marketing

Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.

How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase. You can click on this photo and get taken to our affiliate link to see! http://go.standdesk.co/fHSGR

How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Picky Bars

After looking into the Whole 30 a couple years ago, I started paying more attention to labels. They say that ignorance is bliss, and that’s definitely true for me once I started tuning in. For me, the absolute worst thing was reading the labels on granola/granola bars. “It’s pure sugar” I internally wailed while agonizing over putting it back on the shelf.

Enter Picky Bars, created by Jesse Thomas and Lauren Fleshman. Jesse is a professional Triathlete, and Lauren is a recently-retired professional runner (I’ve listened to her on a few different podcasts now and she’s my hero when it comes to running/motherhood/creativity/health). Picky Bars was born from a need for a way to fuel before/during/after workouts in a natural, not heavily processed way. Way before I started reading the labels on my food, Jesse and Lauren had already been working to create a healthy solution to their problem.

Of course, they didn’t stop at production (this would hardly be a “Marketing Monday” post if they had). Lauren and Jesse found a way to create their product and make it fun along the way.

Social Media

I started following Picky Bars on Instagram about a year ago, which is where this whole thing started for me. One thing that stood out was that they primarily featured their own employees in their content. They have scenes around the office that feature inventory, ‘a day in the office,’ and what their employees are up to (something like “so and so went on this hike today”). From the outside looking in, it seems like a fun place to go work.

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Promotions

Another fun thing I noticed on Instagram was the occasional promotions that they run. The week before Halloween, just for fun, all orders were shipped with fake vampire teeth. Sure, it’s not the most profound thing ever, but it was putting ‘out of the box’ in the box, so to speak. They also recently promoted their BFS, or Big Freakin’ Sale, where everything was 30% off. During the BFS, they also ran a Bar for Bar offer that donated a bar to a local charity for every bar purchased in that time period.

Subscription Options and Creative Marketing

While Picky Bars can be found in various retail locations, they aren’t everywhere (the nearest one to me is in Bethel, about 130 miles away). However, they have an easy online subscription system called the Picky Club, where members select the amount of bars they’d like to receive each month and their favorite flavors.

Members also get some perks, like getting a Sneak Peek bar each month and being able to give feedback, and perks not available to the public.

Plus, their call to action is pretty fun. Not to mention the actual names of their bars, from Moroccan Your World, Cookie Doughpness, and Need for Seed, to name a few. My weakness is cleverly named products, and I think this creativity is what sold me on Picky Bars.

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The Site

The Picky Bars website is more than just an ecommerce site. From the copy to the font, it reflects the values and personality of the business. You have a pretty good idea what to expect from a customer standpoint. And, that’s what websites are all about, right?

As someone who is fairly active and loves subjects in health and fitness, Picky Bars has found a way to market their already amazing products in a way that’s fun and true to the brand. And, if they ever ask me, I have a few new flavor selections to offer them.

 

 

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Marketing Monday: Top 5 Favorite Holiday Commercials

My working title for this post was “Marketing Monday: Selling the Holiday,” but realized that sounded cynical and Krampus-y, which is not what this post is about.

I love the holidays, and I especially love TV during the holidays (it might be more of a winter thing, now that I think about it). The classics, like Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and A Year Without a Santa Claus are on, and even the commercials are better during this magical season. And, just as with the classics on TV, I have a few classic commercials that I look forward to watching over and over each year.

    1. Frankie’s Holiday- Apple. (This one isn’t quite ‘traditional’ yet, because it just came out this year)

Why it works: In my personal opinion, we all have a part of of us that identifies as an outcast. Or, maybe it’s a longing to connect. Either way, this commercial, combined with the sentimental song “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and a very minimal flash of the Apple logo, is my new holiday favorite. It’s not the “in your face” commercialized ad we expect, nor does it say “hey buy our thing.” It leaves us with “Open your heart to everyone,” and that’s what the holidays are all about, right? (Fun fact: part of my senior thesis at Bates was about Frankenstein, mainly because I’ve always had a soft spot for characters like the monster and the Phantom of the Opera).

2. Polar Bears- Coca Cola

Why it Works: This might be an oddly specific reason for me, but it reaches into childhood memories of sledding, and the special occasions where our parents jumped into the snow with us. And I usually got really thirsty by the end of all that sledding(I mean, it was hours), so a Coke would’ve been welcome.

For the larger public, this commercial celebrates family and spending time with loved ones. In other words, it’s about ‘togetherness.’ And also, sharing a Coke.

3. M&Ms meet Santa- M&M

Why it Works: Again, I must confess to personal bias- M&Ms are my all time favorite candy. That aside, this commercial is actually kind of funny. When it came out, we were used to seeing this pair of M&Ms in a commercial sense. It addresses the tradition of setting out snacks for Santa the night before Christmas. Then, there’s the “He does exist/They do exist” meeting, and everyone passes out. There’s a similar amount of branding to the Coca-Cola commercial, but again, no shoving sales down your throat (although it does make me want to shove some M&Ms down my throat).

4.  Merry Kisses Bells- Hersheys

Why it Works: There’s a reason why simplicity in marketing is recommended. Although I’m sure the animators for this commercial would disagree with “simplicity” here. Again, there’s not an overwhelming amount of branding plus a Christmas-y tune. Around the holidays, my brother and I helped my mom with baking by unwrapping the Hershey’s Kisses to get them ready for cookies. It was a simple, kinda mundane task, but I loved doing it because we had Christmas music playing and were usually giggling the whole time. So, this is yet another win for “Kassie’s sentimental childhood.”

5. Christmas Kittens- Bangor Savings

Why it works: I hadn’t seen this commercial until last week, when Nicole referenced it in our Tech Thursday video (which you can find on our Facebook Page). It’s really just a cat video, but for Christmas. If you have pets, especially cats, they tend to get a little…er, excited about all the shiny presents and MY WORD the tree. (Is it just me or do the cats get progressively feisty as the video goes on?) Apparently, there was a community connection remembering this video years later. To the outsider, it probably doesn’t seem like that thrilling of a commercial. For the people ‘in the know,’ though, it’s a different story.

What do all five of these commercials have in common?

Little to no branding, and a message that’s nostalgic/sentimental. After all, as Dwight Schrute once said, “Nostalgia is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses…second only to the neck.”

Any commercials I missed that should be added to this list?

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Marketing Monday: Social Media And Economic Development In Small Communities

My friend Ryan Pelletier became the town manager of Madawaska within the last couple years. One thing I’ve noticed since he took this position is how he uses Facebook in particular as a way of reaching the masses. He also has a really straightforward approach (sound familiar?). We decided to ask him how he used social media as a tool to do his job better. We’ve included some of Ryan’s posts as examples in hopes to inspire others looking at this post of what kids of information they can share. 

I see you use your Facebook profile to communicate messages about what’s going on, including changing town office hours or moving public restrooms. What makes you use your personal profile versus an official company page?

For me, I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time and have amassed a lot of friends and contacts on my personal profile. We have toyed with the idea of an official town profile, but I feel that folks follow me and are used to getting info from me via my personal page. My next plan is to start communicating some of the Town’s notices (meetings, elections, flyers about events etc.) via SnapChat for a younger demographic. I will probably use a town Snapchat account for that instead of my personal one, but I haven’t figured out how to set that up yet.

(Oh Ryan! We do stuff like that!)

ryanpelletier-hours
How has your openness changed the way people perceive town government and the Town of Madawaska in general?

People by and large seem very pleased with my style of open communication. Town Government (and really all government) should be an open book. Not everyone will agree with what I or the Town leaders decide to do, but that’s ok. At the end of the day, I have to remember, it’s their town, I just work for them. I also get a lot of compliments from local folks both in and out of Madawaska that have said they notice a huge difference in the perception of Madawaska. That’s the best compliment I can get!

What is the most surprising interaction you’ve had on social media about community development?

Not specifically community development, but, when we were considering the drug testing for welfare proposal. That was very eye opening about the strong opinions both for and against. I got to see lots of opinions expressed from throughout the State on that one.

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Do you have any advice for town governments looking to use social media to promote understanding and interaction?

Social Media is not a lot different than regular media in my opinion. I always say it’s better to control the message than let others control it for you. Just like when I issue press releases or do interviews with the local news, it’s about getting ahead of the curve and letting the people know directly what is going on. So the advice is, keep the message simple, honest and straightforward. Don’t be afraid that your opinion will be opposed. It’s all good!

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Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Ethics in Marketing

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Working for a small business that attracts some amazing clients, I’ve never run into a situation where I’m asked to carry out a task or promote something that I’m morally opposed to (and, I have the freedom to politely turn down such a project). It’s a freedom I often take for granted, until I hear stories about people who don’t necessarily have such freedom.

A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast (Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette) where a woman was being interviewed about her blog (Super Strength Health). Part of the podcast that I found intriguing was towards the end, when she spoke about being approached by various brands to promote their product (a fairly common occurrence for lifestyle bloggers). Usually when this happens, the brand has done a bit of research to determine if the blog’s message meshes well with the brand’s message. As a bit of background, Super Strength Health shares very raw material about eating disorder recovery. The brand that approached her had a tagline along the lines of “guilt-free snacking.” You might see the problem here.

So, the blogger was a bit frustrated. “If you spent any time on my blog, you’d know that we were not a good fit.” Which is true. The discussion goes on to discuss the slippery slope of assigning guilt to food/eating in marketing, and whether or not that is unethical. Regardless of where you or I stand on that particular issue, it made me wonder about the messages I’m putting out there. How can I be ethical (or more ethical) in what I produce?

As mentioned before, I have the freedom to turn something down if I feel it is unethical or immoral. We never really get those clients. Usually when I think “unethical marketing,” it’s the blatantly obvious not-cool marketing, like promoting unhealthy habits, tearing down a competitor’s product or service instead of focusing on why your product/service is valuable, or ignoring glaring flaws or safety concerns with a product (think recalls). These are all easy for me to avoid (in that I’ve never encountered them).

So, instead, I thought of a few little ways to be even more ethical. Here’s what I have:

Do the Research. Make sure you know your facts, especially if others are coming to you for information.
Be Objective. Do you really think this product/service would benefit other people, or do you maybe have dollar signs in your eyes?
“Is this Something I Would Do?” If you’re having a hard time being objective with the facts, ask yourself if you would follow your own advice.
Be the Good. This is my way of remembering my bottom line: whatever I put into the internet/world should make it a little better, even if in a small way.
Get Better. There’s always room for improvement, and as someone who produces content for the internet I could in theory find a rhythm and rest on my laurels. But I could also keep an open mind and look for ways to improve my work (because this isn’t just about me).

My hope is that following these five points in a more thoughtful way will help me feel even better about what I produce, and be more helpful for our clients. (I say ‘more thoughtful way’ because I usually perform research or try to be objective, but it can be reflexive).

The cool thing about marketing ethics? Marketing Schools defines it as “less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs all marketing efforts.” It’s not a strategy or a game-plan, but more like having a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder asking if you believe in the message you’re about to share with the world.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

The Importance of a Shortened URL: The Sasquatch Defense

Before we get into this blog post about the use of customizable URL shorteners, let’s clear the air about one other thing: Big Foot is real. Without a doubt. I know, because I’ve seen him in various documentaries, most notably, 1987’s gripping “Harry and the Hendersons,” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093148/ which recounts a failed attempt to integrate a Sasquatch into a typical suburban American family. A Big Foot even landed a sweet endorsement deal with Jack Links Beef Jerky, and yet the lamestream media all but denies the existence of this gentle, pungent creature.

What does this have to do with customizable URL shorteners? If you’re like me, you probably have hundreds of online articles, videos and other Sasquatch-related media bookmarked. You cite that media when you give your annual Big Foot Power Point presentation, hard copies of which you give to attendees.

The problem is, many URLs are long, cumbersome, difficult to remember and hard to retype in your web browser.

For example, The Atlantic posted a great story titled “Why Bigfoot Sightings Are So Common Across Cultures.” But no one want to retype: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/sasquatch/505304/.

That’s when you use a service such as Bitly to access the URL “theatln.tc/2eJycC.”

Note that The Atlantic’s website appears to include a plug-in that integrates its name into the shortened URL, but also limits the customizable options of Bitly.

I also like Tiny URL, a free service that allowed me to generate this customized link: tinyurl.com/BFcommon.

Shortened links are also useful for directing print readers to sites with additional data, such as a videos  or interactive slideshow that augments the print experience.

Shortened URLs also means it’s easier for your audience to access public documents, such as the government’s top secret 800 page spreadsheet chronicling Big Foot sightings in Acadia National Park for 2016. Obviously, you can’t reprint the entire thing to include in your Acadia Big Foot Society newsletter. But you can post the report online and provide a short, snappy customizable link in your mailer that will make it easier for folks to access the raw data.

Shortened links makes it easier for your audience — whether live or print — to access any content with a URL, and to pass that content on to others. And using a clever, succinct, shortened URL will really set you apart from those UFO nuts. Believe me, those guys are cray-cray.

Next: We’ll show you the how to use shortlinks online, and give you a look at the tools offered by Bitly to help you gather analytics.

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