Week 8 Post 2: Reflections on Blogging

For our second blogging assignment this week, we are to reflect on our experience with creating and posting to a blog.

What has been the biggest challenge of writing a blog this quarter?  My biggest challenge is as it always has been….finding time to actually do a blog post.   I had a blog in the past but didn’t utilize it much. So my experience was minimal at best. I found this quarter that I really like blogging and sharing my thoughts about a topic. However, it is very difficult to find time to post to a blog on a regular basis. This was always the one thing that held me back from regular blog maintenance in the past.
What did you learn from the experience of blogging that you think will be useful to you in the future?  I think that having had the experience of writing a blog I will  be able to know how to implement one in a future business setting.  My husband’s business could really benefit from regular blog maintenance.  We have an employee who writes very well and has done some blogging for the business, but I think it would be a boost to the business to have more posts.  I think for clients that love music this would be something they would value.

The question now is, will I continue to post to my blog in the future.  If I’m honest, I think I likely won’t do it regularly.  But I’m glad I have the medium set up in case I change my mind.

Week 8, Post 1: Train Kids to be Entrepreneurs

For our first post of week 8, we were assigned to watch the following TED Talk by Cameron Herold where he discusses the concept of training kids to be entrepreneurs.  We were to share our reaction, thoughts, opinions, things we agree or disagree with about what we heard and saw on the video.

I found this entire TED talk to be a familiar concept to me.  As I was listening to him share his life story, I recognized myself in his story.  I grew up in a household that embraced the entrepreneurial spirit.  My dad did everything he could do to not have a boss.  He started his own businesses, he did every network marketing business you can think of from Amway to Meleluca to Destiny Phone Cards.  When I was 8 years old he had me standing at a white board in front of a group of people drawing circles and presenting the Amway business…..8 years old.
As Mr. Herald was sharing his life story, I recognized myself.  I was raised to be an entrepreneur just as he was.  And I have done it. I started my own business as a massage therapist and was very successful until I decided that the physical demand of that particular business was not what I wanted to continue doing. During those years, I developed that business and did all of my own marketing.  I had a brand and my business was professional.  I learned all of that from my dad because he trained me to be an entrepreneur.

“Allowances teach kids the wrong habit. Allowances by nature are teaching kids kids to think about a job. An entrepreneurs doesn’t expect a regular paycheck. Allowances are breeding our kids at a young age to expect a regular paycheck. That’s wrong if you want to raise entrepreneurs.”

I felt very validated when Mr. Herold made that statement. This is something that we have embraced with our kids.  We are training them to become entrepreneurs.  We don’t give them an allowance, we pay them commission.  We give them a job to do and if they do it well, without complaining, we pay them for it.  My kids are 5 and 6 years old and they come to us begging for something to do so that they can make some money.  Then they take their money and split it up between three jars: save, spend, and give.  We want our girls to learn financial management from an early age and this is one of the ways we are doing that.

I loved this TED talk and I think there are some amazing ideas introduced in it.  Entrepreneurship is one of the foundations of this country and we should definitely be teaching our kids how to embrace it and become entrepreneurs.

 

Week 7: Starbucks – How I became a loyal customer

Sbux logo on glassThis week’s assignment is to talk about how a company or business has managed to personalize my experience either online or in their brick and mortar store.  What do they do that makes me want to come back again and again?

I am a Northwest girl and everyone knows that we Northwesterners love our coffee! Go into any town in the Pacific Northwest and you will find a coffee stand/shop on nearly every corner.  BUT…even with a coffee stand at the end of the street, I still choose to get into my car and drive to Starbucks instead.  Why?

Quality and Consistency in both the product and the service they offer.  I know that every time I go into a Starbucks store, whether it’s in Seattle or Thailand, I will get exactly what I expect and my coffee will taste the same every single time.  That is something that I really value.  And although their prices might be a higher than other places, that consistency makes me willing to pay the extra money to get a quality product and predictable experience.  

sbux no time no lineStarbucks Rewards:  Starbucks rewards their loyal
customers through their Rewards Program. As a Gold Member, I am able to receive free drinks (or food items) after earning a certain number of points.  I use my gold card every time I order at the store or online because I definitely want those points!

Order Online with the Starbucks App:  The one downside to Starbucks is that they can
sometimes have a long line and if I am in a hurry, that will prevent me from getting my coffee.  Solution:  Order through the Starbucks App and it’s waiting for me when I get there.  I get to skip the line!  SUPER convenient!

 

Those are a few reasons why I am loyal to Starbucks.  Now I think I want a latte…

Week 6: Promotional Marketing

For this week’s assignment we are required to find an article about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid advertising strategy or other traffic building strategies that a business could use to improve customer traffic to their online websites and micro sites.  We are then to consider how  the company we are following, which in my case is REI, can utilize these methods to promote their brand.  I chose an article by Regina Love called “Promotional Marketing: How to use promotional marketing to build brand awareness” on the Marketing Sherpa blog.   Love says that in order to have a successful promotion you have to take the time to plan it out properly.  The article lays out the steps needed to insure that your promotion will accomplish your goal.

Phase 1: Establish Your Objective:  What do you want your promotion to accomplish?  The answer to this will vary depending on the company.  Some companies may be looking to promote brand awareness or to build up community interaction.  Some may be wanting to simply unload excess inventory.  You have to know what your goal is if you are going to feel that your promotional marketing is a success.

Phase 2: Build Your Srategy –  In her article Love emphasizes the importance of using data from previous marketing campaigns to plan out your marketing strategy.  It helps to analyze what has been effective in the past as you build your strategy for your current campaign.  This is also the time to consider and establish the budget for the promotion.

“Research is the most important asset in your strategy, whether formal or informal. Using that available data on your current or past audience engagement is going to benefit your campaign heavily. Organizing your route to the end goal while showing the value is going to be challenging yet rewarding in the end.”

Phase 3: Execute Your Plan – Once you have your objective established and you have a strategy in place you can execute your plan by focusing on the content of your message.  Determining what you are wanting to communicate and then put yourself in their shoes to examine how you might be able to expect them to respond.  Work to ensuring that the content causes the customer to respond to you in some way and hopefully converts the interaction to a purchase.  She also recommends colaborating with colleagues to insure that your content stays true to the company brand.

“Think about, what you want to say to your customers and how you want them to interpret your content. At the end of the marketing asset, put yourself in the audience’s shoes. How likely are you to be motivated to take action by clicking on the CTA or sharing the information?”

How does REI use these methods in their promotional marketing? The assignment is that we are supposed to make suggestions of how the company we are following could use these suggestions.  Instead, I wanted to highlight how the company is ALREADY following them.

Establishing their objective: – REI’s objective as a company is evident in their vision statement:   “At REI, we inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”  Any promotional marketing campaign that REI executes consistently stays centered around this vision.  Do they want to make sales?  SURE they do, but they are less focused on the sale and more focused on the INSPIRATION.  Inspire and educate the customer and they will view you as the expert.  They will naturally reciprocate by purchasing your product.   Their objective to inspire and educate naturally leads to the objective of “equipping” their customer.

Planning their strategy –   REI sells top name product brands like North Face and Patagonia, but they also have their own line of gear that is essentially a competition to those top name brands.  In this article entitled “What REI’s Marketing Strategy Says about the ‘Sale’ in Storytelling,” Braden Becker ephasizes how REI’s strategy of “forgetting the product” is an tremendously effective strategy.   He says that they honor the loyalty of their customer to a specific brand and instead of pushing their own brand in it’s place, they partner with the customer on the passions that drive them.

“Instead, it’s the expert no matter what the item; the companion no matter what the activity, and the storyteller no matter who was there. People want what they want, which is why the one thing they want more than a counteroffer is to see their loyalties understood: Mountain biking? Enough about the bikes; here’s how to take sharp photos of each rider. Fan of Patagonia? So are we. Listen to its climbing story from South America. Not sure where you’re going? That’s cool, too—just don’t forget the s’mores.”

Executing their plan –  REIs current promotion centers around camping and hiking and they have done exactly as as suggested by Brandon Becker: they tell a story and they don’t focus on the sale.  They use photos of campsites in amazing settings and hikers surrounded by huge trees, all with the best equipment.  It makes the campsites seem homey and comfortable and subtly suggests that the gear it contains is what makes the trip comfortable.  It INSPIRES it’s customers to get outside and camp or hike…but be sure to buy the right equipment if you want it to be  perfect.  This easily results in sales.

Here is an example of one of REI’s recent advertisements:

This is a great example of how REI focuses it’s marketing on inspiring people and less about the product itself.  We could all learn from this!

Week 5: Comparing REI with Cabela’s and Sierra Trading Post

I have been studying REI’s online marketing strategy for my class this semester. I am highly impressed with them. This week’s assignment was to look at two of REI’s competitors website and and social media micro-sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and talk about how they compare to REI. I chose Cabela’s and Sierra Trading Post. Sierra Trading post seems to be a pretty direct competitor with a similar drive for all things outdoor, but Cabela’s focuses much more on hunting, fishing, and camping. Although REI does have a large section about camping (it’s the central focus of their homepage at the moment because it is camping season) REI is geared toward other outdoor adventures like kayaking, hiking, cycling, etc.

Here are a few things that I love about REI. First, the imagery used on both their website and all social media is very appealing. The photos are all centered around promoting an outdoor adventure and they are inspiring to the person visiting the site. It’s hard to look at a photo of someone hiking in a gorgeous mountain trail and not feel inspired to get out there and do it yourself. As a visitor to the site, I feel like REI wants to get me out and enjoy the outdoors and they will help me get all the gear I need to make that experience enjoyable. They produce and share inspiring and educational videos about various outdoor activities and then share them on their social media outlets. This makes the customer feel like the company is more focused on the experience than selling product.

Cabela’s is different. Their website http://www.cabelas.com/  seems to be designed to be a place to buy the products that you are looking for. They aren’t focused on inspiring their customers as much as providing an extensive online shopping experience. If you know what you are looking for this would be a great place to shop, but if you are unsure of what you need to make your trip be what you are envisioning, you may need to do other research elsewhere. The main focus of their homepage is the items which they have on sale along with a banner at the top advertising free shipping. The site is easy to navigate and the product descriptions are thorough and extensive. Overall, the site is fairly cold and isn’t geared toward customer engagement. You pretty much go there to find the product you want and that’s it.

Cabela’s social media pages have a but of a different impression. They making the company feel more warm and engaging because they seem very engaged with their customers. Their Facebook page features some videos for hunting and fishing as well as some hashtags like #cabelascanine where you can post photos of your pets with your Cabela’s gear and #cabelasoutfitter which has photos of people using their Cabela’s gear. It’s a good way to engage the customer in their social media campaign. REI also does this as well with their #OptOutside hashtag in which people post photos of their outdoor adventures. Both companies do well with this and I would say are equally effective.

Sierra Trading Post http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ is definitely a more clear competitor for REI but because they are a purely online shopping site, you can’t go to their local store and have a more personalized experience. Their website is still more product focused than REI but not nearly as much as Cabela’s. The site is easy to navigate and has excellent product descriptions.  Their blog is good and the content is geared toward helping the customer determine what they need to be successful in their chosen activity and highlighting differences between the two products. Very helpful for the online shopper. Their Facebook page pretty full of instructional videos, contests, and giveaways.  Their Twitter feed is full of direct responses to customers which shows that they are intentional about customer engagement and satisfaction.  They also have have a photo contest for people with their pets which also promotes customer engagement.

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Overall, I think what sets REI apart from the others is their ability to make it feel like making a sale is a secondary priority to serving and helping their customer be fully equipped for the adventure they are seeking. Inspire the customer, serve them by helping determine what they need, then lead them to the perfect product to make that adventure enjoyable and memorable….do this and you will have customers who are loyal for life. REI does this very well and they win the day in my book.

Week 4: TedxAtlanta: How to Fascinate by Sally Hogshead

This week we were required to watch a video from TED.com regarding using social media, the internet, or running a business then summarize the presentation.

I chose to watch a video by Sally Hogshead called How to Fascinate from a Tedx event in Atlanta, GA on March 15, 2011.  I have listened to much of Sally’s book “How the World Sees You” and found it inspirational and honestly life changing for me.  I thought my readers would also find it interesting.

“All markets are like like online dating…We need to get people to fall in fall in love with our ideas.” In this TedxAtlanta talk, Sally Hogshead, marketing and branding expert and creator of of the Fascination Profile Test, talks about how to utilize the 7 fascination triggers to build your brand and captivate your prospective audience in both your business and your personal life.

“The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds – the same as a goldfish.” 

9 seconds…that’s it. That’s not a lot of time to work with when it comes to marketing your company. The trick, according to Sally Hogshead, is to tap into the fascination triggers; those underlying traits that motivate and captivate your customers. What are they?

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Power – Take command of your environment. Example: Google, TSA
Passion – Attract with emotion. Example: Apple. People buy the iPad 2 not for rational reason but because of attraction
Mystique – Arouse curiosity; make them want to fill in the blanks. Example: The television show LOST.
Prestige – Increase respect, aspirational.
Alarm – creating urgency. Example: Federal Express…it absolutely has to be there on time!
Vice/Innovation – Changing the game, deviate from the norm. Example: Groupon.
Trust – Build loyalty through consistency and stability. Example: Boy Scouts, Johnson & Johnson.

While companies use these triggers in their marketing strategies, we as individuals also use them in our every day life. We use Alarm when we are trying to motivate our kids to get in the car so we aren’t late for an appointment. We use Passion when we are drawing our loved ones close to us. However, as individuals we have certain fascination triggers that we naturally use in moments when we are most persuasive and most effective. Discovering these triggers is how we can create our personal brand.

You can look at someone like Donald Trump a see that he is very clearly the Power/Prestige combination: the Perfectionistic Powerhouse with a big personality, big ideas, and long range goals. Someone like Steve Jobs uses Power and Innovation. He is the Change Agent. He has power and leadership to get things done but he utilizes Vice/Innovation to be visionary and change the status quo.

As a marketing professional or as a business owner, we need to be able to recognize and utilize these fascination triggers to captivate our customers. If we want to draw people to our companies, what type of trigger most fits our company and will fascinate the most customers? Find this and you will have you will be on your way to keeping your customers attention for longer than that initial 9 seconds and setting your company apart from the masses.

Want to find out what makes you tick and how you can fascinate people you come in contact or prospective employers? Go take the test. It’s given me great insight into my own personality and my strengths. You can take The Fascination Personality Test at http://www.howtofascinate.com/products/fascination-profile.

 

Video presentation by Sally Hogshead on March 15, 2011.
https://youtu.be/nG0WiP5ux1Q?list=PL6CE158DBF3FD23D0
Video accessed through http://www.Ted.com at http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/1899

Week 3: The Power of Online Reviews

For this week’s assignment I read an article entitled Exclusive: Dramatic New Data on How User Reviews Influence Purchasing Decisions from Marketing Sherpa.  I’m a big fan of user reviews.  My husband and I have worked very hard to encourage the students from our music studio Jammin’ Music Studios to post reviews about the teachers at the studio, and our business has increased exponentially because of it.  I know that honest reviews from users makes a strong impact on new clients searching for the service we provide.  When you Google “guitar lessons Olympia” Jammin’ Music Studios shows up with 80 reviews listed.  The next one on the list has 11.  Which one would YOU go to?  I would say that 30-40% of new contacts tell us they called us because we had so many great reviews.  That’s powerful!

The article by Marketing Sherpa talked about just how powerful online reviews really are based on statistical data on where users prefer to get information about a purchasing decision, how bad ratings affect buying decisions, and who uses online reviews the most.  I already believe in the power of online reviews, so most of the information in the article was simply a confirmation of what I already know.  However, I was very interested to discover that according to their statistics, online reviews have surpassed not only an expert opinion, but also that of a knowledgeable friend.

When asked what sources of information they are “very likely” to consult before making a decision about their entertainment options, 62% named Web sites with user reviews as their top choice, even beating out a knowledgeable friend (59%).”

It’s not unusual for me to see people post a question like this on their social media page:  “anyone have a good recommendation for a roofer?” or “iPhone or Galaxy?  Which one do you like best and why?”  We have always depended on our friend’s personal experiences to help us make decisions like this.  It’s interesting that online reviews actually now carry more weight than that of a good friend.  I kind of suspect that may be because one or two friend’s opinions are great, but hundreds of online reviews compiled together give a much broader source of data to choose from.

So if you want to promote your business or product, online reviews will boost sales….or inhibit them if your reviews aren’t so good.

 

References: Exclusive: Dramatic New Data on How User Reviews Influence Purchasing Decisions. (2007) Retreived July 23, 2016, https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/dramatic-new-data-on-how#