The Blogging Book

Profitable blogging is the key to turning your passion into a real income, and its easier than you think… Have you dreamed of creating a money-making blog around your passion, but have no idea where to start? Do you have a small business or startup that you would love to take online but have no … Read more

Marketing – 7 Lessons From J. Crew’s CEO

E-Commerce - 7 Lessons From J. Crew’s CEO

What J. Crew‘s CEO Says About Marketing

A headline – J. Crew’s CEO: There Are Too Many Retailers – caught me eye.  I read the piece and watched the video interview.

Given my recent post on the need to get started with one’s marketing planning efforts, I thought J. Crew’s CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler, had a lot of solid and timely marketing advice to offer those in retail and, frankly, to any business owner seeking growth and long-term success.

Here’s what I heard:

  1. There is always a choice – The retail marketplace is becoming more and more commoditized by big brick-and-mortar and online discounters, driving down prices.  There is the option of playing the discounting game or creating a product offering that continues to capture customers’ interest and maintain healthy margins.
  2. Differentiation matters – It’s not enough to have great a great retail product line these days.  One has to pay attention to all of the little product, customer service and marketing details to remain competitive and to have a long-term future.
  3. Be prepared for the inevitable change – At some point in time, “consumers will stop buying logos”, which means there will be an increased emphasis on product creativity and customer service.
  4. Focus on the basics, not growth – There are too many competitors in the retail game, which means pushing for growth isn’t necessarily a good game plan.  A crowded market spells consolidation and some who will disappear from the scene.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to put your head down and focus on the basics of good delivery.
  5. Stay conservative – Don’t count on growth.  Growth is always nice, but stay conservative in your growth projections and keep inventory and costs in check so you don’t have to take major mark downs.
  6. Key to long-term success – Drexler defined J. Crew, not as a retail establishment, but as a “design company with retail stores”.  His strategy is to dominate the designer/retail space his company currently owns.  Understanding the company’s niche and its competitive advantages is critical to its long-term success.  This is true on a global, national or local scale.
  7. Social media isn’t a Holy Grail for marketing – The proof is in the numbers, according to Drexler.  He looks for a correlation between social media efforts and sales.  Yes, one has to be engaged in social media, but it is but one piece of a comprehensive marketing game plan.

Those are the seven marketing lessons one CEO had to share.

You should share your thoughts below in the comments section.  Do you agree with Drexler?  How can you use these lessons in your marketing planning efforts for your business?

Online Retail Sales See 14 Percent Increase

Online Retail Sales sees 14 Percent Increase

Did your retail store see a double digit increase in Q2?

comScore released its Q2 2011 U.S. retail e-commerce sales estimates, which showed that online retail spending reached $37.5 billion for the quarter, up 14 percent versus year ago. This growth rate represented the seventh consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and third consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates.


Per comScore Chairman, Gian Fulgoni,  these double digit increases infer that

“consumers are continuing to shift to the online channel, with almost $1 in every $10 of discretionary spending now occurring online. E-commerce’s benefits of convenience and lower prices continue to be the drivers of the shift. At the same time, we are constantly reminded of an overall macroeconomic situation that is not indicative of a strong recovery. With economic growth remaining soft, the unemployment rate stubbornly high and financial markets in turmoil, consumers are less optimistic today than they have been in preceding quarters, which raises concerns for the future. We believe the third quarter will be an important indicator of which direction this economy is really headed and what that will mean for consumer spending.”


Other highlights from Q2 2011 include:

  • The top-performing online product categories were: Consumer Electronics (excl. PC peripherals), Computer Hardware, Computer Software, and Event Tickets. Each category grew at least 15 percent vs. year ago.
  • The top 25 online retailers accounted for 66.4 percent of dollars spent online, down from 67.7 percent a year ago and down from a peak of 69.9 percent in Q3 2010, as small and mid-sized retailers continue to regain lost market share.
  • The 14-percent growth in the quarter was primarily a function of an increase in the number of buyers (up 16 percent), with 70 percent of all Internet users making at least one online purchase in the quarter.

Why should small business retailers care?

Because, like it or not, this is the future of retailing. If you’re not actively engaged online in some way, you could find yourself out in the cold.  Small and medium sized companies are able to make inroads online.  While online retail currently represents $1 out of every $10 discretionary dollar, you don’t want to wait until it is $2 or $5.  It will be more crowded and more difficult to gain a foothold.

Pinterest: Shifting Usage And Demographics – Infographic

Will Pinterest Work For You? Getting excited about hot social media networks like Pinterest is okay…but what you really need to know is if your audience is there and if it makes sense for your products and brand. There have been a lot of infographics illustrating the hotness, phenomenal growth and audience profile of Pinterest, but this one from Tamba may … Read more

Social Proof: The Secret Ingredient of Online Success

What is Social Proof?

A simple Google search will yield about 188,000,000 pieces of information about ‘social proof’. 

Yet, so many business owners ignore the value of social proof.  Some seem to be too bashful and confuse social proof with being a braggart.  Others simply don’t know how to create it for their own businesses.

Let’s dive in and get to the bottom of social proof so you can use its power in your marketing efforts, shall we?


Per Wikipedia,

 Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

In my mind, social proof is old fashioned third party validation that comes in many forms.

  • Think the vintage Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval for housewives.
  • Think about the applause sign that appears to live audiences of TV shows.
  • Think about the long lines in front of nightclubs, restaurants or retail stores to make their establishment more attractive to passersby.
  • Think ‘street cred’ for the gang leader.
  • Think ‘pedigree papers’ for your new pooch.

As a society, we are influenced by social proof for as long as we’ve been in existence.  It’s the human thing to do when in doubt, when confused or when wanting to fit in.


Why Bother with Social Proof?

Answer

Social proof is what separates you from the fly-by-night crowd, it impacts the bottom line of your business and it is expected.

At its core, social proof is the way in which business owners give prospects comfort they are making a good decision when subscribing to the company’s email list, when liking their Facebook page, when sharing a post with their friends and in their ultimate purchase of product.

It’s your way of saying “this business is credible”.

From the prospect’s point of view, social proof is the magic pixie dust that guides them to take action based upon the ‘assumption’ that others know more than they, which may or may not be true.

Research shows us time and again, that people are influenced by others.  This influence has dramatically increased with the growing popularity of the Internet and of social media.

Anyone can do a search and find customer reviews for surgeons or for local auto mechanics. They can also tap into their own hand selected social networks of social buddies and gather the collective wisdom about a particular product, personality or business.

The ease with which people can find third party validation has moved social proof from the ‘unusual’ to the ‘expected’.


Promoting your Social Proof

You’ve heard the Woody Allen quote that

Seventy percent of success in life is showing up. 

The same is true about social proof.  You need to make your social proof visible to those who need to see it – your website visitors, your prospects for it to deliver.

You can’t hide your accomplishments under a barrel and expect others to be clairvoyant.  Be proud of your accomplishments by making others aware of them.

There are many onsite marketing techniques you can use to promote social proof of your business and do so tastefully.  Here are a few to get you started.


Caution:  If you don’t have a social network established, then you should focus on the case studies, testimonials and other techniques until you’ve built your social network.  Having 25 likes on your Facebook Page is not going to be viewed as a positive.  So, pick the techniques that work for where your business is at this point in time and work on establishing the social networks that make sense for your audience.


1.  Social Media mentions 

If you use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, you can collect positive mentions about your company or firm from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and use them on your website.  Just be certain to get permission from the third party if you want to use their name.


2.  Embedded Tweets  

If someone gives you high praise on Twitter, you can embed the tweet on your website.


3.  Social Media Plug-ins

Social media Likes, activity feeds and all sorts of plug-ins and widgets that display your fans, followers and/or connections can add some oomph to your website and your brand.


4.  Social Media Share buttons

Sharing is powerful.  The more your audience shares, the more reach you achieve.  In one example, Zynga, Inc., a game service provider, grew its average daily users from 3 million to 41 million in just one year by having users invite their friends to share through social media. Make certain these share buttons are everywhere on your website and don’t forget your email newsletters.


5.  Case Studies/Testimonials

Former and current customers can be a powerful testament of your credibility.  Rather than creating boring case studies in PDF form, think about adding some punch by using video to expose multiple clients or customers.


6.  User generated content

Get users to provide photos, blog posts, videos or podcasts talking about their experiences with you, with your product or service can be a great way to market your social proof.


7.  Expert Endorsement

Tapping into the positive halo of a well-recognized authority in general or in your specific industry can be a bigshot in the arm for your business.


8.  User Reviews and Ratings

Yelp, +1s are playing a more significant role in buyer’s decision making process for local area businesses.  Don’t ignore this important measure of credibility.


9. Online and Offline Advertising

Using counts of subscribers, counts of customers or highly recognized customers in advertising (online or off) can also add some power to your advertising.  This includes Facebook Promoted Posts or Sponsored Stories.


10.  Users Stats and Profiles

Research shows we like to be with others that share similar experiences or traits.  Consider profiling your users and sharing that information on your site so others with similar profiles will feel more comfortable with you and your business.

Use your Buyer Persona profile and the issues you identified for your ideal customer to flush out your customer profiles.


11.  Media and Blog mentions

This is old fashioned public relations and it still carries impact.  Appearing in frequently read blogs, news outlets or popular industry journals is prestigious and are worth the effort.  Collect and promote these exposures onsite and in your marketing efforts.


There is a lot of interesting research on the dos and don’ts of how to craft your social proof so potential customers hear and believe.  Here are a few of the most interesting reports I found.

What all of this research is saying is that your social proof needs to be crafted in a way that genuinely touches your prospects and generates trust and confidence.  This shouldn’t be a big surprise.

This is NOT marketing through manipulation.  This is about ensuring your prospects understand who you are, what you can do for them and that they hear your message.

Then all you need to do is to deliver.  That is how ethical marketing works.


Tell Me

Which of these social proof techniques are you currently using?  Which might you use in the future?

Put your thoughts about social proof down below in the comments section.  I’d really like to know what you think about social proof.

Social Media: Pinterest Growth Infographic

The following Pinterest growth infographic provides more recent demographic and traffic figures than I’ve posted previously.  From what I can tell the infographic is about a month old and all of the data is from 3rd party sources known for social media tracking.  Yet, there are some interesting findings.

  • Pinterest has grown far faster than did the other social media dynamos like Facebook, but not as fast as did Google+.
  • There are distinct differences between the US and the UK users.  While the US Pinterest users are focused on all that glitters and is beautiful, the UK market is using Pinterest for Venture Capital, Blogging, Web Stats/Analytics and SEO/Marketing.  This suggests there is certainly more room for more business oriented applications in the US Pinterest market than is currently being created.
  • There are also regional concentrations in the US that are a bit surprising.  Pinterest users seem concentrated in the Midwest while concentrations of social media networkers tend to be coastal and major markets.
  • Another interesting fact is that 80% of the activity on this social media site is focused on repinning versus pinning original materials and images.  One obvious way to stand out from the crowd is to provide fresh image and graphical content.

You might also benefit from studying the brands that have been able to capitalize on a Pinterest presence and see what seems to be working for them.  These brands may be a good source for inspiration on how you might best use Pinterest for your business.

Social Media:  Pinterest infographic