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Think Zappos.com and you think not only of happy customers and happy employees, but also of an e-commerce site that's the poster child of a successful web business.
The architect of all this happiness and success is CEO Tony Hsieh who, in the wake of Zappos recent acquisition by Amazon has penned a book about the rise of his company, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
We caught up with Hsieh to find out how e-commerce has changed since he founded Zappos 11 years ago, and why companies should be fearless about social media and infusing their organizations with strong corporate values.
It seems all anyone's talking about in terms of online policy these days is Facebook's privacy kerfluffle. Which is kind of a big deal, but small potatoes, really, when compared to the really big, burning, important issue of the day: net neutrality.
This critical issue may not be at the forefront of news, opinion columns and debate in the media, but the fact that digital marketers and e-commerce providers are ignoring it is as baffling as it is inexcusable. The major broadband providers: Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner want to tax content providers. They want to determine what sites their subscribers can access, and how quickly - giving priority, of course, to their own products and services.
Last year, Google generated $54 billion of economic activity for American businesses, website publishers and non–profits. That's according to a study released today by the search giant, which has embarked upon a campaign to show Google is not only creating value for Google, but for American businesses, the economy, and job-seekers as well.
And now that Google is an active presence on Capital Hill, it's a move doubtless calculated to portray the company as an economic engine to lawmakers, too, as privacy regulation activity comes slowly into focus. Google is telling its story through the stories of its small business advertisers - a tactic adopted by the IAB in its recent lobbying efforts as well. To underscore the political motivation behind the study, Google breaks down, on a state-by-state basis, which politicians are leveraging Google to communicate with constituents. For example, in New Jersey they name Governor Chris Christie and 11 state Senators and Representatives who communicate with constituents through official YouTube channels.
Still running focus groups? How very 20th century. An increasing number of organizations have moved consumer research online. Major brands including Godiva, ABC Studios, InterContinental Hotels, and Kodak, are conducting both qualitative and quantitative research digitally in private online communities. Sometimes, these initiatives extend offline as well, but the web is the core of the initiative.
We caught up with Joe Stauble who runs corporate strategy and market research for Mercedes-Benz USA to learn more about how the company is leveraging two online communities: Generation Benz, launched in 2008 and comprised of Gen Y consumers; and Mercedes Benz Advisors, a community of 1,795 baby boomers. Both community platforms were built by Passenger.
Foursquare is on a roll. It's got heathly user adoption and very desirable demos, a growing roster of major brands who want to team up for promotions, and plenty of love from the media (not to mention endless speculation about potential suitors?
Now, the white-hot location-based social service is facing problems very much in keeping with the ones Twitter faced at this stage in its development: scale. A word that rhymes with both "fail" and "whale", perhaps the most infamous error page in recent internet memory, and an emblem of how difficult it can be for small start-ups to keep up with rapid growth.
If you're a local merchant with a bricks-and-mortar presence, it's time to kiss the yellow pages goodbye. There's no longer any excuse for not having a web presence or for ignoring digital marketing. Eighty-two percent of people use search engines to find information about local businesses - more than any other media. Even if you don't have a website (you should, but that's another story), there are six sites no local business can afford to ignore.
Not only is getting listed dead simple, it's a great leveler. If you own a pizza place, you can compete head-to-head with national chains like Dominos. Hardware? Go up against Home Depot and Lowes. You get the idea.
Claiming your business and getting listed and on all five of the Big Six should only take an hour or so (though most require you wait for a postcard or phone call o verify that you are who you say you are). Once you've enlisted, and taken advantage of some of the special features these sites offer (mostly for free), you'll reap many advantages. You'll have a presence in organic search results, not only on the web, but also on mobile platforms.
You can offer special deals and inducements to lure new business, you can encourage positive reviews and, to a degree, manage your online reputation. You can precisely map your location and help people to find it, and broadcast your hours of operation. And you'll have access to analytics that can inform you of the keywords used to find your business, the time of day people search for you and other data that can help improve your online presence, offers and advertising and promotional campaigns.
With a near-zero investment of time and money, there's absolutely no excuse to not get started with The Big Six.
Consumption is up, dollars are down. In traditional media channels it's the same lament time and time again: audiences are rising, but advertising continues to plummet.
Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, Portfolio, I.D., Vibe, Blender, Domino, Metropolitan Home - the magazine body count is mounting. Over 400 magazines folded last year, despite the fact that a survey of 1,000 consumers just publised by the CMO Council in conjunction with InfoPrint Solutions finds 92 percent of consumers still read magazines in print, and 90 percent say they want to keep it that way, e-readers be damned.
Yet at the same time, 78 percent of these consumers say more relevant and personalized content, promotions and ads would "increase their advocacy and loyalty."
So it would seem all print publishers have to do to resuscitate a foundering business model is figure out how to personalize their (dwindling) print ad pages to the wants and needs of individual readers.
Easier said than done.
You may never have heard of Microbilt, a company that offers risk management solutions to small businesses. But chances are, you've seen one of the spots from their super-viral I Love Local Commercials campaign.
Collectively, these send-ups of local TV channel, late-night spots for tattoo parlors, mobile home and furniture dealerships, and a Cuban-gynecologist-cum-auto-dealer have garnered not only views in the millions, but social media mentions from celebrities such as Errol Morris who called out one spot as his all-time favorite commerical on Twitter (re-tweeted by Roger Ebert, no less).
Microbilt hatched the campaign in conjunction with Rockefeller Consulting Group/Insight Capitalists, and the comedy duo of Rhett and Link. We caught up with Microbilt's EVP Strategy & Emerging Markets Brian Bradley (left) to talk about the campaign's genesis, and if all those views of spots that don't even try to sell anything have translated into business for the company.
There are 71 million pet owners in the United States, all of them potential members and supporters of the ASPCA. Debbie Swider (pictured left), the non-profit's senior e-marketing manager, would dearly love to enlist all of them as members and donors.
Advertising on pet and animal oriented sites is only the tip of the iceberg when your target audience is that large. "We have to make sure we're using the channels that allow us to find the right people wherever they are online," says Swider. "Seventy-one million is a huge number. Getting just five million of them would be exciting."
Crispin Sheridan, the senior director of search marketing at global software software giant SAP shares the strategy and the meticulously-tracked results of his company's highly successful initiative to integrate SEO with social media channels - resulting in a 2.5X boost in conversion rates.
Q: How did SAP come to decide to integrate search with social media?
A: We had a search team in place, obviously, and had grown search significantly over the space of about five years. Then there started to be a lot of buzz in the company about social media. People started to think, 'Well, this is really applicable to my area. Is this something I could or should be doing?" It seemed very logical to us that there was a fit between search marketing and social media marketing. Was there something we could do to pilot something to all the executives who were beginning to ask us,"Is this real? Is this important? Is this something we should be pursuing?"
Google Places. That's the new name of Google's Local Business Center. The search giant has rolled out a host of new features for local advertisers, including a mobile dimension that could help push QR codes into the mainstream.
The message from Washington to the online ad industry has been ringing loud and clear: regulate yourselves before we have to do it for you. Taking another step in that direction, industry groups the IAB and the NAI released the CLEAR (Control Links for Education and Advertising Responsibly) Ad Notice Technical Specifications, a set of common technical standards that would enable enhanced notice in online ads. These specifications would allow advertisers and ad networks to provide a clickable icon in or near online ads directing users to additional information about behavioral advertising, including an opt-out option.