marketing

When Automated Marketing Goes Wrong

Earlier this week, I received the following email from Pinterest:

iamthemorningrun

You may wonder why this is at all significant. Kassie, Pinterest sends emails like this all the time…Yes, they do. But guess what? I don’t hate running- I really, really love it. “Embrace the morning run” makes it even better-I pretty much only run in the morning. Maybe Pinterest and I need to spend more quality time together, because we clearly don’t know one another well at all…

While this was ultimately a hilarious experience, I would be mortified if I was the person who sent this email. It’s a great example of when automation goes wrong.

Scenario 1: Pre-Scheduling/Automated Posts

Not all automating is bad. I use it to schedule Facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts in advance. The thing is, you can’t just put this stuff on autopilot- consider Murphy’s Law. Facebook, for example, went through a month-long phase where it wasn’t publishing any of the posts I had pre-scheduled. It made it on my radar, and for awhile I had to manually publish everything, but it would’ve made me look lame if updates weren’t publishing for a month because I scheduled them and forgot about it.

Another potential danger to look out for in pre-scheduling  is the actual content. You don’t want to schedule things too far ahead, because new information is constantly coming in and you don’t want to be known for posting month-old articles. In keeping scheduled posts relatively short-term, it’s also more likely that you’ll remember what you’ve scheduled to go out and make adjustments as necessary. For instance, if an event that you’re promoting gets cancelled, but you’ve scheduled some status updates to build excitement, it’s really awkward if those end up getting published because you forgot about them.

You can also set up automated posts to respond to mentions on Twitter or Facebook (or anywhere else). As a warning, the results are often hilariously terrible. For example, this automated response from Dominos Pizza:

Dominosfail

 

This person had an excellent Domino’s experience…but Dominos apparently believed it needed a different PR approach on it’s Facebook page…and apologized for the inconvenience.

Scenario 2: Automated Names

These often fail the hardest, and are the biggest giveaways that robots handle your marketing. If you have no interaction with a person besides him filling out a form on your website, you don’t necessarily need to be on a first-name basis. This chart below (from Beachhead) shows the most common reactions to errors in a personalized email.

Costofautofail

 

If it’s a larger corporation, I generally assume most of the marketing emails I get have been automated, so I’m a bit more forgiving (it’s not like the CEO of Old Navy knows my first name). But, if it’s a smaller business and I’m a loyal customer, getting a personalized email for “Amanda” would be a bit offensive. On a scale of “Never visit the website again” to “Automatically delete emails,” I’m probably more of a “Continue receiving emails for mild amusement but never take this business seriously again.” Depending on the individual, you may get more of a “Meh” response to a “This is totally a personal affront” repsonse.

Fun fact: we don’t have first name fields enabled on our email newsletters, and it’s not because we don’t appreciate our individual subscribers- it’s because we read about automation fails and know how potentially damaging a glitch in the system can be).

Scenario 3: Marketing the wrong things to the wrong people.

This tends to be more of a large scale business problem that comes from sending automated sales emails. It’d be kind of embarrassing to send out an email trying to sell a specific type of lawnmower to someone who just purchased one from you earlier in the month. Being on the receiving end of that email would also be confusing: maybe the customer and salesperson had some lengthy phone calls/email exchanges about the purchase, examining options in a way that made the customer feel really, really awesome about his/her new lawnmower. I’m talking zero-buyer’s-remorse positive. This person was raving about how attentive the business was to the needs of individual customers. And then…this tragic email.”What the…it’s like they don’t even know me…

Heavy automation takes away the humanness of marketing. The risk, especially with smaller businesses, is that your existing customers feel undervalued. The reason people enjoy small business interactions is because there’s a unique quality of service implied: a genuine friendliness, a concern for the customer’s needs (in other words, they kind of expect that warm and fuzzy feeling).

This is where something like email segmenting can come in handy, if you have the time and patience to sit down and go through it all. This can help add a personalized element to your automation, plus, your messages are going to get more bang for your buck when they get to the people who will benefit from them.

Takeaway: “Ultimately people buy from people.” Automation clearly has benefits, otherwise no one would be doing it. Find a happy automating medium that feels right for your business.

Tech Thursday: Splitsville

In this week’s episode: Foursquare splits into two apps, Google+ splits up different kinds of content, businesses we know try to do too much. When to add on, when to split, and when you should keep doing what’s working!

Plus, some really fun plant-related analogies and Kassie is really excited about the new Mad Max.

Sad Cheeseburger: A Few Tips on Food Photography

impossibleburgerstandardsThis is one of my favorite spoof ads.

For those who market for restaurants or food chains, the clear choice for burger “modeling” is the burger to the left. Sure, it’s had some work done (the nature of this work is the meat of this post), but it’s more likely to appeal to people’s appetites and get them in the door. On the other hand, the right-side burger is a sad cheeseburger. People won’t clamor to your tables shoving fistfuls of cash at you for a chance at that burger. In fact, they’ll probably lose their appetite (sorry, sad cheeseburger).

Food photography can be tricky, but if you market food (for a restaurant, a baking blog, your own Instagram…) it’s a priceless tool to possess. Your sandwiches do not have to be supermodels, but you don’t want them to appear sub-par (hehe) on your website or social media. I’m also going to assume that you don’t have the disposable income required for hiring a food stylist (which sounds like a pretty cool job, right?).

As this article from Huffington Post says, “optimistic restaurant owners” are often well-intentioned when it comes to food photography, but they don’t always have the skill to reach the desired outcome. Here are a few basics on food photography that will get the camera loving your food.

Lighting. This means the elements of photography like exposure, saturation, and flash. Oftentimes, doing a photo-shoot inside a restaurant is hard. The lighting is usually dim or fluorescent, neither of which are conducive to good photos. What’s a photographer to do? In this case, you can do a few things. Set up a mini photo-shoot area and adjust the lighting there (it’s easier to fiddle with a small area than the lighting of the whole restaurant). Another option is working with the lighting you currently have and editing later (the only issue here is making sure you have photo editing software available).

These guys are sad.

These guys are sad.

These guys are happy!

These guys are happy!

Personally, I know very little about optimal lighting and camera settings, but this blog post goes into greater detail about lighting (including things like depth of field and ISO).

Temperature. Hot food should look hot, cold food should look cold. A pot roast is not going to look appetizing if the gravy has congealed (ew). No one looks at a picture of a melted ice cream cone and thinks “Yes, THAT is what I want!” An interesting fact I learned while writing this post: fake ice is a real thing that people pay money for. Restaurants that offer a lot of drink specials don’t use real ice in photos, since it often melts under lighting, so they simply whip out the fake ice cubes and all is well.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life. And that’s a strong statement, folks.

Background. Food stylists recommend using white plates to showcase meals. Colors and definition are more apparent. That way, the food colors don’t blend in with the plate colors and leave you with an image of a meal that looks like an unappetizing amorphous blob. If you aren’t using a faux setup for your photo shoot, always keep your background in mind.

Arrangement. Another cool fact: most of the food you see in advertisements is actually inedible. That ideal beauty burger from the beginning of this post? It might look good, but it also might kill you. In order to shape and support food, stylists will insert cardboard between layers of pancakes or sandwiches, stuff paper towel to add volume, or use aluminum foil to prop things a certain way (like in all those pictures of wavy bacon). If you are attempting to artistically stack your food, you can avoid creating a leaning tower of pancakes by using toothpicks or skewers to keep things in place.

sadcake

 

The above image is from a really awesome blog post about working with what you’ve got in terms of food photography. Sometimes, there will be a frosting fail or a crumbly cake, but there’s always a workaround.

Freshness. This is probably a no-brainer, but examine the food you’re snapping pictures of beforehand, especially if it’s produce. Don’t use brown fruits and vegetables. If a dish you’re taking a picture of has an element that will turn brown quickly (say, apples), get those pictures first. Another cool trick is spritzing produce with water or oil to create a fresh look. Freshness also ties in with temperature- if a hot meal has gone cold and gets that gross crusty or congealed look…maybe try again.
To sum it up: don’t let your food photography be a sad cheeseburger (especially if said food photography is for promotional purposes).

Chef: The Best Movie About Social Networking I’ve Seen

I’m one of those people who enjoys learning more about my topic when I am off the job. I read social media books and magazines… and have even tried to watch “Helvetica” (a movie about the font).

I just couldn’t do “Helvetica”… it was too cerebral for me. There are enough things in my life that make me feel dumb that I didn’t make myself watch this movie.

When I agreed to watch “Chef” on Saturday night with my friend Megan and her daughter, I thought I was watching a movie about a five star chef who ends up with a food truck. I wasn’t expecting so much of it to be about social networking. Here’s what I liked about it.

Chef Takeaway 1: It didn’t treat Twitter like Facebook’s ugly stepsister.

In this movie, Twitter plays a main role, some critics say it’s a ridiculously large role but I appreciated that this movie showed how Twitter works and why it’s powerful/cool. Bonus points for seeing the tweets being typed in and then having them turn into a bird an ‘tweet’ off into the world as they were sent.

tweetsinchef

Chef Takeaway 2: It touched on a bunch of social networks. 

Sometimes movies about blogging (I’m looking at you ‘Julie and Julia’) make the main character blogger sit at their computer for hours on end, tortured by the writing process.

Here’s the thing. Some of us are writers (I say us because I am literally typing this with a big smile on my face) and some are not. In this movie, we’re not only introduced to short form writing (tweets) but also other media like Youtube and Vine.

The range of what could be possible is enough to give the movie watcher a sense of what is possible but doesn’t go into the ‘how’ enough to overwhelm people.

Chef Takeaway 3: Your kid can do your social networking…kind of.

There’s always some extremely rude person who tells me after a presentation that their kid can do what I do. (Kind of insulting since I don’t walk up to THEM and tell them a kid could do their job but that’s besides the point.)

Here’s the thing about this movie: the kid is PASSIONATE about the business. That’s why he does a good job marketing it. It’s not that he’s young and up with technology (though that helps). I’m of the mindset that if you are open to learning and passionate about what you do, your business will do well on social media with you at the helm… though if you either a) don’t want to take care of it or b) need a little technical or other assistance, that’s what people like us are for.

So if you want to watch a movie that will make you want to tweet or eat a grilled cheese (I am still thinking about the grilled cheese in that movie), I recommend ‘Chef’. You won’t think hard necessarily or feel like you are in a social media marketing workshop but it’ll get you thinking… which, let’s face it, is pretty powerful.

Buy your copy of “Chef” on Amazon (this is an affiliate link)

The Temptation To Automation

I was having a conversation the other day with another business person. “You know, I’m trying to get better with systems.” I told her. “Ugh, systems, that’s such a 2015 obsession!” she lamented. And she’s right.

We’re all obsessed with doing things better, more efficiently. I have heard more systems consultants on podcasts and read more blog posts on systems in the past six months than I have for my entire life before that.

Oftentimes, systems are automation. Like automating putting money in a retirement account for example versus someone having to think about making the funds transfer once a week or month.

One place to go with automation is social media marketing. I will say I think it’s one thing to schedule some updates while you travel or are going to be in meetings. It’s another thing to never log in and do a live update. Or to never log in and respond to comments. Or to never repost someone else’s great idea or otherwise engage with them.



Someone once asked me in a seminar if they could bulk schedule tweets… for a year. Talk about missing the point of being on a social network.

But in this age of systems, we’re all getting access to tools that basically suggest we do something like this, something I call automation. What I mean by ‘automation’ is ‘set it and forget it’ marketing. It can look like scheduling tweets for a year. Or writing all your blog entries for six months and scheduling them to publish ahead of time.

Automation does take some work (clearly) but it suggests a one sidedness: you say the things… and you either aren’t ready or willing to respond to what other people are saying.

We may schedule some ‘pushes’ for our clients but was also make sure to log in and interact with people. And here is why this seemingly tedious and definitely time consuming process is worth it to me.

Nautomation

Different networks, different purposes, different content.

Every time someone asks me to make it so everything they say on Facebook goes to Twitter and LinkedIn automatically, I try to talk them out of it. But if they insist, I do it. But I will say here I think this is a terrible idea.

If you follow us on our social networks, you may see 5% of what we post being repeated. Maybe.

But for the most part, we treat different networks differently. I post different kinds of content on Google+ (where I mainly follow tech nerds and journalists) than I do on LinkedIn, where people are more concerned about business and marketing best practices.

I’ll just say what everyone is thinking: people can tell when you’re automating stuff (ie phoning it in). And if you think people on a social network you treat as mediocre at best are open to your message and excited to hear from you when you have something actually important to say, I’m here to say they are not.



Being flexible.

You know when something amazing happens and you are right in the middle of it? Well, if every Facebook status we write has to go through a committee for Company A before we post, it means we can’t be participating in real time on behalf of Company A.

It’s one thing to have something ‘in the can’ as an idea… and it’s another thing to have a better idea and be able to go with it. Automation would keep us from these moments of creativity and community.

Avoiding awfulness.

The best part of checking in regularly for the networks we update? Avoiding disasters.

The one that comes to mind (and one John gets full credit for) is a tweet we had planned about Robin Williams for a substance abuse counselor client. The tweets get composed ahead of time (it’s always easier to write blocks of content) and had we just a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality, this tweet would have gone online two days after he died… and it would have made our client look pretty insensitive.

John not only remembered (because he was checking in and retweeting for them regularly) but stopped the issue before it even happened.

Can we measure avoided awkwardness or awfulness? Not really but there is certainly more than one time when a human brain looking at something in a timely way not only made a client look good… but kept them (and us) from looking bad.

If you don’t systematize your friendships offline, why would you do it online?

Do you accept only every third party invitation you get? Do you only email your friend the third Friday of every month? It’s one thing to make sure you are regularly updating people about next week’s important event but it’s another thing to not be genuinely interested in who is sharing those social networks with you: your family, friends, and customers.

So let me just go on record. I am anti-automation. And let me clarify:

Repeating social media updates is fine, since not everyone sees a particular update… especially on ‘noisier’ networks like Twitter.

Scheduling is a tool that allows us to not be chained to our computers. Definitely do that to save your sanity and make sure important information gets out.

Automating means you aren’t willing to put the time in to develop real friendships with your customers. It’ll look like you’re phoning it in because you are. And your customers won’t care because you clearly don’t.

So, if you’re tempted to make an automated social media system, I hope I’ve talked you out of it. By all means make a plan and feel free to structure 70% of what you want. But let that other 30% give your company the humanity it needs online to be truly successful.



Sales Goblet Versus Funnel: Why Hitting Different Price Points Is Key

I think many of us, in business or otherwise, are aware of the sales funnel. The idea is you have most of your customers on a lower pricing level and as people get increasingly invested, they move down the funnel. So there are less people at the ‘point’ than at the ‘base’ and that’s ok. It’s a process. Some people take longer to go through the funnel than others, and some people stay at a particular level. (You can totally tell I spent my college years studying geology and French and not business, right?) Still it’s a getable idea.

So while we were working on our marketing plan in October for the upcoming year, we realized we didn’t have a funnel at all. As Kassie coined “It’s a wine goblet!”

Mainly, we were asking people to make a big financial leap to support them on an ongoing basis, from about $50 to attend a workshop to $3000. Very few people made that leap, again, not a shocking or hard to understand idea. Here is my beautiful diagram to show our problem:

breakingevensalesfunnelold

You probably have noticed in your consumer life that there is more than one way to get more out of the sales funnel.

For example, you could cram more people into it. Every free ebook you’ve ever downloaded, every email newsletter you’ve ever signed up for, was getting you to this base level.

Another example, you could offer more at a certain tier. Ex: For those people happily buying your $10 scarves, you get more and different $10 scarves for them to buy.



Our problem, however, was identified. We needed an offer something between $100 and $3000. An intermediate level, maybe something around $500-$1000.

As a trial of this concept, we offered to make non-profit donation forms a for $599 introductory rate. These forms allowed non-profits to take donations on their domain, issue receipts automatically and other fun things to make the person’s life easier. So for the risk of spending $600ish, there was a definite outcome.

It went way better than I expected… and for this reason, Breaking Even will be releasing a product every quarter in 2015. One for bloggers, one for businesses, one for non-profits, and one for all three.

breakingevennewfunnel

I urge you to look at your funnel and decide:

1) Do you need more people in it?

2) Do you need more movement on one level?

3) Do you need to add something between levels (like we did)?

4) Are you missing a level entirely?

If you go through this exercise and it ends up being helpful, let us know! I’d love to see other applications of it… and I hope this idea rocks your world as much as it did mine.



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