The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Flim Flam to Protect Your Brand, How Boar's Head is Empowering Customers to Defend Their Reputation

Boar's Head Flim Flam, Empowering Customers to Defend a ReputationI heard a radio commercial today that made me wish there were DVR’s for radio. In the world of marketing, there has been a lot of talk about word of mouth marketing (WOM), empowering customer evangelists, harnessing the viral power of the web, etc. So, when I heard a Boar's Head commercial about the old “flim flam”, I couldn’t resist visiting the website. Here’s a quick rundown. Boar's Head is an industry leader, has top notch products, and has a long and proud history. About 20 years ago (according to their website), they started hearing about the old “flim flam”, where a deli owner would show Boar's Head in the deli case, but then use some cheap deli meat when actually making your sandwich. How could they, right? Anyway, Boar's Head is unfortunately seeing this trend again today…but they have decided not to sit back and let it happen. But are they fighting back? Are they sending their own Boar's Head police to delis across the United States? No, they are relying on their loyal customers to defend their brand. I love it! Customers can call an 800 number and report any deli that pulls the old flim flam. In return for being such a loyal customer, Boar's Head will reward you. With what? I have no idea, but I’m assuming they don’t want the program to be taken advantage of, so you’ll find out your reward after calling in. I think this is a brilliant program by Boar's Head. Actually, I like it so much that I’m going to keep writing! ;-)

Empowering Customers to Defend Your Brand and Products
Now, if you’ve ever had someone misrepresent you or your products, then you know how icky of a feeling it is. I don’t blame Boar's Head for trying to take control of this situation. Actually, I love that Boar's Head can rely on loyal customers, I love that they’ve earned those loyal customers, and that they are providing a mechanism for their army of meat lovers to help defend the brand they’ve worked tirelessly to build. Yes, I said army of meat lovers. Think about it in terms of your own business. Let’s say that you suddenly heard that retailers were misrepresenting your brand, promising your product and then providing some cheaper version manufactured by a lesser company. Not good, right? You get angry, call your lawyers, and swear you’ll find each and every retailer doing this. Then it hits you…there’s no way you can. There is no way you can scale your small legion of in-house do-gooders. But what if you had a loyal following of customers? What if they cared enough about you and your product that they will call out those retailers? That’s right, Jane Saunders, age 78, calling out a retail owner for not providing the right product or brand. She walks up with her cane and tears into the owner, pulling out her Blackberry Pearl and calling up your customer service center to report the immoral business owner. How powerful is that? Now, that’s an army of do-gooders that can scale! There is a catch, though…you need to have made your customers very happy over the years to earn their duty. If you didn’t provide the best possible product, service, and understanding over the years, then you'd have no army. You would be giving your Patton-like speech to the sound of crickets. So now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Do my customers like my products (and company) enough to defend them and did I earn their trust over the years?” Well Patton, now’s your moment of truth. :)

Be Like Boar's Head and Empower Your Army of Customer Evangelists
Thinking about your specific business, can a program like this help you? Can it really help protect your brand, while empowering customers, all while ensuring the quality of your products? Pretty powerful stuff if you could, right? Start to think about how you can build a program like this. What’s the cost? What reward would you give to your loyal army of customer evangelists? Is it that easy? Is it ridiculously hard? Will it backfire? These are all good questions and I’m not sure I can answer them here. But, how beautiful would that be? How confident would you feel to know that thousands of customers have your back when someone tries to do you wrong. Do you stop at protecting your products or do you ask for help in protecting your reputation, too? Is it purely offline, online, or a mixture of both? Do you provide levels to your brand protection program? Can customers build up their profiles as customer evangelists? Can they earn your version of a black belt? Sensei? Master of your brand? How far will your customers go to help you and your brand?

Do You Believe in Fighting the Flim Flam?
I applaud Boar's Head for taking these measures and empowering their loyal customers. They deserve a loyal following and they’ve worked hard to earn one over the years. I’d like to find out how the program is doing, is it working, have they found anyone taking advantage of the program, and does senior management really buy into customer evangelism? How can those answers help your business? Yes, Boar's Head has built their army of deli meat loyalists, but I have to ask you…can you build yours? I’ve posed many questions in this post on purpose and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is Flim Flam a crazy attempt by Boar's Head or a brilliant move that will earn more customers?

The floor is yours.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Video SEO, How to Optimize Your Video Clips for Organic Search

Video SEO, How to Optimize Video for Universal SearchI've received a lot of questions recently about optimizing video for Natural Search. This is primarily due to the surge in Universal Search, which is where the search engines are mixing in various types of content into the search results. For example, news, images, video, etc. Now, there's no shortage of blog posts and articles out there about video SEO and the point of my post isn't to cover every aspect of optimizing video for search. I just wanted to cover some core best practices, based on my experience. If you want to check out some additional resources after reading this post, ReelSEO provides some outstanding video SEO information, blinkx has a whitepaper on video SEO, and most recently, Brightcove released its 2008 video SEO playbook. I recommend checking out all of these resources and determining the best way to move forward for your given project.

Let's move on. Optimizing your video clips for natural search gives you one more way to get your content ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In my conversations about video SEO, I’ve found a lot of misconceptions about how to best optimize video for search, so I’ve compiled this list of best practices so you can get off on the right foot.

Without further ado, here are some best practices for optimizing video for natural search:

1. Create a separate page for each video clip.
In order to optimize the core html elements for the video clip in question, you should provide a separate html page for each of your video clips. In e-commerce terms, you can think of this page as a product detail page for each video clip. More about optimizing the core html elements of this page below.

2. Optimize the filename and URL.
Create a descriptive URL structure and filename for your video clip. For example, if you were a golf instructor and created a video clip for how to hit sand shots, your URL and filename might look like the following:

And, your video clip might have the following filename:

3. Optimize the HTML elements on your page.
I mentioned this earlier and it’s actually not unique to video… When you create a unique page for each video clip, you definitely want to optimize the title tag, meta description, H1, H2 (if applicable), and content (copy, images, etc.) surrounding your video clip. In order to properly optimize these elements, your text content should be based on keyword research. If you don’t know what I am referring to, check out my post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker for finding the keywords that people actually search for on the web versus what you think they search for. For example, the keyword "golf lessons" is searched for 3.7x more than "golf training".

4. Use descriptive anchor text when linking to your video page:
Don’t underestimate the power of using descriptive links. Using our golf example from earlier, don’t link to the page holding your video clip with non-descript text like “View Video” or “Play Video”. You should use descriptive anchor text like “Learn how to hit a golf sand shot.” or “Golf Lessons, Hitting Sand Shots.” Again, base your anchor text on keyword research (the text you place in your link).

5. Use SWFObject to provide search engine friendly alt content.
{If you want to provide crawlable, alternative html content in place of your flash movie.}
Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alt content for your flash movies. If you are using flash video on your website, and I’m sure many of you are, then SWFObject is a great way to provide crawlable html content in place of your flash movie. One piece of advice (and it’s mentioned heavily in my post about using SWFObject), don’t overdo it when providing your alt html content. You should only provide content that is also in the video clip. For many, it’s tempting to provide too much content (or content that’s not present in the video clip). Don’t do this…it can end up hurting you. It’s technically cloaking, which is providing a different version of your content to the search engines versus people visiting your site. I recommend providing an optimized H1, H2, thumbnail, along with an optimized summary of what is contained in the video clip. You can also provide a video transcript if you have that available. Mix this content with the other html elements we optimized earlier and you’ve got it covered.

6. Provide a video sitemap.
You can provide an xml sitemap containing your video clip information (for all of your video clips on your website). Video sitemaps are an extension to the sitemap protocol and are similar to the xml sitemaps you already provide to Google and the other engines. If you aren't providing xml sitemap files to the search engines, then I’ll have to cover what they are and how to create them in another post! ;-) As you can probably guess, video sitemaps are tailored for video content. The sitemap contains additional information about your video clips, such as video location, duration, thumbnail image, etc. You can learn more about a video sitemap on Google’s website, but needless to say, it’s a smart way to go.

7. Provide an MRSS feed.
You probably already know of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), but what about MRSS? Well, it’s an extension of the RSS standard specifically created for describing media content. In a nutshell, it’s RSS for multimedia. The spec contains elements for describing your video content like file size, description, thumbnail, content, etc. Video search engines like Blinkx let you submit your MRSS feeds in order to show up in their search results. I highly recommend using MRSS.

8. Submit to video sharing websites like YouTube and optimize the listing:
You should upload your videos to sharing sites like YouTube and then optimize the listings in your account. That includes optimizing the title, description, tags, providing links back to your site, etc. Just like earlier, you should base this content on keyword research for your specific video content. Note, the YouTube versions of your video clips might very well rank above your own site clips. It’s up to you how you want to proceed, and it’s worth testing out with some of your clips to see how the search engines handle both your YouTube clips and your own site clips. I definitely recommend testing this, as it gives you an opportunity for another listing in the SERPs, but your ultimate decision might be based on your specific business model.

Break a leg!
OK, I bet you’re chomping at the bit to run off and optimize your video content. With Universal Search results increasing and the number of people watching video on the web also increasing significantly, you should definitely take the time to optimize your video clips for Organic Search. Now, if you don’t already have video content, make sure you read my post about how to create a YouTube video. It can definitely get you moving in the right direction. Then, following the best practices listed in this post and you can hopefully create killer videos and also get killer rankings to boot. Nice.


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Monday, June 09, 2008

Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical, How Leading by Example Can Win You a President’s Award

Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceuticals wins CEO Award.This past weekend I learned that Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical won the company’s prestigious CEO Award. I’m excited for Joe, but I’ll be honest, this didn’t shock me at all. I’ve known Joe for 14 years and I can tell you that he’s definitely someone that strikes you as "CEO Award Caliber". As I listened to Joe’s top projects from last year, I started to think about the leadership qualities that enabled him to succeed. That list of qualities led to the creation of this blog post! So, I’ve included a list of things you can do in order to be a better leader in your organization (inspired by Joe Homan). So, if you’re in Corporate America and you want to win your company’s President's Award or CEO Award, then read on!

Joe Homan's Award at Shire and a Recurring Theme
I asked Joe about the projects he worked on that lead to his nomination. The three projects he explained to me were extremely impressive. For example, Joe designed, developed, and implemented Shire Training Camp, an award winning program that brought over 300 employees together for industry-related training. The Baltimore Business Development Authority presented the project its coveted Innovator Award. As I learned about each project, I saw a recurring theme. Joe’s expertise, work ethic, and leadership style enabled his team to generate excellent results. Let’s take a look at Joe’s combination of characteristics that helped him win a CEO Award. They might just help you win one too…

If you want to be nominated for your President’s Award, you should:

1. Know Your Area of Expertise and Work Hard
Joe is a passionate guy. He digs what he does for a living and it shows. No matter which part of the organization you focus on, you should know it inside and out. Educate yourself constantly, read the top books and blogs in the industry, test your knowledge frequently, and take classes when applicable. But education is not enough. You need to work hard, and I mean really hard. You need a strong work ethic in order to inspire people. When you inspire people, they talk about you. When they talk about you, your story goes viral. When your story goes viral, it ends up being heard by important people. Don’t underestimate the power of working hard…

2. Go Above and Beyond
In a nutshell, this relates to going above and beyond for your team and other teams in your organization (sometimes not related to what you do). Yes, you heard me correctly. If you can help other parts of the organization, do it. I’m a big believer in karma and helping others typically pays off in the end big time! Over the past 14 years, I’ve seen Joe bend over backwards to help people (both professionally and personally.) Think about the viral example I used earlier in this post. It absolutely applies here as well. Help others reach their goals and they won’t forget it. And, they will probably communicate your assistance to others in the organization.

3. Be a Great Listener
I know, some of you cringed when you heard this one. It’s not easy to do, right? Great leaders understand people, they know everyone is different, and each team member needs to be managed differently. Sometimes you need to sit back and just listen to what others have to say. It’s amazing what you’ll learn… Again, not easy to do, but is a consistent trait I’ve seen in great leaders. Joe is a great listener and I’m confident others in his organization feel the same way.

4. Empower Your People
One thing I learned quickly in my career is that you cannot do everything yourself. Great leaders delegate and empower their people. If you cannot do this effectively, then you’re probably going to have a hard time leading a high performing team. (More on generating results next.) Joe has a military background, which might explain his thorough understanding of how an effective team works. In the military, if your team doesn’t perform well, you can die. Sure, it’s not the same in Corporate America, but there are other consequences to not performing at a high level. There’s definitely a fine balance between micro managing and not being involved enough. Those leaders that strike the right balance reap great rewards. (And no, I didn’t mean for that to sound like a fortune cookie!) :-)

5. Generate Outstanding Results
This is a given. You need to execute at a high level and generate outstanding results. Anyone can take a budget and do something…but it really only matters if you meet and exceed your goals. You can have 4 of the 5 characteristics I listed down, but if you can’t generate results, you won’t impress anyone. It’s basically the viral killer, or can be negative viral. You don’t want that to happen. So, if you can exceed your goals with regard to revenue, profit, decreasing costs, by innovating, etc, then there’s a good chance you’ll get noticed. After which, let the viral effect I explained earlier take over. :)

So, you want to be a President’s Award winner?
So there you have it, a post inspired by the news I heard this weekend about Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical. If you start working on the 5 items listed above, maybe you can get noticed and nominated for your company’s President’s Award or CEO Award. Actually, it just hit me that I can wrap this post into one line. Work hard, help others, listen, empower your people, and generate outstanding results. Now put that in your email signature! Just kidding. So even though I’m congratulating Joe in this post, maybe next year it will be you…


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Monday, June 02, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Offline Conversions | Why I Wouldn’t Want to be the Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us

Tracking Offline Sales That Originate Online, Toys R Us Email MarketingMaybe that’s a bit harsh, so let me explain. I’m sure it’s a good job and that the person running email marketing enjoys what he/she does, but there is an inherent issue with that position that would drive me absolutely crazy... So, why wouldn’t I want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? It has to do with sales attribution, tracking offline conversions, and what I’ve witnessed first hand over the past 6 months. Let’s start off with some background information.

Let’s Define Sales Attribution:
The definition of sales attribution is the process by which you assign credit (in this case revenue) to a particular sales channel. If you are using a web analytics package on your e-commerce website (and I hope you are), then sales attribution enables you to break down your revenue by channel (email marketing, paid search, organic search, banner advertising, etc.) to gauge how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Receiving the Email and Then Visiting the Store…
I receive email marketing from Toys R Us frequently (being a parent of 2 young children). If something piques my curiosity, I sometimes click through to the website and browse around. That’s good for Toys R Us and their email marketing manager. But…I almost always buy offline, and that’s not so good for the email marketing manager. Now, I’m sure the person running email marketing wants the best for the company and a sale is a sale, but that specific sale won’t be attributed to the email campaign that sparked the transaction. Do you see where I’m going with this? How would you like it if someone else (or department) always took credit for your hard work? Back to why I purchase toys offline. I think you have to be a parent to understand why I almost always buy offline at a Toys R Us store. You see, it’s actually a blast to visit the store with your kids. And, when weekends sometimes feel like a marathon for parents, it’s a much needed break. The only way I would buy from Toy R Us online is if the store near us didn’t have something I desperately needed in stock (and that’s not often). It’s ironic for me…since I buy everything online, but toys seem to be a different story.

Web Analytics and Sales Attribution
Typically, an email marketing campaign is tagged specifically to be tracked in a web analytics package. This is done via tracking parameters added to the links in the email marketing creative you receive. The tracking variables are appended to the URL in the querystring. To see what I’m talking about, check out the following link from an email I received from Lands End this past weekend.

An email link tagged with tracking variables:

Lands End is using Coremetrics (a web analytics package that I am extremely familiar with). The tagging you see in the querystring will enable the web analytics package to attribute the sale to the email marketing I received on Sunday. Based on what I just showed you, I’m sure you can see why tracking online campaigns is much easier to do than offline campaigns (and why it’s much faster to report). You can track each campaign at a granular level and obviously make decisions based on your reporting to improve campaign performance in the future. That said, you still have a problem with tracking offline conversions that started online (like I explained earlier with receiving an email and then visiting the store.) So, as the sales roll in at the store, the poor email marketing manager back at headquarters won’t really be able to attribute that revenue to his or her campaign. Sure, you can guess that the email drove a certain amount of revenue, but you can’t say for sure… Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this issue (for now). However, there are some ways to attempt to capture the sale and attribute it correctly and I’ve listed two ideas below.

Some Ideas for Attributing Sales for Offline Transactions That Originate Online:

1. Include a printable coupon in your email.
If you can provide a printable coupon in your email creative, then you might entice a customer to bring it to the store. If the coupon is used, then you can attribute the sale to your email marketing campaign (as long as your systems can communicate with one another). This is not a new technique and it requires a customer to take a few extra steps, but it can help you attribute the sale to your campaign. Hey, every dollar counts when you’re running that channel, right?

2. Have your cashiers ask the question at checkout.
Now, this is definitely not foolproof, since it’s based on human behavior, but it might work for you. Let’s list a few potential problems… The cashier may never ask the question or ask much less frequently than you want. The customer may not tell the truth or shrug off the question. Let’s face it, relying on people to track your sales is not optimal.

Let's Help The Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us!
So, can you see why I wouldn’t want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? I can’t imagine how many sales are attributed to other channels. That would drive me nuts! But, we can help... If you’ve received an email from Toys R Us, but visited the store to make your purchase, list the date and dollar amount below. Maybe the email marketing manger can import this data into his/her web analytics package and finally get credit for a job well done!

I’ll start:
May 25th, $72.10


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