trying to come up with the big idea — the compelling proposition that will engage people. We try to keep it at its simplest level possible; even if you were sitting down to explain this to your mom, you'd be able to easily describe it. The last thing we ever think about is the medium in which these things will appear. We base it on whom we're trying to reach, customizing the tactical tools that best reach them.
I'll give you an example of what we're doing for MillBridge, a real estate development in North Carolina, and how we're building Emma into it. For this project, we've taken a new approach. Instead of writing for MillBridge, we're having the people who live there tell MillBridge's story in their own voice. We're looking at Gen X'ers, Millennials and empty nesters. The common denominator amongst all three is the same: people want a sense of community. They want a sense of authenticity.
We've done video interviews with everyone, including the elementary school principal. The voice in that kind of message comes across honestly, and it's better than anything I can write. You hear an empty nester saying, "This is the home I've always dreamed about. Jim and I started out life in a little Corvair, and everything we owned fit in it. Today we live here in this beautiful home." The viewer is right there in her living room, listening to her say this. If I wrote that, you're just going to dismiss it as some marketing person making stuff up. With the testimonials, you really get a sense of who's living there today — funny things people say, and the personality of the place.
What we've done with MillBridge is an example of taking a traditional, single family home community and turning it a little bit on its head. This Christmas we had a Lighting of the Bridge event that tapped into the iconic, romantic nature of the bridge that runs through the community. It resonates with prospects who want to be a part of it. Our message is, "We happen to have a lighting of the bridge." We don't add, "… on a special night in December with sparkling lights that glitter through the sky." No. We don't do that. We just let people talk, and they bring it to life.
My intuition about the market today is that most people want one thing: respect. That you think their time is important enough for you to tell the tale well, and that you would humbly appreciate them being a part of whatever it is you're doing. Respect and humility go hand in hand.
People have choices so you have to walk in their shoes to recognize what's important to them. Which is why you have to keep a lot of tools in your toolkit. Different things resonate with different types of people. If you're pregnant, you want to be near great schools. Seeing a school principal in a MillBridge video makes you feel good about the community.
Once we have that little gem of an idea like, "The things that bridge us together," that's what flourishes and moves out into social, e-blasts, etc. Email will play a bigger role in our efforts for this North Carolina community because we will have prospects. And we will want to talk with them on a regular basis.
How does a real estate developer go about finding and connecting with new prospects?
Everything we're doing is driving people to the website to sign up. Period. The number one objective of our traditional media is to reinforce the brand statement on the website. It's not to do the sale. It's about allowing people to find the content they want, and view testimonials from others. Our belief is that we're going to have an easier time getting people to sign up or register once they are able to do this.
When I look at Emma and email marketing for MillBridge, I look at them as a link to getting the audience into a bigger experience which is the website, and ultimately into allowing us to have their name and letting us talk to them — not marketing to them, but talking to them.
EOS has a passion for giving back. Can you tell us a little about the work you've done, and share a tip for other nonprofits that are trying to inspire their audience to act?
We work with the Replenish Africa Initiative from The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (RAIN). The promise of RAIN is clean water. Africa is so huge as a continent that no one company can take on this challenge; it takes the efforts of many. Consequently, when we started that campaign, they wanted a donation mechanism built in. So we had to look at this from a different point of view: what's the simple, big idea that will make that happen?
The idea was to start a social water movement, supported by people called RAIN Makers. We developed a tagline to engage and excite our audience: "Drops of hope, waves of change." An emotional positioning immediately engages people.
We're trying to reach socially responsible people who care about the planet. And that happens to be the younger generation. There's a global consumer movement afoot, insisting that companies are cognizant of the natural resources they're using, and consequently do something meaningful to minimize their footprint and give back.
Email will play a part in this, but it will probably be small at first. We're starting the rollout in South Africa, and we know the penetration of internet across the continent is pretty low. So we're going to have to leapfrog and do things like mobile marketing. In the U.S., we can go out through email and blogs and other areas. Emma is built into our database now on The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation's website. Our ultimate goal is creating email followers in order to maintain close contact.
As you can see in our Daybreak email campaign celebrating the first decade of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the photos are compelling, the stories are short and sweet, and you have a link to see the timeline on the website so it gives you a sense of what the bigger picture is.
My one tip for nonprofits is to get people to believe they make a difference. A lot of nonprofits ask for donations like it's a one-shot deal. The challenge is making people feel like they're part of a bigger movement, pushing that rock up a hill. A lot of it has to do with language — being completely transparent with a certain level of humility, and not asking for too much. Just whatever people can do. I read Wendy Smith's book, Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World, before we started working on RAIN to understand how to help people find simple ways to make a contribution.
The other huge thing I've learned through RAIN is to show success and progress, and provide attribution to those who did it. The names make it real and bring it to life. Our map talks about who we're helping and how we're helping. Sharing results shows that the mission is happening now; it's real.
It took a lot of moxie for you to strike out on your own and launch EOS. What was your theme song when the going got tough?
Okay, I had two theme songs. First, Eminem's, "Lose Yourself." Its chorus goes like this: "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip? You can do anything you set your mind to." The other is the classic Sting anthem, "Brand New Day."
We talk email marketing, social media strategy and staying focused during the holidays with Dan Levak, Director of New Media for the NFL's Falcons
With the football season in full swing and the holiday season approaching, Dan Levak is a busy man. He directs the Atlanta Falcons' interactive marketing efforts and manages their digital media staff, keeping Falcons fans engaged with their favorite team on a variety of web properties, social mediums and mobile platforms. He took time to share details about the Falcons' email and social media strategy, plus how the team navigates their holiday schedule.
Read on for a glimpse at the Falcons' fine-tuned approach — you'll be as impressed as I was.
How do you use Emma to reach your fans, and how often do you send emails?
We understand that people have more email than they know what to do with so we try to be very disciplined about limiting and consolidating our messaging. We send a weekly e-report that's a digest of significant events, stories and news. We also send a "pre-game" season ticket holder email filled with useful game-specific information relevant to folks attending the game — such as when the tailgate lots open that week, pre-game entertainment options around the Georgia Dome, etc. We also send various one-off emails to fans that opt in for various value propositions: ticket specials, third-party offers, etc. Again, because of the avalanche of email people face today, we are very selective of these third-party offers — there has to be true value to Falcons fans, or we won't send it. On occasion our senior leadership team needs to directly address our fan base, and we use Emma's platform to send out "Letter From…" emails crafted to look like they're on Falcons letterhead. And we also utilize Emma for what we call operational purposes: season ticket renewal information, reminders for deadlines, applications for season-long parking passes, etc. It sounds like a lot – and in the aggregate, it is — but we are very conscious of timing and frequency of our mailings.
Who works on the Falcons' email marketing strategy, and how do you set priorities as a marketing team?
We work under an empowerment philosophy. That's one of the main reasons we're with Emma — the ease of use of the platform. I've used several large enterprise email marketing platforms throughout my time with the Falcons, and many of them require two-day training sessions just to understand how to deploy a single campaign.
Emma's platform was clearly designed with an emphasis on user interface — it's so easy to learn and use. We've been able to empower various departments throughout the organization to deploy their own email campaigns. Our Ticket Office is a prime example. Folks generally aren't experts using HTML or CSS, but we set up very flexible templates that allow them to enter their own content & graphics, schedule their emails, manage their own lists and even monitor their own analytics. It's taken much of the burden off of our digital media group, and it allows them to be much more spontaneous when spur of the moment campaign needs arise.
What's your most popular content, and how do you continue to come up with fresh topics?
We continuously ask the question: "If I were a fan, and I didn't have access to our players, coaches and front office, what would I want to know right now?" It's actually easy when you simply turn it around and always look through the fan prism.
You also use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to reach fans. What's your social media strategy?
The $64,000 question. There's so much focus on "social strategy," and yes, we have a very specific one with very tangible strategic goals layered with discreet tactical measures geared toward achieving them.
Without going into too much detail, our social media strategy is centered around two things: be consistent in our interaction and be authentic. We are all bombarded by so much information in our lives. Social media platforms –- especially Facebook & Twitter –- along with the mainstream penetration of smartphones and tablets has created shorter and shorter attention spans among consumers. The mediums are so much more efficient, but this has paradoxically made it more difficult to get your message across. So when someone takes the time out of their busy lives to reach out to us –- via an email, a message board post, a comment on our Facebook page, an at-reply on Twitter –- then we OWE that fan a response. Even a simple acknowledgement that "yes, we heard you" goes a long way. Rewarding someone who invests their valuable and increasingly scarce time with our brand is one of the most important things we do.
And authenticity is paramount. It's not just adhering to the basic customer service tenets of acknowledging your mistakes and not sugar-coating or trying to BS your customers. Authenticity is also about relevance. I created a filter internally that we all use when deciding whether or not to put something in front of our audience on Facebook or Twitter. It's very simple, really. We ask: "Why does this fan care –- what's in it for them?" There MUST be a genuine value proposition, or we're not going to clutter up someone's timeline and risk our users tuning us out on Facebook. For example, if an automotive corporate partner came to us and asked us if we would publish a wall post to our Facebook page announcing their new model year lineup, we would decline. It's not specific enough to our audience, and generic messaging is the bane of effective social media. But if we pushed back and worked with this partner to create a program whereby you visit a local dealership and purchase one of their vehicles in a given month, you get a pair of season tickets for next season –- well, that's different. That's something Falcons fans can embrace and want to know about.
Finally, we look at these social mediums as an extension of our online presence, and we're not focused on our dot-com site's major metrics the way we used to be. Uniques, page views, time-on-site is important, to be sure, but their significance is wrapped in the context of the overall universe — including social. I think making sense of social analytics and being able to derive truly actionable business intelligence from them is a major market opportunity.
This season, you'll play New Orleans the day after Christmas and Tampa Bay on New Year's Day. Any special tricks for maintaining focus around the holidays?
We never have issues maintaining focus. We're all so passionate about our careers and pro football in general — this is what we love to do. What is difficult at times is not being able to spend traditional holidays with your family because the NFL schedule requires you to either play a game or be traveling to a game on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Everyone in this business understands that taking a few vacation days or a full week off around the holidays isn't realistic. It's what we signed up for, and it's one small con in an industry that's filled (literally and figuratively!) with pros.
Do the Falcons have any holiday traditions as a team?
Hopefully we'll look back 10 or 15 years from now and say our holiday tradition each season was getting ready for the playoffs. Our owner provides a unique opportunity for all the business units that make up the Blank Family of Businesses to come to Falcons headquarters on a weekday for a mid-December holiday luncheon. It's a great opportunity to meet and visit with folks who share your culture, but not necessarily your day-to-day experience.
We also partner with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for an annual holiday ornament drive. Each year we design a unique ornament, and each one has the number of one of our roster players on it. We manufacture several hundred of each roster number, then the players get together and sign all of the ornaments with their number. Fans can then purchase the autographed ornaments (they're tax-deductible). Because of demand for our highest-profile players, fans don't specify which player's ornament they receive — they're randomly sent out, and it's the luck of the draw. It's a fantastic program that benefits one of the best nonprofit children's hospitals in the nation.
Describe what your company does and what makes you stand out in your industry.
Animatics manufactures motion control systems including servo motors, table top robots, gear heads, controllers, shunts and power supplies. We are best known for the creation of the SmartMotor, an integrated servo motor that encompasses an encoder, controller, amplifier and drive all in one, and can be programmed directly from any laptop in a million different ways for any industry application. Our products are used in multiple industries including aerospace, food, semiconductor, automotive, entertainment, etc. SmartMotors can pretty much be used in any machine that moves.
How do you use Emma to communicate with your audience? Which features are your favorite?
Our marketing efforts, and the way we use Emma, is dual purpose. One audience is our value-added distributors: independent resellers such as Minarik, Onexia, Bertelkamp Automation and others that sell our products to end customers. We communicate with them, and they pass along whatever gets their attention and will be useful as sales tools. The other audience is our end users: primarily machine builders, design engineers and manufacturing specialists who build our motors into their larger machine designs. We use the email campaigns as the primary B2B marketing channel to both of these groups as it's the quickest and most efficient way to get both groups the information they need.
Favorite features would have to be social media buttons and the tech support. I love the social media share buttons and use the campaigns for most of my Twitter and LinkedIn news. Originally we were using a home-coded mail merge program that didn't have response tracking or social media capabilities, but now we've increased our emails from one every three months to one every two weeks with Emma's help. Emma tech support is also great. Any questions I have are answered immediately, and I have yet to have a problem that hasn't been solved.
You send email campaigns every two weeks. How do you keep your content fresh?
We use the email campaigns for a number of things: product announcements, company news, case studies, new marketing collateral and more. Being able to send out content in multiple categories as well as pushing to always innovate and improve our products usually gives us a lot to talk about.
Let's say your friend from out of town has four hours to spend in Santa Clara. What's on the must-do list?
Come visit our office, first of all! Get the tour of the training rooms, production (where the magic happens) and some of our new "toys" like the mini mill and SmartMotor powered artwork. We are right across the street from California's Great America theme park (close enough to hear people scream from the tops of roller coasters during our lunch) so I would say that's at the top as well. Then, go to a San Jose Sharks game!
What's the last song that was playing on your iPod?
"Ding" or "Music Monks" by Seeed. It's reggae musical sound with German rap lyrics. Sounds ridiculous but after you hear it, it becomes addicting.
5 questions with a twist: Read or watch our interview with one of Emma's agency partners
I had the pleasure to chat with Mike Lieberman of Square 2 Marketing, a strategic marketing consulting firm focused on small and mid-size businesses. They help clients refine their brand identity and marketing goals through "Reality Marketing,™" the process from which they build unique strategies for all of their clients.
We covered everything from how email helped one of their clients land a $150k job to the best running shoes on the market. Read on to see how Mike handles Emma's 5 questions, and if you'd like to watch part of his interview on video, you'll find a link to do so below.
Tell me a little bit about your role at Square 2 Marketing.
My role has changed a bit over the past couple months — primarily I'm focusing on helping our company increase its national footprint. We already work with clients across the country, but I'm currently working on building some strategic partnerships with companies like Emma and a few other technology companies out there that will help Square 2 Marketing become a real national player. In addition to that, I'm the Chief People Officer here at Square 2, so my goal is to bring in the best and the brightest people and make sure they have a remarkable experience with our firm as well as providing our clients with a world-class marketing experience when they engage with us.
What do you see changing and evolving in the marketing industry?
If you readers want to *hear* what I think about the marketing industry, they can head on over to our site to watch the video. When I went to college and when most people think about marketing, they think about what they learned in school, which is, "reach and frequency." ("Tell as many people about your company as much as possible and eventually when they need you, they'll remember you.") That model is so far from effective these days, that when I mentioned how we help people think differently about their marketing, a big part of what we do is try and help our clients understand why that's no longer effective.
I read an article that said, "Consumers are inundated with something like 3,000 ads a day." We're all just numb to advertising. It's interruptive, and there are so many tools out there to eliminate advertisements from our lives, so the "reach and frequency" approach is no longer working. When you throw on top of that the things that have happened with the internet — social media, Google's dominance of search and the natural occurring conversations that are so popular these days in social media — you'll see that marketing has become an exercise in creating remarkable experiences for your customers and the kind of stories that they can share with other similar kinds of people. Then, those stories become the content that you use to leverage through social media, search, email and your website, which all facilitates sharing. There's a huge movement about how to re-educate people on how to market their companies. It's challenging because it's not easy to do it this new way. It's much easier to buy an ad placement and hope the phone rings, but it's no longer an effective use of your marketing dollars.
With Reality Marketing, a high return on marketing investment is one of the tenants. This new kind of marketing fits in very nicely with the kind of marketing strategy we create for our clients. It doesn't cost a lot to do a blog post. It doesn't cost a lot to do an email campaign, and they're very effective if you have the right content. The content is where we see a lot of clients falling down, and why we talk to our clients so much about marketing strategy, and why we have started an initiative to work with other agencies to help them with their strategy. We want to help agencies improve the performance of email marketing and other marketing tactics so that their clients are happier and offer more referrals. We've even created an eBook to teach them how. Agencies can be good at what they do — building websites, creating email campaigns, doing search marketing — and we can provide the strategy that guides the content and creates the stories that makes those businesses remarkable. I think that's the core difference between marketing now and marketing even two or three years ago.
How do you implement that marketing strategy into your clients' email campaigns and surveys? Do you have any success stories?
We implement our Reality Marketing and Marketing Machine™ approach the same way with all of our clients, and it's a requirement to doing business with us. We've literally turned down business of clients that don't want to do it our way because we know "our way" is effective, and we have a track record of making it successful. We know if we don't do it our way, we're not going to be doing our clients justice. When it comes to email and surveys, they all become components of our "marketing machine." Planning for that marketing machine is done within the first four to six weeks of all of our client engagements. Going into it we already know our email campaign topics, the voice of our client, the messaging strategy and the differentiating factors. When it comes to doing the monthly, weekly or bi-weekly emails, everything falls in line.
One of the things we learned from our clients early on is that it's not the desire to do emails or surveys that holds them back, it's the uncertainty of what to write about. That can be a big road block. When you're a business owner, or even a marketing person, and you're in your day-to-day, and realize it's time to do an email, yet you don't know what you're going to write about or how it fits in your overall strategy, it becomes a more daunting task. Typically what ends up happening is it gets put off and gets put off some more, and now what was supposed to be a weekly email campaign is now a bi-weekly email campaign, a monthly email campaign, or, even worse, it comes out sporadically — all of those things are ineffective when it comes to building up trust within your client base, sharing stories and getting them to think differently about your company. They have to see that you're organized, showing thought leadership, and that you have stories that are compelling. Then you have to educate them and advise them, giving them information that's going to help them do their jobs better or make their lives easier. All of that work has to be done upfront because when it is, the email campaigns become quite easy — we already know what we're going to say.
One of my favorite stories is of a client that we worked with very early on that was a little skeptical about email. This client builds very large additions or extensions onto fairly large homes. So, if you have a million dollar home, they would come along and put the $200k addition onto your home. We started working with them, had the strategy created and knew it was going to make this business special. Our client already had some fantastic stories that we were going to leverage. When it was time to do the first email campaign, he sent over his email addresses and was a little shy that he only had about 150 or 200 emails. He wondered if he should even do this, if we thought it was going to be worthwhile. Our advice was absolutely. We had to get started somewhere, and who knows what was out there with these 200 email addresses. We designed his template, wrote his email and then sent it to a couple hundred people. Within four or five hours, our client got an email from an older client, who he had done a $150k barn renovation proposal for. The guy replied to our client's email and followed up with a phone call to say that he was so glad our client had reached out to him, that he was ready to move forward with his project and he really appreciated our client's patience. Our client saw right away the value of having that ongoing communication with clients. In his particular situation, it resulted in a sale of $150k.
Who is a company that you think really knocks it out of the park with email marketing and branding?
My brand crushes are probably more related to the remarkableness of a particular company and product because I find that when it comes to tactics (we didn't invent email marketing or websites), a lot of companies execute them very well. When I'm impressed by a brand, I'm impressed by their ability to stand out in the market. For this question, I have an obvious choice and then a more obscure one.
My obvious brand favorite is Apple. They don't need to do any marketing. I think they do it simply to keep the board of directors happy. You don't need to see an advertisement for an iPhone or an iPad. Everyone is talking about them. Everyone is chatting and tweeting about them. The lines are out of the door for people to buy these products. They have a remarkable product and experience. When you go into that Apple store, the workers in there are using their own products, taking your name on their iPad to serve you. You barely have to wait, and when you do wait, you're entertained by their products and what's going on there. The amount of activity in those stores is unbelievable. I'm attracted to the Apple brand simply because of the remarkable nature of that business. But, that's an easy one.
My more obscure brand crush is Vibram Five Fingers. I'm a runner, and they make a pair of shoes that make it appear you're running barefoot. They're actually becoming more popular because a lot of articles are being written about them, whether they're good or bad for you. But, when I saw these, what my kids call "toe shoes," in a camouflage color, I couldn't help but wear them all of the time. It's a remarkable experience. I feel fantastic when I run in them. I can run farther distances, and my feet feel great. It feels like I'm not wearing anything at all, and no matter where I step, my feet are safe and secure. I'm hugely impressed with Vibram's ability to create a remarkable product and then get the word out purely through buzz. They don't market. They have a great website, but it's conversations on social media, referrals through friends and articles that people have written about them. They've taken the concept of being remarkable and leveraged it from a marketing perspective. They've created the space, and now the other sneaker companies are stealing their idea, which is fine — the more the merrier. I'm impressed with their ability to create a remarkable product and do something special with it.
Forget about marketing, most importantly — plain or peanut M&Ms?
Peanut M&Ms. No question about it.
Describe your role in eight words or fewer.
Entrepreneur, VP at Vocus, Small Business Evangelist
What's the most interesting thing happening in your industry right now?
The horrible economy is inspiring tons of people to make that radical change and start their own small business. It's exciting as hell.
What inspires you?
Attempting that which has never been done before. Fear tastes good.
Which companies are leading the way in social media and customer service?
Morton's Steakhouse, United Airlines, Starwood Hotels
What brand do you love right now?
About to turn my whole bathroom into one giant Moen Faucets and Fixtures bazaar, so I'd say them.
And a sixth bonus question …
You can invite any four people to happy hour. Who'd be there?
Richard Branson, Hugh Hefner, Bill Clinton, Jason Statham
Mountaineers Books' digital media manager talks about audience engagement, triggers and more
Tell us a bit about Mountaineers Books. What sets you apart?
We are a nonprofit book publishing company, which is pretty unique. We were started by our parent company, The Mountaineers, an outdoor organization/club in Washington state. We have been dedicated to creating outdoor titles for over 50 years, and have grown to include two imprints, Skipstone Books (green lifestyle) and Braided River (conservation advocacy). In a time when publishers are scrambling, we're working on mastering social media, redesigning our website, offering the most digital content of any outdoor publisher and becoming an email marketing super power. Plus, we're crazy about the outdoors, which makes us super cool.
How long have you been using Emma, and how has the size and composition of your list changed?
We began using Emma in December of 2010. Our list started with people we'd gathered over the years with our old system. Using Emma, we created a mildly complex signup form that asked for name, email, state and outdoor interests. This way when we have a book coming out about stand up padding, for example, we can send our email only to the people who identified that they enjoy water sports. This has kept our open rate around 30-40%.
With our homepage signup form, we've only gathered 130 new names since December. But, in early March, we began offering small sections of our books to people using custom signup forms and triggers containing downloadable content, and we've gathered 1,409 (over 900 coming from one single download promotion) new names since the program began. With the hiking season in full effect, I'm creating downloads of free hikes like crazy, and the signup numbers have continued to rise!
We recently partnered with the Washington Trails Association, offering people who visit their site a free hike from our Backpacking book if they sign up for the Washington Trail Association and Mountaineers Books newsletters. Using our Emma signup form and a trigger, we gathered 956 brand new email subscribers in just five days. Five days!
I want desperately to learn the interests of our original subscribers (who we don't have that info for). I even offer people a discount each quarter for updating their preferences and telling us their interests.
Using custom signup forms and triggers to offer content from your books is a fantastic idea! Tell us how you set this up and the kind of content you create.
We publish hiking guides, narratives about climbers, how-to books and more, so we have a lot of great content that is easy to piece out in small sections without losing the feel of the whole book. I ran a report of our top selling web titles of 2010 and began making small downloads for each book. Take our book, Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region, for example. From the digital book version I created three individual hikes people could download. I created three different signup forms in Emma, each with the name of the hike I would be offering. So, I made a PDF of the Twin Sisters hike, then made a signup form called Twin Sisters and then an email campaign called Twin Sisters. In the email campaign, I included the book cover, details about the hike and a link to download it for free. When someone submits their info to the Twin Sisters signup, they receive the Twin Sisters email with the download link. I place the signup forms on our book product page, as well as on our Freemium Download library for maximum exposure. I tweet about new downloads on Twitter and then repeat this process for all the books I can.
I'm gathering names like crazy. People are happy to subscribe to our newsletter if it means they can check out a free hike/route/content/how-to. Trying out the free hike usually leads them to buy the book. Plus, they already like what we offer, so the unsubscribe rate of our 2011 signups is amazingly low.
Some folks might say that this kind of customization is too time-consuming. How would you respond?
It is time consuming. Very much so. But things that work well that come easy just don't really exist. If gathering engaged signups in large numbers was easy, none of us would be reading the Emma blog! For a book publisher, getting our content online is critical. So I'm dedicated to doing the work that I need to to ensure that we get new subscribers that are interested in what we have to offer. The turnaround is worth the work.
Are there additional Emma features you use to reach your audience on a personal level?
I live for search and segment. And triggers. Those two features sold me on Emma. We try to mass email our list only about four times per year. The topic has to be broad enough to ensure we don't lose a bunch of subscribers, or I wont send it. Beyond that, I love using search and segment to find all of the people who live in WA and enjoy hiking, for example, so that when I have a new Washington hiking title coming out, I know just who to tell in our next email. That keeps my unsubscribe numbers low, my click-throughs high and my open rates skyrocketing!
Give trigger emails a try for yourself. Read how-to steps in Emma's Help Guide.
We love connecting with the agencies that fuel our local communities, and chatting with Kim Phillips from Lucid Marketing was no exception. Kim was kind enough to let me pick her brain about how she uses Emma for her clients and how she stays inspired when the economy is less than booming. Read on to learn more …
Describe your agency and what makes you different.
We're a one-person shop that helps small and some not-so-small companies take advantage of all their communications options, from social media and website content management, to old school, tried-and-true solutions like direct mail. It's kind of rare to get strategy, writing and design all in one place, without using a large agency.
What's the most interesting thing you see changing and evolving in your industry?
By far, the most interesting thing is how technology is giving businesses of any size the ability to do the same kinds of marketing that used to be reserved for places with bigger budgets. Change is the operative word — daily, even hourly, new tools pop up. It's a whole new world, every day, and it's never boring.
How do you stay on top of trends so that you're a go-to resource for your clients?
Mainly, we stay curious. We subscribe to blogs by the experts in various aspects of online marketing, and we watch how others use technologies and techniques to see how they might benefit our clients. We network via social media, and we utilize partners for highly specialized and deeply technical work.
How has Emma helped you grow?
Being able to offer a technically rich and visually stylish email platform like Emma makes our job easy. We especially appreciate the metrics that are built into Emma, because they help us to analyze what our clients' readers are most interested in. It's so much more than the "open rate;" we track every link and use the information to create more content like that.
Of course, we use Emma for our own marketing in the same ways we use it for our clients. We try to cross-pollinate between all the ways someone can encounter our brand — through our website, blog, email, social media, direct mail. We repurpose and revise to reach people in the way they want to be reached. We use all the social sharing options; haven't used surveys yet, but soon!
Where do you draw inspiration?
Honestly, from our nonprofit clients — the combination of a tough economy and a mandate to spend donated dollars wisely makes it doubly important for nonprofit clients to be creative in how they reach people. They have to work really hard to understand what will move the public to get involved, to volunteer, to donate. The competition for philanthropic dollars is fierce. Luckily, technology has made it possible to reach a lot of people fast, like with email marketing and social media. We just have to get the messaging right.
Lastly (and maybe most importantly), what's your karaoke song?
Well, I don't do karaoke — but if I did, I could totally get behind Aretha Franklin's version of "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." I even accidentally sang to an entire Wendy's restaurant because I didn't realize the drive-through mic was on.
Lisa Wells answers 5 questions and talks about increasing awareness
As the director of marketing for UroMed, Inc., Lisa Wells is armed with leadership experience in public relations, marketing communications and web-based product management at medical device and healthcare/human resources tech companies. She shares some of their most inspiring successes, including how the company helps thousands of people with disabilities.
What does UroMed do, and how do you use Emma to communicate with your audience?
Most of our customers have chronic conditions like Spinal Cord Injury, Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis and Transverse Myelitis, or have recently undergone surgery for serious conditions like Prostate Cancer and are currently using catheters. UroMed is one of the nation's leading providers of urological and disposable medical supplies.
We began using Emma in January 2011 as a way to communicate more effectively with thousands of customers, as well as medical professionals and nonprofit organizations that help people with urological conditions. Our monthly newsletters employ a vibrant design and relevant, fresh content that caters to our readers.
You sponsor a nonprofit program called Life After Spinal Cord Injury — tell us about a recent success using email and social media to share news about LASCI.
Our founder, Bert Burns, became quadriplegic as a result of an automobile accident during his youth. His desire to make a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities led him to create a free motivational program for peer support and rehabilitation groups called Life After Spinal Cord Injury. Through email campaigns, we share a variety of helpful materials for our community, including information on LASCI events and resources.
As our visibility and outreach have increased through these campaigns, a variety of partners have aligned with us to further assist the wheelchair community. This summer, LASCI partnered with SPORTS 'N SPOKES magazine, published by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, to provide our peer support group on Facebook with a list of accessible programs, places and events, spotlighting one state per day across the country between July 15-August 15, 2011. Viewers can also post photos of related family vacations and weekend outings on the Facebook pages or in a photo gallery on the S'NS website for a chance to win a range of prizes.
We use Emma everyday to connect our customers and medical professionals with the online resources available at UroMed.com and LASCI's peer support community on Facebook. Regular visitors to the LASCI Facebook page come from as far away as England, New Zealand, South Africa and the Phillipines. For example, one lady in New Zealand uses content she finds on the LASCI group page to help inspire a peer support group that she leads for paraplegics and quadriplegics in her country.
What's your best advice to writing accessible, memorable emails?
Write for your audience's benefit – not yours or your company's.
Illustrate points with pictures the audience will relate to and click on for details.
Use a personal tone – no one wants to read an email that sounds like you have a banana stuck in your tailpipe. Treat your customers like they're your friends, but not in terms of slang or being overly familiar. Do use layman's terms, and answer questions or problems they may have.
Link, link, link and link some more. The more direct access you provide to customer relational touchpoints, the better.
What do you enjoy most about working with your team?
Many of UroMed's employees have a personal connection to understanding our customers' health needs, as 20% of our customer care associates either have a disability or have a family member with a disabling condition. Our company was started by four people more than 15 years ago, and three of them use wheelchairs. It's pretty hard to complain about your day when you know, firsthand, that your work helps serve your customers, your co-workers and your friends at the same time.
What events or milestones are your colleagues looking forward to this year?
In 2010, Life After Spinal Cord Injury helped more than 600 medical professionals, patients, former patients and family members with information, advice and encouragement. Thanks to the outreach tools provided by Emma and social media, LASCI has already quadrupled that number by July 2011, and our online peer support community has gone global! We are so excited about the impact this motivational program is having on the lives of people who use wheelchairs. The global awareness and accessibility of our resources is increasing tenfold because of the technology resources we've employed.
A bonus round with a social media expert and this week's Talking with Tom participant
Frank Eliason is SVP of Social Media for Citibank in New York and former Director of Digital Care at Comcast. A self-professed gadget geek, he's participating in Tom Martin's social experiment, Talking with Tom. Take a look at his interview with Tom, and read below for more from Frank, including his thoughts on customer service and how to do social media well.
What's the most interesting thing happening in your industry right now?
Within social media it is conversation regarding Google+, and specifically Hangouts that I find interesting. I have always seen video as a disruptive option and hangouts make it easy. I am also fascinated with the notion of social fatigue, although I do not believe it is being discussed heavily right now. I watch my newsfeed on Facebook, as well as other spaces, every day and I am noticing less and less posts by those not associated with social media. I believe this is more fatigue, as individuals decide what they want to share, with whom and how often. In the service industry, I enjoy watching businesses start to realize the impact this social world has on the overall customer experience and how they need to improve that via all customer touch points. Service is the most important aspect to business and now the customer is making that point. Just appeasing those in social is not enough, and not the right approach anyway. If you want customers speaking positively about your brand, you have to provide the experience that would encourage that. It is no longer lip service.
What inspires you?
Passion! I love watching passionate people change the world. I see it through people like Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis and others. This is what drives success. For me, I am passionate about the consumer, and I will live that in everything I do.
Which companies are leading the way in social media and customer service?
I still think Comcast is doing a great job. I also like watching Samsung, Dell Time Warner, AT&T and many others. At Citi we strive to lead by finding alternative solutions to better engage customers. As an example, the trouble with banking and social service is customer privacy concerns. Our solution is implementing secured click to chat. If you are talking to a Citi service representative and the conversation drifts to something that requires private dialogue, we can share a link and you will be able to continue the same conversation with the same person in a secured manner. If you are on a mobile device, we can send a similar link that will connect you to a call with the same person.
What brand do you love right now?
I have been an Apple fan for many years. I have also found myself purchasing many Samsung products for around my new home.
You can invite any four people to happy hour. Who'd be there?
Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. Every one of these individuals were disruptive in their own way yet were able to achieve so much. In responding to this question I was able to think of so many others that would be fascinating, including artists, religious, world leaders (good and bad) and business leaders who truly generated change. I think many of us are doing that today through our thoughts on social media, yet others paved the way for this disruption to take place, and it would be fascinating to learn from them.
Get involved with Talking with Tom! Vote now to help decide who gets the last word.