Post by Maria Ogneva, Director of Community
If there’s one thing that you should take away from this post, it is that Marketing (online, social or otherwise) is not a drive-by shooting. Marketing is holistic, and great marketing plans take time to develop and nurture. This is true for online, as well as offline marketing; new media as well as older, more traditional forms of media.
So what does holistic mean? No, we’re not offering Feng Shui techniques for your product or some magical marketing plan. Holistic simply means that you know what your brand stands for and you understand that the tactics you use to market your brand must work together to position or change the positioning of your products. You know the audience(s) you want to target with your message, and know you must keep that message consistent across all the channels you incorporate to deliver it. All of your marketing functions should move in lockstep, reinforcing each other.
Example: Launching An Eco-Fashion Line
You’re a company launching a sustainable, eco-conscious fashion line of clothing. In marketing your product line, you’ll probably want to emphasize sustainability, the purity of organic fabrics and your product’s contribution to reducing waste via green practices. You’ll want your packaging (or labeling) to convey those qualities in the terminology used to describe the garments, as well as the package design.
Most eco fashion lines have higher retail price point than mass-marketed clothing lines; your marketing must convey a socially conscious, environmentally responsible message that establishes why your clothes are worth paying a premium.
If you have (or wish to have) an online presence (which I presume you do, because you are reading this blog), you’ll want to reach the same consistency. When you’re designing your site, the eco-conscious message should be front and center, and all the design elements should convey the message as well. In addition to having e-commerce and informational functionality (a simple means to an end), you need to produce original content that shows your leadership on the subject matter. Blogging, in addition to establishing you as a thought leader, is a great way for search engines to discover your site.
This brings me to the next point, which is search engine optimization (SEO). For any retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer with a website, SEO is a key component in developing a holistic, cohesive marketing plan. SEO should absolutely be front and center to any online marketing strategy. You may have a great product, and even a great looking site, but if no one knows about it, what good is it? Without getting into too much technical detail, search optimization allows you to lift content from your webpages (page titles, page and product descriptions) and help the major search engines read and index this content. An indexable architecture becomes very important, as well as a wealth of content around the necessary keywords.
So in the case of an eco-conscious fashion line, your blog should cover topics related to green living, eco fashion, sustainable lifestyle and eco trends. But on the back end of your blog, each page title, meta description and permalink should contain terms that will help it index through search engines. For e-commerce sites, this extends to product descriptions and categories.
Because your target market is an upscale customer who cares about social/environmental issues, he or she will probably want to interact with you and other like-minded customers on and off your site. The great thing about a passionate consumer is that she is engaged and happy to share, learn and interact. Adding social tools to your site is key, as they allow users to connect to the community that lives on your site, as well as communities that you have formed outside of your site.
Community management, which is an area of passion for me, is all about building and maintaining a community, both inside your site and externally. If you have a robust commenting system and allow your users to contribute content (which you absolutely should), you should keep a handle on all of your comments and other content that these users are producing. Thank your users for contributing, answer questions, resolve concerns, but remember to allow your users to express themselves freely. Heated conversations are a sign of passion, so don’t interfere, as long as the discussion is productive. Moderate and guide, when necessary, but never stifle. You should be present on sites and communities where your target customers are, and take the time to interact with them there. If you discover that your target market is not on Tumblr, but is on Facebook, that’s where you need to be. Interacting, being helpful and sharing links to your site (only when relevant of course, otherwise it’s SPAM) isn’t only good for your name recognition, but is part of your SEO strategy through the link-building and track backs that commenting in forums creates.
Reaching out to bloggers and conducting online PR goes hand in hand with community management and provides fantastic SEO results via link-building and content syndication. Remember, though, to be selective about the bloggers you approach – just like all the channels you select, it must be consistent with your brand’s message. Do your target customers use smartphones? Well, you should think of ways to interact with them on their phones. Social and geo-location apps allow you to stay front and center in the customer’s mind, engage and entertain, as well as harvest important behavior data (more on this later).
One very important caveat to all of the above: it works, but it won’t work immediately. If you expect sustainable success, it has be built over time. SEO, community building, online PR and content creation reinforce each other, but it will take some time to see the results you want. You have to keep doing it every month for at least six months, to gain traction and see results. Placing your product on one of the characters in Desperate Housewives may provide a rush of one-time traffic, followed by a drop-off; however, building these ties to the online community, while keeping your message “on brand”, is going to increase your traffic consistently, month over month, without an abrupt drop-off. That’s why we say that effective marketing is not a drive-by shooting: it’s not transactional, but rather takes time and effort to build and nurture.
The Los Angeles Times recently wrote that fashion bloggers are becoming more influential than traditional media outlets; fashion bloggers are not only the new journalists, they’re also brand ambassadors. As more fashion brands venture online, brands and their marketing agents are developing strategies to build mutually beneficial relationships for both bloggers and their websites. In order to build successful partnerships, etiquette is definitely in order.
Guest Blog Post on Behalf of Independent Fashion Bloggers.
Fast Company magazine has published the 100 Most Creative People of 2009 (and the companies they work for); among them are six amazing individuals that represent fashion brands.
What impresses and inspires me the personal beliefs that fuel their creativity. Continue Reading
The overnight popularity of Facebook and Twitter (CNN and Oprah) has resulted in a influx of social users; last month, Comscore reported that Twitter had 9.3 million visitors and Facebook had 200 million. The spotlight on social media has driven record user registrations; brands are following suit, using Twitter & Facebook as promotional tools.
Has the mass adoption of social media by brands and retailers led to its oversaturation?
No it hasn’t, no more so than the mass adoption by consumers. Television and print attention has pushed social media to the next level (the only place it could really go); garnering it mainstream, mass appeal.
I believe the question of “oversaturation” is actually another issue being raised by social marketers that have had amazing social marketing successes until now. Now, their clients are asking for more quantifiable, measurable results and they can’t produce the results. Furthermore, these individuals are finding that they more competition established agencies and boutique outlets with more bandwidth. More marketing firms are integrating social media divisions; they know it’s necessary in order to stay viable in today’s market.
These divisions and individual marketers are developing strategies that have taken social marketing to the next level. We can now build brand awareness, convert new users, drive web traffic and convert that traffic to online sales. We are monetizing social media, which has been the ongoing question from the beginning of web 2.0. We’re saying that social media success isn’t defined by how many fans a brand’s Facebook page has, how many followers on Twitter a brand has or how many retweets a particular topic recieved. We are saying social marketing success is shown through sales conversions and growth.
How do brands and retailers change their online marketing strategy?
The social engagement strategy (the way in which a brand or retailer interacts with it followers and fans) for brands will follow a similar model that they’ve taken with customer service (listening and providing amazing experiences) and be more involved with their followers. Brands will cater their social outlets to their fans’ and followers’ wants & needs (ultimately let their fans shape their social media strategy); thereby cutting through the noise being generated by the larger volume of retailers online.
What marketing tactics should brands take into account for social marketing right now?
1. A brand has to have a strategy. Don’t launch or implement anything haphazardly. If you want to develop a Facebook or iPhone application, don’t do because it’s cool or you want one. Do an analysis of what that application will do for the brand. Will it build awareness, will it generate sales or drive web traffic? Ask yourself, “Why would someone choose to integrate my app over someone else’s?”
2. Active engagement. If you’re a brand with a Facebook page or Twitter account, actively maintain them. Use your Twitter & Facebook page as you would use your blog, share information, add photos, report trends, new products, event promotions, etc.
Your blog, facebook and twitter content should all match. Make sure you talk to your fans and followers. If someone friends you or follows you – THEN FOLLOW THEM BACK (you can use Social Too to maintain this). It rude not to follow your customers back, unless they are spammers or absolutely insane. Here are some great examples of fan pages:
3. Don’t completely replace old promotion methods with social media. Use social media to enhance traditional marketing initiatives; only use social media for things worth marketing. You don’t always have promote sales, discounts, etc. Interact as a person, not a robot. It’s okay to share great office stories, runway malfunctions and behind the scenes info; it allows your customer to identify with your brand. You’ll recieve a better return on the time invested and you’ll set yourself ahead of the competition.
This posted was inspired by Twitterati: So Last Week.
On Monday, The Footwear News section of WWD.com conducted multiple, in-depth interviews with Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hsieh and CFO, Alfred Lin. After visiting Zappos in October last fall, I fell in love with them. Their brand, their customer philosophy and the humility that they conduct their business is amazing. Zappos receives tons of press and coverage on their business (a $1.2 billion dollar company after just 9 years).
The interviews with Zappos on Apparel, Zappos Facts and Marketing support the 10 steps to building a social brand I believe that a brand or retailer need to accomplish in order to become a social success.
1. A brand or retailer should take a holistic approach to it’s marketing strategy.
2. Consistency is key. For every product a brand or retailer launches, the product must match the company’s main product model. Example: Coach & Brighton Handbags, both brands have added shoes, jewelry and accessory lines; all these products match and coordinate with their original product – hand bags.
3. Word-Of-Mouth Marketing more powerful than paid advertising or product placement. Word of Mouth marketing has replaced the effectiveness of paid advertising. A customer believes their friend or relative, they trust them as a reliable source of information.
4. Product reviews are a new form of PR. Product reviews are essential sales tools that add credibility to a product and aid in customer purchase decisions. Product reviews also help buyers change their selection before the purchase; if 85% of those reviews say that something runs a size too big, the customer can buy one size smaller, there by decreasing their likelihood of returning the product.
5. A brand or retailer can do more with less. Discover what social communities (Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Polyvore, Closet Couture, Lookbook.Nu) are most worthwhile to your brand and put your time and energy into those. It’s better to actively engage in 3-5 communities than have a so-so presence on 15-25.
6. Social networking on sites like Facebook.com, YouTube, Twitter are essential for spreading word of mouth, building brand awareness online and engaging with customers on the internet.
7. Blogs are essential. They are cost effective (free) outlet for building website content, supporting SEO/SEM campaigns and delivering news. Blogs also give transparency to brand or retailer, it shows there’s someone behind the site. A great example is 1928 Jewelry’s blog, http://www.jewelrygalblog.com or Hayden-Harnett’s blog at http://www.hayden-harnet.com
8. Video and Podcasts are cost effective marketing outlets. Videos serve many of the same purposes as blogs. Not all customers will read blogs, but they watch videos and stream audio. Having content available in all mediums is going to be essential for retail websites in the future. Current 25% of Google searches are comprised of VIDEO; videos are also essential for SEO/SEM initiatives. In the future, all brands are going to need to incorporate video into their websites. Those videos will need to be an extension of the brand, not just a part of the website; they will have to be incorporated in.
9. Affiliate marketing is an easy, affordable to drive traffic and build brand awareness for retailers. The return is similar to that of pay per click advertising, a great traffic booster and revenue booster.
10. As an online site grows, the marketing strategy must mature. As the retailer grows, affiliate programs may become obsolete. Direct mail and search engine marketing allow a brand to control its message more effectively and may prove to be more cost effective. A brand or retailer will eventually have to invest in large scale advertising, much like Hulu.com and Zappos.com are doing now.
Last week, Women’s Wear Daily interviewed David Birnbaum on retail strategies in the current economy. Birnbaum concluded that in order to remain a viable brand, long term survival depended on a brand or retailer rethinking and redefining the relationship that it had with its customer.
To accomplish this, understand that:
1. Customers are multi-brand loyal. Listen to what the costumer wants and have to give it to them. If they think you’re listening to their needs and their wants; they’ll come to you first because you are meeting their needs. It’s all about THEM.
2. Remain consistent. The product is the same start to finish, don’t substitute a cheaper alternative to save a few dollars; you compromise the perceived quality the customer whats to pay for. Compromise that and loose the customer.
3. Don’t assume that the brand or retailer controls the market. Reality check, the birth of Web 2.0 and the increasing popularity of social communities, blogs and retail news breaking tools like Twitter, we’ve actually lost control. Customers can say what they like and don’t like a retailer or brand instantly. Fashion bloggers break trends (and create them) faster than traditional media. Consumers control the market more and more. Don’t turn an deaf ear or attempt to control it, you’ll achieve lack luster results. Instead, figure out how to leverage the individuals’ work and efforts. Build a relationship with them as you would your customer, it’ll do nothing but build your brand.
To read the Birnbaum’s Women’s Wear Daily interview, click below.